Chapter Six: Unraveling
He had pressed me to the wall of the little room, putting his finger to his lips to tell me to be quiet. I had just stared up at him with blank eyes, unable to understand what was going on. My little guardian looked behind him for a moment before finally unlocking the door behind him, walking up to me and pulling me into his lap.
"It'll be okay."He told me in a quiet voice as I snuggled into his chest, clinging to him in fear. It was hot. It was hot, it was so hot, but his body was so cold. I didn't know what was going on, I didn't know what was happening. But he did and he always protected me. My friend leaned down and put his lips to mine and then he began whispering something strange in my ear . When he was finished speaking, he repeated the gesture to be quiet. I had nodded and mimicked him, putting my finger on my mouth.
My lips were cold from his.
I saw tears trickling down his cheeks as he pulled away from me and stood up. I had reached for him. It was so hot, it was hot and I couldn't breathe. Where was he going? Where was he going? When he heard me begin to cry, he had turned around for a moment and smiled at me, told me one more time to be quiet while he went to go find our friends.
"Be a good girl, Xion. I'll be back soon," was the last thing he said to me.
I reached for him, but he walked to the door too quickly and he closed it behind him. I nodded to his back without understanding why. I was already falling asleep as he locked the door behind him with a soft click. He took the key with him. His footsteps echoed up the hallways behind him until the pad of his bare feet faded away from even my memories.
As I slept, all I could feel was the memory of him pulling away from me and leaving me in the darkness. All I know is that the boy pulled away from me. I never saw him again. The last I ever saw of him was the stark contrast of his white clothing against the red flames.
My brother was hiding something from me.
I stare at the image of the little kid, wondering what it meant. It's a little ink drawing, like someone's imagining of an event. Someone imagined this generic little kid burning. I squint at its ripped edges, finding the outline of what looked like a pony tail sticking out of the kid's head.
A little girl... covered in flames... I rub my thumb against the girl's mouth, touching the glossy image of a child's anguished screams in confusion. What did it mean?
What the heck did a fire have to do with my brother? I flip the paper over, trying to find some sort of clue saying what it meant. There were words on the back of it, mostly fragmented letters that had been separated completely from the rest of the words they belonged to. I take a seat on the floor, squinting at the paper. 'The,' 'man,' 'spir'... Only three of the words were even understandable, and even they didn't make sense. The... man... spir... I blink, understanding the last one.
The paper was only the size of my thumb, but it had the word spirit on it. Well, that made sense, it came from a book about ghost stories. Ghost stories... I look up at the book leaning over the counter, where Axel had dumped it.
The heavy pressure of the little boy ghost's stare suddenly drops back to me, as if he was wondering what I was doing. I grab the side of the counter and hoist myself up with a soft grunt, brushing my hands off of the flour and dust I had collected while on the floor. Maybe there was still something in the book that could help me out. I snatch it off of the counter and take a seat on a stool, beginning to scan through the pages just before the ripped section.
As I look for a word, even a sentence to explain what the heck was going on, I hear a heavy shaking noise, like someone had suddenly picked up a massive object and was rattling its contents around. I glance up and see the rest of the books I had left behind floating in the air, their covers flying open and their pages flapping around in an unnatural wind. The rest of the kitchen was completely still. Ah. So he really was mad. The now enraged spirit stares at me, a piercing look of anger in his dark blue eyes. He looks ready to kill someone, specifically the one refusing to follow his orders.
The books rattle violently, warning me to put the one in my hand back down. I glare at him defiantly, watching as his eyes narrow and the torn book begins to shake in my hand.
Spirits don't actually exist in the living world. They're on a plane of existence that cannot touch the mundane one. They no longer exist within it, they are nothing but a mass of broken thoughts and emotions that cannot be changed or destroyed. They are nothing in our plane of existence, not anymore. But a spirit can influence it, if they're strong enough. Otherwise, they are nothing more than a visual trick, the image of someone that has already since been gone into the Other Place. With the exception of one type of spirit, a poltergeist, they cannot harm you, nor can they touch you.
But this one was plenty strong. And my little guardian could easily become a poltergeist if he thought it would help me.
I watch as the book rips itself from my hand and throws itself over to the counter, slamming hard into it and skidding down to the floor again. Oh, that cheeky little ghost! As my gaze moves back to the little traitor, he flashes me a big grin and claps soundlessly, pleased with his deeds.
"You little-!" I snarl before getting up, intent on grabbing Axel and figuring out what had happened. Why had someone who had normally gone out of his way to look after me suddenly attack me, why was he going against me? Before I could even move a step forward, the ghost's eyes narrow slightly and I feel a heavy pressure suddenly drag me down to the floor, forcing me to kneel.
