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Haunted Holidays


by kemppotatoe

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"No. No, no, no, no! I refuse to spend my Christmas in a lousy cabin in the Haunted Woods!" Galya's cheeks were pink in anger. She couldn't believe what she was hearing!

      Galya's owner, Brooke, sighed and gestured to the Halloween Ixi sitting beside her. "I think it's a great idea, and Zae thought of it."

      "I don't care whose idea it was!" the striped Wocky continued in irritation. "Asking me to celebrate Christmas in the Haunted Woods is like asking Fyora to stop having purple hair!"

      Brooke rolled her eyes. "Oh, Galya, quit being such a drama queen! Zae feels, and quite frankly I agree, that it will be a good way to connect. Besides, it's Zae's homeland, and we want her to be able to visit it anytime she likes."

      "Then you two can go for New Year's!" Galya protested. "But don't expect me to join you in the land of idiocy!"

      "The Haunted Woods is a jewel on the face of Neopia," Zae interrupted. "Besides, no one thinks to go there at this time of year, so it'll be a less crowded visit."

      Brooke looked over at Zae, a grin on her face. "Excellent point. We'll have lots of fun shopping! Picture it... no lines on Christmas! Oh, and we'll get more in touch with the locals, since we will be visiting there a lot now."

      Galya groaned. "I like Christmas here, in Neopia Central! Everything's so jolly, joyful, and snowy! I just love this time of season... you can't ask me to celebrate it anywhere else."

      "Oh, Galya," Brooke said, "It'll be just as merry in the Haunted Woods. Trust me, the three of us will have the happiest Christmas ever! Vacationers in Happy Valley will be wishing they were with us."

      Zae slid off her stool and smiled at Brooke. "Well, I'm off to bed. Goodnight! I can't wait for Christmas now!"

      Brooke gave her a hug, and after making sure she had left the room, turned to Galya. "Please, for your sister's sake, just do this... "

      "She's not my sister," Galya replied fiercely. "Ever since you adopted Zae, my life has turned upside down! I loved my life before, but now everything revolves around what Princess I-Miss-My-Homeland wants! Please, Brooke, I've never spent a Christmas anywhere but home."

      Brooke sighed and shook her head. "We have to do this. It'll make Zae feel more comfortable living with us. Don't you want a sister?"

      Galya raised her eyebrows. "No. I want my room back."

      ***

      Later that night, Galya crept soundlessly into the room that she and her new sister shared. It was a nice large room with a big bay window and two beds; one had a Fyora bedcover, the other had Spyder sheets. It was no surprise who slept in which bed.

      "So, Galya."

      The Wocky jumped and spun around. Zae was leaning casually against the far wall, a malicious smirk on her face. Galya crossed her arms. "You said you were going to bed an hour ago. Maybe we need to cover the household rules again?"

      Zae laughed. "About those rules. In this house, it's all about being a family. It's all about being nice to each other. Brooke obviously doesn't realize that you hate me..."

      "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Galya interrupted. "Who said I hated you?"

      "Uh, I believe you did," Zae stated, "when you told your diary about your new crazy sister!"

      "You did not read my diary!" Galya exclaimed. "Personal property is another rule here!"

      "Yet it's not as important as being nice and considerate to your siblings. That's Brooke's most important canon of all. And look at you, Galya! You're just all over the place with that!" Zae grinned evilly. "It's hard to believe that you were brought up here and I wasn't, since you seem to be having trouble with adjusting."

      "Yes, adjusting to you!" Galya rolled her eyes. "I knew you weren't the little princess you've always acted like! What, have you come here just to ruin my life? Is that your goal? Do you really want to spend the holidays in the Haunted Woods, or are you just saying that to make me suffer?"

      Zae put on a thinking face. "Both," she concluded wickedly, "and I think you'll find your stay at the cabin to be a very... different... kind of holiday."

      "I don't want a different kind of holiday, I want to spend Christmas with my friends and my real family!" Galya said in anger.

