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One Night at Midnight


by puppy200010

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Ah, it was nighttime. Count von Roo stirred from his light sleep. All at once he sprang from his resting area and flew across the room, the pale moonlight glinting off his pointed white fangs. Once at the window he thrust it open and leaped onto the sill. There he stood, wings outstretched and leaning forward, as if he would take off into the night at any moment.

     But this was not the Count's plan. As he sneered out into the night, he heard the loud booming of the grandfather clock downstairs. Midnight. He should be out now, doing other things, like, for example, his nightly hour of Deadly Dice, but strangely, he wasn't in the mood for those predetermined plans. No, he was in the mood for something much different. He was in the mood for... for... neo tacos. He drooled at the thought.

     But no. Tonight he would do something different. He was going to do something he had never done before. This would be the night that he would brave the mysterious lands of the neoboards.

     Pets near and far said that they were a myth-a place made up for stories. Sometimes you'd hear stories talking about how well organized the boards were, but more often then not, they'd be mentioned in stories of horror. Stories about the Neopets boards were a favorite around campfires, and older pets loved to scare their younger siblings with them. A popular tale about them came into the Count's mind, but he dismissed it quickly, not wanting to think of the horrific scenes he might witness there. He may have been a Halloween Blumaroo, which seemed quite scary to some Neopets, but even he wasn't as scary as these fabled boards.

     By this point in the story, you may be curious as to why a pet would want to go to such a terrifying place. Well, you see, the Count had just recently received a map depicting the route to them. Every pet in all of Neopia knew that the Count was no wimp, so he had to go visit them. If he didn't, his reputation would be ruined!

     Roo briefly yanked the map out of its hiding place-an old book sitting on a shelf in a corner bookcase. While examining the map, he realized that his destination wasn't far at all... but he'd have to leave soon if he expected to get there before the sun rose. He couldn't stand the sun, and he often wondered how anyone could stand to be in it! Mere seconds of exposure to direct sunlight always gave him a quite nasty sunburn. And sunscreen? A complete waste of time.

     So, a bundle of camping supplies under his arm, he left the confines of his dark castle and set out for his destination. Within the next few hours he'd trek through some very dangerous territory. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. That's right-the book store. The very sound of the name of that horrific place was enough to give the Count nightmares for weeks!

     "Why, oh why, did this map have to lead me through there?" moaned the Blumaroo as the scenes of the Neopian Bazaar came into view. Even in the dark of night, the book store looked terrifying. He hopped faster and faster, wanting to get through the awful place as soon as possible. Without even realizing it, he started running, then sprinting. He passed shelf upon shelf of crisp, new... books. The word could scarcely enter the Count's mind without causing him to utter loud, high-pitched screams of terror.

     Finally, he took another three hops and entered the shadow filled alleyway behind the store. The sounds of quiet footsteps reached his ears, and he looked around suspiciously. "Who goes there?" he yelled.

     The footprints stopped for a moment, then continued, except that they seemed to be getting fainter. His heart beating hard and loud in his chest, the Count hopped quietly down the alley towards the street. Twice he turned around, paranoid, to see if he was being followed, but there was no one. Eagerly he hopped towards the visible lights that lined the sides of nearly all of Neopia's roads.

     As he reached the road, he realized that it was eerily deserted. Relax, Von Roo told himself. It is midnight, after all. The street was not paved with concrete like most of the streets in Neopia, but it was instead made of large, rectangular pieces of gray stone. Moss grew in the cracks between many of the stones, and on this particular night, rain from the night's earlier shower resided there. He couldn't remember hearing that it was supposed to rain earlier in the evening, but in Neopia Central, the weather did tend to sometimes be unpredictable and spontaneous.

     "Chat Preferences Boulevard... it must be here somewhere," mumbled Von Roo as he struggled to read the street signs on the road. There were street lamps, of course, but the fog that was rolling in dimmed their light and gave the surrounding area a creepy glow.

     When the Count had exited the alley and stepped onto the road, there had been no buildings along the right side of the road. Now, as he hopped still farther down along the street, there were dark, old houses. Between two of such houses was a small sign which proclaimed, "Chat Preferences Boulevard." The Count had found the street he had been looking for.

