Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 135,120,768 Issue: 263 | 27th day of Collecting, Y8
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A Ghostly Night

by lavendergoddess79


A sharp noise jolted the air as an orange balloon popped, but Casey paid no attention to it. She sat nervously in the kitchen, holding her head in her hands. There was a party going on in the other room. She could still hear the occasional excited voices over the music that had faded into the background.

      Casey glanced around the walls of the kitchen. They were plain and white, except for one picture hanging in the corner. The dust that covered it suggested it had been hanging here longer than the month that the house's current owners had lived here for. It showed a red Kacheek and a green Korbat standing in a field of pumpkins. They were smiling, but there was something odd about the Korbat. Casey could almost see through him.

      But she looked away as she pressed against the sleeve of her pink costume. The Usul was dressed as a princess, but didn't feel like one at the moment. She felt afraid, and she felt left out. The other pets at the party were still dancing and laughing. But not Casey. She was sitting all alone now, because they were not afraid. She had seen something they hadn't.

      "Are you feeling any better?" a voice asked. Casey looked up. The girl who was standing in front of her was small, with unbelievably curly red hair. Casey didn't say a word.

      "Jeremy told me you were feeling sick," the girl said. Casey turned her gaze back down to the ground. Jeremy was the Shoyru who was throwing this party. The girl was Kate, his owner. Casey and Jeremy were close friends at school, but this was her first time at his house. He had just moved into the house a month ago. It was a big, rundown place, set far back into the woods. Behind all the trees, it was difficult to tell from the street that there was a house back there. The long driveway was the only hint of an entrance that was visible. In a place so old, there was bound to be something a little wrong.

      "Well," Kate said, "is there anything I can get you?" Casey showed no sign of having heard. She began to frown as she stared at the floor, as if she was concentrating on something. Kate turned around to leave.

      "Can I have a glass of water?" Casey finally asked. Her voice was quiet and meek.

      "Of course," Kate said. She began to walk over to the cupboard to get out a cup.

      Casey glanced at the clock. It had been half an hour since she arrived at the party. Time seemed to be moving slowly today. She couldn't remember what time the party ended, but it wouldn't be for a while. Her owner couldn't take her home until then. He was busy with other things.

      Casey closed her eyes for a second, trying to forget her fears. Maybe in a few minutes she could go back to the party. Just as soon as Kate brought her that glass of water. Her throat felt sore, and she just needed something to eat or drink. Then she would feel better.

      In the second that she thought over these things, Casey noticed something strange. It was a sound. Of course, there were a lot of sounds at the party, but this was something different. It was a voice, but it was coming from upstairs. Casey had no idea why there would be anyone up there- the party was down here. She leaned forward and looked out into the hallway, where the staircase was.

      "Here's the water you asked for," Kate said, turning around. But Casey wasn't sitting in the chair anymore. She had left the room, and was heading for the staircase.

      The voice was getting louder as Casey went along. She could hear words now.

      "Forty-nine, fifty, fifty-one..."

      She was onto the second floor. The voice seemed to be coming from a closed door at the end of the hallway. There were no lights on where Casey was standing, but there seemed to be light inside that room. It was pouring out through the edges of the doorway, escaping wherever it could.

      "Fifty-two, fifty-three..." the voice went on with its slow counting. Casey moved forward, gently touching the doorknob. It was strangely cold, and she almost jumped back. But she didn't. She turned the knob, and the door creaked open as if it hadn't moved in ages.

      "Fifty-four, fifty-five-" The voice stopped abruptly as Casey entered the room. It seemed to be a playroom of some sort with toys, plushies mostly, sprawled out carelessly all around the floor. Sitting in the middle of it all was a baby Kougra. She was staring up, but immediately turned her eyes down to look at Casey. Her eyes seemed wrong. They were far too big for her blank expression.

      "What are you doing?" Casey asked, not sure what else to say. The Kougra's expression grew blanker than it had been before.

      "My sister told me to count the tiles in the ceiling," she said, "She told me to find the hundredth one. But I keep losing count. Do you know when she'll be back?"

