The ringing of the Westminster Quarters pealed out from the bells through the peach colored sky. The sounds of shoes on concrete, glass doors being pushed open, and many faint voices too. Red maple and purple sunset clouds against dark green stained brick, and soft yellow colored concrete.
Someone turned on their boombox.
▒it’ll be rainy tonight, with a l▒
They adjusted the dial, and another station came on
▒a touch of glamour and elegance to your home,
with a beautiful new rug from Foragers’. Save 20 to 50 percent on
room size, area size, and mansion si▒
▒udent protests for the war are on the rise,
▒I’ll give you… whatever you ask for. I’ll let
you… into my life. If you… could see what I see… then you would
▒ leader threatens to quote
graveyard out of▒
▒have become increasingly worried, as the
number of sightings of so-called
ghouls are on the rise.
Despite the numerous sightings, and reported attacks, the police
have not launched an official investigation on the matter. Chief
of Police Andy Richman has issued a statement to ease the concerns
of the citizens, but▒
▒ast Sunday, three newspapers had received
another batch of encrypted letters from the so-called ‘Ophiuchus
▒box set can be yours, celebrating the
seventh anniversary of the first neopians on the moon, the
historic first steps, the picturesque lunar eclipse, and the
splashdown of the now world famous astronauts of the Florin 12
mission: Cloud Mac Niadh, Pluto Aliso, and Michael O’Cullane, with
an exclusive interview▒
More fiddling of the dial, and now loud, muffled rock music echoed against the campus’s brick buildings. A reddish Mynci with short hair walked by, wearing a gakuran and a small black backpack. He carried a composition notebook, with1 written onto it, and a textbook underneath that. He looked around, and down at the yellow concrete footpaths. A simple school uniform and a tired, closed off expression. Everyone around him wore puffy and loose clothes, some with tie-dye. Turtlenecks and bell bottom jeans. He walked faster as he looked up at the clouds, remembering what the radio said about rain tonight.
He opened the door to his tiny dorm, and found his roommate ruffling through her books. Her side of the room looked as though it had suffered an explosion, paper and books strewn everywhere. There was a rusty old machete hanging from the wall by the bed. She meant to clean the place, she’d told him, but something always came up. She always seemed to think that she had more time than she actually did. Kenji’s side of the room was as plain and immaculate as his fashion, the most frivolous things there being an electric wax melter, and a picture frame of him and his best friend. He looked at the picture, and nodded his head a little. He had to squeeze past her, and she looked up from packing her things.
Oh, hey Kenji.
Hello. he replied
Somewhere to go?
Vert was a green Wocky, with short black curly hair. She wore mostly white: a grey undershirt, a white open jacket, white dress slacks, a necklace with a green stone, and a white trilby hat.
Did you uh… he started.
About the… Kenji made a vague motion with his hands
anoo… the… drama club place.
Oh, the amphitheater?? Kenji nods as Vert continues
Aww jeez… no. The club president still hasn’t found a
replacement for it. She’s really pissed. I can’t believe somebody
would just blow up the place up like that.
Kenji set down his backpack and started emptying it out
into his desk.
The ones who did it… they find them?
Nope. Not yet. she shook her head,
Me, personally, I
think it was a bunch a jocks. Got their hands on something they
weren’t supposed to have. Alcohol prolly involved. I guess that
would explain the barf.
Right, sorry. It’s uh, a word that means vomit.
Oh. Kenji frowned,
Yeah. Right in the middle of the uh… blast radius I guess. It’s
bizarre. The whole thing is bizarre. she stuffed the last of
her gear into her backpack and zipped it closed.
gotta head over. She’s tired of us trying to clean and fix it up
so she’s hired someone else. We’re still meeting in front of the
amphitheater, but… I dunno what’s gonna happen after that. Knowing
her, she’ll probably… shuffle around some other after-school club
out of their room.
It can’t be helped. he shrugged
Good luck. I’ll see you
She hurried out the door and closed it, and he could hear her shoes scuffing the tile as she fast-walked out through the hall. He finished putting all his books away, and sighed, relieved that he didn’t have to carry them anymore. Instead, he was getting prepared for his own after-school club.
The sun was starting to touch the horizon now, and the clouds were getting darker overhead as Kenji walked over to the administrative halls of the college. He could see, in the distance the welcome center of the Brightvale University of Magic. Magic, of course, isn’t the only thing you could study here in the modern day. Science, history, mathematics, the arts. But even then there were some things they didn’t want to teach, subjects most didn’t take seriously. For subjects more… esoteric, you had to go to less popular sources.
He pulled open one of a pair of glass double doors, and walked onto first rubber, then carpet flooring, past the umbrella stands and stacks of bags for them. His eyes were made to squint from the harsh electrical lights inside the hall. He turned a corner, and entered the first door on the left. The vice-president of the club was already speaking. A silver colored Poogle stood there, reading off a sheet of paper. He had silvery white hair, and all his loose clothes were silver of different shades. He nodded at Kenji as he entered.
