Chapter 22 The Omen Before the Storm
“Hey guys! Where’re Abby and Sophie?!” I called to my friends. I turned around to see our group suddenly shrink in size. I can’t believe I lost them! I scratched my head in worry. That wasn’t good. They could barely talk in full sentences. Did they get lost? I mentally counted the heads in our group and realized that we were short of two people.
“Where’d they go?” Wondered Pippa.
“I thought they were right behind us,” said Monty, looking behind.
“Hey! They’re over there,” Caleb pointed in the distance behind him. Just like what he said, Abby and Sophie were running towards us.
I thought they were running to catch up, but I noticed something was wrong. The look on their faces was strange. They looked scared. One was trembling, not from the cold icy temperature since it was sunny and warm today. The other was whimpering a few words I didn’t understand. Sophie’s hair was messy and all over the place. I could barely see her frightened eyes behind the curtain of hair. When the girls came running to us, I was thinking of asking for some explanations, but...
“Wun away!” Abby screamed as she ran passed us while holding onto Sophie.
“What? Hey!” I cried out. What the heck was going on?
“Bad doggies!” Abby screamed back at us.
“Huh?” We all exclaimed, confused. We looked at each other for a second, unsure what to think. Then we all turned at the direction they came from and... What the...!?!
Is that a screaming ball of fire!?! How was that supposed to work? I stared at the flaming ball in amazement, almost distracted by how odd it was until my friends’ screams brought me back to my senses.
“What on earth is that!?!” Pippa shrieked, pointing at something behind the screaming fireball.
What the...?!! Are those wolves?... Holy cow! They’re skeletons! With smoke all over their bodies! It was like a science horror film they used to show on TV late at night.
“Oh my god! Their eyes are on fire!” Screamed Monty.
And that too.
“RUN!!!” There was no need to tell my friends twice. We ran like hell. On instinct, I swooped over and grabbed Abbey and my sister for each arm. My sister clung onto my arm like it was her lifeline and shrilled along with Abbey into both of my ears. The twins also ran but tripped over a can on the floor and crashed. Cupcake and Pippy had to rescue them and tug them on the arm while getting away from those skeleton thingies. I screamed and we all dashed away from them like we were being chased by hellhounds. Okay, maybe literary running away from possible hellhounds. No time to check that theory. We ran through the streets like our lives depended on it. The smoky wolves, or whatever they were, were chasing right behind us.
That screaming fireball was flying right between us as well. I could feel the heat blazing at our already sweaty bodies from the running. I was so happy to see that it didn’t go faster. As we ran through the streets, I ignored the weird looks the grown ups gave us. They probably thought we were just playing tag or something. My friends soon figured out that screaming was wasting energy and just ran. My sister and Abby were getting heavy, so Monty had to carry Abby for me half way through the run.
Also, no one seemed to notice that a giant ball of fire was chasing after us while screaming hysterically. I didn’t know what it was or where it came from. Once I get home, I’ll look up what that thing was in my Book of Monsters around the Globe. But right now, the only thing I can think about was... RUN!
The wolves howled behind us. The distance between us and them were getting shorter and shorter. They were going to catch up to us at any second! I was too tired to turn around and see the monsters chasing us. I could hear Cupcake losing her breath and heard her shoes squeak when she started to slow down. I saw Monty shake his head quickly at her and tried to pull her up with a wide eyed look of worry.
“All we wanted was to see the new game store! Why do we have to get chased by demon wolves!?!” Cried Caleb.
“This way!” Shouted Claude, ignoring his brother’s complaint. He turned at the corner of the street, so we followed right behind him.
Everyone made the turn as he told us and found ourselves at the ice-cream store. In front of the store, there was this gumball machine standing right next to the entrance. Suddenly, Cupcake went and pushed the gum ball machine onto the ground. The glass ball shattered and the gum-balls scattered all over the streets. The store wasn’t crowded because of the weather, but there were still lots of people turning their attention to the shattered red globe falling to the ground. People jerked upon hearing the sound of the globe’s glass clashing against the hard floor with broken glass flying everywhere. I didn’t pay attention to the owner crying out loud at the cost of the machine. A janitor rushed out of the closet and glared at us. I quickly covered my sister’s ears when the old janitor started shouting colorful choice of words. The janitor chased us kids with a mop in hand and said some things I shouldn’t say in front of my parents.
