Hyperion: The Ghost
The shadow crawled along the darkened street, its beady eyes focused upon its distant prey. Leaves rustled as a chill wind blew over it, yet the soft sounds could not distract the shadow. An Aisha, bright-red and unwary, stood on his porch, looking out into the night.
The shadow smiled, its contorted face and big lips disgusting to bear. It swept forward stealthily, making no sound as its victim leaned against the railing and scanned his eyes across the empty yard. He was waiting, waiting as was the shadow itself.
The red Aisha stood up and followed the railing to the top of the steps. He whistled, his gaze sweeping the darkness once more. He’d let his petpet out a couple minutes ago, but it should’ve already returned. He descended the stairs slowly, stepped into the yard.
The shadow grinned, leaping to its feet. It rushed forwards, silent as it struck.
* * *
Hyperion yawned tiredly as his sister prodded him awake. The brown Gelert smiled down at him as she pulled him upright, smiling brightly as she sang, “Good morning, Hyperion!”
“Anthea,” the green Shoyru moaned, wiping the crusts from his eyes, “why’d you wake me up?”
“What?” she shot back, half-angered yet half-playful still. “You’ll like the news I’ve got for you.”
“I will?” he said as wearily as before.
“Of course—Judge Hog wants you, and he says it’s urgent!”
“Urgent?” If Hyperion had been half-asleep beforehand, he was suddenly fully awake. “What for? Why? It’s a Saturday. And I’m supposed to have Saturdays off!”
Anthea frowned, shrugging. “He said it was a mission.”
* * *
“Yes,” Judge Hog answered, “a ghost.”
“But I thought the Defenders didn’t handle supernatural stuff.”
His superior laughed. “Hyperion, we are the Defenders of Neopia. We must defend our citizens from all evils, from all things, whether it be a selfish thief or an otherworldly killer.” The Shoyru gulped. “But we hardly ever handle the latter,” the Moehog assured him. “We leave the truly otherworldly stuff to the Space Faerie, an honorary Defender.”
Hyperion sighed, somewhat relieved. Yet his suspicions still remained about handling a ghost.
He couldn’t help but ask, “Are we certain about this?”
“We can never be certain of these things, lad, but we’re fairly confident this time.” Judge Hog shook his head. “Have a seat, Hyperion: This might take us a little while.”
Judge Hog swiveled in his chair and rolled up to a large monitor blinking with headlines and messages from the other Defenders; a large, silver “VIRTUPETS” was sprawled across its bottom. He turned back to Hyperion and leaned forward on his desk.
“Normally,” he said, “we wouldn’t worry about spiritual entities, and those we would worry about... are those we trust the most. But in this case, the locals want another pair of eyes, someone new to see if they can find anything that everyone else has missed.”
“But aren’t there witness to do that?” Hyperion asked.
Judge Hog shook his head. “No witnesses, and the victims have all been found...”
“Dead?” Hyperion gulped.
“No, thankfully not! Though, we can’t honestly say they’re still alive.” The Moehog paused. “They’re certainly breathing and each has a pulse, but they’re not conscious.”
“Then how do we know it’s the same unsub?” Hyperion shook his head. “How do we even know it’s a ghost if all the victims end up unconscious?”
Judge Hog grinned. “That, my boy, is where you’re mistaken! The second victim—an Aisha—got away. But he didn’t know what had attacked him, so the local authorities filed the incident as an attempted robbery. Then, they found his petpet.”
“Was it dead?” Hyperion clung to the edge of his seat.
“No, Hyperion! The Manjeer was as alive as the others, but just barely.” He narrowed his eyes. “You haven’t been reading those old murder mysteries, have you? They’re all fiction, you know—it’s why they’re in the library, not the archives.” He nodded sagely.
Hyperion fidgeted in his seat. “What about the other victim?”
“Victims,” Judge Hog corrected. “The first was found unconscious outside his home the morning after: The yellow Kougra was a pasty tan. He was quickly taken to the healers and said to be in a coma. The third victim, a Shoyru much like yourself, was also found the morning after: She, too, was drained of color, a sickly blue-grey, and once again, like the two before her, she was in a coma.”
