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A Brush with Misfortune


by turquoisephoenix

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They say that the Haunted Woods is home to more stories than any library could ever hold. Trapped within the bare branches of the dying trees that surround the area, thousands of different tales, each one more unique than the last, wait in hopes that someone will one day hear their stories.

     Perhaps you've heard of some of them. Whether it's the tale of Balthazar and his notorious faerie-hunting business, the rivalry between Magax and Hubrid Nox, or even something as simple as a Kacheek imprisoned by the Esophagor, every self-respecting Neopet has heard at least one of these spooky anecdotes from this santuary of ghouls.

     But no one has ever heard of the tale I'm about to tell you. Sit down, get comfortable, and listen carefully as I recall a tale recorded exclusively for your ears. A tale that may or may not forever change your views about a certain fairground that sits desolately near the boundaries of the woods...

     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     It was a very typical night in the Haunted Woods, that one fateful day in the Month of Collecting. Creatures that never frequented out of their hideaways during the day lurked within the shadows while the wind whistled noisily through the dead trees. Not a single soul, except those that happened to be Halloween or ghost, was out in the middle of night. All sane Neopets were tucked neatly in their beds, sleeping in peace.

     All that is, except for a traveling magician and his pet Spyder.

     A tall figure with bright and colorful clothes that came in shades of purple traveled down a well-worn path through the Haunted Woods. Dressed in a simple bow tie, top hat, well-kept shoes and clothes that were almost atrocious in their bright coloration, the young blue Nimmo trotted merrily down the road with his petpet riding on his hat. He was a magician not in actual magic itself, but in illusions. The Nimmo had a meager existence of doing what he did best; entertain young children at any sort of a party with tricks like making cards disappear with the flick of his wrist, pulling colorful ribbons out of his sleeves, and instructing his Spyder to guess the right card that a volunteer had pulled out of a deck.

     The pay was small, but he didn't care. As long as he had enough Neopoints to eat and he was making kids laugh, his life had purpose. When the children were happy, he was happy too.

     And now, he was instructed to attend a midnight party at a place that was weirdly named "the Deserted Fairground".

     "Well, this is certainly new..." the traveling entertainer replied, glancing at the address written on the well-creased note held in his hands. He let his eyes travel from the scrap of paper to the hulking foundation of past amusements in front of him. Wasted tent canvas fluttered in the wind and from far away, the entertainer could hear the dull clicking of a wheel turning awkwardly in the breeze.

     "This is probably the first time I had to do an appointment in the Haunted Woods after dark. Unless..." he paused as he cycled through all the past performances he had done in his mind. "No, wait, the Korbat family's party was around sunset. So, definitely, first time in the Haunted Woods' fabled darkness. Isn't that right, Fang?"

     He paused and waited until the black petpet clicked its fangs together in affirmation. With a smile, the traveling magician walked through the arch of the fairground's gates. He wasn't all that surprised in the location of the party he was hired to entertain; after all, the Haunted Woods had a reputation to keep, and almost every place of amusement was haunted or abandoned in its own unique way. Libraries were always full of books with teeth, schools always had cobwebs and teachers that were witches, and amusement parks were always haunted. It was just a thing that made the Haunted Woods the way it was.

     The only thing that mildly scared him was the fact that, instead of a group of children supervised by adults toting presents, the only living thing within the Deserted Fairground was a tall Gelert, and a rather frightening one at that. He wore rather funny-looking clothes of a carnival worker, complete with a tall hat and a cane, and yet he was able to blend into the shadows with relative ease. Piercing yellow eyes, sinister and radiating with a light of their own, glared at the newcomer. When he noticed just who it was, his muzzle split into a fanged grin.

     "Ah, glad for you to come. I didn't expect you to accept my invitation so quick, Sidney. Welcome to the Deserted Fairground," the tall man in the funny hat replied, flourishing his arms out above his head as if speaking to a crowd. Sidney only shrugged modestly.

     "That's my job. You set a date and the number of Neopoints, and I show up. If I recorded the information correctly, your name's Mr. Misfortune, right?" he replied. He glanced down at the note again. Certainly was the correct place and time. Now where was that party he was invited to entertain at...?

     "Not my real name, but hey, might as well go with it. I do run the Wheel of Misfortune, after all," he answered. Sidney found it strange that the Gelert (or whatever he was; he looked too eerie to be anything normal) didn't find it odd that he was going by a faux name, but he didn't comment. Customers were always right, and they liked to exercise that right... righteously.

     "...Uh, okay. Now, about the party..."

     "What party?"

     The response was almost instant. Mr. Misfortune, as he so aptly called himself, leaned back against the wasted remains of a ticket booth, his face still fixated in a grin. The eerie atmosphere didn't improve Sidney's irritation at all. But instead of lashing out in fury like he wanted to do (he WAS a customer after all), he sighed and carefully explained.

