It was looking like it would be another typical day for Mysty - the sky was slightly overcast, thin enough to let the early morning sun shine through but spread across the whole sky as if threatening to summon a rain shower in the afternoon; her mom had already left for work, as usual, without so much as a note; the thermometer in the window read 71 degrees, promising another hot day that the clouds suggested would be torturingly humid; and the town of Rockton was beginning to wake itself up, though the street just outside her window was still quiet. All in all, she thought, getting out of bed and out of her pajamas, it'll be another dull day, just like yesterday, and the day before, and last week, and...
She stopped. What had the week before last been like? Her mind was a total blank. Pushing her shoulder-length brownish-black hair out of her face, she found she couldn't recall last month, or last year, or anything that had happened more than... 8? 11? 10 days ago, that was it -she could remember last Friday, but not last Thursday. Slightly anxious, she reasoned that maybe she just hadn't fully woken up yet, and went downstairs to pour a glass of apple juice. She found that not only could she not remember anything before last Friday, she could only remember bits of anything since then. As she slowly drank it, she kept trying to recall something, anything about her life. Her address? 801 Persia Street, in the small city of Rockton, United States. No idea what state it was in though, that was worrying. Her age? She was 15, but had no idea when her birthday was. She knew it was June, but, definitely anxious now, had to glance at the calendar on the refrigerator to know the year. Then true panic set in when she realized she couldn't even remember her own last name.
Her first thought was to call her mother, but then she realized she had no idea what her phone number was. She did know that it probably would be useless, anyway; her mom was on the hour-long drive to the much larger city of Caldwell and likely on the phone with someone. Another wave of panic: she couldn't remember what exactly her mom did for a living. Whatever it was involved a lot of talking to people and rushing around - real estate agent, maybe? Journalist? She got up and frantically started pacing around the table.
"Stop it," she said out loud. "Don't panic. Maybe there's something written down somewhere that will help." Then, she suddenly had a helpful thought: maybe it was just a bad dream. Just as quickly, she thought otherwise. In dreams where she was this aware of everything, she could always just will herself awake, and she definitely wasn't waking up now. The overwhelming panic returning, she realized she had no idea how she knew that about dreams. She couldn't remember having any of them.
"This is bad, this is bad, this - Stop it!" she told herself. "Start looking for answers." She began wandering through the average-sized two-story house, picking up objects and trying to jog her memory. The yellow bear plushy with the red shirt on the coffee table? It was definitely familiar, but after staring at it for a few minutes she realized it was just because she was really into Disney cartoons. The bunch of pens with logos and phone numbers of businesses on them? They were all so random (Caldwell Regional Bank, North Rockton Fire Department, El Tomate Mexican Restaurant) she had no idea which ones, if any, meant anything important. And try as hard as she could, she couldn't remember anything significant about any of the many books filling up the shelf in her room.
Now, she was more frustrated than panicked. "Maybe fresh air will help," she said, and pulled on her sneakers. She unlocked the back door and went out into the fenced-in yard. She wandered around, stopping occasionally at the oak tree in the corner, or the rose bushes and little brown bench, trying to retrieve her memories. Eventually, she stopped and sat down on the bench, her eyes beginning to tear up.
She wiped her face. "Well, I'm just going to have to deal with it then - I have amnesia." She looked up at the sky, which was still covered in a thin layer of cloud illuminated to near-blinding white by the sun, which was still near the horizon. "I guess I'll try to figure out why, then," she said. "I can't remember having any enemies - can't remember any friends though, either. I'm pretty sure it's summer vacation now, but I have no idea which school I go to. Don't even know if I go to any, actually." Far off in the distance, a car horn sounded, followed shortly by another. "The only person I can actually remember seeing is my mom, and even then not that much..." She got up again, paced a bit, and sat back down. "I can't remember anything that seems unusual... although how would I know what's unusual? Here I am talking to myself. That's probably unusual. Nobody but me is here to listen..."
Underneath the shadow of the oak tree, a voice answered, "So it might seem."
Mysty gasped, and quickly stood up. "Um. Hello? Is somebody there?"
The voice replied, "No."
"Just messing around." A patch of shadow appeared under the tree, which quickly became a blob of shadow, which in turn became a person-sized, humanoid blob of shadow.
Mysty wasn't sure whether she was confused or terrified. Maybe she was dreaming, after all.
The blob of shadow further coalesced into a glowing... well, not glowing exactly; if glowing gives off light, this gave off darkness. The blob of shadow further coalesced into a fuzzy-edged, transparent, black being, which appeared to be in the form of a person.
