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||You are on Week 458
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 Four Hundred Fifty Eight Ends Friday, April 30th
"I don't know what to do with all of this stuff, Nykela," Catja said, staring helplessly at the piles upon piles of strange items scattered throughout the room. It seemed as though everywhere she looked, her eye lit on a glimmering wand, a bottle of swirling liquid, or an amulet set with a gem that glinted maliciously in the low light. "I'll never be able to figure out how -- or why -- Uncle Heichul collected all of these magical items. He never talked about fighting in the Battledome or studying to be a wizard or anything like that."
Nykela picked up a tiny purple box and looked at it sceptically. "Are we even sure that this junk is magical? I mean, whoever heard of a 'Fyora Ex Machina' anyway? It looks like a booby prize from the Tombola."
Catja shivered a little, her long Cybunny ears quivering. "I don't know; it feels... strange in here." She squinted at the air as if expecting to see magic floating among the motes of dust. "There's definitely some kind of magic in here..."
Her Lupe cousin shook her head. "Well, neither of us are magicians. We should just box this stuff up and take it to someone who knows how to deal with magical items, though, like I said, I have my doubts about that."
"OK," Catja said, nodding slowly. "Hand me a box and let's get started."
The two cousins began piling the magical items into the boxes, at first trying to group them by type, potions with potions, scrolls with scrolls. As the hours wore by, though, and the pile hardly seemed to shrink at all, they began to haphazardly toss items into boxes without any care for their type.
"Hey, are you all right, Catja?" Nykela asked, waving a paw in front of her cousin's eyes. The Cybunny had stopped packing and was staring blankly into space. "Neopia to Catja, come in, Catja?"
Catja came out of her reverie with a jerk, blinking. "Sorry... I just..." She shook her head slightly, pressing a trembling paw to her forehead. "The air feels different again. Have you noticed? Do you think that maybe... maybe some of these things shouldn't be near each other? Like they'll somehow react to each other?"
The Lupe rolled her eyes. "Don't be silly, Catja. Most of these things look like harmless toys..."
Before she could finish her thought, a loud thumping noise filled the room, as if a Petpet had somehow been trapped inside one of the boxes...
Editor's Note: This week's Storytelling beginning was written from an idea submitted by dan4884. Keep sending in your ideas for Storytelling beginnings, and they might just appear in an upcoming contest!
Author: Have a Magical Jumble Sale!|
Date: Apr 26th
The cousins exchanged a startled glance before Nykela -- always the braver of the two -- moved to the pile of boxes that the sound seemed to be emanating from.
"Be careful, Ny," whispered Catja, nervously twirling an ear around her paw as she watched. "You don't know what that could be."
"Probably that dumb Beekadoodle in a Box we found that got knocked open," returned Nykela, making a beeline for the pile. "Lemme find it."
Nykela rummaged through the pile until she found, by dint of the fact that it was shaking as well as thumping noisily, the offending box.
"Got it," she called to Catja, who approached warily and stood a good distance behind Nykela.
The white Lupe fixed the box with her golden-eyed stare, watching the arrhythmic knocking from the inside of the box force its cardboard sides to give a little. She hesitated only a moment, then deftly folded back the top.
The noise stopped at that point, and in the silence both Nykela and Catja leaned forward to peer into the box's dusty contents.
And something was peering right back at them. And it was not a Beekadoodle in a Box.
"Oh!" said Catja delightedly. "That green Gnorbu figurine from earlier -- it's... moving!"
"That is completely adorable!" said Nykela, looking at the little Gnorbu's head as it blinked at them. "Think we can play with it?"
"I want to dress it up -- there was a weird little cocktail umbrella over here somewhere, it was pink --" said Catja, rummaging through an adjacent box.
Catja and Nykela both jumped to their feet.
"It talks!" squealed Catja, enchanted by this new development.
"Of course I can talk, you silly girl," said the Gnorbu as he extricated himself from the miscellaneous junk in the box around him. As the Gnorbu worked his way out of the box, both Nykela and Catja noticed that the expression on his face was supremely grumpy.
And what's more, he looked oddly familiar, now that he was out of the box and being lit by the blinking glow of the marvellous and mysterious items that populated the room.
It was Catja who finally realised why.
"That's -- that's Uncle Heichul!!" she gasped, covering her mouth with both paws so that only her wide eyes were visible.
"Well," answered Nykela, "it sure does look like him..."
