Scable Runes - Truths for the Liar
Why? Why must they always ask why?
'How'. I could write you a book about how. 'When' is really not important, not unless you like to dig things out of the ground and then stick labels on them.
And if you are one of those diggy people, can I borrow your spade? My ship's buried in a hill, see. No? Oh, you don't have a spade. You have a thing called a trowel? And a 'trowel' is a little small? Well, I'd guess a spade would be a little small too; my ship is a big large. So is the hill.
You're no help, you know.
Sorry, I intentionally forgot to introduce myself. I'd be Scable Runes. Might be. You might be Sally Acres, but that would be quite a coincidence. Back in my chalk-dusted school years, I was known for a time (and known well) as Rable Scunes. Those who didn't like me called me Rabid Scones. That's a fair variety of names, don't you think?
I've also been known as Mawf, by one of them who used to call me a rabid scone and later chose to be my friend.
Oh and I'm a Buzz, pirate by colour. I'm not so young that 'And how old are you?' is one of the first questions someone will ask me, but not so old that I never avoid an inquiry with a grin. I'm blind... and unfortunately not psychic, much as I fantasise. So no, you really shouldn't worry about my redly shiny eyes, because they ain't watching you. But I am listening for you. I can smell you, and your shape is disturbing the air something terrible.
Back to the friend. Really, when you come right down to it, there's not much to say about him. I shan't name him. He thought it was a wonderful joke and was a great help, right up until it stopped being funny. There was a lot of joking along on my own after that, though he did make a second appearance, later, in order to spread lies of truth and spoil one of my smoothest tricks yet.
Being blind, see, has advantages and disadvantages. Myself I find the dis outweighs the ad. Being blind and deaf is another matter. Especially if you stumble fortunately upon some kind village folk who are only too happy to take a poor, burbling man under their wing. I find it's a lot simpler if I also pretend I can't string a coherent sentence together.
This might be the time to mention that when I told this story to Chris Gilt (known in her unfortunate youth as Chrysanthemum, before escaping motherly clutches), she informed me I was an insensitive wasp. Not only had I taken advantage of goodness, I had insulted anyone unlucky enough to be born with incomplete faculties. This I delighted in, before pointing out that I too had been born with incomplete faculties and I managed to find the whole thing hilarious. So there. That clearly put an end to that line of reasoning, right?
It doesn't really work, does it? Being witty is all very well, but the wit will tend to take the form of an incomplete answer. And what about the 'taking advantage of goodness', hmm?
There have been times, a lot of times, when I really didn't care. I just didn't. In fact, I didn't care when I was pretending to care. See, I grew bored a little while after my friend's interruptions. I wandered. I even wandered back to my ship, dug myself a way in and set about making it homely. But do you ever see wasps stopping in one place for long? I decided to try something different. Something one or two slightly consequential people had encouraged me to do along the way. I made myself presentable (I'm told my style of dress is freaky, man, freaky), chose a destination, and went there with all my enthusiasm focused on being nice and telling no lies.
I chose Neopia Central. From a distance it looked fun, although in fact most people walk around with glum 'I did this yesterday and the day before and look, I'm doing it today' expressions. I know because expressions aren't just something you see. They're mini atmospheres, emanating from every person's bubble of privacy.
I did get lucky. Or unlucky, depending on how you look at it. I certainly thought it was lucky at the time, though it wasn't long before I thought it depressingly un so. I met Chris Gilt, see. As it happened she tripped over me. I was in a park, lying between a couple of despondent trees, and let me tell you, it's amazing what people don't see if you stay perfectly still. I'm in the habit of staying stiller than most people ever do, because it helps with listening. There was no bright square of a picnic blanket and Chris was in a hurry to get back to work, cutting across the grass with her arms weighed with folder, coffee and sandwich.
She didn't take kindly to falling over me, though neither did my ribs. Snarls were chased from her mouth by apologies as she scrabbled to save her coffee and pick herself and everything else up.
In my desire to be nice and tell no lies, I was all smiles. I told her it was probably my fault for lying in an odd place (nice) and that I'd been enjoying the smell of the grass (truth). The smell of the grass, Scable? Are you sure that's normal behaviour?
There was silence from Chris while she took this in, shuffling her rescued things in her arms. Then she crouched down, her load sliding back to the ground as she lowered her head and breathed in the grass.
