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For as long as they could remember, Alex and Leanne lived at the old, deteriorating house on Sander Avenue. The owners of the house, Mr. and Mrs. Carlson, had made clear to them in the beginning that they were not their parents. This was a foster home and we have no relationship whatsoever. So they accepted it. Their social worker, Jenny, told them a far-fetched story about their parents being FBI agents working on a case to capture drug dealers. They captured the CEO of the company and sent him to jail, but his partners-in-crime would not give up that easy. They hunted their parents down and murdered them. They highly doubted the story, especially Alex, but there was no other explanation for their missing parents, so he didn’t go looking for more answers.
Alex was a tall, husky 12-year-old with dark, brown hair and large, blue eyes. He occasionally received A’s on his report card, but he found much more enjoyment in sports. Leanne, Alex’s twin sister, was totally the opposite of Alex. She was short and skinny, with long blonde hair and green, watery eyes. She had glasses from reading, which she does every spare moment she can find. She was so used to getting straight A’s that one B on her report card would upset her. Alex and Leanne got along fine. They talked to each other, they never fought, and Leanne, being way more mature, let Alex receive the better of everything. It was this that led Alex to sharing his thoughts that fateful night with Leanne.
“Um… Leanne? Can I ask you something?” Alex approached Leanne in her room while she was reading what seemed to Alex to be a book of a million pages.
“Sure, as long as it’s not doing your homework,” she answered as she looked up from her book.
“Do you like it here? I mean, this house, this school, this life?”
“I think life can be a little better, but it’s not so bad.”
“I really hate it here. Mrs. Carlson makes the worst food ever. This school is horrible, and my teachers all seem to hate me. I thought about running away… I mean, just for a…”
“No!!!” Leanne protested, “Why would I? This place isn’t half bad. And even if we do, where would we go?”
“Um, I don’t know, but I think we can find somewhere way better than here.”
“I will not run away. Go if you want, I’m staying here, you unappreciative moron!” with that, Leanne returned back to her book.
Alex walked back to his room, thinking. Is it really that bad? Why would she yell at me like that? She never yells at me! Fine, if she doesn’t want to come, I’ll go by myself and she’ll fell sorry by then!
He packed a few items in his backpack. He brought along with him his PSP incase he got bored, which he doubt he will. There was his secret stash of chocolate and candy, his wallet with all of his $103.58 that he had saved over the years, and his cell phone. Then he sat on his bed and waited. He stared at the clock. His heart was thumping. How come time passes so slowly when you are waiting? When I play on the computer five hours seem like twenty minutes. At seven, he turned on the TV and watched a baseball game in which the New York Yankees crushed the Mets. After the game, he went to sleep, or at least tried to. There was no way he’d fall asleep with his heart drumming against his rib cage that hard, so he just sat and stared at his backpack the whole time.
Finally at eleven, he took his backpack and sneaked downstairs. As he opened the door to the garage, he saw a shadow move between the two cars parked inside. He took one step at a time and slowly moved closer. He saw the shadow crouching against one car and tapped it. It screamed and looked up. The moonlight from the window shined on a fearful face. It was Leanne!
“What are you doing here?” Alex asked.
“I… I was… I want to go with you.” She said in a voice so quiet he had to strain to hear. Behind her he could see a duffle bad lying on the ground.
“Sure, if you promise to listen to me the whole time,” he said with a smile.
“Fine, let’s go,”
They walked along the road in the moonlight without a word. As they turned the last corner to leave town, Leanne turned back to take in one last look of the town she remembered so well. Suddenly, a shadow appeared behind a tree and crossed the street.
“Alex?” Leanne fearfully whispered.
“What?” Alex said, not noticing the fear in Leanne’s voice.
“I just saw a shadow cross the street,” she said, “isn’t it a little late for someone to be out walking?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Alex said impatiently, “it’s not like anyone would follow us.” And with that, he kept going and never looked back.
• • •
As the sun rose, the mysterious shadow of last night was forgotten, and they stopped at eight to eat breakfast. A relieved smile broke on Alex’s face when Leanne brought out two bagels with thick cream cheese. When she found out all Alex brought were some pieces of Hershey’s, all she did was sigh and shake her head.
