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Week 389
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Week 391

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Three Hundred Ninety Ends Friday, October 31

"Trick or treat!" Yema and Alee called, holding out their bags. It was their first time trick-or-treating on their own, and even though they were only allowed to visit the Neohomes nearest to theirs, it still seemed like an adventure.

An elderly Korbat with a kindly smile had answered the door. "Oh my!" she said. "What do we have here? Vira and a Snowbeast?"

The Yurble and Nimmo giggled, and Yema said, "It's me, Yema, Mrs. Korley! From down the street!"

Mrs. Korley pretended to be relieved and said, "Scary costumes, girls. You gave me quite a start!" She was about to drop a piece of candy into their treat bags when she paused. "Would you girls like to come in and see something spooky? As a Halloween treat? Many of the neighbourhood children are already here to see it."

Yema said, "Sure!" and was about to cross over the threshold into the house when her Nimmo companion grabbed her arm.

"I don't know, Yema," Alee whispered. "My parents told me not to go into anyone's house."

"Don't be silly, Alee!" the Yurble whispered back. "My mum knows Mrs. Korley. She probably just wants to give us some Frothy Fruit Juice or something."

"All right..." Alee said, letting her friend drag her into Mrs. Korley's Neohome.

"Here it is!" said Mrs. Korley as she led the girls into her sitting room. In the middle of the room was a large table with a miniature model of their neighbourhood on it. Every detail was exact, and the scene was decorated for Halloween. The model even had tiny lights that lit up.

"Wow!" Yema breathed, moving in for a closer look.

"Where is everyone?" Alee asked, not looking at the model at all. She turned to Mrs. Korley. "I thought you said there were other kids here."

"There are," replied Mrs. Korley, her voice no longer kind but instead cold and brittle-sounding, like a dry leaf that would crumble if stepped on.

That's when Yema and Alee saw the tiny figures roaming the streets of the model...

Author: Trick or Treat!
Date: Oct 27th
Yema jerked back, looking at Mrs. Korley as if wounded. "They're -- they're -- it's a toy, right? A place to play?" Her voice was high and nervous.

Alee wanted to scream, but she couldn't seem to get a full breath. She took a step back from the table, then another, wishing heartily that Yema hadn't said anything, that her friend wasn't looking at the old Korbat with that pleading expression, as if desperately wanting to be told everything was okay.

"Yes," Mrs. Korley said, "it is a toy. Would you like to play with it?"

Alee sidled a little closer to the door and reached out for Yema. "We should go," she said. "It's much too beautiful for us to play with. After all, we'd hate to break it."

"Oh, but I insist," Mrs. Korley said. She took Yema's hand in hers and patted it. Once, twice...

Alee saw Yema's form twist and blur in front of her eyes, the Vira costume elongating and then swirling like an image painted on water and then let down the drain. Her own hand on Yema's shoulder distorted with it, and then everything around her melted and ran and swelled.

It all snapped back together, and the young Nimmo looked around fearfully to see...

...that everything was exactly as before. She blinked and rubbed her eyes. Mrs. Korley's living room looked just the same. Mrs. Korley herself was smiling as kindly as when she'd opened the door. The intricate model of the neighbourhood stood on its table beside them, the lights winking on and off.

Alee peered at it closely. There were tiny figures in the streets, but none of them were moving.

"You should go," Mrs. Korley said brightly. "I'd be more than happy to keep you here, but there's so much to do on this night of the year! But do be careful out there, my sweets. You never know whom, or what, you might meet." And with that, she dropped a handful of chocolates into each of their bags and shooed them out the door.

"That was... very weird," Alee said hesitantly as they walked away. She wasn't sure what to think. She knew something had happened, but had her eyes deceived her? Were they inside the model now? How would they tell?

Then she noticed that Yema was shaking like dry leaves in a high breeze. And also that there was no breeze anymore, and the leaves around them were still. She swallowed. "Yema?"

