The Ghosts of Roo Island: Part Three
I ran all the way to the carousel grounds. My legs were on fire, and my lungs felt I’d been painted Magma.
Finally, I was came through the trees into the clearing, my legs feeling like they might give way underneath me at any moment. I slowed up, and rested against a tree to get my breath back before continuing on to the carousel. The Yellow Blumaroo was still there, waving cheerfully as I approached.
That was just as well. I’d been half convinced that I was going to turn up to an empty space where the carousel had been. After all, wasn’t that how it went in most ghost stories? I suppose this isn’t a story, and I was clearly mixing up fiction and reality. Anyway, I was glad.
“Is that you, Illanari? The prodigal carousel rider returns as promised,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. Those Blumaroos, they aren’t half full of teeth. Tyrannian Lupes have nothing on them.
“Hello Peter, am I glad to see you,” I said, my breath still coming in heaves between sentences.
“As much as I’m glad you came back, I still have to charge you 50NP for the ride,” he said. “Sorry about that. Times are tough, and all.”
I shook my head. “No need to apologise, but unfortunately…I’m not here to ride the carousel today.”
And if I’d thought my mother or the Elephante nurse from the night before had looked more disappointed in me than anyone else ever could, I was dead wrong. This Blumaroo had them trumped.
Let’s all pretend my heart didn’t break a little bit at that look - and if you tell anyone it did, you better sleep with one eye open, mate.
“Still,” he said, seeming to muster a smile. “I suppose a visit is still lovely.”
I gave my best smile back, but my definitely-not-broken, not-even-a-little-bit heart was not in it.
“I actually came to ask you some questions, Peter.”
“Oh yes, about the carousel?” His eyes visibly brightened. Oh dear, this pet was determined to make me feel awful.
“No, actually,” I replied. “If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you, Peter?”
The Blumaroo frowned. “I don’t mind you asking at all. I’m - I’m -. Why, I can’t seem to remember.”
I nodded sadly, even as the distress was visibly in his eyes.
“That’s as I feared. Maybe you can tell me this, though, Peter, pal - how long has it been since you died?”
He blinked at me, clearly nonplussed. And then his frown deepened.
“Oh,” he said. “I remember now. It was twenty years ago. Almost to the day. But you know…I can’t close down the carousel. My partner and I promised, even after he left, that we needed each other’s permission to do that.”
I couldn’t help myself, so I reached over and gave him small, tight hug - and again, my threat above still stands.
“You have to let go, Peter, and stop haunting the hospital where your partner’s cottage used to be,” I told him, my voice as firm as it could be when he had an adorable face like that.
He shook his head quite violently. “Wait, I’m not haunting anywhere! I mean, I don’t think I am,” he said, scratching his bald head. “No, as far as I can remember, I only hang around the carousel these days.”
And that was the last Lightmite flash of information I needed. I grabbed hold of his stubby hand.
“Come on, Peter, I think I know where we can find your friend.”***
It turns out that while it only took a half hour for me to run from the hospital to the carousel grounds, Peter was not quite a sprightly as me. You’d think a ghost taking physical form wouldn’t have to worry about wearing his body out, but instead he moaned and groaned all the way about his old legs and old back and old everything else.
By the time we reached the hospital, almost two hours later, thanks to him being insistent we stop off at a tea shop for a rest, I was starting to lose serious patience. That’s right, a dead pet, a darned ghost, needed refreshments on what should have been a short walk! If he hadn’t been a ghost already…
I shook my head to try and shake the bad thoughts out. Not that it ever worked, it just made me look quite mad.
“Right, it’s around the back,” I said. I led him to the back of the hospital. We sat down on the grass, and I pulled out a sandwich I’d bought from the tea shop. I offered him half, sure he’d refuse because ghosts don’t need nourishment to my thin knowledge. But, no, he took half my sandwich. Strike two. It was also my favourite, Broccoli and Mustard. Strike two-and-a-half.
It was already 8PM, and I pulled my book out, while he drew a newspaper from his back pocket. Yet another thing we’d stopped for along the way.
“Oh, this is no good,” he said with a sigh, putting the newspaper down in his lap.
“What’s wrong?” This time, I added silently.
“The lighting is too dim, I can’t read a thing, even with that street lantern overhead,” he said. Thanks, captain exposition.
“Come here then, I’ll read it to you,” I said, taking it from his hands. “Kougras have excellent night vision, I’ll have you know.”
And that’s how I ended up reading the Times issue that week cover to cover, until the Blumaroo fell asleep half way through the Yooyu ball results. I lay down next to him, trying to ignore his snoring, and fell asleep myself for a short power nap, wondering once more why a ghost needed to sleep. Ridiculous.
I woke up at nearly midnight to sound of my name being whispered. My eyes cracked open, and from my topsy-turvy view on the ground, I saw the silhouette of my dear aunt leaning out of her window.
“Nari, will you get yourself up and in here! What in Fyora’s name are you doing sleeping out there?”
She sounded very pleased to see me.
“Just - I’ll be up in a bit, auntie,” I said, checking my watch. Ten to midnight.
With the rate the Blumaroo moved, no doubt it would take us that time to get up the ladder. I gave him a shake to wake him, and then moved off into the bushes to pull free my borrowed ladder. Yesterday, I’d gotten the hang of it, so it wasn’t too long before it was up against my aunt’s window again. This time, she was leaning out to help me guide it, thankfully.
“Come on, then,” I said to Peter. “Up we go! You go first so I can catch you if you fall.”
