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||You are on Week 578
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 Seventy Eight Ends Friday, October 19
|Avonell was the kind of Krawk that always played it safe. She didn't like to take unnecessary risks or chances, and she enjoyed the safe, predictable life she led -- at least for the most part. Despite her feeling of reliability, a small part of her envied her friend Mary, who was almost Avonell’s total opposite. The Aisha was always trying to get Avonell to take a chance and have an adventure. While she openly rejected the idea, she couldn't deny that the concept was appealing, and a small part of her was simply looking for the opportunity.
The opportunity presented itself in the form of a garish invitation that she found dancing on the cool, autumn wind. Avonell had just come back from the marketplace and was carrying some fresh fruit into her home when the invitation had blown up against her leg. She had set the bag of fruit upon the ground as she retrieved the lone piece of paper to read the words written upon it.
It was an invitation to an All Hallows' Eve themed masquerade ball. She had never heard of the host, a Mr. Arner, but there were directions to his house and even a crudely drawn map on the back. She couldn't help but think that it sounded fun as she stuffed the invitation in her pocket and continued to carry her groceries into her home. It was too bad that someone had lost their invitation.
She suddenly stopped as she realized this was her chance for an adventure. It was a masquerade ball, so she could wear a mask and no one would even know that she hadn't been invited. She would go to the ball, dance as much as she dared, and then leave just before midnight and the unmasking. No one would be the wiser. She giggled as she ran into the house and retrieved her gauzy ball gown from the closet and the Spyder mask she had worn a few years earlier. If only Mary could see me now, she thought as she hurriedly dressed and ran off toward the ball according to the directions.
Night fell swiftly around the Krawk as she hurried over unfamiliar paths through the Haunted Woods. At first she thought she had gotten lost, but she soon saw other figures dressed up for the ball and heading in the same direction. These other individuals moved slowly, almost awkwardly, but Avonell just figured that going to fancy balls was so common for them that they just weren't as excited. Taking a deep breath, she walked behind the others as she hoped not to draw attention to herself. Soon a massive mansion came into view. In the daytime, Avonell was sure it was a majestic sight to behold, but it had been decorated to look decrepit and decaying. She handed her invitation to the masked Mynci at the front door, who didn't even seem to look twice at her. She had done it! She had snuck into the fancy ball!
A band played slow music, and a few were already dancing and twirling stiffly. It wasn't exactly what Avonell had been expecting, but she was still determined to make the most out of her first adventure. She stepped onto the floor and danced for a while, careful to match the movements of the other dancers, and then made her way upstairs so that she could look down upon the whole ballroom.
Other than the music it was a very quiet affair, and Avonell realized that no one was talking, which seemed very strange to her. There was also no food or drink put out for the guests. Whoever this Mr. Arner was, he had a lot to learn about playing a proper host. Even with these oddities, the time flew quickly, and soon Avonell realized she would have to leave soon or risk having to unmask in front of all these strangers. Quietly, she started to make her way downstairs when she accidentally bumped into a Draik, who fell clumsily as her mask slid across the floor.
"I'm sorry," Avonell quickly said as she reached to help her, but at that moment the Draik turned toward her. Eyes of blank, white orbs regarded the frightened Krawk as she looked upon the grey, dry skin and expressionless face. Avonell jumped to her feet as everything fell into place. Now she understood the awkward dancing and lack of food.
She was in a ballroom full of masked zombies...
Date: Oct 15th
...Avonell reached for the Draik's fallen mask, "Wow!" she cried, thinking on her feet, "How do you keep your skin so dry and scaly? It looks amazing! I rub mine with sand three times a day and it still looks grave fresh! I'm, uh, Nell by the way."
The Draik smiled awkwardly. Apart from the fact that her face was a tad lopsided (to the left), her facial structure was regrettably normal. For example, she still sported a full set of dismayingly sharp teeth. "I'm Gysa," the Draik said. Her voice was light, and didn't quite go with the zombie look. "Thanks," she said, and took the mask from Avonell. "I've always been lucky with my skin. In the right light, you can almost see straight through in some parts. You must tell me your secret as well, though -- those contacts are simply to live for! How are you wearing them? Most zombies' eyes are just too dry to cope!"
