VIII. Secular Haze
I sure do wish we — well, I, I guess — could’ve gotten a drink 1st. My throat feels like it’s on fire.
Dawn only whispered it. She already felt bad for saying it @ all — ¿Why must you always talk when it’s not needed? This isn’t some casual waltz down the street. Jesus…
O well. I’m sure these loud weeds ripping round’ll probably give us ’way long before my voice does.
Actually, she wasn’t sure if she were mo’ ’fraid o’ being caught by the flame ghosts or being caught by some monster in this backyard jungle. The rose monster from Heureuse Manor was still fully colored in her memory, & she figured a place like this was the perfect place for 1 — or many — o’ them to dwell. The impossibility o’ separating these black weeds from the black ground & the black everything else round them only made things mo’ uncertain, like wading through a ne’erending void. Her phone’s light was useless for farther than a couple centimeters right in front o’ it, & had an annoying habit o’ turning off every few seconds in its desire to save its batteries.
¡& still her throat scratched itself like a water junkie! Which only made her muscles sluggish when she wanted them to be as full o’ vim as e’er. Worse, all her exertion to force her body to move, move, ¡move!, made her body heat up, despite how cold ’twas outside, & sweat ’way e’en more o’ her scarce water. She hastily unzipped her jacket to let in the cool air; but nothing could fully quench the heat.
Her frustration only flared when she felt her hands hit hard, scratchy brick. ’Pon examining said bricks under her phone, she recognized them.
This time she couldn’t stop herself from raising her voice.
¿How the hell did we end up back here? We hardly turned anywhere — & I know we didn’t turn round.
Edgar whispered in her ear,
You don’t think some… ghostly magic changed our direction without making us feel it, ¿do you?
I don’t know anything anymo’, Dawn said with mo’ impatience than she wished to throw onto Edgar.
Dawn could feel Edgar clinging tightly to her arm & shoulder, his shivers running from him to her. Despite the heat…
Augh. Don’t do that. That’ll be the 2nd time you thirsted for Edgar’s bones just after Autumn’s died.
Hey, that gives me an idea…
She bent down & crawled ’long the feet o’ the mansion, brushing ’way the nest o’ ivy leaves in her way, till she found a hose screwed onto a water pipe. Not wanting to waste time pulling that long hose in, — for all she knew, it could go on fore’er, like a magician’s kerchief — she unscrewed the hose from the pipe, only to find it tighter than she expected. Her hands burned — strangely, it seemed e’en mo’so due to the dampness o’ the rain-spotted pipe — as she wrenched the pipe with all her strength; but still it wouldn’t budge.
Fuck… she grunted.
Then she slipped her hands into her sleeves & tried using them as a glove; & with this, she was not only able to relieve her hands o’ much o’ their blistering, but also found the giant screw that connected the hose & the pipe loosen just a tiny bit after tiny bit.
C’mon… c’mon… ¡Yes!
She felt the pipe come off & then quickly tossed it ’way & e’en mo’ quickly wrenched the dial ’bove the pipe all the way clockwise. Then she waited.
& still nothing came out.
Wow. It doesn’t e’en fucking work. Great show. Dawn harshly rubbed the side o’ her face.
I wonder if this is the ghosts’ work or just crappy plumbing. Looks like we needed Luigi after all.
Then she reflected on what she’d said — well, ’cept for the Luigi part — & had to laugh a li’l @ how similar it sounded to Autumn.
Damn, ¿is this how Autumn feels all the time? Dawn’s eyes began to water. I think I’d be suicidal, too…
¡& ’twas getting hotter & hotter all the time! ¿How now? It’s late autumn… Dawn frowned as she thought ’bout what she’d thought…
Come, Dawn whispered as she returned to her feet, keeping the dampness o’ the rain-drowned ivy clung to her knees.
Let’s just hurry out o’ here. I hate this place.
But as they turned, they noticed the blue light that had just flashed on ’hind them — & there they saw before them a whole cluster o’ flame ghosts.
IX. Prime Mover
Before Autumn had much time to think, the flame ghosts already began spinning; before she had time to act, they were shooting fireballs @ her.
