Tween Dusk and Dawn: Part Two
Midnight struck Neopia. Dr. Frank Alfonso Ferdinand Magellan Sloth stood before the wide window of his spaceship, peering out over the expanse of Neopia that would soon be his. Correction: The vast expanse of Neopia that already was his.
It was simple, really, his rise to power. He’d planned his fall to the Space Faerie years before in Y2. He’d planned it all fifteen years in advance, and he had dozens of folders of plausible outlines still waiting to be put into action stored safely away in his space station. Hailed worldwide as a laughingstock, a failure as a villain, it had been easy to rig Neopia with vaporizing explosives that would destroy the planet with the press of a button. From there, a few well-wise words to world leaders, and—badda-bing, badda-boom—the world was his.
But a peaceful take-over was beneath him. He needed mayhem, destruction, a reason for people to fear him as he had once been feared. Yes, they should all fear him, for now he owned them. Yes, he owned them all now.
“My lord?” a voice said. “Master Supreme—”
“Enough,” Sloth said and raised his hand: the messenger fell silent. “I have had six years too many of all your babbling. I shall be called by one name now, and by one name only: Lord Sloth, Emperor of Neopia.”
“L-lord Sloth?” the messenger said.
“The ships are armed and ready, awaiting your signal.”
Sloth smiled: His lips curled upwards and his face was skewed.
“Tell them to fire.”
* * *
“Hey, guys,” Commet said slowly, “what’s that green light outside?”
“Give it up, Commet,” Stella said. “We all know you were just making up that story about Sloth coming back. It’s boring now, old already, so just give it a rest, will ya?”
“No, seriously, guys,” Commet said and walked towards the window. “What’s that green light outside?”
“Commet, I said—” Stella stopped talking. She’d turned to face Commet and had caught sight of the window, of the placid green glow rising in the distance and flooding outwards across the sky.
“Holy Fyora, what’s going on?” she said and ran up to Commet. She pressed her hands against the window and drew her eyes closer, watching as ripples of green lightning tore through the blanketing storm clouds outside.
“Daddy,” Ash said and tugged at Mic’s pants leg, “what’s happening? Are we gonna die?”
“We’re not going to die,” Mic said and scooped up Ash and held him tight to his chest. “I’m sure it’s just some fireworks, that’s all.”
“Mic,” Commet said, “this is no fireworks display.”
“He’s right,” Stella said quietly. “It’s definitely not fireworks.”
“Then what it is?” Jasmine said as she pushed past Mic to reach the window. She jumped up, her wings buzzing as she repositioned herself on the drapes to get a better look outside. “Dad, I think they’re right—these are definitely not fireworks.”
Mic nudged himself in between Stella and Commet and held his face closer to the window to peer outside. “Whatever it is,” he said, bemused, “it’s certainly—” He stopped talking. The silver hull of some spaceship had emerged from the clouds and a sphere of green light had begun to gather at its bow. Thunder shook the sky and the green orb shot forwards in a stream of smoke and grey-green lightning sailing straight towards them.
Mic swallowed and felt himself back away from the window. “Come on,” he said, coercing the bravery from the depths inside him. “Come on—get down!”
The window shattered; a green light filled the air. Dust and debris blew up from nowhere and swirled around them, a gale of deadly shrapnel spiraling around them. The earth shook beneath them as the house above them crumbled on top of them, the accompanying din somehow even more deafening than the explosion that had ripped through them upon impact.
And then as quickly as it had all occurred, it was over. Mic was on his back; Ash was wailing in his arms. Mic took a deep breath, tears on his own face after such an ordeal, and forced himself to loosen his grasp on Ash to not squeeze the breath from his purple-Lenny body.
Mic sat up and looked around. The house was gone, blown to smithereens and sent asunder.
“Commet?” he yelled. “Stella? Jasmine?”
There was silence, then a crumbling sound. Mic moved towards it and helped pull a fallen wall to the side. Commet stood up from underneath it, his arms wrapped tightly around himself. His sisters stood slowly as well; Stella felt her face where a small gash graced her cheek, while Jasmine shook the debris from her hair and began swiping the dust off her jeans.
“You alright?” Mic asked.
“We’re okay,” Stella said, putting her hand down. “At least as okay as we can be.”
“But what are they?” Jasmine said and stepped forwards, pointing up towards the sky. Mic turned around and looked upwards: Silver spacecrafts graced the sky, aligned in an arrow formation. At set intervals, spheres of green energy sailed off in different directions, the distant thunder spawned from them rumbling the ground and echoing over the small family.
“It’s Sloth,” Stella said slowly.
Commet stuck out his tongue. “Told you so.”
“Commet,” Mic said, “not now. We—we need to—” He stopped talking, looking down at his arms. Ash was gone. He looked up and saw a tractor beam shooting out from the frontmost ship towards the ground fifty yards away—rising in its center, wailing and flailing, was Ash.
“Ash,” he screamed, running forwards and jumping upwards just as his child rose out of reach—“Ash!”
* * *
“Hey, Ash, wake up.”
