"Better get up or you'll be late for school!" Mrs. Howard called from the bottom of the staircase. "You can finish unpacking your things when you get home."
Her daughter, Gloria, came downstairs dressed in a purple blouse, jeans with holes in the knees and sling back shoes. "Been up for hours. You'd better see if rat boy is out of bed."
"That brother of yours," Mrs. Howard murmured.
"Don't worry, Gloria. I'll see that he gets off to school. Now you get into the kitchen and eat something," Mrs. Howard said.
"Tell him that I'm not gonna wait all day," said Gloria. "If he isn't ready soon, I'll leave without him."
"Get up, Steve! This is your first day in a new school!" Mrs. Howard spoke in a tone that said she meant it. If he didn't get out of bed, he'd be in big trouble.
"I'm sick mom!" Steve gave his best ill expression for his mother to see.
"More like scared," Mrs. Howard smile. "Scared of being the new kid in school."
"Am not," said Steve. "I'm not scared of anything."
"You're not sick either," Mrs. Howard went on. "Now hit the shower or you won't have time for breakfast."
"I just hope your new principal has recieved the transfer papers," his mother said.
"Maybe he hasn't," said Steve. "Maybe he won't let me attend until he does. Maybe he'll never let me attend."
"In your dreams," Mrs. Howard giggled. "Now get going. Your sister said she wouldn't wait long."
Least they won't be throwing cereal at each other, Mrs. Howard thought, collecting the bed sheets for the laundry.
Tossing the sheets into the hamper, she went to wake her husband Greg. It was his new job that uprooted the family and brought them to a new town and school system.
"Greg, honey," Mrs. Howard said. "Wake up! You're gonna be late for work."
"G' morning, dear," Greg Howard rolled over and yawned. "Be up in a minute. Is the coffee ready?"
"It'll be cold if you don't get moving." She teased as she started picking up a trail of clothes that ran through the house.
Gloria finished the last of her milk and grabbed her bagged lunch from the counter. "Mom! I'm not waiting any longer," she called out.
"If the bus comes, tell the driver to wait," Mrs. Howard answered. "I don't have time to drive him today."
"I'll try," Gloria said, acting like she had ants in her pants. "I won't be late on my first day."
"I think your dad and Steve could take lessons from you," Mrs. Howard said. "I have to all but throw the cat on top of them...to get them up."
"See you later, mommy!" Gloria kissed her mom's cheek and then took off out the front door.
Mrs. Howard went to the edge of the kitchen and looked for Greg and Steve. "You two better move it or I'll feed your breakfast to the cat," she announced.
A crescent moon hung over the trees that sat across the street. With the early morning light breaking up a foggy night, it would soon be gone.
"What's keeping that bus?" Gloria muttered, looking at her watch. "This street is creepy enough without having to stand here all alone."
First, Gloria leaned against the telephone pole. Then, she looked up and down the street for the bus. She knew it should arrive soon.
Where is everyone, she thought. She knew that there were other kids going to her new elementary school on the street. She started to wonder why they weren't at the bus stop.
Suddenly she heard the sound of footsteps in the woods. She stepped from the lawn to the sidewalk when the whisper of voices grew louder.
"Get a life," One boy shoved another.
"Oh!" A girl smiled as she and the boys joined Gloria at the stop. "Looks like we've got ourselves a new kid."
When Gloria first stared at the trio, she thought she could see right through their bodies. She rubbed her eyes and looked again. They stood as solid as she was.
"Hi," the girl said cheerfully. "It seems forever since we've seen a new face."
"I was starting to think that my brother and I were the only ones at this stop," Gloria said, looking at the girl's black turtle neck sweater and white skirt. She looked down the street to see that Steve hadn't left the house yet.
"Where's he?" One of the two boys asked. Each wore red shirts with bright green numbers and blue jeans.
"Trying to play hooky when I walked here," Gloria answered. "I'm sure he'll make the bus."
"My name's Gloria," she said, scratching behind her head with her left hand.
"I'm Susan," the girl replied. "They're Kirk and Jason. I don't think your brother will make it."
"The bus is coming," Jason said. Gloria watched as they stood one behind the other. "Better get in line."
The bus? Gloria thought. She stared down an empty street, neither seeing or hearing anything approach. Where?
Blinking, she looked both ways down the street. The sound of an engine rang in her ears, but she could make out its source.
"Maybe I should go get Steve," Gloria said, watching as the bus materialized like magic.
"The bus driver don't wait for anyone," Kirk announced. "Not for anyone...for any reason."
"I told him that I won't be late for my first day," Gloria answered. "It's his lost if he doesn't make it."
When they took their seats, Gloria found the light shining through the windshield too blinding to see. She could only hear the sound of the engine and feel the movement of the bus.
"Hey!" shouted Steve exhaustedly. He raced down the street when he spotted his school bus pulling away from his driveway. "Wait for me!"
The bus suddenly pulled to a stop and the door swung open. Steve ran up to the bus and climbed on board. A friendly looking woman sat in the driver's seat.
"You're lucky I heard you," the driver smiled. "You nearly missed the bus."
"My sister wouldn't let me hear the end of it if I did," Steve said, finding only the front seat available.
"Sister?" The woman looked puzzled as she started going again. "You're the only one I picked up here."
"Huh?" Steve looked confused.
"I said...you're the only kid I picked up at this stop," the driver repeated. "I thought they was suppose to be two."
Looking back at two rolls of kids, he couldn't see his sister anywhere. "I can't believe little miss perfect is playing hooky. Is there another bus?"
"Not for this route," the driver said. "None of the other school buses come up this way."
"Where could she be?" he wondered.
Gloria stared out the window as they pulled up before a brick building that looked over a hundred years old. "What are we doing here? I thought the school was in town.
"Don't be silly," Susan smiled. "We've always gone to school up here. I can't imagine going anywhere else."
"We don't want to be late," Susan went on. "They lock the gates after final bell so they know who's tardy."
"You nearly made us late," Kirk added.
"I'm sorry," Gloria spoke softly. She knew getting others in trouble weren't the way to make new friends.
Gloria's shoes echoed on the hard floor as if the building was empty. The sound of voices told her that hers was the last bus to arrive.
"Welcome, students!" Principal Boss stood on the auditorium stage and spoke into a microphone.
Gloria and her new friends took a seat in back.
"Quiet please," the principal said, cracking a pointer against a plaster pillar. "I know you hate to see summer end and that I see some new faces in the crowd. I hope the new students will have as frightful time here as the old."
"Frightful?" Gloria whispered to Susan. "Doesn't she mean delightful?"
Kirk laughed in amusement.
"Let's just say that you don't want to be sent to the principal's office." Jason opened his mouth wide and tossed in a piece of bubble gum.
Why's that?" Gloria asked.
"That's one!" Principal Boss said, staring right at Gloria. Two more...and you'll be the first sixth grader to visit my office this year."
Gloria slid down in her seat and tried to hide the embarrassment of talking during the principal's speech. She could sense everyone staring at her.
Kirk opened up a rectanglar box and poured out a handful of multi-colored candy pieces.
"I hope our teachers aren't as weird," Gloria whispered. She pressed her feet against the back of the seat in front of her.
"Shhh," said Susan.
"Most of the teachers are nice," Jason spoke softly. He looked at the row of teachers standing in the back of the room. "They're just a few older ones to beware of."
Gloria sat up and looked over her shoulder. She saw a tall, balding man with small clumps of white hair. He was as thin as a scarecrow and wore an old fashion bow tie with his gray suit.
"That's Dr. Sharkton," Susan said. "He was a retired government scientist before being asked to teach here."
"Really?" Gloria's voice sounded impressed.
"He isn't the type of person you want to cross." Susan reminded her. "A real stickler for the rules."
"I hope I don't have someone else looking for a trip to my office," Principal Boss announced.
Laughter broke out around them. It quickly died down when Principal Boss raised her arm and looked harshly at the crowd.
"All right," she said. "Everyone settle down."
Looking at the principal in disbelief, Gloria thought she could see through her ghostly skin.
"I can see that you don't want to listen to me," Principal Boss said. "Maybe you're more willing to listen to your teachers. Don't forget to collect your things on your way to class."
"What's your first class?" asked Susan.
"Science," Gloria said. She looked up from her class schedual to see Dr. Sharkton standing before her.
"See you in class," said Dr. Sharkton. His voice echoed off at the finish of his sentence. "I look forward to having a live one to keep the others on their toes."
"What a weirdo," said Gloria.
Jason giggled. "Just don't let him hear you say that."
"By the way, what does happen if you go to the principal's office?"
Susan stopped in her tracks.
"Actually, none of us been there," she said. "We've only heard from our friends say it's terrible."
"Take your seats...quickly." Dr. Sharkton said as he followed a crowd of students. Susan and Gloria choose a pair of desks next to each other.
"At least I know someone here." Gloria looked around the room. "Steve must of convince mom that he's sick. We were going to sit together until we made friends."
Gloria turned to the front of the room. "Howard." she said, feeling her heart beat in her chest. She didn't want a second strike against her.
"Ms Howard, please refrain from talking." Mr. Sharkton said, his voice sounding British.
"Yes, sir," Gloria said, feeling like she was getting off on the wrong foot.
"My name is Mr. Sharkton," He said, holding a piece of chalk in his hand. His name was already written on the board behind him.
Gloria couldn't help but stare at the name. She couldn't recall him picking up the chalk, let alone writing his name down. It didn't seem half as strange to her as the old fashion clothes that the man had on.
Mr. Sharkton cleared his throat and reached into his shirt pocket. He pulled out a pair of glasses. His eyes remained stone cold and his face emotionless.
"We're going to start off with insect dissections and work our way up to larger animals."
Glad this class isn't around lunch, Gloria thought. She remembered how gross her older friends in her old school made it sound.
Gloria raised her hand. "Excuse me, sir, he said. "What kind of larger animals can we expect to dissect?"
"I haven't chosen yet," Mr. Sharkton replied. "Maybe a frog...maybe something larger. I'll be adapting my program as we go along."
"You're new to the school, aren't you," said Mr. Sharkton. The motion of his hand told Gloria that he wanted her to come to the front of the room. "Introduce yourself."
