Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 132,988,897 Issue: 246 | 30th day of Relaxing, Y8
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Perplexed


by dolphinchixs

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Something about the puzzle was just so, well, puzzling. The irony of it made the young Aisha laugh. It wasn't that the puzzle itself confused her (she could put it together in a matter of seconds), but more what the puzzle came out to be. She would assemble the puzzle and take it apart for hours at a time, staring at the foreign symbols in wonder and awe. They seemed so familiar, yet at the same time so alien. Then again, the puzzle was missing the bottom row of pieces.

      There was a knock at the door, and she was startled to hear Kat's voice flit in from the entrance room. "Eshati, we're going out to eat," she said. "Come on."

      Eshati jumped down from her desk and opened the door. "Where is it that we are going to?" she asked, grabbing her hat and history book.

      Kat, or Dolphinchixs as she was often called, kneeled on the floor of the library, helping Kaylie667 put on a dark brown scarf. She was a young girl of fifteen with hazel eyes, pale skin, and light brown hair that fell slightly past her shoulders. She wore loose black pants with many buckles, a long-sleeved black and blue striped shirt under a plain black one, and a black beanie with "Twisted Roses" printed on it in dripping letters. "We're off to the Space Station," she replied. "Ready?"

      Eshati nodded as she pulled her own beanie on, the soft red cloth pulling back her long yellow ears while the shorter ones poked through holes in the top.

      "Ok," Kat said, and pushed a red button next to the front door. The four of them heard gears turn and the churning of water as something moved outside. They opened the door to see a pocket of air separating them from the waters of Maraqua, a metal capsule inside this pocket, its door set ajar. They stepped inside and Jelloman326 hit a button labeled "Space Station."

      Eshati settled on the ground and opened up her book - she had a test soon and was in a desperate need to study. Before she began to read, however, she took a quick look at her family crammed into the small pod.

      Kaylie667 was a small baby Kougra, and at the moment she was in Kat's arms, her small pink nose pressed against the cold glass of a window. A fortunate attack from Boochi had saved them a lot of money. Despite Kaylie physically being a baby, she was the middle Neopet of her family, being one hundred and fifty days older than Eshati, and was originally adopted as a blue Kougra; strangely enough she was also the strongest.

      Jelloman326 was also adopted, though he had always been a blue Gelert - at least, as far as his family knew. He was the eldest of the Neopets, and rarely spoke of his life before being adopted, yet always of the future. "One day," he would proclaim loudly, "I will be a Maraquan Gelert, and maybe even eat all the gourmet foods!" He had always thought this was a great ambition, that was, until Eshati told him that Draik eggs were a gourmet food.

      Eshati herself was the youngest, and only created Neopet, of her family. She was a yellow Aisha who spent most of her time reading and studying and the rest of it doing asinine activities with her family; though they always turned out to spark some unknown interest in her. For the most part she was the average form of "normal," though she had a fascination with her ancestors, and was always curious to learn more about the history of Aishas.

      The capsule broke into space with a sudden jolt, and Eshati was little concerned with the fact that she was floating around with no apparent course. Kaylie broke free of Kat's hold and began to bounce from one wall to another, while Jelloman tried to grab her, fearing she might push a button and open the door. Kat, on the other hand, was happily bobbing up and down, quite pleased at the loss of gravity.

      A robotic voice came over the speakers of the capsule. "You are now entering the boarding docks of the Space Station; please stay inside the pod until your door is opened." The voice stopped talking, and when it came back it was soft and feminine. "Welcome, Eshati," it said. "The answer is near."

      The gravity came back on and Eshati fell to the ground with a thud, her book landing on top of her. Jelloman laughed. "Did - did you hear that?" she asked, staring up at Kat.

      "Hear what?" Kat was busy helping Kaylie onto the docks.

      "That voice, the - the one on the speaker."

      "Of course, it's automatic. They don't want people coming out before they've filled the chamber with oxygen, do they?"

      Eshati laughed, afraid she was hallucinating. She picked up her history book, only to see that the letters had all changed to those strange symbols from her puzzle. "Err... Kat, where did you get that puzzle you gave me?" Her voice shook slightly as the symbols changed back to the letters she knew so well.

      "It was on our door step; the box said 'Happy Christmas' on it. What was I supposed to do, chuck it out?"

      "Well, no, I do like it, though, thanks," she said, tucking the book into Kat's bag.

      Kat nodded and opened her bag again to reveal food for all of them. "You can each have one thousand Neopoints," she said, as she handed them their own brown bags of coins. "Do with them what you will, but be back at the boarding docks in an hour."

      The three pets gave their approval and set off in different directions - Jelloman went to the game area, and Kaylie to the battle shop, whilst Eshati began to walk around, having left her book with Kat. She passed an elderly Aisha who said nothing, but continued to shiver where she sat. Eshati could not fathom why she was cold - the Aisha wore a hat - but it gave her an uneasy feeling to leave her in that state. She doubled back and pulled out a paw full of Neopoints, extending them to the green Aisha.

