Spirits of Oz Chapter 3

Chapter 3 by Jak Kendall & Sky Kendall

About Spirits of Oz

  • 2014 Community Novel Project of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
  • Written and illustrated for a younger audience
  • Just joining us? Please start reading with Chapter 1
  • A new chapter is serialized each week
  • A different Topeka author and illustrator featured in each chapter
  • Read online or download to your ereader!

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Read Online: Spirits of Oz Chapter 3 by Jak Kendall and Sky Kendall

Author Bios | Author Interviews

Believing himself to be in complete control of his destiny, Nico spit out of the window of his parents’ moving car, only to be immediately confronted with reality. His wet face and scrunched expression, like he had just eaten sour candy, reminded him he was not as in charge as he had previously thought. He impulsively glanced sideways to see if Lola had seen his foolishness. She had, but she did her best to seem interested in the passing cars to protect his soppy ego. Still, a small smirk crept over her face.

They were on their way to the Kansas Museum of History in west Topeka. As they followed the roundabout at the end of Wanamaker Road, Lola pulled out her notebook and looked at the ghostly grocery list of items. Their abnormality held her attention as they neared the museum.

“Almost there,” Meriam said. “It’s so great that the curator agreed to give us this behind-the-scenes tour. She has some exciting stuff from the special collections to show you guys, and most people can only see it on the museum website.”

“Will there be squirrels?” Nico asked. Lola shot him a knowing glance.

“Huh? What are you talking about?” Victor said over his shoulder.

“Um, I’m not sure about all that…” Meriam added. There was an awkward silence.

The film crew was shooting on location for a historical segment to add length to their program. The main feature was to be the gallows crossbeam used for hanging the men behind Lincoln’s asassination. The kids were there because Meriam had arranged the special tour for them, but Nico and Lola had plans of their own. Already Nico was thinking about that squirrel tail, his sister fixated on the ‘sightless eye’ as she gazed out the car window.

“Look, Nico—there’s your squirrel now!” Victor pointed as he pulled into the parking lot. “It’s a big one!” Nico followed his father’s finger and let out a dull groan. Victor was pointing at a buffalo statue, flanked by a Native American, outside the museum entrance.

‘”Oooh, Dad. Can we keep him?” Nico muttered. Victor and Meriam both let out a chuckle. Lola didn’t even turn; she just kept staring out the window.

Meriam asked, “What about you, Lola? What’s that look on your face?”

With a start, she responded, “Oh….I’m just…thinking about cats.”

Backing her up, Nico added, “Yeah, cats. She’s been doing this all week.”

“I can’t help it,” Lola said. “They’re so fluffy and snuggly and cuddly and kind.”

“A couple of real animal lovers,” Victor commented. He turned to Meriam. “That’s your daughter.” Meriam just laughed.

The family entered the museum and headed back to the storage area. The Spirits of Oz crew was already there, unloading all of the equipment. The museum was closed to the public for the day, so the building was even quieter than usual. Victor was reviewing his script for the segment in a corner. Meriam had just introduced Nico and Lola to the curator, Heather.

“All right, you guys, I have some spooky stuff to show you today,” Heather said. “These things have been kept in storage for years and aren’t on display in the actual museum.”

“Well, I think Nico here was hoping for some squirrels,” Meriam interjected. Nico blushed, but Heather was enthusiastic.

She smiled, saying, “Actually, we have an old squirrel gun that was used to shoot a guy who broke out of jail.” Nico rolled his eyes, and Meriam gave him a warning look. Fortunately, Heather had already turned around to move on. “But first, I have other things I want to show you.”

The bouncy, bespectacled curator guided Meriam and the twins down a corridor of 7-foot tall cabinets, stopped at one, and opened it before turning to Lola. “I think you’re really going to like this.”

Both Nico and Lola remarked at the depth of the cabinet as Heather removed from the nearly 3-foot deep sliding drawer a creepy doll. As she held it in her gloved hands, it seemed to be staring at them with its beady eyes. “This little guy was made by the prisoners at the Kansas State Penitentiary. Isn’t it cool? His name is Flatty.” The doll was dressed in the typical striped garb that both kind of looked but kind of didn’t look like pajamas. It clearly had become yellowed and faded over the years.

Lola chimed in. “Wow, someone in jail actually made this? They must’ve had a lot of time on their hands.” All Nico could think to say was, “His face is flat.” Again, there was an awkward silence. “Hence the name, I’m sure,” Lola muttered.

Next she showed them a pretty dress made from newspaper, as well as several antique cars. None of this had anything to do with the list, and Nico just wasn’t feeling interested. The curator might be smart, he thought, but she’d have to do better than that.

