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||You are on Week 249
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Two Hundred Forty-Nine Ends October 28
The shadows were everywhere. They slipped under the door, through the cracks in the wall, and filled every corner of the room like a swelling, angry storm cloud. The worst part wasn't the darkness, though. It was the eyes. Eyes in every direction, glowing and glimmering fiercely in the dark, never blinking, always watching...
And somehow, no matter where you went, they would always be watching...
Wellard sat up in bed with a start, sweat dripping from his brow. Through his window, he could see the stars glowing comfortably around him. "It was just a dream," the Kacheek reassured himself. "I've got to stop eating Gargarox's food right before I go to sleep," he joked. "It's probably giving me these nightmares."
Well, he was wide awake now. With a sigh, Wellard swung his feet over the bed and padded quietly to the bathroom. He turned on the tap and splashed some water over his feverish face to cool it down. Ahh, much better! That stupid dream seemed so far away now.
The Kacheek was about to reach for his towel when something caught his eye. Looking behind the water faucet, he picked up the ocularimplant he had bought the day before. The Grundo shopkeeper had given him a great bargain on the dusty, old thing simply because one of the wires was apparently a bit finicky.
"That's odd," Wellard mused. "I could've sworn I put this away last night." The Kacheek shrugged and stared at the little Battledome item in his paw. The eyeball twitched a bit, and then went haywire, wildly swivelling around. Bah, that troublesome wire! He might as well fix it while he was still holding it.
Carefully, the Kacheek adjusted the ocularimplant around his own eyes, then looked in the mirror. It seemed to be working all right...
Suddenly, the air around him went as cold as ice. "What in Neopia?" Wellard exclaimed. The Space Station was usually kept at a stable temperature. Perhaps there had been a malfunction with the control systems?
That's when something flashed by him in the mirror. Wellard could've almost sworn that he saw another Neopet next to his reflection, but when he turned around, there was nothing there...
Author: screams from under the blankets|
Date: 21st October
...Shaken, Wellard reached up to tear the ocularimplant away from his face. His questing hands wrapped around the device and yanked on it. He tried again and again, becoming frantic, no longer caring whether the delicate wires became tangled up in knots or even torn clear out, or whether the glassy eye was crushed to pieces in his paws. All his struggles were in vain, however; the ocularimplant would not budge.
The Kacheek shivered and turned away from the mirror. He had to calm down. Panicking was no good. Everything would be fine, he told himself. In the morning he would find someone who could remove the implant for him. For right now, there was nothing to be done.
In the hallway on his way back to bed, the Kacheek suddenly stopped short and sagged against the wall, rubbing his eyes. For a moment he had seen double, as if his eyes were crossed. The first of the two overlapping images was the familiar carpeted hallway, with welcoming light spilling out of his bedroom door at the end. But the other, instead of being a copy of the first image, was a different picture entirely: a dark, forbidding corridor, with shadowy figures that flitted around, always just out of sight...
When Wellard looked up again, he saw nothing out of the ordinary -- just his apartment, quiet and utterly serene.
My mind is playing tricks on me, he thought wryly.
A walk around the Space Station, he decided, could be just the thing to quiet his racing nerves. That, and throw in a midnight snack from the cafe... (He ought to be safe with just a marshmallow Grundo, right?) Wellard reached for the doorknob...
Date: 24th October
...and pushed the door out into the deserted hallway.
For a moment, the edges of his vision shivered with movement, the halls of the Space Station inexplicably off-center. When he tried to focus on them, however, the imperfections faded away, and no amount of waiting brought them back.
"This is ridiculous." Wellard muttered, shaking his head as though to clear it. "Hallways cannot move." He lingered for a moment more, but when the sheets of steel in front of him remained sheets of steel, he scuttled hurridly in the direction of the cafe (thankful, of course, that no one was awake to hear him talking to himself; they might think he was crazy!).
While he walked through the dimly lit corridor, his paw ran unconsciously over the intricate machinery of the ocularimplant. It was strapped to the Kacheek's head as firmly as ever, and was beginning to get uncomfortable against his matted fur. Perhaps it was even responsible for the strange abnormalities in his vision. The Grundo shopkeeper had said it hadn't been functioning properly.