"I happened to overhear you talking, and figured I'd floated around meaninglessly long enough. That has to be tough, not remembering anything."
Mysty just stared at it. "Who... or what, ARE you? You're all... ghosty."
The thing chuckled. "Yeah, 'ghosty' pretty much sums it up. Sorry if I startled you - I normally stay invisible so that people don't freak out all the time. But I think having a voice out of nowhere talking to you would be worse."
Mysty shifted, still uneasy. "Umm, yeah... You didn't really answer my question though, so, um, Ghosty, who are you, and what are you doing here, and how would you be able to help me?"
It floated up out of the shadow of the tree. In the sunlight, the being was much more transparent, but Mysty could more clearly make out details. It appeared to be the form of a boy about her age. He had short hair, and what seemed to be a t-shirt and jeans. Well, she thought, not all ghosts would wear those stereotypical toga sheet things, I suppose.
"Well, you guessed correctly when you said I was a ghost," he said. His voice didn't sound much like she would have thought a ghost would sound - it sounded mostly the same as a normal person would. A bit less solid, like if she was listening to a radio. There, something else she remembered - she did have a radio in her room she'd occasionally listen to. "Used to live around here, then... well, there's a reason I'm a ghost." He looked down for a second, as if remembering something he'd rather not, then looked back up. "Heard you talking to yourself about how you'd lost your memory and decided I might as well stop just wandering around being bored for eternity and try to help. Now, as for how to help - wait a second, you never said your name. Do you still remember it?"
Having decided that help from a ghost was better than no help, Mysty gathered what thoughts she could. "I'm Mysty. I don't remember my last name... I guess I hadn't heard it in the last 10 days. I can remember things from last Friday up until now, but this morning I realized I don't have any memories from before that. It seems like there are some blank spots in what I can remember from then, too. My mom's gone to work and won't be back until late tonight if it's like it has been during the days I can remember, and she's always busy even when she gets back. I really don't know what to do..."
Ghosty floated down to the ground, his face serious. "Well, the fact that you can remember anything at all says you weren't drugged, which is good. All the amnesia-causing stuff I've ever heard of causes total memory loss, and is ususally permanent." Mysty shuddered. The prospect of never being able to remember anything terrified her. The ghost kept talking. "I've never really believed the stories, but some people say that people can be hypnotized to forget stuff. And of course, there's the classic banged-your-head-really-hard possibility. I assume you're not hurt?"
Mysty shook her head. "Not in any way I can tell. No bumps, nothing hurts. Nothing besides the headache I've got from trying to figure this out and panicking and everything. Hypnotized... I remember the word, but I can't remember what it means. What is it exactly?"
Ghosty looked a bit surprised. "What? Well, usually it means someone gets you to focus on something repetitive, the usual fictional thing is a watch or something swinging back and forth, and they repeat specific instructions, usually something like, " and he changed his voice to something Mysty would have thought was more ghost-like, "You are getting sleepy. YOU ARE GETTING VERY SLEEEEEPY. Ick. Why they always do it in that voice, I have no idea, but they do, at least in TV shows and stuff like that," he continued normally. Mysty managed to smile. "Then when the patient, victim, however you want to put it falls asleep, they then give them the important instructions, whatever they may be, and when they wake up they usually can't remember the hypnotism experience, but they'll subconsciously remember the instructions. Personally, I think it's mostly a load of junk, but who knows?" He spread his arms out as the sun temporarily broke through one of the very tiny gaps in the all-encompassing cloud layer, causing his shadowish form to become even more transparent.
Mysty leaned forward. "Maybe that's what happened to me. My mom's always gone out somewhere meeting people, and I can't remember what it is she does. Maybe she's a hypnotizer. Wait, that word's not right." She started to get worked up again. "Agh, I have no idea how I know that it's not right!" She put her hands over her face and took a deep breath. "The word's hypnotist, isn't it?"
"Yes," he said. Something in his tone made her take her hands off her face and look up. He looked even more serious, maybe a bit worried. "Do you have any other words you can remember, but can't remember what they mean?"
"Umm..." Mysty thought. "I don't know. Try some."
"Brown thing that grows in the ground."
"The city or state?"
"Doesn't matter, you obviously know what it is. Helium."
"The thing that makes you sound like a duck when you breathe out of a balloon."
"I think it's like a beaver."
"I don't remember that word or what it means."
"Well, now we know your mom's not a physicist."
"Round red thing that grows on trees."
"Long yellow thing that grows on trees. Why are we doing this, anyway?"