Judge Hog rolled back to the monitor and opened an old message. “Officer Bryant O’Din, head of MIA (that’s the Mystery Island Authorities, Hyperion),” the Shoyru’s eyes widened, but the Moehog didn’t notice as he rambled on, “... so, unable to find any new leads, he re-interviewed Cory Jillian. The red Aisha said his attacker was a grey blur, looked like a ghost. So, O’Din came to us.”
“So,” Hyperion whispered, “I’m going to Mystery Island?”
Judge Hog opened his mouth to answer, but said nothing. He asked instead, “You all right, lad?”
“Yeah,” Hyperion nodded and sniffed once, not meeting his superior’s eyes, “just a bit tired, I guess.”
Judge Hog steepled his hands on his desk and nodded. “Well then, go and pack your bags, Hyperion, maybe grab a quick nap before you leave.” He rubbed his chin for a moment. “If anything goes wrong, be sure to call us with your telespeaker.”
Hyperion nodded to the floor. “Yes, sir.”
* * *
The ghost backed its way into the shadows. Its second attack had failed, yet its third had not. And neither would its fourth. The Island Aisha was treading up her walkway, heading towards front door. She fumbled in her purse, taking out her key, raised it to the lock and pushed it into the keyhole—
The ghost leapt from its hiding spot, racing out through yard and heading straight towards the Aisha. A grey blur pierced the air. The Aisha screamed as the ghost’s translucent hands wrapped around her, muffling her cries. Shadowy light snaked out of the ghost’s limbs, encircling her victim.
Power and life drained into the ghost, her ears elongating as the senses she acquired flowed into her, sapped from the Neopian and fed into her lifeless veins.
Accomplished, the ghost dropped the Aisha. The girl’s fur was faded and pasty like the others. She would sleep like the others, too, only holding on to half the life she’d once had.
* * *
Officer O’Din sighed. “I don’t know how I can help you, Hyperion,” he said, “I gave everything I had to Judge Hog. Talking to Cory Jillian probably won’t be of much help, either; the most he said was that it looked like a ghost, and then he hightailed it out of here to the mainland.” The MIA officer shook his head. “Unless the ghost is still here, I don’t know how anything I have to give you could be of any assistance.”
Hyperion nodded. His entire flight to the island had been filled with doubts. And memories. The last time he had flown to Mystery Island, the flight had been an escape. Then he returned to the very prison he’d escaped from to save his sister from the mad scientist that still ruled it. He never wanted to return there, and coming back to Mystery Island only made his dark memories come back as well.
“Are you alright?” O’Din asked. He was a tall Ogrin, yellow maybe, tanned a rusty-orange from the bright sun he lived under, worked beneath.
“Yeah,” Hyperion said lightly. “I just haven’t been to the island in a while.”
O’Din nodded. “The heat and tropic air can do that to a guy.”
Hyperion smiled slightly in agreement, but it wasn’t just the heat that did him in now.
All eyes turned toward the door: A young officer, a starry Wocky with deep-blue fur, was fumbling with his hat.
“Yes?” O’Din said, his spine straightening and his crest rising erect.
“Another victim... ” Eyes widened, though none were the Wocky’s. “An Aisha... ”
O’Din jumped up, his fist slamming the desk. “It isn’t Jillian, is it!”
The Wocky shook his head. “No, no, it’s not him, sir, it... it was a woman. No identification yet, though.”
The presiding officer slid back into his chair, sighing. He nodded in thanks to the starry one and waved a hand to let him go. He turned to Hyperion, a mixture of anguish and hatred boiling in his eyes. “Think you can stand the heat a little while longer?”
* * *
Though the crime scene sat a few precincts from the MIA’s central station, O’Din’s being the head of investigation kept it in his jurisdiction. When he and Hyperion arrived, yellow ribbon bearing the words “caution: no entry” was wrapped around the scene and held up by wooden stakes. After pulling on a pair of rubbery, white gloves, O’Din lifted the ribbon and let Hyperion enter beside him.
“What have we?” O’Din said as he neared a speckled Aisha in a brown-and-blue uniform.
“Geraldine Wilde,” she announced.
“That’s her name?” he asked.
“No,” the Aisha said flatly, “that’s mine. We don’t know hers yet.”
