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
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Read Online: Spirits of Oz Chapter 7 by Romualdo R. Chavez
Lola and Nico stared at the items they had managed to collect over the past few days. Their treasure trove consisted of a teacup, squirrel hair makeup brush, horse figurine, and a creepy glass eye that seemed to follow you wherever you go.
They were sitting on Lola’s bed in her room. Nico was examining the brush and ran his fingers against the bristles, while Lola leaned back against the pillows and stared around the room contemplating their next move.
“Is he still out there?” Lola asked.
Nico tossed the makeup brush back down and walked over to the window. Outside on the lawn a familiar shadowy figure gazed up at him from beneath a tree. Its face was devoid of any facial features, but it could clearly detect the children’s presence. The head glanced up at Nico and stared.
“Yep, he’s still out there,” Nico said, letting out a huge sigh. He went back to the bed and collapsed on it. “What do we do now?”
“I don’t know. As long as that ghost stays out there we’re safe.”
Nico frowned and quickly changed the subject. “So…do we have everything now?” he asked, staring down at the pile.
“Everything except for the sea water. Possum is making it and will bring it to us tomorrow.”
“Is it just me or do you feel trapped in this house?”
Lola nodded her head. “Yeah, but we’re only twelve. It’s not like you can drive a car or anything.”
“I can try,” he joked. “What do you think our friend outside wants? And why does he keep telling us ‘I’m the one who rots your teeth. I pray your bones are mine to keep.’? We get it—you’re dead!”
“I don’t know. My guess is that has something to do with us collecting all of this stuff.”
“Do you think he’s going to try and take it from us?”
“No. He can’t come back in here, remember? I banished him.
“For how long?”
They exchanged glances.
Lola shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“When we have everything, how do you suppose they are going to use it?” Nico asked.
“I wish I knew. Your guess is as good as mine.”
A sudden boom made them both jump. The siblings sprang from the bed and glanced around in all directions trying to find its source.
Lola turned toward the window and nearly leapt in the air. A familiar faceless figure stood outside. He brought a hand to the window and struck it. The sound they heard earlier came from the impact of itshis fist against the glass.
Getting over the initial shock, Lola grew angry and stormed up to her window.
“Go away!” she yelled. It didn’t move for several seconds. She watched as it tilted its head to the side as if it were studying her.
“What’s it doing?” Nico asked.
“Trying to scare us,” she said. “Remember what Dad told us about some ghosts?”
“Ignore them, and they lose their power.”
The specter raised its other hand and banged it against the window again. The noise startled Nico and he took a step back.
“Easy for you to say, sis.”
Lola reached over to the light pink curtains and pulled them shut. She turned around and stared at her brother.
“See? All better now.”
Another boom followed by the rattling of glass. Nico and Lola exchanged worried expressions, afraid to move. Lola’s heart was beating rapidly. She had no idea what to make of this ghost or why it was bound and determined to get in. But it made her skin break out in goosebumps at the sound of the glass rattling.
“Nico, open the curtains,” she said.
Nico spun around in shock. “Are you crazy? I’m not going anywhere near that window. You go.”
“I’m your sister. You’re supposed to protect me,” she hissed.
“And who’s going to protect me when it breaks through the glass?”
Lola stomped her foot. “Boys are such scaredy cats! If you won’t do it, I will. But if something happens to me, Mom and Dad are going to be very angry with you.” She took a step toward the window but was stopped suddenly when Nico reached out and grabbed her arm.
He grew serious and stared at her for a minute. She was hoping he was going to save her from having to go the window, which she had no qualms about letting him do it.
“Can I have your iPod if you don’t make it back?” he asked.
She punched him in the arm and he flinched.
“If I die, I’m coming back to haunt you!”
She turned around and made her way slowly up to the window. Her hand was shaking as she reached for the material. She swallowed hard and threw open the curtains and to her amazement, the figure was gone, but a large crack ran the length of the small window. The fact that it managed to inflict this damage upon the house was scary. She’d never seen anything like it before, nor did she remember her parents talking about ghosts being able to do something like break glass.