Mysty froze. Her headache got a hundred times worse. "I know it's a name... I'm not assosciating anything with the name, but it feels like I should be..."
"Something that is worth thinking about for a while."
"I don't think that's really a word."
"You can stop being a dictionary now."
Ghosty exhaled. Even when you don't need to breathe anymore, sometimes you just have to. "Okay, so you can't remember anything from more than about 10 days ago, you can't remember everything from less than 10 days ago, you know the words 'hypnotism' and 'Jacob' mean something to you but not what they mean, and you have no idea what your mom does. Seems like there should be a connection in there."
Mysty nodded. Another car horn honked in the distance, followed by another. "I think maybe my mom hypnotized me for some reason, Ghosty. But why?"
Ghosty tilted his head. "There are hundreds of reasons that could answer that, but I have no idea which ones could be true. It might seem like a mean, evil thing to you, but it's also possible that you had experienced something horrible and persuaded her to do it. Or, for all you know, to quote something-or-other that I forget where I heard it from, the past is just a fiction to account for your current mental and physical state. Someone neither of us know about could have hypnotized you and put fake memories in your mind."
Mysty groaned. "If everything I think I remember is fake then there's no way to figure out what happened. I'll be stuck with no idea who I really am or was. I don't want that to happen, Ghosty! I really don't!" As if to put emphasis on her emotions, sirens of some sort - probably a police car chasing a speeder - began to race nearby.
Ghosty reached over and put a transparent, semi-solid hand on her shoulder. "Calm down. If you lose hope, you'll lose your mind, too - what's left of it, anyway. Just..." He paused, a worried look coming onto his face. "Those sirens - they've stopped in front of your house." Agitated, he floated around to the side of the house. He quickly floated back, clearly anxious. "I was never here! You never saw me! You haven't got amnesia, you're perfectly fine. Your mom is on the drive to work and doesn't have a cell phone. Everthing's fine, and you haven't noticed any paranormal activity of any sort here!"
Totally bewildered, Mysty stared at him. Was the cloud-filtered sunlight messing with her eyes, or was he beginning to fade away again? "What are you talking about? And where are you going? What's happening? Ghosty?!" As the ghost began to disappear, both in visibility and in distance, Mysty heard him hiss two words.
As there began to be a loud, insistent knock on the front door of the house, Mysty ran back inside. She had no idea who these "ghost hunters" were, but given her new friend's reaction to them, she didn't think they would be wanting his autograph. Just what she needed - a bunch of baddies after the one person who might be able to help her. "Coming!" she yelled, pushing her way towards the front door. Tensely, she opened it up. Outside stood two men in uniforms. Their long-sleeved tuxedo-style shirts were black with white trim, as were their pants. They both wore black visors and sunglasses that entirely obscured their eyes. One of them, the thinner of the duo, carried what looked to Mysty like a walkie-talkie, while the other held a recording device and was quite a bit larger. It was obvious, though, that in this case "larger" meant he did more push-ups instead of meaning he ate more cheeseburgers. Both had polished black shoes, but not dress shoes - the design of these were somewhere between running shoes, soccer cleats, and army boots.
The one holding the walkie talkie spoke first. "Excuse me, ma'am, are your parents home?"
Remembering what Ghosty had told her to say, she shook her head. "No sir, my dad doesn't live here " - here she tried really hard not to let her panic come to the surface; she had no memories of any father - " and my mom's gone to work. Is something wrong? Is someone going to get arrested?" she asked, trying her best to look confused and concerned. Which wasn't hard, because she was.
The one on the right pulled a badge out of his shirt pocket. It read, "Paranormal Activity Investigator #AUFC-0139, United States Government". He said in a deeper voice than his companion, "We have detected unusual energy pulses coming from this neighborhood in the past hour. Have you witnessed any abnormal activity of any kind?"
Mysty blinked a few times and was about to answer negatively when she had an idea. "Well... There was a weird shadow about half an hour ago, going down the street." She pointed towards the city, away from the direction Ghosty had headed. The man with the badge pushed a button on the recording machine. "I thought it was just a bird, but it must have been a big bird. The shadow was about the size of a trash can lid. Come to think of it, there was also some sort of whining noise, like someone was riding a motorcycle a few blocks away. As the shadow went along the road, it faded out, and the whining noise stopped. I didn't see any more of it, but I wasn't really looking for it." As the two men glanced at each other, she fervently hoped they'd believe her story.
After a few seconds, they broke eye contact and looked back at her. "Thank you for the information, ma'am," the one on the left said. "I have to inform you that this meeting, and the incident you have just described, are top-secret and confidential. You will tell nobody about them."
