Chapter Nine: Payback And Conclusions

Outside, the rainstorm was finally beginning to slack off to a heavy drizzle. Curly was just finishing up his raft with Wilson facing him on a nearby stump. Curly finished tying off the wooden door to the sealed rain barrels and then stepped back next to Wilson and looked at the finished raft. It was crudely put together with rope and rusty nails that were only halfway pounded into the rotten wooden planks of the porch door laying across a pair of sealed rain barrels. The port-o-potty wall Wilson "found" was set behind the porch swing set near the middle for Curly to sit.

Curly wiped a small tear from his left eye. "Isn't that the most beautiful sight in the world Wilson?" He looked down at the volley ball a moment then frowned. "Hey, so what if I couldn't find any paint? There's just no pleasing you, is there?" He waited a moment. "Oh shut up!"

Then he picked up the ball and said, "Well time to get out of here and back to civilization." With that he set Wilson up on the porch swing and then pushed the raft into the cold, turbulent water. It seemed to float very well, and Curly pumped his fist into the air triumphantly, "We did it, Wilson! Civilization, here we come!"

Still hiding in the empty kitchen pantry, Gerald had his arms around Phoebe, who was trembling nearly as badly as he was. Under normal circumstances, holding her alone in a small closet would have been more exciting – and a lot more pleasurable – if it weren't for the fact both of them were scared out of their minds.

Above them the sound of thumping footsteps could be heard. Both of them shuddered with every thump. Any moment now, the ghost of Old Man Wylie would come downstairs and cleave them with his rusty hook.

"Gerald, I'm scared," Phoebe said, burying her face into his chest. Gerald hugged her closely and closed his own eyes. "Me too, Phoebe. There's . . . well, a lot that I never got to do."

"Feelings of regret are very commonplace when one is about to go through their last moments alive," Phoebe said just then, sounding like her usual, logical self, even though her voice was shaky.

Gerald sighed, "Yeah, I never even got to eat all my Halloween candy." Phoebe blinked and pulled back looking at him strangely. Gerald saw the look she had, then thought about what he'd just said, then started to laugh. Phoebe blinked again and then started to laugh at his reaction also.

"W-why are we . . . laughing over this?" Gerald said, heaving between breaths. "We're about to die . . . and we're . . . laughing!"

Phoebe was also having a difficult time talking between laughs. "It's . . . also quite normal psychologically . . . in times of stress, or danger . . . to . . . find things humorous."

Both of them held onto one another and managed to get back under control a moment later. They felt a little better now at least, despite the fact they were both still scared to death.

Outside on the porch, Eugene slowly began to regain consciousness and tried to stand up. He was still out of it and accidentally fell off the edge of the porch and into a puddle of thick mud that the rain made of the ground. When he tried to stand up, he landed onto some dried weeds and was now covered in mud and weeds.

Upstairs, after the three pranksters left the room, Arnold pushed against the one-way mirror and it opened up. Apparently Sid, Stinky, and Harold never found out about this one.

Helga followed him out and pointed at the wall across from there, where a hole could be seen where a smaller mirror had been removed from the wall. "Look at that," she said, noticing how there were a pair of lights shining from the hole.

Arnold went over and saw that it looked like a pair of eye holes. He looked through them and saw the abandoned living room beyond them. Judging from the angle of the view, they looked to be behind the painting over the fireplace. He could imagine Sid up here with the megaphone he'd left in the room, making it sound like it was the ghost of Old Man Wylie speaking all around, while Stinky dressed up to scare them downstairs, and Harold made the loud footsteps overhead.

He saw the three boys sneaking around downstairs from the holes now. Stinky was in the black rain slicker, while Sid and Harold followed behind snickering.

Arnold turned back to where Helga was gathering up everything that they would need. He smiled when he saw the smirk on her face. Somehow that devious smirk didn't seem so bad when it wasn't directed at him personally. He blushed a little when he remembered how those lips had been against his before in the wardrobe. Almost as if she could read his mind, she looked up at him and their eyes locked a moment. Both of them looked away blushing a moment later.

"Um, I got everything, Arnold," she said, holding up the bundle.

He smiled picking up the megaphone and said, "Good job, now let's go give them a taste of their own medicine."

Now that they were both back on track, the two of them concentrated on the task at hand.

