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The Invisibility Game


by undeadfortune

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Carefully taking the dropper in my hand, I slowly positioned it over the open container. I knew I'd only have one shot at completing this batch, and any mistake would cause another week in setbacks. I couldn't take another week of this… it'd be too much… I had to get it right this time, or I'd cancel the project all together.

      I stared at the beaker and watched a thin pillar of steam pour from its opening, as if anticipating my move. The liquid inside was a thick crimson red and produced a smell that caused me to gag for air whenever I mistakenly inhaled it, if I forgot to put on my facemask.

      With the dropper clutched between my tense fingers, I lowered it over the bubbling mixture and prepared myself for the worst. I had to time it just right, and only allow the tiniest drop to fall. Any more than was needed would cause the liquid to become a grotesque brown shade, but if I was successful… well, I don't know what would happen. In theory, the liquid would become clear as water, but have a glossy texture that would shimmer in the light.

      Finally, I held my breath and lightly squeezed the dropper's top, allowing only a speckle of the fluid to leave… and I watched hopelessly as it fell into the red below. I watched as the mixture continued to bubble and began to shift to the brown I had seen so many times before. I could feel tears in my eyes beginning to form and I forced myself to turn around.

      Two years… wasted… I had set out to create the impossible, something Neopia had never seen before. Invisibility? I knew it was possible… but my colleagues dismissed my ideas completely, save for Jeff. He was a trusting Gelert, and probably my best friend in the world. When I came up with the equation for invisibility, only he believed it could be done. Together we set out to create the paint, and now, two years later, I knew I'd have to close the project… I'd be the laughingstock of the Neopian Times…

      We believed invisibility was possible, using the principles that already existed in the Laws of Nature. The idea was to create a paint, so to speak, that Neopets could use to coat themselves in and quite literally become invisible to the naked eye. Now of course true invisibility is nearly impossible, but we determined it was achievable to reach near-invisible status by using a perfect white paint. In theory the paint would not only reflect sunlight, but all other colors as well, allowing the user to become perceptibly invisible.

      Using only a hunch and my paperwork of equations, Jeff and I set out and invested all of our money into the project… only to watch it slowly go down the drain…

      "Ben… what did you do?" I heard Jeff's voice call from across the lab, and I knew he'd seen my beaker by now.

      "I'm sorry, Jeff…" I began as I turned around to stare at the mess I had created, but stopped short when I glanced at the beaker, which looked the exact opposite of what I was expecting.

      "Sorry for what! You've finally done it!" the red Gelert exclaimed with a shout and rushed towards me, patting me on the back in a congratulating manner.

      He was right… the beaker looked like someone had filled it with clean water, yet light seemed to bounce off it, creating a sparkling gem aura around the beaker. We stood there, speechless for nearly five minutes before I finally decided if we really had done it.

      "Quick!" I called, wasting no time, "go and fetch a mirror!"

      Jeff left the room and hastily returned with a large full-length mirror as I took the beaker in one hand.

      "Aww… why do you get to test it first?" Jeff feigned an annoyed look with a grin.

      "Cause I'm the Neopet who luckily made the right mistakes," I replied, returning his smile.

      I looked over the beaker in my hand and apprehensively brought my free hand over it. Gradually I lowered my pointer finger into the beaker and felt the smooth, cool liquid spread over my orange Yurble fur. In the hand I held the beaker, the jar and liquid felt normal, but my extended pointer figure felt like I had just dipped it into a cup of ice water. Instinctively I recoiled in alarm and nearly dropped the beaker in the process, but caught myself in time before I let the beaker fall.

      "Amazing!" Jeff gasped, and I shot my finger a look, and was equally amazed at what I saw.

      It looked as if my hand always had three fingers; instead of the normal four… and I watched as the icy cool liquid slowly ran across my outstretched palm, slowly causing an impossible illusion for my eyes to look at… my hand looked as if it was being cut in half!

      Quickly, I clenched my fist and turned back to the beaker, searching for a paintbrush. Taking the brush in my clean hand I dipped it into the beaker and without thinking, began to run the brush over my fur, while I watched myself in the mirror Jeff had brought.

      "Amazing…" Jeff continued to stare with his mouth ajar as I vanished before his eyes, covering my fur entirely with the paint, until I couldn't see myself in the mirror anymore.

      "What does it feel like?" the Gelert anxiously asked, more to the empty room than to me.

      "It… it feels like I've been covered with ice water… it's cool, yet I know for a fact that it's not. Like my mind's playing a trick on me… It's amazing!" I replied as I examined my nonexistent reflection, then asked, "How does it feel to be near me?"