“O, what am I to do without you?” Alex said with his mouth full of bagel. They were sitting on a field surrounded by stalks of corn. To the left of them is a farm, and to the right is a long strip of highway that seemed to reach to the tip of the globe. There was a forest not far away from the field.
Just as they settled down to enjoy that blissful moment, a white van pulled off of the highway and a man wearing all grey came out of the driver’s seat. Without saying a word, he pointed a gun at Leanne first. Alex quickly grabbed their bags and then Leanne and dragged them all into the forest. He heard a gunshot and then another, a bullet came within inches of his head. He dove and pulled Leanne into the forest and was lost in the thick maze of trees.
He ran. All he knew to do at that moment was to run. To run as hard as he can. They ran through the forest into a clearing. After making sure the man wasn’t following them, he set the bags down on the ground. Leanne was sitting with her back against a tree, panting. Alex flipped his phone open. “I’m calling 911.”
“No! You don’t know who that man was and you don’t have any evidence that he shot at us. We could get in trouble!” Leanne said in a worried voice. She was close to tears.
“Who was he anyway?” Alex asked.
Leanne didn’t answer. She sat cross-legged and hid her face behind her hands. Her shoulders shook as she wept into her hands. Alex didn’t know what to do. He stared at his bag. There was a bullet hole on it. That could have been my head.
• • •
Leanne slept after she stopped crying. He didn’t wake her up. He explored around the forest a little. It was a small forest. He walked to the edge and saw the farm and the highway. Birds were pecking at the half-eaten bagels he and Leanne dropped. A farmer was walking to his barn in ragged clothes. The white van wasn’t there anymore. Whoever it was must have driven away. To find us. He secretly thought, but quickly pushed that thought away.
As he walked back to their clearing, he heard their voices before he saw them. He picked up his pace. It’s them! He could hear Leanne crying again. He arrived at the clearing and saw two men standing near Leanne, who was tied to a tree with thick, long cords. Duct tape sealed her mouth to keep her from screaming. One man wore all black. He was tall and fat. His head was completely bald. Fatty, Alex thought and secretly smiled. The other one was as short as Leanne but twice as strong and husky. Midget, Alex thought. It was Fatty who turned around and saw him first. He yelled and Midget turned around, gun at the ready. Leanne made a whimpering noise.
“Well, well, well. Look who we have here. Mr. Alexander Schroeder, age 12, currently attends Carmantero Middle School. Plays football and baseball for the Carmantero Cheetahs. But he isn’t going to go there anymore, not in 10 minutes,” said Midget with a smirk. Behind him Leanne whimpered.
“Who are you people? Was that person who was shooting at us earlier one of you people?” Alex asked in a steady tone, trying as hard as he can not to show his fear.
“That is none of your business. All you need to know is that you are going to die in 10 minutes,” Fatty said as he shoved Alex against a tree. He tried to struggle, but his grip on him was too hard. He tied Alex to the rough tree trunk with rope.
“He’s going to die, so we might as well tell him what’s happening,” Midget said. “We’re from a drug dealing company. You don’t need to know the name. The company your parents destroyed. We are here to seek revenge. Your parents must have wanted you guys to live, so we are going to kill you.”
“That person who shot you was our assistant. We shouldn’t have let him do it. He always was a bad shot,” added Fatty. “That shadow you saw in Carmantero was me.”
Alex looked at Leanne. There was no way they could escape. This was it. They are about to die. Their eyes met for a few seconds, but Alex quickly looked away to hide a tear.
Without talking anymore, Fatty and Midget took out their guns, nodded at each other, and each pointed a gun at one child. Fatty had his gun pointed straight at Alex’s lead. It was all over. His eye and Fatty’s eye met for a moment. There was some sympathy in his eye. For a moment Alex thought that he might release him and Leanne, but his only ray of hope was lost as he closed his stubby finger around the trigger.
There was only one moment of pain, and then he felt he was moving. Maybe I’m going to heaven. As he was moving up, suddenly, he started to move left. His eyes closed, and he fell into a deep slumber…
• • •
“Oh my gosh! Wake up, Alex you stupid butthead! This is so scary! OMG you idiotic retard! WAKE UP!” Alex opened his eyes and saw Leanne screaming. He suddenly sat up.
