Tricked and Treated

(I’ve gotten some ideas from some songs I won’t name, but either way, the story is still in my writing! Enjoy~)

There were two children that loved Halloween. A twin boy and girl. Every year, they dressed up for it. They never missed a single one. But on the day they turned twelve, they never thought they were getting too old for it, and started planning their next year’s one.

It was this year when they prepared for their grandest costume yet. They dressed up as Renaissance dolls. They looked so fake, that when they stopped moving, people thought they were statues. Which was a good break for them.

During a late hour, they decided to do their trick-or-treating on the other side of town. A neighbor told them that the shortest way to get there was through the forest. So that’s where they went.

The forest was especially dark at this time of night. But the brave, young twins ventured on. Eventually, they came across a Halloween carnival. Everyone was joyous, eating candy corn and cotton candy, riding rides, playing games; everyone was having such a great time that the twins decided to join in the fun.

They rode the Ferris Wheel, Rollercoaster, Caterpillar, Haunted Train. They played every single game booth in the carnival. They ate popcorn, chocolate, candies and goodies from all over the world. The boy twin started to wonder if they even paid for all the stuff. And eating all the treats made him remember. “Hey, sis, we should probably go back to our trick-or-treating,” he said.

“Aw, but we’re having so much fun!” the girl said. “Just one more game, please?” So, he agreed.

They didn’t end up playing a game, but watching a magician, who seemed to be portraying a clown as well. His overlapped clown smile and dark, sunken eyes gave the twins goosebumps. After his show, everyone left, except the twins. That’s because the magician called them over.

“I see you have enjoyed my show,” the Magi-Clown grinned.

“Yes, we have,” they admitted.

“Please stay and watch my circus next,”

Not only was he a magician and clown, but a ringmaster! He took the children to the deeper part of the forest where the children witnessed a real live circus. They were free to roam around, so they saw everything there: a tiger, and elephant, a bearded woman, a lion and his lion tamer, a heavily-built man, tiny men, and even acrobats. The twins did think they were too young for that, though. After the show, the girl twin thought everyone seemed weird and decided that it was time to go home.

“But this keeps getting better! Just a few more minutes?” So she agreed.

It was finally roughly a few hours before midnight. The Magi-Clow-ster met with the twins again. “Did you have fun?”

“Yes, we did,”

“It is getting late. Why don’t you two stay over at our house for the night?” The twins were so sleepy and tired, they agreed.

They walked further into the forest to find a house. Though, it was more of a giant mansion made of wood and silver. The twins thought it looked great. Inside, they saw doors everywhere, which they probably thought were the rooms of the other workers. The Magi-Clow-Ster took them to their own room. The moment they saw their big bed, they immediately fell asleep.

When the boy twin woke up the next morning…he realized morning never came. The pale moon shone down on him, the light reflecting from the window. He quickly told his sister all his worries and doubts. This time, both of them were really awake now.

They tried to escape, but they lost their way through hallways and hallways of doors. It was hard to find the exit. Finally, they came across one room that made them stop and stare. Inside, it held many, many dolls. The twins freaked out and quickly closed the door.

Unfortunately, their noise woke up the Magi-Clow-Ster. His dark eyes seemed to glow red in the dark. “Where are you going, my little dolls?” he mused. The twins tried to run but they seemed to be glued to the floor. The next thing they knew, they blacked out again.

This time, when the girl woke up, she realized she was blindfolded. She nudged her brother awake, hoping he might know something. He seemed to be blindfolded too. As they struggled, the blindfolds slowly started to loosen up, and one peeping eye each widened in horror at what they saw.

There was a blazing fireplace. Surrounding it were the dolls they had seen earlier. The twins watched as dolls were being thrown into it. They didn’t need to watch many horror movies to know what comes next.

The Magi-Clow-Ster came into view and grinned down at them. He looked like a Mad Hatter now. “Now, my dolls,” he sneered. “I have a very special surprise for you.”

He whipped out a small knife. Slowly, he started to cut a sun on the girl’s left cheek and a moon on the boy’s right. Blood trickled down their faces, in which the Magi-Clow-Ster collected. Instantly, the blood pictures dried up and became scars. “You will be remembered,” he promised.

Next, he examined their skin. He fetched a man who held a sponge with rough edges. He scrubbed their skin until they ached and glistened. The twins were in so much pain that they couldn’t feel anything anymore. “You will be flawless,” the Magi-Clow-Ster said. But as he said this, they almost felt as if their clothes were rotting up and turning to dust.

For the final touch, he held their hands. For the first time ever, the twins felt his burning fingers. It hurt them, his hot temperature squeezing their flesh. To their horror, slowly, the heat was going dimmer and dimmer until they couldn’t feel anything at all. “You will be priceless,” he grinned.

