Troy struggled to look up and down between the road and the map. They had been fine with traveling to the convention all day, him and Jimmie. The day had been warm and bright, the trail was clear, and there wasn't a sign of danger anywhere. It was such a peaceful journey, one would assume they'd be at the convention in no time. The road was soft with silt and a gentle breeze blew through the air. It seemed like a perfectly straight path with few twists and turns along the way. The only time Troy really seemed to have to struggle with the map and watching the road was when there was a fork and they had to decide between paths. But somehow one of the wrong turns was taken. Everything changed so quickly and it seemed right away as though there were no turning back. The road became more winding and rocky; Jimmie's hooves pounded against them loudly even as his step became more cautious. The gentle breeze became more chilly and it sent an eerie feeling through the creature's body. The sky grew dark yet there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The trees lost all their color and they began looking like shadows from a horror movie. It was at that time that Troy became even more entranced with the map, trying to find the right way to go. Jimmie, on the other hand, began moving much more slowly. He certainly didn't like where they were going and even for a horse he doubted that they were going the right way. But really, who ever listens to a horse?
Upon arriving at another fork in the road, Troy looked at all the signs carefully. He tried making out what they said but the writing was nothing more than scribbles and chicken scratch. Five arrows pointing in practically the same directions and he couldn't read a single one. His blue eyes fell on the map again, trying to figure out where they were. Something didn't seem right. Did they take a wrong turn already? No, that couldn't be possible. Not with Troy in the driver's seat - or in this case, horse's saddle.
But before Troy could even begin to guide Jimmie in one direction, Jimmie had already looked at the two clearest paths. One was pretty much the same as where they were now except for what looked like a much lighter fog. The second path became darker and looked even more dangerous. Jimmie certainly didn't like that. If he was the kind of horse that liked adventure and was happy to stall for time then sure, maybe he'd be happy to take the creepy path. However there was a time constraint on them. Even Jimmie knew they had to get to the convention. And with Troy on his back and a wagon right behind him with Troy's invention Jimmie certainly didn't want to drag out the ride longer than it needed to be. It was getting tiring enough lugging over a hundred fifty pounds with him. Or was it over two hundred fifty? Either way, he was a horse and incapable of counting. However that didn't change his judgment. The Shetland began taking a few steps in the direction of the clearer path.
"Wait Jimmie, let's go this way," Troy said, pointing the lantern he held in the same hand as the reigns in the other direction. Even with such a small bulb contained beside them, that path didn't look any less creepy. Jimmie took one look in that direction, then tried leading Troy the other way. "Hey Jimmie, whoa," Troy replied, tugging on the reigns. "Don't act so worried. The creepy path is always the shortcut."
It took just a bit more of encouragement...and force...but eventually they were on the path. Jimmie's step slowed even more and Troy's eyes became more and more fixed on the map. He didn't see where they were anywhere. All he could register in his mind, especially so late at night, was creepy forest. And even Troy knew they should have been at, if not almost at, the convention hours ago. Something just didn't feel right. And he wasn't thinking of the owls in their trees who were watching them make their every move. But it would explain why Troy kept feeling as though they were being watched.
"Wait a minute...this can't be right," Troy said slowly, picking his head up from the map and taking another look around. "Where did you take us to this time, Jimmie?"
Oh sure, blame it on the horse. Never the driver, always the horse. But even if Jimmie weren't a horse he knew this wasn't the time to argue. He stopped where he was and looked around in horror. The owls were just staring him down with their big yellow eyes and sitting on their branches like statues. The very second they moved a centimeter Jimmie became frightened. But when the night birds suddenly took off from their trees and began flying, flapping their wings all around, it was too much for the horse. He let out a cry and began running off in any direction he could see.
"Jimmie, whoa! Steady boy!" Troy gasped, attempting to calm his companion down. "Where are we going now Jimmie? Slow down, you're going too fast!"