Nico let out a sigh of relief. “See – I told you everything was going to be okay. You must have scared it off.”
She turned and glared at her brother. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth until his eyes grew wide. He brought a hand up and pointed at the window behind him. His mouth dropped open as if he meant to scream, but nothing came out. She spun around, but found nothing there. Nico walked up behind her and shook her.
“Boo!” he laughed. Lola turned on her brother and hit him several times.
“I hate you!” she yelled.
The door to the bedroom flew open, and Nico screamed and hid behind his sister. Lola watched a figure cross the threshold of her room and nearly started laughing.
“What are you guys doing up here?” Zoey asked. “I heard a loud noise.”
Nico peeked out from behind his sister. When he realized it was Zoey, he quickly walked out from behind her and tried to pretend it was all a joke.
“You’re such a girl, Nico,” she laughed.
Nico shot her an annoyed look. “I knew it was Zoey. I wasn’t scared.”
Lola giggled. “That’s why you hid behind me, huh?”
“Just looking out for my sister…”
Lola rolled her eyes. “Sure you were…”
* * *
Lola and Nico sat quietly side by side at the kitchen table while Zoey fixed them a snack. They expected their parents home in a couple of hours, which would put everyone’s minds at ease. The recent events that had been plaguing them for most of the afternoon were taking their toll on the siblings. They worried for their own safety as well as for their babysitter, who was unaware of the severity of the situation.
Nico kept glancing out the kitchen windows for signs of the specter. Things had grown relatively quiet since they left their room and went downstairs with Zoey. She sounded slightly anxious, and the kids humored her by keeping her company. In all actuality though, it was more for their benefit than hers. After their recent run in upstairs with the ghost, neither sibling wanted to admit that things were escalating.
“You said a bird flew into your window?” Zoey asked, while setting two plates down on the table. There were six Ritz crackers topped off with peanut butter and jelly. Lola and Nico devoured the delicious treat. Zoey walked back to a cupboard and pulled out two glasses and filled them with milk from the refrigerator. She brought them over and set them down in front of Nico and Lola.
“Yeah…” Nico said, cracker crumbs bursting out of his mouth with each pronounced word. “It was weird.”
Zoey raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure? It sounded like someone was pounding on the window. If a bird flew into it, I don’t think it would have sounded like that.”
“I saw it with my own eyes,” Lola said. “I almost cried. Luckily, Nico was there to cheer me up.”
“Hmmm…” Zoey mused.
Lola shot her brother a panic glance. Zoey was about to say something further when the phone rang. She walked away from the table and left the two sibilings alone once more. When their babysitter was out of earshot, Lola turned her head toward Nico.
“A bird? You couldn’t come up with something better than that?”
“It was better than a tree branch hitting the window,” he said.
“At least my story was more believable,” she replied.
“Ha!” He shouted. Lola elbowed him in the side and he nearly tipped over his glass trying to dodge the blow. “No one would believe your story because there isn’t a tree outside your window, doofus!”
“And what do you think they’re going to say when they don’t find the bird’s body outside the window?”
Nico thought for a moment and then shrugged. “We can say the neighbor’s cat came by and picked it up.”
Lola rolled her eyes. “Forget the window. We need to figure out what to do about that ghost. There has to be a way to get rid of it.”
“How?” Nico asked.
“I don’t know…holy water?”
“It’s a ghost, Lola, not a vampire.”
“We need help!”
“Yes, we do.”
“But who are we going to call?”
“Don’t finish that line or I’ll throw my cracker at you,” she said.
Nico slumped back in his chair.
“I knew we shouldn’t have trusted those ghosts. They’re nothing but trouble,” he said.
“Those ghosts are going to help out Mom and Dad with the TV show,” she said.
Although Lola advocated for their paranormal friends, she agreed with her brother about getting involved. Had she known what they were getting into, she might have second guessed the decision. Then again, Spirits of Oz meant everything to her parents. She didn’t want to let them down.
