“What we face is not the end, but a blank page.”
- Charm: Fascinating
- Adaptability: Needs development
- Planning: Superior
- Survival Preparations: Superior
- Wealth: Took a vow of poverty
- Weapons Skill: Snuggles of light
- Intelligence: Teach me O master!
- Warm Fuzzies: Melting
- Leadership: Average
Because of their kind, sensitive and accepting nature, INFJs will become natural magnets to the hurting after the apocalypse. Complete strangers draped with bandoleers of ammunition will flop down at your campfire and state, "After the zombies ate my family, I went a little crazy..."
Thanks to your telepathic empathy you will be able to relate to these traumatized people and help them find meaning and hope for their lives. Sometimes the sessions will be a bit impromptu.
"Give me all your food or I'll slit your throat," the bandit snarls as he jumps out from behind a crumbling wall.
"You didn't know what would happen to your friend when you went out to fetch water," you say softly. The bandit begins weeping. You hold him.
Of course, not all battle-scarred strangers are secretly hiding a miserable past. A lot of them are actually just plain, run-of-the-mill black-hearted killers. But the INFJ can instinctively sense this too. For instance, the INFJ and their companions will be walking along when they meet a nice-looking young man with his arm in a makeshift sling. He has a worried expression on his face.
"Hey! Can I join with you? I think I'm lost."
As the rest of the group looks at each other questioningly, the INFJ whips out their gun and points it at the young man's head. In a low hiss they say, "Take one step closer and I'll drop you in your tracks."
The other party members stare in shock at the kind, quiet INFJ. Leering, the young man gets to his feet and sidles off.
"What did you do that for?" the party demands.
"There was more death inside him than a zombie," the INFJ declares. Then, in a worried tone, "I hope he'll be alright. He needed our food."
Of course, occasionally the party's leader may not appreciate the INFJ's natural gifts.
"Pure paranoia," they will snort. "We deal in facts around here, not feeeeeelings."
Hurt, the INFJ will say nothing. They would leave the group and go solo, but they care too much about their companions to let them die. So instead they will continue on into the shadow of the valley of death, knowing full well what will happen, and hoping somehow to avert it.
You will experience a particularly good example of this phenomenon when your party is scavenging for food on the outskirts of a ruined city.
The first snowfall of the winter has blanketed everything in white, and for once the grim rubble looks almost pretty. Pink sunlight beams down through the dirty clouds and makes the world sparkle.
"Everyone split up," the leader, an ISTJ Sentinel, orders. "We won't find everything if we all check the same places."
You wander off and find yourself at an abandoned apartment complex. Room by room you search, looking for canned food that might have been ignored by previous scavengers. Quickly it becomes obvious that the building been worked over. Yet...
You have a funny feeling. You're not sure exactly what it means, but you feel prompted to walk down the hallway. At the end, you stop, turn, and find yourself looking at a door.
Then you hear it—a gentle moan. A zombie? Your hand flies to your gun.
Weapon at ready, you slowly turn the knob. The door creaks open. You catch a glimpse of flower-printed wallpaper, a teddy bear sprawled on the dusty floor, a few broken bottles of wine—
A man is lying there. At first you think he must be sleeping off the wine, but there is a puddle of congealed blood beneath him. His hand is clenched around a knife. You don't sense anything violent about him; if anything, it looks as though he has used the dagger on himself. You cautiously approach.
"Are you alright?" you ask, your voice loud in the silence.
He groans and lifts his head to look at you, revealing bright eyes in a blood-smeared face. His black hair is clumped with half-dried blood. "Wh-wh—?"
At that moment you feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise as something approaches. You whirl around.
Standing behind you is a small, lithe figure dressed in a dirty white jacket several sizes too big for her. The young woman has kind brown eyes, a shy smile, and a long, matted brown braid sticking out from underneath a homespun wool hat. Yet strangely, you cannot sense her connections—it is as though you were looking at empty air.
There is no reason to be afraid. You force a smile. "Thank goodness you've come along; I need help with this guy. Could you run get my friends?"
"Your...friends?" she says, the corner of her mouth quirking oddly. "Where would I find them?"
"They're around here looking for food. Just look for tracks in the snow."
Nodding, the young woman pads smartly off, her footsteps muffled in her fur boots.
There is a slight unevenness to her gait. Chills run up and down your body. Why can't you feel her—and why does that make you nervous?
The man has fallen back to the floor. He does not awaken when you approach. You turn over his body and open his bloody leather jacket. To your surprise, there is no blood underneath; it seems as though the only blood is on his dagger and the floor. But is it really his blood? You search his body carefully for hidden wounds but find nothing. Puzzled, you conclude that perhaps he has been in a fight, and this is the blood of his adversary.
The noise of running feet announces the arrival of help.
An hour passes as you wait for the man to come around. Your companions energetically debate what might have happened, but no one has any answers. The young woman perches whimsically on a rocking horse, listening attentively. Her solemn brown eyes float from face to face. You find your gaze drawn back to her over and over again, always sensing that same emptiness—or is it? As you probe at her mind, you begin to think maybe you do sense tiny wisps of feelings, like toxic waste bleeding out of a breached barrel. Or is it just your imagination? Could her emotions somehow be hidden from you?
