Chapter 8: "We're still here..."
Misti and Vince sat on the floor of Ava's bedroom, Vince still staring at the first few pages of the Story he had chosen to read.
"This is highly disturbing..." Vince whimpered. Misti finally grabbed the book from him and started reading. It only took a her a few lines to put it back down, slightly pale. "Do you see what I mean?"
"The one I'm reading had slight gore, but nothing at...this level..." Misti said. "I mean, listen to this part..." She picked up the book again, about to read a part aloud, when she dropped the book, covering her ears and letting out a small scream.
Don't read it aloud...never read the Story aloud...lest you want to die...
Misti blinked, her ears ringing. She barely heard the words over the earsplitting loud static and screams.
"Misti, are you alright?" Vince asked. He looked around slightly. "Maybe we should put all of these back. I don't like this...I'm constantly getting the feeling of being watched." Misti nodded and started stacking the composition books back up. "Come on. I want to monitor them for a bit. Their powers are still slightly weak, but they should be getting stronger soon. We should run some tests later today, as well."
"Or, maybe you're just anxious to get out this house." Misti said, pushing the stack back to where it belonged. "Away from these Stories..." They left Ava's bedroom, Misti closing the door behind them. She sighed and leaned against the wall, holding her head slightly.
"Misti, are you alright?" Vince asked he turned around. She tried to take a step forward, but collapsed and fell onto the floor, her husband by her side in an instant. No response in any way. This was no fainting spell, it was something else entirely.
He picked her up and rushed her out to the van, where he began hooking her up to some of the machines, monitors blinking on and revealing nothing. Clearing a low table, Vince laid Misti on it and got into the driver's seat and took off towards the old lab; he knew that the hospital was out of the question because nothing had really caused her to be this way.
Nothing known to regular humans, at least. Vince and Misti both thought of themselves as being irregulars, seeing things that normally couldn't be seen.
" ' "But we're still here," they called out.' " Ava read aloud to Melissa, who had joined Isabella on the way back from getting parts for the machine. The Lil' Spark had took an immediate liking to Ava, and her Story. " 'The person right in front of them still didn't notice their presence. "We're still here," they said, "and we're alright. Why can't you see us?"
" 'The sound of footsteps grew louder, and someone said behind them, "They don't notice you because you can't be noticed. You are now on a separate plane of existence from them. The only thing you can do is watch them live their lives, and watch them slowly forget you and your lives you once held." Through the smoky haze, the girl walked towards them and grabbed their hands. "You two made this sacrifice so the others could return safely. I'm sorry you have to go through this tragic fate, but it's better than what could've been, don't you think?" ' " Ava turned the page and smiled softly. Melissa had fallen asleep, leaning on her arm. She whispered the last few lines quietly, moving softly to not wake her. " 'And so, the two smiled sadly at their friends, said goodbye, and walked back, knowing that they would never have their voices reach them again. They lived silently in that other world, and got along well, and watched their friends grow without them, but were perfectly content with knowing they were safe.' "
Ava slowly got up and walked over towards the boys, on the ground working on the base. The Fireside Girls were working on the sides, using cranes to get them to the places they couldn't reach.
"Wow, this looks amazing so far." She said as she walked around. "You guys weren't kidding when you said that this was going to be a pretty big project."
"Actually, this one is quite tame in terms of size." Baljeet said. "Ask Irving, he has pictures of every project we've done this summer."
"Well, I might've left the scrapbook at home today..." Irving said nervously.
"That's fine." Ava said. "I've heard about your travelling around the world on the Summer Solstice from when I was in Tokyo. I can kind of imagine the scale of your inventions from just that."
"Oh, so you must know my cousins, then." Ginger said from where she was. "Or did you just hear it off the street?"
"Off the street." Ava replied. "Sorry, Ginger, I don't think I bumped into any of your cousins when I was there."
Ginger only shrugged slightly in response. Ava looked at her curiously, then shrugged as well, everybody starting to work on the project.
"So, what's this game you got for me called again?" Candace asked. She clicked on the icon. "Six Nights at Susanne's? I don't think I've heard of it."
