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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 1st day of Celebrating, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 49 > Short Stories > Close Encounters

Close Encounters

by taffychic

"AND YOU WILL never in a MILLION DECADES guess who I saw come around that corner!"

     Celestilla is a gossip.

     "BRAD TWITT! I swear, Andy, I could have died right there…"

     To make it worse, she is also a famous columnist for the Neopian Extra. "Celestilla's Star Sightings" is a weekly source of entertainment for fans of Neopian celebrities and a weekly heart attack for the celebrities themselves. For while Celestilla never writes anything untrue, she has quite a knack for catching her prey at their worst.

     "And of course, my dear Andromeda, you chose THAT EXACT MOMENT to run off for a bratwurst! Now I have no evidence, and that's the second time this week! For Ryshu's sake, sometimes I think I ought to put you on a leash…"

     Andromeda is Celestilla's photographer and best friend. She's a mischievous red Aisha with considerable artistic talent but little tact, much like her employer. She does detest threats to her dignity, such as the one Celestilla had just made, and took that particular opportunity to smack her friend on the back of the head, causing her designer sunglasses to go bouncing across the street. As kind (handsome) Gelert retrieved them for her as he passed.

     "Oh, thank you so much! Is there anything I can do to repay you? I owe you my life! Call me sometime," she called casually to the Gelert's retreating figure, which turned an intimidated look on my pet. Celestilla can be somewhat of a drama queen.

     I am Taffychic, Celestilla's owner, editor, and oftentimes lawyer. I do my best to see we don't get nasty threatening letters from stars and their agents, but there are always a few provocation that escape me. Celestilla is a very hard pet to keep up with.

     Anyway, at this particular moment I was trailing Celestilla and Andromeda as they trekked across Neopia Central. My dear starry Uni is only level six, and for all that she is quite wise beyond her years, she still needs a chaperone. Especially with Andromeda the practical joke queen hanging about.

     "Oh, Garon!" swore Celestilla as the door of the adoption center was flung open and a huge swarm of reporters exited the building, buzzing like bees around several someone's. "Taffy, can you see who…?"

"It looks like Orayny with Wisteria and…oh, it seems Wisteria has a new brother!" I exclaimed, standing on tiptoe to see over the sea of journalists. Orayny is a famous Neomillionaire, and Wisteria had been her only pet ever since she entered Neopia. Naturally the adoption of a second pet into the famous family would be a huge story, and it looked as if Celestilla was missing it.

     Celestilla was already charging over toward the knot, Andromeda in her wake snapping pictures like mad. I shook my head; if there's one thing my Uni hates, it's being the last with a story, and at this rate, every Neopian tabloid (the bane of our existence) would have the story on their covers before the Extra, a weekly newspaper, was even published. It would be old news by then anyway.

     Resignedly I began to follow the familiar bellows of my darling pet.

     "ORAYNY! YOO-HOO! THIS IS CELESTILLA FROM THE NEOPIAN EXTRA! COULD YOU ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT…" Her voice quickly began to fade as the group turned several corners in succession; apparently the hounded trio were in a hurry to get out of the public eye. I began to jog to keep up.

     It was not long before I caught sight of Celestilla trotting briskly toward me, Andromeda trailing her as usual. I slowed to a walk as she fell in beside me. "Surely you didn't give up the chase?" I said incredulously.

     Celestilla only lifted her chin, but Andromeda helpfully explained. "Orayny made it to her front gate without so much as a 'no comment.' The press diffused there when she sent out her personal guard."

     "It was a hopeless story, anyway," admitted Celestilla, voicing my thoughts exactly. "By Friday, when my column is published, the whole of Neopia will know anyhow. I'll put a little something in the 'Updates' section, but I'm sure I can find something better for my feature story…" her face betrayed what her words did not: she wasn't sure if she could come up with a story by then. It was Tuesday already, and her deadline was noon on Thursday.

     I'm not the only one who is sensitive to Celestilla's moods. "Let's eat lunch at Hubert's," Andromeda suggested cheerfully. All of us brightened at the thought, especially Celestilla; some of her best sightings had taken place there.

     As we settled in over hot dogs and jacket potatoes, the three of us scanned the sea of humanity for a familiar famous face. Neopia Central Park was very crowded; it would be easy to miss a famous Neopian going incognito in the swarm of pets and their owners.

     After ten minutes of straining neck and eyes I gave up to eat my once-steaming potato. I had every confidence in Celestilla. If there was a celebrity present, she would find him or her. I was beginning to be disheartened though, when I was nudged urgently on the leg.

     "Taffy! You'll never believe this, but look over by that tree. No, the other one," she hissed.

     I looked, hard. After scanning the scene several times, I noticed a black patch high in the leaves that didn't seem to fit in. It moved a bit, and two bright almond-shapes winked into view. I shivered as I realised that those pupil-less eyes were the sole features in a sinister face.

     "The Shadow Usul!" Celestilla breathed. "Imagine getting an interview with her! No one's ever gotten one before…no one even knows if she can talk! If I got this story, I could be famous!"

     I shook my head. "Don't get your hopes up. She's untouchable. Even the Neopets Staff can't catch her! I'm sure there's someone else here who would make a great interview. Or we could stop by the Royal Neopian; I head that Agent 00 Hog is staying there this we-"

     Andromeda had kicked me. "Shush," she murmured, her eyes on Celestilla. The Uni was crouched deep in the grass near our picnic table, a calculating look on her face. While I had been arguing, the Shadow Usul had somehow move several feet closer without attracting attention from anyone else. I had no doubt that she knew exactly where Celestilla was and what she was planning, but I was too busy musing on her uncanny ability to blend in in broad daylight to realise the gravity of the situation.

     The Shadow Usul must have pounced--one moment she was in a nearby bush, yellow eyes glowing eerily, and the next she was swarming about her surprised prey--but she was too quick for a mere human eye to follow. In a matter of seconds Celestilla was pinned, though how a shadow, a thing of no substance, kept her on the ground I will never understand. Since my pet did not appear to be hurt, I stayed where I was, afraid to scare off the Usul. Strangely enough, the people and pets playing and eating nearby did not seem to notice the Uni lying on her back in the grass or the nightmarish creature atop her.

     Tactless as ever, Celestilla nervously cleared her throat and addressed the being. "If I could possibly ask a few questions of you, Madam? I…" Celestilla fell silent when the Shadow Usul shot her a Medusa-worthy glare. I winced. It appeared that a trip to the Healing Springs would soon be in order; a Gallery of Evil creature usually does not tolerate provocation.

     However, an astonishing thing occurred next. Instead of calling down a few dozen Dark Novas upon the head of my errant pet, the Shadow Usul simply leaned down and breathed a few words into Celestilla's ear.

     Whether those words served as threat, warning, or friendly advice, I do not know, and most likely never will. But I do know this: the pictures Andromeda snapped of the encounter came back with holes burned through them (the workers at the photo lab claimed no responsibility) and Celestilla's pencil broke eighteen times before she gave up on the story.

     Some things are better left a mystery.

The End

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