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The Visitor


by eyeslikestars

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A solitary bird sang from a hidden branch within the tangle of hedge that lined the road to the old mansion. The heavy iron gates emitted a resounding clang as they crashed shut behind the yellow Moehog, who was slowly picking his way up the overgrown path to the large oaken door of the immense manor house. The crumbling building was full of decay, with several shattered windowpanes, a forgotten wilderness for its once-stately grounds, and walls of complete disrepair. Moss lined the roof, and the remaining windows were stained with green algae. The Moehog stepped up to the huge door and used the blackened brass knocker to signal his presence. There was no reply. Cautiously, he turned the large doorknob and gained entry to the house.

     The door slowly creaked shut behind him as a lurid stench shocked his nostrils. The entire mansion seemed to be slowly decomposing. He was in a large entrance hall with a grubby wooden floor, adorned with old paintings and the occasional piece of antique furniture coated in dust. Every corner held hundreds of deserted cobwebs, lying in wait of the petpetpet that would never come. He allowed his eyes to wander lazily around the room, not especially interested in the family portraits that hung on the walls.

     The silence of the manor house was impenetrable by the sounds of the outside world, and it felt timeless. He trotted forward, his hooves clopping sharply against the hard floor. The noise seemed to draw a swirling shape from the wall, which floated around the room above his head. As suddenly as it had appeared, a blue figure formed in the mist, sucking in the shape until the entire cloud materialised into an old Aisha. The ghostly apparition was dressed in a ragged grey dress, and floated about a foot above the ground. Her translucent face wore an infuriated expression at the Moehog's intrusion.

      "Leave this place," she demanded in a fierce whisper. Her voice sounded as though it were being sucked from another dimension. The Moehog's eyes widened, and his pupils dilated, but he had come here for a reason. There was no point in giving up before he had begun.

      "I'm truly sorry for my intrusion, Madam. I did try to knock, but there was no reply, so I…"

      "So you broke into my house to have a good nose around," the ghost interrupted angrily. "Begone, or face my fury!"

      "I really didn't mean to cause offence, Mrs. Prenderghast. I think we've got off to the wrong start," the Moehog pleaded, before offering, "My name is Jevan."

      "How do you know my name?" Mrs. Prenderghast shot back suspiciously, ignoring his greeting. She flew in a circular motion around Jevan, in an irritated manner.

      "I was reading through the Neopedia the other day and your story caught my eye. I…" He faltered. "I just wanted to meet you."

     For the first time, Mrs. Prenderghast's face softened slightly; she seemed to be flattered by the young Neopet's interest. She stopped her aggressive flying, and floated before the yellow Moehog, with an appeased expression.

      "Well, perhaps I am rather hasty to jump to conclusions these days. I'm sure you read in that dreadful Neopedia article how most people come here to try and rob me of my art collection," she explained, still in a whispered voice, and added, "I'm pleased to meet you, Jevan," extending a silvery blue paw.

     Jevan smiled, and reached out a hoof to shake with her, but as it touched her paw, it continued on passing through her arm. A cold sensation swept up his hoof and leg, and his expression betrayed his shock. As he rapidly withdrew from the contact with the ghost, she chuckled at his contorted features.

      "Works every time," she smiled. Her laughter was as strange as her voice, and Jevan stepped backwards unconsciously. Mrs. Prenderghast ignored this and continued, "Can I offer you some tea?"

     A few hours later, Jevan left the mansion smiling, with a final wave to the ghost. He had stayed much longer than he had planned to be there. Behind her menacing ghostly appearance, Mrs. Prenderghast was actually very lonely; it was clear from her constant offers of further refreshments and her constant requests of tales from what she called the "real world". The yellow Moehog spent most of his visit describing the recent unfolding events of Neopia, and watching her fascinated expressions. Yes, he thought, he had done well today. Mrs. Prenderghast beamed as she watched him leave, happy that someone had finally come to visit her without an ulterior motive.

     Over the next few weeks, Jevan visited the ghost of the old Aisha often. She looked forward to his visits, and for the first time in centuries, she didn't feel alone. One evening she was shocked to discover herself humming an old lullaby her mother had sung long ago, and realised she was happy.

     The next time the young Moehog visited Mrs. Prenderghast, she smiled gracefully towards him, and welcomed him in, saying, "Over the past month you've visited me a lot, and I'm glad to have met you. I'd like to show my appreciation of your kindness in the only way I have left to me. Would you like to take a tour of my secret art collection deep inside the manor house?"

     The spirit watched Jevan's face in anticipation, and observed his eyes light up. He grinned, and accepted her offer.

      "I'd love to, Mrs. Prenderghast. Thank you."

     Happily, the spectre led the Neopet down the dusty corridors of the mansion, and up towards the top of the building. Eventually, she stopped in the middle of a hallway and flew upwards through the cobweb-encrusted ceiling. The Moehog looked upwards to where she had disappeared, and saw a slight crack appear. He side-stepped swiftly as a trapdoor opened and a secret stairway slid out, crashing to the floor and sending a shower of dust into the air. Mrs. Prenderghast waved for him to follow, and moved out of sight.

     As Jevan ascended the stairs, natural light streamed from skylights and lit the room that received him. The attic ran the full length of the house, and the ceiling sloped just above head height to construct the shape of the roof above. It was impeccably clean, and seemed cared for, unlike the rest of the Prenderghast mansion. He saw with amazement that the full length of each wall was adorned with beautiful oil paintings and watercolours featuring almost every possible scene of Neopian life, from Smugglers Cove to a fantastic watercolour representation of the Rainbow Pool. In the centre of the wondrous room stood hundreds of white columns supporting fabulous sculptures carved from marble and stone or cast in metal. Jevan heard his own sharp intake of breath at the magnificent sight.

      "Beautiful," he murmured, following Mrs. Prenderghast around the room. She pointed out her most prized pieces to him and he listened eagerly to her recollection of the history of the art. The ghost felt a blissful calmness, as she could finally trust someone enough to share the experience of the precious items, without fear of losing everything she had worked so hard to earn. Jevan asked her about almost every painting and sculpture in the room, and she chattered cheerfully to her friend for many hours.

     Upon leaving, the Moehog thanked her sincerely for disclosing her secret attic exhibition. Mrs. Prenderghast was overjoyed that he had enjoyed the art, and told him he could view it whenever he liked, which drew a slow smile from Jevan. As he turned, and walked down the path, his grin stretched as the final aspects of his plan came together.

     The next morning, the ghostly apparition of an Aisha floated slowly along her grimy halls searching for an idea to pass the day with. Her heart leapt as she remembered the happiness of the previous day, and flew up through the ceiling towards the top of the house to recapture her memory.

     She looked around her exhibition attic slowly, unable to believe her tired eyes. Loneliness descended like a black weight around her neck, and she sank to the floor, never to believe in the goodness of others again. The cracked skylight allowed a chilling wind to circle the room, blowing dust of the broken columns through the dejected spectre. The art, along with any hope she once had, was gone.

The End

 
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