But Jimmie wasn't listening. And once the horse was spooked there wasn't much stopping him. He just wanted to get away. He continued running on the rocky road, only to stop dead in his tracks. He slid for a moment before making it to his screeching halt. Another step and he would have taken them right off a cliff. It was so high up and it looked so dark at the bottom...assuming there was a bottom. Now Jimmie became even more scared. He neighed once more and got up on his hind legs, kicking his front ones all around. Troy tried to maintain his grip on the reigns but it was no good. He lost his balance and collapsed off his horse and onto the cold ground. And as soon as Jimmie was back down on all four's all it took was the sound of Troy's lantern crashing against the ground to scare him off. Jimmie took off in the direction that they came from, the only remaining part of him left behind with Troy being his saddle which had loosened and fell off with Troy. The last thing Troy heard before sitting up was the echoes of Jimmie's hooves and the wagon racing off into the distance, becoming quieter with every move until they were out of sight and silence filled the night.
Troy adjusted his hat and looked around. His map was torn against the ground now and his lantern was out and shattered. Only the darkness and eerie forest surrounded him now. "Jimmie?" he asked, hoping his call would bring the horse back to him. But there was no response; only more silence. "Jimmie?" he asked again.
Yet there was still nothing. Troy was stranded. He was on his own. Fixing his jacket, Troy stood up and looked around, taking in the scenery for a long moment. Why hadn't he noticed this before? It was so dark and...and creepy. There were no other words to describe it. Perhaps ghost forest, but nothing else. When Troy had a travel partner, even if it was just Jimmie, there was no need to feel alone. Any companion was good enough for him. But now there was no one and Troy was left to fend for himself. He never had to do that before. Even back home he always had Taylor helping him with something. But now he had no one. He had nothing. Troy let out a sigh of regret at the thought as he began to ponder his next move.
But it didn't last too long. A faint yet sharp growl caught his attention. Troy blinked and looked in a few different directions to try and decipher the animal it was coming from. All he saw were more owls, but obviously they didn't growl. What birds did growl anyway? Not that Troy even had any time to think; a few feet above his head, on what looked like a higher ridge to the cliff, a four legged shadow appeared. Odds were that was where the growl had emerged from. Troy remained where he was for a minute, still trying to figure out what animal it was. But then a few more shadows like it appeared. From what Troy could tell their bodies were long and ready, their ears pointy, and their tails gently swaying back and forth. Then he knew what was going on. They were getting ready to attack, pounce on their pray. And the second Troy took a step and began running, the animals didn't hesitate to move and began chasing after him. Growls escaped each one of them, making Troy almost too scared to look back and see what creature's attention he had caught. But he had to look, to see how far ahead of them he was. Turning his head as he ran, he finally recognized the predators as wolves. Their fur was in multiple shades of gray and each hair seemed to stand up as their giant paws pounded against the ground. Their eyes were equally as piercing blue as Troy's, but they held so much more. Anger. Hatred. Hunger. Then his eyes were directed to their teeth. They were yellow and sharp. It was that plain and simple. And what else was plain and simple was what they would do to Troy as soon as they caught him. Troy could have played dead; even he knew that if something was lifeless then wild animals would quickly lose interest and leave them. But Troy hadn't thought of that at the time he needed to most, and he feared that it would lead to his demise.
Troy's head shifted forward again. In the distance, what didn't look too far away, he could see a large fence. And using his real logic rather than his inventing logic, Troy figured that where there was a fence there was a house. Houses had people. People had food. People had shelter. People had ways of contact. And most importantly, people had bathrooms. Not taking another second to register much else, Troy ran in the direction of the supposed house. The wolves sounded as though they were ganging up on him so he had to try and speed up his step. Troy was a naturally athletic figure so it wasn't too hard for him to run fast. The only issue in that was trying to be faster than the wolves. And they were just as quick in their step as Troy was.