And that’s when they blacked out, with their eyes wide open.

Morning finally came after that. Back in the village the twins lived in, a new traveling shop opened up. The place became very popular, and was known for its precious dolls. The main stars were two dolls said to be very old. Their fragile clothes were dirty and almost destroyable so they could never be washed. Their porcelain skin was so delicate and cold to the touch that people were afraid that they’d break it if they did.

“Mommy, I want those two!” One little girl’s eyes twinkled when she saw them.

The man who owned the shop chuckled at her enthusiasm. “Sorry, little one,” he said. “They’re not for sale.”

As he watched her walk away with her mother sadly, the man smiled apologetically. As soon as the shop was empty, he grinned widely and looked directly into the eyes of the dolls. “See?” he said gleefully. “What did I tell you?”

Happy Halloween!! 😀

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School Unity

(Warning: Some anger and foul language)

OK, this time, I’m going to write about something relatively different, because I’m just really, really, annoyed right now.

So, recently, my batch, Grade 8, was part of a cheering competition against the other batch, Grade 9. Yeah, it was just two batches. With a surprise (and a no-surprise for others), my batch won. Again. For the second time in a row. That may be impressive (or unimpressive, considering it was only a second time), but the Grade 9 students were disappointed, for they lost again for the third time in a row. They always seem to end up in second place.

“So, why are you mad?” you ask. Well, being the humble batchmates we are, we kept our cool. No matter how much they hated on us, bashed us, called us foul names, we stayed strong. El Sol Real stayed as positive as can be!

Unfortunately, that’s not why I’m mad. Because one of my batchmates posted something on a popular page on Facebook and crossed the line:

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Now, isn’t that a lovely sign of sportsmanship? Not.

Comments were everywhere. Grade 9 students complained. Grade 8 students apologized. All because of one, weak-minded, boastful, stupid person, who’s so full up their *** that they didn’t stop and think about the feelings of others.

We don’t know who this b****** is yet, but when we find out, he/she’s going to be in a whole lot of trouble.

But what I want to talk about right now is what that person said. Will the Grade 9 really graduate without a championship in the cheering competitions? Come on. They’re struggling. They deserve at least one win. Sure, they’re pretty full of themselves too, but to be honest, I pity them. I think they need to win next year (but that won’t stop us from doing our best too! 😉 )

And FYI, their performance did not suck. I was intimidated! (just a little) I really thought they were gonna win. Their idea was just so awesome and cool 🙂 I don’t know what they keep missing. Although, when they sang some lyrics that involved being better than us, I have to admit, I was very angry at them 😡 But that didn’t stop me from losing control.

This b**** however, made me lose control. I know there will be some people out there who will comment things about how person was just trying to express themselves (psh) in an…improper way; or simply that he was just feeling happy (psh) at the moment. But really, I’m disappointed in him/her. They should’ve shown at least a little respect. Did he really think we pretended to mess up our entrance just for them? We had a problem with the outlet! It’s not our fault we lost that award like it was on purpose. The Nueva Fuerza won it fair and square, even if it was just a minor award.

I’m really disappointed in this person. Batch unity? How dare he/she mentions it without even having it. You can’t go around liking people like this. Until now, the Grade 9 students are annoyed. We’re really sorry, guys, for having a brainless batchmate, whatever they say totally doesn’t relate with what everyone else is saying.

I hope this person will learn one day to keep their own business to themselves. We almost lost friends because of that post. I hope the Grades 8 and 9 students will settle this soon, even if we’re already having the semestral break and we need to work this out over the Internet. But one thing I know for sure is that if we really are good friends with one another, El Sol Real and Nueva Fuerza can overcome their mishaps quickly.

Batch unity? It’s not always just about that. Sometimes you need school unity too.

Always There

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There is a reason why we are alive. There is a reason why we have the strength to keep moving forward. There is a reason why we are the people we are today. And believe it or not, that reason is because of our mothers.

You may not know this, but your mother had always been there for you. She is the person who gave birth to you, who cared for you, who raised you as her own. She loves you no matter what, and all she asks for in return is our love.

Above is a picture of my mother. She loves and cares for me like every mother does. And like every other child, I love my mom, and everything she does for me. She always has time to be with me. When I need help in my schoolwork, she would always do her best to help me. Whenever I felt sad or down, she would comfort me. Whenever I needed something, she would always give it to me. There are times when I see her struggling with work. It pains me to see her struggling for the family. It shows how much she cares for us. When my mother and I fight, I hate to see her having a hard time because of me. Our mothers deserve our love, not hate. That is why I make it a habit to do everything I can to make her happy each day. Seeing her smile is enough. She has done so much for me, it’s only right if I do the same for her.