"Well, it just got released a couple of weeks ago, so it's pretty new. Open it in windowed mode. You have a good quality webcam, right?" Stacy asked, opening other files and checking a few things. "But, anyway, it's this really cool horror game Ginger showed me the other day. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but it seems to be pretty fun!"
Candace sighed slightly. "So, what's with all the other things up? Wait a minute, you said this was a horror game? Stace, you know I'm not good with stuff like that..."
"Yeah, well, nether am I, but I really have nobody else to play this game with, I really don't want to play it alone, and besides, if we film it, I could put it on the Internet. You'd be like, an Internet celebrity." Stacy replied. "I'm going to do a sound test real quick."
"So, if I do well at this game, then I could be famous on the web?" Candace asked. "Oh, wow, I'd love that!"
"Yep, that's the plan anyway." Stacy replied, checking the volume settings on everything. "Now, Candace, in order for us to do well at this, I need you to not get distracted by your brothers. I don't want to play this anymore than I already have to."
"Well, it's not Phineas and Ferb I'm worried about, it's that Ava chick." Candace responded, looking out her window. "She has such a strange air about her...but then again, so does Emily..."
"Yes, but you like Emily." Stacy pointed out. "So, what makes Ava so different from her?"
"I think it's the way Emily and Ava hold themselves." Candace explained. "Emily walks around like she's trying to reach a higher place than she's already at. As if there's some thing she's tries to reach out for, but can't. In fact, it's almost as if she's given up on that goal entirely. Ava on the other hand, walks as if she's already reached that place Emily's trying to get to."
"But, why exactly does this affect the way you see them?" Stacy asked. "What is this place Emily's trying to get to?"
"I'm not sure, myself." Candace said. "But, it's a strange feeling I'm getting whenever I'm around her. It's like...a feeling that is unfamiliar, but nostalgic in a way at the same time... Does this make any sense?"
"Um, kind of, I guess...?" Stacy replied, slightly confused. Candace just sighed tiredly.
Dr. Doofensmirtz finally arrived in his lair a few minutes after Perry had gotten there.
"Okay, and now that I've done that, it should work..." He said, and flipped on the light switch. The lights turned on, and the robots smiled at the evil scientist once they saw him.
"Oh, you have Perry the platypus!" Dr. Doofensmirtz said as he walked towards them. "Good job, animatronics. Sorry I couldn't greet you, Perry the platypus. The power in the building's been on the fritz, and quite limited to each apartment, so each time I use too much, I have to walk, actually walk, by the stairs, to the basement level and change the generator's battery. So, it takes me quite a while to go all the way down to the basement, then find the generator, find the battery, then change it, and go all the way back up to this floor. I'm getting quite a workout, though! So, I guess that's a pro to all those cons, or cons to all those pros, or whichever one it is. Anyway, animatronics, Norm, walk with me."
The three animatronics and Norm looked at each other, then followed Doofensmirtz over to a rather large laser, with old pizza cardboard cutouts and an old paper plate doll stuck to it. The label on it read, "Haunted Pizzaria-Inator."
"Behold, the Haunted Pizzeria-Inator!" Doofensmirtz yelled, pointing at it. "So, the backstory behind this is--"
"Sir, you spelled 'pizzeria' with an 'a' instead of an 'e'." Norm pointed out.
"Yes, Norm, I know, but I can't change it because the paint hasn't finished drying yet." Doofensmirtz said. "Great, now you interrupted me in the middle of my backstory. Let me start again." He cleared his throat. "So, the backstory behind this Inator is that lately my daughter, Vanessa, you know her, Perry the platypus, you don't know her, animatronics, you haven't met her yet. See, see how this is confusing, Norm? I'm talking to Perry the platypus, who probably knows all this already, and then I'm also explaining it to the animatronics, who are completely new. It's really confusing."
He sighed, getting back on topic. "Anyway, lately Vanessa's been playing this game lately, I forgot the name of it, but she's been getting me slowly hooked on it, and I was thinking, 'hey, there's a pizzeria right across the way.' You see, the pizzeria in the game isn't that great. Something about missing children, and possessed animatronics who want to stuff you into a suit to be like them, I think..." He tapped his chin slightly. "So, I was thinking, if I can cause those events to happen in real life, then the police would have to get involved, right? Make it a little worse, and the mayor, my brother Roger, would have to get involved, as well. Then, I show up with a solution to the situation, and everybody will love me so much they'll just give me the Tri-State Area!"