As you ponder these questions, you melt a pot of snow into water and bathe the blood off the man's face and hair. There is no swelling underneath, so he doesn't seem to have sustained head trauma. Why is he unconscious? There are bottles strewn about; perhaps he is drunk. But there is no smell of alcohol, and the bottles look dusty.
"He probably OD'd on venomweed," says the ISTJ Sentinel, his ex-cop background showing through. There have been a lot of addicts in the areas you have passed through recently, but somehow you don't think this is what happened. It is hard to explain, but you think that you were meant to meet this man and help him.
"But what about the bloody knife in his hand?" the INTP Wizard points out. "Here's how I see it. There was a fight, and he wounds the other guy. His opponent manages to knock him out and get away. So the question is, what was the fight about?"
A search of the man's pockets turns up a full clip of ammunition, a set of spark plugs, rubber bands, glue, a map, a pouch with a little gold, and a pair of gloves. A yellowed animal fang hangs around his neck.
Left at an impasse, the ISTJ turns to the girl in the white jacket and smiles. "So, are you our newest member then?"
"Oh!" she says softly. "Could I be? I don't know where my family is."
"Of course," he says. "We don't turn anyone away as long as they do their share."
Nobody notices you nervously chewing on your hair in the corner. What are you going to say, "No, you can't let the poor, limping, orphan girl join"? They would think you were a heartless monster. Even you think you are a heartless monster.
Over the next three days you keep an inconspicuous eye on the young woman. She is quiet, sensitive and gentle. Her favorite hobbies are reading and writing poetry. In the words of one party member, "She's like a second version of you!"
Actually, you are beginning to think that she is, in fact, a fellow INFJ. That is why you cannot sense her; she keeps up her shields to silence the constant barrage of others' emotions. The realization reassures you...for awhile.
One cold, grey morning the INTP Wizard, the ISFJ Assassin and the other INFJ are sitting around the campfire with you, warming their hands. The stranger, still unconscious, is wrapped up in blankets inside the apartment. Food has begun to run low, and a winter storm is approaching from the west.
"Mm, there's nothing like a nice roaring hot fire," the ISFJ says, throwing on a footstool. She holds her hands out to warm them.
The INTP stares into the flame. Then, out of the blue he turns to the ISFJ and snaps, "You don't have to state the obvious all the time." It is one of those silly, stressed out comments that people make when they are worried and hungry.
You are about to pour oil on the water when the other INFJ looks up from her book and observes quietly, "They are fools who waste words." She smiles at the INTP.
With an embarrassed cough, the ISFJ Assassin says, "I think I'll go collect some more wood."
The ISFJ scurries off. The INTP watches her go with a vaguely remorseful expression.
The other INFJ remarks, "Some people are way too sensitive, aren't they?"
The Wizard's face turns impassive. He nods and stirs the fire with a stick.
You stare at your fellow INFJ, wondering how a fellow NF could be so blind to the dynamics of the situation. Can she not see that the INTP Wizard needs to learn to be more considerate of others' feelings? Can she not see that the ISFJ Assassin feels insecure about her place in the group? Now both have been confirmed in their worst faults and fears.
The other INFJ looks at you, and the corners of her lips play in a subtle expression, like a serpent's smile. She turns back to her book.
That day, as the group dines on the scrawny carcass of some kind of unidentifiable thing that was wandering around, the other INFJ asks innocently, "So if the man with the knife doesn't get better, are we going to wait here until all the food runs out?"
Silence falls over the group. Then the INTP Wizard, who has been particularly blunt and inconsiderate since that morning, speaks up. "The game is running out, and I for one don't want to become a walking skeleton. We need to move on whether he’s feeling better or not.” The INTP seems to enjoy being the one to relay unpleasant truths that everyone is trying not to think about.
“And we can't afford to drag dead weight with us," adds the ISTJ. “Especially when the man in question might decide to repay our kindness by murdering us in our sleep.”
You feel like you must speak up in the man's defense. "I don't think we should leave him to die. We don't know he's a killer. What if it was self defense?"
The ISTJ Sentinel declares, "I don't like the look of this fellow; he reminds me of one of those maniacs who run strollers off the sidewalk in their hot rods. I know his type."
"Not everyone is a criminal," you say. "We should try to assume the best of everyone."
The other INFJ turns to you and says softly, "But don't you think that's a bit naive?"
That single word crushes your argument more effectively than any logic could have. Instantly the ISTJ Sentinel and INTP Wizard straighten up and eye you sternly.
The ISTJ states, "I was on a party once where a member got bitten by a zombie. The man's brother wouldn't let him go even though he was changing. Got the whole group killed, and only I made it out. I'm alive because I faced the facts. We live in a world of cold, hard facts now. Not every wretched body we scrape off the street is worth saving, and we can't afford to drag dead weight around. It'll be a long winter, and unless we focus on catching up food now, none of us will be alive come spring. We are leaving tomorrow. Is that clear?"
You look at the ground, holding back the hurt welling up behind your eyelids.
That night, while the others huddle together for warmth in an abandoned basement, you steal up to the apartment where the man lies. There is one last chance for bringing him around.
You sit down on the bed next to him, watching his shallow breaths make clouds of steam in the air. Then you reach out and lay a hand on his cool forehead. You focus on the tiny spark of consciousness burning within his mind, and begin to blow on it.
