Chapter Eight


Jing-Mai lay on her back on the rug in the living area. She'd been in the same position for about half an hour. There wasn't much else to do, really.

Earlier, she'd had a go at teaching the Peruvian girl some English – just the pronouns and some basic verb structure. She hated going along with the demands of the kidnapper, but she figured it was probably best for the girl to learn English, just so she knew what was going on. And besides, it had provided a distraction for an hour or two. She found that she actually quite enjoyed teaching. She'd often thought she would, and she'd considered it as a career for a while, but in the end she'd decided that teachers didn't make nearly enough of an impact on the world.

A knock coming from…one of the bedroom doors…roused her from her thoughts, and that blasted woman stepped gracefully into the room. How on earth did she get in and out of there? Jing-Mai would have to examine that bedroom thoroughly later.

The woman smiled at them all. It seemed to take an awful lot of effort. "Hello. How is everyone today?"

Erik frowned thoughtfully. "Well…I'm feeling somewhat…imprisoned."

"Mmm," Jing-Mai nodded in agreement, "taken captive, even."

For a wonder, the woman looked amused. "Yes, yes, very good." Suddenly she clapped her hands together. "Anyway. Training. My name is Anna." She snorted to herself. "Well, it's not really. But you can call me Anna. And over the next…while…I'll be helping you fit into your potentials a lot better than you do at the moment." She looked around at the room enthusiastically, as if this should make some kind of sense. "So." She spread her hands, palms upwards. "Today we're going to have an out-of-body experience."

There was silence. Jing-Mai didn't know what to make of this.

'Anna', or Kidnapper B**** as Jing-Mai had taken to calling her, seemed unconcerned with explaining herself. "Let's have everyone lying down in a circle please," she said, sitting down on the floor and making a circular motion, in case they didn't know what one was or something. Course then she remembered that Elena actually didn't.

"¡Te comprendo! ¿Cómo… ¿Cómo te comprendo?"

…Or maybe she did. No, wait, that wasn't possible. Elena was a quick student, but no one was that quick.

Anna was…smirking. She shrugged at Elena. "Guess that lesson must have gone well."

Normally, Jing-Mai would have been incensed at the idea of someone spying on her, and she still was, but right then she was too transfixed by Elena to do anything about it. She looked like… She looked like she'd seen the Devil. And, as far as Jing-Mai was concerned, she probably had.

Said devil was still sitting innocently on the ground, looking up at them all. "Come on," she said impatiently. "I don't see anyone lying down."

Jing-Mai was starting to worry they were all about to be executed or something.

"Why in God's name would we?" Apparently Erik was too.

Anna glowered up at him, unamused. "Because you have to," she said simply.

Erik laughed derisively. "Make me."

"What is wrong with you?" Lefu asked suddenly, regarding him with disbelief.

Erik looked taken aback for a second, but then returned to staring down Anna and pretended he hadn't taken any notice.

She frowned at him. "There'd really be no point if I had to do that. And anyway, look." She held up her hands like he was a cop. "What are you afraid of? I'm unarmed. And I'm a girl. What could I possibly do?" But she couldn't even keep a straight face as she said it.

Erik simply shook his head.

Anna sighed. "Alright, fine. I'll stop lying. I could do a lot, if I wanted to. I could kill you where you stand, and I wouldn't even have to get up. So take my word for it, if I wanted you dead, you would be decomposing as we speak. But I don't. Believe it or not, I'm your own personal ******* savior. If I hadn't come along, your days would have been numbered, at best. And that goes for all of you. So can't you just believe me when I tell you I'm not going to harm you?"

They all stood there for a second, thinking. Erik looked at Jing-Mai, who looked at Elena, who looked at Lefu. Who nodded. Slowly, they all nervously lowered themselves to the floor. But Jing-Mai wasn't going to simply go along with this without knowing what the ***** was up to. "Why do you want us to have an…out-of-body experience?" she asked. "As tricks go, it's a weird one. Is this some type of brainwashing exercise?"

B**** smiled wryly. "Well it wouldn't be a very good one if I just told you. But no, it's not. And it's not a trick either. It's the first step in unlocking your…particular talents. Actually, you've already been using some of them your whole lives, probably without thinking about them that much."

Erik was gaping at the woman, looking as confused as Jing-Mai felt. "What? What does any of that mean?"

B**** smiled in her sarcastic way again. "I'll explain more as we go along. It's pretty strange stuff to take in in one go."

Yeah, it's pretty strange because it's all complete bull****, thought Jing-Mai.

"For the moment just focus on what we're doing. You won't really believe much of what I have to tell you until you see proof, anyway. Now," she said, lying down on her back, "everyone lie down like this, please." Everyone did, for some reason. "This works better with your eyes closed, but if you're still afraid I'm going to kill you then you can leave them open."

Jing-Mai lifted her head to look at the others. Erik and Lefu had their eyes as wide open as hers, but Elena's were shut tight. There was no way she could have understood that. Not if her English was as poor as she claimed.

"So I want you to imagine, for a while, that your mind is…projected into your body. Like the way an image is projected onto a cinema screen, or a shadow is projected onto a wall." Jing-Mai listened closely. She had no intention of following any of the woman's instructions, but they might be the key to figuring out what her real aim was. "Now imagine you're standing behind the projector in the cinema, and you can tilt it up or down. You can project the image onto the ceiling, or the seats. Obviously, most of the time in cinemas the image stays on the screen, because who'd want to watch a movie on the ceiling? But it is possible."

Thinking about it for a second, Jing-Mai decided that watching a movie on the ceiling might be kind of cool - like a lying-down cinema. What a great place to make out that would be. If she ever got rich, she was going to have one of those. If she ever escaped. No, she would escape. She tried to concentrate on the woman's words again.

"So what if the same thing was possible with your own consciousness? What if you could tilt that projector up a bit, and instead of inhabiting your body, you could inhabit the space just above it?"

Erik interrupted. "That's crap. There's no such thing as a 'consciousness'; your brain controls your body."

"Well, if that's true," she responded, "then what's the harm in trying? If nothing's going to happen?"

Brainwashing still seemed likely to Jing-Mai. If you repeated something to people often enough, even if it was truly bizarre, they could start to believe it.

After that, about an hour must have passed with B**** telling them to 'find their source' and 'inhabit the space above them'. Absolutely nothing happened. B**** didn't seem the least bit discouraged. She told them all that she would have been very surprised if any of them had managed it 'first time round'. She left them with a motivational command to keep practicing.

Jing-Mai and Erik sat in furious discussion for quite a while afterwards. He had no more of an idea what B**** was up to than she did, but they both agreed on one thing. They weren't going to let her break them.