It was the 31st of October and nearly every house on the street was decorated with carved pumpkins, spider webs or hanging bats. You could hear muffled music thumping out from the houses.
Raven, Alex and Kai strolled down the street, stopping outside Ivy House.
‘Hey, Raven. I dare you to stay 15 minutes in there,’ Kai challenged.
‘No way!’ Raven looked horrified.
‘Why not? Are you… scared?’ Alex raised a brow, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Apparently, long ago, a man lived here with his family. They had a happy life, but nothing good lasts forever, right? His family left him when he lost his job. Some said he killed himself, others say he was murdered – there were many possible endings to the poor man’s life.
Obviously, Raven didn’t believe it. She scanned the Ivy House.
Maybe she was considering going inside. Just a little. People said it was haunted, maybe she’d see it for herself.
‘Okay. I’ll go.’ Raven’s voice was heavily laced with determination. She took a large stride towards the house.
‘Call us if you survive!’
Raven stood in front of the house, staring up at the peeling walls. Was it always this big?
She felt like an ant in front of the huge house.
The heavy grilled, wrought iron gate creaked as she pushed it wide open. The gate was the closest anyone could ever get to. She might as well be the first to cross the Ivy House Gate.
She could feel her heart beating in her ears. The thick, dark green ivy had a tight grasp on the ruined walls of the ancient house. A moldy, damp and musty odor hung in the air.
Raven drew a deep breath before finally taking a step onto the patio. The wind howled, getting louder as she got closer.
She extended her hand towards the doorknob. If the door opens by itself now, I swear.
She opened the door, and suddenly the wind stopped. She couldn’t hear anything except… silence. Well, at least that’s what she thought.
Raven let out a breath. It was nothing but an empty, old house. She seemed somewhat disappointed… but also relieved.
Did she expect something to actually be there?
She roamed around the Ivy House, her eyes scanning the room. At the middle of the large room, a steep set of spiral stairs led upstairs.
The hall was overflowing with multiple paintings, antique furniture and embellished vases. A golden chandelier lit up the entire room, a few candles lay on the ornate mantel, drawing her to the fireplace right below.
Her hazel orbs moved to the umbrella kept near the fireplace. It was a bright shade of purple, much unlike the rest of the furniture and items in the house.
She reached out to grab it, but for some strange reason she was being pulled to it, as if the umbrella was a magnet and she was made of iron. As her fingertips touched the steel handle, there was a spark and a sizzle.
Raven gasped and drew her hand back with a shock. Her hand hurt like it was on fire.
She looked at her fingers, then at the umbrella, at her fingers and back at the umbrella. A fiery, golden carving appeared on the umbrella. Raven picked it up and read… Hello, Raven.
Eyes wide, she felt a strong wind at the back of her neck. Suddenly, all the noise came back, louder than ever. It wasn’t so silent anymore. She dropped the umbrella with a shock, the crook handle banging against the floor with a loud thud.
The window behind her opened wide, and a gust of wind blew by. She spun around, her heart began beating faster and faster. What on earth is going on?!
She closed her eyes, breathing heavily. The sound stopped. She opened her eyes with a jerk, hearing laughter behind her.
‘I mean, you don’t have to look so scared!’
Raven yelped. She spun on her heel and turned around to see… well, she didn’t know exactly what she was looking at. It had a huge hat hanging from the head and a large, leather coat. It was like an updated Yoda, but more human-like…
‘Um… wha- what are you?’
‘I’m a… companion of sorts. I’m supposed to stay with you till midnight.’
Raven now learnt that it spoke. So it was a he?
‘I don’t know, it’s the rule of the Netherlights,’ he said. He extended his hand and Raven jumped up as the umbrella whooshed past her, flying to Yoda Guy’s hand. Was it like… magnetic or something?
Raven was still confused but she nodded anyway.
‘It’s not magnetic, if you were wondering. Anyway, let’s start! What are we going to do?’ the creature asked.
