Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 173,334,153 Issue: 404 | 7th day of Hiding, Y11
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Obscure Deceptions of a Lonely Offender


by tykaios

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Screaming shatters the peaceful oblivion of a young Blue Techo who, up until a moment ago, had been sleeping in a small room on the second floor. He awakens in a state of deep confusion, which only increases as he races to the window and is unable to see anything especially out of the ordinary. There is no smoke, no fire, no monstrosity from the Haunted Woods. All the same, pets are spewing from their homes to race down the panicked streets, a chaos which quite remarkably resembles a flock of upset Peadackles. The scene strikes him as rather humorous, until things grow considerably darker. In a very literal sense.

     The sky, which had previously been the rich navy tone that almost always heralds the breaking of sunrise, fades and deepens until it is a curiously dark gray. Before his disbelieving eyes, shadows pour from what seems to be the Bakery, writhing and shifting before taking the shape of slightly twisted and elongated pets. They begin to move in a flitting manner, crawling about on the walls of houses and slipping along the pathways. With a gasp, he pulls away from the window and slams the shutters closed. Being a rather timid creature, he decides that his best option is not to flee and certainly not fight, but instead to hide. He runs to the door and locks it quickly before diving beneath his bed.

     He immediately finds himself staring into a grinning, orange face and can't stifle the shriek of terror that rips from his throat. As he stares in horror, however, he slowly comes to realize that it is not some terrible monster, but simply the Orange Fuzzle he had lost months ago. His heart pounding, he gives a gasp of relief, and clutches the fuzzle close to him, curling up into a trembling circle.

     It is a long while until the screaming fades to silence, and even then he refuses to move. He lies there for hours, maybe days, shivering and staring into the blackness with a wide, unblinking gaze. Deep shadows of strain form beneath his sleepless eyes, and his limbs grow stiff from the constant contraction of his muscles.

     At last he can bear it no longer and slowly, slowly pokes his head out from beneath the covers hanging off the side of the bed. A dusky grayish light feathers through his widow shutters, gently illuminating the room with an eerie glow. A tremor trickles along his spine. Ever so slowly, he approaches the window. Carefully, carefully, his long, cold fingers inch way the slats, and he peers out into the silence of the night.

     His throat catches, a slight glurping sound working its way out.

     The city is entirely empty.

     The buildings and landscapings remain pristinely intact. The rosebushes across the street with their delicately-closed buds unharmed, every house exactly where it belongs. Not a sound can be heard, whether inside or out. A strange sort of horrified excitement tingles through him and, in a moment of courage, he rushes to the door, removes the lock, and flings it open. The corridor is as dark and empty as the view through his window. He begins to tiptoe through, stepping carefully over the creaky boards.

     "Mr. E?" he whispers to the house, "Miss Terry?"

     All that responds is his own trembling voice, echoing and increasing as the waves of sound bounce off the empty walls.

     He descends the stairs, wincing at every crackle of the step, his hand clutching the railing. He slips across the cold, marble floor, soundless as he comes to the double-door. His fingers rest briefly upon the comfortingly solid wood before pushing. The door creaks open. A single shaft of light bursts through, laying obtrusively upon the floor.

     Deep breath in. He pushes the door fully open, steps out onto the front porch.

     He stands in awe of the sheer sensation of aloneness. There truly is no one here. It abruptly occurs to him that he could do whatever he wanted and no one would see him. He could shout at the top of his lungs and never be heard.

     With a heady rush of euphoria brought on by such a discovery, he runs out into the street. The buildings so familiar to him now seem to rise up menacingly on either side, looming over him, their sharp, geometric shapes silhouetted by the dimly glowing light of the sky.

     The moon bleeds pale through the clouds.

     He races wildly, leaping and dancing, whooping and yelling. He throws open the door of a house and gallops in, laughing as he grabs dishes from the cupboards and shatters them on the wall. Rushing out, he picks up several stones and throws them, most missing, but a few hitting their mark with a violent shattering.

