Chapter 22: A Heart to Heart
On the way back to Serenity Hill, Joey could immediately tell that something was wrong.
Three hours outside of town, she had stopped to get gas and found that the people in the gas station seemed unusually happy.
It was indeed spreading…
As she drove up to the town of Serenity Hill itself, she was not surprised to find it as sunny as usual. In fact, the entire time they had been there it had not had any outrageously cold or “icky” weather.
She started by stopping by the house-and found that it was-indeed-burned to the ground. Then she stopped by Devin’s home-only to find it empty and silent. Her friend’s cars were there as well, and in the passenger seat of Ian’s chevy cruze, was her journal. Not that she needed it though.
She had all of the information on Imaginary Friends memorized…
Despite being alone and in this desperate situation, she did not feel panicked. She kept herself cool and collected, and turned that nervous energy into determination.
First of all, she needed to find Devin.
Silently, she began to walk around the boy’s house, trying to find any clues as to where he could have gone. The back yard was neatly trimmed and well kept, with a little fence to keep everything orderly. Despite the neatness of it all, she did notice that there seemed to be a little part in the bushes behind the fence that seemed to be pushed out of the way. When she climbed over the fence to take a closer look, she found a little path that led down a hill and into some brush.
At the bottom, was a tent.
Carefully, she made her way down, and then crouched down to listen.
The only sound to be heard was a little bit of sniffling.
“Is anyone in there?” she asked quietly.
Immediately, there was a bit of rustling, and then someone slowly unzipped part of the opening to peer through.
“I’m Joey.” she said softly. “Are you ok?”
The little boy staring at her through the small boy unzipped the rest of it and then went back into his tent with his back to her. He had been crying, and he obviously did not want this woman to see.
Hesitantly, she ducked in and then sat down in the tent, her curly brown hair bouncing slightly.
“What’s wrong Devin?” she asked, trying to be friendly. Devin did not answer her, keeping his back to her. She sighed.
“You do realize that I’m probably the last person left you can talk to right? There’s no one else for miles around that hasn’t been affected by the… “happiness.”
Devin hung his head and then wiped his tears away.
“Why can’t I just get what I want?” he mumbled.
“Because if you just get what you want, you don’t learn.”
“Oh really?” Joey smirked. “I see you learned how to set up a tent. Was that stupid?”
There was a pause, and Joey folded her arms, patiently waiting for the boy to continue. Finally he turned angrily to her, his eyes filled with tears.
“What are you even doing here?! You can’t help me!”
“Oh-so you do need help?” she asked, raising a brow.
The boy opened his mouth in rage, and then shut it again, not knowing what to say.
“Is this about Elizabeth?”
“N-No. She’s been helping me.”
“No she hasn’t. She’s had you do things you didn’t really want to-hasn’t she?”
Devin tried to hold back the tears, but without success.
“I-I kind of wanted to…” he sniffed.
“But they were wrong. Weren’t they?”
The boy did not reply, and Joey sighed again.
“Devin, something horrible is going to happen to you if you don’t let me help. Let me know what you’ve done, and we’ll start with that.”
The small tent they were in shook slightly with the wind, and Devin wiped his tears away again.
“I-I took my Mom’s money so I could buy things to summon the helper…” he admitted. “And-and…”
“I-I killed a bird!” he sobbed, putting his face in his hands. “I had to kill it to summon the helper so my parents wouldn’t get divorced!”
Joey watched him pitifully as he continued to cry.
“And-I feel bad cause-I kind of wanted to do those things even though I know it was bad! And-I like Elizabeth-but-she wants me to… get rid of those other people-and-I don’t know if I can do that!”
Joey stared at him, separating herself from any emotions that might interfere with reaching out to this little boy.
“She wants you to kill my friends.” she said quietly. Devin looked up at her, no longer angry at all.
“Those-those people are really your friends?”
“They’re the only friends I’ve got.”
Devin rubbed his arm a bit awkwardly, looking away from her.
“Devin, if you continue this, Elizabeth is going to turn you into something like Shahwa or herself.”
“Elizabeth is something called an “Imaginary Friend”. And I’m not talking about what little kids have-cause she’s definitely real. She’s really a dark spirit that’s just pretending to be your friend.”
At this, Devin got defensive again.
“H-How do you know about this stuff anyways?” he asked suspiciously. “Maybe you’re the one that-.”
“Devin. Look around you. You can’t tell me that all of this feels right. You really think your parents are happy?” she asked.
“I want them to be…” Devin said mousily, avoiding eye contact.
“Devin-I know this because I had a friend like Elizabeth when I was younger.”
The boy’s eyes suddenly grew wide.
“You-you had a friend like Elizabeth?!”
Joey nodded solemnly.
“I did some pretty horrible things. She was not really my friend. She ended up taking everything from me in the end-even though I banished her to the spirit dimension. So trust me when I say that I know what I’m talking about and I know exactly how you feel.”
Devin thought about this long and hard, scratching his hand absentmindedly.
“Then… what am I supposed to do?” he asked.
Joey was never able to tell him, because the tent suddenly toppled over in a big gust of wind.
“Deeeeevin…” a little girl’s voice cooed. “Why have you been hiding from me?”
Devin and Joey popped their heads out of the toppled tent at the same time.
“Devin-what did I say about Josephine Washburn?” Elizabeth asked as if through clenched teeth.
“Wait-this is that lady you were telling me about?” the boy asked, surprised. “But she said her name was Joey… oh… Joey’s a nickname huh?”
“Get away from her!!!” Elizabeth said shrilly, the fire on her head crackling and raging.
“Elizabeth-I-I don’t want to kill those people!” the little boy exclaimed desperately.
Savagely, the spirit swooped down and grabbed him by the arm.
“You’ll see clearly once we get you away from this witch!” she snarled. Then she turned to Joey.
“D-don’t interfere!” she said shrilly, holding Devin out by the arm. “Or-or you’ll regret it!”
Joey raised a brow.
“Really? You know, it’s odd but… you seem a little… unhinged. Are you-scared of me?” Joey asked in disbelief.
“N-No!!” Elizabeth retorted, backing away a little bit. “I-I’ll show you! Just-just try to stop me! Meet us at the High School Gymnasium if you dare!!”
Then with a strained laugh, she and Devin disappeared in a burst of pink flame.
Joey stood there for a moment, a little dumbfounded.
Was Elizabeth really scared of her?
After thinking about it, she suddenly realized how much of a reputation she must have with the spirits.
After all, she had cast a lot of them into the spirit dimension in the last fifteen years. Knowing this, she couldn’t help but smile a little as she stood there in the bushes next to the toppled tent.
Time to save her friends...