My head began to spin, and at the same time, I felt more alive than I had ever before. I could feel myself lapsing into a faint, and that's when I dropped to the floor, barely conscious. I made as little noise as possible; as long as Phantom thought I was dead, he would phase out of the building, exposing the time medallion. So I played dead, and I could hear Phantom chuckle.
My head was clearing, but by then Phantom had stopped chuckling. I dared to crack open an eye. He was nowhere to be seen, so I opened both eyes and pushed myself up onto my knees.
I looked down at my hands, discovering that I was in ghost form. Weird. I didn't remember shifting. Maybe that was that strangely alive feeling I felt earlier, as I was being attacked with the ghost ray. I pushed myself up to my feet and walked out of the gym. "Dad?" I called with a quivering voice, to no answer. "Dad?" Still no answer. I walked into the locker rooms, but invisible or not, there was no one there, and my ghost sense didn't detect anything. I walked out of the locker rooms, on my way to exiting the school entirely.
The halls were completely empty, as they were when we entered, but something about it made me more nervous now than before. Finally, I reached the doors and stepped outside. My attention was directed skyward by the various flashing lights, and I saw my dad and Phantom fight. They were back and forth, all over the sky, and there were remnants of the most recent ectoplasmic attacks and defenses still scattered about in various stages of fading away into nothingness.
I studied myself again, for want of something to do with my time. I had confirmed that I was in ghost form, though I still had no idea how. My shoulders were much sorer than the rest of my body, but at the same time, I felt some of the remains of that feeling of being alive, more alive than before I was supposed to be dead. Maybe I was dead, in some way, or more of me was dead.
I couldn't help but smirk at my circumstances. Here I was, pondering life and death with regard to a halfa or half-a-halfa, and there was an epic ghost fight between my dad and himself raging above.
A familiar voice rang out through the streets: "Time out."
The next thing I remember, Phantom was across the street, eyeing a point beside me to the right. Dad was somewhere between us, to the left, and the point Phantom was eyeing was occupied by Clockwork, in adult form, with a small smile on his face. Clockwork was applauding rhythmically, which somehow didn't strike me as odd for the Ghost of Time. "Brilliant first act," he said. "I especially like what you've done, Demetria, getting the same result while skipping many unnecessary steps."
"Okay, what is going on here?" Phantom asked.
"Everything that's happened tonight, and all that led up to it, was a fixed event in time, and there will be many more, because what's coming simply must come. Everything in its own time, Phantom."
"It's complicated," I added.
Clockwork drifted in front of Dad, shifting into child form along the way. He handed Dad a thermos, a brand-spanking-new one, and said, "Time for a little intermission."
"You are not putting me in there again, Clockwork," Phantom snapped. "And don't think about shaking it, because I will get out."
"This time you will not be in my care. I need all of you in the same general area for what is to come."
"You've officially lost your mind."
"Go ahead, Daniel."
Dad opened the thermos, sucking Phantom inside, and he capped it without a word. "I'm confused now. What're you planning, Clockwork?" I asked, looking from my dad to the Ghost of Time.
"I can't tell you that, but suffice it to say, the group is now balanced. You will find a message waiting for you in your dreams, as you have been for some time, and we will meet again." He pressed a button on his staff. "Time in," he said, and the world jerked into motion again. With a flick of his hand, the time medallions snapped off my father's and my necks, and he floated through his portal back into the Ghost Zone.
"That was officially the weirdest thing that ever happened to me," Dad said, shifting back into human form. I followed suit. I wanted to, for whatever reason, look as normal as possible. "Let's go home. You look pretty tired, and I've got a lot to share with the others."
I stared at my reflection in the mirror. My shoulders were scarred and slightly blue in color, as were parts of my arms, chest, neck, and the underside of my chin. I didn't know what it meant yet, but it could wait until morning. I changed into pajamas and walked into my bedroom. My dream journal was at the ready on my nightstand, along with a pencil and the reading lamp, which was off. After climbing under the covers, I, too, was out.
Amity Park was intact, which was my first clue that this was different. For some reason, I was walking toward the town park.
Floating above the fountain in the middle of the park was a gigantic clock face, complete with the accurate time. I stepped closer to the clock face, and I felt that someone was watching me, waiting for something. I swallowed, licked my upper lip, and said, "Okay, I'm here, in my dream. Is this the message? The time of day?"
Instead of a straight answer, Clockwork's disembodied voice recited a poem:
"Tick tock, tick tock,
The words that the Time Master cannot stop.
Tick tock, tick tock,
Then watch as the silence drops.
"The last of the old lights
Guide us through endless night.
The ancient ones are called again;
The cruel master, to seal away.
"This time it may forever be,
And the ancient ones see,
That all the world over,
Here stand the last of the others.
"So rise, Ancient Ghosts, to the call of the clock:
Tick tock, tick tock."