The Ogrin raised his eyebrows, embarrassed. He held out his hand, shaking Wilde’s, and introduced himself. “Bryant O’Din, and this is Hyperion, from the Defenders of Neopia.”
Geraldine smiled at O’Din and nodded to Hyperion. “It’s an honor to be working with you.” The Shoyru felt blood rush to his face, and he hoped his green skin would hide his nervousness.
“Come,” Wilde said, turning around and motioning towards the scene itself. “The body was found by Marquise Hillon, who bikes by occasionally. He’s been questioned, didn’t seem suspicious at all, and was released. We’ve got his info, though, in case it’s needed.”
They reached the door front, and Wilde continued. “The woman’s been rushed to the healers. The neighbors are out of town, though, so we don’t know a thing about her yet.”
Hyperion stood by, listening, taking notes.
“What did she look like?” he asked.
“Like all the others.” Wilde sighed, shaking her head. “Her fur was matted next to her skin, flat and dry, falling out in clumps; discolored, a dull grey, sandy almost. No signs of assault, but signs of something. She was out cold, and—”
O’Din stepped forward. “You mean it was no different than the others?”
She threw her hands into the air. “Look around—see if you can find what I couldn’t.”
Hyperion looked up at her. “What have you found?”
She snorted. “Nothing.”
* * *
The ghost smiled: Her face stretched out awkwardly, no longer used to smiling. She stepped out of the shadows, fluttering on her new wings as she watched the officers talking. They would find nothing; she had left nothing for them to find.
And now, she would be elsewhere, and they’d only be looking at her tracks.
She flew up higher, her new wings unlike any of the wings she had once had. These were sleeker, stronger, more powerful than her old ones—her lost ones—had ever been. She flapped them again, pushing ever-higher into the sky. She turned away and shot forwards, savoring the wind that blew in her face.
Soon, the island fell out from beneath her and the ocean opened to her prowess. She had been lost there, on the island, abandoned there for so long. And now, at last, she was free.
* * *
Anthea lay back in her chair, a novel lying open in her lap. Night was falling outside and she hadn’t heard from Hyperion yet. Her telespeaker sat on the armrest to her right, and she could hardly concentrate on any word she read, let alone entire sentences and pages. Beaten, defeated, she closed the book and set it aside.
She lifted her telespeaker and closed her eyes. Hyperion, where are you?
He hadn’t been to Mystery Island since he’d flown there trying to find help to save her from the Secret Laboratory. She’d wanted to go with him this time, but he was adamant when he said she couldn’t come. She was forced to stay home again, just like she always was. She wanted to see the world, but all she’d seen since the Pound was the Lab and HQ.
The metal in her hands leapt upwards, vibrating loudly. Anthea jumped, too, startled, before she popped it open and pleaded, “Hyperion?”
“I’m here,” her brother answered. “Sorry I called late... We were discussing possible modes of conduct, what to do from here... ”
“How’s it going?”
Hyperion hesitated, his image upon the metal receiver looking away for a moment. “Another victim was found... ”
“What?” Anthea gulped, her eyes blown wide open.
“Yeah.” Hyperion sighed. “She’s unconscious, like the others. She was an Aisha, like the one who got away. We’re thinking these attacks aren’t random, but chosen by species.”
“Why?” Anthea asked, “Why would anybody do this?”
“I don’t know,” her brother said. “We’ve all been looking at the profiles we have, and nothing, nothing, Anthea, connects any them. They look random on the surface. There’s no reason behind them. The crime scenes aren’t related in any way. We... we don’t know what we’re facing here.”
“Please, Hyperion,” she swallowed uneasily, “be safe.”
“I will, I promise. I always am, aren’t I?”
“Yeah,” she whispered, and she knew it was true. For all his missions, he had always returned. Even when he’d won his freedom, he had returned to save her. And even then it hadn’t been enough: He’d risked his life to keep her from being a mutant Ixi forever.
The Shoyru sighed. “I’ve got to go now, Anthea... .I need to rest for tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” she whispered, “Okay. I’ll... I’ll see you soon.”
Hyperion smiled. “I’ll see you sooner.” His image flashed away, the connection terminated.
