The girl wiped her eyes with her sleeve. Nikki couldn't believe exactly what she was seeing - a ghost. Occasionally the idea of trying to phase her hand through the girl would arise, but she would shut it down instantly, knowing that this wasn't the time for such things.
"Okay. Uh...from the beginning, do you mean how I died, or...?" Nikki shrugged. "Sure, start from wherever you'd like."
"Well, it was a day like any other. Wow, that sounds so cliche...anyway, I was angry at my mom. I told her something, I can't remember what it was, but I was trying to prove a point, but she wouldn't listen. So I got angry and stomped away. I was walking by the river, pulling something, trying to move it, but then I tripped. I don't know what I tripped over. It hurt a bit. But then I fell into a tree, and I remember hearing something crash down next to me. It was a hornet nest. So I freaked out, trying to run away, but they caught up to me pretty fast. All I remember was being stung a lot. So many times. And then I fell, again. But this time it was really wet, so I guess I fell into the river. The stings I got were so bad, they were everywhere, and I couldn't move...so I died. I woke up in this place, and was really happy for a while, but then one day I wanted to go outside, and I saw everything that was happening. I just want to help people..." her words trailed off as she hugged her knees.
Nikki sat there, lost for words. Not only had this girl, or ghost, told her her death story, but it also reminded her of another legend she had heard.
"Do you remember where you were when you died? Like, the name of the place?"
"Not really. It was a river, and I think there were a bunch of other trees around, too."
Nikki's theory was ready to burst out of her head. "Well, I just had an idea. A crazy idea. There's this legend around camp about a girl who fell in the river many years ago, and that she drowned in the river, which is what the Madam used as a scare measure to keep us away from the camp boundaries. Do you think you could be that girl?"
The girl shifted around uncomfortably. "Maybe. It seems to be a likely story, and I'd like to believe it, if it really was me, but I just don't know. I don't even know what to do here to make myself happy so I can go to heaven!" She held her head in her hands. Nikki grabbed the girl's hands, a little surprised that her hands didn't phase through.
"Hey, you said you wanted to help people, right? You've already helped all of us get out of that terrible white room!"
"But it sent you all somewhere worse! I saw what she did to them! It's not pretty, and I want it to stop!" Nikki fell silent. She bit her lip, searching for something to say.
"You didn't screw up. You can still help us. Look - there's a group of people inside that are discussing ideas of how to counter against the Madam and whatever she's doing! You can tell us what you know, and, and, and then we can make a plan around that..." Nikki looked at the girl for a reaction. The girl slowly shook her head.
"I...I don't know. They've all seen me before, and I'm not sure how good of an impression I can make when I'm in the physical world..." Nikki grasped the girl's shoulder firmly. "It's our only chance," she said. "Earlier I thought that there was no hope. I couldn't help but think to myself that this resistance that everyone was forming was coming too quickly, like we don't know enough to actually counter against it, you know? But you know something. You saw something, and I know it was horrible, it's hard to talk about these kinds of things, but can we at least try?"
The girl stared at the grass for a while, and Nikki let her be. She didn't think that she would ever be such a spokesperson, especially in this situation, but something about this girl, dead or not, told her that there really was something to strive for - to live for.
"Okay," the girl said. "I'll try. But I can't guarantee anything." Nikki's face split into a wide grin. "Awesome! That's the spirit - soon we can figure this all out, alright? I promise. Oh! And, er, if you wouldn't mind me asking, what's your name?"
"I never told you?" She seemed surprised herself. "Sorry. I'm Clarisse."
"I'm Nikki, if, uh, you didn't already know. And...I know it's a little overwhelming, but if I could ask another question, when you said that you weren't sure of how well you could hold up in the physical world...does this mean I'm currently not in the real world?"
"Oh!" Clarisse's look of surprise turned to one of pure shock. "Yeah. Your spirit came out of your body when you followed me. Sorry! I never really thought about any of the consequences!" Nikki looked at her hands, expecting them to be transparent. No such image came to her eyes.
"U-Uh...don't worry! Th-That's okay, right? I can g-get back to my body easy e-enough, right?" For once, Clarisse sighed with relief. "Yeah, that one is possible, I know for sure. We should probably go and check on your physical body - someone might have noticed that you slumped over and kind of...collapsed."
"Good point. Let's go."
Nikki felt herself gasp in a large amount of air, as if she couldn't stop sucking in the oxygen. She inhaled so much that she instantly sat up and coughed, waiting until her breathing seizures had ceased until she noticed where she was. The sheets were tangled around her body as she untangled herself out of her bed.
