There is a house on 36 Market Street. It is off white. There is a welcoming garden full of blooming flowers in front of it, and a cherry-blossom tree towers over it from the back. Rocks and small waterfalls weave their way through the grass in the house’s backyard.
This is my house.
I do not know why I still live here. Sometimes, I wonder how long I will last. This house of mine is mysterious, and I will never know what its motives are, and what its history is. There is only one thing that I will ever know is true about my house.
It is haunted.*
We first moved into the house a long time ago. I did not go to school, because my owner thought that it was a waste of time. I was an only pet, along with my Doglefox, Max. Sometimes, at our old house, Max and I would snoop around in the neighbors’ backyard and pick small purple flowers. But that old house was gone now. I was being whisked off into a new life against my will. Even though I was excited about moving to Neopia Central from a small place like Roo Island, I would have rather stayed at my old place, the one that I had lived in my whole life. Still, I didn’t complain too much as the last of our furniture was loaded into my new, medium-sized home.
“Katrina,” my owner called, her short brown hair blowing in the soft wind. We were outside, watching the movers carry a tan couch in through the front door. Max trotted close behind me, playing with one of my pink Aisha ears.
“Yes, Tia?” I asked politely, adjusting my glasses a little. I was nervous about living in a new town. What if the people didn’t accept me here? I wouldn’t have minded if I was able to stay in the house with my owner all day, but, knowing Tia, she would probably make me go to the park to meet all of the kids in town.
“Katrina, I want you to explore the house here. I know you aren’t happy about moving, even though you act like you’re okay with it. So I want you to see how cool the house is.” She put her hand gently on my shoulder and looked straight into my eyes. I hated it when she did that. It made me feel like she was looking through my personal belongings, sifting through and finding things that I didn’t want her to know about. I looked away and nodded softly. I pretended to study Max’s unique markings, but Tia knew better.
Finally, she let me go, and I was glad to be alone. Tia was a nice owner, but most of the time I liked the serenity of being by myself. Of course, Max normally tagged along, but he couldn’t talk. And his companionship at least made me feel like I was still loved by someone.
I did what Tia told me to and explored the house. It was pretty normal as far as houses go. There were two floors. The bottom floor had the kitchen, the family room and a bathroom, and the top floor had my room, Tia’s room and a bathroom. No, there was nothing special inside the house. Tia wouldn’t have picked it just with this kind of boring interior.
Then I went to stake out the backyard, and I found out why Tia fell in love with the house so quickly. It was a huge rock garden. There were little streams and waterfalls poking out from under the gray stones. Pink flowers curled up from the ground, hovering above the babbling water. My lips curled into a surprised smile as I noticed the top-most rock, and under that the biggest waterfall of all. I knew immediately that Max and I would be jumping from rock to rock, trying not to get wet.
But there was something else, a centerpiece, in the middle of the backyard that caught my eye after everything else. It wasn’t too much; just a warn out statue of a Shenkuuvian-looking Cybunny, smiling knowingly and holding an umbrella over its head. There wasn’t even any color in it anymore; it had faded to patches of white and gray. But the way it stared back at me as I looked into its eyes told me that there was spirit left in there. I don’t know how I knew, but some part of me knew that it was alive. It was not just an intricately carved sculpture. It was alive.
I walked back out to the front yard, Max following close behind, and Tia was still standing there, watching as the movers disappeared behind a street corner. I tried to forget about my interaction with the statue, but, even as Tia looked down at me with a sincere smile, the memory of the statue looking back at me with its colorless eyes never left my thoughts.*
Raindrops were still clinging to the windowpane as I woke up one cold morning. A raging storm had passed through the night before, and it was very damp outside. Gray clouds still hung ominously low in the morning sky.
Something was different about that morning, I noticed, as I stretched my arms out and sat up. I couldn’t tell what it was yet, but something was not routine, not as it was for the past couple of weeks I had lived in my new house. I looked around the room, trying to determine if there was anything missing, but I didn’t notice anything. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong.
And then I knew. Max, who was normally lying at my feet when I woke up in the morning, wasn’t there. The weight he normally put on the bed had disappeared, which caused everything to feel out of whack. I sighed, relieved that I wasn’t going absolutely insane, and climbed out of bed, putting on a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. “Max!” I called, yawning and walking out into the hall. “Max, come here!”
