I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, and I heard Corvina’s voice politely address me, “Uh, Mister Fenmore… You need to wake up!”
“How did you know I fell asleep?” I sat a large textbook upright on my desk to shield my face so no one could see me as I rested my eyes, so it shocked me that she had been able to decipher my cognitive status! I hadn’t intended to nod off, but since I learned that I had indeed begun to slumber, I couldn’t comprehend how she would have found that out!
“Um… We could hear you snoring!” Corvina sheepishly let me know. I heard her peers snickering behind her, and my splitting headache grew even deeper! Once they simmered down, my anguish lessened slightly, and I felt tempted to conk out again! I resisted the temptation, and if I hadn’t been so overcome with achiness, I would have laughed out loud from the realization that a room packed with teenagers was somehow quieter than my house with four adults! Well, five if you count Babelsama’s haunted portrait, but still! I lifted my heavy head up, and I beheld a girl in an outfit that looked as though it had been pilfered from Ginger’s wardrobe! The bubble-gum pink dress had a quaint, old-fashioned charm to it, and she had her hair pulled back with a matching bow. I didn’t remember ever making her acquaintance, and it embarrassed me to think that a new student’s first impression of me had been formed from such an ineloquent pose! I collected myself the best that I could, and I courteously questioned her, “Hi! Is this your first day here?”
She corrected my misconception, “Mister Fenmore, it’s me, Corvina!”
Her classmates all chortled at that bout of obliviousness, and I had to get a second glance at the appearance of the young lady standing before me! Corvina typically wore dark makeup and gothic clothes, so to see her in lightly shaded cosmetics and brightly colored garments made her practically disguised as a totally new person! “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you in that… Why are you dressed like that? I mean, you have every right to wear what you please, but… why…?”
“My clothing was meant to be a statement of counter-culture, and since that standard has started to change, so have mine!” Corvina gestured to the kids seated at their desks, and it bewildered me to see so many of them wearing all black!
“Did someone die?” I inquired. I sincerely hoped for an alternative explanation to my guess, and while the truth was less daunting, I definitely didn’t like the response I received…
One of the bleakly dressed students filled me in, “We are preparing ourselves for the Underworld takeover! The undead will return, and we’re ready to pay our respects!”
I groaned, “Oh jeez! Not this FAUK club again!”
“It’s not FAUK!” one of the girls chided me. “It’s the F-A-U-K! And it’s a serious institution! Colin didn’t bury himself! And the people who saw that mummy swore it looked real! And it smelled real too!”
‘Yeah, and some people swore the same thing about the Loch Ness monster…!” I pointed out. She wasn’t wrong, but I didn’t want her to know that! I felt certain that this FAUK club had something to do with Damon’s presence, and the less credibility he got, the less likely he was to have a real impact on this high school!
A boy piped up, “Hey! My uncle’s seen that one! Back in the eighties, he went to Scotland and-.”
I cut him off, “Alright, alright! We’ve had enough of a delay! It’s time for your lesson! Actually, we’re doing a pop quiz today!”
“What? You didn’t mention anything about having a quiz today!” a student objected.
“That’s why it’s called pop quiz! In this case, pop means surprise, you know, like a balloon! It just shows up in front of you, and then suddenly, it pops!” Upon hearing my description of this term, I didn’t feel as though I had made any sense! Evidently, the kids couldn’t make heads or tails of it either because they all stared at me with blank expressions! I realized that my hangover was having quite the effect on my abilities, so I shook it off as much as possible in order to speak to them, “Listen, it doesn’t matter! You’re doing a quiz today, okay?”
One of the teens whined, “No! It’s not okay!”
I snapped, “Too bad! Get your pencils out!” After passing the material out to the class, I went back to my desk and resumed hiding behind the book. I made sure not to snooze in this instance, but I wanted to endure my agony without drawing their concern. I had a sneaking suspicion that Corvina’s eyes flickered towards my direction a couple of times, but thankfully, she didn’t comment on my faltering health! I was super grateful that I had this quiz handy because if I had to do a bunch of talking that day, I would have had to call in sick! And I wouldn’t have gotten any rest at home! As I covertly languished on my desk, I inwardly prayed that our obnoxious ghost pal would stay quiet during this shift!
