Trick Or Trick
"Can we please go trick or treating this year?"
Roxy looked across at her younger brother and sighed. "Leo, last time we went trick or treating, you got so spooked that by the second house you were begging to go home."
"This year will be different!" the little Shoyru insisted, crossing his arms with a scowl at the memory. "That was two years ago! Ages! I promise I won't get scared this time."
"Are you sure?" Roxy asked with a smirk. She was decorating their small house with Halloween lights and little pumpkins to get them in the mood. Not many houses in Mystery Island tried hard to look good on the holidays, so she enjoyed being the difference. Plus, Halloween was her favourite holiday.
Halloween was the holiday in which she became the queen of tricks and spooks. She successfully managed to scare her younger brother and sister every year without fail with something new that she would come up with. Last year it had been hiding fake Spyders under her sister's pillow and serving eyeballs for dinner to her brother, then managing to convince them both that there was an angry ghost living in their house that wanted to steal their souls. Roxy smiled at the memory. While it could be considered mean, the red Bori felt a rush of triumph every time fear lit up her siblings' eyes.
"I'm positive," Leo shot back, bringing her sister back from her brief trance. "Vani can come, too. She doesn't get scared."
"Vani doesn't even like trick or treating."
"I do too!" called a shrill voice. Roxy tilted her head from where she was stood reaching to hang up the last of the orange lights, and in her peripheral vision saw the yellow Kacheek herself standing at the foot of the stairs.
"Since when?" she scoffed.
Vani hesitated, then scratched the back of her neck awkwardly. "Well, uh, it's not trick or treating itself, but you know, the uh... the atmosphere. I like all the costumes and the... the feeling of it all."
Roxy quirked an eyebrow. "You like the feeling of fear?"
"No," replied the exasperated Kacheek. "Just - whatever, if you guys go, I'm coming."
Roxy looked from the youngest sibling to their brother, who's eyes were gleaming with hope and excitement, then finally gave a soft laugh. "Alright, we'll go. But if you get scared again, don't expect me to be a hero."
Leo fist-pumped the air in delight, and Vani gave a few claps of joy. Roxy rolled her eyes at both of them before heading to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Halloween was three days away and so their dinners were spooky-themed all week long. But only the Bori knew how to make the tastiest spooky meals, and so the job had been left to her.
All of the cooking distracted Roxy from feeling suspicious of her siblings. Which in the end, would turn out to be a huge mistake.
The night of Halloween was alive with wicked laughter, surprised screams and delicious candy. Every house in Mystery Island was occupied with a Neopet ready to reward trick or treaters with all kinds of candy - and every Neopet was poised with a different greeting. Some would smile warmly at the creativity of the costumes; some would open the door and feign horror; some would laugh, and share the love as well as the candy; and the others would be dressed in spooky costumes of their own, ready to give the "scarers" a scare for themselves.
Roxy walked confidently down the roads with her brother and sister, each carrying candy-filled bags. It had been a long night and they only had a few houses left to knock on, and Roxy was surprised that her brother had held a brave face throughout the whole time. Although it was hard to tell, since he was wearing an Eliv Thade mask.
"You've done well tonight; I'm impressed," she remarked to him as they approached one of the last houses.
The green Shoyru moved his mask up and beamed at her. "I know! I feel fine, too. It's less scary when you get older."
"True, but it never loses the magic," she replied with a wink. "Just wait - I still haven't pulled my annual pranks on you two."
Leo just smirked, but then his gaze wandered away from her face, and he stopped walking. The smile and the light had faded instantly. He started shaking, his grip on the candy bag tightening significantly.
Roxy stopped to face him, concerned. "You alright?" Though she should have expected this; Leo got scared at every Halloween. His reaction was just delayed this year.
But she was wrong. Leo raised a shaky hand draped with the purple costume of Thade himself, and uttered almost inaudibly, "Vani's.... gone."
The Bori had to spin around herself and check in all directions to confirm that Leo was right. Their younger sister was missing. The yellow Kacheek in her adorable mummified costume - nowhere to be seen in the dark night.