     "That's kind of my job. My job is to entertain children at parties. I'm the person that the parents hire to keep the kids occupied as they frost the cake or pull the presents out of the closet. I think you hired the wrong entertainer..."

     Sidney turned to walk away, but he didn't get much farther than a step when Mr. Misfortune wrapped his right arm around the Nimmo's shoulders in a business-like fashion. Wearing the grin that Sidney was learning to loathe, the Gelert attempted to convince the entertainer otherwise.

     "Wrong again, Sidney. You're the perfect man I need to bring back customers to my fairground. I bet you'd be pleased to know that your job would pay you triple of what you ask for. Think of it; 1,200 Neopoints every time you do your job instead of that measly price you advertise yourself. What do you say?"

     Sidney frowned at the thought.

     "Do it yourself. I'm not very good in advertising..."

     "Advertising? Why would the Deserted Fairground need advertising? What this fairground needs is for fresh new crowds of vic-customers to come running through these gates." The Gelert then paused to gesture with his free hand at the gates in front of both of them. As Sidney began to regret ever coming to this place, the Gelert continued in a announcer-like voice, "This place used to be popular before *something* drove everyone away. Now I need someone to drive them back. And that someone is you."

     Sidney pushed away from the tall figure. Forget about the rights of a customer; he just wanted to get out of here.

     "Maybe the *something* that drove everyone away was a hint that this place just isn't the right place for entertainment. I certainly wouldn't want to be caught dead, err, caught anyway in this place. You got the wrong guy," he said. Once again turning towards the gate, Sidney walked away from the Gelert, his petpet keeping its beady red eyes on its owner's "enemy". The figure with the cane and the funny hat didn't even move to stop the entertainer. Instead, he said the very question that he knew would make Sidney reconsider.

     "What about the children?"

     That did it. Sidney stopped in his tracks, his foot hovering over its next step. He turned to look at Mr. Misfortune.

     "Children?"

     The word held so much meaning to the Nimmo. Immediately he began to walk back towards the Gelert. Sidney didn't catch the amused twinkle in the glowing yellow eyes of Mr. Misfortune, but he absorbed every last word that his provider said to him.

     "The *something* that forever ruined this wonderful fairground drove away the children. It pains me to feel that present and future generations of children will never feel the joys of this fairground. Figure it out, Sidney. This is the job to end all jobs. You become employed to me, and you spend the rest of your life entertaining children in the best way possible. You'll be the first one they see when they come in through those gates. I know you don't care about the extra money that you get to earn, but I know you care about the extra children you will entertain..."

     A stray wind began to blow, rustling some of the discarded trash left in the dirt. For what seemed to be hours, even though it only took a minute of long consideration, the only sound that was in the Haunted Fairground was the crinkling of plastic wrappers and the clicking of Fang the Spyder's fangs. At last, Sidney made his decision.

     "...Fine. Where do I sign up for my new profession?" he finally answered.

     Those were the words that he wanted to hear. Mr. Misfortune's ever-lingering grin grew wider, more sinister. He seemed to grow in both size and authority as he uttered the words through his yellowing teeth. "You don't need to go anywhere."

     And at the sound of those words, the gates to the Deserted Fairground slammed shut, moving on their foundations as if they had a mind of their own...

     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     The Gelert held his promises to Sidney, and at the same time, withheld some important information from the traveling entertainer. Sidney helped make the Deserted Fairground evolve into a bustling spooky delight for children everywhere and allowed certain Neopets to set up booths there. Like Mr. Misfortune said, he was the first person everyone saw when they came through the Deserted Fairground's hauntingly beautiful gates.

     And at the same time, he learned the hard way that jobs in the Haunted Woods came at a price. A horrible, horrible price.

     Sidney crouched at a scratchcard booth, his postured downgraded into a sinister hunch. His cards in which he used to make disappear and reappear with ease were replaced with little strips of chance that Neopets bought at inflated prices. His clothes, once bright and colorful to fit his profession, now looked gaudy and out of place in this place of haunted treats. He no longer cared if he got holes or had to repair his clothes hastily with patches; he no longer cared about the way he looked.

     Which was good, because his looks and personality took a turn for the worse. None of his past employers would ever guess that the ashen-colored Nimmo with the glowing yellow eyes, the ragged blue hair, the crooked smile, and the greedy obsession with Neopoints was once the magician that made their children laugh after he pulled a Spyder out of his hat. Now, instead of bringing laughter, he brought groans of dismay, especially after "accidentally" pulling out a fake scratchcard after the buyer paid good money for it.

     "Sssidney ssspiesss a cussstomer, Fang," he replied, after a long wait of watching the new crowds of customers come and go. The Spyder said nothing as it perched on his hat, but even it could tell that something had changed in its owner's speech pattern and attitude.

