Notes: Sorry I haven't updated. I was focusing on finishing the book entirely, which I have done! Now I'll just slowly upload each remaining chapter until I'm 100% satisfied. When this is all over, I'll take it all down and it'll only be available for purchase.

Follow me on my Facebook page, A. Ceravolo , to find out when and where you can buy my books, eh?

Chapter 15: Totally Normal

I finally escaped the underground dungeon that is apparently beneath our fucking house, now I'm running up the cobblestone steps running out of breath and tripping upwards in a panic. What the fuck was that?! There is no way any of that was real! No fucking way! Those fucking dolls, they were not real, no! I'm just...this is just a nightmare and I will wake up and everything will go back to normal.

I keep climbing and climbing, the cool air blowing down from up the stairs. I'm close, so close to getting out of this bad dream, this spaghetti induced hallucination. Just a few more steps and I'll be out, just keep climbing, Alex. Keep climbing.

The moon high in the sky finally greets me as I break out of this weird cave thing. I land on the ground, hands and knees, grasping at every breath I can. What the hell! I mean, what the hell! I really need to get in shape, climbing up steps like that should not exhaust me as much as it did.

My lungs start to feel a little more rested and my vision doubles shit a little less...I lift my head and start looking around at the area I've emerged in. The graveyard is directly in front of me, and just beyond it is the big ass window of the study. I want to just collapse right here, but...I need to get to my bed. I need to get away from these dolls - No, I need to throw a fucking fire bomb down there first.

"Alex?" a voice calls out from deeper in the forest behind me. How does anyone know I'm even out of the house? It can't be Mom or Dad, they went to bed hours ago. "Alex?"

I crawl back into the mouth of the small cave and hide inside as I wait and see who's running around calling my name. Eventually I see the silhouette of whoever it is. He's a tall, skinny guy with poofy and curly hair. He calls out my name again and finally steps into the moonlight.

Is that...Arnold? That creepy guy from school? How the fuck does he know where I live, let alone whether or not I was kidnapped by a fucking ghost?! He spots me and runs over, which sends all kinds of bad butterflies exploding in my stomach.

"Alex, are you okay?" he asks me. He tries to put his hand on my shoulder and, almost completely out of instinct, I punch him in the throat. "Gah!"

I stand up straight and point an angry finger at him. "Okay, I have had absolutely enough of this!" I yell. "You, ya creepy fuck, are getting on my nerves! What are you? A stalker?! Do you want to murder me, stuff me in a barrel of acid?! What?!"

He heaves and almost throws up as he tries to speak, and I'm fully aware that after being punched in the throat it's not easy to talk, but clearly I'm not having any of that.

"Talk, you scrawny fuck!" I yell.

"I can't!" he coughs.

I stand there waiting for him to catch his wind and feel his wind pipe again with my arms crossed impatiently. It takes a bit but he's finally able to talk.

"I'm here-" he coughs, "to help you!"

"Oh, well why didn't you just say so?" I say with the sarcasm setting at maximum. "Help with what, exactly? Because to me it seems like you fucking followed me to my house and watched me all night long! What is it? You wanna slip me a something something and have your way with me? Take off my head and drink out of my skull?!"

"No! Father, no!" he yells. "I'm here to help you! That spirit that took you, I'm here to help!"

I lean on my other foot and look at him curiously. "How do you know about that?"

"I'm..." he sighs, "...well connected."

"You are not coming off well here, dude," I tell him.

He sighs and gives me some kind of look, like it's annoying that I'm not trusting him blindly. "Look, it's a little difficult to explain-"

"Well that's just too fucking bad," I interrupt.

He sighs again. "What's it going to take to get you to trust me?"

"How about stop being a fucking creep and stay away from me for a solid year?" I tell him. "After that, maybe we can talk."

"Well I can't do that," he says.

"Exactly, because you're a psycho stalker."

"I'm not either of those things!" he snaps. "I have a vested interest in what's going on in that house, keeping you safe is just part of the package."

"Good job on that," I remark snidely. "What the hell do you know about what's going on here, anyways?"

