Spirit of Fall

Chapter 20 Forgotten But Never Gone

~Cinder’s POV~

Damn! Got my assed handed to me again. I rarely get to train with Pitch, but it’s even rarer to beat him. When was the last time I beat him in a match? Damn it! I can’t even remember!

So after my training with Pitch, I was finally able to come out and find something fun to do. Took me awhile to decide where to go. Pitch didn’t want me to be close to where the guardians were since he said he was waiting for the right moment to fight them together, so I’ll be roaming the other side of the globe for now.

I decided to take a trip to North America. I’m not sure why, but I had this urge to go to this place somewhere in the East. My instincts seemed to have a mind of its own or something because it kept leading me to this specific place. Before I knew it, I found myself in Virginia... I think. My knowledge of this world was scarce since helping Pitch was top priority. There was hardly time for Pitch to teach me everything about the world as we were always training and talking about his plans.

Not sure how I found my way here, but according to the sign in front of a town, I’m in a place called Blacksburg. The name sound nostalgic, but I didn’t remember ever coming to this place. Maybe I did, but forgot. Who knows.

Alright. Now that I’m here, let’s find something fun to do!

I started to fly over the town to find some people to scare the crap out of. That’s when I spotted some potential preys.

Well well well, what do I have here? Three drunken teenagers with beer bottles in hand. They didn’t look like they were any older than I am, so they might be underage drinkers. Nice! They were naughty children and what do we do with naughty children? Naughty children get punished.

One kid had bleached spiky hair that reminded me of a porcupine. The other two... hippo-boy and foxman. They seemed to be in a get up that reminded of gangsters or bikers, because of their black jacket. Trying to look intimidating, huh? Yep! Bunch of beastly kids that needs to be tamed. Oh this was going to be fun!

The three teenagers were walking down the streets. It has been only a few hours since the sun disappeared from the sky. They were already drunk, but still able to walk home if they don’t get caught by the cops first of course. Their sluggish uncoordinated walk was very obvious even from a distant. Best of luck to see how long they would last. I give it...half an hour? Give or take. I almost considered letting them go to watch a cop make them walk in a straight line, not that it was needed. They looked like they couldn’t walk in a straight line and chew bubble gum even without the liquor’s influence. Too bad I’m not so patient. Yes, Pitch complained about that flaw of mine, but I never said I was ashamed of it, did I?

“Man! Those couples were so easy to scare the money out of them. Let’s go to some bar and paaarteee!” The Porcupine guy said loudly from excitement while wobbling left and right due to the alcohol influence.

“I’m surprised that you were able to sneak out some of your dad’s beers. Won’t he be mad?” The Hippo-boy asked the sharp and pointy face guy in amazement.

“He won’t notice a few bottles missing. He’s too drunk most of the time to count them,” replied Foxman with this smug on his face. “Besides, with this baby here, we’ll be able to go anywhere.” He waved a laminated card in the air. It was a fake id card with its face bearing some resemblance to the guy. “Nicked it from that sore loser yesterday.” His voice was already slurred with some of his words becoming unintelligible.

Looks like they’re quite drunk, so their brains will be open to almost anything. Basically to make this understandable, they will be able to see the things they didn’t usually see. Why do you think drunkards always say they see things that others can’t?

Oh this was going to be good. They won’t be seeing this coming. I conjured up three saber-toothed cat smogs behind them. Their burning eyes were staring at the three teenagers eagerly, excited to find some prey to chase.

Growl

“What the hell was that? Was that your stomach, man?” The Porcupine guy asked the Hippo-boy.

“Nuh-uh. I just had five hamburgers twenty minutes ago,” the Hippo-boy defended himself. Then he turned towards Foxman. “Maybe it was you.”

“Nope. Not me,” denied Foxman.

“Then where the hell was that...” before the porcupine guy could finish his sentence, the same sound they heard earlier could be heard from behind.

Growl

All three boys turned around and they all stared in complete horror.

The saber-toothed cats were already right behind them, showing their long fangs intimidatingly. Dark grey smoke floated of out their skeletal bodies like some kind of demon that came out of a horror movie. Then one of the cats opened its sharp toothed jaws and roared.

Roar!

“AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! RRRRUUUUUUNNNNNNN!!!” Porcupine guy screamed at the top of his lungs. Wow, never knew his scream was that high pitch with that appearance of his.

The three boys immediately threw their bottles of beer and dashed for their lives while the saber-toothed cats chased behind them. The boys were screaming like mad banshees as they ran through the streets.

