“Walter! Walter!” shouted a voice coming through the window pane. It was the apparition of Mr. Clough. He was rattled and very much in distress. “Walter! It’s Alden! He won’t wake up and he has gone missing!”
“He won’t’ wake up?” Walter instantly knew what Mr. Clough meant.
“He’s been sleep walking, lately. I’ve always brought him back to bed, but I lost sight of him. I—I wasn’t there.”
“Since when has he been sleepwalking?” Walter said.
“A couple of days ago. I found him walking around in the streets one night. I took him home before the Black Coats caught him. I don’t know what happened. Please, help me. You are the only one that can.”
Walter feared the worst. It was a sign that Alden had been spellbound by the spooks. They had to find him and fast. He had to hurry, but he needed a light, as Odin had instructed him. But where was he going to get a light? “We need a light,” he told Mr. Clough. “It wouldn’t be safe to go out there without a light,” just then the Erudite Orb lit up, a soft, white glow.
Walter got an idea. He rummaged through his wardrobe, found his father’s old game bag and took it. Another item he had salvaged from the trash. He pulled the strap across his chest, grabbed the orb and placed it inside the bag. “Meet me south, on the edge of town,” he told Mr. Clough. “We will start looking for him there.” He took the ring and was whisked away.
It didn’t take long for Walter to meet up with Mr. Clough. Walter took out the orb from his bag. It floated in the air, illuminating Walters’ way as he walked prudently towards the woods. The spooks could be anywhere but, he was more worried about the phantom. It could be anywhere. He had seen how swift and silent it was. Nothing could stop it. He didn’t know how they were going to find Alden, but he hoped he found him before the phantom did.
He had to control his fears, he reminded himself over and over, but that proved harder than he thought. His breathing got deeper. He felt his heart thump against his chest, echoing through his ears. His blood rushed to his head, he felt his temperature rise. He held his breath in hopes to listen better. His eyes searched the night in vain. He didn’t want to run. He didn’t want to attract the phantom. Every sound made him turn in that direction or the other way. He remembered what Mr. Adair had said, “Shadows do weird things.” He had to focus on what was ahead. He had forgotten to bring his coat but the heat rising in his body kept him warm.
Mr. Clough glided beside him. Walter hadn’t taken notice of the disconcerting ghost or the guilt he carried on his shoulders. “This is all my fault,” he muttered to Walter. “This is all my fault.”
“We have to find him before they do,” Walter was feeling uneasy walking in the woods this late at night, with no protection but an orb and a ghost.
“Who?” said Mr. Clough.
“The shadowy people. I’ve seen them, you know,” said Walter. “The ones with no faces or eyes?”
“You’ve seen them too!” Mr. Clough said. “I thought, I could only see them. Being a ghost, I see more of the unusual than when I was living.”
Walter couldn’t see the moon from where they were. It made the woods appear darker. The legendary Black Forest was a place he expected terrible things to happen, but not the woods. The once safe place had become as scary as the Black Forest. They rambled about with no direction or idea where Alden was. Walter thought they were wasting time. They needed to find another way. Then it came to him. The orb. He turned to the floating orb. “I need to find Alden,” he said, hoping it would help him.
The last thing he wanted the orb to do was blacken out, but it did just that. It took all of Walter’s might to control his emotions. He began to feel the sweat pour down his forehead. Besides having nothing to defend himself with he was lost. He heard rustling of the leaves, a squall of the wind and suddenly he was feeling a chill run down his spine.
“Are we lost, again,” said a voice and out of nowhere a lantern came in to sight.
“Brutus,” Walter was relieved to see him.
“The floating lanterns,” mumbled Mr. Clough.
“At your service,” said an impassive Brutus. “Follow me, I will guide you back home.”
“Not home, Brutus. I am looking for my friend. He looks like me, but shorter. I need to find him. He is in grave danger,” Walter said.
“Was he lost? I only beckon to those that are lost, lad.”
“I know you only appear to those that are lost but he is sleepwalking. He doesn’t know what he is doing. Please, help me. I don’t know what else to do,” Walter pleaded. He was out of choices. “Did you see him come this way? Do you know where he might be?”
Brutus was silent for a few moment. It was hard for Walter to read him. “I did see a boy come this way,” he finally said. “But, he wasn’t lost.”
“Where did he go?” Walter said.
“He went that way,” he pointed to the east. “I will take you to him.”
“Thank you, Brutus,” Walter was grateful. They followed the quiet Brutus to where he had pointed. When they came to the edge of the woods, Brutus came to a stop. “This is where I leave you. I cannot go beyond the woods. Your friend should be further down that direction.” He signaled straight ahead. “I hope you find your friend.” The half-moon came into view and illuminated the rest of the grass land. Before Walter could thank him again, Brutus was gone.
“They vanish so quickly,” Mr. Clough mumbled.
“We better hurry,” Walter said. “I think I know where Alden went.”