Bad listening habit

4.4: Bad Listening Practices - Social Sci LibreTexts

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    • Victoria Leonard
    • College of the Canyons

    The previously discussed barriers to effective listening may be difficult to overcome because they are at least partially beyond our control. Physical barriers, cognitive limitations, and perceptual biases exist within all of us, and it is more realistic to believe that we can become more conscious of and lessen them than it is to believe that we can eliminate them altogether. Other “bad listening” practices may be habitual, but they are easier to address with some concerted effort. These bad listening practices include interrupting, eavesdropping, aggressive listening, narcissistic listening, defensive listening, selective listening, insensitive listening, and pseudo-listening.


    Conversations unfold as a series of turns, and turn taking is negotiated through a complex set of verbal and nonverbal signals that are consciously and subconsciously received. In this sense, conversational turn taking has been likened to a dance where communicators try to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. One of the most frequent glitches in the turn-taking process is interruption, but not all interruptions are considered “bad listening.” An interruption could be unintentional if we misread cues and think a person is done speaking only to have him or her start up again at the same time we do. Sometimes interruptions are more like overlapping statements that show support (e.g., “I think so too.”) or excitement about the conversation (e.g., “That’s so cool!”). Back-channel cues like “uh-huh,” as we learned earlier, also overlap with a speaker’s message. We may also interrupt out of necessity if we’re engaged in a task with the other person and need to offer directions (e. g., “Turn left here.”), instructions (e.g., “Will you whisk the eggs?”), or warnings (e.g., “Look out behind you!”). All these interruptions are not typically thought of as evidence of bad listening unless they become distracting for the speaker or are unnecessary.

    Unintentional interruptions can still be considered bad listening if they result from mindless communication. As we’ve already learned, intended meaning is not as important as the meaning that is generated in the interaction itself. So if you interrupt unintentionally, but because you were only half-listening, then the interruption is still evidence of bad listening. The speaker may form a negative impression of you that can’t just be erased by you noting that you didn’t “mean to interrupt.” Interruptions can also be used as an attempt to dominate a conversation. A person engaging in this type of interruption may lead the other communicator to try to assert dominance, too, resulting in a competition to see who can hold the floor the longest or the most often. More than likely, though, the speaker will form a negative impression of the interrupter and may withdraw from the conversation.


    Eavesdropping is a bad listening practice that involves a calculated and planned attempt to secretly listen to a conversation. There is a difference between eavesdropping on and overhearing a conversation. Many if not most of the interactions we have throughout the day occur in the presence of other people. However, given that our perceptual fields are usually focused on the interaction, we are often unaware of the other people around us or don’t think about the fact that they could be listening in on our conversation. We usually only become aware of the fact that other people could be listening in when we’re discussing something private.

    People eavesdrop for a variety of reasons. People might think another person is talking about them behind their back or that someone is engaged in illegal or unethical behavior. Sometimes people eavesdrop to feed the gossip mill or out of curiosity.1 In any case, this type of listening is considered bad because it is a violation of people’s privacy. Consequences for eavesdropping may include an angry reaction if caught, damage to interpersonal relationships, or being perceived as dishonest and sneaky. Additionally, eavesdropping may lead people to find out information that is personally upsetting or hurtful, especially if the point of the eavesdropping is to find out what people are saying behind their back.

    Aggressive Listening

    Aggressive listening also referred to as ambushing, is a bad listening practice in which people pay attention in order to attack something that a speaker says.2 Aggressive listeners like to ambush speakers in order to critique their ideas, personality, or other characteristics. Such behavior often results from built- up frustration within an interpersonal relationship. Unfortunately, the more two people know each other, the better they will be at aggressive listening. Take the following exchange between long-term partners:



    I’ve been thinking about making a salsa garden next to the side porch. I think it would be really good to be able to go pick our own tomatoes and peppers and cilantro to make homemade salsa.


    Really? When are you thinking about doing it?


    Next weekend. Would you like to help?



    I won’t hold my breath. Every time you come up with some “idea of the week” you get so excited about it. But do you ever follow through with it? No. We’ll be eating salsa from the store next year, just like we are now.

    Although Summer’s initial response to Deb’s idea is seemingly appropriate and positive, she asks the question because she has already planned her upcoming aggressive response. Summer’s aggression toward Deb isn’t about a salsa garden; it’s about a building frustration with what Summer perceives as Deb’s lack of follow-through on her ideas. Aside from engaging in aggressive listening because of built-up frustration, such listeners may also attack others’ ideas or mock their feelings because of their own low self-esteem and insecurities.

    Narcissistic Listening

    Narcissistic listening3 is a form of self-centered and self-absorbed listening in which listeners try to make the interaction about them.4 You might consider this type of listener a “stage-hog.” Narcissistic listeners redirect the focus of the conversation to them by interrupting or changing the topic. When the focus is taken off them, narcissistic listeners may give negative feedback by pouting, providing negative criticism of the speaker or topic, or ignoring the speaker. A common sign of narcissistic listening is the combination of a “pivot,” when listeners shift the focus of attention back to them, and “one-upping,” when listeners try to top what previous speakers have said during the interaction. You can see this narcissistic combination in the following interaction:

    Bryce: My boss has been really unfair to me lately and hasn’t been letting me work around my class schedule. I think I may have to quit, but I don’t know where I’ll find another job.

    Toby: Why are you complaining? I’ve been working with the same stupid boss for two years. He doesn’t even care that I’m trying to get my degree and work at the same time. And you should hear the way he talks to me in front of the other employees.