     "Street" may not have been the best word to describe the "boulevard." It was more like a narrow alley, and it was a dirty one, at that. Not to mention dark. Von Roo stumbled over several crates that were lined up against the filthy, brick walls of the two buildings before finding what his map next pointed out. Double-checking his map, the Count took a deep breath. He stood in front of a door which read, "The Neoboards," and he was sure this was the correct door.

     Next to the door was a sign, which read:

     To enter the Neoboards, you must read all the rules, do seven jumping jacks, and juggle three bricks while singing about igloos in a pirate dialect.

     He stared in complete disbelief and looked around to see if anyone was going to walk up to him to tell him that the sign was joking. Not to his complete surprise, no one did, and a copy of the rules, as well as three bricks, appeared in a small slot in the wall. Sighing, he grabbed the rules and hurriedly read them. Then, impatiently, he did seven jumping jacks, followed of course by a three-brick juggling act.

     "Arr, they be cooooooold! Yarr, and made of snoooooow!" he sang, aggravated. After perhaps thirty seconds of this ridiculous show, the door swung open, and the Count stared, slightly surprised, at what it revealed. He thought that he heard someone laughing at him, but he convinced himself that it was only his imagination.

     Instead of getting a view of the inside of some building, as he had expected, the doorway was filled with a rainbow colored void. Colors swirled into the center of the doorway in a spiral, and near the wood of the door frame, it was completely white. Experimentally, Von Roo stuck a paw into the doorway. As he did so, he could feel a definite temperature change to the other side. The alleyway was rather cold and damp, and on the other side of the doorway, it seemed to be warmer and less humid. He yanked his hand back and examined it. There was absolutely no differences that he could see. Taking a deep breath, he stepped slowly into the void.

     A blast of warm air hit him in the face, and he warily opened his eyes once he was through. Looking behind him, he realized that the doorway through which he had come was gone. He was now standing in a large room, which was mostly white, and there were no exits in sight. Everywhere he looked, he could see pets and their owners conversing. Signs posted on walls pointed out directions to various areas of the neoboards, such as the NeoQuest boards and the infamous Avatar boards. The entire area was too bright for the Count's personal preference, but the room was lit by several large lamps mounted on the ceiling and not by sunlight, so he didn't feel any extreme discomfort.

     Though he still hadn't moved from his original spot in the room, the Count still felt lost. The building appeared to be very large, and people streamed past him at an amazing rate. Half of him felt like turning back and looking for an exit, since he had completed his task and found the neoboards, but the other half...

     How often will I actually get to come here? inquired the Count's adventurous side. I might as well explore. Besides, I might even find an exit in the process!

     Curious, he headed in the direction that the Avatar and Neosignatures sign pointed, and he tried to look as natural as normal. In these parts of Neopia, he most definitely stuck out from the crowd. Not to mention the fact that several people recognized him as a Neopian celebrity, as he quickly found out.

     "ONG ITS COUNT VON ROO!!" several girls screamed, running towards him. The Count had been hoping that the crowd would slow their approach, but the people quickly split, allowing them to run through. Von Roo thought that this would be a good time to do some running of his own. He pulled the collar of his cape up higher to hide his face, and he hopped, full speed, away from the girls.

     Finally, Von Roo found himself hopping into a segment of the building clearly marked with a sign reading "Avatar and Neosignature Chat." Seeing that the girls were still in pursuit of him, he found an open thread and threw himself into it, not bothering to read the title, which was printed clearly above the doorway to the thread. Unfortunately for Count von Roo, the title happened to say, "Lyk, y isnt deadly dice open 2nite?" Had the Count seen the title, he most certainly never would have entered the thread. The spelling of the thread's title was disgraceful!

     The annoyed stares that the Count was given by the chatters as he entered the room were enough to make him quickly turn around to leave, but someone grabbed his tail and yanked him back. "Why aren't you at Deadly Dice?!" the person, who thankfully had much better spelling, interrogated him. Von Roo received a fierce glare.

     "I... uhh... took the night off," stammered Von Roo, who, so far, was not having much fun in the neoboards.

     Two pets sitting in the corner of the room gasped. "Can he do that?" one whispered to the other.

     "I don't know," was the equally quiet and shocked response.

     "Well, get back there! We all need your avatar!" the person complained. Von Roo squirmed violently to escape the tight grasp that he was in. Finally, he managed to escape from the person, and he hopped as fast as his poor tail would take him towards the thread exit.