The low-hanging lamps above Wellard flickered with a gust of wind that didn't exist. Wellard tilted his head backward, his heartbeat frantic -- he told himself he was being silly -- to investigate the lights...
...which suddenly didn't seem to be there.
Engulfed in darkness and a state of not-so-irrational panic, Wellard didn't heisitate when a dull thud rang behind him.
Marshmallow Grundos! His mind screamed at him in a desperate, and ineffective, attempt to cling to normalcy and reason. I think I've got a craving for one of those marshmallow Grundos! The Kacheek half-sprinted, half-stumbled, through what was (what IS, his mind insisted) the Space Station--
And apparently, there WAS some connection with his beloved Space Station, because one of the multiple shadows strewn across the floor turned out to be a puddle of oil. Wellard slipped, his arms flailing wildly, and crashed chin-first onto the hard, metallic ground.
He lay there for a moment, panting and cursing his own paranoia. The power must simply be down, he reasoned, and the auxilary would surely be kicking in shortly. He pushed himself up into a sitting position, hugging his knees (just like they taught him in the drills). I'd better report this oil spill, too, he thought absentmindedly. An oil spill in the Space Station could mean something irrelevant, like someone had trodden on their Petpet -- or that the air lock was leaking, which would be a very big problem.
His eyes began to adjust to the dark as he waited for the auxilary power he had so much faith in. He did not wait much longer, as something cold, heavy, and clawed dug itself into his shoulder...
Date: 25th October
...Wellard screamed, and tumbled over himself, trying in vain to escape down the hallway. He groped futilely against the wall, trying to find a handhold to pull himself upright. He grabbed wildly and snagged a piece of cloth, tearing it from whatever it had been covering. The sound rebounded down the corridor, echoing until it sounded as if many pieces of cloth were being torn. Then there was silence.
Wellard sobbed and glanced around, the darkness seeming to cling to his body like a wet rag, blinding him and causing him to become even more fearful. He stood up shaken, reminding himself that this was all just some terrible waking nightmare and that everything would be all right. He remembered his dream and shuddered, leaning against the wall for balance. Suddenly a great bang sounded, echoing down the darkened corridors, and the poor Kacheek squeaked in fright and darted down the hall, promptly running into a wall and falling flat on his face.
Wellard hurt all over. His heart pounded like a bass drum, and he felt blood from his nose trickle down his face. He tried to force himself to move but found his body was paralysed with fear. He lay face down on the floor, gasping for breath and trying to force himself to move. He reached a tiny shaking hand up to his face and pinched his nose, hoping to stop the bleeding. A bang sounded again, and the echoes made it sound like the Space Station was roaring at the Kacheek. Wellard forced his head up, forced himself to try and penetrate the darkness. His eyes saw nothing but darkness. There was another bang, and Wellard turned his head and spotted a tiny glowing light. The light itself was pitiful, barely throwing enough illumination to light itself in the encapsulating darkness. However, clearly visible in its tiny circle of light was…
Date: 25th October
And, as Wellard stared hard into the enveloping gloom he saw, in the tiny glow, the distinct features -- slickly pointed ears, slight nose, round, soft forehead -- of a Kacheek. Not just any Kacheek (he was certain his sanity had fled him when he collided with the wall), but, he was sure, he was staring at an image of himself.
The Kacheek moved with slow, plodding steps and, as it came closer, more and more of its form became visible. It was covered in thick chains, the longest of which was attached to a massive iron ball which would explain the clangor he had heard moments before. It dragged behind the Kacheek, occasionally bouncing slightly as the struggling creature pulled it along, and returning to the cold metal floor with a bang that echoed through the corridor and brought a chill to Wellard's very soul. The form of the creature seemed to fade in and out of existence, though Wellard could not explain why, and a strange vapor surrounded the Kacheek like a thin veil of mist.
Wellard was about to cry out, to call for help... or something, when the Kacheek was atop him, covering his mouth with a hand that seemed to lack substance, but effectively stifled his cry nonetheless.
"Hush," the ghostly Kacheek (for Wellard had decided it was a ghost) whispered as it slowly withdrew its hand. Wellard considered, for a brief moment, attempting to cry out again, but quickly thought better of it. If there were more ghosts on the Space Station he certainly didn't wish to bring their attention to him. "Wellard," the Kacheek continued, "there is much I must tell you and very little time."