Then the curator opened a drawer and pulled out a big green frog suit. When she held it up for inspection, Nico actually jumped. “This lovely girl is named Agnes,” the curator said. Nico and Lola looked at each other. There was definitely a creepy vibe coming off of the suit. “Yeah,” Nico said, “really lovely.”

Moving on, Heather brought them to a giant pallet rack where she showed them a life-sized, papier-mache horse that made both the children’s eyes light up. “It’s not a squirrel,” Heather said, “but it does have ‘Fox’ written on its butt.”

The twins turned to look at each other with a shared expression of, ‘A-ha!’ This would definitely be better than a real horse with a broken leg. But how could they get it to the ghosts, and could they break its leg? It was museum property, after all.

This is when the tour started to get really interesting. A straitjacket caused the words “Ooh, creepish,” to slide out of Nico’s mouth.

Meriam spoke to Heather, pointing at Nico, “I could sure use one of those for him sometimes.” They all laughed.

“I saved the best for last,” Heather said. “Since you guys are ghost hunters, I knew you would definitely have to see this.” She opened the cabinet doors slowly and stopped with her hand on the drawer to add to the suspense. “But before I show it to you, I want you to know that back in the day, these were made from coffins. I mean, they took the wood from actual coffins.”

Lola gasped. Nico blurted, “Show us already!”

Meriam chided, “Nico!”

Heather smiled at Meriam and reassured, “It’s all right.” She chuckled as she slid the drawer along its slat. The kids gathered close to catch a glimpse. Inside was an old piece of wood with faded numbers and letters printed on it like an ancient board game.

“A Ouija board!” Nico exclaimed. “Was it really made from a coffin?”

That last awesome artifact wrapped up the tour of the oddities in the archives. The children finally had a moment alone and drifted towards the recreated diner in the museum proper. Neon lights backlit the area, with several tubes arranged in the shape of a paunchy man carrying a sign reading ‘Topeka’s Family Favorite’ overhead. They sat at the counter to eat the sack lunch their Mother had prepared, peanut butter and jelly.

“So, the horse,” Nico started. “You were thinking exactly what I was thinking, right?”

“Of course, but how could we get it out of here?” Lola asked. “I don’t want to steal anything.”

“It wouldn’t be stealing, it would be borrowing.” Nico argued. “Besides, maybe we could bring the ghosts to it.”

“It is too stealing if you break the darn thing!” Lola replied before she took a bite of her sandwich. Nico filled the silence with chewing as well.

“Moving on,” Lola said, “I had an idea about that ‘sightless eye’ back in the car. What if they could use a camera lens? We can probably get one from the film equipment.”

Nico laid on the snarkiness again, in a singsong voice. “But that would be stealing.”

Lola huffed. She rolled her eyes. “Well, at least I’m trying to be creative. What have you done?”

Nico set right in. “Who was the one who brought up squirrels?”

“Big deal,” Lola snapped, “What good did that do?”

“You were the one who got on me about stealing, but your only ‘helpful’ idea was to nab a lens from the film crew. I don’t even think a camera lens is what they’re looking for,” Nico argued.

“It’s better than what you can come up with,” Lola fired back. “You’d probably just pluck one out of a squirrel.”

“How about I whack you in the head with a teacup? That’s on the list.” Nico said.

By now tensions were mounting and Lola brought out the big guns, “Why don’t you go and watch “Free Willy” so you can cry like you always do and we’ll use your tears in place of sea water?”

Nico blurted out emphatically, “Whales are people, too! You’re just a… just a… you’re just jealous cuz…” He stammered, running out of insults. “You’re a big doo-doo head. Gosh!” He turned away, presenting her with his back.

Lola’s victory was short-lived. Just as Nico turned away, the neon lights of the diner begin to flicker. Not just the neon lights, either. All of the lighting in the museum seemed to be malfunctioning.

The kids spun around in their seats. Suddenly, the museum was devoured in darkness except for the large, neon man. His even, leisurely pace of only moments before grew first into a jog. His expression took on a more sinister, snarling form as he gained a frantic speed. Light seemed to be sparking off of him now, and his gaze almost seemed to fix on the two children huddling in the inky blackness below before all light was shut out in a startling burst. The twins gasped in sync.

Nothingness. All they had to distinguish their being was the tight embrace they held each other in now. Gone was the tension of their argument, wiped out by their fear. Breathing heavily, neither spoke a word.

It was a few moments before anything else happened, but it seemed like an eternity. Where were the museum workers? Their parents? How could they be completely alone? The twins shivered, their minds spinning.

Then a faint glow grew in the distance. They both stood up and began to inch forward.

Something within them pulled them toward the light; they were moths to a flame. Slowly, they made their way through the museum and, in the way that only two close siblings can manage, they sensed each other’s thoughts.

Soon, Nico and Lola came upon the life-sized display train, which was a focal point in the normally lit interior space. Now it seemed imposing, and was it just the dim bleakness as their eyes adjusted, or were small billows of smoke actually seeping from its silent engine?

