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Bitten by Darkness


by nut862

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It was morning. A good indicator of this was that there was light coming in through the thin-curtained windows, where just last night there had been nothing but blackness; this typically meant that the great fireball in outer space had gone round again and come back up where it started.

     The sun's rays sped through the air towards the windows of Morthus's house, held off only by several million miles of cold space and a set of thin cotton curtains. In spite of the curtains, the light found its way into the house, tickling the young yellow Blumaroo's eyelids and playfully nudging him awake. Morr stirred in bed, curling up under the blankets.

     A breeze blew the curtains aside, and the light broke in, filling Morr's closed eyelids with brightness.

     The Blumaroo opened his eyes. A ray of sunlight lay across his bed, lighting a strip of his blanket stark white, and the shadows of the fluttering curtains danced in it.

     Morr leaped out of bed, landing with a thud, and hopped over to the window. He pushed back the curtains to let all the sunlight of the morning go rushing into his room. A square patch of light immediately found its way to his bed and began warming his blankets. Other flecks of light scattered themselves on the white walls. Morr went to his bookshelf, picked out a black paperback, and bounded out of his room, heading outside to experience the morning up close.

     The sun was shining on Neopia Central. The cool autumn air could dampen the sun's warmth, but not its light. And natural light was the best kind to read by. Morr headed over to his favorite tree in the backyard and sat down, opening his book.

     Yesterday, he had read a comedy; the week before, he'd gone through an adventure novel. Today, in light of the pumpkins that were appearing on people's doorsteps and many a costume in the making, the yellow Blumaroo held a collection of spooky stories, perfect for the season.

     Sitting under the tree, a burst of orange leaves, Morr was soon lost in a labyrinth of dark caves, then walking down a dusty staircase to a haunted basement, and searching for the secret of a cursed clock. An evil spirit, an attempt at possession... a scream. The breeze around him seemed to grow colder. Hesitantly, he fumbled with the corner of the page, unsure whether to turn it. Did he dare find out how the story ended?

     The wind caught the pages of the book and flipped them past his eyes in a blur. Morr raised his head and found himself looking at the familiar sunny backyard. His heart was pounding. He stared at the bright blue sky to make sure that there were no ghosts hiding in the air. Scenes from the book flashed across the peaceful surroundings. Morr caught his breath. Nothing like being properly spooked.

     "Mor-r-r!" A Pink Acara poked her head through the doorway of Morr's house. "Breakfast!"

     Morr closed his book, tucked it under his arm, and ran over to his sister.

     Meals were one of the few times that Morr looked up from his books long enough to see his family. He spent most of his time under his tree in the yard on sunny days, and he'd read until the sun went down. Then he'd go to bed and wait for the sun to rise again so he could repeat the process. As the cycle of the sun, so was the cycle of his life.

     * * * * *

     Darkness.

     He couldn't see anything. He searched for his ally, the ever friendly sun, but it had fled. Even the moon was gone.

     Slowly, his black surroundings bled into shades of gray, revealing shapes. His room. He lay in bed, just where he had gone to sleep. Beside him, the window stood open, the curtains fluttering in the night wind.

     A dark form descended behind him, and a sharp pain went through the back of his neck. His hands flew to his neck, clutching at it. The dark figure leaped across his bed and swept out the window in a show of black cape and flapping wings.

     Terrified, Morr stared at the window, expecting the creature to come back. After some minutes sitting up in bed and watching the curtains wave, he leaned over and slammed the window shut, yanking the lock closed. He lay back in his bed, trembling, and tried to go back to sleep.

     But the light stopped him.

     Light. Suddenly, there was too much of it, pouring into his eyes, a blinding whiteness that was growing brighter and brighter and--

     * * * * *

     Sunlight shone softly through the unmoving curtains, lying in dim patches on the blanket. Morr sat up, his eyes wide and his heart pounding. The familiar scene of his white-walled room was all he saw, but even as he looked at the cheery bookshelf and window, the same objects in shades of gray flashed before his eyes. The dream from last night...

