The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 29

Without even a second wasted on consideration of the matter, Phoebe and I marched across the street! This ordeal had now lasted two weeks, which, on the grand scheme of things, isn’t that long, but it feels like a lifetime when you’re suffering! After a slew of sleepless nights and reams of restless days, we were more than ready for this nightmare to end, and up until right then, we hadn’t gotten any new leads on how to make that happen! For the first time in what seemed like forever, a warm wave of hope ensnared my senses, and I strode over there with a fierce determination in order to end this chaos that evening! I wasn’t about to face another day of Damon’s moronic yet maniacal plot- we were going to put a stop to that immediately!

            As we passed his antique vehicle in the driveway, I was too focused on the storm brewing within me to take note of anything else until Phoebe mentioned, “Gosh, I don’t know how he can stand to live beside such a creepy place!”

            I shook myself out of my torpor. “Huh?” I gazed over to the edifice she had indicated to, and although darkness shrouded most of the structure, the dilapidated and fire-damaged wood was still very much visible! It spooked most of the residents who occupied this region, and they merely traveled past this locale! I highly doubted Richard had actually gone inside, as far as I could tell, I was the only human who had done that, but I couldn’t imagine living this near that abandoned house based off of the rumors alone! And, while the portal was opened, so many strange incidents occurred there, so it mystified me as to how he resisted the temptation to move as far away as possible! “I could see why my realtor got so surprised when I bought property so close to that creepy crap!” Phoebe and I took a moment to contemplate this concept, and then I recalled our mission and brushed that off. “We better keep going!” I advised, and we renewed our efforts to get to the bottom of a mystery that haunted us for too long!

            I knocked on the door and waited patiently for him to reply to our call. I didn’t feel nervous about this interaction whatsoever, on the contrary, I felt energized by the prospect of what was to come! My palpitating anticipation didn’t leave me with as much patience as I initially felt, so I knocked again. I increased the volume to ensure that he heard it properly, and I inwardly thought that I wouldn’t take no for an answer! If he hadn’t responded, I was prepared to shout to get his attention! “Richard! We know you’re in there! Come on out!” Oops! I meant to keep that to myself! Phoebe gave me a reproachful look, and I shrugged. It was too late to take it back!

            “What?” an elderly fellow cracked the door enough for him to peek out onto his stoop. He didn’t appear particularly pleased with our presence, but I could’ve cared less! We finally reached the critical juncture I had been praying for!

            “We need to know who the original homeowners were for that hovel next door to you!”

            Richard’s eyes grew wide, and he coldly stated, “I can’t do that!”

            My curiosity peaked at his outlandish reaction. He previously spoke with such conviction against the evil that dwelt within those walls, so it never crossed my mind that he wouldn’t want to cooperate with us! He never struck me as someone with ulterior motives, but since he displayed this opposition, I wondered what on earth he could have been hiding! “Why not?” I probed.

            “It’s close to midnight for crying out loud!” he snapped. “I just returned from a lengthy trip, and I’m ready to go to bed!”

            “Oh!” I hadn’t spotted it until he alluded to the hour, but he was wearing his pajamas! I suddenly felt very foolish for tackling a venture like this at a nocturnal period, and I hoped he hadn’t spotted my cheeks turning red under his porch light! “We’re so sorry! We haven’t gotten much sleep recently and lost our concept of a normal schedule!”

            Pheobe requested, “Can we come by tomorrow to get the information?”

            Richard barked, “Fine!” before slamming the door. Quite embarrassed by this faux pas, Phoebe and I swiftly walked away!

            “Hey, there’s Blaise’s lighter!” Phoebe announced when we went past his truck. “I guess he didn’t resurface yet or he miraculously quit smoking wherever he ended up at!”

            “Let’s bring it inside,” I suggested. “Since he’s been gone for a while, he may need to light some more candles in our bathroom! Besides, I’d like to give it to him personally ‘cause that prick owes us an explanation!” As we inched forward toward our abode, I shocked myself by knocking on wood that we’d find him inside! I didn’t get the details we needed about the origins of that door to the Netherworld, but perhaps we could discover why Blaise played a part in trying to reopen it!

            It sounded kind of funny to us, but we were actually hoping to encounter Blaise arguing with Miriam when we entered into the foyer, and the silence that typically would have been extremely welcomed after an arduous day sincerely disappointed us! As we shuffled off towards our bedroom, Miriam unexpectedly hopped out in front of us and excitedly proclaimed, “I’ve got good news!”

            Phoebe conjectured, “Blaise was found dead and you’re inheriting a bunch of money?”

            “Psh! I wish!” Miriam grew somewhat sullen upon this subject. “I was gonna let him vanish as long as he wanted to, but then I figured if I didn’t work out whether or not he’s alive, I’d have trouble accessing his funds, so I forced myself to call all the hospitals and see if he was there. When they all said no, I contacted the police to file a missing person report, but apparently, you gotta wait seventy-two hours! Leave it to him to make this process as tedious as possible! Anyways, that’s not what I was gonna say! Follow me to the bathroom!”

            “Did you get rid of that portrait?” My optimism renewed itself once more! My dismay of not getting ahead with Richard or Blaine definitely added to the wounds (both physical and emotional) I already sustained during this stint with that petulant phantom, but maybe his calamity would, at last, reach a more ideal turning point for everyone involved in the Ghost League!

            She opened the guest bathroom and let us know, “No. That spell book didn’t have a chapter on how to reverse a potion that opened up a window to the afterlife ‘cause no one with an ounce of sanity would do that! But I did find a way to make this curse more tolerable!”

            Great! I cynically cogitated. That’s all I needed- a method of adapting to my struggles rather than getting rid of some! I didn’t voice that griping out loud so as not to offend her, but I had no interest in getting comfortable with the troubles that we were plaguing us! I gazed inside and beheld that instead of viewing Babelsama’s snarky picture, a small set of curtains now hung in its spot! “Yes! I have an audience! Good! We need to talk! Just move the drapes and we can properly have a discussion! Go on! Let’s show some decorum and do this face-to-face! Oh, come on!”

            “Hmm… I like that it bothers him so much! That helps a little!” I conveyed to Miriam. It still disappointed me that none of my problems exactly got solved, but it was a nice gesture, and I appreciated the consideration! I didn’t see how she could have dubbed this as a noteworthy development for either of us, but I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, so I stayed tight-lipped.

            “No, I didn’t do that for your amusement!” she surmised what I had been contemplating regardless of me censoring my communication to her. “Although, it is pretty fun to mess with him! But I did it for privacy! He can’t see who uses the toilet, so I don’t mind using it now! You can have your room to yourself tonight!”

            A wave of relief cascaded over Phoebe and me! One of our dilemmas had gotten placated that day after all! If we got nothing else done, at least we could get a good night’s rest! Phoebe gratefully regarded her, “Thanks, Mom!”

            They gave each other a hug, which clearly had some significance for them since until a couple of weeks ago, they hadn’t spoken to each other at all! It was a cute interaction, but it got interrupted pretty quickly when Miriam’s phone went off in her pocket. “If that’s Blaise, I swear, I’m gonna…!” She glanced at the screen, and we crossed our fingers that it was Blaise so we could get the confession we needed out of him! She frowned and reported, “Oh, it was just a notification for some real estate app that I downloaded. Huh, I could’ve sworn that I turned alerts off for that one! Oh well!”

            “Well, let us know if you learn anything important,” I requisitioned as we headed into our room to prepare for our slumber. It would have been swell if we had gotten closure on that issue, but it comforted me to get some secludedness with Phoebe!

            “Hold on! Let me get a picture of you in your prom clothes before you take them off!” Miriam beseeched us. We both groaned, but we still agreed to do it. Luckily, it didn’t take her ages to get a shot that she approved of! “So adorable! Look!” I grimaced at how sallow our skin was and how pronounced the circles around our eyes appeared, but I felt too exhausted to demand a more flattering photo! “Good night you two!” She waved as she strolled into her quarters.

            We returned her sentiments before turning in ourselves. At the onset, I envisioned eight or more hours of uninterrupted snoozing, but it then occurred to me that Phoebe and I could freely get frisky under these circumstances! Phoebe obviously got under the same mindset because she silkily asked me, “Hey, do you wanna…?”

            I readily acquiesced, “Oh yeah!” We kissed each other passionately, fell onto our mattress, and then…

            The bright morning sun and the merrily chirping birds compelled me to open my eyes and survey the scene. I observed that Phoebe and I had fallen asleep with our formal attire still on, so it didn’t insinuate that we had gotten very far with each other! I shrugged- a blissful dormancy was also sorely needed in our lives in that instance! It sort of alleviated me that we hadn’t become intimate- apparently, we had forgotten to shut the blinds! As Phoebe began to stir, I slyly went over to the window with the intentions of closing it in order to persuade her to do a morning romp, but prior to me initiating anything, I abruptly woke her up when I saw something outside that made me audibly gasp! “What happened?” Phoebe urgently inquired.

            “Richard’s on our porch… And he has an axe!” I revealed. Phoebe dashed over to espy this horrifying abnormality for herself, and it bewildered her as well! The doorbell rang, and we became filled with dread! I quietly told Phoebe, “We started questioning him about that abandoned house, and now he’s here with a weapon! He must have something to do with the secret of-!” He gazed over in our direction, so we ducked out of his line of sight.

            “This is a marvelous example of why we shouldn’t answer the door every time we have a visitor!” Phoebe softly pointed out.

            I muttered, “Is it really necessary to do a victory lap right now?”

            Before Phoebe could offer a retort, Miriam loudly broadcasted, “I’ll get it!”

            “No!” Phoebe and I called out in unison. We followed her to the door and prepared ourselves to snatch her out of harm’s way…

            “Oh, hello!” Richard pleasantly addressed Miriam. “I apologize if I woke you up, young lady!”

            I whispered to Phoebe, “This guy’s a psychopath! He’s a little too chipper at the beginning of a killing spree!”

            Richard posed to Miriam, “Is Connor or Phoebe available?”

            “Yeah, they’re-.” Miriam swiveled around and stared at our positions in confusion. “Um.. It’s for you…”

            “Oh, hi!” Phoebe and I sprung into a more ordinary stance, but we kept a wide breadth as we contacted him, “What brings you here so early?”

            Richard caught on to what we were eyeballing so nervously, so he assured us, “Sorry if this old thing frightened you! Though I’m not that sorry since you gave me quite the heebie-jeebies last night! Anyways, when I got up, I recalled that you wanted to know about the original owners of that abandoned place. Then I got reminded that I purchased some of the goods he was getting rid of ahead of his move, and I found his inscription on this old axe! Take a gander…”

            We slowly crept up to the object in his outstretched hands, and there was, indeed, a name etched onto it! Though I felt stoked to finally possess a vital piece of this bothersome puzzle, my jaw dropped when I glimpsed at this moniker…

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 28

I asked Phoebe, “Which one of us in going in first?”

            She mulled it over for a moment, and then she answered, “Let’s do it together!”

            “Really?” Normally, I would have immediately seized an opportunity to get intimate with her, and a part of me wanted to impulsively go for it, but my more rational self overrode that temptation and abashedly responded, “But there’s a monster in there! And Corvina said it was pretty gross…” She gave me an admonishing look, and it then registered to me as to what she meant. “Just kidding!” I chuckled to make my claim more believable, but obviously she didn’t buy it, so I gave up on that and then instructed her, “Alright, let’s kick the door down on the count of three! One, two…” I hesitated somewhat when it occurred to me that a fear monger would be standing on the other side of this entryway, and we had no idea what lurked within these chambers! How could we contend with a force that we didn’t have any clues about? Other than it appearing to have been male, we got no description from Hudd or Corvina regarding what they saw in there! I started kicking myself for not gathering more info from the pair prior to reaching this stage of our supernatural quest…

            “Three!” Phoebe exclaimed. I felt compelled to raise my legs when she did, and the door swung open! It also began to swiftly return to its place of origination, so we had to scurry to keep it ajar! After we settled that matter, we slowly raised our line of sight to behold what we were facing…

            While I couldn’t fathom what to expect, I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that we would run into nothing! We scanned over everything- the three urinals, the four sinks, the two stalls, and we saw no sign of anyone or anything that might have attacked those kids! It did make me question the design layout for this space though- if a boy occupied each station all at once, one of them would have to wait to wash his hands…

            Phoebe interrupted my train of thought, “Do you think he got out?”

            “If anything scary infiltrated the gym, I’m pretty sure we would notice!” I told her. “I mean, I suppose he could’ve wriggled out of that small window, but if he left the area, our work would be done!  I doubt we’d get off so easily! So, all we can do is set foot inside and see what we’re dealing with…” As we took a deep breath, I sort of wished that one of the others would get here quicker so that someone else could do this undertaking! Once we exhaled, we gingerly set out toes inside. Nothing happened, so we set another foot forward. Nothing again. Once we were deep enough in that the door closed…

            “Ai-yah!” Someone jumped from the ceiling and punched me in the forehead! I nearly fell backwards, but Phoebe caught me before I hit the ground! I didn’t catch a glimpse of who ambushed me, but my instant reaction was to pummel whatever prick did that! “Ee-ei!” he shouted, and when we espied a black-clothed heel flying in our direction, we managed to roll out of the way in time to avoid his collision!

            When we gazed back up, we didn’t see anyone standing there until Fletcher and Aleck opened the door, and as Fletcher turned on the lights (something I regretted not doing from the beginning!), a limber man wrapped in a charcoal-colored outfit hopped down from his lofty position and threw some metal stars at their locality! Thankfully, they closed the entryway seconds in advance of damage! As his equipment hit the surface, I could see that Phoebe was making movements towards striking him, and not wanting to watch her get hurt, I stepped near his vicinity and calmly regarded him, “Please, sir! We don’t want any trouble!”

            He somersaulted into the air, and preceding me voicing out loud as to where he disappeared to, he came barreling back to me! As I slid out of the way, I socked him in his masked mouth! “Ow!” he yelped as he vanished once more.

            “Please, sir! We can work out our differences in a more civilized manner!” I entreated him. He jumped down with a set wooden nunchucks swinging, but Phoebe caught them with a cardboard package of toilet seat covers! He retreated, and I took another stab at peace pact, “This doesn’t benefit either of us, so-!”

            He grabbed Phoebe by her sides and strove to topple her, but she utilized the nunchucks on him. Once she got a good hit, he withdrew again. “Why are you even bothering to negotiate with him?”