It wasn't too much further now. Troy could see the fence perfectly. It was tall, probably close to ten feet high. The bars looked iron and they were pitch black in color. The closer he got, the easier it was to see that some of the bars looked a bit rusty. But as long as it would keep the wolves away Troy didn't care. He slid down a hill to get only a few feet away from it. The wolves were right behind him, standing on the hilltop to register his every move. And they knew that he'd be looking for safety. They always did and they always ran. And if their prey didn't find the protection they needed they were surely caught. From the wolves' sturdy and fit figures it certainly seemed like they caught their fair share of food. Not wasting another second, then raced down the hill to their cornered rat.
Troy could see them getting closer. If he couldn't get inside fast then it was all over. He began frantically shaking the bars. "Help! Let me in! Please let me in!" he gasped, praying that someone could hear him. With another look back, he figured in a few more steps the wolves would be eating him alive. Troy gulped and shivered at the thought, then quickly turned back to the fence. "Help...please help!" he begged once more, shaking the bars even harder this time. Somehow the lock on the fence loosened and Troy tumbled right into the yard. He fell back onto the ground and looked up to see the animals right on top of him. Lifting his foot, just in the nick of time, he slammed the fence shut. The wolves ran right into it, gnawing and clawing at the bars as they tried to break through. But only their paws could fit through the slim space of the barred fence. There was no way they could get Troy now. The man slowly made it back to his feet, though a bit off his balance after all that running, not to mention the scare of his life. His hat fell off his head as he slowly stepped towards the house.
But that's when he discovered that this place was the farthest thing from a house. The structure was tall. So tall it could reach up into the sky. With its pointy structure, its wide space, and the multiple use of towers Troy determined it to be a castle. But it wasn't an inviting castle like the ones they had in England, or so he heard. Or maybe it was that America place or something. Either way, it was just as creepy as the rest of the forest. The wooden doors up front were huge and the material used to make the castle looked like something hard and sturdy. Steel, maybe? Bricks? But the entire place was black in shade so whatever material it was made out of it had to have been painted over. Troy slowly scanned every inch of the castle he could see until he saw the top. It was so high in the sky it had to have been well over a hundred feet. And as his eyes fell on the sky he could see how gray and cloudy it became. The fog faded and was replaced with bulgy dark clouds. Thunder boomed and lightning struck the blackness. Seconds later wet droplets of rain began falling from the sky. Briefly gentle at first and then quickly pouring. Gathering his jacket closer to him to keep warm, Troy slowly made his way to the doors in the cold rain. He reached out for the knocker with one hand, gripping his jacket tightly with his free one.
"Hello? Help me, please. I'd like to get in for the night..."
The door opened somehow and Troy nearly fell right in. He didn't think anything of it right away; he just assumed it was someone who had heard him and unlocked the door for him. Not seeing anyone right away, Troy stood up again and forced the door closed against the rain. He leaned up against the wood for a moment and looked around. The space inside the castle was empty, except for a few decors like tables and whatnot. The staircase was wide and a thick carpet nearly covered every step. Even looking up the ceiling was so high. But someone had to have let him in, right? Doors just don't open on their own.
"I-is anyone home?" Troy stammered, taking a single step forward. "Hello?"
All else that was in the room with him were a candelabra and a miniature clock right near the door. The candelabra stood straight, its yellow-orange coating only brightened by the dim lights of fire coming from the wax holders on its arms and on the head. It was thin, almost half a foot or so high, at least it seemed, and its holders for the candles were thick. It stood firm with a circular bottom, weight evenly distributed on every side, and its head was just a little wider than its body, probably around a fourth's height of it.
Next to the candelabra was a simple indian red shaded clock. It was probably made out of some kind of wood or something. The head was round and all that was there to dictate the time were the hands and a single line for the twelve and six o'clock points. The body was a bit wider, perfectly crafted as a seemingly elegant piece, certain parts being framed in a faint gold shade. The feet at the bottom were thick yet looked like they could be perfectly used for walking. On the sides appeared to be a set of arms and hands, the same shade as the framing. And on the body was a glass opening with the pendulum inside swinging back and forth with each second.
