After they found Phoebe her parents took her to the doctor the next day. The doctor said that she was healthy and didn’t have the flu. Matthew thought they were being overprotective about it but who can blame them when your child’s been missing for five hours. Matthew was babysitting his little sister while their parents went to get groceries. He was sitting on the couch playing his game boy, he would glance at Phoebe every minute, who was sitting near the coffee table drawing.
Phoebe has been drawing many pictures ever since she came back home. All the drawings were of different creatures and weird buildings. Matthew has no idea where this image is coming from.
He became curious and asked her, “Why are you drawing monsters?” he said, “I thought you’re scared of them.”
Phoebe thought about it for a moment and turned to her brother. “They're not monsters, they’re my new friends.”
Matthew wanted to laugh at this but rolled his eyes instead, “Aren’t you a little old for imaginary friends?”
She frowned, looking down at the rug not sure what else to say. “Um…they’re not really imaginary.”
Matthew raised a suspicious brow to his sister, he asked her what did she mean but she didn’t say anything.
“I don’t think you would believe me.”
Matthew was now more curious, he moved to the floor next to Phoebe. Even Zoom-Zoom, who awoke from his sleep, lay next to the kids to hear the commotion.
“Try me,” said Matthew.
His little sister looked at him, wondering if he really meant it. She looked to her left and her right as if she was making sure no was around listening.
“Okay I’ll tell you but you can’t tell other kids because this is our secret okay?”
“All right, fine.”
“You promise you won’t laugh.
“Yeah yeah, just tell me already,” said Matthew impatiently.
Phoebe hesitated a little but began her story when she was in the Undergrounds. She told him about the tunnel she discovered. She tells him about all the ghosts she met, the forest, the magic and the story of Jasper. She was really happy that her brother was listening to her for once and wasn’t making any smart comments like he always does. After she was done Phoebe wanted to hear what Matthew had to say about it.
“Okay, so… you fell into some rabbit hole, dreamt all of this, woke up and saw mom and dad. That’s some story, I guess.”
Phoebe blinked and frowned, “No you’re not listening! It wasn’t a dream, it really happened.”
This time Matthew did laugh at her and said, “Oh c’ mon do you really think I would believe in monsters.”
“They’re not monsters they’re ghosts,” said Phoebe, “And there really is a tunnel in the forest. I can show it to you right now before mom and dad come back.”
“No way! I’m not going anywhere with you, that’s embarrassing” Matthew said folding his arms.
“How is that embarrassing?” asked Phoebe.
“There may some cool kids around and I don’t want them to see me with my weirdo sister.”
With her face red of anger and holding back tears, Phoebe picked up the drawings and headed back to her room with a huff. She stopped in the middle of the stairs and shouted to her brother.
“Maybe if you stop acting like a jerk you’ll see weird is more cooler than cool kids!!”
Zoom-Zoom followed her into her room before she slammed her bedroom door and locked it. She hopped on top of her bed and buried her face into the pillows. Zoom-Zoom hoped on the bed to comfort her. The girl couldn’t understand why her brother hated her, at least that’s what she thought. Phoebe sighed, she didn’t want to do anything anymore. She didn’t want to play with her dolls or color her books, she wanted to be with Benny and the others and play with them. She sat up and looked at her furry fox.
“You believe me right, Zoom-Zoom?”
Although he couldn’t talk he licked her cute face as a ‘yes’.
Then there was a knock at her door, Phoebe looked up and stared at the door. Nothing happened. She thought she was hearings things or it could be her brother. “Go away Matt, I don’t want to talk to you.”
Then the doorknob ratted like someone wanted to come in. Zoom-Zoom jumped to the floor and started growling. The rattling stopped and the door slowly opened. Phoebe started panicking she knew she locked it. She tried to calm herself before she gathers the courage to call out the unseen force.
Then out of nowhere was a soft almost fragile voice.