There are no words in the human vocabulary for what happens next: an unfolding, an unfurling, a blooming? All seem inadequate to describe how your mind opens his up and draws it back from the dark oblivion of unconsciousness. Half-dreaming, he struggles against you, his limbs twitching and his teeth clenching as he resists. You don't understand why he is fighting you, but you keep pulling him up, up, up into consciousness.
As you do so you cannot help but feel and know him—he has a certain bold mischief, a boundless confidence, a complex mind that erupts in cascades of glowing sparks. There is something beguilingly carefree and happy about him, like a big child. You smile unconsciously, part of you enjoying the change from your own world of worries and burdens.
But you cannot afford to stay; your mind is wearying under the pressure of fighting his attempts to turn inward.
Suddenly you win. His mind—half conscious now—gives a strange twist and frees itself from yours. Simultaneously a startled cry bursts from his lips, and his eyes fly open. He thrusts you away. You step back, instinctively holding up your gloved hands in a placating gesture.
He sits bolt upright and stares around wildly. His mouth opens, but no words come out. Turning to you, he stares in bewilderment. You can feel the confusion rolling off of him. The emotions are stronger than you expected—a residual link from the connection, it will fade soon—but what he says next comes as a complete surprise.
"Where is this? Who are you? Who am I?"
Oh no, I fried his brain.
Actually, it isn't as bad as all that. It turns out only his memory is lost; otherwise, he seems fine. Or so he explains when you introduce him to the group crouched around the fire the next morning.
“So you lost your memory, huh?” says the INTP Wizard. “That's awfully convenient.”
“What could possibly be convenient about not knowing who I am or where I live?” the ENTP says. “And who took all my stuff? Was it you?”
“If you have amnesia, how do you know you have stuff?” counters the INTP.
“So I do have stuff,” the ENTP says, smirking. “I knew I would never go around with empty pockets. Pass it over.”
More grudgingly than you would like, the group restores the ENTP's possessions to him. You notice the other INFJ shooting the ENTP a narrow look. When she notices you looking at her, she quickly turns back to her book.
“So where are we going next?” the ENTP asks.
“'We'?” says the ISTJ Sentinel, frowning.
You had assured the ENTP that the group would take him in, but you had a feeling the ISTJ wouldn't like it.
“I think he would make a good member,” you say. “He knows a lot about hunting, and he's good with a gun.” You and the ENTP have spent the morning talking as you try to figure out what happened to him.
“I'd be happy to fill out an application form,” the ENTP says. “Unfortunately I seem to have misplaced my references.”
The ISTJ Sentinel's frown deepens.
“I think we can trust him,” you offer.
The INTP Wizard rolls his eyes. “Of course you would.”
But the ISTJ looks at the ENTP and says, “Alright, you’ve got one chance to prove yourself. But at the slightest sign of trouble, out you go.”
“Good. What’s for dinner?” the ENTP says.
All you can do is force a chuckle and stir the fire.
The next day the group prepares to set off again. You are assigned to collect tinder for the journey. You are glad for the opportunity to be alone, because you need to process some unexpected feelings that were stirred up when you touched the ENTP’s mind. You don’t talk about it, but you used to be married. Your husband was an INFP Mystic. He was an artist with gentle hands and a tender heart. You could share anything with him, and he understood perfectly. Sometimes you didn’t even have to speak; you just looked at each other and smiled.
You were off visiting a friend when he died in the first rain of bombs. There was a sudden, agonizing rip in your heart, then emptiness. You knew at once that he was dead.
Years have passed since then. You have no grave to mourn at. The only grave is in your heart, a dead place that will never heal. You don’t want to heal. The pain helps you remember him.
It doesn’t do much for your efforts to self actualize, though. Once you asked a wise old ENFJ Luminary why you weren’t making any progress in the healing arts. She told you what you had already suspected: “Before you can heal others, you must first heal yourself.” You haven’t developed any healing powers. You suspect you never will.
But last night you felt a stirring inside when you touched the ENTP’s soul. Not love—you barely know him—but the kind of soul-to-soul connection that you once shared with your husband. It feels faintly…adulterous…to have experienced something so intimate with another. But what else could you have done, leave the ENTP to die?
The link will fade soon, you tell yourself. Then your heart will be silent again.
Finding an empty apartment, you pull books off a shelf and put them in a box—a depressing task under the circumstances. In the old days, you used to love to curl up by the fire with a good story and read late into the night. Somehow it just isn't the same when the books are the fire. You try to choose books you've already read, but somehow that feels like an act of betrayal. Sighing, you open a copy of The Bridge to Terabitha and look for your favorite passage.
Thirty pages later, there is a knock on the door. You look up to find the ENTP standing in the doorway.
“It doubles as fire starting paper,” you say. “We can't carry around extra weight, so this is the only way I get to have a library.”
He looks as disappointed as you feel. Bending down, he digs through the books. After a moment he pulls one out and puts it aside. Winking, he explains, “This one will go in my pack. It would be a shame to use The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for tinder.”
“Have you read it?”
“I guess I must have,” he says. “I don't know, but I'm think I'm a bit of a geek, deep down. How about you? What do you like to read?”
Before you know it you are deep in a discussion about Tolkien, Feynman, and Emily Dickinson. You are surprised at how well read he is...and by how easy it is to talk to him. You have to force yourself to keep working or else you could just blabber on and on.
“I never got a chance to properly thank you for waking me up,” he says.
“Well, I sure didn't help your memory,” you say apologetically.