      "Well," Zae practically whispered, "do you think I wanted to be abandoned? Do you think I wanted to be adopted three times before someone actually liked me? No. I want to be free, all on my own, living in the Haunted Woods forever. It would be a perfect life for me, but of course, I'm stuck in your world. For now."

      "Hopefully not for long."

      ***

      "Look, girls! We're here!"

      "Yay!"

      "Oh, joy."

     Galya's response to the muted flatland of the Haunted Woods was less fervent than her owner and sister, however much Brooke attempted to get her pepped up on the trip down. The dismally gray town had been pitifully decorated with Christmas adornments, and the thin stretch of snow across the ground didn't seem to enhance the holidays at all. Galya squinted and saw a rather unpleasant looking Brain Tree with a poofy red ribbon tied around its trunk. Obviously, the inhabitants of the Haunted Woods weren't too thrilled about the decorations. Galya didn't blame them.

     "Hello, visitors! Happy holidays!"

     Brooke, Galya, and Zae all turned to see a Halloween Bruce walking towards them. She, like the Brain Tree, had a red ribbon tied around her neck, and there was a green band around her hat. Galya raised her eyebrows. At least she had tried...

     "Hello," Brooke said, extending her hand to the grinning Bruce, who shook it heartily.

     "Welcome to our lovely town! My name is Willa, director of town events here in the Haunted Woods!" she said, tapping a clipboard she was holding. "Are you here for the holidays?"

     Brooke nodded. "Yes, we are. We're staying in a cabin..."

     "Of course!" Willa exclaimed, causing the three travelers to jump in alarm. "You must be Brooke, Zae, and Gallo!"

     "It's Galya," Galya said pointedly, rather disgusted. Zae snickered.

     "Will you be attending our big celebration on Christmas Eve?"

     Zae nodded. "Of course we will!" she said hurriedly.

     "Oh, excellent!" said Willa, bouncing on her heels. "I've planned the entire thing! There will be games, cakewalks, pie throws, and so much more fun! Now, to business, you three will be staying in cabin sixteen. Just follow the path past the Fairground and keep walking until you see sixteen."

     "Thank you," Brooke said with a smile. "Happy holidays!"

     Galya rolled her eyes and muttered, "Happy haunted holidays."

      ***

     As the forest progressed, the trees got closer together and the snow got deeper. By the time Brooke, Galya, and Zae approached their cabin, they were shivering and unable to see more than two feet in front of them.

     Cabin sixteen looked like any other cabin, except grimier and with more cobwebs. The front screen door had a huge tear in it, one window was shattered, and it seemed the front steps had a dark fungus growing on them. Someone had tried to hang a wreath of dried plants up, but it was tilted to the side and seemed to have a Spyder living in it.

     Zae clapped her hands in delight. "This is so great!" she exclaimed, voice muffled from the scarf that covered her mouth. "This is going to be the greatest Christmas ever!"

     Galya, however, groaned in disgust as they stomped the snow off their boots and slowly walked up the three rotting stairs. When Brooke pulled the door open, the wreath fell off completely, and the Spyder scuttled into the hut. As Zae ran in after it, Galya saw that the inside was just about as horrid as the outside.

     One bunk bed and a cot were lined against the filthy walls. They were sheetless, and had no pillows. In the back, an open door revealed a grimy bathroom with cracked mirrors. There was a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Zae jumped on the top bunk, and Brooke took the cot. "That leaves this spot for you, Galya," Zae said, gesturing to the bottom bunk. Galya knew it was a falsely sweet voice Zae was using.

     "Look at this!" Brooke said, picking up a note from her cot and reading it aloud. "'Welcome to Cabin Sixteen, one of the Haunted Woods Deluxe Vacation Getaways. We're glad to have you staying with us! All meals can be found at the Spooky Food Store. Ask for Willa if you are interested in a town event, because there may be one coming up! Enjoy your stay, and have a spooky day!'"

     Galya groaned. This was going to be tough.

      ***

     After an unappetizing breakfast, Brooke, Zae, and Galya wandered about the town on their own. While Brooke went to the newly restored Neovia to shop, Galya decided to take a walk in the woods while it was bright, because she was sure the snowy forest was just beautiful when you could actually see it. Zae, however, was nowhere to be seen.

