If there’s anything Dallas Reed thinks he knows, it’s when to keep his mouth shut.
As he creeps out of bed, on the morning of yet another work day, he clutches his head as if he has a headache. But as he sits with it for a moment, he realizes that it isn’t a headache at all.
Why does my head feel… loose?
He decides to pay little mind to this, and begins to prepare for his day.
He tiptoes quietly about the apartment to avoid waking up his loving fiance, Hazel. He smiles tenderly as he leaves a gentle kiss upon her sleeping forehead.
Before he turns away from her however, Dallas notices that, in her hand, she holds her treasured zodiac necklace, depicting the sign of Virgo.
When will she get rid of that thing? I’ll mention it when we sit down for dinner tonight.
He leaves the bedroom quietly and closes the door behind him. Down the apartment stairs and out the front door is more than enough time for him to switch his frame of mind into something more akin to his true colors.
This city is filled to the brim with idiots who can’t think for themselves. I wish she knew better. She’s better than that.
Dallas is a quiet man who knows how to get what he wants, by first giving others what they want (or rather… making them think they’re getting what they want). And in this city, that means giving people fake advice and assistance so they can feel better about themselves.
But Dallas thinks he knows better than they do. In this world, he knows that there is no one to say what the right path in life really is. No one to clearly spell out what will make you happy and what will make you sad in the long run. No one to tell you if you’re doing any of it right or good enough at all.
To many, that’s a scary truth that is better off ignored, or placed in the hands of blind faith.
Dallas feeds on this nihilistic “elephant in the room”. To be an objective, spiritual figure of reliable guidance in a world of gray ambiguity. That is how Dallas intends to make a fortune.
As he walks to his rented office space, he checks up on his website with his phone. Upon opening the front page, a colorful banner lights up the screen. The tagline “Let Dallas REED your mind!” was simply too clever for him to pass up. Sometimes, even his own genius frightens him.
As more ambitious thoughts of financial success brew in his mind, passersby begin to stare at him, perhaps a bit more today than usual.
He clutches at his head again.
It still feels… loose.
Dallas unlocks the door to his office space and turns on the lights. It’s a small space, with just one room and a bathroom on the side, but it certainly works well for now. Dallas knows that he’s on track for bigger and better things with just enough time, so the small size isn’t something he worries over too much.
He takes a moment to prepare the room for his first appointment of the day, a mind reading with an older woman named Ms. Ritter.
Having never married and generally overwhelmed by social interactivity, Ms. Ritter tends to rely on spiritual constructs like the stars to guide her in life. Most people would find value in opening up to a kind and quiet soul like her, but in her experience she found friendships to be a bit too intimidating to leave herself completely vulnerable to. This gave her life a lot of alone time to enjoy.
She is Dallas’ favorite client by far, but not for reasons of compassion of course.
To prepare for her mind reading session, Dallas draws the purple, satin curtains closed and places a glowing crystal ball on a table low to the floor. To be extra courteous, he fluffs the small purple pillow on the opposite side of the table for good measure, to ensure that all of the “psychic energies” within can support his customer’s “chakras”. And as a finishing touch, he starts an oil diffuser to emit the smell of frankincense, a scent that Ms. Ritter claims to be “spiritually in tune with”.
He finds it humorous how he can procure such a convincing environment of psychic mystery with just a few Amazon orders.
And just in time, as always, Ms. Ritter knocks on the door.
“Come in Ms. Ritter.” Dallas says with an inviting tone of voice.
“Hello Mr. Reed. Thank you for taking such a short notice appointment with me, I just didn’t know what else to do.” She spoke with sorrow in her voice. Dallas noticed early on with her that she was the kind of person who always sounded like she was on the verge of crying.
“Of course, I’m always happy to help my favorite client. Please, sit. And would you like some tea? I already have some water boiling so it’s really no trouble.” He begins pouring a cup for himself from a teapot he keeps in the corner on a small stovetop burner.
“Absolutely Mr. Reed. Oh goodness, you're so kind. The stars must really be in my favor today.”
Dallas audibly swallows what is either his pride or a sip of his tea before nodding sentimentally to her. “Now Ms. Ritter, what seems to be the trouble.” He says as he sits down on his own “chakra aligning” pillow.
“Well, you see… my darling cat, Butternub passed away late last night.”
“Oh no… I’m so sorry to hear that.” He says as he sets his hand over hers sentimentally.
“A-and I was hoping we could try to communicate with her before she departs too far into the afterlife. After all, Butternut was a Taurus and so am I, so there's bound to be a connection of some kind, right? I’m not really sure if this is how it works, but… my soul says we should try.” Her sorrowful voice, now accompanied by hope.
