It started out as a prank. For most of us, that is. To tell you the truth, I wish I had never gotten involved, honest-to-God. Plainly I wish I had never even moved to Blackwood Hollow in the first place.
I should start telling the story from the beginning really and tell you just how everything ended up in this miserable mess, but you’re probably dying to know how I got this monstrous atrocity of a cut on my face. Well, if you could see me, that’s what you would be wondering. So I think I’ll skip ahead to the end for a moment.
The cut is all purply and pulsing and the doctor’s say not to take off the bandages because I might faint again and that it’ll probably leave a scar. It spans the side of my face just above my right eye and I kind of love and hate the idea of having a scar. For one it would make me look pretty devil-may-care but also, I think my face was just fine before Jakob decided to decorate it. Oh and it hurts like a—well, I better not say.
How did I get it, you ask? Well to be perfectly blunt, I was attacked by a ghost in the Blackwood Hollow graveyard. The police say I’m not thinking clearly because the cut is so deep and because one of the guys involved in the prank (the cops have the audacity to attribute the grand title of “friend” to him without my consent) was found with a flask in his jacket pocket.
I swear I didn’t drink, officer. I’m not into that kind of stuff anyways. The only reason I got involved in the first place was because I’m not one to pass up a good prank and it genuinely sounded harmless.
Back to the beginning. My mom and I moved to Blackwood Hollow about two weeks ago. Mom was looking for a fresh start and I didn’t have a choice. You see, I’m a junior so mom figured that transferring to a new high school wouldn’t be so bad as long as it wasn’t my last year or anything. I think she’s regretting that now.
I don’t know what Blackwood Hollow is like during the rest of the year, but in October it’s like living in a harvest festival. There are pumpkins everywhere and this old guy, Coots or something like that, drives his tractor around town offering free hay rides everyday.
Don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin patches and corn mazes as much as the next guy but the whole thing came across as a little over the top. Mom thinks it’s absolutely adorable and has been saying things like “small town community” with overwhelming adoration ever since we arrived. I think it’s a bit obsessive.
Blackwood Hollow is small enough that people forget that there’s a world outside of it. I don’t. We used to live in the city.
There’s town meetings every fortnight and lots of retired old people who have nothing better to do than stop you mid-street and talk your ear off for quarter of an hour before saying, “Lovely to meet you Jack” before continuing their hunt for the next young victim.
My name’s Puck actually. For some reason elderly people don’t think that’s a real name so they opt for calling me names like Jack and Buck—I don’t see how Buck is more of a name than Puck but there you have it.
I think Puck means something like ‘one who makes bad decisions’ or ‘one likely to get punched in the face’—I can’t say for sure but it would certainly fit my experience.
One thing you have to understand about me is that I get restless fairly easily. I don’t like to cause problems or anything like that, but I do like to keep things interesting and entertaining. I’m no stranger to the principal’s office, but the police station, that’s something new.
I know mom will chalk up my behavior to the influence of my new “friends” and let me off the hook. Heck, I’m going to blame it on them too.
Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that this story really begins with me finding Blackwood Hollow a touch too boring and a certain girl named Sybil.
My first day at Blackwood High was going poorly. If I was the kind of boy who admitted to things like being scared, I would’ve said that I was terrified out of my mind. Everyone was gawking at me like they had never seen another human before in their life and the teachers wanted to haul me up to the front of every classroom to interrogate me in front of my peers.
By third period I couldn’t take it anymore. Some pushover called Mr. Douglas asked if I felt like coming to the front and introducing myself which was going to be the third time that morning. I said, no I did not feel like it. He said, oh come on, it’ll just be a sec. I said, no thank you.
Mr. Douglas blinked at me. Some of my classmates grinned because I was being what adults like to call “smart-alecky.”
Mr. Douglas cleared his throat. “Everybody, this is Puck. He’s new to Blackwood Hollow. I’m sure you’ll all give him a very nice welcome.” He didn’t look like he wanted me to have a nice welcome. “Anything you’d like to add, Puck?”