"Hello, she said. "I'm Gloria Howard. My family arrived in town over the weekend and I'm glad that my new friends have already started to make me feel at home."
"Yes, Yes," Mr. Sharkton glared. As Gloria returned to her seat she could of sworn she saw life like movements from the science mannequin used to explain the parts of the body. Almost as if it was trying to shoo her away. "That will be quite enough. I'll find out why the principal didn't inform me of a transfer student."
At lunch, Steve sat with a heavy set boy name Bruce and bit into an egg salad sandwich. He made a gross face when he saw Bruce bite into the mystery meat.
"At least you don't have to buy your lunch." Bruce muttered to himself. "Has medical science determine what this is?"
As Bruce took another bite, Steve stuck his finger down his throat in disgust. Sauce had splattered all over Bruce's shirt, plate and table area.
"How can you eat like that?" asked Steve.
"Better to get it on me than in me," Bruce joked, choking on his food as he laughed.
Steve started slapping Bruce on the back. "You okay?"
"Must of actually ate some," Bruce said.
Getting up from his seat, Bruce walked over to the trash and got rid of the rest. "This is were it belongs."
"I didn't think anything could be worst than the food at my old school," Steve said. "We use to kid about it being made from toxic waste."
"Steve!" called principal Logan.
The dark-haired man walked over to Steve's table and stood behind him. "We've called your house, but nobody was home. Your sisters transfer paper does shows that she was suppose to start today. I suggest if she doesn't return home tonight...you have your parents call the police."
"Wonder where she went." The principal's concern made Steve start to worry.
"How about some paper football?" asked Bruce. He tore out a piece of notebook paper as Steve made a goal post with his hands.
With the flick of the finger, he knocked Steve in the face. "Touchdown!"
"You're not the first one I've known to have a pain for a sister," Bruce said, making his fingers into a goal post. "Who needs them. They're nothing but trouble and impossible to understand."
"The thing is...little miss perfect was looking forward to coming," Steve said, watching the paper football fly off the table. "With all the school shopping and unpacking, she really wanted to start making new friends."
"Touchdown," said Bruce, making it through the goal again. "Like I said...who needs them."
"Good shot, Bruce, said Steve, but his sister's vanishing act was till bothering him.
"Relax," said Bruce. "The only bad thing that could happen to her here is eating the food."
"Gee, thanks a lot," Steve said.
He got up and walked out of the lunchroom. When he passed the waste basket, he looked in and frowned. "That stuff truly is disgusting."
Putting his glass down, Bruce got up with a milk mustache. He wiped it off on his shirt sleeve. Catching up with Steve outside the boy's bathroom, he grabbed hold of the door before it could swing shut. He stepped up, outside the stall.
"I don't really think it's starting again." said Bruce.
"You don't think what's starting again?" asked Steve.
"I was only in first grade at the time..." Bruce said. "But this town does have a legend. A group of kids killed in a school fire. The bus that cause it ended in the crusher.
"Your point?" Steve asked, his voice starting to sound annoyed.
"Another story about a school bus was talked about when I was in third," Bruce went on. "Parents were shoveling their driveway after a freak storm when a school bus arrived early and picked up their son. The regular bus showed a short time later...and the kid was never heard from again."
"First of all, it's September." Steve said, washing his hands. "They're aren't any snow storms. Second, I don't believe in ghosts."
"No need to worry then," Bruce said.
"Exactly," Steve replied.
"And the fact that pig-headed sister of mine said that she wouldn't wait if the bus came is just coincidence," Steve added.
"Think your parents will called the police?" asked Bruce, trying to cover up a tone of concern. "By the time they step in, it could be too late."
"I'll ask dad if they've been ransom note when I get home," Steve said. "If she hasn't been kidnapped, she'd better have a good explanation for not showing up."
When Steve and Bruce took the bus home, they learned that they lived just down the street from one another. When Steve ran into the house, he saw Gloria sitting at the kitchen table. She had a mouthful of cookies and her hand on a glass of milk.
"Where have you been all day!" The two shouted at one another. "You want to worry our parents sick?"
"Did you find out the school didn't recieve your transfer paper and decide to play hooky," Gloria asked.
"I was in school all day," Steve argued. "You're the one who didn't show up to your classes."
"What are you talking about, rat boy?" Gloria said, then her mind realized what Steve was saying to her. "I was in class...you weren't."
"You weren't even at the bus stop when I rode to school today," Steve said. "You know mom was going to make me take the bus. She had too much to do to drive me."
"That's right," Gloria said, finally listening to what Steve was saying. "Mom told you to ride the bus. Why didn't principal Boss know about you?
"You mean Principal Logan," Steve corrected.
"That would mean we went to different schools, Steve. I know that only one school bus route travels our street."
"Listen," Steve said. "Have you heard the town legend about a ghost bus that makes kids vanish? Our neighbor Bruce told me about it during lunch. I dismissed it when I saw you since none of the others were seen again but--."
"Will you listen to yourself!" Gloria declared. She walked across the kitchen a replaced the milk while thinking it was strange to see the science mannequin limbs moving as it sat on the display rod like it was alive. She knew she had to of imagine that.
"The teachers are a little weird," Gloria went on. "Especially Mr. Sharkton, our science teacher. That has nothing to do with the supernatural."
"My science teacher isn't Mr. Sharkton," Steve said, pulling out his schedule. "It's Mr. Taylor."
"Steve, what's going on?" Gloria had to admit to herself that nothing was making sense. She was sure Steve was right about there being only one bus traveling between their house and the school. That was all they could agree on.
"Okay," Gloria said after arguing for half an hour. "I won't go over to Susan's house. In fact, I want to have a word with Bruce about this ghost school."
Walking in the direction of Bruce's house, Gloria couldn't help but stare into the patch of woods Susan, Kirk and Jason came from. She remembered seeing a few houses when she moved in, but she also remembered a graveyard.
Seeing the name plaque Jackson on a front porch, Steve walked up and knocked on Bruce's front door. Bruce showed up at the door himself.
"Hi, Bruce. This is my sister. Looks like the ghosts didn't get her."
Bruce just smiled and stepped outside. "So it seems.
"What's this nonsense about a ghost school?" asked Gloria.
"I told Steve there's only one school in town," Bruce said. "Only one official school that is. The town legend does talk about a ghost school that the phantom bus takes you."
"If nobody taken by the ghosts came back, how do you know so much about it?" asked Steve.
"I've always been afraid they'd come for me," Bruce admitted. "I've been to the town library and studied both stories about the bus. I don't even take the morning bus these days."
"I suggest that you wait till the first bus leaves before going to the bus stop," Bruce continued. "I also suggest that you stay away from the old school."
"Old school?" Gloria frowned and looked at Steve.
"Nearly burned down before I was born," Bruce said. "The town choose to put up a new one closer to town rather than rebuilding."
"Thanks," Gloria said, feeling something weird was going on. "I'll take that under advisement."
As the two headed home, Gloria tried to figure out who was weirder, Bruce or Mr. Sharkton. Both were acting quite strange. One had to be from the true ghost school.
"I guess your going to school with me tomorrow," Steve said doubtfully. "You don't want to risk going home with your friend Susan. You might disappear like the others."
"You guessed wrong," Gloria replied. "Tomorrow, I'm gonna see where Susan and the others came from. Find out if it's the cemetary."
The next morning at the bus stop, Gloria found Susan was already waiting for her. "Do you live around here?" Gloria asked.
"Not far," Susan said. "But you have to go through the woods to get to our street."
"If we don't have too much homework, maybe we can get together," Gloria said. "I need to learn the hot spots to hang out."
"By the second day, older teachers really start piling it on," Susan said. "I wouldn't expect too much free time this afternoon. Maybe this weekend."
Kirk just stared with a weird look in his eye. "Did you ever find your brother?
"Funny you should bring him up," Gloria said. "Seems he took a later bus and ended at the downtown school. His friend says that Hill School been closed since a fire."
"There was a fire," Jason said. "But we returned to Hill High a short time later." Oh, who to believe, Gloria thought.
Just then the headlights of the school bus blinded them. It stopped in front of Gloria, opened its doors and waited for the kids to pile in. As Gloria walked to the bus, she stared at her house. She knew that Steve was waiting inside for the later bus.
"Are you coming or not?" The male bus driver growled. "I don't have all day!"
"Uh, sure," Gloria said. She climbed onto the bus and sat next to Susan. The windows were too dirty to see out of.
"I've been thinking," Susan said. "Not being use to our teachers, we could study together.
"No thanks. I do my best studying alone."
Bruce must be pulling my leg, Gloria decided. He just said that a handful of kids died in a fire. He didn't say anything about teachers and others.
"This place is spooky," Gloria stared up at the gargoyles on either side of the gate. The statue's eyes looked almost alive. Passing through it, she could see how the old stone Hill Elementary and the modern concrete Hill Elementary was fused into one building. Not to mention it seemed like the statue's head was moving to follow her through the gate.
"You want to know more about the school fire." Principal Boss said when Gloria ran into her on the way back to her office. "The school library might have something on it."
Taking her science book from her locker, she heard the class bell. She knew that Mr. Sharkton wasn't the type of teacher to be kept waiting. She might not reach the third strike before learning what happens in the principal's office.
It wasn't until noon that Gloria had the chance to visit the library. After dissecting an earthworm in science class, Gloria had no appetite for lunch. Despite the computers and modern furniture, it looked very old fashion. A spiral metal staircase went up to the second level and the air filled with the smell of musty old books. The doorway in the curving stone wall in the back of the room appeared to be one of the few enter to the old school.
She quickly sat down at a computer and started going through the town's newspaper records. She stopped when she came to a headline that read:
SCHOOL FIRE CLAIMS KIDS LIVES
"It can't be." Gloria whispered to herself as she stared at the photos below the headline. The photos of Susan, Jason and Kirk. "I am in Ghost School."
"No, Gloria, you're not." Susan and her friends appeared behind her. "We're not the ones behind the missing kids."
"We believe we know who is." Jason walked over to the computer and touched the top. As the machine hummed the headline of the newspaper file changed. "Take a look at this headline." He pointed to the screen as a new headline appeared.