* * *
Hyperion sat with the other officers back at MIA Headquarters. They’d been sitting here for hours already, and the air had grown quiet. Hyperion was tempted to leave it be, but he knew it was better left otherwise. He said, “Is there no way we can track it, no way to even try?”
O’Din sighed, his orange mohawk drooping as he did. “I wish there was, but there doesn’t seem to be... The only idea I’ve got is to set up guards at every house when someone arrives home, but that’s practically impossible.”
Geraldine Wilde slid forward in her seat, scowling at the men around her. “We know that these three attacks were carefully chosen, but for what reason? If we can figure that out, we’ll have something to go on.”
O’Din shook his head. “The three Islanders were completely unrelated. The attacker is selecting victims by their species for another reason, a reason we don’t know.”
“Then let’s say—” Wilde was quickly cut off.
Everyone stared Hyperion, the metal object he pulled from his pocket vibrating and buzzing as loudly as it could. He wasted no time in opening it— “Hyperion!” Anthea’s voice screamed from inside it. “Help me!”
The room grew silent as the magical signal was lost.
Hyperion jumped up from his seat, “I’ve gotta go,” and ran out of the room before anyone could react. In only a heartbeat, he was out of the building and into the sky, flying as fast as he could towards his home, his sister.
Haste. He urged himself onwards, propelling himself faster through the open sky, each beat of his wings beating faster than the last. He called upon every ounce of Faerie magic he knew, every ounce of it until his reserves were empty and he could do no more.
* * *
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” the ghost hissed, her malevolent voice a slur of consumed shadows as her prey crawled around the room out of sight. “It’ll be painless, I promise... and I am notorious for lying and breaking my promises.”
She heard a whimper from across the room. She turned upon it, lurching forward and crashing into the thrown-about chairs in the room. She cursed to herself—the rat had tricked her, intentionally making sound to throw her off! The Gelert would pay, oh, she would pay dearly!
She snickered to herself as she rose upon her wings. It had taken only a short time to grow accustomed to them, and now she recalled fully how to fly. She’d flown so far, too, all the way from Mystery Island, all the way to the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters.
And that’s when she’d made her mistake.
She needed a kill, craved one: The streets were too crowded, it’d take days to plan an attack, and here in this little garden, a lone girl sat hidden behind the Headquarters. The chocolate-brown Gelert was drawing or something like that, looking distracted. But when she’d flown in to attack, the brat had seen her shadow, had leapt up and screamed.
Alone in the gardens, only they had heard, but that wasn’t enough.
The girl had seen her, could identify her, and she needed to be... disposed of.
The Gelert sprang forward, her drawing pad thrown to the padded-dirt beneath her. The ghost bent down and grabbed the paper, her mouth falling open, breathless. No, it could not be—but it was. Staring back at her, the very green Shoyru she’d spied upon on Mystery Island. She tore the pad in two and lurched after the Gelert: She was struggling to pry open the doorway, banging her fists against the glass and screaming.
Finally, a blue light flashed over the door and it swung open. The Gelert ran inside, and she flew in after her. Two Defenders ran to attack, but with a flick of her wrist and three punches, they dropped to the floor. Threat assessment: removed.
The stark white halls rushed around her, and she followed the brat into a stairwell. The girl was at the top already, and by the time she’d made it to the furnished boarding halls, the girl was slamming her door shut. The ghost sped forward and shoved the door inwards, throwing the Gelert back. But she’d leapt up and ran to the windows, pulling the shades shut in seconds, setting the scene for battle as she ran to hide in the shadows.
And here she was, hovering through the mock-darkness and slithering towards her mark. She pounced forward, grabbed the girl. “Gotcha,” she hissed. The Gelert squirmed in her grasp, but her screams were silenced as her fear, her life, was drained from her body.
* * *
“Stop it!” Hyperion yelled, throwing open his suite door and jumping inside. Across the room, the ghost tossed Anthea to the floor and spun around to face him. She stood in the shadows still, her eyes glowing. “What are you waiting for?” the Shoyru shouted, his heart racing. “Step into the light and show yourself already!”
“Fine,” a femme-fatale voice answered him, “as you wish it, so shall it be.” The figure stepped forward, stepping into the beam of light that fell in from the halls.