"Of course I'm Heichul!" snapped the doll-sized Gnorbu irritably. "Though how I could be related to such nincompoops as you two, I'll never know. I gave you your first pyramid block puzzles! I taught you how to play Scarab 21! How could you possibly not know me?"
"Maybe because you're the size of a Kadoatie," suggested Catja politely.
"And just as fierce," added Nykela with a swift smile. "What in Neopia happened to you, Uncle H.? You disappeared for years -- and the family finally decided that it was time to put some order into your stuff, that's why we're here..."
"That's a very good question," answered Uncle Heichul. "And one that I am not fully at the liberty to answer."
"Never you mind, you silly Lupe. There's something I must discover first: what went wrong."
With that cryptic statement, the tiny Gnorbu spun around and plunged head-first into the box he had clambered out of earlier, apparently in search of something very particular. He tossed out a strange set of spectacles with spirals for lenses, a shining purple shell that whistled musically as it clattered to the floor, a small bottle of an unsavoury-looking greenish liquid, a nondescript sock, a set of golden cutlery --
"Aha!" said Uncle Heichul, reappearing and looking very satisfied. "The culprit!"
In his hands was the small purple box that Nykela had scoffed at before. "The Fyora Ex Machina! I must have come into contact with it at some point, that would explain a lot..."
"Explain a lot of what...?" asked Nykela, looking sceptically at the tiny box and her equally tiny uncle.
"Well, you see, the thing about the Fyora Ex Machina is -- gah!"
The box had slipped out of Heichul's hands -- or perhaps jumped out, because the little Gnorbu had certainly had a tight hold on it -- and fallen to the floor.
"Don't let it open!" cried Heichul to his two nieces. Nykela dived to stop the small box's lid from flipping open, but it was too late...
Date: Apr 26th
As the delicate box struck the hard stone floor with a crack, its lid swung wide open. Nykela and Catja stood frozen in shock, eyes wide, as their uncle let out a loud cry of despair. The three could do little but watch as thick purple smoke surged from the box in waves, quickly spreading throughout the room.
"Uncle!" cried Nykela, grabbing for her cousin's arm, unwilling to be separated. "What's happening? Where are you?" The smoke had now completely filled the room.
"I knew it," muttered Catja, clutching her cousin's arm just as tightly, barely holding back her panic at this strange situation. "I knew these things were dangerous. We should never have touched them."
A gruff cough came through the impenetrable smoke. "No need to be alarmed, girls," their uncle's familiar voice called out from several feet away. "You'll be just fine. I think," he said rather hesitantly, rather failing to calm the girls.
Then everything went black.
A faint groan woke Nykela. It took her a few seconds to realise that the groan had been hers. Another few seconds later came the realisation that she was no longer standing by her cousin's side, but lying flat on the floor with her face pressed uncomfortably against the cold stone. And of course her head was pounding as if she had run face-first into a wall.
With a wince, she pushed herself up into a sitting position and took stock of her surroundings.
Catja was sprawled several feet away, seemingly asleep, while their still tiny uncle was stretched across a pile of glittering wands nearby. And most curiously of all, they were still in that same room at their Uncle Heichul's house. Nothing had changed.
Well, that was rather anticlimactic. At least the smoke was gone.
Nykela crawled over to where Catja lay and shook her gingerly. "Hey, wake up."
Catja's reaction upon waking was similar to Nykela's own. "What happened?" Her face scrunched up into an expression of intense discomfort. She was probably feeling that headache as well.
Nykela shrugged, just as perplexed as her cousin. "I have no idea. You should wake Uncle Heichul. I'm sure he'll know more about it." She held out her hand to help Catja up and pointed in the direction of their uncle. "I'll look for that dumb box."
As she heard the distinct sounds of her uncle grumpily coming back into the waking world, she rummaged through piles and piles of strange artefacts, looking for the little purple box that had caused all this commotion.
"Don't bother. You won't find it." Heichul was perched precariously on Catja's shoulder, dusting himself off. "We're inside it."
The two girls looked at him blankly. "What?" they asked, dumbfounded, in unison.
"Exactly what I said," Heichul settled himself comfortably on Catja's shoulder, twining his hand through her fur for balance. "We are currently inside the Fyora Ex Machina."
"Inside? But..." Catja glanced questioningly at Heichul. The idea of being inside a tiny purple box seemed ridiculous. "How is that possible? We're still in your room."
"Aha! That, my dear girl, is where you are wrong. We are no longer in my house," he stated simply. "In fact, we aren't even in Neopia. Not really."
Nykela snorted in disbelief. "That's ridiculous. Where else could we be? Of course we're in Neopia. Everything's perfectly normal."
