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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 17th day of Relaxing, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 138 > Short Stories > Of Many Faces

Of Many Faces

by shimmering_aurora

Tossing, turning, tossing, turning, the Faerie Gelert desperately attempted to relax herself into sleep. To her, sleep was an elusive refuge. It meant escape from the thoughts haunting, creeping along the edge of her mind. Perhaps not so much thoughts but clues. Clues she did not care to catch. Ignoring clues only staves the inevitable.

     Creaking so softly only the exceptionally keen ears of a pet could hear it, the door to the Faerie Gelert’s room cracked open. She sat up, knowing only her owner was in the Neohome.

     “Still up, dear?”

     “I’m having trouble sleeping.”

     “Bad dreams?”

     “No.”

     “Just a bit of insomnia?”

     “I guess so.”

     “Well, good night. I’m going to bed. We have a long day tomorrow. You need to be in perfect form for the Beauty Contest. Try to get some sleep. I love you, dear.”

     The Gelert heard the door click into place and her owner walking down the royal carpet to the room at the end of the marble hall. The Gelert shook her head and lay back down. She twisted the sheets of her beauty bed with her paw. Various Usuki posters covered her walls, and she could see the dark forms of her other furniture, all a combination of pink and white during the day. When the blinds were open, she could see the Faerie queen’s castle in the distance. She sighed and within a few minutes she had fallen asleep, her last thought being a question: how could someone have “just a bit of insomnia?”

     Laughing, screaming, weeping, dreaming…

     The Gelert followed her owner down the dusty road through Neopia Central, ignoring the stares she received. The girl stopped at a store filled with grooming supplies and started sifting through them.

     “What color nail polish would look good on my Gelert? The Beauty Contest takes place tomorrow, and she has to look perfect.”

     “Are you sure she should wear nail polish? You know, the current style…”

     The Gelert walked outside and sat by the door. She cared about fashion, makeup, appearance, and all that other stuff Beauty Contest participants stereotypically cared about; but her owner asked many Neopians for their advice and never followed any of it. She asked more for reassurance of her own ideas than ways to improve them. Besides, the Gelert liked to watch other pets just as much as other pets liked to stare at her, although she sometimes wished she had lost at least one Beauty Contest.

     The shadow Kougra seemed to materialized from the sunlight itself. She glared at the Gelert, eyes filled with malice and pain.

     “You are the beauty. I was the genius. How long will you last?”

     The Gelert’s owner walked up to her pet, beauty supplies in hand. Come on, now. We’re going to be late. Say ‘goodbye’ to the Kougra and let’s move.”

     The lights were blinding. The Gelert turned over, moaning and trying to retreat back into sleep, even though it had made her relive the events of the previous day.

     “Wake up, dress yourself, brush your fur, put on your makeup. Time is short. We don’t want to be late.”

     The Gelert ducked her head under a pillow.

     “Are you not feeling well, dear?”

     “I feel a bit dazed.”

     “Do you think you can still participate in today’s Beauty Contest?”

     “I can try.”

     “We’ll take you to Healing Springs on the way there. That faerie can heal just about anything.”

***

The Gelert furiously polished her gold trophy. Once again she had won first place in both species and overall. The placement did not bother her, but the Lenny did. He had walked up behind her as she gazed into her new trophy. Now, every time she looked into the prize, she saw his speckled reflection staring back at her. Obsessively, the Gelert continued trying to remove the perceived stain…

     The speckled Lenny’s muscles rippled underneath his feathers. He carried a bronze trophy in his wing as he approached the Gelert.

     “Beauty Contests now, eh? At one point it was Battledoming; that went on for a long time, actually, but ended rather abruptly. I still don’t know why. And, of course, she has to be so peculiar and ‘start from scratch’ with a different pet every time she tries something new. ”

     “I’m sorry. I don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about.”

     “You don’t? That’s not good. You’re set up for a pretty big fall, then.”

     “Care to explain?”

     “Well, I’d love to help you out, but it’s a rather uncomfortable matter. Perhaps you could ask someone else?”

     “Who?”

     “Anyone but me.”

     Then the Lenny had left. It was getting dark. The Gelert went back to her owner’s house.

     The Gelert wiped her paws on the fresh bamboo mat and trotted into the family room. She jumped onto the Kauvara sofa and placed her head on her owner’s lap.

     “What took you so long to get home, dear? You should have returned hours ago.”

     “I spent some time intermingling with other Neopians.”