"OK, we're going to have to make a break for it," Gerald said looking down at Phoebe.

"But Gerald, there's no way off the island," Phoebe said, looking up at him worried. "Where can we go?"

Gerald put his hands on her shoulders firmly and said, "We don't have any choice. If we stay here, he will get us anyway. We need to find Arnold and the others and then get to the lake. We can try and float away on some of the wooden planks from the old pier."

Phoebe blinked, "Gerald, there's a storm out there!"

"I'd rather take my chances out there than get caught by that ghost."

"Gerald, I – I'm scared," Phoebe said meekly.

"I know, me too," Gerald said, and then closed his eyes and hugged her. She hugged him back tightly for a moment. Then she looked up at him, "OK, I'm ready as I'll ever be?"

Gerald smiled at her, then he put a finger under her chin, tilting her face up to his, and then he leaned over and planted a kiss on her lips. Phoebe closed her eyes and both of them felt a tingle go down their spines, almost like an electrical shock. He pulled back a moment later and smiled a little embarrassed by his actions. "Um, sorry, I don't know why I did that."

Phoebe smiled bashfully and answered, "Another thing that fear can induce is a feeling of extreme physical desire in the heat of the moment."

Gerald blinked at her simply statement of fact. "Oh, um I see." He looked a bit disappointed for a moment. Then unexpectedly, Phoebe put both of her hands on either side of his face and then pulled him down and kissed him again, this time with a bit more determination.

When they pulled apart this time, Phoebe blushed and added, "Although, it could also be that you just wanted to kiss me too." Gerald looked momentarily out of it and then grinned and took her small hand into his own larger one. "Come on, babe, let's get out of here and find our friends."

Phoebe nodded and looked a bit more determined and less afraid now. "Right."

Together the two of them left the pantry slowly and went toward the living room again holding hands.

"Hey, I hear them coming," Stinky whispered behind the living room entrance to his two co-conspirators. Harold and Sid were both putting on a pair of creepy werewolf masks and snickering.

This was going to be the grand finale to their ultimate Halloween prank. They would lie in wait till they tried to go out the window in the living room, which was now the only place in, or out of the house, other than the terrace that Stinky and used to climb down before and padlock the now useless cellar entrance. When the others came inside, they would then scare all of them one more time and chase them down to the water's edge. Then they would pull off their masks and shout out, "Happy Halloween!"

The prank would forever earn them a place in Gerald's Urban Legends as the greatest Halloween prank of all time. Even better than the Halloween stunt last year where Arnold and Gerald accidentally made half the city think that there was a alien invasion.

All they had to do now was get Gerald and Phoebe, who were now the last ones left in the house. At least so far as they believed anyhow.

"Shhh," Sid said in a whisper. "Get ready." He snickered behind his mask in anticipation as he hid in the shadows. Harold was behind him, covering his mask-covered mouth and shaking with glee. "This is gonna be good."

Gerald and Phoebe were about to walk out of the dinning room and into the hallways when they heard something that sounded like a loud, wailing shriek. They both held each other shaking with fright.

Unknown to them, three other people they didn't even know were in the house with them also did the same thing. Sid, Stinky and Harold all blinked and looked at each other.

"W-what was that?" Harold asked, removing his mask and looking around wide-eyed.

"Maybe it was an owl," Sid said, removing his own mask and looking at his friends worried. "Y-yeah, that's it, it was an owl." He sounded as if he were trying to convince himself more than the others.

Above them the sounds of thumping footsteps could be heard upstairs. Again there was that loud, wailing shriek. Then the footsteps grew louder and faster. Then what sounded like loud, deep laughter could suddenly be heard, followed by a rather loud female scream that made all the boys wince.

"I-I-I don't like the sound of this fellers," Stinky said, stuttering and backing away.

Suddenly a loud male voice shouted out, "N-NO . . . NO! DON'T KILL ME! PLEASE!"

The boys all backed up away from the doorway and looked around shaking badly now. Sid looked like he was about to hyperventilate. Stinky looked as if he'd lost all the color in his pale skin, and Harold suddenly felt something warm run down his legs, and knew he'd just peed himself in terror.

This was too much for Gerald and Phoebe, who both let out yells of their own. Gerald pulled Phoebe along, "Let's get the heck outta here!" Both of them ran into the hallway – where they ran right into two figures, who grabbed them and covered their mouths before they could scream . . .