    Narcissistic listeners, given their self-centeredness, may actually fool themselves into thinking that they are listening and actively contributing to a conversation. We all have the urge to share our own stories during interactions, because other people’s communication triggers our own memories about related experiences. It is generally more competent to withhold sharing our stories until the other person has been able to speak and we have given the appropriate support and response.  But we all shift the focus of a conversation back to us occasionally, either because we don’t know another way to respond or because we are making an attempt at empathy. Narcissistic listeners consistently interrupt or follow another speaker with statements like “That reminds me of the time…,” “Well, if I were you…,” and “That’s nothing…”5 As we’ll learn later, matching stories isn’t considered empathetic listening, but occasionally doing it doesn’t make you a narcissistic listener.

    Defensive listening

    Defensive listening is a practice of listening where you perceive an attack where one does not really exist.  Sometimes this occurs when we feel guilty, or even insecure.   We tend to personalize a comment that might be made innocently.  For example, imagine that you have a roommate, and he or she makes the following comment:  “Gosh, the shower in here sure gets moldy easily.”  If you are a defensive listener, you would assume that your roommate was somehow accusing you of not taking better care of the shower.  If you both had a rule that said you would wipe the shower down each time you used it, but you had neglected to do so several times, then some guilt might be at work as well! 

    Selective listening

    If you have ever noticed yourself only listening to the points someone makes that are important to you or that you agree with, you might be engaging in selective listening.  Children may not pay attention to their parents’ conversation until one of them says “you need to have a B average if you want us to pay your car insurance.”  Similarly, listening to political pundits or figures is often a place where selective listening occurs.   You will take in the parts of the discussion that you agree with, and filter out the rest.  As with most listening barriers, you can miss a lot of important information.

    Insensitive listening

    Insensitive listening can often be the exact opposite of empathetic listening.  This barrier can also be viewed as literal listening, where we listen for the content, but ignore the relational meaning.  This means that we don’t pay attention to the emotional cues the other person may be giving.  Imagine if your friend did not pass an exam, and then tells you.  Rather than asking questions, or providing an empathetic response, your response is “I guess you didn’t study” or “Yeah, life can be hard.”  Neither response will allow your friend to feel good about the exchange.


    Do you have a friend or family member who repeats stories? If so, then you’ve probably engaged in pseudo-listening as a politeness strategy. Pseudo-listening is behaving as if you’re paying attention to a speaker when you’re actually not. 6 Outwardly visible signals of attentiveness are an important part of the listening process, but when they are just an “act,” the pseudo-listener is engaging in bad listening behaviors. She or he is not actually going through the stages of the listening process and will likely not be able to recall the speaker’s message or offer a competent and relevant response. Although it is a bad listening practice, we all understandably engage in pseudo-listening from time to time. If a friend needs someone to talk but you’re really tired or experiencing some other barrier to effective listening, it may be worth engaging in pseudo- listening as a relational maintenance strategy, especially if the friend just needs a sounding board and isn’t expecting advice or guidance. We may also pseudo-listen to a romantic partner or grandfather’s story for the fifteenth time to prevent hurting their feelings. We should avoid pseudo-listening when possible and should definitely avoid making it a listening habit. Although we may get away with it in some situations, each time we risk being “found out,” which could have negative relational consequences.

    Key Takeaways

    • Environmental and physical barriers to effective listening include furniture placement, environmental noise such as sounds of traffic or people talking, physiological noise such as a sinus headache or hunger, and psychological noise such as stress or anger.
    • Cognitive barriers to effective listening include the difference between speech and thought rate that allows us “extra room” to think about other things while someone is talking and limitations in our ability or willingness to concentrate or pay attention. Personal barriers to effective listening include a lack of listening preparation, poorly structured and/or poorly delivered messages, and prejudice.
    • There are several bad listening practices that we should avoid, as they do not facilitate effective listening:
      • Interruptions that are unintentional or serve an important or useful purpose are not considered bad listening. When interrupting becomes a habit or is used in an attempt to dominate a conversation, then it is a barrier to effective listening.
      • Distorted listening occurs when we incorrectly recall information, skew information to fit our expectations or existing schemata, or add material to embellish or change information.
      • Eavesdropping is a planned attempt to secretly listen to a conversation, which is a violation of the speakers’ privacy.
      • Aggressive listening is a bad listening practice in which people pay attention to a speaker in order to attack something they say.
      • Narcissistic listening is self-centered and self-absorbed listening in which listeners try to make the interaction about them by interrupting, changing the subject, or drawing attention away from others.
      • Defensive listening is a barrier to listening where you perceive an attack where one does not really exist.
      • Selective listening is listening for the content, but ignore the relational meaning.
      • Insensitive listening is listening for content, but ignoring the relational meaning and any nonverbal cues you are given.
      • Pseudo-listening is “fake listening,” in that people behave like they are paying attention and listening when they actually are not.


    1. We are capable of thinking faster than the speed at which the average person speaks, which allows us some room to put mental faculties toward things other than listening. What typically makes your mind wander?
    2. Bad speakers and messages are a common barrier to effective listening.
    3. Describe a time recently when your ability to listen was impaired by the poor delivery and/or content of another person.
    4. Of the bad listening practices listed, which do you use the most? Why do you think you use this one more than the others? What can you do to help prevent or lessen this barrier?