I love my mother more than anyone. Whenever I think of her, I think of all the things a mother like her has done for me in the past and will do for me in the future. If you have a hard time imagining these things with your own mother, then here’s a start:

Imagine the smile your mother gives you when she held you for the first time. Imagine her joy when she hears you say your first word. Imagine her face when she sees you take your first step. Imagine her pride when she sends you off to your first day of school. Imagine her comforting face when she sees you fall and get hurt. Imagine her funny faces and your laughter as she tries to stop your tears. Imagine her determined look when she helps you with your homework. Imagine her proud smile as she sees you get a perfect grade. Imagine her forgiving face when you accidentally break something. Imagine her comforting look as you grieve over a dead pet, Imagine her holding your hand when you feel down. Imagine her happiness when she sees you on your first day of high school. Imagine the first time she embarrasses you in front of your friends. Imagine her comforting you when you experience your first heartbreak, and think of her inspiring words to move on. Imagine her tears of pride when she sends you off to college. Imagine her joy when she hears from you after so many months. Imagine her voice by then. Imagine her happy face when she sees you home for the holidays. Imagine her brave face when she tries to hide her coughs. Imagine her bright smile when she sees you by your bedside. Imagine her weak hand strongly trying to hold onto yours. Imagine her softly whispering, “I love you”. And at that time, remember.

Mothers have always been there for us, even when we don’t notice it. They’re always there to guide us, and like the saying goes, she knows what is right. It is clear that she deserves even more than out love. She needs our attention, our compassion, our caring affection, and respect. But all she wants in return is our happiness. Our mothers are always going to be there. We need to show that we will always be there for them too.

The Girl Under the Cherry Blossoms (A Zen Story)

There was once a young girl named Ritsuki. She loved to spend her time under the cherry blossom trees that were growing in her garden. Everyday, she quietly sat under its flowers, watching them fall hour after hour, while listening to the sounds of the other children playing around her. People judged her, wondering why she just stayed under her trees, but she paid them no heed. She just spent as much time as she can in her garden. One day, a boy her age named Zensuke came to visit and walked up to her. He asked, “Ritsuki! Why do you spend your time here, when you can be outside doing what the others do?”

Ritsuki hesitated, until she saw a cherry blossom fall onto her lap. She smiled. “Everyday, a cherry blossom falls onto the ground, for it is withered and weak, unable to hold onto its branch any longer.” She pointed upwards. “But one flower on the top of the tree stays, for it knows that it is still strong enough to keep holding on, knowing that it is at its best if it stays that way. Why should I fall from my branch, when I know that I am at my strongest sitting here?”

T.C.O.T.M.A. – Chapter 12: He Returns

Two days later…

Ariel didn’t think about the huge puff of smoke coming out of I.B.’s chimney until she was already walking back into her house with the day’s mail under her arm.

Suddenly, she realized what it meant.

“Zieke!” she shouted, dropping the mail on the floor. “He’s back—or somebody is!” 

Zieke’s face was in his plate of bacon and eggs. Instantly, Ariel smacked his head and he bolted upright just as fast. His breakfast was practically stuck to his forehead. “I’m awake!” he said quickly, rubbing his eyes. “What happened?”

“It’s I.B.!” Ariel informed. Those two words caused Zieke to widen his eyes at her. 

This time they didn’t hesitate. They ran across the street and pounded on I.B.’s door.

A muffled voice came from inside. “Hold on—I’m coming!”

Their neighbor opened the door after about a minute and a half. He was wearing pajamas that looked dirtied, and his hair was standing on end. His cat protectively circled his feet. 

“Attempted to make my own coffee,” I.B. informed, rubbing his eyes. “What—Oh, it’s you guys,” he said, once he realized who was at the door. He sounded as if he’d known them for years. “What’s the emergency?”

“We should ask you that,” said Ariel.

“What do you mean? Everything’s fine here.” 

Zieke looked at the author suspiciously. “So then…you’re OK?”

“Why shouldn’t I be? By the way, did you feed the cat like I asked?” He frowned. “He seemed very hungry when I got home.” 

“The cat? What about you?” Ariel protested. “We read your note. We thought you needed our help. We went all the way—“

“—to the Other Side,” Zieke said, finishing his sister’s sentence. “We looked all over for you—“ 

I.B. clapped his hands. “Oh, good. I was hoping you would. What was it like? You have to come in and tell me everything.”

“I don’t understand—did you want our help or not?” asked Zieke, not moving. 

“I absolutely did. I still do,” I.B. said indignantly. “And it sounds as if you have plenty of material for me to write.”

