Read part one here!
“How will we even know where to start looking for them?” Raven whispered. “How big is this place, anyway?”
“Doesn’t matter, there are always signs,” Bonnie whispered back. “Just focus your intention on finding the mom and the kid, and we will. This place is super weird. It’ll work, you’ll see.”
“Bonnie? I think people are starting to look at us.”
“Just looking is fine. Ignore it. If we run, they’ll chase.”
“Can we ask them why? What do they want?”
“I better not say. Let’s take the next left, there’s a bunch of good hiding spots, alleyways and stuff. Once we’re out of sight, we’ll run.”
Raven followed her lead, aware all the while of the eyes on them, and a few shadowy figures following at a distance, as though they weren’t sure yet if they wanted a chase. Once they’d turned enough corners, Bonnie whispered, “Run!” And they took off as quietly as they could.
Quiet didn’t matter. They’d been seen, and now all they could do was run. They raced down a dark narrow street, nearly colliding into a frightening figure, reaching out for them. Bonnie pulled her down another alley, but there were more shadowy figures waiting for them at the end of it.
“There’s always a sign!” Bonnie whisper-shouted to herself. “Show us, please!”
But Raven could see no sign guiding them to safety, no escape from the dark nightmare labyrinth. It had to be a nightmare. Maybe if they died, they would just wake up. But Raven’s heart was pounding too hard inside her chest for her to believe any of this wasn’t real.
Maybe it’s reality with the rules of dreams, she thought. “Bonnie. Wrap your arms around me and hold on tight. I’ve got a crazy idea.” She was happily surprised when Bonnie obeyed without question. But crazy ideas are always better than no idea at all.
“If this is a dream, I can fly. I can fly us both away. I can fly!” She bent her knees, and sprang into the air.
The ground fell away beneath her, and the shadowy figures stared upward at the two girls, one soaring, the other clinging on tightly. Their necks extended far back beyond what was natural, but they were stuck on the ground. Raven let out a whoop of delight, and Bonnie was laughing.
“Yes!” Raven shouted. “We’re flying! Woooohooo!!”
Then Bonnie’s laughter stopped. “Um, Raven? I don’t think we’re out of the woods just yet.”
Helicopters. Several loud, black helicopters were chasing them. Not once had Raven seen or heard one in this strange place. Yet now here they were.
“Head for the lake!” Bonnie shouted. “If dream rules work here, maybe we can breathe underwater!”
“Maybe? Can you fly?”
“What do they want from us? We didn’t do anything wrong, did we? Now’s the time to tell me if you know, Bonnie, I couldn’t possibly get any more freaked out.”
“They want our color! They want our light! Creepy lady told me! They want to take our energy and turn us soulless!”
Well, I was wrong. “Water it is!” Raven shouted, and flew as fast as she could toward the dark water.
“Believe in dream rules!” Bonnie reminded her. “Now drop!”
Raven took a deep breath, held tightly to Bonnie, and let herself fall from the sky. Even if Bonnie’s “dream rules” failed, drowning couldn’t be worse than loosing all her light and joy, and turning into a soulless shadow. Funny what her parents would say about that…
The water hit them, and they went down, down, down into the depths. “Dream rules!” Bonnie somehow said, but Raven still held her breath, and wouldn’t open her eyes. “Raven, it’s okay. Look at me!”
Cautiously, Raven opened one eye, and then the other. A protective bubble encased them both. She let out her breath, and tried to take in another. Easy. “How are you doing this?”
“Same way you can fly, I guess. Let’s get to shore. Maybe something will give us a sign?” She looked around. “Hm… Ah-hah! There’s a fish pulling a log!”
“Wait, what? How is that… anything?”
“Dream rules, remember?” Bonnie said cheerfully, and pulled Raven toward the log. They sat down on it. “Take us to a safer shore, fishy!” Bonnie said, and they were away.
“Okay, but how do we trust the fish?”
“I’m not sure it is the fish. Maybe it’s me? Maybe this is how we’re supposed to survive here! We’ve got abilities! If we can shape our surroundings…”
“We could turn a nightmare into a paradise!” Raven said.
“Too bad there’s still no way home, though.” Bonnie said.
“Yeah… Too bad.” But if they really could transform this world, Raven wondered if she would even want to return home after all.
“Well, that’s all we can hope for. Thank you, Benny.”
Inside was some old furniture, and thin blankets hung over the windows. Josephina pulled them down to completely cover any openings, muttering to herself all the while. She didn’t know why, but her words felt like a spell to conceal them. “This will hide us from view,” she whispered. “They won’t notice us, won’t hear a thing, either… Benny? Do you have anything else we can cover the windows with? More blankets?”
“I don’t know, I’m afraid to open any closets,” he said.