Perry rolled his eyes, looked around, then pointed to something behind Doofensmirtz.
"Huh?" He asked, then looked in the direction the agent was pointing. "Oh, that...right." It was an old looking animatronic, slumped in a sitting position in only dark the corner in the lair. "To be perfectly honest, I bought these guys off the Internet. I had to do the wiring and programming and everything, too. It was such a pain to put together, but in the end, that golden guy didn't have an endoskeleton, so I just left him in the corner over there. He looks really creepy right there, though, but I can't ouch him. The other animatronics, and Norm, for some strange reason, you know you're not actually an animatronic, right, get really mad if I even get close. I think something might be just a bit off in their programming..."
"Hello, people of the Internet!" Candace said as she waved to her webcam. "I'm Candace, and this is my best friend Stacy." Stacy waved and smiled. "We're going to be playing a horror game today, and it's called Six Nights at Susanne's. I'm already regretting this. Look at the main menu, Stacy, this is creepy. Like, really, really creepy, already, and I haven't gotten into the game. I suck at horror stuff. I don't like being scared..."
"Well, today, you're going to have to be. Let's start, shall we?" Stacy asked, and clicked on the "new game" button. "Ooh, nice office."
It was indeed, a nice office. Two wide doorways were on either side of the office, with two buttons on the walls next to them, labeled "door" and "light". In the center of the room was a large desk, with a series of monitors on it. A wide window was also on the wall the desk was on, completely clean.
A phone started to ring, startling the two girls. They looked at each other, as if the other would have the answers. Two rings.
"Can we pick up the phone?" Candace asked. She started moving the cursor around. Three rings. "I'm not seeing a phone around...Stace, please talk! It's creepy when you're so quiet."
"Sorry, it's just I wasn't sure when the phone call would come in." Stacy replied sheepishly.
Candace was about to ask her what phone call she was talking about, when halfway through the fourth ring, there was a click heard from the game, and a meek, shy-yet-trying-to-sound-confident male voice started speaking.
"Um, hello?" The voice said. There was a prominent twinge of shakiness in his voice. "Hello, hello...um, well, welcome to Susanne's Pizza. Uh, since this is your first day and all, there's a thing I'm supposed to read you. It's from the company, and um, a sort of...legality contract, I think...? I was just told to read it aloud for the new employees..." Candace and Stacy looked at each other again mouthed the word "what?"
The voice from the phone cleared his throat as he flipped through some papers. "So, here goes... 'Welcome, insert employee name here, to Susanne's Pizza! We hope you have an exciting and enriching time working at our establishment, as you move forward into the amazing career field of owning-slash-managing a restaurant. This restaurant is not responsible for any of the following: Lost or stolen items, missing items-slash-people, damaged equipment-slash-people, amputation of person, death or injury of person-slash-loved ones, development of schizophrenia and-slash-or severe paranoia, and dismemberment-slash-any other form of violent torture-slash-death.
" 'Upon discovering any of the above, any precautions will be taken, and upon discovering the death of person or persons, a missing person report will be filed within ninety days, or when all bloodstains-slash-body parts have been completely and properly removed from the premises.' Blah, blah, blah, more legal stuff that's not really important. Now, that might sound a bit...alarming...but I assure you myself, I haven't seen anything that's wrong here. In fact, I'm working on my last week before I transition to day shift right now, and everything is perfectly fine at the moment."
"I doubt anything's fine with this place." Candace said. "That was a lot of stuff that's very wrong with this place." She moved the cursor to the bottom of the screen and jumped slightly. "Hey, Stacy, I found a camera function. So, do I, like, watch them on this thing?" She flipped through all the cameras and then went out of the camera.
"Yeah, and make sure they don't get close to the office and kill you." Stacy said.