The Poogle squinted his eyes at the laminated parchment:
We now open this meeting of the Paranormal Club. Lucid dreams,
tulpas, ghouls, super powers, and psychic phenomena. Things the
wider world of Neopia dismisses as fantasy. But we know better,
that these things are real, ordinary, even. This is where us
students of Brightvale University of Magic come to talk, learn,
and experiment with the unknown. He set the paper down and
picked up another one, a large sheaf of notebook paper.
club is now down to… he checks somewhere further down on the
…four members, due to… lack of interest. he
Additionally, the club president is still sick, and will
not be coming today, but, he sends his regards.
Kenji pulled up a chair next to a fellow club member. She
was a fire færie, with dark skin, and a huge head of hair in a
natural style. She wore a red short dress, with orange bell
bottoms. She waved at him:
Hey, what’s goin on?
Kenji sat down next to her
Hi Rei. Nothing interesting,
honestly. Had a weird dream this morning, but can’t remember what
it was. Just that it was… weird.
Also, it’s Old Folks Day… but I didn’t meet any old folks, so I
can’t pay respect to them.
Old… folks… day…?
You don’t celebrate that here?
Nope, guess not. Rei said, and Kenji shrugged. She
I’ll write it in my big book-a-holidays though. Here
we have an annual chocolate ball today, but since it’s monday this
year, I haven’t had a chance to do anything either. Oh, also,
Warren’s doing his ESP cards today.
The Poogle put up his notes behind the wood podium, and
pulled out a stack of cards.
Eyup! And y’all’re gonna have a
helluva time doin it, too.
Rei sighed and held out a hand
Come on, Warren, that’s
what we did yesterday. I know you like this kinda stuff but
surely there’s something else we can do.
Hey, not my fault. You guys plowed through everything we
had planned on the syllabus for this year.
Then let’s start with the next year’s stuff! I wanna get into
the cooler stuff like cognitohazards, or nova magic.
I am not gonna teach y’all about either of those,
anytime soon. For your own good. Besides, if we do that, then what
are we gonna do next year?
I dunno, that’s your problem, man.
He gave her an exasperated look as he sat down across from
them. She sighed, and continued talking,
I can’t believe this
place was packed when the year first started. What happened to all
The Poogle shrugged
Well, you heard about the whole
Rei shook her head.
demons argument, right?
Well… probably for the best. We lost a few of them because of a…
disagreement with Lucine. They think they know what
they’re doing, but they’re just kids.
They’re our age.
Yeah, of course. I’m just uh, an old soul, I guess. Alright, who
do we wanna start with?
Kenji raised his hand:
Alright then. Warren put down the deck
You know the
drill, no funny business, no lookin around, just guess what the
shape is on the card.
He picked up a card, looked at it, and then tossed it
aside. Kenji looked over at it.
Dr. Fantabulastic’s Novelty
Toys and Esoterics: Zenner Cards was printed on the top
card of the deck, along with the five symbols each card had on
them: a yellow circle, a red plus, three blue wavy lines, a black
square, and a green star. He looked back at Warren as he started
Now I’m going to turn over the next card —and I want
you to concentrate— and tell me what you think it is.
Warren pulled up a card, a red cross, and held it to the side of his face so that neither Rei nor Kenji could see it.
It’s… unnn… red plus sign…?
Ooof, noo sorry, it was a green star.
He discarded it, face down, and drew another, a yellow circle.
Uhhmm… it’s aah… gold coin?
Mmm he made a tsk noise with his cheeks and teeth
man, it was uh, blue squiggles this time.
He discarded it, and drew another, a green star. Warren inhaled, about to speak, but without warning, there was a knock at the door. Warren turned around, and looked offended.
Uhhhh… come in…?
The door opened, and an angry looking lupe in a blue dress was standing there. Behind her, were a mass of students, all of them looking damp. Kenji recognized Vert right away, and she had a pained expression.
…Can I help you?
You can, by cleaning up your knicknacks.
Haha, s— I’m sorry? Warren smiled and tilted his head, in
a way that Kenji knew meant he was secretly furious.
You weren’t aware of our arrangement? I sent it to your
An uh… an arrangement…? You mean this room. he pointed at
You’re taking our room?
Well, it’s not your room, right now, is it? I
made it very clear what he was to do in the letter I left for
He’s sick right now, he hadn’t even gotten the chance to
read it. Where are we gonna go? There aren’t any free club
rooms at this time slot!
Well, I suppose that’s your problem. She clapped her hands
Children!! Please, come in, don’t mind the superstitious
riff raff. From now, until the reconstruction of the amphitheater,
this is the new location of the drama club. Please do not forget.
Make sure to keep all of your things neat and orderly.
Warren looked at Rei and Kenji, slack-jawed, and he slapped the card down onto the desk with a metallic thunk. Kenji saw Vert walk past, and she mouthed a silent I’m so sorry at him.
Kenji and Rei stood out under the awning. It was raining so much that it was hard to see across to the other buildings, and the sky was as black as tar. Warren was in a phone booth by the concrete walking path, about maybe five meters away, though they could still hear him when he raised his voice.