    1. Steven McCornack, Reflect and Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication (Boston, MA: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2007), 208.
    2. Steven McCornack, Reflect and Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication (Boston, MA: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2007), 209.
    3. Kathryn Greene, Valerian J. Derlega, and Alicia Mathews, “Self-Disclosure in Personal Relationships,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships, eds. Anita L. Vangelisti and Daniel Perlman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 421.
    4. Steven McCornack, Reflect and Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication (Boston, MA: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2007), 212.
    5. Michael P. Nichols, The Lost Art of Listening (New York, NY: Guilford Press, 1995), 68–72.
    6. Steven McCornack, Reflect and Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication (Boston, MA: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2007), 208.

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    5 bad listening habits and how to break them

    Conflict has a way of magnifying our bad listening habits. I frequently see the following listening habits get in the way of constructive and collaborative problem-solving during conflict and thought I’d flag them for attention.

    Good communication during conflict relies, to some extent, on our ability to use good communication habits in our everyday conversations. If we fall into bad listening habits in our everyday conversations, it’s going to be harder to be good listeners in times of tension and stress.

    I’m as guilty of some of these bad listening habits as the next person and I strive to get better at them.

    1. Listening with our answer running

    When we listen with our answer running, we’ve stopped listening. It may look like we’re listening, but really, we’re inside our head, preparing what we’ll say the moment they pause. Of course, while we’re doing this, they’re still talking, so we miss some of what they’re saying.

    Listening is not just waiting to talk.

    Scott Ginsburg

    It would be a shame to miss a gem that might have changed the conversation for the better or led to a different outcome.

    2. Listening only from our own frame of reference

    Stephen Covey described a listening continuum that runs from “ignoring” on the left, to “pretend listening,” then “selective listening,” then “attentive listening,” and finally to “empathic listening” on the right. He proposed that the first four are the types of listening we do most often. They all take place from our own frame of reference.

    Of the five types of listening, Covey said that only empathic listening is an attempt to listen from the other person’s frame of reference. Only empathic listening comes from a desire and commitment to listen without agenda.

    3. Stealing someone’s story

    Enzo, canine narrator of the novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain, describes stealing someone’s story this way:

    I cannot speak, so I listen very well. I never interrupt, I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own. People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another’s conversations constantly. It’s like having a passenger in your car who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns you down a side street.

    Stealing someone’s story means to pull the conversation away from what they were talking about before they were done — maybe even before they really got started. Maybe they mention a frustrating lunch with a colleague. That reminds us of the stale croutons at the salad bar at lunch today, so we turn the conversation to croutons. This can be an exasperating experience for the original storyteller, who was in the midst of something else entirely.

    In conflict, we may do this more than usual, because we really would like to change the direction they’re heading. They may then steal our story, and the conversation deteriorates into a series of stolen stories, none really heard or attended to by the other.

    4. Multitasking

    I once was introduced to the new owner of a large sporting goods chain while at a business gathering. He asked me a question about my work and as I briefly answered it, I could see he wasn’t listening. He was looking over my shoulder and moving his head slightly from side to side. I finally stopped mid-sentence and looked behind me to see who he was looking at. It was a mirror. He was multitasking with himself.

    Multitasking is bad for good listening. Our attention is divided by the “switch costs” of multitasking and we can’t help but miss part of their message.

    Chronic bad listening habits are built on multitasking: Checking email or reading texts while in conversation. Continuing to work through the pile of paperwork on our desk while a colleague drops in to voice a concern. Opening today’s mail while our teenager tells us about something that happened at school.

    5. Listening to prove we’re right

    Years ago my husband and I visited the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. When I saw this quote from legendary coach John Wooden, I realized I wasn’t just visiting a mecca for hoops fans, I was visiting a tribute to some of the best coaching in the world:

    It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

    John Wooden

    Conflict often denies us the desire to learn. We may not listen to learn as much as we listen to confirm we’re right. That we’re right about their wrongness. Right about our interpretation. Right about their frailties and mistakes. We listen with the agenda to hear those hints and use them as weapons of defense and offense.

    When we think we know what we need to know about them and the situation, maybe that’s the signal we should start listening more deeply.

    Overcoming bad listening habits

    All of these bad listening habits share a few characteristics that, in turn, create barriers to conflict resolution:

    • They serve our own agenda more than they serve a joint agenda.
    • They signal that we aren’t truly interested.
    • They’re sloppy ways to listen at a time we need to up our listening game.

    Of course, because they’re habits, we may have none of those intentions and just stumble into bad listening because we’re used to it. Maybe most days it doesn’t matter that we listen half-heartedly and not very attentively. When conflict is in the air, though, we need to be able to catch ourselves and listen differently.

    Here are four effective ways to break bad listening habits:

    1. Enlist help. If we don’t notice right away when we’ve tripped into a bad listening habit, it’s helpful to enlist a trusted colleague, family member, or friend to alert us. We want them to alert us not in a judgmental way, but in a “just giving you a heads up” way. They can do this with a subtle kick under the table, a gesture we agree on ahead of time, or simply by saying, “You asked me to alert you when you stumble into that habit.”

    2. Practice in low-stakes moments. It is very hard to listen well under the stress of conflict. To get good at it under pressure, we first need to be good at it when the going is easy. When we practice in everyday conversations, we develop our “muscle memory” for good listening and can build from there.

