The school year has started once more, and so has the writing of the school newspaper! I’m an editor this year, I’m so proud >^.^<

As promised, here is the story I’ve been writing. It’s in several parts because the newspaper can’t support all twenty-three or so pages in one go. Enjoy!

Carol blinked as she pushed open the door. Red, orange, brown, and gold leaves littered the front lawn. Clouds scudded across the sky in large bunches that blocked out the sun. Wind rattled the bare tree branches, chilling her a little. Winter was approaching, and it made sure the whole world knew it.

She grabbed the rake from the ramshackle shed behind the house and began to push the leaves into piles. About an hour into her work, she heard the trill of a bicycle bell and looked up to see her friend Drew. “Hi, Drew!” she yelled to him, waving.

“Hey.” Drew grinned. “How’s it going?”

“Fine,” Carol answered nonchalantly. “You?”

“Same,” Drew replied, although there was a hesitant note in his voice, and Carol caught it instantly.

“Is something wrong?” she asked.

“Shh, sh sh sh,” Drew whispered frantically. “Not so loud.”

She frowned as he looked around, peering into the shadows for something that did not exist. Finally, he turned back to her. “There’s something following me,” he told her quietly.

Carol fought the urge to turn her head and look around. “What is it?”

Drew shrugged. “I don’t know. I just get the feeling something’s watching me, and every so often I can hear footsteps.”

“Footsteps?” Carol listened, but all she could hear was the wind rustling the few leaves that were still clinging to the branches above.

Drew nodded. “Like Friday, when I was walking through the hall at school on the way to the bathroom. I heard footsteps behind me, like a few yards away. I turned around. Something moved, but there was nothing there.”

“Maybe that’s just your imagination. Someone might have been going into a classroom.”

Drew shook his head. “I told you, there was no one there. I saw some flicker, like a shadow, but there’s nowhere to hide in the C-wing corridor. You know that.”

Carol frowned. “Maybe you were hearing things.”

“But I saw something, I swear it!” he insisted.

“I don’t know, Drew.” Carol looked down at her leaf pile.

“That was just two days ago. There’s more, really. You’ve got to help me, Carol!” Drew pleaded.

Carol sighed. “I’ll talk to Amy. She’s the problem solver of the team.”

“Thank you so much, Carol,” Drew said, relieved. “I owe you one.”

“Don’t say that.” Carol looked up at her friend again. “We’re friends. Of course I’d help.”

Drew said nothing, but the relief was evident in his eyes.

“What else has happened?” Carol asked. “You said there’s been more since Friday.”

Drew nodded again. “It wasn’t as obvious as that. Little things, like I’d leave something in a place and turn around, but when I turn back to get it, it’d be gone. Or I’d close a door and go to the next room, and the door is open when I come back even though I’d locked it. It’s weird.”

Carol shrugged. “I’ll talk to Amy,” she repeated.

Drew gave her a small smile. “Well, I’m late for the party prep committee meeting.” Drew and a few friends were organizing a Halloween costume party scheduled for Halloween night the following Friday at the park.

Drew hopped back onto his bike and rode down the street. As soon as he was out of sight, Carol tossed the rake to the ground, scattering her perfect pile of leaves, and dashed inside to grab her phone, dialing Amy’s familiar number.

“Amy Wallace speaking. Of whom do I do the honor of acquainting with?”

“Amy,” Carol said. “It’s Carol. We have another case. Tell Sylvia, will you?”

“Of course,” Amy answered. “And might I ask what case we have currently taken up?”

“Drew says he’s being followed.”

Carol couldn’t see Amy, being that she was on the phone, but from the tone of voice Amy used next, she strongly suspected there was a mischievous smile on her friend’s face. “Drew Photengard? The same Drew a certain friend of mine has a cru–”

“Yes!” Carol yelped before Amy could finish her sentence. “That Drew. Stay off my whiskers, please.” (The phrase ‘stay off my whiskers’, among Carol’s friends, meant ‘stop teasing’.)

“Of course,” Amy said again. “And who is following Drew?”

“If we knew that, the case would be half over.”

“Point taken.”

“Anyways, when can you come over?”

“I’ll be there at precisely three o’clock, my friend,” she replied.

“Great. See you then.” Carol hung up.

She turned around to go back outside when a flicker of movement caught her eye. She decided against acting upon her incessant urge to look at it, and instead forced herself to walk to the door and open it. She was sure that whatever it was moved again behind her, but she refused to turn around again and stepped outside.

She fished her cell phone out of her pocket and began to text two other people: her grandfather, and her friend Sylvia. She sent a message to both of them:

Grandfather, hi! Are you coming over this weekend? I have something to tell you about.

Sylvia, we’ve got a new case. Amy has the details, talk to her and come over at three.

She then slipped it back into her pocket and set off for the park.

