I hide my inner gaze again and touch back down with her, here upon this rooftop on the Lower East Side. I retrieve Marc’s letter from her grip, where it’s been clenched throughout our journey, lay it down and take her hands in mine. She lets me do this, but stares at me as if I have two heads.
“The situation is simple,” I say, not quite convinced of the truth of this. “I shan’t intrude into you again like that. I’ll respect your privacy from now on. But I had to do that once, so you understand what I’m talking about and believe me when I say this broadcast of ours will be for real. I don’t know how, but I seem to have learned this kind of hypnotic gaze that takes whomever I’m looking at on a forcible journey through themselves, as I just did with you. I did the same to Marc Albright too, earlier tonight. I chose him because of his power, but I’m pretty sure it would have worked on anyone.” She stares at the contract, unfocused. “Or else I can do a ‘tune-in’, as I call it: if I’m with someone, or if I’m not with them but I know them, then I can see into them without their knowing. I can’t see everything, but I can see quite a bit of their mind and imagination and fantasies.”
She sits there, staring at the same clump of downtown skyscrapers Marc stared at earlier—though from closer here, from a different direction and with yellow-grey mist now wrapped about them. “Jaymi, how the fuck did this happen?”
“This will be hard to believe, I know, but it’s true, as I’ve just demonstrated. It all began with a CreamiChoc at work, though I don’t know if that’s what caused it.”
“It began with a what?”
“A CreamiChoc. It’s a kind of vending-machine drink. Sort of like a mixture of…” and I proceed to tell the tale of all the steps that have led me to this point tonight. She lets me finish. Then she grills me about those steps, from every single angle. I can hardly blame her; I should probably have done the same to her. Then from disbelief she passes slowly to belief, from seriousness to laughter, and finally from wide-eyed wonder to greedy-eyed scheming. Just as I might have expected!
Then she grills me about what exactly we’ll be doing during the broadcast. I explain that I shan’t be tuning in passively to anyone, but hypnotically projecting an active gaze that’ll work differently in every watcher, depending on their particular mind. I say the broadcast will consist of just a close-up of my face in real time, speaking no words but staring at the lens, to a soundtrack of her live and unaccompanied voice (I hope) running free with the kind of beautiful swoops and wails with which I’ve heard her mesmerise small audiences in various downtown venues—a startling and unearthly sound that has started to gain her a well-deserved cult following. “Marc’s intention is to simulate a stadium performance—you onstage, and then above you a big screen with me projected on it live. But since not even he could sell out a real stadium for an unidentified act, he’s going to record us on a sound-stage and then insert cut-aways of a digitally created stadium audience.”
“Right… Jaymi, how long do we have?”
“All I know so far is that in a few weeks’ time, on a Sunday afternoon, we’ll be driven down to the sound-stage in Asbury Park, and on the same night it’ll be broadcast live.”
She stares at the towers, where the red lights wink through the yellow mist. “I’m dreaming!” she cries out, shaking her head. But she believes it, at last, I can see; she believes it. She jumps up, I follow her, and then we’re dancing around the flat rooftop, laughing and jubilant, threading our way in and out of the line of vertical drainpipes, swinging ourselves around one or other of these. Even in her jubilance, however, her mind is working, as I see when she swings herself around one pipe with the lights of the night reflecting sharp off her silver stud-earring. The pipe is next to me, so her face is suddenly right in mine and our gazes latch onto each other from very close up in a split-second’s freeze-frame that hits us both, with her eyes asking Where are you taking me, Jaymi?
For more about "The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine, see
For some great reviews of it, see
And to pick it up from whichever retailer you may prefer, the retailers’ links for the paperback are at
and for the ebook at