To her astonishment, Yema grabbed her and tore off the hood of her costume, feeling at Alee's hands and face before letting go and plopping to the ground. "Mrs. Korley," Yema whispered. "It was her at first. But after the... after everything went melty and then back to normal... she was just fabric!"

"Oh." Alee sat down beside her, looking around warily. "So we're definitely inside the model, then." She frowned. And Mrs. Korley hadn't come. She could have kept the illusion up better, made them doubt more, if she'd come into the maze herself instead of only being there as an animated model.

Of course, once she looked around, there were differences. The details were less perfect, when expanded to full size, than they had looked in miniature. The leaves didn't stir. The texture of the grass was too coarse, and the houses were too smooth, as if they'd stepped into a drawing whose artist hadn't quite finished the shading.

"I'm sorry I said we should go in," Yema said quietly.

"It's okay," Alee said. "We should concentrate on what to do now."

The Yurble looked at her. "I have no idea what to do now."

"Um, well, I'm trying to come up with one." Alee shivered a little, even though the Snowbeast costume felt too hot now. Maybe, she thought, because they were actually indoors. "I guess we should... explore. Obviously this is some kind of spell. But we don't know what it's for. If Mrs. Korley is actually not... well... bad, and just wants to give us a good scare, it could just end at midnight. If she's... not like you thought, it could do something else at midnight. Become permanent, maybe. Or destroy the neighbourhood, or bring it under her control, and she needs the model to be as exact as possible in order to do that."

"You're cheerful," Yema muttered. "Wouldn't she need to make models of us instead of removing us, to make things closer? Or get the grown-ups too? How do you even think of these things?"

"I don't know," Alee said. "I was just making guesses. Let's see if we can find out the truth."

"Alee?"

"Yeah?"

"Aren't you scared? You were afraid to go in Mrs. Korley's house. Why aren't you scared now?"

Alee frowned at her. "I am. I'm trying to come up with something to do instead of being scared. Hopefully something that will make it so I don't need to be scared anymore. Let's go look around. Let's... you made a good point, before. Let's see if there are any grownups, or if they're all missing. Or models like Mrs. Korley."

"Right." Yema swallowed hard and stood up with Alee. Then she yelped and pushed the Nimmo back down, as a dark shadow trailing streamers swooped over them...

Author: schefflera
Date: Oct 27th
"Hey!" Alee yelled, rubbing the elbow she landed on. "What are you doing?"

Yema's face was frozen in terror, her eyes and mouth the perfect Os of a skilfully carved Jack o' Lantern, as she pointed up at the floating figure: a dark and ominous shadow that was turning to swoop at them again. The Yurble fell to her knees and buried her face between her paws.

Alee was confused by what she saw. "What is that thing? It... it's green and blue and... it looks like a mutant Chia? What the...? Is that supposed to be Florg?" As the silhouette came closer into focus and she saw the trailing streamers, the Nimmo rose to her feet and excitedly informed Yema, "It is Florg! It's a Florg kite!" Suddenly, Alee's face withered from triumph to bewilderment. "Wait a minute," she said slowly as she tried to analyse what she was seeing. "There's no breeze here, how can a kite be flying down here in the model? How can..." She was cut off as the Florg kite swooped low enough to nearly brush the tops of her Vira costume ears, crashing and somersaulting onto the fake grass beside Yema's cowering body.

Alee ran to the kite and was horrified to see that it was writhing and making wounded moaning noises, forcing Yema to jump to her feet and run behind her friend's protective back. What type of evil magic is this? the Nimmo wondered to herself as she slowly approached the kite, reaching out a quivering hand toward it. Suddenly, a small feathered hand shot out from behind the kite, grasping Alee's wrist and forcing a piercing shriek from the Nimmo, soon joined by the echo of Yema's shrill squeal.

"Help me," came a weak and muffled voice from behind the kite. "Please, help me, Alee."