“Sorry!” I cried out loudly to both the janitor and the store owner, feeling guilty about the gumball machine.
When the wolves appeared at the corner, they slipped on the gumballs on the floor and fell over one after the other. They tried to get up, but they kept tripping again on another gumball and ended up falling onto each other. One wolf fell down and made the one next to it fall as well. The confusion among the pack gave us some time to run off. Even though, it would’ve been fun to stay and watch them tripping like that for awhile, I didn’t want to stick around when they do managed to get themselves out of that situation. It seemed that I wasn’t the only person thinking that, because everyone else was still running. After we lost the wolves in front of that ice cream store, we ran for awhile until we finally took a breather behind a large truck.
“Did we... lose... them?” Asked Pippa, breathing hard from all the running.
“I think... so,” I breathed, catching my breath.
“Oh man... what were those things?” Wondered Caleb, sitting down on the ground from exhaustion.
“Do you think maybe...” Claude trailed off as he started to look nervous at the thought at what they could be.
“I don’t think they were Nightmares,” I told them. “Remember the time when we fought Pitch Black and his Nightmares with the Guardians. The Nightmares were kinda like horse made of black sand. Those wolves were... different. They were more smoky.”
“If they’re not Nightmares, then what are they?” Demanded Cupcake, breathing hard.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. I still don’t have any idea of what they were, but I did pretty much found out first hand that they weren’t friendly animals like in those princess fairy tale stories.
“Waaaaaahhhhhhh!” Suddenly, Sophie cried out loudly. I can tell that she was seriously scared right now. “Mama! Waaaaaahhhhh!”
“Sophie, ssssshhhhhhh,” I gently grabbed her shoulders as I tried to hush her to calm down. “It’s alright. Everything’s going to be fine. They’re not going to come and get us anymore.”
Abby was also standing beside her with teary eyes. Like Sophie, she was also scared, but she seemed to be holding it in better than Sophie. She rubbed her tears with her sleeve and sniffed a few times.
“Come here, Abby” I pulled both her and Sophie into a hug in assurance. “Don’t worry. I promise I’ll protect you two, okay? I won’t let anything hurt you, so no need to be afraid anymore.”
“Abby won’...*sniff*... be afwaid... *sniff*... Abby pwomise pumpkin...*sniff*,” Abby was able to speak out through all that sniffing. “Abby mus’ be bwave for pumpkin.”
That kinda caught my interest a bit since it’s an unusual promise, but also not unheard of. Who was this pumpkin she promised to?
“Huh?” What was that? I looked up out of reflex and... “Aaaahhhhh!”
It’s the screaming fireball!...Except, it’s not screaming.
Okay, never mind.
I jumped in shock as the floating flame thingy went and hid behind Abby.
“Oh geez! What now?” Called Claude, the dark skin boy stared at me, confused. His cry made the other guys looked back at us, wondering what was going on now.
“There’s a floating fire thingy!” I pointed to Abby. When everyone stared at Abby, the fireball poked its head out from behind her back.
“Woah! Another one?!!” Cried Claude. Everyone, except Abby and Sophie, hid behind Cupcake, who didn’t look like she was appreciating us using her as a wall. I can tell from her face that she was half annoyed and half tired from this.
“Why’s everyone hiding behind me?” She demanded in annoyed tone.
“ ‘Cause your the bigg... I mean toughest looking one out of all of us,” replied Claude. He quickly caught his mistake when he noticed Cupcake giving him a warning look. Then I notice that Abby didn’t seem to be afraid of that fireball that was behind her at all. Actually, she seemed to be really friendly with it.
“Pwetty wight’s okay!” She cried out happily.
“What?” All of us older kids blurted out of surprise.
“Oooooo! Pwetty!” Said Sophie, also looking unafraid of that fire. Okay... Are we missing something here?
“Abby, you know that fireball?” I asked, feeling a little calmer now.
“Uh huh,” she nodded. “It’s pumpkin’s pwetty wights!”
Um... I still don’t think I get it. Trying to make sense of a two or three year old wasn’t easy.
Then Abby held the little fire in her palms and showed it to us to look at it closer. “Say hi, pwetty wights,” she told the fire.
