When everyone left the restaurant, it was empty and quiet.
The small group cleaned the table, the dishes, and organized the chairs. Phoebe was kind enough to help them. As she was helping she watched the twin girls snapped their fingers and suddenly the dust feathers were flying in the air cleaning pictures frames that hung on the upper walls. She also saw Toodles in the kitchen letting the dishes put themselves away. Gilbert pointed his finger to the open/closed sign and it floated to the front door.
“That was so cool!” cried Phoebe.
“Magic sure can clean the place better,” said Roxy, “Never thought I would rely on it.”
Now that the cleaning was done, the group sat down at the table to talk with the little girl. Phoebe was really excited to learn more about them.
“So you guys know my great grandfather, right?”
They all nodded.
“Benny said you all wanted to tell me something.”
The room became quiet for a moment.
Benny was the first to speak, “Phoebe, your grandfather and the ones before him have wanted to tell his family about…magic and he’s been keeping this a secret for a long time,” he said, “You are a Hollow and you deserve to know. But you have to understand that this story was back in the dark times. They were scary times, I’m not sure if this is appropriate.”
“Well, I accidentally saw a scary movie one time. It was scary and had a little bit of blood, does that count?” asked Phoebe.
“What’s a scary movie?” Toodles said out aloud.
There was a knock at the door, everyone turned to see who it was. Benny got up to open the door and a very beautiful woman stepped in. Her skin was peachy, her chocolaty brown hair covering her right side of her face, her rosy lips that match her shoes. She was wearing a blouse with a grey skirt and on her back was two large wings like butterfly wings. Phoebe already knew who the woman was so she called out to her. The woman turned and was surprised to see the girl.
“Oh my, Phoebe! So good to see you again.”
Phoebe looked at the woman with wide eyes, “Ms. Angles! Y-you’re a fairy?”
Ms. Angles giggled and showed Phoebe her wings, “You could say that and called me Olivia. Do you like my wings? They are wonderful things.”
“Hey, I didn’t know there was a living person down here.”
Behind Olivia, there were other creatures. A voice came from a small dragonfly. Judging by his voice he sounded like an old man. He even looked like an old man with a long tiny beard and twisted hair.
The other person was a little girl about the same age as Phoebe. She had a red dress with black shoes, blond messy hair with a bow. Her face was hidden by a mask, one side was happy, the other was sad. She saw Phoebe and politely waved at her. Phoebe waved back with a smile however the girl turned away from the smile.
She whispered to Olivia, “Who’s that?”
“Oh, that’s Juju Mask. She doesn’t say much the poor girl, I found her alone in the forest so I told her to come with me for the company and I invited Grandpa Joe.”
“It’s a g-good thing that you’re, um, here Olivia”, said Benny who was oddly stumbling over his words and then cleared his throat, “We were going to tell her a story.”
“Oh?” Olivia raised a brow.
“You know, the one about Edgar, and we and you know who…” Gilbert muttered the last part and quickly showed a sheepish smile, not trying to make things feel awkward.
The whole room became silent again; Juju felt the tension in the air and decided to sit far away from the group. Everyone glanced at each other and Phoebe.
Soon Grandpa Joe broke the silence.
“For Pete’s sake, if you fellas are still uncomfortable about it I will tell her.”
The dragonfly flew down on to the table and looked up to Phoebe and spoke to her in a firm but a wise voice.
“Young lady,” he said, “I want you to listen hard and listen closely because these were the times of tragedy. There’s a reason why we are here and I am about to tell you how this all started. Of course, you are still young so I will try my best to spare the gruesome details. Understand?”
Phoebe nodded and she was all ears ready to hear what the dragonfly had to say.
“And if I start to doze off a little, that means it’s almost nap time for me,” he added.
Now that he got her attention Grandpa Joe smiled at her and started to tell her about the past, remembering it like it was yesterday.
“Long ago, during the late 18th century, we all lived in a village and we were all human back then. Your grandfather Edgar the first, was just like all your other ancestors, was a good leader of the village and he always looked after everyone he loved. One day, we had a newcomer in our village, a man named Jasper.”
Phoebe looked at the others and their faces were mixed with sadness and anger. Benny looked angrier than the rest when the named was mention. Grandpa Joe sighed but continued.
“No one knew where this man came from, he didn’t have any friends or family, he only came out of his house in the early morning or late at night. He told everyone he was working on what he called something special. We eventually found what he was really working.”
“What did he do?” asked Phoebe.
