The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 13

A tall, thin young man walked away from three of his peers in a huff. “What? You’re crazy!”

            “No, I mean it!” the short, scraggly girl in the middle insisted as a shadowy trio followed him. “You’re so lucky you got to meet the undead!” Ellie, Fletcher, Ginger, Aleck, Phoebe, and I set our books down on the table in front of us and tuned in to this nearby conversation.

            “He tried to kill my girlfriend, I’d hardly call that lucky!” The young man picked a book up off of the shelf and feigned interest in perusing it with the hopes of convincing the odd bunch to retreat.

            The hefty boy who wore his black hood up argued, “No, he would have made her undead, which is way better! You could literally be together forever!”

            Shaking his head, the young man countered, “I’d rather live her, not die! Or undie! Whatever! Same thing!”

            “No, it’s not!” the lanky, pot-marked guy debated. “That’s gonna be life from now on! The sooner you embrace it, the happier you’ll be in the long run!”

            “Will you leave me alone?” The young man frowned as he gazed at the content of the literature he had chosen, tossed it on the table closest to him, and marched away from the darkly clothed threesome.

            After the young man passed our table, I stood up and blocked the ghoulish gang’s path, and then I addressed them, “How many different ways does he have to say no to you before you’ll get the hint?”

            The scraggly girl protested, “But Jeffrey needs to be saved!”

            I retorted, “Listen, I hate to break it to you… That’s not true, I thoroughly enjoy it… The world isn’t coming to an end anytime soon! And I’m not giving you an extension on your project, so none of the weird rituals you have set for tonight will excuse you from turning it in on time!” The shady set glared at me and walked away muttering words that would probably have landed them in detention if class was in session!

            Feeling rather proud of myself for successfully barring them from harassing Jeffrey, I rejoined the Ghost League and remarked, “That FAUK club is getting way too powerful!”

            “Indeed,” Aleck concurred. “I’ve seen a sudden spike in dropouts too! But we can talk about that later! Right now, Sir Pompous Dorkington is talking to your boy!”

            “No!” I bolted out of my chair to search for them.

            A couple of rows away, I found that Casper had pulled Jeffrey to a small clearing by a small, open window and very gallantly offered him advice, “Layer on the eyeliner! Don’t worry, no one can tell you’re wearing it, and it’ll help ward off the evil spirits who cross your path!”

            I cracked a smile as I casually leaned against a shelf and quipped, “Did you forget to wear it during your cotton ball attack?”

            “Well… You know, nothing is ever a hundred percent!” Casper stammered.

            “I don’t wanna ward off evil spirits or join them!” Jeffrey moaned. “Maybe I should just drop out and stay home ‘til this is all over!”

            This was absolutely unacceptable to me! I put a hand on his shoulder and affirmed, “Don’t do that! No evil spirit is gonna harm you! Not while I’m around!”

            Casper sniffed disapprovingly and scoffed, “You think you can take care of evil spirits?”

            Before I could make a snappy comeback implying how I already had done that in several instances, Jeffrey espied something out the window that made him gasp. I turned around and saw a pale man in a black cape floating in the air! Casper dug through his pockets and declared, “I have just the thing for this situation! Where is it?”

            I rolled my eyes, and as the vampire floated towards us, I took a tome off of a shelf and shoved it into the vampire’s mouth! He had sunk his teeth into it and couldn’t get his fangs out, so he began to suffocate! When he finally succumbed to his fate, he barreled out the window and plummeted to the earth! I folded my arms and smugly told Casper, “To answer your question, yes, I think I can take care of evil spirits!”

            “You choked him! That’s not proper vampire-fighting technique!” Casper whined while flailing some necklace with a hand and an eyeball on it.

            “Well, it worked, so…” I smirked at Casper’s irate expression and then faced Jeffrey again. “You’re only a few months from graduation, don’t give up! You can survive ‘til then! You already faced your greatest fear, so what’s the worst they can do to you now?”

            Jeffrey inquired, “So, I don’t have to wear eyeliner?”

            I chuckled, and then I replied, “Have to? No. But if you choose to, I can ask Ms. Caracy if she has an extra one!” He smiled gratefully to me and then took off. I beamed as the warm satisfaction of inspiring a kid to stay in school settled in.

            Momentarily, I had forgotten about Casper’s presence until he agitatedly stated, “You know, I invited Phoebe to go on a date with me prior to your arrival. She refused and said that staff members weren’t allowed to mingle like that!”

            It startled me to hear that he had taken that sort of interest in my girlfriend, but I got comforted by the fact that she had the foresight to say no to this blowhard! I responded to him, “What do you want me to tell you? Something other than she didn’t like you?”

            Casper fumed, “Yes!”

            He stomped away in the most tantrum-like manner possible, and I shook my head judgmentally. It was thrilling to have both defeated a fear monger and show him up simultaneously, but I didn’t want to have to deal with either again in the near future, so I decided to head back. As I headed in that direction, I spotted a book on alchemy. The spoon/key was silver, but I thought perhaps that it could have been merely silver plated. Perhaps this publication could have been helpful to our cause! But more importantly, it gave me an idea on how to shift from calling Phoebe my girlfriend to my fiancée! I took an index sheet by a card catalog computer with the intentions of proposing on the paper, hiding it in the manual, and letting Phoebe find it! I got as far as “Will you…” when something occurred to me… If I got adjacent to a fear monger, then that meant something else was around the corner…

            “We already tried that!” Ginger pointed out to Fletcher.

            “Um, excuse me, I think I would have remembered if we hurled the key into the belly of a whale!” Fletcher differed.

            Ginger corrected him, “No, I mean swallowing it. Connor gulped it down to keep Babelsama from getting it int the first place!” Ginger recognized my appearance reassured me, “Not that you’re anything like a whale…”

            My angst over my urgent message to them had been in the forefront of my mind, so I hadn’t jumped to that conclusion at all… Although, now that she mentioned it, I did grow a little self-conscious! Before I could take advantage of this reference to myself to break the news to them, Aleck piped up, “Well, they are both mammals! But not all whales have traditional teeth, so we couldn’t throw the key into just any whale! For instance, if we came across a blue-.”

            “We’re not using a whale!” Phoebe cut him off. “And we don’t even need to completely destroy it; if we ruin even a part of the key, it wouldn’t fit into the hole properly and the portal couldn’t reopen!”

            “How do we damage it though?” Ellie wondered. “None of the stuff we did to try and obliterate it even left a scratch on it! Fire didn’t work! Neither did bleach or that weird crap Aleck tried.”

            Aleck took exception to that, “It’s not weird! It’s a very common industrial-!”

            Finally losing my patience, I interrupted, “None of this matters right now!”

            “Yes, it does!” Aleck refuted. “We gotta use process of elimination in order to-.”

            “Listen!” I snapped. “I wasn’t talking to Jeffrey the whole time I was back there! I slayed another vampire, so-.”

            Ginger commented, “That’s not funny, Connor! Why are you making a joke like that? Trying to give us all horrible flashbacks?”

            I sarcastically remarked, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do! That’s totally my type of humor!”

            “I hadn’t considered that before!” Ginger admitted ponderously. “Your comedy is usually some lame dad jokes!”

            “Lame?” I repeated while feeling slightly stung. I was about to brush that slander off when some very familiar snickering sounded from a table behind us! Everyone’s eyes widened with horror, and I let them know, “That’s what I was trying to tell you! I guess after Lisa’s attack, vampires became Jeffrey’s greatest fear!”

            Everybody’s attention shifted from studying to unearthing what disguise Damon was currently using. After a long moment of not garnering any clues, Ellie griped, “How are we gonna figure out what’s new here? He’s probably some book, and how would we know if they got any fresh inventory?”

            As we all contemplated this dilemma, I caught sight of a hand stretching out from beneath the table where Jeffrey had thrown that book! “Hey guys!” I whispered and used my noggin to subtly gesture towards this activity. When everyone got on the same page (of the scenario, not any of the novels we had out), we all quietly stood up and tiptoed over to that area. The hand was still groping for that text when we shoed up, and not surprisingly, the culprit was revealed to be none other than Roxy! She didn’t seem to have any sort of awareness to the audience she now had, so I decided to announce our proximity to her by jesting, “Is this part of another spell?”

            Roxy immediately jerked her hand back towards her as if we hadn’t seen her pawing at the table seconds ago, and then she lied, “Uh, yeah! I’m on the floor to… curse the library… for some reason!”

            “That’s interesting! We came here to check out some books! Hey, this looks like a fantastic one!” I could see the apprehension overflowing on her visage as I picked up that hardcover, which confirmed our theory of its true nature. I went on with my ruse to gauge whether or not she would feed us anymore information, “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to read about… You’ve gotta be kidding me!” I assumed that Jeffrey had discarded this print due to his frustration over the FAUK-ers who were hassling him, but I realized that he may have had an alternate motive for doing that! “He did this just to piss me off!”

            “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Phoebe read the title over my shoulder. “He misspelled Shakespeare again! Uh, I mean, the author…” Phoebe gazed to Roxy to verify that her fib had been accepted by her.

            Roxy had the demeanor of a deer in headlights, but otherwise, she hadn’t divulged any other tidbits, so I determined that I needed to step it up a notch. “Maybe we can fix some of the errors when we return it. We could replace the material with the accurate version. Like this page, it’s got all kinds of wrong!” I held the tome towards the ceiling and pretended as though I meant to rip it…

            A stern, rather bird-like woman snatched if from me and scolded, “Shame on you for disrespecting one of my books like that!”

            “He was gonna take it apart before he brought it back!” Roxy stood up and tattled. It irked me that she opted to use that juncture to use her wits for once!

            “He was joking!” Ginger defended me against that accusation. “He’s got a great sense of humor, we were all just saying that!” I pondered if Roxy overheard that conversation, but since she hadn’t redressed that claim, I concluded that she hadn’t and breathed a sigh of relief.

            Aleck requested, “Can we still check it out?”

            The librarian shrilly denied him, “Absolutely not! Not until your buffoonery is more respectful of the wonderful works in my-!” She glanced at the cover, and her expression contorted into disgust. “I don’t remember authorizing this publication!” She thumbed through it, and her scowl became even more pronounced. “Oh dear! This one will have to get incinerated!” As she darted in the direction of the front desk, Roxy trailed her and made vain attempts to persuade her to spare that novel. The six of us in the Ghost League inwardly laughed as we imagined Damon’s recoil as she unknowingly dragged him to an inopportune fate!

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 10

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…

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 9

“Can I declare you legally insane yet?” I shouted to Roxy as Phoebe and I got out of the car. When we looked across the street, we could see her in a tree hanging upside down and making strange gestures in our direction.

            Roxy crossly responded to me, “This is how the spell works! I’m getting revenge on you for interfering with Damon’s plans and making him so miserable!”

            I didn’t bother to ask her what effect this hex was supposed to produce since I could tell that whatever it was, she was doing it wrong! “Okay then!” Phoebe and I turned away and headed inside.

            Roxy called after us, “That’s right! Run from fright!” She manically cackled as we stood in the mudroom and unlocked the front door. I’m not sure how she got the impression that we were hurrying to go home because neither of us were in a rush to endure the chaos that was bound to ensue in our abode…

            Usually, the minute we stepped into our home, we got greeted with the dissonance of Blaise and Miriam’s perpetual arguing, but today, we were met with the dulcet racket of what I initially interpreted as an angry bear! I groaned as I mentally prepared myself to go through another battle, and I wondered whether Damon was haunting us now too or if Roxy’s peculiar jinx actually succeeded. From the living room, Miriam could see our startled behavior and grew very alarmed herself. “What’s happening?”

            “You’re not worried about that dangerous creature in the house?” I inquired.

            “That’s a bit of a harsh way to refer to my husband!” Miriam replied. “Alright, so he’s sorta wild like an animal, but he’s not…” She appeared to have changed her opinion on whether or not he ought to get referred to as dangerous, and then she probed, “We’ve been here for a few days now, you don’t recognize the noises he makes?”

            I told her, “Normally, Phoebe is playing her nature sounds, so his snores get drowned out! Or at least they blend in with what we’re playing! Now that I think about it, yesterday’s thunderstorm track did sound like it was playing in surround sound! But you use our bathroom every night, haven’t you noticed that?”

            Miriam shrugged. “I guess I assumed that you had bad weather nearby. Plus, I get so relieved to get a break from him for a minute that I don’t worry about anything else!” She espied our wet hair and clothing, so she questioned us, “Did something crazy occur at work today?”

            “No, we had to clock out early ‘cause we got caught skinny dipping the school’s pool!” Phoebe sarcastically remarked. Miriam seemed like she believed her explanation, so she clarified, “That was a joke! Rosemary King doesn’t’ have a swimming pool! Although, based on how much water came out of the sprinklers, we probably could sustain one if we wanted to!”

