Chapter
1
Rainy Night In Georgia

The ringing of the Westminster Quarters pealed out from the bells, as it echoed through the peach colored sky. The sounds of shoes on concrete, glass doors being pushed open, and many faint voices. Red maple, dark green pine, and purple sunset clouds against dark green stained roof tiles & soft yellow colored bricks.

Someone on the steps of the library 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, as
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 know why…
I

leader threatens to, quote make a 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 citizens, but
ast Sunday, three newspapers had received another batch of encrypted letters from the so‐called ‘Ophiuchus Killer’, wh
tickets can be yours, celebrating the second 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 7th of Eating interview

They fiddled with the dial again. Music echoed against the campus’s brick buildings.

We think of all our tragedies
etched into our minds.
We think about what could have been
and feel our souls unwind.

But when I was young, I
thought I lived within a
softer world,
But now I guess that I’m just older.

When I was young, I
thought my dreams and I would
save the world.
So far the world’s just gotten colder.

But you see, the
carcases of
all my dreams are
beautiful.

But you see, the
carcases of
all my dreams are
beautiful.—

A reddish colored Mynci, with short sideswept hair, walked out from the library. He wore a gakuran, a plain black buttoned down shirt, with a stiff standing coallar. A fashion meant for highschoolers, despite being in college. He carried a composition notebook, with 真白 研二1 written onto it, and textbooks underneath that. He looked around through a tired closed off expression, and down at the yellow concrete footpaths. Everyone around him wore puffy and loose clothes, some with letterman jackets, some with tie‐dye. Turtlenecks and bell bottom jeans. He walked faster as he looked up at the clouds, as he remembered what the radio had said about rain tonight.


He opened the door to the dorm, as his roommate ruffled through her books. She was a green Wocky, with short black curly hair. Most of her clothes were white: a grey undershirt, a white open jacket, white dress slacks, a necklace with a green stone, and a white trilby hat. He had to squeeze past her, and she looked up from her things.
Hey Kenji. she smiled at him.
Hello. he bowed his head a bit, Ano, going somewhere?
Yeah. Drama.
Ah, right.

Her side of the room looked as though it had suffered an explosion, paper and books strewn everywhere. There was a rusty old machete, which hung from the wall by the bed. She meant to clean the place, she’d told him, but something always came up. She 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 & his best friend, a pastel colored Lutari. He looked at the picture, and nodded his head.

He looked back to her, Did you ah…. he started.
Hm?
About the… Kenji made a vague motion with his hands, anoo… the… drama club place.
Oh, the amphitheater??
He nodded, Find out more about what happened there?
Ahh, no… not yet. The club president still hasn’t found a replacement for it. She’s still really pissed about it. I can’t believe somebody would just blow up the place up like that.

Kenji set down his backpack and started to empty it out onto his desk. The ones who did it… they find them yet?
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 probablly involved. I guess that would explain the barf.
The… barf…?
Right, sorry. It’s uh, a word that means vomit.
Oh. Kenji frowned, Gross.
Yeah. Right in the middle of the stage. Bizarre. The whole thing is bizarre. she stuffed the last of her gear into her backpack and zipped it closed, …Anyway, I gotta head over. She’s tired of us trying to clean and fix it up ourselves, 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 later.
You too.

She hurried out the door and closed it, and he could hear her shoes scuff against the tile as she fast‐walked out through the hall. He’d put all his books away, then sighed, relieved that he didn’t have to carry them anymore.


The sun started to touch the horizon, and the clouds had become darker overhead, as Kenji walked over to the administrative halls of the college. He could see, in the distance, the Welcome Center for the Brightvale University of Magic. Magic, of course, wasn’t the only thing you could study there in the modern day. Science, history, mathematics, the arts. But even then there were some 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. He 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 glanced over at him as he entered. They were a silver colored Poogle, who stood at a small wood podium, and held a sheet of paper. They had greyish hair, fur, and their loose suit was colored grey & silver of different shades. They nodded at Kenji as he entered.