Phoebe stopped panicking and started at the door again, even Zoom-Zoom stop growling. She heard the voice but didn’t see anyone. It sounded friendly so she asked, “Wh-who’s there?”
“It’s me, Phoebe.”
The girl suddenly appeared in the room, she was in a red dress, messy blond hair and the mask was still covering her face. Juju Mask had the magic perfume with her and holding a blanket on her side.
Phoebe relaxed and her breathing went back to normal but Zoom-Zoom was really confused so he went back to the bed close to his master. She saw that the ghost girl was still a bit shy to say anything else, so she spoke up first.
“What are you doing here and how did you get in here?”
Juju answered as she walked closer, “I have magic remember? I used it to unlock the doors just to see you.”
“Yeah, Olivia wanted me to check up on you.”
She hopped on the bed next to Phoebe with the blanket under her arm. The nine-year-old looked at the blanket curiously, “What’s this?”
“Open it” Juju quietly replied.
She took it carefully from Juju and felt something inside. As she unwrapped the blanket she saw it was a little stuffed bunny. One ear was longer than the other. It had on a black dress with box shape hands and feet. There was no tail. Its face had small dots for eyes and a crooked smile.
“You made this for me?” Phoebe asked, her brown eyes lighting up.
Phoebe looked at the doll again; although it was goofy looking she could tell Juju tried her best.
“Sorry that it looks odd. I’m, uh, not very good on sewing.”
“Are you kidding me, I love it!” Phoebe said hugging the bunny, “Thanks so much Juju!”
Although she couldn’t see, Phoebe sense Juju was giving a shy smile under the mask.
Then there was a moment of silence between them. Juju was petting Zoom-Zoom and the fox let the strange girl pet him. He even licks her hand; Phoebe found it so strange that a ghost can be solid but an apparition at the same time. It may have something to do with magic but she still doesn’t understand how this magic really works. Phoebe begins to wonder what otherworldly thing is out there that she doesn’t know about. Juju then broke the silence, her voice still fragile and quiet.
“So um, what do normal girls do nowadays…?”
“Oh um, pretty much the same,” said Phoebe, “but we get to play video games, watch t.v, and even color in coloring books.”
“You put colors inside a book?” asked Juju who was interested with the idea, “Is that like magic?”
“No, you use pencils here I show you.”
The two girls spend a few minutes drawing and guess what their drawings were. It was really fun for Juju mostly. But later on, she stopped drawing and got quiet and again, Phoebe asked her what was wrong.
“Phoebe, I wanted to ask, uh…I’m I, still a normal girl?”
Phoebe looked at Juju with a curious look, “You mean do you look normal?”
“Well, I don’t know. You’re a spirit…I think that could be normal for you.”
She couldn’t tell if Juju was frowning under that mask but she had a feeling that it wasn’t the answer the masked girl was looking for. Juju looked down and fidgeted with her fingers.
“I haven’t been the same since I died. Everyone got adjusted with magic and are now happy again, but I have not. It’s because of my face, it’s not normal.”
“Can I see?’ Phoebe asked.
Juju’s body was shaking she tried to relax but couldn’t. Taking a deep breath, her arms slowly rose up to the mask, she took it off and she stayed in a position as if time itself had stopped. She looked up to Phoebe to show her how she really looked. Her face looked like a blob of dark ink splattered, her eyes were like flat orange orbs and her mouth was shaped into sharp teeth.
Phoebe was spooked for a moment but she didn’t show it.
“I know, I’m…scary looking, but you know Jasper did this to me,” said Juju almost whispering it in a sad tone, “I’m so, so ugly. Everyone says I look fine but I don’t think they really know how this feels.”
Then she started crying.
Phoebe got up and sat right next to her to give her a hug.
“I’m really sorry what happened to you”, said Phoebe, “but just because your face looks like that, it doesn’t mean your scary Juju or ugly. I think you look pretty, and I really meant it.”
Juju wiped her tears away. She thanked her for being honest and put the mask down; she didn’t want to wear it right now. Juju looked up straight at the window.