"Fine, you know what?" he practically hisses. "You won't see me around here anymore, congratulations." He starts marching off back toward the road that leads up to my house.

"You still didn't explain anything to me!" I yell down at him.

"Oh well that's just too bad, isn't it?" he yells back before disappearing beyond the tree line.

I take a deep and stress relieving breath before looking back down at the stone steps that lead down into the cave I had just escaped from. He knew that bitch kidnapped me, I don't know how, but he did. As long as he makes good on his promise to not show up randomly in my life, though, I think I can just forget about that little thing right there and focus more on the act that I was kidnapped by a fucking ghost just a few minutes ago.

Morning comes eventually. I spent what was left of my night sitting in my room with all the lights on and a movie playing on my laptop. Rise of the Guardians. Even animated Chris Pine is like super cute so that's a plus, now isn't it? I would have liked to get some sleep but apparently banshees and evil dolls tend to steer someone away from that. Go fucking figure.

I get up from my bed and start getting dressed into fresh clothes. The bus will be here in like thirty minutes, that's enough time to get cereal and run off through the garden. I pick my backpack up off the floor and head toward the kitchen where I find Mom cooking bacon. That smell almost makes up for the shitty night I had...almost.

I plant my ass in a chair and wait for Mom to tear her eyes off the pan to realize I'm awake. "Oh, hey Alex!" she says happily. Mom's been a morning person since we moved here, it's kind of weird. Maybe the country air is helping. "How did you sleep?"

"Like a baby," I lie. "You?"

"Oh alright," she smiles. She puts a plate of freshly cooked bacon in front of me with this huge grin on her face. I can't really explain it but suddenly I'm kind of glad I wasn't within earshot of their room last night.

"Hey, kiddo," Dad says as he comes in the room. "Hey, beautiful," he smiles at Mom. They plant each other with a big kiss.

With a strip of bacon hanging out of my mouth I look at a watch that doesn't exist and grab the rest of the bacon and start to get up. "Oh, boy! Look at the time, I gotta go if I'm gonna catch the bus."

"You've still got like twenty minutes," Dad points out helpfully. "Come on, sit with us."

I chew on the bacon and internally sigh as I slump back down in the chair. Mom takes a plate of bacon for her and Dad both and they sit at the table making googly eyes at each other. I'm not sure if I can stomach this for twenty minutes.

"So, Alex," Mom says as nonchalantly as possible, "looking forward to school?"

"What?" I ask before grabbing another bacon strip. "No, of course not."

Twenty minutes pass of us chomping down on bacon and toast, but not much was really said. It's a quiet morning and I'm not too keen on telling them about my big adventure last night. So Dad leaves for work, Mom gets ready to do the Mom thing and clean the kitchen, and I, like the A+ student that I am, march off to the bus stop. When the bus comes I sit up front with Hannah who is less broody than usual. Maybe it's because she has me, I am just the bright spot in so many lives. I'm fucking delightful.

"Hey," I say as I put my bag on my lap.

"Hi," she says back. "So did anything else weird happen?"

"...I'd rather not discuss it right now," I tell her calmly. "...Is there any chance I could sleep over at your place tonight?"

She cocks an eyebrow at me. "Why?" she asks. I shrug in response. "Well sorry, my parents don't like anyone being over."

"Damn," I say. "Why? Are they like super strict or something?"

"Kinda," she sighs. Ooh, personal drama. Love it.

"Strict, and yet they've said nothing about your hair," I say snidely.

"Oh, you're funny," she replies sarcastically.

The bus starts to move so I feel like it's safer to talk about everything. No one can hear over an engine, right? Or at least that's what it feels like. I don't know, I'm pretty sure everyone can hear everything everywhere but maybe I'm just paranoid. Seriously, who gives a shit, Christ, Alex.

"Do you know anything about that weird guy, Arnold?" I ask Hannah.

"Arnold?" she says. "I don't know anyone named Arnold."

"Come on, you know this guy. He's like ten feet tall, has a big nose, puffy hair..." She still looks at me with a lost expression. "Okay, you don't know him," I sigh.