      "It feels creepy, almost," Jeff shuddered, "I know you're near, as I can hear you, but my mind is trying to grasp the fact you're invisible. It's almost as if I can sense your presence, but because I can't see you, it feels awkward; there's this disturbing sense that I'm not alone. It's hard to explain."

      I looked over my arms and legs, and held my hand out in front of my face. I knew it was there from the muscles I had to use to position it there, and I could sense my fingers and hand bending and moving, even if I couldn't see it… it was absolutely amazing.

      Suddenly, I felt a chill run over my body and I turned to see if the door was open.

      "Did you feel a breeze?" I asked Jeff, who shook his head no.

      I looked around the room and noted all the windows were closed as well as the door itself. I continued to look for the source of the chill until my eyes rested on the mirror. I nearly fell over when I saw a hint of Orange near the edge of the Zen mirror, and I spun around to see another orange Yurble standing near the door.

      "Who-who are you?" I stuttered at the stranger.

      "Whom are you talking to?" Jeff asked, suddenly concerned.

      The orange Yurble stared at me with empty, expressionless eyes, and didn't reply. Instead he began to walk towards me, slowly at first, and then began to pick up speed. I felt frozen in place. Between the icy cool paint that covered my body and the ghost like look on the Yurble's face, it was like I was paralyzed.

      He continued his approach with his hands extended before him and when he was no more than a few yards from where I stood, I felt another sudden chill run over me. Panicking I turned to see Jeff had thrown a bucket of water over my body and I saw myself reappear in the mirror as the paint washed off onto the floor and into a drain on the floor.

      "Ben! Ben what the heck happened?" Jeff grabbed my shoulder as soon as he could see it and shook me. "What did you see?"

      "I… I don't know… it was like I was looking at myself," I replied, my voice shaking, "except this Yurble had vacant eyes… almost lifeless."

      "It's ok, Ben, you were only experiencing the effects of the paint. If you recall, you went over this feeling in your notes. Because your body has never experienced something like this before, your mind was filling in the blanks that you created with your eyes. That Yurble you saw wasn't real, only a figment of your imagination. But this is pretty dangerous stuff we're dealing with… we'll have to be more careful from now on," the Gelert explained.

      I nodded in agreement.

      "It was a good thing you had that bucket of water lying around… thanks, Jeff." I sighed and shook my head, trying to lose the sense that still haunted my eyes.

      "It's what I'm here for, Ben, don't worry about it. Ok, now it's my turn!"

     ***

      We spent the next few days practicing with the paint and taking turns becoming invisible, only for short periods of time.

      Jeff saw his mind's figment as well, except he told me it talked back to him, after Jeff asked it a question.

      "You've got to be kidding me," I exclaimed, thinking it was a poor excuse for a joke.

      "I'm not kidding," Jeff replied from somewhere in the room. "He says the Yurble you met was only fooling around with you, and he didn't mean to scare you."

      "I'm sure he said that… why can't I hear him?" I asked.

      "Because you're not in their 'plane' or something," Jeff answered. "He can hear you, though; in fact, he's standing next to you."

      I jumped forward and turned around, half expecting to see a ghostly figure of Jeff standing next to me, but wasn't surprised to see nothing. Jeff began to laugh seeing that.

      "He says you should come join us."

      I looked at the beaker that rested on a neighboring table and played with the idea for becoming invisible again. I hadn't seen the Yurble the last time I had worn the paint, but it'd be interesting to see Jeff's invisible friend, so to speak.

      "Fine," I announced and walked to the table and took out the paintbrush.

      Carefully I began to spread the paint over my fur and felt the chill once more cover my body. We had started to get used to it, as the feeling was easy to cover after awhile, but that first time I put it on for a new test always caused me to shiver regardless of how much I had prepared myself.

      Before I finished coating my fur, I made sure to note the locations of the buckets of water we had placed around the laboratory in case of an emergency. They sat in their corners, untouched since my first encounter with the unseen, filled to their brims.

      At last I was completely invisible, and was suddenly astonished to see not only Jeff's other self, but the real red Gelert as well.

      "Whoa! I can see you!" Jeff announced with some shock as I faded into view from the visible world.

      "Hello there," Jeff's other self welcomed and held out his hand.

      Hesitantly I took the hand and found it felt as if I was shaking the hand of Jeff himself.

      "So let me get this straight." I began trying to piece together these newest facts in our project. "You're part of the unseen world, but what does that make you? Jeff's unseen side?"