            I defended my action, “Well, how else are we supposed to defeat a ninja? He’s too-!” He snuck up behind me and lunged for my neck, so I elbowed him in the nose and vexedly yelled, “Will you stop doing that?”

            All of a sudden, the door cracked open, and once the ninja vamoosed, a large, cloth cowboy doll got thrusted into this territory. The ninja clearly mistook its swift motion and stature as another person entering into this arena, so he pounced on it! Phoebe and I rapidly took advantage of his distraction and grabbed him by the arms! He swung his legs around to shake off our grip, and it became difficult to keep holding on to him. Ginger and Ellie dove in and held on to his other limbs, and he could no longer gain any momentum to flee from our grasp! We solved the issue of him fighting us, but we had a new problem at hand…

            When Fletcher and Aleck re-entered, I informed them, “One of you is gonna have to destroy him!”

            Both of their eyes grew wide at that prospect! Fletcher remarked, “Listen, I know when I’m at my angriest, I acted like I could kill a man, but really, I don’t have it in me to do something like that!”

            “You slayed some vampires a few months ago!” Ginger reminded him.

            “Yeah, when I knew they’d dissolve into dust!” Fletcher argued. “If this guy bleeds…”

            Ellie countered, “Then Connor will throw up and faint, but we’ll be done with this! Hurry up! My knees are aching!”

            Peter walked into the bathroom, and when he got a load of this strange scene, he bore an alarmed expression and commented, “I can hold it!” as he bowed out. So much for Corvina and Hudd guarding the joint!

            “Will you just do it already?” Phoebe urged him. “Don’t wimp out! I’m ready to be done with this!”

            “Why am I getting horrible flashbacks to my wedding night?” Aleck puzzled.

            I riposted, “I don’t know and I don’t wanna know! Can you please do something before he breaks free and injures somebody!”

            Both of them still seemed reluctant, so Ellie brought up, “Oh come on! He’s not a real man!”

            Ginger, whose stance forced her to hover dangerously close to the man’s lower pelvis, disagreed, “He definitely resembles one! But remember, he’s a fear monger designed to assault our students! Don’t give him that chance!”

            “When I get out of here, you’ll all suffer from the ancient skills passed on to me through a sacred dojo!” the ninja threatened.

            “You don’t have a dojo! A monster created you minutes ago!” Aleck got an irate visage, and then he stated, ‘Okay, he seems really irritating! How do we off him? We don’t have any weapons!”

            The ninja did a very lengthy maniacal laugh (his mask didn’t muffle him much at all), so Fletcher used his palms to silence him. I suddenly got struck with inspiration on how to end this conundrum! “Fletcher, hold his jaw open! Aleck, stuff as many vegetables into him as you can!”

            Aleck griped, “Aw, man! I was hoping not to have to do grocery shopping tomorrow! We need more snacks!” After Fletcher forced his mouth to remain stretched wide, one by one, Aleck placed pieces of produce into his throat. When enough was in there to restrict his airways, we let go as we watched him collapse and move less and less. Soon, he morphed back into a menacing, little creature and disappeared, and Aleck opined, “Maybe I should pay more attention to what my son’s karate instructor is advising everyone…”

            Before any further discussion of this incident circulated, Roxy burst in and announced, “I’m here to save you!” She eyeballed the entire premises, and when she could not unearth what she was hunting for, she pondered, “You did say the choking ninja was in the men’s room, right?”

            “Ugh! We’re too late!” Damon bemoaned. “That’s not fair! He didn’t even get to scare his intended victim! Oh well! Perhaps the next one won’t haunt the region so temporarily!” The six of us in the Ghost League groaned at the concept of having to battle against more tedious adversaries, which prompted Damon to snidely addressed us, “What? Did you seriously assume that I would allow this happy occasion to carry on? I will ensure that this night finishes in absolute terror! And don’t forget, this is all your fault! You didn’t give Babelsama the key, so your beloved pupils must suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives! And don’t tell me that this is merely one evening and that they’ll get over eventually! It’s not so easy to let go of an event that held such promises of enchantment and then turned into a complete nightmare, trust me!”

            “Trust you? Why the hell would we do that?” I retorted. My mind fixated on how oddly determined he acted in ruining the prom for everyone- Yes, he was consistent in unleashing horror on this campus in order to get revenge on us, but he behaved as though he had a high degree of venom against children having fun at a dance! It almost appeared personal, which would have been bizarre when I took into account a certain fact I recalled gleaning from his scholastic records! This propelled me to challenge him, “Hey, why do you resent this celebration so much? Didn’t you have fun at your ‘promenade tea?’”

            For the first time since we witnessed him getting fired from a gig he took as a vampire, we saw his face fall from humiliation! We all stared at him in anticipation of hearing the details of a traumatic story from his past, we could hardly wait for him to spill a secret that we might have been able to use to defeat him! Unfortunately, his demeanor shifted to an intense disdain, and through his pronounced grimace, he retaliated, “Like I’d every disclose that to you! Not that anything heinous went on…” He observed the disbelief in our body language, and he cringed as though he still had a physical form and could feel pain! “Yuck! I can’t take the level of enjoyment this is bringing you! I’m leaving, but mark my words, I’ll be back before you know it!”

            He dissipated into the air, and Roxy called out to him, “Hold on, Damon baby! You can’t go! We gotta spread more mayhem!” When he didn’t return, she folded her arms and pouted, “Oh, great! What do I do now?”

            “You could join your classmates on the dance floor,” Phoebe proposed. “You know, do ordinary teen things…”

            “What? You figure I can head back out there like everything’s fine? Like he didn’t just ditch me at a school dance for the second time this year/” Roxy dramatically stormed out, and I almost felt sorry for her! Almost- I would’ve pitied her if the object of her desires wasn’t a sociopathic specter!

            We all received a jolt of shock when Manuel entered into the room! He peered at us curiously and then inquired, “Is everything okay in here?”

            We all clammed up! Clearly, we couldn’t divulge the true nature of our business in this establishment, but we had no inkling on a rational rationale for our presence there! To our relief, Corvina and Hudd showed up beside him, and Corvina reported, “They were breaking up a fight.” I admonished myself for not coming up with that one myself- it wasn’t even technically a lie!

            Manuel looked somewhat skeptical initially, but then he spotted the cloth cowboy doll in disarray, and he seemed to accept that explanation. He picked it up and clicked his tongue in disappointment. “That’s too bad, this was one of the main focal points of the western decorations! I doubt we’re getting our deposit back on this! I hope it wasn’t expensive!”

            Phoebe later shared that it was pretty pricey, but that was the least of our concerns! We knew that Damon promised to revisit Rosemary King High, but we couldn’t guarantee that he would delay that manifestation until the next workday! For the rest of the prom’s duration, we fretted he would emerge once more! He never did though, and the remainder of our shift stayed relatively incident-free! Despite the harmonious front, we never let our guard down- not even on the car ride home! Phoebe and I went up our driveway with caution, and I could have sworn something would jump out of the shadows at any given moment! And then something did! When a cricket jumped out of the bushes, we both screamed! I then mused, “Maybe that’s why Cricket’s afraid of her namesake!”

            “We can’t keep doing this!” Phoebe whimpered. “We gotta find a way to…” Headlights beamed behind us, and she prayed, “Oh, please don’t be someone bringing Blaise home!”

            “It’s not,” I denoted as it parked across the street, “but maybe we have a pathway out of this dilemma after all…”

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 27

“We’re all gonna die!” Peter hollered from the ground as we all had to link arms to brace ourselves during the quake. Before I could dispute the negative connotation of his assertion, the tremor stopped as fast as it came, and Peter altered his opinion, “Oh, maybe not!”

            Lisa asked, “What the F just happened?”

            Brielle answered her, “It was an earthquake, which is kinda odd! Pennsylvania usually doesn’t get strong seismic activity! That’s one of the reasons I moved here from California!”

            “Was that it?” I wondered. Ellie gave me a sharp stare, so I added, “I mean, it was scary and disruptive, but there weren’t any toppled buildings or cracked floors or anything! So, was that really the big plan to terrorize the prom?”

            “Daddy!” Two blonde girls in scantily clad dresses ran up to Fletcher with wide eyes full of apprehension. One of them attempted to report something to him, “We were just outside and-!”

            Fletcher puzzled, “What were you doing outside? And where are the gowns you left the house wearing?”

            The other twin responded, “That’s not important! We-!”

            “The heck it’s not! I spent a lot of money on those suckers!” Fletcher grumbled.

            “Everyone, into the locker rooms!” Manuel stood at the doorway and commanded. “There’s a tornado coming!”

            The twins gave Fletcher a reproachful look, clearly miffed since they were trying to relay that information to their father moments ago! Fletcher’s expression grew sheepish, and he barked, “We’ll talk about this later! We gotta move!”

            Since there were two different locker rooms on either side of the gym, the crowd split into two as everyone ran for cover. Peter nearly followed us into the closest facility to our area, but he then objected, “I can’t go in there! That’s the girls’ locker room!”

            “Get in there!” I physically ushered him into the closest safeguard. “This is for protection! No one’s taking off their clothes!”

            “My dress!” Cricket bemoaned as she held her garment in a fashion that shielded her nudity. “The zipper snapped off!”

            A bunch of male students whipped their heads around to check out this development, so Ellie snapped, “Is a naked lady really worth getting killed in a twister?” A couple of them heartily signaled that it was, so she yelled, “Don’t be stupid! Get in there!”

            As we all huddled together in the showers, Peter opined, “I don’t think there’s really a tornado out there! It sounds more like a train!”

            “It’s not a windstorm at all!” Ismeray declared in an ethereal tone. “The day of reckoning has come exactly as our dear leader foretold!”

            “Your dear leader is a fraud!” I bellowed. Perhaps I hadn’t chosen the most tactful manner to break this news to her, but I certainly couldn’t permit her to make an already frightening situation even more terrifying for anyone who might believe her! Or annoying for those of us who didn’t! “He lied to you in order to trick you into joining a cult!”

            Ismeray took exception to that accusation. “We’re not a cult! We’re simply a group that was brought together to worship unconventional ideals!” She heard the words coming out of her mouth and swiftly changed her tune, “Oh my god! We are a cult!”

            The FAUK club members in the vicinity grew troubled at this realization, but no one else could discuss it further because the deafening sounds emitted by the cyclone reached its peak! We all ducked as low as we could with our hands covering the back of our heads, bracing ourselves for the worst, but a minute later, the atmosphere became completely quiet! “Is it over?” Cricket posed to all of the adults within earshot. “If it is, I’d like to go find some more clothing to put on!”

            “We can loan you one of our dresses!” one of Fletcher’s twins volunteered, and they both winced as they espied their dad glaring at them.

            “Everyone wait here! We’re gonna scope the building out to make sure the coast is clear,” Phoebe instructed. Most of the dance attendees assumed that she meant checking on damage from that abnormal weather pattern, but the six of us in the Ghost League knew that she really meant for us to study the periphery so we could discern what fear monger we would be facing next!”

            When Phoebe, Fletcher, Aleck, Ginger, Ellie, and I re-entered the gymnasium, we were stunned to see everything was still completely intact! We sort of expected Damon to have had that gale destroy a section of the structure so that the festivities would come to a halt, but we didn’t see one iota of destruction in the joint! Not even a scratch! We also felt one hundred percent confident that some sort of monster or sinister obstacle would have been in there standing by to cause the next wave of chaos, but there weren’t any signs of anything out of the ordinary! The six of us gazed at each other in confusion until we heard a very audible gasp! We immediately craned our necks in that direction, but to our astonishment, the deejay held up some cash in the air and joyfully announced, “I found a twenty!”

            Aleck inquired hushed enough so that only the Ghost League would hear, “This is some type of trap, isn’t it?”

            “Seems like a lot of wasted effort!” Ginger remarked. “Like seriously, what was the point of that? To fool a selection of teenagers into holding hands with their teachers?”

            “Hold on, we left dozens of people alone in an enclosed space…” Phoebe brought up. We all became alarmed and instantly ran back to the girls’ showers!

            When we returned to the faction that we left behind, I truly anticipated discovering a menacing figure taking advantage of the opportune circumstances we inadvertently provided for them, but to my shock, there was nothing there but a myriad of bored juveniles! “Oh good, you’re all fine!” I breathed a sigh of relief.

            Corvina addressed my comment, “Of course we are! Why wouldn’t we be?”

            I couldn’t come up with a sufficient reply to her, but fortunately for me, cheery music blasted through the speakers, and Manuel got on a microphone and merrily invited everyone, “All is well, boys and girls! Come back out! Dance a few dances, laugh a few laughs! There’s even some free snacks at the refreshment table! Not a lot of vegetables left though! Wow, I had no idea that those would be so popular!”

            Other than Aleck guiltily shuffling, no one made a move! I imagined that, much like the six of us in the Ghost League felt, they were leery about all being well when the scene was so catastrophic mere minutes ago! I hesitated to endorse Manuel’s suggestion initially because I had this sneaking suspicion that as soon as everyone set foot back into the gym that ruckus would ensure once more, but then I realized that I couldn’t make everyone stay in the locker room shower all night! That would have been insane! So, I reluctantly concluded, “You heard what he said! Go have fun!” Slowly, all of the prom attendees got up and warily returned to the dance floor, and as I watched them go, I crossed my fingers that we weren’t making a giant mistake!

            Everyone but Phoebe and I stationed themselves in various parts of the region to keep an eye out for hints on Damon’s next step, and since my girlfriend and I were the only ones who didn’t have dates outside of our inner circle to entertain, we walked around the perimeter to investigate Damon’s whereabouts. We couldn’t navigate at the speed my anxiety would have preferred since we certainly didn’t want to encourage any child’s apprehension to flourish, nor did we relish trying to explain how something within this complex caused the natural oddities that we all previously experienced! None of us could work out what corner Damon hid himself in, but we had no doubts he lurked in there somewhere since Roxy still seemed pleased as punch. Everyone who knew about him sort of wished that he would get it over with- the prospect of a pending ambush was almost worse than the incidents themselves! Almost- the incidents were supremely awful!

            “Maybe he ran out of fear mongers with that one,” Phoebe conversed softly enough so only I would detect what she told me. “Can one of those little monsters really create a whole freaking tornado?”

            “It just took one of them to make that enormous dragon,” I pointed out. “I’m glad that these two went away on their own ‘cause I have no clue how we would have destroyed an earthquake!”