Trying hard not to look relieved, she said, "Not my mom, not anyone?"
"Nobody. We'll know if you tell, and there will be consequences." The heavyset man fingered his recording device in a way that suggested the consequences would not be very friendly. "If you see any further incidents, tell nobody about them unless they show you their PAI badge. We wish you a good day, ma'am." They turned and crisply walked back to their black Crown Vic, which had stopped its siren as soon as Mysty had opened the door. They got in and drove away towards the city.
Mysty watched them go, then carefully scanned the neighborhood. Nothing seemed to be out of place - the street was empty, with no cars on the road in sight except the fast-disappearing Ford. Nobody had come out of their houses to see what the sirens were about, which she found odd. Turning around, she went back inside her house and locked the door.
She went to the rear of the house and back into the yard. She looked around for a second, and not seeing anything unusual, she softly called, "Ghosty? Are you there? They've gone."
She looked out over the tree, across the fence to the small woodsy section on the other side of the tiny field, towards the other houses to the left and right. Everything got a shade brighter as the sun moved into a less thick portion of the cloud layer, then faded back. A vehicle engine rumbled along somewhere in the distance.
"Ghosty?" she tried again. "Hello?"
She sighed and sat down on the bench again, feeling disappointed and overwhelmed again. She was no closer to getting her memory back or figuring out why it was gone than when she had sat here the first time. And the only person who seemed to have any interest in helping her had been chased away by some government secret agents who might do who-knew-what to her if she told anyone about them or their quarry.
After sitting around being depressed for about 5 minutes, Mysty got up and started pacing around being depressed. Then sat back down again. "I really hope my life isn't always like this," she said. "It would certainly explain why my mom might try to hypnotize me to forget it." She got up and walked over to the unpainted wooden fence, and stared out over the tall grass. "I really hope he comes back..." A few seconds later, she whirled around in relieved surprise, looking for the owner of the voice who had just said, "Don't worry, I'm back."
"Where are you?" she asked. "Those government ghost hunter people are gone. It's safe."
"Not entirely," he said, continuing to remain unseen. "Safe enough for me to talk, but not enough for me to become visible again."
"What do you mean?"
"It takes energy for me to do anything. It doesn't take very much at all to talk, especially quietly like I am now. It doesn't take a whole lot to become visible either, but it does use a lot more than talking. I'm pretty sure that energy can be sensed by whatever machine those ghost hunters have."
"Why are they after you, anyway? I can't see how you'd be hurting anyone."
"Of course not, I'm invisible." Mysty grimaced. "Heh, bad joke, sorry. They're not evil any more than your average policeman is evil. They're just doing their job, which is to make sure that unusual things that can't currently be explained by science stay hidden from the general public. You can imagine the panic I could cause if I just popped up out of nowhere in Times Square or Disney World and starting yelling and floating around and tossing things in the air. Well, maybe not Disney World... Or Times Square for that matter. But any average place - you get the idea."
"What would they do if they caught you?" Mysty asked. "Could they destroy you somehow, or would they just give you a lecture not to bother anybody?"
"Honestly, I don't know, nor do I want to. I haven't met many other ghosts, and I definitely haven't met any that got captured by the PAI."
Mysty sighed. "So we're both doing pretty good. I can't remember most of my life and you're being chased by a bunch of well-meaning secret agents who want to kill you. Even though you're already dead."
"That pretty much sums it up," Ghosty's disembodied voice agreed. "I'd better go now, because if I stay here talking for too long, eventually they'll get suspicious again and come back, and this time they won't just take a "I didn't see nothin!" as an answer."
Mysty said, "Oh! Actually, I gave them a better answer than that. I told them I'd seen a weird shadow and a whining noise heading towards the city."
"Gave them an electric explanation, huh?"
"Sometimes static electricity can gather in one spot in the air, and it attracts small things like dust particles. If it's strong enough and there's a bit of wind blowing, it will make a kind of hum. It's very rare, and I've never actually seen it, but I read about it somewhere when I was still... You know."
"I didn't know anything about that. I was just trying to send them in the wrong direction."
"Interesting. Maybe it's something you knew about but got locked away with the rest of your memories?"
Mysty lifted her head up a bit. "If it is, that means I might be able to get to them somehow... I thought I was just making up a story, though. It might've just been a coincidence."
"Eh. Maybe so."
An airplane droned overhead, so Mysty waited for it to go away before continuing.
"So how do you think I'd be able to get to these hidden memories if it wasn't just a coincidence?"
Then Mysty remembered what the ghost had told her before they started talking about the unusual probability of her fake report to the PAI.