Phoebe and I barely paid attention to what we were noshing on- we were only eating this snack to avoid tossing our cookies when we took the medicine that currently fizzed in our cups! Fletcher appeared at our table and remarked, “You two look terrible!”
“Thanks! We feel terrible!” Phoebe retorted.
“You’re lucky I brought a couple of these!” Aleck placed two bottles of a sports drink in front of us, and since we seemed perplexed over his motivation for doing that, Aleck rationalized, “The electrolytes will help ease your symptoms. My kid has karate practice right after school, but we can always grab more on the way home.”
After Phoebe and I took a few sips, I noticed it did seem to alleviate my symptoms a bit! I probably should have displayed some gratitude to him, but prior to articulating this sentiment, I pondered, “How did you know?”
Ginger jumped in, “It’s kinda obvious! Besides, we figured you were drunk when you sent this text!”
She showed her phone to me, and apparently, I had messaged the group that urinating (which was spelled wrong!) on the key doesn’t destroy it, and I bemoaned my clumsy action! “I didn’t piss on my pants- I forgot to let Jett out, so she peed on them!”
“Why were your pants off?” Ellie probed. She quickly followed that with, “Never mind, I don’t wanna know!”
“Ahem! We may have been a little tipsy last night, but we were right about our next move!” Phoebe asserted. “The sooner we destroy the key, the sooner we get rid of Damon! Babelsama wouldn’t have any motivation to keep him around if the key no longer existed!”
A nearby teacher that I hadn’t been introduced to yet asked, “Why would destroying a key get this Babelsama person to go away?”
We all froze when it registered to us that our conversation was no longer private! Knowing that he had overheard something as embarrassing as my trousers get soaked (which, for the record, I took off to put on my pajamas!) was bad enough, but if anyone outside of our group listened to the whole Netherworld phantom thing, we would have to pack our bags straight away! Trying to sort this out with prospective new employers would have proven to be cumbersome, but more seriously, if we left Rosemary King at such a critical juncture, a lot of innocent students would get harmed! We knew we would need to exercise more caution going forward, but what were we going to do about the information that already got exposed? Yes, some strange occurrences had taken place here, but most of the staff had logical justifications for what went on, and I could only have imagined what outcome would have resulted if the faculty had a sincere grasp of the supernatural reality of this scenario! My ill disposition rendered me struggling to contemplate anything, but someone needed to come up with something soon in order to avoid a shrewd watchfulness of our behavior! No one else volunteered, but all I could produce was, “We can’t tell you.”
“Why not?” our coworker puzzled.
“We’re writing a play,” Aleck fibbed. “We can’t give out any spoilers!”
I had no clue how Aleck was able to concoct that story so fast, but I felt so relieved that he did because now we could discuss the issue freely under the guise of composing a theatrical experience! The man bought that claim and happily returned to his meal, and then Ellie took the reigns on our previous discourse, “Right… So, our heroes can’t just focus on destroying the key! There are monsters actively attacking their community, so they need to focus on how to deal with them first! And we need to show more about the villain’s history too!”
No one relished the prospect of additional work, and after some mild moans, Fletcher spoke up, “Who cares what he did in the past? He’s ben an asshole his whole life, how’s that gonna help us? I mean, the heroes…”
“The more they learn about the villain, the easier it’ll be for them to take him down,” Ellie argued. “They can keep fighting off his attacks, or they can find out why he’s attacking the town at all! Then they can use that to stop him!”
“How many protagonists do you have?” another teacher inquired.
Phoebe replied, “Six.”
That same teacher opined, “Oh, that’s too many! You’ll only complicate the plot that way!”
“It’ll be fine,” Ginger brushed her off before circling back to our chat, “But we know why he’s doing it- his girlfriend dumped him! Well, that and his demon boss is making him do it…”
“Oh, this play is gonna be amazing! Don’t you agree?” another teacher gushed to her colleagues.