“To write?” Ariel echoed in surprise.

“Of course. What did you think I needed help with?”

“You wanted us to help write your book?” Zieke spat out. “That’s why we let ourselves get messed up with the Evening Sun?”

“Well, yes…”

“You mean you weren’t really in trouble?!” Ariel asked, crossing her arms in disbelief.

“Oh, I was. I am. Big trouble. The book is way overdue and, well, I can’t thank you enough—“

Ariel and Zieke looked at each other, trying to absorb what the older author was saying.

“But what about what I heard the other night? The laugh and cry and thud?” Zieke asked. “You didn’t get hurt? They didn’t kidnap you or anything?”

I.B. laughed. “Well, I might have hurt my foot when I threw my notebook to the floor…I was just laughing and crying in despair. Wretched writer’s block—it makes me scream everyday! Afterward, I went for a walk to clear my head.”

“And then you planned it all so we could figure out your story for you.”

“Well, I didn’t plan it at all,” the author said modestly. “There was a little luck involved.”

“So everything we saw and did—encountering the Other Side, saving Rufus, etc.—that’s all going to go in your book? 

“Oh, that worked out, did it?”

“What about everything we saw on the Other Side?” Ariel asked. “Was nothing real?”

“Depends on what you mean by that.” 

“What if we don’t tell you our story?”

“Well, I guess you don’t have to. But then you wouldn’t get the prize.” I.B. added nonchalantly.

“What prize?” Ariel raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, just membership into the Cester Society…”

Zieke’s eyes widened. “Let me get this straight—if we help you write your book, we can be members of the Cester Society?”

“Well, honorary members, anyway.”

“It’s like our payment?” Ariel asked.

“Well, I wouldn’t put it so badly. You make it sound so crass. Like quid pro quo—“

“Wait, we need to talk about it for a second—privately.” Ariel said.

I.B. shrugged. The siblings stepped away from his door and heatedly whispered to each other.

“What do you think, Ariel?” Zieke asked. “It sounds so exciting.”

“Yeah, but…” Ariel hesitated “Would we ever live our same lives ever again?”

“Why are you complaining about that?” Zieke smiled. “We have a chance to change our whole future just by accepting this offer.” 

“You think so?”

“Uh, not really…”

“Besides, I don’t feel comfortable about sharing our information with I.B….I feel so tricked.”

“Yeah, same…and I don’t think I want to share our information about Rufus either…”

Ariel nodded. “But…joining the Cester Society is a chance of a lifetime.” 

Zieke smiled at his sister. “Just as long as we’re always going to be working together.”

Ariel smiled back. “Why not?” 

They turned back to I.B. They’d made their decision.

 

To be continued…

 

 

Actually, I’m not even sure if it will be continued, because it just says so in the book 😛 Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed! Most of the book was written by me or just edits. Also, this chapter is P.B.’s version. I really didn’t know what else to say. But this whole thing really was fun to write! 🙂 

 

T.C.O.T.M.A. – Chapter 11: The Great Escape

The same, buff-looking guard guarded the exit. Not to mention the two more guards that appeared to be his sidekicks. They weren’t looking as strong as the first but the look on their eyes told everyone that they weren’t as weak as they looked.

“What do we do now?” Ariel groaned.

“Maybe we could create a diversion,” Rufus suggested.

“That can’t possibly work!”

Zieke thought for a while. He looked around him and soon found that they were hiding behind boxes of gunpowder. His eyes widened. “Does anyone have a box of matches?” he asked.

Rufus shrugged. “Don’t smoke, remember?” 

“Well, do you have any source of fire?” 

“I lost my cigarette after I parted from you guys.”

“Actually, it’s with me,” Ariel reached into her pocket and pulled out Rufus’ pink, bubblegum cigarette.

“You had that this whole time?” Zieke asked.

Ariel shrugged. “I assumed it would come in handy,” She handed it over to Zieke. “I don’t know why you want it though.”

Zieke took the cigarette eagerly. “How do you work this thing, Rufus?” he asked, examining it in his fingers. 

“Well, I need to turn it on for it to work,” Rufus got the cigarette and flipped a switch on it. A spark came out and the siblings smelled bubblegum again.

“Great!” Zieke then started carrying the gunpowder box, still laying low. 

“Zieke, what are you doing?” Ariel asked, afraid to get caught.

“Like Rufus said, we need to create a diversion. This gunpowder should do the trick. And with our handmade lighter…”

Rufus smiled, knowing where this is going. “Nice thinking, kid,” He helped carried the box and started pouring gunpowder in a line while muttering, “What’s gunpowder doing in a theatre…”

“Wait, so you’re planning to blow up the place?” Ariel’s eyes widened at her brother. 