There were also some people walking down the sidewalks, but none of them could see the smogs. So the only thing they saw was three crazy teenagers screaming down the street for no reason.

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! SOMEBODY!” Screamed Porcupine guy.

“LARGE CATS WITH TEETH ARE CHASING US!” The Hippo-boy also screamed.

“They’re saber-toothed tigers, idiot!” Corrected Foxman.

They’re not saber-toothed tigers, they’re saber-toothed cats! Look it up on Google, pea-brains. Who’s the idiot now?

The boys continued to run and scream from the terrifying zombified prehistoric cats. They even ran through people and bumped quite a few onto the ground. One man even dropped his wig and was cursing at the teenagers furiously.

“Out of my way!” The Porcupine guy shouted at anybody in front of him that was an obstacle. “Can’t you people see we’re being god damn chased here!”

Then Porcupine guy made a sudden turn into an alley. Foxman almost ran passed it, but was able to jump back and followed the guy. Hippo-boy was having a tougher time keeping up with his weight slowing him down, but he also made it into the alley.

Since it was dark in the alley with barely any lights, the teenagers didn’t see a pile of trash can in their way and crashed into them.

Crash! Bam! Bang!

The sound of the crash was very loud and echoed throughout the alley. Trash of all kinds went flying and scattered everywhere.

The loud racket also caught the attention of a police officer who was on patrol and walking down the street. When the officer heard the noisy crash, he quickly ran into the alley where he heard the racket came from.

“The hell happened here?” demanded the officer when he flashed his flashlight at the three teenagers buried in the garbage and, man, were they in a mess! Not to mention, woah, smelly.

Porcupine guy had not one, nor two, but five banana peels on his head and shoulders. That must be a record!... Holy shit! A rat just popped out of his jacket!

Hippo-boy had an empty potato chip bag over his head and... Oh my Smogs! There was a half eaten chicken leg in his mouth! Ugh! Gross!

Foxman, on the other hand, had rotten eggs smeared all over his clothes and head. Oh the stench! His smell rivals even a skunk. Hell! Even a skunk would fall in love with him at the first sniff of that disgusting rotten smell.

Seeing the sight of those teenagers made the officer freeze in bewilderment.

“Yes, Lord! Finally! Officer, save us!” Porcupine guy quickly jumped out of the garbage pile and hugged the police officer around the legs.

And he wasn’t the only one. Even Foxman and Hippo-boy jumped in and wrapped themselves around the poor dumbfounded officer.

“Please! Those giant cats are going to eat us!” Begged Hippo-boy.

“We don’t want to be cat food!” cried Foxman.

“What hell are you boys talking about? What giant cats? And get the hell off of me!” demanded the officer, completely confused by the teenagers’ action and trying to shake the kids off. I can tell by the look on the officer’s face and him pinching his nose that he wasn’t too happy getting a group hug from these smelly teenagers.

“Those giant cats over there!” Porcupine guy pointed in the direction they were running from, but when he looked down the alley, there was nothing in sight.

All boys’ jaws dropped in shock and confusion.

“Where’d they go? They were right behind us a minute ago!” Cried Porcupine guy.

“Yeah! And they were saber-toothed tigers, but they were nothing but bones and smoke!” Foxman quickly described the beasts.

“And they had fiery eyes, too!” Added Hippo-boy.

“We swear they were right behind us!” Porcupine guy shook the officer in panic, trying to convince him that what they saw was real.

“Wait a minute, boys. Is that alcohol I smell?” Demanded the officer smelling the alcohol from the guy’s breath. “Have you boys been drinking?”

“Uh...” All three teenagers went silent.

“Now I think I know what we have here. You boys have been drinking and imagined you saw something crazy. That would explained your craziness,” The Officer hypothesized. “And you boys are underage. You guys are in a lot of trouble and I need to contact your parents, so you better come to the station obediently or else.”

“What? Wait a minute, officer! We weren’t...” Porcupine man was trying to come up with an excuse to get himself out of this situation when he heard something that made his whole body shiver.

Growl...

All three teenagers looked back, saw nothing, looked at the officer, who didn’t show any sign that he heard that growl, and...

“Yes! Please! Bring us to the station! Call our parents! Even put us in jail if you can! Just get us outa here!!!” They all pleaded in terror while clinging on the officer for dear life.

The officer was now officially stupefied by the teenagers unreasonable cry and plea. Never had he ever had someone asked to be put in jail willingly. This was definitely his first. Seeing how the boys were going crazy and losing their minds for no reason, the officer had no choice but to bring the crying teenagers with him while they were glued behind him, not an inch further.

