Running away gets a bad rap. We’re supposed to stand and face our fears, fight our battles, and overcome the challenges that are put before us. That’s great on motivational posters but the reality is that we have a “Fight or Flight” response for a reason. Sometimes, a lot of sometimes really, running away is the right choice. There are fears that cost us too much to face, battles that will leave us more wounded that they’re worth and challenges that grind us down too much to overcome.
Running can buy us time to get stronger, or save us from rushing in before we know what we’re doing. Our courage is obvious when we chose to Fight but, though we don’t like to admit it, so is our stupidity in a lot of cases.
Standing in the street, in the middle of the night, I knew all about stupidity. What I couldn’t see though was anywhere I could run to escape it.
“Yeah, those are Hungry Shadows” I said, turning my back to the car between the me and the Friendly Shadow, as though a large hunk of steel and glass would protect me from things that were as insubstantial as I was. “And there’s a lot of them.”
By “a lot”, I meant we were surrounded and the whole horde of them were closing the circle on us rapidly.
“That’s going to be a problem,” Friendly Shadow said. “I’m pretty much the last person who can drive away shadows, and I’m also pretty sure if it comes to Shadow Boxing, things won’t go well for either of us.”
The Hungry Shadows didn’t look like people. Parts of people, sometimes, but it was hard to tell where they began and ended. They didn’t move quickly, which was the only thing that had allowed me to escape them in the past, I remembered, but the slow, roiling wave of their advance seemed to pick up speed with every passing second.
“Can you move physical objects?” Friendly Shadow asked. Not an unreasonable question of a ghost, but I couldn’t see why it mattered. The Hungry Shadows weren’t exactly going to hold back if I went all poltergeist and started hurling rocks at them.
“I think so,” I said. “It’s not easy, but if I focus, maybe. There’s nothing here I can throw at them though. We need to find somewhere bright, preferably with a lot people around.”
“Are street lights bright enough?” Friendly Shadow asked.
“They should be.”
It was a good idea. Unfortunately the pools of light waiting under the street lights on the road were all on the other side of the ring of Hungry Shadows.
“Then my idea should work!” Friendly Shadow said. “Get into the car.”
“They can catch us in there too,” I said, but stepped through the door and into the passenger’s seat.
“We’re not staying here. Not if I’m right. Try to turn the lock. It shouldn’t weigh much.”
I saw what she was going for and put my hand over the ignition switch.
Moving objects as a ghost was so much harder than when I was alive. I’m not even sure why it was possible. Maybe everyone is actually telekinetic and having a body makes us forget that since it’s so much less work to move something with your hands than with your mind?
Whatever the reason it exists though, ghost touch can be kind of useful. A quick slip of my hand into the steering column and the ignition turned. Ghost touch is great for tricks like that.
What it’s not so great for is imitating the electronic signature of the key that’s supposed to be inserted into the lock.
The car did nothing.
“They’re getting closer. Can you turn the car on?” Friendly Shadow asked.
“No, it needs the key!” I said.
“Try the lights,” Friendly Shadow said. “That’s all we really need.”
And like that I saw her plan. I liked it too.
Flicking the light switch to on was slightly harder than turning the ignition, but it had the desired effect.
Twin beams shot through the shadows in front of the car and made a wide lane of light that reached to the nearest street light and beyond.
“Run!” Friendly Shadow said, and she didn’t have to tell me twice. I was out of the car and wrapped around the street lamp faster than I’d ever run before.
“That was a good idea,” I said, only noticing then that Friendly Shadow wasn’t with me. Because of course she couldn’t venture into the light anymore than the Hungry Shadows could. Or at least that’s what I thought.
“Seeming doesn’t get to hog all the cleverness,” the shadow that was directly under me said.
“If you’re here, we’re not safe are we?” I asked.
“Don’t know,” Friendly Shadow said. “Haven’t met this particular type of monster before. They don’t seem to like moving into the light though, so I’m guessing they work differently than I do.”
“Will they stay away till morning though?” I asked. Spending the entire night trapped in the small circle of a street light’s illumination didn’t seem like it would be much fun, but it sure beat getting eaten by shadows.
“Something tells me we’re not going to be that lucky,” Friendly Shadow said.
The Hungry Shadows swarmed over the car we’d fled, being careful to avoid the beams from the headlights. I thought they were going to turn the car off, but from how the light flickered away and died, it looked more like they’d chosen to drain it dry instead.
“If they can drain electrical devices…” I started to say and looked up to see three shadowy faces on the street light above us as it started to fade out too.
“We’re dead,” I said, which was ironic I suppose since I literally was and Friendly Shadow wasn’t exactly made of mortal materials either.
“Not just yet,” she said.
And then the world turned solid black.