The darkness of the room allows the agitated twitch of Dallas’ eye to go unnoticed. “Of course we can try. We’ll start by taking deep breaths, and then see if we can make a connection.”
“Yes, Mr. Reed. Deep breaths, just like always, right? I just know we can do it.”
They close their eyes, breathe deeply, and quiet their minds. Or at least… one of them does.
This is easily the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. Oh fuck, maybe I should have asked more about the cat so I could fake it’s voice better.
Ms. Ritter seems off put for a moment. “Mr. Reed… did you say something just now?”
“No, not at all. Remember Ms. Ritter, keep your mind quiet and attentive.”
She silences her mind once more.
Well it doesn’t matter. It really won’t take much to convince the old hag that her cat made it to heaven or wherever the hell she wants the damn thing.
“Mr. Reed!” She opens her eyes and exclaims, unsure if she could believe what she was hearing.
“Ms. Ritter, what’s wrong?”
“If you’re going to use my mind as a channel to communicate with Butternub, I’d prefer it if you kept your thoughts to yourself.”
“I…excuse me, what?”
She’s too emotionally flooded to answer his confusion, “I'll have you know that I’ve worked on my own psychic abilities for a while now, and it would seem as though I have practiced enough to find out that you’re nothing more than a fraud!”
She stands up quickly and storms out of the room with her belongings.
What the hell was that about? Read my thoughts? No… my tongue must have slipped. She couldn’t read my mind.
As Dallas begins to clean up the materials in the room, this alarming event begins to weigh on him. In truth, the notion that his mind was being read was frightening enough, though utterly impossible. Yet at the same time, Dallas has spent his life knowing when to keep quiet, leading him to think that a slip of his tongue was arguably just as much a supernatural occurrence.
For the first time in a long time, Dallas Reed has become uncertain of himself. This would linger in his mind continuously throughout the day.
He clutches his head again.
It’s getting worse.
“Reed, open up! I know you’re in there!” A knock at the door.
Shit. I forgot she was coming today.
Dallas flicks the remains of his cigarette outside and closes the window quickly. He isn’t an avid smoker, but with something like this on his mind, he needed something to calm him down. To mask the smell, he turns on the oil diffuser again, although this only reminds him of what had happened earlier with Ms. Ritter.
He strategically opens the door only as much as the chain lock lets him. “Estelle! So nice to see you!”
Estelle is a woman in her mid to late thirties. She has the eyes of a shark, with a pair of eyeglasses that hardly protect her victims from her deadly glare. As a well off landlady she knows how to handle her wallet, as well as her negotiations.
Quickly, Dallas attempts to direct their expectedly unpleasant conversation in his favor. “I’m so sorry about this, but I’m actually preparing for another session in a few minutes so if you’d come back later, that’d be grea-”
Estelle had already propped her foot in the door to keep Dallas from closing it back in her face. “Oh don’t worry, this shouldn’t take very long at all.” She flashes a smile that they both know is fake.
Dallas sighs in defeat and opens the door fully. “Look, I’ll have your rent soon enough, but as of right now, my money is tied up elsewhere.”
“Ugh, I was hoping for something more creative than that honestly. That’s what all you young business types say. I doubt you even have it anywhere at all.”
Dallas attempts to swallow his nervousness, for in truth, he doesn’t have her money. Sure his profits had doubled since improving his website, but that still wasn’t getting him anywhere close to meeting his rental fees in addition to the cost of materials and advertising.
Estelle continues, “Get me last month’s rent and this month’s by the end of this week or you’re out for good.”
Dallas doesn’t have much to say and nods solemnly. Ideally, if he asks Hazel for help, he could probably get by without too much trouble. But that thought never crosses his mind. Instead, he unintentionally decides to make this harder than it needs to be.
Estelle turns back on him and grabs him by the shirt collar. “How DARE you!”
“W-what’d I do?” Dallas stammers.
“You think you can get off easy with a mouth like that!" She lets him go, but still stands her ground, "I want last month’s and this month’s rent tomorrow morning. If you don’t show up or don’t have the money, you’re on the fucking curb!”
She turns and storms off. Dallas gazes out the doorway once again enamored and confused. This time he knows for certain that he hadn’t spoken out loud. Or… did he? He couldn’t even tell anymore.
Dallas couldn’t bring himself to concentrate for the rest of the day. Even so, he kept his appointments with his other clients, but had to redact any promotions or deals he promised them. With the luck he had today however, every single client he met with ended up storming out just like Ms. Ritter had.