I struggle against the pressure, feeling cold little hands on my skin, pulling my body down forcibly. The little boy looks at me for a long moment, his dark blue eyes searching mine before he jumps down from the counter. A puff of white flour accompanies his too slow descent before his bare foot hits the ground without making a sound. He crouches down besides the counter, his low whisper almost too soft to reach my ears.
'Won't ...let... you … Xion... will... get hurt...'
As always when he spoke, the boy's voice is labored and hoarse, like he had just run a marathon or had inhaled a mouthful of smoke. He cannot speak properly and he scratches at his throat with his long fingernails, like he was trying to rip the words from his throat so I could hear them right.
"Stop," I hear myself say in an equally quiet voice, trying to get my friend to listen, to make him stop and listen before he went into a rage. The boy doesn't look at me as he yanks at his throat, his clawed fingers were too busy trying to tear it apart. "Stop it!" I shout in the fear that he would actually manage to hurt himself.
He blinks once before lowering his hand, dropping to his knees and bursting into tears.
I hurt him. I hurt him.
The tears drip from his eyes, heavy and gray with this strange dark color, like he had just rubbed his face with ashes. He doesn't look at me, keeping his gaze firmly on the floor. His shoulders droop, like he had realized just how far he had gone to oppose my freedom and to try to hurt himself, both things that I hated and that he knew I hated. But even so, he doesn't move towards me and he doesn't try to apologize.
He just turns his head towards me and I feel the world begin to rattle.
The little boy stares at me with wounded eyes before the second of the books slams into the counter, shattering a porcelain mug that my brother used to hold ingredients. The sticky oil that had been inside of it today drips down to the tiles, golden streams of light oozing over the white. I turn away from the boy and at the new mess and at the books that were hanging in mid-air.
As if waiting for a cue, they all fall in unison, dropping to the counter with hard thuds. I close my eyes and I hear a quiet voice mutter something darkly, a warning.
'You'll... be... sorry...'
A cold rush of fear runs through my veins at these quiet words. Sorry? For what? Even if he was trying to protect me and there was something going on between my friend and my brother that I didn't know about, I didn't know what it was that I was supposed to be sorry for. I open my eyes and I see the little boy ghost looking at me, a horrible look of pity and despair in his dark blue eyes. He doesn't try to speak again, having taxed his throat badly enough with what little he had spoken. Instead, he holds out a little pale hand in a gesture of apology and fear, like he was scared of losing me.
I pause for a moment. "If... If I promise to take you with me," I start to ask, looking at the transparent boy in order to gauge his reaction. He just blinks once and leans toward me, listening intently. "Would you let me finish the project? And not get me in trouble for it?"
A big pleased grin crosses his face before he can stop himself, a very rare moment of pure and utter joy from the normally solemn little boy. Then his expression goes back to his serious business face and he touches his fingers to my palm, sealing the pact. They are cold to the touch but as I wrap my hand around them, they almost feel warm.
I give him a little nod, letting him know that all was forgiven, and that we were both going to figure out the mystery of the torn book and why he didn't want me to see it. From the way he was holding onto my hand, I know that he would be telling me... or showing me... the truth soon.
"C'mon then, we need to stop Axel from killing Pence."
"And I'm telling you, no!"
I blink as Axel grabs the legs of a chair that was next to him and hoists it up to his shoulders, obviously about to slam said piece of furniture into my friend's head. There's a look of sheer rage on his face that I hadn't seen in a very long time, mostly whenever I had been tortured by the little girl ghost when I was younger. It was his 'I am going to fucking murder you' look.
This was not going well for Pence.
To his credit, Pence doesn't flinch, even when Axel starts swinging. Instead, he just ducks under the table they had been sitting at and manages to dodge the attack out of what I think was sheer spite. The minute that the wooden chair breaks against the wall of the pizzeria, he leaps out and grabs Axel by the scruff of his shirt, dragging him down to his level with a ferocity that I didn't think he was capable of.
Even Axel looks really surprised.
Pence takes in a deep breath and tightens his grip on Axel's shirt, glaring at him angrily. "I've asked a friend of mine to come a really, really long way to help us with our project," He begins in a quiet voice, sounding more or less normal if a little more angry than he usually is. "And he's coming here all the way from Destiny Islands. I asked him to help us with the Mansion legend and we'll be doing the other legends, which are one hundred percent safe. I did them over summer break, and no one will get hurt." He pauses for a moment before he looks over Axel's shoulder at me. I just raise my hand in greeting and Pence smiles a little bit before turning his gaze back onto Axel, somehow much more determined than he was before. "Especially not Xion. … I give you my word as a man."