The Nimmo was shocked into action, and, tearing at the fabric kite, she was dismayed to find her friend Nuwena wrapped up helplessly in the kite's tail and streamers. Of course, Nuwena said she was going out for Halloween as something surprising this year, Alee thought to herself. Yema heaved a sigh of relief and joined Alee in unwinding their Pteri friend.

"What were you doing?" the Yurble asked.

Nuwena sat up, finished untying the last of the ribbons and said, "I could see you two up there and I was trying to fly high enough to warn you, but I couldn't. There must be a spell, an invisible force field, keeping us in this model. Some others have tried climbing over the sides, and they couldn't do that either." The Pteri stood, flexed her wings and legs, and, seeming satisfied that she had not hurt herself in the crash, motioned for her friends to follow her into a nearby replica house. "But we must get out of this model. Try not to scream at what I'm going to show you, OK?"

Alee and Yema turned to one another inquisitively, and slowly turning back to Nuwena, they nodded solemnly. When the Pteri swung open the balsawood door, Alee shoved a knuckle between her teeth to prevent a scream at what she saw...

Author: mamasimios
Date: Oct 28th
...dozens upon dozens of beings which she had only seen in storybook pictures, with their variously coloured eyes, some slitted and red, some blind creamy-white, with their faces malformed by scars or by evil intent, faces aglow with ghostly luminosity or faces light-sapping with midnight-black fur...

Alee and Yema stared disbelievingly at the scene: there was the Ghost Lupe, there was Eliv Thade, there was Vira -- the real one, in all of her vain glory, and there stood Balthazar, and Edna, and Sidney of Scratchcard fame -- all of Neopia's most frightening denizens, looking mutely back at them from behind iron bars!

When Alee recovered the power of speech it was only to ask Nuwena, faintly, as though she were afraid of the answer, "Why are they just standing there?"

Yema stood by in horror, eyes locked with the real Vira. "Yes... why aren't they moving? Why aren't they talking?"

"I don't know," was Nuwena's reply, brief and disheartening. "I found them here -- they don't move, though they're breathing. They're... they're real, not cloth like the Mrs. Korley down here is -- but I don't know what they're here for."

Alee stepped up to the nearest cage and looked into the red eyes of the Ghost Lupe and saw none of the animated intelligence that was said to characterise this particular spirit -- she walked to Balthazar and was met by a vacant stare -- and on and on down the line of the familiar characters until she met Edna's empty green gaze.

"They must also be under a spell," Alee concluded at length. "Mrs. Korley must have some reason for keeping them down here..."

Yema, braver now, joined Alee in her pacing in front of the row of Halloween legends. "Do you think Mrs. Korley is trying to make Neopia safer on Halloween? To make sure they don't play tricks?"

Though Yema's suggestion seemed, at first, painfully naive to Alee (who remembered Yema's innocent willingness to enter Mrs. Korley's house all too well), she nevertheless found something in the suggestion.

"You know -- you could be right. Maybe she's trying to keep them off the streets for Halloween..."

"But what about us?" Nuwena asked. "What are we here for?"

Alee took a breath to answer, but it was interrupted by a loud creaking sound.

"Oops," came Yema's voice behind them. They turned to see...

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Oct 28th
Nuwena and Alee turned to find Yema with a sheepish look on her face and the furry white sleeve of her Snowbeast costume snagged on an iron lever.

"It was an accident!" she said. "Kind of..."

The three waited in tense silence for something else to happen -- surely that lever must trigger some kind of mechanism -- but there was no other sound but their breathing.

"Well, that's a relief," Yema said, trying to unhook her sleeve from the lever. When she did, though, the lever lowered even more, with a loud, grinding noise. Hard on the heels of that sound was another horrible, creaking noise, and the girls turned their heads as one to see the iron gate of the cage that held the still forms of Eliv Thade, Vira, and Edna slowly swing open.

"It's OK, it's OK," Nuwena muttered, her voice panicked. "They're still frozen, see? We can just close the gate again." The Pteri made no move to shut the gate herself, though.

"Aren't you going to close it?" Yema asked.