I learned later that she was a gardener, though she waved this away as inconsequential. She admitted to never having paid much attention to the park grass before, assuming it to be half dead from the many feet that trample it 365 days a year.
Chris was around my age, though she was four foot and still retained a Yurble baby's thick, cyan furring – as she told me, though I don't tend to pay much attention to what species a person is. She was, perhaps inevitably, sarcastic. But the sarcasm only ruled her brain; her heart was kind. She stood little nonsense, especially not mine.
Of course she didn't hang around long in the park that day – she had her work to get back to. I followed her, surreptitiously. I felt I'd stumbled upon someone I could befriend, someone I might be able to do nice and honest things for. I was determined not to lose her.
I made no secret of my following her over the next few days; it would have been hard not to. She didn't particularly appreciate it, sadly. I don't suppose anybody would. I guess, after all, I'm not the most likeable freak on Neopia. Apparently I'm very annoying, I have no sense of personal space, I make too many jokes, people stare at us, and I don't take no for an answer. Chris calls these things bad qualities. Oh, and she thinks I lie and make things up. This is the unlucky bit, see? I tell her the truth and she doesn't believe me. I told her about how my ship was buried in a hill.
It's a simple enough tale as far as I can remember, though I was only little at the time. Some catastrophe landed the ship in the side of the hill and the crew promptly mutinied and left, abandoning ship, myself, and a body. They hadn't forgotten me; they just hadn't made a point of remembering me. I was the captain's brat – who cared? I didn't. I'm sure if I met any of them now I'd find it necessary to punish them, but to be perfectly honest, I wasn't bothered at the time. I trotted down to the nearest village and, due to my tender age and lack of sight, was looked after and effectively adopted by a very nice family. Suddenly I had brothers and sisters. And then there was school, which I've already mentioned and which was great fun. I could annoy everybody and get away with it, at school.
I think Chris's suspension of disbelief was killed by the ship-landing-in-a-hill part. I bought her a book about Shenkuu and the Cyodrake's Gaze, which convinced her for a short while, before I admitted my ship definitely hadn't been a flying ship. I tried to have her come to the Lost Desert so I could show her the thing, but by that time she was treating everything that came out my mouth with suspicion.
Being honest, I decided then, was pointless. Nice I might give a second chance. As it was, I shouted some horrible things at Chris and stormed off. I sent her a letter or two, but it was months before I dared show my face again.
By then she had secured a good job (as 'horticultural supervisor') at Key Quest, working behind the scenes to make sure the plants looked just so from one day to the next. She put on a cynical, weary front, but it was obvious she was happy. It didn't take much badgering before she grudgingly agreed to meet me for lunch, which was maybe surprising, considering how I looked; I'd returned to wearing what I liked best and was back in my scruffy pirate clothes, my hair was in a spiky orange mohawk, and I wore the kind of mask most people only bring out on the 31st of October. Please don't ask why.
At lunch I told Chris a story that was clearly made up, but which we both enjoyed anyway. I felt we had reached a compromise of sorts. Then she told me she wouldn't be in town in two days' time, as she was being sent to the Lost Desert to inspect the plant life for possibilities in a new Key Quest environment. The Lost Desert. Really, Chris? And would it be all right if I showed you my ship while you're there? After giving me a long, hard stare (which must have been a novel experience, considering all she could stare at was the mask) she said it would.
I was as excited as a kid – right up until late afternoon three days later, waiting on the outskirts of the village (some way north of Sakhmet) I'd grown up in, when apprehension hit me in the guts. I rolled a mental eye and reminded myself I had nothing to worry about; Chris would not be able to disbelieve the ship's existence once she'd seen it.
But once she sees it... she won't just see a ship. She will see my home, the place I'd always returned to when I didn't know what else to do. She will see the detritus of my life sprawled across the floor, along with all the sand – clothes I used to wear, books I used to read (raised print), sketches from when I thought I could draw and a million other things. Far too personal for one who hides behind jokes and lies.
So what did I do? I abandoned waiting for Chris and scarpered up the hill. I kept any eye on the Sakhmet road, hoping I wasn't too visible against the yellow. Around the cliff, down the dip beyond and up again. I'd built an igloo's way in, leading to a smashed hole in the hull, when I'd returned the first time. Ineptly, and with excess wood, but it had held up. Now I found it and dug the narrow mouth free of sand, then scrambled through.
