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The Haunted Playground


by shadowcristal

--------

Do you believe in ghosts?

     Edwin didn't, until one fateful day. Ed and his buddies were playing soccer when all of a sudden; the Striped Kacheek kicked the ball too high and made it land in what looked like someone's backyard.

     They all stared at one another, holding their breath. Finally Pete, the owner of the ball, said something.

     "That's the ball with Jeran's signature on it..." the bossy blue Bori said.

     The obvious question was, 'Who will get it?' And Edwin knew exactly who that unpleasant task would fall upon.

     Despite the fact that he was accepted into the group, the Striped Kacheek often felt like a fifth wheel. Quite literally, since there was Pete the boss, Darin the sidekick and the humorous twins Roy and Ron that were totally 'in'. He had only managed to be buddies with them because he also appreciated what was 'in', but more than often he felt like he was 'out'.

     Ed blinked when he realized that everyone was looking at him. He wanted to protest, to say that he didn't want to get it. But if he didn't...

     "You aren't going to back out now, are you?" the Bori asked. "You were the one who kicked it that far."

     "Scaredy like a Kaddie!" the twin Meercas said, making noises and giggling as Edwin shuffled his feet.

     "None of us can fly," Darin the red Techo stated. "So I guess it's only fitting that you should go in there."

     Gulping, the Striped Kacheek took a look at the place where the ball with Jeran's signature had landed. He unwillingly shuddered when he saw that the last few rays of the setting sun reflected on the black bars that hid the contents. It looked like a twisted garden of darkness, or something like that. Old, dirty brown vines ran along the iron bars that formed a rather tall fence around the shady things inside.

     If he didn't go in there...

     "SCAREDY-KAD!" the twins screamed, making Edwin jump. He turned around and looked at the rest of the group. It was obvious that they were scared by that place too.

     He had to go and fetch the ball. If he didn't, he would be kicked out of the group and end up like that 'Scaredy Acara'. Suddenly the Striped Kacheek realized something. This was it! This was his chance! If he made it through alive, then they would never be able to doubt him again... He would so totally be 'in'!

     "I'll go," he said solemnly. Darin threw him a look of sympathy.

     "As if..." the Bori frowned. "But..." he grinned, poking the Kacheek in the ribs. "Let's make this more exciting."

     "What, what?" the twins chorused.

     "Let's make a bet," Pete said. "If you go in there and return my ball unharmed, then we'll treat you to something nice."

     There was no way he could back out of this one now, even if he wanted. But Pete making that offer... It was a lot more than what he had expected.

     "Sure," Edwin said, playing cool.

     "Umm..." the Techo cut in.

     "What is it?"

     "There's a rumor about that place..." Darin said as all of them stopped and looked at him. The Kacheek was starting regret that he ever decided to do this, since there seemed to be a spooky story attached.

     "Well, hurry up and tell it," the bossy Bori said impatiently.

     "Granny Perdita, who lives across my house, says that it used to be a playground."

     "A playground?" the four other pets said in unison.

     "She said it was closed down because..." Here the Techo held up his claws and started to make vivid gestures as he told his ghastly tale. "...there was a little Usul who rode the merry-go-round inside. It is said that the merry-go-round just went around and around and wouldn't stop. The poor thing had to get down, crawl around and was finally flung out of the merry-go-round..."

     "Then what happened?"

     "Granny Perdita says that Missy Prettytoes the Usul is still there. Now she has taken the form of a ghost, and keeps haunting that broken-down playground, claiming that it is hers."

     Everyone gulped, and an awkward silence fell upon the group. Darin broke it with a nervous laughter and said, "Well, you don't believe that, do you?"

     "Nice story," Pete grinned. He poked the Kacheek once again. "So... Let's get going, Ed... the scaredy-kad?"

     Still having chills running down his spine, Edwin straightened himself and took some unsure steps towards the fence.

     "Kaddie..." the twins whispered, and the Kacheek started to run. He wasn't sure of what he was going to do, but when his feet left the ground and he practically flew over the fence, he knew he had done it.

     He could hear the surprised gasps from the other side of the fence, but there was no time to ponder about that now. Edwin quickly scanned the area, but it was too dark to distinguish anything other than dark forms of unknown objects. The ball was nowhere to be seen.

