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The Inn: Part Two


by chocolateisamust

--------

Also by dan4884

Charlie and I didn't reply to the tiny Aisha, not at first. Today's the day they haunt the inn. Her exclamation ran through my mind at a million miles per second. Haunt the inn? Who were they? Or… more importantly… who was she?

     I didn't have to ask this, because Charlie, who refused to be scared, said, "First off, who are they?"

     The Aisha rocked back and forth, staring distantly into the fireplace. "Them. The children."

     "Children," Charlie tested out. "You're a child, aren't you?"

     The Aisha stared up at Charlie and me with huge, frightened eyes. "I am," she said. "But I am here always. I was caught in a snowstorm like you, many years ago. On Christmas Eve. My sister Cassie and I. We got snowed in, or so he said. He never came to get us so we could leave. Eventually… we couldn't leave. We had to stay."

     "Who is he?" I asked in a squeaking tone.

     The Aisha sighed and stared down at her lap. "An Eyrie cab driver," she said in melancholy. "Blue. Buff. He told us that the snowstorm was too bad to go on, that we should stop at an inn he knew about. When we got to the inn - this inn - he said that it looked different than he remembered it. That it must've been two or more years since he'd been by. We were shown to our rooms by someone who looked almost like a ghost, and the Eyrie said he'd get us when the snow cleared. He never got to us that night. And then…" Her voice broke.

     "What is it?" Charlie gently urged.

     "The next morning he was gone." The Aisha's voice broke and she babbled on, "But that night, when we still thought he was good… they came. The children."

     Charlie looked at me. I could see real fear in his eyes. It was a look I'd never seen, but if Charlie was scared, it was a red flag that there was something wrong.

     "Why are there children haunting this inn?" I asked.

     "For one reason and one reason only: their Christmas wishes and dreams were ruined, all because they had to stay at this inn during Christmas. Somehow, someway - almost always the same way - their Christmas was a disaster. And it broke their hearts; to have Christmas ruined. So after realizing there was no way out, they stayed here to haunt this place every Christmas Eve to the morning after Christmas."

     "And your sister? What happened to her?" Charlie asked.

     The Aisha looked up fearfully. "She's gone. She's one of them now. She became one with their reasoning, and now I'm alone here."

     To be stuck in a haunted inn was scary, but to be alone was even worse. The way the Aisha looked was sad, and I wanted to give her a hug, or something. I stumbled through the dark over to her. She looked at me, and when she realized what I was doing, she shook her head.

     "NO! Don't touch me!" she screamed. But it was too late. I already had leaned down and swept my arms around her, only to find that she wasn't there. My arms went right through her, and she shimmered.

     I stood up, shocked. "You're one of them?" I asked frantically.

     The Aisha gasped in a dramatic way and shook her head no. "I'm not one of them!" she cried. "But I am the same form as them. But… I haven't given in for real… I just pretend to… so they don't treat me different. So they don't drive me away… or make me be like them."

     I wasn't buying it. Her explanation seemed so hurried and random, as if the words had only come to her mind a nanosecond before she spoke them. As if she was liar - for them - to lure us to them. To make us trust her. And yet, in spite of my doubt, the look in her eyes… it swayed my mind. All because of that look. That helpless, childish look.

     Charlie seemed to share my feelings. Almost questioningly, he said, "So… you're like them, being a… ghost or something, right? But you just pretend to have given in so they don't treat you different or make you really be like them… right? And they are the children who got trapped here by the same Eyrie cab-driver -"

     "He's a ghost… an evil ghost," interjected the Aisha, almost sullenly. "He stays for most of Christmas Eve, and then he laughs and disappears before the children can haunt him. Because it's all his fault."

     Charlie just shook his head and replied, "So the children haunt this place because they got trapped here and their Christmas wishes were broken?"

     "Their Christmas wishes," confirmed the Aisha. "Of the year they came and all the years after."

     I exchanged glances with my brother for a moment or two. Then I said, "A-and how do we know you're telling the truth? That you're not one of them."

     The Aisha stared back at the crackling fire and murmured, "I don't know how you can trust me. But… do. I am telling the truth." She turned back towards us. "And I'm telling you that you need to get out of here, because the Eyrie will never come back. You will be stuck here forever. Both of you. You will become one of the children."

     "Never," I snapped. "You resisted it… right? So we will, too."

     The Aisha just shook her head back and forth. "It is hard to resist," she stated. "I suffered long and hard to resist. It's easier to give in, and you will give in. Everyone does. Everyone except me."