      "Oh, bless you," the Aisha murmured; she had a soft feminine voice, and she clutched the coins to her fur.

      Eshati had heard that voice before, she was certain of it. She stumbled back as she remembered, it was the voice she had heard, that only she could hear. Closing her eyes, she pushed her paws against her head, questions flitting past her mind. "Who - who are you?" she asked, her eyes opened again, but, to her astonishment, the Aisha was gone. The pile of points and a small note lay where she had sat; the crumpled paper held only three words - "follow the signs."

      "I see no signs!" Eshati yelled out in frustration, she grabbed the piece of paper and coins, tucked the paper under her hat and the coins in their bag, and stormed off toward the nearest shop. "Oh," she said, looking up at a new display, "those signs." She laughed at her own joke - the signs before her were mere advertisements for the battle shop she stood before.

      Kaylie was inside this shop, staring at a customer as he purchased a sinister looking piece of equipment. She was in a state of horrified adoration. "E-Eshati, you... You gotta' see dis - tis - this!"

      "What?"

      "It's a new bawle - battle - item!"

      "The one that Krawk is purchasing?"

      "No... but dat one ish cool, though, in't it?"

      "Amazingly so," Eshati said, cringing at the way Kaylie had pronounced her words. "What is it you were so entranced by?"

      "Dat - that," she corrected herself.

      "Lovely," Eshati turning away as Kaylie pointed to some odd item that looked similar to a sack of dirt. She quickly stopped as the sign pointing to it changed into a mix of symbols. "How much is it?"

      Kaylie sighed. "Around two tousand..."

      "Thousand?"

      Kaylie glared at her. "You know I can' tawk normal anymore."

      Eshati laughed. It was true - since Kaylie had been painted baby her pronunciations had been distorted. "Here," she said, handing her sibling her bag of points. "Try to negotiate for a lower price."

      "Aw! Tank-you so much!" After a few seconds Kaylie had managed to pay only one thousand five hundred Neopoints for the item, and gave Eshati her bag.

      The shop keeper looked down at Eshati. "For you," he said handing her a puzzle piece. She smiled, stashed it in her brown bag, and shook his hand.

      "Err... Eshati... What are you doing?"

      "Huh? Oh... erm... nothing." She tried to laugh it off; the shopkeeper was not facing her, but busying himself behind the counter, while she had her paw extended in the air toward his back. "I - I'm going to go eat... You're welcome to come with me."

      Kaylie gave her an odd look. Eshati had been acting very strange today - maybe she was sick. "Nah, I'm going du go find Kat, I see you soon." She ran off, leaving Eshati alone in the shop.

      Eshati shook her head and walked off to Grundos Café, outside of it stood a sign notifying customers of a sale. She sat down at the counter and pulled out her food, a veggie hot dog. She sighed and took a bite. Kat was one weird human - being a vegetarian she rarely gave her pets meat.

      The owner of the café, a large mutant Grundo, turned toward her. "Can I get you anything?" he asked as he motioned toward a shelf of food and drinks.

      One drink, a milkyway shake, stood out to Eshati. It was blue and white with cream and a cherry on top. "Er... I would like the milkyway shake, please, sir."

      "That will be three hundred Neopoints, thank-you."

      "Thank-you, sir," Eshati said. He handed her the drink. On top of it was a puzzle piece, stuck with its end in the cream of her drink. She pulled out the puzzle piece, tucked it in her bag, and took a long drink of the liquid.

      A clinking sound signaled that Kat had entered the shop; it was her pants, the many buckles hitting against each other. She took a seat next to Eshati and laughed. "I hope there aren't any blended Neopets, or petpets for that matter, in your drink."

      Eshati leaned around the tall glass. "I think not, would you like some?"

      "No, I'm fine, thanks." She pulled off Eshati's cap and her yellow ears sprang up. Placing her palm against her head Kat tried to tell if Eshati was too warm. "You don't feel sick, do you?"

      Eshati squirmed away from her. "No, I'm fine, and why do you ask?"

      "Kaylie said she thought you were sick."

      "That little prat - I - I mean, I wonder why."

      "Hmm, she said you were acting weird... What's this?" Kat was holding up a crumpled piece of paper that had come from within Eshati's hat.

      "Oh... err... nothing, just a piece of paper." She grabbed it back, along with her beanie.

      "Right... Well, we're leaving, are you ready?"

      "Sure, let's go." Eshati jumped down from her seat, landing on all fours. The brown bag hung from her clamped jaw, the puzzle pieces and remaining coins still inside. Outside of the café was a sign pointing toward the boarding docks.

      The trip home was the same as the one to the Space Station; only this time there was no strange voice over the speaker system. The family slipped out of the pod and onto their doorstep, Eshati in front. On top of their welcome mat lay a puzzle piece, a red ribbon wrapped around it. She picked it up without saying anything and turned left, toward her room.