The same thing would happen every single time. They’d come, they’d get offended over an inner thought he had, and leave. He was only now considering the idea that everyone else around him had developed actual mind reading powers over night. With his entire business model now in jeopardy, he decided to close up shop early for the day.
He walks home, exhausted and confused, a hand to his head.
Does this have something to do with it?
He walks up the apartment stairs and opens his door, hoping a good home cooked meal will bring him back to his senses.
“Hey honey! You’re home early, huh?” Hazel shouts from the kitchen.
“Hey.” Dallas muttered, too exhausted to carry the conversation further.
“Did something happen at work?” Her tone quickly grows a bit worrisome.
“No no, nothing like that.” He sets his coat down on the couch and walks to the kitchen, “Just wanted some time to unwind before I have to meet with some sales clients later this week.” He kisses her forehead, just as he had that morning.
He looks into her eyes for a moment before his gaze falls down to her necklace. He can only muster a grimace before speaking again, “I’m gonna go lie down for a while. I’ll eat dinner in about an hour or so.”
“Okay honey.” Hazel isn’t entirely convinced. “Oh, don’t let me forget to tell you about my horoscope later. It said something crazy and I was curious if you’d help me figure it out.”
He pretends not to hear her and closes the door to their bedroom.
Enough with the superstitious crap!!!
“What???” To Hazel, this sounded as if Dallas had shouted at her from across the house. She storms into the bedroom, where Dallas sits on the bed with both hands clasped over his head.
“What did you say about my horoscope?!”
Dallas looks as if he has suddenly witnessed a ghost. “No… not you too. Oh my god I can’t take this anymore.”
“Dallas, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I’m fine. Just…” His eyes fall upon the necklace again, “Take that damn necklace off.”
“I said take it off!” He gets up from the bed and begins to approach her.
“Stop! What are yo- HEY!”
He rips it off from her neck and throws it against the wall.
At that moment, it’s clear that something precious within Hazel has been badly wounded. Her eyes fixate on the Virgo charm, now broken in two and separated from the necklace.
“That was… my grandmother’s.”
Dallas instantly realizes what he had done and feels the guilt sink into his stomach.
I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry
She turns back to him quickly, “Dallas, what’s gotten into you?” Tears begin to form and fall down her cheeks. “This isn’t like you at all.”
Suddenly, something snaps in Dallas. The privacy of his mind is arguably the one thing he values most in life, and now, it’s as if he’s the only human in the world who doesn't have that ability anymore. He fears this vulnerability like nothing else and now sees no means for escape from this strange kind of hell. He feels helpless in keeping any kind of secrets now. His floodgates open.
“Maybe I’m not the me you know, okay? The truth is, I haven’t been working in sales like I used to. I got fired just after we moved here. I’ve worked a side hustle since then, and now money’s getting pretty tight for me. I didn’t want to ask you for help because I thought I could handle it all, okay?”
“I faked being a psychic. I rented an office space and ordered some stuff with my savings, and so far, all I’ve been able to do is coast on savings and the money I get from duping idiots who think all of their answers are in god’s hands or written in the stars or whatever.”
Now hearing his true feelings about her horoscope, she glances at the shattered necklace again before meeting his tragic eyes once more.
“And now, for whatever reason, everyone can hear my thoughts like THEY’RE psychics, and I don’t know how to make them stop, even you!”
Hazel has a confused, worried look on her face at first. But within a moment her eyes widen once she realizes that she can hear his voice clearly in her mind without his mouth moving.
Hazel, I’ve never been so scared in my life.
He collapses on the bed again, his hands over his tear filled eyes.
Even with her own personal connection with all things superstitious, Hazel can’t make complete sense of what’s going on here.
“Dallas? How long has this been going on? This side hustle of yours.”
“A few months now. And I have the fucking rent due tomorrow too.”
“Hmm… you do seem like you’ve become more secretive than usual. I was hoping to see your chipper self again soon.”
“Me too, Hazel. Me too.”
She sits with this new knowledge for a moment, thinking about her relationship with Dallas as a whole. She can hear the fearful thoughts emerging from his heart, but decides in herself not to judge him just by what she can hear telepathically now.
She knows Dallas is better than this, though she isn’t entirely sure what she ought to do for herself, for him, for both of them. In times like this, Hazel decides to follow her grandmother’s advice.
“When it comes to those you love, it’s always worth speaking your mind.”
After all, if there’s anything Hazel Pierce thinks she knows, it’s when to speak her mind. She takes Dallas’ hand in her own and does exactly that.
Dallas… I think we have a lot to figure out.
Within a moment Dallas’ eyes widen once he realizes that he can hear her voice clearly in his mind without her mouth moving.