‘I have a question,’ Raven said.
The creature sighed. ‘Go on, make it quick.’
‘How did I…’ Raven cleared her throat, ‘Summon you?’
‘Well, the Boysenberry Umbrella chooses a person with whom I spend 24 hours with. See that window there?’ he asked, ‘It’s the Netherlight Portal, where I come from. And that gate you came through? That’s the Swiftbarrow Gate. Very few people can cross past that point.’
‘That’s so cool! So, I’m like the chosen one or something! What’s your name, by the way?’
‘My name is Asfe.’ He introduced. ‘So, what’s the plan?’
‘I don’t know! Lemme think for a bit.’
‘Great, so I have to wait for about 10 years now.’ Asfe rolled his eyes.
‘Well, lately it’s only been taking me 5 years to think.’ Raven retorted. ‘Can I tell Kai and Alex about you?’
‘Nope. They can’t see me. Only you can.’
Beep! Beep! Beep! Bee-
Raven jumped at the alarm on her watch. She’d been here for 15 minutes – that meant she’d completed the dare.
‘Okay, well, I’m going home now. See ya!’
‘Did you forget I’ve to stay with you till midnight?’
‘Oh, for real? Right. Let’s go, then.’
‘Lead the way!’
Asfe looked up at the ceiling. Raven did the same. ‘Thought of what you wanna do yet?’
‘Well, I got new skates this week-’
‘No, something fun.’
‘Trick or treat?’
‘Is that really the best you can come up with?’
‘There anyone you hate?’ Asfe asked.
‘Nah, I don’t hate anyone,’ she rolled her eyes.
‘What about any bullies? There’s gotta be someone!’
‘Okay… there’s Jake. He’s always bullying everyone just ‘cause he’s rich.’
Asfe grinned cheekily and Raven could almost hear his smirk. ‘I have the perfect plan!’
‘Uh, it’s not something that’ll get us in trouble, right?’
‘Well…’ Asfe winked and Raven’s eyes went up wide. ‘I’m kidding. This needs… preparation. Be right back!’
Raven heard thumps and clatters from the kitchen. If people can’t see him, they shouldn’t be able to hear him, right?
Soon, a slightly reluctant Raven found herself sneaking out of her house, following a thrilled Asfe lugging a heavy bag.
They were outside Jake’s house dressed in black clothes, a mask and some shades and caps. They didn’t want to be seen, now, did they? Could have been for dramatic effect too, you’ll never know.
Asfe had filled Raven in on his ‘perfect plan’ as he called it.
Sneaked up behind an old, giant tree, they began the fun. Holding the paper rolls, they looked at each other in sync before hurling it across the lawn.
‘Hey, watch this,’ Asfe said and Raven looked at him.
Asfe banged his staff on the ground. A bright purple tint shone straight into Raven’s face. She squinted then looked up at Asfe floating in the sky. Or flying. Just without wings.
Raven’s eyes were wide. She didn’t say anything for a minute or two. ‘Woahhhh! You didn’t tell me you could do that!’
Asfe chortled. ‘Join me?’ Instead of waiting for a reply, Asfe carried her along with him. ‘Oh. My. God.’
They continued to decorate Jake’s house, the trees, the roof, the backyard, you name it!
‘Tonight was fun,’ Raven mumbled, half-asleep. She hadn’t had this much fun in a long time. And if there was anything she had learnt today, it was that laughter and sneaking don’t really work well together. But, really, she learned how to have fun and that it was okay to break some rules. As long as no one gets hurt, of course. She might have even gained a few muscles from laughing so hard.
Asfe chuckled. ‘Life is short, kid. Learn to live a little!’
Asfe made his way to the window to open another portal – his way of going home.
Raven felt a hint of a purple light shine on her face. She opened her eyes to see the portal closing, and Asfe waving goodbye. She waved back, a soft smile on her face.
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