How we think the fight will go
Carrie White was feeling nervous. She hadn’t wanted to take part in the “Women and Psychic Phenomena: New Perspectives” conference. She didn’t like being in the spotlight, especially in front of large crowds, and this was her first public appearance in over a year. But her doctor suggested it would be good for her self-confidence, and the new medication (Psimute®) had been successful in dulling her telekinetic outbursts. It left her feeling a little dulled and spaced-out, but at least there were no more embarrassing incidents. The last one had been the woman at the register who had pulled out her checkbook when it came time to pay for her groceries—but Carrie preferred not to think about that.
And there was the matter of The Carrie White Fund for Victims of Telekinetic Violence, which she had set up with Sue Snell. It was her way of paying back all of the unfortunate people who lost family members and loved ones that terrible prom night, and the board members had been pushing her to promote it. An appearance at this conference would allow her to avoid the cable news shows and talk about the organization’s good works in a safe setting. Or so they had promised.
But the other woman on the panel made her nervous. She looked a lot like one of the popular girls at high school who had bullied her mercilessly. And she had a very knowing look about her, as if she could see everything Carrie was thinking. Which made sense, because she was a telepath—one of the first to come out publicly about her abilities, in fact, just as Carrie had opened up the closet doors for psychokinetics.
Sookie was staring at her, too. Was she crawling into her head right now? How could you even tell with telepaths as powerful as her? She was a bit telepathic herself, but not like the pure ones.
Carrie spoke first. The moderator, a researcher into psi phenomena from Princeton, had to ask her to speak up because she was talking too softly into the microphone. After all this time, Carrie still felt like the shy girl who sat in the back of the classroom praying the teacher wouldn’t call on her. But she breathed deeply and continued. She talked about her doctor (the first to extensively document her PK), about the new medications that helped her control her powers, and about the foundation and the $2.5 million it had raised for the families of the victims in Chamberlain. She smiled when she spoke about how other PKs were finally free to open up about their own struggles, their shame, and the stigma they had to fight. To many of them, she was a hero—albeit one with a troubled past.
During her talk, Sookie watched her warily. Carrie could feel it. It made it hard to stay with her train of thought. Finally, in mid-sentence, she stopped and turned to Sookie. “Please stop it.”
Sookie looked surprised. “Stop what?” The audience grew quiet.
Carrie stared. “Getting in my head. Listening to my thoughts.”
Sookie gave a what, me? expression. “I’m sorry, Ms. White. I am doing no such thing. I’m enjoying your discussion.”
Carrie forced a smile. “I’m sorry,” she said.
Everything went fine until the audience Q&A, when a balding man in a suit and tie was handed a microphone. He looked familiar, but it wasn’t until he started speaking that Carrie recognized him. And then her heart dropped.
“Miss White, my daughter died during your little outburst at Ewen High School. She was sixteen years-old.” He pulled a photo out of his shirt pocket. “This is all I have left of her. I carry it with me every day.” His voice cracked.
Behind her, Sookie coughed. The moderator in the audience tried to get the mic back, but Carrie held up her hand. “It’s okay. Let him talk.” The room grew silent. She’d been through this before, when confronted by families of those lost in that horrible evening, and she had practiced what to say with her PR coach. “There’s nothing I could ever say to you—no apology I could offer—that could ever make up for the loss of your daughter.”
“Damn right, there isn’t,” the man said.
“But Sue Snell and I set up the foundation to do what we can—”
“To hell with your foundation!” he shouted. “I didn’t take your blood money. I wouldn’t take a cent of it.” Again the moderator reached for the microphone, but he was pushed away.
A young woman in the audience stood up. “She was bullied. It wasn’t her fault.”
Carrie looked at her hands. They were shaking.
The man laughed bitterly. “She’s a goddamned freak. That’s what she is. A freak of nature.” Someone in the back of the audience shouted “Yeah!” Several people told him to shut up.
The young girl—she was maybe all of fifteen—spoke up again. “Don’t call us freaks,” she said. “We didn’t choose this. This is they way we were born.” A few people clapped. Someone else laughed mockingly.
Sookie leaned into her microphone. “Sir, please, as a telepath, I would respectfully ask you to sit down and shut up. We psychics are no better or worse than anyone else, and we deserve to be treated equally.”
His face reddened. “My daughter deserved to be treated equally. But Miss Carrie White here burned her to death. The last time I saw her was in a car with her date driving away to her senior prom.” His voice broke. “And she burned up with all of her friends. Every last one of them. I couldn’t even identify her body. Just because this monster here threw a temper tantrum.”