            “Someone set a small fire in a classroom,” I conveyed to her. It was a lie, I simply neglected to mention that I was that somebody and that I did it on purpose in an attempt to kill a monster set loose by a petulant phantom! I had my suspicions that she or Blaise had something to do with the potion that created the window to the Netherworld, and if my theory proved correct, I didn’t want them to get the satisfaction of knowing how much emotional turmoil their endeavor caused so far! And if she wasn’t privy to the knowledge of these events, then I didn’t want her to get the impression that we were psychotic!

            Phoebe queried me, “Do you need to use the bathroom? I’m gonna take a shower.”

            I teased her, “Didn’t you get enough of a rinse today?”

            “Yeah, I’m sure that spray was totally clean!” she kidded. “Do you need to use the bathroom or not? You know how long I take…”

            “Nah, I can hold it,” I assured her. She gave me a kiss before going into our bedroom, and right after she shut the door, I began to reconsider my position on this matter. I contemplated if I could refrain from emptying my bladder immediately or not, and I almost rushed in to use the toilet prior to the onset of her bathing. I could hear the pipes running, so I realized that I waited too long to decide. I considered writing a funny message to her using the steam that would shortly cake the mirror, but then it dawned on me that I could use that opportunity to propose instead! I gazed forlornly at the diamond ring in my pocket and pondered if she would have found that approach romantic or if she would get mad from getting confronted by this while she was naked…

            Quite abruptly, Miriam posed to me, “What are your thoughts on this building?”

            I shook myself out of my reverie and fairly foggily reacted, “Huh?” I tabled my previous notion and walked over to her in order to scope out what she had alluded to. I glanced at her cellphone and gazed at it quizzically. “This joint isn’t condemned?”

            “The ad says it’s just cosmetic damage,” Miriam relayed to me. “But maybe you’re right, it does seem kinda rundown! It probably wouldn’t be worth travelling so far to go see this piece of crap…”

            “You know, it’s got some great potential!” I flipped my views once I caught sight of how much distance they would get between here in Terra-Belle and there in that shack three states over! “It’s gonna be a huge renovation, but then you two can… Well, you’ll have the opportunity to make it whatever you want it become!”

            Miriam didn’t look totally sold on that idea, but she didn’t completely reject the concept either. “Hmm… I’ll have to talk to Blaise about it. I’d be surprised if he says yes though. He’s being a little too fussy for what we can get in our price range. He keeps thinking that stuff should cost the same now as it did in the seventies, and-.” She paused with a panicky expression on her face as she observed the silence that overtaken the area, but when Blaise’s snoring resumed, she breathed a sigh of relief. “Whew! For a second, I worried that he heard me talking about him!”

            After watching her conduct with and without Blaise in her vicinity, I couldn’t fathom why she had stayed with him! He evidently made her miserable for a very long stretch, so what would motivate her to remain by his side? I recalled speculating similar sentiments about Roxy and her brief courtship with Damon in his vampiric form, and Phoebe didn’t seem to find their relationship so odd- now I knew why! But my curiosity wouldn’t settle for “nice girls sometimes having an attraction to bad boys” premise in this instance! I met Phoebe’s father, and despite his infidelity to Miriam, he was a real standup guy! Miriam jumped from someone nice and highly respectable to… Blaise! She once fell for a much more decent man, so why did she end up with a degenerate like him? My concern kept me distracted from my growing urgency to urinate, so I felt compelled to investigate this mystery! “Why are you with him still? You’re obviously not thrilled to have him around, so why stick by this asshole?”

            “I don’t have much of a choice,” she explained. “I don’t have my own money, so I’m completely dependent on him! I’m not gonna walk out on another husband and become broke and homeless again! But if I can just hold on ‘til he croaks, I’ll be set for life!”

            “So, you’re gonna spend the next twenty years of your life feeling miserable just to get financially stable in your golden years?” I grew skeptical about her claim. Of course it was possible she was an under-ambitious gold digger, but putting up with the asinine stunts he pulled off at the cult as well as the agony he doled out from the way he treated her seemed like it would have been a breaking point for most people. She may have been able to get a job and save up money ages ago rather than waiting for some pittance from his life insurance or savings! I mean, if he had earned substantial paychecks from his organization, he would have gotten a much more dignified truck! Why would she entrust that she would have a significant benefit from this venture? How much could he possibly have promised her for her to deem this wait as worth it?

            Miriam countered, “Psh! He’s not gonna live that long! He’s got a lot of health problems, I doubt he’ll live beyond a year or two!” She mulled over the argument she just let out and shifted her stance a little. “Course, I had that impression over a decade ago, and he’s still here! This guy has lived through stuff that would kill an average person! You know, if your blood sugar is over two-hundred and fifty, you could go into a diabetic coma? Not him! He’s frequently over three hundred and nothing ever happens! Well, he gets extra grouchy, but otherwise, he’s fine! One time, he went over five hundred and he’s still kicking!” She pouted form an apparent frustration over his longevity.

            As the son of a doctor, I had a general understanding of how the human body operated, so naturally, this revelation elicited a lot of inquisitiveness in my mind, but before I had the occasion to delve into any of it, I heard Phoebe scream from our bathroom! My first instinct was to believe she got ambushed, so I sprinted over to her location to give her aid. When I got closer to the scene, I heard her yelling, “You can’t be serious!”

            “I can’t control when I gotta go!” Blaise disputed. “You better cover up with one hand and plug your nose with the other ‘cause I’m coming in!”

            “Don’t you even-!” I cut myself off when I saw him barge in there despite my attempt to threaten him! The desire to clobber him bubbled beneath the surface, and I was aching to discover whether or not Phoebe managed to put a towel on! I rued having a sliding glass door instead of shower curtains in that moment! I couldn’t do anything about this incident right then though because I was close to bursting from my own need to go, and since Blaise would most likely have occupied my toilet for ages, I had no other option- I had to use the guest bathroom!

            I bolted inside, and Babelsama’s portrait appeared extremely bored until I entered this space. Once I came in, he cracked a grin and derisively greeted me, “Welcome back! How are those fear mongers treating you? You look pretty distressed, so I suppose they-.”

            As I swiveled towards the commode, I stated, “Right now, my distress has zilch to do with fear mongers!”

            “Oh, you’re brave!” he commented after I unzipped and readied myself to go.

            “I’m brave?” I originally intended to ignore him, but because Roxy’s use of the facilities evoked all of this supernatural havoc, I hesitated and decided to investigate the basis of his allegation.

            Babelsama expounded on his utterance, “Why, yes! You have no clue if there’s any remnants of your favorite potion’s ingredients within this vessel, and if your DNA hits it, then who knows what will-.”

            He ceased his needling of my nerves when I growled in frustration and hopped over to the sink. It was such a crude way to micturate, but at this juncture, it was either do that or wet my pants! I barely got anything out when Babelsama prodded, “You know, you could get your privacy back if you simply returned my key!”

            “Do you really think I’m the type to give up so easily?” I challenged him. I resumed my business and sorely wished that I had chosen to dash outside and use a tree instead!

            “No, but you miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take!” Babelsama reasoned. I gritted my teeth and let out a bit more of my stream, but when he piped up again, I froze! “If your students knew that your refusal to bring back what’s rightfully mine was the source of their nightmarish experience, how do you envision they would act towards you?” My temper was ready to flare, but I esteemed that refraining from engaging with him would make this process move faster. The sooner I finished, the sooner I could vacate from his range! I continued my objective, and to my irritation, he prattled on, “Oh, you’re not speaking to me, huh? That’s fine, I have plenty to say to you anyways!” He started singing phrases that mocked me, and it took quite a while for me to accomplish this feat!

            Later on, Phoebe and I sat at the table with drinks in our hands and disturbed expressions on our faces. Blaise and Miriam had recommenced their bickering, but we had gotten so rattled that we weren’t phased by it anymore! Even Jett slept peacefully beside us during this fracas! I asked Phoebe, “How much alcohol will it take for us to forget about today?”

            She answered, “Probably more than what’s in the house! It’s cool though, we need an excuse to take a break from here!”

            “Maybe we can do something to keep our brains busy with something other than… horrifying memories!” I propositioned. “Like… I dunno! Maybe there’s a way for us to get of our unwelcomed guests sooner!”

            “Good thinking!” Phoebe commended me.

            We both sat there and strove to unearth some possible solutions, but both of our focuses went directly back to the circumstances that unsettled us! I gulped down the last of what was in my cup and arbitrated, “On second thought, let’s just get hammered!” Phoebe concurred with my motion, so I began searching for my cellphone. “We can’t drive in this condition, so we’ll get a ride from… Where’s my phone? Please don’t tell me I left in that bathroom!” I heard my cellphone bump against something else in my pocket, and that set me on a whole other wavelength! “Hey! There might be a less difficult method for us to free ourselves from this disaster other than taking out the other sixty-seven fear mongers…!”

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 8

As I stood outside of his door, I had to take a deep breath and steel myself up in order to summon the energy it would take to knock and make my presence known. He was the last person I wanted to turn to for assistance… Okay, maybe not the absolute last- I mean, I wouldn’t want to seek advice from Babelsama’s buddies in the Netherworld or something! And although Blaise owes me big time for all of the grief he caused us while staying our home free of charge, I would never request aid from him! It would probably have caused more problems than it would solve! …Anyways, I dreaded going to this guy for support, but he did mention his expertise in the field that I needed help in, and getting the answers from one source seemed much simpler than my friends and I trying to do research on our own, so I didn’t feel that I had much of a choice! I waited several seconds for him to invite me inside, and then…

            “Is the door locked?” Lisa, a charming student who had an unfortunate run-in with Damon when he was alive (Well, he was undead, so technically, he wasn’t living during the incident, just less deceased!), politely inquired to me.

            “Uh… I dunno!” I replied while inwardly hoping my face hadn’t reddened too much from the embarrassment of not attempting such an obvious course of action to take in this scenario! Phoebe and I were running late after attempting to teach Blaise and Miriam how to search for places to live on the internet, so I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with him until minutes before class started, but now that I thought about it, of course the door wasn’t locked! I pulled the knob, and the entryway became ajar rather fluidly! I aimed to cover up my ineptitude by courteously offering for her to go ahead of me, “After you!” As she walked inside, I grimaced and crossed my fingers that this conversation wouldn’t be as cringeworthy as I feared!

            Once Casper had properly greeted Lisa, he noticed my arrival and grew somewhat startled. His shock rapidly dissipated though, and he planted a huge, arrogant grin on his face as he greeted me, “Well, well, well! Look at who we have here! I’m not surprised though- I saw this day coming…”

            Based on his bewildered reaction to my entrance, I seriously didn’t buy an ounce of that claim! “Uh-huh, sure you did! Listen, I was wondering if I could set up a meeting with your after school. I… need your opinion on something.” I chose my phrasing carefully so as not to inflate his already swollen ego!

            My efforts to keep his pride at bay appeared to have been futile! His chest swelled up, and he imperiously regarded me, “You certainly do! I would be happy to dispense my wisdom to you!”

            “Great!” I almost wanted him to have said no because we had been chatting for less than sixty seconds, and in this short span I had spent with him so far, I developed the judgement that this was a terrible idea! I detested the notion of becoming indebted to him in any sort of way, but since that petulant phantom threatened innocent children, I forced myself to bear his insufferable attitude! “I’ll stop by after sixth period and-.”

            “Oh no!” He put his arm around my shoulders and physically steered me back into his classroom, and then he stated firmly, “You need my guidance right away!”

            His embrace made me uncomfortable not only as a result of my severe dislike of his character but also due to the fact that more and more of his students were trickling in! I knew that I needed to hop into my quarters and prepare for my lesson, but his instance made me curious- was there something he foresaw that I did not? “I do?” I concernedly questioned him.

            He boldly asserted, “Yes! I cannot allow you to begin teaching ‘til we’ve had a thorough discussion! First, your presence is too friendly! You don’t command respect as an educator…”

            I lifted his arm off of me and told him, “I don’t need any career counseling!” He widened his mouth to debate that point, but I cut him off prior to him having a real possibility of doing so, “No, really! I actually was interested in learning more about ghosts.” The bell rang, and I intended to zip over to my sector, but then…

            “Ah, yes! I heard about your rather messy experience yesterday!” Casper conversed. “Didn’t I tell you that the school was haunted?”

            “You sure did! I’ll come back later so we can go over-.” My exit was long overdue, but I didn’t want to offend him and ruin this potential resource, so I meant to politely bow out of this interaction, but that was proving to be more difficult than I expected!

            Casper prattled on, “You all made a ghastly amount of errors during that incident! If you had just reached out to me sooner, I-!”