"Normal? No, I'm afraid things are not normal at all." Heichul sat back for a moment and gathered his thoughts. It was time for an explanation. "I wish you girls hadn't gotten involved in this mess, but I'm afraid it's too late for that now. I may as well tell you all I know.
"You see, the Fyora Ex Machina is a rare artefact that once belonged to Fyora herself. Long story short, it was the place she kept her most dangerous enemies captive. Once someone enters the box it disappears, making it impossible to get help from the outside world. That's why I was missing for all those years; I spent them trying to find a way out." He sighed heavily and rubbed his forehead in exasperation. "I had just finally made it today too! Now I have to go through it again?"
"But Uncle," piped in Catja curiously. Unlike her cousin, she had no trouble believing her uncle's story. "Why are you so small?"
"I-- well-- that is..." Heichul sputtered, momentarily without words. "I have yet to figure out what went wrong. By my calculations, I should have returned to my proper size once I had made it back home." He frowned as he looked down at himself. "For that matter, I should be my normal size now that I'm back here as well."
"Sorry, Uncle H., but I'm having a hard time believing you," said Nykela, shaking her head. "That all just seems so outrageous when I'm looking at a perfectly normal room."
"I didn't raise you to be so unaccepting of new ideas! I suggest you take a look at what's outside that door then." Heichul pointed toward the room's only door, which normally led out into the hall. "I'm afraid the situation is far from normal."
Nykela sighed and reached for the door handle. All of this was pretty farfetched, but she figured she might as well humour her eccentric uncle.
With a small creak of resistance the handle turned and the door reluctantly opened. A breathless gasp escaped Nykela and her eyes widened as she saw...
Date: Apr 27th
...the drab and sagging front stoop of her uncle's house had been replaced by a shimmering fountain, a kaleidoscopic spray of water sprinkling down from a sunbright sky, wetting the Lupe as she playfully twisted and snapped her jaws at the unexpected shower, catching its mist in her thick, white fur.
Nykela stopped and shook her body from nose to tailtip, sending the water out in fans that marked the walls in wet feathers of sparkling colour, hanging there momentarily like rainbows before dripping to the cluttered floor. The Lupe turned and grinned at the others, not noticing the figure that now filled the frame of the doorway at her back.
With mute astonishment, Catja could only point a quivering finger at the interloper, her normally pert ears wilting like an untended garden. When Nykela turned to follow her cousin's gesture, she too drooped with stupefaction, for there before her was the most beautiful faerie the Lupe had ever seen.
Her eyes were aqua, deep and placid pools, which entreated and promised with each slightest glance. Her hair was the gold of lost dubloons, streaked with more of the iridescent aqua of those unsettling, unavoidable eyes. So too was she garbed in aqua, from collar and bracelet to the end of her fishy tail, and she sat serenely, a poised and patient presence, waiting to be noticed.
When she spoke her voice chimed like a mountain stream, cool and clear, and somehow untamed. "I have a quest for the one who opened the door."
Nykela jumped to her feet and replied eagerly, "That was me. Are you... ?"
"Now wait a minute," Uncle Heichul enjoined. "This may not be what you think."
The Lupe spun and asked, "Is she not the Rainbow Fountain Faerie?"
"Well, technically, yes," the Gnorbu hated to admit. "But as I tried to tell you..."
"This is unbelievable," Nykela enthused. "When you talked about being transformed, Uncle, the first thing I thought was how much I would love to visit the Rainbow Fountain. Wouldn't I make an excellent pirate?" The Lupe started to walk across the floor, one eye squinted, pantomiming thumping a peg leg behind herself. "Or, no, I could be a faerie myself, and fly gracefully everywhere I go." Nykela jumped, ungracefully, into the air, knocking herself against a box of artefacts, making them rattle and knock.
"Yes, it is unbelievable," Uncle Heichul said. "That's why you must proceed with caution."
"What do you mean, Uncle?" Catja asked.
Before the Gnorbu could respond, however, Nykela had scrambled back to the door and blurted out, "I accept! I accept your quest!"
The faerie slowly blinked her eyes and tilted her head back until she was staring down along the length of her fine nose at the Lupe. "I want a Nimmo Finger. Next time you visit my fountain, I'll have a little surprise for you."
The faerie's request sent shivers up the Cybunny's spine and she rushed to the door, closing it abruptly and standing guard against it opening again.
"A Nimmo Finger? Yuck," Nykela declared.
