For a while after that Leah walked on ahead of us, and I walked alone with Bobby.
He had been unusually silent after the incident with Elmira and the tree, and I thought I knew what was bothering him. He was downcast, avoiding direct eye contact with me even as we walked along shoulder-to-shoulder.
Our plan was to continue walking down Applegate Drive, and then we would turn right onto a street called Farrow Lane. Farrow Lane would eventually lead us back home.
There was to be no more trick-or-treating, of course. The streets were practically empty, anyway. Every once in a while we would pass a cluster of trick-or-treaters. But I noticed a pattern: If I looked away from them for any length of time, I would find that they had vanished when I looked back at them.
Leah, Bobby, and I were walking through our neighborhood, and yet we were walking through someplace else, too. It was as if we were constantly shifting back and forth between two worlds.
“You beat me back there,” Bobby said without malice. His tone suggested that I had just bested him at some childish game, like pick-up basketball or arm-wrestling.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. My question was somewhat disingenuous. I did know what Bobby was talking about; and yet I wanted to hear him explicitly affirm it. Leah was still walking a few paces ahead of us, but I wondered how much of our conversation she could overhear.
“You know darn well what I mean, Schaeffer. I panicked when that tree—became whatever the heck it was. To tell you the truth, I was even afraid of that freaky girl. I saw the other side of her head, and it scared me.”...