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Shadows


by cloudybliss

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You may not see me, but I am always there. I lurk amongst the shadows, hiding my twisted beauty. Although I am too prideful to admit it, I am ashamed of my choice. A Dark Faerie offered me one wish, and I chose beauty. You may look down on me and call me selfish or vain, but what would you have asked for? Eternal life? A never-ending supply of money? Those things are no better than what I chose. Greed is a disease that strikes every living thing. It is a natural instinct in all intelligent life: an instinct that enables us to continue living. Survival is what we thrive on. Surely beauty, money, and longevity help ensure survival. The rich and beautiful are always favored. So why is my desire to persevere frowned upon, while all others who have made similar choices as I have are not as deeply shunned?

      The world is cruel. I have been hurt by its cold hands many times. Each time, I grew a new shell, and I became even more bitter and jaded. For me, it was always about surviving. I had to toughen up against the biting winter breeze and the freezing snowy nights. Destroyed, I learned to stop feeling altogether. I had an owner once, though I doubt you would believe me. She threw me out one night, when the weather was so cold that the tiniest drop of moisture froze instantly. Tears slipped down my cheeks and froze rapidly, and soon my face felt like it was encased in a cold, icy diamond. I stood in the snow, my uncovered feet slowly growing numb. It was then that I began to walk. To where, I never knew. I simply placed one foot after another, my eyes shining with tears and my body shivering with the loss of heat. It was the only thing I could do.

      I walked until I was knee-deep in snow and the tattered hem of my skirt was sopping wet. My body did not shiver or register the cold. My eyes stared forward, never once blinking. It was as if the laws of nature did not apply to my broken body. The unrelenting horizon was interrupted by the sight of a snow-covered tree. Bags of money, dusted by frost, hung from its branches. I had seen this tree before, from a book I had read underneath my owner's bed as she slept. My owner had never allowed me to read, insisting that books cost too much money. I, of course, was not worth her hard-earned money. She loved to flaunt her riches, investing her money in beautiful sculptures and mint condition dolls. She was always updating her gallery while I lay on the cold floor of our empty Neohome, sparingly nibbling on a Rotten Omelette. On the outside, our house was adorned with expensive marble walls and beautiful flowers. Once someone walked in, however, they would see nothing. The rooms were empty and devoid of emotion or care. There was only one room with furniture in it, and that was my owner's room. All that mattered to her was the way things looked at first glance. As long as she appeared to be wealthy at first glance, nothing else seemed to matter to her. Perhaps it was from my owner that I learned that beauty equals survival.

      Trudging past the Money Tree, I glanced at a few stragglers hoping to find their breakfast. I was neither hungry nor cold. I felt no need for anything. I was tired, however. After hours of walking through the snow, my knees felt as if they were about to give out. There was a building nearby with two windows that were still lit, despite the fact that it was far too early for any sane being to be out and about. I gravitated towards it like a moth to a flame. As I neared the building, a motion-detector light flickered on and illuminated the front of the building. An engraved metal sign spelled out, "The Pound" in peeling letters. Weak and exhausted, I crawled towards the door and knocked faintly. The door swung open promptly. A tired-looking yellow Techo wearing an immaculate white lab coat stepped out and looked at me, sprawled out on the ground miserably.

      "Goodness!" he said under his breath, gingerly picking me up. "Let's get you to a proper bed." His voice was surprisingly soft, despite his scruffy exterior. He placed me on a pillow, which was shredded and torn but still provided some warmth. "I'll be back with some food," he muttered. As promised, he came back with a bruised apple. "It's not much, but you don't look like you're in the state to be picky, huh?" His face contorted into a rare half-smile, as he turned around to go back to his post at the Abandon desk.

      I stared at the apple but lacked the strength and desire to eat. It was not like this food was unappetizing. Compared to the garbage my owner used to feed me, probably just to see how desperately hungry I was in some bizzare power struggle of hers, it was a small slice of heaven. Instead, I simply sat calmly on my pillow, watching the pets around me. Most were sleeping. I watched as a Kougra diagonal from me twitched involuntarily in their sleep. Their eyes danced frantically underneath their eyelids, dreaming vividly. Every now and then, they would whimper softly. Averting my eyes, I looked on at the Aisha next to them. They slept soundly, clearly unhaunted by the dreams that plagued their neighbor's head. As they exhaled, a small puff of air became visible in the cold air. My eyes bounced around the room, closing fractionally as time passed by. Slowly, silently, I drifted into a dreamless slumber.

      "You, Acara! Wake up!" I heard. The voice echoed slowly, and my eyes fluttered open, slowly adjusting myself to my surroundings. I had almost forgotten where I was, as the cold ground of the cage felt strangely similar to our cold stone floors at home. The voice was Dr. Death's. His brow was furrowed as he clicked his tongue at me.