     “It’s always good to extend your fan base.”

     “So what did you do while I was gone?”

     “I read some articles on the Gourmet Club; it sounds like an interesting hobby. The pet that eats the most gourmet food gets a trophy. Doesn’t it sound exciting?”

     “Sure. Can I ask you something, though? Have you ever met a speckled Lenny?”

     “I’ve met plenty of them. Is there a particular one you are inquiring about?”

     “Well, I met one today. He looked like a Battledomer and seemed kind of odd. I just wondered if you knew anything about him.”

     “I don’t know every pet in Neopia, dear! However, I kind of recall a speckled, Battledoming Lenny, but I’m not very good with faces. Wait…I think I might have actually owned one.”

     The Gelert jerked her head up. Her breath came short and quick. She desperately tried to stop the violent trembling of her body. “What do you mean?”

     “You’re not the first pet I’ve owned, you know.”

     “I’m not?”

     “No, I’ve owned several different pets. I confess that I can’t remember them all; I guess I tried to forget them.”

     “But why?”

     “I didn’t realize how horrible they were when I first adopted them. I ended up putting them all in the pound, I’m sorry to say.”

     “What did they do?”

     “Some of them were mean. Some pets were lazy. A few were incredibly weak. Some were obnoxiously stupid. Others were just so ugly. They all had incurable vices. Don’t worry, though, dear. You’re my perfect little Faerie Gelert.”

     The Gelert’s owner scratched her behind the ears. However, the pet felt herself on the edge of panicking. She wanted to scream and cry at once, a task not altogether impossible. The sofa seemed rough underneath her, and her owner’s usually soothing touch felt abusive. She gasped for breath.

     “Are you okay, dear?”

     “I think so; I’m just a bit tired is all.”

     “Maybe you should go to bed now. It’s been a long day.”

     “Yes, it has been.”

     The Gelert tossed and turned in bed, once again unable to sleep. After a particularly violent flip, she found herself on the floor. She moaned. Her muscles felt too weak to lift her back on the bed, so instead she crawled underneath it. The door to her room swung open, letting in light.

     “Are you okay, dear? I heard a loud thump.”

     The Gelert did not answer; she was staring at the marble wall at the head of her bed. Chiseled into it were names. So many names it looked like a memorial for a forgotten war. It appeared as though a different hand had carved each one.

     “Where are you?”

     “I just fell. I’m okay. I’ll be up in a second.”

     I wonder if I should add mine.

***

A month passed. The Gelert could not stop thinking, could not stop dreaming. No place exists for naivety in Neopia; It cannot last.

     As she had done every night for so long now, the Gelert slept restlessly. She kept seeing faces, so many faces, and names chiseled in marble. A shadow Kougra floated by her, and then a speckled Lenny followed. A purple Flotsam, a mutant Ixi, a starry Grundo, a desert Kyrii; all were spewing words of warning and advice. And then a Faerie Gelert appeared in front of her. “She abandoned me, because I wasn’t pretty enough.”

     The Gelert woke with a jolt, desperately gulping for air. Sweat soaked her sheets. Why must they drown me in my sleep? The last face bothered her the most. She had not run into any Faerie Gelerts lately. She jumped as the bedroom door opened.

     “Awake?”

     “Yes, but you didn’t say anything about a beauty contest today.”

     “I thought we could go to Neopia Central instead.”

     The Gelert drew circles on the tile floor with her paw while her owner talked to the Food Shopkeeper, a yellow Chia wearing an apron. The girl was becoming more and more interested in the Gourmet Club. This new fascination did not bother the Gelert. She figured eating rare food for entertainment rivaled even the Beauty Contest, although she hoped she would not gain too much weight. She still wanted to compete occasionally.

     A striped Uni paused near the Gelert. She shuddered, glaring warily at him. She had met too many strange pets on the street, and their cryptic messages tired her. What were they all so determined to tell her? Why must they say it in code?

     The Uni picked up some Neopoints another Neopian had dropped and continued on his way. The Gelert sighed in relief. She looked to see if her owner had finished talking; her owner had already started walking to the door.

     “Can we stop at the Grooming Parlour on our way home?”

     “Don’t you have enough stuff?”

     “I guess so, but… I thought maybe we could see if they had anything new, like we used to do. I haven’t entered the Beauty Contest in a while, and I was thinking…”

     “Look, I’m not really into the whole Beauty Contest thing anymore. You already have enough of that junk stockpiled away. You don’t need any more.”