Though she was able to dodge most o’ them, some still hit, spreading its condensed flames like atoms exploding from a bomb. Here she felt what she’d thought she’d left ’hind: burning pain.
Perhaps I was wrong ’bout ghosts being impervious to death…
Still, there was no time to panic: she knew exactly what she had to do, in what sequence.
She could feel her body tighten with the pressure o’ growing fullness, as if she were ’bout to puke, but heading toward her fingers rather than her mouth. She aimed her outstretched fingers @ a flame ghost ’tween her & the Dawn & Edgar & shot out a ball o’ pure blackness, knocking it back like a pool ball. It smacked into Dawn & Edgar, burning their web — as well as them a li’l. The flame ghost sped forward ’gain, seemingly ignorant o’ Dawn & Edgar falling hind it.
Autumn reached an arm toward them & slid them outside the wall. Then she stretched herself out like taffy till she was covering all the walls, — ceiling & floor, too — as if the whole room were suddenly painted black.
But the flame ghosts didn’t e’en try knocking through her. ’Stead, they all shot fireball after fireball @ her — & since she was in all directions, all hit her. As the burn added to burn, she felt her hold on the walls weaken; but still she clutched them with all her strength.
But ’ventually that strength weakened, & Autumn felt herself slide off the walls & ceiling, pooling & shrinking into a smaller & smaller puddle.
She ruminated for a second, but quickly decided, There’d be no use just waiting here for them to destroy me completely. I can’t stop them here, whether I hold or go; but I may have a better chance —
In the reprieve o’ the ghosts’s firepower, Autumn rose back into her human-shaped form & fled out the room.
X. Stand by Her
Dawn didn’t wait for Autumn to tell them to rush for the door o’ this new room they were in, throw it open, & race out through the hallway with Edgar hanging ’hind her by her arm. This time she put as much o’ her energy as she thought she had into her run, e’en to the point o’ ignoring the concerns for Edgar, who was practically dragged gainst the hardwood.
He’s safer with bruises than with what those ghosts’ll do to us. This may be our last ’mong already mo’ than we should expect.
Despite this, she still couldn’t stop herself from stopping on the bottom floor & running to the kitchen for water to quench her scratchy red throat.
My throat hasn’t felt this bad since…
She propelled herself e’en farther.
She almost fell into the sink, stopping with a hard crash into it, & yanked the cold dial all the way. Nothing came out. She tried the hot dial, & still nothing.
¡They turned off the whole water system?
She threw open the fridge door; but no matter how much her eyes hopped ’long the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd stories or the shelves, she still couldn’t find so much as watery food.
¿Should I try it for the minuscule wa — ?
Dawn, ¿what are you doing? Get out o’ here.
Dawn jumped ’gain @ that voice, but calmed herself quickly after, & then turned back to face the silhouette ghost o’ Autumn.
Sorry, I was just thirsty…
Autumn was already lifting Dawn & Edgar off the ground & moving all 3 o’ them toward the wall, when Autumn was struck by ’nother fireball, causing Dawn & Edgar to fall onto the counter, & then down onto the floor like a barrel, knocking o’er cups & spoons with shattering plastic & loud ringing silverware & crushing a pack o’ Oreos into black & white charcoal dust.
Dawn & Edgar quickly returned to their feet & looked up @ the flame ghosts surrounding Autumn, bombarding her with blue fireballs.
Dawn whispered to Edgar,
¿You think we should try to help her? ¿You think we could help her?
I don’t know…
¿Can they do anything… dire to her? I mean, she’s already a ghost… They can’t… Dawn gasped.
You don’t think… it’d be permanent, ¿do you?
I don’t know, Edgar repeated, but with a higher pitch o’ fear.
By this tick, Autumn was on the ground, not in her human shape, but as an inky puddle that glowed blue every time a flame ghost shot a fireball down @ it.
Dawn began to shake with energy begging to be used. She looked ’tween Autumn’s puddle & the stairs. Fight or flee, fight or flee.
If I try to help her, it’ll just undo what she did for us…
It’s not like we’d be able to keep running from them, anyway. If we don’t have Autumn, we’re screwed anyway…
Dawn squeezed the side o’ her faces in.
¡Augh! ¡This thirst! ¡I can’t e’en think!
