A Nightmare of a Dream
“This forest is so creepy,” I said to Josh as the starry Ruki turned around to face me.
“Hey,” Josh replied, “I just have to do a little favor for my older brother. Then we’ll be off the institution grounds.”
We walked in silence for a while, with only the crinkle of the leaves under our feet making any sound.
“You never did tell me where we’re going,” I said, wanting an answer.
“Honestly,” Josh said with a half smile on his face, “I’m not sure. I mean, my brother told me about this insanely old storage house, but I’ve never seen it before.”
“A storage house? Why do we have to go through the woods to get there?” I asked.
“Well, people that don’t belong to the Neopian Academy of Athletic Excellence aren’t exactly supposed to sneak around the property without permission, so I think taking the most secretive way possible would be a safe bet.”
I laughed. “Safe? Like we’re going to get caught! If this place is as isolated and decrepit as I think it’s going to be, I’m sure no one’s been near there for years!”
Josh chuckled a bit and we continued on the way to the supposed storage house. When we finally exited the forest and found ourselves in front of the rundown old shed, we just stopped and stared at it.
“It’s getting dark, man, and cold,” I said. I shivered as a wisp of wind blew against me. “I might be an Ogrin, but this fur I have isn’t keeping me warm!”
Josh just laughed. “Come on! I’m sure you’ll be fine. You’re painted shadow; this darkness should be your element! I don’t even have fur! ”
Josh went to the door of the shed and gave it a hard tug. It let out a creaky crack, but the door swung open. Josh turned to me with the same half smile he had on his confident face earlier and walked into the shed as I followed. Once we both entered we were surrounded in darkness. The door behind us had shut, thanks to another strong wisp of wind.
“Just stay still,” Josh ordered. Once my eyes got slightly accustomed to the darkness, I could make out that his claw was groping wildly in the air. Soon he found what he must’ve been looking for, because with a tug, I heard a click. Light then filled the room.
“Okay,” I said, relieved, “good thing that’s over.”
“My, you’ve been jumpy tonight! Are you scared the ghosts of athletic excellence are going to get you?” mocked Josh.
“Whatever,” I said, not amused. “Anyways, why exactly does your brother want you here?”
“It’s not a why, it’s a what,” Josh answered as he started rummaging through some trophies on a desk. “He told me the academy unloads all of the old trophies that don’t fit in the trophy cases over in this house. You know, like the second and third place ones. As a memento, he just wants a trophy that a team he was on earned.”
“So what exactly am I looking for? I kind of want to hurry this up.”
Josh sighed. “Just look for any track team trophy that was earned recently. He just left the academy last year.”
I nodded and started peering through the cobwebs and at the items on the shelves in the room. There were a lot of cardboard boxes, all of which were dusty. I reached up to grab what looked like a framed picture hidden behind a bunch of trophies. Right before the picture came within grasp, my wrist hit a cardboard box and I heard a large thud on the floor right next to me.
“What was that?!” I half asked and half shrieked. Josh just looked over at me and then looked at the floor.
“That’s a shot-put,” he answered casually. “That is what pets throw during track and field meets. They must’ve stored track and field stuff here. Apparently, a throwing range used to be near here. I bet this place has tons of old equipment.”
“Oh, well, I knew that it was a shot-put. I was just,” I paused, “out of my element.” Josh looked at me, amused, and continued with his search. I looked around some more myself. I noticed the shot-put must’ve fallen from one of the higher shelves; there were other shot-puts up there in boxes, along with boxes filled with discuses. In the corner of the room, a cluster of javelins were leaned up against the corner of a wall near the door. Aside from the equipment and the ever-present cobwebs and dust, trophies were the only other things in the room.
There was also that picture that I had tried to grab for earlier, though. That was something interesting. Not realizing how sidetracked I was getting, I set my sights on that picture. Making sure not to bump the box of shot-puts this time, I took down the print and wiped the dust off the glass cover. I studied the picture of a stiff Tonu and a young Kougra for a while until Josh came over and looked at it over my shoulders.
“Oh, that must be Coach Blair. His name is displayed across his jacket, there.” Josh pointed it out with his index finger. “He was the old throwing coach at the academy.”
“Not anymore?” I asked.
Josh shook his head. “Nope, but I heard he was a drill sergeant of a coach! My brother hated having to work with him because he treated everyone the same as he did some kid he coached a long time ago. Apparently, that kid went on to get first place in javelin throwing in all of Neopia. You know, like he competed with Meridell and Krawk Island and everything!” I nodded in understanding. Josh continued. “Coach Blair insanely trained everyone in hopes of getting them up to that level, too. I guess that kid winning at a Neopia-wide level was his greatest accomplishment, you know, like a dream come true.” Josh paused for a while. “Now that I think about it, Coach Blair died a couple years back. I remember my brother telling me about it when it happened.”
“Your brother seems to always be in-the-know, especially if he knew what an old coach’s dream was,” I chuckled.
