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||You are on Week 561
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 Five Hundred Sixty One Ends Friday, June 22
|The day was scorching and sweltering. The yellow blaze of the sun had already dried up the crops in the fields around Meridell and drank all the water from the streams. I was sitting on the steps of my friend Della's front porch -- feeling a bit bored, but far too hot and tired to do anything about it. Della was sitting behind me in a rocking chair on the porch. She was rocking lazily, and I watched as tiny tendrils of dust rose and fell while she rocked.
Della had quickly became my best friend every since I'd moved here a couple of years ago. To look at us, we didn't seem as if we'd have much in common. Della was a pretty white Kacheek whose clothes were always in style, and she always knew the right thing to say. I, on the other hand, was a simple blue Aisha. My mismatched outfits were obviously chosen more for comfort than style, and I often found myself stammering for an appropriate response. Della and I were almost exact opposites, but somehow that worked to strengthen our friendship. We complimented one another -- like bookends.
"There's a pond near here," Della suddenly said, her musical voice cutting through my thoughts. She took a long drink of iced tea afterward, and I listened to the cool tinkling of the ice cubes in her glass. It sounded refreshing, even though I had never cared for iced tea.
"What?" I asked, taking a drink of my Raspberry Neocola, almost in defense. It had grown warm and flat in the heat.
"A pond," Della repeated. "There's a small one back there in the woods." She pointed with her thumb to the wooded area behind her house. "I bet it's cool today."
"Why haven't you ever said anything about this before?" I questioned.
"I just forgot about it, I guess," Della answered. "I found it when I was a little girl, but my dad told me that I was never to swim in it or even go around it. I guess he was just being overprotective, but I never understood why he acted so afraid. I've always been a good swimmer." She smiled brightly. "Say, do you want to go swimming, Jenny?"
She didn't have to ask me twice. Swimming seemed liked the perfect cure for such a hot day, and I hadn't really had a chance to go since leaving my childhood home on Mystery Island. In minutes, we had gathered a few things and headed off laughing through the clump of trees.
We hadn't walked long when we came to a clearing. Suddenly, our laughter and talking stopped. It was a beautiful place -- cool and hidden from the rest of the world, but something felt wrong here. The trees stood around the pond, keeping the area cool and shaded, but they felt like sentries guarding something. The pond itself was small and almost perfectly round. The green water stood as still as a smooth piece of glass. I couldn't place my finger on it, but I knew that we weren't supposed to be here. I started to tell Della this, but she was already running toward the water.
"Last one in is a rotten Pteri's egg!" she called.
"Della, wait!" I yelled, but it was too late. I watched as my friend jumped directly into the center of the pond. There was barely a ripple upon the water as she slipped below the surface, almost as if the water had simply swallowed her.
I stood upon the bank for several minutes, waiting for her to resurface, as I wondered what I should do...
Date: Jun 18th
...A stream of bubbles erupted from the surface of the pond, the only visible sign that Della had even jumped in. My anxiety steadily grew; she shouldn't have been down there that long.
"Come on, Della," I murmured, kicking my shoes off and toeing the water. It felt like... nothing, like my foot was passing through air. Before I could marvel long at the diaphanous substance, a white paw shot out of the water and latched onto my foot like a crazed Chomper. I squealed as Della pulled me down, her relentless grip chafing against my skin.
I scrabbled at the soil on the edge of the pond, my blue paws clawing deep into the spongy earth. It was no use, however. With one last Herculean tug, I was wrenched from the pond bank and down into its mysterious depths...
Date: Jun 18th
...For a moment I struggled against the green liquid that surrounded me and Della’s paw on my ankle, my eyes squeezed tight. I expected my chest to tighten after I exhaled the last breath I took before my head slipped under the surface, but it didn't.
I opened my eyes. I could see dappled sunlight reflecting on the water's surface over my head, dancing and glimmering. I could see the bottom of the pond, much farther away that I thought it was going to be... down, down, down, covered with kelp.
Strangest of all, I could breathe. I was afraid to open my mouth, but when I sucked in with my nose, my head didn't fill with water as I expected it to. There was air, cool and refreshing.