    3. Make a commitment to “get into their movie.” The typical advice about listening well is to “be curious.” That’s good advice but hard to pull off during conflict and tension. It’s helpful to use the “get into their movie” listening device to help us be curious. “Get into their movie” means to temporarily suspend our disbelief in order to hear and learn something we otherwise might miss. It’s an easy phrase to remember.

    4. Commit to eye contact. The simple act of making eye contact while someone is talking forces us to stop multitasking and pay attention. And it helps them feel attended to. When we practice this for small stretches in everyday conversations, we establish the kind of connection that will serve us well in times of tension.

    Disclosure: One or more links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive a few dimes from Amazon if you buy the book (at no extra cost to you). And, of course, I just turn around and spend those dimes on…more books. Which then inform my writing here, for you. It’s a beautiful cycle.

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    Read Online "Hybrids Struken Wings", Stephanie Jackson - Liters

    Penperson blood.

    And the blood she drank,

    It never healed…”

    A year ago

    Tongues of flame enveloped the territory of the fifth division, trying to burn as many discarded bodies as possible. But the granddaughter of Baba Yaga was all for nothing. She was not afraid of fire. She's been terrified of something completely different lately. Something that the undead people don't talk about out loud.

    Masha calmly walked around the territory of the fifth detachment, which was still in the quarantine zone. The granddaughter of Baba Yaga put her hands into the sleeves of a light autumn jacket and walked between the bodies of the dead hybrids, trying to bypass their black, scattered wings.

    Suddenly Masha felt soft under her feet. She looked down and recoiled as if she had been electrocuted. It turns out that the girl did not notice how she stepped on the body of a decomposing corpse. Masha took a deep breath, stepped aside a little and squatted next to the hybrid. The granddaughter of Baba Yaga took the first stick that came to hand and touched the cooled body of the young man with it. The soul has long since left its winter shell. This was evidenced by the deathly white-blue hue of the unfortunate guy. Masha suggested that the young man bled for a long time. Like other teenagers, she noticed wisps of crimson blood that had hardened, dripping from wounds where wings had once been. The killer did not spare the child. He ruthlessly plucked his wings. Masha could not say exactly when he did it: at the moment of life or after the death of the victim.

    In moments of boredom, Masha liked to read books on anatomy and body structure, and more than once was seen by Leshy in the camp's library, reading dusty volumes of cutting up bodies. She could easily identify a lot, but at the same time kept quiet about a strange hobby. Society is unlikely to understand the predilection of a fifteen-year-old girl for corpses. Masha from childhood grew up among the remains of living flesh. She liked the dead much more than the living people. The dead are silent, but the living bear information. The dead listen to the thoughts pouring out, but the living do not care about them. The dead lose their wings, and Masha has already lost them twice.

    One word, the only mention of a cherished dream caused Masha pain. Wings are a luxury for teenagers. Wings grow from the spilled blood of a slain apostate. There was always an unspoken law in the camp: whoever kills takes it for himself. Masha almost received the cherished wings. Masha did not despair, having lost her wings for the second time. One day Masha will be able to take revenge.

    Suddenly, the silence was broken by the slight rustle of approaching footsteps. Masha stood up abruptly. She didn't like uninvited guests. Natasha came to the territory of hybrids. Masha visibly relaxed, her shoulders slumped. She unclenched her hand. A branch with a barely audible crack fell to the ground, burying three black feathers under it.

    Natasha was one of the elite. Was considered one of the members of the committee. So far, it has not yet been seen trying to sell stored information to enemies. This Natasha Masha liked. Surrounded by a girl, there were rarely people who could be trusted with something really worthwhile.

    - Very similar to our handwriting, don't you think? Natasha asked, looking around frowningly.

    - This is our handwriting. Masha answered without much enthusiasm.

    - And what does that mean?

    - This means that someone is trying to aggravate our already deplorable situation. Masha looked back. Crows began to sit on some corpses. “If it continues like this, then we will not escape the fate prepared for the Department.

    – Is that bad?

    - Bad. If the Department comes after us, then we'll be considered walking corpses.

    – What do you think… Do they all have their wings cut off?

    - For the majority, yes. I don't know about the rest. Could only examine a few corpses before you appeared on the horizon.

    Natasha shivered.

    - But if everyone had wings, why didn't they disappear immediately after receiving them?

    - The blackness of the wings dulls the mind of the undead. I can assume that it also defiles her soul. The department has always been interested in white wings. Employees have repeatedly bypassed the black wings side. It's good that the Rivera brothers allow the undead with black wings to stay in the camp and gnaw on the granite of science and improvements in magic until the apostates are eighteen. I wholeheartedly support this approach. However, even I am not ready to answer the question: where do black wings come from in teenagers.

    - Are blackened wings waiting for us too? Natasha suddenly asked.

    – Why all of a sudden?

    – We ourselves violate many prohibitions. We are trying to eliminate those who, in our opinion, do not deserve to be on the Committee. You invented Oblivion and threaten to deflesh your allies if they cross your path.

    Masha swayed.

    - Oblivion is not murder. Don't forget that we can easily bring to life anyone who lies in a capsule filled to the brim with water.

    - Someone figured out your...our way of killing. Don't you think this is strange?

    - I have crossed the road for many, Natasha. Many people don't like me. And I, I confess, have been waiting for a blow on the sly for a long time. If the killer is from the camp, we can easily figure him out on the next shift.

    - How? Do you think the camp will continue to work on the next shift?

    - I'm sure of it. Alina Pavlovna is too predictable. She won't close the camp even after the massacre.