No!! I didn’t know either! It’s stupid! Now
they’re hogging our room! You don’t have…?
Rei looked over at Kenji
So much for cards. Kenji
let out a small chuckle, but his smile was muted. Warren said
something quieter, and hung up the phone. Kenji watched as he
opened the door, pull out an umbrella, and rush back over to the
awning where they were huddled under. He sighed, closing it and
shaking it off.
Nope. Lucine doesn’t have anywhere else we could hold
What about his studio? Rei asked.
That’s what I asked, but, no, sadly. He said that it’s a mess
right now, he hasn’t had a chance to clean it. Besides, it’s like,
more than a kilometer from campus, I’m not walkin that far,
especially not in the rain.
Yeah. Hey, Kenji, where’s your umbrella?
Kenji looked to Warren. He’d been staring out into the rain.
I uh, don’t have one.
Aww, no problem. Warren reached into his pocket and pulled
out another, identical umbrella to the one he had at the phone
Thank you. …Why do you have two umbrellas?
Uh, you know, just in case.
How did you fit two umbrellas in your pocket?
I have. Uh, big pockets. What are you, a cop or somethin?
Anyway… uhm… does… anybody have like… an empty building we could
go into? I’ve got nothin.
They shook their heads and Rei hmmm-ed. Kenji noticed that someone else was walking through the rain towards them. They were a blue Bori, wearing what looked to be medieval clothing, but was holding a modern umbrella. He had hair the same color blue as his fur, but a little darker, and it was tied up in a ponytail. He came up to the double doors, and lowered his umbrella, then turned to face them.
Excuse me, sorry. Is this building where the uh,
Paranormal Club is? He had to raise his voice, as the rain was
so loud that normal speech sounded like a whisper.
Hm? Warren looked surprised
Well, I’d say yeah, but
we’re not here anymore, we just got moved. Why?
The Bori smiled
I was looking to join you guys!
Really? Alright. That’s us. Who are you.
This is… the whole club?
Oh, uh, well, we’re just the uh, administrators, yeah. Some of
us are… sick. Yeah they uh, couldn’t make it to the meeting. Who
are you? Again?
He held out his hand
My name’s Sechson! Nice to meet
Warren didn’t shake back. Rei looked back and forth between them and shook his hand instead, saying
Hi there. and smiling
Warren looked confused.
Your name is
No, no, Sechson. It’s spelled with s, e, c h, and
Oh, okay. That’s great. Are you from Meridell?
Ah, yeah! Was it my tunic?
Kenji looked down to his clothes and realized that it had the red and blue pattern of Meridell on it, cut in half by a ringed leather belt and pouch. Kenji knew he looked like he was out of place, with his Shenkuu school uniform, but this Sechson person looked like he was from the wrong time period.
Yeah. You’re not from that religious school are
Well, yes. I… hope that’s not a uh, dealbreaker.
Aw, hell no. Get outta here kid.
Rei looked appalled
Warren! Come on, what’s wrong with
you? Rude?? Besides, she said quieter, and through her teeth,
we need as many as we can get.
No! He shook his head.
He’s from another school.
After-school activities are for our school. Besides, I
don’t even know who this guy is, they could be some kinda
Kenji looked over to Sechson. He looked dejected, but not
It’s okay… uhm, thank you for having me.
Hey, no no, it’s okay! Rei interjected
Now’s just… not a
great time, maybe, uh, check with us tomorrow? Yeah? I’m— I’m
Warren rolled his eyes.
Alright, I’ll uh, see you guys later then! Sechson waved,
and he lifted his umbrella, walking back into the rain.
Bye! See you soon! Rei waved.
Warren turned to look at Rei as soon as Sechson was out of
Sorry, that’s not happening.
Warren what the hell is your problem?? He seemed totally
He’s in a cult! And he’s dressed like he’s about to swear
fealty to somebody! And he’s walking out in the rain! That’s
WE are out in the rain! That’s not weird.
Warren rolled his eyes again and sighed.
Okay, fine. Next time
I see him I won’t immediately tell him to piss off. But I’m
not just gonna let any weirdo into the club. Also… yeah. I’m
getting tired of standing out in the rain. He sighs again,
Where are we goin? It feels kinda silly to cancel the club for
today over this. I’m running mostly on spite alone at this
Kenji piped up
Oh hey, Rei said
That’s a good idea. There’s a soda bar
right off of campus grounds, on Nightwoods drive, you can see it
from here, it’s the red building with the neon.
There is? When did they put that there?
It’s been there longer than I’ve been alive.
Oh… sorry, I uh, don’t keep track of stuff like that. Sure, why
not, let’s go then.
Warren turned around and opened his umbrella into the storm. Rei followed, and with a wave of her hand and soft words under her breath, cast some sort of spell, and the rain parted in the shape of a cone around her. Kenji looked out to where Sechson left, but he couldn’t see him. Kenji went out into the rain, with Warren’s second umbrella, still looking off to his right, for wherever the Bori went.
