Leaves fell into the pool as the wind blew. Crystal spun in the water, enjoying the cold water. Autumn was her favorite season. Not because it meant hot chocolate, curling up by the furnace with her cousins or even D&D club resuming.
The best thing about it was the empty pool. There was no heater, so there was rarely anybody else in it. Crystal could swim and have thoughts to herself for once. With nobody around, she didn’t have to worry about what they were thinking. Their thoughts were nice and far from her mind. And with less thoughts came less visions of the future.
She took a deep breath and dove down.
Even when there were people, all she’d have to do is dive down. The only problem was she could hold her breath for only so long. And of course people would begin to worry and no amount of practice blocked out thoughts of fear.
Crystal opened her eyes and stared through her goggles. The trees curled and twisted in the wind and rippling water. She was careful to not get too close to the grate, unless she wanted her hair to get tangled in it. Maybe one day she’d remember to tell the manager about that hazardous thing.
A shiver went down her spine. Another feeling, no matter how hard she tried, she could never block out.
The warbling figure of her cousin stopped at the pool’s edge. He had his hands on his hips and he was glaring down at her.
Crystal huffed, a large air bubble making its way to the surface. She swam after it, shooting through the surface.
There was a spark of something in her cousin’s cold eyes. He assumed that Crystal’s impeccable timing and perfect replies were due to him training her. Of course he’d never consider the fact that she could read his mind.
It was something she avoided as much as possible. Her real specialty seemed to lie in prediction–and it was something she was grateful for. The less of his mind she had to sift through, the better.
“What?” She asked, pulling her goggles up.
“Aunty Jane doesn’t want you swimming alone no more.” He said. His lips pulled back into a smirk. “Said something about not wanting you to drown.”
Crystal felt her stomach churn. “Yeah, fine.” She muttered. It was something her mother had been getting all the more naggy about lately. Crystal swam to the edge of the pool and pulled herself up. The cold, slimy tile always made her worry about slipping back in. Not that she’d drown…but she wasn’t fond of surprises.
Her cousin continued to stand there.
She looked him over, ignoring the chill settling in her. His shirt was sweaty and sticking to him. The whites of his nails were caked in something dark red.
Crystal tried to look away, but it was too late. He caught her staring and chuckled. The images of a rabbit, it’s neck twisted back, mouth hanging open and eyes bulging flooded her mind.
“Art club, remember?” He hissed.
She gave a weak nod. Crystal knew the drill. If she ever tried to say something, his little brothers would end up with bruises or worse.
Trailing behind him, Crystal glared. She could see acne starting on the back of his pasty neck. His greasy black hair stuck to his ears and base of his skull. He was an ugly thing, she always thought. A brutish monster, much like the ones she enjoyed slaying in D&D. But that was fantasy and her cousin was, unfortunately, very real.
He whirled around, and Crystal’s eyes widened.
“What?” She asked.
He narrowed his eyes. “Nothing.”
Crystal blinked, staring at him as he reached for the gate.
A sickening thought crawled into her mind, making her heart pound and mouth dry:
What if he could read minds too?
Crystal dragged her feet across the slick pavement, falling behind her cousins. She rubbed her heavy lids, blinking and trying to see with bleary eyes. Once the thought that her cousin could even be remotely capable to read minds, she had spent the rest of the night wide awake. As far as she knew, she was the only one. But they were related, so it made sense he could possibly develop the skill.
She was too wrapped up in her fearful thoughts to realize where she was going and bumped right into her cousin.
A wave of images splashed across her vision. Most of them were of women, though some men, with faces much like hers–pale, wavy black hair and blue eyes. They all had the same bold word looming over them: MISSING. A rush of papers with words mostly a blur, only a few she could make out. Bashed. Stripped. Stabbed. Strangled.
Then her cousin, older, handcuffed and magically handsome on the TV. Eyes cold despite the sickening smirk on his face.
Crystal felt her knees go weak and breakfast surge its way up. She clamped her hands over her mouth, willing herself to not throw up and be sent home.
“Uh,” her cousin was staring at her. His two little brothers peered from behind his legs. “Yo. Crystal, you there at all?” He stared at her, barely a hint of concern. His expression might have looked like one of worry to the untrained eye, but it was far from it. That gaze of his always made her feel more like an animal strapped down for examination. He was analyzing her, assessing the situation.
She nodded, hands still on her mouth.
“Well okay then. Hurry up, we’ll be late.”
Crystal nodded and followed them, trying to process what she just saw. She didn’t have a chance to count, but recalling the faces, Crystal guessed that was over two dozen victims. Victims of her cousin.