"Why can't you do it? You were the one who opened it in the first place!" Nuwena replied.

The two argued back and forth until Alee stepped in and said, "Enough, you two! I'll shut the gate if neither of you are brave enough to do it!"

The Nimmo stomped across the room in her heavy Vira boots and pushed the gate closed. As she did, though, one of her long fingers brushed against the still, cold hand of the real Vira.

"Eep!" Alee cried, snatching her hand away as if she had been burned. She backed away from the cage in surprise. "That's creepy!"

"It's not latched, Alee," Nuwena pointed out.

The Nimmo glared at her, still shaking her hand as if trying to get the feel of Vira's fur off of it, and reluctantly stepped toward the cage again. "I have to do everything myself," she muttered.

She tried to slam the gate shut, but something was blocking it. "What the--?" Alee bent down to see what was keeping the gate from shutting. A heavy, very familiar-looking black boot was wedged in the gate...

Author: jarretiere
Date: Oct 29th
"Try slamming that gate again and you might scuff my boot polish." A sharp, mocking voice spoke from just above Alee's head. "I really don't think you want to do that."

Alee froze. Behind her, she could see her two friends staring across the room, both of them too petrified to utter a word of warning. Nuwena in particular looked like she might pass out at any moment. Whatever had just happened, it couldn't be good.

Steeling herself for the worst, Alee took a deep breath and stood slowly, before looking up to confirm her suspicions. There, looking down at her with a pinched little grin that hid sharp white teeth, stood the main character from a bedtime story that Alee's mother used to tell to make her shiver. Someone the little Nimmo had never really believed in, but by whom she had always been fascinated. Fascinated enough to want to dress as her, this Halloween.

"Vira," the Nimmo gasped, surprised that she could still breathe at all. Her whole body was gripped in a cold terror as, quickly, her eyes darted toward the rest of Neopia's infamous villains.

"One and the same," the cursed Acara said with a smirk, delicately removing her boot from where it had been keeping the gate open and stepping through to join Alee on the other side. She seemed pleased to be recognised, preening vainly, until she noticed that she was no longer the centre of attention in the room. Vira scoffed, turning her nose up at the still-frozen monsters behind her. "What are you looking at them for? They're as lifeless as their portraits in the Gallery of Evil and just as ugly."

Relieved by this, Yema nervously moved up to join Alee by the gate, taking her friend's hand in a show of support. "It does look like they're still stuck that way. But how are you the only one who managed to escape the curse? Did something happen when Alee touched you?"

Vira laughed. "Don't be ridiculous. Your friend might be dressed like me -- a poor imitation, anyway -- but she's still just a foolish little Nimmo. I'm free because I'm the only one out of this bunch of idiots who has brains as well as beauty." She looked smug, although Yema noticed that she was still very careful about latching the gate behind her. It seemed that Vira might not be as unafraid of the other frozen figures as she made out. Something in the Acara's hand caught the light, and Yema realised she had taken a mirror from the pocket of her black dress.

"Don't look in it!" Nuwena ran forward, flapping her wings. "We've all read the story, Vira, mirrors are how you work your magic!"

"Of course they are." Vira clicked her tongue, annoyed by the interruption. "So when that old hag of a Korbat tried to trap me here, I simply let my mirror absorb most of the spell. She doesn't know that, of course. That wrinkly old witch, who does she think she is, trying to make a prisoner out of me?!"

"But why is she keeping everyone here?" Yema asked. "We're no closer to understanding, and that might be the only way we'll figure out how to break the spell. If you caught some of the magic with your mirror, perhaps we'll find an answer there."

"No, don't!" Nuwena and Alee cried out at the same time, but it was too late. The Yurble had taken Vira's mirror, and was staring into the reflective glass...

Author: stariell
Date: Oct 29th
They say all legends have a kernel of truth. In the moment that Yema looked into the glass, she, Alee, and Nuwena learned that bedtime stories are also included in that old proverb.

