The People of Unseen–Brindle

With my novel, Unseen, coming out this weekend, I am starting to share some backstories of the Gifted characters. We start with the group’s leader, Brindle.

Brindle, year 2016 C.E.

The band of pain across Brindle’s forehead tightened. Rolling over, nausea hit, making them retch. How much tequila did I drink? Too much was the obvious answer. Feeling like this was going to make it hard to focus on the statistics midterm this morning. Fortunately, they’d had practice dealing with hangovers, had a routine that started with ginger ale.

Slowly sitting up, they realized that their roommate was up and gone. That was unusual. She usually slept late. A glance at their watch and a different kind of sickness rose in their gut. Ten after ten. The midterm was at nine. It was over. They’d missed it. Slept right through it. Had been so drunk the night before that they’d forgotten to set the alarm. I don’t do things like that!

Taking a can from the small fridge in the dorm room, Brindle sat down at their desk trying to remember what the midterm was worth. Maybe the prof would let them make it up. But that would mean admitting to binge drinking. Turning the can in a slow circle Brindle realized that the time had come. They needed to admit the problem.

The drinking had started during frosh week, which was not that strange as there was lots of drinking in the dorm, at events. But for Brindle it had been different. Coming from a rural community and a farm, they were finding Toronto life overwhelming. And dorm life was just about impossible. So crowded. So many people with so many worries. The pressure got to them just about every day. Early in the term, they’d taken the subway to High Park for long walks alone. But at this point in October, it was raining almost every day. There was no escape from the people.

As the worst of the nausea settled, Brindle dressed, ran a brush through their long red hair. One of the frosh week events had included a tour of Student Services. That felt like the right place to face the problem. They headed across campus. At the door to the office, Brindle hesitated, feeling an overwhelming urge to run. But running from a challenge did not fit with the person who could face any problem on the farm from an angry steer to a tractor break down. Brindle turned the handle and stepped inside.

Two women were behind the desk, one sitting, one standing. “I need to see a counsellor,” Brindle said.

“Do you have an appointment?” asked the seated woman.

When Brindle shook their head, the woman who was standing put a hand on the other’s shoulder. “I have some time before my next appointment. Come with me.”

In the office, Brindle sunk into the offered chair, started to wonder what they would say.

“My name is Gilda. Yours?”


“What brought you to our office today?”

“The people.”

“Particular people?”

“Just all the people. And all their worries. It might not be so bad if I had a single room, but my roommate worries about her makeup, worries about her choice of program, worries about her boyfriend who went to University of Ottawa.” Brindle went on to the worries of the people they usually ate with, the people they sat next to in class, the professors. They poured out the pressure that the anxiety of people around them created.

Gilda listened, hands folded. When they stopped, she asked, “Can you tell what am I worried about?”

Brindle glanced up. “That I won’t believe you. I suppose you are going to tell me that it is all normal, and I’m going to be fine. I don’t feel fine.”

“You are Gifted. An empath who senses worry,” said Gilda. “There are ways, however, to block other people’s anxiety from affecting you. And yes, you are normal, but a different kind of normal. Have you noticed that all you listed were worries?”

“And anxiety.”

Gilda nodded. “They are connected.”

“It’s no gift to know what everybody is worried about. Do you know how many people there are in this city?”

“Millions. Which is why I will teach you to keep yourself grounded, to protect your mind, your self.”

“How do you know this?”

“I also am Gifted, also an empath. My Gift lets me sense happiness. It lets me know when I’ve done my job here well. But it can be very distracting.”

“Trade you.”

Gilda smiled sadly. “That is not possible. Your Gift is your own as much as your other skills. But I can work with you, teach you meditation techniques that keep you centred. And introduce you to a few other people like us with Gifts.”

‘You aren’t going to send me to AA?”

For you, AA would be horrible. A room full of anxious people.”

Brindle studied the older woman’s face. She clearly believed what she was saying. “So, knowing what other people are worried about is an extra kind of sense?”

“It helps to think of it as a skill. You may find ways to make it useful. But in the meantime, I can teach you to turn it off, at least dull it’s strength so you can focus, so you can keep yourself whole.” Gilda folded her hands. “I suspect that when you drink, you lessen your natural control, open yourself more to the empathic pathways. It takes a lot more alcohol to dull them, to drown out the worries.”

“What about the midterm I missed?”

“I’ll talk to your professor.” Gilda glanced at her schedule. “Can you come back at four this afternoon for the first session?”

“I have class until four thirty.”

“Four forty then?” Brindle ran their tongue across their teeth. The taste was terrible. Whether they believed Gilda or not, something had to shift or they’d be headed back to the farm. “Sure. I’ll come back.”


About cathyhird

I am an author, former farmer, retired minister, and when I get a chance, a weaver. Storytelling that inspires is important to me. I have two novels set in ancient Greece, Moon of the Goddess and Before the New Moon Rises.
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