Authors: Mark Tullius
Published by Vincere Press
65 Pine Ave., Ste 806
Long Beach, CA 90802
Copyright © 2012 by Mark Tullius
All rights reserved.
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Vincere Press, 65 Pine Avenue Ste. 806, Long Beach, CA 90802
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this book are either fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
First eBook edition July 2012
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012936980
Cover design by
Salvatore Lo Medico –
nd Florencio Ares
Book cover photo by William Dudziak. ©William
Words and Music by Robb Flynn, Logan Mader, Adam Duce and Chris Kontos
Copyright © 1994 by Universal Music – MGB Songs and Machine Headache Publishing
All Rights Administered by Universal Music – MGB Songs
International Copyright Secured All Rights Reserved
Reprinted by Permission of Hal Leonard Corporation
For Jen and Olivia, who make the bright side so easy to see.
And to my dearly missed friend who wasn’t able to.
“Let freedom ring with a
Table of Contents
They call us Thought Thieves, but it’s not like we have a choice. All the sick, twisted things rolling around in people’s heads, we can’t help but hear. God knows I’ve tried to turn it off. The sexual perversions, the violent fantasies about your boss, that annoying neighbor you want dead, even those unfortunate thoughts about your kids. I’ve had to stand there and listen.
I’d never wish this upon anyone, not even my mom, the woman who’s been over-sharing since I slid from her womb.
You wouldn’t believe the awful shit I’ve heard.
Imagine if you knew every dark thought people had about you.
Trust me, it’s not pleasant. In any given moment, the person you love is thinking about someone else she’d like to screw, how fat you’ve gotten, how unbearable it is to hear you chew. Later, she’ll hold you and kiss you and regret most of it, and you’ll fall asleep hating yourself for having all the same thoughts.
Secrets keep the world from burning. I know this now more than ever. The secret I have left could get everyone killed. One person’s already dead, more are sure to follow. All because I couldn’t keep my stupid thoughts shut.
So I understand why they rounded us up, Thought Thieves like me, and took us to this little town on top of a mountain with drops so steep there’s no need for a fence. It keeps the country functioning, lets everyone feel safe, knowing we’re up here in the sky, far away from everyone’s thoughts, except our own.
They call our town Brightside because, as they like to remind us, things could be worse. Some Thought Thieves weren’t so lucky. They were beaten and hanged, shot in the streets. Others were wrapped in straightjackets and locked away in squishy-walled rooms.
Brightside was our chance to start over. We could hold jobs and have apartments; we could even go on dates and shop in the little stores. It wouldn’t be so bad, they told us. As long as we never tried to leave.
But now it’s Day 100, the day it’s all going to end. Guess we’ll find out how bad it can get.
My bedroom window’s right in front of me, but I’ve got my eyes closed. The warm glow of the sunrise is trying to make me peek, but I can’t look at the jagged crack running down the center of the glass. I can’t look at the pool of blood on the chair, the tiny drops on the ceiling.
Eight pounds of power rest across my thighs. My Mossberg 12-gauge. American metal. Dad’s special gift.
Odds are this is my last sunrise. I open my eyes, take in the absolute beauty. I wonder if Danny and Sara are awake and seeing it, too. If I can somehow help them escape, it might make up for some of the things I’ve done.
Not Rachel, though. What happened with her is beyond redemption; I can’t go back and change it. If I’d just given her what she needed, told her what she wanted to hear, she’d be coming with us. I know what happened to Rachel goes beyond Day 39, but that’s when it all started.
* * *
It was seven hours before Day 39 officially began. Rachel and I were in our office, the only one with two desks. They put us there because of our shitty sales record. Jobs in Brightside were based on the ones we held in our former lives. I used to sell BMWs. Here, I sold timeshares. At BMW I never missed a quota, never blew a sale, but I was always within six feet of the customer, the range I needed to hear someone’s thoughts. On the phone, I was next to worthless.
The clock on the wall showed the same time as my computer. All the clocks in Brightside were perfectly in sync. No reason to be late. No reason to think this wasn’t all perfectly normal.
They even hid the security cameras to help us relax. They put them inside light fixtures, behind bushes in the Square, where
we have a bakery, a bar, and even an electronics store. All built for us. To make us believe this is just a regular town, a place like any other. No reason to ever escape.