      Casey frowned. No one lived here besides Jeremy and his owner. Who was this? Casey moved forward a little, looking up above her head. The white tiles were strangely small for something on a ceiling.

      "How... how long have you been up here?" she asked.

      "I don't know," the Kougra said, looking up at the ceiling again. "But it feels like such a very long time." A smile formed on her face. It was a subtle one, but it was somehow almost eerie. Casey took a step back. She remembered what she had seen at the party. It was a Kacheek- a red one. It had vanished almost immediately after she had seen it, but it had been there.

      "What does your sister look like?" Casey asked.

      "She's a red Kacheek," the Kougra said. "She's very smart and stuff, but she isn't much fun. What's your name?"

      "Casey," she said.

      "My name's Margaret. Do you want to stay and play with me? I'm very bored."

      "No... no thanks, sorry."

      Casey quickly slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her. The counting started over again.

      "One, two three..."

      As she raced down the stairs, the voice faded away. Casey wasn't sure what to think. Margaret seemed so strange. She couldn't be a guest at the party- she was much too young to be one of Jeremy's friends. She didn't live here either. The thought kept crossing Casey's mind that maybe Margaret wasn't alive at all. But was that possible?

      The red Kacheek she had seen at the party must have been a ghost. It was too real to have been her imagination. But Casey didn't want to be alone anymore.

      "There you are," Kate said as Casey entered the kitchen again. "I have a glass of water for you on the counter. I thought you'd gone back to the party. What were you doing upstairs?"

      "Nothing," Casey said. She lifted the glass, drinking the water in one sip. Her throat was starting to feel better.

      "Kate," Casey asked, "do you know anyone named Margaret?"

      "I don't think so," Kate said. Casey nodded her head as she set down the cup on the wood counter. She turned around to go back into the room where the party was. She had to pass through a curtain of orange and black streamers to get in, and she pushed them out of her face as quickly as she could.

      The music grew suddenly louder as she entered, and laughter and conversations filled the room. It was crowded in there, and dark, too. The lighting was to set the mood for the night- spooky. But the room didn't need to be dark to feel that way.

      There was just enough light to recognize who everyone was, but even that was difficult with the costumes. Casey stood still for a moment. She had planned on joining the party- trying to forget everything that had happened. But she couldn't do that now. It was terrifying in here. She had to find Jeremy. Maybe he would know what was going on.

      "Hi, Casey." It was Anna, one of Casey's friends from neoschool. She was dressed as a witch.

      "Nice costume," Casey said distantly. "Do you know where Jeremy is?"

      "I saw him over there a few minutes ago." Anna was pointing into the center of the room. There were a lot of pets over there, so Casey had better start going now. She started pushing through them. Soon she saw Jeremy, talking with a few other pets. He was ordinarily a blue Shoyru, but his pirate costume was very convincing.

      "Jeremy," she said to get his attention. He turned to face her.

      "Hi," he said, "What happened before, when you left the party?"

      "I saw something," Casey told him. "You know that room at the end of your hallway upstairs? Do you go in there much?"

      "We don't really use it. It's too cold in there. That's why it's an empty room. What were you doing upstairs, anyway?"

      "There's someone up there."

      "But I thought everyone was down here at the party."

      "Not someone from the party. It's a baby Kougra. She says her name's Margaret. She said she was waiting for her sister."

      Casey was about to say more, but there was something behind her. It sounded like someone was out of breath, slowly coming towards her. She turned around.

      It was a red Kacheek, standing only a few feet away. Everyone else in the room was wearing a costume, but this pet wasn't. There was a dark, unfamiliar look on her face. As soon as her eyes met Casey's, she suddenly turned around and walked into the party. Casey tried to watch her, but it was hard to keep track of someone in this crowded room. She turned back to Jeremy.

      "Come with me," she said, "I'll show you the Kougra in the room."

      Jeremy agreed, and the two of them passed through the room. Soon they got to the streamer curtain. Casey closed her eyes as she hurried through it. She didn't like the way the thing blocked her vision. When she opened her eyes Jeremy was just coming into the room.

      "Okay, let's go," he said. Casey nodded her head. She began to lead the way through the kitchen. The staircase was in the next room.