"That's what I said."

"You watch your tone, young lady!" I snap. She cocks an eyebrow at me, I raise both of mine at her. A grin grows on her face, then on mine, and we both start giggling like a couple of idiots.

Class goes by about as fast as you'd expect it to. Math is a bore, English almost became nap time, and I forgot my locker combination for both classes. But now we're back in the swing of things with lunch so I go and sit over with Hannah. She's having more carrots and nothing much else really, and I have a ham and pickle sandwich, because I roll like that...Bitch.

We sit down at the table and start talking about our classes. I specifically avoid the events of last night completely because I apparently can bottle shit like that up with no problem. It is bothering me, though, like a lot. I would love to talk to someone about it but I think I already crossed the crazy line when I told Hannah that my ancestor wants to kill me. I doubt she actually believed it, hell I barely believe it. Like maybe he isn't trying to kill me, maybe he just wants to nail me. Well that's not...really all that better, but it would explain that traumatic kiss.

"Alex?" Hannah says, derailing the train of thought.

"Hmm?" I ask.

"You okay?"

"Totally, just thinking about-"

"Hi!" a voice beams enthusiastically as I feel a weight shift next to me. I see Hannah roll her eyes so I look over and see Carol sitting next to me with a huge smile on her face. "How are you guys?"

"Oh...peachy," I smile wearily. Her friends, Vanessa and Beatrice, sit with us. This turned from the cool loner table to that table all those kinds of girls sit at in a little under ten seconds. "So what are you and the other Power Puff Girls doing here, anyways?"

"Well we're friends, right?" she smiles and turns to Hannah. "Hi! I'm Carol! This is Vanessa and Beatrice."

She glares at each one of them and then says, "...Hey."

"Why are you such a grumpy pants?" Carol asks her. Did she seriously just say that?

Hannah's about to say something when I interrupt with, "Hey, Carol, since we're about you and I have a slumber party?"

Hannah gives me a wide eyed look. I give her a "just go with it" look, and Carol looks at me like a long lost love. "Really?" she asks.

"Yeah, it'll be fun," I say with a slightly forced smile.

"It sounds awesome!" she screams before giving me a huge hug. "So, my place or yours?" she asks at the perfect moment for her to fuel the fantasies of a big jock who walks by and accidentally drops his tray over it.

"Yours," I tell her. "My place is kind of a mess right now. You know, just moving in and all that."

"I completely understand!" she says before giving me another hug. Without taking her arms from around me she says, "We'll go get your stuff then walk to my place, kay?"

"Sounds good..." I agree. "...Could you let go of me now?"

"Oh, right," she laughs as she unlatches her arms. "But first there are a few rules..."

"Oh God," I sigh. "What?"

"Well we can't swear," she says.

"Fucking Christ," I seethe.

"Language!" she gasps along with her two friends. "Also we can't talk about sex, use the Lord's name in vain, or participate Pagan rituals."

"Oh darn!" I say.

"That sounds like so much fun..." Hannah says unenthusiastically as she plays with her carrots. "Too bad I can't go."

"Do you want to?" Carol asks.

"No," Hannah says plainly.

The rest of lunch is uneventful, I didn't hear from that David guy all day. He must be really mad at me, and for good reason. Why would he be? It's not like I killed his father or anything like that, I just asked him a simple question and he flipped out. I mean, what is he, a girl?

But no, when lunch is over I dump my tray and head for the halls. I liked that David guy, he was cute. Oh well, not much to do about it now, and now I've got a slumber party planned with a girl who's just all too friendly, and why? Because I don't want to spend a night in the same house a ghost tried to kill me in right away. I mean, I will eventually because my parents are there but tonight is just...too soon.

I quickly call Mom and ask her if it's okay for me to spend the night at a friend's, she's all too eager for me to go out and make friends so her and Dad can keep working on a sibling for me. That, and she wants me to be a social butterfly again, obviously. But mostly it's the first bit, let's be honest with ourselves.