I waited for a few seconds, but Max didn’t come. This was strange for Max, because normally he was a very obedient Doglefox, and came when I first called him. “Max!” I tried again. “Come here, Max! Don’t you want some breakfast?”
At this point I was getting worried. My heart sped up as I walked down the hall and jumped down the stairs. “Max!” I kept calling, but there was no sign of him inside the house. Instinctively I trotted outside, the early beams of sun streaming down on my tired face. “Max, come here!”
But he still wouldn’t come.
At this point, I had given up looking on my own. I ran inside the house and burst into Tia’s room, panting. “Tia, you’ve got to wake up! Max disappeared!” I panted, exasperated. Sweat tricked down the side of my face, and my eyes were wide. I hadn’t even put my glasses on yet, but it didn’t matter. Max was gone.
“Max is gone? Wait just a sec, Kat,” she said groggily, rolling out of bed. “Wait for me outside. No, you search outside, I’ll look for him in here.”
I obeyed, running down the stairs and bursting outside again. “Max, come back!” I screamed, looking around. He wasn’t there, so I did the smartest thing I could think of and ran out to the backyard. Maybe he had gone out ahead of me and had started leaping from rock to rock.
But, when I arrived, I did not see the blur of brown and white that I was hoping for. The waters had overflowed a little, making the grass wetter than out in the front yard, but there was still no Max. I kept scanning the area, hoping that he was hiding behind the rocks, or that I had missed him before, but my heart sank because I knew he wasn’t there. Max was gone.
And then, as I took another hopeless scan of the backyard, my eyes locked onto the statue. It was still upright, though the storm should have knocked it sideways. Its hollow eyes stared back at me, its lips curved into a smile.
I stopped looking for Max and went inside.*
The sun shone brightly as Tia lead me out into the front yard, her hair flowing listlessly behind her. I could not see the reason for her excitement, but I followed her anyway, hoping to take my mind off things. She said she had something important planned for me, something that would hopefully stay with me for the rest of my life. I decided that anything would be better than moping around inside the house the whole day, which was what I’d been doing for the past two days. Without Max by my side, things were different.
“Okay, Katrina, you’re going to help me plant a garden,” Tia said cheerfully. Then I saw. There were bags of seeds near the other end of the lawn, and there were two sets of green, thick gloves, and two trowels.
I smiled wryly, walking right behind Tia as she knelt down and slipped on her gloves. “Cool,” I said half-heartedly, imitating her movements as I pulled my gloves on as well. She picked up the first bag of seeds and scooped out a handful, pouring some of the seeds into my hands.
“We’re just going to sprinkle these into the dirt here. If we water them and take care of them right, they’re going to grow into beautiful flowers,” Tia explained, but I already knew. I wasn’t really listening either. I wasn’t thinking about anything; I was just doing things.
Tia showed me how to sprinkle the seeds and I caught on pretty quickly. We did this in silence for a while, the sun beating down on the backs of our heads and the trowels patting down on the soft dirt, until I found myself clearing my voice. I wanted to hear something, to hold a conversation. Things felt so different without me being able to talk to someone, and even though I had hated talking to Tia about things before, I figured it couldn’t possibly hurt.
Unsure of what to say, I spoke the first thing that came to mind. “I know who took Max.”
Tia stopped what she was doing, perking up and dropping the trowel into the dirt. Then she sighed exhaustedly and looked at me. “I’m sure he’s out there somewhere, Kat. You never know, maybe he’ll come back. But for now, you’re going to have to wait until I can get you a new one, okay?”
“No, I don’t want a new Doglefox. I know who took Max,” I repeated. I wasn’t asking for a new Doglefox, or even talking specifically about my old one. I was just making a statement.
“Who?” Tia asked, annoyed that I had spoiled a bonding moment we were having. I looked at her unsurely, not wanting to anger her further. She looked at me with wide eyes. “Humor me. Who took Max?”
I looked down at my trowel, poking it at the ground and whispered, “The statue in the backyard.”
Tia shook her head, an incredulous look on her face. She wiped the sweat off her brow, leaving a speck of dirt there, and went back to work. There were a few seconds of silence except for the sound of the soft thump of dirt against grass, until Tia said, “Katrina, you’re unbelievable.”*
“I don’t want a new Doglefox,” I said once more as Tia put her shoes on. She was convinced that I just needed a new companion, and she was set on going out and getting me another petpet. She didn’t understand that I didn’t want one anymore.