     "Everyone except me." Another feeling of ridiculousness in her story. How could she, just a tiny little Aisha, resist something that had obviously taken many other people that were stronger than her. I began to doubt her story once again.

     "Why are you trying so hard to make us feel bad for you?" I asked.

     "What? I'm not! You'd feel sorry for yourself too if you were stuck here for the rest of eternity!" she snapped, her voice rising. Charlie looked at her, beginning to realize the same thing I already had.

     "I think there's something fishy going on here, Luke. Do you agree?" Charlie asked me. I nodded my head as we stared at the Aisha.

     "Tell us what's really going on. Now," I said angrily. I didn't like to be toyed with by a half-pint Aisha.

     She looked at us fearfully, but after a second, her look was erased with a smirk. She snapped her fingers, and an army of sneering children appeared all around us. I was startled, and I jumped backwards, only to glide through a shimmering Techo child. I screamed as ghosts swooped down on me, cackling all the while.

     Suddenly, I was lifted off the ground by a shouting Charlie. He placed me square on my feet as we rushed towards the door. As we reached it, however, a rather large Skeith appeared and blocked it. I glanced at Charlie, and we both knew what was next. We braced ourselves, took a deep breath, and pushed our way through the Skeith. It was chilling, but we managed our way through, and pulled the door open.

     I immediately regretted this action, for the corridor was brimming with the children. They were of all shapes and sizes, and some resembled Charlie and me - Quiggles and Kyrii, just like us. As Charlie and I frantically whipped our heads back and forth, trying to find an escape, I had just enough time for the image of myself as one of them to float into my head. I could imagine myself haunting innocent pets the next Christmas… pets like us, innocent pets. I could imagine myself as the tiny Aisha, innocent in appearance but evil within. It hurt me to imagine myself like that, but I could, for the situation would easily play itself out. If Charlie and I didn't escape, it would become reality. If Charlie and I didn't escape, then they would win. The children would gain two more ghosts for their army, their army of broken Christmas dreams and wishes.

     I was almost in tears as I thought about this, but I pushed them away as I gasped to Charlie, "What are we going to do?" I tripped over my tongue numerous times as I spoke.

     Charlie clung onto my paw and shook his head. His eyes swam with fear and distress as he tried to find a way out of the haunted inn. "I don't know," he breathed after a while; then he gave a fleeting glance to the ghost children, who were closing in around us in a thick barrier. I realized now that if we didn't leave soon, we would become, essentially, trapped, even if we could technically walk through them. Because walking through them felt horrible - not only was it cold, but it was also… sad. As if, in the brief second of being one with their spirit, you inherited all of their thoughts and emotions and dreams.

     Their dreams, the Christmas dreams. The ones that had gotten them here like this, to trap innocent pets to gang up upon new ones the following year. Pets next year… pets just like me and Charlie were now…

     I couldn't imagine doing this to any other pet. But, I assume that all of the ghosts mobbing us now had the same mindset when mine and Charlie's current situation occurred to them however many years ago. They probably felt the same way. And look at them now.

     "Let's leave!" I cried to Charlie, but Charlie shook his head no.

     "We're trapped," he said.

     "Let's cut through them," I replied, almost in an angry tone. "We need to cut through them! Charlie, we need to! I don't want to become one of them!" Tears now slid down my cheeks, making my fur damp and knotted.

     Charlie shook his head no again. "Luke… there's too many of them. Our view will be distorted… we won't be able to find our way out. It'll be like a maze… we'll get lost. Let's just give in…" His voice cracked, "while we still have our dignity."

     I refused! I wouldn't let myself, or my older brother, give into these terrible ghosts. "Charlie!" I shrieked. "Charlie, no! We need to get out! I'm not staying here forever! I won't! I refuse!"

     Charlie clung onto me harder. "Luke, they've won. That Aisha tricked us… and they've won." Tears poured down Charlie's cheeks now, too, which was a first. Charlie never cried. Not ever!

     "They haven't won," I murmured. "Charlie, they haven't won. Let's go now… and then maybe we can get out." Then, as if to prove my point, I put up a struggle and after only a matter of moments, I managed to free myself from Charlie's fierce hold. Subsequently, I plunged through the crowd of ghosts, feeling sick as I did.

     After me, Charlie called, "Luke! Luke, don't leave!"

     I turned, but only for a moment, and shouted back, "I'm leaving, Charlie! Stay if you want! Stay if you want them to win! But they won't win! We'll get out of here." Then I turned around again and continued my horrible journey out of the hotel.

