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!
Downloading Spirits of Oz Chapter 9 by Paul Swearingen
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Read Online: Spirits of Oz Chapter 9 by Paul Swearingen
“Essence of Spirit?” Do you think we could use this stuff to contact the Albino Lady?” Nico wiped his forefinger on his pants, stared at it, and wiped it again.
“Maybe. But what are we going to do with Zoey? How long is she going to be out? We need to get a blanket over her so she doesn’t freeze.” Lola felt Zoey’s forehead and made sure she was still breathing. It was warm, and her chest was rising and falling.
“I’ll get the throw from the sofa upstairs.” In a flash, Nico was up the stairs and thumping around overhead.
“Oh-h-h. Zoey. Why don’t you wake up?”
Meanwhile the spectral dog was fading away, and before Nico erupted through the doorway, Klink was completely gone. Nico didn’t seem to notice and handed the throw to Lola.
“Thanks, Nico.” Lola covered the babysitter with the throw and felt her forehead again. Still warm. In fact the basement was much warmer with Klink gone. But Nico was staring and pointing behind her, and she turned and shrank back towards Zoey. The ectoplasm was stirring, stretching, growing taller. Nico crept next to Lola, and she put her arm around him while they watched the ectoplasm stretch into a moving, human-shaped blob.
“I think it’s the Albino Lady,” Lola murmured. She jumped a little as part of the figure extended, took on the appearance of a hand and arm, and waved at them.
Finally, with a shudder, the Albino Lady stood in front of them as they crouched on the floor in front of the babysitter. Lola realized that she could dimly see the basement window through her.
“I see you two survived your encounter with the Dark Man.” The Albino Lady glanced around and took a step towards them. “I trust that your babysitter is still alive.”
Lola reached behind her and touched Zoey’s hand. “We did. Can you help us make her wake up?”
“Yes. But she’s not ready yet. Let her rest a bit longer.”
“I hope she doesn’t remember what she went through just now,” Nico muttered.
Lola could see the Albino Lady purse her lips. “She may, or she may not remember. But you must know this. The Dark Man is not gone for good, even though Klink tore his specter apart. He’s still in the darkness on the other side of the veil, waiting for his opportunity to make more trouble for us all. And guess how he’ll choose to reappear?”
“Oh, no. Not through Zoey again.” Lola shivered.
“Most likely. You’ll need to protect her.” The Albino Woman lifted a chain with a pendant from around her own neck. “This is an amulet which could obscure her from the Dark Man. It depends upon how much of her soul he inhabited. Here, take it.”
Lola stood slowly and reached for the chain, fully expecting her hand to go through it, but it was warm and real, not at all what she expected. “Why can I hold this? And how can you hold it, if it’s real?”
The Albino Lady brought a hand to her lips with a sigh. “Many loyal spirits labored together to create this amulet. You have no idea… its creation required a sacrifice from each of us. Enabling it to be passed through the veil from me to you is the most difficult task we have ever undertaken.”
Lola knelt beside Zoey, lifted her head, and gently slid the chain under her head and laid the amulet on her chest.
“There. Thanks. I hope it helps.”
“It may, especially if you two can distract the Dark Man if he does appear again.”
“No-o-o.” Nico moaned and rubbed his face. “Can’t you just make him go away for good? If you can make that necklace why can’t you just make the other stuff you need to close the portal?”
“No. We still need your help with the objects you are collecting. The collaboration between the world of the living and the Other Side is essential.”
“Can’t you at least make the Dark Man go away?”
“His spirit also has free will. He accepted the job of guarding the portal, keeping the bad guys from coming through. But the entities have promised him many things if he will help them. He evidently believes their lies about how they will reward him if he ensures their success. Each time he has appeared to try and stop you, they have enhanced his powers. He is becoming stronger with every manifestation. That is how he was able to crack your window.
“You have shown yourselves to be far from powerless, however. You must keep fighting! Another way you might try to thwart him is to utter a direct command three times. You were able to keep him outside your home for a time by something similar, weren’t you, Lola? It has to be very simple and exact and cannot be something negative, like ‘Do not move’. That won’t work.” The Albino Lady seemed to be fading, and Lola had to squint her eyes to be able to see her. “I must go now, it is an ordeal to manifest outside the cemetery. Good luck.” And she was gone.
Zoey stirred on the floor.
