Nonlinear Companions: Dusk
It wasn’t my idea of a fun night out, I'm not really entirely sure how he'd convinced me to do it. Maybe it was my urge to prove him wrong, or perhaps it was to prove myself as a sensible, level-headed young grey draik. Either way, I was here. We looked together up at the dusty old mansion. It seemed to groan in the slight autumn wind.
Westron, the pirate krawk, looked at me, excitement lighting his eyes up, "Are you sure you're up for this, Rae?"
"Of course I am," I muttered back, "Why wouldn’t I be?"
"Well, you know, this is the most haunted house in Brightvale," he replied. "I wouldn't want you to have nightmares."
"Oh pur-lease!" I said confidently, "Haunted house! Pah, what a load of old rubbish, it's just an empty old house."
"It's true," Westron said gazing at me, "Do you not believe in ghosts?" He nudged my shoulder playfully.
"Of course I don't, you know there is no proof," I said glaring at him. Honestly, we've been friends for years, you'd expect by now, he'd know me well enough to know I don’t believe in such nonsense. "Unless there is irrefutable evidence, I simply refuse to beli-" the end of my sentence was cut off by a sudden thunderbolt ripping through the air.
"Let's go in then, y'know, if you're not scared, then it's no big deal," he looked sideways at me, my face was still staring up at the sky, I sort of wanted to go home, it felt like it might start raining, but I didn’t want to give Westron the satisfaction of thinking it was because I was scared, because I wasn’t. I just wished I'd brought my coat. So I simply nodded.
We set off down the winding path toward the tall oak front door, I looked back over my shoulder, out of the corner of my eye I saw a small shadow run across the path, perhaps it was a petpet of some sort? I don’t know, I moved closer to Westron.
"Not scared already, are you?" He jeered.
"Of course not, there is nothing to be scared of." I reiterated, glancing once more over my shoulder. Whatever it was, it was gone now.
We reached the door, it was at least 10 feet tall, covered in cobwebs and dust. It had huge, heavy looking iron hinges and a big black handle. Part of me hoped it was locked, that way we could go home. Westron reached out for the handle and twisted it. The door creaked open ominously. Westron turned to face me grinning.
"Lead the way." I said, determinedly.
We stepped over the threshold and looked around, it was pretty dark, I stared straight ahead, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the new light level. As I peered into the darkness, I felt something touch my hand. I nearly jumped out of my skin. "It's only a torch." Westron giggled.
I took the torch from his hand and flicked the switch. "Very funny." I whispered.
"NO NEED TO WHISPER!!!" Westron bellowed, causing the crystals of a chandelier above us to shake and make a tinkling sound. "There's nobody here, remember?"
I glared at him. "There is a big difference between being scared and being jumped." I said venomously.
Just then there was an incredibly loud bang from behind us, we both swirled round. The door had slammed shut behind us.
Westron rushed over to the door, tugging at the handle, he looked at me, "It's locked." he said plainly.
I stared at him, well I have to admit, that was a bit creepy, still, I was unperturbed. 'There is nothing to be scared of,' I thought to myself. "What now then?" I asked him.
"Let's have a look around, see if there is another way out." he replied sensibly.
I nodded again, seemingly my voice had left me. Westron took his torch in hand and led the way through the magnificent hallway, he aimed the torch up and down the tall walls as we walked, they were covered in dusty old portraits of rich and important looking neopets. At the end of the hallway was an impressive double staircase. Westron was headed toward it.
"There isn't going to be another way out upstairs." I pointed out.
I immediately regretted it, "I thought you weren't scared," Westron grinned back at me.
I was about to come back at him with a smarmy retort when there was a flash of lightning, for a brief moment the entire hallway was illuminated, and in that split second, I could swear I saw a figure standing in the shadows by the door we came in by.
I shook my head in disbelief, slowly but surely I aimed my torch at the door. Nothing. Just as I thought, it was all in my head, the creepiness of this place was playing tricks on my mind. I looked back at Westron, he didn’t seem to have seen anything. Either that or he was playing it very cool. Either way I decided that I hadn't seen anything after all.
"So, stairs?" Westron broke the silence.
"Sure." I replied, and stepped purposefully towards the staircase.
We stepped up the creaky staircase, leaving footprints in the thick dust that carpeted the place. I kept my torch aimed in front of me and slightly up so I could watch for obstacles on the next step. At the top of the staircase was landing with six doors leading off it.
"I thought you said nobody lived here." I whispered incredulously.
The door at the end of the landing was slightly ajar and there was a pale yellow light outlining the frame of the door, clearly there were lights on inside.
Westron looked at me nervously, "It is empty... abandoned... years ago...." He trailed off, still staring at the offending door.
