The Mystery Island Phantom
Also by chivo
No one was sure when things started to go missing. It had been a gradual process, something so slow and subtle that at first, the residents of Mystery Island had merely thought they were growing forgetful. First it was a coconut here or there. The Tombola Man complained his spare mask had vanished, though most locals whispered that he was a very scatterbrained fellow anyway and that he had most likely given away the mask as a Tombola booby prize by accident. Gnomes went missing from backyards, the volleyball the Myncies who frequented the beach seemed so fond of soon vanished too. Jhuidah’s favorite gold necklace even went missing! The sporadic disappearances on Mystery Island were becoming something of an epidemic.
Meti hadn’t been very concerned with the rumors of missing goods until it affected him. The Plushie Draik wasn’t indifferent to the upset residents of Mystery Island, it was simply that he was often so busy, distracted by things most pets considered trivial, that the missing objects didn’t really seem like his problem until Bleep, his own little petpetpet, a rather vapid and cheery Jermite, vanished into thin air. It simply wasn’t in the petpetpet’s nature, though Meti’s friend Spectra did suggest that Jermites don’t have much of a nature when Meti sobbed to her about his absent companion.
“Meti, he’s a bug. A bit of a parasite really. You’ve said so yourself many times!”
Spectra’s words were meant to be comforting but somehow didn’t seem to achieve their goal, Meti thought. That was the problem with Royal Kyrii, he reflected bitterly. They were so busy looking pretty and brushing their hair that they didn’t consider that Jermites might have deep, complex personalities that no one gave any thought to. Spectra didn’t even have her own petpet, thus couldn’t be expected to understand the suffering Meti and his Plushie Kookith, Clash, were going through. The two friends were spending their Friday afternoon in Meti’s garden, puzzling over the disappearance of Bleep, who had simply not turned up that morning for breakfast.
“He’s always first to the table!” Meti moaned sadly. “Bleep loves waffles; he never misses a meal!”
Spectra softly ran a gloved finger along the stem of a sillie daisy, causing the flower to giggle and stick out its tongue at her.
“Meti, perhaps Bleep simply got himself lost again. Remember the time we told him your sock drawer led to another dimension?”
Meti smiled fondly and nodded.
“Yeah. He believed us...”
“And then spent the next two years telling us stories of the dimensions he visited via the said sock drawer.” Spectra finished the sentence with a trace of amusement, causing Meti to sulk.
“My owner said things have vanished all over Mystery Island, Spectra! I think Bleep got petpetpetnapped!”
Spectra couldn’t fathom who in their right mind would steal Meti’s silly little Jermite, but tried to look sympathetic as her friend continued voicing his train of thought.
“We have to find him. And all the other items too!” With a determined nod of his head, the rotund Plushie Draik sprang to his feet, almost tripping over the thick, uneven stuffing in his plush tail.
Spectra groaned inwardly. Meti had a rather nasty habit of dragging her off on adventures that frequently resulted in her missing dinner, losing her necklace or getting in trouble, however the sense of responsibility she felt for her somewhat muddle-headed friend outweighed her own reluctance. Who knew what Meti would get up to if she didn’t keep an eye on him?
With a dramatic sigh, the Kyrii stood, following Meti’s clumsy steps as the two friends made their way towards the Tombola Stand, determined to ask around and learn a little bit about whomever the thief was. (Someone not very bright, Spectra suspected, if they had stolen that silly Jermite.)
The Tombola Man didn’t seem to be working very hard. He was sun baking at the side of his stall, which seemed a little pointless, given that a thick wooden mask covered his features. No one had ever seen his face and some claimed that was probably a good thing. Anyone who thought bottles of sand were a worthwhile prize might not be someone you would want to look in the eye. As the two friends approached, Tombola Man heaved his massive frame into a sitting position and watched them.
“We want to ask about your missing spare mask.” Meti was always straight to the point; he wasn’t one to sidestep a question at the best of times.
The Tombola Man looked a little mournful and nodded, explaining to them that he had simply left it in the back of the stand while he served a customer, then turned around to find it missing.
Spectra examined the golden sand that surrounded the stand. It was soft and warm, the imprints of her delicate slippers and the tread of Meti’s massive plushie feet entrenched firmly in the grains.
“Were there any footprints?”
The Tombola Man shook his head.
“No, I looked. That’s what made it so strange.”
Unable to gain anything more from the interview, the two friends excused themselves and headed towards Jhuidah’s cooking pot, hoping to learn a little about her missing necklace.
As Meti and Spectra neared the Cooking Pot, they were forced to wait while the Island Faerie served a customer. A rather repulsive looking Darigan Kougra gave a sulky roar as the Dubloon and chair he threw into the pot gave him nothing in return and he stormed off in a huff. Meti and Spectra avoided him as he flounced by and slowly approached the bemused Jhuidah, bowing at her feet.
“Little pets, have you something for me to mix?” Jhuidah’s voice was lyrical, as soft and warm as the tropical breeze.
Meti shook his head, hastening to explain their mission. Jhuidah listened carefully, her gaze a little sad at the mention of her missing jewelry.
“I’m fond of that necklace,” she admitted softly, slender fingers lifting to her neck, absent of the shimmering gold bands that normally adorned it. “I only took it off for a second, then turned around and it was gone! The strangest thing, though, was that I heard an eerie call moments later. A sound I’ve not heard before, yet no one was there.”
Spectra’s eyes widened at the implication of this. Did Mystery Island have a ghost in its midst?