“Don’t you kids know personal space!” he shouted in annoyance.

Not far away from this beautiful scene, I was laughing my ass off. I’ve been following them from the beginning and was hanging upside down from my lantern pole from laughing so hard I lost my balance. Oh lord! That was awesome! Now that was a great prank!

After trying to regain my breath after almost suffocating myself from laughing so much, I started to look for my next prey. Now who to scare? While scanning the streets of the little town, I spotted a man walking alone. He seemed to be carrying something like a bouquet of flowers in his arms. Not that big nor was it small. Giving it to a girlfriend? Who cares. He’s my next target.

The man had short sandy blond hair and wore a white long sleeve button down shirt and brown pants. Kinda formal and not at the same time.

He walked down the streets and seemed to be heading towards the forest. Why the hell was he going there? Out of curiosity and also the urge to scare him, I followed not far behind him. In the meantime, I’ll just find the right time to conjure something that would scare the crap out of this guy. The thing about scaring was...once you start scaring, you can’t stop. The thrill of watching my prey’s hearts stop... Well, no point in killing your prey. If you keep them alive, that means you can always come back to scare them again. It’s like an all you can eat scare buffet except there’s no price to it. It’s like an itch on your back you can’t get rid of. No matter how many times you scratch it, it gets worse. Always thinking of new schemes to frighten someone can be fun. Sometimes, it took more effort to scare. I don’t mind. That just meant more planning and enjoying the results even more.

As we got further into the forest, I got more and more confused to why he came here. Where the hell was this guy going in the middle of the forest? Is he seriously going on a date with someone in the middle of this creepy forest in the middle of the night? ... Genius! I’m starting to like this guy already. Too bad I have to humiliate this guy in front of his girlfriend. In which I didn’t feel guilty whatsoever.

For some odd reason, the forest felt familiar like I knew this place. That can’t be right. I’ve never been here before. Yet, it felt like I knew the trees and rocks.

Finally, we arrived at some opening in the forest and there was this cliff before us. There was a large pile of rocks and dirt coming out of what looked like some manmade entrance. It seemed to be an entrance of a mine of some sort, but caved in a long time ago.

And again with this familiar feeling as if I knew this place, but this time, I felt uneasy. I didn’t like this place for some reason. Being here made me feel like something bad had happened here before. What did humans call that? Intuition? I’m not too sure where that word came from in my memory, but it was there. A gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach gave it away of how much the place discomforted me. The forest looked like any other forest, well, besides that there was a city near it, which is odd in this era. Focus Cinder, remember the plan? Scare the shit out of the fool. It’s not that hard. What the hell was wrong with me today!?! The hell was with this feeling?!

While I was busy whacking my brain to get rid of that stupid nervous feeling, the man walked up to the cliff and stood there as if he was looking at something. That’s when I noticed the small gravestone lying in front of the pile of rocks.

A grave? Why the hell was there a gravestone in the middle of the forest? From the look of the pile of dirt and rocks from the mine, someone must’ve gotten buried here when the mine collapsed. Wow, that must’ve sucked. Hm, wonder who the poor fella was. If he was alive, maybe I would have some fun scaring the hell out of him before his natural death. Must have been a mine worker who was too attached to his working place for his own good.

The man kneeled down and placed the bouquet of flowers in front of the gravestone. Then he took out a couple of candles he brought with him and lit them up with a match stick. They were the short, but wide kind. I like to think of them as chubby candles.

“It’s been awhile, hasn’t it,” the man spoke. “Sorry I didn’t come sooner, Jack.”

Jack? Did he mean Jack Frost? That can’t be right. The icemaker was hella older than this grave! There was no way this grave would belong to the snow-making machine. That coal mine’s existence probably wasn’t even realized back when the old snowball lived. That made me wonder how old he was exactly. Possibly as old as this country itself. Must be someone with the same name. Yeah, that must be right. Jack’s a freakin’ common name. A boring name that would never make people look up twice. Like John or George.

“Honestly, I was scared to come here.” The man mumbled almost to himself. “I couldn’t find the guts to face you again after what happened those years ago. I kept blaming myself after you died. I always thought it was my fault. If I wasn’t so immature and an idiot, I wouldn’t have suggested to come to this mine.”

Oh! So this guy was involved with the mine incident. Interesting...

