Chapter 13 Shadows and Nightmares
It was a still snowy winter in January and in the forest beside a town, a little girl with light brown hair and in a pink hooded jacket and red pants was wandering through the trees in search for someone.
“Pumpkin!” She yelled out. Her voice echoed through the forest, but there was no reply.
It’s been so many days since the last time she had seen her big brother and his pretty light friends. Not even the guy with white hair with the same name as her brother had been coming to play either. They haven’t come for so long that she became impatient and decided to go into the forest herself.
She had been wandering in the forest for about an hour already and there were no sign of her brother or the pretty lights. She wondered where they could’ve gone.
“Pumpkin?” She called again. Silence.
Abby was getting more and more depress and tired after wandering the forest for so long. She thought of going back home, but she couldn’t remember how to get back. She had wandered too deep into the forest that she didn’t recognized any of the trees or landmarks.
There was a sudden loud snap of a twig breaking. Abby jumped and quickly turned around. She hoped that it might be her brother, but when she looked around, she didn’t see anybody.
“Pumpkin?” She called out, hoping that it was her brother was playing a prank again. There weren’t any replies, but she heard shuffling of leaves. Was her brother playing hide-and-seek?
Then that’s when she heard her brother’s voice.
“Pumpkin!” She called out cheerfully.
Abby, come here...
“Pumpkin? Where are you?” She asked, a little confused to why she didn’t see her brother.
Come here... Follow me...
“Pumpkin? Don’ weave me,” she started to cry out, afraid that her brother will leave her. She quickly ran to where the voice was coming from. Not knowing that the voice she heard was not her brother’s and it was leading her deeper and deeper into the forest.
Nine days had passed and she was not seen since then.
My chest was burning and my brain was buzzing as I searched through the forest, hoping to find any sign of my little sister. I swore I looked everywhere in the forest that Abby could possibly wandered to. The wisps were also scattered all over the place searching for her. We searched for hours until the sky was getting dark. We couldn’t find a single clue to where Abby could be. I was getting more and more desperate as more time passed by.
Where was she? Where’d she go?
The sun was already gone from the sky and the forest was pitch dark. Unfortunately, the moon was covered by the clouds, so it was going to be total darkness here tonight. On the other hand, I had my lantern and my fire power, so I had no problem with light sources.
“Abby!” I’ve yelled out through the forest. No luck. I’ve been doing this for the pass several hours. I was getting tired physically and mentally.
Finally, I went back to the old oak tree where my small house was since it was the wisps’ and my meeting place. When I arrived at the oak tree, the wisps started to appear and gather around me.
“Did you guys find anything?” I asked, hopefully.
They answered sadly.
My hope dispersed and I felt my legs weakened. I fell down onto my knees in total exhaustion and hopelessness. I was lost. I didn’t know what else to do. I looked everywhere, but there was no sign of her at all.
Suddenly, I heard something in the distance.
Klopp klopp klopp klopp
My whole body froze when I heard the familiar sounds of hooves hitting the ground. I couldn’t believe it at first, but the sounds were clear and distant.
And there were more than one.
My mind must be playing tricks with me since this wasn’t a dream. I even pinched myself to check. It hurt.
The wisps noticed my strange behavior and looked confused. When they heard the sounds of hooves and saw my pale face, they knew something must be wrong.
I seriously hoped that those hooves were coming from normal horses, but what was a herd of horses doing in this forest. There weren’t any horses around here in the first place!
I felt chills going down the back of my neck and my instinct yelled for me to run. I knew right away that my nightmare had just became reality.
“They’re coming...,” I said through my shaky voice. “RUN!”
I flew as fast as I could through the trees. It almost felt like the nightmares I had before, but this time it was different. I can fly and I wasn’t alone. The wisps looked scared and confused as they flew behind me, not knowing what we were running away from. We kept flying without knowing where we were going, but we could hear the sounds of hooves thundering on the ground, closer and closer.
Klopp! Klopp! Klopp! Klopp! Klopp! Klopp! Klopp!
The cry of horses could be heard behind us and the wisps began to freak out at their unknown pursuers.
“Just keep flying!” I yelled.
Klopp! Klopp! Klopp! Klopp! Klopp! Klopp!
The thundering hooves continued to follow behind us.