The Poogle squinted their eyes at the laminated parchment, Right. Good, we’re all here. they cleared their throat: 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. They set the paper down and picked up another one, a large sheaf of notebook paper: The club is now down to… they check somewhere further down on the page four members, due to… lack of interest. they sigh. 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 warm toned chestnut skin, and a huge head of hair in a round, natural style. She wore a red short dress, with orange bell bottoms. She waved at him: Hey what’s up, what’s goin on?
He sat down next to her, Hey Rei. Nothing interesting, honestly. I had a weird dream this morning. Can’t remember what it was. Just that it had… something to do with the moon.
I see! You should probably tell Warren about that.
Mm. I’ll think about it. 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.
Kenji shrugged.
She continued, I’ll write it in my big book‐a‐holidays then. Here we have an annual chocolate ball today, but since it’s on a Monday this year, I haven’t had a chance to do anything either. Oh, also, Warren’s doing his ESP cards today.
Oh…?

The Poogle put up their 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. Surely there’s something else we can do.
Hey, not my fault. You guys plowed through everything we had planned on my syllabus for this year.
Well, then let’s start with the next year’s stuff! I wanna get into the cooler stuff like cognitohazards, or nova magic.
I’ll think about it. they scrunched up their face, Not 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.
He gave her an exasperated look as he sat down across from them.

Rei leaned back and looked around the mostly empty room. What made the room qualify as only mostly empty were unused desks and chairs, pushed against the sides of the room. She looked back to Warren, I can’t believe this place was packed when the year first started.
Mm. they shrugged as they shuffled the pack of cards, their eyes pointed down at them, That’s usually how it goes.
What happened to all of ‘em?
The Poogle looked up at her, You weren’t there? You heard about the whole argument, right?
Rei shook her head.
I thought I told you about it at some point.
Nope. Well, if you did, I forgot.
Mm. they looked back down to the cards again, 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. Anyway, who do we wanna start with?

Kenji raised his hand: I’ll go.
Alright then. Warren put down the deck, No funny business, no lookin around, just guess what the shape is on the card.

They picked up an ivory colored 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 sun. He looked back at Warren as they started talking again.

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 their face so that neither Rei nor Kenji could see it.

It’s… ahh… red plus sign…?
Mm. Alright.

They discarded it, face down, and drew another, a yellow circle.

Again.
Uhhmm… it’s aah… gold coin?
Mmm. they made a tsk noise with their cheeks and teeth.

He discarded it, and drew another, a green sun. Warren inhaled, about to speak, until there was a knock at the door. He turned around, and looked offended.

Uhhhh… come in…?

The door opened, and a magenta furred lupe, with dark blue hair and dress, stood there. Behind her, were a mass of students, all of them damp. Kenji recognized his roommate 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 their head, in surprise and held back anger.
You weren’t aware of our arrangement? I sent it to your president a week ago, and many other times.
An uh… an arrangement…? You mean this room. they pointed at the ground, You’re taking our room?
Well, it’s not your room, right now, is it? I made it very clear what was to happen in the letters I left for him.
He’s sick right now, he probably 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, Mr. Grey. she clapped her hands twice, 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. They slapped the card down onto the desk with a metallic thunk. Kenji saw his roommate walk past, as she mouthed a silent and embarrassed I’m so sorry at him.


Kenji and Rei stood out under the awning. It rained so hard that it was difficult to see across to the other buildings, and the night sky would have been black as tar, had the clouds not been illuminated by the light pollution of the city. Warren was in a phone booth by the concrete walking path, about five meters away, though they could still hear them when they raised their voice.

No!! I didn’t know either! It’s stupid! Now they’re hogging our room! You don’t have…?

She looked over at Kenji So much for cards.
He let out a small chuckle, but his smile was muted.
Warren said something quieter, and hung up the phone. Kenji watched as they opened the door, pulled out an umbrella, and rushed back over to the awning they all were huddled under. They sighed, closed he umbrella, and shook it off.