            Right after I finished speaking, Ismeray tugged on my sleeve. “Mister Fenmore?”

            Her abrupt appearance made me jump! Once it registered that she wasn’t a fear monger, I fretted that she may have overheard what we had been going over, and I couldn’t fathom what rational excuse I could have conjured for desiring to obliterate an earthly occurrence like that! I tentatively inquired, “What do you need, Ismeray?”

            “Well, I’ve been wondering…” she anxiously replied to me, “Um, are all cults bad?”

            “Hmm…” I was filled with alleviation that she started questioning the FAUK club’s purpose, and a part of me wanted to tell her that all cults had evil motives, but I couldn’t prove that! That is to say, I couldn’t come up with an example of a good one, but I was positive that there had be some. And if Corvina unearthed them, she might have accused me of lying and gone straight back to Blaise’s sham! Instead of conveying that to her, I spelled out to Ismeray, “I found out who the head FAUK-er is, and he’s a moronic, loudmouth boor who consistently eats a lethal amount of sugar and then clogs up the plumbing of wherever he completes the digestive cycle! Do you really wanna trust the judgment of a man like that?”

            Ismeray gave that logic significant consideration, but before we could chat about it further, Phoebe nudged me and let me know, “It looks like we have a problem…”

            My adrenaline immediately spiked upon hearing that pronouncement! I swiftly swiveled my line of sight to the locale she was referring to, ready to confront that petulant phantom or whatever asinine stunt he orchestrated, but then I beheld Corvina tiptoeing out of the men’s restroom! It seemed sort of funny that with a supernatural battle at hand, we still had to deal with ordinary youthful escapades! As Phoebe and I strolled over to that site, Hudd also emerged from that restroom, and both of them had messy hair and disheveled outfits! When we neared them, they both seemed very agitated, so clearly, they comprehended that they were busted! I wasn’t in the mood to severely punish anyone, especially since I wanted to hop right back into our paranormal search, and while I wouldn’t dare say this to Fletcher, but his twins’ behavior demonstrated that these two hadn’t been the only individuals up to indecent acts! It seemed unfair to reprimand this couple but not Fletcher’s girls or their partners, so I decided to gently rib them instead, “Listen, if you commit a crime in the future, could you at least pretend you’re innocent and do a better job of getting rid of the evidence?”

            “Mister Fenmore, you don’t understand…” Hudd started to object.

            “No, trust me, I do!” I sympathized with them. “It’s not like I haven’t been there! Well, not there! I wouldn’t do it in there, it’s filthy!”

            Corvina concurred, “Yeah, it was kinda gross… Not that we did anything nasty ourselves…” Phoebe and I gazed at her skeptically, so she hastily included, “We weren’t alone in there!” Our faces instantly contorted into disturbed expressions at the assumption of these young ones partaking in kinky antics, so she clarified, “No! None of our classmates were in there! Someone we don’t recognize is in there, and he tried to hurt us!”

            Her revelation hit us with a wave of shock, but then I acknowledged that I really shouldn’t have been so surprised- we already bargained for another spooky episode being in the cards! Phoebe gingerly queried, “When you say someone, you do mean a human, right? Not some kind of ghost or beast or whatever?”

            “Of course! Why would a ghost or a beast be in the bathroom?” Hudd pondered, but after hearing his sentence out loud, he amended his stance, “Then again, why would a strange dude in all black be in there?”

            “We’ll get to the bottom of it! Just do us a favor and make sure nobody but the other teachers go in there! But for the love of all things holy, do not say why!” They readily complied, so I turned to Phoebe and declared, “Let’s give the others a call! It’s go time!”

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 26

“Can I see your ticket, please?” Peter politely requested as he stood at the front door of the gymnasium as pop music blared in the background.

            “Peter, I’m a teacher here!” I objected to his gatekeeping. I never really delved into the rules, but as far as I could tell, the staff didn’t have to pay for their entry! “My girlfriend is in charge of the prom committee, I’m here to chaperone!”

            He adamantly maintained his position, “Sorry! I’m under strict orders not to let anyone in without a ticket! Next in line, please!”

            I uttered a noise of annoyance as I stepped aside so that the young couple standing behind me could go inside, and then, with much irritation, I drew out my cellphone to call Phoebe. As if this day hadn’t already been bothersome enough, now I had another hurdle to jump over! It wasn’t as though I was anxious to watch over this dance in the first place, so having to fight for my admittance into it really boiled my blood! If it had been an ordinary soiree, I would have delighted in this excuse to skip it, but I couldn’t skip this one- not with that petulant phantom threatening to cause massive mayhem there!

            “Uh, Peter… Members of our faculty don’t have to purchase a ticket in order to do work here!” Manuel had apparently overheard our conversation and immediately intervened before I blew my top! He beckoned me to come in, “Welcome!”

            “Happy to be here!” I lied. Why did I do that? I could have simply said thank you, I didn’t need to act like this gig was a privilege to experience!

            Manuel cordially smiled at me, and I returned the gesture until he could no longer see my expression. I hadn’t gotten any urgent messages during my drive over to Rosemary King, so I could only assume that Damon had not struck yet. I surveyed the room to really gauge the situation at hand. Half the students there wore bright, vibrant colors, and the other half dressed like they were attending a wake! I would have thought, in light of the jubilant spirit of this festivity that they wouldn’t have had the gall to don their dark wardrobe and promote that insane but grim theory of the undead coming to take over the world, but apparently, they were unwilling to give up their gloomy conquest! I wondered if Blaise had given them some sort of instructions for this evening despite the fact that he had not returned to retrieve his phone…

I spotted Fletcher dancing with a woman who proudly displayed a style that she probably wore to her prom in the eighties, so I approached them and asked, “How’s it going?”

Fletcher miserably answered, “Awful! Do I look like I’m having a good time?”

“Uh… Kinda!” I didn’t get any negative impressions until I saw the tortured frown he was bearing as he stiffly shimmied! “You know, nobody is forcing you to move ‘til a student misbehaves!”

            “That’s not true!” Fletcher disputed. “She did!”

            His wife defended herself, “Well, what am I supposed to do? Just stand there while you correct someone?”

            Based on Fletcher’s reaction to that, I inferred that was what he had in mind for this occasion! I could sense an argument brewing, so I bailed out of this conversation, “I’m gonna go find Phoebe!”

            I saw Ginger and her partner, Brielle, both merrily swaying to the beat, but prior to me being able to reach them, the girl whose worst fear was bugs found me and dragged her date over to meet me, “Hi, Mister Fenmore! I’m wearing the dress! You know, the one I was trying on when you ran into me at the mall! Remember?”

            “I try not to!” I reacted honestly, but because I didn’t want to prolong this interaction, I added, “It looks fantastic!”

            “I know! I told you it was worth all the extra trouble!” She spun around and modeled it for me. I gave her a thumbs up to show support, but in actuality, I still couldn’t grasp what prompted her to go out of her way for that garment! It surprised me that she had gotten the zipper up, although it emitted signs of struggling to continue its hold…

            Her date’s patience waned, and he urged her, “Hey, why don’t we show off your gown on the dance floor, Cricket?”

            I accidentally blurted out loud, “Cricket?” The irony of a person with a phobia bearing a name of an insect flabbergasted me! My slip up caused her to turn around and gaze at me inquisitively, so I had to quickly concoct an excuse for calling to her that didn’t involve me revealing my musing to her, which more than likely would have insulted her- especially since I had never bothered to learn what she went by until right then! I sputtered out, “Have fun tonight!” I rated that cover up as lame, and while she seemed a little confused as to why I stopped her to say that (understandably!), she mimicked my thumbs up gesture and resumed dashing to the dance floor. I breathed a sigh of relief and moved on.

            When I got into Ginger and Brielle’s proximity, they didn’t acknowledge my presence until I tapped Ginger’s shoulder. She sort of jumped from shock, and then she strove to present herself as unruffled, “Oh hello, Connor! Is everything alright?”

            “I dunno, I just got here… I was gonna ask you that!” I informed her. “You two wouldn’t be forgetting the main reason we showed up here, would you…?” I made sure my tone was playful to keep the mood light, but I was sincerely a little concerned that Ginger had gotten too absorbed in the revelry! If Damon knew that she had become distracted, he could have used her lack of alertness to get away with initiating his sinister plot!

            “Don’t worry!” Brielle assured me as Ginger hesitated. “All of the chaperones have their cellphones on them, and everyone agreed to send out a page if they need backup! And as for the kids in front of that we’re supposed to be supervising… Um, well, we’re definitely paying attention to them and not each other!” She nervously chuckled and glimpsed at me in hopes of me buying her claim. I didn’t, but since I had the reassurance of members of the Ghost League having the ability to communicate with each other, I tittered and walked away.

            I came across a woman whom I recognized as Aleck’s wife standing alone at the refreshing table, and for a minute, I fretted that Aleck had taken off to deal with a precarious incident, but my worries subsided when she whispered, “What if you get caught with all those baggies full of snacks?”

            Aleck brushed off her concerns, “It’s not like our principal checks the teachers’ pockets! Besides, it’s not like the children are even touching the vegetable tray! What are they gonna do, complain that there are no baby carrots or celery sticks at their prom?”

            “They might gripe that their biology teacher smells like produce!” I joshed him. My unexpected appearance made him shudder a little, but then he laughed at my remark. If I didn’t have a more pressing matter at hand, I would have interrogated him as to why he brought plastic baggies to a function like this, but I decided to save it for another day. “Did I miss anything unusual?”

            “Define unusual!” Aleck indicated to George and some of his jock buddies doing an odd jig to the modern tunes currently blasting through the speakers.

            Their goofiness made me grin, but then I witnessed Ismeray and some of her peers from the FAUK club intervening. All of a sudden, the athletes’ fun dissipated, which Aleck and I found unacceptable. I ensured Aleck, “I’ll go talk to them! … And by the way, you may as well pilfer all of the tomatoes- I doubt any teens are aching to eat those!”

            He approved of both items that I relayed to him, so I headed over to that troublesome group. When Ismeray caught on to my trajectory, she commanded to her cronies to scatter! Disappointment surged throughout me- I had something important to reveal about their organization’s dear leader! Evidently, I wasn’t alone in that sentiment! Ellie materialized by me, and she lamentably commented, “It’s like she knew we were about to crush her little dreams! Ooh, that sounds really bad out of context!”

            “She’s the one with the crush on the dead guy?” Victor wanted to gain some clarification on the scope of everything.

            “No, that girl’s dressed like a Victorian ghost!” Ellie corrected her husband. “Ugh! Why did Manuel have the chaperones bring dates?”

            The subject of Roxy very much piqued my interest. “You’ve seen Roxy? Does it seem like she’s got anything up her sleeves?”

            Ellie specified to a section on her right. “See for yourself!”

            When I beheld the quarter she alluded to, my suspicions got roused! She stood at the sidelines just staring off at the ceiling as if she were immersed in deep reflection. I studied the rooftop extensively, and I didn’t see any hints of that vexing ghoul’s occupancy in this gym, but her behavior still signaled a major red flag to me! I determined that his peculiarity needed to get investigated, so I went over to her so I could get to the bottom of the deviousness that they had in store for tonight! When I got within her bubble, she glimpsed at me as if I had not seen her abnormal action, and with her visage radiating the satisfaction of anticipating a highly favorable occurrence due to turn up at any moment, she cordially addressed me, “Salutations, Mister Fenmore!”

            “Salutations? I haven’t heard that phrase since I watched this ancient movie at my grandmother’s house!” I stared at her in confusion, and she continued to gawk at me unblemished. I attempted to press her, “So, you came here only to hang out all by yourself, huh?”

            “I’m not by myself! I’m never by myself!” She had expressed that creepy statement so as-a-matter-of-factly that it unnerved me! It threw me off for a second, and I wracked my brains as to how to proceed after hearing something cryptic and crazy like that!

            Before I could unearth a fitting retort to her strange statement, I heard Phoebe’s voice in my ear, “You’ll never get anything out of her that way! Even she’s not dumb enough to fall for that ploy!”

            I rapidly realized that she was absolutely accurate- Clearly, Damon had coached her on how to handle our imposition on any activity relating to their unseemly agenda, so attempting to engage with Damon’s dotty counterpart would have probably wasted my time! I therefore concluded, “Well, have fun I guess…” She did not articulate a reply other than to persist with that vacant ogling, and I swiveled away from her view. I couldn’t comprehend what, if anything, was going through her noggin, and it gave me a headache trying to figure it out! I conveyed to Phoebe, “I got something to discuss with you.”

            “Let’s go where we can get some privacy!” Phoebe suggested. I trailed after her, and as I did so, I thoroughly enjoyed watching her from this vantage point! Her light pink dress sculpted her silhouette quite nicely, and with the fantasies it inspired within me, I momentarily forgot what I meant to share with her! I snapped out of my torpor when she queried, “Did Blaise ever drag his idiotic butt back to our house?”

            “Uh…” I hadn’t seen the final result of Phoebe’s image for this affair until that very juncture, and she almost literally took my breath away! Her hair and makeup were done so flawlessly, and her elegant clothing gave her an angelic aura! She was the vision of ultimate beauty to me, and I could hardly fathom my fortune in standing in her shadow! She peered at me quizzically, and it registered to me that I probably appeared pretty foolish gaping at her in such a clumsy manner, so I apologized, “Sorry! You look so gorgeous that I got tongue-tied like a teenager!”

            She giggled, and then she inquired, “What did you need to tell me?”

            I asserted, “It can wait! I’ll be right back!” I ran over to the deejay, and I quietly gave him a request. He agreed to play it soon, and I beamed as I instantly returned to Phoebe’s side. “Shall we?” I invited her to the dance floor, and I could ascertain that she knew I was up to something. I supposed that I had been a little bit obvious, but I couldn’t help myself! She looked as breathtaking as a bride, so I took it as a nudge from the universe that I needed to propose to her as soon as possible! Prior to whatever mischief Damon had going on, I was going to make Phoebe my fiancée!

            Usually, I didn’t care much for any modern tracks, but that evening, it was rather enjoyable! Phoebe and I danced and had a good time as though were kids again! A few tunes later, my request came! The same ballad that played at the instance during Homecoming where Phoebe and I basically revealed our romantic emotions for one another filled the atmosphere, and Phoebe simpered, “Oh, it’s our song!”

