A new series about mind readers from USA Today bestselling authors...
Everyone thinks I’m a genius.
Everyone is wrong.
Sure, I finished Harvard at eighteen and now make crazy money at a hedge fund. But that’s not because I’m unusually smart or hard-working.
It’s because I cheat.
You see, I have a unique ability. I can go outside time into my own personal version of reality—the place I call “the Quiet”—where I can explore my surroundings while the rest of the world stands still.
I thought I was the only one who could do this—until I met her.
My name is Darren, and this is how I became entangled with all the Russians and learned that I’m a Reader.
Excerpt from The Thought Readers:
Sometimes I think I’m crazy. I’m sitting at a casino table in Atlantic City,
and everyone around me is motionless. I call this the Quiet, as though giving it a name makes it seem
more real—as though giving it a
name changes the fact that all the players around me are frozen like statues,
and I’m walking among them, looking at the cards
they’ve been dealt.
problem with the theory of my being crazy is that when I ‘unfreeze’the world, as I just have, the cards the players turn over are
the same ones I just saw in the Quiet. If I were crazy, wouldn’t these cards be
different? Unless I’m so far gone that I’m imagining the cards
on the table, too.
then I also win. If that’s
a delusion—if the pile of chips
on my side of the table is a delusion—then I might as well question everything.
Maybe my name isn’t even Darren.
I can’t think that way. If I’m really that confused, I don’t want to snap out of
it—because if I do, I’ll probably wake up in
a mental hospital.
I love my life, crazy and all.
shrink thinks the Quiet is an inventive way I describe the ‘inner workings of my genius.’Now
that sounds crazy to me. She also might want me, but that’s beside the point.
Suffice it to say, she’s as far as it gets from my datable age range,
which is currently right around twenty-four. Still young, still hot, but done
with school and pretty much beyond the clubbing phase. I hate clubbing, almost
as much as I hated studying. In any case, my shrink’s explanation doesn’t work, as it doesn’t account for the way
I know things even a genius wouldn’t know—like the exact value and suit of the other
watch as the dealer begins a new round. Besides me, there are three players at
the table: Grandma, the Cowboy, and the Professional, as I call them. I feel
that now-almost-imperceptible fear that accompanies the phasing. That’s what I call the
process: phasing into the Quiet. Worrying about my sanity has always
facilitated phasing; fear seems helpful in this process.
phase in, and everything gets quiet. Hence the name for this state.
It’s eerie to me, even
now. Outside the Quiet, this casino is very loud: drunk people talking, slot
machines, ringing of wins, music—the only place louder is a club or a concert.
And yet, right at this moment, I could probably hear a pin drop. It’s like I’ve gone deaf to the
chaos that surrounds me.
so many frozen people around adds to the strangeness of it all. Here is a
waitress stopped mid-step, carrying a tray with drinks. There is a woman about
to pull a slot machine lever. At my own table, the dealer’s hand is raised, the
last card he dealt hanging unnaturally in midair. I walk up to him from the
side of the table and reach for it. It’s a king, meant for the Professional. Once I
let the card go, it falls on the table rather than continuing to float as
before—but I know full well
that it will be back in the air, in the exact position it was when I grabbed
it, when I phase out.
Professional looks like someone who makes money playing poker, or at least the
way I always imagined someone like that might look. Scruffy, shades on, a
He’s been doing an excellent job with the poker face—basically not twitching a single muscle
throughout the game. His face is so expressionless that I wonder if he might’ve gotten Botox to
help maintain such a stony countenance. His hand is on the table, protectively
covering the cards dealt to him.
move his limp hand away. It feels normal. Well, in a manner of speaking. The hand
is sweaty and hairy, so moving it aside is unpleasant and is admittedly an
abnormal thing to do. The normal part is that the hand is warm, rather than
cold. When I was a kid, I expected people to feel cold in the Quiet, like stone
the Professional’s hand moved away, I pick up his cards. Combined with the king
that was hanging in the air, he has a nice high pair. Good to know.
walk over to Grandma. She’s already holding her cards, and she has
fanned them nicely for me. I’m able to avoid touching her wrinkled, spotted
hands. This is a relief, as I’ve recently become conflicted about touching
people—or, more specifically,
women—in the Quiet. If I had
to, I would rationalize touching Grandma’s hand as harmless, or at least not creepy,
but it’s better to avoid it if possible.
any case, she has a low pair. I feel bad for her. She’s been losing a
lot tonight. Her chips are dwindling. Her losses are due, at least
partially, to the fact that she has a terrible poker face. Even before looking
at her cards, I knew they wouldn’t be good because I could tell she was
disappointed as soon as her hand was dealt. I also caught a gleeful gleam in
her eyes a few rounds ago when she had a winning three of a kind.
whole game of poker is, to a large degree, an exercise in reading people—something I really want to get better at. At
my job, I’ve been told I’m great at reading people. I’m not, though; I’m just good at using
the Quiet to make it seem like I am. I do want to learn how to read people for
real, though. It would be nice to know what everyone is thinking.