Rachel got hung up on before she could finish telling the guy how close the condo was to the beach. We had five minutes left of work, enough time for her to make another call, but she just opened the bottom desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of lotion. She squirted it onto her palm and rubbed her legs that were spilling out from under the desk.
Rachel and I had been dating for close to three weeks. Long enough for Rachel to decide I was the one. Long enough for me to give her a key to my place, to convince myself I loved her back.
Everything gets accelerated in Brightside, because you can’t lie. Everything’s exposed. Normal couples take six months to admit how they feel.
do it on the first date.
Rachel rolled back in her chair and looked at me like I’d just said something. It made me feel sorry for all the people I’d done this to over the years. Taking whatever I pleased.
She got up with a smile and walked over to my desk. Her red skirt stopped mid-thigh and was tight enough to be painted on. She didn’t need to listen to my thoughts to know I liked it.
The last couple days, Rachel only saw me at work, and she knew I was ready to break up with her. It’s not that things were bad. They were just too intense. Rachel was the first Thought Thief I’d ever been with. I had no idea how exhausting it could be. You can’t just say you’re tired or that nothing’s wrong.
Rachel knew everything, even though I never said a word.
That’s why she sat on the corner of my desk, crossed her legs so I couldn’t focus on my computer screen. She’d put her dark hair in a ponytail so it looked less Jewish. I’d only thought that once, but she never let it go.
Rachel smiled and took off the glasses she didn’t need. The ones that looked exactly like Mom’s.
She took the part of the frame that rested behind her ear and put it in her mouth. She sucked on it a bit then spoke around it. “You got plans tonight?”
I noticed Rachel had gotten contacts, her eyes so fucking blue. Just like Michelle’s, my last girlfriend before Brightside.
Rachel turned her legs toward me. They were shiny and smooth and smelled like piña colada. “I just shaved,” she said.
We both knew I wanted to feel the inside of her thigh, run my hand up to see if she was telling the truth, but I just mumbled that they looked nice and powered off my computer.
Rachel rubbed her calf against my knee until I looked up at her. “I need to see you tonight,” she said.
I adjusted my khakis, pointlessly trying to conceal the fact her plan was working.
“We can go out,” she said. “Something nice. I’m thinking Oscar’s.”
Oscar’s meant a lot of money, something I wasn’t making in Brightside.
Always staying one step ahead of me, Rachel said dinner was on her. She wanted me to know things could be different. She was willing to change. It didn’t have to be so intense.
“Come on, it’ll be fun,” she said. “And I don’t even need to stay over tonight. Unless you want me to?” Rachel took hold of my collar and pulled me in, her red lips so close.
I could feel the security camera zooming in from its hiding spot. I pushed her back and said, “Fine, we’ll go to Oscar’s.”
Rachel smiled and spun off my desk. She let me watch her ass as she picked up her purse and walked out the door.
Oscar’s was only a few blocks from my apartment and, even though I was dressed and ready, I waited until the last possible minute to leave. I didn’t want to get there before Rachel.
I passed under the bronze archway and entered the park with its enormous pine trees. Someone had decorated them with little white lights to make it look like a winter wonderland. There were no rules about sticking to the path, so I cut across the grass, staying far away from the edge where the mountain dropped off. A full mile, straight down. Heights threw my stomach around in my chest and made me shake like a little girl. I passed the pond and took deep breaths to clear my head. The air was cool, everything silent.
The Cabin was high up on the hill, with its big red logs and long bay window. The curtains were always pulled back, so we’d see the residents who’d broken the rules. Some had refused
to go to work or started fights. A few had slit their wrists too shallow.
In the common room, a small blonde in a nurse’s uniform sat behind the desk reading a magazine. The rule-breakers sat in chairs, their faces pale, eyes ringed in black. They weren’t allowed to talk during rehabilitation. They were given pills to keep them calm.
The Cabin was the big reminder in Brightside that our town was still a prison.
I focused my eyes straight, kept walking, went through the South archway and stepped onto Main Street. The six small stores were dark and closed, but everything else was lit. Every ten feet, a lamp post to wipe out any shadow. No place to hide.