It spoke! But that sounded like a ‘hee’ than a ‘hi.’ The sound was high pitch like one of those talking mice in cartoons. I was still a little skeptic about it since I wasn’t sure if the thing was harmless or not. The fireball seemed to notice my doubtful look on my face and chattered with a bunch of noises I couldn’t understand. I guess it can’t really talk, but it seemed that it can understand us.
“Now that you look at it closely, it’s not that scary,” said Monty, pushing his glasses to see it better. “Doesn’t it burn your hand?” He asked, curiously.
“No,” Abby answered.
So everyone was starting to swarm around the little flame.
“Can I touch it?”
“Wow! It’s not even hot! It’s more like warm.”
“Hey! Don’t shove!”
“You don’t shove!”
It was weird to see our group go from fearing the fire to suddenly wanting to fight for its attention. While Pippa and Cupcake were trying to pet it, Caleb and Claude were shoving at each other already. Monty was observing from the side out of curiosity. It was nice seeing the mood changed so fast from a few moments. The fire also seemed to be enjoying the attention and was purring like a cat as it rubbed itself around the girl’s fingers. I guess I have to admit it was kinda cute in its own way.
But I wondered, what were those wolves? Where did they come from? I wondered if Jack Frost and the other Guardians would know anything.
Suddenly, I heard a growl from behind me. Actually, no, from above me. I froze out of horror. Everyone else also froze as well. Since I had my back towards the truck, there was only one possible direction the sound was coming from. We all looked behind me and lifted our heads towards the top of the truck. There, standing with eyes burning with fire and smoke slithering out of its skeletal body, was the wolf that was chasing us before. While I was going to shout for us to run, more growling came from both sides.
The other two wolves appeared on each side, blocking our only escape route and preventing us from running away. There was also a wall behind us, so there was no way we can run. We were trapped! Out of fear, we started to move backwards and crowded together. I pushed Abby and Sophie into the center, trying to protect the girls from the danger as much as possible. The wolf on the truck jumped down and joined its friends on the ground. The wolves came closer and closer to us as we were pushed back into the wall. Just when I thought we were about to get pounced by these demonic wolves, a flash of blue light came flashing before us.
I suddenly felt a gust of cold air blasted my face. I covered my eyes to protect them from the cold wind and flashing light. I could hear the wolves crying out in surprise. When I opened my eyes, I saw the pavement and the side of the truck frozen with ice.
“Get away from them!” A shout came from the sky and when I looked up, a figure came falling down and stood before us. I recognized that snow white hair, blue hooded sweater, and that wooden hooked staff anywhere.
“Jack Frost!” I gasped in excitement.
“You guys stay back! I’ll deal with them,” Jack ordered us.
There was only two wolves now. The other one must’ve gotten blasted by Jack’s ice blast a second ago. The two wolves growled angrily at Jack for destroying one of their companions. Then they both jumped at him with their claws and fangs bared.
Jack quickly swung his staff and knocked one of them to the side while he side kicked the other one.
The wolves got thrown onto the pavement hard, but they still managed to get up and came dashing at him again.
Jack’s staff started to glow light blue and when he slammed his staff at one of the wolf, it blew up in flashes of light and bursted into ashes and snow. The next wolf came at him from the side, but he just flew into the air to dodge the beast. The wolf missed him by inches! Then Jack also blasted the last wolf with his ice powers and Poof! The wolf turned into ashes and snow, too. The fight was over in just a few minutes.
“Jack!” We all cheered as we ran up to him.
“Whoa! Guys! Wait a moment... Ah!”
Too late. We all slammed into him and we all fell onto the ground, laughing and hugging the guardian of fun.
“Jack, we missed you so much!”
“Where’ve you been?”
“Can you give us another snow day?”
“Get off of me first before I answer your questions! I can’t breathe!” Cried Jack.
We all immediately got off of him, so the snow spirit can get up and catch his breath.
“Sorry,” I apologized. “We got kinda carried away.”
“Nobody was hurt, right?” He asked worriedly.
“No. Just a little freaked out from getting chased by demon wolves!” Replied Claude, spreading out his hands to make a point.
“And all we wanted was to go the new game store!” Cried Caleb.
“Game store?” Jack gave them a questioning look.
“It’s nothing. Anyway, do you know what those things were?” I asked, right to the important question.