            I nearly blew up at him at this juncture, but luckily for me, Lisa spoke up and saved me from losing my cool, “Mister Von Dutchman, how can you criticize his teaching style if you won’t let him do it?”

            It took all of my willpower to not bust out laughing at the expression he bore upon hearing her say that! I envied how kids had the ability to convey such honesty without worrying about the consequences of insulting someone! I wished I could have taken credit for making him wince like he had gotten slapped in the face! He strove to maintain a dignified quantity of aloofness as he addressed me, “Fine. We’ll dialogue later.”

            Finally! I had the opportunity to leave! I made a beeline for the door and prepared myself to sprint to my class, but as soon as I reopened the door, I became eye to eye with a figure completely wrapped in cloth bandages! I couldn’t decipher much of a visage, but my nostrils got a whiff of a scent that smelled like a mixture of old dust and rotted flesh! My initial reaction was that one of his students had undergone extensive surgery, but when it emitted a hollow but deafening moan, I knew that we weren’t dealing with a regular human being…

            The children responded with alarm, and Casper probed, “What the heck was that?”

            “Nothing!” I slammed the door shut to prevent any of the kids from catching a glimpse of this entity, and initially, I assumed that this barrier would compel it move on down the hall where I could deal with it privately later, but when it tried to barge in and almost took down the door, I knew that the easy route wasn’t going to be a likely prospect for me! I leaned against the door, putting as much of my weight against it as I could, and it seemed effective at preventing it from coming inside, but it also wouldn’t give up on its endeavor and continued to apply visible pressure to the entryway! It made a series of banging noises, so I took my best shot at covering up its cacophony by talking loudly, “On second thought, I think I should stay and learn more about…”

            “Who’s at the door?” Lisa anxiously asked me. “It’s not a mummy, is it?”

            I should have answered her more tactfully, but the concept of this being her greatest fear totally perplexed me! “Mummies scare you the most? How often are you ever gonna run into one?”

            Lisa rationalized her view, “Exactly! It’s so rare that if you do see one, you know shit has gotten real bad!”

            She wasn’t wrong! I still found it kind of strange, but I decided against enquiring about it further when the mummy caused such a huge ruckus that it couldn’t be ignored anymore! The reverberation of its impacts echoed considerably, and the door moved more and more after every hit, signifying that it wouldn’t stay on its hinges for very much longer! Most of the people in the room paid vigorous attention to this enigmatic occurrence, but one did not… “Young lady, watch your language!” Casper chided her.

            “Uh, her profanity’s not the major issue right now…” I pointed out while struggling to keep the entryway standing. I glanced around the room and lamented that I had been so unobservant about this space when I passed by it previously! In my defense, how could I have predicted a shapeshifting ghost would ever haunt the area? I didn’t know how I would discern what object in his premises was not usually there until I realized that Casper would definitely have shown some curiosity if he had an extra piece of furniture or other large object in here! What might turn up in his class that he wouldn’t deem as weird though? I spotted a gaudy, triangular trophy on a site that he clearly used to grade papers, and I grew suspicious about its presence. “Cool paper weight, dude!” I didn’t make that comment with sincerity; I knew it would get a substantial reaction from him, and I knocked on wood (not literally since the mummy was doing a splendid job of that in this moment!) that he would provide me with the response I wanted…

            He corrected me, “That’s not a paper weight! It’s an emblem of appreciation that a student made for me! It says number one teacher on it! It was so thoughtful and so very accurate!”

            I interrogated him, “Do you know who gave it to you?”

            “Unfortunately, no!” he rued. “I can only assume that they will reveal themselves during the period that I-.”

            “Who cares about that crap?” Lisa exclaimed. “What the hell is going on over there?”

            In light of the situation, I didn’t think he would do it, but he did! “Miss Yurei, this is the second time you swore today!” Casper lectured her. “If you keep it up, I’ll have to-.”

            He got interrupted by the door finally buckling! I got pushed straight into Casper, who fell to the floor fairly pathetically! I savored this sight for a split second and then swiveled back to the entryway to deal with this supernatural adversary. The students all screamed, but seeing how the mummy blocked the only way out, they were forced to huddle in a corner and beseech the universe to not let the mummy reach that part of this locale! I raced over to the monster and punched it in the skull, but that didn’t do much except to nudge it backwards a little. I put my hand on its forehead, and it couldn’t move against the force I applied to it! As it fervently sought to resist my constraints against it, I appealed to the group, “Does anyone know how to destroy a mummy?”

            “A silver bullet?” a kid suggested.

            “That’s how you kill a werewolf!” another child reclaimed. “And how’s he gonna get a silver bullet at a school?”

            Casper reproached that student, “Hey, hey! We don’t want to demean people who are doing all they can to-!”

            I disrupted his remark, “Can you quit being bad at prioritizing?”

            “Maybe fire will take care of it. You can use my lighter!” One of the children tossed it over to me.

            “Why do you have a…? Nope, priorities!” I grabbed the lighter, and as I strained to get it to ignite, the mummy renewed its pursuit. The students screamed again, and I expressed to this fiend, “Oh no you don’t!” I used one arm to seize it by the neck, and as I kept it in a chokehold, I continued to tackle the fickle lighter. “Is this empty or something?”

            The teen who passed the lighter over asserted, “It’s probably got some dirt stuck in it.”

            His theory panned out, and a flame got ignited! I pressed the small fire onto the mummy’s head, and it instantly got engulfed in a colossal blaze! For a flash, I got the impression that this ordeal was over, but swiftly following the creation of that inferno, the sprinklers went off! It returned to its undertaking, and as the cornered youths fled to safety, it beheld something that made it halt in its tracks…

            “She fainted!” a young male’s voice denoted as he espied Lisa unconscious on the ground. “Oh well, I guess I’ll wait!” I wanted to holler about having the ability to speak all along, a tidbit that would have been preferable to know at the onset of this calamity since I didn’t have a clue that negotiating was even an option, but somebody else spoke up instead…

            “What are you doing?” Damon called out from that trophy as the mummy sat in a chair that faced Lisa.

            The mummy retorted, “I can’t frighten her if she’s not awake!”

            Damon roared, “Wake her up at once! You’re jeopardizing this entire operation!”

            The mummy dismissed this assertion, “Oh, please! They obviously don’t know how to slay mummies, so we’ll be fine!”

            As Damon’s scolding heightened, my instincts prompted me to pick up the trophy, and even though I had no indication that this would prove successful, I still went forward with this inclination anyways. I invoked all of my strength and bashed the mummy on the very top of its noggin! Not only did the mummy morph back into a fear monger, the trophy smashed into dozens of tiny pieces! Damon’s ghostly silhouette glared at me before it vanished out my periphery!

            “So, as you can see, Principal Palillo, I totally saved the day!” Casper bragged as he came back into the classroom with Manuel. The fear monger had already disappeared, and Lisa had regained her cognition, so all Manuel saw was the entire joint getting totally soaked!

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 7

“We’ve been looking in the wrong direction,” Ginger alleged.

            “What do you mean?” I inquired. “His voice is definitely coming from this part of the quad!”

            Ginger clarified, “No, that’s not what I meant. We’ve been searching through all the plants and garbage cans, but he’s not there! We’re actually on top of him!”

            Corvina exclaimed, “Again? … I mean, for the first time…!” We all stared at her in aghast mostly because none of us like to think about our kids engaging in that sort of activity, but she interpreted our glances as more judgmental, so she attempted to smooth everything over with an assertion that may or may not have been a fib, “We were in PE class! It was a coed wrestling match…”

            “Yeah, that idea went downhill fast!” Fletcher recalled. “Me and Coach Huppert had to put a stop to that when-.”

            “Um, guys!” Phoebe imperatively interrupted, “Don’t we have a student buried alive here?”

            We snapped our attention back to the critical mission at hand, and Ginger proclaimed, “We need to dig right here!” She stooped down in order to do exactly that, and an audible crack emanated from her knees. “I’m fine! That’s just something that happens now that I’m in my thirties!”

            Fletcher, Corvina, Aleck, Ellie, Phoebe, and I squeezed in next to her and used our hands to dig him out. I passed by these foliage sectors nearly every day, and not once did I ever get the impression that they were particularly deep, so with how long it took to reach Colin, we obviously had been witnessing the effects of a spell! They couldn’t argue that the accounts that Phoebe and I relayed to them about Damon’s potent existence were groundless! We literally had grounds to prove our argument at this point! Although, a part of me was hoping that we would get proven wrong (like we both suffered from the same hallucination as a result of stress over Blaise and Miriam’s visit) so that this nightmare having to fight against a vampiric ghost wouldn’t’ have had to commence, but clearly, no one believed this scenario played out naturally! “If I knew that this S.O.B. was gonna magick a burial this extensive, I would’ve brought my shovel!” Aleck remarked.

            “If you knew that he was gonna do this, wouldn’t it have made more sense to get our student out of danger instead?” Ellie quizzed him. Aleck shot her a dirty look, but before he could shell out any kind of retort, Ellie yelped, “Oh no! There’s a fingernail in my pile!”

            “That’s mine,” Phoebe let her know. “I lost an acrylic, which is fine ‘cause I’m probably gonna need to have a manicure to clean out all this gunk anyways!”

            Bits of his clothing began to surface, and I grumped, “That better be him and not some trick to make us get a false sense of hope that we’re getting closer!”

            Fortunately, it was Colin! When we unearthed him (literally!), he bolted up with a gasp! “Saint Peter, I can explain!” he cried out. He glanced around and then noted, “Oh, I’m still alive!” He then grew very shaky and pale, and he fretfully inquired, “How did this happen to me?”

            “That’s what we’d like to figure out!” Aleck replied.

            “Isn’t it obvious?” Ismeray walked over to us and put in, “The Future Apprentices of the Underworld Kingdom prophesied that this would happen, and indeed, it has!”

            Ellie instructed her, “Quit talking like we understand that garbage! What are you trying to say?” 

            Corvina rolled her eyes and asserted, “Oh, she’s talking about that dumb page on Classbook that’s trying to get people to buy that some underground kingdom is gonna use magic to raise the dead and take over the world! I thought only idiots would join the FAUK-ers!”

            “Don’t call the F-A-U-K that!” Ismeray took offense to that slight. “It’s a serious organization! They’ve said accurate facts about magic, and their predictions of and undead planet seem highly likely! You need to embrace that future!”

            “The undead was a part of my past, and I have no interest in going back to that again!” Corvina stated with a small shudder. I assumed that most of the bystanders translated that to mean that she had dabbled in sorcery, but only a select few of us knew she was referring to her brief stint of being a vampire and going along with Damon’s deranged plan! I felt a jolt of empathy for her as I imagined how traumatic she would feel if she ever discovered Damon’s presence here once more…

            Phoebe asked Ismeray, “So, this FAUK club is promoting some apocalyptic conspiracy theory? What else are they having you do?”

            Ismeray dignantly answered, “I’m not revealing its secrets to you! And it’s not a theory! Colin didn’t get buried by an ordinary person! That mouse at the festival didn’t chase Peter randomly either! It’s a spell that’s evoking our deepest fears, and it’s working well! In fact, I bet the F-A-U-K would love to see pix of this!” She took out her cellphone and started to nab a bunch of photos of the aftermath from this stunt, and she chirped, “Come on, Roxy! You gotta get a load of this!”

            “No, I’m good here!” Roxy laughed rather nervously as she leaned against a stone water fountain.

            “Yeah, Roxy! Come over here and help your friend take pictures!” I almost chided Ismeray for photographing poor Colin in such a distressed state, but it quickly registered to me that the structure she was bracing herself on hadn’t been present previously…

            Roxy declined our suggestion, “Nah, I’m just… I just… Oh, I got it! There’s too much dirt there, and I don’t wanna get my new clothes smudged…” With the hysteria of this frantic event along with my lack of sleep, it hadn’t dawned on me until she mentioned it- she switched from wearing all black to all white! Evidently, she fully embraced her role as Damon’s governess, but I wondered if it had any correlation to that Classbook group…

            A hall monitor approached the gathered crowd and probed, “So… You all realize that the tardy bell rang, like, ten minutes ago, right?” He spoke into his walkie-talkie and polled, “What’s the maximum capacity for children in detention?”

            This prompted everybody to rapidly disperse! Well, everybody except for Roxy! “You’re late for class, Roxy!” I reminded her.

            “So are you!” she clapped back.

            “Yeah, but we have an important purpose here! We gotta take care of a victim of… Hey, where’d he go?” I scanned the vicinity and observed that he was no longer there. “Please tell me he got up and left on his own! If he’s been buried again, I swear…!”

            The hall monitor addressed Roxy, “Come on, little lady! Lunchtime doesn’t last forever!”