A giant neon sign cut through the rain, a blue half circle
for a bowl, a white half circle for a scoop of ice cream, a spoon,
and bright red text that read
SCOOPIES, all surrounded by a blue oval.
It was a retro styled soda bar, with bright red seats, a
checkerboard tile floor, and laminated advertisements all over the
table. All three of them came in, those who had umbrellas folding
them up. Warren lifted up three fingers at the purple Skeith who
was at the counter.
Table for three, please. They pointed
at an empty table, and Warren gave a thumbs up.
I can’t believe you’ve never been here, Warren. Rei
said as she sat down. Warren just shrugged.
Have you been here
Kenji? He nodded.
See? Even he’s been here, and he
isn’t even from here.
Alright, alright, sorry. I just don’t go to restaurants
Ehh, I mean, that’s fine, but…. Lemme tell ya sum’m. It’s
real good. Do you know what you want?
I’ll… just, uh, get a water.
Pfff, you’re no fun. I’m getting a nacho cheeseburger.
Ano… as for me, I… only tried the shake. The bar is the only
part I’ve tried.
Oooh you’re missin out! They have burgers, fries, fried
chicken and fish, steak—
Kenji lowered his head and widened his eyes
Yeah! You like steak?
Sou, sou, sometimes. I think I’ll have some.
Almost on cue, a purple Skeith came rumbling up to the table with a notepad. They looked down with a scowl, and to Kenji, their expression suggested that they were coming up with ways to kill them all and hide all the bodies.
Whadda y’all want. Half price chocolate for Chocolate
Day. They growled at them, then picked Rei, pointing at her
with their pen.
Good evening! Rei bowed her head,
May I please
have the Nacho Bacon Cheeseburger and a
M’kay. Seasoned fries?
They turned to Kenji.
A… ano… I… may I have the… the steak please? And, ahh, water.
That’s all, ari— I mean, thank you… very much.
They turned to Warren.
Water. I don’t want anything else. he said, without looking
The Skeith narrowed their eyes at Warren, and went
Hmph., then walked off. Warren stared at them as they did
Is that, uh…? Normal?
Oh, yeah. Rei made a dismissive gesture with her hand,
They’re nice when you get to know them! Plus, they’re the
manager, and the cook, and, like, a million years old, so they
don’t exactly have to pretend to be nice to people.
Ah… okay. he smiled and nodded.
What… was that drink you ordered? It sounded like you
were clearing your throat.
Oh, Achyfi? You don’t have it in Shenkuu?
It’s terrible, you don’t want it.
No it’s not! Rei retorted,
It’s really not that
bad, I mean, she shrugged with one arm,
it’s an acquired
taste. I’ve been drinking it my whole life. It’s
How do you say it? Yacck… a-fee?
You’re close, she pointed at him,
it’s a uh, like, where
the dangly bit is at the back of your throat and uh—
Warren interjected again
The phrase you are looking for is
voiceless uvular fricative.
Warren do you really think he’s gonna know what you
mean by that?
What? He could! They teach the IPA in
Kenji sighed and put his hand on his forehead and stared at the tile floor. They didn’t notice. Rei sighed angrily.
Uhhhggg. You are being insufferable today, you
always think you’re right.
Well, I am, generally.
Rei let out another overdramatic sigh, and threw her head
back. They both chuckled. For a moment, she looked like she was
Hey, Warren… how about we have the club in here? You
know. We can fit at a table, even when Lucine gets
Warren looked for a moment as though he was considering it, but then shook his head.
No. I mean, I get it, this is a nice place
but… it’s out in public. If we do anything more complicated than
Zenner cards we’re probably gonna need more room. And if we do…
somehow… get a new club member, we’re gonna have to pull up
a chair. Also… if they expect us to buy something every single
time we come here, they’re gonna have a problem.
I suppose that’s fair.
Warren looked at his watch. He sighed.
Well, today’s meeting
went pear-shaped fast. We’ve blown through, like a quarter of our
time. Oh well. Might as well enjoy this, then. Hey Kenji, wanna
keep doing Zenner cards?
No thank you.
Whatever he was going to say was cut off, as the Skeith
returned. They were carrying two plates on their arms, and a tray
of drinks, which they set down on the table, with what Kenji
thought was surprising grace.
Still looks like they want to kill us all. he noted to
Burger. they set the plate down for Rei. It was
huge, even by old-style burger place standards, almost the size of
the plate it was sitting on, the entire rest of the room were
taken up by crispy looking yellow fries. The burger had far too
many slices of dark orange cheese on it, with criss-crossing rows
of bacon, and topped with a toasted bun covered in sesame seeds.
Rei bowed her head
Thank you! and started eating
Mmmhm. the Skeith acknowledged, and then turned to Kenji.
Steak. they set down another massive plate in front
of Kenji. Alarm bells went off in his head, realizing in that
exact instant that he’d never be able to eat all this in one day.
The meal was once again the size of the whole plate, and it was
not a small plate.