Avonell laughed a little hysterically. "My secret is slime," she gabbled. "Fresh Slorg Slime!" Mary would never believe what she was doing.
"Come with me," Gysa said suddenly, and then linked her wing round Avonell's arm. The wing felt much drier than it looked, and was paper thin. They felt as though they would barely emerge unscathed from a small gust of wind, much less support the Draik in the air. They were warm, also. Not the alive and well sort of warm, or even the death warmed up kind of warm... and definitely not sunny blue skies warm. More like the sort of warmth you might expect to be radiated from an ancient skeleton in the midst of the Lost Desert during midday, in summer.
Avonell attempted to quell her nerves and tried to keep all natural bodily happenings (such as swallowing, breathing, and the beating of her pulse) to an absolute minimum. "Come with me, Nell," Gysa said. "The life and soul of this party has long since deceased. Let me show you..."
Date: Oct 15th
" ...where the dead dance."
Avonell gave a bright, nervous smile to the butler as Gysa led her down the stairs and through the door. This is it, she thought. There was no going back. She was in the middle of a capital-A Adventure! She just hoped she would make it through the night...
As they came out into the moonlight, the sounds of the party fading behind them, Gysa asked, "How long have you been deceased?"
Avonell thought fast. "Oh, only three weeks," she said breezily. "I guess that's why I haven't started to decay much yet. I hope I don't have to wait much longer!"
"Ah," Gysa said, "I thought so." She patted Avonell's arm. "You seemed a little young, but luckily I know all the best places to take a new zombie, so you'll be fitting in in no time! I've been reanimated for three years now, and I can show you everything. Tonight, I'll give you a tour of the world of the dead!"
"Thank you," Avonell said, oddly touched. She had always thought that zombies were hungry and wordless creatures, but Gysa seemed nothing like that. She grinned at Avonell as she drew her down the path from the mansion, and those sharp teeth looked more friendly than frightening now. Avonell smiled back.
They entered the woods and wended their way down an unfamiliar, dark path through the trees. Whoots hooted and a Werelupe howled somewhere, but Avonell found she wasn't afraid of the deeper woods like she often was. After all, she was already walking with a zombie -- how could it get scarier than that? Deeper and deeper they went into the dark, Spyder-webbed trees, and as they walked Avonell realized there was music nearby. It got louder as they moved forward. It was bright and energetic, a stark contrast to the slow dirges of the fancy ball they had left. By the time they ducked out from behind a gnarled tree at the edge of a clearing, it filled the air.
Avonell gasped as she spotted the source of the music: a building in the center of the clearing, pulsing with pretty colored lights and mirrors. Gysa laughed. "They say that disco is dead," she called over the loud, thumping music, "but what do they know?..."
Date: Oct 16th
...Avonell was highly surprised that such a place existed within the dark and gloomy Haunted Woods. It seemed so out of place, especially since it catered to the dead. She would have figured that a place for zombies to party would be a place that was grey and dark and tragic, not booming and full of life.
Well, as full of life as disco could be.
"Well," Gysa said, motioning her arms toward the pulsing building. "Shall we?"
Avonell nodded and took the first few cautious steps towards the booming building, slowly reaching her hands to the doors before opening them.
The Krawk was blasted off of her feet by the sheer volume of the music that was coming from inside. The bright lights, the energetic music, the excitement and energy in the air... it was a true party atmosphere within the building.
Like the ball they'd been at earlier, all of the Neopets within looked to be deceased. Unlike those at the ball, however, they looked more recently dead. They could've even been mistaken for the living if Avonell didn't know any better.
"What is all this, Gysa?" Avonell asked, genuinely curious at the sight of it all.
"It's The Last Dance," Gysa said, taking Avonell deeper into the party. "As the years go by, it gets harder and harder for zombies to dance and party so energetically, so everyone takes this as their one last, best shot at having an energetic party while they can."
It certainly did seem like a party. The recently deceased were cutting a rug and partying harder then Avonell had ever partied before.