     He could have, would have, continued on like this for hours, but he instead comes to an abrupt stop in his crazed path. There, less than four meters away, sits a small Usul. Its fur is darker even than the buildings around it, and at its small neck is a thick scruff of deep purple fur. He feels suddenly embarrassed to have been caught in his wild dance, and frightened by how the Usul is staring him. Pale yellow eyes, wide and blank.

     "H... hello," he stammers.

     The Usul stares. The scruff shifts slightly as a gentle wind whistles through. He's already taken a step back when a small, soft voice stops him.

     "Will... you play with me? Please... I'm so very lonely. All I want is someone to play with..."

     He stares as the pale eyes widen, taking on a strange timidity as their owner awaits his response.

     "What do you want to play?" he asks.

     "I'm so lonely. Please... I just want someone to play with."

     "O... Okay," he says.

     "Please... they all left. They don't want to play with me. I'm so very lonely."

     "Alright!" he raises his voice, "I said I would play with you."

     Those eyes. Wider, wider, even more beseeching. Begging from the very depths of the creature's soul. Pale and yellow in his thoughts. Piercing. So... piercing...

     "Let's play hide and seek."

     That voice. So shrill, so shrieking. Commanding. He won't refuse. Can't refuse.

     "I am so very lonely."

     Loud and mocking, ricocheting through his head. So... so lonely? But...

     "Let's be best friends."

     No... he already has a best friend... doesn't he? Can't seem... to remember, everything is so dark. And those eyes. And that voice. Eyes...

     "Great! I'll hide first."

     His lips begin to move of what seems to be their own accord. Sound emits. Counting. Counting?

     "One... two... three..."

     She's gone.

     He stops. The town is changing, altering, growing. The houses stretch, meeting at the top, hiding the faint sky in their darkness. The trees wither and curl, branches twisting and knotting into horrible claws. The flowers spread enormous, colors fading to nothingness. Colors for which there are no longer any words.

     The moon bleeds black through the building tops.

     This is only a nightmare. It has to be. It can't be real.

     Can't be.

     He stands in a narrow, dark tunnel. Distorted windows and black vines twisted to form the walls. He begins to walk, hurries to a run. Within moments, or perhaps minutes, he comes to an end from which sprouts a left pathway and a right pathway.

     Left, left, forward, right, left, back, right, forward, right.

     He loses track of how many turns he has made, how long he's been running. The tunnels become rooms and the rooms become tunnels. Twisted faces staring at him from behind broken glass. Shadows flitting around every corner. Flashes of purple fur. He can't find her. He stops. Sinks to his knees.

     "Where are you?" he screams to the world, a tear sliding down his cheek, "Where are you?"

     A high, squealing giggle answers him from every direction. A shadow turns in a corner.

     Years must have gone by.

     He comes to a room filled with mirror after mirror. He steps inside, and instantly his reflection is cast infinitely throughout the room. Such a sad, sorry Techo that stares back at him. Eyes are red from crying, bones aching from running. A few steps and there is no difference between the original and the endless copies. He reaches out to the closest mirror, a strangled sob hiccuping in his throat, and touches it. The mirror shatters and disappears, leaving behind a... hole. An empty space in the air.

     He runs to another mirror, another, another. Each one breaks beneath his touch, and through their collective spaces he sees... he sees...

     The wall of his room.

     "This... is an illusion," he whispers, "All of this... none of it is really here."

     And he ceases to trust the lie.

     Instantly, the illusion shatters, bits and pieces dripping down the ceiling and walls like a wet painting. He is standing in the middle of his own bedroom, the light of the early sun only just beginning to peer through his window.

     And then he sees her, huddled in the corner.

     "It was all fake?" he asks. "But... but why? Who are you? What do you want?"

     Those deep, imploring eyes have no power over him any longer. He sees her for what she is.

     "I just want someone to play with," whispers the Shadow Usul, "I am so very lonely..."

     And she is gone.

     From the room next door, he can hear peaceful snoring. Gazing through his window, he sees the few early-risers staggering sleepily about their morning duties.

     Less than an hour later, the sun rises a beautiful shade of scarlet. Its brilliant light is cast across the peacefully oblivious form of a Blue Techo, asleep on the second floor.

The End

 
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