Welp, here's about half of The Temple on Haunted Hill. I couldn't stand not having it out there.
I dedicate this to Emily, who has been not-so-patiently wating for this.
"Welcome to Yang's Haunted Temple: the historical landmark and former home of sensei Yang."
The tour guide was gesturing to the creepy-ass house as the tour group whipped out their phones and snapped pictures of the moss-covered statue of a sensei. The temple itself looked like something straight out of a horror movie: the windows were boarded up, but you could still see through the cracks. The panes had begun to ripple long ago and now looked as if you dropped a rock the size of three of your fingers into a still pond. The building itself couldn't fit into any house styles at all; it just looked like your classic temple. Three stories, each slightly smaller than the last. Rippled rooves. Somewhere that could've been inviting long ago, but got run down. The dull red paint was peeling in multiple places. The doors looked just about ready to fall off their hinges.
The tour guide continued talking in the voice I know to be trying too hard to be cheerful. "The notorious sensei without a pupil. Infamous for creating the lot martial art of Airjitzu."
Not so lost anymore, I thought as the tour group 'oooh'ed.
"Unfortunately," she stretched the word out, then started talking very fast again, "we can't take our tour groups inside, for rumours say, anyone trapped inside its walls at sunrise will be turned into a ghost. Permanently!"
The group 'oooh'ed again as I glanced to my left to Cole, whose face had its colour drained. My left hand moved up to his shoulder on its own, and I comforted him. "It won't happen," I whispered to him. He turned to me and gave a weak, shaky smile.
The tour guide suddenly grabbed the arm of some kid wearing an alien mask in the front. "But if we listen closely," she let go and made an arc in the air with her hand, "maybe we'll be able to hear the ghost of sensei Yang himself, looking for his lost pupils!"
That's some damn scary shit. Not that any of it is real.
All of a sudden, Zane started yelling as loud as he could. "I-" my hands flew to my ears and my eyes slammed shut, "-HOPE IT'S NOT A RUMOUR, FOR IT'S OUR ONLY HOPE!"
I opened my eyes to find everyone staring at us. I let my hands return to my sides, and attempted to look calm. It really didn't work.
Cole stepped in and tried to cover it. "Sorry about my loud friend; he's a little hard-of-hearing."
The tour guide did not look impressed. "Known for his un*ahem*usual teachings," her voice returned to usual as if nothing happened. Yet I had turned to Cole.
"'Hard-of-hearing'?" I whispered, enraged. "Couldn't you have thought of something a little more believable?"
Cole glared at me. "Well, I'm sorry, but I don't spend half my time thinking about things to say."
Of course, he refers back to that time. One month after I had joined the ninja force, I realized that I liked Kai more than Emily. Right after I became corrupted. Not the best time to admit feelings. Everyone else was busy, so I turned to Cole.
"Cole, how do you think I should tell Kai?"
"What makes you think I will help you?"
"Hm, maybe because no one else is here?!"
"Ooh, someone's got some attitude."
"Don't talk to me like that!"
"Sure thing, sweetie."
I was dragged from my thoughts by Kai's voice, "I thought you said you fixed him!" He snapped at Jay.
"At least he's not talking backwards," he said with a sigh. "I guess my tinkering got his volume level stuck." He gave a nervous laugh and rubbed the back of his neck. Kai glared at him.
"AT-" my ears were covered again and my eyes were squished shut, "-LEAST YOU CAN UNDERSTAND ME NOW!"
My hands were lifted and my eyes opened just in time to see the tour guide stare at Zane like she wanted to rip off his neck. "Dating back," she sounded extremely frustrated, "to the Edo Period."
Cole glared at Jay and Kai in turn. "Well, from now on," his attention had turned to Zane, "only speak if you have something really important to say."
Jay stared at Cole in confusion. Kai spoke up. "Who put you in charge?"
"I did." He made a thumbs-up and pointed to himself with it. "After you two mucked it up, it's my turn to be in charge."
I walked up to him. "And what about us, huh? When do we get to lead?" I realized too late that I sounded like mini-Lloyd.
Damn, I miss the kid.
Cole folded his arms. "Well, Lucas here hasn't been with us as long as we have, and you two," he pointed at Megan and me in turn, "are girls. And we all know girls can't lead."
