Where there's a Weewoo, there's a way Circulation: 184,475,300 Issue: 467 | 29th day of Collecting, Y12
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Shadows


by tj_wagner

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You think I’m mad.

      You don’t say it outright, but I see the truth flickering in your eyes like a candle. Behind your nervous smile, you roll around the bitter word on the tongue and wince at the taste. Still, you refuse to say you think I’m crazy.

      Sweet Fyora! I wish that I was.

      If only this was some sort of delusion manufactured in my own mind, because then I would be safe. Unfortunately, I fear I am entirely sane. This is why I’ve chosen to write these words. If something happens to me, at least someone may know my tale. I don’t know what can be done, but there is power in truth. Please, I beg you to listen to my story.

      My youth was rather unremarkable. I was entirely average with no attributes that either raised me above or sank me below the accepted norm. Perhaps the only aspect that was noteworthy was that I never had to worry about neopoints. I wasn’t fabulously wealthy, but I usually had enough to buy what I needed along with those items I simply wanted. There had been little reason to save, so I was a bit free with my spending. To be truthful, I had even considered this minor aspect of my personality until it was brought to my attention. I was in Neopia Central with my friend, Bernice. We had stopped by the bookstore to browse, and I had purchased quite a few new books. All of the titles had looked so intriguing, and I saw no problem with expanding my library. Outside of the bookstore, I was consulting my purchases when Bernice had suddenly turned towards me, and there was a peculiar look painted upon her faerie Aisha face. For several moments, neither of us spoke as she regarded me fully.

      “What?” I finally asked, feeling a tad uncomfortable under her gaze.

      “You can’t save,” she answered. “If you have a single neopoint in your pocket, you are determined to spend it.”

      “You’re being silly,” I responded, but I felt my face grow hot. Despite my words, I knew her statement was laced with truth.

      “Really?” she retorted. “Then why is it you’ve never saved up for anything expensive? You’ve never even been to the Rainbow Pool in your life. Why’s that?”

      “I really don’t see any reason to change the way I look,” I quickly answered. “Is there anything wrong with just being a basic, blue Cybunny?”

      “There’s nothing wrong with it,” explained Bernice. “But have you ever stopped to consider why? You can’t save. I bet you don’t even have an account at the bank.”

      “I do have an account!” I yelled, almost triumphantly.

      “But how many neopoints are in that account,” she counted softly, and I found I didn’t have an answer. With a gentle sigh, she turned and walked away, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

      It’s difficult to explain what transpired after this conversation. I had gone to the bank afterwards and was dismayed to find how little I actually had in savings. Although I only had change left after my splurge at the bookstore, I put ever single neopoint I had left in my pocket into my account. I had decided I was going to show Bernice that I could save if I so desired. My mind was whirling as I thought about all the loose neopoints I had lying around my neohome, and how I would put them into the bank as soon as I could.

      The next few days are quite a blur now. It became almost a daily ritual of going to the bank and putting in a few more neopoints. I became aware of every expense, and learned how I could save a coin here or there. While I certainly didn’t go hungry, I made sure I shopped for the cheapest food and stocked up on those items. I knew the best place to get a deal on everything. Soon, I had quite a nice amount in the bank that was earning interest. I could have stopped there because surely I had saved up enough to show Bernice that she had been wrong, but a strange thing had happened. I suddenly found myself very reluctant to spend. My nature of being free with neopoints was completely gone. On the surface, I congratulated myself on my new found thriftiness, but deep down I knew something was wrong.

      I didn’t know how wrong until I saw the shadow.

      However, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. One evening, I was walking home rather late and carrying a bag of groceries. The bread I had bought was a day old and slightly stale, but I found it could be quite good in soup. As I walked, I was carefully counting my change to make sure I had not been overcharged. Suddenly, I saw a strange shadow out of the corner of my eye.

      I whirled about, fearing it was the Pant Devil, but found I was quite alone. For a brief moment, I could still see the shadow in my mind – tall and elongated and appearing like someone or something leaning against a nearby wall. Yet the longer I stood and stared at the spot, the more the image in my mind faded. It was like trying to grasp the wisps of smoke from a dying fire. After a moment, I laughed softly at my own imagination and tried to ignore the pounding of my own frightened heart as I hurried home. It was difficult to fall asleep that night, but I finally showed aside my fear and managed to rest.

      The next few days went by normally, although I did make sure to home before dark. I didn’t tell anyone what I had thought I had seen, and I doubt anyone even noticed a change in my behavior. I continued with my savings and frugalness. In fact, I had all but forgotten about the shadow. Even I had seen something, I reasoned, I was safe at home.

