Feeling nothing but disdain, Orym plastered what he hoped was his best smile on to his face and spread his arms wide.
“Welcome to the Orym Oracle experience. Please, take a seat” he said.
A twinge of guilt made itself known as the frail, old lady lowered herself gently into the cushioned chair opposite, being helped down by a weathered looking man maybe thirty years her junior. He brushed it away with a practiced air, using his mind as the perfected tool he knew it to be. Grief emanated from the pair ahead of him, but most who came to him had lost someone along the way, so he tuned it out of the multitude of things he could sense in the room. Sometimes it was an appointment of newly weds seeking assurance for the future, but mostly it was people who had lost somebody; in this case, the lady’s son, the man’s brother.
Ruining her poor appliance of makeup, tears began to streak down the lady’s face as her son gripped her shoulder affectionately, causing Orym to throw up a thicker wall to block the stronger thread of woe that resulted. Surprisingly, the man only felt contempt for Orym, though that was obvious from the look in his eyes; Orym didn’t even need his gift to read that. There was always one sceptical one in the party, at least at first.
“I’m so sorry for your loss, Ma’am, truly,” Orym began. He sensed a flash of anger from the man, again horribly concealed as his lips pulled tight and nostrils flared. This time though, he got some images from the woman; a screeching of tires as she watched from her window, the tinkling of glass as the streetlights lit up the shards like fireflies. Car crash then, and she saw it all. Her last hug with him, her disapproval adamant as she told him she was too old to keep being a taxi for her half-drunk son every time he came around. His laugh as he brushed it off and kissed her cheek, saying he’d walk home instead. Then, the overwhelming guilt. Even Orym’s defensive wall couldn’t hold out that one, so he let it in, using it to fuel his facial expression, inheriting it as his own emotion.
“It wasn’t your fault, your son would not want you to blame yourself. I can still feel his love for you permeating this room.”
A growl escaped the man’s throat now and he took a half-step forward before catching himself. Finally Orym got a real read on him. The taste of vodka as his eyes streamed, wondering how his brother always slammed the shot glass down before him. Laughter from his brother as he himself threw up in the sink as a result. A gruff hug before he left, whispering good natured mockery in to his ear about his big brother always being able to outdrink him. Again, immeasurable guilt that his brother would never have drank so much without his prodding.
“You people are parasites! Preying on people who have experienced loss, lining your pockets with their sorrow, saying things you think we want to hear. Well I can’t stand here listening to it” he raged, turning to walk through the extravagant curtain put there to enhance the ambience.
Okay, time to bring out the big guns, Orym thought.
“Those extra shots of vodka weren’t your fault, either. He says he’s still chuckling now about your attempt to keep it all in the sink so your mother wouldn’t know.”
He stopped in his tracks, shoulders tensing and fists clenching as his logical head warred with the comment he’d just heard. As usual, Orym heard it all. It took no longer than ten seconds for him to turn back, a feeling of wonder passing through their bond.
Gotcha! He thought with satisfaction as the man sat down, anger evaporated. The next part was easy. Orym let the awestruck pair ask him anything and everything, then picked whatever answer would satisfy them directly from their own subconscious. Like taking candy from a baby.
Piercing through the atmosphere and dispelling the wonder, the older lady received a phone call, then stood up abruptly and declared it was time to leave. Orym rose graciously and shook both of their hands, watching with barely restrained humour at the sheets of paper that disappeared into the mans pocket, all of the meeting recorded. Departing with muted conversation, the pair left him alone, finally finished for the night. Any guilt he felt at the con that he ran was obliterated when he counted the days takings, already thinking of the delicacies he would treat himself to. Maybe he would go to see his brother in America, who was plying the same trade with the very same tricks; a family business that nobody could hope to match. As the welcome thought bounced around his head, he heard the tinkle of the door opening, the bell just above alerting him to the fact.
Always forget to lock the bloody thing, he thought in dismay.
“We’re closed!” he called, a little too loudly for the situation.
“Oh darling, I’m sure you could do one more” a voice purred. Orym span to locate the source, seeing what he could only describe as the plainest looking woman in the world. Hair that had never seen a brush, clothes spotted with a years worth of dirt and shoes held together with bits of tape. Yet she held herself with a confidence of a queen, and Orym found that more alluring than anything. But he was a businessman first and he kept up the facade.
“You can pay?”
She just smiled, eyes seeming to sparkle as Orym attempted to stretch out his mind towards her to get a head start. He wanted this one over with quickly, she was making him uneasy. Nobody had made him uneasy for years, and a random women in rags certainly wouldn’t do it for long. He would know her, like he knew every other person he’d come into contact with. Her secrets, her emotions, her weaknesses; then he’d be in control. He shivered as he touched her mind, a chill suddenly dripping down his spine as he realised he’d hit a wall – the same type of wall that he’d only felt on his brother in the past. He regained his composure slightly when the wall shattered within moments of pushing, though her smile barely faltered and he gained nothing worth knowing in that first moment, just a feeling of triumph.
She obviously thinks she’s getting her appointment, Orym grumbled internally. Then she spoke.
“I knew I sensed you, you probed too deeply on the previous pair. I found your brother in the exact same way.”
If a heart could drop into a stomach, Orym’s did in that moment. He tried to retort, to keep he upper hand in a conversation that he wasn’t prepared for, but his mouth wouldn’t open, his tongue wouldn’t move.
“You really thought you were the only ones? Oh you poor little lamb, no wonder you never thought to hide. You see, people like me... we come after people like you. Only gods should see into the minds of humankind an exploit it for gain. And you, darling, are NOT divine!”
Orym tried to run, to make a grab for the cash box and bolt out of the back exit. But like his mouth and tongue, his body just wouldn’t respond. Throwing the entire force of his brilliant mind at the intruder, he revelled at the sight of her stumbling slightly, but his exultation last merely seconds as she righted herself with ease.
“Ach, a bit more fight in you than your brother did. It still ends the same. For your ilk, it always does.”
She reached beneath her shirt to pull out a metal disc, inscribed with a sort of runic language that he would bet the entire days takings that nobody in this millennia had seen before. Caressing it, she whispered a few words, an almost intimate exchange which resulted in the pendant beginning to glow with a bright energy. Orym could hear it thrumming, and knew as he did that it wasn’t through his ears that the sound was made, but through the connection he had with the woman – the one which still pulsed with the feeling of triumph. He tried his hardest to break the bond, his breathing becoming laboured as a slow burn of pain began to flood back through the tendril. If he could thrash around, Orym was certain that at that moment in time he would be a tangle of limbs on the floor. But some unseen force still held him there, despite the terror lancing through his bones.
“Now then, let us see how you fare when it’s your mind that’s the one being broken,” she spat, pressing the pendant against his forehead roughly.
That’s when Orym began to scream.