Wellard stared at the Kacheek for a moment before motioning for him to continue.
"You must remove the ocularimplant before the morning light. I beg you not to go to the cafe for it will only waste away what little time remains. There is an infirmary two levels above where we are now. You must go there and remove the ocularimplant yourself. If you do not, both our fates will be sealed, and you and I will be as one."
The blood drained from Wellard's face. "Y-you mean I will die?"
"Exactly. I am what becomes of you if you do not remove the ocularimplant before dawn."
"But, h-h-how do I die?"
But the figure was already fading away into the darkness. In a matter of seconds, it completely vanished, leaving nothing but its lingering words:
"Hurry, they are watching..."
Date: 26th October
..."Who are they?" Wellard called out, but the only reply he got was his own echoes. Shakily he got to his feet, and, steadying himself against the wall, began to walk down the passageway -- away from where the ghostly Kacheek had come.
He walked for several mintes, one paw running down the wall to guide him, before he realised that he had no idea how to get up to the infirmary. He thought he knew the Space Station well, but this new dark world was completely alien to him and played with his senses. In the pitch blackness Wellard could barely see the wall, let alone a flight of stairs. He could have passed one on the other side of the corridor, and he would have had no idea.
Despairingly he leant against the wall, sliding down until he sat on the floor. "It's hopeless!" he sobbed, turning and banging his head against the wall. There was a sharp crack as the lens of the ocularimplant pounded against the wall, giving Wellard another double image.
For a moment, the Space Station as he knew it hovered in his vision, brightly-lit, clean, and orderly, then gave way to the dark corridor again. He looked up blurrily, slightly dazed, to where a ghostly blur raised what might have once been a paw and pointed. He blinked, and the image vanished.
With no better plan, Wellard began walking slowly to where it had pointed, squinting for any sign in the darkness. He'd almost given up when -- there! A slightly darker patch of darkness, in a door shape.
He walked through the door, falling over the first step of the stairs as he did so. This must be one of the emergency stairs, used only when power in the space station was needed for more important things than lifts and escalators. Crawling on hands and knees, Wellard began the long climb up the dusty, disused staircase. He could only hope that it led in the right direction...
Date: 26th October
...As Wellard climbed, a wind stirred up the dust of the staircase. He could feel it swirling and looping around him as if the air were shivering. And then voices began to whisper -- a thousand voices worn to thinness until they were only a suggestion on the wind.
Wellard clambered faster, bruising his knees, his paws.
The voices -- they were old, young, male, female, grated, tinny. They brushed at his ears like kisses and all whispered the same thing:
Save us. Help us. Save us. Help us.
It's nothing, Wellard said to himself. It's nothing. But he strained more quickly up the steps in the darkness, searching blindly for one. Another. Another.
Then the air around him suddenly went cold.
Wellard jumped and jarred his elbow and flew up the remaining steps, choking on dust in his panic.
An eternity passed before he reached a landing. He leapt forward and grappled for a handle in the dark. But he couldn't find it.
The whispers and the cold crept in behind him. Wellard shrank against the door, desperately scrabbling for the handle, and suddenly, there it was.
With a grateful cry of relief, he slammed the door open and leapt into the hall, spinning around to make sure nothing followed him as the door shut.
In the black of the stairwell just before the door closed, he thought he saw the flitting images of a thousand creatures, mixed pale faces and shadows, all staring at him. Then they vanished.
Wellard rubbed his eyes and sank into a wall to still his rapid heart. Strange. Strange. He didn't know if he could take anymore.
After a moment though, he got up and began to feel his way down the hall. He still had a deadline after all...
Date: 27th October
...The wall was cold and smooth beneath his paws as he carefully made his way. For the first time in his life, he cursed his good health. If only he had been sick once, he might know which door led to the infirmary or even which side of the hall it was on.
He came to the first door and grabbed the doorknob with relief. Perhaps the infirmary was right here and soon his nightmare would be over. He turned on the knob, but it wouldn't budge. It was locked tight.
"No," he moaned softly. What if this was the infirmary, but he was helplessly locked out?
A soft noise alerted his attention as he saw another ghostly light illuminating another door to the right. Taking a deep breath, he walked towards the light, hoping it was leading him to the right place.
All at once, the door to the stairwell blew open with an arctic blast of howling wind. Whispers floated on the air like confetti as the wind reached for Wellard with its icy fingers.