¡Why are they doing this? ¡Are they that intent on making me die o’ thirst & go crazy @ the same time? ¡Why? ¡Surely there are better ways! ¿& what ’bout Edgar? ¿Do they not know he’s a skeleton?
While her mind was racing, her body was inert, staring like eyes entranced by TV @ the neon blue fireball after fireball after fire after fire after fire after fire…
Dawn gripped Edgar. She looked up @ the ghosts & still saw them all focus purely on Autumn. Dawn ran for the stairs, dragging Edgar with her.
But then she felt the ground leave her feet, as if a soft hand yanked her upward with hard movement, smacking her gainst the air.
XI. Body & Blood
Autumn had gone to hell, she decided — which was the logical place for her to go after death. ¿Wasn’t hell simply being burnt by fire fore’er & e’er & e’er & e’er, with no way to e’en numb oneself to soft death, just bad nerve signals that ne’er went ’way?
But then they did go ’way. She didn’t know why, but they did. She couldn’t seem to open her eyes — & from the feel o’ the looseness o’ her entire form, didn’t have any anymo’. All she had now was numb blackness, & the nerve signals turned sweet — sweet in that they no longer felt the heaviness, the pall that she’d always felt.
So the bright red hell had somehow so quickly turned into soft, black heaven.
The only flaw was that her consciousness still remained, & that consciousness was nagging her like an alarm clock on a school morn:
Edgar & Dawn. They’re still in trouble. I can’t leave them.
But no matter how much she tried, she couldn’t so much as give herself sight ’gain, much less develop any muscles by which to move her formless form.
E’en as an invincible ghost, I am useless.
So Autumn sloshed uselessly there — somewhere she couldn’t sense @ all — in her heaven hellishly heavenly.
XII. Deus in Absentia
Dawn & Edgar were finally stopped, in the dark attic ’gain, but not stuck to a ceiling corner under web. It seemed that the ghosts no longer saw a reason to lure Autumn, now that she was a debilitated puddle.
Now Dawn & Edgar found themselves tied to a tall wooden pole, meters ’bove a fire kindled @ the bottom, but climbing up the pole. When Dawn & Edgar tried budging under their rope, they found to no surprise that it wouldn’t budge. Their bodies kept trying to budge for some reason.
The flame ghosts floated round them, cackling
Though ice-cold rainy breezes rushed in through the wildly flapping window, Dawn felt herself sweat itchily under the heat closing in, which only caused her to twitch & struggle e’en mo’.
Dawn looked all o’er the attic, but couldn’t find anything that could help them — ’specially since she couldn’t move in any way, anyway.
¿Wh-why are you guys doing this?, she said as she looked up @ the ghosts.
You know we weren’t truly going to toast you, ¿right? We didn’t e’en know you were truly here till you attacked us.
The ghosts didn’t answer. They just continued to cackle as if Dawn hadn’t said a word.
Autumn clung to the shady corners like mold, & felt as if they fed her antiphotosynthesis like sunlight to plants.
& in a few minutes, she felt a blurry vision develop; & after a few minutes mo’, she could feel & blobby amorphous arm begin to form, & felt that she could use it to slide herself ’cross the floor, centimeter by centimeter.
XIV. Death Knell
Dawn & Edgar were reduced to heavy breaths, interspersed by clamping their mouths down painfully to distract from the harsher pain o’ the sharp heat eating up their feet. Dawn’s eyes itched & watered under the cloak o’ smoke, e’en as they closed their eyes tightly.
But then they felt a cool goop spread up them o’er their legs, devouring the heat ’way; & then, as the cool freshness spread all round them, they felt the hard wood & tight rope fade ’way — felt all solidity fade.
They opened their eyes, only to see blackness all round.
This couldn’t be death… ¿Could it?
Then Autumn’s voice surrounded them:
Just stay still. I’ll get you to safety.
XV. Con Clavi Con Dio
They fell down for meters, but far mo’ slowly than gravity would’ve taken them. After a minute or so, their feet thumped hard wood.
OK, now turn to your right & keep walking till I tell you to stop.
Dawn & Edgar walked for a few meters, only to feel the wood under their feet become replaced by sloshy leaves.
¿Should we keep going?