    - What are you thinking?

    - You'll see. - Masha was in no hurry to reveal all the details of the planned revenge.

    Tongues of flame enveloped the girls from four sides. Masha only languidly sighed, holding out her hands to her comrade-in-arms. Tomorrow Natasha will start a new school life. The growing undead will forget about Masha and their own affairs for the duration of the entire school year.

    But Masha won't forget anything.

    She will remember, hatching a plan for revenge.

    Everything will go like clockwork next summer. Next time, she will not back down, but will really give a thoroughly thought-out rebuff. You just need to borrow a little attractiveness and skills. After all, next time the Committee will meet for the last time ...

    Chapter 1

    Irka did not like to appear in the lobby of the Shadowborn Academy, where the girl was undergoing her training, hiding not only from her brother, but also from her mother, to whom she was afraid to tell her ability to turn into a black crow. Perhaps Irka simply pumped herself up with unnecessary information in the face of a speedy betrayal, but sometimes, when pride crossed the border of common sense, Irka solved all problems as they entered the family.

    The girl discovered the gift in a rather unexpected way. Irka's brother Misha again made an explosion at school at the next chemistry lesson. At first, nothing happened, but when the transformation made itself felt, Irka was frightened in earnest. She called the principal of the school and asked her for a private conversation. She was also lucky that Alina Pavlovna agreed and unscheduledly provided Irka with a new place at the academy.

    Alina Pavlovna came to the opening with understanding. The headmaster of a school in three dimensions repeatedly repeated to everyone who went through the Initiation camp the need to report any strange deviations. The war with the Department and the Committee was getting closer and closer to the innocent residents every day, forcing some people who lived with purebred undead or hybrids in Eston Hills to hastily pack their bags and go to a safe place prepared in advance in case of unforeseen circumstances by the Department.

    The Shadowborn Academy was considered a second home for Irka. She felt at home here, but she never refused friendship with hybrids who were lucky enough to be in the same shoes with Irka. Dark corridors lined with bricks, candelabra with candles, the sound of flying wings.

    Irka brushed away the newly appeared obsession, which visited her every time she appeared within the walls of the castle. The barely perceptible rustle of approaching wings made the girl flinch, but not retreat. It is worth taking a step back, as you may be considered a traitor. A fairly common practice between the nobility and ordinary students like Kostyleva. A raven appeared in front of Irka. As soon as the bird landed on the stone floor, Irka couldn't help but roll her eyes. Charlie appeared before her. A descendant of a prince who thinks he is a ghost.

    - Any news? he asked, brushing a few feathers off his perfectly fitted black jacket.

    - I'm going to the camp. - Irka saw how Charlie wanted to object, but managed to raise her hand in time in protest, hastened to add. “I cannot leave my brother unprotected.

    - You do more for him than meets the eye. - Charlie leaned against the wall, watching the flight of a flock of crows, carefully avoiding Irka's stubborn gaze. - I do not like it. If we want to attack the Department, then we must ... we must stick together!

    - We stick together, Charlie! - A little more - a little and Irka will break into a cry. Charlie knew how to piss her off. Our worlds are falling apart! I don't want oblivion! You have no idea how close I am to him!

    Charlie leaned away from the wall, approached Kostileva and offered the girl to lean on his arm. Ira followed his advice. The pair went deeper into the corridors where the rebellion training classrooms were located.

    - You owe me, Irina. He hissed softly, like a snake. “And, believe me, if it comes to war, you will have no choice. You must fight for us! Even if your brother stays on the side of the enemy.

    Irka rolled her eyes. Prince Charlie constantly put his own priorities first. He never listened to the instructions of others. Kostileva held on to the prince only because of the privileges, and the opportunity to take revenge. She was always attracted to rebellion and brute force. Perhaps these properties were left from the girl's own father. She didn't know for sure, and she wasn't in a hurry to find out. Irka had enough of his cockroaches in his head. Family secrets have long faded into the background.

    The secret office of the rebellion was a small room, begged by Prince Charlie from the leadership of the academy. As far as Irka knew, the young man certainly did not tell the administration about the true motives for the need to keep one of the free offices busy. Above the rebels there was no control over the actions of adults.

    Irka briefly glanced at the clock hanging on the wall of the office. The dial was consecrated by two candelabra hanging on both sides of the clock. Within the walls of the academy, all electronics stopped working. Because of this, many students were angry. However, the administration simply shrugged, pretending to adjust to the students that they themselves do not know why the equipment brought from other worlds does not work.

    Prince Charlie has repeatedly laid out the same plan of attack. And there were constantly non-docking moments that required especially careful attention paid and detailed consideration again. Usually such meetings lasted for hours, but today Irka will only be at the academy for the first couple of hours. She has urgent business waiting for her at home. Something needs to be decided before Alina Pavlovna sends the documents for the new lists formed to the camp.

    Misha returned home with apprehension in the evening. The guys did not step on a single mine. Kostylev, although he laid them out several years ago, perfectly remembered where he put them. The aquarium in the assembly hall was considered not the most popular place. And Mikhail was sure of the complete safety of his childhood venture. The guy slipped into his room, dropped his backpack on the floor and changed into home clothes. Vasilisa Kostileva knocked on her son's door.

    - Yes mom! Misha shouted.

    – Son, maybe you should stop making explosions? - Vasilisa covered her dressing gown and remained standing in the doorway, not daring to go into Mikhail's room.

    - We're doing an experiment. Misha informed his mother carelessly.