Then, oddly enough, tiny almost invisible sets of eyes appeared on the two of them as they seemed to exchange glances.
"Don't say a word. Don't make a sound," the candelabra muttered almost inaudibly, its pitch and accent unable to be deciphered.
Not hearing or seeing anyone, Troy continued. "I don't mean to intrude but I lost my horse. I don't know where I am and it's pouring outside. I just need a place to stay for the night."
The look on the slowly appearing face on the candelabra seemed to soften. His arms holding the candles slowly loosened and fell, though the wax inside still was held in perfect place. "Did you hear that, Jason? The poor man just needs a place to stay," it whispered. The accent was deep, almost in a French one, and from the tone of voice the candelabra sounded to be male.
Oval eyes appeared on the clock as it looked at the household item. A mouth emerged from the face and it put its hands on its 'hips'. It tone of voice wasn't as deep and it was nothing near like a French accent. But the clock was male all the same. "What? You were the one who just said not to do anything! You're gonna make him see us."
"But he's lost. He probably has nowhere else to go," the candelabra sighed.
The clock opened his mouth to protest, but then the candelabra projected his voice so Troy could hear him.
"But of course you can stay, monsieur."
Troy's eyes widened upon hearing the voice. He grabbed the candelabra and used it as his light source to look around, assuming there was another person in the darkness of the room. "Who said that?" he asked.
"I did," he replied.
Troy turned his head to the right. "Who?"
"Me," he answered again.
Now Troy looked to the left. "Where?"
The candelabra just chuckled and politely tapped Troy on the head with his arm, careful not to touch him with the small yet burning flames, which caused Troy to look up at him. The object smiled and nodded his head, almost in a bow. "'Ello."
Troy gasped and dropped the candelabra right on the ground. "You...you...you just talked!"
"Now look what you did, Zeke! Our cover's blown," the clock complained as he jumped down to the floor and joined the candelabra. "And you always tell me to keep my cool."
"Calm yourself Jason," he replied. "You're just cranky because of the storm."
"Whoa...this is so sick," Troy gasped as he picked up the clock. "Where's the recorder on this thing?" He began searching all over it.
"Hey um...could you put me down please?" he asked. "I'm not comfortable with being...hehehe...with being...hehehe..." Troy began rubbing the clock's foot which in turn tickled him. And then Troy had to get touchy. He opened the glass window and began fiddling with the pendulum inside.
"Incredible..." Troy said to himself.
"Hey keep your hands off me!" the clock gasped, pushing Troy's hand away and causing him to fall back to the ground beside the candelabra. "There's a thing called personal space you know."
The candelabra just chuckled. "Don't mind him, monsieur. Please, let me offer you a welcome to our humble castle. I am Monsieur Baylor and this is my comrade Jason."
"You only say that cause it sounds Frenchier than Zeke." the clock replied. Then he blinked. "Wait...comrade? I thought I was turned into a clock?"
"Wait...what?" Troy asked, even more confused now.
Zeke moved on his bottom, jumping back up onto the table to get a better look at Troy. "You look a bit pale, monsieur. You should certainly spend the night here. You are more than welcome as long as you need to."
"Thank you. That would really...really..." Troy's voice got caught in his throat as he covered his mouth and let out a loud sneeze.
Zeke's face fell as he looked at Troy sympathetically. "You do not look so well, monsieur. Come, let us get you by the fireplace so you can warm up."
"Yes...yes of course..." Troy sniffled as he followed the object.
"Wait!" Jason gasped, running after them. "Wait, we really shouldn't be doing this! We could get in a lot of trouble. Zeke...Zeke I know I never listen to you cause something always happens and I get distracted..." Jason turned to the wall where he scrunched his face and saw an ant crawling around. "Eeh..." he stuck his tongue out, then shook his head as he got over the distraction, "...but I still don't think this is a good idea." He desperately tried to follow the two of them and catch up. "Hey...hey wait up! Don't leave me back here!" Jason gasped, still struggling to follow them. Upon arriving in the other room, Jason let out a gasp of horror. "Oh no, not the master's chair!" He groaned as he saw Zeke and the coat hook assisting Troy into a rather comfortable, cushioned chair in front of the large fire place and resting a blanket around his now cold body. "We have to get him out of here now. We're breaking every law just by letting him take a step around. Why doesn't anyone ever listen to my stupid words of advice...? GAH!"