      The stairs made all sorts of noises as they went up them. It felt almost like the wood was about to fall apart under Casey's feet. She hadn't noticed it before, but the place seemed so fragile. The house was nice, but it must have been very old.

      All the doors were closed in the hallway, and Casey walked past them to get to the room at the end. She could hear Jeremy's footsteps behind her as she walked. The light was still coming from the doorway. It was even more noticeable now that it was almost completely dark outside.

      Casey opened the door, stepping into the room. She immediately crossed her arms and drew back. She hadn't remembered it being cold in there, but now it was like walking into a freezer. Still she went back in.

      There was no one in the room now. The spot where the Kougra had been sitting was empty, as if no one had ever been that at all. And maybe no one had. Casey was starting to doubt what she had seen. Jeremy, however, looked shocked.

      "Where'd all this come from?" he asked. Casey frowned. She realized he must be talking about the toys that were still played in a huge mess around the room. After all, he had said the room was empty.

      Jeremy walked further into the room, picking up a blue Flotsam plushie that was sitting near the center of the floor. There was something tied around its neck. It was a small piece of paper that looked like it had been ripped out of the corner of someone's notebook. There was something written on it, but Casey couldn't read it from where she stood.

      "Listen to this," Jeremy said as he began to read the words out loud. "Happy Halloween, Margaret. I'm sending you this plushie to apologize, mostly, because I'm sorry I can't take you trick or treating tonight. Dave says he has something important to show me, so I have to go with him. He says it can't wait until tomorrow. I know you don't like Dave, but he's my best friend. I'll be home for a few minutes this afternoon, but then I have to leave. From: Your sister, Lauren"

      "Margaret's the name of the baby Kougra," Casey said. "She talked about her sister a lot. And before, at the party, I thought I saw-"

      She was about to tell him about the red Kacheek she had seen twice now, but the sound of the door to the room slamming closed stopped her. Casey ran up to the door. She turned and pulled at the doorknob, but it wouldn't open.

      "Let me try," Jeremy said. He turned the doorknob in both directions, yanking at it as hard as he could. It must have been locked.

      "How long do you think it'll take them to realize we're up here?" Casey asked, sitting down on the floor. Jeremy sighed.

      "I don't know. But I want to get back to the party. Maybe if we make a lot of noise, they'll be able to hear us."

      Jeremy started pounding on the door, yelling as loudly as he could. Casey knew no one would hear him. The music from the party was too loud. But she didn't say anything that might make him upset. It was bad enough being locked in this cold room.

      Slowly, another voice rose above Jeremy's screaming.

      "One, two, three, four, five..."

      The sound was coming from the corner. Casey got up quickly and ran towards it. The voice seemed to be coming from an old rocking chair. She pulled the chair away to see Margaret sitting behind it.

      "You made me lose count again," the Kougra said.

      "Sorry," Casey said, stepping back. Margaret looked spookier than she had before. Her expression was darker. A storm was starting outside. A flash of lightning was immediately followed by a roaring burst of thunder. Suddenly, Casey was afraid.

      "What's going on?" she asked. "I saw your sister at the party. Is she the one who's locking us in here?"

      "No," Margaret said, shaking her head. "It's Dave. He'll trick you. He looks like a green Korbat, but he's not. He'll do to you what he did to Lauren. Just keep the lights on."

      Casey looked at the plushie with the note attached to it. Lauren had written that Margaret didn't like Dave. Maybe Margaret was right. Dave might have caused Lauren's death, and maybe Margaret's, too.

      "What does he want?" Casey asked, turning towards Margaret. But she wasn't there. No one was.

      "Who are you talking to?" Jeremy asked. His yelling had stopped, but Casey hadn't noticed.

      "Margaret was back here," Casey said, "But she's gone, now. She said it was Dave who locked us in. You know, from the note on the plushie."

      "This is ridiculous," Jeremy said. "Are you saying some ghost told you we were locked in by someone who couldn't possibly be at this party?"

      "I don't know," Casey said. "But we should try to get out of here. Do you think we could open that window?"