I started toward the door, lights on could only mean one thing. Occupants, therefore this wasn’t a silly 'ghost-hunt', but breaking and entering. In which case we were going to be in big trouble.
I tiptoed closer, sneaking, creeping toward the lit room. I switched off my torch as I approached, if there were people in there I didn’t want to bring attention to our presence. I pushed the door as gently as I could. It swung open slowly and silently. I peered in.
Inside was a magnificent library, set out over two floors, I had stepped into the mezzanine level, there was a ladder down to the ground floor. I looked silently around the room. Nobody was there.
I could feel a warm breeze on my neck and I spun round.
It was Westron, he had his torch under his chin, eerily lighting up his features, he'd jumped me half out of my wits.
"Oh for Fyora's sake boy, will you quit it!" I said exasperatedly.
He grinned, "So, what's inside?" He peered over my shoulder, there was an audible gasp. "Looks like fun!" He said cheerily, pushing past me to the ladder and sliding down the rails.
I glared at the back of his head as he stood at the bottom of the ladder, looking excitedly around. He turned to see where I had got to. "You coming or not?" He grinned.
I stepped down the ladder carefully. From the ground floor the sheer size of the library could really be appreciated. I'd never seen anything so beautiful, but equally eerie in all my life. I gazed open mouthed around the room. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a traditional styled fireplace, in the fireplace was a pile of smoking blackwood and a couple of embers. I rushed over and held my hand over it, it was still warm.
"Somebody's just left this room." I said looking round to see where Westron had got to.
Westron joined me, he stared at the embers, then he looked at me, "Well, that's..... that's just ….. weird." he finished lamely.
I was starting to worry, if someone was living here, and they caught us, we were going to be in big trouble. We needed to leave. Now. I looked at Westron, thinking how best to broach the subject. I didn't want him to think I was scared. But I was scared. Not of make-believe ghosts like he wanted. But of being caught in some strange neopets' home.
Just then, there was another flash of lightning and a clap of thunder and all the lights in the library went out at once. We were plunged into pitch blackness. I fiddled with my torch to get the light back on.
"There!" I exclaimed as the torch switched back on. I turned to Westron and pointed my light to his torch so he could see the switch and get his back on as well.
Once his torch was back on I could see a decent amount, although the new light source seemed to make the library look even eerier than before. I decide I no longer cared if Westron thought I was scared or not, it was time to go home. I turned and pointed my light back in the direction of the ladder.
It was gone.
It seemed that Westron too had noticed this new development, because I could him his breathing get suddenly more strained. That and what he said next. "Well that’s scuppered us, what do we do now?"
I looked up at the mezzanine floor, where could the ladder have possibly gone? It didn’t make any sense. Ladders don’t just suddenly disappear. As I pondered what could have happened, I heard a shuffling sound behind me. I span round. Westron's torch light was pointed at a rug in front of the fireplace. It seemed to be jiggling in the light from his torch. A shiver ran down my spine. Westron was staring open mouthed at the rug. He looked as if he had forgotten to breathe. He had gone all pale and wasn’t moving. I flew over. We stared together at the rug. It was moving in a strange way, not like anything I had ever seen before. I didn’t know what to do, so I did the only thing that made any sense. I kicked the rug with my toe, it glided, almost floated, soundlessly across the polished wooden floor.
I looked at the spot where it had sat. The floorboards where moving slightly, almost as if.... but no, that was silly, how could it be?
Westron voiced what we were both thinking. "It's like something is under the floor..... trying to get out." What little colour had been left in his face drained.
We stared at the moving floorboards, "What do we do now?" I stuttered.
Westron looked at me and shrugged. "Scared yet?" He asked sheepishly.
I groaned, this was clearly a trick of his. Well I wasn’t going to be made to look a fool. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my keys. On the chain was a metal keyring, it was the shape of a skull with long teeth, and 'I Love Captain Scarblade', inscribed at the top. I slid the teeth of the keyring into a small gap between the moving floorboard and the adjacent floorboard. The moment the teeth touched the boards, they stilled.
I slowly used the teeth as a sort of lever to pull up the floorboard. A giant cloud of dust engulfed me. Coughing and spluttering, I waved my hand in front of my face to clear the cloud. As the dust dissipated I found I was staring into the empty eye sockets of a skeleton. I looked over to Westron, some of the colour had come back to his face.
"At least we know it's not going to hurt us!" He said triumphantly, as if it had been he that had been brave enough to pull up the floorboards.
I looked at the skeleton. It wasn’t scary at all. It kind of looked like a transparent pet. A transparent krawk in fact. Perhaps. As I looked at it I thought I saw something, I levered up the floorboard to the right. Another dust cloud. Another skeleton. This one looked like a transparent draik.