"Aww. He's gone again", she sighed. She trudged back into the house.
Over the next couple of hours, Mysty did a very thorough examination of her house, a very thorough examination of her memories, and a very thorough examination of her refrigerator. The first showed her that there wasn't anything worth trying to follow up there, because like her first time around, either she had no idea why things were there or she knew definitively why they were there; the second didn't help her much, because although knowing that a rerun of Cars was coming on at 1:00 was nice, it didn't help her with her problems any; and the third was only marginally helpful, because there was not a whole lot for lunch.
She grabbed a banana and went into the living room and turned on the TV. She tried to focus on the exploits of Lightning McQueen, but her mind kept drifting away into despair. After about 20 futile minutes, she turned off the TV and went upstairs. She tried reading a bit, but found out that she really didn't want to be reading about the Mysterious Benedict Society - the Whisperer just gave her more frightening possibilities about her memory loss. She went back down the stairs, and looked out the window at the street. A few cars would occasionally drive past, and she spent a few more minutes trying to identify each one.
No idea what that was, possibly a Honda.
Was that a Mustang or a Camaro? No, wait, it's a Charger.
Unidentifiable green car.
No idea what that one was, but it had the Lexus symbol on it.
She gave up and backed away from the window. As she did so, she heard a peculiar "whoosh" noise, like the air rushing out of a large-mouthed balloon if you let go of it, only quieter. She looked around and nearly yelled out in surprise as the only friend she knew very quickly faded into sight, looking quite panicked.
"What the - ?"
"They've found me," he said. "I don't know how, I don't know why, but they've decided they aren't going to let me go. This isn't like anything I've known them to do before. There's nothing I can think of to do to get away. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to get a chance to be able to help you with your memory."
Sirens began to be audible in the distance. Ghosty moved out towards the door, beginning to fade. Mysty leapt forward. "Wait! No! Stop!" she pleaded, and reached out and, to both of their surprise, grabbed him by the shoulder.
"Wha - you shouldn't be able to do that!" Ghosty said, perplexed.
"Don't go out to them! Let them take me instead!" Mysty said, as the sirens got louder. She could feel her heart pounding wildly and tried to keep her mind clear.
"Why in the world would you do an idiotic thing like that?!" Ghosty demanded. "Did you lose your common sense too? They aren't after you, so if I go now then you'll be fine, but if you just hand yourself over then we're both doomed! Let go!"
Mysty kept holding on to his shoulder. It was somewhat odd - not really like holding something solid, but somewhere between trying to hold an apple, a marshmallow, and silly putty, which is not an easy sensation to describe or imagine. "If I go out and distract them, then you'll have time to get away. You said you don't know what they do to ghosts but I don't think there's anything good you'll get out of it. They might have the answers to why I can't remember everything; they might be able to help me!"
Ghosty managed to pull free, his face a mixture of confusion, frustration, and perhaps something else she couldn't identify - maybe it was just the lamp light shining through him. "No! That's - gahh! If they have the ability to torture or destroy ghosts then there's no telling what kind of incredibly wonderful disasters they can inflict on living people!" Green light began to shine through the front curtains as the sirens got incredibly loud, casting an eerie glow on everything. "It's too late now! They're here! There's nothing either of us can do!"
Mysty fought back the urge to start screaming. She felt herself beginning to lose it. "I don't know, I don't know! Umm, uhh, the freezer! If you get cold enough they might not be able to detect you!"
Ghosty shook his head. "No, no! If I get in there I could freeze solid and then I'm stuck there, and what if it wouldn't work anyway?" Outside, someone began pounding on the door. "U.S. Government! Open up!" Looking around wildly, Ghosty reached down and grabbed a walkie talkie that was lying on the ground and took out a 9-volt battery. Mysty could see that his hand had become much less transparent. "Go out back to the woods; I'm going to use the energy from this battery if they corner me! I have no idea what it will do but it may blow up," he said, holding it tensely.
The pounding and shouting outside stopped for a second and then there was a loud smash, and the door shook. "They're beating down the door, just get out!" he said. "No!" Mysty yelled. "I'll only go if you do!" Exasperated, Ghosty threw the now-empty walkie-talkie at the door. "Fine!" he shouted. "You stubborn little..." he shook his head and flew out through the back wall towards the woods. Mysty ran through the house, nearly tripping over a chair. Just before she slammed shut the back door on her way out, she heard a huge crash from the front of the house - presumably the front door giving in. As she raced out through the yard and fumbled with the fence latch, she heard loud barking coming from the interior of the house, and more shouting that she couldn't make out. She ran as fast as she could across the field towards the trees.