A few mo’ meters after, they felt a thin gap in the leaves, & then felt the leaves ’gain. Soon after, though, the leaves dissipated into weedy grass.
OK, now you can stop for a second.
Dawn & Edgar felt the slime round them slip off, leaving just the phantom touch o’ its stickiness all round them. They opened their eyes & saw an unfamiliar wooden house before them. Looking round, they saw a street to their side & a fence ’hind them.
Run off, Autumn’s voice said. ’Twas only now that Dawn noticed how hollow it sounded.
Dawn & Edgar turned back & saw a black puddle slowly sloshing toward the side o’ the house.
¿What are you waiting f — ? Don’t bother ’bout me.
Dawn dashed down the side o’ the house, passing Autumn. She crouched as she went round the back o’ the house, eye flicking from ’long the bottom corner o’ the house & upward.
O, god, let’s hope this works…
She crawled o’er to a pipe attached to the back o’ the house & cranked the dial. Water began pouring out.
Dawn couldn’t keep herself from gasping,
She pulled a bottle out o’ her jacket & began filling it. She pulled it back to guzzle almost half o’ it, & then put it back under the water while she gasped with relief.
Hurry up, snapped Autumn.
You can drink when you get farther ’way.
When the bottle became full ’gain, Dawn rose & screwed its cap on.
Autumn, ¿how well can you move ’bout?
I told you: don’t worry ’bout me. I’ll catch up later.
I’m not leaving yet. I have a plan.
Don’t be ridiculous.
We have a job to do, ¿remember?, said Dawn.
’Sides, you don’t want to leave your stuff here, ¿do you?
¿What’s your plan?
I need your gun from the dungeon.
Don’t be ridiculous, Autumn snapped e’en mo’ deeply.
If you think you can shoot ghosts —
I won’t be using bullets.
Autumn paused ’gain.
¿You’re going to shoot me?
Dawn was smiling.
I was both right & wrong before, said Dawn.
¿’Bout what?, asked Autumn.
’Bout being inspired by a certain mad scientist’s device in a video game, said Dawn;
I was just a li’l off on what game.
XVI. Square Hammer
Dawn & Edgar spent the next dozen minutes huddled in a shady backyard 2 houses ’way, craning their heads in all directions.
I do hope they can’t read our heat signals or something…
Well, ¿how would they distinguish us from anyone else living here?
Dawn looked down to faintly see movement. She aimed her phone’s light to reveal Autumn’s black puddle just ’side a glinting dark gray pistol.
I don’t see how you could just turn that into a water gun, but…
Don’t question the scientist, Dawn said with a waving finger.
Dawn picked up the gun, holding it gently while aiming it down to the ground, turned its safety on, & emptied it o’ all its bullets. Then she pulled out screwdrivers & other tools & began manipulating it in ways Autumn’s mind was still too hazy to understand. She thought to herself, if she e’er returned to her normal self, she’d have to ask Dawn to show her how she was doing what she was doing.
It’s too bad you’re in no condition to join us, said Dawn.
We could be like 2 buddy cops.
There’s only 1 gun, Autumn said weakly.
& I’m ne’er a cop.
Sorry: we could be like Bonnie & Clyde.
Though I guess now you’re mo’ like Blinky & Clyde.
I think we’re done talking now.
Dawn stood & looked off into the night sky.
You know, I just noticed it’s starting to rain.
Dawn turned back to Autumn — well, the black puddle that Dawn still couldn’t believe held… ¿Autumn’s soul? ¿Her mind? It held the core o’ what was “Autumn”, that’s for sure.
Be careful while we’re gone, said Dawn.
You’re the 1 doing the dangerous stuff, Autumn said with what sounded to Dawn a hint o’ bitterness.
Well, hopefully we’ll quickly get rid o’ all those ghosts & find a way to get you back to normal.
Dawn turned to Edgar & said,
& then they stepped out into the moonlit street.
XVII. Nocturnal Me
What I have is utter perfection: all our problems today will be solved, & I’m free o’ all pain. I can just sit here in these cool shadows & relax for eternity, left with just my thoughts & no stresses or pain anymo’.
Dawn could still get in trouble. There’s thousands o’ those flame ghosts. 1 well-aimed fireball could cause her to lose the gun. Hell, they could just yank the gun out o’ her hands.