“Heck! I was one hell of a mess for so long. I couldn’t stop blaming myself and I stopped caring about what happened to me. I didn’t even care about my future, because I thought I deserve it for taking away yours.”

Strange, why did I feel depress for this guy? How should one insignificant human being mean anything to me? I scare people for that feeling of uncertainty and that uncertainty was being handed to me on a platter. Heck! Why did I even feel like I know this guy? At first, I thought I’ve seen him before. But after hearing him talk about his past, it felt like there was something familiar about the mine incident. Who was this guy?

“But I had that dream of you scolding me and I finally was able to stand on my feet again. Not sure if it was just a dream in my head, but if it was really you who came to me then... Thanks... Thank you, Jack. I was able to find the courage to forgive myself and move on.

“You were always the one to pull me back on my feet when I’m down. You always have been since we were little kids. I still remember that stunt you pulled during our summer camp in fourth grade. Just because the girl I had a crush on insulted me, you went and let loose a whole box full of lizards in her bed. Man, you always seem to manage to make me feel better,” he laughed as he reminisced of the old days. “When I feel depress, you always make me laugh. When I get bored, you always find ways to have fun. When I get scared, you always make me feel that everything will be alright.”

Suddenly, a tear ran down his cheek as he went on about his past. He smiled sadly to himself and his memories as he spoke.

“I wish you were still here, Jack. There hasn’t been a day which I didn’t think that. I wonder what would it be like if you were still alive. A guy like you doesn’t deserve to be dead. The world could sure use more people like you. This sad, sad world.” He wiped a single tear from his eye. “People who know when it’s okay to smile and move on. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Did you know you have a sister?

“Well, you were already gone before she was born, but I heard she’s quite the troublemaker like you. You two would’ve probably gotten along just fine and drive your mother mad.” Then he laughed to himself at the idea before he went silent for awhile.

“I haven’t visited your family for years so I don’t really know much about her nor have I seen her. I probably should see them sometime. It’s probably time that I visit them after all those years. They were like a second family to me and they too said that I was like a second son to them. Even you, Jack. You were like a brother I never had. We were always together no matter where we go. I wish you were still here, Jack. I wish I can see you again.”

After he said that, there was another long silent. Then the man got up, said goodbye to this Jack in front of the grave, and left. As he walked away, he did turn around once to take one last look at the grave before he disappeared into the forest.

I jumped down from a tree that I have been watching from when the man was talking. I intended to scare the shit out of the guy, but now... Something happened. Maybe it was his face. Or that he was already leaving and there was nothing much I could do to bring him back. Maybe the fact that the guy was more concern about the grave than anything else dragged me down. I didn’t feel like doing it anymore. Just lost the mood, I guess. I mean, it would be pointless to scare a guy who was already depressed, right?

Suddenly, I felt something tickling my cheek. When I touched my cheek out of reflex, I felt something wet. What the hell!?! Am I crying!?! Why the hell am I crying for?!! I quickly rubbed my eyes with my sleeve to wipe out the tears. Just a human. Just a mortal. He’ll die some day. Just like everything on this planet. Shit! All I did was listen to that stupid sappy story from that guy and I started crying for some reason! That guy didn’t even have anything to do with me! I’m a spirit! I must have been a hundred years older than him, right? I’ve been with Pitch since as long as I can remember. There was no way I can know that man.

I stared at the grave that the man was talking to and saw a name carved on it.

Jack O. Lanternson

Why did that name sounded familiar?

Without warning, there was this aching pain in my head.

“Argh!” Oh god! What the hell?!! Shit!

I clutched my head in pain. It felt like something was pounding my head like it wanted to barge out. God! My head felt like it was about to explode!

Pumpkin!

Who was that?

Suddenly, an image of a girl appeared in my mind. She was a little girl, probably around three years old, looking at me with a big smile on her face. She had this light brown hair and shiny green eyes.

One second, she was in my head and then ‘Poof!’ She was gone. The pain also disappeared with that strange image. What was that? What did that image mean? Who was that girl?

Not wanting to go through that pain again, I quickly flew off. I was heading back to the Underground Lair. I didn’t feel like pranking anymore. I just wanted to get back home where there’s no sappy stories of the past and unknown little girls appearing in my head for no reason. I was so getting outta here. My heart was still pounding as I zoomed over the skies, trying to ignore the headache still going on in my head.


~Abby’s Side~

It’s been several hours since she escaped from Pitch’s lair. The sun already rose hours ago and Abby was getting tired from riding on the black stallion for so long. Her poor rear was already aching from the hours of riding.

