The Statue Collector: Part One
You know how most scary stories start on a dark, dreary day when it just happened to be raining and always in some dreadful location like a cemetery or a haunted house? Well, my story doesn’t begin like that; I kind of wish it had. Perhaps then I would have known it was going to be scary, but things don’t seem to work out like that. My name is CoralWhispers; you can call me Coral, and I’m an Island Koi. Anyway, now that I’ve got the introduction out of the way, back to my story. It’s one worth hearing even if it doesn’t start out with the usual rain and gloom.
It was a beautiful day, not that uncommon around here, and I was swimming around in Maraqua. I don’t normally hang out there, even though I am a Koi, but I was checking out the shells shop. My mom, Silent, she’s a collector and I wanted to get her a present. However, they were all out and I was half tempted to stick around until they restocked. Only half tempted though as I’m an impatient neopet, and as such, I swam back out of the shop and just began to wander about Maraqua.
I’ve been warned before that this isn’t necessarily the brightest of ideas. Monsters and such lurk in the depths around Maraqua, but I wasn’t afraid of sea monsters. It wasn’t a sea monster that I needed to fear, but it didn’t really matter; I would soon learn the folly of my ways.
After enjoying the scenery but not really doing anything productive, I found myself on the outskirts of the city, where the water isn’t constantly stirred by other sea dwelling neopets. Instead, there were large rocks that cast shadows everywhere and an unnerving silence that was so different than the constant bubbles that were the heart of Maraqua. If I’d been a wise Koi, I would have turned back around and swum my fishy tail back to civilization. However, I was bored and still had a few minutes to waste before the restock, so I swam forward.
Here and there, beautiful formations of seaweed and kelp grew. Perhaps they were why I continued to swim farther away; I was always a fan of collecting rare and exotic seaweeds for the gardens at home and I couldn’t help but want to find more. I kept swimming and swimming though the water had grown darker and I could no longer see Maraqua behind me.
When I realized that the sun had to have set, for the water was now very dark and cold, it occurred to me that I needed to go back. Silent was expecting to pick me up at Maraqua and here I had wandered away. She might be worried, sending out TNT after me even as I was thinking I needed to head back.
But when I turned around, I couldn’t figure out which way was which; it was so dark and murky, you see. Suddenly, I realized the terrible mistake that I had made and desperately clutched Bubbles to me. Bubbles was my island peo who had made the foolish mistake of coming out with me today versus staying at home. Now, she too was lost with me in the dark ocean, where no one even knew I had headed out to because I was supposed to still be in Maraqua.
Trying not to give away how scared I was, not that I was really that scared, and not wanting to draw the wrong kind of attention, I called out, “Is there anyone out here who knows the way back to Maraqua?” Only the gentle noise of the ocean current whispered back to me and though it wasn’t a frightening noise, it certainly wasn’t comforting. What if there were no other neopets out here who would help me? What if I was the only neopet who was foolish enough to wander out to these parts?
It was more than I could bare and still clutching Bubbles, I plopped down on a nearby rock and cried hysterically. I was blubbering so hard that I at first didn’t notice her making her way towards me. Bubbles began whinnying anxiously and I finally looked up to see a soft glow coming through the tall rock formations. When it was closer, I realized that it was an Aisha mermaid with long dark hair tangled with shells and seaweed. The glow seemed to emanate from her skin, which was so white it seemed almost translucent.
“Why are you crying?” she asked, her voice sweet and soothing. Bubbles, who was extremely shy, darted behind me where I could feel her quivering against my skin.
Taking a deep breath, I blurted, “I was shopping in Maraqua for my mom and I got bored so I came out here, I was looking for pretty seaweed. But I got lost, all because I wanted to find some cool new plants to add to my collection and now I don’t know which way is which, and I’m so alone...”
The mermaid placed a webbed hand upon my shoulder, interrupting me, “Ah, so you’re a collector? I am too; would you like to see my collection?” Bubbles gave a sharp whinny and burrowed hard against my back but I ignored her. Sometimes, those little peos are just too much.
“Perhaps next time I’m out this way, I really need to get back to Maraqua so that I can go home with my mom. She’s probably really scared about where I am right now and I should really be getting back.” I knew how spastic I sounded, but I couldn’t stop myself. I know it’s unbecoming to be hysterical and all, but come on, I was lost in the dark and in ocean. No one but this mermaid knew where I was, how could I not be a little on the hysterical side?
“Oh don’t worry about it. Come back with me to my place. I live with a couple of Jetsams and they may know the way back to Maraqua. I, unfortunately, do not. I never have any need to venture away from my home so I just don’t. Calm down, though; I’m sure one of my Jetsam friends will be able to help you out.” She smiled warmly and pulled me by my fins up into a swimming position. She had such a kind, beautiful face that I was inclined to decide that going back with her was the best choice.