“I wish we never went to that stupid cemetery,” Nico said.
Lola didn’t respond. Her thoughts were in line with her brother’s but she didn’t want to say them out loud.
“If only we could contact the Albino Lady, maybe she could help us…” he broke off.
At the mention of this, Lola turned toward her brother again.
“Wait a second. What did you say?”
“I said I wished we could contact the Albino Lady for help…”
“That’s it!” Lola shouted. “Nico, you’re a genius!”
“Well…at least for today you are.”
“Hey…that’s not funny!”
Lola sprang from her chair and grabbed Nico by the wrist and pulled him up. She led the way toward the basement door.
“Where are we going?” Nico asked.
“To the basement,” she said.
“We need to find the Spirit Board.”
“Um…why do you want to do that?”
“We’re going to contact the Albino Lady.”
“Mom and Dad said we’re not supposed to go near their spirit board without permission.”
“It’s either we call her for help or we go outside and face the specter and hope it will go away.”
Lola continued to drag her brother to the basement and noticed he was putting up some resistance.
“You’re not scared are you?”
“No…I just don’t want to get in trouble!”
“It will be really quick, I promise.”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” he said.
Lola opened the door to the basement and switched on the light. Only one bulb lit, and it flickered. Both siblings hesitated, but Lola finally took the lead and dragged Nico with her. She was bound and determined to get help.
Several years ago, she had watched her parents use the spirit board in their early investigations and was told to never touch it without an adult. She’d witnessed strange phenomena and nearly jumped out of her seat when a glass figurine fell off the shelf after her parents made contact with the spirit world. Lola knew she shouldn’t attempt something like this, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
Before they could get all the way downstairs, they heard a familiar voice call down to them.
“Where are you two going?” Zoey asked.
They both panicked. What were they going to tell her?
“I’m looking for something and I need Nico’s help,” Lola said.
“Didn’t your parents tell you not to go downstairs without permission from an adult?”
Lola swallowed hard and stared at Zoey. She tried to make her voice sound sweet and innocent.
“Please, Zoey, I know where it is. It won’t take that long to find it and then I’ll come right back up before Mom and Dad get home. They won’t even know we’ve been down here.”
She could tell by the way Zoey’s lips were pursed tight and her eyebrows turned down that she wasn’t buying it.
Then without warning, Zoey did something she did not expect. She smiled.
“Okay,” she said.
Both Nico and Lola looked at one another from the corner of their eyes. They couldn’t believe their luck.
“Thanks, Zoey!” Nico said.
“You’re the best babysitter in the whole world,” Lola said with big grin. Both siblings turned and made their descent.
“How about I come down there and help you? It won’t take as long if all three of us are together,” Zoey said. Their babysitter’s sudden change of heart made them stop breathing momentarily.
“No—” Lola yelled. The word practically burst from her mouth in her attempt to breathe again.
“No?” Zoey questioned. “Why not?”
“Well…um…” Lola didn’t know what to do. She didn’t think Zoey would continue hounding them like this. They were so close, and now the only thing preventing them from making contact with the Albino Lady was their babysitter.
“It’s top secret,” Nico said. Both Lola and Zoey turned toward him with befuddled glances. “Kids only!”
“Oh, really?” Zoey said. “I wasn’t born yesterday. I recognize mischief when I see it.”
“Please, Zoey, we will be real quick. Honest. Just let us go down and get it,” Lola pleaded.
“Tell me what it is and I’ll let you go and get it.”
They were busted. There was no way she was going to let them find the Spirit Board. If she knew what they were after, Zoey would freak out. She hated anything paranormal, and the episode with the ghost rats earlier made her leery of everything and anything.
“I need to find my book on ghosts,” Lola said. If they weren’t going to be able to get the board, then she might as well pull out all the stops and hope this last ditch effort worked.
“Why?” Zoey asked.