I don’t care that much about in this poker game is money. I do well
enough financially to not have to depend on hitting it big gambling. I don’t care if I win or
lose, though quintupling my money back at the blackjack table was fun. This
whole trip has been more about going gambling because I finally can,
being twenty-one and all. I was never into fake IDs, so this is an actual
milestone for me.
Grandma alone, I move on to the next player—the Cowboy. I can’t resist taking off
his straw hat and trying it on. I wonder if it’s possible for me to
get lice this way. Since I’ve never been able to bring back any inanimate
objects from the Quiet, nor otherwise affect the real world in any lasting way,
I figure I won’t be able to get any living critters to come back with me
the hat, I look at his cards. He has a pair of aces—a better hand than the Professional. Maybe the
Cowboy is a professional, too. He has a good poker face, as far as I can tell.
It’ll be interesting to watch those two in this round.
I walk up to the deck and look at the top cards, memorizing them. I’m not leaving anything
my task in the Quiet is complete, I walk back to myself. Oh, yes, did I mention
that I see myself sitting there, frozen like the rest of them? That’s the weirdest part.
It’s like having an out-of-body experience.
my frozen self, I look at him. I usually avoid doing this, as it’s too unsettling. No
amount of looking in the mirror—or seeing videos of yourself on YouTube—can prepare you for viewing your own
three-dimensional body up close. It’s not something anyone is meant to experience.
Well, aside from identical twins, I guess.
It’s hard to believe that
this person is me. He looks more like some random guy. Well, maybe a bit better
than that. I do find this guy interesting. He looks cool. He looks smart. I
think women would probably consider him good-looking, though I know that’s not a modest thing
It’s not like I’m an expert at gauging
how attractive a guy is, but some things are common sense. I can tell when a
dude is ugly, and this frozen me is not. I also know that generally, being
good-looking requires a symmetrical face, and the statue of me has that. A
strong jaw doesn’t hurt either. Check. Having broad shoulders is a positive, and
being tall really helps. All covered. I have blue eyes—that seems to be a plus. Girls have told me
they like my eyes, though right now, on the frozen me, the eyes look
creepy. Glassy. They look
like the eyes of a lifeless wax figure.
that I’m dwelling on this subject way too long, I shake my head. I can
just picture my shrink analyzing this moment. Who would imagine admiring
themselves like this as part of their mental illness? I can just picture her
scribbling down Narcissist and underlining it for emphasis.
I need to leave the Quiet. Raising my hand, I touch my frozen self on the
forehead, and I hear noise again as I phase out.
is back to normal.
card that I looked at a moment ago—the king that I left on the table—is in the air again, and from there it follows
the trajectory it was always meant to, landing near the Professional’s hands. Grandma is
still eyeing her fanned cards in disappointment, and the Cowboy has his hat on
again, though I took it off him in the Quiet. Everything is exactly as it was.
some level, my brain never ceases to be surprised at the discontinuity of the
experience in the Quiet and outside it. As humans, we’re hardwired to
question reality when such things happen. When I was trying to outwit my shrink
early on in my therapy, I once read an entire psychology textbook during our
session. She, of course, didn’t notice it, as I did it in the Quiet. The
book talked about how babies as young as two months old are surprised if they
see something out of the ordinary, like gravity appearing to work backwards. It’s no wonder my brain
has trouble adapting. Until I was ten, the world behaved normally, but
everything has been weird since then, to put it mildly.
down, I realize I’m holding three of a kind. Next time, I’ll look at my cards
before phasing. If I have something this strong, I might take my chances and
game unfolds predictably because I know everybody’s cards. At the end,
Grandma gets up. She’s clearly lost enough money.
that’s when I see the girl for the first time.
