Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 111,611,307 Issue: 221 | 22nd day of Celebrating, Y7
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The Inn: Part One


by chocolateisamust

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Also by dan4884

Christmas wishes can be many things, but they almost never come true. Yes, you hear about them all the time; all about pets who had a wish that came true. They touch your heart, and you probably end up crying. But this story is different.

     You can read all of those other stories about them coming true, but they're probably just made up. No, I'm not saying those stories are bad, I'm just saying they're untrue. But this story is as real as they come. It happened to me and my brother, on Christmas Eve long, long ago.

     It was a Christmas Eve most would prefer to not remember later on. It was cold and damp outside, and a blizzard was stirring up in the near forecast. My brother Charlie and I lived in a rather bare part of Neopia Central, but we had friends who lived farther into the main city. Charlie was older than me by a couple of years, and despite the fact that we were really both just kids, he was generally reasonable and trustworthy. That was why I didn't have any doubts when he suggested we visit those friends on Christmas Eve, no matter how snowy it was outside. It would be nice to spend Christmas Eve with friends for a change, for normally we had a very plain, lonesome holiday season.

     Charlie and I left early in the morning, just as the snow was beginning to thicken. He and I were both clad in thick ski jackets and puffy pants, and we had scarves tied around our necks. We had sent ahead for an Eyrie cab, and it was just landing as, gifts for our friends in hand, we exited our house into the misty morning.

     Almost immediately, we were bombarded by snow. The snow was getting much heavier, and Charlie and I struggled under the strain of the material. But, we eventually reached the Eyrie, and loaded the presents and ourselves into the cab. The Eyrie driver spread his wide wings and burst into the air.

     As we were traveling, I noticed there were very few people outside. I glanced into some windows as we passed by them and saw fireplaces crackling. Oh, how I wished to be inside from the frostbitten air. I could barely feel my Kyrii toes, and I could hear Charlie's teeth chattering. We had to get inside someplace warm quickly, or we might have a problem.

     However, luck was not completely on our side that dreadful day before Christmas. All of a sudden, during what couldn't have been even halfway through the long journey, the Eyrie driver began to descend down towards the ground.

     "Hey!" Charlie called through the window in front. "What are you doing?"

     The driver didn't turn back towards Charlie and simply shook his head. "Sorry, but the weather's just too bad to go on. Can barely see five feet in front of me."

     "Where are we going to go then?" inquired Charlie.

     The Eyrie sighed and continued to glide downward. "There's an inn around here, I know. I often fly customers from where you live to out near your friends. When the weather gets too bad, I stop at an inn 'till it clears. The inn's around here. So we're gonna stop."

     Charlie looked back at me, and I nodded my head in agreement with the Eyrie. "It's too cold, Charlie," I told him.

     "Alright," he replied. Charlie was an impatient Quiggle. He always had to be moving, always doing something. If he didn't, he became angry. We got into quarrels often, and I usually won, considering that he always rushed into things. Nevertheless, I loved him. He was actually a very charming person, he just had some qualities that were less than desirable, as everyone does.

     The Eyrie reached the ground after a few moments, and after we exited the cab, we shook off the snow. And there, in front of us was the most rundown building I'd ever seen. Its windows were cracked and slightly open. The door was hanging on one hinge, and worst of all, there was a gigantic hole in one of the walls. I knew this wasn't going to be a warm wait.

     "Wow, this place has fallen apart since I last came here," the Eyrie said from behind us.

     "How long ago was that?" I asked.

     He shrugged. "Eh, a year ago‚Ķ two. There hasn't been real bad weather like this for quite some time." He paused and then added, "Now thinking about it, it may have been more than two years. My memory's not too good anymore. All I do know is that this place didn't look like this last time I came here."

     Charlie sighed and plunged his gloved hands into his jacket pocket. "Shall we go inside?" he asked timidly.

     I began to reply, but the Eyrie cut me short by saying, "Yeah. Hopefully the desk clerk will recognize me and give us all free rooms 'till the snow clears."