In grotesque shock, Hyperion stumbled backwards, his eyes widening. The ghost before him was hardly a ghost at all; no, it was much worse, a Faerie. But this Faerie wasn’t normal. No, she was far from normal. Instead of feathery wings, she had those of a Shoyru; instead of antennae, she had the ears of an Aisha; instead of hands, she had the ferocious, feline claws of a Kougra. The three victims from Mystery Island— everything suddenly seemed to fall into place.
“Who are you?” Hyperion yelled, trying to regain his composure.
“Oh, yes,” the Faerie said, “who am I?” She fluttered her wings. “I... I really cannot say, not anymore, at least.” She grinned, her fangs glinting in the light. “A better question to ask, though, would’ve been what am I.”
“What are you then?” The words had escaped his mouth without thought.
The Faerie snickered. “I was a Fire Faerie, dwelling in the island volcanoes, but that life was another: It’s who I am no longer.” She sighed heavily. “Now, now I’m just a Grey Faerie, but if all goes well, I won’t be for long.”
With a flap of her wings, a powerful wind cascaded across the room, rushing past Hyperion. He was unmoved, but behind him, the door was blown shut.
“It’s dark again,” the Faerie mused.
Hyperion was blinded, his eyes yet to adjust to the shadows. Unwilling to be held back, he jumped into the air and tried to navigate from memory. The room in shambles, he quickly rammed into an upturned table. He rubbed his head in pain, but staggered back to his feet. He tiptoed towards the back of the room, each step lighter than the last.
“With the ears of an Aisha,” the Faerie hissed, “I’m able to hear you, boy!”
Hyperion jumped upwards, nimbly dodging the Faerie’s sudden assault, and shot across the room. He rolled across the floor and landed by Anthea. He hissed her name, jumping up and kneeling down beside her. She didn’t respond, but he could still feel a faint pulse in her wrist. She was still alive. But the Faerie, she probably didn’t know this.
The Shoyru leapt onto his wings and flew around the room once more, not wanting to guide the Faerie back to Anthea. Once more, though, he crashed—this time, into the wall. He spun around, getting back on his feet, but the Grey Faerie stood over him already, her claws swiping towards him. He skirted backwards, dodging the attack, but fell into the corner. The Faerie snickered, stepping closer.
“At last,” she roared, “I have you! Be glad, too: You get to join your sister in the grave.” She threw her head back in laughter as tendrils of darkness shot up from the floor, snaking upwards and encircling around her until an aura of shadows thicker than he’d ever seen before swelled around her. Her wings grew larger, spreading out and shining darker. Her claws lengthened into fingers, the darkness empowering their ferocity. Her long ears withered and merged with her skull, keeping their pointed shape. Her tattered, grey rags were patched and fell around her anew.
A smirk crossed her face and she bared her new, shining teeth. Her arms crossed, she said, “I would thank you for this, but I would find that highly anticlimactic.” She held her hand out to the side, a shadowy flame erupting above her palm.
“Magic,” he panted, trying to call forth the light, any light.
“Magic won’t help you now!” the Faerie snarled. “For a long time, boy, I’ve been drawing on Dark Magic, draining life, gazing through darkness, but now, only now shall you see my true power.” She cackled loudly, the dark flame in her hand growing ever brighter but somehow darker still.
“No,” Hyperion grunted, “no, I... I won’t let you do this.” He jumped forwards, screaming as loudly as he could, “Magic Torch!” Light bellowed out of his fist, erupting in his heart and filling the room. His vision blurred: A scream pierced the blinding flash. When the lights faded at last, the Dark Faerie was gone.
* * *
“Are you feeling alright?” Hyperion whispered as Anthea opened her eyes.
She smiled up at her brother, but asked, “Where am I?”
“At the Defenders’ infirmary,” he answered. “How are you feeling?”
“Better,” she said with a yawn. “How... how are the others?”
Hyperion smiled. “Officer O’Din called this morning and said everyone was fine. So don’t worry, just rest some, okay?”
She was silent a moment, then her face faded. “Is... is that Faerie gone now?”
Hyperion looked away. “I... I don’t know but, but maybe, I hope so... ” He shook his head and turned back to his sister. “But it doesn’t matter, Anthea, just rest some, feel better.”
The Gelert smiled. “Alright, Hyperion, I will.”