Halloween Heroism (sort of)
The full moon hangs low in the sky, giving off an eerie, translucent glow. There is an almost electric buzz of excitement and fear in the air - it's Halloween again- the time of sticky candies and jack o' lanterns and trick-or-treating - not to mention the monsters that the holiday is centres around. It's the time of the year not only when children dress up as the worst, most grotesque monsters, but also when all the real monsters that are usually hidden in the shadows walk the streets, lavishing in the creepy atmosphere.
In Neovia, Halloween is a big thing. The gloomy streets come alive, whispered rumours are exchanged among the townspeople along with candy apples and chocolate bars, about long-enduring curses and monsters that roam the streets with blood dripping from razor-sharp fangs. Of course, it's all in good fun - the delighted shrieks that pierce the air every now and then is proof of that.
But there is one street that remains dark and silent - maybe even more so than on normal days. At first sight, it's a seemingly empty alleyway. Walk a little further down it, however, and you'll come to a small, dilapidated cottage the size of a toolshed, barely visible from the shadows cast by the massive, skeletal branches of the surrounding trees. It's right at the edge of the forest - the one that no-one ever dares to enter. Warnings are delivered to child from parent - don't go to the house at the edge of the woods. The cryptic statements have spurned too many stories that are often told around campfires, or under the covers with a flashlight.
And it is at this place, this very alleyway, that our heroines - and hero - stand. A young Acara, a Xweetok and a Lupe. The trio appraise the path with cautious eyes, excited fear carefully concealed in an attempt to seem grown-up. Just three ordinary, reckless children on a Halloween night.
"Maybe we shouldn't have come," the Xweetok says hesitantly. We'll get in awful trouble if this gets found out."
"Yeah," the Lupe says, leaning forward, eager to contribute. "My brother says the house isn't abandoned - a Mutant Kacheek lives in there, and every Halloween, instead of giving out candy, he captures children and turns them into candy before EATING them." The Lupe makes crunching noises with his teeth, and smirks at his Xweetok companion's ghostly pallor.
The Acara just rolls her eyes. The Xweetok, however, glances anxiously behind them, and looks absolutely serious as she, too, leans forward. "My older sister told me no-one who goes in ever comes out," she says in a hushed tone. The Acara, however, simply snorts.
"Your older sister," she says, her tone slightly condescending, "was trying to scare you." Bold as ever, she begins to walk down the path. The Xweetok and the Lupe exchange frightened glances, but run after her.
Finally, they come to the end of the road. It's even darker, without any lighting at all. The small house seems is not just creepy in appearance - the atmosphere is heavy and ominous. Even the Acara begins to look slightly apprehensive.
"Amy," the Xweetok says, addressing the Acara, her voice tinged with anxiety, "are you sure we should go on in?"
Amy tosses her hair - or, rather, the dark wig that of her Jhudora costume. "We'll be fine," she says, but her earlier arrogance is gone. "We're just going to look, that's all."
As they approach, they realise the house doesn't look quite as abandoned as village teenagers described. "It's not so bad," the Xweetok says thoughtfully. "I mean, there's certainly no blood dripping off the walls or whatever."
The Lupe snorts. "Come on, Saylie. Your sister - Sara, or whatever her name is - is a big fat liar. I don't know why you listen to a word she says."
"Cut it out," Amy says suddenly. "Do you hear that?"
The trio freezes, straining to listen. Thump. Thump. The noise is unmistakable - like a body being thrown against a wall. Saylie pales, her eyes dilating in renewed fear.
"Guys, we should go," she says nervously, clutching her trick-or-treat bag tightly. Amy sends her a glare.
"We're not going anywhere," she declares. "We need to check this out." And she marches straight on, rapping smartly on the door.
However, instead of anyone answering the door, it slowly swings open. "Hello?" the Lupe calls.
"I don't think anyone's going to be, like, 'hey, come on in, would you like some tea?', Sammy," Saylie says, half-hysterical, half-sarcastic. Amy rolls her eyes and continues on inside.
When they step inside, the thumping noise intensifies in volume and frequency. The door slams shut behind them. Saylie lets out a small shriek before Sammy claps a paw over her mouth.
"Shut up," he hisses nervously. They begin to hear another sound - almost like a small, strained, unintelligible voice.
Amy walks up to one of the doors and presses the side of her face against the dusty wood. "Guys," she says urgently, "I think it's coming from here."
Sammy pushes open the door. The voice is clear now. "Help!" a voice calls. "Somebody? Anybody!"
Amy frowns. "I don't see anyone."
"Is someone here?" the voice calls out again, evidently relieved. The thumping stops. "Quick, I need help. I - I'm stuck in here. I was just walking and then the floor seemed to collapse underneath me and I fell. I've been here ages, you have to get me out!"
Saylie frowns, her brows knitting together. "Wait - I know that voice."
Ignoring her, Amy rushes over the the place where the voice is coming from - a hole in the floor. "Look," she says, "I can't see you, but I'll throw something down and you climb up, okay?"
"She can have my scarf, if she likes," Sammy says with a shrug, pulling his scarf - part of his Abominable Snowman costume - away from his neck and handing it to Amy. Saylie is still frowning at the ground, evidently mystified.
In no time, the mysterious victim comes into view. "Thank you so - wait, Saylie?" the voice changes into a horrified gasp, just as the Xweetok clambers out of the hole and collapses onto the ground.
"Sara!" Saylie exclaims, rushing over to her sister. "How - what -"
"What are you doing here?" they both ask each other at the same time. The older Xweetok blushes.
"My friends dared me," she admits, hanging her head. "I won't be listening to any of them any time soon, that's for sure."
Saylie rolls her eyes, before Sara sharply asks, "What are you doing here, then? Mum specifically said not to come to the edge of the woods." Her glare extends to the two other children. "And you two?"
"Well, okay," Amy says sulkily, "we just wanted to look."
"Yes, you looked, and you saved the day," Sara says, half-amused, half-stern. "Now we're going back home. Come on." She tugs on her little sister's paw with more force then required, and leads them in a march.
"We should've just left her in the hole," Sammy mutters to Amy, as they return home after the too-eventful night. Amy stifles a giggle.