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Hiding in Plain Sight · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 500–900
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Psychic Bullshit
“Gotcha.” Someone behind me gripped my arm and held firm. Me! Another face in a crowded Manhattan street, and they’d picked me.

Okay, maybe it was a random mugger—

“Miss Billie H. Jackson,” whispered the voice: male or female or child or elderly, I couldn’t tell.

Aw, shit.

But let me make this clear, as a matter of pride. Current predicament notwithstanding, it’s actually really easy for me to hide from a psychic.

I’ve been studying the things for five years—that’s the sort of “Stargate!” crap they make you do for the DIA—and, first of all, don’t believe the lies about their finding no results. Of course they’d tell the public that. The public are there to swallow bullshit, not sample truth. Psychics exist, Jim. They’re just not psychics as we know ‘em.

The stranger dragged me away from the crowd and into a side alley: not dark enough to hide the summer sun coming from far above, but too dark for me to see more than silhouette when I spun around to face them.

At once, I said, “I’m not going—”

“Back? Yes, I knew you’d say that,” said my assailant from the shadows.

Squinting, I could scarcely make out a hunched figure with a large collar and a shapeless hat. It was the sort of inconspicuousness that would draw instant suspicion from even the most clueless bystander. In a way, it was admirably audacious.

“Then how did you know my name? That’s—”

“Classified?” The stranger laughed. “Let’s just say I have my ways.”

Oh shit, shit, shit. “Look, I only joined up for the credit. I’m not a patriot. It’s not my fault the flag does—”

“Nothing for you?”


Well, you probably think psychics read minds like they’d read a coloring book in big letters for kids with glasses and learning difficulties, so they could find you in a crowd just by skimming the minds on offer, right?

Well, no. They read minds all right, but it’s not like picking out your favorite novel from a collection. It’s more like every book’s been standardized and left open and scattered all over the place—and worse, they’re moving around turning pages while you’re reading them—and you won’t have a clue which one’s the favorite novel until you read the tiny writing very carefully with a magnifying glass.

Ah, you think, but wait until they get really close to you. Stronger signal, right? Well, sure, just as your wi-fi’s better the closer you are to the hub, and now you’ve got time to read. Only when was the last time you used a wi-fi that didn’t cut off at random? And what if you connect to a neighbor’s hub? You can’t tell until you move away and suddenly find the signal goes caput earlier than it should.

Come on, you’re saying. Psychics might have trouble, but most of the time once you’re caught, you’re really caught. Once they’ve found you, nothing’s sacred in your brain.

Ha. Ha.


You see, the brain isn’t a book. It isn’t a wi-fi connection. It’s more like a crowd of very excitable, very narrow-minded, very shouty sports fans at a big game. Everyone’s rushing around trying to out-sing everyone else and booing and hissing and waving at the big screen so the family can see them. Being psychic is like trying to do the register for a whole stadium with nothing but a clipboard.

Unless they know already what errant thought they’re after.

Or are really fricking good.

“And it’s not your fault you leaked those documents to the press. And it’s not your fault your contact ended up dead.” The stranger’s voice laughed through every word. “Calm down, Miss Jackson. I’m not here to condemn you.”

“But you’re one of—”

“Them? No. I’m one of me. Trite, I know, but it’s the truth.”

“What do you want? In case you haven’t noticed, it’s my neck on the line if I miss that boat.”

“You will make it on time.”

How do you know?

The stranger waved a hand irritably. Gloved, I noticed: the leather shone.

“Listen, there’s nothing you can say that I can’t predict. Three psychics are closing in on you, but they will not find you so long as you’re in a crowd. However, you were stupid not to use a basic disguise. The police still have your description, and agents are tracking your phone calls. A student like you should listen first and act second.”

It took me a little time to absorb the shock of this battering speech. Up till now, I’d assumed my escape plan had been… adequate, let’s say adequate.

“Are you one of those rival psychic labs? I knew the CIA wanted in on the action, and the DIA blew them off, but—”

“Here.” Rather rudely, the stranger bundled clothes into my arms and continued, “Disguises. And a map. You’re a friend to people with… strange abilities. I don’t want to see them weaponized for more political cock-and-bull either.”

“Please. Me? I’m outta here.”

The stranger shrugged. “You’ll change your mind. But we do need friends like you, and you need friends for protection. Think about it.”

“So… you are a psychic?” I said, defeated.

Finally, the stranger burst out into guffaws. “Certainly not! I’m a soothsayer. It’s much more fun!”
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#1 ·
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
Well, this one suffers from shortcomings. First, it’s a scene rather than a story, and we never get to know why the girl flees, and what she flees from. Then, that’s right, you threw a lot of psychic word-salad around, and I’m not sure it makes sense, nor does it helps the plot in any way. Also I cannot tell what the PoV is: the girl or 3rd p. omniscient. And the twist, assuming it is one, falls flat?