“He was practicing the arts of darkness.”
Phoebe looked at him with wide eyes but then looked confused “Is that like bad magic?”
“Oh yes,” said Grandpa Joe, “He would practice spells on animals mutated them, and...” he paused in his sentence, “Well, later on, we had many reports of missing people. What was worse he somehow found a book where he could make his own magic. It got so bad that one night everyone in the village formed an angry mob and went after him. That was a grave mistake.”
He stopped to glance at Benny; the skeleton nodded him to continue the story.
“When we all cornered him in the forest he created a spell for his escape, he said ‘the hardened ground turns soft, let it rumble and crumble as I summoned the natures earthquake.’ He thought the ground would break in two so he could make his escape, however, it didn’t work. The ground did rumble and crumble into a giant hole, everyone including Jasper fell into the undergrounds and then the ground turned back to normal. The only ones who survived were your grandfather Edgar, his wife and his son and Thomas Hoyurpants.”
Phoebe stopped him, “Wait a minute, Mr. Hoyurpants knew about this too!?”
“Oh no that wasn’t the same man,” said Grandpa Joe, “Thomas was Jerry Hoyurpants’s ancestor.”
“I’m confused,” the little girl tries to put the pieces together.
Benny stepped in telling Joe that he would take over, “You see Phoebe both families were there when the events happened. Thomas and Edgar studied magic to get us out of the undergrounds. They used the books to create spells and used those spells to make tunnels. Even stealing some of Jasper’s notes. After three tunnels nothing work, but when they made the forth tunnel it leads directly to the undergrounds. When they found Jasper and us it was too late.”
“What do you mean too late?”
“Well, dear when we fell into that hole we were… already gone”, said Olivia, “Jasper brought us back as spirit creatures and as his experiments.”
Phoebe gasped in shock, “You mean he did that to you?”
The nine-year-old pointed at Olivia wings and the woman and the others nodded. It makes sense now; her new friends are spirits.
“So ghost do exist!” Phoebe thought to herself.
“After they found him they put a spell on him, banishing him away from us and returning to the surface, he lives in a far tunnel where he calls the Fire Lands. As long as he’s far away, he can’t do any more harm to any living soul or us. So your grandfather guarded tunnel 4 all his life in case Jasper ever thought of escaping one day. He rebuilt the town over the undergrounds, he made himself mayor and named it Hollows Springs. As for us, this is home and we choose to live down here peacefully.”
After Benny finished telling the story Phoebe was amazed how it all happen, but she still had questions.
“So that’s why we moved out here, my family has to guard the tunnel right?”
“Yes, but not anymore,” said Loxy, “Jasper is still a pest, but he can’t escape. Not even his magic can’t help him no matter how hard he tries”
Phoebe then remembers, “But if he’s gone then who was making noises when we first moved in?”
“I’m sorry that was me,” said Benny, “Edgar would come and visit us but when he got older we had to check on him so it was my turn and I didn’t see him. When I saw your family I knew that he was gone, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Oh, that’s okay Benny. But if you’re a ghost why can I see you?”
“You can hear but not up there,” Olivia pointed out, “that’s why I use magic perfume so anyone who is alive can see me.”
“Wow, you guys can think of anything with magic.”
The skeleton couldn’t help but chuckle, “Well not everything my dear.”
“Hey Benny,” Phoebe wanted to ask him something, “Last night I and my brother heard strange noises in our home, was that you checking upon us?”
The others looked at her with an odd expression like she said something wrong. Benny asked Phoebe about it and she said, “My brother and I woke up and we saw a big shadow in the house. It was in my room growling like it wanted to eat me.”
Gilbert and Toodles looked very frightened, the twin girls started whispering to each other, and Olivia went to Phoebe and crouched down to her level, “It was a good thing I gave you those necklaces, it protects you.”
“It has magic on it right?” asked Phoebe.
Olivia nodded, “Yes, Edgar was not a big fan using magic but he only learned protection spells for his family.”
“I still have them you know”, Phoebe showed her the necklaces under her jacket, “I kept my promise.”
Olivia smiled at Phoebe She walked over to Benny and Grandpa Joe to talk alone.
“It’s jasper I know it,” she said, “He must have heard Edgar died and now he’s threatening this poor girl’s family.”
“But how?” said Grandpa Joe, “Remember the spell, he can’t leave. And we can’t get rid of him ourselves, he’s too powerful”
“Unless he created a minion to help him.”