            Roxy bit her lip, but when she saw that she didn’t have much of a choice, she complied, “Okay, fine! But make sure they don’t hurt my water fountain!” She reluctantly headed out, and while the hall monitor noticeably puzzled over her request, he still surveyed us warily. We all wanted to confront this formation that Damon had taken on, but none of us wanted that hall monitor to report us for arguing with an inanimate object! We relented and resigned to returning to our classrooms, and as we lumbered away, we heard Damon snickering delightfully from his post!

            “Why would there be mice in here?” Phoebe barked at Peter, who was timidly standing at the doorway of her class.

            “Maybe he brought some in!” Peter indicated to Aleck, who had been sitting with me, Ellie, and Ginger at the back of the room. “Maybe he has to go feed his snakes after this!”

            Aleck exasperatedly assured him, “My snakes are too small to eat mice! I feed them crickets!”

            One of the girls sitting in the front shrieked, “Crickets? There are crickets in here?” She sprang up and eyeballed the entire proximity in a very alarmed manner.

            “Really? You guys really believe he’d bring snake food to a prom committee meeting?” Ellie grilled them. The two students bashfully sat down, and then Ellie quietly inquired, “You didn’t, did you?”

            “Of course not!” Aleck disdainfully replied. He gazed at his phone and griped, “Ugh! None of these links are helpful! They all recommend just talking to them! I seriously doubt that’ll work!”

            Peter pondered, “Talk to who?”

            Phoebe jumped in, “Oh, um… Florists! He wanted to see if there was a way to get extra discounts on our decorations ‘cause it’s not looking good for our budget! Here are the numbers!”

            “Aleck isn’t wrong,” I whispered. “Damon is hell-bent on getting revenge on this school, so it seems unlikely that we could negotiate with him!”

            “But that’s more money than what we have!” one boy cried out. “What does that mean?”

            In a hushed tone, Ginger recollected, “When Brielle and I moved into our house, my grandma told us we had evil spirits there, so she smudged them to make them go away.”

            Phoebe filled them in, “It means we’re gonna have to make some cuts.”

            “Did it work?” I petitioned Ginger.

            “You mean we gotta cut the flowers ourselves?” the first girl wanted to know.

            Ginger shrugged. “We never saw any evil spirits in the first place, so…”

            Phoebe redressed that girl, “No! It means we have to take some of these things off of the list.”

            “What is smudging?” Aleck asked Ginger.

            “So, we can’t have any real bouquets?” the other boy who had spoken up previously asked.

            Ginger furrowed her brows trying to recall that memory. “She burnt some plant. I can’t remember what…”

            Peter whined, “We gotta give it all up? The roses? The sunflowers? The sage?”

            “Sage!” Ginger excitedly shouted. Everyone turned to face her when she uttered that. Ginger blushed and then ameliorated her sentence, “I mean, you can’t have all of the flowers, but you can buy at least some! I recommend sage!”

            “Well, if can only have one, wouldn’t sunflowers be…” that one girl began to object.

            Ginger ardently insisted, “No! It has to be sage!”

            Phoebe appeared perplexed by her behavior, but she didn’t make her disposition public. “Uh… Okay… Sage it is! Oh, and I would say the crystal chandeliers should get cut too!”

            While the prom committee bickered over their budgetary constraints, I brought up, “Well, the sage might ward off Damon, but we still gotta deal with the fear mongers too! They’re not so hard to kill in their regular form, but they can shapeshift…”

            “So, they morph into whatever their victims fear?” Ellie inferred. “But how did it do that for Colin? He got buried alive in the dirt! Yes, it was deeper than normal, but what did the fear mongers shift into?” She gazed at the soil in her fingernails, and a lightbulb went off in her head. “Oh…!”

            “Ew! I’ve got pieces of a monster in me!” Ginger shrieked. Everyone glimpsed at her peculiarly, so she grumbled, “Oh sure, you hear that, but when I’m explaining what’s gonna be on your next test, you conveniently tune out!”

            Peter queried, “What kind of monster do you have in you?”

            Ginger needled him, “A mouse for Mister Thales’ snakes!”

            After Peter screamed and ran out of the room, Aleck admonished Ginger, “Why’d you have to tell him that? Now he’s gonna be too scared to go into my class!”

            “What was I supposed to tell him that wouldn’t make me sound completely mental?” Ginger contended. “Don’t mind me, I gotta go destroy a plot of soil?”

            “How do we do that anyway?” Ellie posed to us. “Get the custodian to overwater it?”

            Fletcher suddenly showed up beside us and proposed, “I could have Spike use the bathroom there!”

            We all buckled at his abruptness. “Jeez, don’t sneak up on us like that!” I warned him. “And how would Spike’s… droppings… destroy the hole?”

            “When the missus and I moved into our place, our landscaper had to treat our dirt ‘cause the last owner had so many dogs in the yard that their urine destroyed the dirt,” Fletcher briefed us.

            “Oh, duh! We could use ammonium chloride!” He espied our befuddled expressions, and he agitatedly jogged our memories, “Did you forget what happened Friday?”

            Phoebe, who had apparently dismissed the prom committee, half kidded, “I try to!”

            Ginger canvassed me, “How many fear mongers did Damon say he had?”

            I disclosed, “Sixty-eight.” Everyone groaned at the notion of how many instances we would have to go through this. I mused, “There’s gotta be a more efficient way to handle this than tackling each of them one at time! I wish we had someone who’s more knowledgeable about this subject so we could get advice from them!” As soon as the words left my mouth, the resolution I articulated was actually feasible! But it didn’t bring me any joy whatsoever in pursuing it! “Oh no! I know precisely who we have to reach out to…”

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 6

            Before I could even begin to process this hectic scene, Peter zipped toward my direction and jumped onto my torso! “Mister Fenmore, you’ve gotta help me! A scary beast is after my skin!”

            I wanted to offer him some sympathy, but his weight became too much to bear! “I’m… gonna… drop… you…!” I breathily warned him.

            “Please don’t!” Peter pleaded. I set him down, but he continued to try and regain the lofty position of security that he just lost and pawed at me like my cat does when she seeks a juicy piece of chicken in my hand!

            “What kind of monster is chasing you, Peter?” Phoebe stepped in. Thank goodness for her! I had a difficult time trying to verbalize anything with his hysteria literally in my face!

            Peter whimpered, “The dirtiest, most foul creature to roam the… Aaah! There it is!”

            He ducked behind my legs, and when I beheld his source of fright, I truly expected to see a ferocious fiend or some sort of outlandish entity ready to do battle! Babelsama did mention that Damon had the power to unleash a person’s greatest fear, so I anticipated encountering something absolutely daunting! Instead, the culprit turned out to be an ordinary mouse! “Dude, seriously?” I reproachfully reacted.

            “It’s charging right at me!” Peter wailed. It looked more like a playful scamper to me, but it did seem like it was specifically targeting him! As Peter ran around me, the mouse tailed him!

            “I’ll get it, can you just…?” I intended to stomp on the mouse, but it wouldn’t stay still since Peter wouldn’t! This scenario was irritating enough on its own, but considering I got very little sleep that weekend along with my anguish over Blaise and Miriam’s antics, I had no patience for anymore nonsense! I pushed Peter to the side… a little too hard! He fell into the macrame stall behind us (Oops!), and when the mouse attempted to close the distance between them, I blocked its path and renewed my effort to snuff him with my feet!

            As Phoebe began to untangle Peter from the shopkeeper’s ware, she urgently requested, “Oh, don’t kill the poor thing! It’s not its fault that it got placed here!”

            Her demand added an extra level of difficulty to this task, so I growled in annoyance, but I decided to comply and preserve its life if I could. It ran into Ismeray’s creepy artwork booth, and as I prevented it from scurrying under her tables, I spotted an ornate jewelry box and grabbed it. When I managed to get the creature cornered, I scooped it up and slammed the lid shut! Its paws remained on the edge, so I reopened its enclosure a crack and ordered, “You get in there!”

            Once its confinement got properly secured, I left Ismeray’s tent wonder what in the heck I was going to do with it moving forward! Peter timidly approached me and queried, “Did you get it?” He heard it scraping the sides of the container, so he shrieked and dove back into the macrame niche!

            “Peter, go to your car,” I instructed him before that seller chewed him out. “I won’t release it ‘til you’ve gone far from here.”

            “Oh, thank you, Mister Fenmore!” Peter gratefully regarded me. “Man, this whole situation has really made me thirsty all of a sudden! I’m gonna go to that lemonade stand and grab a drink! Maybe I’ll swing by that embroidery booth before I go too! That chick’s granddaughter was majorly cute…”

            I snapped at him, “I’m not carrying around this mouse all day! If you don’t leave in the next thirty seconds, I’m gonna let it hunt you down this round!”

            Peter’s expression sobered up at this prospect, and he acquiesced, “Harsh! Alright, see ya in class tomorrow!”

            As he strolled down the aisle and headed to the parking lot, I let out an exasperated sigh. Phoebe very genially suggested, “There’s a field behind these tents you could leave it in.”

            I felt so frustrated that I would have preferred to simply chuck it without any concern for the troublemaking animal’s welfare, but I wouldn’t have been able to witness Phoebe’s heartbreak over the mouse’s demise! Besides, she made a valid point- it would have been a pity to see an innocent creature perish because of Damon’s hijinks! I lumbered over to the grassy area that she had referred to, and when I deemed that we had reached an optimum location to stop, I opened the jewelry box and released it. It ran in a very distinct fashion as if it had a precise destination in its mind, and as I walked back to where Phoebe stood, I pondered if it knew where Peter resided! I shrugged it off and then declared to Phoebe, “Okay, problem solved!”

            Phoebe gasped, and I heard a poignant whooshing noise behind me! When I turned around, I saw a hawk swoop down and scoop the mouse in its mouth! I sheepishly met Phoebe’s gaze and awkwardly consoled her, “Maybe he won’t die! Maybe he’ll wriggle his way out and go somewhere safe!”

            Immediately following that statement, a pitiful caw echoed from the sky, and then the hawk plummeted to the ground! I could see a leg sticking out of its beak, and it shocked me to get the impression that my conjecture may have had some merit! The mouse didn’t wiggle out though- the brown leg grew larger and larger! The hawk was eventually able to spit the creature out and fly away, and in the same instance that Phoebe joined me, the beast’s true identity got revealed! It was a small, stocky monster with long, knobby limbs, sharp teeth, and mischievous eyes! It salivated quite profusely as it clumsily slogged over to Phoebe, who screeched, “Ew!” She gave it a swift kick in its skull, and once it landed, it moved no more!

            At that moment, a nearby trash can morphed into Damon’s ghostly figure! He snickered and questioned us, “Did you enjoy the show?” Neither Phoebe nor I gave him a reply other than glaring at him quite a bit. He spitefully laughed, and then he informed us, “There’s plenty more where that came from! Babelsama gave me sixty-nine!” Phoebe and I couldn’t resist giggling at the double entendre he made, and if ghosts could blush, he would have dowsed in a sea of red! “Sixty-nine fear mongers! That means I have sixty-nine…” He eyeballed the one that Phoebe had bludgeoned as it shriveled up and vanished, and then he corrected himself, “…Sixty-eight chances to release mayhem on the students at Rosemary King! See you at school!” He cackled and evaporated in a puff!

            “We’ve gotta find a way to get rid of him!” Phoebe asserted.

            “We will!” I assured her. “Tomorrow, we’ll get everyone together and do some research on different methods of…”

            Roxy unexpectedly showed up and probed, “Have you guys seen Damon?”

            Phoebe and I both lied, “No!”

            “Dang it!” Roxy furrowed her brows. “Damon! Damon, where are you?”

            “Some security guard!” I muttered when she was out of earshot.

            Blaise unceremoniously belted out of his chosen port-a-potty and boisterously spoke up, “Ah, that’s better! So, what’d I miss?” Phoebe and I had no desire to relive this cumbersome afternoon, so we didn’t say anything. Miriam piped in and revealed that she had paid for the jewelry box I stole (I originally meant to return it, but after I thought about it, how could she sell a box that a wild creature occupied?), and this prompted our houseguests to argue the entire ride home! The last few days had been so stressful for us that teaching dozens of hormonal teenagers seemed like a peaceful alternative, and we eagerly returned to work in the morning!

            At lunchtime, Phoebe and I came into the teachers’ lounge and found that Ginger, Aleck, Ellie, and Fletcher had already seated themselves at our usual table. They were in the midst of a lively conversation upon our arrival, and we tuned in right as Fletcher esteemed, “That’ll never work!”

            “What’ll never work?” I asked them. “Did you come across some measure of getting rid of ghosts?”

            “Or destroying the key maybe?” Phoebe tacked on to my enquiry.

            Fletcher answered us, “What? No, we were going over different ideas on how to discourage my girls from going to any afterparties on prom night. Aleck thinks setting up a science experiment would do the trick, and there’s no chance that more homework will tempt them more than boys and god knows what else!”