      At least, I thought I was safe.

      One night I was reading a book comfortably in my living room. There was quite a storm that night. The wind was whimpering and howling like a wounded beast, but I felt safe and warm. The book was interesting, and I was eagerly devouring the story when a strange noise suddenly interrupted me. I was mildly annoyed, but curious, as I put aside the novel to look out my window. The rain was pouring down through sheets of violent wind, but nothing seemed out of place. Casually, I started to turn away from the window.

      That’s when I saw the shadow a second time. Gasping, I whirled back around but only saw the inky blackness of the night. A distant flash of lightning briefly illuminated the street outside my house, but there was nothing. However, I knew what I had seen, and there was no denying it this time. It was the tall shadow, like a faceless stranger, and it was watching me. Terror gripped at my throat, and I closed the curtains quickly, as if not being able to see the danger could protect me.

      I became a recluse in my own home, and I could hear the worry in my friends’ voices when they talked to me from the other side of the door. I tried to joke and put on a brave front for them, but I was too frightened to step outside. There was food to last for quite a while, but I didn’t even want to consider what would happen once I ran out. I never had a chance to find out.

      Late one night, I had fallen asleep while reading in a chair. When I woke, I decided to brush my teeth so I could go to bed. I was calm, humming an old song, as I walked towards the bathroom. However, when I saw the shadow in the corner of the room as I turned away, the tune died on my lips. Just as always, the shadowy figure was gone when I turned for a better look, but I knew it had been there. I was no longer safe. The darkness was my enemy for it brought the shadow upon the edge of its velvet fingers. Lighting every candle I owned, I huddled in the corner of my neohome and waited until morning finally came. The sun had never seemed so beautiful as it did that morning. I almost cried as the first golden rays knocked upon my window before I finally fell asleep.

    ***

      When I awoke, it was still daylight outside, and I realized that I couldn’t live like this for long. The rest of Neopia worked during the day and slept at night. I didn’t want to be different – to be apart from everyone else in the world. More importantly, I didn’t want to feel scared any longer. I realized I needed a place where night did not fall.

     It took several sleepless nights before the answer finally rose up in my exhausted mind.

      When I had been young, my family would often go on vacation on the coast and there had been a straight, tall lighthouse like a lone sentry on the beach. That lighthouse had fascinated me as a child, and now it represented protection and security.

      Quickly, I packed a few belongings and hurried off in the direction of the lighthouse. The trip took longer than a day, but the first night I was able to take shelter in a run-down neolodge. I’m sure the staff wondered about the candles that I burned all through the night, but said nothing as I had paid up front. The next day, tired and exhausted, I was able to resume my trip until at last I reached my destination.

      The lighthouse was a strong and proud as my memory. In relief I ran the last few steps towards it, and found an older, green Nimmo standing in front. As luck would have it, he was looking for someone new to run the lighthouse for he wanted to retire. I lied and claimed to have experience, and he turned the job over to me.

      That night was one of the darkest yet, but I felt so safe inside the lighthouse. I stayed awake for it was now my duty and no longer because I was afraid. Finally, life began to make sense. I slept soundly and peacefully the next day.

      Had things gone as planned I would probably be there now and these words would have never been written, but things rarely go so smoothly. It turns out my friends and family had been worried and were looking for me. I hadn’t been trying to hide, so they found me rather easily. It was the middle of the day and I was asleep when they came to the lighthouse. In my sleepy state, I tried to argue and explain my actions, but my tired mind couldn’t seem to find the words. As a group, they took me from the lighthouse and brought me to a nearby hospital.

      The first night, they allowed me to leave the room well-lit, but I have heard the doctor in the hall. They think that all this is in my head, and to prove it to me they are going to have me sleep in the dark tonight. As soon as I heard those words, I grabbed this journal from my belongings and wrote this. I fear that these words will be all that’s left of me in the morning.

    ***

      The Kacheek dropped the journal from her purple paws and it landed silently upon the empty bed. Her eyes were wide with fear, and she risked a glance over her shoulder. The patient in this room had mysteriously vanished, and now the neo-police were involved in searching for him. Everything had thought he had simply ran off during the night, but this journal seemed to say something else entirely. Perhaps, she should hand it to the investigators or to the doctors.

      She started to turn around, but from the corner of her eye she saw what looked like a shadowy figure standing in the darkened bathroom. Gasping, she threw the journal back into the drawer in the nightstand where she had found it.

      “I’m sure he’s just ran off,” she muttered to herself. “That journal is nothing more than his crazy ramblings.” Still trying to convince herself of this, she hurried down the hall and away from the room.

The End

 
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