    - Which one? How fast will the building collapse?

    - No. We wonder what lies under the building. Misha turned to his mother. - Ancient buildings hold their undiscovered secrets.

    Misha knew from high school students that the school building used to be a psychological hospital. He and Vitaly repeatedly undermined the school building to familiarize themselves with one or another theory. Practical explosions did not live up to expectations, and theories in practice collapsed one after another, while the school stood safe and sound, new plans were revived in the minds of the young men with each unsuccessful experiment, requiring immediate brain processing. Only occasionally, and even then due to powerful explosions of chemical reactions mixed in practical lessons in chemistry or physics, small cracks appeared on the walls of the building.

    Alina Pavlovna, director of the school and part-time Vasilisa Kostyleva's best childhood friend, repeatedly made remarks to inseparable friends. The director was a good woman and therefore rarely punished the guys. Alina Pavlovna herself dreamed of destroying the building no more than the boys. The woman said more than once: this building is notorious. In fact, less and less parents sent their children to school. Often this was done by those who did not know about the dark past of the school building. Those who found out the truth tried to take their child out of school and transfer their child to another, more prestigious school.

    “Darling,” Vasilisa Kostileva hesitated a little and, from the embarrassment that overwhelmed her, began fiddling with the sleeve of her dressing gown, “maybe you shouldn’t go to the camp?

    Vasilisa Kostileva looked hopefully at her son. Misha, meanwhile, went to the computer, which was not far from the table and stood on a brown desktop, and turned on the power supply. When the computer screen lit up, Misha turned to his mother.

    - Why don't you let me go to the camp? He asked incredulously, crossing his arms over his chest. “You keep blocking me from traveling. You are always postponing the trip until later, and now that I have already been enrolled in the detachment, you suddenly want to forbid me to go to the camp again.

    Vasilisa Kostileva stopped fiddling with the sleeve of her dressing gown. She, on legs almost bending with excitement, went to her son's bed and sat down on it. Misha closely followed every action of his mother.

    - Our history dates back to the most ancient family. - Vasilisa Kostyleva began her story from afar. - Your father ... I liked him at first sight. I've always wanted the kind of love that romance novels describe. I'm lucky. Andrei was a good person, and we began to see each other more and more often. Then the meetings turned into dates. After the dates came a series of marriages. Only when I became pregnant with you, Andrei admitted that he was not a man.

    - And who is it? Misha asked more with a smile than with interest.

    - Your father belongs to an ancient undead family. In our world, he is known as a hybrid. Hybrids are considered unclean undead. Unfortunately, people like you or your sister Irka are treated with prejudice in the camp. Purebred undead have opened the hunt for hybrids. On the last shift, someone destroyed the entire fifth squad. Awesome and irresistible. The Department is not responding in any way to claims for increased protection of hybrids, but the Department does not want to listen to us. He's not going to beef up the camp's defenses. And it worries me more than usual...

    Misha was watching the computer screen from the corner of his eye and listening to his mother's story with half an ear. He did not believe that his mother was serious. At one time, Vasilisa Kostileva read many books about the adventures of modern teenagers, as well as about undead teenagers. Misha knew this firsthand. All the books were preserved by the mother, and some of them were in the Kostylevs' apartment, and some moved to the grandmother's apartment. From time to time, bumping into an interesting cover, Misha himself could immerse himself in fascinating reading, completely forgetting about time.

    - Mom, do you really believe what you're saying? - Misha asked doubtfully, finally finding the strength in himself and sat down at the computer chair.

    You don't believe me. Vasilisa Kostileva summed up with sadness in her voice. - Well. The woman got out of bed and walked out of the room. “Then maybe your sister can convince you.”

    Vasilisa Kostileva said her last words as she closed the door. Everyone in this house loved privacy. Often, all residents led a slightly secretive lifestyle.

    Irka, as an older sister, had some advantages. She loved to play spies since childhood. Misha always thought before talking about his sister. The relatives had only one rule: not to listen to each other's conversations. The entire listening system was in Irka's room. When the girl came home, she closed the door, put the tape recorder on the play button, not forgetting to put headphones on her head, listening to the recordings made during her absence. A fishing line was tied to the microphone, which forced the tape recorder to play pre-recorded phrases. At first, Irka listened to her mother's sobs, then carefully walked to the open window and descended from the second floor into the courtyard. As soon as her feet touched the ground, Irka, rounding the building of the house, quickly went about her secret business.

    Misha liked to sit at the computer in the evenings and was well aware of his sister's secret adventures. The young genius spied on Irka last summer out of nothing to do. My sister loved to play games in magical worlds. These games were arranged by her friends from the club, whose name Misha never learned. At the time when his sister was listening, Mikhail was watching the video surveillance tapes. The young man chuckled as he looked at the computer screen. Two completely different pictures were moving on the monitor. One showed the playing sister, an imaginary recording made by Irka before the next escape to her amateur club, but the second showed the guy's favorite film, My Nanny Vampire. Misha watched this movie ten times and knew the whole story of Easton and Benny's adventures by heart. Misha looked after Irka just for the sake of curiosity. Yesterday, Irka came to Misha's room and asked him to look through the recording made in advance. Kostylev agreed, and now he was trying to understand why his sister needed to shoot an absurd game of ... dolls?

