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The Lonely Ghost


by paperjeans

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     In some ways, Frankie was an average Usul. She had a beautiful, bushy tail perfectly styled into a curl and held together with a shiny, stain bow. She had a furry collar around her neck, which was more than just a fashion statement because it kept her warm. Usuls can get quite chilly, you know. She attended the local School alongside all the other 'Pets in Neopia Central. On the other hand, Frankie was not your average Usul. Her owner had decided this Halloween to paint her Ghost – and before you say it, her owner knew that Ghosts were not just for Halloween, they were for life. However, little did they know that this would make life sometimes difficult for poor Frankie because some of her other classmates did not take the same view.

     ***

     It all started in September, Frankie had just enrolled at NeoSchool and back then was just a basic blue Usul. She made friends easily and was a happy, chatty pet and was doing well in all her classes. Her favourite was Restocking as she enjoyed learning about haggling, the different shops and rarities of items and especially liked the talks from older 'Pets who had long left school and made a career out of it. The teacher, Mr. Market (pronounced Mar-kay) was a round Elephante with a shirt that was slightly too small and a wonky tie that was slightly too short, took this class. He was so knowledgeable on the subject, friendly to all the pupils and a firm favourite within the School. Frankie's aspiration was to become a "Elite Restocker", and to nab the best items at the lowest prices and sell them for a huge profit. Her dreams were big, and she knew she had to work hard at School to make this a reality, and that's exactly what she planned to do.

     ***

     Frankie had been at school for only a few weeks when the School posted a list of all the events happening over the coming year - one of which was a Halloween party at the Haunted Faire, in the nearby Woods. Frankie had always been a lover of Halloween - it was her favourite festive period, if she had to pick one - as she enjoyed going shopping with her owner and choosing her costume to go Trick or Treating. It would come as no surprise to you then, to learn that Frankie was beyond excited for her first Halloween at her new School and to see all the events they had planned.

     That day, Frankie rushed home from School to her owner, babbling excitedly about the things she had read about - costume competitions, apple bobbing and of course, the main attraction at the Haunted Faire. Her owner smiled as she listened, and as soon as Frankie took a breath, she interjected.

     "I've got a surprise for you..." her owner started, "and I think you're gonna love it!"

     Frankie started jumping up and down in excitement, "what is it?" she exclaimed, her mind running wild with all the things it could possibly be. A new costume? What about the new face paints she saw stocked in that shop in the Marketplace? Or, even better, maybe this year she'd be allowed to go Trick or Treating with her new friends?

     Her owner pulled out a neatly wrapped box and handed it to Frankie, who tore off all the wrapping paper and opened the box to find ---- a Ghost Paint Brush!!!! Frankie squealed with joy, and she could feel tears forming in her eyes. "Is this really for me?" she asked.

     Her owner nodded, overwhelmed with emotion at Frankie's reaction. "We will go to the Rainbow Fountain at the weekend, how does that sound?"

     Frankie flung herself into her owners arms, "thankyouthankyouthankyou" she burbled.

     ***

     The next morning, it was a Wednesday according to Frankie's socks, she skipped to school and couldn't believe she had to wait three whole days before the weekend! This was going to drag, Frankie sighed. How was she meant to make it until Saturday?!

     Throughout the day, Frankie told all of her friends in the classes about the Paint Brush but to her surprise, they did not react the same way as she had. They exchanged nervous glances between themselves, one Uni shuffled uncomfortably on the spot and muttered "oh.. that's great...". Frankie didn't care though, nothing could spoil her good mood! "Maybe their owners can't afford Paint Brushes," she thought, and made a promise to herself she wouldn't bring it up any more as she didn't want to rub it in their faces.

     The next few days passed sloooowly, and Frankie kept her promise – she didn't mention it once! Finally the bell rang for the end of the last class on Friday, and Frankie had never run so fast out of school. She rushed all the way home, gobbled up her dinner and was ready for bed without any fussing from her owner and scrunched her eyes shut and willed herself to fall asleep - the sooner she went to sleep, the sooner she would wake up and it would be Saturday!!!

     ***

     The birds were singing, as the sun rose into a cloudless sky. Frankie was gently woken up the light pouring in through a crack in her curtains, and she stirred. Suddenly, she bolted upright. IT WAS SATURDAY! Today was the day! Frankie whizzed down the stairs and into the kitchen, where her owner was sipping an Aisha Hot Chocolate. "What time are we leaving?" Frankie enquired, breathless from running.