Nope. Lucine doesn’t have anywhere else we could hold it in.
What about his studio? Rei asked.
I asked that too, but, no, sadly. He said that it’s a mess right now, he hasn’t had a chance to clean it in the uh, condition he’s in. Besides, it’s like, more than a kilometer from campus, I’m not walkin that far, especially not in the rain.
Oh. Dang.
Yeah. Hey, Kenji, where’s your umbrella?
He’d been staring out into the rain until his attention was brought back to them, Hm? Oh, I uh, don’t have one.
Ahh. No problem, here. Warren reached into their pocket and pulled out another, identical umbrella to the one they had at the phone booth.
Thank you. Kenji bowed his head as he took the umbrella. He turned it over a couple times to look at it. It was much more heavy than it looked, and the fabric seemed to be made of metal mesh. He looked back up to Warren, …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?
Kenji snorted and smiled, then shrugged, Doesn't matter, just curious.
Right. Well… does… anybody have like… an empty building we could go into? I’ve got nothin.

Rei hmmm‐ed and shook her head. Kenji noticed that someone else walked through the rain towards them. They were a blue Bori, who wore what looked to be medieval clothing, but held 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, lowered his umbrella, then turned to face them.

Excuse me, sorry. Is this the 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.
What? 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 you!
Warren didn’t shake back.
Rei looked back and forth between them and shook his hand instead, Hi there. and she smiled back.

Warren looked confused. Your name is sextant??
No, no, Sechson. S‑e, c‑h, and son?
Oh, okay. That’s great. You from Meridell?
Ah, yeah! Was it my tunic?

Kenji looked down to his clothes. 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. This wasn’t that much of a stretch, however, given the events of the last few decades.

Yeah. You’re not from that religious school are you?
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, there’s only four of us now, we need as many as we can get.
No! they shook their head, They’re from another school. After‐school activities are for our school. Besides, I don’t even know who this is, they could be some kinda weirdo.

Kenji looked over to Sechson. He looked down, dejected, 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 so sorry.
Warren rolled their eyes.
Alright, I’ll uh, see you guys later then! Sechson waved, and he lifted his umbrella and walked back into the rain.
Bye! See you soon! she waved.

Warren turned to look at Rei as soon as Sechson was out of earshot. Sorry, that’s not happening.
Warren what the hell is your problem?? They seemed totally fine!
They’re in a cult! And they’re dressed like they’re about to swear fealty to somebody! And they’re walking out in the rain! That’s weird.
We are out in the rain! That’s not weird.
Warren rolled their eyes again and sighed, Okay, fine. Next time I see them I won’t immediately tell them to piss off. But I’m not just gonna let any weirdo into the club.
Rei stared off into the rain where the Bori went, Y’know… now that I think about it, they kinda look familiar, don’t they?
Yeah. I noticed that too. But… whatever. I’m getting tired of standing out in the rain. they sigh 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 point.

Kenji piped up Restaurant, maybe.
Oh hey, Rei pointed at him, 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?
Warren, it’s been there longer than I’ve been alive.
I uh, don’t keep track of stuff like that. Sure, why not, let’s go then.

Warren turned around and opened their umbrella into the storm. Rei followed. With a wave of her hand, and soft words under her breath, she cast some sort of spell. 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 too, with Warren’s second umbrella, but still looked 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 the scoop of ice cream, a spoon, and bright red text that read COLD 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, and those who had umbrellas folded them up. Warren lifted up three fingers at the purple Skeith who was at the counter. Table for three, if you would.
The Skeith pointed at an empty table, and Warren gave a thumbs up in response.

I can’t believe you’ve never been here, Warren. Rei said as she sat down.
They just shrugged.
Have you been here Kenji? she looked over to him.
He nodded.
See? Even he’s been here, and he’s not even from here.
Alright, alright, whatever. Warren rolled their eyes, I just don’t go to restaurants much.
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. Kenji?
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 birds & fish, steak—
Kenji lowered his head and widened his eyes They have steak?
Yeah! You like steak?
Sou, sou, sometimes. I think I’ll have some.

