By Berneta L. Haynes and Lornett B. Vestal
The next morning, Sage sat on the grassy knoll in the Field of Love while Valerie stood next to her.
“Is our Jeep fixed yet?”
Sage shifted on the yoga mat and reached her hands to her feet before extending her arms upward. “Well, good morning to you.” After brushing her hair back from her face, she patted the mat next to her, encouraging Valerie to sit. “I had a lot of crazy nights out during my touring days. Afterward, I’d wake up early to do yoga. I never dropped the habit. Sit.”
Valerie groaned, thinking about the feasibility of stealing one of the cars in the garage and fleeing. Reluctantly, she sat on a patch of grass next to the mat.
“I usually lead group yoga for the entire family every morning, but not today. I wanted some time with you.”
Valerie’s eyes widened.
“I felt we got off on the wrong foot. I bet you think I’m some washed-up pop star who has created some funky cult of superfans, huh?”
Valerie smirked and tied her locks into a bun. “You said it. I didn’t.”
Sage looked toward the house in the distance. “I don’t blame you. This is probably an odd place for you, coming from Chicago. Mia told me you’ve had a hard life there.”
Mia talks too much. What else did she tell her?
“Do you want to know what inspired me to leave music and create this place?”
“Because the industry turned on you when you started calling yourself a god and acting like a grade-A diva? I remember the stories about how you treated your dancers.”
Sage’s smile faded. “I was a different person then, and I regret hurting my dancers and those close to me.”
Valerie stared at her with deep incredulity and remained quiet.
“I was inspired by people like Eve Cooper and Orson Remington…they helped me see the need to do more for us, for faders. As a fader myself, watching them do so much to help make the world better for us opened my eyes. Seeing Eve on TV all the time talking about the need for greater acceptance of us, watching Orson become the first fader to lead a country as Prime Minister, and later seeing him create the Human and Post-Human Coalition for Peace…it was all so moving. I realized I wanted to do more.”
“I don’t like the term ‘post-human’. We’re still human. We just have abilities,” Eve interjected.
“I agree. I prefer fader as well.” Sage paused and folded her legs to get more comfortable. “You know I met Eve once at a gala fundraiser for faders in Chicago, around the beginning of the Great Turn. She was much smaller than I expected, yet such a strong and powerful woman. I always wondered what happened to her. She disappeared from the public eye after the attacks against us increased. After all this time, I assume she’s dead.” Sage shook her head, a look of deep sadness sailing across her face.
Valerie kept quiet and hoped her face didn’t betray her.
“After the attacks got worse and Eve disappeared, I knew I needed to do something more.”
“So you created this place just for faders to have somewhere safe?” said Valerie, folding her arms across her chest. Sage doesn’t strike me as the selfless type like Eve. What’s in it for her?
“This isn’t just a safe haven. I help faders find their true power,” said Sage, pausing for effect. “Many of us are afraid to unlock our full potential. You have telepathy as well, right? That’s what Mia told me.”
Goddamn it, Mia.
“Today, I want to show you your full power. You can hear thoughts and talk to people with your mind, an ability many would kill to have. You’re a powerful telepath, or what the kids nowadays call ‘Talkers’.”
Valerie watched her closely and kept quiet.
“Let me show you how powerful you can be, Valerie. Please take my hand.”
This is how I’m inducted into this fader cult, isn’t it? Or maybe she is like Eve, just trying to help people. Breathe, Valerie. She closed her eyes and inhaled, searching for Sage’s mind. I have to know what this woman is about.
Silent for a moment, she scanned for Sage’s thoughts. Where is she? Why can’t I hear her? I could hear Eve’s thoughts sometimes…when Eve wanted me to hear her.
She looked at the woman’s extended hand and shook her head. “I don’t know if I trust you.”
“I understand. You have no reason to trust me yet. But I swear I want to help you, that’s all.”
Valerie’s hand swept over the phone in her pocket. If anything went wrong, she’d call Eve to get her out of here. She relaxed her shoulders and took Sage’s hand.
“Thank you for taking this chance,” Sage replied, smiling. “In a second you’ll feel it.”
She gently squeezed Valerie’s hand. “I’m helping you understand your power. That’s my ability. I can show others their true potential,” said Sage, closing her eyes. “You’ve held back your telepathy, haven’t you?”
In the next moment, warmth—like the sun kissing her whole body—washed over Valerie. The feeling brought her a peace she hadn’t felt in years, if ever. How is she doing this? She tried again to scan Sage but realized the woman was blocking her. Weird.
“How long have you held back?” asked Sage.
“When I first heard voices, I was eight years old. I thought I was going crazy. Soon, I realized the voices were other people’s thoughts.”
“What helped you realize that?” Sage prodded, her eyes still closed.
“I responded to a voice one time when I was in the kitchen with my mom, and she turned to me with a confused look. She asked me who I was talking to, and I tried to explain I’d heard a voice in my head. I responded to the voice again to prove it to her, and she said those voices were her thoughts. She couldn’t understand how I was hearing and responding to her thoughts. I couldn’t understand it either.” Valerie wondered why she was telling Sage this story. “I think she was scared of me after that. It took years for me to learn how to silence or hear the voices at will. Once I learned how to do that, I just shut it down.”
Sage caressed Valerie’s hand as she held it in hers.
“You have so much power. Close your eyes now. Let me show you.”
Valerie took a deep breath, not sure whether she should leave or play along with Sage. But thinking about Eve’s advice that she should learn to appreciate her power and use it, she closed her eyes. A jolt akin to an electric shock, but more calming, went through her body. A sense of total calm came over her. For the first time in her life, she felt free.