“I want to make sure those ghost mice don’t come back. There are precautions we can take to ensure nothing bad gets into the house. You don’t want them coming back, right?”
There was fear in their babysitter’s face. She glanced around as if she didn’t know where she was. She turned back toward Lola and nodded.
“You think they could come back?” Nico and Lola nodded. “Okay, fine, hurry up. You’ve got ten minutes to find it and get back up here. I’m going to sit at the top of the steps and wait. If you’re not back by the time ten minutes are up, I’m coming down to get you. Got it?”
“Yes,” they both said in unison.
“Go on,” Zoey said. “Your time starts now.”
* * *
Lola and Nico dug furiously through their parents’ boxes, which were stacked on top of one another in a corner of the basement. It smelled musty, and there were cobwebs in every nook and cranny. They both hated spiders.
Neither of them spoke. Instead they searched fervently through the clutter of junk collected from many expeditions. They were simply trinkets of no value, other than an association with some spirit their parents chased after with cameras. They were on a time crunch and needed to find that board and make contact before they ran out of time.
“I can’t believe she fell for it,” Nico whispered. “If I were listening to you, I know right away that you were lying.”
“Be quiet, Nico. We have to find it. I know it’s around here somewhere.”
After a few more minutes of rummaging they uncovered an old box behind the others that neither one of them had gone through.
“Seven minutes,” Zoey announced.
Lola opened the contents and found the cardboard box with the words “Spirit Board” written in black permanent marker on top. She pulled out a wooden board with all the letters of the alphabet along with the numbers 0-9, and the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ written on it. There was also the word ‘goodbye’ at the bottom.
“I found it,” Lola said.
“Okay, now what?”
“We’re going to call up the Albino Lady,” she said.
Lola walked a few steps away from the boxes and set the board down on the floor. Nico took his position opposite her on the other side. She remembered the planchette and went back to retrieve it. She found the heart shaped piece of wood and brought it with her. They both were on their knees and hunched over the board.
“I want to call her up,” he said.
Lola shook her head furiously. “No, I’m going to do it. You’ll only mess things up.”
Nico frowned. “That’s not fair. Why do you get to do all the fun stuff?”
“Five minutes, guys,” Zoey called out. Lola and Nico’s eyes grew wide. They were running out of time.
Lola took the planchette and placed it above the letter ‘G.’
“Okay, listen to me carefully, Nico,” Lola said. “We are each going to place a finger on the reader. I’ll be asking the questions. Don’t do or say anything while I’m contacting her, okay?”
He glared at her. She pleaded silently with him. With some reluctance, he nodded and remained tight-lipped.
“Okay, here it goes,” she said. They both stared down at the board and ran the planchette around in circles to warm it up. Lola closed her eyes and concentrated on the questions she was about to ask.
“Albino Lady, please hear my call. It’s Lola and Nico,” She began. They both gazed upon the board as they placed the wooden marker by the ‘G’ again. “Can you hear us?”
Several seconds went by and nothing happened. Then they felt a draft of cold air and the light bulb overhead flickered. Beneath their hands, the planchette seemed to move on its own, leading them to the word ‘yes.’
“Lola, did you move it?” Nico asked.
“No, I think it’s her,” Lola hissed.
“I think you moved it.”
Lola ignored her brother’s disbelief and continued. “Good afternoon, Ms. Lady, we are calling out to you because we need your help. Something is at the house, and it’s trying to get inside. It’s a man with no face, and he keeps repeating the same phrase over and over; ‘I’m the one who rots your teeth. I pray your bones are mine to keep.’ Do you know who this ghost is?”
Again the marker glided to the word ‘yes.’
“Is he dangerous?” she asked. The marker moved slightly but stayed in the same spot, confirming what they suspected. “Is he one of the Denziens?” The answer was still ‘yes’.
“I don’t think it’s working,” Nico said.
“Yes, it is,” Lola said. “The Albino Lady has answered my questions with a ‘yes’ so far.”
“That doesn’t prove anything,” he said. “How do I know you’re not moving it to make me think it’s working?”