The guy on the phone continued talking. "So, the only thing that's a concern for you as the on duty night guard is that sometimes, the animatronics kind of...wander around the place at night. It's nothing too major, it's just that...well, they, um, probably won't, um, see you as a person. More like an endoskeleton. Um, you know, those things inside the costume controlling them. Now, the only problem with that is that it's against the rules to not have a costume on if you're an animatronic at Susanne's, so they'll try to...um, place you inside a suit. Forcefully. With animatronic parts that'd probably shred you to ribbons. So, the doors are there to prevent them from getting in. But, since our budget is limited, we have to conserve power at night, so don't have them down all the time.
"Well, I've probably talked long enough, so I'll just leave you to it. The first night should be easy, so I'll talk to you tomorrow." There was short pause, then the guy on the phone came back. "Oh, wait, before you do anything else, I have to tell you about the music box. There's a music box in one of the rooms, I forgot which one, and it's rigged to be remotely wound up. Keep it wound. You don't want to know what happens when you don't wind it up. Trust me. Well, I think that's all I need to tell you about. Goodnight, and hope to see you tomorrow!"
There was a final click, and then silence filled the room.
"So, um, I think our first priority should be to find this music box that guy was talking about." Stacy said after a while. "We have about seventy percent of our power left, and it's been two a.m. for a while now. I think we're fine for now...oh my gosh, somebody's already moved!"
Candace snapped out of her dazed, surprised look. "What, where? Where are they? Are they close?"
"On the camera!"
"Oh, my gosh, I see them! What do we do?"
"I'm not sure. Look for the music box?"
"Is that going to be your answer for everything?"
Stacy flipped through the cameras, then gasped. "The cameras are out!"
Candace looked at the screen frantically. "Which ones?"
"ALL OF THEM! And we still haven't found the stupid music box. Where's the music box at? We need to wind it so we won't probably die!"
A loud, eerie groan sounded from the game.
"...What was that?" Candace asked.
"I'm not sure, and I don't know if I want to even find out..." Stacy whimpered.
The groan came again, slightly louder.
"I'm scared..." Candace said softly.
The screen went back to the office to reveal one of the animatronics, a cat with torn ears and one of its eyes hanging out of its sockets in front of them, swiping at the air towards them before the screen turned to static and a game over screen.
"What was that?" Stacy asked. "I can't even comprehend what happened, it escalated that quickly."
"Well, I'm pretty sure we just died to a horribly mutilated cat robot." Candace said shortly.
"I...I get that, but...!" Stacy tried to explain, then started to laugh. "You know what, that was pretty fun. Let's try again!"
Candace smiled. "Yeah, let's!"
Phineas, Ferb, and the others stepped back to admire their handiwork. The machine had a small sphere in the middle with a small desk, a ladder leading up to it. On the top, was a large projector screen. Several large sets of wires bunched together lead everywhere, and it looked to be a complicated machine, indeed.
"Wow, this looks amazing!" Ava said happily. "I'm also surprised that we finished it ahead of schedule. So, who's going to try it out first?"
"Well, it was your idea, Ava, so I think you should go first." Isabella said. The others nodded, and Ava was soon ushered into the small sphere above the ground. "Put the helmet on and start writing."
Ava looked around for the aforementioned helmet and found it sitting on top of the desk. It was a kind one would normally see for bicycles, the ones that looked giant bowls on people's heads, except this had a series of cords around it. She put the helmet on, and it instantly started glowing. Cords wrapped around her arms, and the size shrunk so it was just the right size for her head.
"Okay, I think I'm set." Ava said. There was a small microphone in the side of the helmet, and a smaller projection screen in front of her. "So, should I start writing now?"
Her answer was a sharp movement from the sphere she was in to the right. Another sphere appeared where hers used to be, and Isabella climbed up into it.
"Wait for us, first, Ava!" She said, putting on a helmet herself. "I'd say we should all write a story together."
Ava smiled. "Yeah, I'd love that." She hadn't written a story with anybody since she was quite young, and loved the feeling of accomplishing something so simple, and so beautiful. Then, her powers emerged, and it seemed as if nobody wanted anything to do with her.
Now, she knew what it was like to have friends, true friends, to stick by her, no matter what.
She never wanted that good feeling of the day to end, but knew it would have to eventually.