Joe opened his eyes and listened. Something had woken him up but there was a distinct lack of ominous-sounding bongs. It was also very dark, not a ghostly glow to be seen anywhere.
He felt his way to the end of the bed and slid off.
Do you know that feeling you get when you are just about to go to sleep and then you get that sensation of falling?
The thought went through Joe's mind that perhaps that's why they call it falling asleep. The thought also went through his mind that it shouldn't be going on this lon...
Joe opened his eyes for a second time and quickly checked for damage. Thankfully not finding any, he stood up and looked around.
It was still dark, black in fact, but he could see his hand as well as if it were day time - which was odd.
There also appeared to be a thick white mist around his feet, across the whole ground, in fact, all the way to the horizon. Odd and odd again.
Joe turned slowly, like a balding and weatherworn lighthouse, looking for any break in the horizon.
Nothing. Just white mist and black nothingness. So where was the Ghost of Kidsmas Yet to Come? He felt a tug on his duster.
"Ohhhh. There you are."
The diminutive ghost was not so much ghost-like, more perhaps ninja elf-like. Joe put his hands on his hips and stared into the ghost's goggles. "I shall call you, let's see.
I shall call you, Finny."
The ghost opened its mouth to protest but Joe loomed over it ominously and the protestation suddenly remembered it had somewhere else to be.
However, ghostly pride, or whatever it was, couldn't let it go entirely so it copied Joe's hands on hips thing.
They stared at each other for a couple of seconds. Joe sniffed.
"So. Finny. What happens now?"
Finny the ghost held out her hand.
"Take my hand and I will show you..."
"... Images of things yet to happen?"
Joe stared down at the ghost, thinking.
"Tell you what, don't bother." Joe jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "See that?"
Finny bent sideways to see past him. Behind Joe, something was appearing out of the darkness. It was a small set of steps with an ornate metal railing going up the sides.
At the top of the steps was a shiny black door. It was Joe's steps and railings and Joe's front door. Joe turned towards it.
"That, is my future."
Finny looked from the door to Joe.
"But nothing. This isn't about me Finny. It's about you." Joe climbed the steps. At the top, he turned to look down at her. "This whole thing has always been about you. Your past. Your present.
And this..." Joe held out an arm to encompass the blackness. "Is your future."
Finny looked around, looking for things in the dark.
"Everyone's future is hidden Finny. But you've got the goggles. Use them. Find your future."
Scared of what might be in the darkness, Finny desperately flicked through the settings on the goggles. Suddenly, something appeared and Finny's hand froze.
Some distance away was a light, specifically a street light, illuminating a small area of New Flagstaff pavement. A corner.
Finny turned to ask Joe if he could see it. But Joe was gone, as were the steps. Finny's heart fell into her stomach. Joe was supposed to be here, it was in the story.
But he wasn't. Finny turned back towards the scary looking corner in the distance.
"Ok." She breathed the word to settle her nerves, but it still took a moment before her feet began to move.
Finny closed the gap slowly. Anyone who grew up in The Borough knew that you didn't walk next to walls when approaching a door, a corner, or a man wearing a hoodie that hid his face.
So Finny kept her distance until she was directly opposite the corner and could see what lay beyond. She gasped and froze.
It was an alley. There was a large refuse bin and the figure of a man kneeling, doing something to a thing on the ground behind the bin.
The man must have heard her because he stood up and looked at her.
"Finny?" The figure stepped into the light. "Hey, Finn. Didn't see you there."
Finny didn't recognise the figure at first. But then... He was older, teenage maybe even twenty.
"Worms?" He looked nervous, ready to run and glanced around to see if anyone else was with her. "Whatcha doing Worms?" Finny tried to see behind him to the thing on the floor.
"It's not what it looks like Finn. She was already dead, honest."
The thing on the ground became a pair of legs, one foot missing a shoe.
Finny looked back to Worms and only then saw the long knife in his hand,
the blood sliding down the blade to create an impressive drip that almost reached the pavement before falling from the knife's sharp point. His hands, too, were covered in sticky, glistening red.
Worms took a step forward. He shrugged and smiled.
"Just a souvenir. You know how it is."
Finny felt sick. Worms always did have a fascination with dead things. Obviously, rats and cats were no longer enough. She tried to remain calm.
"Where's Onetooth?" Onetooth and Worms were always pretty much inseparable. They were at least a year younger than Finny and Casper and the two little boys clung to each other.
Worms' expression changed. He looked confused.
"You having trouble remembering again Finn? Onetooth didn't make it out of the orphanage. Got into one fight too many. Didn't see the shiv." Again the shrug. He took another step towards Finny.