Back in the living room, Sid, Stinky and Harold all huddled together in fright.

"M-m-maybe we should get out of here?" Sid suggested nervously.

"YOU WON'T BE GOING ANYWHERE!" A loud voice bellowed at the doorway. They boys all turned that way and froze at what they saw.

There were four figures standing at the doorway now. One was Helga dressed up in her ghost bride costume looking even more frightening, her face was a bloodless white color and her eyes were wide, almost as if they were like a corpse that died in terror. Beside her were Gerald and Phoebe, both of whom also had bloodless faces and dazed looks on their faces.

The three boys overactive imaginations all went haywire then. Stinky's eyes almost popped out of their sockets from fright. "Wilkers! Zombies!"

"You can't leave this island," the Gerald zombie said, in a gravely voice as if his mouth were full of dirt from the grave itself.

"You had your chance, now it's too late for you too, just like it's too late for us," the Helga zombie said, speaking up. Her eyes never blinked and looked through them as if looking into the beyond.

"We belong to him now," the Phoebe zombie said, drooling out of the corner of her mouth.

Then, from behind them, a tall figure appeared at the doorway. He had a long black slicker with matching hat and a hook on his right hand. "NOW YE WILL BE JOINING ME HERE, FOREVER!"

The boys all screamed at the top of their lungs. "AH! IT'S OLD MAN WYLIE!" Harold screamed and ran right to the open window and made a jump, getting stuck halfway in and out. It didn't matter, because Sid and Stinky pushed him hard and jumped out onto the porch landing on top of him just as three sets of zombie arms and a hooked hand reached out at them.

The frightened pranksters all ran to the end of the porch, scared out of their wits, trying to escape – when another figure blocked their path. Illuminated by the last lightning flash of the evening was a creature covered in mud and weeds, groaning at them.

Sid screamed, "AHHH! IT'S . . . IT'S SOME OTHER GUY!" He then turned and jumped off the porch and ran to the back of the house. Stinky and Harold ran also screaming. Harold shouted out, "MOMMIE! AHHHHH!"

The three of them ran to the back of the house, uncovered the inflatable raft that they had covered up, and jumped into the murky water. They were in such a hurry to get away, they didn't even bother to retrieve their oars, instead they paddled with their hands so fast it may as well been powered by a motor for the speed it picked up.

From the porch four figures watched and laughed hard at them. Old Man Wylie removed his coat to reveal Arnold holding onto a pair of sticks to make himself look taller. The last bits of rain were washing off the left over ghost makeup that Helga still had from before off of her, Phoebe and Gerald.

"Who's chicken now?" Helga said smirking and looking back at Arnold. He grinned and nodded approvingly. Gerald was still laughing and Phoebe smiled glad that it was all over with.

The muddy figure that surprised the boys from before then tripped into another puddle of muddy water. Eugene re-emerged and sat up, looking up at the four of them and said, "I'm OK." The four kids laughed harder now.

"Well Arnold, I guess that's that then," Gerald said to his best buddy smiling. Arnold nodded and both of them did their friendship handshake, wiggling their thumbs together.

"Um, aren't you two forgetting something," Helga said, turning to them and frowning a little. "We're still stuck on this stupid little island."

Arnold realized that Helga was right. He also realized something else. "Wait a minute, what happened to Curly?"

As if saying the little geeky kid's name were enough to conjure him, Curly could be seen now on the water aboard his improvised raft sailing away from the island with "Wilson" at the front, as if leading the way.

"SO LONG, SUCKERS! ME AND WILSON ARE BOUND FOR THE MAINLAND!" Curly shouted out to them and began to laugh his loud, insane laugh.

Suddenly, something else emerged from the fog and collided with the raft, breaking it apart and sending Curly head-first into the cold water. When he emerged, he looked up and saw that Captain Earl had returned at long last, with Arnold's grandpa, who was holding a flashlight.

The kids on the land cheered and ran to the shore jumping up and down celebrating, as if they'd been trapped there for years. Eugene jumped up and down, then fell face first into the water again. "I'm OK," he muttered.

Phoebe jumped up and gave Gerald a kiss on the cheek. Gerald blushed and hugged her tightly. "We made it."