“What the… where are we?” he asked.
They were sitting in a clearing in the middle of a forest, but it wasn’t the forest they were shot in. The trees were huge. They were so tall and dense it seemed like night at the bottom. There were tiny bits of sunshine pushing their way in through the thick canopy.
Without saying a word, Alex got up and started to walk in a random direction. Leanne followed. On and on they walked. There was no other scene. After what seemed like hours of walking, they came upon a log cabin. Hesitantly, Alex knocked on the door.
“AAAAHHHHHHHH!!!” someone screamed inside.
Alex and Leanne staggered back. They were about to run away when the door opened and a face peered out. It was a girl, with hair the color of a fireball. She had blue large eyes. Giant glasses covered half of her face. Her mouth was large. After she made sure that they were harmless, her body followed. She was in her teal night gown. Alex thought she looked extremely attractive but kept his mouth shut.
“Who are you?” she demanded in a stern, firm voice. “Why are you here?”
“My name is Alex and this is my twin sister Leanne,” Alex said. “And we were about to ask you that same question: why are we here?”
“Oh, so you guys are newcomers to Haunting,” she said in a softer and gentler voice. “My name is Ashley. Come in.” She opened her door wide and waved her arm to invite them in.
The cabin was a small one. A mattress took up one whole side of the room. On one side was a kitchen with cabinets and a stove. Another side was the door and the window. The last side was a huge dresser.
“Sit down anywhere. Make yourselves comfortable,” she said. “It’s not much, but it’s better than what the other Deathsouls have.”
“Deathsouls?” Leanne asked with a scared voice. It didn’t sound very pleasant.
“Yeah. Deathsouls. Me, you, everyone in Haunting,” Ashley said as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
“Haunting? Where is that?” Alex asked.
“Here, in this world.”
“What?” both Alex and Leanne asked with confused expressions.
Ashley chuckled. “I didn’t think. You’re newcomers, you wouldn’t know,” she said with a smile. Alex thought he was going to melt.
“This is Haunting, a world totally different from where we came from. A world in which time doesn’t pass. I’ve been here for about three hundred years now. The real world is visible to us, but we can’t be a part of it. We are dead. That’s where the name Deathsouls comes from. We’re all Deathsouls. Deathsouls are children that were murdered in the real world. Murdered against out own will. We don’t want to go to heaven. We wanted to stay on the living world. So that’s why we shifted from out path to heaven and landed here. Also, living world items cannot be touched by us. This house was once a living world item, but a death occurred here and it traveled into Haunting. We can’t eat. We don’t need to eat nor drink. We can only stay in the clothes that we were murdered in. I was murdered in my sleep.”
“So we are dead?” Leanne asked with disbelief.
“Yes. That’s the only idea that newcomers cannot grasp.” Ashley said with a sorrowful expression.
Leanne threw herself onto Ashley's bed and sobbed into her pillow. Alex looked at Ashley and shrugged his shoulders. She smiled a warm, friendly smile that Alex thought would keep him happy forever.
“So… are you guys going to stay for a while, or are you going to leave?” Ashley said after a while of awkward silence.
“Wait, you said we can still see the living world?” Leanne lifted her head up and asked.
“Yes, but you cannot have any interaction with it,” Ashley said.
“I want to go back to Carmantero to see everything again,” Leanne finally said after deciding for a long time.
“Why? There is nothing there for us to see,” Alex complained.
“I really don’t know, but it seems like the right thing to do,” Leanne said.
“So you guys are going to leave?” Ashley asked. “On your journey, watch out for Deathspots. You can fall in one and fall to the center of the Earth and never come out again. And there is also The Haunter. He’s this giant monster that likes to bully Deathsouls and shove them into a Deathspot.”
“Thank you for warning us. We’ll watch out,” Alex said with a smile and walked out the door. Leanne followed. They waved good-bye to Ashley and walked towards the west, where the sun was dropping behind the mountains.