     Dream? It was a dream, wasn't it? Morr reached behind him and touched the back of his neck. He felt a pair of small scabs. Mozito bites, probably; the pesky critters must have flown in through the window while he slept. It was a bad habit of his to leave it open all the time; he knew it compromised safety, even though it was a second-story window. He'd have to remember to close it tonight.

     The window was already closed now, though. Morr stared at it for a moment, then reached forward and pushed open the curtains as he always did in the morning. Light streamed through the glass.

     Morr grabbed the book he had been reading the day before and hurried out of his room. It was a relief to leave the scene of last night's episode, dream or not.

     Dalra met him as he was coming down the stairs. The Pink Acara stopped when she saw him and exclaimed, "Morrrr! Breakfast!"

     "Do you have to yell when you're standing right in front of me?" Morr rubbed one of his long ears distractedly.

     "Sorry, force of habit." His sister grinned. "I didn't know what to think when I didn't find you at your tree. Were you sleeping all that time?"

     "Yeah," Morr said dazedly. "What time is it?"

     "Time for breakfast. Come on, sleepyhead."

     After eating, Morr found himself once again outside under the tree. The dream from last night nagged at his mind. Hoping to forget it, he opened his book of spook stories and began reading where he'd left off.

     ... Count Von Roo hovered over his soon-to-be victim, his sharp teeth tingling at the thought of fresh blood. Come next full moon, he wouldn't be the only vampire in the woods...

     Morr closed the book abruptly. Perhaps science fiction would suit his mood better today.

     * * * * *

     It started slowly, unnoticeably; it was so small that Morr wanted nothing more than to overlook it. But after a couple weeks of being unable to do so, and growing more frightened with each passing silent day, he had to admit it to himself.

     Something was wrong.

     Morr was sitting on his bed, reading a book. The window beside him was shut; the thin curtains were drawn. The yellow Blumaroo was looking at the pages of his book through eyes squinted against the gentle dim light coming in through the curtained window. The light seemed to bounce up off the white pages, blinding him.

     Morr looked up from the book, keeping his eyes squinted as he looked around the room. It seemed terribly bright to him already; he didn't dare to see how it looked with his eyes open. The faint bits of light falling on the bed and the walls and the floor seemed to spark like dazzling crystals, and the white walls seemed to shine like glaring blank screens.

     Morr covered his eyes and collapsed on the bed, burying his head in the blankets. The relative darkness there was comforting.

     This wasn't normal; he knew it. He had once loved the morning, and the light. What had happened?

     A knock came at his door, which he always kept closed now to shut out the blazing light of the hallway during the day. Groaning, Morr plodded over to the door and opened it slowly, bracing himself for the light that came flooding in. He squinted his eyes hard, reducing his line of vision to a couple of slits. Through them, he could make out a Pink Acara. Her form, standing in front of him, was painfully illuminated by the window in the hall.

     "Morr," she said, looking a bit taken aback. Quickly she added, "Breakfast."

     The yellow Blumaroo nodded and stumbled down the hallway, avoiding looking at the window. He would wolf down his food and return to his darkened room as quickly as possible. Mealtimes were more uncomfortable nowadays, not just because of the light, but because Morr's family had begun worrying about him. He had to field a lot of questions whenever he ate, not always coming up with satisfactory answers. The light scrambled his brain, he believed.

     "Morr, how much sleep did you get last night? You look terrible. Like, really terrible. Horrible," Dalra said. She looked concerned and disturbingly serious.

     "You need fresh air," pronounced Dalra's mother. "You spend too much time cooped up in your room nowadays. Put down your books for once. Go outside. Run around."

     "I'd rather read," Morr mumbled, swallowing his last bit of breakfast.

     But Dalra pounced on her mother's suggestion. "No, come on! Let's go outside. I bet you haven't seen the light of day in ages."

     "I don't feel like it." The Blumaroo might have admitted to himself that something was wrong, but he wasn't ready to tell that to his family. Somehow it seemed like that would make it official. Rather than reveal how the light pained him, he allowed the Pink Acara to drag him towards the door.

