Welcome to Emberly

What do you do when you find out that you can do things other people can't do? Simple- you wait. Eventually, someone will show up on your doorstep, tell you that you're the Chosen One, and send you off on some mildly perilous quest to save the world.
At least, that's what the plot of every fantasy novel ever written tells you should happen. But sometimes, real life isn't quite as simple as the books you read, and when you've spent years waiting for destiny to come knocking on your door, the idea of being patient a moment longer can make you mad. The question, then, is this: when fate leaves you on your own with the power to change the world, what so you do?
Believe it or not, the answer to that one is just as simple.
You take matters into your own hands.

*FINALIST in Movella of the Year 2017!*


4. Reading Minds

“Hey, weirdos!”

Evelyn tried to ignore the voice coming from behind her as she swung her PE bag over her shoulder and started towards the door that led out of the changing rooms. It was the end of fourth period, and although she and her friends had spent the last hour demonstrating to the rest of the year group just how useless they were at sport and, consequently, being laughed at by just about everyone they knew at once, she was just glad that she only had to sit through one more lesson before heading home.

​"Hey! You guys deaf, or something?"

Evelyn joined her three friends at the door. Mara’s hand was already on the handle, but someone stepped in front of her and knocked it away. The girl twisted her lips into a smile and said, “There’s no need to be rude, y’know. I just wanted to talk to you guys.” Nobody said anything. The girl fixed her icy blue eyes on Mara and said, “Hey, Samara! You gonna say hi?”

“It’s Mara, and you know it, Caitlyn,” Evelyn said, trying and inevitably failing to inject some ferocity into her voice.

Caitlyn smirked. “Yeah, I know, Nerdo. I just called her that because her new hairstyle makes her look like that creepy chick from the Ring. Don’t you think?”

“No, actually. I think it looks nice.”

Evelyn’s voice came out much quieter than she had hoped, and Caitlyn laughed. “Hey, there’s no need to be so defensive, Nerdo. I just came to say hi to you weirdos. Valerie and I have something to discuss." She turned to Valerie and said, "Don't we, Val?" Her voice dripped with venom as she spoke, all pretence of friendliness now dropped. Valerie, unfazed as ever, locked eyes with her and smiled sweetly.

“Hey, Caitlyn!” she said, her voice thick with false warmth, “How’s that boyfriend of yours getting on?”

Caitlyn raised a perfectly pencilled eyebrow and said, “What, you mean Jay?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. The douchebag. Why’d you need to clarify, anyway? You got more than one? I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Caitlyn said, “Jay’s doing fine, believe it or not. Though he wasn't too impressed by your attempt to threaten him this morning. Speaking of which, who the fuck do you think you are?”

“What, that?” Valerie raised an eyebrow. “Are you serious? That was literally the lamest threat ever. I was barely even trying.”

“Yeah, well, you still hurt his feelings, you ugly little bitch.”

Valerie smirked and said, “Yeah, I guessed that much. I mean, he must be pretty bloody traumatised, or he would have come to call me on my bullshit himself instead of sending his girlfriend to do it for him. Pretty manly, huh?”

“Did you just insult my boyfriend?”

Valerie pantomimed a moment of contemplation before locking eyes with Caitlyn again and saying, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I did. Wasn’t hard- I mean, you don’t exactly have the greatest taste in guys.”

“At least I don’t fall flat on my face when I try to run.”

Valerie laughed. “That’s your comeback? Seriously? I know I’m shit at sports, dickhole. So what? I mean, you’re not exactly a sporting prodigy yourself.”

Caitlyn drew herself up to her full height and said, “Actually, I’m the regional under-eighteens’ gymnastics champion, as of three summers ago when I qualified for the Nationals. So suck on that.”

Valerie was as unfazed as ever, her smile widening as she said, “Gymnastics, huh? Explains a lot.”

Caitlyn blinked, looking uncomfortable. “What the hell do you mean, you little bitch?”

“Well,” Valerie said, “All that extra flexibility totally explains how you manage to fit your head so far up your own arse.”

For a second, there was silence, broken only when Raegan let out a loud snort of laughter that she immediately stifled with her hand. Caitlyn’s blue glare could have burned through lead.