      Casey turned to look out the window behind her. Just as she was glancing into the darkness, a bolt of lightning brightened the sky. The lights in the room went out, and it was impossible to see a thing.

      The room was getting even colder. Casey began to shiver uncontrollably. There was something else in the room. She was sure of it. It was an unfamiliar, almost sickening feeling, and it was getting closer. It was as if the darkness was letting something else into the room- something that couldn't get in when the lights had been on.

      "Find a flashlight," Jeremy nearly screamed. He must have noticed the same things Casey had.

      "Where?" she asked, panicking. She hadn't seen any flashlights when she came into the room, and she had no idea where to find one.

      "I think there might be some in the closet," a quiet voice said. It was Margaret's voice.

      "Who was that?" Jeremy asked. He sounded startled.

      "It's Margaret," Casey said, searching the walls for a door to the closet. It didn't take her long to find one.

      She opened the door, and started digging through piles of plushies to find something that felt like a flashlight. She heard noises next to her as Margaret helped her search.

      "Why do we need light?" Casey asked as she tossed toys behind her. There was still no flashlight around.

      "The light keeps the ghosts away," Margaret said. "That's why I always leave it turned on."

      Casey was confused. If Margaret left the light on to keep the ghosts away, she must not be a ghost herself. But what was she doing in this room? Jeremy had moved in a month ago. Could Margaret have been living up here for that long?

      "Why do you live up here?" Casey asked as she looked through the things in front of her.

      "I didn't want Dave to find me. There were some snacks up here, and I was too scared to leave. So I hid."

      Casey was getting more and more scared. She was sure that she would be able to see her breath in the cold right now if it weren't for the darkness. What was going to happen?

      Suddenly, she felt something else under her hand. It was small, but it was cylinder shaped and had a handle. She found a button on it, and quickly pressed it. A beam of light hit the wall across from her.

      "You found a flashlight!" Jeremy said, excited. Casey didn't respond. This helped, but it wouldn't be enough to save them. The cold wasn't going away.

      "We need more light," Casey said. She handed Jeremy the flashlight she was holding. She would try to find another one. But there had to be something they could do to get out of here. She thought back to when she had first met Margaret.

      "Jeremy," Casey said, "Count the tiles on the ceiling. Find the hundredth one. I'll look for another flashlight."

      Jeremy looked confused, but agreed. He silently started counting as he shone the flashlight up. A sense of urgency started to fill the room.

      Casey hurried as she dug through the items in the closet. Margaret was standing behind her, trying to help. But what good would another flashlight do them, even if they found it. A little more light wouldn't help. What they really needed was to get out of this room. Maybe the power would come back on soon, but the storm outside showed no signs of stopping.

      Rain and thunder continued in the background, but the lightening was the best part of the storm. Every time it happened, it felt like a moment's break for Casey, who was nearly terrified by now. Any sort of light was helpful.

      Then she came across something that felt promising. It was shaped like a flashlight, and was much bigger than the one she had located before. She quickly found the switch on it, and clicked it on.

      "I found it," Jeremy said. His flashlight was shining up at a specific tile on the ceiling- the hundredth one. "What do we do now?"

      Casey searched the room quickly with her flashlight. There was a rocking chair in the corner- the chair Margaret had hidden behind. Casey ran and brought it over. She stood on it to reach the tile.

      She pushed it up, hoping it would be loose. It was. The tile came out of the ceiling easily, leading up to some small space. Casey knew she wouldn't be able to fit in there, but maybe Margaret could.

      "Margaret," Casey said, lifting the baby Kougra as she stood on the chair, "Do you think you could go into that opening in the ceiling and look around. There might be something in there."

      Margaret agreed, and Casey quickly helped her into the space. As soon as Margaret was up, Casey jumped down from the chair. She moved the flashlight around the room quickly. Things were starting to seem strange. It was like she could breathe very heavily and still not get enough air.

      "Hurry up," she tried to yell up to Margaret, but her voice came out soft and afraid. She wasn't sure that they would ever get out of this room.

      "I found something," Margaret's voice said. She dropped a small item down from the ceiling. It was a key. Casey smiled as she picked it up. Maybe they would be able to unlock the door after all.

The End

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