UNKNOWN ARSONIST DIES BY OWN HANDS
"You come here because you died here," Gloria turned in her chair and faced the three. "But did the arsonist that killed you...killed everyone in the downtown school?"
"The temporary school didn't last half a year before it was destroyed." Kirk said. "Our spirits can't rest until the mystery of our killer is solved. That's why we need you."
"But my brother is going to a school downtown." Gloria could sense the fear that filled her face.
"Then he's in trouble," Susan turned to the others. "The downtown school only exist in another dimension. Since one can only get there by the phantom bus, we believe that the arsonist's ghost keeps on killing."
"I can see it now," Gloria muttered. "Steve, you can't go back to that school...it's haunted. Not to mention that your friend is the possible ghost of a murderer."
"That's about the size of it," Jason said.
Passing the checkout desk, Gloria couldn't help but wonder if her friends had currently made themselves visible to everyone or if only she could see and hear them.
By the time they reached math class she knew that the other students must see them. With so many students, it was no wonder that nobody questioned an extra face or three.
"Sorry we got you involved," Susan whispered. "Your the first person to bring the bus to our stop since we died. Who knows when it will happen again."
Right after math the girls had gym together. They started with a few calisthenic, but Gloria's mind was only on how she might help her new friends and save her brother.
"Is the a problem?" Asked a man with an Asian accent.
"No problem, said Gloria. When she stood up she realized she was as almost as tall as the teacher.
"I'm Mr. Wong," said the man. "I expect every student in my gym class to concentrate on the task at hand."
"Yes, Mr. Wong," replied Gloria in a weak voice.
"You're one of new transfer students, aren't you?" asked Mr. Wong.
"Yea," Gloria said.
"Then you should know now," Mr. Wong went on. "While other teachers work to improve your mind, I'll be improving your body. I expect a certain amount of hard work and discipline from every student."
"No problem," Gloria said. "But I think the number of students for any sport would be more even if my brother was here. Have you heard anything?"
"Principal Boss is tracking down the transfer papers through the other school districts. If your brother falls behind in my class, I have methods for him catching up. Nobody who's attended has ever failed my gym class."
"I want everyone to start running laps around the basketball court!" Mr. Wong ordered.
After showering, Gloria got her clothes from her locker and changed. She watched as Susan mentally altered her ghostly gym outfit into her school clothes. "Don't blame me this time," said Susan. "I didn't say a word to you all through class. The fact that Mr. Wong singled you out was because you weren't paying attention."
"But you're the reason I wasn't paying attention," Gloria replied. "I was thinking of how I might help you and the guys."
She had study hall for her last period. All her friends helped get her homework done. Gloria was almost finished when Kirk looked up and saw the time on the clock. "School's almost over," he said. He looked over Gloria's shoulder to see how much she had left. "You done yet?"
Gloria didn't want to take the time to glance at the clock or even answer Kirk's question. She just wanted to hurry and finish up. "There, all finished," Gloria finally said. A moment later the sound of the bell echoed in her ears.
Leaving the school, they were soon surrounded with a pack of dogs. They barked and sniffed at the area Susan, Kirk and Jason stood. "It happens even when we're invisible," said Jason. "An animals heightened senses can always detect our presence."
"They do seem to sense you," said Gloria. "But they're confused at why they can't find you."
Gloria felt her face turn red with embarrassment as people stared at the dogs following a lone girl. Susan and the guys had made themselves invisible...even to her.
"Get out of here!" Kirk shouted. The toe of his boot missed the led dog's face by inches. The pack of dogs turned and ran off with their tails between their legs.
"Did they hear you?" asked Gloria.
"I think they felt my foot pass in front of them," Kirk replied. "We'd better get going."
"Your mom will worry enough that you didn't take the school bus," Susan added. "You want to get the research before you miss the town trolly too."
"Look out!" Jason cried.
"Whoa!" Gloria ducked just in time to see a baseball sail over her head. It slammed into a picket fence and rolled over to her feet.
"That was too close," Kirk said, spotting the back of the batter as he took off in the opposite direction. "Didn't see the kid's face, but I'd almost swear he meant to hit Gloria."
Gloria slowly walked over to the computer catalog. She wasn't use locating books and newspapers on the computer. Her old school still had the Dewey decimal system on 3x5 cards.
"I think I've found it," Gloria said.
"Are you sure?" asked Susan.
"Chill out, Susan," said Kirk - then check to make sure nobody noticed Gloria talking to herself. "She's doing this for her brother as much as us."
"Here comes the print out," Gloria pressed a blue button and listened to the activation of the printer.
Gloria slowly led the way down the rows of shelves and stopped at the microfilm projector. She felt as if everyone was starring at her phantom friends.
"I just wish that I could tell someone about you three."
"I don't think that's possible," Jason replied. "I mean, a ghostly scare could result in the school closing."
"Not to mention killing any chance of freeing our spirits," Kirk added.
"I suppose. But I'm always looking over my shoulder to make sure I'm not being stared at." Gloria tried to smile as the librarian brought her copies of The Daily Journel.
"I'll look over this stuff at home," Gloria said. "If I don't get going, I'll miss my ride."
As Gloria packed up, she noticed an article on the arsonist was on top. She just stared at a question mark next to Bruce's face and felt a chill run through her. She could only wonder how Steve felt in a school filled with ghosts.
Waiting at the trolly stop, Gloria thought about how worried they were about each other on the previous day. Since their old school went K-5th grade this would of been their first year with separate classes. She expected to at least see him at recess.
With business ads on its body, one could barely see the motorized trolly's blue color as it stopped before Gloria. Taking her time to find fifty cents, she allowed for Susan and the others to climb aboard un-notice.
Gloria sat transfixed, unable to take her eyes off the passing buildings. She started daydreaming about her old town. She thought about her old friends and a school which only threatened with tests.
She remembered the war games she and her brother led during recess. She claimed the cage shape jungle gym as her fort while her brother took the slide. Some teachers joked that they were in training for the real thing. Now, she couldn't help but feel they were right.
When the wind nearly blew the news papers out of the trolly, Susan and the others grabbed them and brought them back inside. They were careful to make it look like the wind did it.
"Careful, Gloria," Jason said. "We don't want to loose these before we have a chance to go through them."
"Are you all right, Gloria?" Susan asked as Gloria locked the papers in her purse. With herself invisible and a trolly filled with passages, she didn't expect an answer.
Gloria got off at the closest stop to her house and walked the rest of the way. Steve was waiting outside. "Where have you been?" Steve peered at her with harsh eyes. His skin was paler than it had been in the morning. Gloria feared that whatever had happened to the other missing students was starting to happen to him.
The hours Gloria spent talking to Steve could of been better spent pounding her head against the wall. Whatever was affecting his mind clearly didn't want him to listen. Gloria couldn't help but wonder if that's how it happened in the past. If so, how could she reverse its affects to save him.
Gloria was exhausted when she flopped on the bed and kicked off her shoes. She couldn't believe that while she attending classes he'd been having his life force drained.
"The files," said Susan.
"What? Oh, the library files we checked out."
"Catch!" Susan tossed Gloria her purse. "Time to have some fun."
Gloria and her friends started going through the papers. They made sure to mark down every article they looked at, so not to repeat themselves.
That's when one article got Gloria's attention. It was the same article as she brought up on the school computer. Except that a magic marker had crossed out each picture with a large X. She realized that it must of come from the arsonist's place.
She was sure her theory was right when she came across a picture of the downtown school covered in an identical X. But that wasn't proof that Bruce was behind the deaths.
Only one way to find the truth, Gloria thought. She got up and went to the hall phone in her bare feet.
Susan, Kirk and Jason followed Gloria into the hall.
"Yes," Gloria answered. "Thank you for the address." Picking a pencil up, she wrote an address on a piece of paper and placed it in her hip pocket.
As Gloria put the phone down, she lead the way down the stairs. "Follow me," Gloria said.
"Where?" Jason asked.
"Where those articles came from," Gloria answered.
"Huh?" Steve gave her a surprise look.
"What's the matter?" Gloria asked, seeing that she was starring into her own face. She glanced over her shoulder to see Jason and his friends had made themselves visible.
"You're kidding right." Susan scrambling like a cat in a dog pound as she and the guys tried to understand what happened. Gloria couldn't understand what power in the school would put them in each others bodies to keep its secrets.
"We're sorry," said Susan. "First you won't listen to what I have to say about Bruce. Then you kick out those trying to help you. This is the result of your efforts."
"They're not two ghost schools," Steve answered in Gloria's body. "You friends are ghosts, they've been lying to you about Bruce."
"For your sake, I just hope you come around before it's too late." Gloria stormed out the front door and met her friends at the end of the driveway.
Walking down the street, Kirk kept in step with Gloria. "What makes you think there's anything to find?" he asked.
"The police must of clean out Bruce's house years ago," Jason added. "They couldn't connect the papers found at school with him. Why else would the articles be at the library?"
"I know." Gloria stopped in front of the three. "We're not going to Bruce's house. We're going to...Ghost School."
Jason felt the hair on his arm stand on end as the thought gave them goose bumps. "B- But one can only go to Ghost School on the phantom bus," said Jason. "Your avoiding the place might be the only reason Steve comes home after school." Susan tried to think. "If you go...you both could be lost forever."
"We're going to the location the school once stood on," Gloria corrected. She raised a mini recorder in the palm of her hand. "If we can get a confession, the police doesn't need to know it came from a ghost. Then your spirit can be free."
"What about your brother?" Jason asked. "You want him in your body forever?"
"That's where you come in. If a confession doesn't free Steve, then it might take a ghost to stop a ghost." Gloria put the recorder away. "It'll all depend on how bad he want me."
Gloria watched as the town trolly pulled up to the stop. The driver wasn't the type to be taken off schedule, she noticed. The driver rubbed his eyes as the three ghosts faded before him.
"Let's keep moving," he said. "I've gotta finish my shift and get my eyes checked. I think I might need glasses."
"Here," Gloria said. Dropping fifty cents into a wooden box, she noticed she was the only one aboard. She headed for the back so the driver couldn't hear her talking to her friends.
Jason cleared his throat. "So how do we get the attention of the arsonist once we get there," I said.
"I think us showing up will be enough," Gloria said.