The Gnorbu began to laugh and said, "Well, what she's asking for is actually a powerful item of Battle Magic. Look around you, there are plenty of such items here. While we search, I could explain to you about the Fyora Ex Machina, about how it can be misleading. How it misled me. It appears to provide what you desire, while all the time..."
"Ah, I don't want to go through this junk again," the Lupe pouted, kicking at a nearby pile of gleaming wands. "I wish I had one of those Nimmo Fingers right now."
A faint scratching noise came from the wooden door and Catja spread her arms against it, attempting to block both its opening and the spooky noise itself. "Don't open it, Nykela, not until we hear what Uncle H. has to say."
Being bigger, stronger, and having more at stake, the Lupe pushed Catja aside roughly and swung the door open, revealing a Nimmo who stood stooped and ominous in the dark shadows that now filled the familiar, rotting stoop.
Nykela stumbled back a few steps and stammered, "Am-am-am I supposed to t-t-take one of your f-f-fingers?"
The Nimmo slunk into the light of the doorway and snickered, drumming his slender blue fingers together tauntingly. "Ssssssilly girl," he hissed, the sound insinuating itself throughout the cluttered room. "I'm only here to assssk if you would like a Sssscratchcard. No charge. You might win what you sssseek." He stretched his mouth into an eerie rictus, squinting his yellow eyes into an inscrutable mask.
"Don't take it," Catja hissed.
Nykela could not resist the Nimmo's offer, and she held out one hesitant paw, receiving the scratchcard and slowly closing the door on the Nimmo who tipped his purple top hat in the narrowing view.
"For Fyora's sake, don't scratch it," Catja said, her voice becoming more forceful. She turned to her uncle with supplication, but he only shrugged noncommittally.
The Lupe turned her back on the pair and began to scratch with one eager claw. "One Furwitch... one Candy Vampire... two Furwitches... one Gremble... two Grembles... three Furwitches!" Nykela turned and exclaimed, "I won, right? Do I get a Nimmo Finger?"
The scratching noise came from the door once more, this time more insistently. The Cybunny's fur stood on end with fear and she lunged in front of her cousin, screaming, "Do not open that door!"
Nykela looked at Catja and...
Date: Apr 27th
...offered her a fleeting look of apology before again roughly pushing her aside.
"Nykela!" Catja cried indignantly at her cousin's rash decisions. "Think this through."
"I have," she said, imaging her thick Lupe hair in shades of pink, then orange... no, rainbow!
She yanked open the door excitedly, where the Nimmo once again stood upon the stoop smiling wickedly.
"Congratulationsss!" he hissed, holding a Nimmo Finger toward Nykela. "Here isss your prize."
"Ew, creepy," Nykela laughed, slamming the door in the Nimmo's face. She waved it at her cousin's sceptical glare and her uncle's disapproving frown.
"You should really reconsider what you want to ask for. This place has a way of twisting your words around," Uncle Heichul tried to advise, but Nykela rolled her eyes. "How do you think I ended-"
"Ohhh, Fountain Faerie," the Lupe called, raising her voice above her uncle's. She opened the door for the fourth time, exclaiming as the bright cascade of beautiful water rained before her eyes.
"Do you have the Nimmo Finger?" the faerie's voice tinkled pleasantly.
"Right here," Nykela said, presenting the quest item and bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Plushie!" she shouted all of sudden, looking back to her cousin. "Why didn't I think of that before? So cute and cushy, and expensive. Plushie. Make me a plushie."
"Are you sure?" the Fountain Faerie asked. "Very well," she agreed, seeing the Lupe nod her head vigorously. "A plushie you shall be."
She waved her hand gracefully, and Nykela was doused with swirling rainbow liquid, which wound its way around her body, engulfing her. Catja watched in astonishment as her cousin's fur began to shrink and shrivel to fabric consistency. A needle, looked to be held by an invisible hand, stitched across her entire body, and her eyes, so alive with anticipation, dulled, and became hard, round buttons.
When the last of the swirling mist subsided, Nykela softly fell to the floor with a squeak, oddly inanimate. The Fountain Faerie laughed loudly, harsh this time, and Catja felt her body tense as she caught the amused glare the faerie shot her before the Cybunny jerked forward and slammed the door shut.
"Nykela?" Catja whispered, picking up the small toy that only a minute ago was her lively and energetic cousin. "What happened to her?" she shot to her uncle who looked much older with his grave expression.
"She received only what she asked for. Just like I did," he said sadly. "I tried to warn you that this place is dishonest and not to be trusted."
