Wren received another envelope on Friday morning. She had come to see their sudden appearances as a form of aggression on the part of their source considering how they invaded her privacy so was taken aback to find one sitting in her mailbox when she went down to check. Rather mockingly this one even had her full name and address written on the front as if it had gone through proper routes to reach her. Instead of a stamp there was a rough sketch of a fox head in the upper right corner; one similar to the fox pendant in her kitchen drawer.
The paper within contained a single word:
Wren immediately recognized it as an anagram of ‘Cataraqui’, a familiar name to anyone who lived in the area. Cataraqui River and Little Cataraqui Creek were bodies of water, the Cataraqui Centre was a mall nearby and the Cataraqui Conservation area sprawled north of town. Only one of those had the association that this particular missive presented. Wren and Wil had laughed at the signs that had gone up at the Catarqui Center that broke the word into three parts, with three letters per line:
Their joke was that reading it from top to bottom, left to right read as ‘caqarutai’. Not much of a joke, but one that stuck in both their minds and so they often referred to it as the Caqarutai Center. Wren hadn’t pointed it out to anyone else that she could recall. She headed back upstairs, mulling over what it was supposed to mean. Was it suggesting she go to the Cat Center for some reason? Or was the allusion to Wil more important?
She wasn’t entirely sure but settled on the former as the easiest option and also the most likely. She was getting bored with the repetition of only her apartment and her walking route. The idea of going somewhere at the prompting of her nameless, faceless stalker irritated her but at the same time she felt a curious desire to test her boundaries and see what more she was capable of. She couldn’t shake the feeling of the sudden thrill she’d had the night before when she’d realized the scope of her power.
The Cat Center was a familiar environment. It wasn’t too far from home so the risks seemed minimal. It had been less than a day since the somewhat disastrous encounter at work but her ability to block others felt stronger to her already. She even took the bus; something that she’d been nervous to do the day before. Blocking the few people that were riding mid-morning was no effort and she was careful not to sense anyone’s thoughts or emotions at all and chance wearing herself out.
The mall was slightly busier than she’d anticipated but she found that she could manage her mental defenses well. She bought a tea and doughnut at Tim Horton’s and took a seat at a small table in the food court. Pulling out her iPhone she tried to look engrossed in reading while she slowly spread her awareness out around her. She could feel the minds of everyone in the area at once but it was a cacophony of thought and emotion; like standing in a room with dozens of people talking at once. She blocked everyone and began again, making an effort to refine her awareness. She needed to improve.
Wren wanted to sense the presence of others without having to feel all of their emotions and awareness immediately. She glanced around and settled on the person sitting closest to her; a young woman at a table a row over drinking an Orange Julius and engrossed in texting. Wren reached out, trying to keep her mental touch light. As with the night before she could sense the woman’s emotions to a greater or lesser degree but that wasn’t good enough. She concentrated on keeping her sense of her as minimal as possible while she explored what she was capable of, never once looking up from her phone.
Soon she was able to define where her awareness of the woman began and reach no further. It was an odd sensation; somewhat reminiscent of the blurry discomfort of static on a smooth surface against one’s fingers. She kept her awareness of the woman in this state and slowly expanded it to include another person, concentrating on feeling no further than the demarcation of energy that defined them. Soon she was able to do it easily. It wasn’t much effort in the sense that she needed to develop more strength to perform it; she just had to figure it out and familiarize herself with how.
Eventually she could hold her sense of everyone in the food court steady without having to feel their emotions or hear what they were thinking. She tried sensing the texting woman’s emotions while maintaining her awareness of everyone else and found that it was possible as well, though it took a bit more concentration.
She blocked everyone again and looked at the time. She was shocked to find it had taken forty-five minutes to sort that out. Her tea was cold and the doughnut uneaten. Not that she’d wanted them as anything more than props anyhow. It struck her that she was a bit sad not to feel hunger or the anticipation of a delicious, craved treat. The loss of pain was not something to be mourned so much but the pleasure of food was something she missed. She looked down at the doughnut and frowned. She’d eat it anyhow; needful or not.
As she made up her mind to do so something brushed past her leg under the table. She jumped, then lurched back in surprise as a fox leapt onto the chair opposite her and grabbed up her doughnut.
Tags: Chapter Four