“Sure. This is an Evening Sun location anyway. Best to get rid of it.”

“But…what if something happens?”

Zieke reached out to touch his sister’s hand. “Ariel, please. Trust me on this. I know what I’m doing remember? I’m not a child.”

Ariel swallowed. “I know…you’re right. OK, let’s see where your plan is going.”

Moments later, Rufus had made a line from them to a random spot far away from their position using the gunpowder. He did his best to lay low and to not be caught by the guards. Fortunately, he succeeded. “All right, let’s do this,” he said, going back to the siblings. “What now?”

“We light it up.” Zieke got the bubblegum cigarette, nodded at his sister and Rufus, and flicked it. The gunpowder caught the fire and it followed the rest of the line, becoming smaller and smaller. 

“Duck!” The three went behind the boxes and covered their ears.

The last thing they heard was the sound of an explosion.

Some of the employees were scattered about, trying to get their things out of the fire. Luckily, even the guards started to do the same.

Ariel grinned at her brother, who grinned back. “Let’s go!”

The three of them started heading for the exit. It wasn’t long before they were out the door and running away from the theatre.

“We did it!” Zieke rejoiced. 

Ariel smiled, looking back as they ran. Her smile melted when she saw the Manager by the exit of the burning theatre…with a huge smirk on his face. Ariel didn’t like it one bit. 

They managed to run until they reached the wall that led back to their home. Stopping, Zieke turned to Rufus. “Do you still have our coin?”

Rufus nodded. “Of course,” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the shining gold object. “Do you still know how to use it?” he asked, handing it over.

“Flash it, right?” Ariel said. “But why are you asking us? You sound like you’re not coming with us.” 

Rufus sighed, nodding his head. “I’m not.”

“Why?” Zieke looked at their acquaintance, eyes widened. “The Evening Sun…they’ll catch you again!”

Rufus shrugged. “I’ll lay low for a while until they leave. I really have no choice. Sad to say it, but the Other Side is my home. This is where I live. I’ve never been able to leave here because I didn’t have my own gold coin to activate the wall. I thought of using it after all this was over…until I got captured.” 

“But then…how were you able to find out about I.B. and his disappearance?” Ariel asked, raising an eyebrow. 

“Let’s just say…a little rabbit told me,” Smiling at the siblings, he added, “It’s OK, really, I’ll be fine. It’s not really lonely here, as you can see. But I’ll find another way to leave sooner or later. And when I do, I’ll visit.”

“You better,” Ariel nodded. “It was nice associating with you, Rufus…even if you did try to ditch us earlier back there.”

Rufus smirked. “I know.” 

After an exchange of handshakes and high-fives, Ariel flashed the gold at the wall. She and Zieke gave Rufus one last smile before it started spinning and brought them back to their own world.

“Too bad Rufus couldn’t leave the Other Side.” Ariel noted as she and Zieke started walking back to their house.

“We’ll see him again,” Zieke reassured. “He’s a good guy. It’s a shame that we couldn’t find I.B. though…”

“I don’t get it,” Ariel frowned. “If he wasn’t captured and he doesn’t need our help, then where could he have gone?”

Zieke shrugged, smirking. “Maybe he’s gone to his own Other Side.”

Ariel sighed and smiled at her brother. Together, they continued to walk towards their home sweet home.

T.C.O.T.M.A. – Chapter 10: Rescued

 A couple hours later of sulking, two guards had come to take them to a different room. They couldn’t do anything but follow the guard that lead them and be conscious of the guard behind them.

“Zieke,” Ariel whispered, making sure the guard didn’t hear. “No matter what happens to us…I just wanted to say…I’m sorry I didn’t take better care of you…”

Zieke just looked at her, confused. “What do you mean?”

“We always seemed to be fighting when we were young. Even now, we do. I should have listened to you more often. I’m sorry I don’t take you seriously most of the time. And I’m sorry I called you annoying.”

Zieke stared at his sister for a while until his face softened. “It’s ok…I’m sorry too…I just get annoyed whenever you act like I’m just a child…and I’m sorry I called you a brat. You’re not.” 

Ariel nodded. “Thanks…but now I’ve got us into this mess…” 

Zieke sighed. “We’ll find a way out…somehow…”

As if on cue, the guard in front of the siblings suddenly let out a gasp and fell unconscious. The guard behind them prepared his gun but was too late to act, for he also blacked out.

“What…” Before the siblings could say anything, the ropes around them snapped off and they were free.

“Hey!” Zieke smiled brightly, rubbing his arms. “We’re saved!”

“What happened here?” Ariel asked, rubbing her wrists.