“I’ll help you look,” Josephina said. “It’s probably not the most reassuring thing, but I’d suspect if anything dangerous was hiding here, we’d already know it. Look at this closet door. There could be anything we need behind it…” Again, her voice lowered as she spoke, picturing what she needed. She didn’t exactly know why it felt like the right thing to do. “If we cover the windows well enough, it’ll be dark in here, so hopefully we can find lights of some kind, too…”
She opened the door. And there in the closet was a stack of folded up blankets, as well as candles and flashlights. “Well!” she said, “I didn’t expect that to work!”
“What did you do?” Benny asked.
“I was thinking about what we needed. I’ve done that at home a few times, too. I know they say to visualize what you want and you’ll receive it, but I don’t think they mean it quite so directly. But it was hard not to imagine it, you know, just for fun. And then suddenly things started happening around me. At home, I mean, where they shouldn’t. I don’t know what this world is, but it’s so strange, the idea of magic doesn’t feel too far fetched here. But at home? Once I started making things like that happen, it was really scary. I tried to use the same techniques to make it stop, visualizing the next day before I went to sleep at night, and thinking about how normal it would be. I couldn’t make the strange things stop. And now we’re here, and they’re more real than ever… I’m sorry Benny, I don’t mean to worry you.”
“No, it’s just… What kind of weird stuff happened to you? I… I kinda made weird stuff happen too.”
“Let’s sit down, honey. I’ll get these curtains hung up real quick and we’ll talk this over.” Josephina hurried to cover the windows. She lit a few candles, and checked behind another door, wondering if the shack had any food stored. She wasn’t sure if she was hungry, or if she even needed to eat in this strange, dreamlike world. But it certainly couldn’t hurt, and she wanted to test out her magic again. “Maybe there’s a little mini fridge back here, and I can make some, I dunno, sandwiches? Something a little boy would like? Hm… Benny? What kind of food do you miss most?”
“Mom’s beef stew!” he said. “I know we can’t get there here, it’s okay. I don’t know if I’m even hungry.”
“I’m just going to try something. Actually, no, come here. I’d like you to try it.”
Benny returned to her side.
“I think there’s a mini fridge behind that door, but what’s in it is up to you. I want you to picture a little pot full of your mom’s beef stew, okay? I want you to really remember how it looks, smells, and tastes, and how it makes you feel when you eat it. Can you do that?”
Benny had his eyes closed. “Mm-hm,” he said.
Josephina opened the door. “Yes!” A mini fridge and a microwave. “Do you want to do the honors?”
She stepped out of the way and Benny opened the fridge. Inside was a small pot, and when Benny opened the lid, he gasped. “Look! I think I did it!”
“You certainly did! Great job, Benny, I think we’re on to something here.”
“Do you want some?”
“No, thank you, you go ahead. I think I’ll summon up some of my daughter’s famous berry pie later. If this is all a dream, I’d say the calories don’t matter.”
Benny heated up his stew, and he and Josephina took a seat on the old, dingy couch. “I’ve never done anything this good before with my… weird whatever this is,” Benny said. “It’s only ever got me in trouble. Like, this mean kid was picking on one of the special kids at recess. Making fun of how he talked. I told him he better stop. He was all ‘or what?’ He went to grab him, so I went to push him away. I know I’m not supposed to hit and I didn’t, I just touched him, but my hands got all hot. I burned him. I don’t even know how. Burned right threw his shirt. That’s how I got expelled from my last school. They said I must have brought a lighter and attacked this kid, even though they couldn’t find a lighter anywhere. They just didn’t have another explanation.”
“Believe it or not, I’ve set fires like that too, Benny.”
“Really? You believe me?”
“Even I didn’t have weird experience myself, look where we are! I’d say anything is possible.”
“So, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done?” Benny asked.
“Well, that’s too hard to pick, but I remember a time… I’ve got two boys and one girl in the middle, you know. It’s not easy being the only girl in the family. One day her older brother cut her hair. It was a prank, he said, but she was really upset. I was tucking her into bed, trying to tell her it’d be okay. She didn’t know how she’d go to school the next day looking the way she did, so I was playing with her hair a little, telling her it looked alright, and we’d get up a little earlier the next morning to style it and figure something out. Her brother was in big trouble, I said, and I promised her we’d get her to the salon first thing on Saturday to fix it… And I kept playing with her hair and telling her that stuff until she went to sleep. Then I thought I was just imagining things, because it was getting late, but I swear to you Benny, her hair was growing. I kept touching it, and I was making it grow. She woke up the next morning looking like no silly big brother had ever touched her hair. We all just laughed the next morning, trying to explain by saying she’s growing fast, all of her, but I knew it was because of what I did, and I still don’t understand—” She fell silent, glancing around the shack.
Benny opened his mouth to ask another question, but Josephina held up her hand to quiet him. “Something’s not right,” she whispered. “Stay right there, and don’t make a sound.” She stood up, and crept toward the door.