They climbed the stairs to reach the level of the train’s cabins.

“Lola,” Nico whispered, “If anything happens… I just want you to know…”

“Shhh!” she cut him off. Evidently she had seen something he had not, and by now he could make out the expression on her face, even in the dark: terror.

She shuddered as she pointed at one of the train cars, as if in slow motion. He still didn’t see it. He gave her a tug, but she wouldn’t move.

“Come on,” Nico urged in a soft rasp. “We can’t just stand here.”

“It’s not moving. It’s not moving,” Lola muttered.

“What’s not moving?” he asked. He already knew he would get no response, but he still pulled at his sister’s tense arm. He had to know what was going on up ahead. He finally got her to relent.

They were upon the threshold of the cabin she had pointed at now. Nico thought of the spit he had launched against his own face earlier. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. But it was too late. They were already inside, and there it was.

Sitting immobile upon one of the benches was the silhouette of a man, a ghastly figure which froze his blood cold. What strange impulse kept Nico stepping forward? What person in their right mind would continue taking step after slow step as he did now? Nico would ponder these thoughts endlessly later, but for now he was pulled ever forward.

The figure said nothing. Did nothing. Yet, somehow the kids sensed evil right down to their bones. Nico wanted to speak but couldn’t, and Lola clutched fast to his arm. Presently he was right behind the phantasm. Nico reached out his free hand to touch the figure’s shoulder, though something in his mind screamed at him to stop. Time seemed to have frozen.

Slowly, the thing’s head turned revealing the blank and empty expression of an amphibious face they recognized all too well. Agnes. The creepy frog from the behind-the-scenes tour.

SLAM!! The twins spun around on instinct as the sound of doors crashing shut echoed through the room. They let loose with blood-curdling screams that tore through the pitchy blackness.

When they turned back to gaze upon the ghastly Agnes, the figure was gone! Vanished!

All that was left was a monotone voice, sifted through gravel, which spoke very distinctly: “I am the one who rots your teeth. I pray your bones are mine to keep.”

Chapter 4 will be published next week at https://www.tscpl.org/novel

About Jak Kendall

Jak Kendall is a paraprofessional at a local alternative education center.  He spends his hours traveling, watching films, and composing music.  Aside from handling the spooks and surprises at his job, he finds it imperative that we constantly challenge our fears in order to push our limits.  He has more than one ghost story to tell within his personal haunted history, having scuttled onto the abandoned Menninger property before it was torn down. Whether listening or telling, Jak loves a good story and is always eager to hear something a bit surreal.  He has experience with that, too.

About Sky Kendall

Sky Kendall has visited some really creepy places. As a tracker for the Potwin Paranormal Society, he has investigated Potwin homes and the old Menninger grounds. He also made a trip to Atchison, Kansas, in search of evidence of the supernatural. His interests include photography, animation, music composition, and game development. He has never been haunted by a frog costume, though he’s occasionally visited by the specter of an overly large lunch.

An Interview with Jak Kendall

What is your writing background? What sort of work do you usually write? (Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Genre?)

The bulk of my writing has been song lyrics. I have spent countless hours developing songs, especially with mythological subtext. The marriage of sound and syntax adds a new depth to poetry and it’s in this synthesis of melody and meaning where I found my greatest creative drive. I also have experience working on a couple screenplays, short stories, and nonfiction essays. I’ve become more keenly interested in the humorous, autobiographical essay as of late.

Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?

My sister approached me with the concept and I immediately leapt at it, thinking it a wonderful opportunity to expand my skillset in a cooperative context. It was also a chance to work on a project with my nephew, and we have always had a blast writing music together–whether silly or serious.

Have you ever written fiction in collaboration with other authors before?

I helped write jokes and develop scenes for a screenplay with a local director, but filming never commenced.

Do you usually write in a burst of inspiration, or is your work carefully outlined? Did writing for the community novel differ from the norm?

I never write with a formal outline in mind. I generally take a few main ideas or themes and then, ruminating on them, begin to develop a flow from beginning to end, riding the crest of inspiration. The sense of discovery one gets when pursuing a line of thought to its eventual end is the most exciting part of the creative process for me. My favorite times are when characters or situations develop in ways that are surprising, even as the writer. It can sometimes seem as if I pluck a single, concise phrase that encapsulates the feeling of a song out of thin air.

What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project? What challenges you about them?

I wondered whether or not I could write something that was thrilling. Having little experience trying to elicit such responses aside from my personal ghost stories I enjoy telling at parties, I wasn’t sure if I could do it in the written form. Luckily, I had a spooky song which subverts the traditional tooth fairy as a covetous monster that I drew from for the iconic line at the end of Sky’s and my chapter.

What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?