"I still have a bad feeling about this." said Susan.
Pulling up to the rubble that was once the downtown school, Gloria noticed a sign with a picture of a building.
"Looks like I've come to town just in time," Gloria said. "Few more days...we wouldn't get near this place."
"You really shouldn't be hanging around here." The driver said as Gloria got off and headed toward the school. The rooms inside were empty and the tile floor was covered in a fine layer of dust.
Suddenly the apple red bell rang. The grill covering one of the airshafts clanged to the floor and created a cloud of dust. The sound of heavy footsteps approached from the end of the hall.
Bruce stood in the middle of the hall, his eyes blazing red like fire and his hallow skin gray. "Now," he smiled, the family can be complete." The four stood motionless.
A ghostly wind came out of nowhere as Bruce was joined by Mr. Taylor, Principal Logan and Steve, with a dead look in their eyes and hallow cheek bones. Kirk and Jason realized that Steve would soon be as thin as a skeleton, then worst. Susan fear that Gloria would be next if she didn't escape.
"I asked your brother to come down right after you left the house," Bruce looked to his three living victims. "They have a pulse now...but that's impossible."
"Run for it!" Susan ran by Bruce and vanished into the hall's shadows. Jason and Kirk back tracked to the school's elevator. Bruce just locked his eyes onto Steve in Gloria body. Steve found his feminine legs wouldn't obey him.
Susan smiled sheepishly. "Bruce said he'd get you here."
"Y-Yeah." A horrible tone cleared Gloria's throat. Bruce just flashed her a knowing glare. "I just came to talk."
"Talk time is over. There's no hope of escape. The longer you spend here, the quicker the change will happen." Steve noticed that his sister both looked paler and thinner than when she arrived.
"What are you going to me?" shouted Steve.
"I didn't go to the bother of intercepting the transfer papers to let you get away," Bruce said. "You'll soon be a student...forever. Just like your friends. Spirits able to exist and move as a phantom or inside things like the science mannequin as the real Gloria had seen."
"That was a warning." Gloria realized as she reached for her recorder and switched it on. "You're the one who cause their deaths in Hill High, didn't you," she asked.
"Not that you'll tell anyone," Bruce smiled. Raising his hand up, Steve snatched the recorder away. Fear ran through Steve in his new body. He did what Gloria always did when back hopelessly against the wall. He screamed. Realizing that they were becoming each other mentally as well.
"No!" Gloria cried out at that thought. "This can't be happening to me!"
Gloria in Steve's body ducked under Mr. Taylor's arm and allowed Steve to run. "You're not going anywhere!" Bruce's voice echoed through the hall. "I locked all the doors and windows after you arrived."
Without realizing what she was doing, Gloria locked herself in a broom closet. She felt her heart pounding. "You've got to come out sometime," Steve said.
"What's with you?" Susan asked, stepping through the back wall.
"Am I glad to see you!" A sickly looking Gloria shouted. "Any ideas on getting out of here?"
"Hmmm," Susan thought to herself. "Well, you can't go through the wall. The only way seems to be the airshaft."
"I'll give you a boost," Susan said. She watched Gloria take down the vent covering the shaft. "First stop...home." Gloria said softly, crawling through the shaft. The area ahead of her was divided into three separate directions.
Just got to keep a positive attitude and pick one, she thought as she felt a sudden rush of cool air. "This school won't get me," she muttered to herself. "I won't let it kill me.
It wasn't until she realized that she was going around in circles that she heard her name being called. A voice that sent a chill through her.
Gloria began to crawl over a grill when she froze in horror. Mr. Taylor and Principal Logan marched over to Steve. "Did you have any luck?" Steve asked almost forgetting whose body he was in. "She couldn't get out of the building on a bet if she tried."
"None," Mr. Taylor replied. "It's not like she can go through walls."
"Not yet, any ways!" Steve exclaimed, wondering if his new body will become ghostly too. "Bruce told you to find her. Keep searching."
Removing the grill, Gloria dropped to the hallway below. In Steve's body, she had become bolder than ever before. Man, that was close, she thought.
An approaching shadow appeared on the wall. "Is - Is someone there?" Steve called out. Bruce stepped out from the shadows and forced Gloria's body to back up against the basement door.
"I don't believe it." said Steve. he press on the door and was surprise when it opened. Steve moved quickly down the basement steps. Bruce watched as the female body soon disappeared into the darkness below. But he wasn't about to let anyone get away.
Gloria had thought the upstairs was creepy. But the hissing pipes made the basement even worst. She avoided touching the hot pipes as she made her way toward the back of the room. She could no longer see Bruce or Steve with the light atop the stairs. She couldn't wonder if he had followed her into the basement.
Gloria never wanted to see Susan and the guys more. "Susan!" Gloria's whispered voice urged for a reply. "Is anyone here? There must be another way out of here," she whispered.
"That might be it." Gloria spotted a wooden door at the far end of the room. "Hello?" she asked. Stepping inside, she saw the outline of a short man in the corner. "H-Hello?" Gloria repeated.
Gloria quietly approached the figure. It wasn't till she reached the figure that she realized it was just a hat and coat on a chair. "Gloria, I know your down here."
The sound of Bruce's voice made her realize why she came down into the basement. Gloria raced to hide behind the furnace. But she tripped over a mop and fell on her face. "I hear you in there!"
"You have to get moving!" Jason urged as he and Kirk appeared before her in mannequin bodies. "Where am I going to hide," she asked quickly. "This area is a dead end."
"You just have to know where to look," Jason said. "Now come on."
Gloria got to her brothers feet. "Where?"
"Here," Kirk said. To Gloria's surprise, a tap of the plastic fused mannequin fingers on the wall revealed a secret door. "Get going You'll soon see why."
Gloria stepped confusingly inside. "But- Oh," she said. She notice a table against the far wall. Both were covered in old newspaper clippings.
"This is were police found the articles they gave the library." Jason grabbed a death article and pointed to the red X over the picture.
"Welcome to my home," Bruce glided across the floor. He held Gloria's recorder in his transparent hand. "Looking for this?"
Gloria let out a startled cry. She quickly looked for another way out. Gloria look down at her pale, male skinny body. With her new muscle mass decreasing, she knew she didn't have the strength to open another hidden door.
Bruce moved closer to her. As she backed up, she felt the table press against her back. "Where's my brother," Gloria choked out. "And my body. What'd you do to him?"
"Huh?" Bruce gasped.
"Forget about him!" he ordered. "He doesn't have the strength to stand, let alone help you."
"I just want to go home," she sighed.
"You know my parents are probably worried about me by now," Gloria said softly. "The police is will be combing the town."
"You think you're the first kid I snatched?" Bruce grinned. "Even with your friends spreading ghost stories in Hill Elementary, nobody found them. You'll be just a memory too."
"But - But the school's empty." she stammered with her eyes shut.
"Empty in this dimension," he corrected. "But you'll soon be crossing over to mine." The words came out of his mouth with all the ease of a locomotive. His voice had both tones of determination and fright.
Gloria ran straight through Bruce's ghostly form, grabbing her recorder as went. "Fine," Bruce murmured. "If that's the way you want it. We'll do things the hard way."
To Gloria's fear, he started floating after her. She heard him call out. "Wait for me!"
The pipes continued to groan around her. Echoing with eerie moans. She searched fearfully. She knew that the basement doors must be nearby. She only wished that Susan and the guys would make themselves know. Help her out.
This is crazy, she thought. I made my way through most of the basement alone. Surely I can make my way back out. Gloria watched the shadows for movement. Any one of them could really be Bruce, trying to sneak up on her. The longer she stood still the closer they seem to come. Tightening around her like a noose.
"You really think you can escape me," asked Bruce. "It's to laugh."
As Gloria backed away from him, she didn't notice low pipe behind her. The back of her head made a loud CLANG as it slammed into the pipe. At first she only saw the floor coming up to grab her. Then she felt the pain of her side impacting against the ground.
When Gloria opened her eyes, she was starring at the ceiling. Her vision was so blurry she could barely focus. She sat up with her arms at her side and swung her head around.
"Hello?" She said, her voice nothing more than a whisper. If Bruce was anywhere nearby, she didn't want her voice heard. She rose to her brother feet as a nurse walked in and realized it wasn't a nightmare. "Your up," she said flatly. She place her hand on Gloria's forehead and then checked her heart. "It shouldn't be long now."
Gloria looked at the nurse with a confused look on her face. Then she saw how pale and sickly her brothers reflection in the full length mirror was. "Th-That's me?"
"Yeah. But don't you worry," the nurse said. "You'll look better once you're dead. Bruce says you and your brother are the last," she went on. "His twisted little ghost school is complete after all these years."
"I'm not staying," Gloria said. "If there's a way in... there's a way out."
Gloria stepped outside the nurse's office and stopped. The once empty hallway was swaming with kids and teachers. The kids stopped and stared at her. She stared back at them.
"Bruce kidnapped all of you?" asked Gloria.
One girl looked at the others and then stepped forward. She nodded. "Kids been appearing at this school for the last two or three years."
"Ever since the downtown school burned down." A boy blurted out. "Ever so often a new kid would just appear. Since Bruce would intercept any transfer papers...the kids didn't know till it was too late."
"Hasn't anyone tried to escape?" asked Gloria.
"Before we could try...it was too late." the girl said. "It still isn't too late for you.
And you have the Hill Elementary ghosts on your side."
At that moment, the idea that the Hill Elementary ghosts were on her side wasn't all that comforting. "Where are they!" she tried to sound tough. "For that matter, where's my brother? He's in my body and has to be here."
The boy finally broke the silence. "He's in the library study hall," he whispered. "He has no memory of bringing you here. Only of the body swap that happened to him."
"How was I brought here?" asked Gloria. "I thought...the phantom bus."
"The bus is just a tool." the girl murmured. "It's Bruce who has the power to cross to the real world. The only one here who can. Then we must find out how he does it!" she insisted.
"Maybe we can learn how too."
Gloria grabbed the book bag that Bruce left for her so she could start classes in the ghost school right away. She walked straight to the library and saw Steve asleep in front of an open book.
Rubbing his eyes, he looked up and gasped when he saw his sister's appearance. "What happened to you?"
