Phantom of the Halloween Party
by Krista A.
PART ONE-- Be Prepared!
If you were to somehow
magically acquire the power to fly, and you hovered over Retroville,
see something of astounding contrast. To the right, a city bustled
horns honked, building lights flashed, and Halloween displays stuck out
once and awhile in local costume and party shops. However, the city
little by little into what was a thick forest, a green cluster of
sprinkled an array of red, oranges, and yellows. A cold front had
rolled in a
few weeks before, replacing Texas's usual warm, oven-like heat with a
chill. The forest, from above, looked tranquil... almost.
Zooming into the middle of the forest like you would with a camera, nestled between the trees, was a placid lake on which the full moon shone. Whispy clouds passed ever so slightly above in the black sky. The area was calm, an eerie silence filling the air. Only whistling of wind could be heard. At least until...
"SOUND CHECK! Is this thing on??" Pause. The voice continued, "Hey Puff Mama, I see you over there! And must I say, you look quite radishing tonight!" (what turned out to be) the UltraLord fanatic said from the microphone on stage.
"It's RAVISHING, you dope! Learn English," yelled Cindy Vortex, rolling up the pant leg to her costume. Dipping her bare foot into the crystal water of the lake, she grimaced and took it out. "That was a lot colder than I thought it would be." Libby lifted an eyebrow.
A breeze rustled the treetops. "Okay, we've taken a long enough break," Libby insisted. "Let's get back to decorating! We still have a few last things to do before the guests show up!" So far they had gotten the stage and instruments ready for Greystar to play and Sheen to DJ (after a few almost guitar-smashing accidents from said hyperactive boy as a result from consuming too much candy), spider webs spread out, ominously candle-lit jack-lanterns glowing from various areas, and tons of other decorations. They had even scared Carl with a large rubber spider (which ended up with him knocking the whole refreshments table over and sending Cindy go to the grocery store on an emergency run).
As Cindy and Libby set off once again, Libby taking a large "crystal" (plastic) ball with a robotic fortune teller's head inside and placing it on the refreshment table, the African American girl brought up a subject that obviously set of the temperamental blonde: "Girl, tell me again why you invited but Jimmy to your party?" The full-body skeleton Cindy held jerked in her hands.
"What do you mean by that?" The bones rattled a little.
"You know perfectly well what I mean," Libby said flatly. "Look at what you're wearing! A scientist costume? Do you have the Jimmy blues, or what?"
Cindy replied, "You're being ridiculous!" A deep scowl was set in her face and she placed her hands on her hips, causing the skeleton to fold over. "Why would I want Neutron here? He'd wreck the party for sure. I'm glad I didn't invite him!" They stood there awkwardly fro a second or two before Cindy spoke up once again, "The guests should be arriving soon, so I think I'll go greet them with Carl! It IS my party, after all!" Her nervous laughter rang like broken bells.
Libby stared at her with bemused eyes. "Right. You go ahead and do that." Her thoughts, however, were: 'What a liar! The guests don't even start arriving for another fifteen or thirty minutes.' She sighed and went back to the table, flicking on the switch for the fortune teller. Her plastic head moved at odd, sharp angles, and she slowly spoke a rhyme:
'Though while you think you're having fun
you may be in for a surprise...
This evening is meant for frights and scares
so be alert this Halloween night.'
Her eyes glowed and she cackled before buzzing and shutting off. "Creepy," Libby said, looking around nervously and flipped the switch to shut it down.
About half an hour later, clusters of teens emerged from the trees. It wasn't long before the party sprang into life; witches, ghouls, and goblins dancing to Halloween music. Everyone seemed to be active and having a good time, except for the socially challenged, who clung to the refreshment table for dear life.
Nick (dressed as John Travolta from Grease) seemed to be the life of the party, flirting with girls by giving them piggy-back rides. On one attempt he gave Brittany (dressed as Sandy, incidentally) a piggy-back-skateboard ride, which hadn't resulted so well. Nick had not broken anything, but Brittany didn't end up as lucky. She took an emergency trip to the hospital.
Thriller by Michael Jackson had just ended (Libby led the dance), and Sheen put on an all time classic: Monster Mash. Everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives. The energy from the party was so intense and sensational. HER party.
... But then why was Cindy so miserable?
Taking a long gulp of punch, her thoughts drifted towards the genius. In fact, he hadn't left her thoughts (sadly) since a week ago, when she handed out the invitations to her Halloween Bash.