    Misha decided to take a short break. He paused Irkin's game, deciding to go to the kitchen for a bite to eat. In the kitchen, my mother silently ran from table to microwave, from table to stove, from stove to microwave, repeating her running around again and again. The young man decided not to pay much attention to his mother's actions and, taking a bottle of water from the refrigerator, silently returned to his room. Mom was not in the best mood. Misha knew from early childhood: at such moments it is better not to disturb mother, if possible, without catching her eyes. Returning back to his lair, he managed to take a couple of sips of cold water when he saw that his sister was wearing vampire fangs and winked at the camera. Misha narrowed his eyes. Irka disappeared from the camera's field of view. The guy reluctantly turned off the movie. Going into the settings, Kostylev selected the extended screen. Irka jumped out of the window, no longer appearing in the field of view of the recording camera. He moved his mouse across the screen in bewilderment before turning off the recording, leaning back in thought.

    – Where are you? he muttered.

    - Here I am, little brother. - Irka put her hand on her brother's shoulder, causing Misha to flinch in surprise. Have you heard of personal space?

    - Don't scare me like that! - Misha exclaimed, but, coming to his senses, lowered his voice. “Why did you film your own escape?”

    - I didn't take it off. Irka nodded at the screen, frowning. Before leaving, I turned off the camera.

    Without further ado, Misha once again showed her the moment of her sister's disappearance on the screen.

    - I don't understand anything. She whispered in a low voice. – I…

    – Do you by any chance suffer from sleepwalking?

    - Why not? I have a good life as it is.

    Irka smiled slightly with the corners of her lips. She noticed the security camera only recently, and did not particularly attach any importance to this. Up to this day. There was a clatter of glassware in the kitchen. Misha sighed and went to the half-open door. Peering into the crack, he began to hear his mother's muffled sobs.

    - Maybe you should call Romanovich? Quietly, almost in a whisper, he asked his sister. She started breaking dishes. That and you look, will come out of himself.

    Irka went up to her brother and stood next to him. She listened to her mother's sobs and, at times, clenched her hands into fists. Another incomprehensible depression washed over my mother.

    – Let mother blow off steam. - Irka straightened her blond hair. “If you don’t calm down in an hour, we’ll call Romanovich. Did your mother say anything to you?

    Misha reluctantly turned to face Irka. He decided not to go far from the door, leaning against the near wall of the room.

    - She was talking nonsense about our family.

    - Which one exactly? - Irka did not lag behind.

    - She said something about hybrids, not forgetting to mention the evil spirits that live on the pages of fiction. She must have been stuck in her novels.

    Irka snorted.

    - Now I understand. Look, Mom may have read a lot, but this time she was telling the truth.

    - What do you mean?

    - Our father... He belonged to the famous undead, about which modern writers love to write books. - Iruka made a small pause. It was painful for my sister to talk about her father's past, and about her father today. - Dad tried to keep a secret about the presence of his essence. He did not immediately open up to his mother. And all this is no accident. There is a war going on between purebred undead and hybrids. This war is fueled more by pure-blooded undead than by hybrids. At first, my mother reluctantly let me go to the camp for education. She fears for our lives. After all, this year there will be no fifth detachment in the camp. It was closed after the insane killing of hybrids. If we let the pureblood undead find us, we might be killed.

    - Tell me more about the camp. Misha asked.

    - The camp bears the uncomplicated name Ryzhik and is located in the back of the abandoned Skazka camp. The territory of the camp is divided into five units. In the rules that were introduced quite recently, we cannot cross other units, except for neutral territories. Werewolves, Vampires, Kikimors, Valkyries and hybrids.

    Werewolves have fun games in the swamps. Leader of the Baba Yaga detachment. She teaches werewolves to hunt, finish off their food in the forest, painlessly turn into a wolf essence. At night, after patrolling, all counselors arrange a common bonfire, which represents the end of the day. Vampires will be absent this year and will appear only on the second shift. Leonid Alexandrovich is rumored to be busy, but he assured everyone that shifts with his presence under the bloody lake, which really consists of the fresh blood of victims that illegally entered the camp, will take place as usual. He only needs to eliminate some cases that do not require strong delays. Kikimors this year go to Kudykina Gora, where the Serpent Gorynych will teach our precious kikimors to use their squeal to the fullest. Valkyries this year will be given to Thumbelina. Thumbelina will conduct flights of junior Valkyries. – Irka made a small pause and continued. – A list of necessary materials for study and a special map of the camp with its enemy territories, which are strictly forbidden for students of all squads to enter, are usually sent by mail a few days before the shift.

    - How did you memorize all this? - Misha could not help but use a slight sarcasm in the question.

    - I easily remember what I like. In addition, last year the administration of the camp sent booklets for new inmates of the undead. Each year, the booklets carry the same information for beginners and those who are not the first to take initiation.

    - You said counselors Thumbelina, Serpent Gorynych and Baba Yaga . .. The very ones? From famous children's fairy tales?

    - Well, yes. Iruka nodded, narrowing her eyes. - We also have Leshy, who is currently looking after Baba Yaga's granddaughter Masha, playing a role like a nanny. An interesting story came out. I'll tell you how it is another time.

    - Who is in the first squad?

    - Werewolves.

    - So, I was assigned to them? Misha smiled. - What group do you belong to?

    - To the second according to official data. - Irka got up from her brother's bed and went to the window. - But there will be no second detachment on this shift, and Alina Pavlovna asked me to look after you. Therefore, I was assigned to the third detachment. After all, I'm half vampire, half kikimora. And I have a couple of acquaintances in the third detachment. We must try not to arouse any suspicion while in the camp.

