The most fantastic thing in the universe! Circulation: 124,395,024 Issue: 250 | 28th day of Swimming, Y8
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Unnatural Beauty


by nut862

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There it sat, perched on a moonlit branch, its bulky form casting shadows on the wood. Its gray-green feathers were illuminated by Kreludor's glow, colliding with its skin's own eerie shine. Leaves above it rustled, but it moved not a muscle. Turning its glistening beak to the dark night sky, it let out a long, low "Whooooo!"

     On the branch behind it, a large paw lifted, slowly, trembling, taking care to be quiet so as not to startle the creature. Unfortunately, the shadow Lupe, already awkward in his clinging to the thin branch, moved so slowly that he threw himself off balance and found himself letting out a loud yelp as he fell. He just barely managed to catch himself, hanging upside-down by his tense paws.

     "Whoo!" The frightened ghost Whoot leapt off the branch and spread its wings, its gray plasma glow streaming around it as it raced off into the sky.

     "Come back!" cried Ohndig. His first thought was to let go of the branch and fly after the Whoot, which seemed to him the most efficient course of action, so this he did. At least, he did the first part. He was incapable of performing the second half of his plan, due to his lack of wings. As he fell through the chilly night air, he realized his sad deficiency in the flying department. He felt rather depressed at this, especially after all the effort he'd gone through to climb the tree.

     The ground reverberated under Ohndig's body when he struck the dirt. He took the opportunity to debate with himself whether belly flops were more painful in the water or on land. He thought to himself that the Whoot was probably escaping, and that he had better chase it down now or he would never see it again. But upon reminding himself of his inability to fly, he decided it would be more pleasant to lie on his stomach out there for a while. He had had enough movement for that night.

     It was peaceful there. Ohndig lay contemplating the mysteries of the universe. Slowly his eyelids began to close, as his ears buzzed with the soothing sound of Flightning Bugs.

     "Ohndig! What on Neopia are you doing out here?" a shrill voice screeched.

     The shadow Lupe sighed and groggily got to his feet. Rubbing his aching chest, he made his way over to the tall brown Kyrii who stood with her hands on her hips, her already imposing figure made more so by the highlight edging her silhouette. It seemed that the moon had positioned itself purposely to accent her intimidating figure with its glow.

     "I'm sorry, Prikkela," Ohndig said humbly. "I know you don't like me to be out this late. But you see, I absolutely had to--"

     "It's three o' clock in the morning!" his aunt Prikkela loudly interrupted his meek speech. "You have no excuse! Into bed with you!" She grabbed his dark gray paw and began dragging him towards the house. He succumbed to her powerful grasp, still gently patting his stomach where he had taken the fall.

     "Prikkela, you must try to understand," Ohndig pleaded. "I am a researcher of birds. I have observed and documented all of the birds in Neopia, save but a few. The rare ghost Whoot is one of them. Finding one of these creatures in our yard is a chance in a lifetime! I had to take it!"

     "I don't care if you catch your Whoots dead or alive," Prikkela snapped. "You'll not be prancing about my yard in your pajamas at this hour!"

     "But Prikkela, ghost Whoots are not dead. I'm not sure whether it is their spirit living on, or if they are not ghosts but are only perceived to be due to their otherworldly appearance, but they are fascinating specimens! This is why I must study them, to draw a conclusion about their strange origins!"

     "Do it, then--in the daytime!" Opening the front door to the house, Prikkela thrust her nephew inside.

     He landed unceremoniously in the front hall. Quickly getting to his feet, as if he were used to being manhandled by his aunt, he implored her, "You don't understand! I can't find Whoots in the daytime. They only come out at night."

     "Well, for Neopia's sake! Wake 'em up, the lazy things!" Prikkela prodded the Lupe forward with a blunt, insistent finger, driving him towards his bedroom.

     "But it's not natural for them to be awake in the daytime!" Ohndig protested as the Kyrii heaved his submissive body up and hurled him headlong into his bed. The mattress sagged as he crashed into the pillows.

     "To sleep with you!" his aunt exclaimed. Satisfied that her job was done, she walked off down the hall, her Cybunny slippers squeaking.

     Ohndig sighed. Well, the Whoot would've been gone by now, anyway. He lay atop his rumpled blankets and scrunched pillows and looked around his room. His eyes had adjusted to the dark during the Whoot tracking expedition, and it was easy for him to make out the shelves full of books that adorned his room. On his desk sat an open logbook, full of his written observations. All of the books were either about birds or contained his notes about birds.