“You’re all absolutely fucking pathetic. Especially you, Valerie Hunter."

Valerie beamed. “So are you, Caitlyn! Say hi to Jay from me.” She stepped forward and pushed the door open, gesturing for her friends to follow. “Shall we?”

*        *        *        *        *

As soon as they had left the gym building, Raegan said, “Fuck me, Val. That was good.”

“Thanks!” Valerie raised her hand for a high-five, and Raegan took it before saying, “Wait a sec. I almost forgot.” She unzipped the front pocket of her bag, producing a little white bottle, and shook two pills into her hand. Evelyn frowned.

“Aren’t you only meant to take one?” Evelyn asked.

Raegan turned to Evelyn and said, “Yeah, they upped my dosage. Guess I wasn’t mellow enough for them.” There was a note of resentment in her voice as she spoke. She swallowed the pills dry and shoved the bottle back into her bag. “What’ve we got next, Val?” she asked.

“Uh…” Valerie pulled her planner out of her own bag and flipped through the pages before saying, “History. You’re in my set, right?”


“Do you guys have Miss Jordan?” Evelyn asked quickly.

“Yeah,” Valerie said.

“She gets really mad when you’re late.”

“Oh.” Valerie frowned. “I guess we’d better run, then."

Raegan looked at Valerie. "You really think that's a good idea, Val? I mean, another faceplant could put a serious dent in your ego."

"You underestimate the power of my ego.” Valerie grinned. “Seriously, though. We should probably run."

“I don’t like running.”

Valerie sighed theatrically. “Fine. We should walk, like, slightly faster than we are currently walking.”

“I can handle that.”

Their conversation grew fainter as they walked on ahead, leaving Evelyn and Mara alone. They turned the corner and started along the path in silence, but when Evelyn noticed Mara’s bright eyes and overcast expression, she decided to start a conversation. "What've you got now?" she asked.

​"French." Mara kept her eyes fixed on the ground as she spoke, her voice barely audible, and Evelyn felt that all-too-familiar twinge of worry creeping along her spine. She forced herself to smile.

“Hey, you’re quiet," she said, "You okay?”

Mara glanced up at Evelyn with the faintest of smiles. “Aren’t I always?”

“Aren’t you always what?”

“Quiet." Her smile faded slightly and she said, "What did you think I meant?"​​

"Oh. Nothing. Sorry."

There was a long silence. Eventually, Mara spoke again. “I don’t really look like Samara from the Ring, do I?”

“What?” Evelyn was incredulous. “No way. Caitlyn was just being a bitch, like always. She gets joy out of making people miserable. You know that, right?"

​"I guess." Her smile was back, and Evelyn returned it with a pang of relief.

​"Samara. She kills you in seven days, right? When you watch the tape," Evelyn said.

“Yep. We watched the Ring at Raegan’s, remember? On her birthday.” Mara grinned. “You were terrified. I remember- you got so freaked out, you had to hide behind a cushion.”

“Yeah. I’m a wuss.”

Mara laughed, but the brightness in her eyes still hadn’t gone away. There was a brief moment of silence. Then Mara said, “So, you realise that exam-passing doesn’t count as a superpower, right?”

Evelyn was caught off guard by the sudden change of subject, but she went along with it. “Yeah, I guess. Did I sound like a total nerd when I said that earlier?"

“Only slightly.” Mara smiled and continued, “So, what superpower do you really want?”

Evelyn knew. “Mindreading.”

“Oh yeah? Why?”

“Uh, I don’t really know. It just seems cool, you know? Like…” Evelyn thought for a second before remembering the name. “Like Professor X.”

Mara said, “He's the leader of the X-Men, right? Holds the team together." She smiled. "Like you."

Evelyn looked at the ground. “I don’t hold the team together.”

“Oh, come on, Ev. You must know that you’re literally the only sane one out of the four of us, right?”

“Oh yeah? How so?”

“Well, for starters, Val's a total maniac. And Raegan's got her thing, and, uh..."


“I don’t know. But you’re definitely way smarter than me, anyway. Professor X is a genius.”

​​She's avoiding the question.