Then I remembered something and turned around to face the beasts. I could see several dark black shapes of horses running towards us just like in my nightmares. But this time, I can use my fire powers, so I sent a half a dozen fire wolves at them.
The fire wolves dashed towards the black horses like the hunters they were. The black horses seemed to stop in their tracks in surprise, but then they dashed forward again, unafraid. When they clashed into each other, the wolves pounced, clawed, and bit into the black horses while the other side kicked, rammed, and stomped onto them. It was a ferocious battle of fire and darkness.
There were some of the black horses that slipped through the battle and headed for me. When they galloped into the air, I felt my heart froze.
Great! They can fly!?!
They headed towards me and my wisps. Their glowing evil eyes glared at us menacingly and their breathing was loud and hard.
I quickly shot several fireballs the size of basketballs and blew up three of the beasts. They burst into a puff of... black sand?
I didn’t get to sink in the idea that the black horses were made of black sand in time, because there were still two more coming our way. I flew into the air to dodge them and sent a wave of fire blades back. Both were hit.
Yay! The wisps cheered
Aaaah! They screamed.
We looked down at the ground below and saw more black horses coming towards me. The fire wolves were being outnumbered and were getting taken out one by one. I immediately created a large flock of fire eagles and sent them at the horses.
The flaming large birds were the size of cars and there were almost hundreds of them! I was so desperate to defend myself I just made so many out of instinct. The large fire birds swooped down towards the black horses with their sharp talons spread out. The flaming birds were clawing and pecking upon reaching their enemies.
Even though the fire eagles were keeping most of the black sand beasts busy, somehow, more seemed to appear out of nowhere. Even I had to throw several fireballs, fire slash, and fire shields around the wisps and myself when the black beasts came at us. I kept defending myself as more and more of the dark beasts kept coming. No matter how many I destroyed, more just kept coming.
The fire eagles were also going out one by one as they get more and more outnumbered. Where were these black horses coming from?
I was also getting more exhausted by the minute. It looked like I might’ve used up too much of my powers and I was running dry fast, but these horses won’t stop coming!
“You guys get into the lantern! Quick!” I ordered the wisps. I won’t be able to hold out much longer and right now I just want to get these guys in a safe place.
The wisps immediately flew into the lantern, so now I was alone in this battle. I continued to blow up as many black horses as possible. I just needed the right moment to escape, but I was losing time fast.
The last of the fire eagles was gone and I was entirely alone, fighting this hopeless battle. My body was getting exhausted and I could feel my reflex getting slower. It finally gotten to the point where one of the dark beasts knocked me from behind. Being weak as I am, I was knocked out for a few seconds in shock and pain. I fell several feet through the sky. I regained my consciousness long enough to see a large black cloud of black horses diving towards me. My mind was too tired to think straight or fast enough to come up with something, so it wasn’t long before the dark horses surrounded me in a spiral sphere and engulfed me in total darkness.
And I lost consciousness once again.
I swore in Russian when I jumped in shock from the sound of something smashed to pieces. When I looked around the table where I was carving a new toy model out of ice, I saw an old lamp on the ground, broken to pieces. That lamp was an old and rusty oil lamp with a vase shaped glass at the top to keep the flame from burning anyone. I haven’t used that old thing for so long, so it was sitting on the shelf, catching dust.
Not sure how it fell over since there was no breeze, but I could feel something was wrong. I knew right away that this must be an omen. A bad one at that.
How did I know?
I felt it in my belly, of course!
Also, when I looked at the broken lamp, I thought of Lantern. Something must’ve happened to him.
“Yeti!” I called loudly for the yetis.
Two yetis came running when they heard me calling them. They looked at me as if wondering what I wanted.
“Find Lantern!” I ordered. “If you can’t find him. Find Frost. I have very bad feeling zhat somezhing not good is happening again.”
My whole body felt stiff and sore. Not to mention, I seemed to be lying on some cold hard floor. There were loud chatters all around me, but it sounded almost distant. As I slowly regain conscious, the chatters got louder. I slowly opened my eyes as my head started to feel more awake. Then I pushed my self up into a sitting position with my legs cross.
“Ugh... What happened?” I wondered.
It turned out that the loud chatters were my wisps. It seemed that they’ve been trying to wake me up for ages were relieved to see me conscious now. They also seemed worried and nervous about something.
