A Haunted Woods Trip
"I don't want to go to the Haunted Woods!" I complained, crossing my little Baby Grundo arms.
Shadow, a Shadow Aisha, rolled his eyes. "Come on, Invader, stop being annoying. We've been there plenty of times! What's wrong with this time?"
"I'll catch a disease or something! That place is disgusting. Do you not remember what the Deserted Fairground looked like last time?" I wrinkled my nose in disgust. "There were bones and rotten apples and spoiled pumpkins everywhere! Plus, it's just plain scary!"
"What are you two arguing about?" Phroto, our owner, asked, dropping her bag of supplies onto the floor. She clapped her hands together. "We have to get going soon if we want to have enough time."
"I'm not going to that place!" I told her, dropping myself onto the living room floor. "It's disgusting and has the most terrifying creatures. I mean, look at the Esophagor! And last time we went there I caught a bad case of the Doldrums."
"Invader, stop your complaining!" Glaedr, a Gold Draik, said. He folded his wings comfortably over his backpack. "We're going and that's that. It was Shadow's turn to pick the place, and he picked the Haunted Woods. We went to Virtupets last time, and I'm sure you remember that no one wanted to go up there but yourself."
"Exactly, Invader, and you're not staying here; you're too young to stay home alone. You won't get sick again, the Doctor said so." Phroto lifted up the bag and shouldered it. "Stronghammer! Galbatorix! Come on, we're leaving now!" she called up the stairs.
Galbatorix, a Royalboy Kyrii, came running down the stairs, his dark purple hair streaming out behind him. "I'm here! Stronghammer was holding me up."
A Camouflage Krawk bumbled down the stairs. "I was not!" Stronghammer said indignantly. "It's not my fault you took so long to answer those questions. How hard is it to answer—"
"You guys, come on!" Shadow interrupted. "We need to leave or it's going to be too late!"
"Shadow's right. Come on, let's go!" Phroto shoved them out the door. "You, too, Invader!" she added after noticing he wasn't with them. "Get out here!"
I sighed and followed them out the door. "I'm going to catch a disease or something there," I grumbled. "I just know it."
I stopped when I spotted the eerie gates a few blocks up ahead. The Haunted Woods, I thought, suppressing a shudder. I couldn't show my fear and disgust here. The creatures that inhabit the area would be after me before I could say, 'Fyora'.
"We're here!" Shadow exclaimed with a bounce. He ran off into the Woods, his black cloak billowing out behind him, and shouted, "See you guys at seven!"
Phroto let out a small laugh. "Well, he's off. He'll probably waste all of the ten-thousand neopoints I gave him on Test Your Strength and Coconut Shy." She shook her head with an amused smile. "I'll be in the Game Graveyard if you guys need me. Remember to meet back at this gate at seven exactly."
I watched my owner disappear into the gates after Shadow. "Hmph. Well, who am I going to go with then? I don't want to walk around here myself!"
Stronghammer and Galbatorix exchanged bemused glances. "Sorry, Invader, we're heading off to the Deserted Fairground with Shadow," Stronghammer said with a shrug. "And we know how much you hate that place." He gave a small wave before he and Galbatorix left into the Woods.
I crossed my arms in annoyance. "So they just leave me like that, don't they? Glaedr, what do you want—Glaedr!" I shouted after the gold speck in the sky. "Really?" I kicked the dirt with my foot. How was I going to survive a whole eight hours in the Haunted Woods by myself? I'll just go to the Deserted Fairground with them... I'd rather be there where it's filthy than by myself in this place.
Ignoring the growing fear I felt (it was unreasonable to be afraid; nothing could get me!), I headed toward the entrance. The trees were thinning out into a well-worn path as I followed the trail leading up to the gates. Come on, just get in there and you'll be fine, I told myself. Taking a deep breath, I walked quickly through the gates and then stopped: the Esophagor was straight ahead. I shuddered at the sight of the sickly blue goo. How was it even alive?
"Feeeed mmeeee!" the Esophagor gurgled as I walked past it. "Cooommmee, I aamm huuungrryyy. I wiiilll reeewaaard yooouuu iiff yooouu heeelp."
"N-no thank you," I stuttered, turning away from the monster and running down the rest of the path. When the Esophagor's grumbles were out of earshot, I bent over to catch my breath, letting out a sigh of relief. First monster avoided. I could make it to the Deserted Fairground!
"Who goes there?"
I shot up. Who had said that? I was in the middle of the Woods! The Stone Dome was just a little ways up ahead. It was nothing, Invader, calm down. Probably just someone heading to the battledome!
"Excuse me, little Neopet, answer me."
I jumped up. "Wh-who are you? Where are you?"