He then proceeded to let go of my brother and flop back onto his chair, folding his arms across his chest and glaring defiantly at the big idiot.
Axel smirks as he grabs Pence by the throat, and I can practically the bellows inside of him begin to expand.
The two guys turn around as the little boy ghost lets go of my hand, obvious intending to jump into the fight too. Oh no you don't! "All of you, knock it the heck off!" I snarl, making the three of them freeze into place out of sheer surprise. I fold my arms angrily across my chest and give them such a scolding look that all three of them sit down at the table with Axel pulling out a chair for me.
I take a seat next to Axel and the little boy, giving them both another glare before clearing my throat. "Now... You can't throw chairs at my friends, Axel." I snarl angrily, slamming my elbow into his side hard. He winces but just looks away, trying to fool me into thinking that it didn't hurt him at all.
My brother just flips his hair mockingly, smirking in a purposely annoying way. He knew exactly what he had done, and I know that he isn't the least bit sorry for it. I sigh. Stupid brother. I turn to Pence next, deciding to ignore Axel for a little bit.
"Are you hurt?" I ask him quietly, seriously wondering if Axel hadn't given him internal burns just to piss me off. Pence turns a little pink but shakes his head no, giving me a bright smile. "Uh... no... I'm alright... You don't have to... w-worry about me..." He stammered into silence again and started fidgeting with a napkin that they had knocked over.
The ghost boy looked at me blankly before raising an eyebrow, clearly asking what the hell was up with Pence.
I secretively shrug at him before turning to Axel and slapping my hand upside his head. "OW!" He yelped, gripping the now reddening part of his face. My brother gave me a vicious glare and stood up, obviously about to return the favor by either pinning me to the wall and starting up another fire by 'accident' again.
"Don't ever scare my friends again." I warn him before folding my arms across my chest neatly, giving Pence a bright smile. "So uh, where's your friend from? Why's he coming?" I ask him next, making him jolt and switch his shocked gaze from Axel to me. He turns a little more pink and grins cheerfully.
"Oh, he's a friend of mine from the same chatrooms where I found out more about the mansion!" Pence declares proudly and he chooses to ignore the snort from Axel. "Well, it's a paranormal forum where everyone gets to weigh in on others' supernatural experiences, and he's one of the mediums that shows up a lot... He's from Destiny Islands and when I told him about the mansion," The kid starts to shake in excitement, his grin threatening to rip itself off of his face and fly away from how big it was. "He got all hyped up and said he would be coming in a few days!"
I raise an eyebrow but don't say anything. A person who could see ghosts? That was an ability that almost no one had, and I had the evidence to back it. I was the only person I had ever known that had the 'gift' and all other people who claimed that they had it turned out to be shams.
I would believe it only when I saw it.
The boy glances at his book restlessly, only too eager to get off the train and stretch his legs. His cabin is full to the rafters, making it impossible for him to get up and pace like he wanted to. For some reason, he's nervous, despite it being a routine job. Sure, he wasn't getting paid this time around – it was more like community service this time around – but he was needed.
He had felt it deep inside of him that he needed to go to the Mansion.
The boy runs his fingers through his spiky locks and sighs as he closes his book neatly onto his lap. "Twilight Town couldn't come fast enough," He mutters out of the corner of his mouth, directing the comment to something on the floor. As if in response, his suitcase rattles slightly, bouncing against the seat and into his fingertips. He smiles slightly, his solemn expression softening at the antics. He pats the leather with a gentle hand.
"Don't worry, honey, we'll get there soon." The boy tells the suitcase before opening his book back up and leaning against his seat. A pale white hand rose through the hardened leather and wrapped around his ankle, a soothing and familiar presence that had calmed him through much more difficult ghost-hunting missions.
He smiles a little more as he flips through his book and continues to read about the place he would soon be going to.
"The Old Mansion..." The boy reads out loud, carefully folding a corner of the page he was on. The picture on the page interests him, specifically the way that the two kids were staring up defiantly at the camera.
The boy looked angry, even downright murderous, strange but understandable behavior for someone who had been caught in a fire. His green eyes were slitted and his mouth was set into a savage snarl; the ghost hunter could practically hear the cursing coming from the paper. On the other hand, the little girl was completely limp, even unmoving in the older boy's arms. She was dead, if he was judging it right.
And typically, he was right.
He flips the page thoughtfully, looking for another picture of the teenager to see if he could find him later on in Twilight Town. If he could get a first hand source, the information could be invaluable. He could even find out what types of ghosts he was dealing with; it would be pretty horrible to lead Pence into danger just because he misjudged the species of spirit. But he wouldn't be talking to the girl. There would be no point in trying to find her.
After all, the girl's ghost was sitting inside of his suitcase.