That’s when I noticed my surroundings. I looked around to see where I was and I found out that I was not in Blacksburg anymore. I wasn’t sure where this place was since I’ve never seen this place before. It was like an underground palace. There were also some light shinning from the ceiling, but most of the place was covered by the shadows. The place was cold and strangely silent. I didn’t see anything alive at all. There were several cages hanging from the ceiling, but there was nothing inside. Several bridges and stairways made of stone were everywhere. There were also stone walls and structures all over the place. The place was like some ancient underground maze going in every direction. When I stood up, I felt the emptiness in my hand.
“Where’s my lantern?” I wondered out loud, a little panic in my voice.
The wisps quickly blabbered excitedly and flew behind me. I quickly turned around and found my lantern pole lying on the ground not too far away from me. Phew! Thought I lost it.
“Thanks, guys,” I thanked the wisps. Then I picked the lantern pole up and held it tightly in my grasp. I didn’t want to lose it again or I would feel like a part of myself was gone. “And now it’s time to figure out how I got here in the first place.”
I tried to recall how I got here. I started to remember the black horses attacking me and I tried to fight back, but lost miserably. That’s when I remembered what happened before the dark beasts attacked. I was looking for Abby!
“Shoot! We were supposed to find Abby! I have to get back home quick, but first, where the hell am I anyways?” I looked around, confused. How am I supposed to find my way home when I can’t even find the exit from this place?
I looked at the wisps if they had any ideas, but they frown and shook their heads to show that they too didn’t know the way out. Great! I guess there’s no choice but to look around the place until we find it.
So my wisps and I roamed around the place for awhile, trying to find the glowing exit sign somewhere. We walked the stairways and down. We crossed several bridges and walked through just as many archways. The more I walked, the more I felt lost.
Where the hell was the map of this place!?!
Just when I was about to get really frustrated, I heard something move in the shadows.
I turned around in reflex, but I didn’t see what it was in time. My wisps squeaked in surprised since they also felt and heard the movement and began to look around nervously.
Then I saw something at the corner of my eye... Something black. I turned around immediately, but I still didn’t see it clearly. I started to look around, hoping to catch the glimpse of what it was. I turned left, nothing. I turned right, nothing again.
My wisps were also getting freaked out and began to hide behind me for security. My protective instincts began to kick in and my awareness for my surroundings started to increase. I thought of those black horses I fought earlier so I was prepared for anymore surprise attack from them. I looked left and right, prepared to defend myself and my wisps. Then I heard a voice from behind me.
“Are you looking for something?”
“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!” HOLY CHOCOLATE CHIP PUMPKIN PIE!!!
Both the wisps and I screamed our lungs out and jumped into the air in shock. I hovered in the air while the wisps hid behind me, shaking in fear. I looked down at who it was and saw a dark figure looking at me with interest.
“Jumpy, aren’t you? Did I scare you?” A black hair and pale skin man in a long black robe stood below me. His amber yellow eyes stared at me with fascination and there was a mysterious sneer across his face. Something about this man seemed suspicious and frightening. I didn’t know why, but I felt like I met him before. But that can’t be right since I would recognized a pale man in a black robe like him right away, so why?
“Uh... Pretty much,” I replied, still a little shaky from before. “So who are you?...Uh, I’m Jack O. Lanternson by the way... Do you live here? Am I trespassing?”
“I’m Pitch Black,” answered the man, “And yes, this is my home, but you’re not trespassing. I was the one who had you brought here.” He smiled at, but for some reason it looked more like a sneer to me.
“Pitch Black?” I whispered, realizing who he was. Frost and the other Guardians told me about him before! “You’re the guy who tried to bring fear and nightmares to the kids when the last time Frost and the guys fought you!... And what do you mean you brought me here?”
“I see you’ve heard of me from those losers. I’m touched,” he said, sounding pleased in a creepy way.
“What do you want?!” I demanded, suspiciously.
Suddenly, his body turned to black smoke and flew around me before he appeared from within it. “Franked, aren’t you?” He said right next to my ear with his hands on my shoulder.
The wisps screamed loudly in shock which made me jumped as well. He came behind us too freaking fast!
“I just wanted to meet this new spirit in person. I’ve been watching you for some time now,” he said as he floated around as if he was walking on air. Well, actually, he literary was walking on air.
“Watching? You’ve been spying on me?” I demanded in shock.
