It was now a question of where to go first. There were only three options, really.
Fuells was closed. Esther felt a shock in the pit of her stomach that made her spine tingle. Shop closed, the sign on the door read, because of rat infestation. Her head made an involuntary move of disgust. Suddenly everything felt wrong; the sounds in her ears where muffled and she felt hot and tingly. Something was wrong. Every moment they could come out of the walls, eating people from the eyeballs into their brains. I have to go home and check if they’re still on my wall! I have to go home!
‘Hey! Hey,’ the voice came in from far away, ‘put your phone to your ear! I said put your phone against your ear!’ Esther yelped as her hand smacked the phone to the side of her head. It stung and for a moment her eyes where blurry with tears. Then she breathed in and did what the voice told her. ‘Now look, look and read it again. You see?’
She swallowed and brushed some stray hairs from her face. Then she read the sign again. ‘Oh.’
Shop closed. Nothing more. Esther knuckled her forehead and sighed, shoulders heaving with hatred and failure.
‘Do you mind?’ the voice said, ‘I’ve already eaten.’
‘W-what now?’ Esther stammered, she felt lost and disorientated.
‘You are going to eat something.’
She groaned. ‘No, please, I don’t want to.’
‘We’ll get you something see-through. Okay?’
Esther laughed mockingly. ‘Like soup, or ice cubes?’
‘Something like that. There’s a nice Chinese restaurant here, on the upper floor.’
‘No, just no.’
Suddenly she was whirled around in strong, cold grip on her shoulders. ‘You are going to die if you don’t eat,’ the voice growled in her ear. It was an unpleasant growl and the thin little girl in the mirror in front of her really did look ill. Esther blinked and looked away.
‘W-why do you care anyway!’ she hissed in her phone, people where staring and she tried to keep a pleasant smile on her face. It still looked a little strange because she was leaning backwards into something that wasn’t there.
She decided to shake loose and walk on, but something made her stop. His voice was soft now, a little vulnerable even. ‘Because, if you’re not here,’ he said with a slight touch on her shoulder blade, ‘I can’t stay here anymore. I’ll have to go back.’
Esther never really asked where “back” was. But she’d imagine it sometimes and that only made him snicker.
‘Okay, but you’ll have to help me.’
‘Gladly.’ Together they went back into the main crowd.
‘God, Esther you’re such a loser!’
Esther turned around. Right behind her where some kids from her class. She could never remember their names. Two girls, blonde and brunette, and a boy with prickly brown hair. What did they want?
They came closer but before the blonde could grab her, Esther dove into the crowd and entered a random shop. Clothes.Racks and racks of them in all the colors of the season, rainbows that she would never wear.
‘Stay where you are!’ the brunette called. Annette? Jay? Something like that.
Esther went around a naked dummy and shook her head. No, what was it? ‘Is your name Shay?’ she asked, barely out of reach.
‘Oh, you freak!’ the girl fumed, ‘I’m Shana! I sat next to you in class almost all of first year!’
Esther was baffled. ‘Really, what happened?’
The other girls came from the other side of the rack, the boy was nowhere to be seen.
‘What do you guys want?’ Esther asked, slinking out of Shana’s purple fingernails and diving underneath the clothes rack.
‘We want your money,’ she head the other girl say, then there was nothing. She crawled through a maze of clothes and saw the boy’s ankles running. Esther tripped him up and giggled as he hit the shiny floor. She couldn’t help it, it looked so funny; he jiggled!
‘Esther!’ the blond girl said with vengeance in her voice. Maybe this was why she always got into trouble?
‘Fat boy in aisle two!’ she said loudly as she emerged with her black sneaker on his back. ‘Somebody clean up in aisle two!’
Then she ran.
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