On cue, a purple Skeith came up to the table with a notepad, their heavy steps made the table rumble. 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.

You.
Good evening! Rei bowed her head, May I please have the Nacho Bacon Cheeseburger and a Achyfi2?
M’kay. Seasoned fries?
Yes, please.
They turned to Kenji.

You. ゴ
A… ano… I… may I have the… the steak please? And, ahh, water. That’s all, ari— I mean, thank you… very much.
M’kay.
They turned to Warren.

You.
Water. I don’t want anything else. they said, but didn’t look at them.

The Skeith narrowed their eyes at Warren, went Hmph., then walked off.
Warren stared at them after they turned their back on him. 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.

Kenji looked over, What… was that drink you ordered? It sounded like you were clearing your throat.
Oh, Achyfi? You don’t have it in Shenkuu?
N… no.
Warren interrupted, It’s terrible, you don’t want it.
No it’s not! she retorted, then turned back to Kenji, 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 fine.
How do you say it? Yakka‧fee?
You’re close, she pointed at him, it’s the noise where like, uh, 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.
She sighed Warren do you really think he’s gonna know what you mean by that?
What? He could! They teach the IPA in college.
Kenji sighed and put his hand on his forehead and stared at the tile floor. They didn’t notice.
Rei let out an angry sigh. Uhhhggg. You are being insufferable today, you know that, man?
I do my best. they smiled a little.

Rei let out another overdramatic sigh, and threw her head back. They both chuckled. After a moment, she relaxed and looked back at them: Hey, Warren… how about we have the club in here? You know, we can fit at a table, even when Lucine gets better.
Warren considered it, but then shook their head. No. I mean, I get it, 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 their small silver watch, then 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.
Mm—

Whatever they were 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 impressive grace. Still looks like they want to kill us all. he noted to himself.

Yer burger, ma’am. they set the plate down for Rei. It was huge, even by old‐style burger place standards, almost the size of the plate it sat on, the entire rest of the room was taken up by crispy yellow fries. The burger had far too many slices of dark orange cheese on it, with criss‐crossed rows of bacon, topped with a toasted bun covered in sesame seeds.

Rei bowed her head Thank you! and started to eat right after.
Mmmhm. the Skeith acknowledged with a grumble, and then turned to Kenji.

Yer steak, sir. they set down another massive plate in front of Kenji. Alarm bells went off in his head, as he realized 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. I own textbooks smaller than this steak.. He remembered that he never specified how he wanted it cooked, like you’re supposed to, but it was just the way he’d imagined it, somehow. It was dark brown on the outside, and just a little pink in the middle, cut into strips two centimeters wide. It even came with chopsticks, and some sort of dark colored dipping sauce he couldn’t identify.

Tondemonai
No prob’m.
…Hai! Thank you!

They looked at Warren for a second. Your water. they paused and stared at them for a moment, as if in thought, It’s for you.
Yeah. Thanks.
They turned to walk away.
Thank you! Rei waved to them, then turned back to her food and continued eat.
Kenji took an experimental chunk of steak between his chopsticks. He tried some without the sauce. This is good. he raised his brow and nodded. It was tender, but not 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 his expression this time.

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 hungry?
I haven’t eaten since this morning, but… I don’t… it’s just a little bit… uh.
Do you have a fridge?
Mm, sorta.
Then if it’s too much, just eat what you can and take the rest home.
What? I…? I shouldn’t do that, they worked hard on this.
What do you mean?
It would be rude.
Huh? N—no… do you not take home leftovers in Shenkuu??
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.
He still looked a worried, but nodded, O… kay.

Rei turned to Warren, whose gaze was out the window, and into the rain. The downpour looked like it had slowed down to a drizzle. They hadn’t touched their water.