"EXCUSE ME?!" I put my hands on my hips. "Are you implying that we can't lead because we're girls?! Sexist much."
Kai walked up beside Cole slowly. "Yeah, Cole. That was kinda uncalled for."
"You're just standing up for her because she's your girlfriend!" Cole snapped at him. "Now, we sneak into that temple, learn Airjitzu from the ghost of sensei Yang, and get the hell out before sunup." He turned back to me. "And you are not coming along."
"What do you mean?! You're going to need me. Or can you not see that since your head is full of rocks?!"
"You're gonna mess everything up! You're the second fucking Overlord!"
"Emily died because of you!"
"STOP THIS!" My head whipped around to meet Jay's angry expression. "Since the whole dream incident, all you two do is fight, fight, fight! How come you two can't get along?"
Cole and I fell silent. Why do we do this? Maybe I blamed Cole for something he couldn't have done, but that was years ago. We should be over it. But we aren't.
"Yeah, sorry Jay," I mumbled as I hung my head.
Our very heartfelt conversation was interrupted by our tour guide. "Well, the sun is setting, which means we should head back to the bus. Wouldn't want anyone to turn into a ghost!" She said 'ghost' in a very singsong kind of voice. She gave a nervous laugh, and our tour group followed suit onto the bus. The sound of crunching gravel filled my ears.
Wait, that didn't make any sense! We turn into ghosts at sunrise, not sunset! Why would our tour guide be afraid of dusk when you don't even turn into ghosts outside the temple?
The ninja team boarded the bus with the rest of the tour group. We didn't want to seem too conspicuous. Even though we were in complete ninja gis. And Zane was made of titanium.
How did no one notice us?
Crouched behind the statue of the infamous sensei, our ninja instincts kicked in. We sprinted over to the 'haunted' temple, and Cole and Jay immediately went to the window. They started pulling and tugging at the boards as hard as they could, to no avail. I started walking back from the door. "Stand back," I whisper-yelled. I started running at the door and I jumped. I got ready to kick the door down and...
The door opened. I landed about two feet into the temple, on my right arm. There was a pain in my shoulder. So much pain. I cried out. People were running to me. My brain finally processed what happened.
My shoulder was dislocated.
Megan knelt beside me and immediately placed her hand on my shoulder. I winced at the sudden pain of touch but relaxed as it went away. Every time one of us got hurt, Megan was always there for us. But for me, it all depends on the last time we fought. If it's been a month or earlier, she would only do it if Kai threatened to break something of hers. And even then, she was reluctant to do so.
Kai ran to my other side and started rapidly apologizing. I kept trying to tell him it was my own fault, but he wouldn't listen.
About a minute later, my shoulder returned to its socket, and I rose. I rolled my arm around a little bit, feeling the familiar numbness of just-healed. It would go away in a few hours, though. It always did.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Kai asked me in a worried tone.
I gave him a playful punch in the gut with my numb arm. "Yeah, pretty sure," I said with a smirk as he winced. "Now let's go learn Airjitzu!" I ran fist-first into the temple.
"Wait," Lucas said, barely audible. I dropped my arm and turned around.
"What is it?" I asked him, my voice slightly shaky. If Lucas is scared, there's a good reason for us to be scared too. This may be bad.
"The supernatural force here is incredible. I feel stronger here."
"Well, if there's something here that wants to kill us, at least you can protect us."
I wish I could agree with Kai.
We were walking in two lines, one in front, one behind. Megan, Lucas and I were in the back, while the others were leading. Silence hung heavy in the air. The hallway was pretty bare; there wasn't any furniture at all. The paint on the walls was chipped in multiple places.
I looked to my right and up to Megan's head. "You know," I spoke. A few heads turned in my direction, then resumed staring forwards. "This is a little like Five Nights at Freddy's. Except its one night. And it's in a haunted temple, not a pizzeria. But hey," I gave two thumbs-up, "We still gotta survive 'till six AM."
Megan grinned. "Yeah, kinda."
My gaze lowered to the hardwood floor. "Ya know, I never got to play Five Nights at Freddy's. My parents wouldn't let me."
"You don't know what you missed out on."
"I probably don't."
All of a sudden, I felt something cold and sticky against my face. Something with a lot of legs crawled over my hair. I screeched and tried to rip the spiderweb off, while desperately trying to keep calm.
