Worm stared down the dark, dusty corridor.
It’d been some time since the sun tucked itself below the splintering frame of the westward-facing window, and the house now creaked like a sunken ship. But that didn’t matter because Worm was a raccoon, and raccoons loved the night. When the humans rolled out their treasure in large, blue bins and retired to their towers, Worm knew it was time to feast. There was never any need to follow them inside when they left the only redeemable thing about them at the end of the driveway, waiting to be picked up by the giant treasure-muncher on wheels.
This time, however, curiosity had gotten the better of her. She’d always wondered what the inside of a human den looked like, and this one had all its windows broken. The little flappy doors humans used for their servant animals—the poor, collared beasts—had grown out of fashion, leaving fewer methods of entry. So, when Worm spotted a broken window with no jagged pieces, she couldn’t resist getting a glimpse of the other side.
Now, she was stuck. The inside of the house coiled like a restless snake, and around every corner, Worm found a room or corridor that hadn’t been there before. Her nose was no help, either. Sitting back on her haunches, Worm scratched at her rotund belly and peered all around her. Cobwebs strung up in the corners threatened to collapse, cotton strands dangling freely in the breeze. Hairline fractures zig-zagged through the ceiling, cleaving through wet spots that had darkened the plaster.
Just then, a shadow flickered across the wall, sending Worm scuttering under a nearby vanity. Nose wiggling, Worm tested the air but found nothing out of the ordinary. She emerged carefully and climbed the little table, one of the legs whining loudly as she clawed her way up. The vanity mirror was dark and cracked, smudges giving the reflective surface the appearance of shiny smoke. Standing on her hindquarters, Worm planted her little paws on the mirror and squished her nose against it. Again, something from the corner of her eye startled her—this time, a white blur dashing across Worm’s periphery.
Worm jumped three feet into the air, legs out and toes stretched, before thumping to the floorboards and skittering down the hall. A loud wail echoed all around, sending her into a frenzy. She jostled left and right, clawing at the peeling wallpaper in a desperate attempt to find a way out. A hole, a crack—anything she could gnaw through to get away.
The high-pitched wail came closer—a hungry, mournful yowl.
This was it. The man in the cabin who fed her peanut butter did always talk to something he couldn’t see. Ghosts, she’d heard humans call them—those things that defied the senses!
The house was full of ghosts. And they weren’t going to let Worm leave.
Worm released a jittering cry as she gave up on the wallpaper. The wailing had stopped, but every hair on the raccoon’s tail stood erect. She wasn’t alone, and whatever was with her didn’t want to be alone either. That was why the walls kept moving beneath the shadows, why the halls grew longer, and the rooms stretched so wide they wound up looking just like the halls.
Tip-toeing as best as a raccoon could, Worm inched her way through the house, nostrils flared and eyes wide. The rotting wooden boards creaked beneath her weight, yet she could hardly tell it apart from the whispering autumn wind and the groaning bones of the old place. Was the house alive, or were the ghosts only playing tricks? Either way, there had to be a way out.
Worm circled and circled, growing dizzy from the repetition of grimy wallpaper and dark corridors. Yet, just as all hope was lost, she heard something—the sound of a passing car. Following the trail, Worm scampered forward. Then, a light—car headlights—flashing by the broken window.
Worm’s heart soared. She’d found the window that had originally brought her into this hellscape! Picking up speed, she pranced towards the light, but just as she was about to leap up onto the windowsill, a white shape darted onto the frame with alarming speed. It was shaped like a gourd, with whisps lashing from its hefty body. Certain it was the same white blur as before, Worm skidded to a halt and bee-lined the other way.
The ghost was here! Worm heard the creature thump to the floor, its paws pattering louder and louder as it dashed after her. The phantom was quickly gaining on the tubby raccoon. Worm abruptly changed directions, her nails scratching the floor as she scuttled in place for a brief moment before taking off again.
But the phantom was relentless. It herded Worm like a dog nipping at a sheep’s heels. The ghost was directing Worm, and Worm dreaded the destination.
Turning another corner, the hall opened into a wide room—a dead end! Before Worm could stop herself, she tripped on a musty, old rug and toppled over, rolling like a bowling ball until she crashed into a giant pantry. Righting herself, she looked wildly about her, hissing and growling, hairs on end like a porcupine.
Yet, something made her stop—the smell of something…sweet.
All around Worm were dozens of treats—candies wrapped in colourful paper that’d been hidden in the pantry. Nose wriggling again, Worm began to paw at the candy, realizing that she’d hit the jackpot, the ghost’s pursuit immediately forgotten.
A soft, pink nose booped Worm on the cheek. As she spun around, Worm saw that the ghost had finally caught up to her. It was a small, white cat with one blue eye and one green eye. Lowering her head, the cat picked up one of the wrapped candies and held it down with both paws. Tearing at the wrapping, the cat gobbled down the sugary treat.
The ghost, it turned out, only wanted a friend with whom to share her Halloween treats. But not first without a trick so Worm could earn her keep.
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