Her thoughts were interrupted as the siblings each felt a tug on their shirts. They looked down and saw…a bunny. 

“Where’d this bunny come from…” Zieke wondered.

Ariel squinted at it. “You look familiar…” Then she gasped. “You’re that dead bunny from I.B.’s house! How are you alive?”

The bunny just bowed his head. He lifted his head back up, a visible curve on his mouth that looked distinctively like a smirk. With that, in lightning speed, he hopped off.

“Thanks, Super Bunny,” Zieke called.

“Super Bunny?” Ariel looked at him with an amused smile.

Zieke shrugged, smiling as well. “Come on, let’s get outta here.”

They quickly darted for the exit. Unfortunately, the exit was near the door with the person and the bag over his head. Ariel paused in front of the door, thinking.

“Ariel, come on!” Zieke came back, frowning at his sister. 

“Zieke…I really think we should check the person out.”

“What? But we already found out that it was a trap!”

“Not really. When that guard came after us, I saw that man still squirming. It was like he felt more trapped than ever.”

“Why do you think we’re in a theatre? Home of good actors and actresses, right?”

“Zieke,” Ariel touched his hand lightly, serious face on. “Trust me on this. I have a feeling about that person. I.B. or not, he needs our help.”

Zieke didn’t like it, but the look on Ariel’s face made him want to believe her. “Alright,” he said finally. “Let’s see who this guy really is.”

Ariel smiled brightly at his answer. “Who knows: it may even be I.B.”

The two opened the door again. Once again, it was open. The gagged person was still in his usual tied up place. But this time, there was a giant axe over his head. It looked like it was about to come down on him any minute.

“No!” In an instinct, the two quickly advanced on a lever and quickly brought it down. The axe was immediately put away in an opening in the ceiling above. 

“That was close…” Zieke sighed. He looked at Ariel who nodded.

They walked towards the person. He seemed relaxed now. Ariel’s hand hovered over the bag. “You ready?” she asked Zieke. He nodded.

“One…two…three—“ Ariel ripped the bag off…

…and the face of Rufus was revealed. 

Rufus?” the siblings exclaimed.

Rufus sighed. “Well. I was exposed.”

As the siblings helped untie him from the chair, Ariel was still having trouble processing all the new information into her head. “But…you can’t be here! You said I.B. was!” 

Rufus shrugged, now free. “Yes, I did say that, but only because that’s what I believed. I ended up here looking for I.B. but only to be ending up caught myself.” 

“Wait, you were looking for I.B.?” Zieke asked. “Why?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I went into his house, saw his letter, and tried to help. Also…I’m sort of a former reader of his books…”

Zieke’s eyes widened. “You’re the X-Fan?”

“Well…yeah. I felt guilty for getting so mad at him about not writing a sixth book. I though helping him would lift my anger.”

“That was awfully nice of you,” Ariel commented. “But now look at where’s it’s gotten all of us.” 

“Exactly. We better get out of here quick.”

“Agreed.” The siblings headed out of the room with Rufus following. Together, the three of them went from box after box, trying to reach the exit. 

Unfortunately, that couldn’t be possible at the moment.

T.C.O.T.M.A. – Chapter 9: The Evening Sun’s Manager

The guard didn’t seem to put any considerance in the siblings’ safety at all as he threw them, tied up, into an empty room and slammed the door after him.

“Let us go!” Zieke shouted, practically throwing himself at the door. But it was no use; no one could hear them now.

“That’s it; we’re done for,” Ariel moaned. Failure was something she knew they both didn’t like.

Zieke sighed. He looked at his sister, opened his mouth, prepared to comfort themselves, but only to be interrupted by the door opening once again.

A thinning man walked inside. He looked like one of those performers Ariel saw earlier. He was wearing a white polo shirt, black dress pants and shoes, a red bowtie, and had a slick haircut. His most distinguishing feature was his thin, twirling mustache, which he stroked gently with the white gloved-covered fingers of his. The Orion siblings gulped at this.

“So,” the man said with a wicked grin and Italian accent. “You plan to sneak into my theatre without me knowing?” He laughed evilly. “You, my friends, are mistaken!”

“Who are you?” Zieke asked, glaring.

“You may call me ‘The Manager’,” he said hesitantly. “I suppose you know what I ‘manage’, hmm?”

“You work for the Evening Sun!” Zieke said accusingly. “You took I.B. so you could force the Secret out of him!”

“Did I?” the Manager asked. He asked it so sincerely it was almost like he was unsure.

“Yeah! Well, you’re little organization will never know it!” 

“Zieke, calm down,” Ariel said nervously. 

The Manager simply smiled. “You think I took that foolish old writer?”

“Well…didn’t you?” Ariel raised a skeptical eyebrow.