Breathing heavily, Mysty made it to the treeline. Ghosty was well ahead, still clutching the battery. The thin, shadowy trees weren't much for cover, but it was better than the open field. She risked a look behind her as she passed the first trees and immediately wished she hadn't. She couldn't help it. She screamed, then tripped over a rock, skinning her knee. She scrambled back up, and slipped back down. Ghosty had turned around when she'd yelled, and by now was close enough to grab her with his non-occupied semi-solid hand and pull her up. "We're done for," he said tensely, with a bit of a strain in his voice, as they began running again, away from the scene with very little hope that they would successfully escape.
The back yard of the house was swarming with PAI men in their black suits, armed with instruments that weren't entirely discernable at this distance. A green light came from some of them, while others were lowly humming loud enough to be heard over the men's shouts, which were not audible to the two fugitives. There were several other creatures in the yard as well. Some were quite clearly dogs, large vicious ones at that. Others were less clear, but they looked like dark, shadowy blobs. Not the same type of dark, shadowy blob that Ghosty was when only partially visible. Ghosty was dark and shadowy in the way that the eastern side of a large leafy oak tree at 5 PM on a summer day is dark and shadowy. These beings were dark and shadowy in the way that the interior of a cave in the middle of the night is dark and shadowy: much harsher, intense, and intimidating; and as any player of Minecraft could tell you, quite possibly a symbol of evil. The thing that truly frightened Mysty, though, was the spherical cloud enveloping the house and spreading towards the field, which seemed to be made of the same evillish shadow-substance. It was nearly invisible, but Mysty could make it out in the same clear-but-faint way that she could see Ghosty in bright sunlight.
There was a loud, ghastly noise that was nearly impossible to describe. Nearly impossible, but not quite. At one level, it sounded very much like the howling of the large dogs milling around in the yard and beginning to bound through the gate. But at another level, it shared some of the "qualities" of a steel knife on a blackboard, wind and rain blowing through a large tree in the height of a thunderstorm, and a humpback whale bellowing across the ocean. It was more terrifying than anything Mysty imagined possible, even the bizzare fog enveloping her home. She now knew with chilling clarity what people meant when they describe something as blood-tingling or heart-stopping, or say their blood ran cold or shivers ran up their spine. Continuing to run at full speed and trying not to hyperventilate, she grabbed Ghosty's arm with both hands, and found two things that surprised her quite a bit. One was that he was now much more solid, and shadowier than normal but less transparent. The other was that he appeared to be at least as, if not more, terrified than she was.
"I don't know what that... thing is," he said, his still slightly tinny voice thicker. "But you can forget what I said about those men not being evil or trying to protect people. I didn't believe in true evil until I heard that..." He trailed off, unable to find words to describe the horrifying call. "Thing," he finally said. Stumbling along through the trees with the dogs and men and shadow-beasts beginning to enter the woods behind them, Mysty saw what appeared to be tears begin to stream along his cheeks. "How-w?" he panted. "How can th-this be happening? It must be a n-nightmare. It all has to be!" Mysty felt as panicked as he sounded, but tried not to succumb to the terror of the situation. "Even if it is a nightmare," she said shakily, "I still think we need to keep running. Fast."
The baying and snarling of the pack of dogs was growing louder, as was the shouts of the PAI men. Mysty instinctively cringed as one of the shadow beings let loose another soul-twisting howl. This time, Ghosty screamed. This was due in part to the impossibly frightening sound, and in part because that he was now falling into a large hole in the ground, and Mysty fell with him.
Mysty quickly got up, her scraped leg now bleeding quite a bit. Disoriented, she cried out, "I thought you could float or fly or whatever! How could you fall in?!" Picking himself up off of the rough soil, Ghosty shook his head. "I - I don't know! Maybe something they have forces me to be solid - agh, I can't stop it!" he said, hopping up and falling over. "Don't panic," Mysty said, as much to herself as to him. "Start climbing up the sides." She began to do so, but yelped and tumbled back down as a large Doberman appeared at the edge of the pit and growled. Ghosty looked around for his weapon of choice, but he had dropped the battery somewhere as he fell and it was now hidden somewhere in the gravel and dirt in the hole.