I looked up again toward the surface of the water, just to make sure that I hadn't imagined getting dragged under. Last, I looked at Della, who had released her hold on my ankle and started swimming toward the kelp soooooo far away. She was graceful underwater, especially for a Kacheek, and as I watched her I had to remind myself that that's what she was. A Kacheek, not an elegant Peophin in her natural environment.
She stopped and turned back to me, waved, and gestured for me to follow. After waiting a moment, she disappeared into the kelp wall.
An uneasy feeling settled in my stomach. Hadn't she said that she'd never been here before, or was it just that she was told not to come? I couldn't remember, and I had to decide quickly whether to follow her or risk losing her in the kelp forest.
I glanced up toward the surface of the pond, and for a moment -- just a moment and no more -- I could have sworn I saw a shadow slither across the water, sending ripples bouncing against the perfectly circular shore. When I blinked, there was no shadow, and no ripples.
Della was my friend. I started swimming toward the kelp where she had disappeared, but as I grew nearer, fatigue started to claim my feet, and the water -- almost weightless near the surface -- became heavier and heavier. It felt like swimming through syrup, or tar, and when I looked up again, the distance to the surface seemed multiplied ten times the distance I'd swum, and there, so far away that I had to squint to make them out, were...
Date: Jun 19th
...mirror images of Della and myself. Yes, high above my current position, above the water's glistening surface, were a comfortably dressed Aisha and a stylish Kacheek. The image above was not distorted and refracted, as it would be in ordinary water. I could see the two looking down through the depths perfectly, as though I were gazing through a window.
Our counterfeits appeared to be standing on some bank... or were they hovering above the water? Either way, the revelation of seeing myself and a false Della far above this lake was chilling, daunting, and mind blowing. It went against all reason. The entire lake deviated from the conventional.
Questions rose. What were they doing up there? Who were they, and what reasons did they have for impersonating us? Seeing them made me less aware of myself. Was I down here, or up there? Or both?
I wanted to stop, to gaze upward at the pair a little while longer, but something -- an innate sense of fear, I suppose -- kept me driving on, and I soon arrived at the kelp I had seen Della disappear through. I swam through it, into the darkness that awaited...
Date: Jun 19th
...The kelp swirled and danced around me, clinging to my arms like greedy fingers. My heart was pounding now, the confusion roaring in my head. Nothing made sense as I pushed my way through and struggled to see in the dim light.
Up ahead, I saw Della swimming gracefully, her white fur almost shimmering like a mirage. I wanted to call out to her, but I didn't want to risk opening my mouth. While I may have suddenly developed the ability to breathe underwater, I doubted that I would be able to speak. Silently, I swam after my friend as I watched her swim down and over a ridge.
The darkness thinned slightly as I swam forward, and I couldn't believe the sight that lay before me. Structures made of sand and stone rose from the floor of the pond. It almost appeared to be a city of some sort.
It also appeared that we weren't alone...
Date: Jun 20th
...There were others, all floating gracefully around the sand and stone, interacting with each other.
What was really strange was the fact that these Neopets weren't even Maraquan -- I was only too familiar with those, having grown up in Mystery Island. They were regular old Neopets, with arms and legs, but they swam, breathed underwater, and could survive at the bottom of a pond. Taking a closer look, I soon realized that these structures were buildings, and that these underwater Neopets had an actual society down here.
They paid little attention to us newcomers, though. Della and I were able to make our way through the streets, gawking at what seemed to be an entire town at the bottom of a pond.
That's when I heard her gasp next to me. She pointed toward another Kacheek floating through the water, a Kacheek who looked a lot like her father...
Date: Jun 20th
...The Kacheek, who had been immersed in what appeared to be a copy of The Neopian Times, happened to glance up at that moment and immediately went pale at the sight of Della. He seemed to go into shock, his arms hanging limply at his sides while the forgotten paper floated lazily away.
His mouth appeared to be moving, and it wasn't until Della and I swam closer when we were able to make out what he was mumbling under his breath, over and over and over.