That thought made her stop for a moment. The way she had been living, without taking any chances, and now here were the dead, having more fun and partying harder then she ever had before. Maybe it was some twist of fate that she had ended up here, but it really felt like this was a moment that would change her life for the better.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Gysa said before she pushed Avonell into a large dance circle. "Get down and party while you still can!"
Avonell squeaked out in surprise a bit as she was thrust into the dance circle. She was nervous at first, but none of the other zombies seemed to have noticed her yet. Slowly, she felt the energetic music get to her, and she began to smile and party with the rest of the undead.
She was actually having a lot of fun dancing with the dead, spinning and laughing and quickly pairing up with a zombie Shoyru who had gotten next to her while Gysa seemed to have found a partner in a zombie Lutari.
The song soon ended, and Avonell was starting to laugh as she looked around the dance hall. That's when, at the other end of the floor, she saw something that she never would have expected to see there...
Date: Oct 16th
...A silver bag with a large black bow was sitting on the edge of the dance floor. Hanging from one of the tin handles was a tag with her name written in elegant scrawling calligraphy. Why would there be a gift with my name on it here? Avonell wondered. More importantly, who could possibly know I was here?
She quickly looked around the room for anyone who looked familiar. All she saw were dancing zombies. She turned around to see if she noticed a recognizable face behind her. There was no one she knew. She did, however, see a tall Blumaroo wearing a dapper top hat and carrying a cane. He was walking brusquely away from the dance floor. The Blumaroo caught Avonell's attention for two reasons. First, because he was so tall. Second, for a zombie, his motions seemed abnormally swift and fluid. She disregarded his fleeting figure and turned her attention back to the gift.
Nell walked over to the bag and cautiously picked it up. She inspected the tag to see who it was from, but all that was written was, "For: Avonell." Next, she nimbly untied the bow and pulled aside the tissue paper assortment. Nestled in the bottom of the bag, resting on a velvet crimson cloth, was a Zombie Paint Brush!
Avonell gasped and tied the bag up with the black ribbon. She surveyed the room and saw Gysa was still merrily dancing with the Lutari. She walked away from the crowd to gather her thoughts.
After getting a comfortable distance, Avonell stopped and took a deep breath. She looked down at the silver bag in her hand and wondered what her next move would be. Her thoughts were broken up by the interruption of a deep voice.
"I see you found my gift."
She turned around and was shocked to find herself face to face with the mysterious Blumaroo.
Avonell momentarily forgot her manners, rudely asking, "Who are you?"
The Blumaroo tipped his hat in response and bowed to her. "Mr. Mason L. Arner III, at your service..."
Date: Oct 17th
...Avonell was in shock. She really didn't know what to expect, or how to react. She just stood there, a restless entity of excitement and fear.
"You're the host of this party," she eventually said.
"The one and only," he replied. He then promptly corrected himself. "Well, I'm the third Mr. Arner to host this party, actually -- the other two are much too old and rotten, now, to accurately portray an emcee." He laughed slightly, little pieces of flesh falling off of him as his body shook.
Avonell smiled nervously. Pulling him aside, she asked a question the Krawk would rather have not inquired. "How did you know I wasn't... you know, a member of the living dead? Just of the living?"
The Blumaroo laughed. "Even the deceased of a day ago have some rot on them; a slightly discolored patch here, loose skin flakes there. But no, Ms. Avonell, you are perfection."
Avonell took some satisfaction in hearing of her supposed "perfection." "You really think so?"
"You're alive -- that puts you ahead of all those out there that are, literally, heartless," he responded casually. "So, will you accept my gift?"
"You mean the paint brush?" She glanced at it. "Oh, I'm not sure. This is fun and all, but I have a life among the living."
"This is only Halloween, though! We zombies live a glorious life all year 'round. For example," he said, staring jovially, "in the month of Giving, we'll scare Neopets into giving up their wares, and then we'll donate them under The Money Tree. Come, join the league of the dead. Everyone ends up here eventually." He smiled mischievously.