     Ohndig smiled. From an early age, he had devoted his life to the study of birds in their natural habitats. He could still remember that moment when he first became enthralled with the winged creatures... it was a sunny spring day in the Month of Celebrating... or was it an autumn day? In any case, he had seen a lovely blue Beekadoodle flitting among the trees--or was it a faerie Snorkle? Well, something had aroused his interest, and he'd been studying the creatures ever since that fateful day. He had logs on just about every bird in Neopia (the ghost Whoot excluded): from Beekadoodles to Fleepers to Vaeoluses. Ohndig sighed dreamily and lapsed into sleep, thinking fondly about his life's obsession.

     * * * * *

     "Ohndig! Food's ready! I don't care if you were up at three o' clock last night, you won't get away with sleeping in!" The sound of a wooden spoon banging against a frying pan roused the Lupe from a delightful sleep. He yawned and tumbled out of bed.

     Ohndig stumbled sleepily into the kitchen, still in his rumpled, grass-stained pajamas. Prikkela banged a pot of oatmeal and a bowl on the table and turned the pot upside down over the latter dish. A glob of oatmeal fell into the bowl. Ohndig grabbed a spoon and began eagerly gobbling it down, while Prikkela repeated the process to serve herself.

     "You're going to Miss Azide's house today," Prikkela told her nephew. "And I don't want you chasing zombie Whoots along the way!"

     "It wasn't a zombie, Prikkela," the shadow Lupe said earnestly, bits of oatmeal dripping off his whiskers. "That would be more along the lines of a Mummy Baby, though I certainly don't know much about such things, so I may be wrong."

     The Kyrii snorted. "Mummies and zombies and ghosts, they're all the same! You could learn a thing or two from Miss Azide. She's very well read, and not on just one subject. She's quite the literary pet!"

     Ohndig blinked, suddenly realizing that the pet wasn't familiar to him. "Who's Miss Azide?"

     "For Neopia's sake! You'll find out when you get there!"

     So saying, Prikkela hoisted up her nephew and tossed him out the door, giving him a few basic directions on how to get to Miss Azide's house. Ohndig trotted off, a smile on his dark-furred face as he thought about the close encounter he'd had with a ghost Whoot last night, and bits of dirt clinging to his wrinkled green-tinted pajamas.

     * * * * *

     "Come in, my dear." The upright, stately old blue Lenny who greeted Ohndig at the door was quite the picture of serenity, while the shadow Lupe with his messy fur and tousled sleep clothes was just the opposite. Ohndig hoped Miss Azide wouldn't mind that it had taken him forty minutes to find her house, despite its being only two blocks away. Prikkela's directions had been a bit too basic for the complex workings of his mind, it seemed.

     Luckily, Miss Azide didn't even seem to notice the Lupe's tardiness, or his appearance. Ohndig followed the old lady into her home, looking around the simply but elegantly furnished house with interest. He found himself fascinated with a plushie sitting on her small hall table. It was a toy Weewoo made of white cloth. Such a bird could not exist in nature with coloring like that, but it was interesting all the same. After all, it was a bird. That alone was all Ohndig needed to stare at it for hours.

     Intending to do just that, Ohndig sat down on the patterned carpet and gazed intently at the stuffed toy. Miss Azide chuckled. "You like my white Weewoo plushie?"

     Ohndig nodded. "I love birds," he declared, his eyes sparkling. "My aunt may have told you this already, but I study them."

     "She did tell me, in fact. Do you know the story of the white Weewoo?" The old Lenny gazed at the plushie, her eyes hanging on it and taking on a faraway look.

     "Is it a mythical bird?" asked Ohndig.

     Miss Azide smiled a bit and drew her eyes away from the toy. "It was... once. Once, it was nothing but a dream in someone's head." She picked up a newspaper resting on the hall table and showed it to the Lupe. "Do you know what this is?"

     Ohndig looked at the writing on the front page. "It's an issue of the Neopian Times, Neopia's official news source."

     Miss Azide smiled and folded the paper. "Do you ever read it?"

     "No," Ohndig said brightly. "Mostly I read books about birds. I know all sorts of things about Weewoos; I could tell you about them if you'd like."

     "My dear, you know nothing of them if you know not of the white Weewoo." Miss Azide smiled cryptically. Abruptly she waved her wing. "I am a busy woman," she said briskly. "You'd best be going."