Cold blue eyes met contact with green. "And the last invite goes to... Butch." Cindy's smirk could've lighten an evil, malicious person-eating Christmas tree. Everyone in the grade had received an invitation except for Jimmy Neutron. He glared at her, and as they exited the campus for the day, her "rival" approached her.
"You're going to regret not inviting me, Vortex." To be truthful, a little guilt had welled up at that point, but her pride made her ignore any other emotions.
"Whatever, Neutron. Have a fun, lonely Saturday."
Cindy crumpled the empty plastic cup and tossed it aside. 'Stop thinking about it,' she coaxed herself, waving off the memory. 'It's not like I should care about him. He's showed me up so many times that he got what was comin' to him!' Pushing the guilt aside, she strode over to where Libby was dancing. She would force herself to have fun if need be. For almost a whole minute of the party, she forgot about Jimmy Neutron. Her mind was clean as a slate and she felt free. At last!
They did the mash
They did the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
They did the ma--
Out of no where the song was cut off and the record playing it came to a hault with a screech. After a moment of silence, loud organ pipes bursted into sound. It took Cindy a minute to recognize the song, but the title, 'Phantom of the Opera' came to mind. A light fog grazed the ground and around Cindy's ankles. "Ooh, cool effects!" gasped Brittany from her new wheelchair.
In sleep he sang to me
In dreams he came
That voice which calls to me
And speaks my name
And do I dream again?
For now I find
The phantom of the opera is there,
Inside my mind...
"But I didn't start those," Cindy said with wide eyes. Scrambling towards and jumping on stage, she took Sheen by the collar of his werewolf costume and shook him. "What did you do, Ultrafreak?" A smile stretched across his face.
"Nothing." Cindy looked over to the DJ booth only to discover it had been turned off. The music was still booming as loudly as ever, though, and from where Cindy did not know. A gasp rippled through the crowd behind her. Cindy swung around to see everyone staring up in a mixture of awe and confusion.
A rocket whizzed by, leaving a trail of smoke-letters, and then exploding. Red fireworks glittered in the dark sky just as a cloud passed over the moon. "BE PREPARED," it spelled, and then extinguished.
"What's that supposed to mean?" a girl cried.
"Maybe it's just part of the party..."
Shrieks of malicious laughter echoed from all around. "What's that?" Everyone instinctively scooted closer to each other. It was then it started. One bony foot stepped stiffly from the shadows, and a whole skeleton emerged from that. Another one followed, and another, and more until there were dozens of them herding around the party-goers, whom had scooted so far in that they were squished in a packed circle.
Round and round the figures danced, an evil grin twisted at their teeth. Although hollow, the pits of their eyes danced with glee. "Okay, that's it, I'm outta here!" shouted Nick, dashing through the crowd and trying to push aside the skeletons. Their flesh-bare fingers clawed at his clothes, and he found it hard to escape with the skeletons trying to hold him down. They hung onto him in a wave, and slowly he was drug further down, until suddenly he was clean out of sight.
The herd of bones backed off, but the spot where Nick was supposed to be was empty.
"Oh my god, he's gone! What happened to Nick?!"
PART TWO-- The Headless Horseman
'What was that?' Cindy thought anxiously. It became apparent to her a few short moments later that she heard horse hooves. Everyone else was panicking over the disappearance of their beloved Nick, and they did not seem to notice what Cindy did. Their cries, though, were like background music. She could hear them, but they were faint... not as sharp in contrast with the ringing of hooves in the night on solid ground.
At that exact moment, a giant fire roared to life, sending the people nearby falling shock. The fog that covered the ground turned a sick shade of green and hung around the crowd of teens like a veil, except around the crackling fire, which held a bubble of regular smoke.
The horse hooves became more emphasized, and everyone turned their head towards the source of the noise. A giant horse, taller than most people would like to imagine, leapt over the bonfire and landed with a whinny.
And atop the horse itself sat a hunched figure, position dark and twisted over his horse. The only thing that intensified the fear of the party was that the man had no head. Tales of the Headless Horseman pounded through Cindy's head; she had heard it many times, and in a lot of different variations. In one of the headless horseman's hand, he brandished high the toy crystal ball that Libby had put on the refreshment table earlier, the rubbery face within glowing. With that, he sent the witch falling into the fire. The plastic melted easily, blackening and sending the witch into spastic head jerks, cackling the whole way through her own death.
The flames whirred, voiceless words spiraling from their depths. They read:
"Happy Halloween... having fun, yet?" Concerned whispers flooding from the mass and wide eyes were the result.
