Emma hated it when her little sister used magic to spray her in the face with water from the faucet. Especially since this seemed like bragging. “Coral!” Emma yelled, dabbing at her face with a towel. “Get down here!”
The twelve-year-old appeared at the bottom of the stairs, covering her mouth with her hand to keep from laughing. She could barely choke out two words: “Yeah, Emma?”
A feeling of amusement washed over Emma, but she ignored it, zeroing in on her anger. “I’m gonna kill you—”
“Now, now, Emma,” said their mother, who sat in the dining room folding clothes with telekinesis. “You shouldn’t be like that.”
Emma glared at her mother, focusing on her anger, and brushed away the disapproval at the edges of her consciousness.
She stomped to her room, completely forgetting about washing her plate in the sink, and sat at her desk. After sulking for a few minutes, she pulled a history book from her bookshelf, stroking the well-worn, aged cover.
Made of a thin plastic, the book was nearly 200 years old; it had belonged to humans before magic had been discovered. Emma thought often about how dull life must have been without magic.
Then again, her life was nearly just as dull.
Now, everyone was born with a supernatural gift due to a certain shot you’re gifted with at birth; the shot allowed you to have children with magical lineage, which kept the magic in each generation going. Every gift imaginable existed: telepathy, telekinesis, photokinesis, chlorokinesis, you name it.
Coral had hydrokinesis, the manipulation of water. Their mom was telekinetic, the gift of moving things with her mind, which really helped out with household chores. Emma. . . Emma had the most useless gift of all.
Once at school, Emma sat down in the front of the classroom. Some people thought she was a teacher’s pet or a nerd, but she had just learned that people didn’t bully her as much when the teacher could supervise.
But Mrs. Adams, the health teacher, wasn’t there yet. James Joyce leaned over the aisle and said, “Emma the empath. Emma the empath.” Several others joined the chant.
Emma was an empath, a person who could feel someone else’s emotions. Right now, she could feel waves of emotions drifting towards her from her classmates: amusement, aggression, boredom. These were their reasons for bullying her.
She’d learned quickly that her gift wasn’t as important as others’. For example, a person who could teleport was a crisis worker, arriving on the scene in seconds. But feeling other people’s emotions was absolutely useless.
Ignoring them, Emma stood up and walked to the back of the class, sitting by a quiet redhead.
“Good morning,” said Mrs. Adams from her desk, and the class settled down. “Last week, we talked about suicide. Today, we’re going to learn about how we can talk to someone who might be depressed or suicidal.”
She said, “But first I want to tell you something. If you think someone’s depressed or suicidal, it’s all right to come talk to me. It’s not snitching. Promise me you’ll come see me, right?” We nodded; students loved Mrs. Adams. “All right,” she said. “Now I want you to find a partner and ask them how they’re feeling.”
Emma turned to the redhead as people started talking. “Hi. I’m Emma.”
“I know.” The girl stared at her desk, her red hair falling like a curtain between them.
“What’s your name?”
Emma didn’t have to ask how Bridget was feeling. She felt the emotions underneath her own. These weren’t typical feelings, though. These felt stronger, eating away at Emma’s emotions and trying to take over.
The last time she felt this way was when she visited her cousin Daniel. He had felt this way, and a day later, he killed himself. Emma had attended his funeral, thinking about his emotions. She could’ve stopped his decision, she knew.
Now she had a second chance. “Are you okay?” asked Emma. When the other girl shrugged, she continued, “I can feel that you’re depressed. You know that?”
Bridget remained still and silent, and Emma said, “I felt my cousin’s emotions, you know, before he killed himself. They’re exactly like yours.” She paused. “I don’t want you to die either. I could have prevented my cousin’s death, and I want to prevent yours.”
Bridget finally looked up.
“Can we go talk to Mrs. Adams?” asked Emma.
Standing up, Bridget nodded and Emma followed. “Hello, girls,” said Mrs. Adams. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s private,” said Emma, glancing at some eavesdropping students.
Mrs. Adams cast a purple-tinged magical barrier to keep others from listening in. She had the gift of enchantment—casting spells—which is one of the most useful and most envied magical powers. “Now,” she said, “what is this about?”
Bridget glanced at Emma, who took the hint and left.
A few minutes later, Bridget exited the barrier and smiled at Emma. “Thanks.” That one word was enough—to both of them, it seemed, because Bridget walked back to her desk.
Emma heard Mrs. Adams call her name from behind the barrier, sounding muffled. When Emma stood before the teacher, Mrs. Adams said, “At your age you’re being encouraged to look into different careers, correct?
Emma nodded, wondering where the conversation was going.
“I think you should pursue a career as a psychologist.”
“Really?” She hadn’t expected that.
“Of course. You can help many people in that profession,” she said, approval emanating off of her. “Emma, everyone says your gift is useless—and I know you feel that way—but empathy is not useless. You just saved a life. How many more could save?” She paused, letting her words sink in. “Thank you for your time. Talk to me if you have any questions.”
She walked back to her desk and winked at Bridget, who smiled. For once, she couldn’t feel anyone else’s emotions—everyone else’s feelings were dimmed by Emma’s hope.