I shook my head. I didn’t dare open my mouth again because I was liable to say something offensive and it looked like I had already made Mr. Douglas’s naughty list.
I think that was the moment I caught the boys’ attention. I think that’s when people began to suspect what I was all about.
In fourth period, I saw Sybil for the first time and I thought she was a complete nutter. The reason she caught my attention is that she didn’t gawk at me. She didn’t even look at me once.
That makes it sound like I have a ginormous ego, but like I said, I didn’t want to be gawked at. It was just weird, that’s all.
That was the first sign that Sybil was different.
She happened to be in my sixth period class too and that’s when I found out how truly loopy she was. She just lost it. I mean, she just started giggling for apparently no reason and she was fixated at a place behind the teacher’s desk even though Mrs. Bradshaw was on the other side of the room.
I could see her blue eyes moving with whatever invisible thing she was watching and I came to believe she really thought something was there. She stifled another laugh.
“Weird, isn’t she?” one of the girls sitting next to me whispered, following my gaze. “I hear she still thinks she has an imaginary friend. Certainly doesn’t have any real ones.”
Nobody else seemed to notice or care much about Sybil. I guess they were used to it by then.
Finally, in seventh period I left to “use the restroom” and wandered the halls when I turned the corner and found Sybil standing alone at her locker, facing an empty hallway and having a whispered conversation with nobody.
The whole thing was so strange that I couldn’t help but obsess over it just a little. If she was truly mental, why was she allowed to roam the school? It was in that moment that Sybil became the entertainment I needed in this boring new town.
The next day, the boys caught me staring at Sybil from afar and that’s when things really got underway. I was sitting in the cafeteria at a table alone when suddenly I was engulfed by their pack. One of the boys, Wes, sat across from me and folded his hands on the table like he had a proposition for me.
There was no point in denying that I had been watching her, so instead I asked coolly, “Does she always eat alone?”
“She’s not alone, she’s eating with Jakob,” Wes replied with mock seriousness, eyes glinting with mischief.
“Jakob?” I murmured curiously. I remember thinking right away that Wes had a punchable face. Some people just have punchable faces, maybe they can’t help it.
“Her imaginary best friend,” Wes explained, snickering with the rest of the boys.
I stared at them. “Is something. . .wrong with her?”
Wes, who by now I was certain was the official or unofficial leader of the boys, shook his head. “Besides that little quirk, she’s as sane as I am.”
I frowned, intrigued by my new information. “So she still believes in imaginary friends?”
Wes nodded. “Don’t believe me?” He leaned forward and I knew whatever trouble he was up to was coming. “Why don’t you go over and introduce yourself to her? You’re new. Tell her nobody else can see you either.”
Okay, okay. So I know this sounds absolutely cruel and I don’t want you to get the wrong idea because I’m not a cruel person. But come on, how often do you get to pretend to be imaginary? And I was curious. I wanted to know if she would actually believe it.
So without a word to Wes and the others, I stood up, strode across the lunchroom to Sybil and sat down diagonal from her.
Her blue eyes flicked in my direction and I could see a slight crease in her forehead as if she was puzzled.
I was slightly nervous but when I caught her gaze, I feigned surprise and whispered urgently, “Can—can you see me?”
Sybil’s mouth hung open for a moment. “Why shouldn’t I?”
I jumped to my feet—at this point Wes and the others had moved closer in order to hear everything—and stood in front of one of the boys, George. I waved a hand in front of George’s face dramatically and dutifully, he pretended like I wasn’t there.
Sybil’s mouth widened. “Sit down, what are you doing here?”
I obeyed and sat down beside her, heart pounding. “I’m not sure.”
“Are you a ghost?”
“I’m not sure.”
Sybil eyed me suspiciously. “I’m Sybil,” she said finally.
I caught Wes winking at me out of the corner of my eye as he led the group away. I didn’t feel any guilt yet. All I felt was a thrill and the overwhelming curiosity about Sybil. Little did I know that come All Hallow’s Eve, things were going to get very very out of hand.
And that’s how this horrible story begins.
Read Part Two by Ellis