"No... no... no... no..." the one-syllable word, muffled slightly in the water, trembled on his lips, escaping in short gasping breaths.
"Father?" Della questioned with uncertainty. I understood her hesitation. This Kacheek, by all appearances and mannerisms, was my friend's father. If it was him, though, shouldn't he have been glad to see his daughter, and what would he be doing here, in this underwater city, if it was truly him?
"Oh..." the Kacheek groaned. "It is you. I had hoped you would not suffer my fate, that I alone would be forced to live out this curse, but here you are, my sweet daughter. As much as I longed to see you again, I wish I had never set eyes on you here, in this place."
I spoke up. "I don't quite understand. This is actually sort of amazing, this city down here. How did you get here? I didn't see you when Della... sank in. Also, what about these magical qualities, how are we able to breathe and talk? And--"
"That's enough," Della's father said, cutting me off tersely. "One question at a time. I guess I have to let you know... you're now trapped with me, along with the rest of these Neopians. This entire city, deep in the bottom of that pond, is enchanted with a dark and wretched curse. I've been locked up here for the past 10 years."
Della gasped. "That can't be possible. I've been living with you above ground... it can't be..."
Della's father gave her a pitying look. He moved forward and wrapped his arms around her, embracing his long-lost daughter. The hug seemed to calm both of them down, and his face, which used to be held in a tense sort of grimace, seemed to soften. "Oh, how I've missed you. It is a tragedy that these are the circumstances surrounding my reunion with you. I suppose I better start at the beginning..."
Date: Jun 21st
..."Long before we moved here, there had been legends about this pond -- the locals were scared of it. It's why we got the house; no one wanted it, so we got it cheap. It was so much better than anything else we could afford... at the time, we thought it was a blessing for our little family," he began, absently rubbing Della's paw as if afraid to let her go.
I glanced at Della; I'd never heard rumors about the pond, but I had only been here a few years; Della and her family had moved here when she was only a baby Kacheek. My friend's eyes were wide, and she was looking uncharacteristically harried. Della was usually so smooth and put together; seeing her on edge had the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.
"But you didn't believe it?" I guessed, when I realized Della couldn't find her own voice.
He shook his head. "I believed it well enough -- I warned Della off, over and over. Successfully, I thought, until today..." he trailed off, frowning, and shook himself. "Time passed, however, and I guess I got... careless. I wasn't trying to go near the pond, just trying to take care of the grass... mow the lawn, be a good land owner. The Meridellian Dream, you know?”
His gaze was anxious now. Guilty looking, I thought, and then started -- where had that thought come from?
"It was so hot, though, and I was sweating... the pond looked so cool and calm. I wasn't trying to touch it -- I just wanted to see... and then I was leaning and I... I just..." he trailed off again, pensive.
"Fell in?" I suggested, unusually impatient.
He bit his lip and then, finally, shrugged. "I guess," he said noncommittally.
"Daddy," Della broke in, finally finding her voice, "You... you haven’t been gone, though... you were mowing the lawn just this morning. How long have you been gone?!?"
At the end, her voice sounded close to a wail, and he regarded her sadly.
"The last time I saw you, you were just about to turn eight," he told her.
Someone gasped -- whether it was me or Della, I don't know, but the sound was harsh in the cool peace of the pond. Around us, the other Neopets were going about their business, not even sparing us a glance. Della was 10 when I'd met her -- what he was telling us was just... surreal.
"Then who's been up there?" I demanded, my voice harsh; Della was trembling, and all I wanted was to protect her. The finality of what he'd told us -- that we were stuck here -- hadn't hit home yet. He was wrong, I decided; he had to be.
Della's father didn't speak, but stared off into the distance.
When he finally spoke, it was barely above a whisper. "You'll find out shortly," he told us, and in the distance, bells began to toll...
Date: Jun 21st
...Every Neopet in the pond stopped and looked upward. I couldn't tell where the sound was coming from; it seemed to come from all sides at once. Maybe it was just a trick of the water, but I suspected that it was something different. Something more sinister.
"What is that?" I asked.
"Every day, just before sunset, she comes out," Della's father explained.