“Ugh.” Zoey’s head turned back and forth, and her eyes seemed to be trying to focus. “Where am I? What happened? Oh, my back.” She lifted her head and tried to sit up. Lola pulled at her shoulder to help her upright, and Zoey crossed her legs and picked at the throw. “Why are we still in the basement? What happened?”
Lola gulped. This was no time for fake stories, for lies. Zoey had to be filled in on what had happened to her and to them, as well as what was to come.
“Zoey, you were possessed by a dark spirit. Can you remember anything?”
Zoey rubbed her eyes and then gazed directly at Lola. “Possessed? What do you mean, possessed?”
“As in taken over, controlled, and made to do what he wanted you to do.”
Zoey shook her head. “Something about mice … ugh. And a big dog eating them.”
Lola smirked at Nico. “Don’t try to think about it too much. But … um … the Albino Lady was just here. She’s nice. And she warned us that the Dark Man might try to reappear through you. That’s what the amulet on the chain is for, to keep him away. Maybe. She wasn’t sure that it would work all the time.”
Zoey slowly raised the amulet and gazed at it. “I can’t read a thing on it. It’s as if it’s written in Persian or something. Wait – the Dark Man is going to try to take me over again? Are you serious?”
“I’m serious. Nico and I are trying to help the good ghosts keep that bad one from letting a whole bunch more evil ones into the world.”
Zoey looked at Lola and Nico. “Tell you what. My rear is cold from sitting on this concrete floor. Let’s go upstairs and talk about this over some popcorn. Not that I totally believe you, but …”
A distant look came over her face, and for a second Lola thought that she had drifted away.
“But I do sort of remember some scary things. And I’m sorry about yelling at you for being down here. I think I understand a little better now what’s going on.”
The popcorn was exactly what they needed to bring them all back to reality, that plus the apple cider that Zoey poured for them.
“So tell me. What’s going on with you guys? And me. Why am I all mixed up in this so-called possession by some dark spirit?”
Lola sighed. “Okay, here’s what we know. The dark forces are trying to take away freedom of choice from our world and the other ghosts, or inhabitants of the spirit world. That’s what the Albino Lady told us when we were out at Rochester Cemetery the other day …”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait … you talked to ghosts at the cemetery? While your parents were filming?”
Lola nodded. “That’s right, strange as it sounds.”
“Strange. That’s one way to put it.” Zoey downed another handful of popcorn. “I can’t imagine talking to a ghost, unless it would go something like this: ‘Hello, Casper. How’s it going today? A little misty, are you? Having trouble shaking my hand?’” She grimaced. “Weren’t you scared to be talking to something scary that most people declare doesn’t exist?”
“No way. They exist. We saw them,” Nico stated emphatically. “And the Albino Lady told us that we had to gather certain objects to help them defeat the dark forces, because they couldn’t actually grasp the objects themselves and use them directly.”
“Oh, yeah?” Zoey shook her head. “Like what kind of stuff?”
“Sea water.” Lola counted on her fingers. “Possum’s going to come up with that for us. A cracked porcelain teacup, a horse with a broken leg, hair from a squirrel’s tail, a sightless eye – Possum helped with that one, too – and … um … a sieve and a funnel. We have everything so far but the water, the sieve, and the funnel, but those last two things shouldn’t be hard to come up with. Mom probably has them stored away around in one of the kitchen cabinets. And a couple of other things – a snippet of my hair, and a fingernail paring from Nico.”
“So, okay, you’re going to give these friendly ghosts this stuff that they can’t grasp, and they’re going to defeat the dark forces with them how?”
“Well, I was confused, too. And they haven’t told us how they’ll use the stuff. The Albino Lady handed me the chain and amulet. She was definitely holding onto them, and the proof is around your neck. But she said making the amulet was super hard, plus there has to be cooperation from living people so whatever they’re going to use the stuff for works to keep the bad guys out.”
Zoey touched the amulet. “Yeah, it’s real. So far, so good. But what about the Dark Man? How did he supposedly possess me?” She shuddered. “I remember freezing, numbing cold, but …”
Lola picked up a kernel of popcorn and looked at it. “Suppose you poured some ice water on this popcorn. What happens to it?”
“It gets cold and soggy.” Zoey sipped her cider and ate another handful of popcorn.
“Right. So from what we could see, the Dark Man just suddenly took over your body, as if he was all inside you, making you all cold. Your eyes were all red, too. And then you – he – threatened us. When he came away from you and dropped you onto the basement floor, there was a sucking sound.”