A cart rolled right over Jason and seemed to stop on its own right beside the chair. Jason fell face first onto the carpet, nearly flattened by the speed of the cart. Troy turned his head to the cart and saw a few different things on it. There was a cup of sugar, one of those little gravy holders with milk instead of gravy…hey, he wasn't always the best with actual names. Then there was a small teacup with a single chip on the edge of it. It was a light gray color with a khaki handle and purple decorated bottom. Beside it was the teapot, which was very similar to the teacup aside from being bigger, slightly wider, and a lighter gray. The cover and bottom both had the same purple decorations and the handle was pretty much the same shade of khaki. The teapot opened her mouth to speak, which was very much warm and inviting.
"How about a cup of tea to warm you up? You look like you could use it," she offered, pouring tea from her nozzle into the teacup beside her.
Troy smiled at the teapot's kindness. She was definitely the nicest one here so far; she didn't even sound much older than him. "Thanks," he replied as he picked up the teacup and took a single sip from it. Then, suddenly, the teacup started giggling.
"He tickles me, Gabby!" it started laughing, its voice high and squeaky though it sounded on the verge of deepening like puberty.
Troy gasped at hearing the voice and dropped the teacup right onto the floor. He only giggled and jumped right up, heading back up to the teapot.
"Oh don't mind Donny," the teapot said gently, referring to the giggling teacup now beside her. "He just gets a little excited sometimes."
"Oh that's perfectly..." Troy started, though he was interrupted by another sneeze. "Sorry. I guess I'm a little under the weather." He took a tissue to wipe his nose and then looked to see a footstool running towards him, barking like a dog. Which side was the head and which one was the back? It all looked the same. "Um...hey there boy..." Troy said almost a bit uneasily as he rubbed the footstool's head...at least he hoped he was. The footstool just barked happily and squeezed itself under Troy's feet so he could rest.
"That's Boi," Donny said. "He really knows how to get you off your feet."
"Well, so he does," Troy chuckled. These little guys were actually really nice...even if they were just clocks or pots. For a bunch of talking inanimate objects in a dark spooky castle in the middle of the dark creepy forest during a loud dangerous storm they didn't seem like anything to worry about. As a matter of fact, they made the place almost seem...peaceful.
But the peace didn't last long. The doors where they had entered into the room burst open and the lights suddenly went out. A powerful, chilly wind blew through and Zeke's candles were put out in an instant. The once burning flames in the fireplace were suddenly gone and the logs to fuel them were as cold as they could get. Zeke held his arms out in front of him, afraid of what was coming. Gabriella held her place on the cart and let Donny duck behind her, knowing he might easily be freaked out by the sudden darkness and what was about to happen. Jason climbed onto the lowest shelf of the nearby bookcase and tried hiding behind one of the books despite the fact that he couldn't even fit half of his body behind their thin structures. Troy began shivering, having the sudden vibe that he should be fearing for his life. He was too afraid to turn around and see who - or what - was standing in the doorway. all he knew for sure, and call it an instinct, was that right behind the chair was a tall scary shadow. No tricks, no pranks, no anything. A real scary shadow of what could even be a monster. That was the only way to describe it. And one thing was for certain, the eyes belonging to that shadow were most certainly on Troy.
