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Hide and Seek


by velveteen

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Also by tnumfive

Okitaya shivered as the wind rattled the shutters outside the window. It was your typical dark, stormy Halloween night. Lashing rain, ominous, unpredictable rumbles of thunder and cracks of lightning that caused the bare, skeletal trees outside to become silhouetted against the rolling hills.

     The Ixi clutched her dressing gown around her shoulders to chase off the shivers, held her lantern above her head and peered in to the darkness of the corridor ahead of her. The wooden floor, polished to perfection, reflected the rain dripping down the huge window panes in heavy rivulets. A bolt of lightning flashed outside, briefly highlighting the corridor ahead of Okitaya. Surely that suit of armour was standing in a different position only moments ago, she thought. She glanced to one side and was confronted by a grey visage with red, bloodshot eyes staring straight back at her.

     She nearly screamed and dropped her candle before realising it was only her reflection in the pane of glass. She brought a shaking grey hoof up to her cheek to reassure herself and continued on down the corridor. The house was huge. She hardly ever saw her cousin Snoki, the skunk Kyrii. Only once a year when he came to visit the house. Filled with all manner of nooks and crannies, crawl spaces, passages, cupboards and corridors, it had seemed the perfect place to play Hide and Seek with Snokiobe since the rain had cancelled their Trick or Treating plans. Now, Okitaya was not so sure.

     A tree bough just outside the window creaked as the wind blew it against the window, its twigs dragging themselves down the glass like nails down a blackboard. Okitaya winced and continued on with a brief glance over her shoulder.

     "Snoki?" she called nervously. "Snoki? Are you here? I don't want to play any more."

     Okitaya swallowed nervously. No reply. Her heart was pounding and her chest felt tight with fear. She hated being the 'Seeker', never knowing when you pull back a curtain or peek around a door if you'll be confronted with the shock of a silent figure, hunched with anticipation, staring back at you.

     "Snoki! I'm serious! Can't we stop now? Please?" She listened, head cocked on one side waiting for a response. Nothing.

     The flame of the candle in her hand flickered as an icy breeze blew through the corridor. The shadows around her cast by the pale light flickered too, fooling her eyes in to believing the paintings of her ancestors that were hung along the tapestried walls were coming to life.

     She heard a rustle just ahead of her. It came from behind a pedestal holding an outsized ornamental urn that had been in the family for generations. Placing her candle on the low, wooden, heavily padlocked chest next to the suit of armour opposite, she tiptoed toward the hideyhole.

     Approaching the tall, stone pedestal she paused, her hands out in front of her ready to pounce...

     "FOUND YOU!" she shouted, leaping behind the the urn.

     She was met with darkness. A small leaf, blown in through an open window, was caught between the pedestal and the wall. It fluttered in the icy breeze - the only sound inside the dim, echoey corridor.

     "Rats," she thought to herself and turned back to get her candle. She stopped, frozen. There in front of her stood a huge, looming black shape. Its twisted, grotesque limbs held above its head were silhouetted by the candle behind the creature and threw a terrifying shadow against the opposite wall.

     Okitaya threw her hands to her face and screamed.

     "Gotcha!" exclaimed Snokiobe in glee as he leapt from the chest and pulled the material from his head. "I found these old curtains in a cupboard down the corridor; I couldn't resist!" he said, flashing a grin and rolling the material up.

     Okitaya just stared at him with wide staring eyes, one hand over her heart in an attempt to regulate the beat. Eventually, she dropped her arm and blinked at the floor before looking up at the Kyrii with flashing, angry eyes.

     "Don't EVER do that again, Snoki! You scared me half to death! I can't believe you!"

     "Aww, I'm sorry," apologised Snokiobe, looking slightly guilty at how much he'd scared his friend. "I only ever see you once a year and on Halloween too! Who else am I going to play my Trick or Treat tricks on if we're not going out? Besides, it wasn't that scary."

     "Snoki! You terrified me! Haven't you heard the stories about this house?"

     "Stories? What stories?" asked Snoki looking around nervously himself for once.

     "You mean you've never heard the tale about the ghost who supposedly haunts this house?" asked Okitaya, casually.

     "Stop it, Oki!" Now it was Snokiobe's turn to feel uncomfortable.

     "No really. Sit down and I'll tell you all about it." Okitaya walked to the window and sat down on the floor next to the padlocked chest, under the large, ornate windowsill.

     Snoki chewed his lip for a second contemplating whether or not he wanted to hear this before eventually joining Okitaya on the floor. He unravelled the heavy velvet drapes he still had in his paws and threw them over both of them to keep them warm.

     "Okay, start," he said, staring at his friend intently.

     "Very well," started Okitaya, making herself comfortable. She took her candle placing it under her face allowing the glow to create playful shadows on her face, making her look like a spectre herself.

     "It was many, many years ago when it happened. In the days of those whose portraits you see hung on the wall in front of you. It was in Midsummer, the day in question. The house was warm and light. Pale sunlight filtered through these very windows highlighting the dust sent up from the corridor carpets. The house was quiet. The lazy calm interrupted only by the occasional distant shouts of children in the ornate gardens outside as they played Hide and Seek. A boy stood against a tree, his hands over his eyes as he counted down from one hundred as several children scattered, squealing, in all directions and they sought a place to hide. One girl, a pretty young Ixi, ran towards the house. Inside, she glanced around the pantry before gathering up her skirts, running to the hall and up the staircase. She glanced around, unsure, before choosing a likely corridor and running down it. She hunted around, poking in the alcoves and looking in trunks trying to decide on a suitable place to hide.

     "Looking up and out of the window she saw a group of the others in the garden below searching under bushes and behind trees as they helped the Seeker find the remaining hiding children. She would have the best hiding place, though. They'd never find her, she swore. It was then that she noticed a small old door hidden behind a suit of armour. It was made of wood, unpolished and dusty, with a large rough keyhole set in to it with a wrought iron handle set above. She touched the wood and recoiled quickly as she caught a splinter in her skin. In the distance, downstairs, she could hear the other children entering the house, searching for her. She didn't have much time! She could already hear them on the stairs. Without thinking, she opened the door and threw herself inside letting it close behind her with a quiet click. Hours passed as she scrabbled at the door, frantically tugged at the handle to try and get out. The other children searched and searched, but the girl was never, ever, found. They say her spirit still haunts these walls, rattling the door handle, waiting for someone to find her."

     Okitaya finished her story and quietly lowered the candle. Snokiobe looked at her face in fear, his eyes staring directly in to hers looking for any suggestion that Okitaya was lying.

     "Are you... are you serious?" he asked vehemently, swallowing frantically.

     "Of course," stated Okitaya gravely. "The story has been in my family for... what was that!" She stopped short.

     A rattling noise echoed down the corridor. Snokiobe shot up, terrified.

     "It's... it's her!" he yelled.

     A crash of thunder outside was all it took to send him running down the corridor at full pelt to the safety of his bedroom.

     Okitaya chuckled as she stopped rattling the padlock of the chest. She rolled up the drapes and headed off to find the cowardly Kyrii.

     "That'll teach him to scare me!" she said to no one in particular. "As if anyone would believe a story like that! I mean, I totally made up the part about the door..." she muttered as she walked straight through the stone wall and in to her bedroom.

The End

 
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