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The Telepath's Reading Material

As a skill, reading is interesting. It takes a while to learn, and at the beginning it requires focus, repetition, and preferably a teacher. Once you do get the basics down, it's hard to forget--so long as you practice now and then, you can read just about anything. But with only the basics you're slow, you misinterpret, and it takes effort. You have to keep practicing, you have to read often, and you have to read diversified material.
David Cayce read minds. Maybe even better than he read words.
As a kid, he wasn't very good: reading even surface level thoughts took a lot of effort, and it earned him a lot of weird looks and isolation. As he reached his teenage years, natural practice increased his ability, but he never put much exertion into improvement. David read minds casually, the way one read signs or instructions. It was something he did when necessary, not something he was invested in.
He didn't find people interesting. Like books, minds were long and boring, and the prose of thoughts hadn't appealed to him. David found telepathy to be little more than a party trick, a way to part idiots from their money at cards or bets, a way to pass school without really trying.
He was comfortable with that philosophy, until required community service took him to a retirement home. He'd expected more of the usual, and he'd gotten it: bingo drama, whose family would visit and whose wouldn't, complaints about the food, etc. Never anything that seemed to matter.
The change came the first time he'd read a mind with dementia.
It was a challenge. It was the first challenge he'd had in years, and when he'd dug deeper and read more fully to sort through it, it was the first time he'd found himself invested in someone else's thoughts. Someone else's life. And when he'd stopped reading, when he'd pulled away from the mind and looked back at the man who owned it, he knew what to say. He knew how to follow the man's train of thought; he knew where the man thought he was and how to be what the man needed him to be. David watched as the old man's face lit up, and David gave him a full, vibrant conversation.
And for the first time in his life, reading minds wasn't a party trick. It wasn't something petty and selfish; it wasn't a way for him to coast. It was something for others.
It was something that mattered.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 12th, 2021
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