“Not spying. Observing,” he corrected me.
How’s that any different?
“I’ve notice that you enjoy playing tricks and scaring people, don’t you,” he said, still walking around.
“Well... yeah... but not to the point where they’re having nightmares like you do!” I snapped back.
“Oh but what’s the difference? We both enjoy scaring people for fun. Making them terrified. Making them scream in horror. It’s so much fun,” he said gleefully. “Don’t you agree, Jack.”
“NO!... well... not entirely. I scare people, yes, but making them have nightmares is a-whole-nother thing!” I argued back. “My pranks are the kinds that are just for kicks and laughs. The kind we can joke around. Yours makes them miserable!”
“So you think your scares are harmless? You may not realize, but each time when you scare someone, it leaves a mark of fear inside their hearts,” he explained in his evil amusing tone.
I went silent.
“You can’t tell people it was a joke since they can’t see or hear you. They would think it’s something evil or demonic like they always do when something frightening and can’t be explain happens. Even if it was small, it’s still there and it can grow over time. They would become wary. Suspicious. Afraid.” Suddenly, he appeared behind me again, because I could feel his presence and his hands on my shoulders. Then he whispered in my ear in a low cold voice, “And that, Jack, turns into nightmares.”
“Shut up!” I swung around and threw a flames.
Pitch already disappeared before the fire hit and reappeared again on a stone bridge below me.
“You may try to deny all you want, but I know that you already accepted that fact. You can’t run away from the truth, boy,” he stated with a menacing sneer. “No matter what you do, it will only lead to fear.”
Then, appearing from the shadows of the dark buildings were several black horses. The very same ones that attacked me in the forest in Blacksburg. I stared at the dark menacing creatures as they gathered around Pitch like a dark army behind its evil master.
I stared at the black beasts that stood around the dark man in nervousness. I could also hear my wisps shivering in fear behind me.
“You have the potential, Lanternson. You have the desire and the ability to bring fear, but yet you hold yourself back out of guilt. It’s such a waste of talent,” he said in a fake pity voice.
“No! Your wrong!” I yelled at him in anger. “It’s not guilt that held me back. It’s my sense of morals! Scaring can only go so far. There’s still a limit to what’s okay and what’s not. Scaring can be fun for both sides if you know your limit.”
“You seriously believe that? I guess there’s a lot more to teach than I thought,” said Pitch.
“Teach? What?” I wondered, confused from trying to figure what he meant by that.
“I’m saying, boy, that you’ll need some training if you’re to become my right-hand man,” he answered.
Now that knocked my shoes off. He said what now?
“Right-hand man? Is this what all this kidnapping and spying was all about? You just want a henchman? Well, too bad, Mr. Black, but I ain’t signing up for that. Besides, my friends are the Guardians, your enemies, so there’s no way I’m joining you,” I coldly rejected his offer.
Then he laughed coldly as if what I said was merely a joke. “Do you seriously believe that they’re your friends? You probably don’t know this, but every time you create fear in someone, it makes me stronger.”
I stared at him in disbelief. “What?”
“You may think they’re your friends now, but when they find out that your pranks are scaring the children and making me stronger, they’ll kick you out immediately... Or maybe even try to get rid of you.”
“No...” I tried not to listen to him, but his words were slipping into my ears and into my mind.
“They’ll brand you evil and a threat to the children. Then they’ll imprison you underneath the earth... just like what they did with me,” Pitch sneered evilly as he watched me.
I felt like someone just poured a bucket of ice water over my head. I felt dread and anxiety growing inside my chest. Could it be true? Will the Guardians abandon me once they find out that I’ve been creating fear?
Like a spark of hope, I remembered the times that spent with the guardians. The fun times I spent with Frost. The pleasure of watching eggs being painted with Bunny. The assurance Sandy gave me when I was down. The warm welcome that Tooth gave me when we first met. And the time that North showed me what it meant to be a guardian. “No...” I said under my breath.
“Umm, sorry?” Pitch asked, unsure what I just said. “I didn’t catch that.”
“I said ‘No’. No matter what happens, they’re still my friends. They believe in me and I believe in them, so I’ll never turn my back on them. Go find someone else to be your henchman since I WON’T!”