“Yeah, their called Smogs. They’re a new type of enemy that the guardians and I have been dealing with not long ago,” he explained.
“What does this mean?” Asked Pippa, looking nervous.
“Has Pitch Black returned?” Monty asked, even more nervous than Pippa.
“And Nightmares?” Added Cupcake, her face turning dark when she mentioned them.
“Slow down, guys. I can’t keep up with your questions! One question at a time,” Jack told us, scratching his head.
Then from behind us, I heard someone crying out cheerfully.
“Snowfwake!” It was Abby that cried out, but ‘snowflake’?
“Abby!?!” Jack’s eyes grew, shocked when he saw Abby running towards him and gave him a hug. The little girl squealed happily from seeing Jack while everyone else were sharing the same confused look as me.
The little fire was also chattering excitedly upon seeing the snow spirit and flew up to him. The flame flew around Jack a few times before stopping to continue talking.
Wait a minute... Do they know each other?
“Abby, what are you doing here?” Demanded Jack, looking dumbfounded. “And Lantern’s wisp is with you?” Looking more and more dumbfounded by the second.
“Abby miss snowfwake,” cried Abby, hugging his legs tightly. “Abby’s been trwying my bwest to be bwave for Pumpkin. I miss Pumpkin. Waaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!” And then she started to cry out loudly as tears were streaming down her eyes.
“What?! Uh... Wait! Don’t cry! Uh... here,” Jack picked her up and patted her on the back, trying to calm her down. “Come on, Abby. Stop crying. It’s alright now.”
The little fire also seemed to be trying to help calm the crying girl down, too. It was blabbering something that I didn’t understand to her, but it seemed like it was telling her to stop crying.
“Um... Jack?” I called him. “Do you know these two?”
“Yeah, I’ll explain later. Let’s get you kids back home first where it’s safer right now,” Jack told us.
He smiled at our group, but there was something off. His smile looked forced and his eyes looked sad for some reason.
My friends and I looked at each other and had this silent agreement that it was probably a good idea to get home, so we turned back to Jack and nodded.
Except for one person, that is.
“What about the game store?” Demanded Caleb.
“Quit it!” Snapped Cupcake, annoyed. “Can’t you just stop talking about the game store! This isn’t the time for that!”
So Caleb went silent and crossed his arms with a very unhappy look on his face.
On the way home, Jack was carrying Abby, who was now asleep, on his back. I was also in the same position as him, because Sophie fell asleep from exhaustion and I was carrying her on my back. The girls snored quietly as we walked back home. Jack also told us about the latest news on what’s been going on with the guardians and Pitch Black.
He helped explain that Abby came from a city called Blacksburg and it’s somewhere in Virginia. Her brother was a fire spirit name Jack O. Lanternson, or Lantern which Jack called him to not get themselves confused. I also began to figure out who Pumpkin was when Abby mentioned him, too. Lantern was also the spirit of fall. He was friends with Jack and the other Guardians as well, but Pitch managed to trick him to do his bidding by using Abby as a hostage. But somehow Abby was able to escape since she’s right here with us now. The only thing we were able to get out of her was that a horse helped her, which we still didn’t understand what she meant.
And just when I thought Pitch kidnapping Abby was already horrible enough, Pitch went and messed with Lantern’s memory to turn him into an evil spirit called Cinder. Now the evil spirit had no memories of being Jack O’Lantern and even hated the Guardians as well. Then there was those Smogs that were also Cinder’s minions like how Nightmares were Pitch’s.
“And this wisp here belongs to Lantern. It’s one of his pals he created with his powers,” explained Jack, looking at the wisp that was floating next to him.
“Wisp? So that’s what it’s called,” I stared at the little flame, curiously. “So are there more of it?”
“They were tons of its kind,” Jack answered with this sad tone in his voice. “But I haven’t seen them for awhile. Especially, when Cinder appeared, I haven’t seen any traces of them at all. Something must’ve happened to them. I would love to know what happened with Lantern when Pitch was controlling him, but unfortunately, I don’t speak Wispinese.”
“So does that mean Pitch has become powerful again?” Asked Pippa, looking slightly afraid.
“Probably, since he now has a henchman to help spread fear even faster,” answered Frost, darkly.
