Illusions: spilling secrets


Nicole Schroeder

Illusions is a novella written by Nicole Schroeder and Ashley Tanner, about a girl named Gemma who has the ability to see people’s true character at a single glance. Each post in the following blog series is one chapter of Illusions.[vc_empty_space]Everything seemed too loud. The faucet running in the apartment next door, the tree branches scratching against the window pane, the clock ticking on the wall across from where Gemma sat. As she listened, she tried to decide if the clamor of noise around her was helping to drown her thoughts out of her head or if it was simply irritating her even more.
She was waiting for Irene to get back home for the night, praying she had remembered her plea to duck out of work quickly yet secretly hoping she hadn’t. She certainly wasn’t looking forward to the coming conversation, nor to her best friend’s possible reaction.  Still, if it meant helping stop Wolfgang and ending her own nightmare, she was willing to take the risk.
Finally, after a few more minutes, footfalls sounded out in the hallway. Gemma listened to the sound of a key turning the lock on their apartment door, her knee jiggling uncontrollably in anticipation. Then, the door swung open, and Irene stepped inside. No escaping it now.
“Hey, Gem! Sorry I was a little later than we planned — I got stuck talking to that new hostess, Casey. She’s actually pretty cool!” She chuckled slightly to herself, putting her bags down at the table and taking her coat off. She tossed it over the back of the nearest chair and came over to where she was sitting, finding a spot on the edge of the armchair next to Gemma. “Anyway, you sounded pretty nervous this morning when you said you needed to talk. What’s up?”
She sighed, staring at her hands as she spoke. “I — look, I need to tell you something. It has to do with Elijah and some other stuff from a long time ago and just ….” She trailed off and shrugged.
What am I supposed to say — when I look in peoples’ eyes, I learn everything about them, about the kind of person they are and who they will be later on? She had no idea where to start, or how to even begin convincing Irene of her power. How do you show someone you know things about them that they don’t even know to be true themselves?
“Just tell me, Gemma,” Irene said, breaking the silent tension between them. “I won’t judge you.”
She scoffed inwardly, but nodded at her comforting words. “Alright. Do you remember that one guy — Trevor? He was in some band or something like that and hung out with us back in college.”
“Yeah, I remember him. He was in our history class, right?”
She nodded. “Do you remember back when we first met him, when you said he seemed like a jock and I argued that he was definitely a nerd?”
Irene nodded, a confused look wrinkling on her forehead. “What’s this about, Gem?”
“I didn’t just guess that he was a nerd, Irene. I knew.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Okay. Back in my freshman year, I was in that car accident with my family. My dad was driving us home after some trip — I don’t even remember what it was, honestly — and he hit a patch of black ice, making us swerve off the road and into a ravine. On the way down, I hit my head on the dashboard and knocked myself out — basically, I got a really bad concussion,” she explained.
“When they got me back to the hospital, they said my brain was swollen and put me into a medically-induced coma for three days to wait for the swelling to go down. When I woke up, they were really worried I had lost brain function or had regressed just because of how bad the injury was. But that’s not what happened. My brain activity increased.
Irene cocked her head slightly. If she had been confused earlier, this was all-out bewilderment. “But how is that possible?”
“That’s just it. It isn’t.” Gemma pursed her lips, pausing to let it sink in. “I was an anomaly. They tested again and again, but they all came back the same. I was using more of my brain than I had before, and I was using it differently.
“See, after the accident and the coma, I couldn’t look at people the same way. When I looked at their eyes, I started seeing these strange colors, like glow-y filters, in my head. They were really faint at first, so I figured it was just pain meds or me freaking out over what had happened. But they didn’t go away. In fact, they got clearer, and soon I was associating them with different words.”
She stopped again, looking deep into Irene’s eyes for a second, until she shifted a little uncomfortably.
“With you, I see Lively, Friendly, and Introverted.
Irene laughed. “Okay, freaky factor aside, that last one definitely isn’t true.”
“That’s just it. There’s always one Label that’s wrong, and I have no way of telling which one it is.”
Irene grinned for a moment, but her smile quickly faded away to a look of seriousness.
“Let’s say for a moment that I believe you, Gem, which I’m honestly trying to do here. What does any of that have to do with Elijah?”
Gemma’s heart thudded at his name, and she closed her eyes and rubbed at her temples a little before answering. She told her about the file, about her missing journal, about Theo. She told her about the SAINTs and about her plan to stop Wolfgang from finding any more “gifted” people, like her.
At the end of it all, Irene nodded, taking it in slowly. She could almost see her brain working, trying to fit pieces together and explain something entirely unexplainable. After a few moments of silence, however, she met Gemma’s eyes. Her voice rang out with determination, and Gemma knew her friend had never been more serious in her life.
“We need to stop this. Whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it. But first, I think I need to talk to Elijah.”[vc_empty_space]What do you think Elijah’s planning against Wolfgang? Can Gemma trust him? Leave a comment below.[vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”10″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1457243832659-c11ea708-5fcb-10″ taxonomies=”12779″]