The Palindrome of Thade
The class room was quiet, almost an eerie quiet. I was sitting at my desk trying to solve the latest anagram book. Eliv Thade was my hero; but also the source of my agony. I loved puzzles of all kinds, except anagrams. Our teacher, however, loved giving us word puzzles. She said it was going to help our growing literacy skills. The whole class had quickly become fairly good at solving whatever puzzles she could come up with. Mrs. Arrin had then decided to recruit some help in her puzzles.
She had recruited help in the forms of the insane anagramist, Eliv Thade. Even in his afterlife he still produced puzzles. He published huge puzzle books and even had them published in the daily paper. The Sunday edition of the newspapers had a ton of puzzles in them, while Friday's edition was the only puzzle free paper. However, now and then the fiendish ghoul would write into the neopian times and publish a help article. The article was never much help to anyone looking to solve the puzzle they were stuck on, because the entire article was a puzzle in and of itself!
I had the misfortune of getting stuck on a master of a puzzle, myself. It was not only an anagram, but it was a math equation. I had to solve for various components to find the proper lettering, unscrambling the word after that. Sadly, on my part, I was never much for math. Especially matching a letter to a corresponding number value. The next page frightened me, it wasn't just a simple word anagram. It was an anagrammatised sentence! It was a doozy of a puzzle if I had ever seen one. I bet even that Blumaroo kid who hangs around the games room, couldn't solve it. He was always bragging about how smart he was at puzzle games.
I wondered if Eliv ever gave Dr. Sloth a run for his money. Sloth was probably the smartest, if not the scariest, person out there. I wondered if Eliv Thade could stump the mad genius. I would love the see Dr. Sloth one day be stumped by the crazy puzzle loving Kacheek. I bet everyone would.
"Alright, pencils down!" the teacher called out. It was the end of silent activity time.
I reluctantly put down my puzzle book, I just had to figure that puzzle out. It was going to bother me until I solved it. My own resolve was to seek out the mind behind the puzzle. I decided that, after school I would pay a visit to Mr. Thade, and make a request I doubted any sane person had ever made. I was going to ask him for help.
* * *
I had to admit, I was terrified. I had heard stories about Eliv that had even made my older brother quake in fear. The terrible anagrammist and his encounter with the hopelessly lost Gilly, was the most well-known story in the Haunted Woods. Gilly was also bad at anagrams, this had been proven over again some years later when she had helped save Neovia. How she had saved Thade was beyond me.
As I approached the castle, a chill wind picked up and howled through some leaves. I mentally prepared everything I wanted to say. I approached the front door of the broken and ruined castle, hoping the ghost was home. Did ghosts need to go shopping for anything? I pushed the goofy, nervous thoughts out of my head and knocked on the door. The wood was dry and hollow sounding. The door was rotting on the inside. When no one answered I began to wonder if I had come at a bad time. I turned and almost took a step, when the door creaked open.
A sibilant voice whispered through the cracked door, it sounded almost like the wind. It sent a pang of chills through my heart. I entered the castle and began to question my sanity. I had just walked into a castle inhabited by a madman. Yet even more maddening were the puzzles he produced.
"H-hello," I called out in my bravest voice possible. "Mr. Thade?"
The sibilant voice whispered again, like rasping wind in the hollow castle. It sounded like it said, "I'm in the kitchen, boy."
I carefully made my way to the kitchen. The halls, despite their age and ruin, were beautifully decorated. The kitchen was even clean. I approached quietly enough, Elive Thade himself was standing by a stove.
"Just in time!" the madman said. "Would you like some tea?"
I shook my head and watched him pour the tea kettle. He sat down at the table and beckoned me over. The smile on his face was haunting; he knew exactly why I was visiting. I took a seat across from Eliv, who was still sporting that grotesque smile.
"My name is Matt," I said politely.
He was still smiling. He stared at me from where he sat, waiting for me to get to the point of the matter.
"I need your help with one of your anagram puzzles," I told him plainly. "May I have some help?"
"You may." He giggled. "Let's see the puzzle."
I opened to the page I had left off at earlier. I had done all the math questions to uncover the letters. The letters had formed an anagram, which I couldn't unscrambled. He took a look at my puzzle and began cackling.
"Does this spell an actual word?" I asked suspiciously.
He nodded and continued to snicker. I scratched my head and looked at it. I just couldn't see the sense. He must have saw how confused I was because he began to laugh again. The bright red eyes fixed on me in sheer amusement.
"It does spell a word," he finally said. "A strange word."
I still didn't understand. I looked at him and back to the page, then scratched my head again. I was at a loss for words. I had unscrambled the letters and could spell one word, but that left the other letters out. This anagram was very difficult. I had letters I had no idea what to do with.
"I'll give you a hint," the specter said. "This word is a fear of something!"
It had been two hours, and yet I was still very lost. The shadow letters in this anagram were mostly vowels. The non-vowels were the letters H and B. It was a fear of something, but what was it a fear of? I had a big book of phobias at home, my uncle had given me one day. It was full of silly and strange fears, sadly I had only read the first dozen pages, and didn't come across any with this strange amalgamation of letters.
I just couldn't wrap my head around it. I had managed to spell out the word phobia. That was it. The other letters were just there. Doubles, shadow letters from the word I wrote. Perhaps this was all a clever trick the ghost had invented for puzzle lovers. I just shook my head and looked at him pitifully. I must have looked silly, because the ghost was laughing again. When I asked him for another hint, he shook his head and sipped his tea. I continued to try and figure out the words on my paper. Eventually I realized something peculiar, this prompted me to spell the word backwards. I looked up at him in surprise. I had so many questions I wanted to ask, now.
"Aibohphobia," I read the word out loud.
"Correct!" Thade chimed in.
The ghost was grinning still. I could almost guess what was going through his crazy head. I looked back at the page, I was very confused at this point. I couldn't think of anything to say. I stared blankly at him for a moment. I looked at my page and studied it again. We had covered palindromes in language and spelling class. They were confusing, and when paired with an anagram, nearly impossible to figure out. I hoped it was the only one in my puzzle book. I gathered my things and smiled. Thade wasn't as bad as they say, he was actually a fairly nice guy. He walked with me to the castle gate, explaining why he loved having people come to him for help. Before I left, I turned to him. I had just thought of a question I wanted to ask before I went home.
"What is aibohphobia a fear of?" I asked.
Eliv Thade grinned as he turned to go back to his castle, his answer came in a windy whisper.
"It is a fear of Palindromes!"