     Well, he had to go somewhere... The Kacheek carefully stepped forward and heard a couple of branches break under his feet. He shuddered, but kept going forward after some shouts from his buddies.

     As he waded through the darkness, Edwin started once again to regret the decision he had made so hastily just a moment ago. Still, he had to find the ball. One did not get a soccer ball with Jeran's signature everyday, and he knew how disappointed and furious Pete would be if he did not return with it. On top of that, he would probably have to give all of his allowance to the Bori too.

     The Kacheek gulped as the gnarled trees with their wicked, stretched-out branches came closer and closer. They stood on either side of a gate, and when he looked past that Edwin could clearly see the typical objects of a playground.

     "I just love playgrounds," Edwin thought sarcastically. He remembered all the fun times at that old playground beside his old school in his old town, where there weren't any groups like the one that was now half cheering him on and taunting him to keep on going. The Kacheek shook his head. "If only this wasn't so dark!"

     A sharp pain in the left knee made Edwin realize that he had bumped into something. The Kacheek bent down, felt around and figured that it was a seesaw. He took another step, more confident and informed. But his knee was still weak, and he fell forward, tipping the seesaw and sliding down to the other side. He couldn't help but to let out a little yelp as he landed on the other side.

     "Are you okay?" Darin's voice came from the other side of the fence. Edwin gritted his teeth. The fear of being called scaredy-kad by his friends was greater than the fear he had of this playground, though that spooky story was pretty scary. But he couldn't give up now!

     Imagining all the allowance disappearing was enough motivation for the poor Kacheek to go on. He trotted forward on his shaky legs and looked around frantically for the ball. The wind suddenly surrounded him, forcing Edwin to take a few steps backward as he wondered if this could be considered a bad omen. The eerie noises that came from the wind simply blowing and the rattling of the trees...

     Finally he managed to stop himself from stumbling backwards. No. He had a mission, and he had to complete it. As the sky grew darker and the stars started to poorly illuminate the deep, dark night sky, Edwin's confidence drooped like a wilted flower.

     He didn't know how long he had stood there, frozen like a statue. With a twitch of his good leg, the Kacheek started walking forward again. The fear was eating him up from inside, but...

     An idea suddenly occurred to him. What if he bought a new ball and signed it? No... If he didn't come out of the playground with a ball, then he would never be forgiven.

     Timidly the Kacheek moved forward and saw the swings. With a hopeful rush, wishing that the ball was there, he ran forward. The empty swings dangled in the wind, as the Kacheek looked around again anxiously. This place was a lot bigger than he had expected.

     Still somewhat paralyzed with fear, Edwin tried to figure out what to do next. This time he had really done it, and before the Kacheek realized what he was doing he had already retraced his steps. He was now at the seesaw again...

     Edwin had forgotten about that. Tripping once again over that stupid toy, the Kacheek fell on the ground and looked at the sky. Pain shot through his leg as tears welled up in his eyes.

     "Mommy..." he thought, feeling the urge of crying fill his voice box. "Will I get out of this hassle alive?" He crept backwards carefully, but the spot where he set his hands eluded him before it was too late. With a fearful scream, the Kacheek slid down and rammed into the fence, only to be dragged forward by some mysterious force and landing in the sand box where the swings were.

     A gust of wind made the four swings all go for him, and one of them hit him smack dab in the forehead. Edwin could feel a great bump appear as he fell backwards, getting grains of sand stuck on his back.

     The Kacheek moved backwards. Fear had him in its grasp, and now he didn't care about anything as long as he got out of there. Whatever they called him, this was far more real and horrendous than a simple nickname...

     With a last push, Edwin got out of the danger area for the swings and into the sandbox. He had regretted this all along, but now worse than ever. Determined to escape, the Kacheek stood up and was hit by something in the head, causing the bump on his forehead to grow bigger.

     "Why do I get all the bad luck?" he asked out loud, and heard some giggles from the other side of the fence. Edwin had forgotten the fact that his friend was outside, but hearing them laugh at his misery made the Kacheek burn.

     He got up and stomped forward to the nearest piece of fence, only to feel something crumble under his feet and pull him down just before he reached it. He landed on the ground again, this time with tears pouring from his eyes.

     And then he realized something, something that he should've known all along. Darin's story... This place was haunted.