“Katrina, you’re impossible! You’re down in the dumps because Max is gone, so I’m going to get you a new one! Sometimes, you just have to move on and accept the facts. Max is gone, Katrina, and I’m not saying he’s not coming back. But for now, you need a friend. I’m tired of this!” Tia seemed stressed as she put her hand on the doorknob and began to turn it. “You’re getting a new Doglefox. I know a few pets who would love to be in your position right now.” And she left.
Rage built up inside of me. I didn’t know why, because I had never been so mad before, but I was steaming. Not knowing what to do, I decided to go out back and leap from rock to rock.
All of a sudden, I wished that we were back in Roo Island, where Max and I were together, and we were picking the purple flowers out of my neighbors’ backyard. And Tia wasn’t annoyed with me all the time, and Max’s huffs of breath would always sound behind me, and the Doglefox would play with my ears. I wished that I could go back to all that. But it wasn’t a hopeful wish, because I knew it wasn’t going to happen. It was just a dream that was too far out of reach.
I jumped from rock to rock, but it didn’t seem to be helping the anger. If anything, the jumping made everything worse. I kept thinking about Tia, how she was controlling my life. Maybe if she had tried harder, we could have found Max. And what was wrong with the theory that the statue had taken Max away? I knew the statue was alive, but Tia wouldn’t believe me, because she thought she was smarter than me. She thought she knew everything that I had yet to learn. But that wasn’t true.
I wanted to go back inside now, and as I stormed to go in through the back door, I turned around to take one last look at the statue. It was still the same old statue. It hadn’t switched positions, but its eyes still stared back at me. That statue would never get caught for what it did, but that didn’t matter now. I knew what was going on, and Tia didn’t. Tia didn’t deserve a house that she didn’t know was haunted.
As I walked inside, I locked the door. Maybe it was for fear that the statue knew I had figured out it was alive, and that I was afraid it would come after me, but I think I had already planned out what was about to happen in my head.
Angrier with Tia than ever, I went around the house and locked everything. I locked the front door, and I locked all of the windows. As I locked the last one, Tia walked home, empty handed. She hadn’t brought any keys, assuming that the door would be open, or that I would open it for her. But when I came down the stairs, I did not open the door for her. I stared at her through the small window next to the door, smirking and glaring.
“Katrina, let me in,” she commanded, knowing what I was up to. I crossed my arms and shook my head, still smiling.
“Kat, let me in!” she screamed, but I was already heading up the stairs. I’d had enough of her, and I was finally on my own.
“Katrina, let me into this house right now! If this is about me not having your new petpet, it’s because they were out of Doglefoxes. They have one preordered for you!” she shouted, but I didn’t even think to listen to her anymore. I went upstairs into my room, tearing, and I sat down on my bed.
Tia waited on the front porch for an hour or so. She was patient, and she was going to wait until I came to my senses and opened the door for her. Occasionally, I heard her scream my name, but that only happened every ten minutes or so. Instead of focusing on her, I read a book that was pretty interesting.
Then, night started to fall. I wondered how Tia would react to this, and I got my answer sooner than I thought I would. “Katrina, I give up with you! You want to live without me, fine! I don’t believe in your stupid ghost stories, and Max is never coming back! When you’ve finally come to your senses, you can come and find me, but you’re on your own now!”
I walked up to the window, wondering if she was staying true to her word, and, sure enough, Tia had run off the porch and was marching down the street briskly. I smiled, glad that my plan had taken effect sooner than I had thought it would. And even though I waited, expecting that familiar face standing at my doorstep, Tia never came back.*
Most people would say I live alone now. Most people would say I live in a normal house on 36 Market Street, a welcoming garden full of blooming flowers in front of it, and a cherry-blossom tree towering over it from the back.
But I know better. I say that there is a statue in the backyard, of a Shenkuuvian-looking Cybunny, smiling knowingly and holding an umbrella over its head. And everyday I look out into the backyard, at the statue. Everyday it stares back at me with its hollow, colorless eyes.
I know this house is haunted. Sometimes, when I am sitting downstairs in the family room at night by a warm fire, I can hear the soft whisper of the statue singing to itself.
And I will live under the watchful eye of the statue until I leave this wretched place. Sometimes, I wonder how long I will last. But most of the time, I just sit here, alone, thinking about my old house, my old life in Roo Island. Most of the time, I wish that I had my old life back. But it is not a hopeful wish, because I know it’s not going to happen. It is just a dream that is too far out of reach.