"You have only begun to experience the work the Phantom. It is not very pleasant, as you have observed. The unfortunate thing is... you'll have to live with it forever." Cindy peered at everyone's faces staring intently at the flames, shadows casted eerily across every curve of their horror filled faces. The words evaporated for a second, as if they were a person, pausing before a response. "There is a way to stop it, though...
Though the crooks and nannies cast in shadow, there is one tiny fire flickering with life. You must find the flame that can be held by the palm, though not by candle, by midnight. If you fail with these directions, and you don't find what is needed by midnight, your lovely town of Retroville will remain Halloween forever."
The heat built up intensely, filling the clearing with a bright light as hot as the sun, and in an instant it vanished. No more haze hung around them, and the headless horseman was gone. There were no traces anyone besides the party was here besides the refreshment table, which had been tossed to its side carelessly in the hassle. It was almost empty feeling, a chilly breeze whistling and shaking the trees.
No one spoke for a good long time until Brittany broke into hysterical sobs. A boy nearby came to comfort her in her wheelchair, patting her comfortingly. He scowled at Cindy, "Nice joke, Vortex. Did you really have to pull a prank like that? Look at everyone... look how freaked we are!"
Cindy double-took at this accusation, stepping backwards in shock, but returned with tenfold anger, "You thought I did that? I would have to be insane to pull something that grandiose, if you haven't noticed! That was beyond special effects!" There were a few murmurs of disbelief from those that were left with no one to blame, still looking for a logical explanation. This time she softened her voice, trying to be reasonable and comforting, "Look, we're all a little mystified, but let's not jump to conclusions. Let's look for the fire, or whatever, like the Phantom said. Do we really want to be stuck with this forever?"
"But Cindy," Libby frowned, "we don't even know where to begin lookin' for this flame. And even if we did, how do we know which "flame" it is?"
"We need help, then, and I think... I think I know who from," Cindy said, her eyes widening in realization. She knew what she had to do, and it would be hard. There was only one person she could run and beg to (as discomforting as that sounded) for help, and that one person happened to be the local resident genius that she hadn't invited: Jimmy Neutron.
"I have to go!" she shouted eagerly, dashing between trees until she came across her car, which sat looking lonely and abandoned in nature. Hopping inside, she revved it up and checked the time: 10:45 pm. She was halfway to Neutron's house before something bad happened: Cindy ran out of gas. Her car sputtered and it ceased rumbling beneath her, coming to a complete stop just outside the Candy Bar.
"Ugh, I'm really going to regret this..." slipping off her shoes and collecting them in between the fingers of her hand, she ran off to her own street, asphalt racing beneath her bare feet. By the time she reached his house she was almost exhausted and out of oxygen.
Rapping her knuckles hard against the door, she waited for a reply. The door swung open with a 'creak,' revealing the surprised face of Jimmy Neutron. His eyebrows shot up in total and utter disbelief.
"Cindy, is that you?"
I couldn't believe I was doing this.
PART THREE-- The Fire Hatch
"Cindy, what are you
doing here? Aren't you supposed to be at your party right now?" his
wasn't mocking, just laced with curiosity, as if I might've come to his
to ask him to come after all. Cindy fumbled to answer, whipping off her
plastic glasses. It was then she realized what a mess she was; her
coat was now soiled and torn in a few areas, and her hair hung in
strings that came undone from the tight bun atop her head.
"I was at my party... at least until something happened! I know it sounds crazy, but we were dancing and all of a sudden--" she hesitated to say it, choking on her words, "skeletons came out of no where, and the headless horseman, and... and... " Jimmy's eyebrows furrowed together, his face clouded in concern.
"Cindy, are you sure you're all right? Did you fall and bump your head? Here, let's go and get you checked out..." his warm hand wrapped around her wrist, and she promptly yanked it away with a growl of frustration. Taking a few steps back, she took two deep breaths.
"I know it seems hard to believe, but you've got to take what I say seriously! If we don't act and find the stupid flame thingy by midnight, we're stuck with the Phantom forever!"
Tires screeched as Libby's car came to a sudden hault in front of the Neutron residence, and she marched briskly to the door with a dirty look on her face. "Cindy, girl, you have GOTTA let me know before you run off like that! Do you have any idea how worried I was that somethin' might getcha, 'specially since you were alone going to Jimmy's house? I would've come with ya' if you had just told me!" Another person exited Libby's car, his spiky hair the first thing seen coming out of the passenger side.
