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Janice and the Shapeshifters

Wendy uses her unusual way of communicating with people to stay out of jail.

The beginning

Janice pushed the shopping cart back towards the store. She finally had made time to go grocery shopping, just getting the basics. People were all around and it made her a little nervous and she was happy to be done with it. She was lost in thought, planning her day, her week and her weekend. She was looking forward to getting out of town on Friday afternoon, it had been a while since she was alone in the country. She needed a break.

After returning the cart to the cart stand, she turned and was heading back to her vehicle. As she walked across the parking lot, she noticed a man with three children leaving the store. They would pass each other about 10 feet from her vehicle. The children were laughing and playing, the man enjoying their company. As she wondered about their life together, she noticed a puddle on the ground, in front of the little girl. In another 2, maybe 3 steps, she would be in it. Before Janice could say anything, the little girl jumped into it, probably hoping to splash her family. Instead, she disappeared down in the hole.

Janice pounced over the cart driven by the father, and landed in the puddle, disappearing down the hole too. Blinded by the darkness, she was only able to use her hands to feel for the child. The terrifying scream of a child in distress echoed throughout the space. Frantically grasping around, she was able to feel the touch of a dress. She struggled to remember if the little girl was wearing one. It didn’t matter, this was the closest person to her and she couldn’t have been that far behind the child. She reached down and grabbed the material, clawing to find the body beneath it. The screaming intensified and she knew she had the child. Screaming herself, Janice said, “I’ve got you! HOLD ON!!!” and forced her thoughts back to the parking lot, back to the family and back into the world they had just left.

As easily as they had disappeared, they returned to the scene. The father, whose face now bore the trauma of seeing one of his children disappear in front of his eyes, was ashen and grey. His eyes were wide open, not blinking. His mouth, frozen in place. He wanted to scream out, but his vocal cords weren’t moving. He was obviously in a state of shock. The other two children were clinging to the grocery basket as hard as they could, their little fingers white at the knuckles where they grasped the cart.

Janice had seen this reaction before and understood what they were going through. She knelt down in front of the child, who thankfully had stopped screaming. She was now just crying, tears streaming down her face, but no words coming out of her mouth. Another person in shock. She looked at Janice with her big, blue eyes, her brow furrowed in wonder and terror. “It’s okay, Sweetie. It’s okay. You’re safe now.”, Janice told her. “Catch your breath, take a couple of deep breaths…that’s it. Slowly, in…and out. In…and out. Can you talk now?”

The little girl nodded her head. “Wha…wha…what happened?” and a new tear fell from her eyes.

The dad, now a little more composed, let go of the shopping cart and stood next to Janice and his child. “What in the Hell was that? Did you see that? Where’d she go? Where did YOU go? How did you get back? What the Hell was THAT?”

“Wonderful.”, Janice thought to herself. “I get to explain the unexplainable. Again.”

“Let’s go over here and talk.”, she said, leading them over to what she presumed was their car. As naturally as she could, she asked the father to unlock the trunk of the car and help her put the groceries in there. “But…”, he started. “No, not yet.”, Janice responded. Once the cart was unloaded, she pushed it to the cart return stand in the lot and turned back to the family. “Get in the car. Now. Kids, in the backseat. Dad, in the front passengers’ seat. Come on, move it.” Janice went and opened the back door for the kids. Once they were in, she closed it and got in the driver’s seat.

“Okay. Everybody okay?” and she looked at each of them for a nod of acknowledgement. “Alright. I’m going to tell you a story. There’s nothing to be afraid of, you’re okay and you’re going to be okay even after this. Got it?” Slowly, she received more nods of acknowledgement. And so she began…

“Have you ever noticed how sometimes you look and no one is there, but then you blink and then someone IS there? Did you wonder if you just didn’t see them and they were there all along of if they appeared by magic?” Janice smiled and saw their faces relax a bit. “Well, this is where it gets really interesting. You see, there are ways for people to move about, go to different places, in just an instant. Like, you’re not there, and poof, now you are! That’s what just happened to…” and she looked at the little girl who softly said, “Annie”. “Yes, that’s just what happened to Annie. The only thing is that Annie didn’t know that she was going anywhere! Right, Annie?” And Annie nodded. Janice looked over to Annie’s dad. “So now I’m going to explain to you how that happened.”

Janice took a deep breath and accepted that her day had just gotten a little longer. She knew there would be questions, she knew that it was going to be a while before she would be able to leave, but she was so grateful that she was there to help this family. She didn’t want to hear about another “missing person” on the news tonight.