            “Phoebe, I…” I started to bend my knee, but I felt myself shaking! And then everyone else trembled as well… The deejay cut off his sounds, and Corvina frightenedly shouted, “Oh no! We’re under attack!”

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 25

“Oh, thank the heavens, we’re home!” I exclaimed as I walked in the doorway. As if dealing with half a dozen fear mongers spread across campus hadn’t been exhausting enough, we had to stay extra to deal with the paperwork about the damage caused during the mayhem too! Luckily for me, Manuel had the difficult undertaking of phrasing some of the details so that the school’s insurance would cover our claims, and I was impressed that he was able to explain how a robot ripped off Phoebe’s door and a net sprouted from Ginger’s ceiling without making us sound like we fell off the deep end! I decided to forgo putting too much contemplation into that subject or anything else connected to Damon’s devious scheme- it was Friday night, and I felt certain that supervising prom tomorrow was bound to be a disaster of epic proportions thanks to our petulant phantom, so tonight was the only opportunity we had to relax! Or at least I thought relaxation was in the cards…

            Blaise hollered at Miriam, “What did you do with my lighter?”

            Miriam shouted back to him, “I didn’t do anything with it! It’s around here somewhere!”

            “Oh, it’s somewhere! That’s helpful!” Blaise yelled.

            “It’s a little hard to find something when you got someone screaming at you!” Miriam vociferated.

            I half kidded to Phoebe, “Let’s go back to work!” With all of the pandemonium at Rosemary King, I had forgotten that my house was no longer a place of refuge! So much for taking it easy before the upcoming dance!

            Phoebe suggested to Blaise, “Maybe you left it outside since you’re not allowed to smoke inside.”

            “But I used it in your bathroom recently!” Blaise saw our unpleasantly surprised faces, so he clarified, “I lit some candles ‘cause you were all out of the spray!”

            “It doesn’t smell like you lit any candles recently!” I caught wind of the odor after he mentioned it, and as I plugged my nose, I bitterly noted that most people could use the facilities without causing that much of their scent permeating throughout an entire building! “Well, we don’t need to worry about dinner since I’ve now lost my appetite!”

            Phoebe disagreed with me, “No, we need to go to the store and grab some food! Then we can get some more deodorizer too!” She stared at me with wide eyes, and I got the hint that she wanted an excuse to get out of this scene for a while. Normally, I’d dread a shopping trip after such an exhaustive day, but even having a few minutes of quiet during the car ride there sounded like a better option than the disarray happening here, so I consented. However, prior to us even reaching the knob leading to our exit, the doorbell rang! “Don’t answer it!” Phoebe beseeched me.

            I questioned her request, “Uh, don’t we kinda have to?”

            “No, we don’t!” she disputed. “We don’t need anymore visitors! Regardless of what they’re asking for, it’ll force us to add to the crap we’ve already had to deal with, and I’m in no mood to tackle anything else other than a stiff drink!”

            “What if it’s a police officer or somebody else with emergency information?” I countered her as the doorbell rang again. I peeked through the peephole, and I got a vigorous shock when I beheld who had come calling! “Oh no!”

            Phoebe emphatically emphasized to me, “See? I told you we don’t wanna answer it!”

            I dismally responded, “Yes, but I’m afraid in this case, we have to!” I opened the door and revealed my parents standing in the mudroom!

            “Is this a bad time?” my mother inquired.

            “I lit the candles recently, but I couldn’t cover up the stench when I went a few minutes ago ‘cause I couldn’t find my dang lighter!” Blaise barked at Phoebe and me.

            I cringed, and then I replied to my mom, “What gave you that impression?” I invited them to enter, and they hesitantly accepted.

            Blaise finally caught on that we had guests, so he introduced himself, “Hi! I’m Phoebe’s stepdaddy!”

            “For the record, he married my mom when I was twenty-one, so he played no part in my upbringing,” Phoebe informed my folks.

            “Is that your mom or your younger sister?” my dad playfully joked as he spotted Miriam joining us.

            Miriam cracked a bit of a smile, which I reckoned was the first time she had done so since she arrived in Terra Belle, and she amiably reacted, “Hmm, now I see where Connor gets his sense of humor!” Everyone but Blaise chuckled, and for a brief instance, I actually enjoyed our little family reunion! I wished that it would remain this way during the entire duration, but I knew it wasn’t fated to last!

            My mother held up some food storage bins and posed to the group, “Well, we brought dinner! Who’s hungry?”

            Blaise patted his stomach and let her know, “Yeah, I recently cleared some room for some grub!”

            Phoebe and I winced at his remark, and my parents politely grinned, but it was obvious that they were rather put off by his crudeness. My mother readily volunteered to microwave the meal, and my father reluctantly sate at our small table. I felt awful that we were situated in a manner that forced either him or my mom to sit next to Blaise, and apparently my dad begrudgingly opted to bite the bullet and spare his wife from that displeasure. Blaise gazed at him peculiarly, but my father chose to ignore that and courteously regarded him and Miriam, “I’m William, incidentally. And that lovely lady in the kitchen is Katherine.” My mom gave a cordial nod as she prepared the repast.

            “Well, hello Mister and Missus Incidentally!” Blaise addressed them. “As I said before, I’m Blaise. Blaise Casimer. And this is my little woman, Miriam.” Miriam meekly waved at them, and then Blaise conversed, “So, do y’all live close to this neck of the woods?”

            “Actually, we drove here from Philly,” my dad reported, and I almost got lulled into a false sense of security over this situation, but then my father made an enquiry that filled Phoebe and me with dread… “Where did you guys come from?”

            I grabbed Phoebe’s hand, and we both braced ourselves for the chaos that was sure to erupt as Blaise commenced in detailing the odd goings-on which occurred in his cult, but to our astonishment, Blaise didn’t advert to their commune! “Well, we were living on a ranch in North Carolina, but now we’re looking to settle our roots somewhere else next.”

            Phoebe and I exchanged puzzled expressions. Yes, we were relieved that he didn’t embarrass us with his unusual history, but it struck as bizarre that he didn’t seize the opening to present facts about his religion. This brought something else to my attention: Blaise hadn’t discussed his zealous beliefs with anyone lately! Why had he stopped trying to convert everyone he stumbled across? I couldn’t focus on that topic for too much of a stretch though since my mom served our entrées. “Mmm! It smells so-.” I took a whiff of the air, and then I couldn’t praise how yummy it smelled because I detected Blaise’s foul aroma again! Phoebe suddenly brought up, “Hey Blaise, maybe you left your lighter in the truck.”

            “I’ll be right back!” Blaise announced as he got off of his seat and headed outside.

            “So, he seems… colorful!” my mother conferred when he was well out of earshot.

            Miriam shrugged in a fairly morose fashion. “I was never any good at picking out men. I’m glad I didn’t pass that trait on to my daughter! It looks like she did pretty well!” She shot me a timidly friendly glance, and I felt flattered! With how often their presence caused me distress, I never paused to consider whether or not I met their approval! Even though Miriam hadn’t had a strong relationship with Phoebe throughout her adult life, it was nice to have the reassurance that someone in her family favored our union! Not that her father and stepmother didn’t delight in us being together, it’s just always gratifying to hear each instance of individuals in her lineage who are fond of our couple-hood!

            My mom merrily chimed, “We’d like to think so too!” Both of my folks beamed at us, and it was hard to not feel a little flustered by their acclaim! At least until my mother followed that with, “So, when are you two gonna give us some grandkids?”

            “Uh…” Phoebe failed to come up with a response as I chocked on the bite in my mouth! Don’t worry, I recovered quickly! Physically anyways… I was struggling to successfully propose to my girlfriend, so the concept of having a baby hadn’t even crossed my mind! Of course, I wanted to eventually, but the huge leap from trying to get married to raising children overwhelmed me quite a bit!

            “Oh, they haven’t had a chance to conceive any while we’ve been around! We gotta use the toilet in their bedroom ‘cause the guest one is… out of order, so it ain’t happening ‘til we finally get the heck out of their hair!” Miriam relayed to them, thank goodness! She really came to our rescue right there! Especially on my behalf since I didn’t know how I would reply to her without giving away my romantic intentions! It wouldn’t have been so terrible to pop the question in front of the parental units, but I didn’t’ want to do it in such an inelegant approach! And our discomfort would only get enhanced upon Blaise’s return! At that moment, it registered to me that he had yet to come back into the house, which I found a little strange but not unusual enough for me to want to know what he was doing out there!

            After a small bout of silence, I broke the ice by pondering, “So, Dad, how are your golf skills coming along?” That move kept the conversation going in full swing! My father prattled on and on about his stories from the greens, and even though my mother didn’t appreciate this content much (she heard all of his tales a million times before this evening!), I was relieved that our dining experience had not flopped as I fretted it would! A huge reason for that was due to Blaise’s absence. Naturally, we all identified that he never rejoined us, but no one appeared particularly alarmed by this development. Blaise’s eccentricity made him very unpredictable, so we did not grow anxious over his disappearance until we realized that we went the entire supper without him resurfacing…

            Phoebe complimented my parents, “That was a delicious dish, Doctor and Missus Fenmore!”

            “If you like it, I’ll give you the recipe!” My mom pulled out her phone and began searching through it. “Hang on! I know the restaurant we bought it from has a copycat version somewhere…”

            “No, Jett!” I corrected my cat as she jumped onto Blaise’s chair with her snout close to his portion of the cuisine.

            Miriam dissented on my verdict, “Oh, please! If he’s still hungry when he gets in, it wouldn’t bother him at all to share a plate with an animal! It’s not like it would be the first occasion he did that!”

            As my dad brought the dinnerware into the kitchen, he peeked out the front window and observed, “Well, that fellow doesn’t appear to be outside at all!”

            “Is his ugly, old truck still there?” I asked him. Privately, I relished the notion of him taking off without a goodbye! It would have been delightful to never have him darken our doorstep anymore!

            ‘That’s his vehicle? I assumed it belonged to that abandoned property across the street!” My mom gazed out the window and disclosed, “Yeah, it’s still there!”

            It sort of annoyed me to contemplate that perhaps his well-being was at risk right then! I expected to, at long last, decompress after we ate, but now we had to put in the extra effort of locating him! I sincerely hoped that he hadn’t faked an urgent dilemma only to garner some attention! I wouldn’t have put it past him! I petitioned my folks, “Mom and dad, can you check the area on your way back to your car?”

            They agreed to it, and then Phoebe spotted an object of interest on the end table by the hall. “He left his cellphone here. I’m gonna see if he left any clues there!”

            I advised Miriam, “We should go see if he gave us any hints in your room.”

            As Miriam trailed me there, she anxiously stated, “He’s not gonna like us invading his privacy!”

            “Too bad! Then he should’ve returned sooner!” I retorted. He had all of his various belongings strewed throughout the space, so I rifled through it all one by one. Most of it looked like garbage to me- old bottles, rocks, random spices and herbs… I was about to cut my losses until I ran into an aged piece of paper… Curious, I read it, and when I discovered its contents, I roared, “Damn it, Blaise! Ugh, Miriam, if your husband isn’t dead, I’m gonna kill him!”

            “Okay!” Miriam reacted with total indifference.

            Phoebe showed up in the doorway, so angrily revealed to her, “Blaise did the spell that opened up the window to the Netherworld! He’s the cause all of this shit with Damon is happening!’ I turned to Miriam and queried, “Why? Why would he do this?”

            Miriam confessed, “He’s always dabbled in magic. That’s one of the reasons I stayed with him- I wanted to watch over the other people in the cult. You’d be shocked by how dangerous some of these hexes can be! Well, maybe you wouldn’t…”

            Before I could rage further about this revelation, Phoebe articulated, “If he poses a threat to his devotees, then the students of the FAUK club are in mortal peril! I just figured out who their mysterious leader is…”

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 24

I ran from the kitchen to the end of the hall chasing my cat and shouting, “No, no, no!” I finally caught her, but to my dismay, it was too late! As I had her at eye level, I queried, “Why do you eat plastic? You know it always makes you throw up, right?” When she opened her mouth, I expected her to give some asinine response about liking the taste of wrappers or not caring if she happened to hurl, but to my astonishment, she let out a very normal kitty noise! “I’m sorry, did you actually meow?” Jett let out another mew, and I grew very puzzled! Did that spell give them the option to switch off from speaking like a feline or a human?

            Miriam popped out of the guest bedroom with an armful of laundry and informed me, “Oh, she kept yelling curse words at the birds outside, and I didn’t think you’d want me to let her leave the house doing that, so I used your spell book to make her shut up!”

            “You used my… what?” I understood what she said perfectly- I had simply become too stunned to register the reality of what she just relayed to me! She used sorcery successfully- that’s not something that a person is used to hearing announced like that! With the struggles we were enduring with that petulant phantom and his cumbersome monsters, I hadn’t given much contemplation to the existence of spells that seriously worked, so it threw me off completely to listen to her converse about it! And so casually too! It was as though she notified me that she had brought our trash to the curb because it was garbage day and I forgot (which did occur a couple of days ago!), so it left me wondering- how often did she deal with jinxes?

            “Oh, was that book sacred? Sorry, I assumed that it was for anyone’s use considering that it came from your school’s library!” Miriam reasoned as she opened the folding door in the hallway and began washing her clothes.

            I waved that revelation off, “Oh, it’s nothing forbidden or anything! I was…” I paused and phrased my concern as delicately as I could, “I didn’t know that you practiced witchcraft…”

            Miriam contended, “Oh please! All I wanted to do was get rid of that talking animal effect! Anyone could’ve read through that and did the reversal ritual, it’s not that hard! They break it down step by step and make it real easy. Only an idiot would struggle to produce a hex after scanning through a guide like that!”

            “You know, that’s probably true!” I acknowledged as I reminisced about Roxy’s numerous failed attempts. Honestly, I hadn’t remembered my idea on using an enchantment to destroy the key until right then since no one else in the Ghost League seemed willing to participate in matters of the occult! Her action got me thinking though- Miriam obviously had no qualms about doing it, so perhaps I should have requested her assistance to obliterate that everlasting object…

            “No, Jett!” Phoebe came out of our bedroom and scolded her for scratching at the guest bathroom door. The hallway was a bit crowded, so Miriam leaned against the washing machine and I sucked in my gut as much as I could to give her room to maneuver. After she brushed against me, my libido sent flights of fancy to the forefront of my mind until…

            From behind the bathroom door, Babelsama’s voice leered, “Having fun out there?”