The other kids and I looked at each other worriedly. This wasn’t good news at all. Not only do we have to defend ourselves against Pitch, but his new ally, Cinder. It’s not like I could tell my mom about this and hope that she could do anything about it. My mom and my friends’ parents can’t see them. Not even the police. What kind of grown up would take us seriously if we came to them and told them this? They would just tell us that our imagination went too far and tell us to run off and play. I can’t even tell some of the kids in class because some of them stopped believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny. They would laugh at me when I started talking about Jack Frost like he was a real person. Those kids treated me like I was, what was that word they called me? Immature...
“Then what should we do?” I asked, hoping to find out if we can be of any help.
“Just do what you did last time. Don’t be afraid,” he told us with an assuring smile across his face.
“And what about Lantern? Will he be able to turn back to normal?” I asked again. It didn’t seem like Abby has realized it yet that her own brother was now evil. Just the thought that when Abby finds out about her brother’s circumstances was really heartbreaking, even for me.
“Well, we don’t know yet,” replied Jack, unsure himself. “But I still believe that we can still bring back the old Lantern.”
I watched him as he said that and I can tell that even he wasn’t very sure, but I can see the strong determination in his eyes that he won’t give up until he returns the fire spirit to normal again. For me, I can only hope that one day, the fire spirit really does return to the good side and back to the brother that Abby loved so dearly.
“I’m back!” I called out loudly so my voice would echo all over the dark underground fortress. I really love playing with the echoes here.
I landed close to the platform where the globe stood and where Pitch seemed to love to hang out at lately. I wonder what new scheme he was cooking up for the guardians. It would be awesome if it involved scaring the crap out of little brats and crushing those so-called guardian of children. After that little trip to that annoyingly peaceful town and listening to some weird man’s spouting about his sappy past, I felt really irritated and wanted to burn something.
“Welcome back, my little dark prince. Enjoyed your little break?” Pitched asked, even though he didn’t really care what kind of answer I would give him anyways.
“Not as much fun as I wanted. Though in the beginning, I did scare some teenagers, but ran into some sappy dude and he killed my mood,” I answered with an annoyed tone. Then I spotted some Nightmares standing nearby, waiting for their master’s orders. “Hey, Pitch. Can I borrow some of your ponies? I want to burn something right now.” I stared at the Nightmares eagerly.
The Nightmares seemed to have sensed my attentions and tried to move away from me, nervously. What? Even if I destroy five or ten of you, it’s not like you guys die or anything. Pitch can just bring you back with a flick of his fingers! Just let me burn the crap out of you guys already! I need to release my frustration!
“Oh don’t worry. If you want to release some energy in a fight, it’ll be very soon,” Pitch said with a gleeful tone.
“Seriously? When?” I demanded, excitedly.
Then I could hear the Nightmares sighing when my attention got caught by Pitch’s words. Oh don’t worry, I’ll burn the crap out of you guys some other time.
“How’s now sound to you?” Pitched sneered as he looked at me with those evil eyes.
“SWEET! Hell yeah!” I cried out loudly. “Finally! Another battle! Where are we going this time? Where are we fighting the guardians?”
“Calm down, Cinder,” he told me. Even though he told me to calm down, I can tell by that grin on his face that he appreciated my enthusiasm. “The final battle with the guardians will be in a place where they know well. It’s a place where one of the guardians call home.”
“North Pole? Tooth Palace? The Warden?” I called out the places that came to mind.
“Oh no, it’s a place where I had my last major battle with the guardians and it ended in my humiliating defeat. Burgess,” Pitch finally answered.
“Burgess?” I stared at Pitch, confused. Don’t think I’ve ever been there. “Why there?”
“Well, it’s the home of someone you know and despise, Jack Frost,” Pitch explained.
Then he created figures in the palms of his hands with his black sand. It looked like a figure of some kid. A boy, I think.
“And there are some pesky brats that I want to deal with. If it wasn’t for them, I would’ve destroyed the guardians a long time ago and not suffer such embarrassment. I’ll make them pay for interfering with me and make them regret for not fearing me.”
Then he crushed the figure with his hand, clearly showing that he really meant business. Whoever pissed off Pitch that time was so gonna get it now. I couldn’t even help snickering at the thought of what would happen to the unlucky victims.
“Let’s go, Cinder. It’s time to end the era of those Guardians and build a new era of fear and darkness,” he called to me.
Music to my ears.