After about a minute of thought, she shook her head. "I'm sorry," Avonell began, "but I can't stay here permanently, not yet. I have a life to live, adventures to lead."
Arner's demeanor changed suddenly, and a strict and evil quality became present in his voice. "Look, Krawk," he began. "You've seen too much. Either you use the paint brush -- you'll look the same now, and decay over time -- or I'll bring your life to an end myself... to the same effect."
She started at his words, but wished not to argue. Gulping, she thought of Mary. An adventure among the dead is still adventure, she decided as she picked up the brush.
Before she could use it, however, someone yelled out, "Avonell, wait!"...
Date: Oct 17th
"...What are you doing all the way over there?"
It was Gysa, waving to her from across the dance floor, arm and arm with the Lutari she had been dancing with. She hadn't seemed to realize that Avonell was talking to someone, or that that someone was their esteemed host -- the bright lights of the party made it hard to see the outskirts of the dance floor. "Get over here, silly!" the Draik called again. "You're missing out on the party, and there's someone you really have to meet!" She nudged the Lutari, who put on a still-full toothed smile and waved back at her.
"Go," hissed Mr. Arner, his expression dark, "but don't think that we are done. One way or another, you will not be leaving this party alive." He snatched the paint brush out of her hands, dropping it back into the folds of the black velvet bag. "If you don't come looking for this, I'll know which way you chose."
With that, he turned and strode away, leaving Avonell with a sudden feeling of immense relief. What had she been thinking? "An adventure among the dead is still adventure?" She shook her head fiercely. She liked being alive, she wanted to be alive, and she wasn't going to let some undead Blumaroo bully her into the afterlife... but how was she--
"Avonell!" Gysa's voice had an edge to it now, clearly impatient, and Avonell ran back onto the dance floor.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry... I spaced for a second!" she said when she reached them, panting slightly and starting to readjust her skirts, but before she had even come to a full stop Gysa grabbed her arm, hauling her right past the very puzzled Lutari, through the dancers, and all the way to the other side of the dance floor.
"Gysa! What are you doing?" Avonell yelped when they finally cleared the crowd, wrenching her arm free.
"He offered you a paint brush, didn't he? Didn't he?!?" Gysa hissed, her pupil-less eyes narrowing.
"I-He-Wh-H-How did you know?" Avonell spluttered, but Gysa was shaking her head in distress, her tail lashing so hard that a chunk of scales fell off.
"I should have known... I should have known you were alive! You were so normal, so warm... and your eyes, your eyes! You were so excited about being dead, though, and goodness knows so many of the recently-deceased try contacts, and--I'm so sorry Nell, I should have never brought you here, this is my fault..."
By then, however, Avonell had collected herself and grabbed the Draik by her arms, giving her a forceful shake. "Gysa. Calm. Down. How did you know Mr. Arner gave me a paint brush?"
The Draik looked up at her with fearful white eyes. "Three years ago, I found an invitation to a masquerade ball. I thought it was just me being foolish, my own fault I ended up this way, that I was the only one. But now... now I'm starting to think that many of us weren't dead when we first got here..."
Date: Oct 18th
...A chill went up Avonell's spine at the words spoken by Gysa. "You might have a point," she agreed. "But... but why is Mr. Arner doing this to innocent Neopians?"
Gysa shuddered. "Did he feed you a spiel about taking Neopoints from the rich and giving them to the poor at the Money Tree?" Avonell nodded. Gysa glanced around conspiratorially before leaning in close and lowering her voice. "Yeah, well... that's what the ghosts do, not us. Once we're sufficiently brainless, he sends us out to get the Neopoints and bring them right back to him. How d'you think he buys all those Zombie Paint Brushes?"
"That's horrible!" Avonell gasped.
The Draik shrugged sadly. "Not really; we're dead, so we don't have the emotional capacity to realize he's using us. At least I don't think the really dead ones do."
"Nonetheless, zombies or not, you don't deserve an eternity of being enslaved by a family of self-serving maniacs!" Avonell protested.
"Family?" Gysa questioned.
"Mr. Arner told me that he was the third Mr. Arner to host the party. I assumed the other two were his father and grandfather."