“I’m sorry, but did I make it sound like you have a choice?” He stared at me with a calm expression as if he wasn’t surprise I rejected him. “I knew you wouldn’t agree since you’ve been hanging with those loser guardians for far too long, so I’ll make this clear. You will be my right-hand man, willingly or not.”
I felt chills going down my spines when he said that. Something about what he said didn’t sound very good at all.
“What do you mean? What makes you think I’ll listen to you?” I demanded, trying to keep a brave face.
“Almost two weeks ago, my Nightmares stumbled upon something interesting in a forest. I believe it was somewhere in Blacksburg,” he said with an evil grin across his face.
Now that caught my full attention. I felt something about what he said sounded familiar. And I have this really bad hunch about it too. Please let it not be what I think it might be.
With a waved of his hand, Pitch conjured a large black shadow from the ground before him. The black shadow began to form into a large sphere. When the shadow burst and evaporated, a large bird cage appeared and inside the cage was a small figure that I was too familiar with. It was a little girl with short brown hair and wore a pink hooded jacket and red pants. Her face was buried in her knee with her arms hugging her legs, She was huddled in a corner, making it hard to spot her if it wasn’t for her bright colored clothes.
“Abby!” I cried in shock. So I was right. Pitch did kidnapped her.
The wisps also exclaimed loudly and began to chatter like crazy upon seeing her.
The little girl inside the cage lifted her head when she heard us. Her face was pale and scared, but when she saw me, her expression brightened up.
“Pumpkin!” She called back. She immediately jumped onto her feet and ran to the side of the cage closest to me. “Pumpkin! Pumpkin!” She kept calling, tears forming in her eyes.
My wisps and I immediately dived down towards her, ignoring the large army of Nightmares around us. Once I got to the cage, I grabbed her hands that were sticking out from the bars, trying to reach me, and held them tightly in my hands.
“Abby, how’d you get here? Why weren’t you at home? Mom and dad are worried sick!” I told her, worriedly. The wisps also blabbered in worry around me.
“Pumpkin, I’m scwared. I wanna go hwome,” she cried.
“Everything will be fine, Abby. I’ll get you home as soon as possible,” I assured her.
But before I could completely stop her from crying, the cage was engulfed by the shadows that appeared like a large amount of black smoke. I couldn’t see anything and tried to hold onto her hands as I called her name in panic.
One second I felt her small tiny hands, the next, they were gone. The shadow disappeared and so did the cage and Abby. Inside of me, I felt like someone popped a balloon and left a shocking silent. My mind just kept replaying her scared and teary face again and again. Then I felt something burning up. It was swelling bigger and bigger.
“Now do you understand why you don’t have a choice in this matter. As long as you do what I say, no harm will fall upon that little girl, understood?” Said Pitch, staring at me with grin that said that he had already won.
Then I felt something burning up. It was swelling bigger and bigger. My whole body was heating up as if it was about to explode from all my anger. I could feel my powers leaking out and burning brightly as if my body was on fire.
I never noticed this until Frost told me once that when I get angry, my body tends to catch on fire from the outburst of energy inside of me.
And right now, I’m beyond furious.
“AAARRRRGGGHHHH!” I screamed out and flew towards Pitch. I couldn’t think of anything but wanting to beat this guy to the point where he wished he never messed with me and my sister. I wanted to burn him. Crush him. I wanted him gone.
Just when I was about to send the guy flying with a large fire blast, the Nightmares quickly gathered in front of the dark man like a shield. Some of the dark horses got blown up into billions of black sand in the process, but the rest pounced on me and kept me down on the cold hard floor. I tried to wiggle myself free, but the dark horses morphed themselves into something like a rope and tied me up. I couldn’t move at all! I tried to send another blast of flames from my body, but the black sand kept covering me every time a flame leaked out.
The wisps were able to fly away in time before the black sand hit and were crying in panic and worry for me. They tried to get closer to me, but the black sand were whipping at them, keeping them away. They couldn’t do anything, but watch with terrified faces.
“Now aren’t we a fiery one,” I heard pitch from above me. When I looked up, he was already standing in front of me and looking down with an amuse grin.
I swore and cursed furiously at him. “Let go of my sister! You ba...!”
“Tut tut tut, such foul language,” he waved his finger around in disapproval. Then he kneeled down and lifted my chin, so our eyes would connect. “Looks like I have a lot of work cut out for me, but no worries. I know a way to tame that little fire in you.”