Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 135,120,765 Issue: 267 | 22nd day of Storing, Y8
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The Box


by chibi104

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It was a peaceful day at sea. A small fishing boat sailed on smoothly, her captain gallantly hoping that they would make it to the next port before sundown. The sun was beaming herself quietly down at the tiny vessel, adding in a gentle aroma of peacefulness to the scenery. The ship's small crew was already beginning to work on gutting the fish that they had caught earlier atop the grimy slippery deck, while each humming their own shifty sailing tune as they worked at their small sharp knives skilfully. The Captain tapped his paws against the wooden rails, absentmindedly looking out at the horizon while consequently daydreaming about past voyages and shipmates. He was about to turn and order everyone to take a quick break, when the youngest member of the crew ran over to him, while almost falling over on his way there.

     "Ah! I'm so sorry, sir!" the young Shoyru yelled, his cheeks reddening slightly. The Captain dismissed it shortly, while sending the small Neopet a soft questioning look.

     "What is it boy?" the Captain asked quizzically.

     "Well... Uhm, it's nothing much really, but Shuzi found this little trinket while digging through the piles of fish just now. He wasn't really interested in it, but I thought that you might want to see it..." the small boy stammered, clearly embarrassed at his choice now.

     The Captain, seeing the small red Shoyru's obvious discomfort, put a firm paw on his shoulder. "It's alright, my boy. Now what is this trinket that you were talking about?"

     The tiny Shoyru stared up at the large Captain Grarrl, before smiling slightly. "Here it is," he stated, his hands quietly outstretched with a tiny gleaming ebony box in the middle of his dark palms. "It's pretty, isn't it?"

     The starry Grarrl kneeled down closer to the item. "It's pretty enough, I suppose. You said it was with the fish? Odd, it doesn't look wet... Or even damp, for the matter," the captain remarked, while mutely continuing to observe the black cube. "Well then... Why don't you try opening it, eh? There might be something worthwhile inside."

     The little Shoyru nodded, before clamping his petite grimy paws around the lid. Giving it a small tug, the small box quickly opened, revealing its contents to the two Neopets standing curiously around it. "What the-?" the Captain proclaimed in a shushed and audibly frightened voice. The boy could only stare, in shock as the ship sailed on roughly forward.

     A while later, a yellow Kougra by the name of Shuzi went forward to the top of the deck to see what had happened to his Shoyru friend. He had not reappeared after taking off with the small box he had shown to him earlier on in the morning, and Shuzi felt healthily annoyed at the gesture. There were still quite a few ungutted fish left, and the boy had just left with only a slight murmur. But when the Kougra finally made it to the ship's railing where his friend had gone to earlier to meet with the Captain, he was mildly surprised to find the area empty. Instead, the only occupant of the space was the tiny wooden cube that he himself had given to the Shoyru earlier.

     Quite annoyed, the Kougra picked up the box with a slight jerk. Presuming his friend had left it there absentmindedly and taken off to somewhere, he opened the lid quietly, just to find out what it contained in slight amusement. As soon as he peered upon it though, he dropped the item, his face contorted in cold horror.

     A while later, when first mate Reki appeared on the deck in search for the Captain, as well as Shuzi, he was confused when he was met with a small wooden box in their place at the railings. Shrugging softly, he kicked it off the deck with a tiny paw and continued to search the ship, horribly confused when he found no one.

     ***

     The lacquered surface of a small glossy box gleamed softly, once again gently reminding the small rainbow-coloured Usul seated at the counter, that it was not permitted to be opened. The tiny pet's name was Risel, the only daughter of the rich merchant Stanford Mertife. Famous for being stingy, Stanford had opened only one store, which was well known itself for being overcrowded and dusty. The shopkeeper of the said store was none other than Risel, the overweight Bruce merchant's very own daughter. Her mother had died while Risel had still only been just but a tiny baby, leaving the petite girly Usul with no memories of her besides a few torn photos.

     Risel had grown up mostly by herself; her father almost always being off traveling somewhere in hopes of finding some more antiques that he could later barter off at his shop. It was during one of these trips that he had come upon the small wooden box, at a small dingy shack in the outskirts of the city of Qasala. He of course had eagerly bought it after hearing about its so-called tale, one of which claimed that it was the only one of its kind in existence and that it was worth over two mountains. The pudgy Bruce had had his mouth almost overflowing with greed by that time, and had mindlessly purchased it immediately from the shopkeeper, not noticing the slight grin that sprouted out upon the face of the box's previous owner as he did so.