     The Gelert gawked in horror at her owner. She had never heard her owner sound so annoyed before now, and all she had done was ask a simple question.

     “We’re coming back here tomorrow, anyway. Maybe then I’ll take you. Maybe.”

     After her owner entered the Neohome, the Gelert wandered around the gardens circling it. She tried to make sense of her owner’s cold refusal and the faces that haunted her. She stopped at the garden underneath her bedroom window. Looking up, she remembered the names and spent the rest of the afternoon looking for the perfect rocks.

     The Gelert dreamed again. The faces came back, warning her over and over again. The other Faerie Gelert returned as well; and as the two faced each other, the dream Gelert whispered the conclusion to the previous night’s message: “…And I didn’t even need to be.”

     This time, however, the Gelert did not wake up afraid, just sad. She draped blankets around her bed and then crawled under it with a candle, which she had pilfered from the kitchen on her way upstairs. Therefore her owner could not hear her chiseling away till morning.

     Once again the door creaked open. “Are you awake yet?”

     “Yes.”

     “Where are you?”

     “I’m here.”

     “Don’t tell me you fell again!”

     “No. I’m just straightening up.”

     “What? Anyway, get dressed. Brush your fur. Put on your makeup. We have to leave.”

     “Am I entering the Beauty Contest today?”

     “Sort of.”

     “Are we going to stop at the Grooming Parlour along the way?”

     “I guess it wouldn’t hurt anything.”

***

Fingering a bottle of black nail polish, the Gelert watched her owner from the corner of her eye. The girl impatiently tapped her foot as she waited by the door. The Gelert supposed that she should not ask for anything; it was not likely that she would receive it, anyway.

     “Are you ready yet? We have to go.”

     “Is anyone ever ready?”

     “What?”

     “Nothing. Let’s go.”

     The Gelert repressed most of what happened next, although it occasionally resurfaced in her dreams. She let her owner take her to a nondescript building called the “pound” without so much as a whimper. A few tears escaped, but they were not for the girl.

     As soon as Dr. Death placed the Gelert in a cage, another girl adopted her. The Gelert had no qualms against her new owner, even though the girl constantly referred to her as “the painted pet I found in the pound” as though the Gelert did not have a name. Having siblings for the first time did not faze her either; she found them somewhat reassuring.

     They say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” If being "stronger” meant being near devoid of emotion, the Gelert guessed she had become it. She walked through Neopia in a dreamlike state, never reacting to anything or anyone. She felt only a faint, distant pain.

     Although the Gelert had yet to adapt completely to her new family, she would have been perfectly content to forget her past life. However, fate had one more blow for her. She was walking past the Food Shop in Neopia Central one day with her younger brother, a yellow Kougra, when she saw her old owner through the window. She trembled as she started to drown in the emotions that had left her so long ago.

     “What’s wrong, sis?”

     “Nothing. I’ll meet you at Hubert’s stand. I just have to do something, okay?”

     Barely able to breathe, the Gelert swung open the door to the Food Shop. Her old owner did not turn from a conversation with the shopkeeper, so she started towards her. The Gelert wanted to ask the girl so many questions: “Why did you abandon me?” “Why did you need another pet?” Why could you not just keep me as well? Why? Why? Why?

     After a couple of steps, she stopped. Her feet refused to move any closer to the human standing in front of her, who had caused her so much pain. Instead she found herself looking towards a strawberry Jetsam near the girl, her ex-owner’s new pet.

     The Faerie Gelert wanted to tell the pet everything, to rescue him from naïve happiness. However, her throat felt dry when she opened it, and no sound left her mouth. How can one tell another of his dire future, especially when a slim chance always exists that it will not happen? When one still suffers from wounds, it is often hard to describe the battle.

     “Have you ever heard of faerie tales?”

     “I beg your pardon, miss.”

     “Have you ever heard of faerie tales with ‘happily ever after’ endings?”

     “Don’t they all end like that?”

     “Mine didn’t.”

     The Jetsam’s owner put her hand on his head. “Come on, now. We have a Gourmet Club meeting to attend. We’re going to be late. Say ‘bye’ to the Gelert, and let’s go.”

     The Gelert locked eyes with the girl, searching for a flicker of recognition. None appeared. “You’re crazy.”

     The girl looked at the pet with disdain. “Isn’t everyone?”

     As her old owner walked away, the Gelert realized what she had become and perhaps always had been to the girl: just one of many faces.

The End


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