The rain poured onto the Xweetok as he wandered through Neopia Central. The heavy fog made it nearly impossible to see. He had been lost for what felt like hours, but could’ve just been a few minutes. Then he dared to lift his head against the wind that whipped the falling rain in his eyes and saw a stone house. It had two stories but was not large. It loomed in a foreboding way but there was nowhere else to go.
“Hello?” he called as he knocked on the wooden front door. There was a cross engraved in it, but mould was growing in the crevices. No answer came from inside. “Please open the door; it’s raining really hard.”
There was a flash of lightning followed by a boom of thunder. Startled, the Xweetok jumped into the door and it swung open. He fell into a dusty, empty room. Everything looked charred and there was a burnt scent in the air. There was nothing there. He walked toward a room that seemed to be the only room with a light. The Xweetok walked in to find it was a kitchen. It was much more welcoming than the rest of the house. The stove gave heat though it was not on. There was the scent of cookies baking though there was nothing in the oven.
“Hello?” the Xweetok called again. Again, there was no response. He took off his jacket and hung it on a chair to dry. The paranoid Xweetok normally would never go into a strange house during a storm, or at least not stay there, but this one felt like the home of a familiar, happy family. He dried his red and brown fur near the stove then noticed there was a case of wooden stairs down the hall. It looked just as forgotten and burnt as the rest of the house. But it felt like there was something beckoning him up. He left the kitchen and walked toward the steps, listening to the wind howl and the rain hit the roof.
The Xweetok cautiously climbed the creaky stairs to find himself in a room decorated with sunny yellow furniture. There was a window with sun shining through it, though there was no way the storm could have cleared up like that in mere seconds. He thought he could hear the sound of laughter, like a schoolgirl having a sleepover with her friends and talking about boys and makeup. The Xweetok noticed that there were three other rooms on this floor. The curious creature walked into one to find that it was a bathroom. Again, he thought he could heard a noise, there was water running from a faucet.
“Hello?” he called a third time. And a third time, there was no response. I’m just hearing things, he thought to himself.
The other two rooms were bedrooms. One was filled with funky blue and orange furniture, and one with more subtle things, a wooden bed and such. The Xweetok thought about who lived in this house. Maybe a nice couple slept in the more ordinary room, a cheery girl in the sunny yellow one, and an interesting boy in the funky blue and orange room.
“Hello?” he called again. He wasn’t sure why he did, but this time there was an answer.
“Hello,” a happy sounding voice replied. The Xweetok turned around in surprise to see a yellow Kacheek standing behind him. “Who are you? Are you lost?”
“Um... yes,” the Xweetok told her. Where had she come from?
“Neopians always get lost around here,” she told him. “And they always end up here. Mom is in the kitchen, I think. Let’s go see if she has any cookies for us.” The Kacheek smiled and led the Xweetok downstairs.
He entered the kitchen where he had been before, but this time a cloud Shoyru with an apron was taking cookies out of the oven.
“Oh, hello dear,” she said with a sweet smile. “Is this a visitor?”
“Yeah,” the Kacheek responded, “he’s lost.”
“A lost soul is always welcome here! Here, have a fresh baked cookie.”
The Xweetok thanked her and took a cookie in the shape of a heart. The Kacheek picked one in the shape of a flower. Then the sound of footsteps came from the stairs, and the Xweetok turned to see a yellow Bori appear.
“I smell food,” he said excitedly. Then he rushed into the kitchen and took a smiley face cookie from the tray. Then he looked at the Xweetok. “Oh, a visitor! Hello!”
“Um... hi,” the Xweetok answered. Maybe he was right about who lived here. Wow, I’m so smart, the Xweetok thought to himself in amazement. But where’s the-
Before he could finish his sentence a blue Lupe walked in the front door with his nose twitching. “Hey honey, are you baking something?”
“Yes, honey,” the Shoyru said handing him a cookie. The Lupe took a bite then saw the Xweetok.
“Oh, an adventurer!” he exclaimed. This family seemed to like having strangers wander into their house.
“Yeah, I was... I was just going home...” the Xweetok began.
“In this weather?” the Shoyru asked in surprise.
“I don’t want to be a bother,” the Xweetok replied shyly.
“You’re not a bother,” the Kacheek told him. “At least stay until the storm clears up.”
“Yeah, stay!” they all echoed.
“Okay,” the Xweetok said, a little surprised that they wanted him to stay so badly. Don’t they have lives? he thought.
“Actually no,” the Lupe said with a laugh. The Xweetok was shocked. How did he know what I was thinking?
“That’s one advantage of being a ghost,” the Kacheek said with a giggle.
“There was a fire,” the Bori informed him. “We all died.” He said it as though he was saying, “There’s a leaf over there.” That would explain the burnt, charred look of the house.
“Most Neopians faint or run screaming out of the house at this point,” the Lupe told him. The Xweetok was about to do just that but then he thought about how nice they had been to him. The noises he had heard, the normal, happy noises. Then the Shoyru entered the room. He hadn’t even heard her leave. Of course I didn’t, he thought. She’s a ghost.
“But before you do run screaming out of the house,” the motherly Shoyru said, “here.” She handed him his jacket. “I cleaned it and dried it for you.”
“Thank you,” the Xweetok said, taking his jacket. There was no way these creatures could be bad. “Do ghosts always stay when Neopians die?” He wasn’t sure where this question had come from.
“Not always,” the Lupe told him. “But I think we did because this is the middle of nowhere and lost travelers often come here. This way we can help them. However, we can’t leave our property. The garden and lawn out there is the farthest we can go.”
“But they always get scared and run away,” the Kacheek said sadly.
“I’m not scared,” the Kacheek said.
“Really, so you’ll stay?” the Bori asked.
“Yep,” the Xweetok told them.
“Yay!” the Kacheek exclaimed with a smile. “You can play with me.”
“At least until the storm is over, then I’ll have to leave,” he said. “But I can visit.”
“We would love that!” the Shoyru said happily.
“Actually,” the Xweetok said, “what if I tell everyone about you?” Like in the Neopian Times. Then everyone will know it’s safe here and won’t get scared.”
“That would be great!” the Bori yelled excitedly.
“Then we can have lots of friends,” the Kacheek said.
After the storm the Xweetok went home and wrote an article about the house and the family living in it. The family put a sign in front of the house that said, “All creatures welcome here! Fresh cookies available and don’t worry, we’re ghosts that won’t hurt you.” Now all sorts of lost or journeying Neopians stop by there when they pass by, and the ghosts have many friends.