            I sardonically remarked to him, “Nope! We’re so miserable that we’re gonna come down to the Netherworld and give you the key back!”

            “Really?” Babelsama reacted hopefully.

            “No!” I spat.

            Babelsama uttered a noise of annoyance, and then he ranted, “You know, it’s stuff like that trickery that motivates me to spread chaos in your world even more! Mark my word, when I can reopen the void in your community, I swear, I’ll-!”

            Phoebe reminded me, “We should get going! We’re gonna be late!” I knew she was completely right, but a part of me ached to call in sick so Miriam could help us make that key vanish permanently in order for us to get rid of this headache once and for all, but I couldn’t let my colleagues remain alone to battle against whatever grand plan Damon had in store for today! Plus, there was no guarantee that anything in that tome would be effective, which would have made my absence a sincere waste of effort! I wanted to save all of my time-off for my honeymoon- assuming that these tedious obstacles would allow me to prevail in proposing to her eventually! I reluctantly relented, but as we took off, I privately worried that we had walked away from our only shot to use her services!

            “And the ten principles of proper record keeping dictate that- Aah!” I gasped when someone dropped their pencil onto their desk.

            “Mister Fenmore, are you feeling alright?” Corvina inquired.

            Drats! I always strove to avoid having my students detect my less-than-stellar moods, but apparently, I didn’t accomplish that feat in this instance! I did my best to stay neutral for them, but Damon promised to wreak more havoc than usual on this date, and here it was sixth period and nothing came to fruition! One guy yelped, but then it turned out he was checking on some basketball scores! I gave him a pass on using his phone in class because I did not want to give him detention and create more opportunities for Damon to cause mischief! Yes, I recognized that he may have been bluffing, but I also knew that he had, like, fifty-ish (I lost count of how many of the sixty nine fear mongers he had gone through!) monsters at his disposal, so he had the potential to inflict a lot of mayhem on this campus if he wanted to! And he did show signs of wanting to! His scheme had prompted a bunch of kids to drop out, but he had yet to motivate me to return the key! I wouldn’t have been surprised if Babelsama put more pressure on him to achieve some worthwhile results! Yesterday, he sounded authentic in his warning of giving us more grief than normal, and he already proved that he could release more than one fear monger at once… Okay, so that experiment was a flop, but maybe the next one wouldn’t fizzle out so much! The more that the hours inched on, the more I fretted that something enormous was heading our way, so every little piece of unexpectedness put me on edge! Roxy’s smug expression only enhanced my anxiety! Sure, she could have been savoring my apprehension without any other cause other than her satisfaction of watching me suffer after foiling so many of their schemes, but what if she adopted this cocky attitude due to her knowledge of what was yet to come? I still didn’t want the children to be privy to my paranoia, so I very nonchalantly replied to Corvina, “What makes you believe something’s wrong?”

            A student accidentally made their textbook plummet to the ground, and I inadvertently let out a small yelp as I jumped in fright! I cringed and wracked my brains for an alternative explanation for my behavior other than apprehensiveness, but I couldn’t unearth anything fast enough to stop my pupil’s awareness of my mindset! Corvina probed, “What’s going on? Should we be worried?”

            “No!” I adamantly refused. I upbraided myself for nearly causing them to panic for no real valid reason! I resolved to shake these ill feelings off and carry on with the final stretch of my lesson with more enthusiasm, but the sensation of pending doom just would not wear off! I glanced at the clock, and then I got struck with inspiration on how to handle this situation! “You know what, it’s only a few minutes before prom weekend, why don’t you take off early?”

            “Are you serious?” Roxy seemed slightly startled by my abrupt dismissal. “Is this a trick?”

            I made sure to hide my smirk from her as I assured the class, “It’s no joke! What, you think the hall monitor is gonna give all of you detention for leaving campus a smidgen before the bell? Go on, get out of here!” As the students all happily bolted up to head out, I started to breathe a sigh of relief. Roxy’s displeasure at this notion led me to believe that I was on the right track and spoiled whatever she and Damon cooked up for us, but then, right as I started to gather my belongings…

            The boy who reached the hallway first let out a voluminous scream, and my heart stopped! Damon hadn’t lapsed in his affinity for consistently terrorizing Rosemary King after all! My veins coursed with dread as I peeked out of the doorway to behold what horror had been unleashed, and to my shock, I saw that the boy was running from a chicken! I had never seen such a sight, and I nearly busted out laughing with all of the kid’s peers, but then I realized that silly or not, that bird was his greatest fear, so I had a monster that needed to get slayed! “Hold on, Ray! I’m coming to help!” I couldn’t see the children’s peculiar stares, but I could sure feel them as I hastily followed the odd pair down the stairs at the other end of the building!

            I caught up with them after the downward trek, and I lunged after the feathered creature as soon as I could! I missed, but then it backed itself into a corner! “Nice try, buddy!” I briefly recoiled as I imagined how foolish I must have appeared for harboring so much venom for a barn animal, but I had to dismiss that concept while I took care of this fear monger and finished this aggravating work week! As it cowered from my grasp, I denoted how incredibly simple this dilemma had been to conquer… Almost too simple…

            “Connor!” Ellie stepped out into the hallway and alerted me. If she hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have espied the fox crouching low and creeping towards my direction! It pounced, and I rolled out of the way to escape its attack! Evidently, that move was unnecessary since the fox aimed for the chicken! The bird, no longer cornered, fled for its safety, and the fox quickly pursued it. I was ready to let the problem sort itself out, but then when they both rounded the corner, they instantly zoomed back to their point of origin! I debated whether I should resume my hunt of the fear mongers or check out what spooked them so badly, but when I heard a shriek that I registered as Phoebe’s, I didn’t entertain any other possibilities- I raced to come to her aid!

            “What in the world?” Ellie exclaimed as we saw a giant, very square robot tearing off the door to Phoebe’s room! I had no clue how to defeat an automaton, especially one with so much brute strength, but I certainly wasn’t going to permit anything to harm the woman I loved! Fortunately, I didn’t have to concern myself with the difficult battle that I envisioned- Phoebe poured some liquid onto it, and it short-circuited and collapsed! Prior to me congratulating her for her cleverness, Ellie sniffed the air and pondered, “Is that tequila?”

            A teen from her class bellowed, “For real, I didn’t know it was alcohol! I grabbed my sister’s water bottle from her backpack ‘cause I always get thirsty after PE!”

            I posed to Ellie, “Where’d the fox and chicken go?”

            “Aah!” a girl screamed from the quad.

            “There!” Ellie responded to my question.

            Instead of saying something sarcastic about how obvious my answer had become, I decided to ignore it as the three of us dashed into the courtyard. We spotted the fox running into the STEM section of the school, but when we entered the facility, we saw no hint of either creature’s whereabouts! “How do we figure out…?” Phoebe sought to canvass us, but then…

            Ginger bellowed, “What the hell?” Her kids gasped at her use of an obscenity, and she admonished them, “Oh, don’t’ act like you don’t say worse than that to each other during passing period!”

            When the three of us joined her, we saw that the fox had gotten ensnared inside of a mesh enclosure that hung from the ceiling! A young lady was quivering as she witnessed this spectacle, and I kidded with her, “Ah, don’t be afraid! The fox is just… hanging out!”

            Ellie and Ginger groaned at my jest, but the girl nervously let me know, “I’m not scared of that! It’s always been a nightmare of mine to get trapped in a net like that! You see, when I was in the second grade…”

            “Where’s the chicken?” Ellie petitioned us. We heard a flurry of giggles coming from upstairs after the bell rang, so we zipped over to investigate.

            “Mister Thales caught a chicken!” one youthful man chortled as he passed by us while we recovered our respiration from that fast climb. He and his friends puzzled at our poses, but it did not deter them from their mirth. Whatever, the more joy that spread throughout the school, the easier it would become to defeat Damon!

            When we entered into Aleck’s quarters, we saw that he had managed to nab it with an empty, plastic bin, and as he pinned it down with a large geode, I quipped, “Gee, Aleck! I didn’t realize you were so fowl!”

            Ginger and Ellie shook their heads at my cheesiness, but Aleck chuckled, “Good one!” Ellie and Ginger gazed at him in a reproachful manner to discourage him from encouraging my antics, but it didn’t phase him much!

            “We still gotta take care of the net and the fox,” Ellie jogged our memories.

            “Why don’t you and Ginger take care of the net and the fox?” I suggested as I glimpsed at my phone. “Fletcher needs a hand too…”

            We hurried to the gym only to see several boys and girls hiding between the bleachers and behind various equipment as a hooded figure with a scythe glided across the floor! Fletcher told us, “It hasn’t taken any souls, but it keeps finding different kids and beckoning them to go somewhere!”

            Phoebe surveyed us, “How do we defeat death?”

            After mulling it over for a beat, I concluded, “We’re not fighting death! We’re fighting a fear monger!” I located a box full of props earmarked for the prom, and I seized a few of them. I came face to face with the hooded figure, and it gestured for me to follow it. I yelled, “No way, José!” and put a cowboy hat on it, and the children tittered. I then put a rope in its hands and commented, “I have a chicken you can lasso!” The students guffawed, and their merriment only got enhanced the more the three of us placed on it. Finally, it couldn’t bear their amusement anymore and darted out!

            Phoebe and I watched it transform into a fear monger, and it disappeared as soon as Fletcher’s class came out. One boy amazedly stated, “Wow! I never knew death’s real name was José!”

            Aleck raised an eyebrow at that as the six of convened, and then he reported, “The hall monitor caught the fox after it chewed out of the net! I’m not sure why he can handle a wild animal but not balloons!”

            “Hopefully he doesn’t see it transform on the way to the wildlife shelter!” Phoebe conversed as she studied the scenery around us. “Okay, it seems like we’re finally done with these fear mongers! At least for today! What are the odds Damon won’t pull something at the dance tomorrow?”

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 23

A student raised her hand and let me know, “Mister Fenmore, I have a question about the-.”

            “No!” I quickly declined. “We still have a lot to cover before-.” Three xylophone notes chimed on the loudspeaker, and I moaned, “Ugh! Too late!”

            “Good afternoon, boys and girls!” Manuel’s voice permeated from the PA system. “This is your periodic reminder to cleanse yourself from your fears! Everyone breathe in…” The dozen or so students who actually showed up did not participate in the exercise that Manuel was promoting, in fact, they got agitated rather than relaxed from enduring this tidbit once again! I couldn’t blame them- it was the third time they went through it that day! I wished that Manuel had requested our feedback for the effectiveness of this activity, we could have told him at first period that the kids weren’t getting comfort from this endeavor! “… And breathe out! Close your eyes and picture yourself somewhere calm…” A few children turned to me with quizzical expressions, and I wordlessly indicated that they didn’t need to do his prompts. “It could be a spring meadow or a secluded beach. Maybe you’d prefer to imagine yourself at a winter cabin in front of a crackling fireplace. Wherever your safe place is, keep it at the forefront of your mind, and whenever you feel afraid, all you have to do is close your eyes again and repeat this process! Thank you for you for attending school today! Enjoy your lunch!”

            The bell rang, and most of the teens sprang up and raced for the exit, but a few of them remained rooted to their seats, so I addressed them, “Oh, don’t worry about the lesson. We’ll go over it tomorrow instead of the movie I was going to show.”

            One boy grumbled, “Oh, great! We get another day of lectures instead of doing something fun! I’m so glad we have these never-ending cleansing reminders!”

            “Why is Principal Palillo doing this?” a girl asked me. “It’s not like it’ll do us much good if another dragon comes!”

            “Or the zombie apocalypse that the FAUK’ers keep saying will happen!” one of their peers added.

            I responded, “When they say the dead will rise up, they don’t mean zombies! … I don’t think…” I always assumed that the FAUK club depicted a scenario where the earth would become overwhelmed by ghosts or possibly vampires since that organization seemed connected to Damon. I mean, they were assisting him in spreading fear all over campus! Roxy definitely had an association with their scholastic representative, Ismeray, and none of their members fell victim to the fear monger’s attacks, so it only made sense for their intentions to have been congruous with that petulant phantom! But truthfully, I hadn’t actually bothered to listen to everything they spouted out, so they might have had totally different intentions for all I knew! Perhaps zombies did factor into their so-called predictions…. I shook that notion off and inwardly prayed that all of their stupid theories stayed in the realm of fiction! “Look, don’t worry about those bozos say! They’re all acting on some misguided doomsday garbage they read online! How much can you rely on that?”

            The first young man posed to me, “If it’s all garbage, then why is all this weird stuff happening?”

            “Uhh…” I certainly wasn’t about to tell them that a guardian of the Netherworld sent a vengeful spirit to our world because he wanted to open up a spiritual gate and release even more chaos! But what could I reveal to them without completely disturbing them? I supposed that I could have lied and pretended that I didn’t know, but then I realized that it would have been counterproductive to do so! It occurred to me that reporting the reality of the situation, at least some of it, could prove advantageous to our cause! It hadn’t done much when we explained it to Manuel, but maybe if I chose a different tactic… “Well, the common connection is fear. Something is feeding on what scares us the most, so if we stop being afraid, we might be able to force this thing to starve and vanish!”

            “You say that like it’s so easy!” the second guy noted. “It’s not like we can make them go away just like that or we would have done it already!”

            I argued, “Yes, we can’t pretend our fears don’t exist, but we can conquer our fears though! Instead of waiting for it to strike us in the middle of class, we can face them on our own time! For example, someone who’s afraid of heights might go skydiving or someone who’s terrified of clowns might… I dunno… visit the circus? Basically, the more you experience them, the less they can surprise you, so it takes the edge out of whatever intimidates you!”

            The female student related to that, “Oh yeah, that’s true! That’s how I got over my fear of blood!”

            “Hey, I struggled with that one too!” My thoughts instantly jumped to another individual who dealt with vampires like I did, but I had to quickly pull back on that hypothesis. Obviously, she hadn’t gotten over her fear in the same manner as me! Well, as far as I knew I got over it, I hadn’t encountered it in a while, thank goodness! I couldn’t fathom any other scenario where she would see blood frequently, so I stammered as I quizzed her, “How did…? What did you…? You saw a lot of blood then, huh…?” I knocked on wood that I wouldn’t get some kind of serial killer reply…

            “Yeah! Every month when my menstrual cycle returns!” she pointed out to me.