We swam through the dark waters. I was unable to see clearly, but she moved as if she had night vision. Following her, it was easy to avoid any of the obstacles that loomed up in the dark and presently, she lead me into a lit cave. The first room of the cave was clearly living quarters with a plush kelp couch and glittering jewels that glowed in much the same way as the mermaid did.
She left me to admire the living room and swam back into the farther rooms of the cave. When she reemerged, she explained, “My Jetsam friends seem to not be here at the moment; sorry, but we’ll have to wait for them to return. In the meantime, would you like to see my collection. I’ve worked many years at collecting the pieces and I suspect that I will work many years from now to get it just right.”
“Sure, why not?” I shrugged my shoulders. After all, we did have to do something while waiting for her friends to return. My hope was that they would be able to direct me back to Maraqua and not decide that I made a tasty Koi morsel.
I followed her into a long hallway and was stunned. Her collection was beautiful. She had incredibly lifelike statues of all sorts of neopets. I couldn’t figure out what type of stone the statues were made of; it looked almost like marble but seemed to glow and the details were astounding. Each piece was complete with scales, fur; it was like looking at the actual neopet.
“Wow, your collection’s amazing,” I breathed out and she smiled knowingly, patting a nearby Blumaroo. Its face was frozen in terror, huge eyes and open mouth, its paws help up imploringly.
“Where’d you find an artist that could render these in such detail out here?” I inquired; perhaps I could get to meet the impressive sculptor. I could even maybe bring them more business as I knew many neopets that would be willing to travel out here for such talent.
The mermaid smiled softly and said, “Oh, it wasn’t easy. By the way, I just realized that I haven’t introduced myself. My name’s Avawna and you, my little lost friend, are?”
Blushing at my lack of manners, I hastily replied, “Oh, I’m Coral and my little peo here is Bubbles. I didn’t even think about introductions, I was so stressed out about being lost.”
Avawna nodded understandingly and then pointed to the back of the hall, “See the doorway back there? There’s even more astounding statues back there, you’re welcome to go check them out. I’ve got to go see if I can reach my friends through a current spell. I’m kind of worried that they’re out and didn’t leave any message.” She didn’t wait for a response but swam away from my side. Being left with the option of drifting still or checking out the back room, I made the obvious choice and swam to the back room. It was dark inside and I hoped that it would light up or something when I swam in.
Afraid of knocking over her statues, I swam cautiously in. Suddenly, bars slammed into place in the doorway behind me, locking me in the confines of the dark room. Bubbles cried out in alarm and hid behind a statue while I shook the bars furiously.
“Avawna, I don’t know what’s going on but I’m trapped, help me,” I cried out, shaking the bars desperately but only silence greeted me. Presently, Bubbles swam out from behind the statue and nuzzled me through the bars. I don’t know how long I sat in the dark, staring out at the eerie neopet statues but my mind started playing tricks on me. I could have sworn that they would move when I looked away and I kept hearing whispering.
Finally, Avawna swam back in, causing Bubbles to hide once again behind the statues. “Help me,” I yelled, gesturing helplessly to the bars between myself and her.
A cruel smile twisted her pretty features and the Aisha laughed. “Oh come now, have you not figured it out? Not the smartest one I’ve caught, that’s for sure.”
“I... I don’t understand,” I stammered, so afraid that I couldn’t even begin to sort out my thoughts.
“Look around at my collection; do you really think some common “artist” could render such fine detail? Look at the fear in their faces, the stance of their poses. These were once living neopets, not just statues. Then they got lost in my part of the ocean or thought they could find treasure here. None of them ever left, as you can see, and so, neither shall you.” She rubbed a Maraquan Techo statue beside her who was curled protectively into a little ball, his frightened face peering out above his tail.
“How is that possible?” I gasped, suddenly shrinking back into the dark. I liked the dark much better than I liked where it was lit for now those statues were terrifying to me.
“I am Avawna, Sea Mistress of Magic, and with the help of a few ingredients, I can weave spells that would shame anything above or below water level. That’s how it’s possible. Lucky for you, I’m out of slorg tears and uni horns, but not for long. I needed to make a run to my friend’s and now I have an even better excuse. So, you can sit here and admire my beautiful collection, which you’ll soon be joining, while I swim and get the rest of my potion. Enjoy yourself.” She laughed and turned her back upon me as casually as if I were nothing but a wall. She was coolly letting me know that she didn’t consider me a threat of any sort and it stole away any hope I had of escaping.
To be continued...