Arnold and Helga both smiled and looked at each other a moment. Then abruptly both of them looked really embarrassed. "Um, heat of the moment again?" Arnold said with a small smile. "Yeah, all the excitement," Helga added, blushing now, then she put on her usual scowling demeanor and added, pointing a finger right in Arnold's nose, "And don't you tell anyone about it, bucko!" Still, both of them did smile at one another afterward and went back to celebrating.

Curly, on the other hand, was being fished out of the water by Earl with a gaff. He looked around and blinked, "Wait! Wilson?! Where's Wilson?!" He looked out over the water and saw his ball buddy floating away into the fog. He reached out and cried out, "WILSON! NOOOO! WIL–SON!"

On their way back to shore, Arnold's grandpa explained to them. "When you kids didn't come back, I locked your candy up where Oscar couldn't get to it and then came to find you. I found Earl here asleep and woke him up. We had to wait for the rain to slacken on a bit first though."

Arnold smiled and said, "Thanks grandpa." He was sitting under a wool navy blanket next to Helga, who was not objecting to it at all. Indeed she was smiling a little and seemed a bit lost in thought.

Gerald and Phoebe were sitting close to each other and holding hands under their own blanket. They both looked at one another and smiled. "I'm just glad it's all over with and we got out of there in one piece." Gerald said. "I agree," Phoebe said nodding.

"Yeah, some way to spend Halloween night, huh?" Helga said, leaning back and actually leaning against Arnold under their shared blanket.

"Well, it wasn't all bad," Arnold took a chance and took her hand underneath where nobody could see. Helga felt it and smiled a little more. Helga blinked and then looked at Arnold and smiled entwining her fingers with his. Then she smirked and said, "Yeah, I'll bet those morons are still running."

The kids all laughed – except for Curly, who was still crying over losing Wilson. Eugene looked at him and patted his back, "It'll be OK, Curly. Look, maybe you can make a new friend?" He looked around and then leaned over and pulled a piece of driftwood out of the water. "See this? Maybe you can paint a face on it and name him Plank?"

Curly blinked and took the piece of wood from Eugene and looked at it a moment thinking, then frowned and tossed it over his shoulder back into the water. "Nah, what sort of moron would name a piece of wood, Plank?"

Arnold just shook his head and looked out at their destination. The lights of the city shown brightly as they crossed under the trestle. He smiled and looked back at Helga. "Say, why don't all of you spend the night at my place? We can have a sleep over and eat our candy." Gerald and Phoebe looked at one another and nodded, so did Eugene and Curly, who seemed a little less depressed now.

Helga grinned a little at the idea of spending even more time with her beloved. "Can we stay up all night and watch horror movies?" Arnold nodded and she smirked, "Deal, football-head . . . just don't think I'm doing it because I want to be all chummy with you, or anything."

Arnold just smiled and said, "Whatever you say, Helga." He squeezed her hand gently and she responded with a gentle squeeze of her own. The idea of horror movies and sitting next to her the whole time didn't seem so bad to him at all. He looked at his grandpa, who smiled knowingly.

He couldn't help but looked back at Wylie's Wharf once more. The small island and it's creepy old house was nothing but a silhouette against the returning moonlight and fog now, and would soon disappear again once they passed beyond the trestle. Arnold looked at it thoughtfully.

Gerald noticed this and smiled, "Well Arnold, I guess you proved that Wylie's Wharf was not haunted after all."

"Yeah, what a crock," Helga said snorting derisively.

Arnold watched as the house disappeared from sight, swallowed up by the fog. "Yeah, I guess there is no ghost of Old Man Wylie after all."

Grandpa looked at them and said, "Well now, I wouldn't say that." The air around them seemed to go colder somehow.

As their boat passed under the trestle, the wake of their passing rippled the water. Wilson floated along, unseen by anyone else, bobbing up and down on the murky surface. Just then a hooked hand popped up out of the water and snagged the ball, letting out some air with a small pop and pulling the remnants underneath the water, leaving only a ripple and the sound of a low, ghostly cackle in the fog.

The End

Finally, another tale has been told. I hope you enjoyed this and I apologize for the delay in finishing this little finale. I hope it was worth the wait. Thanks to all those who reviewed and who were patient thought all the writer's blocks. May The Force Be With You All! -Your Pal, DarthRoden (a.k.a. Carl)