This thing could be 32cm, easily. he
thought to himself, but he couldn’t measure it with his eyes that
well. He owned textbooks smaller than this steak. He
remembered that he never specified how he wanted it cooked, like
you’re supposed to, but somehow it was just the way he’d imagined
it. It was dark brown on the outside, and just a little pink in
the middle, and cut into strips two centimeters wide. It even came
with chopsticks, and some sort of dark colored dipping sauce.
…Hai! Thank you!
They looked at Warren for a second.
Eat it. they turned, walking away
…And pay me or I’ll
Thank you! Rei waved to then. She turned back to her
food and continued eating it, while Kenji took an experimental
chunk of steak between his chopsticks. He tried some without the
This is good. he raised his brow and nodded. It was tender,
but not too soggy or droopy. He tried it again with the sauce. He
had no idea what it could be, but it was savory with a hint of
sweet. He kept at it, but looked a little terrified. Rei noticed
What’s the matter?
It’s… huge. Very very big.
Hahaha, yeh. They really like big food here. I don’t think Cold
Scoopies does small portions. You weren’t that
I haven’t eaten since this morning, but… I don’t… it’s just a
little bit… uh.
If it’s too much, just eat what you can and take the rest
What? I…? I shouldn’t do that, they worked hard on
What do you mean?
It would be rude of me.
Huh? N-no… do you not take home leftovers in
I mean, we do… but… it’s… you’re not supposed to order more
than you can eat.
Ahhhh. Well, it’s different here, you can just take it with
you, it’s cool.
Kenji still looked a little worried, but nodded.
And he kept eating.
Rei turned to Warren, who was looking out the window, and into the rain. The downpour looked like it was slowing down to a drizzle. He hadn’t even drunk his water.
She spoke to him:
Well, you know what we could
House hunting. We can brainstorm a place where… like… for the
Club to meet at.
Warren nodded, and she continued.
You’ve got a basement,
right? Where you keep all your ghost stuff?
Yeah… I’ve thought about it before. But it’s… pretty noisy at
my house, and there’s not a lot of room, or privacy. Maybe… as a
Alright. I mean, maybe we could try my flat?
Is it big enough?
I guess so, I’ve got a couch, table, chairs. I’m sure four
people could fit in there comfy-like.
Warren nodded and smiled.
You got anything Kenji?
N… no, not… really. He was trying to shovel as much steak
into himself as he could without making a mess or looking too
I share a room, it’s a uhh… dormitory.
Mmm, okay then. Last last resort. Whelp, I guess we’ll
try Rei’s then.
Now?? Kenji looked panicked.
Yeah, why not? We’ll just get to-go boxes.
Rei looked indignant
That’s easy for you to say, mister
I just want a water, we just got here!
This is still club hours! We’re doing club stuff!
Hhhhhhhhgggg, Rei threw her head back again
alright. Are we all splitting it?
Sure. Warren said, and Kenji nodded, and they all got up
from the table.
The mist above them was glowing orange from the streetlamps: rustic looking things that used grown vines in place of metalwork to contain fogged glass, with a flame behind it. There was one for every building, all of which looked like tall gnarled trees, with colorful mushrooms serving as awnings and porches. Kenji, Warren, and Rei walked on the beaten grass path below. Warren had put away his umbrella, as the rain had gone from drizzle, to a faint mist.
It looks really nice out here. Picturesque. Warren
Thank ye! Really cheap too, for some reason. It’s a færie only
apartment complex, so I guess that’s less complicated for
insurance, I guess?
Rei looked up:
Ahh, here it is. and she fluttered
her wings. She flew almost straight upwards, and up to what must
have been her porch.
Here it is guys!! You like it?
Uhh, Warren looked up, squinting
Yeah. Kinda hard to
tell from down here though.
Well come on up!
Warren and Kenji looked around, up, left, right. Rei blinked, and looked confused, and she started looking around too.
There wasn’t a ladder. Or stairs. Or anything.
Hey uh… how we gonna get up there? he smiled.
No wayyyy. Rei said to herself aloud.
Pffft, there’s no
way, they’ve… gotta’ve put stairs or something here.
Maybe like, a ladder? You’re kidding… she said as she
walked into her apartment. Warren wheezed and chuckled, and Kenji
watched, as all they could do was just stand there. Rei came back
There’s no ladder on the fire escape either!
I know, right? That’s like, super inconvenient!
That’s a safety hazard!!
Well… fæ housing is exempt from a lot of health and safety
That’s ridiculous! What if there’s a fire??
I don’t know! That’s just how the fey do things! she
I’m so sorry, you guys.
How did you not notice??
I don’t use ladders! I’ve never, like, needed to…
Alright… fine. Goodness gracious. Warren had his head in
his hands, then looked up to Rei
Well, you wanna try my
I could… maybe pull you guys up?
No way. I’m way too heavy. You’d die.
No I wouldn’t!
Besides, what if you get sick or can’t come? We’d be stuck down
Alright, alright… we’ll try your house then.
