Okay, I don’t know why but today’s daily prompt : Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded brought to mind a snippet of a story I wrote a long time ago when i still had the writing bug. I’m presenting it here for your entertainment.
Do you know how witches fool people into thinking they’re normal? Billy asked me once, not long before he left. I didn’t know, but I think the answer was what he meant to find. He never told me why he left. I only know that he did, which is why he wasn’t there…
It would have be nice if Billy were there. Of course, Billy couldn’t be there, but it would have be nice if he were. Nice, warm, safe Billy. With Billy walking next to me, most of the shadows would stay shadows because nothing that slithered in the night messed with Billy. They would woulda just left us alone. They always did when I walked with my brother. It helped, sometimes, to pretend that he was still around. “It’s okay,” I’d hear him whisper, “these creeps won’t bother you while I’m here.” That’s what Billy would say, if Billy were here.
But he’d been gone for a while now, and the shadows didn’t know to keep their distance. They didn’t remember that Billy could break them in two if they messed with me. No, the shadow-people had short memories. I sometimes wondered if they were the same people, like I’m the same person every day whenever I wake up. Or maybe they’re different every day, like roaches. I didn’t know much about the shadows back then, only that I didn’t want them near me. I hunched my shoulders and walked faster through the wet streets.
Now wasn’t the normal time for me to be out, but I didn’t want to go home. Mom had a noisy new boyfriend, again. I hate noisy people, especially when they’re Mom’s boyfriends. They are worse than the shadow people. Noisy boyfriends are awful and say nasty things to me. Things that make me cry, not like the creepy things the shadow-people whisper which just make me cringe and move away. Why did Mom have to get a new boyfriend just then, right before my birthday? My mom promised me a new coat, a better coat, for my birthday. The thin coat I wore that night didn’t keep the cold or the rain out. The rain had already soaked through my hair, and I could feel the wet seeping down to my shirt. It’s okay, I told myself, it’s not for long. Of course, she’d promised me a new one for Christmas too, but that didn’t work out as planned. Still, my birthday would be better. It had to be better than Christmas.
“Right, Billy?” I whispered to my pretend brother. “Anything would be better than Christmas.”
“Look out,” came the answer. My feelings told me to look to the right, and I saw one of the shadows moving. It didn’t seem to really want to break free, but it was moving anyway. Maybe it was bored. I didn’t want to find out how bored, so I ran down the street and turned the corner. Not that it was safer there, but I learned that most of the shadow-people didn’t bother to follow me too far, especially in the rain. I figured they didn’t have the energy. I figured they must suck their energy from the shadows, like the night sucks the energy from the sun and makes it dark.
I wanted to ask Billy about it, but even his shadow was gone. “Thanks, Billy,” I whispered anyways, in case he was nearby.
The wind picked up and the rain came down harder. I sighed and looked around for somewhere to sit until the rain stopped. I spotted a doorway that was only half-lit but mostly dry. The wind wasn’t so bad there, and the rain didn’t quite reach the corner where the light was trying its best to fight the dark. I crouched down and leaned back into the meager warmth the corner held. The shadow people didn’t like even this half-light, so they’d keep their distance. I didn’t really want to stay here all night, but I didn’t want to go home either. I was cold, wet, and tired. And I didn’t know how long the shadows would stay shadows. I began to think that coming out here was a really bad idea.
I was just starting to warm up a little when one, two, three shadow people burst from the darkness and bam! ran through the rain and down the street. My heart pounded so hard I could feel it in my hands. I shrank back and prayed they wouldn’t come my way. But they didn’t even look at me. Weird. Two more broke free from their shadows and ran in the same direction. I inched forward and looked to see what was chasing them. Nothing but empty streets met and rain. Really weird. Moving real slow, I held my breath and inched into the bit of shade that the doorway offered. Maybe the big bad wouldn’t see me there.
“Hey, young’un,” the old lady who stood before me so suddenly wasn’t anyone I knew. She certainly didn’t look scary enough to send the shadows running. She wasn’t looking at me, but I knew enough to know when I’m being talked to. “It’s a little late for you to be out here. Ain’t you got a home?”
“Then I guess you’d better git.”
“But, the shadow people…” I scrambled from my corner and peeked out into the streets.
The old woman laughed, “Huh, shadow people. Huh. I’ll be damned.” She reached a gnarled hand to me. “Don’t you worry about them, child. Granny will walk you home. If you’re with Granny, those shadow people won’t bother you none.”
I hesitated. I didn’t know this woman… Besides, I felt like she was making fun of me.
“Come on, girl.” The woman twitched her hand impatiently. “You wanna stay here all night and let the shadows suck the very life from you?”
That was good enough for me. I took the woman’s warm hand in mine, and stumbled after her as she tugged me along.
“Good girl.” The woman squeezed my hand and smiled. “You don’t belong out here crouching among the trash. Granny can tell that. Come along with me, and we’ll get you safe inside where it’s warm.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. I watched as shadows one by one fled from their hiding places before the woman. But I couldn’t see anything about the small, bent woman that would make them to so scared. Granny seemed to know where she was going though she didn’t ask me any questions. She wasn’t loud and didn’t whisper. I liked her.
“Thank you, child,” Granny didn’t look at me, but squeezed my hand again; “I like you too.” She stopped in front of the apartment building where I lived. “Now, you run along home, Megan, and don’t let me catch you out like this again. And don’t you be worrying none about your brother Billy. He’ll be along soon. He’ll be the worst for it, but someone has made him see where his heart is. You have Granny’s word on that. Go on home now.” She shooed me up the stairs.
I didn’t want to go inside, but did as I was told. I stood outside of our door for a long time and listened for Mom’s loud boyfriend, but heard nothing but the TV. Maybe this one got fed up and left too. One could always hope. But even if he was still around, if Granny was right and Billy came back, then I suppose I could put up with a loud boyfriend who said mean things for a little while. After all, anyone who could make the shadow people run couldn’t be bad.
I reached out and opened the door.