            I could have smacked myself for not producing a simple explanation like that! “Ah, makes sense! Yeah, I didn’t get over my fear of blood in the same way!” The teen got a chuckle out of that, and I didn’t want to break their merry mood by bringing up that a woman doesn’t technically bleed much during that time of the month! I doubted the encyclopedic knowledge on the human body that I inherited from my doctoral father would do much to curtail their phobias! Besides, we had all lost a significant portion of our lunch break, so I saw it best to dismiss them, “Alright, why don’t you find your friends and-?”

            At that moment, Casper appeared in my doorway and asked, “May I cut in?”

            “No!” I sharply answered. After I showed him up with that fear monger in the library, he was avoiding me like the plague! It irritated me that he chose to get his arrogant swagger back right at such an inopportune juncture!

            “Listen, take it from this school’s finest athlete and Terra Belle’s greatest paranormal combatant…” Casper ignored my denial and strolled in with the overblown egotism of a famous diva giving an interview on the red carpet! “Enemies can always detect your innermost apprehensions, so the key to victory is to replace them with positive cogitations! Suppose that one is afraid of dying in a plane crash, all that they would have to do is switch that anxiety with images of how wonderful their flight will go! Simple!”

            It was so tempting to query him about why he had not done that when the cotton balls rained down on him, but I couldn’t stoop so low as to demean him in front of the children that he taught! As excruciating as it was, I opted for the higher road, “What happens if the plane does crash? Wouldn’t it make more sense to prepare yourself for how to survive it instead of pretending everything is gonna be peachy-keen forever?” Casper glared at me, but I ignored him and kindly regarded the kids, “Anyways, why don’t we table that topic for now? Go- enjoy the rest of your lunch!”

            The three youths registered how much of their break they missed and hurried to meet up with their buddies, but they all thanked me as they headed out. Casper indignantly spouted, “You’re welcome! So happy to offer my assistance!”

            “What is your problem?” I blurted out. I hadn’t intended to have a prolonged interaction with this obnoxious blowhard, but the words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them! I forgave myself for that lapse since I already felt stressed to my limit from everything else I had to deal with, and it reassured me that perhaps this would get rid of at least one aggravating factor! Even if it didn’t, it was sort of refreshing to have someone to release my pent-up anger on! “From the beginning, you’ve been a royal pain in the ass, and I didn’t do a damn thing to deserve it! You’re always going out of your way to do this petty shit, and it’s totally unnecessary! If you left me alone, I’d leave you alone! But no, you insist on coming here day after day to try (and I do mean try!) to make me look dumb! I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but whatever it is, it isn’t working! So, why do you keep doing this crap? What do you want?”

            “What do I want? I want my reign back!” Casper irately admitted.

            I shot back with, “Your rain? Do I look like I can control the weather?”

            He quarreled, “No, not rain! Reign, as in sovereignty!” I gave him a peculiar stare, so he defended himself, “No, I’m not crazy! I used to be the king around here! My legacy as an athletic star made me a campus celebrity even to this day! I was the best catch and the authority on the supernatural too! Then you waltzed right in with no real teaching experience, and you stole all of my thunder! Now, everyone comes to you for my area of expertise! Plus, none of my female admirers show any interest in me the minute you showed up! They completely disregard me as you strut down the hall and are all like ‘Ooh! Look at me! See how handsome I am! Forget about old Casper! Everyone pay attention to me!’”

            “Okay, number one, I don’t sound like that!” I countered. He shrugged, and I went on, “Two, I didn’t go into the educational field for any sort of prestige! Who does that?” He pouted, so I sighed and let him know, “Initially, I wanted to prove something to my ex-wife.” He raised his eyebrows at the broach of that subject, but I had no inclination to delight him with the details of that sordid affair, so I continued, “I got to that destination, but not by using the route I imagined! I got a fresh start by making new friends, meeting the love of my life, and having a real impact on the future generation! When I quit living to prove myself to someone else, I got something better than I could have imagined! You can’t keep relying on what you did in the past, man! Find something else you’re good at, and then you’ll get your fame back! Instead of wasting your energy striving to take me down, work on building yourself up instead!”

            “Wow, that’s so obvious that I should have deduced it myself! So, the dilemma has hence become where do I venture moving forward?” Casper contemplated this concept for a moment.

            I politely ushered him out of the classroom, “Venture anywhere but here! I’m gonna salvage what’s left of my meal break!” He waved goodbye but did not wait for me to return the gesture as he left my classroom. I rolled my eyes and rattled my brains around to shake off the tension I had built up. If only he knew how much I did not want this sort of renown! I had no ambition to get other ladies’ appeal- Phoebe was the only woman I had any desire to please! Furthermore, the whole Ghost League business was more of a duty than an honor! Yes, the inciting incident with the vampires brought us together as companions, but I would have been thrilled to have bonded with them in any other circumstance! And seriously, if Damon had stayed in Hell where he belongs, I would have been perfectly content with dropping out of the spotlight! I aimed to decompress from these negative emotions as I locked up my class, and as I hurried towards the teachers’ lounge, I crossed my fingers that no fear mongers would pop up and add fuel to the fire that was my inner turmoil!

            I found Phoebe, Ellie, Ginger, Aleck, and Fletcher all sitting at a table in the quad, and I inquired, “What’s going on?”

            Fletcher filled me in, “All the kids are too chicken to sit out here, so Manuel had us all eat outside to encourage them to come back here. Like hanging out with their teachers are gonna really entice them to do that!”

            “Where have you been?” Ginger queried to me. She leaned in closer and whispered, “Did you take care of one of Damon’s little pets as you came out here?”

            “Nope!” I replied, “I was dealing with another irritating pest. Actually, I was kinda hoping to hear you all took care of one while I was gone so we could be done for the day!”

            Aleck conversed, “Sorry to disappoint you! Although, I guess it is possible we could be done and not even know it! Like, what if one of his victims killed one without them even realizing what it was? Or maybe two oppositional ones arrived simultaneously and snuffed each other out!”

            Ellie disputed that supposition, “That’ll never happen! We’ve had two in the same shift, but never two at the same time! Besides, they all stem from one group, so why would they hurt each other?”

            As if on cue, a girl ran out into the grounds in front of us screaming while a butterfly followed her. She suddenly froze, closed her eyes, and chanted, “I’m in my happy place! I’m in a snowy cabin!” She peeked out at the air around her, and when the butterfly had not vanished, she groaned, “Aah! Why isn’t this working?”

            “I’m in my happy place! I’m in a snowy mountain cabin!” a boy recited with his lids shut in an attempt to elude the bouncy and bubbly golden-retriever that was tailing him. He bumped into the butterfly girl and apologized, “Oops! My bad! I didn’t-!” The dog interrupted him by leaping up and eating the butterfly in one chomp!

            “Ooh, I love your dog!” the girl gushed.

            The boy gazed at the girl with a captivated smile, and then he proposed, “The dog says you should go to the prom with me!”

            She happily accepted, “Yeah, sure! I’d love to!”

            “Ooh! Can we pet your dog?” A number of other students rushed out to greet the playful pooch.

            “No!” I intervened when I saw signs of the butterfly’s fear monger transforming inside of the canine’s stomach! The children all grew aghast as I snatched up cute animal, so I fibbed, “I gotta take him to tinkle! ‘Scuse me!”

            My colleagues in the Ghost League trailed me as I hastily moved to the side of the school, and when the dog’s fear monger mutated into its original form, I dropped it out of appall. After we all saw it keel over, Ellie acknowledged, “Well, Aleck, I guess I was wrong on that one!”

            Damon suddenly apparated into our vicinity, and he complained, “A golden retriever! Out of all of the much scarier mutts it could have chosen, why did they pick something so adorable? I’m sick of bringing these kids joy and love!”

            “Do you expect us to offer you any sympathy?” I probed.

            “No!” Damon pouted. He then amended his sentence, “That is to say, no because you need it more than I do! Just wait ‘til you see what I have in store for you tomorrow!”

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 22

Gazing down at his long, blonde wig and vibrant getup, Fletcher griped, “I’m gonna have nightmares for weeks ‘cause of this! These colors hurt my eyes! And what does this ‘I am the Walrus’ thing even mean? Is it a comment on my weight?”

            Trying to keep my lengthy ‘do out of my face, I assured him, “It’s a Beatles song. I’m pretty sure they meant that as some sort of outsider/anti-society statement. They sang about a lot of issues, but body image wasn’t one of them!” Although, truthfully, with the elongated mustache he now bore, he more or less did bear resemblance to that animal!

            “Personally, I kinda like my hair like this!” Aleck commented as he studied his reflection in an ornate hand mirror that probably belonged to Ginger. “Do you think I should grow it out for real?”

            “You need to be asking the missus that!” Ellie recommended to him. “Do we look like your wife to you?”

            Aleck eyeballed her afro and non, multi-patterned dress, and then he slowly responded, “Uh… No!”

            Ginger took back her mirror (I knew it was it hers!), and as she readjusted her flower headband, she opined, “I don’t mind the outfits, but I do mind the whole ‘free hug’ prospect! Touching all of those strangers seems so unsanitary!”

            “Eh, it’s not that bad!” the lady with the rainbow strands disputed. “My husband is a dentist, and if he can go near all of those mouths every single day, you should be fine giving a few kids a hug!”

            “Oh, that’s funny! One of my students’ father is a dentist too!” I conversed. “I ran into in her at the mall yesterday, and she mentioned it.”

            Rainbow Strands told me, “You must be talking about my Roxy! Her dad’s office is in the mall!”

            My jaw nearly dropped upon that revelation! “You’re Roxy’s mom?” I caught on to how rude I came across, so I amended my sentence, “Sorry! I just assumed you were her sister!” I didn’t see my colleagues’ reaction to that quip, but I could feel their eyes rolling behind me!

            “That’s alright!” she waved off my clumsy reaction. “Most people are surprised to see someone who went through medical school with a free-spirited artist like me!” She must have sensed my curiosity on how their couple-hood ever came about because she swiftly filled me in, “You see, in the bedroom…”

            “Okay, I don’t need to know more!” I interrupted her in an attempt to rid myself of whatever unpleasant image she intended to paint for me!

            A man in a tie-dye shirt came over to our group and spoke to Roxy’s mom, “They’re starting in a minute, Sage!”

            Sage posed to us, “Are you guys ready?”

            “The only thing I’m ready to do is vomit!” Fletcher half kidded while glimpsing at his ensemble in disgust.

            “Oh, please help us out!” Sage pled to him. “My daughter has gone down a very dark road, and I’m afraid she’s taken a lot of other souls with her! I don’t’ wanna lose her, and I don’t want any other parents to suffer either! Don’t give up on them now!”

            Fletcher’s heart softened at her emotional appeal, and his care for the well-being of the children he taught overtook him, so he shifted his posture and proudly declared, “I am the walrus!”

            Sage smiled in appreciation and then scampered off to another position on the quad. As we stood in our stances, Aleck joked, “Well, we have some sage here, so we should be protected from our resident ghost, right?”

            “I doubt Damon would strike here!” Phoebe put in as she showed up by our sides. “This rally is for his people, so why would he interrupt it? If anything, he would target the prom committee! I’d love to see some scary beast face Hazel! All she would have to do is glare once and it would totally keel over!” The other four laughed at her jest, but I couldn’t stop staring at how irresistible she was in her floral dress! It perfectly sculpted her curves, and maybe because Sage recently broached the subject of her sexuality, but I found her boho costume strangely provocative! A funeral march boomed from some nearby speakers, but I paid them no attention as I savored the becoming sight before me- something that Phoebe took notice of! She snapped her fingers in my face and directed me, “Connor! Focus!”

            “Sorry!” I forced myself out of my reverie and gave proper concentration to the teens in shadowy garments slowly making their way to the center of campus. They all held candles, but none of them were lit. There weren’t any sprinklers outside, but I assumed that Manuel didn’t wanna take any risks after the blaze from that mummy caused the system to soak the entire school! All of the FAUK club participants kept their heads bowed, so they couldn’t even see the sizeable crowd who had gathered to view the proceedings! Our cue to act required us to wait until they began speaking, but their introduction was so slow and the music was sort of sleep-provoking, so it took a lot of willpower to resist the temptation to crash their party sooner!

            Finally, my impatience could rest! Ismeray picked up a microphone and addressed the attendees, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have gathered here today to-.”

            From all different sides of the vicinity, the Free Huggers swooped in and chanted, “Free hugs! Free hugs!”

            “We are gathered here to mourn the lost ones…” Ismeray tried to talk over us.

            “Free hugs! Free hugs!” we chanted even louder.

            Ismeray shouted into her receiver, “But they will not be gone from our lives forever! The-.” She took on a surly expression as she watched us hug various members of the spectators. No one really objected to our gesture- I got the impression that they were too confused to emit a strong reaction!

            Sage grabbed Ismeray’s microphone and orated, “Kids, listen! Life isn’t so doom and gloom! There’s so many beautiful-!”

            “The revolution is coming!” Ismeray took back the mic and quickly spouted out as much as she could prior to Sage snatching her instrument again. “We-.”

            “The world can be so wonderful if you just embrace the-!” Sage leaned in and spoke into the resonator in Ismeray’s grip.

            Ismeray plowed on in the same instance, “The dead will be among us shortly!”

            Sage persisted on her point as well, “Love makes life worth living, not worshipping the dead!”

            “The undead will inherit the earth!” Ismeray roared.

            “The future belongs to those who dare to dream!” Sage bellowed.

            One of the youths who witnessed this spectacle pondered, “I don’t get it! Are the dead people dreaming?”

            Aleck commented, “Well, it doesn’t look like anyone’s getting brainwashed at least!”

            “True, but this whole charade is so…” Ginger searched for the right words to describe her opinion. “… Well, it can’t get any weirder than this!”

            “Don’t say that!” Ellie chided her. “You’ll tempt fate!”

            Ginger dismissed that claim, “Oh, please! Nothing is gonna happen!” All of a sudden, a whooshing sound boomed over our heads! Ellie glared at Ginger, who denounced her non-verbal accusation, “Whatever that is, it’s not my fault!”

            With all of the preposterous phobias we had to deal with previous to this juncture, I expected to behold a giant bird or something to that degree- but no! I never would have guessed that something actually scary would show up! A giant, gray-scaled dragon hovered over the school! It lunged towards the ground, and everyone ran towards the closest hallway for cover. As we all cowered in fear, one normally dressed child exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! The prophecy has begun! The undead have come to collect us!”