      "Yes?" I said sleepily, sitting with my back against the cold metal bars.

      "What's your name, kid?" he snapped.

      I paused. It had been so long since my owner had called me by my real name. I was usually just called "you" or "brat", never by my birth name. I blinked up slowly at him once I remembered. "Vira," I said finally.

      "Vira?" he said doubtfully. "That's it? No numbers, underscores, or anything?"

      "No."

      "You didn't touch your apple," he said, looking at my untouched apple. "Is it not up to par with what you're used to?" He snorted. "Well, get used to this kind of food. Pound life is tough. Don't hold your breath. No one is going to slip you some candy if you put yourself on a hunger strike."

      I said nothing. He left, still frowning.

          ***

           Weeks passed. I watched as pets were adopted, some more quickly than others. Painted pets were in and out in seconds. Sometimes, they would be adopted before they were even situated in a cage. Unpainted pets were adopted slower, but there was still hope. The pretty but heartbroken pets were adopted right after the pound was swept for painted pets of any kind, even those with ridiculous names. As for myself, I was decent but never beautiful. After weeks of eating nothing but a few bites of food to keep my body functioning, I was far from pretty. My green fur was matted with grease and dust, and my eyes had lost all traces of life from within them. My face was gaunt and skeletal, as well as the rest of my body. To keep myself sane, I scratched lines down each of the bars of my cage. There were 45 bars in all. In three more days, I would have to find somewhere else to mark the days.

      On my 45th day, I had finally had enough. The pound had taken its toll on me, and I was skinny enough to wedge my way though the iron bars. The pets around me looked to their neighbors incredulously, as if silently saying, "That one pet finally cracked!" I had been the talk of the pound. Actually, I was almost a legend. It was true that I had cracked. Being in a cage for 45 days straight, eating just enough to survive, never speaking since the first day: all of that had made me finally lose my cool. At least in the lonely streets of Neopia, I would be free. I pushed through the back door of the pound and breathed in fresh air for the first time in a month and a half. My lungs nearly choked on its pureness, after being in a room with the same circulated air for 45 days.

      Yet again, I walked. It was dawn, and Neopets were finally stirring from their slumber inside their comfortable homes. Sitting down by the Rainbow Pool and dipping my feet into ita balmy water, I watched as Neopets and owners giggled and paraded past, bags of Neopoints jingling as they walked. I felt a presence behind me, and I whirled around instinctively. A Dark Faerie was standing behind me, smiling at her reflection in the pool.

      "Oh, hello there!" she said. Her voice was light and airy, completely the opposite of what one might think a Dark Faerie would sound like. I had personally expected her to have a deep, throaty voice, but I suppose I was wrong.

      "Hi." I said, suddenly shy.

      "I am Malvinia. You are?" she asked kindly. I was beginning to wonder if all that hype about Dark Faeries being pure evil was simply that: hype.

      "I'm Vira," I mumbled.

      "Vira..." Malvinia said, drawing out my name slowly. "What a beautiful name. It sounds very dark and mysterious."

      "Thank you," I said, not sure of what else there was to say.

      "I like you," she said suddenly, surprising me. "Some pets babble relentlessly when they see a Faerie, as if we're really something that special. You know, we're really not. It's all just faerie tales, really. Sure, we can grant wishes and do magic and all that fun stuff, but when you do it every day of your life it just becomes so routine," Malvinia mused. I smiled back weakly. "Anyway, you seem sad. So I thought I'd do you a little favor, and you should know, I usually never grant favors. So, come on. Make a wish," she said, her startling green eyes growing brighter on her last words.

      I exhaled slowly. "One wish?" I asked dubiously.

      "One wish," she replied.

      "I wish I was beautiful: so beautiful that it makes all the other pets look like mutants next to me, so beautiful that I have this power that no one else has, just beautiful. Do you know what I mean?" I asked, feeling stupid.

      "Oh, I do," she said, her eyes glittering malovently. "Oh, I certainly do." That was when everything went black.

     ***

      When I awoke, I was lying facedown in a dark alley with a black mirror laying next to me. Groggily, I looked in the mirror, seeing my twisted face for the first time. Instead of upsetting me, it made me feel beautiful... powerful, somehow. I touched the features of my face gingerly. I had this rare, almost ethereal beauty. Attached to the back of the mirror was a note, which was written in purple ink.

      "Vira, your new beauty calls. However, I could not do all the work for you. Use this magic mirror to turn those who oppose your beauty into mutants. After all, that is what you wished for. Enjoy your new power. I will always be watching. Malvinia."

      I looked up to the pale blue sky and smiled my first real smile in months. "Thank you," I whispered so quietly that I could barely hear myself. Somehow, I knew that Malvinia could hear me. With that, I began to walk, and this time, I knew where I was going. I was walking down the familiar path to my old home... to a place where I knew this mirror could be put to good use.

The End

 
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