“You know it’s watching us right now.”
Phoebe looked at her with a confused look. They both got up and moved closer to the window. They didn’t see anything but Juju was the only one who can see it. Phoebe could see that the ghost girl was eyeing something outside like a cat.
“We call it a glopper, one of Jasper’s creations. We can’t see it but I can feel its presence. I have seen it before in the forest of the Underground. It could be the one that was in your house the other day.”
“What does the monster want from me?” Phoebe turned to the blond girl hoping she knew the answers.
“I don’t know,” Juju said with honestly and holds Phoebe’s hand, “if I were you I would stay in the house for a while.”
After Juju left Phoebe took her advice and stayed in the house for a few days. Everything was quiet around the victorian house. For the past days, Benny and his friends would visit her as they promised. The spirits were very careful about not letting their parents seeing them. Benny, Gilbert, and Toodles would use magic to soundproof Phoebe’s room and play music for her. Olivia would visit and tell bedtime stories about Edgar. Roxy and Loxy will show off their magic skills for Phoebe. And Juju would play or talk to Phoebe till nighttime. Sometimes Phoebe would talk about her brother to her new friends and they would check on him if he too were safe.
Henry would check on his daughter many times, making sure she was all right. He’s been a bit jumpy since the incident. He noticed that his child was growing happily in their new environment, but his older one’s mood hasn’t changed. He was concern about his son but he could only hope he would give this a chance.
By the next few days, it was already the weekend.
The Hollows were already up and drove into town to buy school supplies for the kids. They first went to a small modern shop to get new clothes for Matthew and Phoebe. After the kids picked out their clothes and backpacks the family drove to the library.
Henry and Kathrin were looking at news magazine; Phoebe was looking at ‘The Zoo Animals’ book series while Matthew was just wondering around. He looked at all of the books but nothing caught his interest. He finally picked a random book on the shelf and sat down. The title of the book was “World’s Greatest Leaders”, he opened the book and began to read it, he had to admit and it was good so far. In each chapter, it talked about leaders of the war, presidents, and mayors. In the next chapter it showed a familiar picture, Matthew stops reading to examine the photo.
“Hey dad,” he called, “Isn’t this the guy who died in the house?”
Henry and Kathrin heard their son and saw the book he was holding, Phoebe went to look too. He was right, it was Edgar Hollow the IV in that book.
Matt then begins to read the passage paragraph.
“Edgar Hollow the IV was not only a great mayor of his small town Hollow Springs but also a great leader just like his fathers before him. His town was named after his family’s name. His son, Steven Hollow didn’t take his father’s place as mayor. It is said that in the Hollow’s family tree, every son in Edgar’s family was mayor from generation after generation. Only sons were born in the Hollow family, there were no records of daughters ever born. Edgar holds mayor status from the 1960s’ to the 90s’ and is one of the oldest citizens in the small town at the age of 97. This was based on an interview three year ago.”
The drive back home was long and it already started to rain. Henry and Kathrin were talking about what they found in the library.
“I wonder if Mr.Hoyurpants knows about the old interview?” Henry said out loud, “That’s proof that it runs in the family even though it wasn’t written in the will.”
“I don’t know, maybe we should go ask him” Kathrin responded.
As for Phoebe, she knew the real story of her great grandfather. She wanted to tell her parents about it since they too have right to know, but if her brother didn’t believe her than they probably wouldn’t listen to her either. When they made it home the parents quickly took their kids inside. They told them they were going out again to talk to Mr.Hoyurpants and instructed them to lock the doors, take a bath, and go to bed early while they were gone.
It was already dark and the rain finally stopped but there was still some thundering. Phoebe volunteered to take a bath first, Matthew turned the water on for her and left to his room. Before she went in she picked out her pajamas, took her necklaces off and put them on her towel so they wouldn’t get wet. While she was playing in the tub she can hear Zoom-Zoom barking, she knows he does that when it’s thundering. After she washed up Phoebe got out and grabbed the towel, drying herself and putting her pajamas on. She noticed her pearl necklace were no longer on the towel or near the sink.
