The story so far:
I "awoke", a logical term for it, I suppose, to Aaliyah's "welcome home". I shook my head to clear the clinging cobwebs that seemed to envelope my brain when returning to my body after a "whatnot" trip. Funny, the cobwebs occurred only on the return trip and I really needed to do something about naming this tripping something other than tripping or "whatnot".
"Welcome home," I muttered and had to chuckle at the simplistic innocence of the phrase. I looked around and saw that we were back in the park, the same park I'd returned to after Aaliyah's...death. I started to address that fact with her, but she was quicker.
"I thought it best to go back to the park. It seemed to be a safe place and I don't know my way around here."
Another thing I needed to do was acclimate myself to her being inside me! I'd noticed that she could read my thoughts, but why couldn't I read hers? On the other hand, her voice in my head could be construed as "her thougths". Or could they? Geesh, the complications keep complicating themselves!
If she can read my thoughts...then I didn't need to speak aloud. That could get embarrassing! I sure didn't need some passersby thinking me cuckoo, standing around talking to myself. Right on time, Aaliyah responded.
"You think too fast, Emma!" I heard her laugh. "First, how about terming your ability - 'shifting'? Your spirit or soul, if you prefer, shifts to a new time, space, dimension while your body remains here...with me, now." I could feel the grin in that last part.
"Sure, why not?" I thought. "Shifting is as good a phrase as 'whatnot', I guess."
"Second - yes, I believe you hear my thoughts as a voice the same way I 'read' your thoughts...yes?"
"Yeah, I think so." I thought. "Anyway, that's how we'll accept it to be. There's a bigger problem right now."
"The man with the flashlight?"
Geesh, how could I have forgotten my most recent 'whatnot' - er, shift! "How do you know about that, you were here with my body, weren't you?"
"It seems that we are linked in other ways than simply my spirit in your body. Although I was here with your physical self, I saw through your spiritual eyes.
Like I thought before, the complexities of all this seem to be getting more complicated by the minute! I didn't know how much longer I could cope with this. I was seriously beginning to doubt my sanity, now.
"I've seen him before!"
"What! You've seen him before? Where, when...what did he look like?
"Each time you appeared to me, he followed. That first day with my father...and then, when I...when I killed him. The man appeared seconds after you. He was likely there again...at my death, but I...."
"Yeah, you were inside me right after that so you wouldn't have seen him, but why didn't I? And, who is he? And why was I drawn to him this time? But, if you saw him, what does he look like? I was blinded in that room by a flashlight."
"I only know that he is a big man, that he wears a long...what is it called? Oh! I don't know the word for it. It's a long coat with a deeply cut tail. It stretches almost to the ground and..."
"A duster? A long coat that cowboys, in the old west, used to wear?
"I don't know, Emma. I grew up in China, remember? But, yes, I think I've heard of these coats your cowboys wore and, he also wears a hat...like a cowboy hat, but not...and boots! Yes, cowboy boots!"
I had to laugh. Never seen a cowboy but just described one to me. My good humor was fleeting, however. "His face, Aaliyah, what did he look like?"
I could almost see her hang her head in defeat. It rang clear in her words, "I don't...I don't know, Emma. I'm sorry. His face was always in the shadow of his hat. I couldn't see. I am so sorry..."
"That's okay, Aaliyah. You've given me much more than I had. Thank you." I pondered what the man had said and as my thoughts occurred, I spoke to Aaliyah.
"He said that he could see people like me. I must not be the only one who can...shift. He said, he'd been waiting for me and now that he knew what I looked like, he would find me!"
"Well, the upside is that we need not waste time looking for him. He will come to us!"
Initially shocked at her statement, I had to chuckle. I'd never been much of an optimist, especially finding an "upside" to a serious situation. She did have a point. We needed only to wait for him to come to us. I figured having Aaliyah around was going to be a good thing.
"I'm happy that you accepted my reference to "we", Emma."
I felt her smile. Hell, the "we" reference had gone right over my head! But, we were a team now, weren't we? I could no longer think of only myself. That old saying about two heads being better than one...well, she didn't really have a head...or a brain, but she was definitely a separate thinker, a separate entity and that pretty much equalled the adage, I figured.
"Yep. We're a team, like it or not. I like it, by the way!" I grinned. "I've never had anyone to look after my physical self when I went shifting. It's pretty cool. Gives me a degree of confidence and well being. Not to mention, someone to talk to," I added.
"Thank you. I will always look after your physical being, Emma. Always!"
I lay back on the park bench with eyes closed. I needed to rest. I needed to think. Even with Aaliyah thinking along with me, I had to get my own thoughts in order.
My reaction was quicker than I could have thought to move. I sat up, opened my eyes and screamed almost in the same instant that I'd heard Aaliyah gasp. Striding across the cut, green grass came a big man. He was wearing a duster that flapped open with each step, giving me a view of two huge pistols on his hips. My gaze travelled from the guns to his face, but I couldn't see it. As Aaliyah had experienced, his face was covered with the shadow of his hat. What she didn't mention - how could she have missed this little factoid - was his eyes.
Yellow, like the eyes of a feral cat, his eyes gleamed beneath the brim of the hat. I couldn't see, but I imagined a sharp toothed smile beneath those evil eyes.
I didn't acknowledge Aaliyah's cry. I simply did it - as fast as my legs would carry me - in the opposite direction of the man's approach. I feared, though, that I would not be fast enough.