The change was instantaneous and it was appalling: briefly, Yema's face glowed with an incomprehensible beauty -- then the little Yurble's youthful cheeks hollowed, her ruddy complexion grew pallid and sickly, her luxuriant mane grew lank and lifeless -- and her eyes! Oh, her eyes! Their beautiful green darkened and reddened to a sickly maroon and her pupils, usually so bright, round, and inquisitive, elongated to slits!

"Oh, Yema!" cried Alee. "No!"

"Oh yes," cackled Vira, despicably pleased with Yema's transformation into a creature uglier than herself.

Three pairs of eyes rested on the new Yema, and three pairs of eyes widened in surprise when Yema looked up from the mirror and stuck out her tongue.

"Best Halloween costume ever!" declared the spirited Yurble with a grin.

Vira's jaw hung wide for a moment, until she recollected herself and began to wonder why, exactly, Yema was not writhing in horror at her horrible transformation. The reason was quite simple, though a mind as warped by selfishness as Vira's could not begin to fathom it: fortunately for Yema, she was youthful, hopeful, and humble, and thus incorruptible by Vira's particular brand of magic -- on the inside, at least.

Vira made to grab at her mirror, which Yema still held, but Nuwena darted in as only a Pteri can, swooped through the air and knocked the mirror out of Yema's paws. Vira plunged as the mirror made its graceful arc upward, upward, and then down -- but her grasping claws were too slow; the mirror hit the unyielding floor and shattered into prismatic fragments with a musical tinkling crash.

"No!" hissed Vira, and she stamped -- actually stamped -- her shiny black boot on the ground in her rage.

"Careful," said Yema, "you might scuff the polish."

Vira's shrieked tirade following this interjection quite hurt Yema's poor ears.

Eventually Vira settled back down and seemed to accept the fact that there would have to be some sort of teamwork involved in removing herself from her predicament. Herself, and herself only, though -- not these little pipsqueaks and certainly not her rivals and enemies, all so conveniently locked up by Mrs. Korley's efforts.

"Sneaky old witch," muttered Vira, "what are you up to?"

"We think that she's trying to keep them -- and you -- locked away on Halloween," piped in Alee.

"We don't know why though," added Nuwena timidly, and she hid her head behind her wing when Vira rounded on her.

"Who asked you for your opinion, you -- you Florg-wearing feather-head?!"

Vira muttered about mirror-breaking Pteris and how she would like to invite them all to duke it out in the Battledome right now, if it weren't for the fact that she was approximately as high as a Zytch.

"Right, you little... Neopian citizens..." Vira began. "You're going to help me get out of here --"

And that's when the roof of the house began to lift off...

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Oct 30th
...revealing a giant brown eye that stared down at them excitedly.

"I see you've discovered the purpose for my little town," boomed an oh-so-familiar voice. A gust rushed down on the staring figures, accompanied by the horrible stench of Mrs. Korley's breath.

"Come in here and say it to my face, you witch!" screamed Vira, but the giant Korbat didn't reply.

"She can't hear us, remember?" Alee told Vira, but the Acara kept screaming.

"I am truly sorry, Alee. I will have a dreadful time explaining this to your mother, but no matter. It had to be done."

At the mention of her mum, Alee stumbled. Yema, rushing over, caught her, but not before the painful memory had set in.

"You traitor!" the Nimmo yelled, forgetting her own advice. "How could you pretend to be someone so nice, then capture us?" Alee felt a tear slide down her cheek and hastily wiped it away.

Mrs. Korley let out a sigh, sending one last wave of nausea over the miniature Neopets, then replaced the roof of the building.

The others waited for Alee, who was staring gloomily into a corner. Even Vira was silent, although she tapped her gleaming black boots impatiently.

Finally, Alee could speak without her voice catching. "We have to get out of here" she managed to croak, then resumed her quiet state.

"Obviously, Nimmo, but how?" Vira said, unable to stay silent any longer. "None of us have any idea how to escape this cursed toy model."

Everyone thought deeply about their predicament, until Yema finally spoke.