     He nearly would have made it. That is, if a scared-looking Kougra wouldn't have stuck out her paw and tripped him. "Please, please, don't go back to Deadly Dice," she pleaded. "I don't want to lose any more levels!" Von Roo shot her an annoyed look as he the people closed in on him once again. Without responding to her, he quickly picked himself up off the floor, and with a sudden boost of speed, he managed to escape from the thread and back into the Avatar Chat hallway.

     Unfortunately for him, the three girls who had been chasing him earlier were still waiting outside the door. "Aiiiii!" they screamed, ready to attack.

     So now the Count was caught in a sticky situation. Did he go back into the thread where he was about to be attacked, or stay in the hallway where he was about to be attacked?

     As it turned out, he didn't have much time to decide, because a paw appeared out of nowhere and yanked him out farther into the hallway. He wanted to escape the two groups of attackers, so he ran immediately, not even looking behind him to see who had helped him out of the tough situation. "Wait, come back!" someone yelled, but he had no intentions of doing such a thing.

     Up ahead there was a sign which signaled an exit from the Avatar Chat. Von Roo dove towards the exit, aware that his crazed fangirls were still following him. The next sign he happened to lay eyes on was for the Help Chat. Seeing the predicament he was in, the Count figured he could use some help at this exact moment. He sprinted his way into the board.

     He didn't find the Help Chat to be radically different from the Avatar Chat. Just as many of the threads appeared to be off topic, although the Count did hop by several threads which were adorned with the word "help." None of them seemed to be asking for help escaping from this horrible place, surprisingly. Finding a thread that seemed to be fairly populated, the Count hopped inside. Perhaps someone inside could point out an exit to him and he could return home to his castle.

     Just as he entered, everyone seemed to be leaving. "Abandon board!" the yelled, making a beeline for the exit.

     "What? Where are you going?" shouted Von Roo, not bothering to flee like the people inside the room.

     "Hurry, c'mon! The board's about to explode!" a Yurble yelled, pointing frantically at the doorway.

     "Explode?" the Count asked, but the people had already emptied the thread. A minute passed. "EXPLODE?!" he yelled, finally realizing what this would mean. The exit sign above the thread's doorway blinked red, and its blinking speed appeared to be increasing with each passing second. Just as the Count neared the door again, it disappeared and was gone. "What on Neopia?" he yelled.

     Now the room consisted of only four white walls, a white ceiling, and a white floor. The room slowly began to shake, and the Count feared for his life. It seemed like he'd never make it out of this place and live to tell about it.

     Then, suddenly, the shaking stopped. All of the edges of the room faded out quickly, leaving the Count standing on... nothing? Once the room had vanished, he was left in a gravity-free, limitless black void, which appeared to have no depth. "Hello?" the Count tried to yell, but the only response that came back was the echo of his own voice. He was completely and utterly alone.

     Although he was in what seemed like a hopeless situation, Von Roo couldn't help but wonder. What was he standing on? Was he actually floating? Wait, no. Now he was most definitely falling. Was he being sucked into some black hole? It was hard for him to tell, since there was no other matter in this void.

     After about five minutes of the falling sensation, the Count landed with a loud THUMP! on the ground, right outside the door he had entered the neoboards through. He looked around, dazed. Not a soul was around, and a large clock mounted on the side of a nearby building still read the same time as it had when the Count had left Neopia. 12:23 AM. Von Roo quickly picked himself up off the ground and sprinted for home.

     ***

     "Take your roll already, will you?" the Count said impatiently, back at Deadly Dice the next night.

     The pet, a Cloud Gelert, shook in fear but rolled. "Where were you last night?" she asked in a quiet voice.

     "Ha! I rolled six, and you rolled three! I win!" Just as he was about to steal a level from the pet, he thought back to the previous night. "You want to know where I was? Okay, but it's quite a frightening tale... I braved the mysterious lands of the... neoboards."

     She gasped. "Were they as frightening as the stories say?"

     "Oh, scarier. And once you enter, it's nearly impossible to find the exit." The Gelert's eyes opened wide, and the Count began his tale. "Last night I left my castle around midnight to go to the neoboards, and I had to go through a series of frightening encounters...."

     He told her every detail of the adventure that he could remember, and he did the same with every other pet that night, adding his own horror tale of the neoboards to the library of ones that would be told around campfires for years to come.

The End

 
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