However, thanks for the word “soothsayer” that I didn’t know.
#2 · 1
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
OK, I'm back for more reviewing! Here we gooooooooo!

Good Stuff: The beginning and the ending are great. I liked the tension and how it's slowly revealed what Billie's done and that she's on the run from one conspiracy but being recruited for another. Creepy stranger was fun too, messing with her, and I liked the twist at the end that there's more in the world than even Billie thinks. Plus I like her narrative voice and the hints of character.

Bad Stuff: The big infodump in the middle is too long. I clocked it that being a psychic is hard, but you devote five big paragraphs explaining the same thing when half of that would've gotten the point across. I think it's also very weakly connected together; I got the DIA and contacts stuff, but only by rereading it to look for them, and that's a bad sign. It needed to be emphasized more.

Verdict: Mid Tier. It's a strong premise and well-executed at times, but the redundantly long infodump in the middle takes up all the room needed to flesh it out properly.
#3 · 1
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
My review:

Characters and Dialogue: Altogether, I think the main think lacking from this story is more information on the main character (narrator), and also a little bit more consistency from her; her cocky narration doesn't sound much like her dialogue. We don't even know what exactly her situation is, other than that she appears to have leaked some vital documents and gotten her contact killed. Not only am I not rooting for her as a reader, but it's left ambiguous as to why the soothsayer considers her a "friend to people with strange abilities."

Other than that, the dialogue is interesting enough. Some lines are still a little confusing to me, though ("I only joined for the credit" / "It's not my fault the flag does nothing for me" / "I’m one of me. Trite, I know, but it’s the truth"). Some of these could possibly be clearer, if we knew more of the background.

Plot and Pacing: The overall layout is a bit weird in retrospect. Too many words, in my opinion, are spent explaining something that turns out to be irrelevant to the story—namely, the crowd-searching abilities (or lack thereof) of psychics. I'd rather have more action, dialogue, or elaboration of the relevant events that led up to this point.

Style, Flow, and Grammar: I've already mentioned that I'm not a fan of the condescending attitude of the narration, but the flow and sentence construction itself seems fine. It was convincingly and consistently casual, while not being too dry.

Final: Altogether, this story had a lot of potential, but it's understandable if it would require more than 24 hours to perfectly present it. This will go somewhere in the middle of my ballot.
#4 · 3
· · >>BlueChameleonVI
This is a somewhat hectic entry. There's definitely an interesting story in here, but it juggles too many things at once to really hit home. In and of themselves, the individual components are executed well, but tossed together, it doesn't flow very smoothly.

The narration itself already tries to depict a somewhat zany protagonist, which is fine on its own, works well with the exposition (being a psychic spy, if I read that right, must not be a very comfortable life), but then we get to the quick back-and-forth dialogue which only offers scraps of information and moves at a rather fast pace. To me, it feels like it should have been one or the other, with more time devoted to fleshing out a single component.
#5 ·

In my defence, the clues are there in the text as to what Jackson's doing.

- She's been studying psychics for five years
- She only joined the project for the credit, not for patriotism
- She knows the DIA et al lie about it to the public
- She leaked documents to the press
- Her contact ended up dead
- She's currently urgently trying to get onto a boat, and it's her neck on the line if she misses it
- She talks a lot in the present about how easy it is to thwart psychics trying to find a specific mind in a crowd, and how hard it is to read minds even when a psychic has found the one it wants
- The stranger mentions police and agents tracking her
- She's described by the stranger as a "friend to people with strange abilities"
- The stranger describes them both as people not wanting to see "people with strange abilities" weaponized

I'll admit these details might come across as lacking connective tissue as-is, but I do think the clues were there for all to see. It adds up to "she's a whistleblower".

Also, at the risk of being funny: how can you not tell the PoV? I use "I" all the time here, from the first paragraph onwards. You coming the raw prawn with me, boi? (I kid, I kid, but this criticism does seem weird to me).


You've all hit the nail on the head with this one: it was trying way too much and basically kills itself with that big bit in the middle that doesn't really contribute a thing. There, I was mainly trying to dispel an old pop culture stereotype about psychics reading minds so easily, and I went overboard trying to emphasize just how hard it would be in real life. That was also where the brunt of the "Hidden in Plain Sight" theme came into play; she was hiding from psychics just by standing in a crowd. Especially when everything else lost useful words to that big description, the story does feel lopsided and hectic as a result.

I think next time I'll cut the exposition and try to focus on the dialogue's development. Also I might be playing coy with information here, so that's a take-away for next time. But yeah, this is another one I'm not surprised didn't make it to finals.

As for one other criticism: The cocky narration and dialogue mismatch was intentional; in the exposition, she's in her element, happily throwing out details like an expert. In the present situation with the stranger, she's barely keeping a panic attack down. I think I'll have to invoke "it's a feature not a bug" here. And "my bread is your mould", I guess, since I kinda like her character, but that's just me.

Can't think of much else to add at the mo. That seems to cover the main stuff.