    Misha caught in his sister's voice unfriendly notes of awareness of his essence. Now it became clear to him where the girl ran away every evening.

    - Then who am I?

    – You are half werewolf and half… – Irka shrugged. - I don't know. Usually the second essence of the hybrids is determined either after the initiation, or after the first activation change in the camp. Therefore, you have to not only get to know your other half, but also make friends with her.

    - And Vitaly, who does he refer to then?

    - You can ask your friend. - Irka without pleasure lowered her gaze to the floor. He is having a party tonight. Are we going?

    - Oh yes. He clapped his forehead with his hand. - Today is Wednesday, and tomorrow is a math test.

    - Bad habit. - Irka imperceptibly smiled and turned to face her brother. - And how do you manage to get good grades after such noisy gatherings?

    - We are already accustomed to our way of life. Misha shrugged. The fact that Vitya writes off the answers to which Misha does not know the questions, and Misha does the same with Vitya, the brother was not going to confess to his sister.

    - You're lucky brother. - Suddenly confessed sister.

    - Why is that?

    - The first squad is usually the calmest.

    – Are the werewolves calm? Have you read books about them?

    - No. - Irka walked slowly to the door and opened it. Everything was quiet in the kitchen. Apparently Vasilisa Kostileva managed to calm down and was now coming to her senses. “As a child, I read books about vampires.

    – And why did they attract you so much? Misha looked indignantly at Irke's back.

    - We read books about who we are, brother. - Irka stood sideways and pointed her index finger at herself. - I am vampire. - The same finger went towards Misha. - You are a werewolf. If I only read books about vampires as a child, then you tried to read books about the adventures of werewolves.

    Misha was pushed to argue with his sister. As a child, the guy read not only books about vampires. He liked to argue with his sister for any reason. And now Misha eagerly saw off his sister. He clenched his teeth slightly. The young man took a small sip of water from a bottle, turned off the computer and began to get ready for a party with his best childhood friend Vitaly.

    Vitaly lived in the same house as Misha. If Misha's apartment was located on the sixth floor of a multi-storey building in a quiet area of ​​Eston Hills, then Vitaly was located on the eighth floor. Vitaly's parents allowed their only son to have noisy parties. They did not know that they were caused by stress relief not only for Vitaly, but also for half of the school before the upcoming tests. As soon as Misha was ready, he left his room, and was heading towards the exit of the apartment. Dusk was falling on the city. Misha, walking along the corridor, heard familiar voices coming from the kitchen. The guy was able to recognize the voice of Radislav Romanovich and his mother. Apparently, Vasilisa Kostyleva nevertheless decided to call a doctor, one of the few friends of the Kostylev family.

    - Radislav knew perfectly well that Misha was different from the others. Vasilisa sobbed. She held a mug of hot soothing tea with trembling hands.

    - Your daughter, Vasilisa, is no different from your son Michael. - Romanovich covered Vasilisa's hand with his hand. - Irka got used to it and is now looking for all the ways to return. The camp attracts the undead. There they are safe and can not hide from ordinary people. You yourself once went through a similar initiation. Although your camp was in a different place, you, like your daughter, were incredibly attracted there. Give your children more freedom. Learn to trust them.

    Vasilisa Kostileva took a small sip from her cup and looked at her old friend. His words were partly true and reassured the woman a little.

    - Irka got more from the vampire. She was accepted in the second detachment, because she knows how not to stand out and always acts with thought. Vasilisa Kostileva sighed heavily. She tried her best to hold on. - In Misha, this may not be. He likes to set off explosions and act recklessly. I'm afraid for my son. After all, Misha may not be accepted by werewolves. In addition, there will be no fifth detachment this year. The Department does not issue additional protection for our children. I wouldn't worry if my boy had his first initiation after the age of fourteen, and not in a detachment led by Baba Yaga.

    - Your daughter will protect him, Vasilisa. Romanovich said softly.

    Vasilisa Kostileva shook her head. She shifted her gaze to the remaining tea in her mug. Her hoarse voice spoke of great excitement.

    - If pureblood werewolves find out about the existence and location of hybrids outside the fifth division this year, a war may begin. Vasilisa Kostileva raised her head. Her glassy eyes looked through the doctor. - Irina will deny her relationship with Misha. And Misha has not yet turned into a real werewolf. I… fear for him, Radislav. And I don't want to let my son go this year. But Alina Pavlovna did not leave me any opportunity and had already managed to add Mikhail to the list of dedicated undead.

    - You used to be best friends with Alina Pavlovna.

    - Yes, it is. Vasilisa Kostileva smiled, reminiscing about the best days of her childhood. - In the old days, she and I even went through initiation together in the camp. It is a pity that many years ago, due to one incident, I lost all the essence of the hybrid and became an ordinary person. It was then that our concept of friendship changed. Alina Pavlovna wanted to be friends with both purebred undead and hybrids, and even, at times, with ordinary people. But at first, her reusable friendship came out badly. And we even stopped talking to her. They rallied only after Irka was admitted to the school. Completely by pure coincidence. When I applied for admission of my daughter to the school, I did not fully know the name of the principal.

    Misha listened to his mother's conversation with Radislav Romanovich very attentively. Sometimes he winced, sometimes he raised his eyebrows in surprise or indignation. There were moments when the young man wanted to reveal himself and come to the kitchen, but he held himself back, watching his mother's actions from his humble hiding place.

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