Chapter 3

Papa Smurf woke up early next morning, ready to face the brand new day, when he heard somebody sleeping in his spare bed. He looked and saw that it was Empath.
"Empath, what are you smurfing here?" Papa Smurf asked.
Empath was suddenly awakened by Papa Smurf's voice. "This smurf had some trouble sleeping in this smurf's own house, Papa Smurf," he answered as he sat bolt upright in the spare bed. "Apparently, sleeping alone in this smurf's new house will take some time getting used to."
Papa Smurf sighed. "I know how that feels mysmurf, Empath. Believe me, I've had some trouble smurfing in my own house when I was a young Smurf of no more than 100. Only I didn't have my Papa Smurf or Mama Smurf around at that time. My fellow Smurfs had to let me smurf at their houses from time to time until I felt comfortable enough to smurf on my own. Your fellow Smurfs are no more different, though some of them easily adapted to their living situations quite smurfly."
"This smurf does not wish to make it a habit of invading your living quarters in order to adjust to sleeping by myself in this smurf's own house, Papa Smurf," Empath stated as he got out of bed and joined Papa Smurf to getting breakfast.
"You don't need to feel ashamed of smurfing over my house if you need to, Empath," Papa Smurf told him. "Just make sure you knock first before you smurf inside in the middle of the night."
"This smurf will acknowledge the warning, Papa Smurf," Empath promised.

After breakfast, Empath joined Handy and some other Smurfs in rebuilding parts of the windmill which had broken down since his last visit to the Smurf Village. Unlike Psychelia, things in the Smurf Village never seem to be built with any thought of durability. Though it irritated Handy to no end when he has to get his tools and parts to fix up a machine that's not working right or at all, he felt proud and useful afterward when he saw the end result of his hard work. Someday, Handy believed, he would design some kind of machine that would outlive its creator and several other generations of inventors and mechanics.
Tapper greeted Empath, Handy, and his workmates with fresh mugs of sarsaparilla ale when the work was complete and they were hot and sweaty. They accepted the ale and Tapper watched as they all swallowed it down in one gulp.
"So how was smurfing in your own house for the first time, Empath?" Tapper asked after Empath placed his empty mug back on Tapper's serving tray.
"It was...interesting, Tapper," Empath answered, unsure of whether to tell anyone about the feeling he had of being physically dragged away from this world in his dreams.
Tapper looked at Empath with some curiosity. "Funny, you smurf as if you've seen a ghost in your house last night. Not that you're the only Smurf who smurfs that way, believe me, because when Papa Smurf smurfed me a house of my own to smurf in, things just felt as if I was smurfing on top of somebody's grave."
"That sounds like superstitious thinking, Tapper," Empath commented.
"I don't know, Empath," Handy said. "Sometimes when I'm smurfing alone in my own bed, I smurf the feeling like I'm not the only Smurf smurfing around in the workshop. I smurf up half the nights wondering what's smurfing on, and all I can smurf is that everything is still, no tools get smurfed around, no doors get opened or closed, nothing."
"It's almost like we got poltersmurfs smurfing around loose, you know?" Scaredy suggested, shivering in fear afterward.
"This is truly beyond belief," Empath said, closing his eyes to all of this talk about things going bump in the night. "You are letting your fears about sleeping by yourselves control your rational thinking. This smurf truly doesn't believe in things like these poltersmurfs."
"I'm sorry that you don't believe in spirits, Empath," Tapper said, "but I still can tell there's something about you that smurfs that you weren't sleeping like a log all last night. However, if you need to smurf your mind away from this believing in superstition for a bit, I could smurf you of a place that truly smurfs like home to me."
Tapper led Empath to a mushroom house that had a shingle with an engraved four-leaf clover hanging by its front door. The door was bolted shut, but Tapper and Empath could see into the place through one of its windows. Though lined with dust and cobwebs, they both saw a serving counter with several stacked high stools on top of it. Behind the counter was a giant barrel, flanked by rows of bottles and shelves full of empty glass and pewter mugs.