Gysa shook her head fiercely -- so fiercely, in fact, that Avonell had to dodge a piece of flesh that came close to hitting her in the face. "Whatever, that doesn't matter. What matters right now is getting you out of this party alive. It's too late for me, but if it's the last thing I consciously do, I'll make sure you live."
Avonell smiled gratefully. "Thanks, Gysa. You're a good friend."
Gysa grinned. "Lucky for you, I've been through this before. I know Mr. Arner's tricks. He's gonna have his eye on you all night after that meeting -- that much I know for sure. From what I've seen, you're the only living Neopet here."
"So I'm his only target..." Avonell mumbled.
"You can do it; we just need a good plan," Gysa insisted.
"We're gonna have to make that plan quickly," the Krawk replied weakly, staring up at the stage at the front of the room where Mr. Arner stood. His arms were spread wide and he was next to a microphone as the music began to die down...
Date: Oct 18th
"Hello, my friends," Mr. Arner said with the calculated coolness of someone who had rehearsed their words many times over. His voice cracked at the edge of each phrase, as if his vocal cords couldn't quite keep up with his thoughts. The attention of the disco turned toward him with wide eyes and opened ears.
"I just wanted to welcome you to the afterlife." He almost sounds warm, welcoming... Avonell thought. One would hardly realize he had a sinister intent. How many of these Neopets were rejoicing in their newfound death, not because of natural cause, but because of this Blumaroo and a paint brush?
Avonell looked toward Gysa. This Draik was taking a chance on her -- she'd been dead for three years, yet she still cared enough to prevent another tragic demise. What could Avonell do in return? Nothing. She couldn't fight an army of the undead. There was nothing she could do.
It was only then that the Krawk realized Gysa had been talking under her breath.
"What was that?" Avonell whispered as Mr. Arner began his speech.
"I said, let's go. We need to get you to the city. If we can get you to a place with the living, then perhaps he will let you go." Gysa turned to her and grabbed her hand. Her skin was dry, but where Avonel had once been disgusted and petrified, now it was only comforting. They began to make their way through the crowd, gently pushing by Neopets.
When they were just a few meters from the door, Avonell could feel hope welling up in her. Perhaps she would make it home, after all. Perhaps she would see Mary again... what a story this would be!
"And I'd like to welcome our newest member of the dead, Avonell!" Mr. Arner's voice boomed over the loud speaker. The Krawk's face dropped and she turned to see the smiling face of the Blumaroo. There was a glint in his pale, lifeless eyes.
Suddenly the pair of Neopets were socked in, crowded by zombies clapping and hooting their approval and welcome.
"Please, Avonell, tell us how you joined the afterlife?"
Her face fell. What was she supposed to say? The Blumaroo was setting her up. She couldn't admit she was alive; for some reason, she knew she would never leave if that were the case. But what could she--
"It's quite a story, wasn't it my dear?" a deep voice said. Avonell's head snapped to the side where the Lutari that Gysa had been dancing with stood smiling. "Something about a raging sea monster over the seas of Maraqua, wasn't it? It's amazing you made it out of the ocean with as little decay as you have! One would have though you'd have been waterlogged by now."
The group of zombies laughed with a low cackle. The Krawk looked from the Lutari -- who only gave her a slight shrug -- to Gysa, who looked deep in thought.
"And yes, well... now we must cut the party short. Poor Avonell still wants to wish final farewells to her loved one. Cute, isn't it?” Gysa said with a winning smile. The crowd nodded and murmured its approval and understanding.
They made their way for the door and the last Avoness saw before slipping through the wood was Mr. Arner staring at her with a dark and dangerous expression...
Date: Oct 19th
..."Well," Gysa said as they reached the open, chilling Haunted Woods air, "you're outside."
"But far from free," the Lutari added. "I say you make a dash for it."
"You aren't coming with me?" Avonell asked. Her voice had a forlorn quality to it; though she had only known these two for one night, the Krawk felt as though they could be lifelong friends.
"It's too late for us," Gysa said. "We've been dead for too long to be able to start any kind of life among the living now."