It was always good to be back. Familiarity is a warm, comforting thing. It smelled of heat, and shade, wood and dust. And animal droppings. Sand slithered beneath my boots as I walked the slanted gradient of the floor. Boards creaked. The acoustics had always been quite good down here, two floors below a sand-choked deck.
I sat on the steps leading up to a closed trapdoor. 'What now?' sprang to mind. What happened next certainly gave me something to do, and I only had to wait a few minutes.
There was scrabbling outside, around the entrance tunnel. An animal, I thought, before whatever it was came scrambling awkwardly inside. The someone pulled itself to its feet by the boards of the hull and looked around. It wasn't Chris, I knew that much. The breathing wasn't Chris's – was probably a man's, in fact.
Whoever it was took a step toward me, so then I was sure he had spotted me. Whoever it was said, "Runes." So then I knew he was somebody from school. Not the friend I mentioned though; I would have recognised that one's voice, and I didn't recognise this one.
"You are Scable Runes, aren't you," said the man. It was barely a question.
"Might be," I said. "And who might you be?"
"Tren Jawcaste. Remember? We were in the same class."
"Oh yeah." Propping my elbow on the next step up and propping my head on my hand, I made sure to be looking right at him. Tren Jawcaste would be finding himself focusing on the one overlarge, bulging eye of the mask. "I remember."
Tren took two more impatient steps forward.
"It's been a while," he said, all in a rush and with no proper sincerity.
"Yeah. Hasn't it." I smiled lazily. Going at the wrong speed never grew old. "But I still remember your face after you drew that picture on my notebook and then actually looked at what was in the notebook."
Impatient intake of breath through nose. "Yes, so do I, look, Scable, I came here for a – "
"No, you don't," I said.
"What? Yes, I do actually – "
"You didn't see yourself," I pressed, "so you can't possibly remember what your face looked like."
"Neither can you," said Tren.
I grinned hugely and bounded to my feet. "Funny that, eh! Did you want something or are you going to leave now?"
"Well, yes, I – "
"Leave," I snarled, advancing on him.
"But – "
"Erandorn came to speak to me!" shouted Tren, grabbing at the edges of the hole and the only escape route. "He told me what you are and that people need warning, and I agreed to spread the word, but no one quite believes me. They don't understand why anyone would want to do the things you do."
Erandorn, the friend I wasn't going to name.
"So?" I said blankly. "You want a signed confession?"
"Well..." I could feel his eyes on me, tentative but hopeful. "I'd quite like to know why."
Why. He'd quite like to know why. How nice.
I took a breath. "Get out!" I lunged at him and he dodged, ducking into the hole and scrambling back through the tunnel. I scrambled after him, barely noticing when I banged my head at the end. I could hear my heart beating in my head, so who knew where my brain had gone. In the open once more, I started in pursuit of Tren and crashed into him before I'd gone five paces, sending us both slithering down the slope a little way before we could find out feet.
The distant shout had me sitting up, swivelling toward the sound. Tren staggered to his feet and took off at a run, but I didn't care. I think he shouted something at Chris as they passed. I don't know if she replied.
She was breathing none too lightly by the time she reached me. Short legs.
"Hello," I said, as she knelt in front of me.
"Hi." The tone suggested raised eyebrows. "Are you okay?"
"Might be." I think I was grinning. Not sure why, to be perfectly honest. "You want to come in? Grace my humble abode?"
Her head turned, probably toward the tunnel's snout poking from the hillside.
"Sure," she said, getting to her feet. "But who was that guy?"
'Just some creep' was tempting.
"I used to know him, at school," I admitted. "I'll tell you about him if you like, but there's some other stuff that comes first."
In the end I quite liked getting it all out, and clarifying which bits were true and which weren't. You'd be amazed what you grow to half believe when you go around telling everyone else it's fact.
Tren Jawcaste might or might not become a nuisance. It really depends. I can always avoid the Lost Desert if I need to – if I want to return to conning people, though I'm not sure I will. It isn't very nice, after all.
Did I mention I was lucky to find Chris? She's been an incredible friend and that's not even an exaggeration. She never asked me why I did those things and that's because... well, I don't know. Maybe she's psychic?
She bought me a petpet later, the day we headed back to Neopia Central. A little hard-shelled bug called a Lyins. She said it was so I wouldn't be lonely, even when I wasn't hanging around with her. Not that I ever said I was lonely. I'm not the lonely sort, to be perfectly honest.