     After about a minute of fighting my way through the screaming banshees, it hit me: the hole in the wall! I remembered looking at it from the outside as we were entering the inn, just a few hours ago. Gosh, was it really just a few hours? It seemed like a whole lifetime had gone by. In fact, I felt like I was losing life by the minute. Was the clock ticking?

     I started to run faster. I couldn't spend forever in this place. There was no way I could bear it. The hole was my escape route, my lifesaver. I had to reach it! I dodged a Mynci specter, and ducked under a floating Kiko. I glanced back to see if there was anything behind me. It seemed like the whole population of the hotel was there, and their eyes were the worst. They seemed to pass through me, just like I was able to walk through them. It was unsettling.

     As I continued down the hallway, searching frantically for the only way out, I thought about Charlie. What would happen to him? Would he become one of them? Had he already given in? Or would it be a long, drawn out process? It worried me to envision it. I felt sick. Would the same thing happen to me? I couldn't think about it. I just couldn't!

     All of a sudden, I heard a scream, and then my worst fears were confirmed. My brother, the strongest person I knew, had given in. Tears were streaming down my face, but I continued to run.

     And then I was there. Light was streaming in from the large, elliptical hole. It had stopped snowing, and everything was peaceful outside. Not so inside, however. I could see children coming from all directions.

     Freedom. I could almost taste it. But then… Charlie's voice… his hurt, terrified voice…

     "Luke!" my brother shouted; he sounded muffled, as if the ghost children had begun their process, began to turn him into one of them. One of them, with their crushed hopes and dreams, remaining only to destroy the hopes and dreams of others. Charlie couldn't become one of them… and yet… the voice. "Luke!" he called again.

     And there, standing before the hole in the wall - my route to freedom, salvation - I could not go on any longer. Slowly, from behind me, the ghost children began to creep up, and from down the corridor, Charlie continued to yell.

     "Luke!" he howled for the third time, and this time I replied.

     "Charlie!" I shouted back. "Charlie, I'm not leaving! Don't worry Charlie… I won't leave you."

     "I'm sorry!" Charlie cried. "I'm so sorry… Luke." His voice was broken. "Luke… Luke… I'm so sorry."

     From around me, the circle of ghosts grew denser. I shrunk down to the ground as they began their process - turning me into one of them. One of the ghost children… a child of broken hopes and dreams.

     "Charlie…" I said with a final gasp, and then, in a nanosecond, I became one of them…

     Charlie did, too.

     We became the children of a broken Christmas, who stayed at an old, creaky inn each year to bring misery upon those lured into the building by a seemingly trustworthy Eyrie. We hadn't wanted it. I had fought it. But, in the end, they had won.

     And they shattered my and Charlie's Christmas, just as they had done before. And just as we would do in the future, at the old, haunted inn.

     **

      They were sisters. Two of them. A tiny Acara with blue fur and an Usul with red. They lived in a rather far-off neighborhood in Neopia Central, but their friend had invited them towards the main city to spend Christmas Eve and Day. The Acara and Usul were excited; they rarely saw their friends. The sisters loaded themselves and their presents into an Eyrie cab, but the weather was fierce and the Eyrie seemingly distraught.

     "We have to land!" the Eyrie hollered after a while. "There's an old inn around here that I used to stay at during bad weather like this. We'll be there till the weather clears!"

     The Acara, who was older than the Usul but still was a child herself, sighed and said, "All right then. I suppose that will do."

     They soon landed at the inn, which was old and dilapidated. The Usul scowled and commented that she did not want to stay at such a disgusting place; the Acara tried to be reasonable and assured her that it would be okay… it was only for day or so.

     Upon being led to their room by a ghostly Gelert bellboy, they found the fire lit and a shivering Kyrii around it. As the Usul and Acara neared him, he turned around.

     "What are you doing in our room?" the Usul demanded.

     The Kyrii sighed and scrambled to his feet. "I'm sorry," he said. "I… stay here, sometimes. A lot, actually. But it's okay… I can go."

     The Acara seemed distant as she replied, "Oh… well… we're just staying here tonight. Just 'till the snow clears up. You see, we're going to our friends house farther into the main city of Neopia Central, for Christmas Eve."

     The Kyrii gasped. "Christmas Eve?" he cried.

     The Usul nodded. "Yes," she said. "Why is that day so important?"

     The Kyrii simply slunk back down to the bare, wooden floor and murmured, "Well, that is the day. The day that they haunt the inn…"

The End

 
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