lex couldn’t move. As his body lifted up over the ground, he tried to shake himself free, but it was no use. His head grew heavy as the blood rushed into his face. Like a fly caught in a web, the more he forced himself out, the more constricted he became. Alex’s ribs pressed tightly against the large figure’s body making it difficult to breathe. Through the muffled sounds of footsteps ploughing through the leaves and twigs on the forested floor, Alex heard Daisy’s distant voice, crying, shouting, screaming.
“What’s going on? Hello?” Alex called out between breaths, hoping to gain control of the situation somehow. “Can you… let me… go? What are… you doing?” Alex squirmed about trying to find a way to release himself from the impossible hold. “What do you… want? Can you please let go of me?”
In a matter of seconds, the overwhelming need to scream, to shake himself free had disappeared. The energy drained rapidly from his body. It wasn’t long before Alex found himself coming to terms with his reality. He waited for the inexplicable episode to end. In his mind, he was experiencing the bitter demise of his short life. In his mind, he accepted that an extraordinary power was about to have its way with him. As the chaos around him continued, Alex once again found himself slipping into a state of calm.
It was the same peaceful calm he’d felt in the creek.
As Alex allowed his body to relax and his mind to let go, Kaylee’s voice faintly returned. At first it was difficult to hear over the footsteps, but as he was carried further into the woods, her voice became clearer.
You shouldn’t be here.
Alex closed his eyes. He tried to respond.
You shouldn’t be here, repeated Kaylee’s voice.
Alex’s mind pulled away, deflecting all the confusion that encompassed him. As Kaylee’s voice repeated the same words over and over, Alex found himself slipping back to a familiar place.
There were children all around him, and his new best friend was walking by his side. It was Henry. Alex had just ordered a hot spicy bowl of beef curry from a woman wearing an apron and a hairnet.
Alex remembered that moment clearly. It was the first and last time he had ever ordered beef curry.
He realized where he was. He was back in the cafeteria at school. It was early November, the day of Cafeteriageddon.
He recalled the conversation he’d been having with Henry as they walked back to their table. It was about getting together for the weekend, and Henry had suggested they invite Daisy along as well. However, what he remembered the most, was what happened just seconds later.
Kaylee Cooper. Alex had tripped over Kaylee Cooper, causing an uncontrollable series of events leading to the worst food fight in Timpleville’s history.
However, in Alex’s new thoughts, that didn’t happen. Alex never tripped over Kaylee Cooper. In fact, she wasn’t even there in the cafeteria. There was no wipe-out, no food fight, and Alex wasn’t blamed for anything. There was no visit to the Principal’s office, no detention, and Alex’s reputation was never weakened. There was simply no Kaylee Cooper—at all.
Why were those events playing in Alex’s mind? More importantly, why were the events altered?
What if Alex never met Kaylee? Would all the events that took place after he tripped over her in the cafeteria be completely different? Would he be here right now, being carried away by some strange dark figure in the middle of the woods?
You shouldn’t be here, said the voice.
I know but it’s no use. I’m trapped.
Alex opened his eyes again. He knew very well that he was not supposed to be there. Kaylee had said so, numerous times. However, she also said he was going to be friends with a ghost. How absurd was that? How can anyone become friends with something that isn’t even real? If this was a so called ghost carrying him like a sack of potatoes deeper along this creepy forested path, why was Kaylee’s voice repeating those words?
But, then again, since when did Alex start believing Kaylee Cooper? According to his list, there were some very valid reasons why he shouldn’t believe anything she said. More importantly, why was her voice in his head? It became apparent to Alex that he might need to add another important fact about Kaylee to his list.
Whatever the reasons were, it was clear Alex needed to escape. Daisy’s cries were becoming fainter, and the brief―and ridiculous―idea of giving up had to be smothered. Whether it was a ghost carrying him or some unhappy stranger, Alex had to do something, and fast.
However, before he could find the fight inside him, Alex heard an unusual noise.
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