I heard a hearty laugh come off from the trees behind me. "I am the Brain Tree, Neopet, of course you know who I am if you would turn around."
I gulped, slowly turning around. Calm down. The Brain Tree is a creature of intelligence, not a monster. He can't even hurt me because he can't walk! Yet I let out a small gasp when I saw the Tree. I had forgotten how big (and brainy!) he was since our last visit to the Woods.
"Yes, see, there you go. What are you doing out here all along, little Neopet? Are you hoping to do a quest for me?" the Brain Tree asked. "I could do with some help with a question."
"N-no, s-sorry, Mr. Tree. I-I'm just on my way to th-the Deserted Fairground." I tried to keep myself from stuttering, but failed miserably. "I'll ju-just be on m-my way now—AHH!" I screamed when a little ghost petpet Warf came from the ground and floated up to the sky. Absolutely disgusting! Ghosts! "Agh!"
The Brain Tree let out a deep laugh at my nervousness. I got the feeling that he was enjoying himself more than he usually does in this forest. "You are a Neopet that is too easily scared to be here alone. Where is your owner? Brothers? Sisters?"
I felt oddly offended at the Brain Tree's words, but he was right: I was too easily scared and disgusted by these Woods to be here alone. Summoning up my courage to speak to the Tree without stuttering, I said, "My owner is at the Game Graveyard, and my siblings ran off to the Deserted Fairground and left me behind because I didn't want to go there at first." I paused. "It's extremely filthy there, and here, don't you know? Ghosts and rotten food... This place isn't fit for me! Yet my owner made me come because it was my brother's turn to pick the place we would go. And then they just left me!" I crossed my arms in annoyance, and then remembered who I was talking to and put them back at my side. Did I really just complain to the Brain Tree? I laughed.
The Brain Tree smiled a woody smile. I realized he had no teeth and tried not to laugh even harder at the sight. "Little Neopet, why not get revenge on them for leaving you?"
I stood there, dumbfounded. Did the Brain Tree just tell me to get revenge on my siblings? I think he did! I started to like this tree more and more with each passing moment. He wasn't evil and disgusting (okay, maybe he was a little nasty-looking) as all the other creatures here. "Get revenge? How?"
"Why, by scaring them, of course. You're in the Haunted Woods, don't you know?" The Brain Tree reached behind his back (did trees have backs?) and stretched a limb out to me, holding a flickering transparent shirt.
"What is that?" I asked, curious. I stepped closer to the tree, losing my fear of it.
"It's a Ghostly Sheet Costume," the Brain Tree said with a laugh. With a swift movement, he threw it over me.
"Ah! Wh-what are you doing?" I shouted, feeling my fear rise again. The sheet covered my eyes, my whole body; I shouldn't have come so close!
"Neopet, be calm," the Brain Tree said, with what I thought was annoyance. "It's just a costume. You can take it off after you complete the quest I am sending you on now."
"What? I never agreed to any quest!" I shouted.
The Brain Tree smiled. "Oh, yes you did, when you wanted to know how to get revenge. I am an old tree, Neopet; I've been around for ages. I need some fun once in a while, and this quest seems more interesting than the other quests I send Neopets to do."
"I—what? Your quest is for me to get revenge on my siblings for leaving me out here?" I was so confused. The Brain Tree—the intelligent Brain Tree—wanted to play a joke on Neopets he didn't even now? I had to admit to myself that this was pretty absurd. If anyone had told that this had happened to them, I would never have believed them!
"Yes, Neopet, now go and scare them. You cannot see yourself, but now you look exactly like a ghost. You look haunted. You still look like a Baby Grundo, yet like a Ghost Baby Grundo. Your siblings will recognize you, but they'll be absolutely terrified and guilt-ridden at the thought of what happened to you." The Brain Tree let out a laugh that shook the trees around him, as if they were laughing with him. "I haven't done this in a while, Neopet, so obey my wish without question, and you shall be rewarded. Be back in one hour and twenty-three minutes. Now be gone!"
I stood there for a moment, wondering if the Brain Tree was really serious. What did this say about the Brain Tree's character? Everything I heard about him before was wrong! Oh, how fun this would be. My siblings wouldn't leave me like that again! I smiled and nodded. "I shall obey."
I stared up at the destroyed circus tent that marked the entrance to the Deserted Fairground. I heard Neopets through the gates—playing Bagatelle, Coconut Shy, the Wheel of Misfortune, everything! I had passed a puddle on my way over here: I looked like a ghost. I was transparent and white and my eyes were sunken in and blue. I'd scare my siblings so badly!