Ginger completed her original thought, “What else do we need to know?”
Ellie stated, “That’s exactly it! We don’t know what we don’t know! If we don’t investigate it, we might miss something important!” We all bore skeptical expressions, so she persisted, “Hey, we don’t’ have any ideas on how to destroy the key anyways, so maybe this’ll help us find our… their… ticket out of this mess! How are we gonna find the answer if we don’t search through every corner possible? It’s not like the solution is just gonna fall out of the sky!”
As if on cue, we heard a chorus of screaming immediately following her speech! We all grumbled, especially Phoebe and me, and I muttered, “This better not be important!”
“Don’t you mean it better be important?” one of the educators in the room attempted to gain clarification on my phrasing.
“Nope!” I disputed, “I wanna learn it’s meaningless crap and go back to my lunch! I do not wanna deal with another emergency right now!”
When we ran out to the hallway that bordered the parking lot, I anticipated an encounter with something sinister coupled with some traumatized youths, but instead, we saw a scourge of merriment! Cotton balls were pouring out of the sky like raindrops, and the children who changed upon this area played in it as if it was snowing. They threw it at each other, made angels on the ground, and even created some artwork out of it! Everyone was having a ball with the cotton (See what I did there?), well… almost everyone…
Casper hid behind a set of trash cans whimpering pathetically! I couldn’t resist, I had to pounce on this opportunity! “Casper! Your greatest fear is freaking cotton balls!?!”
“You don’t have to rub it in!” Casper wailed.
“Oh, I disagree!” I flouted.
I wanted to continue to capitalize on the fortuity of stumbling upon this jerk in such a deservingly miserable position, but we heard someone else suffering from this development… Roxy pat a nearby bush comfortingly and soothingly bolstered it, “It’s alright, my love! You did great! You see how scared you made Mister Von Dutchman?”
Damon barked, “No! Too many idiots are getting joy out of this! It’s unbearable!”
“You know, a bear would have had the same effect on him without causing anyone else any joy!” I leaned on lamppost next to Roxy and this bush. “So, Roxy, having a biblical moment, are you?”
“Um, the bush from there was burning…” Roxy riposted.
I took that lighter I used on the mummy on the previous day (which I only had with me so I could bestow it back to the kid I borrowed it from. Technically, they weren’t allowed to bring these on campus, but I didn’t feel right keeping it, so I planned on secretly sliding it over to him… Anyways…), and I chirped, “Here, I can remedy that!”
Damon morphed back into a ghost and flew out of sight before anyone else detected his presence! Roxy chased after him and beckoned him to abandon his retreat, and everyone else wen on with their cotton ball festivities until… All of the cotton balls unexpectedly zipped to one spot and combined themselves to form a single entity- a fear monger! Fletcher snatched my lighter (Well, it wasn’t mine, but it was in my possession) and swiftly ignited the creature, who happened to surface in the planter where Damon had just been. The students were befuddled as to why their source of amusement had vanished, and Fletcher’s clandestine endeavor only enhanced that feeling even further! They could see the smoke, but they didn’t catch sight of the fear monger, so I don’t blame them for any head scratching they did! Fortunately for us, Ginger and Ellie put out the flames with the dirt already there and the bell rang before anyone could deliberate on these incidents! Aleck called out, “You’re gonna be late! Let’s go!”
As we headed to our classrooms, Casper joined us and cracked, “I knew all along that a spectral spirit was the cause of the commotion! It’s lucky for you that I got involved- you all are terrible at handling this sort of business!”
I glared at him, but before I could manifest a snappy comeback, Phoebe reached into her purse and handed a mysterious object to me. “Here you go, babe!”
It was a cotton ball! I waved it in front of Casper, who immediately let out a high-pitched scream and bolted out of our vicinity! Once we all had a hearty laugh, we took to our cellphones to discretely communicate with each other. We would never admit it to him, but Casper did assist us in gaining a new tool to use against Damon! How we would implement it was our next challenge…