At some point, Crystal realized they had arrived at school. Her feet took her to class and she slid into her desk, the images of the dead swimming around her mind. She felt lightheaded and thoughtlessly accepted the handouts for the day. Cass was talking to her about something, but the only thing Crystal registered was the obnoxious colors of her Lisa Frank folder. What was she going to do about her Cousin?
“Miss Mataraci,” the teacher barked.
Crystla jumped. “Ma’am?”
“I asked you a question.”
She blinked. “Um, I, uh, didn’t, uh hear. What was it?” She asked, swallowing.
Her teacher huffed. “My question was what did the senate decide to do with Caesar?”
“Kill him,” she said, parroting her thought.
“Very good.” Her teacher turned back to the board and began writing something.
Right. Her cousin. She had to kill him.
Murder wasn’t exactly a skill most twelve year-olds had at their disposal. Even if it was, the whole not getting caught thing was a problem.
Crystal’s heart jumped.
What was she thinking–murdering her cousin! Murder. The act of killing another person.
The missing person posters surfaced in her mind once again.
If she didn’t act, what if her cousin could read minds, then? And then know she even considered killing him? Then he might take her out first and be free to roam the world for those two dozen–or more–people.
Crystal took a deep breath, her mind made up.
It had been a week since the disturbing vision. Crystal dove back under water, hoping it would be her cousin to get her. She had it all planned out. Now she had to hope she could do it before he could overpower her and bash her brains against the wall. Ever since she committed to the act, each night her dreams showed her what would happen if she failed.
She saw the familiar figure take shape above the surface.
Crystal popped up, keeping her distance from the edge.
“Time to head back,” her cousin said, staring down at her.
Crystal began to shake. “B-but I wanna stay!”
He rolled his eyes. “You’re shivering, bullshit.”
She pouted. Her eyes then went to his shoes–fresh mud. “Hey…something’s wrong with your shoes.”
“Huh?” His eyes widened.
“Yeah, hang on, lemme, uh, brush off some art class stuff.”
She giggled. “Your shoes were untied, sorry. Here…” Crystal grabbed the laces and tugged extra tight. There was no way he was going to wriggle out of them easily.
“Ow, what the hell!” He snarled as moved to work on the right shoe. “You whore, there was nothing wrong with them!”
Crystal let him kick her. She yelped and clutched her nose.
“Now look’t what you made me do!”
She began to shake harder. No turning back now.
“I need help out,” she said. “I saw a spider by the steps. Can you help me?” Crystal whimpered, holding out a hand.
“Pathetic.” But he held out his hand anyway.
Crystal planted her feet against the wall. Both hands shot out and grabbed his. She took a deep breath and yanked.
Her cousin let out a yelp and toppled over her.
Crystal darted away, knowing he’d rather beat her than call out for help. She just had to lead him to the grate.
His eyes were on her, flashing with menace and blood lust.
Crystal squeaked, a precious bubble of air escaping her lips.
He shot after her.
Crystal spun dove closer to the floor, kicking her feet as fast as she could. A rough hand with chipped nails wrapped around her ankle. She felt her self being yanked, the grate, though only a foot away, now looked miles away.
A crushing force wrapped around her neck. Crystal’s eyes widened, the words ‘bashed’ and ‘strangled’ flashed across her mind, destroying all panic she felt within a second. She felt her back against him and brought her elbow down hard into his stomach. He let go and she pushed herself off him and shot for the surface.
Crystal could hear her cousin break the surface too. She took a quick breath of air and dove back down, shooting past the grate.
Her cousin stared at her. He huffed, an angry jet of air shooting from his nostrils.
She gulped. He was going to finish her off.
He shot at her. Crystal dove towards him, her arm catching his foot. He was heavier than her and of course moved her more than she to him. But not far enough. They were right at the grate. Her fingers wrapped looped the laces of his left shoe around the grate.
Crystal felt her hair be tugged and a crushing force at her neck. She stared at him, her vision already going hazy.
His eyes widened. Her cousin’s grip slackened. He began to flail.
Crystal kicked herself away as quickly as she could, before he could try and get another grip on her. She broke the surface and gasped for air. Looking down, she could see the dark figure kicking and moving. Crystal scrambled out of the pool, seeing it curl up–he was going for his shoe.
She clung to the fence, watching his movements grow sluggish. Crystal knew she was supposed to scream for help, but couldn’t find the urge to. It wasn’t the desire for him to die that stopped her but the surrealness of it all. With the leaves falling into the water over the strange, hulking mass under the water, Crystal couldn’t see it as her cousin. All she could see was something scary under the surface of the water.
It stopped moving.
She screamed, startling herself with the action. Doors all across the complex flew open as Crystal screamed again. She collapsed to the cold, wet ground, shrieking and sobbing. A cacophony of voices erupted in and out of her mind, yet not a single glimpse of the future made itself known.