The Imposter's Sympathy
Might make more sense with this. But I guess it’s not necessary.
It was the same. Her life was always, always the same.
Amelia braced herself, her smoke bomb tucked into the palm of her worn hands. She knew the drill. She knew how to win, or at least act as if it was a shock when she lost.
The inexperienced Ixi wobbled in place, her yellow eyes widening in terror at Amelia’s determined face. Amelia grinned maliciously at her opponent, although she did not feel any malevolence. Amelia smirked a grin of habit.
Amelia’s face reflected emotion, but her mind was entirely blank.
The Ixi fumbled in her coat, and then pulled out a Sword of Skardsen.
Amelia felt herself fly to the ground as the Ixi pretended to hit her.
She felt the overdramatic air rush past her face. She knew she was soaring, but she had not remembered pushing herself backwards. She hadn’t even felt the sword, so she knew that it had been her own reaction that had sent her toppling over.
The Ixi squealed in triumph, and ran away.
Amelia lay there, a crumpled ball of maroon Zafara.
She clung to the sword she had stolen.
Her eyes were open, but she did not see.
Her heart was beating, but she did not feel a thing.
She did not move. She did not say a word.
The Ixi hadn’t even noticed it. The Ixi hadn’t even noticed that her prized ten million neopoint sword was missing.
The Zafara Rogue was perfectly trained for the job of Battledome opponent.
But she could no longer remember how to feel emotion...
Amelia walked amongst the shadows to her cozy room at the Neohotel.
One foot placed after another. There was nothing more in her step. Nothing more in her mind. Her thoughts were blank. Had she stopped to think, she would have thought that her thoughts had always been blank, or at least for a long time.
Amelia stopped, and turned left. A young pet walked by, and she assumed the most threatening pose that she could.
The child’s pace quickened, and fear shown in his eyes.
Amelia walked to her door, and pulled out a bag of spare change. She had, of course, stolen it from the child she had passed seconds before. But there was no way for anyone to know that. Unless he had listened to his mother’s warnings about the Zafara thief of the night, he wouldn’t have assumed a thing until it was too late.
She was the best at her job.
This thought should have warmed her, but even that evoked no emotion in her.
She sat down at her elegant desk. She placed the sword in the largest drawer, along with all of the other hundreds of weapons she had stolen.
The Zafara Rogue was about to mechanically move from her desk. The chair was going to swivel around, and she was to stand up and walk to the shower as she always did after coming home.
Yet... something felt off.
If it was a burglar, she could laugh in their face.
If it was an unexpected visitor, she could slam the door.
If it was an intruder, she could defeat them in a heartbeat with a stolen weapon.
But that night, there was something Amelia had not dealt with.
Amelia knew what was wrong. Something told her to place her hand into her pocket.
Without explanation, she cautiously moved her hand down. She didn’t know what she was expecting. A bomb? A message, somehow slipped past the master of sneaking?
Her fingers hit metal. In one graceful movement, she pulled a locket close to her face.
It was as if her mind had been clicked on.
Her jaw dropped, and the proud Zafara Rogue was diminished to just... Amelia.
It had been six years. Six long years of mechanical malevolence. She had become the Zafara Rogue simply to afford food.
She had thought she had lost her necklace.
In her desperation, she had bitterly moved forward with her life, and soon the bitterness had turned into nothing at all.
But as she stared at the tiny, faded picture inside of it, her and her owner at Roo Island, all of her memories came back...
Running. Amelia had been running.
She had been running from the cold. She had been running from hunger.
Hunger shone in her eyes, consuming her every thought.
Pain gripped her insides, abandonment eating at her mind.
The hunger hurt. But it was the fact her old life was over that stung the most. She wanted nothing more than for her owner to come back. She had just desperately wished he had never left in the first place. She had run away, hurt and terrified of the future. And now she was in the forest, lost and freezing by the second.
Amelia had once clung to her morals more than anything else.
But now she was hungry. Now she was scared. Now she was hurt and lost.
Amelia felt herself fall to the ground, the blizzard blinding her and throwing her every which way.
She had stolen a cloak from an abandoned shack. It was this cloak that had kept her warm, but she had been mistaken for the legendary Zafara Rogue. And then, under this disguise, she had stolen food from a house.
One house in a vast village of equally starving people.
She had become the monster she had vowed to never become.