"Dude, Libby drives like a MANIAC when she's mad! You should've seen her! She went faster than Ultralord's Ultramobile from episode 186, and that's saying something!" His eyes crossed in amazement.
Cindy turned smugly back to the genius. "See? More witnesses! Guys, tell him I'm not crazy and explain what just happened."
"Basically we were attacked by a bunch of creepy freaks n' we have to get some sort of fire thing before midnight."
"What she said."
Jimmy's eyebrows lifted in surprise and he tapped his chin thoughtfully, humming to himself and then finally saying, "So, after you invited everyone in the grade level except me to a party, you're coming to my doorstep pleading for help?"
"Yes!" Cindy growled. "You're our only hope at this moment. Are you literally going to make me beg and bark it out for you like a dog, or are you going to help us find this thing?" He sighed, as if surrendering.
"Fine. What type of flame are you looking for, exactly?"
"A fire you can hold in your hand, but not by candle," Libby said.
There was a minute's silence as Jimmy stared off into the distance, as if he were on a ship casting a glance into the ocean far away. His eyes were muddled with thought, and finally they snapped back into reality. "I've got it! It's obviously Halloween, right? So all logic points to this Phantom person putting the flame in one of the spookiest places in Retroville. There's two options I can think of for now: the Retroville Cemetery, or the old abandoned house on the edge of town that people claim is haunted."
"Hmm, so, a bunch of dead guys in wooden boxes, ooor a haunted house probably filled with all sorts of creepy crawlies?" the hyperactive boy spoke, making their selections sound worse than they were.
Libby scowled, "Cut it out, Sheen. I say we just go by process of elimination an' start out with the cemetery... also I want to get over with it quickly."
"Agreed," spoke Cindy.
"Retroville Cemetery it is."
"Okay, remember... get in, search, get out. We don't have that much time," Cindy muttered, flashlight in hand. They nodded once in understanding: she needn't say anything more. They all huddled around each other in shared fear, Sheen at the tail and Cindy in the lead. With the wind still whistling a light tune, they made their way through the entrance and down the walkway, gravel crunching as they stepped slowly, unsurely, towards their fate. Cindy flashed the light back and forth as if her life depended on it, eyes keen on any slight movement that would hint someone was with them, or if they had found the flame. After they had searched almost the entire expanse of cemetery, Cindy gave a frustrated grunt and stopped to face the other three. "There's nothing here! We're just wasting our time searching this stupid graveyard! Let's make a move-on," she complained, waving the flashlight as she motioned with her arms.
"Cin, stop it, you're gonna draw more attention to yourself," said Libby in a hushed tone. Just as the words left her lips, something crunched behind Cindy. She whipped around.
"What was that?"
Just then, as they were all staring straight ahead, there was a muffled, "Oomph!" and no one was behind Libby anymore. They whirled around again, only to discover Sheen missing. Libby gasped, "SHEEN! Where'd he go?" A lump was welling in her throat.
A voice that sounded far away echoed, "HELP! Help me! Get away, stay back!" There was a scream, and then silence.
"Ohmygodohmygod, we have to help him!" Jimmy shook his head in the negative, pointing towards the main entrance with sad eyes.
"We have to go if we want to save Sheen and Retroville!" He pulled her along, even though her head searched frantically, looking for any sign of her crush since childhood. She didn't seem to be paying much attention to where her feet were going, and she didn't notice something an unnaturally colored hand coming up from the ground to pull at her ankle. Ripped from Jimmy's grasp, she landed face down in the dirt, gasping from the unexpected fall. Someone, or something, started pulling her back with it, deep into the ground. Libby wailed in distress, digging her manicured fingernails into the dirt. First her legs were engulfed, and then her torso, until the dirt evened up with her shoulders.
Cindy was right by her side, holding on tightly to Libby's hand and trying to resurface her, but to no avail. Libby's entire body had been sucked into the mass, only her hand above the ground. Cindy still held tight, prepared to dive in after her best friend if need be, but Jimmy wrapped his hands around Cindy's waist and pulled her away. "You're going to get yourself killed!" Her hand slipped from Libby's warm one, which became covered by dirt as the last part of her was yanked down. The blonde broke into sobs, clenching her eyes until they were almost shut. Tears poured streams down her dirt covered face.
"But Libby... my-my best friend," she stuttered.
"Look Cindy, we still have a chance. If we can find what the Phantom wants, then there's a chance that all of this might disappear. Libby and Sheen might come back. It's too late to help her at this second, but there's still time..." Cindy nodded in understanding as Jimmy helped her to her feet, and they raced to Libby's car in silence, all except for the occasional sob escaping her lips.