      "That's correct," the figure announced, "so no, we're not creations of your mind or illusions of your eyes, but real beings, just the unseen ones. Everyone has two parts of themselves and you only see one of those sides at a time. I'm surprised to see Jeff here, as much as I'm sure he is to see me, because, well, this technically is impossible. I don't really understand it yet myself, but somehow both sides have found a way to be in the same place at one time."

      "So how are you different than Jeff, like a major difference," I asked, glancing at Jeff.

      "While talking with Jeff, I found I have different phrases or word combinations that I might use instead of Jeff for things he uses every day. Such as Jeff might say, 'no worries,' when replying apathetically, while I've never heard myself say that. On the other hand I sometimes say, 'five-by-five' when replying how I'm feeling, or doing, and Jeff told me he's never even heard of that saying before," Jeff's unseen side finished.

      "Interesting…" I played with the thought in my head as I heard the figure explain his theories.

      "Hello Ben," another voice called out and I turned to see the orange Yurble from before standing against a far wall.

      "Hello yourself," I responded with a slight wave, feeling the sense of uneasiness I was overcome with the first time I saw him. Why did he want to scare me like that when we first met?

      "Well, this sure is interesting, the four of us here." The real Jeff laughed. "Guess we could play a game of invisible poker now that we have a fourth person to fill a seat."

      I held back a chuckle and felt something just wasn't right about the situation. Sure we'd stumbled upon some unseen plane of existence and met our unseen sides… and sure they seemed nice and even welcomed us in with an equaling curiosity that we shared, but something still wasn't right.

      "What's it like being unseen?" I asked, hoping to learn more about them.

      "Think of a mirror and your reflection. Granted we aren't your reflection since that is an effect created by the mirror and the glass. Whenever you look into it, only then do you see your reflection, and when you leave the mirror's view, your reflection disappears, off to wait for your return, hoping to be of some importance just one more time. We sit in the back of existence, and make brief appearances in your character, or your feelings about events that take place. We're always with you, and you might sense our presence but you can never see us… that is until now," my unseen half lectured.

      "But that doesn't answer the question," I noted. "How does it feel?"

      "How do you think your reflection feels, sitting alone in your mirrors, hoping every day you'll glance at yourself, and stare into its eyes one more time just to feel alive. You're alive every moment, sure, but your reflection passes the time hoping for that briefest moment where it to can share your liveliness and come into the world," Jeff's unseen side answered, and looked as if he were going to cry.

      "It's miserable," my orange Yurble counter added with a solemn look on his face.

      It was then that I felt as if becoming invisible was the worst thing Jeff and I could have possibly done.

     ***

      I asked Jeff to swear he'd never become invisible again, and when he asked why, I tried to explain my theory of the unseen world. Of course, Jeff thought about it, but in the end, just couldn't accept my view.

      "How could the unseen world switch places with us? That's impossible. They'd have to create some visibility paint and coat themselves with it just to come into our plane. I never thought I'd ever really disagree with you, Ben, but I do now," Jeff thought aloud.

      "That's fine if you disagree," I replied and then lowered my voice to a whisper. "Just promise you'll never go invisible without me around… we don't know what they're capable of."

      "Ben…"

      "Just promise!" I shouted, and realizing how much I cared about this project, turned around and put my hands on a nearby table.

      "Ben, we've come a long way! We've worked hard and invested too much to lose on this paint now. We simply need to work out the kinks and then we can put it out in the market… we'll be rich, Ben, unbelievably rich. You couldn't even come up with an equation to as how rich we'll be," Jeff retorted with a serious look on his face, but then lightened up. "But if you want… I'll promise."

     ***

      I awoke that night in my bed when I heard a sudden crashing noise coming from my laboratory. I rushed to the room to just see a hint of red fur disappear and watch a paintbrush dropped to the ground.

      "Jeff!" I yelled and rushed into the room, only to suddenly fall backwards as an unseen object hit me in the chest.

      I collapsed on the floor and realized it was a fist that had hit me, and it had to have come from Jeff.

      "Jeff, what are you doing?" I shouted, hurrying to my feet and stepping behind a table.

      "You want to cancel the project, Ben! I've spent everything I owned on this project and you just want to cut it off now that there is a slight problem! I can't let you do that!" Jeff bellowed from a corner of the room.

      "Jeff, you can't call some unseen plane of existence a small problem! In our attempts to create this miracle paint, we've unlocked some secret we should never have seen! We've created countless problems and the fact you were going to go invisible without me around is unbelievable on my part."

      "Oh yea! Well-" Jeff began to reply but suddenly he was cut off.

      Suddenly tables and chairs seemed to be falling over on their own as if Jeff was struggling with something in his unseen form.