Amelia lay face down on the snow.
The brutal winds pushed her down. She curled up into a ball, shaking. She knew she couldn’t hide from the snow for too much longer. She knew she was horribly lost, without an escape...
A voice pierced the air.
“I know where the food is.”
Amelia looked up with a jolt. She couldn’t have been sure if she had really heard it or not.
“I know where you can find shelter.”
It didn’t matter where the voice came from.
Amelia would take any offer she got. Amelia would do anything to save herself.
“Where? Where?!” Amelia’s voice feebly wavered in the white blanket, eaten alive by the snow. “Who are you?” Her cries pierced the darkness, her broken sobs wailing for food and stability. The thought of how things had once been gripped her mind, the memory of her home at the front of her head.
Nobody could have heard her above the suffocating silence.
Yet there was a response.
“We need you. We need you for the Battledome. We’ve heard all about you...”
Amelia didn’t correct his mistake. Amelia didn’t point out that she was an imposter, the wrong Zafara for the job. Instead, she looked up, her eyes meeting the shadow that was forming before her. It was the outline of a Dark Faerie.
“I’ve... I’ve heard of the Battledome. What’s in it for me?”
The Battledome reminded her of her trip to Mystery Island’s Training School. It reminded her of sitting on the beach, laughing in a warm climate with her owner.
It reminded her of all she had treasured.
“You don’t want to be starving like them, right? This village once was proud. Now it is in ruin... “
It reminded her that she had nothing to lose.
“Come with me, and I will show you...” The faerie held out a hand, patiently waiting for a response.
Amelia wearily looked at the outstretched hand.
She took the hand, and allowed it to pull her up.
Amelia remembered the days when she had not been used to the cloak. Amelia had found the cloak – the coat that was the only reason anyone thought she was the Zafara Rogue – in an abandoned closet. She was not the Zafara Rogue. And she had thought she would never be a thief.
But desperation had led her to do funny things.
Amelia paused, looking at all of the items around her for the first time.
She had been here for six years. But, through the eyes of her past, she didn’t recognize a single item.
It was as if she was finally thinking.
She had stopped her thoughts. She had stopped her mind from running.
She had stopped the pain.
But, with remembering her final moments before her life at the Battledome, her final moments in her old life... she remembered everything she had tried to forget.
She could no longer walk around, a zombie incapable of feeling anything, when the pain in her memory had been so realistic.
It had been so easy to steal.
It had been so easy to let herself fall.
But now she felt shame. She had let her owner down.
Her owner had left because he was sick.
She knew he still didn’t care that she was alone, but she wasn’t doing any justice to his memory...
She had to get to bed. She had work in the morning.
But Amelia had another idea.
Amelia smashed in the window and crawled in.
It was her house.
It was home.
She had not been here since the day she had run away. And for all she could tell, not a single fork was out of place.
Everything was covered in an unimaginable layer of dust. Yet, as she scraped it away, she found that the paper on the counter was the shopping list she had written the very day she had left. Her owner’s books were still sprawled about the floor. He hadn’t even bothered to pick them up, or say a final goodbye.
Amelia had felt as if she was home, but she now knew she was not. She knew that this was no longer her home.
She knew that this place would never quite be the same.
She quietly walked upstairs, old habit kicking in. She knew there was no owner to wake up, but she still felt as if he was just lurking around the corner. She opened her door, the door moving as silently as ever.
Without further explanation, she curled up on the tiny bed.
Amelia shot up into the air, knowing something was wrong. She had been asleep for who knew how long.
She heard the footsteps pounding in her head, louder than her own heartbeat.
Someone was coming.
She moved her legs to fling herself out of bed, but it was far too late. A hand clamped over her mouth, and light blinded her eyes.
Amelia whimpered. The mysterious intruder flung her against the wall. She knew she could fight back... but something about her opponent told her that her usual tricks would not work.
Amelia looked up, her back throbbing.
She was looking into her own eyes.
The creature that stood before her was a carbon copy. The two were nearly identical, with the exception of a small scar on the other red Zafara’s arm.
The Zafara snarled down at her, preparing to speak.
“Thought you could steal from this house, too?”
Amelia tried to mask the confusion in her eyes. If she had learned one thing in her zombie state, she knew to let people keep talking.