They were still traveling through the forest and have been for hours. The rays of the sun was shining through the thick leaves of the trees. The shade from the leaves was helping to cool down the temperature within the forest. It was nice and cool.

There were also sound of birds singing and insect chirping. The small breeze that blew through there also helped create a refreshing cool wind. The sound of rustling leaves and grass was quite calming and tranquil.

“Whe ar we?” asked Abby in an awkward pronunciation.

The wisp floating beside her shook its head that it too didn’t know.

Of course, the black stallion didn’t answer nor did it even try to. It’s been acting like that since the Nightmares attacked them.

Since it didn’t look like Abby was going to get any answers, she decided to just stay quiet.

After about twenty minutes, Abby was getting so bored that she was nodding off. Her eyes were getting heavy and her consciousness kept slipping off here and there. If she wasn’t careful, she could’ve easily fallen off the horse.

Just when she was nodding off again on her probably tenth time, the black stallion made a sudden stop. Abby jolted in surprise and woke up in confusion.

“Ar we they yet?” Abby asked.

The wisp also blabbered in confusion.

The black stallion’s ears were perked up and twitching left, right, and front as if it could hear something close by.

As Abby stared at the stallion, hoping for answers, the horse suddenly kneeled down with its front legs. Then its hind legs, so now it was lying down. The stallion turned its head to look at Abby as if it was trying to say that it was time to get down, so Abby complied.

She got off with some difficulty due to her small body. She kinda slipped a bit when she got off and fell on her little rear lightly.

“Oof!” She exclaimed.

The wisp flew towards her and chattered in worry like it was asking if she was alright.

“I’m okay,” she assured the wisp. Then she turned to the stallion, wondering what they were supposed to do now. But when she did, the black stallion was gone.

It disappeared without a trace.

Abby didn’t hear it go nor did she even felt it leave. It was still here a second ago and now it was just... gone. It was like it disappeared into thin air!

Eh? The wisp exclaimed in surprise, wondering where the stallion went.

“Horsey? Whe you go?” Abby cried out, looking for the black horse. “Horsey!”

Abby kept looking around and called out to the horse in desperation. They didn’t know where they were nor did they know where to go. Did the stallion just left them here just like that?

Snap!

Then they heard the snap of a twig and they quickly turned around to where the sound was coming from.

“Horsey?” Abby called out, hopefully.

First, there was a sound of rustling bushes and then voices could be heard.

“Who’s there?” The voice called out. “Hey, I think I heard girl shouting from over there!” The voice seemed to be talking to someone.

“What? Why would a girl be all the way out here?” Asked another voice.

From what Abby could make out from the voices, they sounded like boys.

When the wisp heard the voices, it quickly hid inside Abby’s hood. Not sure why it should hide, but it hid anyways for precaution. Not sure what kind of precaution though.

Then walking out from a bush, a boy with short brown hair and eyes stared at her in surprise.

“I was right! There is a girl here!” The boy cried out. When he spoke, Abby noticed that he had a tooth missing.

“Really?” Then another boy came out from behind him. This one had short blond hair and wore large red glasses over his blue eyes. This boy was also shorter than the brown hair boy and looked kinda nerdy.

“What are you doing here?” Asked the brown hair boy.

“I don’ know,” Abby replied. “Horsey brot me here.”

“Horsey?” The glasses boy stared at her, confused. “There’s no horses here.”

“Well, if you’re lost, why don’t you come with us. It’s kinda dangerous out here, so it’s better if we go to my place,” invited the brown hair boy.

“Are you sure? Maybe her parents are around here. Shouldn’t we try finding her parents first?” suggested the glasses boy.

“True,” realized the brown hair boy. “Where’s your parents... uh...”

“Abby,” she introduced herself. “Mommy and daddy arn’t here. I wanna go home.” Then Abby started to tear up and was about to release a waterfall of cries, when the brown hair boy quickly acted on instinct.

“It’s alright Abby. We’ll get you home. Where do you live?” He asked.

“Blackbug, Wormginia,” answered Abby, sniffing.

“Say what now?” The glasses boy was dumbfounded, never heard of such a place.

“I think she meant Virginia, though I don’t think I’ve heard of Blackbug,” thought the brown hair boy. “I’ll look it up when we get home.”

“Virginia? That’s kinda far from here!” Realized the glasses kid, shocked.

“Whe am I?” Asked Abby, curious.

“You’re in Burgess, Pennsylvania,” answered the brown hair boy. “And I’m Jamie. Jamie Bennett.”



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