     "Well, you'd best get yourself ready for the day and we will leave after break----"

     Before her owner had even finished that sentence, Frankie had charged back up the stairs to brush her teeth and get herself dressed. Her owner prepared Boiled Egg on Toast for each of them, which was delicious. Before they knew it, Frankie was heading hand in hand with her owner to the Rainbow Fountain.

     Frankie had never been there before, but she had read stories about it - even before she learned to read, her owner would tuck her up in bed and read her endless tales of 'Pets that visited the Rainbow Fountain and left looking completely unrecognisable, and the legend of the Fountain Faerie who bestowed her magic upon the waters.

     It was exactly as she had imagined, the fountain was pearly white and looked like it was made of clouds - like a snapshot of Faerieland in the middle of Neopian Central. The rainbow water shimmered in the sun light, like mirrors, reflecting multi-coloured light onto the surrounding buildings. The rest of the town hadn't woken yet, the silence of the early morning was only interrupted by the gentle trickling of the liquid magic.

     ***

     It didn't take long, for such a transformation. Frankie took the Paint Brush and approached the fountain and followed the steps closely that she had memorised from when she was a young 'Pet:

     Step 1: Dip the brush into the fountain, and swirl it around for a count of 10 (the magic from the Paint Brush enters the pool in a cloud of colour and sparkles)

     Step 2: Jump into the pool (don't worry, you won't get wet - it's magic, remember!)

     Step 3: Take the biggest breath you can possibly muster and dive under the water

     Step 4: When you resurface, your reflection in the water will not be the same

     Frankie emerged from the water, and her owner gasped - Frankie's once golden fur was now a spooky, blue-gray shade. Her blue features were now a off-forest green, and her tail was a gorgeous grey. Frankie's eyes, once mirrored the clear blue Kiko Lake were now a permanent piercing red. Her ears were now straggly and grey, and stuck straight up like match sticks. She was a picture fit for Halloween every day of the year.

     Frankie stared at her own reflection, this was going to take some getting used to but she couldn't have been happier.

     ***

     Monday morning arrived, the sound of alarm clocks filled the air, marking a new week. Frankie had settled into her new appearance beautifully, and the days of her old colour were fast fading. It had given her a new lease of confidence, and she was counting down the days to her favourite day of the whole year. She took a slow stroll to school, arrived with plenty of time before the bell rang and spotted a group of her classmates standing on the grass. Frankie made her way over there, and couldn't wait to show them what she looked like.

     As she approached, there was murmuring among the group and they all turned around to look. They all let out a collective gasp. Unfortunately this time, it was not a positive reaction. "We didn't think you'd go through with it, have you not heard what happens to Ghost pets?" one 'Pet exclaimed.

     Frankie was shocked, her eyes were beginning to brim as she tried to swallow the tears. She tried to open her mouth but no sound came out.

     "Everybody knows that Ghost pets get abandoned after Halloween, you'll be in the pound in no time. No way are we being friends with anybody that is going there" scoffed another 'Pet as the rest of the group nodded.

     Frankie couldn't listen to any more, she ran off and hid herself in a nearby cupboard and couldn't hold the tears back. What had she done?! The more she thought about it, the more she realised that she had never seen a Ghost pet at school before. There was plenty of Royals, Pirates, Pastels, Eventides... but no seasonal pets. Not one.

     ***

     The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur, Frankie was not her normal self, she was quiet and reserved. Even her favourite lesson couldn't cheer her up. Mr. Market knew that something was wrong - his best pupil was not getting involved in the class as much as usual. He requested that Frankie stay behind. As the classroom emptied, Frankie stared at the ground and waited for Mr. Market to say something. "Is everything okay, Frankie?" he asked, concerned.

     Frankie nodded, but Mr. Market did not look convinced, but decided to change the subject and thought perhaps that would cheer her up. "You are looking very ready for Halloween! Present from your owner was it?"

     Frankie's bottom lip started trembling, but she nodded again. "Yes, I love Halloween" she said, quietly.

     Mr. Market chuckled, "not long left to wait now! Are you going to the Haunted Faire?"

     The Haunted Faire! Frankie had completely forgotten. How can she possibly go to the Haunted Faire now? Everybody had turned on her in the space of one day. Of course she had noticed the whispers as she walked past, heard the mean comments hurled at her in the corridors and witnessed the crowds dispersing when she went to sit at a table for lunch. This had been the most miserable day of School so far. "Frankie?" repeated Mr. Market, snapping her out of her thoughts.