            Aleck argued, “It’s not homework! It’s a fun activity for them to do during their free time!”

            “It’s work and they’re doing it at home, how is that not homework?” Fletcher bickered.

            “Have you even tried to get them interested in something else?” Aleck probed. “They could be future biologists and don’t even know it! I mean, they didn’t seem so thrilled by my lessons last year, but there’s all kinds of different specialties in-.”

            Ginger cut him off, “Aleck, I used to love math when I was in school, but there was no possibility that I would’ve skipped a huge social event for my nerdy passion! And we can come back to Fletcher’s problem later. We gotta discuss this vampire ghost gimmick! It’s not funny, and I don’t understand why you keep trying to make that joke pan out!”

            I persisted, “We’re not joking! Why do you believe we’d constantly crack a joke that isn’t remotely humorous?”

            “I dunno, my husband’s been making the ‘Pull My Finger!’ joke for over thirty years even though I haven’t laughed at it once!” Ellie remarked, “I don’t understand his joke, and honestly, I don’t get yours either! We’re not falling for it, it’s too damn unrealistic! I mean, how do you accidentally make a magical potion in a toilet?”

            “Someone clogged the drain with the main ingredients, and then when Connor added salt to clear the blockage, he inadvertently opened a window the Netherworld- What is so hard to understand about that?” Phoebe huffed.

            They all appeared skeptical still, so I took a shot at persuading them, “Yes, it sounds like the kind of insane story that a bored and crazy author might make up, but we’re not the type to dream up fictional narratives like that! We’ve always been straight forward wit you, and we have no motive to suddenly shift gears! I know it’s not an easy concept to accept, but if you don’t take action on the info we gave you, our circumstances will only get worse! Something horrifying is about to take place, and we can prevent some seriously terrible calamities from happening to our students, but first, we need you to take our word so you can lend us a hand! So, what do you say?”

            After a silent beat of blank stares, Aleck snidely kidded, “I’ll tell you what, if Damon’s ghost does show up, I’ll buy you a candy bar!”

            Phoebe and I exchanged displeased exhales, but prior to us having the opportunity to contend our argument again, a flurry of screams bellowed out from the school’s courtyard! We swiftly dropped what we were doing and ran to investigate the commotion!

            When we reached the source of the pandemonium, we observed most of the kids in the quad sprinting in a frenzied manner. One gothic-looking girl was urgently glancing around as if she aimed to mitigate the unknown origin of the danger that previously presented itself to her peers, so I petitioned her, “Corvina, what happened out here?”

            “Help me!” a muffled but familiar voice entreated us.

            “It’s Colin!” Corvina explained. “He got lifted into the air, and then, all of a sudden, he disappeared! It was like a spell or something!”

            Aleck half kidded with me, “So, what kind of chocolate do you like? Milk, dark…?”

            Ellie commanded, “Shut up for a minute!”

            We all listened for Colin’s pleas, and soon, we heard him call for us again! We searched all over the grounds, but we couldn’t spot him anywhere! I beseeched the universe for him to turn up healthy and whole! On my very first day at this high school, he was the first child I interacted with, and he was heading down the wrong path until I gave him some good advice! He changed his behavior, and when he gave me profound gratitude for doing that deed, it became instrumental in my decision to stay on this career path! Any student that got harmed would have upset me, but if he had gotten hurt, it would have been completely devastating! We could hear his volume increase when we got close to this ash tree by the cafeteria, but no matter what section of this vicinity we studied, we couldn’t decipher any hints of where he actually was in this instance! We grew very frazzled, but we refused to give up! Then, totally out of the blue, it dawned on Ginger, and she exclaimed, “Guys, I know exactly where he is…!”

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 5

“You’re crazy!” I balked at his preposition.

            Babelsama did not take my flippant attitude very lightly. “Oh, you think so, huh?”

            I retorted, “Yeah, that’s why I said it!”

            “You question my sanity when you’re the one who’s willing to let innocent people get terrorized by their greatest fears!” Babelsama pointed out.

            “Are you trying to make me sound evil? You’re the one who’s allied yourself with demons!” I shot back.

            Babelsama refuted, “Hell isn’t all demons! Most of it is comprised of fallen angels! And it seems rather selfish of you to subject your neighbors to absolute horror just ‘cause you don’t want to return that key to me!”

            I sarcastically told him, “You’re right. I should give you the key and let you continue to wreak havoc on my town instead- that’s loads better!”

            “Is this an official refusal to comply?” Babelsama asked.

            “It is,” I firmly answered.

            Babelsama brought up, “Even if it means putting your students through their worst nightmare?”

            I hesitated at this concept that he introduced. “You’re gonna go after children?”

            “Not me! That’s kind of Damon’s M.O. Does this change your mind?” Babelsama peered at me hopefully.

            “No way!” I did feel a twinge of guilt for allowing innocent kids to get exposed to frightening and possibly traumatic experiences, but then I caught a glimpse of Roxy and asserted, “She’s a student, and she doesn’t seem too worried!”

            Babelsama stated, “She has no reason to be afraid, she has custody over Damon!”

            Roxy incredulously reacted, “I do?”

            “Woah, woah, woah!” Damon finally spoke up. I had forgotten how thick his Eastern European accent was, which made me wonder why Manuel didn’t question his claim of being from Philly! “I have to get bossed around by her? I’d rather go back to the torture chamber in Hell, thank you!”

            “She can’t control you, she’s merely in charge of your safety and well-being,” Babelsama informed Damon. Still seemed leery about the notion, so Babelsama expounded on the topic, “It was her DNA in the potion, so you don’t have a choice! But you should count your lucky stars that she was the one to make a contribution- she appears to really care about you. If this wise-guy used the facility, he would not offer you any sort of protection!”

            While I found Damon’s grief over his predicament quite humorous, I couldn’t help but contemplate on a fact that I doubted Babelsama had intended to highlight. “He needs a security guard, huh? So, there’s a way to do him harm then?”

            Babelsama disputed my allegation, “You can’t hurt him! He’s pure vapor! The only real threat against him lies in his duration on Earth and…” He trailed off when he realized the admission he had divulged. “Not t hat it’s so easy to get rid of a ghost! You’ll have a hard time getting rid of him, trust me!”

            “I’ll take my chances,” I affirmed. “And I’m sure there’s a way to destroy your key too…”

            “Good luck with that!” Babelsama spat.

            Damon anxiously responded to Babelsama, “No, don’t encourage that!” Babelsama gave him a reproachful stare, so his intentions with that sentence became clear to Damon. “Oh, I see where you were going with that! Speaking of going, now that I’m back in Terra Belle, it’s time to finish what I started!” He maniacally cackled and then disappeared through the wall adjacent to the front yard.

            Roxy called after him, “Wait, Damon! I can’t go through solid objects like you! Don’t forget, you belong to me!” She sped out the door, and based on this interaction, I didn’t profoundly fret about her interference in our effort to mitigate our phantom problem!

            Phoebe and I turned back to the portrait, and Babelsama kind of stood there awkwardly. “So… was there something else you had to say or…?” I inquired.

            “No,” Babelsama shrugged. “You created this window, and so we’re just… you know… connected from now on.”

            “Ugh, screw that! We don’t want a haunted toilet!” Phoebe picked up the portrait and broke it in half with her knee!

            To our shock, another portrait instantly appeared in its place! “Nice try!” Babelsama remarked. “You would need to use an antidotal potion to rid yourself of me! And no, I’m not gonna tell you how to brew it!”

            I uttered a noise of annoyance, and after we all marched out of the guest bathroom, I slammed the door shut! We could still hear him talking though! Actually, he started humming about how doomed we were, which definitely got on my nerves! Phoebe posed to me, “So, now what?”

            “Well have to tell the others what happened,” I determined. “They won’t be happy, but we’ll have to work together in order to…” I didn’t complete that speculation because I spotted Miriam and Blaise tuning in on us, and I nearly jumped when I recollected that they were even there! They had been so quiet during that whole conversation that I forgot that they were still around! They bore really staunch poker faces, which didn’t give me any clues as to how they felt about this strange development! An occurrence like this would spook any normal person, but I wasn’t certain that these ex-cult leaders qualified for that category! I decided to gage their status by querying, “Wow, that was totally freaky, huh?”

            “You know, if you’re not comfortable staying somewhere where a demonic dude and a ghost invade, we’ll completely understand if you wanna go some place else…” Phoebe hinted to them.

            We could hear Babelsama’s muffled objections to how she characterized him, but no one paid a substantial amount of attention to him. Blaise opined, “A window to another realm is pretty scary…” Phoebe and I got our hopes raised up, but then he added, “I bet you could hustle some big bucks off that shit!”

            I was filled with a mix of disappointment of this indication of their desire to remain here and aghast at the image of my home shifting into a weird, touristy destination! “No, don’t you dare! No cult meetings here either!” Blaise appeared as though he wanted to pretend to have no plans of doing such an act, but then he saw my scathing expression and pouted knowing that I was too calculating to fall for that ruse.

            Man, after such a long and exhausting day, I thought I could at least look forward to a much-needed night of rest, but that didn’t happen! Phoebe and I heard Blaise and Miriam arguing monumentally after midnight, and even when they finally went to sleep, we still got woken up each time they came to use the master bathroom. No one wanted to use the other toilet with Babelsama watching what everyone did in there, and thanks to that stupid portrait, it seemed impossible for us to hire a plumber to inspect that clogged drain! I sincerely doubted that he would behave himself so we could get that done and make our lives a little less complicated! Each instance Miriam or Blaise used our restroom, they produced a blaring light that disturbed our slumber, and coupling that with the noise they emitted in the process, neither Phoebe nor I could relax enough to snooze like we needed to! We heard that Blaise and Miriam wanted to start searching for their own abode the next day, so we merrily anticipated a nice, quiet nap, but their truck wouldn’t start, so they spent the entire Saturday trying to fix it. They constantly came inside and returned outside, and the constant in and out vexed us enough, but what dampened our mood worse than that was the fact that regardless of what area they occupied, they created enough clamor that we couldn’t get a second of serenity! Even blasting my music couldn’t fully drown them out! Phoebe offered to lend them her car, but Blaise rejected that suggestion because the car was “foreign.” It wasn’t, the manufacturer just had a model that sounded exotic! I wouldn’t allow them to drive my luxury vehicle- it was fully paid for, but if they wrecked it, it would be irreplaceable on my new salary! The one plus side of that stretch- we saw no sign of Damon’s chaotic intentions, but another sleepless night would elapse and that would change…

            Once our Sunday promised to be a repeat of the previous day, we snapped and simply had to get out of the house! Phoebe found an art and wine festival online, and seeing how we had run out of booze fairly quickly, we figured it would be the perfect date for us! Unfortunately, Miriam and Blaise requested to tag along, and we couldn’t find a valid excuse to deny that to them. We crossed our fingers that they might stumble across some type of housing lead while we were there, but that didn’t happen! Instead, Blaise kept approaching different people with obvious aspirations of recruiting them to his religion, which I had no inkling how he would accomplish that since he didn’t have a building where he was permitted to practice his strange rituals! Even liquor didn’t make this excursion bearable! Our only break came when Blaise had to use a port-a-potty, but that didn’t last long! His session did, our relaxation did not…

            “I’m gonna go check out that booth over there!” Miriam let us know.

            “Are you gonna recruit anyone?” I wearily questioned her.

            Miriam shook her head. “Nah! I just wanna blend in with that crowd and enjoy being normal for once!”

            A pang of empathy rang out for her, but I couldn’t’ dwell on that too extensively- I had to take advantage of this opportunity to, at last, chat privately with my girlfriend! “Finally, we’re alone!”

            “Oh hi, Mister Fenmore! Miss Caracy!” a young man with immaculate, blonde hair and wildly expensive designer clothes gleefully greeted us.

            “Hi, Peter,” I articulated with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, which was rather miniscule! I really didn’t want to engage in an idle discussion right then, so I prayed that my lack of follow up would encourage him to move on to something else!

            Didn’t work! He chomped on some candied fruit and conversed, “I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s bored here! My dad has a tent to land new clients, and he swore if I went, I’d find some interesting stuff to do. I didn’t though…”

            I glanced at my cellphone and saw a text from our group chat with myself, Phoebe, Ellie, Fletcher, Aleck, and Ginger. I had shown them a video of Babelsama mocking us, and they still believe I was joking about the whole vampire ghost fiasco! Ginger demanded to hear where I learned computer animation, and as I insisted that I had absolutely no talent in that arena, I only partly listened to Peter’s ramblings. “Uh-huh.”