“You think I work for the Evening Sun?”

“Well…aren’t you?”

“You do have the gloves,” Zieke said.

“These are magician gloves,” the Manager insisted. “Why do you think we’re in a theatre?”

“Well…we still think you took I.B.!”

He laughed this time. “You two are feisty ones, eh? I’m sure you will enjoy staying with us for a while.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, after what you have done, I can’t possibly let you go now, can I? Besides,” He smiled wider. “My bosses would want to ‘meet you’.”

Zieke realized what he was saying and his angry face melted. “You…you can’t do that!”

“Lost your confidence, did you?” He smiled again; only it didn’t look like a good one. “Don’t worry, I’m sure they’d love have you around.”

Ariel and Zieke exchanged worried glances.

“I hope you like Italy.” With that, he closed the door.

“We are doomed.” The siblings looked at each other one last time, the fear blazing in their eyes.

T.C.O.T.M.A. – Chapter 8: Breaking Inside

They crossed the stream and the bridge, as Rufus told them to do. It wasn’t long before they saw the theatre he was talking about.

“Looks like it’s going to be a full house,” Zieke said, seeing the long line for the performance act. “And we didn’t bring any money…”

“Maybe there’s a back entrance,” Ariel suggested.

They headed over to the back of the theatre. There was a buff-looking guard there, arms folded over his chest, looking very serious about his job. A sign was over the door saying, “Employees only”

“I’ve always hated those signs…” Zieke muttered.

“How will we get in now?” Ariel asked.

Zieke looked around. Then he saw crates filled with Styrofoam and smiled to himself. “I have an idea.”

The guard was looking around for trespassers. He saw two small workers wearing hats, so it was hard to see their faces. They were carrying a crate each. “What’s in there, young man?” he asked gruffly.

The first worker gulped. “See for yourself.”

The guard grunted and looked: inside were trumpets, trombones, and other musical instruments.

“Can we go now? This stuff’s really heavy,” the second worker said stubbornly.

The guard rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever,” He opened the door and let them in. “Hurry it up.”

“Thanks,” The two went in. They kept walking until they saw a red curtain and dropped the crates there. The workers took their hats off.

“Did you really have to choose the brass instruments?” Ariel glared at her brother.

Zieke rolled his eyes. “Stop complaining. At least I got us in.”

“Good thing, too. Now, come on. Let’s find I.B.”

The siblings scouted around the backstage theatre. There were so many crates, instruments, and props. Perfect hiding spaces for whenever an employee or performer passed by, which happened a lot. There were many dressing rooms there (as most theatres have) but none of them contained an imprisoned author in there.

“We’re never going to find him at this rate,” Zieke sighed, leaning over a wall behind a box.

Ariel took one more look around them. It seemed like the performance act was almost ending. She looked to her right. There was a door that said “Keep Out: Manager only”. And it was in the far, far, back of the theatre, where it could barely be seen.

“That’s new,” she mumbled to herself.

“What do we do now?” Zieke asked.

Ariel turned to him. “I say we check that last door out.”

Zieke’s eyes widened. “But it says-“

“So did that other door, but that didn’t stop us from breaking in, right?”

Zieke hesitated. He was about to open his mouth to protest again, but Ariel was already running towards the door. Zieke sighed and followed. Ariel was about to turn the knob, but surprisingly, it was already open.

“That can’t be a coincidence, can it?” Zieke asked. Ariel ignored him once again. She went right in. Zieke reluctantly followed.

The room was pitch black. Like most of the rooms, it had props in it. But right in the center was a figure that wasn’t a prop at all: it was a moving figure, sitting in a chair with a gag bag over the head. When it heard someone was coming in, it made strangled, grunting noises.

“Is that I.B.?” Zieke gasped.

“It must be!” Ariel said breathlessly. Ariel prepared to run towards him but Zieke grabbed her before she could.

“Ariel, wait…what if it’s a trap?”

“How can it be a trap?” Ariel narrowed her eyes at him. “It’s as clear as the nose on our face! It has to be I.B.!”

“But this seems to easy! They wouldn’t just let I.B. in a room like this without any weapons around him or something! We should check more rooms.”

“But this is the last room left! We have nowhere else to go!” 

“But think about it! Would the Midnight Sun just simply leave I.B. in a place where he could easily escape?”

“Geez, you’re so annoying!” Ariel suddenly shouted. “You complain about everything! You always seem to have a problem at hand and doubt my suggestions! Sometimes, I think you’re forgetting that I’m the older sister!”

Zieke was taken aback by her outburst but he shouted back, “Yeah, well, you’re not much better! You treat me like a kid most of the time! You push away my concerns and don’t listen even to me when I’m right! So what if I think that I’m in charge? Most of the time, you act like a brat!”