Warren unlocked the door and pushed his way into a dark foyer. The lights were turned down low, and the only reason anything was visible was because everything was white, from carpet in the foyer, to carpet, tile, and ceilings. The only minor exception were the walls, which were wallpapered a pattern of teal mallards, hearts, and roses, on a background of white.
Martha! he shouted into the darkness
me. I’ve got school friends.
Shut up!!! came a voice from somewhere
I’m watching my
Warren sighed and shrugged.
I’m turning the lights
No response. He turned the lights on.
What was in shadow was out in the open, and the first thing Kenji noticed was the stuff. He’d never seen so many objects owned by one household in one place, and from the looks of it, the whole house was that way. Tiny plushies in the corners of the room, display cases crammed full of glass, porcelain, and plastic figurines, several side tables pushed up against the walls as if a new one was bought after the old one was too covered with magazines, phone books, and junk mail to use. Half of the wall were boots, hats, and jackets hanging from wooden fixtures. There was a doorway to their left which the tile floor snaked into, that looked to be the kitchen and dining room, and to the right was doorway with a layer of carpet. A television was on, the high pitched whining of the electronics and flashing of lights made that clear, but he couldn’t see into what Kenji guessed was the living room very far. Forward was carpeted stairs, and another door to the side, but it was still too dark to see past them.
Warren stepped around the piles of junk, and into the kitchen, and the other two followed, Kenji closing the front door behind him. He almost took off his shoes by instinct, but looking at the dusty floor, and seeing as how his friends didn’t, he kept them on. Kenji looked over his shoulder into the living room, and saw even more of a mess. The only thing easy to identify was the TV, with an old-time-y cowboys and wizards program. He couldn’t tell if it was a show or a movie, as they all kind of looked the same to him. He couldn’t see where the voice Warren was talking to came from, but he could hear a small gasp every time a cowboy or wizard fired a shot.
Warren looked at the dining room table and sighed, hands at his hips. It was a dark wooden table, but you could only tell that from the legs, as almost the entire surface was covered in junk. Sewing supplies, fabric, old letters, legal paper, and what looked like magic scrolls.
“Whelp. Basement it is.” and he turned to a closet door between the kitchen and dining room, and Rei backed up so he could open it. Warren opened a door into total darkness, and fumbled for a lightswitch. As it switched on, Kenji saw what might have been the cleanest part of the house, as the stairs were uncluttered, a yellow light illuminating the thin stairway down. Warren led the way as they all followed him in a line. Rei slowed to a stop in front of Kenji, as Warren walked off into the darkness of the basement from the end of the stairs, and then, there was a clicking, then light.
There was a round metal-legged table, the top made of laminated particle board, and a few wooden chairs, all resting on concrete. Everything was surrounded by humming grey machinery and strange looking boxy devices, some looking both technical and magical in nature. Little knobs and dials glowed a faint turquoise ish white, and a few screens had fluctuating wavy lines.
Sorry about the mess… I haven’t organized my equipment
in a long time.
It’s fine, it’s fine. Rei assured him. It’s been the first
time she spoke since Warren opened the door, and Kenji assumed she
hadn’t mentioned the house out of politeness.
looked around at all of it
ghost stuff… I’ve never seen it, until now.
Thanks! It’s quite a collection. He was right, and it went
wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Kenji wasn’t even sure how big the
basement was, as everything was swamped by all the equipment, to
the point where you couldn’t see two of the walls.
There was a sound from above.
AAAAAHHH!!! KILL ‘EM!! Kill ‘em Larry!! Use your gun!!
It’s right behind you!!
Warren sighed, walked around them and back up the stairs, slamming the door to the first floor hard. He came back down again, and sighed again.
I’m sorry… the old lady gets really really wrapped up
in her TV shows. I’m sure it’ll be fine. he walked over to the
Now then! I guess we’re here now, we can finish up
cards! You wanna go Rei?
I suppose so. Though I’d much rather do poker.
Yeah. Funny. They all pulled up a chair and sat down, and
Warren pulled the Zenner cards from inside his jacket.
Oh FYORA’S NAME, LARRY NO!!!
Warren looked up, then closed his eyes, and took a long,
Okay. Okay. I hold up a card, and you tell me what you think
it is. Same as always. he pulled out a card from the top of
the deck, again where no one but him could see it. It was a yellow
Uhhmm… it’s a… green? Star?
Aww, hey, great job! It was!
Ah awesome!! Rei bounced up and down,
NO NO Larry you have to SUCK THE POISON OUT!!
Larry!! You have to suck it out! Suck it out!!!
Rei snorted and put her hands up to her face, trying to
hide a smile, and her restrained giggles sounded like wheezing.
Alright… s… second card, Rei.
Warren held up a card that had three blue wavy lines on it.
PLEASE LARRY!! The wizards are coming!! Don’t
let him die ALONE! He’s your PARTNER!!! Carry him
Rei put her head on the table and laughed as quiet as she
Okay, that’s it. Warren stood up, took a chair in both
hands, flipped it over, and pounded on the ceiling with the four
PLEASE! Be quiet! We have guests! There
was a pause.