     The light outside glared, pressing forcefully on his eyes. He closed them, feeling dizzy from the light that was filling his head. Squinting hard and blinking to see, he watched his sister go running around the yard. Dalra looked chipper--perhaps a bit overly cheerful--as she called out to him, "Catch me!"

     He ran after her. The light--the horrible light!--seemed to push against him, turning his legs into melted wax. The world was swimming with unavoidable light. It bounced off everything, and it seemed that Morr's eyes were magnifying glasses that sent the light bouncing, many times multiplied, to his brain, where it confused his senses. The Blumaroo stumbled, wishing he could stop and let the light freeze him. But he had to make an effort--he couldn't let his family think he was so ill that he couldn't even run. He could run, just not with this wretched light...

     Dalra was barely jogging now, glancing back at her brother every few seconds, looking worried. The Pink Acara went over to his tree and took hold of one of the low branches, swinging from it as she waited for him to catch up.

     In the past, Morr had been able to clear that branch--and others above it--in one jump. In a burst of energy brought on by the memory, he darted forward. As he crouched to jump, letting his tail take his weight, his eyes flew open and he stared up at the tree to calculate the jump. Sunlight came piercing through the branches.

     Startled, Morr flung himself off the ground in a failed effort that barely moved him a few inches, his eyes immediately snapping shut from the shock of the light. He felt his head thud to the ground, followed by the rest of his body, and then all the light he saw vanished.

     * * * * *

     "He must be sick." Dalra's voice was shaky as she sat in the kitchen, talking half to her mother and half to herself. She hardly talked to Morr anymore. Not that she had talked to him much before, but it had still been comforting to go outside and see him reading, always under his tree in the sunlight. Now she hardly even saw him. He was always in his room with the curtains drawn. That couldn't be normal; her brother had loved sunlight as long as she'd known him, since the day they'd adopted him. Yes, he was certainly sick.

     The question was, how sick? Morr was generally healthy, and even if he did spend much of his day buried in a book, he was usually willing to play with Dalra for a little while if she suggested it. He'd never acted so fatigued as he had that day, and had certainly never fainted before. It frightened Dalra, if for no other reason than that this was the first time it had happened.

     "I wish I'd done something earlier," the older Acara murmured, worriedly stirring a pot of soup. She had a tendency to worry over her young charges at the slightest hint of a case of Sneezles, and would confine them to bed until they recovered, nervous about letting them go out before they were fully well.

     "What do you think it is?" Dalra asked timidly.

     "I don't know. A high fever of some sort, I suspect," her mother said offhandedly. She tended to make remedies first and ask questions later. It didn't make much difference, since her remedies were always the same: soup, tea, bed, and plenty of sleep.

     Dalra slipped out of the kitchen and ran upstairs, scaling the steep staircase two steps at a time. She slowed as she approached her brother's closed door. Knocking lightly, and getting no response, she quietly opened it and tiptoed into the dim room, lit only by what light passed through the thin curtains.

     Morr was a lump of blankets. He had the covers pulled tight over his head.

     "Morr?" Dalra whispered. "Are you awake?"

     "Yes." Slowly, the covers lowered, and the Blumaroo sat blinking at her, his head turned slightly away from the window.

     "How do you feel?" Dalra asked.

     "I don't know why I passed out," Morr mumbled, looking almost ashamed.

     "I do. You're sick."

     "No, I'm not. I feel fine. I'm just..." Morr trailed off, looking at his sister's disbelieving face.

     "You can't feel fine. You fainted. And you've been acting weird for the past couple of weeks. Stay in bed," Dalra ordered. "Mama's making you soup."

     "I'm not hungry. I just ate breakfast." Morr said it not as a protest, but as a simple statement. He fell back against his pillow in defeat, knowing he couldn't argue with the remedy that cured all ills. "Say, Dalra, could you do me a favor?"

     She brightened. "What?"

     "Block this window. Hang a thick blanket over it or something. It's too bright in here." Morr sank back down under his blankets.

     "Too bright?" Dalra said incredulously, looking at the curtains pulled over the window. True, they were thin, but the room was still pretty dim. "It's not too bright!"