     With eyes bulging from terror, the Kacheek could almost not suppress the scream that was building in his throat. No. He mustn't be weak...

     The allowance was smoldering in his mind, and Edwin got up resolutely. This was something he should've known too. Once again making the mistake of moving, the poor Kacheek triggered another few mechanisms and got dragged across the playground to the monkey bars as a result.

     Looming ahead of him was a house, probably the only unexplored place left in this creepy playground. Oh, and not to mention all those bushes growing along the fence...

     Gulping, the Kacheek once again stopped the desperate cry that was emerging from his throat. All that echoed in the air was a meek little squeak, but upon hearing something that sounded like 'scaredy-kad' from far, far away made Edwin shudder.

     Swinging along the monkey bars, Edwin made a grimace whenever some splinters made contact with delicate regions. Despite the creepy, gloomy air, he was actually enjoying this in a way. Well, he did like playgrounds, and thankfully it seemed like there were no dangerous contraptions here...

     What he saw next made the Kacheek's jaw it the ground, along with the rest of his body. Unconsciously he had released his grip on the bars and landed on the ground. He could only utter what he saw.

     There, right in front of him, was a glowing shadow in the shape of an Usul. Cruelly cold, red eyes were set upon him as he let out a frightful scream before regaining control of himself.

     "Missy Prettytoes..." he whispered, and took a step forward. To his surprise, the ghost did not move. It just glowed brighter, and the ghastly light radiating from her illuminated the area.

     "I'm sorry to intrude upon your ground," Edwin stuttered, not knowing how to manage a ghost. After all, he had never met one before. Missy Prettytoes did not say anything, but never took her eyes off him as he edged away.

     As if she had heard him, the glow grew greater and suddenly the Kacheek distinguished a faintly familiar item.

     "The ball!" he cried out, hearing some echoes and noises from his buddies. However, he was too far away and out of their reach. As he stepped forward, forgetting the horrible things, overjoyed and relieved, the ghost stepped in his path.

     "Please..." the Kacheek begged, almost crying. "Please, just let me return this ball to its rightful owner..."

     Miss Prettyfoot didn't say anything, fixing her eyes upon him. Nervous and uncertain, Edwin took a slight step forward. Still no reaction.

     Step by step, he moved forward and closer to the ball with Jeran's signature on it. The ghost moved once or twice, but she didn't seem to have any intention of stopping him.

     Just when he had grabbed the ball, a great blast of air made something hit his face and made his twice-hit bump on the forehead increase in size. He quickly spun around, still with his heart in his throat from fear.

     She was just standing there, looking at him with those amazing, mesmerizing red eyes. It was as if she was beckoning him to play with her. After all, it was a playground.

     Edwin frowned. Since he had gotten the ball, the mission was completed. Now all he had to do was to get out of here and return it to its rightful owner.

     "Please..." Edwin mumbled, taking a timid step forward. The wind howled and the trees shook their branches, as if they were warning him. "Let me out of this one alive, Missy..." He closed his eyes and took another step.

     If the Kacheek knew what was going to happen next, he would not have closed his eyes. Instead, he made contact with the ghost. It was cold and clammy, kind of sticky in a way.

     "Never knew ectoplasm felt this awful," he thought sarcastically as some of his limbs sunk deeper in it. The sarcasm quickly dispersed, replaced by panic. The ghost had gotten him. What was he going to do now?

     Something hard hit him. Missy Prettytoes was surprisingly solid, but haunted by terror, the little Kacheek could no longer bear to stay in there. He quickly ran forward, triggered some more things that were hid by the crumbling leaves on the ground and landed on one of the swings as a result.

     Turning his head, Edwin noticed that the Usul wasn't following him. Somewhat relieved, he moved forward again. This time the powerful wind grabbed the swing and tossed him high in the air, and the Kacheek yelped in pain when more splinters entered delicate regions.

     Something landed opposite to him, and once again Edwin was whirling through the air. This time he could see the entire playground in its eerie brilliance. There they were... The ghosts that haunted it, the glow and the broken-down playthings...

     He took a last look at it all, feeling his heart thump high in his throat and faster than ever. Then he closed his eyes, expecting the next horror to come.

     But it never came. Instead, he landed on soft grass and the ball bounced out of his grasp.

     "Good job," a familiar voice said. Edwin blinked and saw Darin standing there, all by himself.