"Oh, please, no," Roxy whispered out loud, panic rising in her throat. How could she not notice that their sister hadn't been walking along on her other side? Where could Vani be? She wouldn't just suddenly run off without saying something. She must have been kidnapped.
And then a thousand horribly disturbing scenarios started playing through her mind, so horrific that the red Bori had to shake herself and take a few deep breaths to remain calm. Vani couldn't be too far. Mystery Island wasn't a huge island - and it was a place where everyone knew each other. If Vani had disappeared, at least one pet would have seen her. That was what Roxy desperately kept telling herself to keep in mind.
"What do we do?" Leo murmured from behind her, voice trembling.
Roxy turned back to face him, having realized she'd almost forgotten that he was there. Ironic, considering she'd already lost one sibling. She looked over the small Shoyru and felt her heart sink at how small he looked in that moment, shaking in his complete Thade costume and staring back at her with tears glistening in his eyes.
"Don't worry Leo, we'll find her," she said quickly, pulling her brother in a tight hug. It looked awkward, with a Bori dressed as Vira hugging a tiny Eliv Thade in the middle of the road, but neither of them cared. "She can't be far."
So together they set out deeper into Mystery Island, searching all the way around while forgetting about trick or treating altogether. Roxy grew increasingly concerned with every passing minute that they couldn't find the Kacheek. She kept trying to tell herself and her brother that Vani couldn't be far, that the island was small and friendly enough for everyone to stay safe and in check. But neither of them were very convinced.
Eventually, after asking everyone they knew and exploring every part of the island, they came to the only unsearched area: the Lost City of Geraptiku. It was dark and unwelcoming, completely silent apart from the occasional whistle of wind in the trees that sent a shiver down Roxy's spine. The place was abandoned. Who in their right mind would willingly stay in an empty city with an atmosphere that teased the nervous system?
"She must be here," Leo whispered, and his voice was so choked and afraid that Roxy swallowed her own anxiety and stood straight. She had to remain strong and confident for her brother's sake.
"It's alright, Leo," she replied, briefly resting her arm across his shoulders. "We're perfectly fine here. Let's go."
They headed into the eerie city, desperately trying to ignore the feeling of dread that immediately overcame them. Roxy shuddered nervously, eyeing every abandoned skull with deep uncertainty. It was like she could hear whispers from the shadows, but it must have been the wind playing tricks on her ears.
"You look in the Petpet Shop, I'll look in the woodland," Leo said after a long moment's silence.
Roxy glanced anxiously down at him. "I don't think we should split up."
"I promise it'll be fine," the Shoyru insisted, and grabbed her hands. "If I get scared I'll come straight back to find you. Plus, you won't be long in the shop anyways."
"Then surely we should just stick together?"
Leo shook his head. "The longer we delay, the longer we have to spend in this horrible place. And I just want to find Vani and get out of here."
Roxy sighed heavily. She was beyond reluctant to split up with her brother, but he had a point. They wanted to go through this as quickly as possible. The desperate need to find her bright-faced sister was becoming impossible to bear.
"Alright," she said at last. "Be safe." Leo smiled and hugged her quickly before hurrying off into the darkness of the trees.
Feeling even more nervous now that she was without both siblings, Roxy made her way inside the abandoned Petpet Shop. There were a few occupied cages of various petpets, each with healthy prices stamped above them. At the desk was a pot of Neopoints and a note. Roxy didn't bother paying attention to that and instead began to search every corner of the little shop. The petpets chirped and howled in curious excitement, and on any other day Roxy would have stopped to give them attention, but not today.
She decided it was all her fault. It was her fault that Vani went missing. Her fault that Leo was probably too traumatized to ever try trick or treating again. Her fault that they were even out in the first place - if she had just said no to Leo, they wouldn't be in this stupid mess.
After thoroughly checking the shop (which really didn't take long) and concluding that her little sister wasn't there, Roxy started to backtrack to find her brother. Somewhere in the woodlands... which were even more haunting and suspicious than the rest of Geraptiku. Roxy shivered involuntarily. I have to do this. For my little brother and my little sister. Yeah. I have to find them.