"There must be a way to fix this! How can we fix this?"
On cue, there came a light tapping on the door, making Catja freeze instinctively.
"Once it's started, it can't be stopped," her uncle said. "You have to answer it."
"There must be something in this pile of junk that can help us," Catja said, ignoring the persistent tapping. "Who knows what kind of magic lies in these boxes. Uncle Heichul?"
She looked around just in time to see the small Gnorbu climb atop a nearby box and jump toward the handle of the door, grasping the handle and pulling it open...
Date: Apr 28th
"Uncle H, no!" cried Catja as she rushed toward the door and slammed it shut before it could be opened more than a crack.
But it was already too late.
A swirling purple mist began to engulf the room, and Catja took a frightened hop backward as the tiny body of her Uncle Heichul tumbled to the ground. The mist was extremely ominous, glowing dully in the ever-darkening room. Catja leapt forward, grabbing the scruff of Heichul's neck and dragging the Gnorbu back into the corner of the room furthest from the mist. She didn't know what it was, but she sure didn't want to wait until after she'd inhaled it to find out.
"What is that?" the Cybunny whispered, the plushie form of Nykela still grasped in her paw.
"Why did you close the door?" questioned Heichul as he pulled himself to his feet. "I told you that the knocking wouldn't stop unless it was answered! You shouldn't have intervened!"
"I'm sorry!" responded Catja, her voice hurt. "I saw what happened to Nykela, and I couldn't let that happen to you as well!"
"It's a bit late for that," spat Heichul. "I've already suffered consequences the first time I was here. Being shrunk wasn't the first, or last, problem I encountered. In fact..."
The Gnorbu trailed off, glancing at a nearby box before throwing himself toward it.
"What are you doing?" Catja stammered, looking toward the mist.
It was getting bigger and slowly creeping toward them, making the room colder and colder.
"I know it's in here somewhere... yes!" Heichul said as he threw something over his head.
At the last second Catja dropped Nykela, allowing her to catch the strange object her uncle had thrown. It was made of six green pieces of wood, each one smaller than the last. They were bound together with a thin, but strong, brown lace.
"Uncle H... what is a Pan Flute going to do about the mist?" cried Catja, exasperated.
"Just trust me," panted the Gnorbu as he clambered back over to his niece. "Play it."
Catja hesitantly raised the Pan Flute to her lips, and carefully let a slow breath run through the wooden instrument. She was by no means an expert at the Pan Flute, but Catja's playing was easy on the ears. It took her a minute to get into the rhythm, but as she did the mist seemed to shrink back.
"It's working!" Catja exclaimed, and Heichul shot her a stern look.
"Keep playing!" he cried.
The Cybunny did so. The mist was now confined to a space no larger than one metre squared just in front of the door. Heichul dashed forward, the lower half of his face covered by a bandana he had no doubt found with the Pan Flute. He jumped, reaching out desperately for the doorhandle. It was difficult to discern it through the purple mist, and his first attempt failed as he tumbled to the ground. The bandana slipped, revealing the Gnorbu's nose and mouth.
"No!" he shouted, flailing on the ground.
"Uncle Heichul!" Catja suddenly dropped the Pan Flute and hopped madly in her uncle's direction.
The mist was swirling around his facial orifices, slowly entering his body. Soon the mist was almost completely gone, and all Catja could do was look on in horror. Heichul's body lay limp and unmoving on the cold floor. Catja's eyes were wet with tears, her whole world crumbling around her. First Nykela, and now this?
"What am I supposed to do?" Catja wailed, her eyes squeezed shut and her head tilted toward the ceiling.
She was extremely surprised when a resonating voice replied, "You need to..."
Date: Apr 28th
"...think for a moment, girl. You have not the rashness of your cousin nor the single-mindedness of your uncle, which is why you still hold your original form. Think. Think what the problem is, because without that, there is no solution."
Catja's impulse was, of course, to ask the identity of this formal speaker, but remembering the search for answers had doomed both Heichul and Nykela, she changed her mind and decided she'd rather not know yet.
"Like... like a puzzle?" she asked instead, eying a "Beginner's Jigsaw" box that had caught her eye among the piles of paraphernalia.
The reply was impatient, and yet no one revealed him or herself still. "Of course this isn't like a jigsaw. Those show you the ending before you even begin. The problem, Catja, the problem. The conflict. What is it? What started this chain of events -- what caused me to trap you here like this?"
"The box?" Catja offered, white brows puckered. "The Fyora Ex Machina?"