      "Hold on!" I shouted and without thinking took the paintbrush and ran it over my fur.

      The unseen world faded into view and I saw two red Gelerts wrestling until finally one knocked the other off and turned to me.

      "He… he attacked me!" Jeff blurted out and pointed to his unseen half.

      "Why would he do that?" I asked and approached Jeff to make sure he was unhurt, but was stopped by an orange Yurble.

      "Because we're tired of being in the back of your lives… we've decided to take control!" the orange Yurble yelled and knocked me over, his lifeless empty eyes gazing down at me.

      Jeff hurried to my side and helped me to my feet just in time for me to knock over a table in front of the Yurble. He jumped back as the unknown mixtures of failed experiments fell onto the ground, and as they mixed together, exploded into a small fire.

      "Hurry!" I yelled to Jeff, and we began making our way around the room and to the exit, but the evil Gelert, who had recovered from his previous bout, blocked it.

      "You think you can just leave…!" He seemed to spit the words from his mouth as if they left a bad taste, "we've worked too hard ourselves… planning for this, and now we have you both in our grasps… no longer will we have to wait around for our brief appearances; it'll be you who lives your life in this unseen box!"

      Panicking, I searched the room for the containers of water and spotted one near the unseen Gelert's feet.

      "Looking for these?" He laughed and turned it over, allowing the water to splash down the drain in the floor.

      "Or this?" the Yurble called and turned over another, smiling as he did so.

      I raced towards the nearest container that had yet to be poured out and Jeff did the same with the other. I met Jeff's evil side in the corner, and felt him slam into me with an incredible force and speed. I collapsed on the ground but sprang to my feet, as I was now fighting for my life, and felt adrenaline surge through my body.

      Quickly, I grasped both of the Gelert's hands, and forced him onto the ground, falling on top of his body, but was thrown off as he kicked me backwards with his feet that he had positioned between us.

      I stumbled onto my feet, and watched hopelessly as I was too far away from the water and watch it crash down the drain as the Gelert turned it over. Turning around I hurried towards Jeff and my dark side who were also locked in combat in the other corner of the room.

     I arrived before the Gelert and grabbed the bucket with both hands, I turned back to see all three of the other figures watch me, waiting for my move.

      "Let's go, Jeff!" I shouted and grabbed the red Gelert as he hastily made his way to my side as I shouted his name.

      "Nooooo!" the two cried out and the orange Yurble made one last ditch effort to grab a hold of my fur, as I poured the water over my body and Jeff's.

      The Yurble's hand was only inches from my chest, and I saw his fingers were outstretched, as if reaching towards me to grasp a hold of life itself. It was then his expressionless eyes seemed more alive than ever, but still looked grey and empty as they faded from view. I glanced at Jeff's unseen half and watched a tear fall down his face, as he then disappeared into nothingness.

     ***

      "Good riddance," I announced and placed the beakers into a box marked "Equipment."

      "Where do you want your books?" Jeff asked from across the lab, and held up a dusty old copy of some book I hadn't read in years.

      "If they have anything to do with the project, just toss them." I laughed and he joined in, as he tossed the book into a trash can. "Nothing like a near death experience to change your mind, eh Jeff?"

      "Guess you could call it that," he replied while he sorted through the pile of books that lay spread out on a desk.

      "Two years down the drain… and nothing to show for it…" I thought aloud and looked sadly down at the box as I sealed it close.

      "How about this?" Jeff asked, holding up my journal, the only copy of the project's experiments and all the formulas we used. If we destroyed that, there would be no way of recreating any of the paint…

      "Toss it," I said finally, looking sadly at it from where I stood. "It's for the best."

      Jeff nodded and looked at it one more time in his hands, and seemed to look towards me, as if making sure I was making the right choice. I nodded and finally he let it slip into the trash.

      After we had escaped from the unseen world, we agreed we'd never again talk of the project after we cleaned house and removed all traces of the experiments, as if removing a part of our lives we had worked so hard on for two years.

      "Jeff, how are you feeling, and I mean really," I asked, stacking the boxes in a corner of the room, and beginning to move the tables to clear up space. "You seem disappointed even though we agreed it's for the best. Is it about the Neopoints?"

      "Neopoints can be replaced; I'm just glad we made it out. Don't worry about me, Ben… it's just that I have to get used to not having anything to work on day in and day out. From now on I'll have to devote my time to something else, you know?"

      "But that doesn't answer my question; how do you feel?" I asked again, as I finished sliding the tables apart, I stopped and looked in his direction.

      "I'm feeling five by five, Ben; don't worry about it," he said with a smile, and tossed another book in the trash.

The End

 
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