I couldn’t do anything, anyway — not in this condition.
But there was a condition in which she could do something. She knew she could go back into it — drag it out, & then go back into it. She felt it like an ordinary human feels an innate ability to walk or talk.
O, I don’t want to do that. Sure, throw ’way what I’ve always wanted fore’er to be back in that cage…
¿Fore’er? ¿Cage? ¿Was I given this by a god by a gift? I did this to myself, & I could do it to myself anytime I want.
Wow, this is ironic.
It turned out that Dawn & Edgar hit their 1st impediment before e’er reaching the ghosts; & though ’twas an impediment consciously setup by the ghosts, ’twas now impeding them in the opposite direction: the front door was tightly locked shut.
You can’t hide from us now, bastards, Dawn said as she led Edgar round the side o’ the house.
Try to toast us & you get toasted back.
She stopped in front o’ a window & bent down to pick up the largest rock she could find.
I hope Haul doesn’t mind a li’l damage to his house for the sake o’ saving it. After all, it couldn’t be worse than the fire those ghosts made in the attic.
Dawn chucked the rock right through the window, shooting a hole the width o’ a fist through it while viney cracks spread from its circumference.
Shit, we’ll need mo’ than that.
So Dawn began tossing mo’ rocks into the window, aided by Edgar, till they had a big ’nough hole through which to enter.
Be careful o’ the shards, Dawn said as she slowly maneuvered a leg o’er a particularly long & sharp tooth o’ the window.
Right as Dawn was pulling Edgar o’er the threshold, they heard the high-pitched echo o’ a cackle & turned to see 1 o’ the blue flame ghosts emerge from the shadows. Dawn stared @ it sternly, her makeshift water pistol clutched tightly in her pocket.
We tried to reason with you, said Dawn.
There’s no reason why we can’t all coexist: you have no need to e’en touch us, & we have no need to touch you. ¿What do you have to gain by screwing with us?
The flame ghost loomed closer, still cackling.
Dawn & Edgar stepped back.
I’m warning you: move any closer, & you’re strudel.
The flame ghost continued moving forward.
Dawn held out her pistol & sprayed water @ the ghost. As the water hit the ghost, the ghost began screeching. It began flying to the side, but Dawn’s aim moved ’long with it. A few seconds later, they saw the ghost turn red, & then puff into smoke. Dawn released the trigger, causing the gun to sputter out. The smoke quickly faded to nothing.
Dawn pressed her gun to her beating chest & sighed.
Sometimes I can’t be surprised Autumn’s the way she is with all the awful things she probably has to do, e’en though she shouldn’t.
But she didn’t have much time to ruminate: she heard deep growls & turned to see a few mo’ blue flame ghosts emerge from the darkness, this time with eyes twisted downward into glares.
Dawn didn’t bother with talk this time; she simply turned & sprayed her water @ them. While 1 screamed, the others shot fireballs. Dawn quickly slid her arms to the sides to spray them ’way, & then returned to the ghost; ’twas soon nothing but smoke.
Dawn then felt the familiar invisible pressure tighten round her gun & yank it back.
O no you don’t. She tilted her gun toward the direction that was yanking it & sprayed. The pressure vanished.
The pattern continued, with Dawn spraying ghosts to smoke, interspersed with spraying fireballs aimed @ them & switching targets when a different ghost tried swiping her gun. Meanwhile, mo’ & mo’ ghosts would join, while others would try fleeing. Edgar stood ’hind Dawn to make sure she wasn’t blindbacked.
Then Dawn saw the spray on her gun fall from the ghost she was shooting like a cut rope. No matter how hard she pressed on the trigger, the spray kept shrinking.
O, shit. ¿Out o’ water already?
While still holding the gun steady in 1 hand, her other hand reached into her pocket for her water bottle. But as she did so, she felt the phantom pressure clutch her gun; & this time, without being able to spray the culprit, the culprit won, & nabbed the gun out o’ her grasp.
She was e’en mo’ delayed by her need to keep looking up & down, @ the ghosts & her pockets. By the time she managed to get her water bottle out, she saw the ghost already setting her gun on fire. Then the fire faded, leaving just black ashes.