Realisation dawned. She remembered what Uncle H. had revealed in his brief explanation. "Wait -- you're the one who trapped us here, you said? Then... then you are Fyora...?" Somehow, from the stories, the noble faerie had definitely not sounded nor acted like this in her imagination...
There was a laugh that seemed somewhat distant. "I am Fy--? Oh dear. I see there is need of some straightening. Very well."
A thoughtful pause, then the voice continued. "Catja, do you know what a Fyora Ex Machina is?"
Mutely, the Cybunny shook her head -- then realising that if her hunch was correct, perhaps the speaker could not even see her at this moment, answered, "I don't know."
"Well. If you've ever been told the ending of a story was 'And then Fyora came in and saved the day,' or 'It was all just a bad dream and everything was all right,' and were dissatisfied with such an ending, then you already know. Fyora Ex Machina is a shortcut, if you will, a swift slit of the knot instead of proper unravelling."
"But... that can't be right," Catja countered, clutching the motionless figures of the plushie Lupe and her tiny uncle. "The purple box didn't solve anything for us! All it did was... create this mess..."
"No," the speaker replied. "The box didn't cause anything. It would have sat there in that room for eternity and not caused any inconvenience had someone not opened it."
"Uncle H.?" ventured the Cybunny.
"And you and your friend. Opening the Fyora Ex Machina is equivalent of that storyteller slicing the knot. Using an escape route has its benefits, as Nykela and your uncle discovered -- anything can happen if they wish it, because that is the power of the storyteller. But then this freedom comes with the price of unoriginality.
"Fyora Ex Machina ruins the tale," he or she went on. "Such cliche brings dissatisfaction, and in this box where the cliche is not merely ink on parchment but something three-dimensional and tangible, that price is what your companions have paid."
The word "bizarre" had already crossed Catja's mind so many times this hour that she was in dire need of a substitute. Something still did not click. "But what about what Uncle H. said, about the box being Fyora's...?"
The reply came without hesitation, but gently. "He only believed that, and that is why I described him as single-minded. Just because the Faerie Queen's name is also in the name of the artefact does not mean it is necessarily only hers... Just as Nykela desired the magic of the Fountain, he willed for an exit to reveal itself. But that request was twisted too, and the route he found was behind a tiny door in the wall -- subsequently, he wished himself to be smaller so as to fit into the door, but the door shrunk as he shrunk, and he could never reach it. That is the price of the unoriginality this box represents. It will find a way to distort everything against you."
The Cybunny looked at Nykela in her grasp, and Heichul lying close by -- and she knew what she had to do. Locate the exit in the wall, then wish for all three of them to shrink, while at the same time restraining the door from reducing in size... Even as her mind spoke, a door shimmered and sat quite visible on the corner of the left wall.
The voice had spoken again. "However, one thing surprises me, and that is you have not yet asked who I am..."
Date: Apr 29th
The Cybunny had grown wary of the way this place shifted and bent the spoken word, the taken action, and the will.
With an effort, she deliberately turned toward where her tiny uncle lay slumped, and instead of responding to the voice, she thought inane thoughts about her favourite faerietales, cucumber sandwiches, and when the last time she cleaned her room was.
"I am not used to being ignored," spoke the voice again. "I warn you not to continue."
That was when Catja had a stroke of genius: she would turn the place's own demented logic onto itself. She let go of will, and speech, and action -- she merely existed, a vessel for every strange and unusual thought -- she would have no cares, she would have no plan, nothing that could be turned against her. She would only be.
"How do you prefer your sandwiches?" she enquired vaguely, addressing herself to the room at large. "Crusts or no crusts?"
A disbelieving silence was her only answer. Catja sauntered to where her uncle lay, looked at him curiously, then turned away as though her attention had been caught by a large, supremely uninteresting coral sculpture. She wandered aimlessly, her thoughts a quick flicker through considerations of the most disconnected order -- why did the chicken taquitos cross the road, how were her stocks in FAER doing, why didn't Weewoos have wings?
"You still have not asked me who I am," said the voice, slightly sulky now, as Catja's thought process created a jumbled heap of random items -- a hairless Walking Carpet, a happy-looking Frowny, a lampshade, the Neopian Encyclopedia K - O, a Balthazar Basher trophy...
"Who I am," repeated Catja with a vapid smile, looking as though she were about to float up and poof through the power of her own vague abstractedness.
"Ask me who I am," insisted the voice.
Catja giggled insanely, and a Splat-a-Sloth puppet popped into existence above her head, where it settled like a lopsided, and very strange, hat.