• • •
After days of walking, they came upon a city. A sign told them it was New York. They trudged through the maze of skyscrapers and building. They walked through the millions of cars traveling in the street, not aware of a death world existing in the same place as theirs. Leanne sometimes cried while walking. It was too much for her to watch life exist without her. Alex didn’t know, for the first time, what to do with Leanne. They kept walking.
They met no Deathsouls on the way. They walked along the Long Island Sound and waded in the water sometimes, but after realizing that they couldn’t feel anything, they stopped and walked.
Just when the sun was falling over the water like a ball of fire being dropped into an immense bowl of water, they reached Carmantero. It was not uplifting to see the houses they used to walk by everyday. The school depressed them the most. There was the football team running laps around the track field and the teachers in their rooms grading papers. It made even Alex sad to watch life continuing without them.
Suddenly, a shout from behind them arose. It’s The Haunter! Alex thought. He slowly turned around and saw Ashley in her teal dress running towards them. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“I decided it was time to leave my forest and explore the world. So I followed you guys,” she said with a smile. “Is this your old school? I can’t remember mine anymore.”
Alex smiled but said nothing. Leanne didn’t even look at Ashley and kept staring at Carmantero Middle School. Then they followed Alex and left Carmantero and walked the way they came from, towards the sound. For the first tome, he felt something around his neck. He pulled it out of his shirt. It was a cross made of what looked like rosewood. It was dangling down on a silver chain.
“What is this?” he asked Ashley. Just then he noticed that Leanne and Ashley had one too.
“Oh, it’s a sort of identification tag thing all Deathsouls have,” Ashley said with a shrug. “I’ve been meaning to get rid of it for years, but I always forget.” She pulled off the necklace and dropped it in the water.
Suddenly, the necklace started to shine an eerie and strange silver color. Ashley’s image started to quiver and fade. Then, with no sound at all, she disappeared.
“No! What happened? Where is Ashley?” Alex yelled to Leanne in a shocked voice.
A laugh came behind them. It was a menacing, evil laugh. Alex jumped. Behind him, stood the most ugly, deformed, and twisted creature he had ever seen. Its head was more bone than skin. His body was covered with dripping, foul slime. He had claws the size of his head and his legs were twisted and gnarled like an ancient tree trunk. Without asking, Alex knew. He knew that it was The Haunter.
“Finally, a Deathsoul has found out!” The Haunter said with a smirk. “These brainless fools have found out the way to heaven, the way out of my kingdom!”
“Ashley… she… she went to heaven?” Alex asked with disbelief. There is supposed to be no way out!
“Yes, you fool. She is in heaven right now,” The Haunter said with his strange voice that sounds like ten people talking at once. “But no one else is going to find out because you, are about to go into a Deathspot and never return!” he pointed to a large space on the beach that seemed darker than the area surrounding it.
The Haunter took giant steps towards Leanne and Alex. Alex stood in front of Leanne to protect her. The Haunter laughed.
“Ah, love. Yes, love is something really spectacular. But it is not allowed in Haunting. There is no love to share in death,” he said as he took his final step.
The Haunter lifted up his giant claw and swung it at Alex towards the Deathspot. Alex dodged it by ducking. The Haunter made a noise that would have made even the bravest man fall down. Alex staggered back and flinched. After he had revived, he charged up and rammed into The Haunter.
The next series of events happened so fast that he would have missed it if he blinked. The Haunter fell and landed head-first into to Deathspot. He plunged right into it as if there was nothing there but air.
The Haunter was gone.
Alex quickly pulled Leanne towards the beach.
“I know that you will protest against my plan, but you need to listen,” Alex said with confidence and determination that Leanne had never seen in him before. “You are leaving here. Leave this horrible place called Haunting and go to Heaven. I’m going to travel throughout Haunting and tell every Deathsoul the way to leave here,” he put a hand up to stop Leanne from talking.
He took off the necklace around Leanne’s neck and dropped it in the water. He could see Leanne weeping and shaking her head as she started to quiver and fade. Alex let his tears drop. When Leanne was gone, Alex started to walk. He didn’t know where to go. He let his feet and his fate carry him towards another place. He didn’t fell lonely and afraid. In fact, he felt more safe and peaceful than ever because he knew that Leanne was watching him and keeping him safe.