Well, you know what we could do.
Oh? they asked, eyes still pointed at the window.
House hunting. We can brainstorm a place for… like… the Club to meet at.
They nodded, and she continued. You’ve got a basement, right? Where you keep all your ghost stuff?
Yeah… they turned away from the window, 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 last resort?
Alright. I mean, maybe we could try my flat?
I’ve never been there. 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.
They nodded, You got anything Kenji?
N… no, not… really. he’d attempted to shovel as much steak into himself as he could without making a mess, 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!
Uhhhhhhhgggg, Rei threw her head back again fine, alright. Are we all splitting it?
Sure. Warren said, and Kenji nodded, and they all got up from the table.


The mist above them glowed orange from the streetlamps: rustic 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 their umbrella, as the rain had gone from drizzle, to a faint mist.

It looks really nice out here. Picturesque. they noted.
Yeah, thanks! Really cheap out here too, for some reason. It’s a Færie only apartment complex, so it’s less complicated for insurance, I guess?
Hmm. Maybe.

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 and squinted, 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 to look around too.

There wasn’t a ladder. Or stairs. Or anything.

Hey uh… how we gonna get up there? they 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 out.

There’s no ladder on the fire escape either!
WHAT?!
I know, right? That’s like, super inconvenient.
That’s a safety hazard!
Well… Fæ housing is exempt from a lot of local health and safety regulations.
That’s ridiculous! What if there’s a fire??
I don’t know! That’s just how the Fæ do things! she sighs, I’m so sorry, you guys.
How did you not notice??
I don’t use ladders! I’ve never, like, needed to. she gestured at her wings.
Alright… fine. Goodness gracious. Warren had their head in their hands, then looked up to her, Well, you wanna try my house?
I could… maybe pull you guys up?
Nah. 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 here!
Alright, alright… we’ll try your house then.


Warren unlocked the door and pushed their way into a dark foyer. The lights were turned down low, and the only reason anything was visible was because everything was white, from white carpet in the foyer, white tile, to white spray‐on textured ceilings. The only minor exception were the walls, which were wallpapered a pattern of teal mallards, hearts, and roses.

Martha! they shouted into the darkness, It’s me. I’ve got school friends!
Shush!!! came a voice from somewhere, I’m watching my show!
Warren sighed, I’m turning the lights on.
No response. They turned the lights on.

What was in shadow was now out in the light, 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 which hung from wooden fixtures. There was a doorway to their left which the tile floor snaked into, that looked to be the kitchen & dining room, and to the right was doorway with a layer of carpet. A television was on, the high pitched whine 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, as Kenji closed the front door behind him. He almost took off his shoes by instinct, but as he looked at the dusty floor, and saw 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 on. 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 yelled at 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 their hips. It was a dark wooden table, but you could only tell that from the legs, as the entire surface was covered in junk. Sewing supplies, fabric, old letters, legal paper, and what looked like magic scrolls.

Whelp. Basement it is. they turned to a closet door between the kitchen and dining room, and Rei backed up so they could open it. It opened into total darkness, and they 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, and a yellow light illuminated the thin stairway down. Warren led the way as they all followed them 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. There was a click, then light.

In the middle of the room, there was a square metal‐legged table, the top made of laminated particle board, and a few wooden chairs, which all rested on concrete. Everything was surrounded by humming grey machinery and strange looking boxy devices, some which looked both technical and magical in nature. Little knobs and dials glowed a faint turquoise‐ish white, and a few screens had wavy lines that fluctuated from some unseen input.

Sorry about the mess… I haven’t organized my equipment in a long time.
It’s fine, it’s fine. she assured them. It’d been the first time she spoke since Warren opened the door, and Kenji assumed she hadn’t mentioned the house out of politeness.
Your… ghost stuff… I’ve never seen it, until now. Kenji looked around at all of it, It’s neat.
Ah, thanks. It’s quite a collection.
They were 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. He slammed the door to the first floor hard. He came back down, 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. they walked over to the table, 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 their jacket.