"This place was the Smurfrock Tavern," Tapper told Empath. "It was the very place that Papa Smurf and many of his fellow Smurfs used to smurf in, where the finest in sarsaparilla ale was brewed and smurfed to everyone. It's been closed down since Papa Smurf had to raise us now, but someday, this place will be just as smurfly as it was back then. I promise you, Empath, the Smurf behind that counter smurfing you the drinks will be mysmurf."
Empath continued to look into the abandoned Smurfrock Tavern, trying to imagine the scene of his own fellow Smurfs patronizing this place in the future and Tapper holding aloft a fresh mug of sarsaparilla ale, happy about himself and his dream come true. It seemed like just another place of reckless emotional celebration in the village, Empath had to admit, but there was something about the place that assured him that his Irish-brogued Smurf brother would not let such revelry get out of hand.
"Why won't Papa Smurf let you smurf inside the tavern and not just some other Smurf house if this is the place you feel that you belong in, Tapper?" Empath asked.
"Probably for the same reason he won't allow me to smurf up the powerful kind of sarsaparilla ale that he and his fellow Smurfs once smurfed," Tapper answered. "We are simply too young to experience everything about smurfing as an adult, including that kind of sarsaparilla brewing. It may sound like an unreasonable long wait, but I believe Papa Smurf wouldn't smurf us from growing up too fast without a good reason."
"Heads up, Smurfs!" a voice called out from behind. Tapper and Empath recognized the voice as that of Player, a fellow Smurf who like Hefty has a strong love for playing sports and physical games. In the window's reflection, they both saw a smurfball headed straight for it.
Empath reacted quickly. He immediately turned around, jumped up, and caught the smurfball before it made contact with the window. Tapper slowly turned around to see Player approaching the tavern, amazed to see what Empath could do.
"Whoa, nice catch there, Empath," Player greeted. "Blue boys can still jump!"
"Great Smurfiny Crickets, my good Player, do you have to smurf that ball right at that window just to test Empath's agility?" Tapper asked, displeased.
"I didn't smurf nothing bad to anything, Tapper," Player answered shamelessly. "I'm just wondering if Empath would like to smurf on my team for a game of smurfball against Hefty's today."
"Actually, Player, this smurf is thinking of visiting Vanity this afternoon for some appropriate curtain patterns for this smurf's house," Empath said. "Besides, Hefty isn't very fond of this smurf even playing on any Smurf's team against his in...!"
He suddenly stopped talking as, in the next moment, Empath looked and saw that every Smurf had disappeared from sight. He ran throughout the village and called out to all the Smurfs to see if anyone was there, but he couldn't see any other Smurf. It was as if a magic spell had been cast upon them that made his fellow Smurfs suddenly vanish. His third eye couldn't tell if there was any Smurf present, either.
"Empath Psyche, you must come back to Psychelia with us!" a familiar voice boomed. Empath turned to see a Psychelian Guard Elite approaching him with an energy staff.
"It isn't this smurf's time to return to Psychelia yet," Empath cried out, stepping away from the guard who acted as if he wasn't even listening to Empath's protests.
He ran away as fast as he could from the guard, only to find more in other parts of the village, surrounding and closing him in. They were all intent on capturing Empath and taking him back in Psychelia before his visiting time was over.
A hand suddenly grabbed him from behind. The guard that Empath had first seen in the village finally caught up with him and was holding him so firmly. Empath struggled but couldn't get himself free of the guard's grasp.
"Empath! What's wrong?" the guard asked. "It's me...Papa Smurf!"
Empath thought it was a trick that this guard was using Papa Smurf's voice. "No...I don't believe you!" he protested. "You're not making me go back too soon!"
"Nobody's going to smurf you anywhere, my good Empath," another guard said in a voice that sounded like Tapper's. "Take a good smurf around you and see the truth."
Empath looked back at the guard holding him by the arm and then saw that it was Papa Smurf after all, looking very concerned. He then saw the other guards have all been replaced by his own fellow Smurfs, looking at Empath all puzzled.
Empath relaxed a bit, but what had happened to him made no sense at all and it still left a dreadful feeling.