"There is one Neopian here who may be able to help us, if we're willing to risk it..."

Author: be2aware
Date: Oct 30th
As a single unit, the group turned and faced the evil denizens of Neopia who stood and stooped, hunched and lifeless behind the bogus iron door of the miniaturised cell. Looking like inert marionettes, eyes devoid of sentience, Alee nevertheless got the feeling she was looking at so many Cobralls-in-a-box: pent-up malevolence, coiled depravity, waiting only for some unwitting player to release the catch on their restraints. Despite the heat of her Halloween costume, the Nimmo felt waves of shivers rippling up her spine, ending in an undeniable alarm drumming its icy fingers on the nape of her neck. Before she could voice her anxiety, though, Yema began to talk.

"I think," said the Yurble, "that the only one who can help us escape is Eliv Thade. Think about it –- he's the master of unsolvable puzzles AND he knows all about traps and escape. Now, how do we... um... reanimate him? Vira's mirror is broken."

The cursed Acara stood with her arms crossed over her chest and tapped her boot on the floor, looking from one to another to another of the three friends, as though waiting for one of them to ask for her help. When none of them spoke up, Vira snorted and stomped her boot down contemptuously. "Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Does a pitcher of water cease to be water when you pour it into three glasses? No! You simply end up with the water in three different places." She waited imperiously for her lesson to sink into the three youths, and when none of them reacted, she stomped her booted foot more loudly and said mockingly, "What I see there is not one broken mirror, but a thousand mirrors, simply waiting to be put to use."

As Alee turned from Vira to the insensate captives, her dread grew into full-blown panic. Her heart pounded with unchained violence inside her chest as she imagined the resultant carnage that could be loosed upon Neopia if Balthazar and Meuka, Jhudora and the Snowbeast, Sidney and the Ghost Lupe, Dr. Sloth, Eliv Thade, and the others were suddenly freed en masse to seek revenge. This can't be what Mrs. Korley had in mind. Gulping for air, trying to calm herself enough to speak, Alee waved her arms to stop Yema from acting impetuously -- but her warning came too late.

Yema twisted her grotesque new face into what one might presume to be impishness and swept the shards of shattered mirror into the holding cell with her foot. As each piece came into contact with one of the confined evildoers, that Neopian would revive -- a visible rekindling of ill will and malicious intent travelling from the foot or paw up each body, straightening each form as it went, ending in each brain, bringing back to wrathful life the dozens of eyes of every shape and colour, now glaring out between the bars. Alee regained her voice just enough to squeak out to Yema, "Don't open it!"

But again, she was too late. As she watched in horror, the Yurble sped to the lever and pushed it until the cell door swung open, unleashing untold calamity. Yema turned to Alee with a triumphant look on her misshapen face, but soon fell to the floor in a fit of convulsions, racked with sobs and painful keening. As she fell, Alee saw behind the Yurble the outstretched wand of Sophie the Swamp Witch, who cackled with repugnant glee.

Alee made to take a step toward her friend, but Nuwena put a restraining wing around her. "We need to get out of here," the Pteri hissed, forcing the Nimmo through the front door.

"I'm not leaving Yema in there... like that... with... with them!" Alee insisted and attempted to push past Nuwena.

"Wait!" the Pteri called, and looking around nervously, added, "I... I need to show you something. Over... um, over at the replica of your own house."

Alee shook her head with confusion and said, "What's gotten into you, Nuwena? I am not leaving without Yema." The Nimmo took a step to her left, and when the Pteri attempted to block her passage, she dodged right and re-entered the miniature house.

The scene she interrupted sent her head reeling in confusion: At first, Alee was horrified to see Yema still lying prone and convulsing on the floor as Sophie advanced on her, reaching out toward her with a menacingly claw-like hand. Too shocked to call out and warn her friend, Alee was stunned when the Yurble's silent sobs erupted into giggles as she took Sophie's hand and pulled herself up off the floor. "Did I overdo it, do you think...?"