"Hey, you're awake!" someone said. Nikki glanced up to see it was Ellie. "We've been worried. You should have told us if you were so tired - you just up and collapsed!" Nikki nodded solemnly, staring at her hands, squeezing them together to be sure. She was back in her body. A chill washed through her body, filling her with warmth rather than cold.
A flurry of voices was coming closer. Nikki felt even more relief as she saw her friends - Wendy, Mark, Chett, Jenna, and most of her cabin - darting towards her. They all panted as they slowed to a stop.
"Nikki," Mark breathed. "it's nice to see you're back."
"Do you know why you collapsed?" Jenna asked quietly. "It might be because of hunger...a couple other people are feeling a bit weak, too..."
"I am hungry," Nikki confirmed. "But just wait until you guys hear this. You might want to sit down, it could take awhile."
Her friends sat around on the beds, giving each other the same, skeptical glance. With a deep breath, and her fingers crossed, Nikki proceeded to tell them everything she had experienced, telling her friends how a dead river girl was going to save them all. On second thought, as she was telling them this, maybe it was a little far-fetched. Or...a lot. Nikki finished her tale, waiting for a response with bated breath. The cool sweat trickled down her neck as her heart pounded inside her chest.
"Well?" she urged. Most of them didn't want to meet her eye.
"That's just it," Wendy said. "it's not that we don't believe you, but what you're saying is a little...impossible."
"I agree with Wendy," Mark stared at the ground as if he was having a lengthy staring contest with it. "I know we all saw her, but...we haven't seen her the entire time we've been in this place. Maybe the girl was just an illusion."
"I believe her," said Jenna inquisitively. "We've already seen so many impossible things, I think I can believe another." Nikki's chest swelled. Good ol' Jenna!
"It seems you're one in a million." Chett sighed. "I'm not that acquainted with supernatural happenings."
"You were with Jenna and I when we saw Clarisse! How can you deny that?!" Nikki fired up. Chett sunk into the corner of the bed he was sitting on, purposefully avoiding Nikki's gaze.
"I don't know," he said. "I-I..."
"Leave him alone!" Zoe interjected. "This doesn't mean anything! You can't prove that this...Clarisse exists, can you? That would make this process a lot easier."
"Well..." Nikki bit her lip. Shoot, she thought. This wasn't going to go over well.
"Maybe I could help?" The voice came from behind Nikki, and she spun her head around to see who it was, and to her instant relief stood Clarisse. Her pink shirt was as dirty as ever, but this time her hair was pulled back and held by a black hairpin.
"Guys," Nikki turned back to them, making room for Clarisse in the circle. "this is Clarisse. She's the one I've been trying to tell you about." Clarisse blushed nervously as they all looked at her. She looked to Nikki, who gave her an encouraging look. She sat on her knees and cleared her throat.
"S-So, as you probably know, I'm Clarisse, the, uh, 'ghost girl'." She paused for a second before going on. "I'm just here to say that everything Nikki has told you is true. I'm...dead..." She shivered at the word. "but I also have seen what kind of things the Madam has done. And I know what she will do if things keep going the way they are. I'd be willing to share, if you'll believe me."
There was silence after she finished her speech, and a couple more glances thrown around. Clarisse fiddled with her fingers restlessly. Nikki prayed that they would believe.
"Can you prove that you're dead?"
"TJ!" Ellie hit him on the shoulder.
"Ouch! It's a little hard to believe, don't you think? Supernatural stuff like this doesn't just happen everyday! I think we should at least have some proof!"
"Okay." Clarisse stood, stretching her arms. everyone stared at her, surprised. Then, without warning, she began to float in the air, drifting to the side a little. There was a collection of gasps, but Clarisse didn't stop there. She flew to the nearest wall and disappeared inside of it, gone for a second, and then came right back. She sat right back down as if nothing had happened.
"What? What!" Was all anyone could hear for a minute, until the chatter calmed down.
"Y-You're actually a ghost!" TJ exclaimed. "This is the weirdest day ever..." Murmurs of agreement followed his response.
"Now that that's out of the way, can we please hear her out? I want to know how to protect ourselves, if you don't mind..." Clarisse nodded, a small smirk on her face, and opened her mouth to say something. She barely uttered a word before a loud, piercing sound met their ears.
The metal door was opening, and out stumbled the remainder of cabin Jumping Jaguar.ns 220.127.116.11da2