     "Where is everyone else?" he asked, the first question that came to his mind.

     "They all got scared, those poor scaredy-kads," the Techo said with a wry smile, "and went home."

     "Oh." His mind was still re-playing those frightful events that had taken place inside the playground. "You're right," he told Darin. "That place is haunted."

     "What do you mean?" the red pet asked, apparently confused.

     Edwin turned around and jabbed a finger in that direction, where he had seen Missy Prettytoes... He gasped. She was still there! The red eyes blinked and looked at him, and the Striped Kacheek knew he would live with that look for the rest of his life.

     "T-the ball..." he managed to stutter before he ran away, too shocked to do anything else. As he got to his block, the Kacheek let out the true scream he had been holding in his throat all along. A loud, dark, terrified bellow shook the neighborhood as the pet practically flew into his room and slammed the door. It took him quite some time before he calmed down, and flimsy scenes of what had happened would enter his mind just when he was about to fall asleep...

     -

     "Well, as promised, we'll give you your treat," the Bori said, frowning. "Though it's kind of bad I have to pay..."

     "Don't complain, little kad.." the Techo started.

     "Shut up," Pete muttered. He held out five tickets. "As some of you might know, this morning the renovation on the new playground was finished, so we'll go there."

     "P-playground?" Edwin said, putting a hand to his heart. The others ignored that and dragged him off in the direction they had walked yesterday, not knowing all the things that had happened to him.

     "There it is! Nicknamed The Haunted Playground..." declared the Bori. "What?" he said after minute, when they discovered that the Kacheek was nowhere to be seen.

     "Guess he got too scared," Roy said.

     "Too scared," Ron repeated, and the Meercas giggled.

     "He didn't get freaked out by a ghost, did he?" Pete muttered.

     "Such a scaredy-kad," the twins chorused.

     "I don't think the story with Missy Prettytoes was true..." Darin muttered for himself as the four friends entered the playground.

     "I'll bet he got scared by a freaky-looking statue like that," said Pete, pointing to a rather shady figure that stood a bit away.

     They walked closer, intending to examine the figure. When they were about five meters away, they realized what it was. Or rather, who it was.

     "It's..." Darin exclaimed, stunned. "It's Missy Prettytoes!"

     "That is such a joke," the Bori said as he walked forward, reaching his hand out. "It's just some dummy to scare kids, right?" He touched so-called ghost, feeling a dark, moist spot grow bigger on the hand that had made contact. "It's just wet paint on the fake dummy... Right?"

     "I don't..." the Techo began as the Meerca twins just stood there, watching the dark spot starting to swallow Pete. Fortunately the blue Bori realized what was happening and pulled away.

     They all looked the ghost, who was coming closer.

     "But I thought that ghosts only spooked around nighttime," Roy stated, his voice revealing the fact that he was distressed.

     "My playground!" the ghost exclaimed, raising a pair of dainty paws that seemed to have been dipped in slime. "My... playground..." She started walking towards the pets, who were clutching onto each other.

     The four pets looked at each other, their eyes completely expressing whatever terror they felt. Falling prey to their fear, they opened their mouths and let a single syllable dance through the air and cut through the metal playthings only to be echoed.

     "AAAAAHHH!"

     -

     "Stupid kids, don't you think?" the Usul said. "A good day's work... This was an excellent idea, Perdita."

     Granny Perdita the Aisha chuckled as she took out a small booklet. "Made a good day's worth of NP, that's for sure. Gullible little kids... Never thought that Techo who always negged me at Halloween would help."

     "Well, as long as they believe..." the Usul grinned. "As long as they believe in that ghost called Prettyfeet or something, we'll get rich!"

     "A toast to us, Prea!" the Aisha said, raising a glass full of 100% orange juice.

     They toasted, but the cheerful mood the two swindlers had just created instantly disappeared when they felt a shadow looming over them. The Aisha and the Usul both turned around slowly to see a very angry figure with red eyes.

     "It's Prettytoes," the figure behind them said coldly. "This... is... my... playground..." She touched the two older pets by their shoulders and they froze. The large Usul took a deep breath and let out a ghostly puff of air.

     "SCRAM! THIS IS MY PLAYGROUND!"

     Well, you do, don't you?

The End

 
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