     A tiny blue Acara child, no older than kindergarten age, skipped happily up to Sidney, tiny pigtails bobbing up and down with each skip. She wore a tiny dress that was pink and had a giant picture of a Cheery Blossom on the front. Before being employed to the Deserted Fairground, Sidney would've commented on how cute she looked and would've asked her questions like what her favorite color was. Now, all he cared was about the bag of Neopoints clutched in her tiny paws, which were folded neatly behind her back.

     "Welcome to the Desserted Fairground Sscratchcard Kiosssk!" Sidney replied, going into his routine. "You may purchassse one of my cardss for 1,200 Neopointss, but you aren't guaranteed to win, not by any meansss..." he hissed and wrung his hands together in glee.

     "I woulds like one, pah-wease," the kid said in an accent that was sweet enough to cause cavities. Unceremoniously, the Nimmo drew a Scratchcard at random from the vast amount of Scratchcards contained in his booth. He then surveyed the child as she rubbed out six squares with one of her dull claws.

     Six blanks. The Acara stared at the scratchcard in shock as she realized that she wasn't going to win the plushie that she wanted.

     'Chalk up another win for Sssidney', the scratchcard vendor thought with glee, but he instead replied with a "We have a lossser!" After all, it was only a child. Why should he make them feel happy when they had Neopoints to spend?

     Tears welled up in her eyes as she glanced at the losing remains. She obviously had her heart set on a prize. "But, but...I saved all my pennies and what da tooth faerie gave me. That was alla my neopoints...now how'll I play da Wheel or da Strength game..." she whimpered, sitting down on the ground in sadness. The old Sidney would've attempted to make her feel better by giving her a lollipop or saying something to cheer her up, but that part of his life was as alive as the Ghost Neopets that often traveled through the booths.

     "Sssorry, you little brat. I don't run a charity. Ssscram ssso Sssidney can get sssome peace and quiet."

     But Sidney did not receive the peace and quiet he so kindly asked for.

     The tiny Acara burst into tears, her wails fortunately drowned out by the hustle and bustle of all the fairground visitors playing games that made them throw away their Neopoints. Sidney growled in dismay as no parents showed up to claim their little annoyance. He thought of various plans in which to get rid of the sound (he was rapidly receiving a headache), but suddenly, an idea that he shouldn't have thought of came to him. Glancing to make sure that none of the fellow Deserted Fairground workers saw him, he pretended to glance again at the wasted scratchcard, only to spot something he missed.

     "Well, well, well...Looksss like I misssread the card. Sssix blanksss winsss a plussshie." Sidney replied. The little Acara, still mildly weeping, looked up at him with tear-stained cheeks and watery eyes.

     "Huh?" she could only say as the strange-looking Nimmo pulled out a Mutant Chia Plushie out from the pile of prizes contained within the booth. The child hesitantly glanced back and forth between Sidney and the toy he held as if he was holding a bomb instead.

     "Here, take him. It'll be our little sssecret," he said to her, giving her the toy that was half as big as she was. The Acara paused to wipe some lingering tears out of her eyes and then embraced the prize. Uttering "thank you"s at a rapid pace, the little pony tailed child disappeared into the crowd with her 20,000 Neopoint gift.

     Sidney winced when he realized that he had just lost a good deal of Neopoints just to make a child happy. What had happened back there? Did some sort of vengeful scratchcard-playing ghost or alien invade his mind so that he'd hand some brat an expensive plushie? Fearfully scanning the area, the Nimmo hoped dearly that no one saw him do that. The last thing he wanted was some bizarre change of heart to ruin his reputation.

     Meanwhile, Fang the Spyder purred softly as it remained perched on Sidney's hat, its eyes still riveted where the young Acara once stood.

     Perhaps his owner wasn't as affected by the Deserted Fairground as it appeared...

     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     This just about wraps up my story. Hopefully, what I have just told you may give you a different outlook on some creatures that lurk within the Haunted Woods.

     As you depart from this story and continue with your gaming experience on Neopets, can you do this storyteller a favor?

     Visit the Deserted Fairground, go up to the Scratchcard Kiosk, and buy a scratchcard. Sure, they may be more expensive than the other competitors, but who knows? Maybe you'll be able to win something worth your while. Despite his attitude, he is more generous than he looks.

     And if you lose...try to go easy on him on the Battledome, okay?

The End

Author's Notes: Just me taking a stab at an origin short story, one that no one has ever done before. Sssidney deserves it. The poor insane lisping scratchcard seller needs more recognition. (At least a plushie or an Usuki. No fair that the Wocky gets all the credit.) Not sure if he owns any Spyders named Fang (Spiders are his friends, after all. Anyone who's fought him in the Battledome should know.), or if the Gelert in the Neopedia article on the Wheel of Misfortune is in fact named Mr. Misfortune. I kind of got tired of calling him "the tall man in the funny hat" after a while... This is somewhat dedicated to my friend darkfaun, for he is just as big as a Sssidney appreciator as I am.

 
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