            “You know Ismeray has a booth here?” Peter bantered. “I didn’t hang out there for long though since her paintings were awful! I mean, they’re super realistic, but that’s an issue ‘cause they’re so creepy! I kinda feel like the guys in them are watching me, their eyes practically move with you! I know they’re not actually doing that, but still! Can you imagine if she did some sort of spell and made them really do that?  Wouldn’t that be dreadful?” As he munched on his treat, Phoebe and I exchanged grimaces at the irony of his hypothetical! All of a sudden, he nearly choked on his food when espied something alarming. “Oh jeez! There it is!” He leapt out of view of a certain stand, and when we investigated what the source of his fright had been, we discerned that it was the stall that Miriam had visited!

            “Wow, that’s my mom’s idea of a good spot to crash in order to act normally?” Phoebe commented as she studied Ismeray’s eclectic illustrations.

            I concurred with her sentiments, but I also dismissed them swiftly too! “Who cares! We have a few minutes to ourselves! We need to make the most of it!” I briefly considered proposing to her in this rare gap between our perpetual turmoil bouts, you know, in case we were never bequeathed a stint like that again, but then…

            Damon’s voice came into our ears, “Hello, my former teachers!”

            Utterly incensed by this disruption, I yelled, “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” The passersby all gazed at me peculiarly, and I pondered why I would merit such judgment when we had a bona fide ghoul floating over our heads, but when I scanned the vicinity to scope him out, he was nowhere in sight! “Thanks a lot, you prick! You successfully made everyone think I’m a lunatic! Oh, I guess that means your mission is done and you can go now!”

            “Somehow, I don’t feel like he surfaced here only to do that lame prank,” Phoebe theorized.

            “You don’t consider humiliating me enough of a motivation for him to materialize around us?” I rebutted. I mulled it over for a bit and then concluded, “Hey, all in all, if I can learn to react more calmly when he does that crap, this whole situation may not be so bad!” Suddenly, high-pitched screaming followed by flocks of attendees scattering from a certain region suggested otherwise…

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 4

“What are these doing here?” Blaise indignantly asked Miriam as he gestured towards the luggage in the hallway.

            “I’m sorry, I just thought…” Miriam started to answer as the doorbell rang for a second time.

            I picked myself up as Blaise chided Miriam, “See, I don’t believe you were thinking or else you wouldn’t have left them in such a haphazard spot!”

            As Miriam apologized for the inappropriate placement of the bags, I briefly considered ignoring the person who had come to visit because no decent person deserved to get subjected to this clown show, but then I decided to open the door in hopes that maybe it would compel everyone to act normally! To my astonishment, it wasn’t a stranger who had chosen the most inappropriate time to come, it was Roxy! Actually, I shouldn’t have been too surprised about that- she was across the street a few minutes ago! “Blaise, Conor left the luggage there!” Phoebe stepped into that foray. “He-.”

            “And why was he doing your job?” Blaise accosted Miriam.

            “How can I help you, Roxy?” I loudly queried Roxy in case no had realized that their conversation was no longer private.

            To my dismay, Blaise and Miriam kept contending the same point, but Roxy either hadn’t noticed their scuffle or chose to ignore it. “Can I use your bathroom?” she requested.

            Phoebe tried to intervene and put an end to that ruckus, but they continued to loudly debate each other despite her most earnest attempts at reconciliation. It baffled me that Roxy could witness such chaos where two of her teachers lived and not even bat an eyelash, but since it didn’t appear to bother her, I supposed that there was no harm in allowing her to enter. “Fine, go ahead!” Big mistake- you’ll see why in a minute!

            Roxy went around the participants of that fracas as unmoved as she might be having to steer around an overgrown bush on the sidewalk, and as she nonchalantly strolled past the valises, I lost my patience with this kerfuffle and bellowed, “Alright, that’s enough!” Everyone froze, and admittedly, I felt rather proud of myself for this feat! My father was always able to command attention like that from me and/or the neighborhood kids if anyone was acting up, and if we knew it was one of the rare instances he didn’t have to work, we strove to behave our best to avoid hearing the scary dad voice! …Not that we were bad that often… Anyways, I hadn’t become a parent yet, so I didn’t know I could do that! I made a mental note to keep this tool in my back pocket for my students at school, and then I spoke to Roxy first, “Not you, you can go to the bathroom!” Roxy gratefully sped into the restroom at the end of the hall.

            I turned to Blaise and reasoned, “The longer you bicker, the longer the luggage stays out here where you don’t want them to be! So, let’s get your things to your room and focus on getting everything settled for your stay instead.” Miriam swiftly grabbed the baggage and hurried them into the extra bedroom. Blaise clearly didn’t relish someone other than him commanding the helm, so prior to him protesting this standard, I warned him, “It’s my home, so you gotta listen to my rules!” After I heard myself utter those words, I remarked, “Wow! What’s up with me today? Am I being possessed by my father?”

            “Are you?” Blaise probed. He then peered at me with great interest, which I found incredibly odd! So much so that it was too difficult for my brain to wrap around this peculiarity to give him a reply!

            “Mister Fenmore?” Roxy broke the uncomfortable silence quite unabashedly.

            I somewhat vexedly responded, “What?”

            She replied, “Your toilet is clogged.”

            “Oh great! We’ve got extra people here now, and this is the moment we find out the toilet is broken!” I ranted. “Ugh! It’s too late in the day to call a plumber! We don’t even have any de-clogging fluid!”

            “You could use salt and boiling water,” Miriam suggested. “That’s what we used to do in our old commune. We did most of our own fixes ‘cause repairmen tended to avoid going to our place…”

            I exasperatedly shrugged and declared, “It’s worth a shot!”

            Phoebe filled a pot with water and set it on the stove, and Miriam advised us, “You gotta let the salt sit for a while…”

            Still fairly irate, I grabbed a container of salt and marched over to the guest bathroom. I began pouring some in, but I wasn’t certain on the correct amount, so I momentarily quit. I was about to consult with Miriam about this issue when I espied the salt already getting sucked into the drain! “Wow, it’s working without the…” Suddenly, the water inside of the tank started swirling around without being preceded by a flush! “That’s kinda weird…”

            “Ooh, it could be magic!” Roxy, who had interestedly peered over my shoulder, excitedly theorized.

            “Oh please, it’s not magic!” I disagreed. At that instant, the water rose out of the bowl in a vortex that swirled like a tornado! I stammered, “What the… What’s it… Why… Phoebe!”

            Phoebe ran over to us, and the speed of this phenomenon heightened substantially! It whirled faster and faster until it morphed into a ball and shot out towards the wall behind us! We ducked, and when we felt ensured that we would be safe from projectiles, we looked up and beheld the portrait of a pallid, slightly older man with a large bald spot, a crown of darkly hued hair, an obtuse and very crooked nose, and beady, black eyes hung above us on an old nail and rather aged twine! Phoebe and I remained speechless, but Roxy triumphantly exclaimed, “I told you!”

            I couldn’t contradict her- obviously, that occurrence hadn’t been produced naturally! I couldn’t comprehend how it came to pass, but I did know one fact regarding this sordid event, “I didn’t do any spells!”

            My heart nearly leapt out of my chest when the portrait opened his mouth and articulated, “It’s not a spell, it’s an effect of a potion! And you poured in the final ingredient to make it brew!”

            A million bewildered cognitions flurried throughout my head! Did Roxy create a certified jinx for once, or did Blaise set her up? Did Miriam know that salt was needed to produce this enchantment? Did Damon’s key really contain a curse after all, and if it did, why did it wait until right then to manifest? I couldn’t get past this aura of familiarity I got from that man in the painting, so I chose to bring that up in the leadoff, “I’ve heard your voice somewhere! Are you…? No way! You can’t be the guardian of the Netherworld!”

            “What’s that supposed to mean?” the man in portrait challenged me.

            “Well, in that abandoned house, you sounded like a… Your pitch gave the impression that… I pictured you more demon-like! I never would have imagined that the scary speaker from the depths of hell was just a grumpy old monk!” I altered my tone completely when it dawned on me that while a talking portrait was super creepy, it didn’t seem like it posed much of a threat! My slur made him pout in an overly miffed manner, and I hypothesized that if he had the same potency that he did previously, he would have struck in that second! I snarkily inquired, “So, what does this spell do other than give you the power to be very annoying?”

            He took exception to that characterization, “How dare you! First of all, it’s a potion, not a spell! But more importantly, while I may not be able to attack you personally, I am still guardian of the Netherworld- I could wreak havoc on you if I really wanted to!”

            I raised my eyebrows at that. “Seriously? You’re gonna claim that you don’t actually wanna hurt me at all? A few months ago, you threw several bolts of lightning in my direction so your minions could disembowel me in order to retrieve something I swallowed! And now you’re gonna show me mercy?”

            “I am not showing you mercy!” the man refuted. “I could easily unleash my wrath if I wanted to! I’m not going to yet though because I need something from you.”

            “Oh?” I put my hands on my hips to brace myself for this doozy.

            The man requisitioned, “I want my key back!”

            I pulled the spoon out of my pocket and pondered, “This is yours? I was under the impression that it belonged to that old geezer, Damon!” Roxy stared at me dubiously, so I let her know, “He was wearing a young person’s disguise! And not a very good one, he had the looks of a rejected extra from The Great Gatsby!”

            “Wow, you’re insulting my masterpiece now? You’re not very nice!” the man commented.

            “Psh! You tried to kill me, and you want me to show you politeness? You can go to Hell! Oh wait, you’re already there!” I laughed at my own quip partly to incense him further but also due to my lack of sleep making everything seem hilarious!

            The man seethed, “I’m in the Netherworld, we’re a grade above Hell! I mean, we do partner with them, but it’s not quite the same! In this realm, the inhabitants are neither alive nor dead…”

            I loudly yawned, which wasn’t on purpose but had opportune timing, and then I disinterestedly regarded him, “Alright, that was very interesting, but if that’s all you got, I have other stuff to do…”

            “I don’t!” Roxy chimed in. “Is my Damon in there? Can I see him?”

            “You can see him if you give me that key!” the man offered.

            Roxy lunged after the spoon, but I held it up high enough where she couldn’t reach it. She still kept leaping towards in desperately, but I tuned her out as I addressed the man, “Even if I had any inclination to give you Damon’s key, how would I even do that?” I put it up to the portrait and pointed out, “You can’t exactly grab it, can you? And I don’t know if that spell unclogged the toilet or not…”

            He corrected me, “Damon borrowed that key from me. I placed it on earth ages ago so that I could gain direct access to this region and cause even more mayhem!”

            “You enjoy causing trouble, but you’re not in Hell?” I needled him.

            “No!” He shuddered in annoyance. “We simply allied ourselves with them! You’ll see what I mean when you get here!”

            I sardonically posed to him, “I will?”

            He insisted, “Yes! You will open the portal and return the key to me!  I can’t take it directly since the magic I used before broke when you locked the door, so you got to bring it to me yourself! You can get here through that locked portal. Oh, when you get to the front desk, tell them you’re there to see Babelsama and someone will guide you up here.”

            Front desk? He conveyed a visit to Hell as though it was a mere jaunt to an associate’s office space! It was intriguing, but I didn’t pry into it since I had no desire to comply with his demand! “Why would I do that? You’re trying to spread death and destruction throughout the land- why would I let that happen?”

            Babelsama made a noise of irritability. “I wouldn’t do anything to you personally! Mayhem is an important part of the life cycle, and I’m just doing my job to make sure that it goes on!” Phoebe and I appeared extremely skeptical, so he growled, “You know what, forget it! I’m not explaining it to you! I’m going to give you one last chance to make the correct choice…”

            “Pass!” I rejected his proposition.

            “No! I haven’t done anything yet!” Babelsama snapped. He closed his eyes and concentrated hard, and once he built up enough stamina, he released it in a fury of lightning bolts around him! When he finished, we gazed all around the vicinity, but everything seemed unchanged! Before I could say anything smart-alecky, Babelsama instructed, “Give it a while! I had to make it go the long way!”

            We let another beat elapse, but we still didn’t detect anything out of the ordinary. I was starting to get the opinion that he had been bluffing when a thunderous clatter blasted from across the street! Babelsama cackled in delight as we ran to the front window and peeked outside in sheer curiosity. To our astonishment, we saw a white glow emanating from the area of that abandoned house where the final vampiric battle ensued, and it grew bigger and bigger until it unexpectedly decided to jet over to our abode! I had no clue what he sent over to us, but what I didn’t expect was…

            Roxy shrieked, “Eek! It’s my Damon!” She raced over to give him a hug, but her arms slipped through his transparent body as he floated over us in confusion.

            “Why did you bring him here?” I hollered to Babelsama. “Also, I thought you couldn’t do any magic here with the portal closed!”

            “I didn’t use the portal,” Babelsama relayed to me. “That was Damon’s final resting place. I may not have the capabilities I’d like to, but I still have power over the undead! If you don’t hand over the key, I’ll keep him there permanently!”