Thanking the Faerie, the two pets headed home, silent as their minds ticked over the evidence they had gathered. A ghost seemed a likely suspect. It wouldn’t leave tracks in the sand and it would make an eerie noise without being seen. But what in Neopia did a phantom want with random objects from Mystery Island residents? The last bit of the puzzle didn’t seem to add up.
The two made their way into Meti’s kitchen, ignoring his owner, Anjie, who was pottering about at the bench, no doubt preparing dinner. Slumping at the table, Meti considered the possibilities.
“It has to be a ghost.”
Spectra looked a little dubious.
“I don’t know if ghosts wear necklaces, Meti,” she murmured softly. “The most likely answer isn’t always the right one. Besides, what ghost would want Bleep the Jermite?”
Meti looked offended, though his no doubt witty retort was interrupted by Anjie.
“Are you two talking about the haunted cave?”
Meti blinked slowly, he didn’t know of any haunted cave on Mystery Island.
“What are you talking about?” he asked, wondering if his owner had tasted her own cooking and gone a little batty.
Anjie smiled, adding something to the mixture.
“It was in the Neopian Times. Strange, howling sounds from that cave near the beachfront this week. The reporter suggested the cave was haunted!”
Meti glanced to Spectra. Without a word the two pets fled the table, leaving a very puzzled Anjie still mixing in the kitchen. It wasn’t the first time someone had run off at the prospect of her cooking, of course, but it was odd that Meti didn’t at least offer an excuse!
Spectra kicked off her shoes as the two friends raced across the sand, its sun washed hues darkening as the horizon slowly dipped into the sea. The stars were shimmering in the charcoal sky by the time they reached the cave. It had never seemed eerie before, but in the darkness of the dusky evening and knowing that the island indeed, hosted a specter, the area seemed almost ominous. Warily, Meti peered into the darkness, Spectra hovering slightly behind him; unsure charging into the cave was the wisest course of action.
“Meti, perhaps we should...”
Her suggestion was never completed as a strange, eerie noise echoed from the cave, sending chills up the friend’s spines.
Spectra went to grasp Meti’s arm in alarm, only to find that her friend was already charging into the darkness, no doubt determined to save that irritating Jermite from the clutches of the ghost. With a groan, the Kyrii raced after him, certain they were running to their doom.
The cave was eerie and dark, the strange sound of water dripping somewhere within creating a strange rhythm with the distant crash of the ocean back outside. Spectra managed to take a hold of Meti’s tail, following the Draik as he made his way through the shrouded shadow.
The second call caused Meti to jump a mile, releasing a squeak of pain as he trod on something and fell, an almighty crash sounding in the cave as Spectra too, toppled down. Groaning in pain, she sat up, wrenching out something that was sticking into her back, delicately tracing her fingers over something wooden with strange slits and markings...
“The Tombola mask!”
Meti grabbed in the darkness, feeling something light and metallic.
“Jhuidah’s necklace too! They’re being stored here! So the ghost must...”
He had been about to suggest that the Ghost was merely preoccupied with collecting souvenirs of the island when very close to his ear, a low, mournful wail sounded, causing him to scream. Franticly he reached for Spectra’s paw in the darkness, literally dragging her along as the two friends bolted towards the cave’s entrance, strange sounds following them in a rapid pursuit!
Whatever was after them sounded like a bat... or worse! Bellowing, sweeping sounds accompanied the two friends as they ran screaming towards the cave entrance. Never before had Meti felt so glad to see the moonlight!
Both straining for breath, Meti and Spectra burst out into the open, panting wildly, eyes huge, hair a chaotic mess. Well, Spectra’s was. Meti and the issue of hair remained a sore subject, as Plushie Draiks do not, in general, possess much. They stopped only feet away, too exhausted to keep running and doubting the ghost would follow them out into the open.
How wrong they were!
From behind the two friends came an eerie, low sound; Meti jumped a mile, leaping higher than he even knew he could, screaming something about them being done for. But Spectra turned around and much to Meti’s horror, he heard laughter.
Had Spectra gone mad?
Trembling violently, the Plushie Draik turned, eyes widening slowly. Cuddled in Spectra’s arms was the source of all the theft, the maker of the eerie noises. A tiny White Weewoo who made bleating sounds as the Kyrii stroked his feathers. Meti blinked slowly.
Spectra smiled, tickling the tiny petpets head.
“He must have been collecting pretty items. I suppose he doesn’t have an owner. It’s possible a storm washed him up here, all the way from Krawk Island.”
Meti studied the tiny creature, still not certain it wasn’t going to launch up and tear his ear off!
“Why would a Weewoo want pretty items?”
Spectra rolled her eyes.
“Meti, the entire of Neopia likes pretty items! Look at all the galleries that exist.”
The Draik sighed, aware that his friend had a point. Noticing a tiny figure scuttling out of the cave, following the Weewoo’s footsteps, Meti swooped down and grabbed a rather merry, bewildered Jermite, holding Bleep tightly, determined not to loose the little guy again.
“We’ll have to go around returning everything and explaining,” the Draik grumbled, causing Spectra to smile. It wasn’t the first time they had found themselves with some explaining to do after one of their adventures!
“What about our feathered thief?” Spectra whispered this query as if worried the petpet would hear them and panic. Or perhaps make off with her earrings.
“I think he’s found a new owner, Spectra.” Meti grinned wickedly. “Better find a good place for your jewelry!”