The time for indecision had past. The frightened Kacheek ran for the door and threw himself against it with all his strength...
Date: 27th October
...slamming into it with an impact that jarred his bones and made the ocularimplant start strobing madly back and forth between the icy dark corridor and the warmly-lit normal space station. Wellard felt a headache start behind his eyes, but during the bright flashes, he could see the sign reading INFIRMARY -- and, with a whoosh of relief, the opening mechanism. He grabbed at it; the infirmary door, designed for easy operation by those in distress, glided open.
Wellard stumbled inside, shoving the door shut behind him, trying to blink in time with the strobing ocularimplant for a few seconds before giving it up as hopeless. In the light, the Infirmary looked warm and welcoming, with first-aid supplies, standard medicines, and a beautiful star-field and part of Neopia showing through an enormous window.
In the dark, it looked like a torture chamber.
Wellard tried to concentrate on the light, on finding instruments that would allow him to free himself from the ocularimplant. He found them, worked with his eyes shut, had it nearly free... and as he squinted through it one last time, the door burst open.
Freezing wind surrounded him; ghostly fingers clutched.
Save us. Help us. Save us. Help us.
Wellard's heart turned over. They clutched not to drag him away, but in supplication.
They needed help.
Each of the chained ghosts wore a malfunctioning ocularimplant.
Each pled with him, desperately.
Wellard looked out at the starfield as his own ocularimplant continued to strobe. Light. Dark. Light. Dark. Light. Dark.
In the light, the infirmary was reflected dimly in the window.
In the reflection, he could see the ghosts. But he couldn't work backward.
The Kacheek ghost that looked like him shook his head. "You don't have time," said the ghostly Kacheek. "At morning's light, if you're still wearing the ocularimplant, you'll be lost too."
Wellard had never been a hero before. He didn't think he was much of one now. But with weeping in his ears, he settled the malfunctioning ocularimplant back onto his own head and began freeing the ghosts.
As he pried the implants loose, they would disappear from the dark view and start showing up, in bright colors, in the light. Then they would fade, but all their reflections stayed.
At last there was only the ghostly Kacheek left, shaking his head.
The Space Station was coming around Neopia, and the first rays of light crept over the horizon...
Date: 28th October
...The ghostly Kacheek moved, ever so slowly, towards Wellard. His pallid, translucent hands hung at his sides. "Your time has come..."
Wellard stumbled back, his eyes pleading with the encroaching form that spelled his doom.
Brilliant light filtered in through the infirmary windows, and suddenly the ghostly Kacheek halted his approach.
"W-what is?" inquired Wellard, a look of fear clearly visible on his face, an audible quiver in his tone.
"This is where I died. This is when I died. And yet you live." The ghost slumped down onto the floor, wisps of pale blue mist trailing behind him. "So many have died, but you have freed them all from a fate far worse than death, risking your own life in the process... perhaps you could free me and, in turn, free yourself."
The sun was shining upon the Space Station full force as Wellard approached his phantom twin. He reached up with gentle hands and slid the apparatus between the ghost Kacheek's intangible form and the cursed ocularimplant. In an instant the strange device fell away, and for a moment the ghost Kacheek stood before him, smiling.
Then, as all the other ghosts had before him, the Kacheek faded away leaving nothing but a few lingering words upon a phantom breeze:
You have saved us. You have helped us.
The ocularimplant that had trapped Wellard in a world of death and darkness crumbled away from his face, falling to the cool steel floor of the Space Station as nothing more than dust and a tangle of wires.
With the coming of a new day, the first sounds of life greeted Wellard's tired ears. A young Grundo entered the infirmary and stopped, dead in his tracks, regarding Wellard with a look of suspicious caution.
"Are you ill?" the Grundo inquired, giving Wellard a once over glance, his eyes coming to rest upon the pile of dust at the Kacheek's feet, wherein a single twisted wire twitched strangely.
"No, just a bit disoriented," Wellard replied with a smug smile. "Not to worry though, I think I know just the cure!"
* * * * *
A short while later, Wellard sat alone at a window in the Space Station cafeteria, staring out at the beautiful Neopian sun.
And upon the table sat his cure: a delicious chocolate dipped marshmallow Grundo.
Date: 28th October
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