“Don't worry about it,” he says. “I would have died of hypothermia if you hadn't come along. What's a spot of amnesia compared to that?”
“So you don't remember anything? Nothing at all?”
He looks down at his bloodstained jacket and shakes his head.
“I seem to have had an interesting life though. Maybe I—” Suddenly he stops, his eyes fixing on the books. He picks one up, holds it for a moment, then picks up another.
“What is it?” you ask.
He grimaces, shutting the book. “You know what deja vu feels like? I'm feeling that right now. It's like there's something...dangerous about...books. I know that's silly, but...”
You examine the books, but they seem quite ordinary.
Sighing, he rubs his forehead. “Never mind. What could be dangerous about good books?” Then his face lightens. “Hey, know what else we need? A sled! Then we could carry along a whole box full of books.”
“Where would we find a sled?”
“Beats me. I was just going to make one. We'll need a tarp, four laundry baskets, and some rope.”
The rest of the party is surprised when you and the ENTP arrive pulling a makeshift sled. The ISFJ Assassin seems particularly pleased at the extra carrying capacity, and looks upon the ENTP with a kindly expression. You are proud of your new friend's contribution.
After loading up the sled, the party sets off across the city. You slog down snow-covered boulevards and weave your way around drift-swamped cars. The ISTJ Sentinel pulls the sled. You hope that it is a sign that he is warming up to the ENTP.
“Guess we don't have to worry about zombies till spring,” the ENTP jokes, pointing to a frozen grey hand sticking out of a snow bank.
“Oh, let's please not talk about zombies,” the other INFJ says. She hugs herself and gives a little shiver.
“What happened?” asks the ISTJ.
“My whole family—they b-became...” the INFJ's voice begins to quaver. “The one w-who was my—my sister came to my bedroom, and I—” She crunches her eyes shut for a moment. “I had to jump out the window. I hurt my leg when I landed, but somehow I managed to get up and run. I never saw them again.” She rubs her leg and wipes her tear-softened eyes.
You sense nothing from her as she recites the story. It strikes you as odd that she can retain her emotional shields so well despite with her overwhelming emotions. From your link to the ENTP, you feel a vague suspicion. Looking over at him, you see him frowning in thought.
“So that's why you limp,” the ISTJ says softly.
“It doesn't hurt too much,” the INFJ says. “Only when I walk a lot.”
“Why don't we let her ride in the sled?” the ISFJ Assassin suggests. “We can take turns pulling it.”
“That's an excellent idea,” says the ISTJ Sentinel. “Hop on and you can have a ride.”
“Really?” the INFJ says, her eyes widening. “Oh thank you!” She jumps nimbly into the sled.
“You should let me take a look at that leg when we stop tonight,” the ISTJ says.
“No, that's alright. I'm not worth the bother,” she says.
“Okay,” says the ISTJ.
You are surprised at his immediate acceptance; the ISTJ has always been very careful about taking care of injuries. But perhaps he is merely being sensitive about what must have been a traumatizing memory.
“Can this sled go as fast as a taxi?” wonders the INFJ.
“Let's find out!” the ISTJ says. He forges ahead.
The other INFJ makes herself comfortable and relaxes. A smug little smile appears on her face.
You look at the ENTP, who is radiating suspicion.
“What is it?” you ask.
“What? Oh, nothing,” he mutters. “Just trying to remember something.”
That night you camp near the intersection of 2nd and Jaketon St. The wind has picked up, and the hanging stoplight squeaks as it swings back and forth. You unroll your sleeping bag close to the fire and crawl inside, exhausted. The ENTP unrolls his nearby.
“This would be a good night for ghost stories,” he says. “Hey, did you hear the one about the zombie ghosts and the beheaded ESFJ Bunkerdragon?”
“Oh no, please let's not,” begs the other INFJ.
The ISTJ snaps, “You know she doesn't like zombies. Why do you keep bringing them up?”
The ENTP shrugs. “I was just joking around. Man, this fire is hot. I'm gonna end up burnt on one side and raw on the other.”
You shoot him a sympathetic look as you burrow down deeper into your bag.
“So where will we get more food?” the other INFJ asks.
“As soon as we cross this city,” the ISTJ promises. “Gentle Valley used to be one of my favorite hunting spots.”
“How many days of food do we have left?” the INTP Wizard asks.
“Two,” the ISFJ Assassin says. “I haven't been able to find much.” She gives an embarrassed smile.
“It's not your fault,” you say quickly. “There's not much around here to find.”
There is a moment of silence. An unspoken fact hangs in the air: the food will soon be gone.
“We should have circumnavigated the city instead of trying to go straight through,” the INTP says, looking at the ISTJ. “If we had just been patient and taken the long route through the suburbs there would have been plenty of game and we could have—”
“It's too late now,” the ISTJ growls.
You sense the beginning of an argument and make a tired noise. “We'd better get some rest. It's going to be a long day tomorrow. Who's going to take the first watch?”
“I will,” the ENTP offers.
“And I'll tend the fire,” the ISFJ says.
The ISTJ and INTP exchange one last glower, then settle down in their bags.
You pull your hat down tighter over your ears, cinch the collar of your coat a little closer, and shut your eyes.
“Goodnight,” the ENTP whispers.
“Goodnight,” you reply.
The lingering empathic link between you has not yet diminished, and you feel an unexpected sense of peace at the sense of protection he spreads over the whole group as he keeps watch—and particularly over you. You quickly fall asleep.