YOU shut up!! It’s the season finale!
a short pause
NO, LARRY don’t let him DIE! You’re
Don’t be so rude. Kenji whispered, looking
shocked at his behavior
It’s Old Folks Day! You must respect
them today, at least. Warren put down the chair
and emptied his lungs completely, leaning on the table with a
So hey, uh, Kenji, let’s go to your dorm.
I bet it’s great.
Kenji flicked on the lights to his dorm, and swung the door open. Rei pressed herself against the side of the room that was his, and scooted over to the bed. Kenji stood against some of Vert’s clutter, and Warren wedged himself next to Kenji’s desk.
Wow. Warren said,
This is like stuffing myself
into a dumbwaiter.
Warren! Rude!! Rei scolded him.
But… really though, is
there like… a
I’m… not sure what that is.
Like… a communal area. Like, a living room for the whole
Oh, no. Well, it exists, but they’re working on it. Paint,
Remodeling, lovely. Great timing huh?
Warren piped up
Also, school clubs aren’t allowed to use dorm
rec rooms anymore.
It’s an old rule. It’s to stop houses from making
dorm clubs that don’t do anything and invite nobody in so
they can get after-school activity credits.
That was a thing?
You’d be surprised what lengths college kids will go through
just to be lazy, especially when loopholes are involved.
Hmph, fair enough.
They all fidgeted around for a moment, not saying anything. Rei looked around at Kenji’s stuff. All he had on his bedside table was a wax melter, a package of the wax cubes, and a picture frame with a pastel colored Lutari in it.
Oh hey, Kenji, who’s this? she asked, holding the
picture frame towards him.
Oh… that’s… that’s Dakota. Best friend.
Rei took a closer look at the picture. The lutari was a soft green, with a cream-yellow colored chest, totally bare except for a gold chain with a peace sign. They had long light brown hair, with a pale flower stuck into it, and one half was almost covering their right eye. They had pink clawfingers, and wore fingerless gloves that had a rainbow pattern on them.
They were hugging Kenji from the side, and she noticed that Kenji was smiling more than she’d ever seen him smile.
I haven’t seen him around.
I’d be worried if you did.
Does he not live around here?
No. He doesn’t. He was taken. By the draft. I don’t want to
talk about it right now.
Rei nodded. Kenji’s face looked like it had aged twenty years, and he looked away.
Warren spoke up:
Okay yeah I’m sorry Kenji, but there’s no way even four people
would fit in here.
Rei gave in as well.
Yeah… uh, sorry, no offence, but your roommate’s side of the
room is… kind of a disaster. Kenji chuckled as she said that
There’s junk everywhere and… is that a machete?? Who the hell
are they anyway?
Vert, friend of mine. Well, we didn’t know each other until we
met here. It’s not stinky, just chaos. I don’t mind. Warren
shrugged in what might have been agreement on the sentiment, but
shook his head a second after.
Nah. We can’t do this. This is microscopic.
Alright. I don’t mind. I didn’t really want it here anyway.
Warren sighed, maybe for the tenth or twentieth time
All three were back, exactly where they were, in Cold Scoopies. Kenji was picking at his steak, still in a to-go box, and Warren was swirling his glass of water.
Burger. the Skeith growled, and set down another
nacho bacon cheeseburger in front of Rei.
Shake., setting a
chocolate shake in front of her as well. She bowed her head again.
Thank you very much!
The Skeith walked off, and Rei dug into it, as if she hadn’t even eaten earlier. The Skeith stopped at the table behind Rei, and turned to whoever was sitting there, who Kenji couldn’t see.
Foof what the hell you wearin? Yer never here at this
Hm? Oh, I… think you’re looking for someone else. I don’t think
No? Hmm. they stared at him, looking up and down
do smell different. Alright. Guess you got a doppelganger
or somethin. You look just like one of our regulars.
Oh, I see. What kind of name is
Just a nickname. What’s your name then?
Kenji looked up from his steak, and at Rei. She’d realized too, and turned around to look.
Sechson? Hey, weren’t you that guy that…?
Warren, whose eyes had been unfocused and facing out the window, came to attention and looked over.
Oh, hey, yeah! the blue Bori turned and said
I got hungry. I’ve never been here before, and thought I’d
check it out. Is it good?
Just as Rei was about to say
yeah, Warren interrupted:
Did you follow us here?
What? he looked a little offended,
No. Why would
I? I was gonna come back tomorrow. The Skeith walked off,
ignoring their conversation.
Warren, stop being so paranoid.
Warren frowned and leaned back
So it was a coincidence then?
That’s a contrivance and a half if I’ve ever seen one. Whatever,
it doesn’t matter. 80 percent of today’s club is over and we still
don’t have a meeting place. I don’t even know where we’re gonna
go. Who cares if some wacko starts stalkin us.
Oh… Sechson looked confused,
What’s going on?
The uh, the drama club building blew
Sechson’s confusion changed to alarm:
Yeah. So they… their club president took our room.