            “This isn’t the prophecy!” Ismeray refuted as the dragon perched itself in the quad and searched for stragglers who didn’t make it inside. “The prophecy says the dead will rise up, and this thing is very much alive!”

            “Ahh! I always knew this would happen!” another normally dressed girl whimpered. “Ever since the castle town burned down in the last season, I knew one day it would come for me as well!”

            I squelched that proclamation, “Um, you’re not a character on a TV show! Why are so many people so deathly afraid of fictional work? They’re dramas, not documentaries!”

            Phoebe kindly but nervously reminded me, “Uh, babe, can we maybe discuss this later?”

            The dragon found our safe haven, and it kept trying to squeeze its top half under the awning outside of the building. It had yet to find a successful path to do so, but its menacing stare and frequent snapping was pretty intimidating, and no one could guarantee how long this stronghold could offer us security! Aleck inquired, “What do we do?”

            He swiveled his gaze between the six of us in the Ghost League, and Fletcher replied, “Don’t ask me! I have no clue! What do we do, flip through the Yellow Pages and hire a dragon slayer?”

            “What are the Yellow Pages?” one kid probed, which somewhat punched us in the gut as of the adults in the room were forced to sharply recall our old age!

            “They’re like a search engine on paper!” I let that teen know, and then I posed to the entire lot, “How do dragons get killed on that show?”

            One individual recollected, “Oh, one of them got struck with a bolt of lightning!”

            I hated to show that person rudeness, but time was of the essence here, so I couldn’t entertain that notion whatsoever! “Anyone else?”

            “So, this is where it all ends, huh?” Ellie remarked. “Wow, I never thought it would happen like this! Seriously, I couldn’t have predicted by cause of death as eaten by a dragon while dressed like a flower child hiding on the science department floor!”

            “Hey, we are in the science department!” Phoebe unexpectedly got hit with inspiration from that commentary. “Aleck, don’t you have some kind of strange chemical we could feed it to make it croak?”

            Slightly affronted, Aleck informed her, “I don’t know about strange! They’re fairly common elements found throughout the planet! But yes, some of them are poisonous, however, it would take more than what’s in my inventory to make it fatal for a creature that size!”

            I petitioned him, “What about ones that would cause an explosion?” Aleck mulled that concept over for a moment…

            “What’s going on out here?” Manuel poked his torso out of a door on the other side of us, and the dragon turned its trajectory over to him. “Ay Bendito!” Manuel hollered before promptly ducking back into his quarters. The dragon managed to stick one of its claws close to Manuel’s entrance, and it scratched the glass on the door’s pane! We all watched in horror as the integrity of the edifice showed signs of buckling!

            “We’ve gotta help them!” Ginger shrieked. “Why aren’t Aleck and Phoebe back yet?”

            I peeked at my watch and then reassured Ginger, “They should be here any minute! Gimme your mirror!”

            Ginger puzzled, “My mirror? Why would you worry about your appearance during an emergency like this?”

            “Psh! Do these duds give you any indication that I give a damn about my appearance right now?” I indicated to my hippie garments, and she no longer objected to my request. She didn’t seem to fathom why I made that proposition, but she dug into her purse and handed it over anyhow. I stuck my arm out of one of the doors and found the precise angle that made the surface’s reflection radiate the sun’s rays…

            “What are you doing?” a student cried out. “Now it’s gonna come back to us!”

             I asserted, “Yeah, it’s supposed to!” Everyone grew alarmed by that projected predicament, and as the dragon inched nearer and nearer to our direction, the huddled teens became more and more hysterical. “Relax! They’ll arrive in a few seconds! You’ll see!” Nobody relaxed, and a few seconds elapsed with neither of them returning, so I started to grow anxious myself! I didn’t dare admit that to the kids though! “Any second now…!” I stated less confidently.

            Exactly when the dragon resumed snapping at us, Phoebe commanded, “Open the doors!” Fletcher and I heeded her command, and Aleck threw the bust that resembled Timothy Chalamet straight into the dragon’s mouth! Fletcher and I shut the door and took cover right as the dragon bit down on the projectile. An explosion rang out, and once the phenomenon ceased its effect, we craned our necks up and espied that the dragon laid motionless on the pavement!

            “Cool!” one of the youthful boys celebrated.

            “That is not cool! That’s disgusting!” Ismeray disagreed with him. “Ew! They’re collecting pieces of its corpse!”

            As more of these teenagers flocked over to grab bits of its remains, Fletcher asked the Ghost League, “There’s nothing we can do to prevent this, is there?” We all shook our heads. The kids’ mirth came to an abrupt halt as the pieces suddenly left their hands, and they all yelped profusely as those parts came together in the shape of a deceased fear monger! Ordinarily, we would have tried to prevent anyone from witnessing that transformation, but they just saw a freaking a freaking dragon, so why not allow them to watch another supernatural occurrence?

            As we went back outside, Aleck brought up, “You know what I should’ve said when I threw Isaac Newton’s sculpture? ‘Hey dragon! Eat this!’”

            “I still think he looked more like Billy Squier!” I opined. Ismeray’s fixation darted between us and the newly disappeared fear monger, and seemed a bit cross, so I affirmed, “The Free Hug thing was us, that monster was not!”

            “What in the blazes is going on here?” Manuel re-emerged and addressed us all.

            None of us knew what to reveal to him, and not as single person wanted to be the one to have to try and explain any of today’s ordeal! We all silently tried to delegate the task to one another, but then Roxy piped up, “What’s going on here is that they just destroyed my science project!” Manuel gazed at us in utter befuddlement, and we simply shrugged, offering no other explanation for this transpiration!

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 21

“Sir? Sirrrr?” a nicely dressed man shook my shoulder in an effort to wake me up.

            I didn’t want to stop sleeping! I was so profoundly peaceful, and despite some cheesy pop songs were playing in the background, it was so quiet in there! I hadn’t rested so well in ages, and my body resisted coming out of a such a solid slumber! Ultimately, I knew I had no choice but to snap out of it, so I unwillingly lifted my head and drowsily asked, “Is it time to go?”

            The man replied, “That depends. Are you gonna buy the mattress or not?”

            “Sorry, uh…” I gazed at his badge to get his name. “Barrett! I can’t afford it right now! I spent the last of my savings on removing a tree whose roots were getting into our pipes, so I can’t afford to splurge on anything for… I don’t know how long! As it is, my girlfriend and I gotta teach summer school to pay the bills!”

            “Then why are you here? Why go to the mall at all?” Barrett grumpily challenged me.

            I explained, “I would have thought that the chainsaws would’ve drowned out the noise coming from my future in-laws, but somehow, they were still clear as day! Then my ki- … kid sister… won’t shut up ‘cause she’s scared of the arborists!” I almost let it slip that my cat could talk, so I’m glad that I came up with that “kid sister” line! I don’t have any siblings, and if I did, I probably never would have described them like that in normal circumstances, but he seemed unfazed by it, so whatever, it worked! Actually, I might as well have disclosed that witch jinxed my pet to speak since he wasn’t really listening, he was just waiting for me to shut up, which I didn’t do! I don’t know why I kept rambling on despite his obvious lack of interest, the words just kept flowing out as if I had an obligation to give him my life story! “All that chaos drove me up the wall! And usually, I can get through anything by simply hanging out with my girlfriend, but she’s gonna be busy for the remainder of the week ‘cause she’s on the prom committee, so I came here to get a break from the craziness! I didn’t plan on coming into your store, but the empty space was so inviting after dealing with the crowds from the other stores! I never pictured it being so packed on a random weekday in March!”

            Barrett snidely responded, “Well, it’s prom season! Did you seriously believe it would be calm here?”

            Wow, he was paying attention to my babbling! I could understand why he grew grumpy with me after I conked out on his merchandise for a considerable duration, and then I ceaselessly blabbered to him knowing full well I couldn’t purchase anything in his inventory, but I still found his callousness super rude! I never would have forgotten my manners like that to anyone! As an educator, I couldn’t exit the scene without providing him with an important lesson, so I lectured him, “Listen, as a former leader from Philly’s top marketing firm and a current business teacher, let me offer you some advice: Always be friendly! Even if they don’t buy from you immediately, if they like you, they’ll return when they are ready to buy! When I am in the mood for a new bed, I’ll make sure to give someone else the commission for it!”

            “When you visit again, please tell them Damon sent you!” Another employee shoved his was past his colleague in order to shake my hand and dole out a friendly grin.

            “I absolutely will!” I lied. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I couldn’t bring myself to associate with another Damon! It wasn’t his fault that he shared a moniker with a moronic, sociopathic vampire turned ghost, but the connotation would have made the experience excruciating! That fib gave him false hope though, so I felt a little bad for doing that to him… until I happened to glance at the price tags I passed! I could have hired two more arborists at the rate that they wanted to charge for their mattresses! As I re-entered into the mall’s main floor, I knocked on wood that this scenario would ever come to pass!

            Soon, I went by the food court, and a girl who donned a work uniform posed to me, “Would you like to try out latest brownie creation?”

            I politely refused, “Sorry, I don’t have any spare cash!”

            “Uh, it’s a free sample…” she pointed out.

            “Oh!” I hadn’t noticed her tray full of bite-sized desserts until after she mentioned it, and trying to cover for my foolish blunder, I kidded, “I suppose I can afford a free item!” She sort of smirked at that as if she wanted to stay cordial but she also sincerely wished that she could roll her eyes upon hearing that joke for the zillionth time, and my shame over my ineptitude only heightened! I didn’t want to convey to her that I got distracted because a mattress store worker reminded me of a petulant phantom that haunted the building that I taught at while I presently got preoccupied with finding someone to help me do magic to destroy a spoon that was really a key that opened up the Netherworld, so I opted to take the treat in silence. I didn’t expect much from a baked good that originated from a fast-food joint, but this morsel was surprisingly delicious! “Mmm! I love it!”

            Following my positive feedback, she recommended, “If you’re interested in more, they’re only eighteen dollars per bouquet!” That revelation startled me! Yes, the title of their restaurant included the word “gourmet,” but it baffled me to discover how steep the cost of their food ran! She espied the incredulous expression I bore and recalled, “Oh, I forgot you told me you were poor! Hey, I hope you come into some money in the future so you can come back!”

            Ouch! Even though she sounded sincere about willing some financial fortune in my direction, it punched me in the gut to get dubbed as penniless! I waved goodbye to her as I moved on, and I attempted to rid my mind of that sting to avoid making a spectacle of myself in front of the mall patrons! Most of them appeared to be adults that I hadn’t previously met, but I would’ve been mortified if one of my students happened to be in the mix of those who witnessed me breaking down like that! I glimpsed around the vicinity to check for any kids I recognized, and it struck me as odd that hardly any young people occupied the area! Did teenagers not hang out at the mall anymore? That was the place to go when I was that age, but I wondered if perhaps the digital era perhaps altered their preferred social spot. Finally, I caught sight of a youthful girl, but then I sort of believed my brain was playing tricks on me! She couldn’t be in this location! It could not conceivably be true…

            “No! Why are you here?” Roxy stole my sentence seconds before I could utter it! She closed a notebook she’d been writing in and gazed at me in aghast. “You’re following me now? How did you even know I was here?”

            “I didn’t follow you here!” I disputed. “Are you kidding? I came here to get a break from everything! Why would I wanna do that to myself?” She held her notebook close to her chest, and all of a sudden, my disposition shifted from agonizing over the reminder of the stresses I strove to escape from to suspicion of her motives. Who goes to the mall to do an activity that requires concentration? “You’re doing homework here out of all places?”

            I expected her to spout some cockamamie excuse for studying in such a bustling environment, but she caught completely off guard when she let me know, “I forgot my key, and Mom has a meeting, so I gotta wait for my dad to get off of work to get in the house. He works at the dentist office here.”

            Her response sounded so genuine, but it was so hard for me to trust her! Lately, her whole life had been devoted to Damon’s insane plot, so it was hard to fathom her engaging in an activity that was so ordinary! And yet, her tone had so much authenticity to it! She didn’t strike me as a very believable actress, in fact, I could almost always distinguish when she was lying! She didn’t display any of the nervous twitchiness that she typically did in this kind of situation, so logically, I wanted to accept her account, but something inside of me kept indicating that mischief was afoot! I questioned my instincts though since there weren’t many of her peers in this locale, and she had no clue that anyone from the Ghost League was even here, which took away the main purpose of Damon unleashing his fear mongers. I decided to forget about this apprehension, and although my nerves were still slightly on edge, I collectedly bade her, “Okay, have fun with that!”

            She didn’t appear optimistic about the task ahead of her. “Yeah… Well, I’ll see you at school tomorrow!” I walked away from her, but prior to my line of sight to her disappearing, I glimpsed back at her a few times. She resumed her scribbling on the paper in her possession, and I didn’t see any signs of that bothersome specter, so I forced myself to table that concept and keep moving on.

            I walked into one of Phoebe’s favorite stores that sold a number of sweet-smelling items, and I purchased a refill for her oil diffuser from the clearance section mostly so it didn’t look so peculiar for me to meander around the premises. I also deemed it necessary due to the aftermath of Blaise’s excessive stints in my bathroom… Anyway, as I strolled further down the voluminous aisleway, I beheld the dentist office that Roxy mentioned. I pondered if her father had the same airheaded tendencies as his daughter, and right as I was musing on whether or not I would risk getting treatment from him, I literally ran into a young woman! “I’m so sorry!” I promptly apologized to her.

            “Mister Fenmore?” the young woman queried.

            “Oh, hey there…” Once I got over the shock of my clumsy action, I was able to recognize her as the girl who was afraid of crickets in the prom committee. I felt a little stupefied that she remembered my name after I only attended one meeting, and I didn’t want to insult her by admitting that I had no inkling on her identity, so I settled on saying, “…you!” It then dawned on me that if she was on the prom committee that Phoebe was currently heading, then that meant… “You skipped today’s session?”