“How am I going to make this scary?” Still being the beginning the book, I wanted a bit of exposition before ramping up to the first real thrill of the story. The idea came to my nephew and myself to include the special collection of the local Natural History Museum as a way to also educate readers that there is more at the Museum than what is on display, and some of it is quite creepy. For example, Agnes the Frog can be seen in all her creepiness via a simple Google search.

What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?

I hope the malevolent force pursuing these kids gets fleshed out in an interesting way. I really want to know what it is that is driving the conflict in this story. Is it a single entity? A Lovecraftian Eldritch lord? Or is it a multiplicity, as if the manifestation of negative human emotions and experiences?

What sort of writing can we expect from you in future? Are you currently at work on any writing projects?

Currently the bulk of my creative time goes to writing papers for college, but I am slowly writing a tale in the vein of surreal adventure that Hayao Miyazaki so greatly captures in his animated films.

Especially for Our Younger Readers

What was your favorite book as a kid and why?

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the height of fantasy fiction for me, growing up. The characters, the world, and the sense of adventure in discovering the gateway to an entire realm as if by chance always thrilled me. I daydreamed of crawling into the back of my closet to find a secret panel leading me to my own magical world. I found some neat stuff crammed in there, but no Narnia.

Either Demian or Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse are most likely the answer I would give if asked point-blank today. The Dune series, the writings of Jack Kerouac, and David Sedaris are all also favorites of mine. I was also greatly influenced by the storytelling in the classic Final Fantasy videogames growing up. I was always fashioning lego people after the characters in those games. I spent hours reenacting scenes or creating my own scenarios for my lego versions of the Final Fantasy heroes.

What are some of your favorite foods?

Curry! Korma, Methi, Massaman, Vindaloo, Tikka Masala, Panang–the list could go on and on. Throw some chicken, some veg,and some rice in there and we are good to go! And don’t forget the Naan bread! I’ve tried to make it from scratch, but…yeah, I discovered it’s best to buy it in a jar if I’m going to make it at home.

What is your favorite animal? Do you have any pets?

Turtles. I used to think myself a Jakrabbit, but lo and behold I’m the tortoise, not the hare. Turtles are so cute when they hide in their shells, their sloth-like movements do little to betray their more playful side–trust me, they can get pretty adorable when you play with them. But my pet is a Yorkie pup named Rose. She is equally adorable, even when she chews on my shoes.

Why did you want to write for kids?

Adults are just kids who have been around a long time. Some of them forget how to play, some of them are too tired to play, but on the flip-side there are some of us who have never grown up. I think we are drawn to the supernatural and fantasy because it is still a means to encounter a sense of wonder in a world where everything seems to have already been categorized and subcategorized. Even as adults we want to experience something new, ineffable–to feel something we’ve never felt before.

An Interview with Sky Kendall

What is your writing background? What sort of work do you usually write? (Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Genre?)

I’ve written some poems in the past, one of which was published in XYZ Magazine and the Rattle Young Poets Anthology. This is my first time writing for the community novel.

Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?

Writing a chapter with my uncle sounded fun, and the fact that the book is about ghosts makes it even more appealing to me.

Have you ever written fiction in collaboration with other authors before?

I’ve done some small things for fun, but as I stated earlier, this is my first time putting that sort of work out there.

Do you usually write in a burst of inspiration, or is your work carefully outlined? Did writing for the community novel differ from the norm?

When I’m inspired, I’ll write something. I can’t really force my creative work, which is why it was nice to pick up where the last author left off. It gave us some inspiration.

What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project? What challenges you about them?

One of the reasons that I’m glad the novel is about ghosts is that I’ve done lots of research on ghosts already, so I’m familiar with the subject.

What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?

My first reactions when I saw the chapters before mine were:
1. These chapters are awesome
2. I know the actual name of the Albino Lady
3. I’m hungry.

What sort of writing can we expect from you in future? Are you currently at work on any writing projects?

I’m not currently at work on new writing projects, but now that you brought up poems, I’m considering doing some more of those… Expect them to be weird.

Especially for Our Younger Readers

What was your favorite book as a kid and why?

Well, I’m still a kid, but I’ve always really liked Roald Dahl’s books (pretty much everything he’s written aside from his more…adult work).  I also loved Dr. Proctor’s Fart Powder, by Jo Nesbo, and the Hunger Games trilogy.

What are some of your favorite foods?

Sushi, burgers (almost complete opposites) and some other stuff I can’t think of right now (but probably not sushi burgers).

What is your favorite animal? Do you have any pets?

I love anteaters, but they’re pretty expensive and I’m not sure I want to keep one in my house (he/she’d use up all of the cream cheese). We have two dogs, and some outside cats.

Miranda Ericsson

Miranda loves to talk lit! Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting great literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions and co-leads the Bean There, Read That book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's 2Book Topeka team.