The clone-like Zafara took a step forward. “Why aren’t you fighting back? I’ve waited six years for this. I’ve waited six years for you to be alone. For you to be defenseless. Your big mistake tonight was breaking into this house. Yeah, the neighbors heard you.” She grinned, insanity gripping her face.
Why do the villains seem to have nice long stories with their every accomplishment? Amelia shook her head, remembering how typical her story had sounded when she had first left the house. She was an abandoned Neopet, running away in overly dramatic pain and desperation.
Yet typical was no longer the word she was looking for.
“Your second mistake was taking my cloak.”
Amelia’s mind spun. This was why everyone had thought she was the Zafara Rogue? She had stolen from this identical twin, this reflection, six years ago?
The other Zafara stood over Amelia. Without another word, she yanked the Rogue cloak off, and placed it around her own shoulders.
Amelia did not protest. She just sat there, confused and in shock.
“You stole my life. You stole the one way I had to save myself from hunger.” The other Zafara barred her teeth. “I was supposed to get a job at the Battledome, but you took it. ME, Rachel. And you’ll never get this cloak back, for I’m the one thief better than you.”
It had never occurred to Amelia that she would be losing her job if the real Zafara showed up.
But now she didn’t really care.
What she cared about was this Rachel’s hand shooting towards her neck.
The cloak meant nothing to her. All of the riches of Neopia were worthless in her eyes. But her locket held memories. The locket held her world...
Amelia jumped into action. She screamed and dodged the Zafara, but it was too late.
The locket her owner had given her crumbled against the pull, and crumbled in the other Zafara’s arms.
“I assume that’s the only thing you’ve stolen from this house.” Rachel pushed Amelia closer to the window. “Well, get lost. Don’t let me see you ever again.”
Amelia felt herself fly backwards, falling out of the very window she had escaped from six years before.
Amelia landed in the snow, but due to her awkward landing, it still hurt.
Amelia lay there, crumpled once more.
But this time, she felt emotion.
She could not go back in. Surely, the real Zafara Rogue would find her.
She had no choice but to go into the forest. The Zafara Rogue would take her hotel room. The Zafara would take her life.
But it had never really been Amelia’s life...
As Amelia walked into the forest, it hit her that the village was gone.
It was not snowing. She knew she would have seen it. But there was nothing. Not even a trace of wood, or a forgotten shoe. The starving and weak population, destroyed by the Tyrannian War, had been long gone.
The houses had already been in so much decay that there hadn’t been much left to destroy.
So much decay...
Amelia grimaced. Her conscience was coming back.
She was hungry, but she knew that starvation would never again steer her thoughts.
She walked until it was dark. She shivered from head to toe, wondering why it always had to be cold when she got stuck in the desolate part of Tyrannia.
She could barely see. The darkness was about to suffocate her...
Terrified, she curled into a tiny ball and tried to sleep.
Meaningless walking was beginning to get on Amelia’s nerves.
She was tired and hungry and cold and scared all at once.
Yet she didn’t even begin to remember her Battledome days with a smile. She didn’t think, for even a second, that being emotionless was better than being out here.
“I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all.”
Amelia spoke her words to the air, bitterly cursing the world for working against her. Maybe she was even going insane. Yet she knew that what she said was true.
Even if it was going to hurt, even if she could starve... she wasn’t going to be a zombie. She wasn’t going to steal any more. She was going to live. And she was going to live honestly.
The clouds viciously smothered the sun, refusing to relinquish any heat.
Amelia shivered, and walked on. She had no idea where she was going... but she knew it was somewhere.
Towards the middle of the day, Amelia found herself at the base of a hill.
Shivering, she looked up. Her jaw dropped.
Off in the distance, she saw a familiar figure leaping across the landscape.
Amelia ran over, despite being too hungry to hardly run.
It was the carbon copy. The other Zafara. Rachel.
She looked hurt and confused. She looked... broken. And she was running. She was running for something.
Amelia’s curiosity got the best of her.
She followed her. She followed the one person who had to hate her. She followed the life she had stolen.
After much pursuit, the other Zafara leaned against a leafless tree and began to pant.
“What... what are you doing here? Don’t you know that you’re the idiot who got me into this mess?”
Amelia looked around, confused.
“They think I’m lying. They think that I’ve kidnapped you, and that you were the real Zafara Rogue all along...”
Despite Rachel spitting in her face, Amelia still felt a vague pity for her.