"You should talk," Gloria joked. "Looked into a mirror lately."
Steven then looked down and gasped at a pair of arms that were nothing but skin and bone. He rose shakily in his sister's shoes, unable to believe his own eyes. Suddenly his eyes grew wider. "I remember," he ex- claimed. "Your friends - they were ghosts. Bruce had me warn you."
Gloria glared at him. "Bruce's a ghost too. He's the one who trapped us here. If we don't get my recorder to the real world, we'll become ghosts ourselves. Never able to take off these ghostly clothes off each other body."
"But-," Steve began. His thin legs were almost too weak to stand. "He warned us about the Ghost School."
"He was just trying to get me to join you!" Gloria presisted.
"We really wanted to tell you," a girl at Steve's table interrupted. "We just didn't want to get your hope up."
"They say that only Bruce can cross back over to the real world," Gloria explained, feeling weak herself and taking a seat at the rectangular table. "But you've traveled with him. Do you remember how he does it?"
"Remember?" he replied. "But. But. We just took the bus home. Just like in our old school."
"Bruce created the illusion of a full bus," the girl chimed in. "Either he or one of his phantoms kept our attention throughout the trip.
"I was afraid you were going to say that." Gloria walked over to the bulletin board. "There has to be an answer. Maybe if our spirit form entered on of the statues or mannequins we could escape when shipped out to some store."
"Nothing is ever shipped out for real." The girl continued. "All part of the illusion to make it seem normal until it's too late. Only some of the in shipments of people are real. Now that the school is complete we probably won't have that anymore."
Scanning the bulletin board, Gloria found another clue. Bruce's phantom bus schedule was still pinned up on the board. The times for pick up and drop off were always exactly the same. They didn't vary for a second.
"Yes!" Gloria turned to them. "Do any of you know where the bus is kept when it isn't on route? I think I might know how to end this curse."
"The lot is just across the street." the girl replied. "You can only see the bus from inside the school."
Gloria stepped up to a window. With the exception of the bus, it still looked like a construction site. Including the sign set up on the lawn.
"That's why he's been trying so hard," she said. "Bruce has been on a time schedule to complete his school before the town started on the mall."
"What do you mean?" asked the girl. "Since we're already dead, we've got all the time in the world."
"Doesn't explain why all the times are "EXACTLY" the same," Gloria said. "Maybe it has something to do with Hill Elementary's bus schedule. If only I knew what it was."
"Maybe if we can find your friends, we can ask them," Steve suggested. "I think they were taken to the basement."
"Okay," Gloria began. "First, we get them away from Bruce. Then, we find out what they know about both bus routes."
"Maybe we should help you to the basement," the girl suggested. She caught Steve as he legs gave out. "I'm Katrina and that's Philip." she pointed to the boy.
"Uh...Pleasure to meet you," she told them, leaning on the ghosts for support. "We'd better hurry. Any longer, we won't have the strength to find away home."
"Much longer, you won't be leaving here at all," Katrina murmured, helping her out of the library.
"I can't believe you were right," Steve muttered. He found he barely had the strength to hold his head up. Gloria coughed. She could feel herself getting sicker. She realized if she felt as bad as she did, Steve who spent his days in ghost school, was in considerably worst shape.
They're brave, thought Philip, knowing that the two are willing to help them. Not just trying to help themselves. The four of them stopped in their tracks when Bruce appeared in the hall. A smile spread across his face.
"Trouble standing, Gloria?" asked Bruce. The two gripped their friends sides for support. Steve was looking like a living skeleton and Gloria wasn't far behind. Both appeared to be on their last legs. "Perhaps you need a mannequin display rod to hold you up for now."
"We're not dead yet," Gloria flashed Bruce a challenging glare. She bit her brother's lower lip. Bruce answered with laughter. None of the kids he'd chosen had ever escape him. After awhile, even the missing persons department forgot about them. It was obvious he didn't take her threats of escape seriously.
"I've figured enough about what you're doing! Sooner or later," she said. "I'll figure out how you cross over."
Shoving Bruce against the wall, Philip allowed Katrina and Gloria get to the basement door. "Locked." Gloria's hand weakly turned the knob. "Haven't the strength to break it down."
"Don't worry," Katrina slipped her ghostly arm through the door and unlocked it from the other side. "They can't be prisoners," she said as Gloria observed her friends chained to a wall.
"Gloria!" Susan looked up.
"We don't know how the ghost chains work," Katrina said. "But they do."
Katrina leaned Gloria and Steve against the wall, and Philip held a torch up to the chains. What he looked at was the locks as he tried to pick them. It would only take a few minutes to release them all.
With Gloria and Steve against the wall, Katrina was free to help with the locks. Katrina looked at Gloria and wished she could be alive again. Able to smell the freedom of the air like Susan and the other had for a short time. To have the ability to really go shopping instead of being in the same clothes forever.
"How do we get to the bus?" Gloria demanded. She grabbed the wall and planted her feet as firmly as she could. "How was it you could leave Hill Elementary after you died?"
"We tried to explain," Kirk said. "We died in the other school's fire. We're not under the curse that you and the others are."
Gloria glared at the three. "And the bus?"
"You won't be able to see it," Jason said. "Perhaps we can guide you to it."
Steve and Gloria dropped to the floor. The five ghosts moved over to them. Gloria laid her head down in her brothers lap. "That's not what I meant."
"Do you remember the school bus schedule for Hill Elementary?" asked Gloria.
"There's only five minutes difference between them," Susan said. Gloria scratched her head. "What could take place during those five minutes." She raised her arm so that Susan could help her to her feet.
The group left the basement, turning to look out the window. Gloria couldn't help but wonder if she rode it out of the real world, she and Steve could return to their own bodies again. They saw Principal Logan standing out beside the bus. They also saw that Mr. Taylor was guarding the front door. They knew getting to the bus wouldn't be easy.
Steve's foot slid out, his sisters body slipping in Philip's grasp. Philip stopped him from falling to the floor and pulled him back to his feet. "What's the plan, miss perfect," He asked who looked up through his sisters eyes. "You've gotten us this far."
Gloria took this time to examine their opinions. "We'll worry about Logan when we get to the bus. Right now, we'd better avoid Taylor by heading down the back steps."
Steve hopped to keep his feminine body from falling to the floor. "Now I know how a rag doll feels," he joked.
"Going somewhere," Bruce asked. "Aren't you going to fill me in on the fun?"
"Step a side!" Kirk ordered.
"You heard him," Jason added.
"Guess you never read my brochure," Bruce said. "All transfers to Ghost School are final. I suggest you all go find a place to relax. You'll be attending classes soon enough."
"Don't panic," Susan spoke up. "We'll get you out of this."
"Of course you shouldn't panic!" Steve blurted out. "You're already dead. What do you have to fear?"
"Just stick close," Susan instructed them.
"This is crazy. We should find a phone and call home," Steve argued.
"Shut up," Kirk grinned.
"Just get out of our way, Susan said. "We're blowing this place."
"Certainly," Bruce said, stepping to one side. Leaning forward, he shoved the door open for them. "Go ahead."
The group of seven ran down the hill, catching sight of the guard by the invisible phantom bus. "If nobody can leave this ghost world but Bruce, why the guard?" asked Gloria.
"Why are you asking me?" asked Susan.
"You're the one who seems to know everything about this ghost school," Gloria said. "Somehow I feel like you know more than you're letting on. "Thanks a lot," Susan replied. "You could try to get the principal's attention."
"Pssst! Over here!"
Principal Logan looked up. "Hello?" He called. He trudged around to the other side of the invisible bus. He looked toward the school's back steps, but saw they were empty. "I can't see where you are!" Logan called out.
"This is crazy," Steve whispered. "We can't even see the bus. How are we expected to board it.
"What's worst is that we're forgetting the recorder," Gloria remembered. "If we don't bring it with us, the curse will never end."
"How are we suppose to end a curse if we don't live to do it?" asked Steve.
"Will you two stop it!" Kirk shouted, watching Steve drop to the ground again.
"Great," Susan muttered. "If Principal Logan didn't hear you before...he did now."
"Come on," Katrina urged. "We've got to get out of here."
No one made a move. None of them spoke a word. Then they spotted Principal Logan's legs through the slits of the stairs. If the principal knew they were under the stairs, he'd of hasten their deaths.
"Someone here?" asked Principal Logan. "If this is a prank, you'll regret it."
Philip glanced uncomfortably at Gloria and Steve. "What now?" he asked.
"I doubt he'll just go away," Gloria whispered. "We can't stay here until Steve and I expire. We'll not only be each other forever, but we'll only be able to feel live by entering the many statues and mannequins around the school."
"You're in no shape to loose him," Susan sighed. She waited in a crouch position till the principal had his back turned, then took off."
"Hey!" Principal Logan ordered. "Get back here. Where do you think you're going?"
"Catch me if you can," Susan replied.
The other six waited till Principal Logan had taken off, then headed back into the school. "That was close."
"I see that you're back." Bruce stood in the back hall with a wide smile on his face. "Knew you would."
Gloria watched as Bruce lifted the recorder up. "I believe you've come back for this. "Soon, all your bones will be mush," Bruce laughed. "You might as well except your place here."
"Never!" Gloria growled as she flew through Bruce's phantom body and landed on the floor. She looked up at him. "I want it back!"
"You will have it back!" Katrina said as she snapped it away from Bruce. He stretched out as she ducked out of his grasp. Watched as she tossed it toward her friend. "Catch!"
"You traitors!" Bruce shouted, watching them take off. "Bring that back!"
"A good plan," Philip said. "But aren't you forgetting about Principal Logan? Maybe finding an outside duct would of been better."
"You must be forgetting that Susan is acting as a decoy," Katrina replied.
"That way," Jason said, pointing to two figures moving through the shadows. It didn't take a genius to know that they weren't playing tag.
The longer they spend outside, the more Gloria and Steve shivered. Without the sounds of cars or even birds, the area outside of Ghost School frightened them.
"Why aren't there any sounds?" asked Gloria.
"This is Bruce's private Ghost World, after all," Kirk answered. "It's not like we're in Heaven or anything."
Katrina and Philip stopped. They weren't in the mood to tangle with both Principal Logan and Bruce. Especially with carrying the extra weight of the living.