“I’m telling you this is really happening, Nico,” Lola said.
“Nico and Lola, you have about three minutes,” Zoey called out again.
“Oh no,” Lola whispered. “We’re running out of time.”
“I don’t want to play any more,” Nico said, getting up off the floor. “It doesn’t work.”
“Wait, Nico, we haven’t asked about the items yet, nor do we know what to do next.”
“Ask her then,” he said.
Lola was irritated with her brother. He wasn’t cooperating, and they needed answers. If she didn’t get information soon, there was no telling what was going to happen.
“Get back over here,” she said “We need two people. If you want this to be over, then we need to hurry up and ask her before we’re caught.”
Nico puffed his chest out and balled his fists. He looked like a bird when he did this. He was angry with her, but she knew he wanted answers just as badly as she did. He returned to his position and put his finger down on the reader along with his sister’s.
Lola took a deep breath and began her next round of questioning.
“Ms. Lady, we have all the items you’ve requested. Is there anything else that we need?”
The planchette did not move, which frustrated Nico. “It’s still on ‘yes.’ I still don’t think it’s working. Isn’t she supposed to spell out something?”
“Be quiet, Nico,” Lola hissed.
“You be quiet!” he said.
They both took their hands off the piece and faced one another.
“This isn’t going to work if you keep acting like a dummy!” Lola said.
“This was a stupid idea, Lola.”
“Why are you being so mean to me?” she asked. “I’m just trying to help us.”
Nico sighed heavily. “I know you are, but I just don’t think…”
Without warning, they heard a noise. It was a sliding noise, like something rubbing against another object. It squeaked and screeched. They stared down at the board and the reader was sliding over the letters. Nico’s mouth dropped open. Lola was also startled by the sudden events.
It moved over to the letter ‘I,’ then ‘A’ and ‘M,’ and so on and so forth.
“What’s it spelling?” Nico asked.
“I-A-M…T-H-E…W-H-I-T-E…W-O-M-A-N…” Lola spelled out each of the letters. “I am the white woman! It’s her!”
“There’s more,” Nico said. “N-E-E-D-O-N-E-M-O-R-E-T-H-I-N-G”
“She needs one more thing…” Lola said.
The planchette was moving rapidly now, spelling out more letters. Lola and Nico were trying to make out the phrases as fast as the marker was pointing to them.
“E-S-S-E-N-C-E-O-F-S-P-I-R-I-T… what does that spell?” he asked.
“Essence of spirit,” Lola answered. “What does that mean?”
“I don’t know…” Nico said. “Hey White Lady, what does that mean?”
Suddenly the marker zig-zagged furiously across the board, which startled the siblings. They had never seen this happen before.
“What’s happening?” Nico asked, backing away from the board.
“I don’t know,” Lola said. “This didn’t happen when Mom and Dad used it.”
“Time’s up, guys!” Zoey shouted. “Come on back up here.”
The marker suddenly stopped. Nico moved toward his sister and tried to pull her away from the board.
“Let’s go,” he said.
“Wait! We need to end this properly or else…” Lola said. “Do you think she is still here?”
“I don’t know,” Nico said. “I’m through with this game.”
As both of them turned their backs, they heard the familiar sliding of the planchette over the wood. They turned and watched as it began spelling out another phrase. Lola began speaking the phrase out loud.
“N-O-T-L-A-D-Y…Not Lady…” Lola whispered. It continued moving. “I-P-R-A-Y-Y-O-U-R-B-O-N-E-S-A-R-E-M-I-N-E-T-O-K-E-E-P…C-A-N-T-C-L-O-S-E-D-O-O-R…W-I-L-L-S-T-O-P-Y-O-U”
“‘I pray your bones are mine to keep’…oh no…’can’t close door’…’will stop you’…” Nico whispered.
The bulb overhead flickered madly. A cold breeze erupted in the room and shot through them suddenly, causing their hair to stand on end. The board rocked and swayed until it shot up from the ground and flew across the room, shattering against the wall.