Science class is quiet, and why is that, you ask? Arnold isn't here. I'm relieved for the most part but part of me was hoping I'd be able to find out more about what he knows concerning my new and humble abode. But again, for the most part, the guy freaks me out and I'm glad I don't have to sit next to him.

The science teacher, robotic and stale as he is, starts taking attendance. When he finally gets to my name I realize something that's just a little unsettling...he completely skipped over Arnold's name. That's a little strange, I have to say...

Gym rears its ugly head and our ape-like teacher belches out commands before we even get to the change rooms. The other girls are quick to change, they tear off their clothes and put on their shorts and t-shirts before you can blink twice. Me? I'm taking my time. The way I see it every minute I spend in here is a minute Wonder Woman isn't throwing dodgeballs at my stomach.

When the other girls are gone, I feel a hand on my shoulder that quickly spins me around and suddenly I'm facing Hannah's overly-severe stare.

"Since when are you two so chummy?" she asks me.

"Who?" I ask her back. She bobs her head at the door and I see Carol there. She gives me a huge smile and a giant wave before someone grabs her by the collar and pulls her into the gym. "Oh, Carol?"

Hannah steps back a bit. "Yeah, what's going on? First you ask me if you can sleep over at my place, now you're going to the crazy super happy smiley bitch that leads the cheerleaders?"

"She's a cheerleader?" I ask as I hold out my hand and realize my shirt's still in it. I look down to see my very bra-clad chest. "Why do we always have to have these discussions when I'm topless?"

"Did something happen?" she asks me with a concerned mother tone that just came out of nowhere.

I sigh heavily and throw my shirt over my shoulder. "Fine, yes, something did, okay?"


"Well..." I start awkwardly, "...this ghost bitch sort of kidnapped me and tried to kill me before she burnt inside out and turned into a pile of ash."

Hannah stares at me wide eyed.

"What?" I ask.

"How are you just so casual about this?!" she asks almost hysterically.

I shrug. "I dunno, it happened. It's not like freaking out about it is gonna make it...un-happen?" I put my finger to my chin. "Is that a word?"

"Do you just deal with this stuff every day or something?!"

"Well...I do now," I say.

"You don't think you have any severe mental scarring or anything?" she asks.

"...No more than usual," I shrug.

"We should go to my church, get you blessed or something," Hannah says.

"Whoa, whoa...step back," I interrupt with a stupid grin on my face. "The shape-shifting emo girl is Christian?"

"Yeah," she says. "Why?"

"...Nothing, just a weird combination is all," I say with a slight laugh.

"Just shut up and cover yourself, we've got shit to do," she orders before heading out into the warzone.

With that stupid grin still on my face I start to pull my shirt over my head when the lights dim and a soft blue light emanates in front of me. When I get my head through the hole I'm greeted by the ghostly face of Terrence Darkwater, after which my heart stops for a significant amount of time before beating again. Also I smash into the locker door.

"Jesus Christ, man!" I almost scream. "I've had about enough of ghosts for one day, alright?!"

"Alexandria, wait a moment, please," he says. "It's urgent."

"This couldn't wait until after my gym class?!" I hiss.

"I would have contacted you sooner but your mind was shrouded," he says in a panicked tone. "The force that pursues me, the entire reason I created the refuge within your mind, it was all around you and if I attempted to penetrate it, it would have found me as it had my family."

"What are you talking about?" I ask with a greater sense of gravitas.

He sighs and rubs his forehead. "If I'm correct it is the shroud of death come to take me to the next world."

"Well why don't you go? It sounds exciting enough."

"It does not feel...'exciting,' it feels dreadful, dark...angry," he shakes his head and turns his gaze back to me. "But that is not why we must speak. Last night in your mind I felt a presence, one that came before the darkness that pursues me. It seemed...familiar. What transpired last night?"

I sigh and smack myself in the forehead. "Seriously, right now is not a good time! We'll talk when I go to sleep later tonight, alright?" I take a minute to think about what I just said. "Well that sounded weird and insane, didn't it?"

"Very well," Terrence relents before vanishing entirely. The light in the locker room returns to normal so I ready myself to head out into the jungle. Fucking ghosts, I can't get a moment's rest, can I?