            For the second instance in that hour, I held the assumption that a female attendee of Rosemary King would impart some wild statement to mitigate my skepticism on their trustworthiness, and once again, I got something completely different! Nearly hysterical, she wailed, “Yes, but the perfect dress is almost out of stock, so if I waited ‘til after we met, it might be gone! I can’t show up to the prom without everything being perfect! They put me in student government for a reason, and if I go there looking like trash, there goes my shot at getting elected as freshman class president in college! And if I can’t do that, there goes my career in politics! My entire life depends on this dress! I can’t let anyone else take it, or I-!
            I interrupted her long-windedness, “Okay, okay! I got it! I won’t stop you from getting your perfect dress!” Inwardly, I questioned her judgment on what she considered perfect- this garment fit so tightly that her zipper hadn’t gone to the top! How could that be remotely comfortable? It worried me that she intended to enter into a career field that required adept decision making…

            “That’s what Miss Caracy said too!” she chimed. “Hey, could you help me zip up?”

            I had major reservations about getting into that close of a contact with a juvenile lady, but I could see that the clerk was bogged down by an extremely drawn out and inane conversation with a customer on the phone, so I relented. The zipper wouldn’t budge, and it took all of my concentration not to pinch her skin. As I fruitlessly kept trying, she abruptly screamed and ducked behind a rack! Surging with guilt from the presumption that I hurt her, I sought to make amends, “Please forgive me! It was an accident! I can pay to fix it!” That wasn’t very feasible for me in reality, but if she took me up on that, I would have had to figure that out later!

            From her sanctuary between the lot of clothes, she whimpered, “There’s a big, nasty fly in here!”

            “That’s it?” I remarked. I didn’t mean to diminish her feelings, but I couldn’t comprehend how she could reach that level of anxiety over something as innocuous as that bug! However, coupling her reaction with Roxy’s presence close to this site, I finally understood why my intuition refused to settle down! I assured the girl, “I’ll get it!” I dove for it, but it swiftly evaded me! I zigged and zagged all over the shop, but it was relentless! I could tell passersby were staring at me for such an overzealous effort, but I didn’t allow it phase me! This had to get done! I fell into a cardboard box of veils, and after I emerged, I couldn’t find the critter… until…

            “I got the fly!” the clerk declared after smacking me in the lower pelvis.

            As I writhed in pain, I grunted, “Yup! Both of them!” After it dissipated slightly, I pinpointed the fly’s carcass, and to prevent these two women from seeing it in its true form, I scooped it up and dumped it my bag. “Don’t worry, I’ll throw it away outside!”

            The scared girl poked her head out in relief, and the clerk commended me, “Thank you! And sorry about the… I really needed the commission from this sale!”

            “No problem!” I croaked out.

            “You’re my hero, Mister Fenmore!” the girl gushed. I needed to hurry so that the bag wouldn’t burst and subject these ladies to a hideous monster, so I made my way to the exit as rapidly as I could! I gave her a thumbs up as I waddled with as much haste as my body permitted. While she flattered me, I couldn’t relay that to her because holding my breath was preventing me from screaming! As I ridiculously lumbered towards the closest method of leaving the mall, I beseeched the universe to have tomorrow’s undertaking fare much better than this!

The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 20

A handsome young man who I recognized as the quarterback from the Rooks’ football team was down on one knee while holding several red balloons, some of which had the word “Go to prom with me?” written on them, and Corvina was in tears, but I got the sense that she wasn’t crying from happiness… “Is that a no?” the young man inquired with a worried expression on his face.

            “I…” Corvina began to reply but then trailed off.

            “Aye means yes!” one girl who was observing the even gushed.

            The young man perked up, “So, you said yes?”

            Corvina disputed that, “No!”

            “So, you’re saying no?” The young man grew dejected again.

            “No, I didn’t say that either! I don’t know what I’m saying!’ Corvina fretted.

            I had a number of other things to do, so I really didn’t want to get involved with this teen drama unfolding in front of me, but I could see a lot of hurt brewing inside of both of them, and it pulled at my heartstrings enough to compel me to do something to fix whatever issue plagued them. I requested, “Hey, Corvina! Come here! Let’s talk for a minute.” We walked to an empty part of the hall, and then I quietly asked her, “You don’t like that guy?”

            Corvina, still watery-eyed, answered me, “No, that’s not it at all! I always thought he was handsome, but Hudd is a true part of the establishment! He’s popular, rich, and just everything I was rebelling against! Now, the rules are different though! We used to run in different circles, but ever since the FAUK club took over, I maintained my individuality by dressing super girly. But since these fake goths are the new norm, I embraced this behavior previously used by the status quo. So, just trying to be unique, I started acting like one of the people I can’t stand! I became one of them! But I always thought after this was over, I’d go back to my old self again. If I got out with him, that won’t happen!”

            “Who says that you can’t be your true self?” I challenged her.

            “If I join the popular girls, when they do become popular again, I can’t return to my gothic roots! I gotta keep up with the Joneses, I can’t be different in any way!” Corvina lamented. “I know, right now, it’s what I want ‘cause we are the counter-culture, but if the FAUKers drop off the face of the planet, as they should, then I’ll be forced to live in a world that I despise!”

            I rationalized to her, “Okay, first of all, this is a prom-posal, not a wedding proposal! It’s just one date! If he isn’t what you want, you can dump him any time you want!  Secondly, if he tries to change who you really are, he isn’t worth keeping around!”

            Corvina probed, “But what if I do like him and everyone else wants me to change myself?”

            “Screw them! You’ll be dating the king of the popular kids, which would make you the queen! And the queen gets to decide the rules!” I said with a wink. She clearly hadn’t considered that point until I brought it up, and she seemed to take it under serious consideration. As for me, I was still a new teacher, and I never had any siblings, so I had no experience giving out advice to kids! Yes, I had a leadership position at the marketing firm I worked at for over a decade, but we never discussed much about our personal lives! It was a little difficult to share stories about your significant other when you’re never around to see them! I wonder if I divulge the details regarding my ex, could I have saved myself from the years I wasted on her? … Anyways, obviously, I didn’t have the best background for doling out pearls of wisdom, and yet I somehow managed to give them out in spades with her! I internally gave myself a pat on the back for the remarkable job I did today when I never imagined that I could pull something like this off!

            “Aww, she’s gonna say no!” Hudd hung his head low. “I knew I wasn’t good enough for her!”

            Corvina spun around real fast when she heard that! She croaked out, “You don’t think you’re good enough for me? What, are you high?”

            Hudd contemplated this notion. “Hmm… I’m not sure! There was this party over the weekend, and I figured since it’s the off season…” He saw the discerning stare I was giving him, so he beseeched me, “Please don’t tell coach Jackson!”

            “Well, he is a friend of mine, so…” While I inwardly debated whether or not I should tell Fletcher about his star players’ allegedly illicit use of his break, Hudd’s eyes enlarged in panic. I would have been shocked if he was still under the effect of whatever he did, and as far as I know, his scholastic reports were still very positive, so I certainly didn’t want to cause Hudd any unnecessary trouble, and Fletcher had enough trouble of his own, so I reconsidered revealing this news to him. “Well, the baseball team is a real hassle right now, so I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that! But, for the love of god, don’t say anything else incriminating in front of me! Actually, you tow should go off campus and talk! It sounds like you two have a lot to discuss!”

            “Thanks, Mister Fenmore!” Corvina smiled gratefully to me as did Hudd. I returned the gesture, but then I ushered them to vacate the premises. Hudd grabbed Corvina’s hand, and they scampered towards the exit.

            I nearly ran into the balloons he utilized, so I called after them, “Hey, you guys forgot something!”

            Hudd told me, “Nah, I shouldn’t take it out of here! I found it after class, and since no one seemed to be using them, I decided to take some to ask Corvina to the prom! I’m shocked they didn’t come looking for them!” The two of them stood there staring at me as if they got the impression I had more to say, but I didn’t, so once again, I gestured for them to scat.

            After they were out of sight, my curiosity peaked about the balloons that Hudd had stumbled across. Nobody was coming to collect them, so did they not want them anymore? I hypothesized that another prom-posal had gone wrong, so the person who had bought these originally abandoned them after their loss. There were a few blank ones, so I got an idea of how to use them for myself! I took some into my classroom, and then I dug out a marker to write “Marry Me Phoebe” on the surface! I was supposed to meet up with her as well as the others shortly, so it seemed like the best audience to do this in front of! I grinned as I savored how I pictured she would react to this stunt, and then I stored the balloons there so I could dash off to run another errand prior to the onset of our meeting.

            When I entered into the shop room, Fletcher was in the process of feeding something into a strange machine while Phoebe, Ellie, Ginger, Aleck, and the teacher who occupied this class stood by and watched. A lot of sparks were flying, so no one noticed me standing there with a bouquet of balloons and a giant, old book in my arms! The sparks emitted from that contraption prompted the shop teacher to persuade Fletcher to stop, and the others instinctively backed away in a swift manner! When Fletcher finally caught on to the scenario, he pushed the power off button and inquired, “Am I doing it wrong?”

            “Have you ever seen any tools that work correctly emit sparks like that?” the shop teacher replied. Fletcher had to mull over that question for a beat.

            “Did it do anything to the key? I mean spoon!” Ellie posed to the shop teacher.

            The shop teacher held the spoon up so everyone could see it. “I don’t understand it! It should’ve been severely damaged, but there’s not even a scratch on it! As a matter of fact, it appears a little cleaner somehow!’

            Aleck, who ended up close to the doorway that I was standing in, espied my gimmick, and I fully expected him to bring it to the others’ attention so I could go through with the ritual. My heart raced as I anticipated the long-awaited moment, but my hopes came to a screeching halt when Aleck darted to the door and started to shove me outside! “Connor’s here! He needs to talk to me about something!” he relayed to the others.

            “No I don’t!” I protested. I couldn’t comprehend why he didn’t want this proposal to occur! We had all gotten along like family, and everyone supported my relationship with Phoebe, so why wouldn’t he want us to get married?”

            “Yes, you do!” Aleck insisted. I wanted to object some more, but then I recognized that I trusted him like he was one of my relatives (Really, I trusted him more than some of them if counted Blaise!), so if he was preventing this occasion from commencing, then he more than likely had sound logic for taking this action! I relented to his wishes and decided to hear him out because, even if he was going by an incorrect conclusion, he still meant well, and I became very interested in what he so vitally needed to discuss with me…

            As soon as we exited the area, I hissed, “Why did you do that?”

            I braced myself for whatever emotionally devastating tidbit he intended to reveal to me, but to my astonishment, he enquired, “Where did you get those balloons?”

            “Some kid used it for a prom-posal.” I didn’t’ want to argue with him, but I failed to see why this topic held any urgent significance! “I took it ‘cause he didn’t want it anymore. He was concerned about the person he nicked it from coming back to find them.” A thought then struck me. “Wait, did you run into the student who lost them? I’d be happy to give it back later! Well, I guess they couldn’t get the marker off. I’ll pay them back for it, I swear!”

            “No, no, no! Listen, those balloons didn’t come from a student…” Aleck informed me.

            Now I felt completely confused. “Were they a teacher’s then?”

            Out of nowhere, Damon’s ghostly form manifested next to us, and he bitterly admitted, “They’re mine! Well, sort of…”

            “You mean… these are…?” Somehow, I couldn’t’ get myself to utter that full sentence, but I knew the truth. Disgust filled my veins as it set in, and once it fully saturated within me, I exclaimed, “Ugh! I don’t wanna use these anymore!”

            “Good! Then I’ll take them back!” Damon attempted to seize the bouquet, but his phantasmal fingers floated right through them! “Dammit! Why’d that witchy girl have to get a ride from Roxy? She might’ve made herself useful for once!”

            Aleck read what I had written on the balloons, and he gasped, “You were gonna propose to her?” I nodded. It was kind of strange to acknowledge this with another individual! As often as I preoccupied myself with this ambition, I hadn’t actually voiced it out loud to anyone until this instance! My nerves threatened to rumble as I prepared for Aleck’s opinion on this concept, and I knocked on wood that he wouldn’t disapprove of my objective… To my relief, he cracked a huge smile and celebrated, “Dude!” He excitedly slapped my hand as he shook it, and then enthusiastically regarded me, “Congratulations!”

            I was so thrilled that he acclaimed the premise of our union, but his fervor caused a shard of disappointment to hit me as well. “Thanks! But don’t revel in joy too soon! I still gotta ask her…”

            “Oh man! I’m so sorry!” Aleck sympathized with me as he eyeballed the fear monger balloons. “Did you wanna…?”

            “No, no! If Phoebe found out that I used a monster’s hide to get engaged, I doubt she’d be so on board!” I truly did not want to destroy this romantic plot I cooked up, but I felt sure that I would shorten my odds of persuading that woman to agree to be my wife if I went through with it in this manner, so I didn’t see any alternative other than to decimate the balloons immediately!

            Damon strove to convince me otherwise, “What’s the big deal? That boy got a date to the dance with them, so why not use them to seek her hand in marriage?”

            Aleck glimpsed at me to gauge my opinion, and I gave him a curt nod to indicate my agreement on carrying on with the destruction of these unholy novelties. Ignoring Damon’s cries of opposition, Aleck took a pen out of his pocket and popped them one by one! It totally hurt my ears, I did not think that one through enough! We peered at the remains as they fused together and reverted to their original form, but before we could behold its disappearance…

            “What’s going on over here?” The hall monitor rounded the corner and gazed at us suspiciously.

            “Nothing!” I lied as Aleck and I jumped in front of the fear monger’s corpse to obscure it from the hall monitor’s viewpoint. “We were just…” I struggled to unearth an excuse for the pair of us to be hanging out in the hallway in such an unusual fashion.

            The hall monitor didn’t seem to believe me, but thankfully, he didn’t appear upset about it. He leaned in close and whispered, “Did you get rid of the…?”

            Aleck assured him, “Yup! All ninety-nine of them!”

            “There were ninety-nine red balloons?” I surmised with a discernable amount of amusement.

            “Don’t even mention that song to me!” the hall monitor snapped. He shuddered and added, “It doesn’t help that the creepy clown used them before murdering his victims!” I almost brought up the truism of his phobia stemming from a fictional character, but I bit my lip since he showed signs of vacating the vicinity. “Thanks, guys!”

            We both shouted, “No problem!” as he walked away. We gazed at each other animatedly and hollered, “Dude!”

            Talking in unison entertained the both of us, but the rest of the Ghost League joined us with less gleefully expressions on their faces. Ginger irritably addressed Aleck and me, “Dudes! What are you so pumped up about? This method of getting rid of the key fizzled out miserably, and we have no other clues on how to do it!”

            “That’s not true!” I disagreed as I showcased the large tome in my hands.