Nico and Lola screamed and ran for the stairs. As they climbed the steps they glanced up at Zoey and a dark figure appeared behind her.
“What’s wrong?” Zoey asked.
Lola stared in horror at the dark lengthy figure with no face. All three of them screamed when all the lights went out.
Chapter 8 will be published next week at https://www.tscpl.org/novel
About Romualdo R. Chavez
Romualdo R. Chavez is a graduate of Washburn University. He majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology. His love for Urban Fantasy led him to write his debut novel El Vampiro and the Curse of the Feathered Serpent. Other works include various short stories. He has contributed chapters for the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library’s Community Novel Projects: Capital City Capers (2012), Speak Easy (2013), and the Juvenile Fiction novel Spirits of Oz (2014). He has completed his second novel, tentatively entitled The Mourning Sage, and recently completed a sequel to El Vampiro, currently titled Smoking Mirrors and Feathered Serpents. Romualdo resides in Topeka, KS, and is an active member of Kansas Writers Inc. and The Blackbirds Writing Group.
An Interview with Romualdo R. Chavez
What is your writing background? What sort of work do you usually write? (Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Genre?)
I primarily write Fiction and tend to like all genres. My goal is to be a successful writer and tackle all genres in some fashion, whether it would be novel length or short story. The particular genre I gravitate toward right now is Urban Fantasy.
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
I think the Community Novel Project is a great opportunity for writers to get their feet wet. If you’re not sure about writing, taking on a chapter in a project of this capacity is a good way to see if you have what it takes. The Community Novel Project is also beneficial for established authors because it helps hone our craft. It also teaches us to condense our writing. If you’ve never collaborated with other authors, this is a good way to experience this method first hand.
Have you ever written fiction in collaboration with other authors before?
Prior to the Community Novel Project, I collaborated with other authors for an anthology comprised of different stories with a central theme, which is different than co-writing a story.
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?
The Community Novel Project requires some kind of preparation depending on where my chapter lands chronologically. I read the chapters beforehand and take notes. From there I create an outline of my chapter and start writing, whether I stick to the outline is whole different story. I tend to incorporate action and suspense into my chapters, which makes the story take on a life of its own. Therefore, I try to be flexible.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project? What challenges you about them?
What drew me back this year was the chance to write for a younger audience. I also liked the story concept and enjoyed the characters. The challenge for me this year was the length of my chapter. I wanted to keep writing because I enjoyed the scenes so much.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
I was glad they gave me some wiggle room to create a suspenseful chapter. They set up the scenes perfectly by revisiting previous events, which made my writing a lot easier because I was confident the reader would not need me to rehash things.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
I hope to see the characters vanquish the creepy ghost!
What sort of writing can we expect from you in future? Are you currently at work on any writing projects?
I’m in the processes of wrapping up the last chapter of my third novel. My goal is to be done before the end of July and start editing by August. The novel is a sequel to my first book, El Vampiro and the Curse of the Feathered Serpent. It’s currently titled, Smoking Mirrors and Feathered Serpents. The other novel I finished last year is called The Mourning Sage, which is the first book in a planned trilogy that takes place prior to the events of El Vampiro. I’ve also written some short stories that I’m going to submit to magazines by the end of the year.
Especially for Our Younger Readers
What was your favorite book as a kid and why?
There are too many good books out there that I loved as a kid. My absolute favorite would have to be A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I was drawn to the characters and the worlds they traveled to. It was very entertaining and inspired me to start writing.
What are some of your favorite foods?
I love Mexican food, barbecue, or a good cheeseburger.
What is your favorite animal? Do you have any pets?
My favorite animal is a cat. Currently, I do not have any pets, but would love to have another one sometime in the near future.
Why did you want to write for kids?
Kids are awesome! I want to write stories that inspire them to read. Not only is reading beneficial for the mind, but it also gives you a chance to travel without ever having to leave the comfort of your favorite chair.