Yema's voice trailed off as she noticed the Ixi looking at something over the Yurble's shoulder, and she spun around to lock eyes with Alee, stupefied in the doorway.

Alee had the sensation of the floor dropping out beneath her, an intense vertigo of confusion and unreality, a glass-floored elevator ride that sent her mind dropping uncontrollably through a replay of the evening's events: Yema insisting they enter someone's home while trick-or-treating; becoming trapped in the model; Yema setting Vira and then the other villains free; Nuwena trying to force her to leave Yema behind; and now... what was she seeing here now? OK, she thought to herself, What is happening here? What is real, and what is... not? I'm in a model with my best friends... or am I? Are they who I think they are? Am I? Nothing, no one, here seems any more real than these replicated buildings and plastic plants.

Alee regained her mental faculties just long enough to see Vira nod at someone standing behind her in the doorway, and that's when everything went black...

Author: mamasimios
Date: Oct 31st
Not the cold, empty black of lifelessness, but the softly flickering black of anticipation and possibility. Where candles flickered, shadows danced, and reality gave way to imagination.

Soft smoke floated around everything. Sophie, Vira, Eliv Thade, Ilere, and countless other villains were striding forth in the darkness. Someone gave Alee a hand. "Here, little Nimmo, you look lost. Come on."

Alee looked up into Sophie the Swamp Witch's face. "What's going on?" she cried. "Why were you... playing with Yema? Weren't we all locked up in a toy model and trying to escape?"

"Ah, you must be grateful for Yema's cheerful spirit," said Sophie. "Mrs. Korley wanted to lock away all the Halloween fun, to get rid of those pesky trick-or-treaters once and for all. She wanted to seal stories away, to imprison me and Vira and all the other villains. But she didn't succeed in bottling up the fun. Yema continued to see joyous possibilities in everything, in her new ugly face, and even in somebody as potentially scary as me. So she played, and provided the last piece of the puzzle Eliv needed -- a happy spirit -- and now we're playing our way back to reality."

"However you interpret that word," Eliv Thade commented sagely, and went on to add, "Alreyti. Yietral."

"So... the puzzle is being solved?" said Alee anxiously. "We're all going to be all right?"

"Why, yes," Vira said haughtily, sailing over. "The magic released from the pieces of my mirror is strengthened a thousand times, more than enough to propel us out of this model. It will be midnight soon, and I'll appear in all my glory, brilliant in the moonlight..."

Alee tuned out the rest of the bragging and went looking for her friends. She found them on a dim path, faintly outlined in orange.

"I told you we had to get out quickly," said Nuwena. "Yema was dissolving the spell, and the model wasn't safe to be in much longer. I just saw it so clearly. There was no time to explain..."

"Okay," Alee breathed out. "I'm glad that's over, at least. Where are we now?"

"In front of the real Mrs. Korley's house, I'm guessing," said Yema. "It's almost midnight -- that's why it's so dark."

The night rustled around them; in the distance there was laughter. Other groups of children were moving about, carrying bags of candy. And the villains and spirits were celebrating too, somewhere in worlds of their own.

"Shall we continue trick-or-treating?" asked Nuwena.

"Sure!" Yema stretched her face into a grotesque grin. "Before the magic wears out. But let's avoid Mrs. Korley's house this time and give her the peace she wants."

So the minutes passed in cheery sweetness, until midnight struck, and the magic faded away. Yema's face became beautiful again, Nuwena's kite costume was all but destroyed, Alee's Snowbeast outfit was stained and tattered, and it was time to head home.

"It's been an exciting Halloween," sighed Nuwena, as they neared Yema's house.

"A bit too exciting for my liking," said Alee, "but I'm glad we got through all right."

Back in the loneliness of her house, Mrs. Korley groaned. The children were much smarter than she'd given them credit for. And perhaps, just perhaps, it was better to have them visit her... to be surrounded by that laughter that now seemed so, so far away.

The End

Author: yoyote
Date: Oct 31st



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