Authors: Emily Thompson
The cab left Twist, Tasha, and Jonas outside the same house Twist had seen in the searing vision of the invitation. Myra hadn't been happy to hear that people without Sights weren't generally admitted to Sight circles, but she had stayed behind with Niko nevertheless. In the glowing streetlights, the red and white Victorian townhouse looked even more mysterious and watchful than it had in the vision. Tasha took the lead, walking first through the black iron gate and up the short flight of stairs to the front door. Twist followed after her, as Jonas drifted behind him.
When Tasha knocked on the door, it opened to reveal a tall man with dark brown skin and black eyes, in a perfectly white suit. His waistcoat and cravat were as black as his eyes, leaving the red rose pinned on his lapel and the red ribbon around his white bowler hat as the only two shocks of color. He gave Tasha a cordial smile.
“Do you have an invitation?” he asked her pleasantly, with a warm voice and a rolling American accent.
Tasha handed him the white envelope with the card inside. “Natasha Samara, plus two,” she said with a gesture to Twist and Jonas. The man's eyes took on a surprised light.
“It's an honor to have you join us, Ms. Samara,” he said brightly. “I thought you looked familiar to me,” he added with a smile.
“Tasha, please,” she responded cordially.
“Tasha,” he repeated, as if enjoying the taste of her name. “And are your companions Sighted as well?”
“You bet,” Jonas said, giving him a tight smile through the opaque lenses of his black goggles. The man at the door stepped back and offered Tasha an inviting gesture.
“Welcome,” he said as they stepped inside. “Please take a seat in the parlor and help yourselves to a drink. We'll be starting very soon.”
Twist and Jonas followed Tasha through the narrow hallway, into a large parlor at the back of the house. A white marble fireplace stood in the center of the back wall, flanked by white French windows that looked out onto a wild, dark garden. The ruby-red walls bore framed paintings of scantily clad … yes, Twist realized, there were fairies in all of the paintings. There were also large, rough-looking crystals of varying colors displayed on every available surface, and green potted ferns in each corner. A wide circle of chairs sat on the square white carpet that lay over the dark wood floor, and most of them were occupied.
The other guests looked up when Tasha entered, their eyes curious and excited. Twist noticed that each of the six other guests varied widely in race and age. Tasha stepped easily into the circle and took a tall glass of bubbling champagne from the table in the center. The soft conversations fell silent as the others watched her. She took a second glass and turned around to Twist, where he remained in the shadows of the hallway.
“Come in, Twist,” she said to him gently, holding one glass out to him. “These are your people too.”
Twist did as he was told and took the glass from her, feeling the rest of the room watch him now as well. Tasha handed the other glass to Jonas when he followed Twist, and then took one for herself. She gave the others in the room a charming smile.
“To new friends,” she said, raising her glass in Twist's direction.
Twist raised his glass to meet hers with a bright ringing chime, and watched as everyone but Jonas raised their glasses as well before taking a sip of the wine. Jonas drained his glass at once and put it back on the tray before taking another. He then turned to sit in one of the empty chairs, his goggles still firmly in place over his eyes.
“I'm sorry,” said an older man with long white hair in a braid down his back, “but I have to say, you look so much like Natasha Samara, the magician.”
“Please, call me Tasha,” she said to him with a smile. A murmur of delight bubbled up from the others.
“I saw your performance tonight,” the older man said, smiling to her now. “It was masterful! And the lovely little clockwork dancer was extraordinary, as well.”
“Thank you,” Tasha said gracefully. “I'll pass your compliments on to her.”
The older man gave a light laugh. “What a surprise to have a celebrity with us tonight,” he said, looking to one of the others: a young girl in a pink silk gown, with long black hair, a smoothly angular face, and narrow, black eyes.
The girl nodded to him with a smile before looking back to Tasha in unmasked wonder. Tasha gave Twist a subtle nod and smile before she turned away to step closer to the older man and the girl. Twist marveled as she managed to fall into a conversation between the three of them so quickly. He turned around to find Jonas still sitting silently as he stared blindly at the bubbles in his glass. Twist sat in the empty chair beside him and was happy to see Tasha swallow up the attentions of everyone else in the room.
“She's good to have around,” Twist said softly to Jonas. “Anyone standing next to her is as good as invisible.”
Jonas smiled lightly. “She even makes me want to watch her. You lucky dog, you,” he added, seeming to glance up at Twist through his goggles.
“You got to dance with her,” Twist said back. “All I get to do is look.”
“True,” Jonas said with a happy-sounding sigh. “Her hands are always warm, too.”
Twist shook his head and smiled, watching as the rest of the room tried to get into the conversation with the charming magician. Not long after, the man who'd opened the door walked into the room with the waitress from the Cliff House restaurant, who now wore a soft blue dress and a white shawl. She looked around the room quickly until her eyes found Twist. She smiled brightly and hurried to sit in the empty chair beside him.
“You came!” she said, leaning close to him in her excitement. Twist leaned back out of reflex but she didn't seem to notice. “I'm so glad you did,” she said. The man from the door busied himself clearing the empty glasses on the small table and disappeared down the hallway.
“Yes, thank you for the invitation,” Twist said stiffly.
She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment and then put on a knowing smile. “First time at one of these?”
“Is it that obvious?” he asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
“You sound nervous,” she said, reaching out as if she meant to pat his arm. “Don't wo—“
Twist jumped to his feet before her hand got close, backing a step away from her as his heart shuddered quickly in his chest. She stared at him in shock as Twist tried desperately not to look as startled as he felt.