"Very well," said the voice, peeved. "I suppose I will have to tell you, as you will not ask me."
Catja began to sway to music only she could hear, and a signed copy of Stairway to Kreludor tumbled into existence at her feet.
"I am Story," said the voice. A silence that was possibly intended to be impressive followed, but the effect was somewhat ruined by Catja's conjuring of a flock of chattering Faellies who whizzed about the room, knocking things over in their dizzying flight as they squealed "mine, mine, mine."
"I am Tale, and I am Plot," continued the voice. "I am Narrative. I --"
"THANK YOU FOR COMING HERE, YOUNG NEOPET," boomed another voice, and Coltzan's disembodied ghostly head floated above a life-size replica of his shrine that had shimmered into existence half a moment previously.
Catja stared at it, and muttered something about Beany Burpers.
A gargle of frustration echoed throughout the room and the entire place flickered once or twice, as though something of what kept it whole was disintegrating slightly.
Somewhere, tucked carefully away in the deepest recesses of Catja's mind, was the knowledge that she was winning this struggle of wills between herself and the voice -- Story. Because she was exerting no will whatsoever and making herself a mere conduit for the thoughts and flashes that sparked to life in her brain. She was acting outside of what made plot, and what made story -- she was just a random disconnected sequence of activities and actions, plotless, planless.
She was Fyora Ex Machina a hundred times over.
She was Story's worst nightmare.
"NO!" shouted the voice, much more real this time, not a vague and insubstantial presence.
Story was right behind Catja, and she sounded mighty ticked off...
Date: Apr 29th
"WHAT! ARE! YOU! DOING?!?" cried Story, trying her best to get the Cybunny's attention.
Catja didn't even bother turning around. She continued humming to herself (one of her favorite Blue Kacheek Group songs) and suddenly a Blue Kacheek dressed in black appeared before her, playing the same monotonous tune on a keyboard.
"This is impossible!" cried Story. "You can't do this! You can't just stop creating the tale right near the end! It was starting out so well! You and your cousin in your uncle's moldy attic, cleaning up the artifacts! The Fyora Ex Machina! The Fountain Faerie! It was getting so exciting and now, you're just sitting here twiddling your thumbs, creating..."
"Ghost Marshmallow?" Story stopped as the Cybunny offered her a bag filled with Ghost Marshmallows, their ghostly happy faces giggling with delight.
"Oh, come on! They tickle on the way down!" As if to demonstrate, she popped a surprisingly eager marshmallow into her mouth and swallowed, giggling as she was digesting.
Story was beginning to panic. What was this crazed Neopet doing? She started out as the perfect character: timid, nervous, the voice of reason nobody listened to. And now she was just some obliviously happy Cybunny creating random things with her mind, including a giant Elephante wearing a pink tutu, spinning in a circle and saying "I like cheese! I like cheese!"
"Ok, look," said Story calmly, trying her best to reason with Catja. "This would've been an excellent place for a climatic scene in the plot. You should've come to some amazing realization that would've not only saved you from this prison, but your cousin and uncle would've been returned to normal. Isn't that what you want? You can make it happen, you just have to..."
"SHH! The Mootix parade is starting."
A tiny ensemble of Mootix began to march across the floor, complete with band leader, acrobats, and even a large Cooty pulling a float with the Mootix queen riding on top.
"You can't keep doing this! It's not making any sense! It has nothing to do with the plot or the characters or... ANYTHING!!!"
"Who says it has to?" shrugged Catja, taking a bite out of an edible shoe. "Stories can be random, can't they?"
"NO! NO THEY CAN'T! They have to make sense! They have to have a beginning, middle, and end! It can't just be random nonsense!"
"I LIKE CHEESE!"
"You know, you should watch your temper," warned Catja, turning away from the MSP Poogle brushing her fur. "If you keep acting this way, the Happiness Faerie will..."
"NO!!! NO MORE! PLEASE, I'M BEGGING YOU!!! JUST FIGURE OUT A WAY TO MAKE THE STORY MAKE SENSE AGAIN!"
"Why?" snapped Catja. In that single word, all the nonsensical randomness of the scene completely disappeared and, once again, she was in the clutter-inspired Fyora Ex Machina. "Why should I keep the story going? Just so I can be another prisoner here? I don't know how to get out, I don't know how to help my cousin and uncle, and I certainly don't know how this STORY will end! So, I might as well just enjoy it while I'm here."
"W-wait!" sobbed Story. "There IS a way out, but I can't just tell you how..."