"Hey - What's the matter? Why did you stop? We have to make to the phantom bus and get out of here."
"How do you explain we do that?" Jason asked.
"Very easily," Gloria said. "We make a run for it. You get Susan's attention while we try to start it up. Let's just hope we can drive it out of here."
"I'm sure we can," Kirk said. "We've come this far. We've got an idea where it's parked."
"That's good," Katrina said. "These two are anything but light."
"Very funny," Gloria said, feeling a sharp pain in her side. "It's not like I'm in my own body. Can we just get going?"
Seeing Susan heading in their direction, Kirk ran for where they thought the phantom bus was. "We're out of here!"
Gloria sat down behind the wheel, and noticed the keys weren't in the ignition. She slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand.
"No -" She cried. "I should of known it wouldn't be that easy."
"Wouldn't of done us any good if the keys were there," Steve complained. "None of us know how to drive."
"Steve -!" Gloria started. She realized that yelling at her brother wouldn't help them.
"All right," Gloria spoke calmly. "Everyone out of the bus. There's got to be another way."
"Hah!" Principal Logan cried, leaping onto the bus. "Got you now!"
"What are we going to do?" Steve cried. A tone of panic came from his shrilled voice. The group slowly rose.
Susan slowly moved the group toward the back of the bus. "The emergency exit - quickly!"
Kirk and Jason forced the emergency exit open and scrambled out. "Come back here!" Principal Logan cried, chasing after them. "Bruce! They've tried for the bus!" Gloria glanced down at the recorder in her hand. "What good is a recorded confession if there's nobody to hear it."
"I'm here to listen," Bruce said, sitting on the back steps. "Would you care to play it for me?"
"You're nuts!" Steve shouted, hiding the recorder in his sister's purse. "And your not getting your hands on it again."
"Nuts, am I?" asked Bruce.
"Only someone out of his mind would burn down a school full of people," she said. Something's wrong, Steve thought. Keeping her hand in her purse she pressed the play button. She prayed it didn't get erased when it was in his hands.
"You're the one who caused the deaths in Hill Elementary, didn't you?" His voice came off the machine.
At least it's still on tape, Steve thought. The recorder slip out from between his thin fingers and landed in the bottom of the purse.
"I don't even have the strength to hold it anymore," Gloria whispered to Katrina. "I don't think we've got long before we're stuck here forever."
"Don't worry," Susan said. "We'll think of something."
"Like giving up," Bruce giggled. "That is if you're smart. You've got nowhere to go."
Gloria knew that he was right. They had gotten out of the building but not off the school grounds. "Now what?"
"We've never gotten beyond the fence," Katrina said. "The curse won't let us. Unless it's on the phantom bus."
"We're not under the curse," Kirk reminded her. With that, he stepped through the fence like it wasn't there. "Too bad we can't help Gloria and Steve as easily."
Weakly, Steve pointed. "Quickly, we can keep away from him at the playground."
Both Gloria and Steve knew that Bruce was just keeping them busy. Making sure that they were going round in circles until there time ran out.
"We're we going, Gloria asked, her voice shaky. "If we don't get off this property, we're done for."
"Will you stop speaking like that." Steve glared as he turned back toward her.
"You make my body look like such a wimp. Remember the war games in the old school," he said. "My team use to outsmart yours by going down the slide's support poles. We couldn't catch your team when they went in and out of the gym."
"They don't have to catch us." Gloria reminded him. "They just have to keep us here."
"Stop it!" Steve scolded her. "The one piece of truth Bruce did say was: girls are a pain."
"We're not getting anywhere arguing." Gloria tried to calm down. "And we're running out of time."
"We'll make it out..." Steve sounded doubtful.
Katrina and Philip pulled them to the center of the jungle gym. They watched as Bruce, Principal Logan and Mr. Taylor guarded the three sided steel cage.
"How do we do that?" Gloria asked him. "Coming here was your idea."
"You're the one who came to the school." Steve argued.
"I came to save you!" She argued.
"Cut it out!" Kirk shouted at the two of them. "You'll only make yourselves weaker - faster."
The two sighed. Realizing he was right, they apologized to one another.
"Okay, Kirk," Steve said. "I know you're only trying to help. What do you suggest."
"I suggest we go with Gloria's plan B," Kirk replied. "It takes a ghost to stop a ghost."
"We do have them out numbered," Susan looked toward their two latest allies. "I suppose..." Katrina agreed, looking toward Philip. He nodded back. "Wh-What's wrong?" asked Gloria.
"The other students fear Bruce because he made ghosts out of them," Philip said. "They'll listen to him if Bruce calls for reinforcements."
"I - I suggest we do it," Gloria said. Looking at Steve's arm, she noticed that it was now transparent. The five ghosts stepped through the bars. As they kept Bruce and the teachers back, Gloria and Steve was able to use the jungle gym bars to help them stand. Gloria looked worriedly at Steve when she noticed the other kids had stepped outside and started cheering.
"Why are they just standing there and cheering?" Gloria asked out loud. "Not that I'm complaining. Shouldn't they be either helping us or Bruce?"
She couldn't understand why any of them would listen to Bruce. How her friends could be so much different than those trying to stop her. Most of them had become ghosts the same way. Dying when the school was set on fire.
Just thinking of the reasons boggled her brain. One fact still remained true. If she didn't get off the school grounds soon, she'd end up in the same condition as her brother. Remembering that, she looked in his direction glad not to be in her own body at this time. More of her former body had become transparent.
Gloria and Steve used the distraction of the fight to crawl out of the jungle gym. They listen to the cheers. But they dared not look back to see who was winning. "This way! Behind here!" Steve lead the way behind a stone wall. "I saw an open window."
They heard the crowd continue to cheer Bruce. One shouted: Watch out behind you!
"Yes!" A girl jabbed her fist into the air. "That's it! Show them who's boss!"
One boy spun around and spotted Steve and Gloria as they climbed in the window. "Hey!"
"Stop them!" A girl joined in. "They're not one of us yet."
The crowd's cheer slowed down. It only stopped for a moment. When the cheers started again, they were cries for blood as they started running back into the school.
"Barricade the door!" Gloria ordered as she felt more confident in the stronger male body.
I just wish you were strong enough to help." Steve grabbed the arm desk and reached for the lock. As he turned the lock, one of the ghost kids popped his head through the door. They stepped toward them and stopped when the entire ghostly group was in the room.
Steve crawled back to Gloria feeling weaker. They sat side by side, feeling stupid to think that a lock door could stop them. The lead boy had to smile. He looked at the silence of the others. He they stepped forward.
"We can't wait for the school to take you," he said. With a strong jerk of her arm, she was pulled to her feet. She noticed her skin looked like the color of dead leaves. "We're going to hurry up the process. To the metal shop!"
"No. No. Get away!" Gloria and Steve both spoke in a hoarse tone. "Leave us alone."
"We're doomed!" Steve cried. "By the time your friends finish with Bruce, we'll be beyond help."
"Calm down." Gloria tried her best to sound optimistic. "There must be some way out of this."
"As usual," Steve said. "It's all your fault."
"What!" Gloria cried.
"You should of known they'd come through the door!" Steve exclaimed. "Locking the door was dumb."
"Keeping them from coming through the door was your idea." she reminded him. "Was not." he declared.
"Was too." she shot back.
"This is getting us nowhere." Gloria declared. "We have to work together if we're gonna get out of this."
"What's your plan now?" Steve demanded. "We barely have any muscles to move. I'm finding it hard enough to talk."
"Then shut up!" Gloria cried.
"That's good advice," the lead boy said. "Why don't you both shut up."
Gloria watched as one group pinned her brother down while another went for the on button.
"Please - don't!" she begged. "Maybe if you help us, we can help you."
The leader of the group turned to her. "Bruce's school must be complete."
Keeping a tight grip on her, she found she could barely move a muscle. She kicked her legs and struggle and rocked her body effortlessly.
"You can't do that to him!" Gloria cried. "It's inhuman!"
"We haven't been human for years!" the lead boy exclaimed. "Soon...it'll be your turn."
Gloria swallowed hard. "It is my fault," she whispered.
"This isn't a joke," Gloria said. She couldn't tell if they where listening to her or not. All were more focus on Steve.
"I can't let you!" Gloria exclaimed. She summoned up all her might to kick the lead boy in the chest. She realized that she must be closer to a ghost state for him to feel it.
The crowd all turned around when they heard the crash from Gloria falling off the table.
With all eyes and hands off of Steve, he was able to make a floppy fall to the floor. "What are you doing?" Bruce cried. He stepped over to the ban saw and hit the off switch. He then turned to the group.
The group just stood still in silence. They lowered their heads. Gloria and Steve couldn't believe that they were so brainwashed.
He turned to Steve. "They are to be turned when the school decides it's time."
"I want you all to return to class." Bruce ordered as the ghost students slowly turned and walked silently out of the room.
"I am sorry," Bruce said with a dark grin on his face. He lifted Steve up onto his back in piggy back style. "I'll be back for you."
After Bruce left with Steve, Gloria saw Susan and the others at the workshop's window. They signaled for her to be quiet.
Gloria reached up to the table, only to notice that her arm was completely transparent. Just like the bodies of the ghost students. As her arm passed through the top of the table she realized how easy it was for the other ghosts to enter and control the mannequins and stuff when they wanted to warn new arrivals.
She dropped back to the ground and just stared at what was left of her arm. She couldn't help but wonder if her arm was gone, how much did Steve have left. She didn't even notice that Susan, Kirk and Jason had sneaked inside.
"Look at me," she said. With a fearful look on her face, she showed Susan her arm. "I'm disappearing before my very eyes. "Come on," Susan said worriedly. "We've got to keep that recorder out of Bruce's hands."
"It's hopeless," Gloria sighed. "Steve was right all along. We're gonna end up as ghosts."
"Not if we can help it," Kirk said. He and Jason held Gloria up as Susan opened the window.
They had taken Gloria around the side of the school, when she noticed that Katrina and Philip wasn't with them. "What happen to Katrina and Philip?" asked Gloria.
"Principal Logan gave them detention," Jason replied, leaning her up against a tree. "Of course it was Bruce's idea."