Terror Fear Help!
A scream cuts off. You are suddenly awake, your hand groping for a weapon. In the firelight you see the rest of the team thrashing their way out of their sleeping bags. The ENTP is on his feet, gun in hand, staring intently toward the building nearby. You fumble on your boots.
“What's going on?” the ISTJ demands.
“It's the ISFJ. She went off to look for wood,” the ENTP says. He points up at a broken window. “That window there—I saw something fall. C'mon!”
Without waiting for a response he dashes away followed by the ISTJ and INTP. You make to follow, but something checks you. Instead, you go over to a row of cars lined up on the sidewalk. There you see it.
The twisted shape of a human body is splayed across a patch of darkened snow. You can sense nothing from it, but you know who it is. With an anguished moan you turn away from the remains of the ISFJ Assassin—and find yourself looking at the other INFJ. Her brown eyes glint redly in the firelight as she examines the corpse. For a moment, neither of you speaks.
“I guess she must have jumped,” the INFJ says. “The poor woman.”
The blankness of her emotions makes you want to vomit. You mumble something and stagger off towards the entrance to the building. All you know is that you want to get away from her and the body.
You climb up the stairs and find the others standing in an empty hotel room. Wind hisses through the broken window. The ISTJ looks at you expectantly, asking a silent question.
“She's down on the street,” you say. “She fell.”
At last the group returns to the campsite. The ISFJ's body has been covered up with snow; it's the best you can do for a burial. You stare into the flames, gnawing your frayed hair neurotically.
“Why did she do it?” the ISTJ asks. You can feel waves of bewildered guilt rolling off of him.
No one answers.
The silence is broken by the sound of a metal lid popping. You look over to find the other INFJ opening a tin of sliced peaches.
“I know why she did it,” she says softly, holding up the can. “It was so that the rest of us could have more food. She died to save us.”
Slowly, solemnly, she begins to eat the ISFJ's rations. The horrible, mocking emptiness behind the words maddens you. You jump to your feet, your mouth open to accuse her of—of nothing.
“I-I need to go to the bathroom,” you choke out instead. You rush off into the dark.
Your feet take you down 2nd street several blocks; finally you stop in an alleyway and cry. Alone in the darkness, you feel safer than you felt in the circle of the fire.
Something is wrong. Your every instinct screams it. But to your frustration, you have no proof; all you know is that you wish the other INFJ was dead. Not just gone, but actually dead. What is wrong with me? you think. You've never felt like this before.
You hear the crunch of approaching footsteps.
“Hello?” calls the ENTP.
Palpable relief washes over you. You step out of the alleyway and find him peering in your direction.
“I was getting worried about you,” he said.
Quickly you brush your tears away. “I needed to be by myself.”
He nods. “Did you know her long?”
“Was she depressed, or...?”
“No,” you say. “She—look, I know this sounds weird, but I can't, I can't, believe that she would kill herself. I would have felt it if she had intended to do that. Besides, we would have made it even without the food. She wouldn't have died for our—our convenience.”
“I thought it was odd, myself,” he says, glancing back towards the fire. “She seemed fine when she went off to get the wood. Maybe there was someone in the building who pushed her.”
“That would make sense,” you say, though without conviction. Yet his words spark a thought in you. Suppose the push was not physical, but mental?
“Tell me,” you say slowly, “Was anyone else awake when the ISFJ fell?”
“Your INFJ friend was up reading,” he said. “She said she couldn't sleep. You're thinking she killed the ISFJ with some kind of psychic attack, aren't you?”
You are startled by how exactly he seems to have read your thoughts. Smiling, he explains, “It's that mind connection thing you mentioned. I thought it was supposed to go away by now.”
“It is,” you mumble.
“So why do you think the INFJ made her jump? To get the Assassin's share of the food for herself?”
You pause, then admit, “I know it sounds silly.”
“Not as silly as jumping off a building to give the rest of the party more food.”
“But how could anyone just murder someone like that?” You can't believe it, yet some deep, dark part of you does believe it.
“Maybe I'm wrong, but there's something about her I don't like,” the ENTP says, shooting a narrow-eyed glance back at the camp. “That zombie story she told...it was a little too tragic, you know?”
You find yourself nodding. “And isn't it odd how she claims she jumped out of a window to get away from her undead sister, and then the ISFJ falls out a window too?”
“It's too much of a coincidence,” the ENTP agrees. “Neither of us trusts her. Now what are we going to do about it?”
You don't know; you shake your head in silent frustration. If there had been anything you could have done, you would have done it by now. “What can we do? We have no proof of anything.”
“Do you think if we told the ISTJ what we suspected...?”
“No,” you say, thinking about the sled ride and the tragic story. It all strikes you as coldly manipulative now. “She's got him twisted around her finger.”
The ENTP frowns. “Can she manipulate people like that? Mentally, I mean?”
You think for a moment. It isn't something you want to believe she could do, but... “The ISTJ has been acting a little different lately—like, when she said not to bother about her leg, he just dropped it.”
“If she's an Idealist, then why doesn't she just heal the wound herself?”
You shrug helplessly. “Maybe she doesn't know how yet. I'm an Idealist and I'm no good at healing. Otherwise I could have fixed your memory by now.” You think for a moment, then suggest, “I think she was faking how bad her leg was was so that she could get a ride in the sled. She wouldn't want the ISTJ to actually look and see that she was fine.”