     "Please?" came Morr's muffled voice.

     Dalra stood up and went to the linen closet to find a blanket. She was hanging a nice heavy wool one over the curtain rod when her mother walked in, carrying a steaming bowl of soup.

     Morr came out of the blankets readily, his eyes suddenly wide and bright. He began eating the soup in the darkened room. "I'm not really hungry, Mama," he said, his voice sounding much more energetic than it had a moment before.

     "You sound better already," the Acara declared, pleased. She put a paw to his forehead. "Why, you don't even have a fever."

     "I never did," Morr said.

     "Eat up the soup anyway, and take a good long nap, to be sure. Why is it so dark in here?" Mama headed for the window.

     "No, don't," Morr said quickly. "I like it dark. I want to take a nap, and the light makes it hard to sleep." He handed back the bowl of soup, which he'd nearly emptied.

     "All right. Come on, Dalra, let's let your brother sleep."

     The Pink Acara glanced back at him as she left the dark room. "Rest in peace," she whispered. Then, thinking that wasn't quite the feeling she wanted to convey, she added quickly, "Good night," though it was still morning, and hurried away.

     * * * * *

     He felt absolutely fine. Perfect, in fact. He wished he'd thought of putting a blanket over the window earlier.

     He cringed to think that his family was now thinking of him as a patient, though. Now he'd have to lie in bed all day, eating nothing but soup. Unless this strange light complex suddenly disappeared, it looked like he'd be here for a while. Mama certainly wasn't going to believe him if he said he was well and then proceeded to faint again from the light. He'd have to tell them the real problem, much as he hated to do it.

     It was just such a queer thing to say. He felt almost ashamed of having contracted this weird intolerance. He was lucky he didn't have anything more important to do in the daytime than read books, or there could have been real problems. He was already awfully horrified that he'd actually fainted. It proved how weak the light made him.

     How could he read without light? Morr was heartbroken to think about his books right then, as he sat in the room too dark to see much beyond his own tail, much less words on a page. How could he continue his normal life if he couldn't stand light?

     This couldn't happen. Suddenly panicked, Morr grabbed the wool blanket and tore it off his window, flinging aside the curtains in a frenzy. He gasped as the burning light stung him, but forced himself to stare at it. He had once loved this light. He must learn to love it again...

     Morr's head swam, and his eyes smarted. He collapsed dizzily against his pillow, and quickly dragged all the blankets over his eyes. The resulting darkness was a relief, but no longer a comfort.

     He rolled over in bed, depressed. As he was pulling the blankets around himself, he felt some strange leathery stuff under his arms. He stopped short in disgust. Had he gotten something stuck to him when he fell earlier?

     He tried to pull it off, but it clung to his skin. Finally he looked down, keeping his eyes under the blankets.

     He nearly leaped out of bed in fright. Small veined wings, little more than bumps, had sprouted at his sides and were beginning to form.

     Trembling, Morr burrowed down in his blankets and squeezed his eyes shut, wanting to sleep away this nightmare. He couldn't deny it any more. Something was definitely wrong.

     * * * * *

     Darkness.

     He could see perfectly. The sun, his late enemy, had long since sunk away in defeat. The moonless sky outside his window seemed to beckon him.

     His dark surroundings were outlined in fine relief to his eyes, shades of gray tinted with silver, blue, and purple. His room, with the cutting light gone, looked more welcoming than it had in days. Beside him, his window was shut, a tantalizingly thin barrier between him and the night.

     Morr's dark form leaped out of bed. He was awake, alert, and well; he didn't need to stay there any longer. Tugging at the wings dangling from his arms, he wondered, with some disgust, how long he had been sleeping. The wings were newly grown, but ready for use nonetheless.

     The darkness, the energy-giving darkness... From beyond the window, it called to him.

     He unlocked the window quickly and pushed up the glass pane. Cold night air blew in, inviting him.

     He accepted the invitation. One leap, a flap of wings, and he was away.

     A sliver of pale moonlight began to shine through the opened window, and the thin curtains waved mournfully over the abandoned bed.

The End

 
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