Iona stared across the rolling grass in the park. The meteor shower streaked overhead, but it was the light show on the ground that interested her most. The grass was glowing. Not all of it, just parts. How was this possible? And had no one else noticed because everyone looked up?
Kneeling, she swept her fingers through a glowing patch. Moisture clung to her skin. It was wet. A bubble of hysteria burst past her lips. Of course. Water would reflect light. She swiped her thumb over the pads of her fingers. For a moment, her thumb glowed. She blinked as it faded away.
Footsteps sounded beside her, light as if made by a child.
Iona snapped her attention to the right.
Standing on the cement path, Mia had one leg crossed over the other as she bounced up and down. The potty dance was universal.
“Do we need to go home?”
“Can’t I use the bathroom here?” Mia’s black ponytail brushed her shoulders as she pointed at the brick building one hundred feet away. Circles of light splashed the graffiti and the stainless steel drinking fountains.
Iona rubbed the back of her neck. Stories of child abductions and murder crowded her head. She shook them loose. She could keep the entrance and exit within sight. “All right. Be careful.”
“I will.” Mia raced toward the building.
Rising, Iona stepped into the grass and turned to face the public toilets. Other parents and children orbited the building. A group of disc golfers discussed teams at a picnic table nearby. The little girl should be safe. She was certainly easy to track.
Mia’s hair waved behind her like a flag before she ducked inside the building.
Iona resurrected her earlier thought. Water would make the grass glow, but not in patches. The whole park should be lit up. She reached inside her pocket for her phone. Maybe Marcus would know. She could call him. And say what? Ask if he’s observing the same phenomenon. She eyed the park grounds. The glow had stopped. So her question would be at best lame, at worse, proof she was a nut job.
So where did that leave her? The sky lit up again, and the ground mirrored the effect. Iona snapped her fingers. Of course, a picture would be proof. She scanned the park, looking for the brightest patch. A ball of light drifted to the ground. What the heck? Phoenix did not have lightning bugs. And then she saw it.
The disc golfers hung glue sticks around the baskets for their nighttime game. A few slashed the ground like discarded exclamation points.
Well, shoot. Now what? Iona opened her camera app. She would have to avoid the disc park. She nearly turned away then stopped. Mia was still in the public restroom.
As if hearing Iona’s thoughts, Mia skipped out of the bathroom.
The blink of light on her sneakers caught Iona’s attention. The glow brightened as the little girl approached the patch of darkness. Iona smiled and raised her camera. And it wasn’t just her shoes. The disc golfers trudged past the bathroom, the wheels of their carts and soles of their shoes reflected the light.
Iona raised her phone to take a picture.
The sky brightened, but the ground’s response faded.
Around her, the crowd oohed and awed.
She glanced up. Fireballs tore up the night.
A scream ripped through the park.
Iona’s heart leaped in her chest. That was no shriek of joy. Mia! Iona’s attention snapped back to Earth.
Mia shoved through the crowd of disc golfers and shot straight toward Iona.
Nails digging into her phone, Iona rushed to meet the little girl halfway. The sky darkened, and night blanketed them. She knelt to catch the girl.
Mia threw her arms around Iona’s neck. Her body trembled.
“Are you okay? Did you get hurt?” Iona ran her hands down the shaking body. No broken bones. No hisses of pain. Yet, something had happened to frighten the child half to death.
“A man. A man, he grabbed me.”
Hot tears clung to Iona’s neck. The little girl buried her face, hiding from the thing that had frightened her.
Iona blinked, trying to process the words. “What? Someone grabbed you?”
The words couldn’t connect in Iona’s head. But the little girl was here, in Iona’s arms. Something wasn’t adding up.
Mia shuddered. “He put his hand over my mouth and lifted me off the ground. I kicked and kicked, but he…he wouldn’t let go.”
Iona scanned the park. The area was large, and parts were very dark. People moved in all directions. Most stopped here and there to stare up. But a few didn’t. Could one of them be the man? Humming a soothing melody, Iona smoothed the little girl’s hair, “It’s all right. You’re safe now. I won’t let him get you again.”
Mia shook her head. “He don’t want me. He said to say to you that he’s watching. So you better behave or else.”