     A week later, he had almost barged into the shop, startling Risel half to death from shock. He had quickly set up a small place for it in one of the store's many cabinets, and had put up a sign as well for it at the front of his store. Many people had come in intense interest after reading the Bruce's ad, but each had left disgruntled and annoyed after hearing its outrageous price, at 250 million Neopoints. Risel had nearly fallen off of her chair when she herself had heard of its amount, surprised at the thought of anything costing at that unworldly price. But Stanford Mertife had just shook his head at the whole thing, before locking the cube stiffly into its cabinet.

     "It will never leave this spot until you find someone willing to pay every single Neopoint of its price, alright, Risel?" he had demanded. Risel had merely nodded, before shutting the cube out of her mind completely.

     But that had been then, and this was now. Risel had indeed kept the box out of her mind for a short while, before curiosity's cold grip had overtaken her, leaving her hopelessly in want of finding out of the cube's insides. Wanting to find out the contents of the box, she had attempted to open the lid many times over, but each time had for some reason cowered away. Risel herself had no idea to her mad choices, but deeply, she felt that for some reason, the box shouldn't be opened. Each time she approached she was struck with an intense ray of longing to see what was inside, but was at the same time hit with an odd sense of fear. She had no idea what made her feel like this, yet...

     "Excuse me?" A tiny jingle of the shop's doorbell shook throughout the shop, startling Risel out her daydreams. Running, the small Rainbow Usul ran to greet the new arrival.

     "Hello!" she exclaimed, while helping of what she hoped was a customer, inside. He was a tall sleek Spotted Kougra, tall for his size, yet a bit too slender for his height. Glasses-adorned, the lengthy Neopet turned to Risel, in slight agitation.

     "Uhm... I'm..." he began. Risel just turned to him in slight confusion, before allowing him to continue. "I was looking for a small present for my sister's birthday. She loves strange things, and I've heard from many that this store has many exotic trinkets. May I look around?"

     Risel nodded happily. He had turned out to be a customer after all. Even though her father's store was well-known to many around Neopia Central, it was not often visited due to its quirky items and outrageously high prices. Risel herself personally thought that the prices were also a bit too expensive, but she had never herself dared to say so to her father. Due to the absence of customers, Risel was always happy to help one when they decided to come.

     The small Usul's eyes flickered around to where the Kougra was, suddenly noticing what he was looking at. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "I'm sorry, that one's not for sale. Unless... You can pay 250 million Neopoints for it on the spot..." she murmured, deeply embarrassed at its price.

     The spotted Kougra turned, shrugging his shoulders in slight discomfort. "Sorry... I saw that from the price tag, and was just looking at it. Might I ask what makes it so expensive though? Not that I could ever afford something like that..."

     "Well, er..." Risel was suddenly at a loss for words. What did make it so expensive? "I, I'm not..." She turned to the box that lay so hauntingly inside. Could she? ...Did she even dare to? "It..." She once again looked at the lacquered cube. What did make it so pricey? What could it possibly contain...

     In a moment's notice, Risel herself was at the cabinet, tugging at her pocket for the keys to open it. "Here... Why not take a look ourselves," she stated softly. The Kougra looked at her, mouth slightly agape.

     "Erh, it's okay, lady. You don't have to, really..." he started, before quickly stopping himself when Risel finally pulled the object out. Paws both shaking, Risel gulped. What if... her bad feelings of the thing proved themselves to be true? She shook her head. No... She just had to find out. Opening the lid slowly, Risel suddenly screamed when she saw what lay inside. The Kougra merely stepped back, before attempting to run away from the shop in horror after seeing what lay inside.

     ***

     Days later, Stanford Mertife walked cheerily to his store while dangling a large bag of Neopoints. The items that he had acquired here at Neopia Central had sold surprisingly well at Terror Mountain, and he was personally hoping to get some more to sell there once again next week. Getting his keys, he quietly opened the doors to his shop. Calling out softly for his daughter, he was surprised when there was no usual answer of 'Here Daddy!' from his rainbow-splashed Risel.

     Stepping in cautiously into the store, he shut the door stiffly behind him, before peering down below the counter where his daughter usually stood. Perhaps she had fallen asleep there? But no, she wasn't anywhere in sight. Calling out for her once again, the Bruce began to shake. Had something happened to her? The shop was getting eerily dark, and he himself began to feel some amount of fear. Stepping behind the cabinet, he was shocked to see the small box he had gotten from Qasala so many months ago standing alone on the floor. Picking it up, he began to wonder what exactly it was that lay inside himself. Opening the lid, he dropped it in terror before attempting to scurry away.

     ***

     The next day, the front page of the Neopian Times reported that the famous merchant had gone missing, as well as his daughter Risel, and a particular bespectacled spotted Kougra.

     And the only thing spotted at the scene of the supposed disappearance was a strange lacquered cube.

The End

 
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