“That house you stole from... they caught me in there, and they thought that it had been me...” the other Zafara snarled, no longer looking civilized. She looked like a monster. “You constantly undermined everything I did. Did you ever think you might be hurting anyone else? The owner of that house came back yesterday, and...”
Amelia’s world froze. Her eyes widened, and she turned to face Rachel.
“Where is he?” Hunger, along with the need to see her best friend, shone in her eyes. “DO YOU KNOW WHERE HE WENT?”
Rachel drew back. When she spoke again, her words were less venomous. Something seemed to click in her mind. “He went... up that hill.” She pointed, sadness echoing in her voice. Amelia didn’t realize it then, but looking back, she would understand this to be the moment Rachel feared Amelia would run off. Rachel feared Amelia would disappear - without helping her. “I heard from the guards who are chasing me that he was coming back, just for today.” She then looked back at Amelia. Her next words came out as a whisper. “Please... do you think you can help me before you go? Prove to them that you did it?”
Rachel was a jerk. She was a brat, a thieving brat who beat up others for fun...
But didn’t Amelia become that too, in desperation?
Amelia wondered what had happened to Rachel. What had torn her down, destroyed her so much that she needed to be the Zafara Rogue?
Yet Amelia knew she was somewhat to blame...
Amelia looked up at the hill. She thought she could vaguely see a figure walking up it. She couldn’t figure out where he was going, but she knew she wanted to be up there more than anything.
But Rachel needed her down here.
Footsteps drew closer, pattering against the harsh landscape.
Amelia could run. Amelia could run, and still reach him. Amelia could run, and Rachel could get what she deserved.
“You can have your locket back.” Rachel gulped, trying to bribe Amelia into staying.
Amelia surprised herself and shook her head.
Despite everything screaming in her head, despite the primitive instinct to run, despite being drawn towards her memories, towards that hill... Amelia stood straight up as the guards surrounded them.
Amelia had not fought.
Now she sat behind bars. She was not punished for stealing on her way to and from work, or in the Battledome itself. That had been part of her job description.
But in the end, they finally decided that breaking into your own house and taking your own locket was against the law.
Well, she remembered, resting her head against cold cement, they don’t know it was my house.
Anyone would have thought Amelia to be crazy for not trying to break out of this prison as soon as possible. But fact is... it fed her.
And more importantly, six years of being a thief had caught up to her. She didn’t care if it was part of her job... she had allowed it to happen. She had stolen. And now she was going to sit in here for as long as they forced her to.
It’s not like I have any other place to go...
Until someone could prove it had been her house, she was stuck here.
Her eyes began to flicker shut. It was the moment she had realized this that someone came into view...
Amelia forced her eyes back open.
He was standing there. There was total shock on his face, and although he still looked so, so weak, and six years older... it was still the same owner underneath.
“Here’s the imposter that stole from your house.” The guard motioned towards Amelia with disgust.
He closed his open mouth. He looked right at Amelia, and tried to wipe the shock from his eyes.
“She couldn’t have stolen from my house.”
The guard looked at her owner as if he was crazy.
A grin broke across his face. And for the first time in years, he looked strong. He was glowing, the healthiest in the room. It was an honest grin, and the entire room warmed up.
That moment would be burned into Amelia’s mind forever.
“She didn’t steal from me... because she’s my pet.”
He hadn’t meant to leave. He had been sicker than he had shown.
And when he got better a year or two later, he came back into Neopia, ready to apologize to his pet. But I was gone. He looked all over Neopia, and the only pet he could find that was remotely like me was a thief. And he knew that a thief couldn’t have been his pet.
Thinking I had either changed color or disappeared, he continued asking around, only to give up a few years later.
He didn’t come back for years after that. He felt like he had destroyed all chances of reconciliation.
When he had come back last week, it was to be his last time. His last feeble chance.
And he would have missed it, had I not helped Rachel.
I guess everything turned out alright in the end. Our house has been finally dusted, although the window has not been repaired. And it’s starting to smell like home again.
I know that we can’t go back in time. He’s still weak, so he won’t be on as much as he had when I was younger. I won’t see him as much.
But he is back.
I am here to stay.
And I know I am loved.
Just now, he left again for a few days, stepping out into the cold air to put his life back together again.
But I know I don’t have to let the memories hurt me.
Because it’s time to start a new chapter.