With that thought in mind, she determinedly pushed down the fear and made her way inside the woodlands, immediately being shrouded in dark shadows. She called her brother's name, pushing through bushes and branches that were too close together. As time rolled on and she found her way deeper and deeper into the woodland, Roxy grew more and more panicked, her heart thumping against her chest.
She was lost. Her siblings were nowhere to be found, and Roxy was stuck in a dark, eerie place with nothing left.
The Bori stood against a tree and tried to calm her frantic breathing. There was nothing to be afraid of; this place was abandoned, and only she and her siblings would be inhabiting it.
At least, that was what she thought.
Then the whispering started up.
Roxy thought her mind was conjuring up the hushed noises at first out of anxiety, but the longer she stood there, the more distinct the voices were. They ranged from obscure whispers to low growling noises. Whatever it was - or whatever they were - Roxy was officially freaked out.
"Leo?" she called nervously.
Then a noise sounded that made her heart plummet to her feet.
"Leo!" she shouted again, twice as desperate as before, frantically pushing branches out of her way as she bolted back through the trees to follow his voice. She would never, ever forgive herself if they never found her sister and something happened to her brother on top of that.
He screamed again, and again and again, and she followed his voice at an impossible lightning speed, fuelled by devastation and dread. She tripped and fell multiple times but kept getting back up and moving again, because when it came to it, her family meant the world to her. Fear and reluctance completely brushed aside. More than absolutely anything ever could, family came first.
As the realization hit her, she had to fight back tears as her throat choked up.
A scream suddenly sounded right behind her. Roxy jumped and whirled around, facing the bushes ahead. Leo must be right behind these, she thought with a surge of confidence.
But as she walked towards them, something latched onto her back and pulled her down.
Roxy shrieked in terror as she was brought to the ground, a weight pinning her down by her shoulders. She struggled and writhed desperately, hearing the blood rush in her ears, as she tried to escape the grip of her attacker. But it was no use; their grip was strong, and she had been caught off guard.
The Bori slumped. She had failed. Failed her family as well as herself. Everything was her fault. Neither of her siblings were currently safe - and who knows how hurt they were? - and she had failed hideously as an older sister. She hadn't done a very good job at protecting her family with every ounce of her being at all. It was just a shame that it had to end this way, and that she had to go down so pathetically, so weak. Roxy sighed, finally admitting defeat.
She waited for the attacking blow to be delivered.
But nothing came.
Suddenly the weight on top of her was gone, and there was a soft giggling noise behind her. Roxy immediately jumped up without thinking about it and spun around to face her attacker, only to freeze and gape in shock.
It was Vani.
The yellow Kacheek burst into hysterical laughter upon Roxy's stunned expression, to the point where she was lying on the ground, clutching hopelessly at her stomach. "You - you should've seen your face!" she wheezed, tears of laughter poking at her big eyes.
"What..." the Bori managed to utter, still frozen in a state of pure confusion.
There was a rustling behind them, and Roxy started and turned around, ready to face anything that was about to attack - but instead she was now faced with Leo himself, attempting to choke back his own laughter and failing miserably.
Roxy stared at both of them before it suddenly dawned on her. This whole night had been a prank. From the moment Leo begged her to come trick or treating and Vani insisted to come with. The two pets had been planning it all along - for days, even!
She should have been annoyed and scolding them for giving her such a fright and making her believe that they were both in incredible danger. She should have been at least a little bit angry that she had been so easily fooled. But instead, Roxy realized that she was just relieved, and even amused. Maybe even a little bit impressed at their cunning plan.
"I hate you both," she announced, but the tight hug that she pulled them both into suggested otherwise. They continued to laugh, and Roxy just smiled at them as they led her back into the heart of Geraptiku, and back out to Mystery Island.
Roxy realized something very important that Halloween: that she would immediately put her loved ones first, no matter what. Her family meant more to her than anything in the world and she knew, without a doubt, that she would do absolutely anything in her power to protect them and look after them.
Even with that epiphany in mind, that didn't stop her from already plotting the ultimate revenge.