Josh laughed a little, too. “He’s not that special, he’s just older than us, so wise with wisdom, I guess. He focuses more on his throwing than his brains, so it must be his age.”
“Speaking of your brother,” I started, “did you find any of his trophies?”
“Nah,” replied Josh, with his head shaking. “These are all track and field trophies, but they are too old! They were before my brother entered the Neopian Academy of Athletic Excellence. Let’s just leave.”
As Josh headed toward the door, I took one more moment with the picture. It was a well-done painting. Coach Blair was standing next to a brawny yellow Kougra in a track uniform; both of them had huge smiles on their faces, though with Coach Blair’s arms crossed, it was obvious he was a Tonu that wasn’t to be messed with. In front of them was a huge trophy at their feet that came up to the middle of their thighs. I put the wooden-framed picture back on the shelf as I turned toward the door.
“Okay, Josh, I’m ready to get out of here.” I got no reply. “Josh?” I questioningly called for him, but still, there was no answer. I headed to the door with each step I took causing the wooden floor to creak. Before I could get to the handle, the bundle of javelins leaning against the corner near the door came crashing down right in front of me. I moved my hand out of the way just in time.
“Josh!” I shouted, concerned, “This isn’t funny, where are you hiding?”
The javelins then started to roll toward me. I stepped out their way, but a box of discuses fell from an overhead shelf, barley missing me. Some came out of the box and swiveled around the floor before ending their movement.
“This isn’t funny!” I started to shout. “Josh, I could get hurt!” With the javelins out of the way, I headed back toward the door and put my hooves on the wooden door knob. I throttled the knob but all I got from the door was a moan, it wouldn’t budge.
Suddenly, I heard a click and everything became black. My muscles tensed and I froze my stance. The light gradually came back, but there was no click to accompany it.
“Josh,” I whispered as my voice trailed off, “where are you?”
There was silence until shot-puts suddenly started to rain on the floor from the shelves, each one landing with a harsh crack. The shot-puts’ beating noises continued and other noises began. In separate parts of the room, trophies started to topple over one at a time. Soon, with all the trophies fallen over, I noticed that one trophy wasn’t. Even though it was huge for a trophy, it must’ve been hidden behind all of the rest, but now it was the only one standing. It eerily loomed over all of the fallen awards in the room.
I walked over to the trophy, making sure to avoid the continually falling shot-puts. I rubbed the dust off of it. In bronze lettering the trophy read “Polter the Kougra, Neopia-Wide Champion.” The little figure mounted atop the trophy had an ambiguous pet throwing a javelin.
With the wheels in my head churning, I whipped around to see Coach Blair’s old picture. All of the trophies on the shelf were toppled over, leaving the framed picture as the only thing standing.
My thoughts started racing, even the noise of the still tumbling shot-puts couldn’t drown out my own thoughts. Coach Blair was talking to me, I knew it. As crazy as it would sound to a pet in a calm and collected mental state, Coach Blair was telling me something from beyond the grave. He just had to be. I knew little about him, but I knew he had one dream that he accomplished, and he was proud of it. He must be experiencing unrest; he knew that his accomplished dream was now only recognized by the settled dust in an old storage house.
Hooves shaking, I turned back toward the huge trophy. Wrapping my arms around it, I picked it up and dashed toward the door. The shot-puts abruptly ceased when I started my dash. I bashed my shoulder against the door and it opened for me. Right before I tumbled out onto the leaf-covered grass, I saw a shiny glint come from the glass that covered the old picture.
“Mike?” I heard Josh’s voice. Immediately, I stood up with the trophy still in my arms. “What took you so long in there? I was calling for you. The door just wouldn’t open.”
“Josh!” I said, excitedly. “You’re not going to believe what happened in there! Coach Blair talked to me! He wants this trophy to be displayed for pets to see it. It shouldn’t be shoved in an old storage house just because.”
“You talked to Coach Blair?” Josh questioned. I nodded. “Mike, he’s dead.”
“Yeah, I know!” I said. “It was his ghost!”
Josh cocked an inquisitive eyebrow. “You saw his ghost? You heard his voice?”
“Well, no,” I answered, my voice trailing off.
“Then there was no ghost. It was probably your imagination. I said you were jumpy! Come on, let’s get out of here.” Josh started to walk away, but he stopped and turned back to face me. “What are you going to do with that trophy?”
I stared down at the massive golden award in my arms. “I’m going to ask the head of the academy to put it in the trophy case.”
“Why?" Josh asked. "They’ll know you came here."
I shrugged. “Ghost or no ghost, you did say that Coach Blair’s dream had come true with his protégé beating all of Neopia in the javelin throwing competition, right?”
“Yeah,” Josh replied with a nod.
“Well,” I said, “Coach Blair deserves to have his dream that became a reality recognized, even if he isn’t alive to bask in the glory.”