She’s hot. My friend Bert
at work claims that I have a ‘type,’but I reject that idea. I don’t like to think of
myself as shallow or predictable. But I might actually be a bit of both,
because this girl fits Bert’s description of my type to a T. And my
reaction is extreme interest, to say the least.
blue eyes. Well-defined cheekbones on a slender face, with a hint of something
exotic. Long, shapely legs, like those of a dancer. Dark wavy hair in a
ponytail—a hairstyle that I
like. And without bangs—even better. I hate
bangs—not sure why girls do
that to themselves. Though lack of bangs is not, strictly speaking, in Bert’s description of my
type, it probably should be.
continue staring at her as she joins my table. With her high heels and tight
skirt, she’s overdressed for this place. Or maybe I’m underdressed in my
jeans and t-shirt. Either way, I don’t care. I have to try to talk to her.
debate phasing into the Quiet and approaching her, so I can do something creepy
like stare at her up close, or maybe even snoop in her pockets. Anything to
help me when I talk to her.
decide against it, which is probably the first time that’s ever happened.
know that my reasoning for breaking my usual habit is strange. If you can even
call it reasoning. I picture the following chain of events: she agrees to date
me, we go out for a while, we get serious, and because of the deep connection
we have, I come clean about the Quiet. She learns I did something creepy and
has a fit, then dumps me. It’s ridiculous to think this, of course,
considering that we haven’t even spoken yet. Talk about jumping the gun.
She might have an IQ below seventy, or the personality of a piece of wood.
There can be twenty different reasons why I wouldn’t want to date her.
And besides, it’s not all up to me. She might tell me to go fuck myself as soon
as I try to talk to her.
working at a hedge fund has taught me to hedge. As crazy as that reasoning is,
I stick with my decision not to phase because I know it’s the gentlemanly
thing to do. In keeping with this unusually chivalrous me, I also decide not to
cheat at this round of poker.
the cards are dealt again, I reflect on how good it feels to have done the
honorable thing—even without anyone
knowing. Maybe I should try to respect people’s privacy more
often. Yeah, right. I have to be realistic. I wouldn’t be where I am today
if I’d followed that advice. In fact, if I made a habit of respecting
people’s privacy, I would lose my job within days—and with it, a lot of the comforts I’ve become accustomed
the Professional’s move, I cover my cards with my hand as soon as I receive them.
I’m about to sneak a peek at what I was dealt when something
world goes quiet, just like it does when I phase in... but I did nothing this time.
at that moment, I see her—the girl sitting across the table from me, the
girl I was just thinking about. She’s standing next to me, pulling her hand away
from mine. Or, strictly speaking, from my frozen self’s hand—as I’m standing a little to the side looking at
She’s also still sitting
in front of me at the table, a frozen statue like all the others.
mind goes into overdrive as my heartbeat jumps. I don’t even consider the
possibility of that second girl being a twin sister or something like that. I
know it’s her. She’s doing what I did just a few minutes ago. She’s walking in the
Quiet. The world around us is frozen, but we are not.
horrified look crosses her face as she realizes the same thing. Before I can
react, she lunges across the table and touches her own forehead.
world becomes normal again.
stares at me from across the table, shocked, her eyes huge and her face pale.
She rises to her feet. Without so much as a word, she turns and begins walking
away, then breaks into a run a couple of seconds later.
over my own shock, I get up and run after her. It’s not exactly smooth.
If she notices a guy she doesn’t know running after her, dating will be the
last thing on her mind. But I’m beyond that now. She’s the only person I’ve met who can do what
I do. She’s proof that I’m not insane. She might have what I want most
in the world.
Check out the short story novelette prologue for the Mind Dimensions series, The Time Stopper, for FREE!
About the Author
Dima Zales is a full-time science fiction and fantasy author residing in Palm Coast, Florida. Prior to becoming a writer, he worked in the software development industry in New York as both a programmer and an executive. From high-frequency trading software for big banks to mobile apps for popular magazines, Dima has done it all. In 2013, he left the software industry in order to concentrate on his writing career.
Dima holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from NYU and a dual undergraduate degree in Computer Science / Psychology from Brooklyn College. He also has a number of hobbies and interests, the most unusual of which might be professional-level mentalism. He simulates mind-reading on stage and close-up, and has done shows for corporations, wealthy individuals, and friends.
He is also into healthy eating and fitness, so he should live long enough to finish all the book projects he starts. In fact, he very much hopes to catch the technological advancements that might let him live forever (biologically or otherwise). Aside from that, he also enjoys learning about current and future technologies that might enhance our lives, including artificial intelligence, biofeedback, brain-to-computer interfaces, and brain-enhancing implants.
In addition to his own works, Dima has collaborated on a number of romance novels with his wife, Anna Zaires. The Krinar Chronicles, an erotic science fiction series, has been a bestseller in its categories and has been recognized by the likes of Marie Claire and Woman’s Day. If you like erotic romance with a unique plot, please feel free to check it out, especially since the first book in the series (Close Liaisons) is available for free everywhere. Keep in mind, though, Dima Zales's books are going to be much more PG 13 . . . at least that’s the plan for now.
Anna Zaires is the love of his life and a huge inspiration in every aspect of his writing. She definitely adds her magic touch to anything Dima creates, and the books would not be the same without her. Dima’s fans are strongly encouraged to learn more about Anna and her work at http://www.annazaires.com/