It was a stormy night in the Haunted Woods. The tempest had swept away all the small houses of the Halloween Kiko colony. The wind was so strong that the Halloween Bruces were struggling to keep their hats on their heads. Even the mighty Halloween Lupes were hiding as deep as they could in their protective forest. No one would have even dare to let the tip of their tail outside.
Nevertheless, a Neopet was still remaining outside. It wasn’t a heroic royal Uni or a brave Darigan Lupe trying to prove its worthiness. It was only a little plushie Kau. No one knew what could possibly lead a Neopet so frail to risk its life that way (and no one was intrepid enough to go out there to ask her).
The little imprudent Neopet’s name was Patch. She wasn’t the average Kau. She came all the way from Neopia Central to the Haunted Woods for a particular reason and not even the most ferocious storm could stop her from completing her task.
Walking against the strong gusts of wind and in spite of the creepy-looking slimy trees at the entrance, Patch entered the Graveyard. She went directly toward the large central alley and continued her way further, recalling exactly where she had to stop. She skirted the rows of tombs, turned left on the eleventh, and then stopped in front of a modest gravestone protected by a shedding tree.
The cloudburst was making it hard to read the carved writings on the tomb, but a distant flash illuminated temporarily the words “Polaris the Starry Xweetok”. The sorrow in Patch’s eyes was the proof of her sadness. She rested there a while, looking at the ground, while large raindrops (or were they tears?) flowed on her cheeks and fell on the ground.
“You wouldn’t believe how much we miss you at home,” she muttered, inaudibly low.
When her pain seemed a little easier to bear, she lifted her head and looked at the tombstone. The rain was softer now, only small drops were falling.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t come more often. Mom couldn’t bear all the memories our house brought back, Polaris. We moved to Neopia Central to forget a little bit about the past...” she said.
“But we didn’t forget you, of course! I never will,” she promised.
“And today, you have six years old, Polaris. I had to come here to wish you a happy birthday,” she muttered to the stone, smiling. “Look! I brought your favorite scary stories!” she added, opening the grey backpack she was carrying.
She took two books, Chia Ghost Stories and Ghost Techo Tales, out of it.
“And look at the gift I bought for your birthday!” Patch said, taking a magical ghost marshmallow plushie from the backpack. She leaned the little plushie against the tombstone, next to a cheerless bouquet of drabby roses, dreary lilies and gloomacinths.
Patch bought the plushie from a wandering merchant. The shopkeeper insisted on the fact that it was really magic, without mentioning exactly what its power was. But Patch wasn’t dumb. The glowing Scorchio must have lied about the magic part but still, the plushie was so cute and it was awfully cheap (only a few thousands of neopoints). Moreover, she was sure Polaris would have loved it so, she couldn’t resist and she bought it.
Patch opened the first book and began to read it. The clouds were gone with the rain, but now the sun was about to set and everything around the young Kau was taking an orange tint.
Patch read the first story out loud to the tombstone, making creepy voices when quoting the characters and punctuating the events, just like she used to do when she read those same stories to her little sister. After only a couple of pages, though, she had to take the dark red spooky candle in her grey backpack and light it to be able to go on reading.
As she read the book, she made a rapid glance at the tombstone. She could swear she saw the plushie mysteriously glowing. Surprised, she stopped reading and the glow disappeared. Thinking it was only her imagination, she kept on reading.
Soon, she finished Chia Ghost Stories and took the second book. As she was about to open it, Patch heard steps behind her. Startled, she nervously looked behind her, only to find an empty darkness.
“Must have been a lost Bearog,” she said, to reassure herself.
The brave Kau began Ghost Techo Tales without waiting any longer. Again, as she read the stories, Patch saw the ghost marshmallow plushie glowing. Curious, she observed it a few moments while reading to make sure it wasn’t an illusion.
The plushie Kau kept on reading all the stories while watching the pale grey glow surrounding the plushie becoming a bright green. She wasn’t scared of it at all. She thought the phenomenon was fascinating.
“A glowing plushie!” she exclaimed, after the last word of the book.
The marshmallow plushie kept on glowing even if Patch had stopped reading. The young Kau approached her head from the strange plushie to examine it.
Once again, a noise startled her. Looking behind her, Patch saw a dozen of ghost Chias and Techos sitting on nearby gravestones or on branches over her in the shedding tree. They were obviously listening to her stories.
“Whoa! Who are you all? And what are you doing here!?” shouted Patch, astonished.
They didn’t seem dangerous or aggressive. The nearest Techo, looking at the magical ghost marshmallow plushie on the ground, slowly lifted his head as if it weighted one hundred pounds and looked at Patch with a dizzy look.
“We’re listening to our stories,” he answered in a slow tone.
“Your stories?” she questioned.
Patch looked at all the Neopets around her. She recognized an old Chia near her who wore a pretty pink flower hat.
“You’re Mrs. Anita from the tale!” the Kau said, astonished. “And you are Hendan, the hero from one of the stories of Ghost Techo Tales!” she exclaimed, looking at a Techo with a mighty techo sword. “Are you all characters from the two books?”
“We are. It seems like this magical ghost marshmallow plushie released us as you read the stories in front of it,” answered Mrs. Anita.
“But it cannot be true! I think you should go back into the books.”
Patch took Chia Ghost Stories and opened it. The pages were completely blank, all the pictures and the writing had vanished.
“My books...” muttered Patch, a little sad.
“We don’t want to go back into the books. We want to be free,” said Hendan. All the other ghosts began talking at the same time. They agreed with him.
“What will you do then?” asked Patch.
“I guess we’ll live just like we’re supposed to live, like ghosts. Haunting this Graveyard should be much funnier than wondering eternally inside a book,” answered Mrs. Anita.
“We’ll stay here with your sister and take care of her,” added Hendan, looking towards the tombstone.
Patch buried the two disused books and the plushie next to Polaris’ gravestone.
“We’ll keep it a secret, okay? I think awakening characters of some books could be dangerous. So here’s the deal: you can stay here as long as you don’t tell anyone where you’re coming from.”
“No problem!” answered the ghost Neopets, excited by the idea of leaving those books forever.
Patch suddenly saw her dark red spooky candle, or what was left of it. It was now a small puddle of wax with a fading flame in the center.
“Oh! What time is it?” she questioned herself, looking at the sun slowly rising.
“Patch! Patch! Where are you Patch!?” called a voice.
“My mother!” said Patch, quickly taking her grey backpack and running towards the voice.
“Where were you, Patch? I was worried,” said Patch’s mother, a shadow Wocky.
“I visited Polaris, Mom. Sorry to make you worry,” answered the plushie Kau.
And she left the Graveyard, saying goodbye to Polaris and leaving her with her little sister new friends.
“Happy birthday, Polaris. I hope you liked your gift,” Patch muttered.
* * * * *
And that’s why there are only ghost Techos and Chias in the graveyard.