It didn't work. There was a fucking spider on my head. The size of my hand. I collapsed on the floor in a heap, still screaming. "GET IT OFF! KILL IT!"
The group just laughed at me. "WHAT THE HELL, GUYS?!" The world went black.
When I came to, people surrounded me. I put my hand on my forehead. "Ugh, what happened?" I whispered.
"You fainted," Jay said simply.
"No. Really?" I mock-gasped.
Jay fumbled with the door handle for a few seconds, then burst the doors wide open with a creak. We were in a room that looked very similar to a study. Perhaps it was a study. There were bookshelves along the left wall, and above a grandfather clock to the right. There were big books, small books, and everything in between. There was a mahogany coloured rug in the centre of the room, with a simple pattern on it: a lighter coloured circle in the middle and a square pattern at the corners. Over to the right side of the room were a desk and a fancy chair. In front of us was a separate section of the room, with a portrait of Yang on the wall.
We all walked into the room, slowly. Jay ripped off his mask, letting his ginger hair see the room. The rest of the boys followed suit. Megan and I already had our masks off.
I saw a spider descend from the ceiling before anyone else did. I recoiled while screaming "GOD DAMMIT!"
Megan noticed the spider next and grabbed the nearest object, which happened to be a book. She chucked it as hard as she could at the spider and missed. By about a foot. Kai took said book and slammed it on the spider. I could hear the squish from the other side of the room.
He started lifting the book, but I stopped him. "I don't wanna see it." He nodded and left the book there.
Cole looked incredibly on-edge. "Relax," Kai assured him, "If the place was truly haunted, we just have to wait until he shows himself."
It didn't help Cole's nervousness. "Ah, he should've been here by now!" He was speaking faster than his personality would allow, meaning he was very, very scared. "You heard the tour guide: if we're not out by sunup, we'll be ghosts!" I folded my arms and glared at him. I turned around and stepped over to the large bookshelf. I chose one, the title rubbed off by age. The spine was cracked, and it looked to be about six hundred pages, which were yellow. I opened it, releasing the smell of a library. I inhaled deeply. I haven't smelled that since... since...
I opened the book and flipped through a few pages, the smell of the book like no other. Apparently, it was about some girl named Charlie. I went back and scanned the first page. Something was after her.
Alright. I'm hooked.
"Hannah!" I heard a whisper-shout from behind me. I turned around and smiled at Emily. I couldn't tell if I was blushing or not. I never do, so I assumed I wasn't, but I could feel heat prickling on my cheeks.
"Yeah?" I asked, still smiling. Emily kept staring at me with a smile, which was odd until I remembered we were going to meet at the tree. "Oh! Sorry," I put the book back on the shelf.
"No, it's fine," Emily said. "Come on, let's go."
I grabbed my backpack from the floor near the bookshelves and followed after her.
I placed the book back on the shelf and wiped away the tear that fell. That was the last time I've ever been to a library. Other than the one I found Megan in before the Tournament. Even then, I didn't have any time to read. I was too busy being depressed.
Suddenly, I heard a spine-chilling moan from the clock. The door to it innards opened and shut wildly, and the hands on the face spun freely. I was almost scared until I remembered the prank we were playing on Cole. I did my best to hide a smile and pretend to be scared.
The rest of the group stepped back to me. "It's him! He's in the clock!" Cole yelled.
"You're the leader!" Jay shoved him. "Go check it out!"
Cole's steps were slow, unsteady. His hand made its way into the air, and I could see it shaking. He grasped the handle to the door of the clock and turned it.
Zane's falcon flew out of the clock while Cole recoiled and screamed. Very high pitched. I bent down in laughter. Of all the things I expected him to do, he screamed. He didn't punch the bird (thankfully), he didn't faint, he didn't do anything like that.
The group exploded in laughter. Cole all looked at us in anger as the falcon landed on Zane's outstretched arm. "A prank," Cole said, unhappily. "Really?"
"We just wanted to lighten the mood," Kai and I said in unison. We looked at each other in surprise. The group laughed together once more.
"You should've heard yourself scream!" Jay and Megan said. They looked shocked for a moment and stared at each other. Megan started giggling. Oh yeah, I ship it.
Zane's falcon didn't disappoint us. It had recorded Cole's scream and replayed it. The room was filled with laughter. I even think I saw Cole smile a little. More like a twitch of his mouth.