“Did I drop it?” she asked herself. She looked down at the floors, under the toilet, and under the countersink. Confused she went to her brother’s room, he was laying on the bed listening to his iPod.
“Hey, Matt have you seen my necklaces?”
He didn’t hear her, Phoebe asks him again by removing his headphones.
“Have you seen my necklaces?”
“No I haven’t, you must have dropped them.”
“I already checked it’s not in the bathroom,” she looked at him with suspicion eyes, “Did you take them?”
“Why would I take your stupid necklaces?”
“They're not stupid, they’re from our great grandfather!”
“Whatever.” Matthew puts his headphones back on, ignoring anything his sister had to say.
Phoebe was annoyed by this and left his room. She continues to look for the necklaces; she looked in the living room, the kitchen and in her parent’s room. The only room she didn’t check was her own.
As she approached her room she heard a whimpering noise, it sounded like her fox. Carefully, Phoebe tip-toed to her door and peaked in her room. She switched on the light but the lights do not turn on. It was dark; the only light source was the ceiling lamp in the hallway. Phoebe entered her room and carefully looked around, when she heard the whimpering again she looked at the corner of her room and gasped.
Lying on the floor was poor Zoom-Zoom both legs were tied up.
“Zoom! What happened?” cried Phoebe as she went up to untie him.
As she was doing that she felt something else was also in her room. She looked up but saw nothing in the corner. It started thundering and as the lightning struck the ground it lit up the whole room. Both Phoebe’s and the fox’s shadow appeared but another shadow was formed at the corner. She let out a scream.
Matthew was in his room getting ready for his bath, but when he heard the screaming he immediately ran to her room. He was shocked when he saw Zoom-Zoom on the floor tied up and his sister floating in mid-air. Her hair was being pulled by something he couldn’t see. Her cry for help brought him back to reality. He ran to garb Phoebe’s legs, trying to pull her down. The unseen creature growled and it started to pull Matthew away, griping on his left leg.
Matthew tried to kick the creature with his right l but the creature avoided his attacks. The creature gripped harder as if it wants to rip off Matthew’s leg. Crying in pain Matthew tried to hold on to Phoebe as he pulled her down. Suddenly a toy was thrown at the creature, it looked up to see another little girl standing by the doorway. It lets Matthew and Phoebe loose and charged at the other girl who stepped back and swings the door at its face.
As it hits the floor it laid still. The kids looked up to see their savior was Juju Mask. She was still wearing her mask.
“Are you guys okay?” she asked in her same quiet voice.
Phoebe got up to hug her friend crying on her shoulder. Juju was still for a moment but eventually hugged her back. She looked at Matthew who was uniting the fox and after finishing he looked up at her.
“O-okay what’s going on! Who’s she!?” he stutters a bit pointing at Juju.
Juju lets go of Phoebe and tell them to pack their things. “It’s not safe here anymore. We have to go.”
Matthew was frantic “GO where!? We can’t just leave, what about our parents?”
Juju turned sharply to him, “There’s no time! If we hurry we may make it to the tunnel before the glopper wakes up.”
Phoebe grabbed her new backpack and the bunny doll Juju made for her. She quickly runs to the kitchen and grabbed any snacks she can find to put in her backpack and puts on her red rain boots. Matthew did the same, he grabbed his backpack and stuffs a flashlight. He brings a bat with him in case the creature wakes up. Juju waits for them while carrying Zoom-Zoom because his legs were still in pain from the rope burns.
The three are ready to leave, when they heard a low moan from the room, nothing moved. They quickly ran downstairs, Phoebe glanced back at her bedroom before she runs to catch up with her brother and her friend. Matthew takes his flashlight out as they enter the garden. They opened the yard door and ran into the forest, hoping that nothing is following them.