The ENTP nods. “That makes sense. Okay, so how about if we push the ISTJ into examining her leg, then? When he sees it's all better, he'll know she was lying. Then we could try and spin that into getting her kicked out.”
“It's a start,” you admit, though you doubt he would expel her even if he had proof she was lying. “I'll ask him to take a look at it before we go next morning.”
“Sounds like a plan. Well c'mon, let's go back. I'm getting cold out here.” He takes your chilled hand in his own and you walk back together.
You cannot sleep that night. While the ISTJ Sentinel keeps watch, you lie silently in your bag, listening to the moaning of the wind. Sometimes you hear an eerie cry, like a ghost wandering through the blackened streets. You can feel the ENTP's wakefulness, and even catch a brief fragment of thought: I have to remember. Without thinking you send a wave of wordless comfort to him. Then feel guilty as you remember your poor husband.
Across the ashen remains of the fire, the other INFJ snores softly. In her sleep she has let her mental defenses drop slightly, and you sense happy dreams as sweet and sickly as the smell of rotting roses. You stiffen your own mental shields.
When the first hint of dawn comes, you pull your aching body out of the sleeping bag. The others don't appear to have slept either, and no one talks as they begin rolling up their bedding.
The fire has ebbed low during the night. You rip up an old copy of People magazine and toss it on the fire. Somehow you have to bring up the matter of the INFJ's leg. You want to make it arise naturally, so that the other INFJ won't suspect your purpose. But the thought of breaking the gloomy silence throttles you.
You glance at the ENTP, who returns a surreptitious wink. Emboldened, you look across the blowing fire to where the other INFJ is digging through the ISFJ Assassin's backpack.
“How's your leg this morning?” you ask. You attempt at casualness sounds awkward and forced. You have never been good at fake smalltalk.
“Oh, the same as always,” the INFJ says, somehow managing to be both piteous and dismissive at the same time.
The ENTP jumps in, “You should let the ISTJ look at it before we set off. He might be able to do something for you.”
“That's a good idea,” the ISTJ says. “You can't be too careful when there's no hospital around.”
“That's nice of you to say. But I don't think there's anything you could do. It happened too long ago.” She hugs herself and pretends to shiver. “Brr, it's cold out, isn't it?”
For a moment you think the ISTJ is going to argue, but then his expression softens. In his mind hovers a picture of his missing daughter. How could I make this poor girl relive the most awful day of her life? he wonders silently.
Eyes gleaming, the INFJ pulls a packet of instant cocoa out of the ISFJ's bag. In a moment the window of opportunity will be closed.
It is only then that you remember that the ISTJ doesn't have a daughter.
A flash of desperate inspiration hits you. Under ordinary circumstances you would never go through with such a trick, but the twisted game the INFJ is playing must be stopped. Whispering a silent prayer of forgiveness, you send the ISTJ a picture of a zombie bite festering on her leg.
The ISTJ stiffens. “I think I'd better take a look at that leg, young lady.”
Startled, the INFJ freezes in the act of pouring cocoa mix into a tin cup. “But—”
“No buts,” the ISTJ says. “Come close to the fire here and roll up your pants leg.”
Suddenly the INTP Wizard, who had been listening silently the whole time, bursts out, “What's the matter with you, huh? Can't you just leave her alone?”
Everyone turns to look at him in surprise. Even the INTP Wizard himself seems startled at his own vehemence. “I mean, uh...you...shouldn't...”
“I've had enough of your constant arguing,” the ISTJ snaps. “One more word and you're out of the group. Understand?”
The INTP makes awkward noises, but now his hand is resting on the gun at his hip. His fingers twitch spasmodically. A sudden, horrifying suspicion strikes you, and you stretch out your mind and listen as hard as you can. In the darkness of the psychic realm, a little voice is hissing, Kill, kill, kill. The INTP's pupils dilate into black pools, and his breath comes hard and fast. The ISTJ tenses.
The ENTP throws an arm around the INTP's shoulders. The INTP starts as through broken from a trance.
“Hey relax,” the ENTP says. “It'll just take him a moment to look at her leg. Let's split a hot cocoa while we wait. It's been a bad night.”
The INTP runs a hand through his hair. His face is ghastly. He pulls himself away from the ENTP and stumbles off into the blowing snow.
With a grim expression, the ISTJ watches him go. Then he turns back to the INFJ. “Pull off your boot,” he orders.
Clutching her cocoa in tight little hands, the INFJ looks around her. The ISTJ's face is a cold, professional mask; your zombie picture has completely overridden any hold she had over his mind. The ENTP pretends to warm his hands on the fire, looking innocuously concerned. You cannot hide the tension in your own face. She sits down by the fire.
The ISTJ takes hold of the INFJ's snow-caked boot and gently begins to work it off. The INFJ makes a pitiful noise.
“That hurts,” she cries.
“It'll be done quickly,” the ISTJ reassures as he pulls off the boot. He sets it aside. Slowly, carefully, he raises her pant leg.
There is an angry red gash wrapped with duct tape running down the INFJ's calf. Your eyes flash to the ENTP's bloodstained jacket. Not his blood. Hers.
The ENTP stands frozen, staring at the wound. You feel his memories beginning to stir; horrible, horrible memories, like a thousand stabbing knives—
A nasty little sneer appears on the INFJ's face as she meets his gaze.