I peeked around the entrance gates to the Fairgrounds, trying to see if I could see anyone I knew—there! Shadow was over at the Test Your Strength, with Stronghammer, Galbatorix, and Glaedr all beside him. Perfect! I thought with a smile. The Brain Tree would surely get a good laugh out of this!
I walked through the entrance quietly, hiding behind the remains of pumpkins and tombstones as I made my way closer to the Test Your Strength booth. The large bell was a few steps away from me, and my siblings were the only Neopets playing. Just what I wanted!
"Congratulations! You earned 22 neopoints! You scored 5 out of 100, Shadow, thank you for playing! Would you like to play again for the twenty-second time?" I heard Arnold, the Test Your Strength owner, ask.
Shadow hissed in annoyance. "Yes! I am going to get higher than a 5!"
I heard Galbatorix snicker and Glaedr and Stronghammer let out a small laugh. They've probably been there a while, I thought. I looked at the timer on the inside of the costume: forty-six minutes left to scare them and get back to the Brain Tree. Plenty of time!
When Shadow grumbled and pulled out 100 more neopoints to give to Arnold, I spotted my moment to come out: as soon as Arnold left to put the neopoints in his jar, I'd get my siblings!
"Thank you, kind sir. I'll be back in just a moment," Arnold said with a small, sly smile, and he left.
I grinned. Now! I bent down and crawled forward, going slowly enough so that I wouldn't rustle the dead leaves that covered the ground.
"I wonder where Invader is," Glaedr mused. "Now that I think about it, I don't think Phroto will be too happy knowing we left him alone. She knows that we knew he didn't want to come."
"Who cares?" Shadow said. "He'll be fine! It's not like anything can happen here."
I laughed, loud enough that my siblings could hear me. They set themselves up perfectly! I heard them all gasp in shock as they turned around and saw him.
"Invader, oh my Fyora!" Stronghammer and Glaedr gasped at the same time.
"What in Neopia happened to you?" Shadow asked, his face pulled into such a sad sight of guilt and fear.
"Whoa, that's cool!" Galbatorix said, but his eyes betrayed his guilt.
They all think that something terrible happened to me, that I turned into a ghost! I laughed. "Well, what do you think happened to me? This place is Haunted! I've become Haunted! I told you something would happen to me if we came here, and what do you know? Something did!" I heard my voice shake in fake-anger, and felt a glow of pleasure inside. Ha ha! They all look so guilty and sad! I thought with glee.
Glaedr had tears in his eyes. "Invader, I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have listened to them... I should've stayed with you and maybe you wouldn't be like this!" His voice was shaking with sadness.
Stronghammer and Galbatorix were silent, but Shadow spoke after Glaedr. "I didn't... Invader." He swallowed, and his head was bent over in guilt. "I shouldn't have told them to leave you... It's my entire fault that you're... That you're a ghost!"
Shadow started crying—actually crying, and at that moment I felt like this joke was gone far enough. Any longer and he might run out of here. I had gotten my revenge and done what the Brain Tree had wanted. I could take off the costume now.
"Okay, Shadow, the bell is all set—what the! Is that a Ghost Baby? Those aren't... Those don't..." Arnold tilted his head to the side in confusion, but he wasn't scared. "Ha! How funny. What'd you guys do to him to make him a ghost?"
"Nothing!" Shadow exclaimed with a sob. "He's our brother, and now he's a ghost! It's my fault!"
Okay, enough is enough, I thought. "Shadow, calm down!" I said with a smile. "It is your fault—as much as it is Glaedr's, Stronghammer's, and Galbatorix's." I paused for effect, wanting to pull this off perfectly. I reached up (and my siblings flinched!) and pulled off the costume with a huge grin. "See? I'm not a ghost!"
Shadow stared at me, too shocked for words. "Y-you aren't a ghost?"
Glaedr and Stronghammer had expressions of relief and anger, but Galbatorix was laughing. "Oh my Fyora, Invader, now that's a good joke!" the Royalboy Kyrii said, falling over into a fit of laughter.
Arnold was staring in little amusement, clearly just wanting to make more neopoints. "Hurry up. Play or leave, you're holding up the line!"
Stronghammer raised an eyebrow at Arnold's words, looking around the booth. We were the only ones there. "Clearly."
"I can't believe you would trick us like that!" Shadow exclaimed in anger at me. "You made me feel terrible! What in the world possessed you to do that?"
I was laughing on the ground along with Galbatorix at how the events had played out, thinking about how pleased the Brain Tree would be when I brought the costume back and told him what happened, but paused long enough to reply, "Why, the Brain Tree, of course!"
I hope you enjoyed this little story, and if this gets published, it'll be my 10th one! 8D ~Phroto