Penny, The Jolly Troop's self-appointed Halloween Queen, found this year's costumes in Vermont so she invited Yvette and The Upper Twin to join her when it was time to pick them up. As they journeyed through upstate New York, Yvette whispered something eery, "Have you noticed that all of us are the colors of All Hallow's Eve? Except for black. I bet you it would make for bad luck if we had a black bird with us..." Just then The Upper Twin thought she heard something rustle in the trees.
They stopped in Whitehall, NY to grab a bite to eat, do a little leaf-peeping and visit a haunted mansion. While Penny and Yvette were being fascinated by the depletion of chlorophyll from the leaves, The Upper Twin kept turning around expecting to see somebody. "Why do I get the feeling that we're being watched?" "Because we're birds, silly. We are always being watched," drawled Yvette.
But The Upper Twin couldn't shake the feeling. She knew what inside-darkness felt like. Something about how the air felt and how the plants were wilting made her body shake like a sudden chill of winter. Have you ever felt scared during the middle of the day—while the sun is shining?
Skene Manor was the perfect place to kill two birds with one stone: they could eat lunch and see a haunted mansion at the same time! In daylight, the mansion didn't seem scary at all, but The Upper Twin kept her distance. "I just feel like something awful is lurking around the corner," she whimpered.
The hostess of the manor had an odd manner about her—she neither confirmed nor denied that the house was haunted. While Penny and Yvette told her about costumes and Vermont, The Upper Twin noticed a terrible scar on her neck. "I wouldn't travel during the night if I were you," the hostess warned, glassy-eyed, "But if you do, remember this phrase: Cross the Bridge, Crossing to Safety."
As the sun set and the clouds turned evening-lilac-blue, nearby church bells chimed. "She was an odd duck," squawked Penny, "She just wanted to spook us." "Still...," hushed The Upper Twin, "I think we should move on before it gets too dark." "You are a ninny, aren't you?!" smirked Yvette.
Suddenly, a gray-blackness covered everything and it turned midnight dark. The crickets stopped chirping and the wind grew silent. All they could hear was ragged breathing from the branches above them. Huddled tightly together, Penny whispered in a commanding tone, "You both have to look up. Look UP! LOOK UP NOW!" There in the tree, in the dark shadows of the sky and branches, sat a menacing bird with red-cross eyes. "I've been following you all day and now that it's dark, you will DRED this night!" And with a loud crash, he lept from the branches and dove at the girls!
The three girls screamed as they flapped from the branches into the night sky, the wind suddenly vicious. Seeing was difficult but they could make out the outline of the forest. "Make for the bridge and don't look back!" Penny cried. A gap began to open up between Penny and the others because Penny never flies - she always runs! There was no where for Penny to land so she had to keep flying, hearing the dark breathing behind her.
Penny flew into the forest, dodging limbs and branches, ducking and climbing, hoping to lose the ragged breathing closing in on her. If only she had flown more often, she would have been stronger now! But there was nowhere to land in the thicket and breathing was getting closer. "You... can't... hide... I can see you!" the dark bird growled.
Just when she thought she was doomed, there was a break in the trees and Penny saw the silhouette of roof. She dove and hit the roof running, knowing that if she could get some solid ground under her feet, she could create some distance between her and the horrific bird. "Cross the Bridge, Crossing to Safety!" she said, over and over, eyes frantically trying to find the bridge in the black night.
And suddenly, there it was! She saw her friends in the tunnel, near the edge at the other side of the bridge. She clawed her feet into the ground as hard as she could and begged the moon, "Moonwing, if you help me make the bridge, I promise I'll never..." And at the entrance of the bridge, swift as a shadow in the night, the dreaded bird swooped down and caught Penny! Yvette and The Upper Twin wailed and immediately flew after the night-thief bird and their unconscious friend.
They flew after them for miles and then suddenly, the evil bird dropped Penny from the high sky, laughing, "You will DRED this night!" Yvette and The Upper Twin dove like speeding bullets but weren't able to catch Penny before she hit the ground. When they found her, she lay red-crossed in an open field, miles from anywhere. They started crying because her legs—her amazing, fast, run everywhere, quicksilver legs—were broken off.
To be continued...