The ISTJ is gaping down at the duct tape mess.
Your voice is so taut it trembles, “Get away from her. Now.”
The INFJ snaps her fingers. In a searing flash the ISTJ bursts into flame. Screaming, he claws at his burning face with flaming fingers.
You lunge forward and shove him into the snow. Roll, roll! you think into his mind. But you have no more time to help. There is a rip of fabric and black feathers fly through the air like snow. The INFJ spreads black-feathered wings from the torn sides of her coat.
The sound of gunfire explodes through the air as the ENTP fires all six rounds in his pistol at the INFJ. She wheels on him. Six bullets hang suspended in the air. They fall to the ground one by one. Laughing, she opens her mouth in a silent shriek and something like a black cloud of insects boils out of her mouth. They flow towards the ENTP.
“No!” you scream. Before you know what you're doing, you raise your hand. A white flash of light blasts from your palm. The smoke insects vanish into nothingness.
The INFJ turns back to you, scowling. “You're more adept the usual wingless.”
Suddenly you feel an unbearable pressure, like your mind is locked in a vise that is tightening, tightening, tightening until it feels like your skull is going to implode. You try to draw yourself together to fight back, but all you can feel is the incredible pain. Your lips open in a silent howl.
Abruptly the pain cuts off. You are on your knees. Through blurred eyes you see the ENTP and the INFJ grappling in the snow. Somehow you stagger to your feet, only to tumble back down again.
“Run, run!” the ENTP shouts.
You can’t abandon him. On your hands and knees you crawl towards the blurry tangle of limbs. Your vision clears just in time to the see the INFJ hurl the ENTP away from her with supernatural force. He smashes into a car and his mind vanishes. The INFJ surges to her feet with a hiss.
With newfound strength you raise yourself trembling from the snow. “Go away! Leave us alone!”
The other INFJ is leaning on her good leg, panting. “I don't like fighting,” she says. “So I think maybe you should all be dead now.”
“Never,” you vow. You brace yourself, hands upraised.
Smiling, the other INFJ spreads her black wings. The air grows dark and thick. Suddenly you find yourself sucking in shallow breaths. With sickening fear, you realize that you are no match for her.
You lurch to the ENTP’s side, hoping to protect him as long as you can. Raising your free hand towards the other INFJ in menace, you try to make the white flash. All you can do is create a wavery light that is soon smothered by darkness. The air is so black and thick that you can barely breathe.
The INFJ's face burns with ecstatic hate. “A true artist paints pictures on the soul,” she says. “Be beautiful.”
She makes a motion with her hand and the dark miasma coalesces. You perceive ethereal jointed legs, beating wings, snapping mandibles. The resurrected nightmare insects glide through the air with a sound like hissing, biting wind. You try desperately to flash them away, but whether from fear or weakness, nothing happens.
The INFJ gives a childlike laugh. Lifting a single finger, she flicks it towards you. “Don't be afraid, little hungers. Kill, kill, kill. Eat, eat, eat.”
The smoke insects wisp forward, blowing through the air with all-devouring intent.
Work! you think desperately, straining your hand as if you could make the flash happen by sheer willpower. But it is no use. She is more powerful than you, and already you feel her twisted anticipation at the thought of your screams.
A warm hand clenches yours. Through your fear, you feel the ENTP's mind brush against your own. You know it is your last moment together.
I love you, he says into your mind, speaking not in words but in love itself.
Guilt. You feel guilt. Your dead husband, who loved you—how can you accept another?
The ENTP squeezes your hand tightly. You feel his love flow over you like a warm breath.
Desperately you reach for the dead place, seeking the pain that will keep you faithful.
And then it happens.
Sometimes, when you lay on the threshold between waking and sleeping, you have the sense that you can feel a soft, wordless, familiar presence, unforgettable after all the years. As you stand there with your hand upraised, black horrors swirling towards you, that sense of familiarity fills you again. You feel as though you are being embraced by unseen arms, and despite everything, your eyes blur with tears. Anguished yearning rises from the cold place in your heart, and you grasp at the shadowy presence as though to make it flesh again. But all you feel in response is sadness, deep sadness. Pain is a cruel way to remember me, a tender voice whispers.
And then the presence is gone again. Tears roll down your cheeks.
A warm hand still holds your own. You feel a new presence touch the dead place in your heart. It is not the familiar one you long for—it could not be more different—but… For a long, fearful moment you hesitate.
Then you close your fingers around the ENTP’s hand.
Your light flares stronger. The insects recoil.
You understand at last. You reach for the ENTP through your shared connection, heart to heart, soul to soul, mind to mind. You feel your strength swell as you draw upon the power of two joining souls.
Light blooms around you like a blossom unfurling. The insects begin to zip about in maddened patterns.
“Kill!” the INFJ shrieks. “Kill!”
“Enough!” you shout.
As the word escape your mouth, your vision expands. A crisscross of brilliant white threads, gossamer slender and glowing with life, spreads across your vision. You can hear them singing at the edge of your consciousness, a sound braided of a thousand separate harmonies, and you sense that if you could only hear more, it would be so, so beautiful.
Your astonished gaze instinctively traces the sweetest, brightest thread to the ENTP, then to the network of finer threads joining you both to the ISTJ and even the unseen INTP Wizard. A few broken threads hang mournfully in the air, and you know that they once led to the ISFJ Assassin. All your life you have tried to nurture these ties, to bind them tighter and stronger and more intricate. All your life you have longed for others to bind their ties to you. The ENTP’s mind is strong now, and you feel his soul, a complex harmony that complements your own.