Ash felt a hand shaking him and sat up groggily. “What time is it?”
“Almost midnight,” Mic said to him.
Ash blinked and jumped to his feet. “It’s almost midnight!” He looked around, saw everything was as it’d been before, and then rushed up to the window and pressed his face against it. “Where’s Sloth? Has he attacked yet?”
“I told you,” Commet said, “he won’t attack till midnight.”
Stella walked up to Ash and patted him on the shoulder. “Sloth’s not attacking, Ash. It’s just a story Commet made up to scare you.”
Ash took a breath and sighed. “Good, I almost thought he was attacking before I woke up. I was being abducted. And his middle name was Alfonso.” He shook his head.
“Come on,” Stella said, “let’s go watch the end of Fyora’s New Year’s special.”
“Okay,” Ash said and jumped away from the window and ran back to the Neovision set across the couch. He slid down on his knees and scooted up so close to it that the tip of his beak almost touched the screen.
“Anyone want cheese and crackers?” Mic asked as he carried in the tray of snacks.
“Sure,” Commet said and lunged for them. Stella lunged after him and both crashed into Mic and sent him tumbling backwards. The tray flew into the air, turned over twice, and finally clattered on the floor. Jasmine walked up to the mess and lifted the only unscathed morsel left on the tray and popped it into her mouth.
“Tastes good,” she said. “Thanks.”
“It’s almost midnight,” Ash shouted and jumped up to point at the screen with his wing. “Quick, you’re gonna miss it!”
Mic struggled to his feet and after frowning at the mess they’d all made, he joined his four children at the Neovision set. The countdown had already begun and they were already down to seven.
“Six,” Stella said.
“Five,” Commet said.
“Four,” Jasmine said.
“Three,” Stella said.
“Two,” Mic said.
“One,” Ash said.
* * *
Midnight struck Neopia. There was silence over Meridell. No spaceships. No green orbs of energy. No Sloth. The sky was tranquil, the cool wind serene. No explosions. No debris. No rampant destruction. There was only silence.
“That was boring,” said Ash.
Just then, beams of multi-colored light shot up around Grand Faerieland Central Park on the Neovision and Ash’s eyes lit up as he jumped towards the screen. So many lights. So many pretty lights.
“That was fun,” Ash said after the display had come to an end and the shining shapes and clusters of fireworks still shone on his eyes. “What now?”
“We have a few more crackers,” Mic said, “and then we clean up and go to bed.”
“Oh,” Ash said. He stood up and walked back to the couch where Jasmine was sitting in the corner seat. “You didn’t tell us about your first New Year’s yet.”
Jasmine smiled, a rare sight. “I guess I didn’t.” She grinned. “I don’t know if it was my first or not, but it’s the first one I really remember, at least.”
* * *
I was still a blue Kacheek back then, when Y6 turned into Y7, and Fluffy still lived with us—she was our foster sister, a yellow Wocky; she left before you came around, though, Ash. Anyways, we were invited to a New Year’s party at a friend’s house in Brightvale that year.
I didn’t know them so well, so I wasn’t too keen on going, but Dad said we were all invited, so I went along. Fluffy and I stayed pretty close together, since we were practically the same age. The house was really big, so she and I thought it would be fun to go exploring.
“Did you see any wardrobes?” Ash asked.
Jasmine shrugged. “We saw a few.”
“Did you play in any?”
“No.” She snorted. “Why would we do that?”
We went upstairs and found a massive room with incredible stained-glass windows in it. There were Noils and witches and we spent hours making up stories about princes and princesses as we imagined what stories the windows told.
“You, princesses?” Commet crossed his arms and laughed.
“Shut up, Commet,” Jasmine said.
“Fine, I just can’t imagine you liking princesses—”
“It was a long time ago, okay?!”
It was dark when Dad came looking for us and took us down to dinner. We sat at the kids’ table next to a pink Aisha who wanted to tell everyone’s fortunes. We ignored her at first and started talking about the stories we’d made up, but then she turned to us and said she made up stories, too. We all started talking and we had a really great time. After dinner, we all ran up to the room with the windows in it and our stories were even better than before.
The next time Dad came to get us, it was almost midnight. There wasn’t Neovision back then for people to watch the Faerieland fireworks on, but there was a local fireworks display at the motery. We put on our jackets and scarves and went to stand around it; they lit the motes on fire and tossed them into the sky where they exploded in awesome shapes and colors.
Soon after that, we started off for home and—
* * *
“Hey, hey, quiet down,” Stella said and jumped up to the Neovision set to turn up the sound.
Everyone turned to look as a Fire Faerie appeared on the screen next to a reporter who was asking how she coordinated the display so well year after year.
The Fire Faerie smiled. “It all goes back to the eve of Y6, the first year I coordinated the fireworks. I was so nervous before the show, I almost didn’t come out. But this little red Shoyru found me and encouraged me to just get out there and do my best. I owe all my thanks to her.”
Everyone in the room turned to face Stella.
She shrugged. “Told you so.”
Have a great Y11, everyone! Best wishes to all of you.