Within the now dark door stood a creature on all four's. It was highlighted by a powerful silhouette only making it more fearful and striking. Fur stood up on the body much like it had on the wolves before they were ready to attack Troy outside. The fur was mainly curls but they resembled nothing of the soft bouncy kind; the curls on this creature's fur was tangled and untamed. The two front legs were muscular and the paws were twice the size, maybe three times, of the wolves' paws. The hind legs were much skinner as though they were the main ones used to walk on as opposed to all four's. Claws appeared on every paw and they were as sharp as its fangs. And the fangs...they made the fangs of a shark look like nothing. Brown eyes pierced from the monster's fur only to see what it saw as a mockery. Its nose was flat and black in color, and the snout was thin and short, perhaps with what was a bit disproportional to the rest of it. A pair of horns rested on the top of its head and underneath those were tiny sets of ears which were perhaps the second disproportional portion of the body.
It stepped cautiously into the room, much like it was getting ready for an attack. That was the aura this monster gave off. Upon a closer inspection as it began moving nearly on top of Troy, the monster was topless except for what looked like a cape or an old sweatshirt tied around its neck and floating in the cool air. Its hind legs from the waist down were only covered in a ripped pair of pants. Troy could only continue with his cowering in fear as the monster growled and hovered over him with such a height difference.
"Stranger here..." the monster hissed as it circled the chair.
"Master...sir...if you can just let me explain for a minute," Zeke started as calmly as he could, "the gentleman was lost in the woods and we just thought-"
But he was only interrupted by a frightening bellow from the monster, which blew out the candles Zeke had only just lit back on seconds ago.
Jason slowly poked his head out from behind the book he was attempting to hide behind. "Master, if I could just put this into the record book for a minute..." he started, "I mean it's not like I was for the idea or anything. He was the one who started tickling my foot..."
But he was only interrupted by an even more powerful bellow, an ear-screeching roar to be more precise, which caused Jason to jump back in cover.
Troy gulped and continued shivering. He could never remember being this scared. While he was still a bit cold from the weather outside and hadn't completely warmed up, the mere sound of the creature's voice was certainly doing nothing to calm him down. He slowly looked around one side of the chair. Nothing. Maybe the monster had left... No good. As soon as Troy turned to the other end he literally came face to face with it. He gasped in horror and shock, falling out of the chair and trying to back away as he crawled on the ground.
"Who are you?" it demanded. "What are you doing here?"
"I...I just needed a place to stay..." Troy stammered, to frightened to take his eyes off the monster.
"You're not welcome here!" it hissed loudly in its deep beastly voice.
"I was just lost in the forest...it'd only be for one night..." he stammered once more as he tried explaining himself.
But this creature seemed to know better, almost as though it had years of experience knowing what such a reaction from a human meant.
"What are you staring at?" it yelled.
"Nothing!" Troy blurt out a little too quickly. "I just..."
But once again it was nothing but an interruption. "So, you've come to stare at the Beast have you?"
Troy tried running in the other direction but the Beast only blocked him off, staring him down as he did so.
"I meant no harm," was the first and only full sentence Troy could get in with him.
"So, you need a place to stay do you?" the Beast questioned as he stood on his two hind legs, now standing over a good three feet taller than Troy, even more so than when Troy was sitting down and the Beast had been on all four's. "A place to stay you want? I'll give you a place to stay!" And he didn't at all sound thrilled to have such company. With his huge front paws, the Beast grabbed Troy by the collar of his shirt and lifted him right off the ground. The group of human-like objects that had been so kind and generous to Troy could only now stand in the corner as they watch in fear of what their master would do to Troy. And the sad truth was that they all knew where Troy would be taken. It certainly was no secret. And it was quite obvious that the master was nowhere near as caring or devoted as these...what to call them, people, objects, servants? But no matter how the situation was looked at, the group of four could do nothing. They only watched in sorrow and regret as Troy was lifted off his feet and carried out of the room by the Beast. And the last they heard of Troy before the door slammed shut were his cries of "no".
Troy was now trapped. He wanted to get out so badly. He was begging not to be held hostage. He was crying not to be punished by this monster. He was pleading not to be hurt by this...this thing. And he was asking not to lose the chance to see his sister again. But with such a creature having Troy at its mercy how could he ever get out again?