     Charlie and I nodded in agreement, and then we all began inside.

     Inside was just as rundown as the out. The floor was wooden and splintered, and the paneled walls were incredibly cracked. There was a cluster of couches in the center of the room, next to an empty fireplace, and they were all dusty with plastic slipcovers thrown over them. The coffee table in the middle of the cluster was lopsided; one of the support legs had broken, sending the slab of wood on top halfway towards the ground. On the far right of the room was a huge grandfather clock with a pendulum that didn't swing; its time was forever frozen at midnight. And on the far left of the room was a check-in desk. Standing behind it was a white Zafara that almost looked like a ghost.

     In fact, she also seemed to be floating behind the desk. Her slight levitation was mesmerizing. As we approached her, it seemed like she looked right through us. Her eyes were distant, and she had no expression on her face. She was the closest thing to a ghost I'd ever seen. It gave me the willies.

     "Um, excuse me, ma'am," the Eyrie said to get her attention. The Zafara still didn't notice us. "Ma'am?" he asked again.

     Charlie and I exchanged looks. This was too weird. I was just about to say something when she spoke in a voice that made me even colder.

     "Your rooms are to the left," was all she said. Her translucent hand lifted and pointed to a corridor a few feet away. We turned to where she pointed. My eyes flickered towards a young Gelert bellboy that was as ghost-like as the Zafara. His eyes were as distant, and he too was bobbing up and down.

     We followed him down the long hallway. Charlie stepped on a floorboard that creaked, and I jumped. This was too much like a horror story to be happening on Christmas. It was scaring the snot out of me.

     But I didn't tell Charlie because he would tell me I was being stupid. Charlie could be scared but he would never admit it. He was too buff and firm to admit it. Still, I knew that he was scared as the bellboy led us to our rooms.

     Our rooms.

     There were two of them; one for me and Charlie, and one for the Eyrie. I picked the one to the left, and the Eyrie took the one on the right.

     "I'll get you when the snow clears," the Eyrie said uncertainly.

     Charlie nodded. "Alright." He looked towards me. "Got that, Luke?"

     "Yeah," I said.

     "Enjoy your stay," the ghostly bellboy said after a bit of silence. Then, he whirled around and glided back down the corridor. And if my eyes weren't deceiving me, as he neared the lobby, he disappeared into thin air.

     Charlie and the Eyrie noticed this, too, but neither of them commented. Simply, the Eyrie slunk into his room, and with a tight frown drawn over his lips, Charlie slunk into ours. I followed him into the drafty space and closed the door behind me.

     The inside of the room was bare. The floor, like in the rest of the inn, was wooden, but the walls had changed from paneled to a peeling, lime green wall paper. In the center of the room, pushed up against the back wall, were two narrow, thin beds with peach colored bedspreads. That was it for the furniture, but there was a crackling fire in a place adjacent from the beds. The red-orange flames devoured the logs and warmed up the room considerably. Warmed up the room, and her.

     Her.

     She was a tiny blue Aisha with a winter coat and mittens. She was huddled around the fire place, shivering. She didn't look quite as ghostly as the desk clerk and bellboy, but she still had an undead aura about her - she didn't seem real.

     "Erm, who are you?" I asked of the little girl. I was surprised to see her in the first place, as she seemed to appear out of nowhere. She looked up at us, but her eyes wore the same look as the one that had been present in the eyes of the bellboy and desk clerk.

     "The question is, who are you?" she responded. Her voice was very high-pitched and distant.

     "Well, I'm Charlie, and this is Luke," my brother told her. "We got stuck in the snowstorm and we're waiting it out here."

     "Where were you going to on such a dreary day?" she asked us.

     "To our friend's house, for Christmas Eve," I told her.

     Suddenly, she shrieked. It was bone-chilling. It terrified me more than anything else in this inn.

     "To-today is Christmas Eve?" she asked after slightly calming down.

     We nodded, our curiosity peaked. "Why's that so important?" Charlie asked.

     "Because today's the day they haunt the inn!" she squeaked.

To be continued...

 
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