The Shadows: Part One
As you walk through the night in a darkened alley you feel something breathing down your neck. You turn but see nothing and continue on, quickening your pace. A noise rustles behind you and, again, you swiftly turn about to see the perpetrator. Only the blank night reaches your gaze. You convince yourself it’s just a stray Kadoatie that has lost its way, and you race through the night to a place where you are secure.
It’s not a Kadoatie, though. It’s not even something you’ve heard of or could understand. You are lucky to be so ignorant about the shadows that huddle in the corner. You should be happy that you don’t know about them, that they lie there unnoticed. But for how long will they stay unnoticed? How long will they allow themselves to be ignored?
I cannot write long for I have no more security in this world we call Neopia. Where you see light, I see only the shadows that taunt me. I am not safe. I am only writing as much as I can so I can help you understand, so that maybe all this can be stopped for good. Maybe my experience can help you, for I am beyond the reach of any helping paw anymore.
To help you understand, I must tell you my story and the story of the shadows will sift in, like they always do...
The air was cool and breezy, almost freshening as I took in a large gulp of the spring air. I felt like I could almost taste the rain from the day before on the wind this morning, the rain that had kept me inside all the day before. But not today, no it was too beautiful a day to go to waste on stupid things like sitting inside. It wasn’t healthy for a Green Scorchio like myself to be inside all the time, after all.
“You’re it!” gasped the Starry Chomby as her paw gently tapped my shoulder. She giggled and turned to run away through the rough crowds.
This had been one of our favorite games. We called it Saturday Rush as the game was a game of tag through the Neopian Market on a Saturday. The crowds were enormous and shops were advertising like crazy, throwing dumb signs in our faces as we attempted to catch the other person.
I laughed and turned around, attempting to catch her before she ran away but she had already disappeared into the crowd. Though Ari looked like a clumsy and cumbersome Chomby she was really good at hiding and running through crowds swiftly. It still amazes me to this day how she was able to do that.
Snapping my claws in frustration, I flapped my miniscule wings a bit in order to hover above the crowd. My Scorchio wings were no match for my much larger body and soon they gave out, leaving me on the ground with no more of an idea of where Ari was than before I had attempted to fly.
I got up off the ground and brushed myself off before darting into the crowd. The good thing about Ari being so tall was the fact that her stars were easier to see. Soon I spotted her slipping inside what looked like an older store that was being bluntly ignored by the rest of the Neopians. Grinning at my imminent success, I slipped inside as well.
It was one of those shops that made you feel peaceful yet uneasy at the same time. A little bell rang overhead as I walked inside as if trying to make me feel welcome. Rows and rows of filled shelves covered the entire store. Though it wasn’t well decorated, it was definitely impressive. A few cobwebs and a lot of dust, but that was all that made the shop less interesting.
I had half a mind to just jump into one of the rows and look for Ari when I heard something scuttle at the front of the shop. Curious (and thinking it may be Ari trying to hide), I headed over towards the noise.
A blue Cybunny carrying a huge stack of books walked into my view, attempting not to stumble over its own large feet and drop the books. It walked with the utmost care, as if carrying the most fragile and precious thing in all of Neopia, even if they were just a few dumb books.
The Cybunny slid the books onto a nearby shelf and then turned around to look at me, half scowling at the sight of me in its shop. “Can I help you?” it asked in frustration.
I shook my head, for honestly there was nothing this grumpy Cybunny could do. I was just looking for a friend of mine and how would the Cybunny know where she was?
The Cybunny rolled its eyes and shrugged its shoulders. “Alright. Take a look around but just don’t break anything,” and with that it disappeared into a row of miscellaneous items.
I turned and walked into a row just like it. Now, even though I was looking for Ari, I was still looking at the objects around the store. A few interesting ones caught my eyes but I kept moving through the rows around the store. Soon, all of my attention was on the items and wondering how much some of them cost.
Only one thing made me stop in awe, though, and that was something so simple that there is no way my mind by itself could have been awed by it. I have no doubt that there were outside influences working on me at that moment in time. Even then, I was just a pawn to them. Something worthless and disposable, that’s all my life was.
The item was simple enough, a plain key. It didn’t have any special markings or colors or intricacy at all. In fact, it was plain boring. It was old and rusty with dulled edges and bent markings in it. Still, it caught my attention and I was standing at the spot just staring at it. Every other thought was pulled from my mind.
It was just a key.
I reached forward one claw to touch the cool metal but hesitated for a second. I can’t say why I hesitated, but I did. Maybe there was more wisdom on my part than I usually give myself credit for. Still, I didn’t hesitate for long before I finished extending my arm and touched the key.
I bet you were expecting something grand and explosive to happen. Maybe Neopia as we know it would have been unraveled into the infinite space. But no, nothing of that sort happened.
I pulled my claw away from the key and took a step back. Something didn’t feel right. My head was swimming with unclear thoughts. I turned and ran out of the shop. I didn’t stop running until I reached home.
My dream wasn’t very clear. I was wandering through a forest of large trees and lots of Faeries were surrounding me. They were all whispering something in my ear, then darting off into the forest. Whatever they were saying, I couldn’t understand but I nodded anyway. That’s what one does in dreams after all.
Then the forest melted around me; all the trees sagging into sad, grey heaps on the green grass. I didn’t even acknowledge the change but continued to stare forward at a hole in the dream. Something was crawling out of it, or attempting to. The hole was too small for the creature but it could still stick one, horrible claw through. The claw extended to me, beckoning me. Free us, it whispered to me. Free.
I tried to stop myself from walking forward but it was no use. I had to free them; I had to. I walked towards the hole, my arm outstretched to it and to the creatures. I couldn’t stop myself, couldn’t help but walk towards them like I was in a trance.
I touched the creature’s claw and it grabbed my arm.
I woke up that night in a cold sweat, gasping for air as I looked about my calm bedroom. The moon was pouring through a window and onto the floor almost peacefully, giving me a sense of light through this darkness.
I smiled to myself, realizing the whole silly thing had been a dream. I was fine. I was asleep in my bed, not a care in the world.
Then the moonlight disappeared from the floor as if something had walked in front of the light. It must be a cloud, I told myself over and over again as I stared at the ground with a horrified gaze. It must be a cloud.
I huddled underneath my covers, only my head peeking out through the thick fabric so that I could see the moonlight when it reappeared. It never reappeared.
From where the moonlight had been formed a silhouette or a shadow all by itself, no tangible thing involved. Slowly, claws extended from the shadows and then a tail and then a head. Red eyes glowed from the darkness, looking across my room for something. I shuddered underneath my blanket and tried not to think about what it might be looking for or what it might possibly be.
The red gaze stopped on me, staring into my eyes. I was instantly lost in those cold, heartless red pools. I felt my whole body go cold as I stared at them and, gently, I felt myself slipping into unconsciousness. I snapped my eyes shut, and felt the warmth rush back to me.
I reopened my eyes and the shadow was gone. The moonlight was still wafting onto my floor, no empty space where the light should be. I sighed and curled up into my blankets further. Whatever that had been was now gone. I was safe.
No matter how much I told myself that, I could not sleep peacefully the rest of the night.
To be continued...