“It was really nasty,” Nico affirmed.
“Eww. No way.” Zoey shook her head.
“That’s the way it was. Your skin was like ice and your lips were blue, but when Klink, the dog, tore the Dark Man to pieces, you looked more normal, although you were still out cold on the floor.”
“Klink the dog?”
“Ghost dog. A big German Shepherd.”
“You two didn’t whack me over the head and make up this story, did you?”
Both children shook their heads.
“All right, I believe you. I shouldn’t, but I do. What’s next?”
Lola shook her head slowly. “We just don’t know. But I suppose we need to find a sieve and funnel next. And maybe clean up the ashes from the spirit board before Mom and Dad get home.”
Lola thought that her parents acted a little strange when they arrived home, but considering the really strange adventure she, Nico, and Zoey had just experienced, she decided not to quiz them about their day. The children had found a funnel and sieve in an overhead cabinet that appeared to have been rarely used.
All the items they’d been instructed to gather were now safe in a small cardboard box under Nico’s bed, including the snippet of hair from Lola and a rather grimy fingernail paring from Nico. Lola had pushed her hair and Nico’s clipped nail into an empty pill bottle. Nico added a small bottle of sea water that Possum had delivered when he arrived to pick up Zoey. They were set.
“So … kids … did you have a good day? I hope you didn’t annoy Zoey too much.” Their mother managed a smile.
“No more than usual.” Nico’s gaze met Lola’s. “We have to keep her day interesting, you know.”
“Well, that’s okay, I guess.” Her mother plucked nervously at her blouse. “I think we’re almost ready for our program to air. If the sun’s out tomorrow, we’ll shoot a few fill-in scenes to add in here and there – you know, a scenic of the cemetery, a few gravestones, that sort of stuff, and then we’ll be ready.”
“Oh … so you’ll be shooting tomorrow?” Lola’s eyebrows perked at the thought of her parents being gone.
“Just in the morning, probably. We’ll be back before lunchtime. I’ll call Zoey and make arrangements with her to come over here in the morning.”
Lola almost protested automatically, but then she remembered. Zoey was one of them now.
The final chapter will be published next week at https://www.tscpl.org/novel
About Paul Swearingen
Paul Swearingen is a retired English/journalism/Spanish teacher who managed to survive 34+ years in public, private, and government schools. He also was a radio newsman and disk jockey, a newspaper editor and photographer, a personnel manager for a large retail store (now defunct), a long-time publisher of the National Radio Club’s magazine, “DX News”, and during a short, dark period was a telemarketer and sold cemetery lots. He lives in Topeka, Kansas, where his main current duty is to keep his garden under close control.
An Interview with Paul Swearingen
What is your writing background? What sort of work do you usually write? (Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, Genre?)
I usually write YA fiction, but I have written a number of non-fiction articles about Kansas people and towns.
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
I wanted to be part of the community writing effort.
Have you ever written fiction in collaboration with other authors before?
Yes, on the two previous community novel efforts.
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 tend to write in short bursts. I wrote my own chapter, 9, in one sitting after careful consideration of what I needed to include in it, from reading through the other eight chapters several times.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project? What challenges you about them?
I like the fact that the protagonists are younger but still have brains that they can use. They are also braver than many adults when faced with danger. It has been a bit of a challenge to match their personalities in my chapter with earlier chapters’ characterizations.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
I felt that it was well-organized and that the ending provided an excellent starting point for my chapter.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
I want to see a definitive clash between good and evil, with good winning out in the end.
What sort of writing can we expect from you in future? Are you currently at work on any writing projects?
I’m working on a historical New Adult novel. I’m sending out queries for two more historical novels, and I plan to replace a novel online in my high school series with a newer, more appropriate story, and then retitle the old one, which I’ve already rewritten.
Especially for Our Younger Readers
What was your favorite book as a kid and why?
I particularly enjoyed Hugh Lofting’s “Dr. Doolittle” stories and Walter R. Brooks’ “Freddy the Pig” series.
What are some of your favorite foods?
Popcorn … ice cream … fried chicken
What is your favorite animal? Do you have any pets?
The pig! Unfortunately, I have no pets.
Why did you want to write for kids?
As a high school teacher for 34 years, I got to know that age group pretty well, much better than any other, so I naturally have been writing for them.