     Galya tramped through the snow, smiling at the cloudy skies and whistling a tune. True, the Haunted Woods was not the place she wanted to spend the holidays, but being alone in the snow was strangely comforting. As she rounded a corner in the forest path, she heard two voices, and stopped in her tracks.

     "Look, this is important!"

     "I know, I know!"

     "Can you please just help me out?"

     "I'm trying, Zae."

     "Well try harder!"

     "I'll do my best. Do you want to come check on it right now?"

     "Yeah, let's go, before someone sees."

     Frozen and silent, Galya peered around the bend and caught a glimpse of Zae and a mutant Cybunny walking back a different way towards town. Frowning, she hurried back the way she came.

     What was Zae planning?

      ***

     The next day was Christmas Eve. The entire morning and afternoon was spent helping Willa and other town volunteers set up for the celebration that night, although Galya only hung up banners halfheartedly. Another batch of snow had come that night, making the town about as snowy as the forest had been the other day. Galya at one time fell off a ladder into a large snow bank, much to Zae's amusement.

     Brooke was enjoying every minute of her stay. After an extremely long day of shopping, she was spending her time with Willa, helping to decorate the Brain Tree, who was angrily trying to shake the dangling ornaments off. Zae was here and there, helping everyone put up decorations, most of which were more spooky than merry.

     At around three o'clock, Galya decided to head back to the dingy cabin for a nap. She made her way slowly through the silver forest, stepping in the tracks they had made to get to town that morning. Upon reaching the hut, Galya sighed and swung open the door.

     A shadow Gelert was sitting in the middle of the room. Galya jumped in surprise, and groped for the door handle. Who was this intruder?

     "Don't be alarmed, Galya," the Gelert said in a male voice.

     "Why shouldn't I be alarmed?" she exclaimed. "There's a creepy impostor by my bed!"

     The Gelert laughed. "My name is Gohi. Believe it or not, I'm here to help you."

     "First off, how can you help me? Secondly, what kind of a name is Gohi?"

     Gohi frowned. "I've lived here all my life with my owner. I know everything about these woods and the inhabitants. I am one myself. There was a certain Halloween Ixi who used to live here, and I'm going to tell you the whole truth about her."

     "You knew Zae when she lived here?" Galya inquired, letting go of the door and taking a step closer.

     Gohi nodded, a smile on his face. "And let me tell you, what you've been told is all wrong."

     "What do you mean?"

     "Well, Zae never wanted to be in the pound, but her first owner, the one who created her, had to leave Neopia a few years after Zae was painted and they moved here. Obviously, Zae did not want to go to the pound, since she loved living in the Haunted Woods, but she had to go. Her owner assured her that another nice family would come to give her a home, so she grudgingly agreed."

     Galya raised her eyebrows. "Why are you telling me about this? I already know! She was adopted three times and abandoned again..."

     "That's where the lie starts!" Gohi interrupted. "Zae was in the pound for about two weeks when your owner, Brooke, walked in. She saw the sad Halloween Ixi and decided that her own pet, a Wocky named Galya, could open her heart to a sister."

     "But... but Zae told us that she was abandoned by a bunch of families because no one seemed to like her. Why would she lie to us, the family that accepted her when her real owner didn't?"

     Gohi gave a small chuckle. "Zae and I were never great friends, especially after a trick she played on me while she lived here, but I know enough. Out of your two-person family, only one actually accepted Zae. That was your owner, Brooke. When Zae realized that you didn't want her around, she began to do everything she could to make your life absolutely miserable."

     "If you two don't like each other, how do you know this?" asked Galya. She didn't like what she was hearing, but the chances of Brooke believing her were slim.

     "I figured it out on my own," Gohi replied, "when I found out about her being adopted. It's common sense, you know, especially since Zae is a sneaky, not-so-nice kind of Ixi."

     "What trick did she play on you?" Galya asked with a laugh.