Before anyone could see her enter, she crouched down behind the row of bushes in the mini-forest surrounding the park. The decorations were spectacular: glittering streamers were draped over almost every inch of the playground, fake green “slime” and red “blood” dripped down the slides, rubber snakes wound around the railings, and random fake hands covered in blood popped up from the dirt as people walked by. To top it all off, there was a multicolored light display for spooky lighting and an even spookier end-of-party show. She could hardly wait until Halloween night.

She pushed the thought out of her mind as her eyes scanned the clearing for Drew. She quickly found him, setting up the candy bowl with the fake hand at the bottom that grabbed anyone who reached inside. She also realized that while he’d forgotten the strange presence, it was still trailing him, and flitted back and forth between the trees.

She squatted in the bushes for the better part of an hour until her cramped legs forced her to stand up and walk around. She glanced at her watch, which told her it was nearly one o’clock, and common sense told her that she’d have to go home, eat lunch, and figure out what she’d say to Amy and Sylvia.

She jogged back to her house and threw together a grilled cheese sandwich that she ate as fast as she could without choking. She then tidied up as best she could, and she finished right on time, too, because Amy rang the doorbell at three o’clock sharp.

Carol opened the door to let her inside, and she stepped in, wiping her boots on the welcome mat before setting them aside. No sooner had she closed the door and sat down across from Amy on the couches did the bell ring again. With an exasperated sigh, she stood up to let Sylvia in.

She briefed them both on the situation, but they were all stumped. Sylvia, the imagination supplement of the team, suggested it may be supernatural, but of course Amy, the science-based one, had to disagree. “Drew must simply be hearing or seeing things. There is no other possible explanation for this. And there is nothing, I say, nothing, that cannot be proved by science.”

“Does that mean I’m hearing and seeing things too?” Carol pointed out dryly.

“There has to be some explanation,” Amy insisted stubbornly.

Carol shrugged. “Your call. But whatever it is, we have to figure out what’s going on before Drew goes insane.”

“Insaner,” Sylvia corrected with a giggle.

“Right, right.” I frowned. “Whatever. But what is it?”

“You described it as some flicker of movement,” Amy recalled. “Drew called it a shadow. But shadows are simply darker, non-staining imprints upon an object caused by a source of light held at an angle to the object casting the shadow. It cannot exist on its own, and yet Drew claims there was no one in the corridor.”

“Maybe it’s like Peter Pan,” Sylvia said excitedly. “He lost his shadow, remember? Maybe–”

Amy cut her off. “No magic here, I’m afraid. This is a scientific world, Syl.”

“She’s right.” Carol gave Sylvia a sympathetic smile. “There’s simply no proof that magic actually exists.”

Sylvia frowned back at Carol. “Fine. Non-believers. You’ll be back, you’ll come to me, you’ll remember I was right, you’ll see.” (Author’s Note: for those of you who didn’t get it, this is a reference to the song You’ll Be Back performed in the Broadway show Hamilton.)

A half hour later, the three girls were no further from where they started. Amy and Sylvia left just as frustrated and stumped as they had been before arriving, and Carol had no more ideas than she had before they’d come. She decided that even though it was well into four o’clock, she’d go back to the park and take a look at what was going on there.

After grabbing her phone, donning her sweatshirt, and tucking a pack of tissues into her pocket, she set out for the park. As per the usual, she sat down behind the line of bushes and watched the decorating committee work, all the while keeping an eye out for the mysterious “ghost” trailing Drew.

A chilling breeze blew around that night. It was close to ten o’clock and the decorating wasn’t even close to done, with kids still milling around fixing random things. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and texted the team:

In the park watching the committee from behind the bushes. The thing seems to have fled, or at least it’s stopped trailing Drew. I know it’s late but it’s still not finished!

She got no reply, and she turned off her phone, ready to put it back in her pocket and huddle up in her sweatshirt for another hour of watching. Instead, she decided to stand up and take a walk around a small copse of trees a little ways away from where she sat, to stretch her legs. She held her phone in her hand, for fear of dropping it in the dark where she could not find it again; having been out late would be bad enough, and having to deal with angry parents when she returned home, without losing her phone, causing them to have to buy a new one, would be too much.

She stood up and began to walk, stretching her cramped legs. The wind blew stronger now, whistling through the trees, but she did not hear the familiar rustling of the leaves, and wondered how such a force could not even stir a single leaf. She was still wondering when she returned to her spot a few minutes later, still clutching her phone.

She felt it all at once – something clamped down over her mouth while another looped around her stomach. A third wrestled her arms behind her back. They weren’t hands, that much she could tell, but something else, but she couldn’t quite figure out what. She had little time to worry about that, however. Her phone slipped from her hand as the thing dragged her backwards, and she fell, right into a mysterious dark hole that had appeared right behind her in the ground. It closed up as she fell, seeming to swallow her whole.

Just like that, Carol was gone.