Della's father didn't answer. He raised his eyes upward, toward the waving kelp that domed the underwater city, and waited. Everyone else waited, too. Della and I waited.
Her eyes appeared first. Beautiful, mysterious, ocean-colored eyes. They flickered with shades of blue and green, teal, aquamarine, moss, and hints -- just hints -- of the orange-yellow the surface of the pond would have turned as the sun set.
I don't know if her eyes preceded her, or if they were simply so mesmerizing that I couldn't see anything else but them for a long time. When I did manage to look beyond those rims I saw a face, sculpted in the very water itself, framed with flowing strands of sand.
Hair, I realized.
The rest of her materialized out of the water overhead, and I recognized her shape.
I realized that I also knew the water Kyrii's name. It floated through my mind, like a whisper, a memory from my childhood, of listening to a story at my mother's feet.
The shadow-selves, the Della and me we had seen on the shore, the Della's father that was up there mowing the grass, they were her puppets. No, that wasn't the word that settled in my thoughts. Not puppets. Spies.
"Rynit," I whispered.
Della's father looked at me suddenly, terror plastered across his face. He opened his mouth as if to speak, to admonish me, but something kept the words from coming out. I had a suspicion that I knew what it was: Rynit's thought-binding magic. It worked here, in the pond, but nowhere else.
I turned to Della’s father. "You didn't really fall in, did you?"
He shook his head. "No. I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about."
She wasn't allowed to do that, though. She wasn't allowed to warp the thoughts of those who didn't come naturally into the pond. Those were the rules. Come to think of it... why had Della decided to mention the pond today, when her father had warned her away from it so adamantly and, until now, she had heeded his warnings?
"Rynit!" I yelled up toward the water Kyrii.
Every eye in the pond turned to me, as if I had done something unspeakable.
Slowly, slowly Rynit's eyes turned on me also...
Date: Jun 22nd
..."You dare speak to me like that, petty Aisha?" she scolded, her eyes narrowing.
I saw the anxious looks of the surrounding Neopets in my peripheral and felt Della’s nervous energy, as if it were coming in ripples off her body, but it only fueled my determination, if anything.
"You have no power to keep us here!" I challenged. "You may have lured us here with your magic lullaby, but ultimately it's our decision whether we wish to stay or not."
I grabbed Della's hand and gave her a reassuring look. She then looked to her father, grasped his hand, and we all faced Rynit, whose eyes had lost their splendor and turned a murky grey instead of the tantalizing blue like before.
Suddenly she laughed, making a chilling echoing sound, which seemed to reverberate off every surrounding building, sending shivery waves down my spine.
"Silly Neopet. You think the three of you can make it through me to the surface?"
"They won't be alone!" said a voice. A green Chia appeared at my side, grasping my hand.
As if my speech had awakened them from a sweet reverie, each of the surrounding Neopets suddenly swam to our side, joining together in one large mass.
"Don't be foolish!" she cried desperately. "I made this underwater city for you! To be safe. To be happy."
"It's all a lie!" I cried. "Della, I think it's time to go home."
We then began swimming. All of us, together as one. I felt the resisting urge of the Kyrii, but she was no match for the push of hundreds of flapping legs.
As each of our heads broke the surface, many of the Neopets cried out, roused from their seemingly hypnotic state, and I watched as Della and her father embraced on the edge of the pond, reunited once more.
Della moved after that. She and her father packed up their belongings and found a nice hut on Kiko Lake in which to reside.
I still live near the pond, spending my days running off the younger Neopets who seemingly find it their sole duty to take a dip in the mysterious waters.
I put up signs to warn them. Somehow, though, those signs mysteriously disappear.
I know one day I'll pass on, though, so I write this as a warning to future generations. I write to share my experience, so that some poor Neopet doesn't suffer the same fate as Della's father.
I know she's still there. I can sometimes feel her presence as I stare at the glassy surface. She knows better than to lure me, though. Still I can't help but think, as I walk away, that she's laughing at my back, secure in the knowledge that, one day, she'll have her underwater city of Neopets once again.
Date: Jun 22nd
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