     Gohi glared. "I think I've told you enough."

      ***

      In the early evening, just as all the residents of the Haunted Woods were coming out for the holiday celebrations, Galya found Brooke and pulled her aside. "Listen," she said quietly, "Zae has been lying to us about herself."

      Brooke frowned. "What are you talking about, Galya?"

      "I met an someone who knew her when she lived here before, and he told me the truth about Zae's past. She's been lying to us this whole time, and it's only because she wants me to be unhappy!"

      Brooke rolled her eyes impatiently, tugging her arm away from the Wocky. "Galya, why can't you just enjoy the celebration? Even if you don't like the Haunted Woods, can't you just be happy while you're here?"

      Galya stomped her foot in frustration. "You don't have to believe me! But Gohi told me, and he knew her before!"

      "Gohi?" Brooke raised her eyebrows. "What kind of a name is Gohi?"

      With a groan, Galya hurried away. She was going to go back to the cabin, grab her things, and take herself to the pound. If Brooke wanted to side with the evil Ixi, then fine! She was going to find herself a better owner, someone who would believe whatever she said!

      ***

      With a loud bang, the screen door of cabin sixteen was thrown open. Galya rushed in, but stopped short. Zae was sorting through random items that were lying on the floor, and she quickly stuffed something behind her back as the Wocky entered.

      There was a tense silence. "Why aren't you at the holiday celebrations?" Galya finally asked.

      Zae shrugged. "I... I had things to finish up here. I was about to go. But what about you?"

      Galya grabbed her backpack and started to stuff some of her things in it. "Me? I'm here to leave! I'm going far away from these stupid woods, this disgusting cabin, and most of all... you!"

      Zae stood up, still holding something behind her back. "What? You can't just go! It's Christmas!"

      "So what?" Galya practically screamed.

      "Well, everyone knows that Christmas is a time when you show love. It's a time when you open up to your family."

      Galya rolled her eyes. "What's that supposed to mean? That you're all of a sudden going soft and nice?"

      "No!" Zae said quickly. "It means that I'm going to do the right thing, and fix things." She brought her hands out from behind her back. In one hand was a soft, white Snowbunny.

      Galya stopped packing and stared. Zae watched her. "It's for you," the Ixi said. "And it's from me."

      "I've always wanted a Snowbunny," Galya said, taking it up in her arms. "How did you know?"

      Zae smiled. "I read your diary, remember?"

      Galya raised her eyebrows. "Oh, yeah. Right."

      "Look, Galya," Zae said with a sigh, "I'm not really evil or mean or anything like that. In fact, I really liked you and Brooke and I was glad to live with you when I got adopted. But I could tell you didn't like me. At all."

      "Maybe I was just jealous," Galya said, shrugging. "Brooke's never paid any attention to anyone but me."

      "I know, and I felt bad!" Zae exclaimed. "But I wanted to be a part of your family more than anything. I made up a lie about my life because I thought maybe you'd feel sorry for me, and accept me, but you hated me more. I read your diary to see what you liked, so I could get to know you better. But then I saw that you thought I was crazy, and I guess I got a little crazy. After we got here, I decided to get you what you've always wanted for Christmas. It's hard to get a Snowbunny in the Haunted Woods though, so I had my friend help me order one."

      Galya smiled, assuming she was talking about the mutant Cybunny. "What about Gohi?" she asked. "He told me all about you, and said that you were just trying to make me miserable!"

      Zae giggled. "He doesn't like me," she said, snickering, "because I scared him at a Halloween Party one year. It's almost a rule when you live in the Haunted Woods that nothing scares you, and I managed to scare him with a hand puppet of a ghost! He was really embarrassed."

      Galya laughed, petting the little Snowbunny. "I feel bad," she said. "I misjudged you because I was arrogant. And then you got me my dream pet! I didn't get you anything at all."

      Zae shook her head. "Both of us have acted stupid lately. It's okay. I got you a Snowbunny, and you got me a family. I think we're even."

      With a smile, the two sisters made their way to the Christmas celebration.

The End

 
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