Carrie’s temples throbbed. She could really use an emergency dose of her medicine but her purse was backstage. She stood. Stared at the man. “I am not a monster,” she said. She was grinding her jaws so hard her molars squeaked. Keep calm, she said to herself. Breathe. In and out.
“Please take his microphone,” Sookie said, rising to her feet.
“You’re grotesque,” the man said. A few people cheered him. “You’re both abominations. But you—” he pointed to Carrie—“You’re the worst of all. You’re a murderer. You deserve to rot in Hell.”
“Murderer!” a man screamed from the back. So he had some allies here tonight. Which shouldn’t have surprised her. Even though the meeting planners had screened the conference attendees as best they could, it was inevitable some of the anti-psychic radicals would get in. They were much more organized and vocal nowadays. And sneaky.
“Shut him up!” Sookie shouted. Two guards were moving down the aisle. Then her eyes widened. She had heard his thoughts and her face showed it. “He’s going to kill her!”
And then Carrie saw him reach into his jacket and pull out the gun.
He aimed, but the gun flew out of his hand, arcing high in the auditorium, and landed with a metallic thud on the stage.
People started screaming and running for the exits.
The security guards were almost on the gunman, but Carrie’s gaze knocked them off their feet. It looked like they hit an invisible wall. They staggered and collapsed. Carrie would take care of her would-be-assassin herself.
“No, Carrie,” Sookie yelled.
I’m sorry, Mama, Carrie prayed.
A video camera and its attached tripod whipped from the side of the stage, twirling like a boomerang, and hit the gunman so hard the crack echoed in the auditorium. His head exploded in a shower of blood. The camera and tripod ricocheted, taking down four more audience members before it shattered against the wall.
Carrie felt an arm wrap around her throat from behind. Sookie. Jesus, she was strong. The fairy blood did that, someone had told her.
“Stop it, Carrie,” Sookie shouted in her ear. “Please.”
But she couldn’t stop it. As Sookie’s arm tightened and her vision started to constrict, she looked into the audience. It wasn’t a conference. No. She was back at the prom. Dripping with pig’s blood, on a stage festooned with crepe paper, Prom Queen Carrie, before a crowd of her peers in polyester tuxes and stupid pastel dresses. And they were laughing at her. All of them.
* * *
Sookie threw Carrie down, face first, pinning her. “Stop it!” she screamed. “Please!”
The doors of the auditorium slammed shut and the lights all blew out. Emergency lights came on, barely illuminating the darkened hall.
Carrie felt as if her windpipe was going to break. Her vision had turned pure red. Goddamned Sookie was crushing the life out of her. And still they laughed. All of them. Humiliated again, mocked, set up as the butt of a joke for their cruel amusement.
“It’s not true,” Sookie whispered in her ear. “It’s over, Carrie. They’re all gone. That was the past. You’re a good person now. There’s no need to be angry. It’s over.”
But it wasn’t over. It was never over. No matter how she tried to be someone else, she was always frumpy, ugly, stupid, sinful Carrie White. Mama was right—she was a sinner. A sinner damned to Hell.
Sookie screamed. One of the metal folding chairs on the stage had lifted from the floor and whacked her in the head. Her grip loosened and Carrie’s vision returned, irising open. She felt strong now. She jabbed an elbow into Sookie’s face, and she was free again. Sookie fell backward, her hands covered in blood from her bleeding scalp, and landed on the bare wooden stage.
Carrie turned back to the audience. Laughing faces. Familiar faces. Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan, of course, down in the front. She smiled. It was time for everyone to die.
Crack. Her head exploded. Carrie staggered, tripped, then fell on her back near the edge of the stage. Was it Chris Hargensen standing above her? Holding a metal folding chair?
No, Carrie, it’s me, Sookie. Please, you have to stop.
But there was no such thing as stopping. Some things, when they get started, have to end the way they are supposed to end.
* * *
It took forensic experts months to identify and tag the remains of the 138 people who died in what the CNN commentator breathlessly called “the most horrific telekinetic massacre of the 21st century.” Of Sookie Stackhouse, only a handful of her teeth remained, and they were buried in the Bon Temps cemetery.
Carrie White gave herself up to a SWAT team after the incident. She is currently held in a specially constructed Faraday cage in a maximum security cell in Guantanamo Bay.
Predicted Winner: Carrie White
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Friday, March 14, 2014, AT 12:00 PM, EST
Editor’s Note: Michael M. Hughes writes both fiction and nonfiction. His book Blackwater Lights is based on a short story that first appeared in Legends of the Mountain State: Ghostly Tales from the State of West Virginia. When he’s not writing, Hughes lectures on paranormal and Fortean topics and performs as a mentalist. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters.
Cage Match fans: We are looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”