     Frankie shrugged, "I have to go now, my owner is waiting for me to get home, sorry Mr. Market" as she ducked out the classroom. She was so busy rushing out of the classroom she didn't notice a small Bruce coming in the opposite direction. His hat must have been obscuring his vision because they collided with a WHAM. Frankie flew backwards, and the Bruce skidded across the floor and landed in a crumple.

     ***

     "I'm so sorry" Frankie cried, as she went to help the poor Bruce up, "it's my fault, I wasn't looking where I was going."

     "No, it's my hat, it's too big," sighed the Bruce, almost as if this had happened before, dusting his black cloak off which had gathered some lint from the floor.

     "Least nobody is hurt," Frankie smiled, "I'm Frankie!"

     "My name is Henry," he timidly returned her smile. "I've not seen you around before..." He looked puzzled.

     "I was painted by my owner over the weekend, I---" Frankie started, for a minute she had forgotten the events of the day but then it all came flooding back and her face fell.

     "Don't be sad," Henry said gently, "so you ARE new... sort of. Meet me outside tomorrow morning before School, I've got something to show you!" and before Frankie could argue, he scurried off.

     Frankie didn't know why, but she knew that she could trust him. After all, he was painted Halloween.

     ***

     The next morning, Frankie arrived at School bright and early and waited for her new friend, Henry. Part of her thought that she had imagined yesterday, because she felt so lonely.

     "Pssssstttt," a noise from behind Frankie startled her, she spun around to see Henry's face peeking out from behind a plant. "Over here," he motioned with his hand.

     Frankie couldn't help but giggle, as he looked so funny poking out from behind that plant pot. She made her way over there, and there Henry was, crouching down on the grass. "You can't let anybody see us, it will ruin the secret," he whispered.

     Henry looked out from behind the plant once more, and must have decided that the coast was clear because without a word, he started marching off down a path that Frankie had never seen before. She ran to catch up with him, and they fell in synchronised steps beside one another, silently.

     A few minutes later, he pointed with his paw towards a large hut in the distance. "See that?" he asked, "that's where we're heading. That's where we all hang out!"

     He noticed Frankie's confusion, and smiled knowingly. By this point, they had reached the thatched door to the hut. Henry swung the door open, and stepped inside with Frankie in tow.

     ***

     It was magnificent. Decorated for Halloween, cobwebs carefully placed around the windows and purple and orange paper chains hanging from the ceiling. Warm and toasty inside, with a smell of pumpkin in the air, and a hum of friendly chatter. Was Frankie dreaming? She wasn't sure.

     The room was filled with two circular tables, with Halloween tablecloths adorned with plastic spiders and spooky snacks. Around these tables sat a few 'Pets, they all had their backs to Henry and Frankie standing at the door. Henry cleared his throat. "Morning all," he announced.

     The chatter stopped, the 'Pets turned around and cheered, "morning Henry!" and invited him to their table. Frankie scanned the faces of these 'Pets, she had never seen them before, But one thing she noticed was... they were all painted Seasonal colours. Frankie smiled, and followed Henry to sit with them, ready to introduce herself.

     ***

     A couple of weeks passed, and Frankie had all but forgotten about that horrible day. Some of the other pets had warmed towards Frankie again, and she accepted their offer of friendship, but she knew that she had found her true friends who accepted her for who she was.

     Frankie thought before that there was nobody like her in the School, but the truth is that she never really looked. Her new friends had been sat in her classes all along. She had also learned that all of her new friends had gone through exactly the same thing as she did, and she was going to make sure that nobody had to go through that again.

     All their free time was spent planning for the upcoming Haunted Faire event - fortunately for them, they didn't have to work out what to wear! They had decided all of the activities they wanted to do, all of the food stalls they wanted to visit and the Haunted House was the grand finale.

     Before they all knew it, it was Halloween - the day of the Faire. The School had arranged for them to spend the day there, as the Haunted Faire only took place once a year. Frankie wore a skull clip that looked like it was made out of petrified bone in the fur around her ears, just to add to her already spooky appearance. She and Henry paired up together as they embarked on the journey with the others to the Haunted Woods, with the beady supervision of Mr. Market.

     Once they arrived and given their instructions to stay within their groups, Frankie and her friends started at the very beginning of their itinerary - apple bobbing. Frankie soon got the hang of it, and on her third attempt she managed to win a ruby red, crunchy apple!

     ***

     The rest of the day was filled with excitement and fun challenges and activities - even sampling some peanut butter spiders from the nearby stall. Between them, they had won a selection of prizes which included some scratchcards. Henry was very proud of his plushie, he had been after that one for ages but couldn't ever catch it in the shops.