"Yes," the Lutari agreed. "When you're among the dead for long enough, you begin to forget life among the living."
She hugged both of them. "I guess this is goodbye, then."
"I guess so," Gysa murmured; her voice had a certain longing quality, as though it was elsewhere. "Thanks for everything, though."
"Sorry to break up your little party," a voice was heard saying from in front of them.
The three looked ahead and saw some of the most mangled and disgusting Blumaroos any of them had ever seen.
They looked kind of like Arner, but older, and more rotten.
"Mr. Mason L. Arner II," said the less disgusting of the two. He was missing an eyeball, his right hand was completely skinless, and his tail had lost all of its springy quality.
"And Mr. Mason L. Arner the Nothingth," the other one continued. His entire head was bent in such an odd and repulsive manner that it bothered Avonell to gaze upon it; his left leg was no longer there, and most of his skin had been eaten away. Avonell could see inside his skull, and saw the brains that leaked from the discolored bone.
"At your service," the two concluded in unison.
"Oh my Fyora," Gysa said as her eyes widened.
The door then opened, revealing Arner III. He resembled Lord Darigan himself compared to his miserable-looking ancestors. "You think you're so clever," he said, looking at Avonell, "but we have you cornered now."
"Do you honestly think you can stop us?" the Lutari piped in.
"It's three against three," Arner III responded.
"But two of your members look dead, even for zombies," he responded.
Arner III took offense. "Fine, you want more players on the field?" he asked ominously. The Blumaroo then snapped his fingers. "Attack," he finished curtly.
As soon as he did this, Gysa and the Lutari suddenly turned and faced Avonell. Their eyes now shone with a ghastly red quality, and their movements implied impending doom.
The door opened, revealing more zombies with similar expressions.
They all appeared bloodthirsty, and were now surrounding poor Avonell.
"How about the entire army of the living dead!" Arner II exclaimed, laughing and coughing.
"You see now why we send out so many invitations?" Arner III said. "We recruit new members all the time."
The zombies closed in on her. She had no idea how she would escape this one.
She then reasoned that the zombies, now behaving like zombies, behaved... well, like zombies. They were now slow moving, and concerned with nothing but brains.
This gave her an idea.
Running up to Arner the Nothingth, as he called himself, Avonell grabbed a piece of the Blumaroo's loose brain. Shouting, "Hey, zombies! Why not chase this?" to them all, she flung the little piece toward the other side of the thick tree dense. They slowly navigated toward it and, much to the Arners' surprise and belief, she ran away from the hordes, away from the torment and away from the nightmare that had previously surrounded her.
As soon as she saw civilization, she slumped behind a tree to catch her breath.
"You're kidding," Mary said to her the next day as they met at the Spooky Foods store.
"Not one word of it," Avonell concluded. She had just recounted the events of the previous evening to her friend, and both found it increasingly more difficult to believe as the story wore on. "Well, I'm fairly certain I experienced the events firsthand."
"And I'm fairly certain," the Aisha responded accusingly, "that you are an unadventurous little Krawk that can actually make up a pretty frightening tale."
Avonell sighed. "Fine, Mary, believe what you will."
So, maybe the entire adventure seemed too abnormal to be true. Avonell was pretty certain it had happened, though.
Would she see Gysa and the Lutari again? Probably not for a while. Not until she passed, and the Krawk hoped that it wouldn't be for a while.
She liked being alive.
Hurrying back toward the Aisha, Avonell made one more argument. "If the Arners ever get their army back together and in large enough numbers, the zombies could rise up and take over Neopia."
"Fine," Mary said semi-sarcastically, "if that happens, I'll believe you."
"Oh, it'll happen," Avonell remarked. "Whether or not we'll have since passed into the army of the living dead by then is another question."
The Aisha thought about this, but cast the image aside. "So, I'm traversing down toward the desert next week. Want to come along for the adventure?"
Avonell's last one was over and, for the most part, she had enjoyed it; the Krawk decided that she ultimately liked adventure, and didn't think twice as to her answer. "Sure," she said.
Date: Oct 20th
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