Warren fumed in the corner
We’ve had that room for
years. I can’t believe they’d do something like that.
Especially without paperwork.
Sechson’s brow scrunched up a bit, in what looked like legitimate concern
It’s fine, Rei said,
we’ll… figure out something. We
tried each other’s houses, but uh… that didn’t work out very
Why not? You need more space?
Yeah. Warren looked back out the window,
tables, chairs, clean bathroom. And preferably, privacy.
Hmm. Sechson thought for a moment.
Warren pointed right at him
Oh hell no.
Warren, come on. He just wants to help.
Do you wanna get mugged in an alley? This is how
you get mugged in an alley.
Rei rolled her eyes
Warren there’s three of us, and I’m
basically a living flamethrower with wings. I think we’ll be
Hhhhhhh. Alright, fine. Let’s vote on it. Raise your
hand, if… you wanna go look at this… random guys’ house. Who…
we’ve never met, and… have no idea who he is… to see his knife,
chainsaw, and deadly space laser collection. This guy could be the
Ophiuchus Killer for all we know.
Rei and Kenji raised their hand. Warren raised an eyebrow
I’m curious. Kenji shrugged.
Warren, resigned to his fate, rested his head on the wall behind him, and stared up at the ceiling, emotionless, then sighed. Rei raised her hand, and waved at the Skeith.
Excuse me? Yes! I’m
sorry, may I have another to-go box please?
All four of them walked down a sidewalk, the rain all but
gone now. The clouds had parted to show patches of glistering
stars, and a bright, full moon. Metalwork street lamps were placed
far apart, as they went up the hill. It wasn’t as far from the
college as they thought it might be, closer than the city or
Lucine’s studio, but the path was a winding trail up through much
more expensive, lavish houses. Warren looked behind them every few
minutes or so, and Rei held a heatless, smokeless, magic flame in
her hand, which she held like a lantern as it shone light in front
of them. Kenji looked all around at the houses, high brick walls,
and huge yards.
The people who live here must be royalty,
or at least were on good terms with royalty. After a while,
Sechson turned in the middle of a driveway, towards a metal gate
between two beige concrete walls.
Alright, we’re here!
They all watched as he fumbled with the metal gate’s latch, and pushed it. It was a huge, open, square yard of cut grass, a trail that became a circular drive with a single lamp in the center, and what looked like a mansion at the end of it. The lights were all on in rectangular windows, in what Warren would have recognized as a gothic revival country house, but to everyone else it was like an imposing castle keep stuffed into the space of two, maybe three regular houses. As they got closer, they could see that the whole house was made of stone, even the front porch, that had columns to support a pointed roof above it.
What the hell is a bigass country house doing so close
to a college? Warren asked, incredulous.
It used to belong to a professor who worked there. Sechson
So is this your parents house?
Yeah, but they’re not here.
Okay…? Where are they?
They’re missionaries! he said with pride
away right now. I go to school, at the uh, other school
here. Once I graduate, I can join them out there.
Hmmm. Warren made a contemptuous sound, making sure his
opinion of the other school was obvious.
Sechson opened the door, and they all stepped into the light of the inside of his house. Everyone looked up and around at everything. The most noticeable thing was how immaculate it was, everything was ordered and clean. The room that they’d walked into was some sort of combination living room and foyer, where a stone floor connected to the front porch stepped up into polished dark wood floors of the rest of the house. This single room was the size of what Kenji would consider the space of a whole house, and he was speechless. There were doors to the left and right of the room, the left one going into a kitchen, the other closed off by a door, a hallway deeper into the house, and on top of that, a massive staircase went up from the left side of the room to a hallway upstairs, and it was so tall that it looked like it went up to a third floor instead of a second. All the walls were painted a soft yellow-y tan, which transitioned into light wood paneling on the second story. On the far wall was a fireplace and mantle, but it was so tall of a mantle you’d need a stool or maybe a chair to reach it. Speaking of which, there was a large table, dark, round, with seven chairs around it, all made of dark wood as well.
Oh Fyora’s name… Rei was the first to speak
This is outta sight!
Sechson tilted his head a little,
Oh, well, yes, I guess this
is a pretty private location.
Noo, no, I mean, this place is amazing! It’s
too much! I can’t believe you’d let us use this
It’s fine! It’s not like I’m using the whole house. Oh, that
reminds me. Sechson ruffled in his pocket, and pulled out a
small key, which he handed to Warren.
Here ya go! Just in case
I can’t be here to unlock the door for you guys.
Warren held the key in his hand and looked at it, then
back at the Bori.
Hey, uh. Nice. This is nice. Warren nodded and
started smiling, and put his arm around Rei and Sechson, and Rei
had to duck from the difference in height,
This is the
place, man! Welcome to the Paranormal Club,
Rei looked at Warren and narrowed her eyes.
Seriously? This was the deciding factor? she mouthed at
Because he’s loaded?
Warren looked at her and let out a loud
Hehehh. with a
mischievous, knowing smile that he knew she found insufferable,