"That was it," Cindy said, in the dusty corner of a hallway. "We've searched the entire house." She brought her head between her knees, yelling in defeat. Jimmy looked at his watch: 11:55 pm. Five more minutes.
"That's funny..." the blue eyed boy mused, looking up with interest.
"What's so funny?" Cindy demanded, eyes flashing dangerously. Jimmy's eyebrows knitted together in confusion.
"I've seen it done before in other countries, but never here, especially in Retroville. There's a painting on the ceiling... it looks like it wasn't placed there to be decorative, though. It looks as if it were concealing something painfully obvious," a grin carved itself into his face and he stared at her with twinkling eyes. She was up in an instant, taking an old antique chair and standing on it to rip the portrait off. A hatch slid into view, a round handle made of metal dangling teasingly. Cindy yanked it down and a case of short stairs fell before her.
"Neutron, you whiz," she laughed, pulling herself up. Taking Jimmy's hand, she helped him up to the flight of stairs. Cindy was struck in awe from what she saw. They were in a deeply colored red room with no windows, the only thing lighting up the area being a variety of candles placed here and there. Blatantly right in front of Cindy sat a small, trunk-like box. She crawled over to it slowly and sat cross-legged, opening it excitedly. In the trunk sat a velvet-black jewelry case, and she opened it curiously, expecting to see a live fire jump-start out of no where.
Instead, lying cushioned and gleaming in the firelight, was something completely different. A round pearl reflected blood-red like the room, candles flickering and dancing across its surface. The pearl represented the flame you could hold in your hand. And it wasn't just any pearl. Her head slowly craned around, eyes gleaming and wide with pure, uncorrupted shock. "You... you set this whole thing up." All of a sudden her nostrils flared and she launched herself at him, pinning him to the wooden floor. "That was a cruel prank, Neutron, even for you!" Jimmy could feel Cindy trembling with rage, her hand shaking as they held down his arms.
"Listen Cindy, I didn't think it would go this far," he grimaced, his eyes full of sincerity. "I though I'd just mess with you and have some fun, but then Libby got involved and... I'm sorry."
Realization hit her. "Where IS Libby, exactly?"
"She wasn't dragged below the Earth, if that's what you're thinking. She was sucked down a chute into my lab with Sheen and Carl waiting to explain to her what I had done." Cindy's grip loosened, but did not falter.
"But... how? How did you manage to pull all of that off? What about the headless horseman, and the sudden fire?"
"Ever wonder what really happened to Nick?" Jimmy rolled his eyes. "And the fire was actually a hologram! I've really improved them since I was eleven, yanno. Pretty realistic, though, huh?"
Snarling, Cindy said, "But you affected so many people and caused them to panic! I was hurting so badly when I thought Libby was... gone. Why did you have to do that, Neutron? Why couldn't you just let something slide for once?" This time it was Jimmy's turn to flip Cindy over so that he was hovering over her face, intense electric eyes boring into her skull.
"Well, Cindy, how else could I show the girl that I liked how much she had hurt me in return by singling me out as the only guy that wasn't coming to her party?! I wasn't thinking clearly, and for that I'm sorry, but no one was truly hurt in the end!" He finished his rant, clenching his teeth and breathing roughly through them. It was then she noticed that his eyes were glassy, like they had pooled with tears but he'd refused to let them fall. She felt like she was on Cloud 9, even though she was laying flat against the floor. 'He likes me?' she thought, and a pang of guilt hit her like a bullet when she watched his desperate face.
'I know I'm going to regret this later...' Tentatively she brought her fingers to brush the sides of his face, and cupping his cheeks with her hands, she leaned upward to close the space between them. As their lips softly brushed, Cindy's heart pounded in her chest so hard and fast that she thought it would explode. The pooling of tears in his eyes finally spilled over as he closed them shut, falling onto the blonde's pale cheek. They were gazing into one another's eyes when they parted.
"I take it back... I don't like you, Cindy. I lo--OOOHH!"
The planks beneath them had given out and reopened the staircase, and they were sent tumbling down back into the original room, Jimmy falling first and then Cindy on top of him. Any air in Jimmy's lungs had been knocked out of his chest. It looked like his eyes were about to pop out of his head. He struggled to breathe, looking at the girl lying on his chest. Cindy laughed profusely at the incident and kissed him again.
"I love you, too, Neutron."