The eight huddled together against the wall of a graffiti-covered underpass. Bern would tell them later that he and his skater friends regularly hung out here. The bare concrete cave was quiet now. Nothing but the wind and what they hoped was the distant rumble of thunder.

Nico didn’t hear that silence. He had his headphones on. He was too busy searching the static coming through for signs of Gibberish.

Shavonne put a hand on Nico’s shoulder to get his attention. “Did we lose them?”

“For now,” he answered.

“Good,” Bern said. He poked David in the chest and demanded, “Start talking.”

Sakari interrupted, “Wait, wait, wait. I’m really confused. What are those Gibberish? Sure, they’re trying to kill us, but what about those people in the park? Did they turn into Gibberish? And some of you have magic? Did you always have it?”

“No!” Mia answered in a high pitch.

Nico slid off his headphones and said, “David, you owe all of us an explanation. I’ll force it out of you if I have to. But I’d rather not have to worry about Gibberish attacking us every five minutes. We need to find someplace safe first. Safe enough so you can give us what you owe. And get the other three on the same page.”

Cara said, “Something tells me that will take a while. And that it’d go down better with a meal.”

“Good idea! I’m starving,” Bern said.

Cara formed a clearer impression of Bern in that moment. He was a simple boy who got excited for two things – food and pummeling bad guys, which included David.

Shavonne asked, “But where are we going to eat? There aren’t any restaurants open.”

Sakari answered, “No problem. We’ll just cook dinner ourselves. It’ll be like a camping trip.”

“Or you can come to our place,” Cara volunteered. “Though we might need to stop by the grocery store on the way.”

“Sounds perfect. Thanks,” Shavonne replied with a smile.

“Where is your place?” Bern asked.

“Silver Arches,” Cara answered.

“No way! You rich?”

“The military pays my dad well. Plus, he picked it out.”

“Ah. Gotcha,” Nico remarked. “Let’s head back to the subway.”

The group ventured out of the underpass and began walking toward civilization. Bern offered to lead the way back to Coldessi Boulevard and the subway station.

“Will we run into any of those Gibberish things?” Sakari asked Nico.

“Hopefully not,” Nico replied. “We should be good once we reach the station, though. They don’t like going underground for some reason.”

Rianne asked Cara, “When you said ‘stop by the grocery store,’ you don’t mean…?”

“I don’t like it either,” Cara answered, “but there’s not enough food at home for everyone. So needs must.”

“If you say so.”

Mia jogged up to David and grabbed his arm. “Alright. I’ll do it,” she told him softly. “If playing Elyse will keep us alive, I’ll do it. No promise on how good I’ll be.”

David didn’t know anything about this Elyse character nor the story she came from. Yet he sensed a connection between her and Mia’s lightning magic. If Elyse and her story could help Mia keep her wits, then “That’s good enough for me.”

©2021 Joyce Lewis. All rights reserved.