Then you look at the other INFJ. A few sickly strands of light join her to the other members of the party. She is pulling your light, your life, to herself like a spider, twisting it into something cold, black, and silent. You can feel the dark center of her hate pulsing down the lines of light, choking out their harmonies until they shrivel like strands of burning grass.
With newfound determination you gather the dying ties up in your hand. You sing one crystal clear word in perfect harmony: Love. Light flames down the threads.
The wraith insects vanish like blown out candles. The INFJ screams, and then she is blown out too. A swirl of black smoke fills your nostril with a revolting stench, and then she is simply gone, body and soul. Two empty holes in the snow mark where her boots pressed. All that remains is a black feather swirling its lonely way across the snow. She must have been very close to her final transformation, more spirit than flesh.
Slowly the bright lines fade back into the secret places in your soul, hidden once more. Your knees are too weak to hold you, and you sink trembling to the ground, your breath coming in hungry gasps. Suddenly you feel the chill of the morning air, and the warm pressure of the ENTP's hand on yours.
“Where'd she go?” the ENTP asks, kneeling beside you. “What did you do?”
You struggle for answer that makes sense, but even you aren't quite sure what happened. Uncertainly you say, “I—shone light on her?”
The ISTJ groans, and you remember the rest of the group. Releasing the ENTP's hand, you force yourself back to your feet. You almost fall backwards; there is a new weight on your back. Twisting your head to look behind you, you give a little gasp. A pair of wings is tucked neatly behind your back, pearlescent feathers glistening in the sunlight.
“Yahhh!” the ENTP exclaims. “Just what in the heck did you do?”
When you have restored the ISTJ Sentinel with your newly discovered healing abilities, you and the ENTP track down the INTP Wizard and bring him back. Somehow it is difficult to believe that it is only midday; it seems as though an entire lifetime has passed since you woke up this morning.
As the reunited group sits around a blazing fire, you fill in what happened. Or rather, the ENTP does. With extraverted flair, he spins a dramatic tale complete with sweeping hand gestures and sound effects. You sit quietly, putting in a few words when he prompts you for details. To your own surprise, you feel no satisfaction at your victory. There was a tie, a pale, sickly tie, that joined you to the other INFJ. Now it is broken beyond all mending.
The ENTP shares his story too, explaining how he was hired to stop an NF killer and made the mistake of dismissing her powers as puffed-up campfire stories. Following a trail of mutilated bodies from library to library, he finally caught up with her at the apartment complex where you found him.
Shrewdly he set a box of her favorite books in the main hallway. There was a pressure mine concealed at the bottom that would trigger when a book was removed. Then he concealed himself inside a nearby apartment and waited.
Before long she came down the hallway, checking each apartment for food just as you were doing. When the other INFJ saw the box of books, she paused—but did not touch them. Instead, she stepped into the apartment where the ENTP was waiting and spoke his name. He sprang from hiding and hosed her with bullets. The next thing he knew every nightmare he had ever had was happening inside his brain. He went at her with his knife, and lost consciousness.
“I guess I must have nailed her there at the end,” he said, rubbing sweaty hands together.
You put an arm around his waist; his whole body is taut. Now you know why he drew himself up inside his mind; it was the only he could protect himself from her psychic attack.
“But why did she spare your life?” the INTP Wizard asks. “She had you at her mercy.”
The ENTP grimaces. “She would have kept me alive as long as she could. She likes her dinner warm and screaming.”
You shudder, and his arm tightens around you.
The adventure has pulled the group together. The atmosphere is surprisingly peaceful as everyone licks their wounds and rests. You are pleased to hear the INTP and the ENTP trading thoughts on a device to thwart psychic attacks, and the ISTJ treats you with newfound respect. The group’s unity gives you real real hope for your survival in the months and years to come.
Late that afternoon you and the ENTP find an excuse to steal away. Digging a wrinkled map out of his jacket, he leads you down a side street to an abandoned house. Inside you find an assortment of dusty oak furniture, a grandfather clock, and a truly epic collection of porcelain cows. But the real treasure is in the living room. A fireplace with a chimney made of rough-hewn stones stands waiting for logs.
“I found this when I was exploring,” he explains. “I promised myself I'd build a fire in it when I finished the job.”
The ENTP has stashed some wood in the cellar, and together you haul it up and fill the fireplace. Soon flames crackle in the hearth.
When the fireplace is blazing bright, you sit down together on a snug cow-spotted settee. Firelight glimmers upon old wagon wheels, leather books, and homey-looking quilts. A trio of cow dolls in lacy dresses smiles benevolently at you from their wicker chair, seeming to welcome you like an old friend.
As the room grows warm, a cozy, comfortable feeling overtakes you. You snuggle up against the ENTP, ruffling your new wings like a contented hen settling on its nest.
Fascinated, the ENTP reaches out to stroke your feathers. A shiver of pleasure runs through you as his fingers caress your downy new skin.
“Are we going to tell the others about this place?” you ask. But your heart has other plans.
“Eventually,” he murmurs. “But not yet.”
You nestle closer to him. As your eager lips meet his for the first time, you reflect that it could be a long time before “yet” comes.