The sun was setting as they left the city limits. Thoughts flew through his mind. He tried to talk to Abigail, but she seethed with an intensity that made his skin crawl. His jaw tensed and he watched her in the rear view mirror. Daniel was concerned at first, but the activities of the day had worn him down and he was drawing slow, long breaths before long.
He kept trying to find words, something that would reach her, but didn't know where to start. He needed to talk to someone, and she was very, very far away. He felt like he was losing his little girl.
Lisa would talk to him.
"I'm terrified, Abby." He said, looking at her through the mirror, "I need you to explain this to me."
She folded her arms and looked out the window. There was a gloss to her eyes, she was nearly in tears, but she didn't budge.
He watched ahead as the light began to fade as they drove. Soon, Abigail's own breath matched Daniel's in rhythm. Jim glanced back again, he could just make out that Abigail's eyes were closed and her mouth slightly open as she leaned against the door.
Jim reached back and put his hand on her knee, squeezing it gently. He then reached behind the seat and did the same to Daniel. He bumped something on the way back, gripped it and looked at it. It was the doll the Aunts had sent along with Abigail.
"You want to ride with me, girl? You can take the front seat here." He said quietly, with a weary smile, "Maybe you'll talk to me?"
He positioned the doll in a sitting position. He was considering putting a seat belt on her, but felt that'd put everyone in more danger than the role play would be worth.
"It's just you and me." He said to the darkness.
"Just you and me." Lisa's voice repeated.
He caught his breath with surprise and the steering wheel wobbled.
"Steady, cowboy." She said carefully, "No point in having me die twice."
"Lisa. What the hell." Jim's eyes widened forward and his jaw clenched.
"C'mon, Jim. Language."
"They're asleep anyway," Jim hissed.
"Yes, which is good because we need to talk."
He grimaced, he flicked his eyes toward the passenger seat. The silhouette was there, but the glow of the dashboard didn't touch her. The fear from last night, the fear of seeing something he didn't want to, began to slowly subside, but it didn't stop him from trembling.
"OK, we need to talk. But first, how do I know I'm not going crazy?"
She chuckled dryly.
"Oh, there's no easy way to make sense of this. Hell, I didn't realize you'd be so flighty." She said, sounding disappointed.
"Language, Lisa." He said instinctively, "And you were always worse about that then I was."
Her response caught him off guard. Emotion was building in his chest with the banter. Tears began to fill his eyes, but he was smiling. He let out a sob-lined laugh.
"Oh, Lisa, I miss you. I miss you so much." He choked out the words, then ran his hand over his face, but the smile remained.
"Hey, stop it. I'm sitting right here."
There was humor in her voice, but it was also touched with emotion.
"Then, explain it. Because I lost you and I'm devastated and there's no coming back." He said, his smile fading.
She sighed, the sound coming through the darkness.
"I tried be subtle, but it just threw you off." She said, "So, this is the direct approach."
"That doesn't explain anything." Jim said, bemused.
"No, but it explains me. And I want you to know that I had no intention of hurting you and I'm sorry if I did."
Jim nodded. His emotional palette was painting with all the colors, leaving purple and brown puddles of chaos. He breathed deep, trying to arrange the incredulous with the implausible.
"No, you haven't. You didn't." He paused, "And ... I don't really know what to say."
There was a visible shrug against the moonlit plains outside of the car.
They sat in silence for a moment. Headlights from an oncoming car bathed the cab for a moment. Jim risked another look and saw that the light did not reflect.
"I know. It's weird." She said.
"Yet, you're doing it."
"Being it. Doing it is something else."
Jim suppressed a laugh.
"No, no. C'mon, Jim."
He could almost hear her rolling her eyes.
"No, being whatever this is, what I am. I literally have no idea how it works." She said, sounding exasperated, "There are times I can see you. I can, uh, for lack of a better word, manifest."
"Was that you in the barn?" Jim asked.
"Oh, sorry, I was nodding."
"You were in the barn, and that was about an hour after I arrived. What do you remember?"
She let out an exasperated sound.
"OK, let me rephrase, I don't know why it works. But how it works...?" Her voice tapered off.
"But ... what?"
"Jim, maybe this is too quick."
"What do you mean?"
"Coming to terms with this reality, whatever this is." She sounded unsure, "I know how you are. You want to know everything, right now. I think we need to take our time with this."
Jim sighed and shook his head.
"The more I understand, the more I know," his head bobbed erratically as he searched for the words, "Perhaps the less crazy and less scared I'll feel?"
"But you might not like how this all works."
He contemplated that, then spoke.
"You'd only say that because there's something you know I wouldn't like about it."
"Yes and no," She said carefully, "And not for why you'd think."
"Wow, took the long road around that one?" He said, rolling his eyes.
"How about this," She said, letting the words hang as she mulled over the thought, "What would you consider 'evil'?"
"Did I hear air quotes in there?"
"Jim. Really. What do you consider evil?"
"Anything that intentionally hurts others," he thought for a moment, "And, uh, enjoys it?"
"Then, what do you think of when you think witches?"
"Are your Aunts witches?"
"No... not as much."
"Then, what the hell, Lisa? Just say it."
"And you said I was bad."
"Just. Say. It." Jim said pointedly, getting frustrated.
"You read June's journal, right?"
"Yes, but only a little bit." He said with a shrug.
"You only needed to read a little of it."
"I'm not sure," Jim said, confused then thought of his walk, "Wait, is this that 'piece of them' thing."
"Yeah, what did you think about that?"
"Yes. Wait, you can't read my mind or anything, can you?"
There was silence, but he swore the shadow glowered at him.
"It's a no, then." He stated.
"No. I can't read your mind." She sighed heavily, "This is not a superpower."
He nodded and fell into quiet thought. She made a polite noise then spoke again.
"So, then, what did you think of that?" She asked, prodding.
"Well, I didn't think much of it at the time. At first I thought it was just oddly phrased. it was eerie. Then I remembered the lock of your hair." He swallowed hard and then continued, "And Missy's."
There was a moment of silence.
"I saw her." She said, emotion catching her again, "Missy. She's beautiful."
Jim grip on the steering wheel tensed again.
"Sweetie, this is why we should probably ease into this." She spoke after a moment, filling the silence.
"So, you're saying your Aunts have something to do with you being here. They're not witches but they know how to do this. Whatever this is."
"Pretty much." She said simply.
He looked in the back seat again. Abigail sat, listening, she glanced up at the review mirror meeting his eyes. Jim's eyes widened with panic.
"They knew before you did." Lisa said, "The children. Well, not exactly before, but they had accepted it and weren't nearly as distraught as you were when I visited them. Probably one of those drawbacks of being old."
"Maybe we should take this slow, after all," Jim said with a sigh.
"I know it's against your very nature, but it might be best we did." She said softly, "I don't want to lose you again."
He nodded, his chest tightening with her words. He reached over and put his hand tentatively out to hold Lisa's. There was a coolness that pooled around his skin, and he looked over with a pained expression, seeing his hand engulfed in the eddying darkness.
"I'm going to miss your touch." He said quietly, his heart slowly breaking.
"Me, too." She whispered.