The dark fog began to roil over the pit as one of the shadow monsters appeared next to the dog. Mysty was horrified to feel the pure nastiness of the cloud tug on her, not physically but in some way that felt more than just mentally. She could feel an intense disrespect for living (and non-living) creatures, and the fog's pleasure at having captured its prey. She shook her head in utter bewilderment at the pure insanity of it all. "This is a nightmare," she moaned. "Either that or I've lost the rest of my mind." Looking up, she found she could finally make out the details of the shadowy beast on the ledge. It was incredibly nasty-looking. Its glowing eyes that were somehow both green and black at once stared with the same incredible, impossible passion that she could feel from the cloud. The eyes were the only distinguishable feature of any sort that she could see on the raised portion of its body that would seem to be a head. It had four stout legs, each covered in spiky, shadowy fur and with three sharp-looking claws each several inches long. The rest of the monster seemed to be covered entirely with the same jagged black fur. It had no tail, no ears, no mouth, no nose.
The thing let loose one of its howls. The strange, hideous feelings she was having intensified. One of the PAI men walked up to the edge of the pit. He either didn't see or ignored the monstrous shadow-beast and Mysty. Holding what looked somewhat like a large calculator, he pointed it at Ghosty, who was still frantically searching for the battery. "Your reign of chaos is over, poltergeist," he said in a rough, yet crisp, voice. It was not a very nice voice, but compared to the shadowy mess around her it was wonderfully normal to Mysty, and shaking her head, she pushed the torturous, insane thoughts as far back out of her mind as she could, leaned over, and picked up a rock. As the man began to push buttons and Ghosty collapsed to the ground, giving up, she took aim and threw the chunk of rock as hard as she could at the machine. Her aim, however, was not entirely on target, and the rock hit the arm holding the machine instead. The man jerked his arm back, and the machine fell into the pit next to Mysty.
Two more large dogs arrived growling at the rim. "You'll pay for your disobedience," the man said darkly, rubbing his arm and staring at Ghosty, totally ignoring Mysty. Ghosty looked up from his position on the ground, and let out a cry. In one swift, slightly wobbly motion he grabbed the dusty battery lying in front of his face and jumped to his feet. Glaring at the growing assembly of creatures several meters above him, he shouted, "I don't like having to fight, but you give me no chance!" Mysty had picked up the fallen machine in a desperate attempt to see if it could help them escape. The letters "TRNS-MTRLZR" were stenciled on the top of the dark green box in black letters. There were many different dials and buttons, all unlabeled, and nothing to giver her any indication of what to do. Now she stood up and grabbed the hand her friend held the battery in. "Please don't! Don't fight! Don't hurt them!" she said, then groaned and loosened her grip slightly. "I don't know if that's this thing speaking in my head or not!" Ghosty ignored her, his eyes closed and his head held down, apparently in concentration. As another man arrived at the scene holding another, much more dangerous-looking electronic implement, she tightened her grip on the battery and the machine and scrunched her face up, closing her eyes tight. "It's over," said the new arrival, pointing his rod-shaped device at Ghosty. Mysty felt her right hand, the one holding the battery along with Ghosty, begin to tingle, and accidentally pushed a button on the device in her left. Less than an instant later, she felt an incredible rush of energy through her, and the dark feelings in her mind faded away as a painfully loud bang reached her ears. Her conciousness faded, and the last thing that ran through her mind was that this must be death.
Mysty opened her eyes. All she could see was a bright cyan blue. It took a second to realize that she was lying on her back, looking up at the sky. She felt immensely exhausted, but otherwise fine. The hideous, evil feelings in her mind were gone, and she could no longer feel the abrasion on her leg. She attempted to sit up, but was too tired, and sank back, blinking. It took her a second to realize she was firmly grasping something in her left hand, and surprised, she dropped it. It was the device that had been in her hand when she had passed out. She looked to her right, and finally saw the area in which she now was resting.
She was lying in a grassy meadow dotted with yellow dandelions, with a small stream running nearby. There were trees a good distance away, maybe a couple hundred feet. These weren't the same short pin-oak trees that the woods near her house were made of, though. These were tall, wide-branched, leafy trees, with a slight yellow tinge to their knotted medium-grey bark. The ground immediately around her was relatively flat, with small variations in height that could hardly be called hills. The grass was several inches high and thick but not tall and overgrown and wheaty. There were no animals in sight. All in all, it was beautifully peaceful.
She managed to stand up, a bit wobbly. She looked down at her right leg where she had scraped it against the ground when she had tripped. There was no sign of there ever being any wound. She looked back at the green TRNS-MTRLZR, and noticed that it had a nasty black, burnt-looking scar across it now. She gave a small gasp as she realized that it was roughly in the shape of her hand as she had held it. Whatever energy had coursed through her was strong enough to fry the plastic.