​Something's wrong.

“So,” Evelyn said, “What superpower would you have?”

Mara looked immediately uncomfortable. “I don’t think I’d want one.”

“How can you not want a superpower?”

“I don’t know. I guess I just don’t think I’d be up for that kind of responsibility,” she said, “I mean, with great power comes great responsibility, right? I'm not responsible. I'd just fuck everything up."

​Evelyn said, "Hey- don't be so hard on yourself, Mara."

Mara looked away.

​Something's really, really wrong.

Evelyn couldn't help herself. She asked, "Are you sure you're okay?"

She found herself regretting the question even before Mara turned around and shot her an annoyed look. "Evelyn, seriously- why are you always asking me if I'm okay?"

Because I know that you’re not.

​"Sorry. Don't worry about it."

How do I know?

I have no bloody idea.

​"You know me, right? Always being paranoid."

I just know.

And it’s scaring me.



Mara and Evelyn had been best friends since they were both seven years old. Back then, Evelyn had been the sensible nerdy kid who snuck off at break times to read a book, and Mara had been the silly one with the glasses who was always being told off for doodling in her exercise books instead of doing whatever it was she was supposed to be doing. They had become friends for no good reason- maybe it was because they had been so similar back then, or maybe it was simply the fact that nobody else had wanted anything to do with them. Of course, they had both changed a lot since then; nowadays, Evelyn rarely had time for reading, and Mara… well, Mara had changed in more ways that Evelyn could name. The glasses had been the first thing to go; she had started wearing contact lenses barely two weeks after year seven had begun, and a few months after that, she had begun dyeing her hair- first, it had been dark blonde, then brown, then back to blonde, then auburn, now black. Evelyn had plucked up the courage to ask Mara about these changes once or twice, and in answer, Mara had simply smiled her increasingly false smile and said that she had just wanted a change. Of course, there were some changes that Evelyn dared not even ask about, and others that she tried not to think about at all. She tried not to think about how much weight Mara had lost, or why she always wore long sleeves even in hot weather, or why she always looked so goddamn sad, like she had lost something precious to her and, over time, was slowly losing all hope of ever finding it again.

Evelyn looked up. Mara’s smile had returned- it was weak, but it was, reassuringly, there. Despite everything, Evelyn found herself smiling back.

“I’m fine. Really. You need to stop worrying so much,” Mara said.

​"I know. I'm sorry."

“It’s okay. Really. I’m okay,” Mara said. “I guess…. I don’t know. Maybe I just seem sad because I’m bored, or something.”

Evelyn forced herself to laugh. “Yeah, I know the feeling. Like, I just wish that something would happen. Anything, you know?”

Evelyn wasn’t just lying for the sake of changing the subject. It was true- she was sick of living out the same day over and over again, sitting in the same rooms, reading the same books, doing the same things again and again and again. Maybe that was why she spent so much time obsessing over the possibility of the paranormal- it was, if nothing else, an excuse to imagine that life was more exciting than it really was, that there was more to the world than deadlines and expectations and failures. But she wasn't stupid, and she wasn't special. She knew that no matter how hard and how often she wished for something amazing to come along, she would never be anything more than what she was.

And what was she?

​She was a coward who couldn't even pluck up the courage to talk to her best friend.

​She didn't deserve an extraordinary life; after all, she couldn't even make the most out of her ordinary one.

​I need to stop being so bloody melodramatic.

This isn't about me.

Evelyn pushed open the double doors that led into the school building and the two girls went inside. Evelyn asked, "What room are you in?"

“Five. You?”

“Three. So, uh, bye.”


​Even as she watched Mara turn and walk away from her, Evelyn felt painfully and inexplicably aware that there was something wrong. But no matter how clear it became to her that Mara was hiding something, she knew that she would never have the courage to interfere. Her mother, her sister, the popular crowd- so many people in Evelyn's life had made it clear to her that she was a coward. But her best friend- the person she cared about most in the entire world- was the only person who had ever truly made Evelyn wish she was braver.

Sometimes, Evelyn wished that she could see what was going on in her best friend’s head.

Sometimes, she felt sure that she already knew.


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