     ***

      Sitting up in her bead, Eshati cast a weary glance toward the zen desk in her room, then toward the nightstand next to her. Atop her desk lay the unfinished puzzle, all but three pieces in their rightful place. On her nightstand, leaning against her wall, was a small brown bag - inside of it were three puzzle pieces, a piece of paper, and two hundred Neopoints. She sighed and opened up the bag, pouring its contents onto her sheet. For some reason she had failed to put the last pieces of the puzzle together - fear perhaps. Eshati was not sure; whatever the reason was, it no longer mattered.

      She jumped down from her bed and landed on her four flat yellow paws, her four ears leaning back against her head and back, the top of her brown bag poised between her teeth. She reached a shaking paw up to her chair, her eyes wide, and -

      "Eshati! What do you think you are doing? You need to be lying down!" It was Kat, standing in the doorway with her night clothes on - a black shirt, striped trousers, and black slippers. The ever present green seaweed necklace was floating around her pale neck, caught in the small waves that rippled from Eshati's swaying door. She stepped over the threshold and picked Eshati up in one arm, using her free hand to pull the small, brown bag from her near chattering teeth. "You look so sick... I think I might take you see the doctor tomorrow... You just lie here and get some rest. I'll set your bag here; you can get it in the morning." She laid Eshati in her bed, set the bag on her desk, and left toward her own room, casting an apprehensive glance back at Eshati's door.

      Eshati waited until she had heard Kat's door click shut before she leapt off her bead again. This time she was more determined to put the puzzle together, her past worries lost in the rush and excitement of disobeying Kat's orders. She crept up to the desk, her paws padding silently over the marble floor as she walked. She bounded into the air, landing with a muffled thud on her chair, the black and white cloth cold against her warm fur. Peering across her desk Eshati picked up her brown bag and removed the three pieces.

      They were all a light brown colour, the symbols black and swirled. She picked up one and placed it in its rightful place - the center of the bottom row. The next one had a corner on the right side, obvious where that went. The same went for the last piece, only the corner was to the left. She pushed the piece down and held her breath. Nothing happened. She poked the puzzle, expecting this to have some effect, still nothing. Tilting her head, she stared at the puzzle. Well, this is exciting, she thought sarcastically.

      She sighed and jumped off the desk, her ear knocking off the brown bag with her. There was a clatter as the Neopoints met with hard marble, and Eshati took little notice of Kat as she grunted in her sleep, focusing her attention on the small, brown, crumpled slip of paper that lay directly in front of her. She extended one of her long, yellow ears toward it, touched it, and took a step back; the letters changed to a mix of symbols. Sensing no danger Eshati picked up the paper and jumped back on her black and white seat. She pulled out a notebook from one of her draws and a pencil from the other.

      Eshati muttered silently to herself as she tapped her pencil against the notebook on her desk. The sound echoed around her room, but not loud enough for anyone else in the house to hear it. She bent over the papers, constantly turning her head as she scribbled the odd symbols next to the Neopian alphabet. After almost ten minutes she was leaning back in her chair, her yellow ears cast over the back, and a paper covered in scribbles lying in front of her. She waved away the eraser shavings that floated in the water, and picked up her notebook, glaring at the code as if it had spit at her.

      She scrunched her eyes, chewing at the end of her eraser, going through the translations in her head. "Under... the floor...." She wrote the line down on the sheet. "Deep in... the... seb - no - sea..." The words were coming faster now. "...is where you will find... ur - us..." She scrawled the pencil across the notebook page again, her eyes scanning the scrap quickly. "Waiting for thee..." Her mouth hung open slightly and she stared at the paper. Floor, sea, us? She looked at the paper and studied the poem.

     Under the floor, Deep in the sea, Is where you will find us, Waiting for thee.

      A tile behind her shifted on the floor. She felt like her fur might tear itself out. Her eyes shot open and she jumped from the chair, backing up into a corner. Her teeth chattered and the tile moved again, opening wide to reveal a set of stairs. This isn't happening, she assured herself. Yet there it was, a passage on the floor of her room, filed with water like the rest of her Neohome. Or was it?

      Eshati took a step forward, her front paw touching the ground lightly, and began to swim. Ok... this isn't so creepy. She could feel the fur along her back standing up. At the top of the stairs she looked down. An empty hollow, the darkness called her down. She took a step forward, and felt the stale air brush against her fur. Her eyes popped. Air, beneath the water, how? It was just not possible. She looked at her door, and the white paint stared back at her. Kat was dead asleep, her snores told Eshati so.

      Down in the passage, Eshati landed on the ground, wet and dripping in the old air. She was surrounded by books, ancient with a tinge of space around them. An eerie blue light was cast over everything and she stared at the volumes, all written in the ancient symbols. She grinned, and in her mind, the volumes grinned back at her. A tiny voice in her head whispered at her, no more questions. She whispered back, shivering in the dark light, no more puzzles.

The End

All criticism greatly appreciated. ^( l l )^

 
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