     The group found themselves at the entrance of a grand mansion - the Haunted House. The windows were cracked and dark, you couldn't possibly see inside. The outside was overgrown, full of nettles and roots slightly elevated from the ground to trip up unsuspecting trespassers. The door creaked open, and they all looked at each other, faces of terror mirrored across them. Frankie was not afraid, so she took the lead and made her way up the steps and into the foyer. The carpets inside were torn at the edges and worn in other places. The candles that lined the walls had not been lit in years, and covered in a thick layer of dust. To their left, was a huge pile of lanterns. Their group grabbed a few to share between them, and they began their adventure.

     ***

     There was a scream, and then lots of voices shouting. Frankie made out the word "help" and began running to find the source of the shouting, her friends followed. They were still on the ground floor, and had already encountered a Ghost Kacheek, a unidentified Zombie and Spyders in every room - nothing had made Frankie jump yet, she insisted. Anyway, the creatures that lived in the house had all gone about their business and had not paid any attention to Frankie and her friends – it's like they fitted right in.

     They ran up the stone steps, eroded in some areas and holes in others, leaping from place to place so they didn't slip or fall through. More shouting - "HELP!!!" "SOMEBODY HELP US!!". Frankie recognised those voices... they were her old friends. They searched room by room and finally found them in the right wing in what looked like an old library, caught in a huge web and bound tightly, guarded by several Spyders. They were struggling to move but it was no use. Staring down at Frankie, Henry and the rest of their group was the Uni and a few other 'Pets that had been mean previously.

     "Frankie... please... it's us, please help us," one of the 'Pets begged. There were three of them in total, and they were getting more and more stuck as the minutes passed.

     Frankie was frozen on the spot, Henry and the others were looking at her, she was trying to think of a plan on how to get them out. Then... it came to her. Frankie and her friends had no trouble so far walking around the house, maybe that's because the creatures were more afraid of them. She spotted her good friend, Rory the Halloween Ruki, and her plan came to life.

     "Don't worry, we'll free you," Frankie turned to her friends and she started to tell them of her plan. It wasn't going to be easy, but they had to do something.

          ***

     "Promise me that you won't ruin them!" Rory exclaimed, as he unrolled his bandages from his outfit.

     "Er... sure..." Frankie replied, unconvincingly, helping him.

     Henry was ordering the rest of the group around, assembling his Scorchio friend on the shoulders of his Mynci friend. "You have to stay there, we are going to wrap the bandages around you to create one big monster to scare away those Spyders! You can't lose your balance!"

     A short while later, and a whole lot of team effort, the two 'Pets were fully wrapped in bandages with a broomstick that they found in a holder. The Scorchio's red eyes were piercing through the bandages, and they certainly looked very frightening. "Come on, we don't have much time!"

     The Mummy staggered slowly into the room, where the other 'Pets were being held, waving the broomstick around and wobbling all over the place. The closer they got to the webs, piercing the Spyders with those crimson eyes, the more they retreated into a nearby crack in the tapestry on the ceiling, until they had gone from sight.

     "Hooray!" they all cheered, but they knew that they didn't have much time to free them as the Spyders would be back to claim their treats that they'd caught.

     They started to search the room for sharp objects to cut the webs loose, but there was nothing of any use in the surrounding rooms.

     Then, Henry had a idea! "I've got it, Frankie pass me your skull hairpin!"

     "You're a genius," Frankie grinned, as she removed the hairpin from her head and passed it over to Henry. He clambered up the Mummy, hoisting himself up with dangling part of the bandage and climbed on top of them. Bit by bit, he cut each of the 'Pets free from their imprisonment and they slid down the bandages onto the safety of the floor below.

     Soon, all of them were free and they gathered outside, away from the webs. The three 'Pets that had been rescued looked very sheepish. "Thank you, we don't know what we would have done if you guys hadn't showed up. We're so sorry for the things that we have said to all of you and we wouldn't have blamed you if you didn't help us" they began. "A lot of us have been painted Snow, Halloween and Zombie before, and after the festive period has passed we have just been dumped in the pound. We didn't want to be reminded of that, and that's why we were so mean to you, but we were wrong. We are truly sorry."

     "You are forgiven, as long as you promise to never treat anybody like that again!" as they nodded in unison. Frankie smiled at them, and looked around at her new friends. She had her old ones to thank for where she was now, so how could she be angry. She was ready to forgive and forget, and she thought to herself "this has been the best Halloween yet!"

      The End.

 
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