Uneasy, she scanned the horizon. The only movement was a gentle breeze blowing through the lush foliage of the trees, and tilting the tips of the grass and dandelions. All she could hear was the quiet splashing and gurgling of the stream. There was an odd, unfamiliar smell in the air, but it was very faint and not entirely unpleasant. There was no sign of the evil fog, or anyone pursuing her.
She suddenly realized what was wrong.
"GHOSTY!" she yelled.
There was no response, not even an echo.
She turned in a full circle, then collapsed back into the grass, tears beginning to fall from her eyes.
"I... I must be dead." She sniffed, and then choked back a sob. "It's awfully empty in heaven, or wherever this is." She wiped her face with her sleeve. She looked up at the brilliantly blue sky. The sun was just below a quarter-way up from the horizon, but it was impossible to tell if it was morning or afternoon. She sadly shook her head. "I still haven't got most of my memories. I guess death doesn't fix amnesia."
She stared back down at the ground in front of her face. There were no bugs in the dirt - no ants, no beetles. She couldn't hear any birds. The only forms of life in this place seemed to be the plants, and herself. It felt too quiet and lonely, as the wind gently tossed her hair around. She curled up into a ball, and let the exhaustion take over. She drifted into a dreamless sleep.
Eventually, Mysty woke up. Slowly, she uncurled and sat up. Pushing her hair out of her eyes, she blinked a few times and looked around. She was still in the meadow surrounded by the odd yellow-barked trees with yellow-tinged leaves. There was still a gentle breeze blowing on and off. The sun was still a quarter-way up the sky, which gave Mysty a nasty shock for a second - she knew she'd slept for more than few minutes! Then she groaned, and shook her head. "Ohhh, hehe, it's afternoon now." More clearly awake, she scanned the area again for any sign of life. Again, nothing but plants and herself could be spotted. She sighed, picked up the charred TRNS-MTRLZR, and walked over to the stream.
"It just doesn't make sense," she mumbled. "How come this thing is here with me, but not the battery or Ghosty?" Tipping over a large pebble with her foot, she continued, "And for that matter, if I died, how come I'm not a ghost but he was?" She stared sadly at the rushing water. She decided it looked clean enough, and scooped up a bit with her hands and drank it before standing back up. After a few moments of standing there, feeling depressed, the wind nudging her hair around, and thinking unhappy, pessimistic thoughts, she turned away and trudged back up the small hill to the place where she'd awakened. She decided to try again once, before following the stream and seeing if she could find anything of interest. "GHOOOOOOOOOSTYYYYYYYYY!" she shouted. As before, there was no response. She began to turn away, but froze as she heard a low, quiet moan. "Hello?!" she called out, her heart beginning to thud painfully. She slowly rotated her head around and saw nothing but the same landscape as before. Then, a few feet to her left and behind her, she saw a faint shadow begin to fade into view.
"Well," said, or rather groaned, the shadow, "that went well." The shadow's shape began to define itself into the now-familiar shape of a teenage boy, a rather worn-out and disoriented one. "I highly suggest that next time, though, we stick to double-A's."
"Ghosty! You're al-" She realized the illogicity of a ghost being alive. "-right!" Immensely relieved, she wiped her hand across her face.
"Well," he said, still rather faint, "I think I am. I'm incredibly exhausted, though. I barely have enough energy to make myself visible right now. I've handled batteries once before as a ghost, but that was a lot more energy than what it should have been." He flickered a bit, the sunlight nearly making him invisible. "I can't see anything dangerous around here, have you?"
Mysty shook her head. "No, nothing." She looked out at the trees across the stream again. "It's entirely empty of any sort of people or animals. Not even bugs. If you weren't here, I'd be certain that this is some sort of afterlife."
The breeze picked up again briefly, tossing her hair back into her face and making Ghosty shimmer even more. "Since it seems that somehow we've managed to lose our pursuers, and quite likely ourselves, I'm going to go rest in a shadow under one of these trees," he said. "When I have enough energy to do anything, then we can try to figure out what the heck happened and why we're quite obviously no longer in Rockton."
"Okay," Mysty said. "I'll stay around here. I hope nothing bad will come out at night..."
Ghosty faded entirely out of sight. "Don't worry about it," he said quietly. "What if's are worse than is's."
Mysty sat down on the hill again. The afternoon glow of the sun across the field looked a lot less mournful now. She still didn't have all her memory, she had no idea where she was, and didn't know the wherabouts of the terrifying, paranormal menace and the supposedly anti-paranormal government men who were chasing her, but now she was not entirely alone. She lay back down, and as she watched the trees slowly sway with their golden auras, she drifted back into a peaceful sleep.