He nodded, as if he believed I’d risk my own life for someone who didn’t even have one. Ah, the faith of the old.
I helped him onto the first rung, and then he began his very slow ascent up. I waited for a few minutes, and then joined him. Up we went, slow as a Slorg, until finally we reached the top. From the inside, my auntie helped him in while I tried my best to do so from the outside, while also not tipping the ladder over. While Kougras might be land pets, I did not want to get back on the ground like that, thank you very much.
Finally, we were in the hospital room, more or less without incident.
“So, are you going to tell me who this strange Blumaroo is, Nari?” my aunt said.
“Aunt Keefa, meet Peter, Peter, meet Keefa,” I said, and they shook hands. “Peter is a friend of our ghost, auntie.”
She looked at him like he smelt of rotting chokatos. “A friend of a ghost, you say?”
I leaned over to whisper in her ear, “He’s also a ghost, he’s just not left his physically form.”
“Whispering in front of guests is quite rude, Illanari,” she chastised, but her eyes grew to the size of Kreludor.
I took the opportunity to check my watch again: it was just past midnight, so the ghost had to arrive any moment now. As if on cue (or maybe it could read minds - can ghosts read minds? I’ll have to check that out later), a howling like wind came down the hallway into the room.
Peter seemed to freeze up at the sound, and I wondered if he could recognise it as his friend already. I took his hand, and gave it a quick squeeze, which elicited a smile from the Blumaroo. I was going to help him home.
I led him out into the hallway slowly, my patience having been returned. After all, this might have been one of my last moments with him, and he had been so sweet until his moaning and groaning about walking so far had gotten on my nerves.
“Are you ready?” I whispered to him once we stood in the doorway.
“Y - yes, I think so,” he said. “I just want to see my friend again.”
I nodded, and gave him a smile, before taking him out into the middle of the corridor. His hand was still in my paw, and I could feel him shaking. I held on tighter, but I didn’t blame him. If I was about to meet my ghostly best mate and leave the physical world behind, I’d have the dung scared out of me too.
I spread my hind legs out, ready for the chill gust of wind that inevitably came as the howl grew closer and the ghostly entity rounded the corner to come towards us. It was moving faster this time, and reached us in no time, before it came to a halt in front of us.
I looked at Peter, whose eyes were welling up with tears. “That’s him, that’s Jono, my partner. He never left without me, like he said he wouldn't.”
“And you never left without him,” I said with a sad smile. I let go of Peter’s hand. “Go on then, join your friend and let you both rest.”
Peter looked as if he were about to step towards the ghost, before he turned back to me, and I saw some panic around his eyes.
“Illanari, I’m scared,” he said, his hand returning to grip mine.
“I know you are, Peter, and that’s normal. But rest now, and your friend will keep you safe. You’ll be happier with him than you will be alone, and lonely.”
Peter considered this for a moment before nodding. “You’re right, of course you’re right.”
And then he released my paw, and stepped towards his ghost friend, who seemed to be waiting for him with an arm outstretched to grab him. It happened so quickly. One moment, Peter the Yellow Blumaroo was standing besides me, the next moment he’d stepped away from the physical world and joined Jono in being a ghost.
They gave a loud howl as they seemed to grapple with each other, which I can only presume was the ghost equivalent of a bear hug. I watched them for a few moments, but they started to drift away back down the hallway. Just before the turned out of sight, I could have sworn I saw the ghost that was once Peter wink at me.
My eyes were wet when I returned to my aunt’s room, which means there must have been some onions around as I’d watched the whole thing. Darn onions, they get everywhere.
My aunt was standing to the left of the doorway, and had obviously been watching the events unfold. She gave me a big hug, and I definitely did not have a little cry on her shoulder. Nuh-uh.***
The next morning, my aunt was discharged from hospital, her leg perfectly well healed. I suspect that the fact she had a troublesome young niece visiting helped the recovery time speed right up, too.
It was also the next morning that my ferry back to the Mystery Isle was booked. I was excited to get back in the sun, sipping Juppie juice from dawn until dark and harassing the Island Mystic a couple of times a day. I swear the old Kyrii loves me, really.
Keefa insisted that even though she was fresh from the hospital, she would come down to the docks to see me off. I of course agreed, and at eleven o’clock sharp, she watched as I picked up my suitcase to go.
“It was lovely seeing you, Aunt Keefa,” I said, and hugged her. “But next time you want a ghost buster, be sure to call on someone else, okay?”
“With the job you did?” she said. “Believe me, Nari, I’ll be telling everyone in the family and their petpets what a good ghost hunter you are.”
She had a grin on her face, and I couldn’t tell if she was just winding me up or not. Knowing Keefa, the answer was probably ‘not’, but I decided to drop it.
“I’m glad Peter got to be with his friend again,” I said, watching some tourists board the same boat I was about to get on.
“Yes, and I’m glad no one will be harassing hospital patients anymore.”
The final boarding whistle blew from somewhere on board, and I embraced my auntie once more. “See you next time, in less ghostly circumstances, I hope, Aunt Keefa.”
“And you - thank for helping me out these last few days. Say hello to your mother for me!”
I boarded, and dumped my luggage in my cabin. Then I returned to the shabby but large deck to watch as my auntie vanished into a dot on the horizon.
It was then, of course, I remembered that I’d never returned the ladder to the builders, who might get fired for missing equipment.
I wanted to worry about it, I did, but Roo Island was in the distance now. I shrugged, and wondered off to find the juice bar onboard.