Ariel turned red and was about to defend herself when the lights of the room turned on. The gagged person made even louder noises. The siblings whirled around to find themselves face to face with the same, buff-looking guard, wearing a huge smirk on his face.

“I knew it was right to leave the door open for you,” he said wickedly.

T.C.O.T.M.A. – Chapter 7: A Stranger in the Rye

The stranger stared at them, puffing on a cigarette, not saying anything. He was about their ages, fifteen or sixteen. It was hard to tell exactly.

“I’m Rufus,” he said, as if they should have known. (Rufus is not my OC, by the way) “What do they call you where you’re from?”

Ariel and Zieke squeaked out their names.

Zieke nodded at Rufus’ cigarette. “You must have a death wish,” said Zieke, trying not to show any fear.

Rufus laughed. “Are you talking about this?” He puffed on his cigarette, and a white cloud came out. But it was a cloud of powdered sugar, not smoke.

He held out the cigarette for them to inspect. It had a pink rubbery end. “It’s bubble gum, you dummies. I’m using it to quit.”

“You’re quitting smoking? That’s good,” said Ariel.

“No, I would never smoke. I meant quit chewing gum…Now give me the gold.”

“What gold?” asked Zieke nervously.

“The gold you flashed to get into this place. The coin.”

Zieke looked at his sister. “I knew I saw a flash from your pocket as I activated the wall!” he whispered.

Ariel reached into her pocket and held the coin tightly. “Say we have it – why should we give it to you?” asked Ariel.

“You’re looking for I.B., aren’t you? Or were you just collecting Dairy Milk brand chocolate bar wrappers for fun?”

Zieke opened his mouth in surprise. “You know where he is?”

Rufus smiled. “I might.”

Ariel and Zieke looked at each other. Could they trust him?

The siblings took one more look at Rufus. He looked like one of those street magicians, judging by his top black hat and coat.

“Reminds me of I.B. a bit…” Zieke mumbled.

“Hush,” Ariel whispered. She turned back to Rufus. “Tell us where I.B. is; then you’ll get your gold.”

Rufus pursed his lips. “He’s being held captive by the Evening Sun.”

I knew it!” Zieke exclaimed. “They’re still after the Secret!”

Ariel ignored him. “Where did they take him?”

Rufus pointed northward. “Down by the stream, cross the bridge, and you’ll find an old theatre. That’s where the old glove wearers are going to keep him until the Secret is revealed.

Ariel and Zieke exchanged glances. That didn’t sound good.

“I still don’t understand,” said Ariel. “Why would anybody take I.B.? He’s just a writer. It’s just books. You know, like make-believe. Who cares?”

“Make-believe, huh?” Rufus pulled out a white glove from his pocket. “All I know is, I found this in I.B.’s house,” he said grimly.

“It is the Evening Sun!” cried Zieke.

“But – it can’t be one of them – they never take off their gloves,” Ariel protested. “How do we know it’s not I.B.’s glove – he used to be a magician, right?”

“You think I.B. would wear a white glove, knowing what he knows?” asked Rufus.

“Fine, but how do we know it’s not yours?” asked Ariel, refusing to be convinced.

“Really, you think this is mine?” Rufus put his hand against the glove. The fit wasn’t even close.

Ariel sighed in defeat. “Give it up, sis,” Zieke said.

“If you two don’t hurry,” warned Rufus. “the Evening Sun could use whatever they have on I.B. to get the Secret out of him. For all we know, he could be a stuttering lunatic by now.”

Zieke looked at Ariel. She glanced back. That wasn’t good at all.

“Now about our deal…” Rufus mused.

Ariel grunted, reaching into her pocket again. “All right, here’s your stupid gold,” She tossed it to Rufus, who caught it midair. “As you said, we need to get there fast. Do you think you could…”

“…Help get us there?” Zieke finished.

Rufus stared down at the gold, then back up at them. He smiled mischievously and blew on his cigarette. A huge cloud of white smoke came out from his lips and engulfed him in it.

“Look out!” The siblings shielded their eyes and the cloud exploded in their faces. When they turned, Rufus was gone.

“Great,” Ariel groaned. “What do we do now?”

Zieke sighed, looking north. “We’re on our own, I guess…” he muttered.

Ariel sighed. ‘I knew we shouldn’t have trusted him…’ she thought sadly. She saw something on the floor and picked it up. It was Rufus’ discarded bubble gum cigarette. Full of disgust and hate, she stuffed it into her pocket angrily.

“We have to hurry,” she told her brother. “If we don’t, the Secret will be out and I.B. could be dead!”