Dawn unscrewed her bottle & held it up as she stood back toward the window.
I still have water, so keep ’way. But her voice was much shakier this time.
No, this can’t be happening. ’Twas such a perfect plan. ¿How do they keep beating us?
But before they could reach the window, the ghosts shot a volley o’ fireballs @ them. In an impulse o’ panic, Dawn splashed her bottle’s contents @ them, causing them all to melt, but also causing the rest o’ her water to splash onto the floor.
Dawn turned back to the window & scrambled o’er it, ignoring the sharp cuts on her legs & hands. But before they could get o’er it all the way, they felt the ghostly force grab them, & then yank them ’way.
By this time Dawn felt her body go limp. ’Twas useless. If e’en her brilliant plan, ’long with Autumn’s, could fall apart, ¿what hope did she have?
Dawn didn’t see any reason to try talking to the ghosts anymo’. She just floated there limply, closing her eyes & biting bloodily on her bottom lip as she felt the fire claw its way up her legs & tried to think ’bout anything but it.
It’ll have to end ’ventually, she thought with the last sliver o’ her humor.
It’s ironic that Autumn’s the last remaining. It makes me wonder how she’ll react when she finds out… But then, I guess she already saw it as a possibility, anyway… Poor girl. It’ll probably be horrible for her, stuck in that state with no way to ’scape, left just to sit there as a powerless puddle to think fore’er ’bout how we were gone…
She felt the sweet coolness spread ’cross her body ’gain, but this time accompanied by a harsh spray o’ water, & opened her eyes wide to see a wide spray o’ water shoot from the window.
The ghosts turned glares to the window just before the spray turned to them, devouring 5 o’ them @ a time. It turned & obliterated a few mo’ ghosts before a few zipped outside the wall; but a second later they saw the spray swivel round out o’ sight & heard a few mo’ screeches.
Dawn focused her eyes on the window now unblocked by a water stream & felt her heart race when she saw dangling blades o’ red hair.
The rest o’ the flame ghosts’s eyes opened into black holes with sharp-sharded edges & emitted in-sync deep, loud growls. Then they began to glow a searingly bright magenta & raced into each other, combining their bright shapes into a larger & larger single shape. ’Nother large water spray aimed @ them from the window, but seemed to go straight through them.
Then the bright light dimmed, showing just a huge floating flame ghost that was still magenta, but also had 2 furious red eyes, as well as 2 arms protruding from its sides. It slammed the fists on their ends down to the ground, causing waves o’ flames to shoot out through the floor toward the window.
But Dawn didn’t hear or see any response to the fiery shockwave; & ’pon closer scrutiny o’ the window, didn’t see the hair hanging o’er the edge anymo’.
I hope nothing happened to —
Then she heard rushing water & saw drops o’ water flying past her peripheral vision & turned to see the giant flame ghost growling as ’twas struck by a stream o’ water coming from a different window.
The ghost flew ’way, but the stream followed it the entire way, pressing it further & further back. It held its hands up & flinched its eyes; but Dawn could tell by its continued groaning that ’twas still being hit. That was when she noticed ’twas gradually shrinking.
However, the ghost ’ventually managed to slip through the wall on the other end, causing the water stream to splash dead @ the wall. The stream soon stopped.
Dawn heard a swift ¡frroooaaah! like unsheathing a line o’ flames, & saw Autumn climb inside the window. & this was Autumn, in fleshy form — albeit she seemed to be a bit bruised, & her skin color looked a bit off. Autumn stood in the center o’ the room & 2π’d like a clock hand, hose nozzle held tightly in her hands. ’Twas through this that Dawn saw, creepily ’nough, that Autumn still had a blood stain o’er her chest where she’d been shot.
Then Dawn shouted,
Autumn ducked just as a a giant fireball shot straight through the wall ’hind her. Thank god that wasn’t aimed @ us, or there’s no way we could’ve avoided being killed.
Autumn then twisted back toward the hole a moment after & sprayed her water @ it, causing the ghost to groan ’gain. But the groaning ended soon after, & when Autumn turned off the nozzle, the sky ’hind the hole was empty.