Suddenly, we heard a door slam from somewhere in the temple. I gasped. What the fuck? That wasn't from anything we had planned. This is getting a touch creepy.
Cole, however, didn't believe it was real. "Ugh, another prank?" He asked us, exasperated. "Real funny." He started walking to the door of the room. "Didn't anyone teach you to quit while you're ahead?" He opened the door, turned around to face us one last time, and exited.
"Uh, was that any of you guys?" Kai asked us, nervously.
"Not me!" Jay responded.
Megan and I shook our heads while Zane shouted, "ME EITHER!"
We all turned back to the door quickly. "COLE!" we all shouted.
We managed to catch up to Cole as something banged from behind a door. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very scary."
"Cole! It wasn't us!" I yelled at him. I should've known what would happen next.
"Yeah?" He stopped and I rammed right into him. We both toppled to the floor, me on top of him. He shoved me off and stood. "Aren't you the one who never trusted me when I told you it wasn't me?"
I opened my mouth but no words came out. I was the person who did that. I closed my mouth but stayed on the ground. I'm a nothing. Yet no one else here can see that.
The rest of the group became drawn to one set of doors, but the door just across from it caught my eye. I swear I saw it close out of the corner of my eye. I got up and made sure the group wasn't looking, and I slipped into the room. I silently closed the door and turned around.
It was a fairly bare room. By fairly, I mean a rug, an empty bookshelf, and a painting. I stepped closer to examine it. I stopped. It ... couldn't be.
It was a painting of the schoolyard from middle school.
The same middle school back home. On Earth. Not Ninjago.
I ran a finger over the painting and checked every detail. It was definitely facing the back, towards the small road behind. Probably from the garden in the far right corner, beside the woodshop. The big tree was leaning to the sky, the small trees ahead of it are not quite in a perfect line. And the randomly placed circle of concrete close to the building. Everything was right.
Except for one thing.
There was someone behind me.
I whipped around to meet a face I never thought I would see again.
I gasped. He couldn't be here. He was back on Earth. But he was right here. He looked as if he hadn't aged at all since I saw him when I was twelve: he was wearing his favourite blue camo hoodie and blue jeans. His dark hair was perfect. There only different thing was the clear look of hatred I had never seen him wear.
"Ar-Arian!" I stuttered, still shocked.
He crossed his arms. "Why do you think you can still say my name, with all the things you did to me?"
I felt a single tear escape my right eye and flow down my cheek freely. "Arian, I'm sorry. How many times do I have to say that?" My voice was weak and shaky.
"Until you die." More shapes started forming around him until I could distinguish them. The brown, short, extremely curly hair of Becca. The blond hair of Emily. More shapes I could only identify by height. My ten-year-old sister came up to my eyebrows at that time, so that was the only way I knew her. Shayla was at my nose. Vivian was nearly as tall as me.
Eventually, they all came into focus. I could now make out Faith, Renée, Coltan, Latyscha, and...
"You abandoned us," they said as one. And not just together, literally AS ONE. They had the same tone of speaking, same notes hit if you were talking music, the same emphasis on 'abandoned'. It was creepy.
"I didn't mean it, I swear!" I was violently crying now. They were everyone I cared about from Earth. And now they hated me.
They started advancing on me. "That isn't true, and you know it." I was pushed into the corner, and I stayed. I slid down the wall and hid my face in my knees, sobbing and shaking.
"You hurt us so bad. You promised you would always stick by our side but there you go, breaking your promise." They kept walking toward me, slowly, carefully. "You're nothing better than a monster for breaking our hearts like that. And you know you're nothing so why do you even try? Your dark side is getting out of hand and you know it, yet you still try to hide it. What the fuck is going on in your head?" They had blocked any chance of escape now and still advancing. "You honestly think everything will get better when you have done so many bad things to us? Well, welcome to the real world. That isn't how it works."
I didn't look up, but they were pretty much standing over me. "Emily, Arian, everyone. I'm sorry. Just stop saying all these bad things about me."
"WE ARE YOUR OWN MIND!" Their voices grew evil, deeper. I was still crying. I had actually thought all of those things about myself. So they weren't lying.
Suddenly, the door burst open. I looked up but saw nothing. Whispers were coming from the general direction, but I couldn't make them out. I glanced at the faces of my loved ones from Earth.