"You'll be safe here," Kirk said. "We'll see about springing them when we get Steve."
"Why bother," Gloria sighed. "As I said, none of us are ever going to leave this Ghost World's school.
"Don't be an idiot," Kirk snipped, being punched in the arm by Jason.
"He means, give us some credit," Susan interrupted. "We got you into this mess...we can get you out."
Gloria slid further behind the tree, keeping herself out of sight of the school's windows. As she looked at herself, she knew that they'd better hurry.
She could hear the three ghost friends as they moved brisky across the school grounds. They opened the back door, peaked inside to make sure the coast was clear, and moved down the hall.
Reaching the library, the placed their backs flush against the wall. "On the count of three," Kirk whispered. "One...Two...Three!" He cried out as the three of them ran into the library. A quick survay of the area told them Steve wasn't there.
"Where now?" asked Susan. "Detention Hall?"
"Even if the answer is no..." Jason told them. "...We could still use Katrina and Philip's help in the search."
"I think it's this way," Kirk pointed toward the school's elevator. "I remember Jason and I passed it before we crossed over to this Ghost World."
The three of them krept up the door and peaked through the window. Inside, they saw Katrina, Philip and Steve locked to chairs with ghost chains.
"How are we going to get them out?" Susan asked.
"They won't be expecting someone to come up from underneath," Kirk told them. "We come up through the floor and pick the locks."
"Good idea," Susan said. The three of them pass through to the basement. They floated beneath the office and came up through floor of the outer office.
"Pssst! Keep quiet and don't look down," Jason whispered. "Have you out in a sec."
Breaking the weak link in the chains, Susan and the guys floated up into the room. "We're outta here!"
They opened the door for Steve and started to run. They stepped into the hall and slipped on the wet floor. "Oh!" Steve cried out as he was the only one who could still feel pain.
A ghost janitor laughed as the kids got up from the ectoplasm he was washing with.
"Get them! Bruce's orders!" Principal Logan shrieked.
The janitor and Logan grabbed Steve. As Steve struggled, the others shoved the two through the wall. "Let's go!" Kirk cried. "They'll be back on our trail any moment."
"After them!" Mr. Taylor said, turning the corner and seeing the kids run off.
"This would be easier if you could walk," Philip told Steve. He held up one side while Jason held the other. Bruce just stood under a clock that read: 2:00 and watched them go by.
"You're not going anywhere," Bruce murmured, a spooky smile spreading across his face. "Nowhere to go."
The clock, Steve thought. Why didn't I realize it before.
"We have to find Gloria!" Steve blurted out. "I need to look at that bus list Gloria was looking at before."
"What you want that old thing for?" Susan asked.
"We know there's a five minute difference between the Ghost School bus and the Elementary bus," Jason said. "What else is there?"
"The clock reminded me of something," Steve replied. "Something important about the time."
"What can be more important than escape?" Philip asked.
"Your not making any sense," Jason added. "We can't hold you up all day."
"You're not going anywhere?" A female teacher stepped out in front of them. She spoke in the same tone as Bruce.
A chill ran up what was left of Steve's spine. Nearly three-fouths of Steve's body had become transparent. The group turned and saw Bruce was standing with the other adult ghosts they had seen. Bruce stood in front of them with his weird smile remaining.
"Told you," Bruce grinned. "There's no escape for any of you. I think this require more than detention." The student ghosts stepped out from the classrooms.
"I think you can still escape!" Steve cried angrily. His hoarse voice almost too weak to be heard. "The phantom bus will soon take its last run."
"Last run? What are you talking about?" Susan asked.
Steve opened his mouth but no sound came out. He placed one hand on his throat, unable to understand why he lost his voice.
Susan looked worriedly at the others. She didn't know what harm one could do to a ghost, but she knew it would only happen to her and the guys. Bruce needed Philip and Katrina for his twisted ghost school.
They stopped at the top of the basement stairs. Their arms were kept behind their backs. They eyed the darkness below as they were forced down. A lit torch at the bottom seemed the only light.
The first room down below was filled with medieval torture devices. It looked nothing like the basement Gloria visited in the real world. "The chains and devices are especially made for ghosts," Bruce smiled. "I've been planning my Ghost World for a long time. A world where a kid could have power over adults."
"By making prisoners and slaves of us all!" Kirk shouted.
"Don't get him any madder," Susan said, biting her bottom lip. She couldn't take her eyes off the devices.
"Susan's right," Jason agreed. "We have to use our heads to get out of this. Figure out what Steve meant about the Phantom Bus riding out here."
"It would explain the guard on the bus," Philip said. "No escape! No escape! No escape!" The cries of the kids sounded like a broken record.
The ghost kids cheered as Bruce pulled a curtain away and reavealed a giant wheel. "Let it not be said that I'm heartless," Bruce told them. "You'll spin to see what your
punishment will be. Maybe you'll be having endless orgasm by spending the next year in one of the sex education dolls."
Susan tried to break free. But the crowd of kids made sure she couldn't move. Susan shook her head. From among the cheering crowd, there was a ghost which she sensed didn't belong. One which was not on Bruce's side.
"Just chain them for now," Bruce ordered. "We don't want them to miss Steve's turning."
A ghostly Gloria made her way behind Bruce with a fire extinguisher. "I think my brother's changed his mind!"
"Huh?" Jason looked up in disbelief. He watched as foam fire from the extingusiher and impacted against Bruce.
"Gloria," Susan asked. "How-."
"While I laid behind the tree, I let the change happen," Gloria told her. "Unlike Steve, I didn't fight. My body was helpless," Gloria went on. "I knew it was the only way to rescue my brother.
Steve hesitated, then smiled. He tried speak but nothing came out. He tapped Susan on the shoulder.
"That's right," Susan said in a gentle voice. "Steve thinks the phantom bus has one more run. He said something about the bus schedule before loosing his voice."
"We'll look at it outside," Gloria said. "Now hurry up and get out of here."
Gloria provided the cover as the group retreated during the confusion. They made their way down the hall and out the school's back doors. Reaching the school yard, Steve's silent eyes swept over his sister. She reached into her pocket with her transparent
hand, pulled out the bus schedule and handed it to Susan.
Steve looked over Susan's shoulder and started stabbing a time with his finger. She looked back at him with a questing look and said: 2:25?"
"But Ghost School is complete," she said. "At least it will be when you finish turning."
Gloria smiled. "As long as it isn't complete, we've got a chance."
"I don't understand," Jason replied.
"But I think I do," Gloria went on. "As long as the transformation isn't complete, the bus will run at 2:25. It can take us home."
"It's almost that time now," Kirk said, looking at his watch. "If we're going to catch it, we'd better."
"Stop them!" Panic sounded in Bruce's voice as he lead the ghost students and teachers out the back doors.
The engine roared as the bus became visible before them. Gloria, Steve and their friends filed on board just before the doors closed.
Steve could only pray that the bus ride would work. Otherwise he'd end up like Susan and the guys. Wandering between the cemetery and Hill Elementary School. A Sixth grader for all eternity.
He thought about how worried his mom and dad must be. He knew that the bus was his only chance to see them again. He also thought of how fearsome looking the bus driver was. He wondered if she was under Bruce's spell too.
Steve looked at his watch. For the first time since his arrival at Ghost School it worked. Not having to rely on the school clocks, he knew that he had one minute to see if it worked.
The skeleton driver stared with worms and insects traveling among its bones. A bony foot pressed down on the gas. The bus pulled out. The skeleton morphed into a solid looking ghost woman.
Steve felt himself getting weaker. Finding it hard to think, he glanced to the back of the bus. His friends were the only other passages on board. The ghost driver smiled back at Steve. "Glad you could make it. It's the last run you know."
"Say," she went on. "Did you ever find that sister of yours? Or is it brother now?"
"Y-Yeah." Steve took in a breath. With great effort, he pointed her out. "She turned already."
"Welcome aboard," she smiled. "Your brother's told me a lot about you. Of course I didn't believe half of it."
"No!" Gloria cried, not hearing a word the driver was saying. "Why aren't I turning back? Steve hasn't much time?"
"Turn back?" The driver giggled. "Not this run. Where this bus is going, there's no turning back!"
"You have to help us," Gloria pleaded. "You're the only one who can."
The bus driver reached out and shoved Gloria. Gloria fell backwards, stumbling into her seat. She hit her funny bone when she landed. "Enjoy the ride, she said, giving off a cackling laugh.
"What do I need to do?" Gloria got on her knees. "If I have to beg...I will."
The driver stomped down on the gas. The bus jumped off all four wheels. It sailed several feet before coming down in a thud.
"Stop it," Gloria ordered in a terrified voice.
Grabbing the seat before her, she somehow managed to pull herself to her brothers feet. She grabbed hold of the wheel and struggled with the driver. "Let go," the driver ordered, giving a harsh glare.
The driver gave the wheel a hard turn. The jerking of the bus, pulled it out of Steve's hands. The driver's haunting glare looked right through her. The floor of the bus came up hard against her back. She couldn't understand how a ghost could feel pain. When she first turned, she felt only a numbness.
"Enjoy the ride," said the driver again.
"No!" said Gloria. She froze when she heard her own high pitch voice instead of her brothers.
A hand shot out and grabbed Gloria by the shoulder. She looked over her shoulder and saw Steve. He stared at her face and smiled. "How am I suppose to get better with the bus jerking about," he joked.
Gloria froze. She opened Steve's mouth to speak, but no words came out. Seeing brother standing before her was like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. All she could do was give him a hug. "We got our bodies back! I was so worried. I thought you were dead!
Bet you wish I were," Steve pulled back. "Then you'd get all the best Christmas presents." Gloria looked at her own arms. They were no longer transparent. She had become as solid as her brother.
"Joke all you want!" Gloria cheered as she jumped up and down with a smile on her face. "I'm happy we're alive."
"Not for long," Steve interrupted, pointing at the wind shield. The bus suddenly made a screeching turn on two wheels.
Gloria closed her eyes and listened to the sound of screeching tires. She could only pray that death was as painless the second time. She opened them when she heard Susan's voice. Her body was being shaken. "If you don't want to be ghosts again, you'd better do something."