            Roxy squealed, “Yay!”

            We walked through Damon to return to that bathroom, and I stated to Babelsama, “If you think an annoying presence will tempt me into buckling down to you, you’re dreaming! I’m a teacher- I deal with plenty of them, and no one has broke me yet! I’ve been desensitized to that sort of crap!”

            “I didn’t send your typical, run-of-the-mill ghost; I equipped him with the power of the fear mongers!” He glimpsed at us with the assumption that this would paralyze us with apprehension, but we all had blank expressions on our faces. “You know, the fear mongers! Really?” He huffed and then educated us, “They have the ability to conjure up the deepest fear of their chosen victim! If you agree to take the key back to the Netherworld, I won’t allow him to bother you, but if you don’t, he will unleash an unbelievable amount of terror in your community!” He snickered at our perturbation, and then he entreated, “So, what do you say now?” My eyes flickered between him, Damon, and my housemates as I mulled over how to respond to this…

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 3

“Great, now we can begin!” Aleck declared. “Hand it over to me.” I gave the spoon to Phoebe, who tried to pass it to Fletcher.

            “You expect me to touch that thing?” Fletcher flinched when the object came near him. “I ain’t getting cursed!”

            I denoted, “It was Damon’s key to the Netherworld, why would he put a curse on something he regularly used?”

            Phoebe tacked on to that, “We’ve had it for several months and nothing weird has happened! Since we defeated Damon, everything’s been normal!”

            “Don’t say that!” Ellie warned her. “You’ll jinx our luck!” Too late! Little did we know, at that very moment, the wheels of chaos had already been set in motion!

            “Here, you pass it to him!” I attempted to bestow the spoon over to Ginger.

            Ginger’s nose crinkled at this prospect. “Ugh! No way! I’m not touching the poop key!”

            I objected to that characterization, “I passed it way back in October! If I hadn’t cleaned it, do you really believe I would hold on to it this whole time? Like I want a constant reminder of that ordeal!” I shuddered as the memories of that event came floating back to me, but then I shook it off and went on, “Anyways, since that day, it’s been washed! Not mention burned and drowned in bleach! It’s okay to touch!”

            No one else wanted to lay a finger on it, so Aleck proffered, “Oh, you big babies! I’ll get it myself!” I envisaged that he would walk over to the desk I was sitting at, but instead, he stopped at the halfway point and used some long, metal tongs to grab it!

            As he returned to his station at the head of the class, Ginger inquired, “We’ve used a dozen different methos that should’ve obliterated it, and nothing’s worked; what makes you feel like this stuff is gonna do the trick?”

            “Science!” Aleck replied as he turned on a small venting fan above him and brought out all of the chemicals he needed. “This chemical is often used to remove the oxide coating on metal. If we can remove the protective layer that surrounds it, it should be fairly easy to destroy the rest of it.”

            “That’s assuming its protection comes from an earthly source!” Ellie brought up.

            Aleck didn’t address the possibility of supernatural shielding. The whole vampire concept was hard for a scientific man like him to grasp onto, so I guessed that he didn’t want to entertain a new paranormal possibility right then! He shushed her as if he needed to concentrate on the chemicals in his hand, but I felt certain that he had done experiments like this in numerous instances in the past and could have done this blindfolded if he wanted to! Ellie obviously evidently shared that view, but she couldn’t prove anything, so she resorted to folding her arms as we watched him carefully pour the two substances together. The beaker started to emit smoke, and as it was billowing, Aleck placed the spoon into the vessel. Our anticipation escalated through the roof- maybe this would be it! Maybe we found something that finally worked! The vapor grew stronger and stronger, and I dared to build up my optimism higher and higher on the notion that when everything cleared up, the blasted artifact would, at last, disappear from existence…

            When the smoking effect ceased, we saw a perfectly polished piece of silver resting in a pile of white powder! We all groaned, and I gazed to the skies in frustration, which made me bang my head on the cabinets behind me and prompted Roxy’s “Isaac Newton” project to fall onto my skull! Luckily, everyone was too stung to laugh at my misfortunate, but Aleck couldn’t resist saying, “Oh look, gravity works!”

            The others ignored his quip, still trying to absorb the disappointment of this flop, and Fletcher lamented, “That hogwash didn’t destroy the spoon, the spoon destroyed the hogwash!”

            “Actually, that’s the proper reaction to this mixture. Ammonium Chloride is the compound that makes up industrial salt,” Aleck clearly presumed that we would get enthralled by that educational tidbit, but we were all too discontented to care! Although, if we hadn’t been so freshly wounded, we more than likely would have produced the same outcome for him!

            “Now what?” Phoebe posed to everybody. “I dunno about the rest of you, but I’m out of ideas!”

            We all put our minds together, but nobody could come up with any suggestions. I griped, “So, what, am I supposed to carry this around for the rest of my life?”

            Fletcher proposed, “Drop it off at a thrift store donation site! As far as anyone can tell, it’s just an ordinary spoon!”

            “Um… We’ve discussed that before,” Ellie reminded him. “We can’t risk something like that floating around the area like that! What if somebody figures out what it is and opens that door back up? Damon hurt a lot of our kids when he did it!”

            “And Mister Armand didn’t do too well when he unlocked that realm!” I added.

            Fletcher differed, “It’s been almost six months and not a soul has taken a whack at trying to collect it. I say it’s time to scrap it and be officially done with this garbage!”

            Ginger disagreed, “Look, I don’t like it either, but if we let it continue to exist, then there’ll always be the chance of that portal reemerging! I know, this process is annoying, but battling those vampires was more bothersome than that! I’m not risking having to repeat that nightmare ever again!” Aleck, Ellie, Phoebe and I all vehemently nodded in agreement, and Fletcher reluctantly acquiesced.

            “It seems like all we can do is do a little research in unusual ways to destroy that key,” Phoebe concluded. “We can try scientific as well as less orthodox ways to do it, and I’m sure one of the solutions we conjure up will eventually pan out!”

            “I hope we can do it before the prom,” Ginger commented. “I told Brielle that I was part of the planning committee, and if that day passes, I can’t keep giving my girlfriend that excuse!”

            Ellie put in, “While we’re doing research on that, we really ought to learn more about Damon’s history!”

            We all protested that proposition, and I exasperatedly expressed, “I thought we agreed that now that he’s dead that we weren’t gonna ever waste a second recollecting anything about that asshole!”

            “You brought him up ‘cause of your poop key!” Ellie pointed out.

            “It’s not a poop key!” I barked.

            Fletcher stated, “You don’t know that! If you don’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it!” None of us concurred with that opinion, but I wish we had! His personal story wouldn’t prove consequential, but if we had become more well-versed in mythical topics, we could have handled the upcoming obstacles in a much more productive fashion!

            Prior to us debating the issue any further, a Hispanic man with a bright sweater-vest, round glasses, and a fatherly smile popped into the room and queried, “Hey! What are you all still doing here?”

            “They were helping me peer review this experiment for a future lab,” Aleck fibbed. “Sorry Manuel, I should have asked to use this space after hours.”

            “I see…” Manuel rubbed his chin contemplatively. It didn’t appear that he bought his explanation, but after a beat, he apparently dismissed it and advised us, “No more work! Go home, enjoy your weekend!”

            Phoebe muttered, “Like that’s gonna happen!” Manuel gave her a quizzical look, so she clarified, “I gotta make some calls for the prom committee… And my mom and stepdad are coming…”

            Manuel repeated his contemplative chin rub. “I see… Well, in any case, it’s the weekend, go home!” We all complied, and he grinned at us before heading out. Once he left, the six of us collected our belongings and despondently exited, none of us looking forward to the extra task we had to tackle. I took back the spoon, and as I stuffed it in my pocket, I crossed my fingers that Ginger would get her wish on the timeline of the completion of this undertaking!

            “No, I need the price of your yellow roses, not posies! I didn’t even know posies came in yellow!” Phoebe did her utmost to remain polite on the phone, but I could sense her vexation heightening more and more as the conversation went on. We were getting closer to our home, and I prayed that she would wrap up this call before then because Miriam and Blaise were due there at any minute and I did not want to encounter them all by myself! “No, I need them for Rosemary King’s prom, I’m not ordering myself a bouquet!”

            “Not yet!” I voiced out loud, which was something I intended to only inwardly muse about!

            Right as I was wondering if she heard that, she asked me, “What did you say?”

            I quickly answered, “Nothing!” While I drove to our place, I began mulling over different methods of proposing to her that were less cheesy (both literally and figuratively) than my first attempt, so marrying her was on my train of thoughts when I heard her touch on buying flowers for herself. I didn’t realize how tired I felt until then, and rather than risk another slip up, I decided to table any ruminations on the subject!

            “That is the group rate?” Phoebe bewailed. “Okay, I’ll get back to you later.” She hung up in a huff.

            “Why don’t they just make them out of paper?” I probed.

            Phoebe grumbled, “The student government wants it to look super Boujee, so they want all of the fanciest decorations there! I’m trying to get an estimate of how much their ideas will cost so I can give them an exact number on the amount they went over the budget! Ugh, I never pictured running into this problem for a country western theme!”

            I puzzled, “They want Boujee and country western?”

            “They’re going off some tv show where rich people go to the Old West and live out their fantasies,” Phoebe explained. “I don’t know why Manuel okayed this- I’m pretty sure they kill a bunch of people on that program!”

            “Apparently he hasn’t seen it either!” I conjectured. “Or, at least I hope he…” I trailed off when I saw some movement across the street from our house! Phoebe and I nearly had heart attacks- we needed a little longer to mentally prepare ourselves for this arrival! Upon closer inspection, I recognized the silhouette that spooked us. Roxy was sitting in front of the decrepit building with wooden panels that appeared as though the wood had flimsy before it caught on fire. Its roof had holes that were plainly created from a mix of damage from the flames and poor upkeep, and its driveway had gotten so covered by pine needles that it was no longer visible. Roxy sat by a mailbox full of rotted newspapers and waved her hands in front of a memorial with various blooms and candles beneath it, and I cringed when I spotted a freshly printed photo of a pale man with black clothing, red irises, and a vintage hairdo that hadn’t been worn since the nineteen-twenties! “Where does she keep getting those things?” I mumbled.

            Roxy turned around to face us in a style that indicated that she had overheard my griping- obviously, I could not muster any subtlety that evening! “Huh?” she glimpsed at us with furrowed brows.

            “Do you need anything, Roxy?” Phoebe covered for my blunder. “A snack maybe? Do you gotta use the bathroom or something?”

            “I’m fine,” Roxy asserted before returning to her strange gestures. I could distinguish that she was striving to manifest some sort of spell, and while I knew nothing about witchcraft, I was fairly certain that she was doing it wrong! I could easily comprehend why Ismeray would want to intervene!

            Phoebe and I went inside and immediately leaned on the walls! We could have fallen asleep right there in the foyer, we were that exhausted! I canvassed Phoebe, “Do you think we have time to take a fast nap?”

            All of a sudden, the sound of a loud, sputtering truck bellowed throughout the neighborhood, and Phoebe relayed to me, “I doubt it!”

            The cacophony of their vehicle increased in volume, and something from their car emitted a sharp squealing too! I couldn’t fathom how that clunker made it across state lines! Phoebe and I faced the entrance and planted fake smiles on our faces when the din disappeared. The patter of footsteps echoed from the pathway, and I found myself beseeching the universe that this stemmed from a couple of solicitors coming to push their ware on us! The front door barged open, and Blaise walked inside with a carriage so superfluous that you’d expect it to have originated from an actor from that show where the student body got its prom theme inspiration from! I aimed to offer him hospitality nonetheless, so I extended my hand and politely greeted him, “Nice to meet you, sir!”

            He disregarded my hand and went straight for a hug! “None of those formalities, we’re family now!” After an awkward squeeze, he boorishly embraced Phoebe and then informed us, “Hold on, I gotta take a bigger leak than a broken outhouse!”

            Phoebe and I partly closed our eyes from disgust from that outburst, but before we were able to articulate our feelings on that ghastly image, we saw Miriam hobbling up to the porch with two large suitcases. “Let me help you with those!”

            Miriam gratefully handed them over to me. “Oh, thank you!” Considering that Miriam was such a frail person, I didn’t expect her luggage to weigh so much! I resorted to pushing them down the hall, and Miriam wanted to know, “Do you need help with those?”

            I meant to ensure her that I didn’t, but then a crash sounded from the end of the hall where the guest bathroom was located, and Jett frightfully fled from it and accidentally tripped me! Fortunately, I caught myself before I tumbled completely down, and I moaned, “Can this get any worse?” Another piece of advice: never tempt fate by asking that question! At this precise instant, the doorbell rang, and believe it or not, all of these harried incidents would bring us to the origin of the ghost that would soon haunt our community…

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 2

“Listen, I’m sorry I invited them over without discussing it with you first! I was insensitive, and I will do what I can to make it up to you, I swear!” I gazed at Phoebe hopefully. I thought that my preemptive strike might ebb her white-hot rage not because I still believed that I had a shot at success for a proposal- I just wanted to avoid sleeping in the doghouse that night!