"I wonder if ice cream would make good meteors?"
"ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT! Here's what you have to do..."
Date: Apr 30th
"Just close your eyes and listen. Clear your mind," Story said soothingly.
The voice that filled the room now had the smooth monotone of a practised narrator.
"What the Cybunny didn't know was that Story would not be denied. No matter what she did, what narrative tricks she played, Catja would eventually enter the door that would lead to her permanent entrapment."
As the voice encroached on her meditation, Catja stole a glance at the shimmering doorway to her left that she had surreptitiously been weaving her way toward and her heart dropped as she saw it begin to fade. A new door now appeared to the right of her vision, and despite her unwillingness to face it fully, the Cybunny felt its inexorable pull.
What is this? Catja wondered. Is Story tricking me? Is she attacking me with foreshadowing? Dramatic irony? Ironic foreshadowing? Are these her best weapons? As an afterthought, she unloosed a herd of Turdles who raced across the room, trailing the foul odour for which they are famous. In the brief confusion, Catja had an idea.
"Inspiration struck Catja like a bolt of lightning. She decided to fight fire with fire." As soon as she spoke the words, the exit on the right began to fade while the one on the left shimmered with more force, allowing Catja to move slightly closer to it.
The voice at the Cybunny's heels became enraged once more. "How dare you attack me with clichés! I am Story and I demand better! This tale will end properly." The voice became smooth again as she said, "Catja moved toward the exit on the right, unaware that it represented the only chance for her to save her beloved cousin and Uncle."
Catja hesitated slightly and a Confusionegg appeared from behind a cardboard box and spun dizzily across the floor. With a shake of her head to clear it of Story's enticing words, the Cybunny said loudly, "It was a dark and stormy night!"
The faint light that had entered through the one small window in the room went out like a candle flame and a crack of thunder shook the thin walls. In the dim, the original exit glowed with more strength, allowing Catja to make for it with confidence. Responding to the Cybunny's silent wishes, Judge Hog appeared behind her, blockading Story from getting too close to her as she attempted her escape.
Almost there, Catja thought. Looking down at Nykela and Uncle Heichul in her hands, she reviewed her plan. I just need to will the three of us to shrink and keep the doorway from shrinking, too. Yeah, right.
A small grey cloud appeared over Catja's head, and as it unleashed a spirit-dampening shower, the limp form of her uncle began to stir in her right hand. As the tiny Gnorbu blinked back to consciousness, his eyes grew wide with concern when he saw the twinkling doorway that his niece approached. He began to squirm in the Cybunny's grasp and foggily muttered, "No, no, don’t you see? It's a trap. A narrative trap, a choice which disguises no choice at all."
Catja froze with indecision. The voice of Story had grown eerily silent, leaving only the cracking thunder and the strident pronouncements of Judge Hog to fill the void.
Knowing that her uncle had fallen into one of Story's traps before, Catja hesitated to ask, "What do you suggest I do, then, Uncle H?"
The Gnorbu sat up with imposing force and said, "You must remember who's in charge here. Never let a story get away from you; you are the author of your own fate. Just think: what should happen next? Remember the Fyora Ex Machina. Imagine it and make it happen."
Uncertain of her inspiration, Catja swallowed hard and said, "I wish this all had never happened, that we wake up and this was all a dream."
"I don't know what to do with all of this stuff, Nykela," Catja said, staring helplessly at the piles upon piles of strange items scattered throughout the room.
Nykela approached her cousin and yawned largely in her face. "I just can't get going this morning, it's like my head is full of cotton or something."
"Well, don't work too hard," Uncle Heichul said soothingly. "I don't know how the attic got so full of junk over the years, but it will sit for a while yet." The Gnorbu stretched his back to the right and to the left and added, "I am just so stiff. And I had the strangest dreams, too. It was like..."
"Hey, Uncle H," the Lupe interrupted, picking up a tiny purple box. "What's this thing?"
Heichul squinted his eyes in concentration, and with a thoughtful scratch of his chin whiskers, replied, "I have no idea. Just throw it on the pile over there." He pointed to a small stack of similar boxes and bent over to touch his toes.
"I don't know about you two, but I'm just not up to this this morning," the Gnorbu confessed. "What do you say we go out for some breakfast? I have a sudden craving for cheese."
"I LIKE CHEESE!" Catja and Nykela intoned together. They followed their uncle to the doorway and the Lupe paused slightly to throw the tiny purple box nonchalantly over her shoulder.
Date: Apr 30th
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