It was the beginning of an amazing Children’s Day. For the first time ever, ice cream trucks decided to gather in one square in Essex and gift children with whatever flavor they wanted.
“Here, one mint with chocolate chips for you,” the vendor smiled kindly at the child in front of him.
The girl took it with bright eager eyes, to her mother’s enjoyment.
“What do you say, Zoe?” the elder woman asked, placing a warm hand over the girl’s back.
Zoe stared for a bit at the ice cream, watching it melt on a corner. The light push from her mother urged her to look up at the vendor and mumble a faint thank you.
As they walked away from the truck and towards a bench for the girl to eat her dessert, Zoe caught glimpse of another child crying. He wasn’t very far thus Zoe could see it was a boy about her age that had a bowl cut hairstyle. He was dressed in a red t-shirt, yellow pants and no shoes, which drew her attention immediately.
“Mummy, why is that boy crying? Did he lose his mum?”
Zoe’s mother frowned before she looked in the direction Zoe pointed.
“Pumpkin, there’s no one there.” The woman told her daughter, bending to her short size, “Maybe he already found his parents and left.”
But Zoe shook her head and kept pointing at the boy.
“He’s there, I can see him. He’s still crying. Maybe his mummy is around. We should tell the cops.” Young Zoe stated firmly, ice cream melting down her fingers as her attention shifted on something else.
Mrs. Lestrade’s frown deepened as she realized they were still close to the ice cream truck and other parents were watching. It was embarrassing more than anything and Mrs. Lestrade hated attention.
“Zoe, look at me. There is no boy crying. Maybe it’s your imaginary friend, dear.” She tried to alter it so that they could at least walk to a place where no one could see or hear them.
Zoe pouted and turned back to the boy but no one was there, just like her mother said. Even if she was three months away from turning six years old, she was sure that boy was not an imaginary friend. Zoe had already one and it was a white stallion that could talk not another child.
Since the problem got solved, Zoe followed her mother towards the bench and sat down, a bit disappointed. On the other side, her ice cream was dripping down both sides, some of it falling on her shirt.
“Zoe~ you should be careful not to stain your clothes.”
Her mother sighed and searched her purse for a handkerchief. While the woman was busy wiping Zoe’s hands and shirt, muttering how she had to be more careful, Zoe caught glimpse of the crying boy once again. She jerked slightly when she saw him sitting on the bench next to her, staring ahead with his hands placed on each side as if he wanted to jump off.
Unlike before, it was a bit strange to stare so closely at the boy. But he didn’t seem to mind and even turned his face to her, shocking her with his white eyes. It happened incredibly fast but the boy cried out so loudly that Zoe threw the ice cream cone at him, watching as it went right through his form and fell on the ground.
“Zoe…” Her mother was startled by the sudden action and glanced around, afraid that someone else saw it too.
Zoe’s ears were ringing with that awful noise, closing her eyes tightly and covering her ears in hope it will stop or decrease but it didn’t. It amplified to the point she cried out in pain and felt her eyes sting.
“Zoe! Zoe, what wrong?!”
Zoe could hear her mother yell and felt her mother’s hands around her small back but that was not all. She could hear more than that, voices that did not sound friendly or clear. When Zoe opened her eyes, she saw everything as it was before but somehow it didn’t feel like before.
“Is it going to rain?” she asked innocently, turning to her mother with teary eyes.
“No. Dear, are you alright? Should we go to a hospital? Zoe-“
No, it was not going to rain. The sun was not as bright as she remembered and the sky was not blue anymore; it was a constant grey sight and the ground was covered in a thin layer of mist. One woman turned to Zoe, her long black hair swinging over her shoulder, and she literally zoomed towards the child.
“You can see me,” the woman whispered in astonishment, “You can see all of us,” she added seeing how Zoe’s eyes flickered to other men and women that looked as colorless as the woman in front of her.
“Happy birthday, Zoe!”
On her tenth birthday, Zoe’s house was filled with her friends, family and strangers. Everyone was singing for her, everyone was having a good time, everyone was happy except the birthday girl.
“Little girl, you’re going to help me aren’t you?”
“I really need to find my son. Can you ask your parents to look for him?”
“Can you cut me some cake too?”
Zoe could not even focus on the people that were invited to her party because the ones uninvited were distracting. There was so much noise and so many voices talking at once, most of them asking for favors as if Zoe had nothing else to do.
“I want you to leave me alone,” she mumbled, knowing they could hear her, “Please, leave me alone,” she added, her blue eyes tearing up at the amount of pressure thrown at her.
“Zoe? Zoe, are you feeling alright?”
Her mother’s concern was like the peak of an iceberg and Zoe did not need it at the moment. She was cornered by dead entities and living human beings and they were suffocating her with questions and these worried looks that she really hated. She was ten years old now and could take care of herself up to some point. The room seemed to shrink around her, the air thickened and her heartbeats quickened; she was having a panic attack.
It was horrible and for the first time in her life, Zoe felt like she was going to die. It was intense and overwhelming and she stumbled on her feet, feeling like she was going to fall.
But she didn’t. Someone grabbed her arm and helped her back on her feet before holding her hand tightly. Her heartbeats slowed down, the room became normal size and the noise was gone. Everything came back to normal and it looked like no one even realized the pain she just went through.