“You guys know how some people have blue eyes, brown eyes or green eyes. Some may be tall, like your dad or shorter, like me? Everybody is different, but we’re all human, right?” Heads’ nod. “Some people are really good at math, or history, or spelling, right? Some can run really fast or jump really high, play baseball or basketball, even football, right? But they are still people too? There is another type of person that you may not know about. They, or we, because I’m one of them, are called Shapeshifters. We’re not bad people, just people who can move around in a different way. In my case, and it appears, in Annie’s case, we use water to get to different places. We can jump into a puddle or a pool or even the ocean, and use it to go somewhere else. But the thing is, and Annie didn’t realize it, is that BEFORE we go into the water, we have to be thinking of the place we want to go. When we jump in, and we’re thinking of the place, when we “land”, we are there. Isn’t that cool?” Again, the kids nodded their heads with puzzled looks on their faces. Janice looked over to their dad, who wasn’t sure what he was hearing.

“Now, I don’t know if the rest of you can do this, and I don’t want you to try it now, but I’m going to give your dad a phone number of some people who you can visit, where it will be explained to you more and, and this is a big AND, they will help you find out if you too have this unique power. You need to know that you shouldn’t share this information with ANYONE and the ONLY people you can talk to about this is your dad, your mom and you three kids. The people you’ll meet at this place are also people you can talk to about it. But you can’t tell your friends, your teachers or anyone else in your family. Okay?” Janice looked at them all again. Each one of them nodded their heads and said “okay”. “Do you have any questions?”, she asked.

The oldest boy, raised his hand. “Yes, sweetie?”, Janice asked.

“Does it hurt?”, he queried.

“No. Well, not unless you trip when you land. But we’ve all tripped over something right?”, she smiled. “You just have to be careful, that’s all.”

“Anything else?”, she asked. “No? Okay. I’m gonna talk to your dad outside the car for just a minute and then you guys can get on home. Okay? Just don’t jump in any puddles for a while.” And with that, she motioned to the father and opened the car door.

Janice walked around the back of the car and waited for the father to join her.

“You okay now?”, she asked.

“Yeah, I think so. What the hell happened?”, he asked.

“Like I explained to you all in the car, it appears Annie is a shapeshifter. It’s nothing to be afraid of. You just need to know how to deal with it. You also need to know how to help her deal with it. Here’s a place for you to call.”, she said as she handed him a card with a phone number on it. “They’ll schedule you an appointment to go in. They will give you the address of the location at that time. They are going to want to test everyone in your family. You, your wife, all the kids. You may not know it, but typically one of the parents is also a shapeshifter. It’s hereditary. It’s nothing to be afraid of. The tests don’t hurt, in case you’re wondering. But you need to call them today, after you get home. Schedule the appointment for as soon as you all can get in. Do you have any questions for me?”, she finished up.

“What happened with Annie? Where did she go?”, he asked.

“She went nowhere and everywhere. It basically is a big black hole. It’s dark in there and it can be scary. Especially if you’re tossed in there by surprise. As soon as I saw her go in, I knew you all weren’t aware of shapeshifters. That’s why I went in after her. If I hadn’t gone in, you may have never found her again. I was able to find her because she was screaming. I just went towards the sound. Actually, we were very lucky that she was screaming. People who don’t know what to do, can, and often do, get lost in there.”

“Oh my God. Thank you. Thank you so much!”, Dan said. “I don’t even know your name. I’m Dan, by the way. I can’t even begin to tell you how much you’ve done for my family! Thank you so, so much!”

“I’m Janice, Dan. Just take care and get in to The Campus. That’s what we call it, The Campus. You’ll feel much better afterwards. I’ve gotta go now. I was already running late.”

Dan shook Janice’s hand and then pulled her in for a hug.

“See you later!”, Janice called as she walked away to her vehicle. To herself she muttered, “Damn it. Now I’ve got to get another new car. Well, maybe not. Maybe he didn’t notice…”and she looked back. He was still watching her. “Yep. Gonna have to get a new one.” Janice didn’t plan on seeing Annie, Dan or anyone in his family ever again. Getting a new vehicle would help to ensure they could never find her. You see, shapeshifting isn’t always that pretty. Shapeshifters were like an exotic animal. There were people out there who hunted them, wanted to keep them as pets almost. They’d try to breed them for whatever reason. Then Janice realized she had given Dan her real first name. “Great. I’m also getting stupid.”, she thought to herself. “Well, maybe he’ll forget that too. Hopefully. Please…”