Oh FYORA’S NAME, LARRY NO!!!

Warren looked up, closed their eyes, and took a long, deep breath.
Okay. Okay. I hold up a card, and you tell me what you think it is. Same as always. they pulled out a card from the top of the deck, again where no one but him could see it. It was a yellow circle.
Uhhmm… it’s a… green sun?
Mm. Again.
Did I get it?

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.
Warren sighed. Alright… s… second card, Rei. they 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 Larry!!

Rei put her head on the table and laughed as quiet as she could manage.
Okay, that’s it. Warren stood up, picked up their chair in both hands, flipped it over, and pounded onto the ceiling with the four legs. HEY! PLEASE! Be quiet! We have guests!
There was a pause.

YOU be quiet!! It’s the season finale! a short pause, NO, LARRY don’t let him DIE! You’re the sheriff!!

Don’t be so rude. Kenji whispered, looking shocked at their behavior, It’s Old Folks Day! You must respect them today, at least. Warren put down the chair, made a heavy sigh, then leaned against the table with a desperate expression.

So hey, uh, Kenji, let’s go to your place. I bet it’s great.


He flicked on the lights to his dorm, and swung the door open. Rei pressed herself against the side of the room that belonged to Kenji, and scooted over to the bed. Kenji stat on his bed, and Warren wedged themselves next to Kenji’s desk at the foot of his bed.

Yeesh. Warren looked around, This is like stuffing myself into a dumbwaiter.
Warren! Rude. Rei scolded him, But… really though, is there like… a rec room?
Kenji shook his head, I’m… not sure what that is.
Like… a communal area. Like, a living room for the whole dorm.
Oh, no. Well, it exists, but they’re working on it. Paint, moving walls.
Remodeling, lovely. Great timing huh?
Warren piped up, Also, school clubs aren’t allowed to use dorm rec rooms anymore.
What?? Why?
It’s an old rule. It was in response to someone making a dorm club that didn’t do anything so they could get after‐school activity credits. It’s technically allowed if it’s a person’s actual house, but no dorms.
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, I guess.

They all fidgeted around for a moment, without a word. 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.
Awww, nice!

Rei took a closer look at the picture. The lutari was a soft green, androgynous, with a cream‐yellow colored chest, totally bare except for a gold chain with a peace sign. He had long light brown hair, with a pale flower stuck into it, and one half was almost covering his right eye. He had pink clawfingers, and wore fingerless gloves that had a rainbow pattern on them.

They hugged each other from the side, and she noticed that picture‐Kenji smiled wider than she’d ever seen in‐person‐Kenji do before.

I haven’t seen them around.
I’d be worried if you did.
Do they not live around here?
No. He doesn’t. Taken. By the draft, in Meridell. I don’t wanna talk about it right now.
She nodded.
His face looked like it had aged twenty years, and he looked away.

Warren cleared their throat, then 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. And uh, 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, she’s a 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 then shook their head a second after. Nah. We can’t do this. It’s microscopic in here.
Alright. I don’t mind. I didn’t really want it in here anyway.

Warren sighed, maybe for the tenth or twentieth time today, Well, hootiepuckers.


All three were back, exactly where they were, in Cold Scoopies. Kenji picked at his steak, still in a to‑go box, and Warren swirled another untouched glass of water.

Your, burger, ma’am. the Skeith growled, and set down another nacho bacon cheeseburger in front of Rei. And shake., as they set down a chocolate shake in front of her as well.
She bowed her head again. Thank you very much!
Mmm.

The Skeith walked off, and Rei dug into her food, as though she hadn’t eaten earlier. The Skeith stopped at the table behind Rei, and turned to whoever sat there, who Kenji couldn’t see.