            “Gosh, I didn’t even think of that!” Phoebe concluded after mulling over my statement. “I should be mad about that too!”

            Drats! It appeared as though I had unwittingly dug myself in a little deeper! I then grew baffled by her vehement reaction. She once accused herself of being too nice to people who may not always deserve it, so her hostile attitude towards her mother and stepfather staying with us for a stretch completely addled me! “Oh, come on, what’s the big deal?”

            Little advice: Never ask an angry woman that question! It incensed her further, and she bellowed, “They ran a cult! Happy?”

            “No!” Initially, I wasn’t sure if a heard her correctly. That seemed like such an outrageous concept that it couldn’t possibly have been accurate! Then again, a few months ago, I encountered a gang of vampires (What is a group of vampires called? I never did look that up!) and a guardian of the Netherworld, so I deemed that I ought to have opened my mind up a bit! “You never mentioned that you came from a…” Phoebe and I got to know each other fairly comprehensively inside and out, so I couldn’t see how she would have failed to disclose that she had to get deprogrammed from a mind-controlling sect!

            “I was never a part of it!” Phoebe asserted before inquiring, “Do you remember how I told you that my mom and I didn’t really talk anymore?”

            I replied, “Yeah, but when you said it was too painful to speak about, I assumed that you two had a fight over an ex or something and just lost contact with each other; you didn’t say anything about a cult!”

            She defended her action, “Well, it’s not an easy thing to admit about your family!”

            “You could have revealed this sooner!” I supportively reassured her. “You stuck by me when I claimed that blood-sucking monsters really existed! I mean, I turned out to be right, but you didn’t know that in the beginning! Did you actually expect me to judge you too harshly after that?”

            “I guess you couldn’t, huh?” she chuckled slightly, which was a relieving sight for me! I was seriously already making plans to either make that leather couch more comfortable to sleep on or fight Jett for her kitty bed, and I now held more optimism of getting welcomed back into our room! She sighed, “I probably owe you an explanation…”

            I kidded her, “Probably? Were you considering leaving the conversation there? You can’t announce that your family ran a cult and then carry on like nothing happened! Like ‘Oh, one of my relatives started their own crazy religion, so… What kind of pizza do you want for dinner?’”

            Phoebe laughed, and then she illuminated me, “When I was in college, my dad cheated on my mom, so she walked out on him. The only problem with that was that she had no money and nowhere to go. She ended up going to different bars to either get men to buy her drinks or take her home or both. So, one day, she’s in this dirty, old pub and met Blaise, and then… then I wished that I had chosen to live off-campus so she could have crashed on my couch instead of feeling forced to join his cult! I could have avoided getting paired with that snobby roommate too! Bleck!”

            “So, what kind of cult does Blaise run?” I wanted to be sympathetic with her, but my curiosity was so peaked that I couldn’t concentrate on anything else!

            “I’m not sure. They’re really secretive, and no one’s ever divulged much about it unless they were trying to recruit them. Even then, they didn’t give them much ‘til they could trust them. People kinda just disappeared onto their compound! They could write letters to their families, but they mainly just proved that they were alive, they didn’t describe their lives much. I quit responding to Mom’s communication ‘cause she kept trying to get me to live with them. I tried doing research on them to help her, but all I could gather was the gossip from the small mountain town nearby their headquarters. Apparently, the word was that they performed strange rituals in there. They heard mysterious chants sometimes, and they would see weird behavior. Like one time, Blaise got arrested for public indecency and smuggling tropical fish in the same day!” She paused and added, “I don’t know what that means, and I don’t wanna find out!”

            I concurred, “I’d rather not know either! People followed him for spiritual guidance?”

            Phoebe exasperatedly shrugged. “A lot of people devoutly held the belief that this guy was some kind of savior! Not the IRS though- they’re seizing all of their assets! And now their glorious leader is coming to live with us!”

            “Ugh! Damn it!” I exclaimed. I inwardly chastised myself for getting myself into this mess, and after uttering a stream of curse words and scaring Jett again, an idea suddenly struck me. “If he tries to organize another cult while he’s with us, we don’t have to feel any guilt for kicking them out, right?”

            “I was gonna let them live in their truck all along!” Phoebe pointed out. “Pepperoni.”

            Very much confused by her last declaration, I queried, “Huh?”

            Phoebe clarified, “You were asking what kind of pizza I wanted.”

            “No, I was pretending to be you,” I corrected her.

            “Oh! Well, I still want pepperoni.” She went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of wine. “I should’ve finished writing that Dickinson quiz over the weekend ‘cause I’m certainly not getting it done tonight! Eh, I’ll show them a video instead! They’ll probably love me forever for that one!”

            I romantically conveyed to her, “I already do!” I briefly considered this interaction and swiftly amended my sentence, “Not ‘cause of the quiz, I just do!”

            She smiled and affirmed, “I do too! I mean, I love you, not me! Yes, I love myself, but not in the same way! Wow, I need more wine!” We both giggled at each other, and as she decompressed from the anticipation of these potentially troublesome guests, I wistfully toyed with the ring in my pocket and crossed my fingers that Mirriam and Blaise’s temporary residency wouldn’t’ interfere with my intentions to try again…

            …. But, as you might have already figured out, they definitely did! So did the ghost! But someone else had equal blame to that pending fiasco… The next day, my sixth period class filed in and began taking out their homework from other teachers’ classes, so I attempted to hide my irritation as I reminded them, “Once again, this class is no longer study hall! Do I look like Mister Dusan?”

            “Yeah, sorta!” one student assessed.

            “Whatever! Just take out your textbooks… from this class!” I instructed them through gritted teeth. “Turn it to page…”

            I trailed off as a student entered the classroom long after the tardy bell, and she seemed completely oblivious to the fact that a bunch of her peers were watching her slowly trek to her seat! She wore a long, dark dress, a black hat with a small, mesh veil over her face, and very gothic makeup. Other than her platinum blonde hair, she had no color on her whatsoever! I couldn’t help but stare incredulously- this girl, while definitely not the brightest, used to have a bubbly personality and donned every asinine trend that teen’s currently coveted, but ever since Damon’s demise, she hardly spoke a word and always dressed like she was attending a funeral! I got used to ignoring her melodramatic demeanor, but since I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night, my patient fell short and I snapped, “Still?”

            She halted in her tracks and had to blink herself back into the present upon hearing that. “What’s still?”

            “This whole mourning stunt!” I vented, “How could you still be grieving over a guy that you had one date with? Really, it was more like one half ‘cause he ditched you halfway through!”

            “I’m not explaining myself to you!” she retorted. “Because of you, I couldn’t say goodbye to him before he died! I never saw him again since you got him kicked out of school!”

            I cried out, “He tried to kill me! Don’t you think that’s a pretty darn good reason to have him expelled?” She didn’t articulate another word, she simply pouted and turned her head so that we could no longer make eye contact. I exhaled in aggravation, and then I directed her, “You’re late, Roxy. Go see Principal Palillo.” She posed her nose up in the air in order to emanate reprobate my decision, but as she tried to smoothly march out of the room, she missed the doorway and crashed into the frame! The other students heartily chortled at this, but Roxy didn’t react to them since her veil got stuck in one of the hinges! “Don’t tug on it, you’ll rip it!” I advised her.

            I walked over to lend her a hand, but she managed to free herself prior to my intervention. She gave me a dirty look and then cawed, “I don’t need your assistance! Good day!” She then proceeded to collide into the door! The other children uproariously cracked up at her antics while I opened the door for her to make sure she didn’t hurt herself. Either she didn’t receive any injuries or it didn’t bother her much- she left without further incident after that! I threw up my shoulders and figured that if she sustained too much bodily harm, Manuel could deal with it!

            “We’re not talking about it!” I snapped to the class as they watched in a heightened amusement. Their excitement turned into a crushing disappointment, but I didn’t care- I was too grumpy to calm down a few dozen hyper adolescents!

            “But that witch-!” one of the students objected.

            I grumbled, “Don’t call her names. Take out your textbook and-.”

            A girl in medieval-inspired, purple clothing disputed, “She is a witch though! I’ve seen her practice her spell work! She was doing it completely wrong though! I offered to show her how to do it right, but she-.”

            I interrupted her, “Thank you, Ismeray! Now, if you all don’t open your books to chapter thirteen, I’ll give you all detention!” That certainly got all of their attention, which I felt grateful for since I was totally bluffing about that punishment! I didn’t know if there was a maximum capacity for the detention hall, but I had plans after class, so I had zero interest in enforcing that threat! And, in case you’re wondering, yes, that airheaded witch played a huge role in the ghost conundrum! The smarter witch caused trouble too, but not as much as Roxy! I’ll get to that soon, don’t worry!

            Once the bell rang, I dashed out into the hallway! Or, at least, I meant to do that! My path got blocked by a man with the appearance of an aged football star well past his prime! He may have been a total stud back in the day, but he was merely an arrogant prick in this decade! He gazed at me in a triumphant fashion, so I addressed him, “If there’s anything I can do to help you, Casper, I’m not going to! I’m late for-.”

            “I heard that you had some struggles with getting your lesson started today,” he tauntingly conversed as he took a bit from an apple that he held in one hand while his other hand remained behind his back.

            “Why were you listening to what went on in my classroom?” I challenged him.

            He haughtily assured me, “Connor, I would never try to overhear your boring spiel about maintaining client relations! My kids were taking a test, so I listened for spirits on my horn!” He raised his non-apple hand to showcase a bronzed bull’s horn.

            I sarcastically remarked, “Oh yeah, that’s totally normal!”

            “This school is haunted, you know!” he alleged.

“Sure it is…” Ordinarily, I would have entertained that notion since the town’s rumor of the house across the street from me being haunted turned out to be accurate, but not a single other staff member made that claim about Rosemary King!

Casper insisted, “Trust me, I’m an expert on the paranormal! You see, in addition to governmental studies, I spent my university days closely following the- Hey!” He got insulted as I lost interest in that conversation and began walking away. “Where are you going?”

I mockingly proclaimed, “I’m gonna go hunt for spirits!”

Casper sniffed, “Well, I doubt you’ll ever find any!” In this one instance, I would have loved for his theory to prove to be correct! He didn’t have anything to do with the phantom dilemma we had to deal with later, he was just annoying and made this burden even more cumbersome!

Hurrying, I entered into a room draped with science posters and small aquariums with little snakes inside of them, and everyone had already beaten me there. Phoebe sat next to a middle-aged man in gym shorts and a polo that barely covered his pot belly, and next to him was a woman with vibrant, tawny skin and an outfit that a Barbie doll might wear. She sat beside a plump woman with dark skin, gray hair, and very bold-colored garments on, and at the front of the class was a short man with thinning hair and a wrinkly, unkempt wardrobe on. Seeing this motley mix made me breathe an alleviated sigh! After enduring this exhausting shift, their company eased a lot of my tension! “Sorry I’m late! Sir Pompous Dorkington was hassling me again!” I sat down next to Phoebe, and after a quick peck, I noticed that she appeared equally frazzled. We would definitely have to have a chat about it, but it would have to wait until later- I already put everyone behind, so I didn’t want to delay this any further… except that’s exactly what I did! I caught a glimpse of the paper mâché bust resting over me and commented, “Oh, you still have the Billy Squier project up here, Aleck?”

“Come on, dude! We’ve been over this! It’s Isaac Newton,” Aleck reflected on this and then refined his stance, “It’s supposed to be anyway. Roxy didn’t like how he looked, so she modeled him after Timmothy Chalamet. Ellie thought if I put up reminders of her old personality, it’d pull her out of her funk.”

“I didn’t suggest that,” the older woman refuted. “Ginger did.” The Barbie girl nodded. “I recommended counseling, and Fletcher started going on about installing a uniform system…”

The man in gym clothes dispelled that, “I didn’t bring uniforms up ‘cause of Roxy! My twin girls decided to put on skimpy crap to punish me for not letting them go on that cruise for spring break! They only have a few months ‘til graduation, why can’t they pretend to be saints ‘til they move into their dorms!”

            Phoebe cut this topic short, “Anyways, Connor, did you bring it?”

            I proudly reported, “Of course! I always keep it with me just in case!” I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small, silver spoon. If you haven’t read my last story, you’re probably wondering why I would frequently tote something like that around, and if you did check out the last installment of this saga, you’re probably wondering why I still have it. This may sound unbelievable, but the reason that any of the chaos that later ensued took place at all was due to this object…