     Ohndig waited, expecting to be physically thrown out of the house. It gave him quite a start when he realized that the old Lenny would not employ his aunt's methods. He gave her a sheepish grin and headed out of the elegant home.

     Outside, the shadow Lupe contemplated the Lenny's sudden dismissal of him. Had he offended her? Was the white Weewoo toy connected to painful memories that he had brought to light? Did she not wish his pajamas to continue leaving bits of dirt and grass on her clean floor?

     "Weewoo..."

     Ohndig looked up, his brain already processing the soft call. It was a Weewoo, most definitely, but its voice had a different sound than the ones he had learned about. He searched the air, expecting to see an ordinary brown Weewoo.

     There it was, hovering right in front of him. It was a very real-looking white Weewoo plushie... No, a real flesh-and-blood white Weewoo. Ohndig's brain took a moment to process this information. As soon as it did, he was transfixed by the wingless white-feathered creature floating in front of him, suspended in the air as if by magic. He'd never read of such a creature.

     "Woo..." Its beak opened, and it let out that magical soft cry again. Its deep black eyes stared into Ohndig's.

     What a beautiful specimen. Ohndig absolutely had to record this encounter in his logbook when he got home. He stared at the Weewoo, noting every attribute that made it unique. It was just like a normal Weewoo, save its voice, and that its feathers were all as white and pure as clean snow.

     "Soft voice," Ohndig murmured to himself. "White feathers."

     "Weewoo!" Suddenly, the white Weewoo turned and began to glide away through the air. Its shimmering white tail bobbed back and forth, seeming to beckon to Ohndig. Of course, the Lupe followed it. How could he resist such an obvious summon?

     As Ohndig walked behind the flying white Weewoo, all the scenery around him seemed to melt away. His eyes were on the Weewoo; its hypnotic white tail, bobbing back and forth like a pendulum, was all he could focus on. He felt himself increase his pace until he was loping along in a steady run, without thinking about it or knowing why he did it. The Weewoo was all he could look at.

     He knew not how long he had run or where he was when suddenly he was able to take his eyes off of the enchanting white-feathered creature. He looked around, and found himself knee-deep in snow. Pure white, clean snow covered the land as far as he could see. The clear blue sky was pierced with many tiny, delicate snowflakes floating gently down to earth. All was silent. Not a soul was in sight.

     The white Weewoo hopped onto a branch of a tree sticking up out of the snow. Though bare, the clumps of snow adorning the tree's branches looked lovelier than leaves. The snow glittered blindingly. Ohndig's eyes roved back to the less reflective white Weewoo.

     "Weewoo... " The Weewoo pointed towards the snow with its beak. Ohndig looked in that direction.

     The snow came alive. Dozens, hundreds of white Weewoos rose from the drift as one, a cloud of the snow-white birds, floating in magical harmony. Their white plumage was perfect camouflage in the snow. They hung, silhouetted in white against the silent sky.

     "This is your home?" Ohndig said in awe. His mouth had dropped open by its own accord, and he hadn't even noticed. "It's... beautiful!"

     The white Weewoo nodded, then shook its head. It lifted into the air, its tail again wagging hypnotically, and Ohndig was drawn to follow it.

     When they stopped again, the shadow Lupe found himself looking up at a white-walled office building, with the words "The Neopian Times" in large raised letters on its front. Several white Weewoos flew around the building, and Ohndig thought he spotted a nest in a tree.

     The land of snow was the white Weewoos' old home. This was their new one.

     The white Weewoo flew up to the building's glass doors and invited Ohndig inside with a wave of its tail feathers. The shadow Lupe stepped inside. Seeming quite comfortable there, the white Weewoo flew up to a desk on which was a box labeled "Submissions". With its beak, it nudged Ohndig's paw towards the box.

     The Lupe blinked, then laughed. "Oh, I couldn't. I'm not a writer." As he said the words, he thought of all the journals and logs that he'd been writing in since he was a pup.

     The white Weewoo looked a bit disappointed, but it still seemed to hold hope in the shadow Lupe. "Weewooo..." it cooed, soft and low.

     "I'm sorry I have nothing to offer right now." Ohndig looked up at the chair behind the desk, where the Neopian Times editor presumably sat. Another white Weewoo was warming the otherwise empty seat.

     The shadow Lupe smiled at the mystical little white Weewoo looking expectantly at him. "But I'll come back. Soon. I'll come back with something to give."

The End

 
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