Benny thought about this, “That makes sense but why would it go after her?”
“I don’t know”, then Olivia realizes, “Does this have something to do with the spell, Joe? Joe?”
They both saw the dragonfly dozing off, his flight pattern slightly off like a drunk sailor.
“Huh-wha…oh sorry. No Edgar said that was a banishing spell, it’s completely irreversible. I think he’s only doing this out of anger. I’ll keep my bug-eyes on the lookout if he tries anything. ”
Benny looked at Olivia with worried eyes, “So um, what should we do, should we send Phoebe home?”
The winged woman nodded in agreement, “She’s been down here too long, her family must be worried.”
They walked back to the group, noticing Phoebe looked very tired. She didn’t want to go home yet, but she did miss her parents at the same time. Olivia and Benny volunteered to take her back to the tunnel. Before she left she said good-bye to her new friends.
“Have a safe trip.” said Gilbert.
“Good-bye, little Phoebe,” said Roxy and Loxy.
“Tell Mom and Dad I said hi!” said Toodles.
“You be careful young lady,” said Grandpa Joe.
Phoebe even waved good-bye to Juju but frowned when she saw her looking down. She was sitting at the far end of the table, still and silent as if she wasn’t there. Phoebe had no idea why she was acting that way and it bothered her that Juju was that lonely.
“So can anybody learn magic?”
“Not everyone, but Jerry’s family tries to remember a few spells as time went on.”
“So Mr. Hoyurpants is like a wizard, wait till I tell my brother.”
Olivia flew above the trees to have a better view while Benny walked into the forest with Phoebe riding on his back. They followed Olivia as she led the way.
“Wow, Olivia is amazing when she flies.”
“Yep, she sure is amazing…and pretty” said Benny who was staring up at Olivia dreamily.
He almost ran into a tree after staring at her too long, Phoebe had to pull his frizzy hair so he’ll stay focus on the road. She noticed his weird behavior and she had to ask him. “Benny, do you like Ms. Angels?”
He didn’t stop walking but he thought about it, “Well, yeah I do.”
“I mean do you like, like her?”
“What’s the difference?”
“Like means, she’s just your friend. Double likes mean you love her.”
Benny then stopped to glance up at the child before he continued walking. He wasn’t sure how to answer that.
“I think you should tell her.”
The skeleton chuckled, “It’s much more complicated than just telling her.”
“Well, why not?”
“Because that’s how things are.”
The little girl stared down at the tall man with a frown, “Are you sure or are you making that up?”
“All right, you got me but it’s still complicated,” Benny admitted, “For so many decades I still don’t have the courage to tell my feelings, how silly I am.”
They heard the flying woman calling out that she found the tunnel. As they followed her up the road Benny and Phoebe saw many danifiles flying in the forest, making that cute sound, ‘ Ba Ba, Ba Ba’.
It was a pretty sight to see.
When they made it, Olivia gently landed on the ground and Benny put Phoebe down after her piggyback ride. Phoebe walked up to the tunnel and looked back thinking they would come with.
“This as far as we can go, darling, because we’re spirits you won’t be able to see us if we go up there.”
She frowned at Olivia’s words, “Will I see you guys again?”
“Oh, of course, kiddo,” said Benny, “You can come here and visit us anytime if you can or we’ll visit you. This isn’t really good-bye.”
Phoebe was pleased to hear this. She hugs both of them, told them that she will see them later, and started walking back up. The mud was dried so it was easy for her to walk; she had no idea that she had fallen this far.
Once she finally made it to the top, after ten minutes, it was already dark and cooler. The sky was dark blue, not the grayish smoke she remembered down there. She doesn’t know where the Victorian home is but she walked forward into the forest anyway.
She saw light dots darting around in every direction like they were flashlights and heard familiar voices.
That was her father.
“Phoebe where are you!”
And that was her mother.
Phoebe called out to her parents, her mother quickly like lightning speed rushed to her and held her baby closely. “Oh god, Phoebe! We’ve been looking for you, what happened?”
Phoebe wasn’t sure how to tell her parents what she experienced. She told them a lie, which was something she never does. “Zoom-Zoom ran off and I went after him but then I got lost. Did you find him?”
“Yes he’s back at the house,” said her father.
“Oh sweetie, you should have come to get us before you ran off,” said her mother.
Seeing that their daughter was very cold and tired her parents carried her home. Not noticing that something shadowy like mist was lurking in the dark forest, watching them.
Whatever it was, it was not a guardian angel.