"Well that’s odd," I said, "It's wearing the same outfit as me."
"How embarrassing." snorted Westron.
"Not sure what you're laughing about," I said derisively, "that one," I waved my hand at the first skeleton, "is wearing the same as you!"
"Oh Rae... I think.." Westron clearly didn’t want to say it out loud, so I finished for him.
We looked at each other. The sudden realisation of the matter upon us. We stood up calmly enough, but that was all, we ran toward the nearest open door, tripping and stumbling over each other to get there first.
The door slammed in my face just as I reached it, I tugged on the handle, to no avail. I span round, Westron was already halfway across the library heading for the open door on the far side.
Just then a figure appeared in the doorway, causing Westron to stop in his tracks.
"What on earth are you doing in my home?" Demanded the figure.
I lifted my torch and pointed it in the general direction of the figure, although it was hard since my hands were shaking so much.
It was an elderly shoyru dressed in a white night gown. She looked pretty angry. Although not as angry as I would be if two random neopets were in my home in the middle of the night.
"I saw you!" I blurted out, "I saw you when we came in, when the lightning went off, you must have seen us!"
"Ah, my child, when you've been around as long as I have, you sometimes find yourself in strange places." She replied ominously.
From my vantage point I could see Westron was panicking, apparently torn between running for the next nearest door and confronting the old shoyru. In the end he chose the latter, a mistake in my opinion.
"Where did those skeletons come from? What did you do with the ladder? Why do you keep slamming doors on us? What on Neopia is going on here?" He spoke so fast I could barely keep up with him.
The elderly shoyru glanced at him, apparently seeing him for the first time. "I should ask you the same thing," she said quietly, "You are in MY home, what do you think you are playing at?"
Westron appeared to see the error of his words, we were after all in the wrong. "I'm sorry, I just, did you know we were here? Were you trying to frighten us off?" He asked.
"And what are you going on about slamming doors? I haven't slammed any doors," she carried on as if Westron hadn't said a word.
"What about the skeletons?" Westron repeated. Clearly thinking that the shoyru had missed the most urgent of his original questions.
"What in Fyora's name are you talking about? Skeletons? Here? Ha, you're losing your marbles my dear," she laughed.
"They're over there, by the fireplacel" I said turning to point. The spot where we had pulled up the floorboards was covered by the rug again, it looked untouched. I ran over, ripped up the rug. All was as it had been. I tugged at the floorboards, even tried to pull them up with my keyring again. Nothing, they weren't budging.
The shoyru cackled. "This house is haunted you know," she said, and with that she turned on her heel and was gone through the doorway. The lights flashed back on. Westron followed the shoyru to the doorway.
"She's gone!" He announced.
Suddenly there was a loud cackle, which seemed to emanate from the house itself, all the doors to the room slammed shut and books started flying off the shelves. One almost hit me in the face.
"That's it!" I announced, "Enough of your games Westron, I'm leaving."
At this point I had truly had enough, this silly trick of his had gone way too far, I was going, I didn’t care if he thought it was because I was afraid. That book could've hurt me. And I wasn’t sticking around to see if anything else was going to try and do the same. I flew up to the mezzanine level and left through the door we came in by.
I went back down the dusty stairs, slightly unnerved by the fact our footprints were no longer visible in the dust, and headed towards the giant oak front doors. I pulled at the door with all my strength and it flew open into my face. 'Stupid boy, that door wasn’t locked at all, I should've checked it when we first came in, I bet it was never locked.' I thought to myself as I strode over the threshold and out into the dark night air.
Feeling slightly guilty at leaving him there, I hung around outside waiting for Westron, it took him all of about ten minutes to follow me out, I never asked him how he got out of the library. I didn’t care, I was mad at him. He looked at me sheepishly.
"I can't believe you left me alone in there! At least now do you believe in ghosts?" He asked me as we walked back down the street toward home.
I laughed. I knew it was all a trick to scare me and to get me to admit I was wrong. I was having none of it. I glanced at him and he looked genuinely surprised.
"What?" I asked. "Are you upset I didn’t fall for your tricks?"
Westron glared at me, "How on Neopia do you think that I could have possibly done all that? I mean honestly Janurae, if I had the skills to pull off a prank like that..." He trailed off.
I stopped in my tracks and stared at him, could it be true? Was the elderly shoyru really a ghost? And just what had caused all those bizarre things to happen, and what on earth happened to those skeletons?
He stared back, a shiver ran down my spine as I saw he was telling the truth, there was no way he could have pulled off a prank that big, he just wasn’t clever enough.
"I didn't see anything that convinces me that ghosts are real," I said quietly. "But, I will admit that was pretty scary."
I looked up to the sky, 'turns out I was right though,' I thought to myself, as it started to rain.