Liz turned her head when she realized that she was not alone. Shapes moved around her, hazy and inconsistent. She heard noises, like a pack of predators hunting in the night. Someone screamed incoherent warnings off in the dark.
Liz stood and started walking, slow at first. By the time she passed the chain link fence she was at speed. Soon she was standing in the soft glow of the exterior lights of the nearest building. She looked left, and right. She moved to the nearest corner and leaned out to see along the side.
The space between the buildings formed a natural alleyway. It was lit, but vacant as far as Liz could see. She saw man-doors along the length, but they were barred or had stacks of blue pallets in front of them. About twenty paces in there was a tall wooden fence. In front of it was a beat-up green dumpster.
Liz checked behind her, worried that something or someone had followed her. She didn’t see anything so slipped up the alleyway, and then sank back into the corner behind the dumpster. She crouched down and wrapped her arms around herself. She was tired, but it felt different. It wasn’t a physical sensation; it was more like losing the ability to keep her consciousness in one piece. Liz lowered her head and closed her eyes. She wanted to cry, but there were no tears. She wanted to scream, but there was no breath.
Liz looked up when she heard footsteps. They stopped and for a moment and she only heard the breeze and gentle moving water. Then came a small voice.
Liz tightened her grip on herself.
“It’s okay, I know you’re there. I wanted to see if you’re alright.”
Liz frowned and looked at the ground, then she unwrapped herself and stood. She put a hand on the dumpster as she came out from the shadows and into the dim moonlight.
A girl was standing a few steps away with her hands clasped behind her back. Her head had a slight tilt and her lips formed the beginning of a smile.
“Hello, my name’s Evelyn and I’m six. You can call me Evie though.”
Liz looked the girl up and down. Her straight, dark hair was held in place with a plain ribbon over her head. A similar ribbon was fashioned as a belt around her grey dress. She wore off-white leggings and shiny black shoes. “Hi, Evie.”
Evie straightened her head and tucked her chin. “What’s your name?”
“It’s Liz. My name is Liz.”
Evie smiled. “Very nice to meet you, Liz.” She brought her hands forward, wrapped the fingers of her right hand around the thumb of her left, and let them hang in front of her. “I saw what you did back there, when you were talking to the living. Very clever.”
“You… you saw that?”
“Can you teach me how? I think it would be fun.”
Liz tucked a stray wisp of blonde hair behind her ear. “I don’t know how I did it. I just needed it to work. I needed to get his attention.”
Evie shrugged and looked away. “You have to find the way that works best for you, use what you understand.”
Liz squinted and nodded. She thought to herself, you’re not really six years old, are you?
Evie looked to Liz and gave a toothy grin. “No. Not really.”
Liz’s eyes went wide and her jaw slack.
“Oh, don’t be shocked,” Evie said. “This,” she motioned around her mouth, “is a formality. You’re new, I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable from word go.”
Liz held her arms straight by her side. She scratched at the right palm of her hand with her middle finger. “Okay. Thank you?”
Evie’s smile faltered and she shrugged again. “You’re welcome.” She turned to look up the alleyway. “Do you want to go for a walk? It’s a nice night for a walk.”
Liz looked back and forth, and then dropped her shoulders. “Yeah, sure.”
“Good.” Evie smiled and brushed her hands down the front of her dress. “It will give us a chance to talk.”
Image by Kaleigh Kanary