"This time they'll be no turning back," Jason added. Forgetting that the driver had shoved her down once before, Gloria grabbed the wheel again. "Stop the bus!"
"Hey," The driver shouted. "Release the wheel. I have a run to finish."
"You're not taking me to my death!" Gloria screamed over the increasing roar of the engine. "Who said anything about death," the driver spoke, her voice calming down. "This is the last run between Ghost School and the real world."
Gloria released her grip and stepped back. She had realized that's the reason she and Steve was solid again.
She had just wished that her ghostly friends could of been changed back too. Their fiery deaths had made that quite impossible.
Staring out through the windshield, Gloria could first only see a sea of sparkling lights in a wall of mist. Then, came the Green Hill Mall construction sign and a parked bulldozer.
"All, right, then!" The driver said, opening the bus' door. "Everyone off who's getting off."
"Thanks," Gloria paused for just a moment before she lead their ghostly friends off the bus. She looked over at the trolly stop but knew they didn't run so late.
"We've got to get the recorder to the police," Gloria said, checking the message. "This proof is the only way to end Bruce's hold on reality."
"Leave the transportation to us," Kirk said. Pulling a pair of bikes from a dumpster, he used his ghost powers to repair them. "Lucky the downtown school left some things behind."
"Why did you get enough for you guys?" Gloria asked.
"The mall has some of their mannequins waiting to be brought inside the mall." Susan said as she pointed to some mannequins by the back doors. "We're getting bodies so we can help at the station if needed."
Gloria pumped her legs as hard and as fast as she could. She wasn't bothering to even look to see if Steve could keep up. She just kept hoping that her theories was right.
Braking at the top of a large hill, she waited until Steve pulled up beside her. The two stared at the police station at the bottom. First, they made a quick look behind them. Then, they released their brakes and coasted down.
The word POLICE over the door was like a welcoming banner to them. The instant they reached the doors, the hopped off the bikes and rushed inside.
"Sergeant!" Steve and Gloria shouted together as they rushed to the front desk. They continued to talk at the same time as Gloria fumbled the recorder out of her pocket.
She watched the recorder slide across the table. It stopped right in front of the police sergeant. "Hold it down," The sergeant said, waving his arms as he talked. "I can't understand you. One at a time."
"All right, little lady," the policeman went on. "Now why you tell me what this' about. This time...slow down."
"The recorder," Gloria said, taking in a breath. "It has the confession of the school arsonist. The fire from a few years ago."
"That so," the sergeant chuckled. The tone of his voice told Gloria and Steve that he didn't believe them.
"It's true," Steve said. He looked for Susan and the guys to back them up.
"Okay, kids," the sergeant sighed. He picked up the recorder and pressed the play button. "Let's take a listen."
The sergeant just sat there and listened. He couldn't believe his ears. He heard Bruce's voice from when he aided the arson squad a few years back. He had always thought Bruce was guilty. But Bruce died in the downtown fire before he could pin the Hill Elementary fire on him.
Maybe if his memory was perfect, he'd of recognized the faces of Susan and the guys from the newspaper deaths. Even if their faces now had a shiny plastic appearance as the mannequin heads that remolded itself in their images.
"Guess you kids finally did this town a favor," the sergeant said, shutting off the recorder. "I can finally close the case."
As the sergeant went to hand the recorder to Gloria, it slipped out of his hand. He watched at how stiffly Steve and Gloria's friends walked out of the station. Stretching for a closer look, he noticed the three's fingers and toes were fused together and hair seemed like wigs. "Must be the long hours," The sergeant rubbed his eyes as Steve handed him the cassette. "I suggest you two get home and get some sleep."
"Thank you, officer," Gloria said with a quick wave. "After a night of research, we could use some sleep."
"You might say we're dead tired," Steve joked.
The two hurried outside, both expecting to see their friends waiting. The two made a quick look up and down the street. After a few minutes, it was clear that Susan and the guys weren't gonna reappear.
"Guess they're at rest," Gloria sighed. "They must be back at the cemetery."
"Guess we'll have to make new friends tomorrow," Steve spoke in almost a whisper. Despite the fact that Bruce was draining his life force, he was the closest friend he had.
"Rat boy," she teased. "Let's get going."
"Don't call me that!" Steve complained, climbing on his bike. He and Gloria rode for home. It took the two half an hour to reach the suburbs on their bikes. Being their first time out at night, it took them some time to find a familiar house and follow the addresses in the direction of home.
"I'm sorry I called you rat boy back there," Gloria said just before their house came in sight. "Truce?"
"You did save my life," Steve said. Gloria cracked a smile. "We saved each other's lives," she replied. "And lived one another lives."
"We'd better put our heads together," she went on. "Mom and dad will be mad at us being out all night."
"Maybe they're asleep," he said. "We could sneak in and they'd never know."
"No such luck," Gloria pointed at their house. "A light's on downstairs."
"Mom?" Gloria called out as she opened the front door. "We've come home."
"Sorry we're so late?" Steve added.
"Late?" A puzzled look fell on Mrs. Howard face as he turned to her husband. "You understand what they're talking above, Greg?"
"Not at all," Mr. Howard looked at the clock. "It just about their curfew."
"What?" Steve and Gloria looked at the clock in disbelief. "How's that possible? We've been gone all night."
"You're not hot," Mrs. Howard said, feeling felt their foreheads. "Why don't you go up to bed. We'll decide what to do in the morning."
"Well, Miss perfect?" Steve asked as they headed up. "Got a logicaly theory for that?"
"Time must run differently in the other dimension," Gloria replied. "Hours there are minutes here."
"Just great!" Steve exclaimed.
Both kids went into the rooms, flopped on their beds and stared up at the ceiling. They could here the wind chimes clang together downstairs and thought of everything they went through.
Gloria climbed out of her bed and walked to the window. She stared out at the woods as a cool breeze sent a chill through her bones. She was saddened that she'd never see her friends again.
Gloria went to the cemetery before the dawn of the next morning, and place flowers at the tombstones. She sat on the back of her heels removed a tear from her cheek. She tried to smile but couldn't.
"Well, Susan," She said, her nose all stuffed up. "We did it. We proved Bruce was your killer and destroyed any hope he'd have of completing that Ghost School."
She remained quiet as she stood up and looked around. She waited to see of the ghost of Susan, Kirk and Jason would appear. After a minute, she realized that it wasn't going to happen.
Her hope brightened when she heard the sound of footsteps moving across the cemetery's over grown yard. She looked toward the fence to see Steve standing behind her.
"When you didn't show for breakfast, mom got worried," Steve murmured. "She sent me out to look for you."
"So you found me," Gloria sighed, brushing herself off. "Let's go home."
"You know, mom is considering keeping us home from school," Steve smiled. "The way we were acting when we got home, she thinks we've lost it."
"Not like you've actually attended Hill Elementary school," Gloria laughed. "Principal Boss would love to get you in her office."
"What happens there?" asked Steve.
"Probably nothing," she replied. "Just your typical fear stories about the principal."
"There was only one weird thing I found about her," Gloria said as they exited the woods. "During the opening assembly, I thought I could see right through her."
"Weird," Steve said, heading across the street and up to their front door.
"Look at who I found!" Steve cried. He lead his sister back into the house. "Uh...She was saying bye to a friend who's no longer going to our school."
"Speaking of school," Mrs. Howard said, putting two plates of eggs and baccon on the table. "I called the principal's office about you staying home. Seems Principal Boss gone missing."
"Missing?" Gloria repeated, swallowing hard.
"Vanished in thin air," Mrs. Howard sipped her coffee. "Like she was a ghost or something."
"Oh, come on now," Steve giggled as he looked at his sister. "Everyone knows there's no such things as ghosts. I'm sure she'll turn up."
A few months later, Green Hill Mall was built on the site of the down town school. Gloria and Steve preferred to watch the grand opening from the safety of their television. "Good-bye, Steve. Good- Bye, Gloria," Mrs. Howard said, stepping out of the kitchen with her purse slung over her shoulder. "I can't believe you don't want to go to the mall.
"We're fine mom!" Gloria called. She looked up from the floor and waved good-bye.
"Don't forget what I said. Not too much television. If you change your mind, leave a note," Mrs. Howard said.
"We will," Steve replied.
Waiting till the door closed, Gloria moved from the floor to the couch. "Do you think he's still there?"
"Who?" asked Steve.
"You know who," Gloria replied. "Bruce. Do you think he's still there?"
"For crying out loud," Steve cried. "We haven't seen him or the phantom bus in months. With the down town school gone, his only access to the real world is closed forever."
"Then what's that?" Gloria asked, pointing at the screen. As Steve turned his eyes grew wider and his voice stuttered: "I-It can't be." at the image of the mall bus. It was a rebuilt school bus that was the exact model as the phantom bus.
"I must be just a coincidence," Steve went on. "It couldn't possibly be the same bus."
"Turn it off," Gloria ordered. "Seeing that bus is creeping me out."
"Something I think Bruce did have a point," Steve fired the remote like a gun slinger and shut the television off. "Girls are nothing but trouble."
That evening at dinner, the family ate in the living room and listened to the news on television. They were all shocked at a reporter's interview with the fire chief in front of a nearly burned down building.
"So Chief Williams," The reporter asked. "What exactly cause the mall's fire?"
"Both the police and fire marshels are looking into it," Chief Williams said. "Although it doubtful, we haven't ruled out arson."
"And the firemen who were taken to the hospital?" asked the reporter. "They were mumbling that they heard kids laughing."
"In a crisis, one's mind can play tricks on you," Chief Williams answered. "They've obviously mistook the screams of the dying for laugher. After all, what kid in their right mind would be laughing in the middle of a blazing inferno?"
"So you don't think that the arsonist might of been heard laughing as he or she left the scene?" The reporter moved the microphone between them.
"No more than I believe those silly Ghost School stories my kids once came home with," Williams replied. Gloria and Steve dropped their silverware and looked at one another. Mr. Howard laughed as he shut the television off. "They'll put anything on television these days," Mr. Howard laughed.
"I'm just glad that our kids are too bright to believe in ghost stories," Mrs. Howard added. "Isn't that right kids."
"Yeah...right." Gloria and Steve said at the same time. Their look was a silent pact never to go near the mall as long as they lived.