Seemingly reading Dawn’s thoughts, Autumn raced o’er to Dawn & Edgar, pulled out her knife, & chopped the rope off them — so swiftly & harshly that it cut into their skin & bone a bit.
Thank you, Dawn said with a gasp.
No time to talk; fight 1st, Autumn said quickly before running back to the center.
You guys look @ those 2 corners; I’ll watch these.
So Dawn & Edgar rushed o’er to the center, with their backs to Autumn, & stared @ their respective corners, clutching each other. Dawn felt as if every nerve in her body was hopping up & down, desperate to make her make wild movements.
Shit… murmured Autumn, just before Dawn heard spraying water.
Dawn almost looked back, but stopped herself.
¿What?, she said loudly o’er the water noises.
¿You see the flames seeping into the house? This whole house’s going to catch on fire, Autumn called back.
Dawn did now notice the flames seeping in through the bottom ends o’ the walls, & now climbing up the walls.
I’m surprised it hasn’t already with all the fireballs they’ve been shooting, shouted Dawn.
This time it’s trying, shouted Autumn.
It’s trying to smoke us out; but so long as I have this hose, it has no way to do so. I just have to hope it doesn’t fly in through the ceiling…
Dawn almost told Autumn she probably shouldn’t say that ’loud, but then began to wonder…
She kept glancing up, & sure ’nough, she saw the flame monster start floating down through the ceiling.
But before she could finish, Autumn already swung her hose upward & splashed the ghost, causing it to groaning ’gain, but in a higher pitch than originally. Dawn was shocked by how much smaller it looked now; but despite this — or perhaps ’cause o’ it — the ghost lingered there, continuing to have flame after flame whittled off it.
But then the ghost, now only the size o’ a fist, zipped back out through the ceiling, where it continued to shout like a dying mouse.
¿Did you notice outside the window?, said Autumn.
Dawn looked now & saw the sky covered in curtains o’ raindrops.
We’ll have to hope it dies out there, said Autumn.
¿Is there any — ?
Not that I know o’, Autumn said with slow deliberation.
¿You think it could rekindle itself somehow or split back into many flames?, asked Dawn
I hope not, Autumn said with heavy breaths.
Dawn felt her eyes begin to itch & her vision begin to cloud. Her nostrils filled with the scent o’ hickory…
Dawn, we need to hurry out o’ here, said Autumn, accompanied by the thumping & creaking o’ her steps o’er the wooden floor.
Dawn turned toward her to see her dragging the hose toward the window & throwing it outside. Dawn & Edgar followed her, only to see her lead them o’er to the stairs ’stead. Down there on the 3rd floor Dawn could see the hallway lit up with orange flames all round.
Autumn stood on the attic floor just ’bove the stairs, & with her mouth & nose covered with an arm, she quickly said,
There’s no time to try extinguishing it. Just cling onto me with 1 arm & use the other to cover your face & run through here as quickly as we can.
However, just as Autumn was ’bout to grab their arms, she swung round & ran o’er to the dusty greatgranduncle clock standing gainst the wall, with its minute hand twitching up & down in the same spot, & reached up & grabbed her backpack still hanging there, as well as nabbing an expensive elixir that happened to be hidden ’hind the clock face, as there always is.
Then they ran down through the hallway, jerking to the side to avoid any fire jutting out in any particular side, or jumping o’er any lines that spread all ’cross the floor. @ 1 point they had no choice but to run through a river o’ fire, cringing & spewing muffled moans @ the burns that seared their legs.
XX. Here Comes the Sun
But they ’ventually made it outside through the broken window, & immediately Autumn led them o’er to where the hose lay in the ivy & sprayed them all with it.
& there Dawn & Edgar sat & panted while they watched Autumn spray & spray the fire-surrounded house, to no avail, waiting for the firefighters Dawn had called for to come while the morning sun vanquished this horrible night.
XXI. Mummy Dust
¡O my god, ’twas the ghosts, wasn’t it? ¡I knew they’d do something like this to me!
Haul Bryderus stood in the middle o’ the hospital room practically clawing @ his own face.
Autumn crossed her bandage-covered arms ’hind her head & gave Bryderus a cool look.
Let’s discuss our fee.
Boskeopolis Stories is written before a live studio audience.