Foof? What the hell you wearin? Yer never here at this hour.
Hm? a familiar voice responded, Oh, I… think you’re looking for someone else. I don’t think I’m a… foof.
No? Hmm. they stared at him, and looked them up and down, You 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 Foof?
Just a nickname. What’s your name then?
Oh, Sechson.

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 out the window, came to attention and looked over.

Oh, hey, yeah! the blue Bori turned to her, I got hungry. I’ve never been here before, and thought I’d check it out. Is it good?
Y—
Just as Rei was about to say yeah, Warren interrupted, Did you follow us here?
What? he looked a offended, No. Why would I? I was gonna come back tomorrow.
The Skeith walked off, and ignored their conversation.
Warren, Rei glared at them, stop being so paranoid.
They frowned and leaned back So it’s a coincidence then? That’s pretty contrived. 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?
Rei explained, The uh, the drama club building blew up.
Sechson’s confusion changed to alarm: Blew up??
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 she’d do something like that. Especially without giving me any paperwork. She knows Lucine isn’t in a good place right now.
Sechson’s brow scrunched up a bit, in both concern and bewilderment, I’m sorry.
It’s fine, Rei said, we’ll… figure out something. We tried each other’s houses, but uh… that didn’t work out very well.
Why not? You need more space?
Yeah. Warren looked back out the window, Floor space, tables, chairs. And preferably, somewhere quiet enough to hear your own thoughts.

Hmm. Sechson thought for a moment. What about my house?
Warren pointed right at him, Oh hell no.
Warren, come on. They just wanna 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 fine.
Hhhhhhh. Alright, fine. Let’s vote on it. Raise your hand, if… you wanna go look at this… random persons’ house. Who… we’ve never met, and… have no idea who they are… to see their knife, chainsaw, and deadly space laser collection. They could be the Ophiuchus Killer for all we know.

Rei and Kenji raised their hand. Warren raised an eyebrow at Kenji.
I’m curious. he shrugged.
Warren, resigned to their fate, rested their head on the wall behind them, and stared up at the ceiling. They sighed yet again.
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’d thought it might be, closer than the modern city or Lucine’s studio, but the path was a trail that wound up through a neighborhood of expensive, lavish houses. Warren looked behind them every few minutes or so, and Rei held a heatless, smokeless, magic flame in her hand. She held it 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 part of the royalty, he thought, 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, already unlocked. It was a huge, open, square yard of cut grass, 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 huge country house doing so close to the college? Warren asked with an incredulous tone.
It used to belong to a professor who worked there. Sechson answered.
So is this your parents house?
One of em, yeah.
Your parents have different houses for each other?
No, sorry. he chuckled, They belong to all of us, we just have more than one.
Oh. Warren raised their eyebrows, I see. Don’t they mind strangers in their house? Uh, one of their houses?
Well… I dunno. But they’re not here right now.
Okay…? Where are they?
They’re missionaries! he said with pride, They’re far away right now. I go to school, at the uh, other school here. Once I graduate, I can join them out there.
Hmmmh. Warren made a contemptuous sound, to make their opinion of the other school as obvious as possible.

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. There were doors to the left and right of the room, the left one going into a kitchen, the other into a hallway deeper into the house. Another hall was ahead and to the side, then on top of that, a massive staircase went up from the left side of the room to a hallway upstairs. 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. There was a large table in the center of the room, 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.
Rei chuckled, Noo, no, I mean, this place is amazing! It’s too much! I can’t believe you’d let us borrow this place!
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 their hand and looked at it, then back at the Bori. Are you…. Are you serious?
He blinked, Why wouldn’t I be?
Uh. Nice. This is nice. Warren nodded and started to smile. They put their arm around Rei & Sechson, and Rei had to duck from the difference in height, This is the place. Welcome to the Paranormal Club, Sechson!
Rei looked at Warren and narrowed her eyes. Really? Seriously? This was the deciding factor? she whispered at them, Because they’re loaded?
Warren looked at her and let out a loud Hehehh. with a mischievous, knowing smile that they knew she found insufferable, Oh, absolutely.