She wondered where they would find the first item on her list: food. The idea of these things shopping at grocery stores, eating at cafés, or even making bread at an old-fashioned bakery seemed bizarre to her. But there was much more to work with here, and she was certain she could manifest something. She just wasn’t sure how well her invisibility magic would hold if she attempted other magic on top of it.
“Follow me,” she whispered to the others. Without breaking rhythm, she guided the others away from the main streets, down to darker alleyways where no one else could see them. There, she went to the first door she could find, and focused on what she needed to find.
“I smell something good,” Benny whispered.
“Excellent,” Josephina whispered back. “Keep thinking about it…”
Behind the door was a small bakery, and on the counter were loaves of fresh baked bread. The shadowy woman behind the counter had her back turned. Josephina crept forward and grabbed a loaf of bread. Raven stepped forward to do the same, followed by Bonnie.
Benny, however, didn’t move. He was frozen, staring at the woman behind the counter. Raven gestured for him to hurry and follow them out. There was another door next to the counter, and Josephina had her handle on the knob. But the shadowy woman turned, and met Benny’s eyes. “M-Mom?” he said.
“Benny, it’s time you come home,” said the shadow woman. She walked right through the counter in front of her, and extended her hand to Benny. “Come on. Right now.”
“She’s not your mom!” Bonnie exclaimed, and the shadow woman’s head snapped toward the other three. Raven ran forward, grabbed Benny, and took off running toward the door, the shadow woman right on their heels.
“Quick, quick, quick!” Josephina cried. When all three were through the door, Josephina hurried through herself and slammed it shut just as the shadow woman reached it. Outside was a small, dreary garden, but as sad as it looked, it was growing. “Grab what you can, just keep running!” Josephina commanded the others. She plucked some flowers off of branches, some berries, and some random twigs and leaves. It wasn’t the neat packet of seeds she had pictured, but enough to work with, and that was all that mattered. No other shadows were in sight, but the shadow woman was banging on the door, rattling the knob. “This way!” Josephina cried, and hurried with them all around another corner. “We need a place to hide!”
“There!” said Bonnie, pointing to a door so small, they all had to crouch down to fit inside. “The little ones are usually safe.”
“Usually?” Raven said. But they had no other choice. They hurried through, and Bonnie slammed the door behind them.
The room they had entered could hardly be called a room. Just a cramped, dark, dirty cave. But they all let out a sigh of relief because it was empty, and safe.
Benny was in Josephina’s arms before she knew it. “I’m sorry!” he cried. “I thought… She looked like…”
“It’s okay, sweetie, we made it,” Josephina said. “Shh… It’s okay…”
“But your spell worked, Jo,” Bonnie said. “Do it again.”
“And then we’ll go home?” Raven asked.
“No!” Benny said, pulling away from Josephina. “We don’t have to give up because of me! Now we know they’ll try to mess with us, we just can’t look at them!”
“Well, we did only get two things on our list crossed off,” Josephina said. “Who thinks we should keep trying?”
“I guess so,” Bonnie said, “I mean, we’ll have to walk down the street with all the shops anyway. I think we got the most difficult things first.”
“Raven? What do you say?”
Raven sighed. “Okay, fine. Let’s do it.”
The first shop they entered had electronics, and a few toy ones as well. They grabbed a pair of walkie-talkies, and a video game console for Ben, as well as a random game. There was no time to pick and choose. Enough to work with was all that mattered. Raven had no idea why these shadowy people would have stores like these, but she realized that the more she thought of them as human, the more human they began to look. But she didn’t risk more than periphery glances.
The next was a clothing store, where they each picked up a new item to work with. Bonnie started to hurry them along, and Raven took the hint, scooting the others out the door. “Who did you see?”
“An ex,” she said. “This place is really trying to mess with us.”
“Good job getting away, though,” Raven whispered.
In the next store, Josephina found cleaning supplies. Raven heard her gasp when she looked at the end of one aisle, where three, smaller shadowy figures were gathered.
“Jo. Look at me,” Raven whispered. Josephina spun away from the distorted versions of her three children. Raven grabbed a bottle of something off the shelf, stuck it in her bag, and guided Josephina away.
The last store was the most important, and the one Raven was most afraid to enter. It was the same bookstore she’d been chased out of right before she met Bonnie. Her parent’s voices were already here. But they couldn’t split up outside a store. If she were to wait outside, she’d be even more vulnerable to an attack by a shadow impersonating one of her parents.
Inside the book store, they each went to a different section, keeping at least one of the group in sight. They had this routine down pretty well now. Josephina and Benny kept their eyes on each other, and Raven kept her eyes on Bonnie. Bonnie was just down the aisle, and as long as she was there, Raven knew she’d be okay. She took a book off the shelf, and tucked it in her bag.
Someone tugged at her shirt. “Benny, what’s wrong?” she whispered. But when she turned to him, she found someone who definitely wasn’t Benny.
“Why’d you leave me, Raven?” her little sister asked. Her gaze made her feel more than visible, like a spotlight was shining on her. “Why’d you run away, when they were so mean to both of us? You never noticed they hurt me too, did you?”
“Raven!” Bonnie whispered.
Raven snapped alert again. All the shadows in the book store were staring at them. Among them were her parents, Benny’s mother, Josephina’s children, and several others she didn’t recognize, but knew where more ghosts from their past lives.
Bonnie’s hand in hers broke her paralysis. “Just look at me,” she whispered, and together, they ran.
“Train!” the girls both shouted at once, and the loud horn sounded. A train came charging down the street, straight for them.
“This way!” Josephina shouted, pulling Benny down another street. The girls quickly followed, but the horn sounded again. Several cars broke off the train and came after them. Josephina didn’t know where Raven and Bonnie were, all she knew was she and Benny had to stay together. The cars were breaking off in every direction, taking off down every track. She hadn’t realized before that train tracks crisscrossed in every direction on the ground. Had they always? Doesn’t matter, it’s all dream rules, she reminded herself. All that mattered was the ground was no longer safe. “If Raven can fly, Ben, I think we ought to try it. Hold on to me, and think like a bird!” She sprang into the air. To her surprise, it worked.
Benny was squeezing her tightly. “I can’t do it myself, I can’t!” he cried.
“It’s okay, I’ve got you! We’ve got to head for the water. Remember what Bonnie told us?”
“But what if we can’t breathe underwater like she can?”
“If I can’t, I’m sure you can, Benny! There’s a reason we all have to stick together. And if neither of us has it, we’ll swim for our lives. But I hear helicopters, and we’ve just got to risk it.”
“Where are the others?”
“I don’t know. I’m sure they’ll meet us back home.” She didn’t trust her own words. Scanning the skies, she didn’t see another pair of humans. Just black helicopters coming for them. There really was no other choice but to flee.
“It’s a dream,” she muttered to herself. “It’s a dream, it’s a dream, it’s a dream!” Those cars couldn’t really hurt her, she thought. If she died here, surely she’d just wake up safe at home. Safe, but… Not really at home. Not without Bonnie.
“Here!” Bonnie shouted. “This way!”
She’d found the secret entrance to their safe house, but her back was turned to the train track. “Bonnie, look out!” Raven shouted. Without thinking, she threw herself in the way of the car heading straight for Bonnie. She heard the impact more than she felt it, heard Bonnie cry out in horror, and then everything went black.