“Everything all right?” the man from the door asked as he walked back into the room with a fresh tray of full champagne glasses. Twist struggled for enough clarity to respond.
“It's not you, it's him,” Jonas said to the waitress. “Please don't touch him.”
“Oh,” she toned, looking to Twist. “I'm sorry.”
“It's fine,” he said, sitting down again. This time, she was the one to lean away slightly. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to jump like that.”
“Well, this is as good a time as any,” the man from the door said, putting down the tray. He stood up and looked around the room with a smile. “Does anyone have any requests? I know we have some people with hyper hearing. And it seems that you would like a little personal space,” he said to Twist with a surprising depth of understanding in his voice.
“Yes, please,” the older man with the white braid said. “If we could avoid any voices above normal levels, I'd appreciate it.” The waitress nodded after him. Twist considered speaking up, and his heart started to pound again.
“Look, don't touch him,” Jonas said, nodding to Twist, “and don't expect me to take these off,” he added, tapping his goggles with a finger. Twist would have thanked him for saying it for him, but everyone was still staring at them.
“Anyone else?” the man in the white suit asked the room. Some people said no, while others only shook their heads or offered polite smiles. “Then, I think it's time we got started.”
He took a seat in front of the fireplace, Tasha sat in an empty chair beside the girl in the pink dress, and everyone else seemed to ready themselves by sitting primly in their chairs and looking to the man in the white suit. Twist watched them all carefully, utterly unsure of what to expect next.
“Since we have newcomers tonight, let's do the full introductions, shall we?” the man in the white suit said. “Let's all hear your name, where you're from, and as brief or long a description of your Sight as you would like to give. I'll go first. My name is Daniel, I was born here in San Francisco, and I can name any flower by scent alone.” He then looked to the man sitting beside him. “Tom, would you like to go next?”
“Sure.” Tom was a heavy-set man in a gray suit, wearing a full red beard. “I'm Tom, I'm originally from Cleveland, and I can see in the dark as well as the light.” He looked to his left expectantly, at the older man with the long white braid.
“My name is Running Bear, but you all know to call me Teddy,” he said. “I'm from Montana originally, and my Sight lets me hear very high frequencies, or 'dog hearing' as I like to call it.” When he gave an amiable smile to a few of the others, they returned it quietly. “Of course, when people yell, it can reverberate off of glass,” he added with a sigh. “Restaurants give me a headache sometimes.” He then looked to the girl in pink.
“I'm Yumi,” she said, her voice colored with a slight accent. “I was born in Tokyo, Japan, but my family lives here now. I can feel vibrations in the ground. And by the way, I think there will be a small quake in a few days,” she added with a sigh. “Not a big one, but you might feel it. The ground hasn't been very still for the last week.”
“Thank you for telling us,” Daniel said. Yumi smiled and looked to Tasha.
“Well, I'm Natasha Samara, but please call me Tasha. I'm from Moscow, and I can sense details quickly, with all five of my senses.” She then looked to the next person in the circle.
“Ellen,” said a woman with golden hair, wearing a fur shawl over her black-and-white striped dress. “I'm from New York, and my Sight lets me see fine details close up, as if I were using a magnifying lens.” She then looked to Jonas. His jaw tightened.
“I'm Jonas. I'm from...” he paused, frowning. “Well, I was born in London, anyway. I can see stars in daylight.” He then looked to Twist through his black lenses.
Twist stared back at him, amazed by how little he'd managed to say. Compared to the Sights of the others in the group, his Sight and Jonas's seemed vastly more powerful and dangerous. As everyone's eyes turned to him, Twist realized that he didn't want to give the whole truth either.
“I'm Twist. I'm from London. My Sight lets me sense damage in things I touch. I fix clocks for a living,” he added, hoping to keep their imaginations from wandering too far. None of them looked horrified, and some actually smiled when he mentioned the clocks. He looked to the waitress beside him.
“Well, I'm Clarice,” she said. “Like Daniel, I'm from here also, and I can focus on distinct voices from far away, and in a crowd.” She looked at Jonas pointedly. “You'd be amazed what I pick up.”
“You know that I was teasing Twist, and not you, right?” Jonas asked her. Her eyes darkened.
“He's sorry if he offended you,” Twist said to her gently. “He's just too proud to say it.”
Jonas gave a soundless huff and crossed his arms. Clarice's eyes seemed to soften when Twist gave her a hopeful smile, and she turned to the last person in the circle. He was middle-aged, with bronze-colored skin, thin wireframe silver glasses, and a bright red fez on his head, which went oddly with his gray suit and brown-striped wool sweater.
“I'm Malik,” he said with a rich voice and a soft accent that reminded Twist of Egypt. “I was born near Baghdad, but I'm living here in California now. I can sense a person's intent when they are faced with an obvious choice, which is a shame because I dearly love chess.” He gave a sigh. “Finding an opponent who can surprise me is getting harder all the time.” He then looked to Daniel.
“Well, thank you everyone,” Daniel said to the room. “Now, unless anyone has an announcement to make, I think it's about time for our first exercise.”
He paused for a moment, glancing around at his quiet guests. No one made a move to speak. Jonas finished his current glass of champagne and switched it for another from the table.
“All right then,” Daniel said with an eager smile. “I'm really excited that we have so many people here tonight. I've been wanting to try this one for a while.” He stood up and walked around to the back of his chair. “We're going to break up into small groups, based on each of our enhanced senses, and have a short discussion about how we relate to the world, with a similar viewpoint.”