Dull sunshine flickered through the window, foreshadowing another dreary day in Neopia. My heart filled with joy at the thought of darkness, but I sighed, knowing that today would just be another day of wondering, trying to figure out something that was meant to stay hidden. I replayed yesterday again in my head trying to figure out what that letter had meant.
"Hey, Invader," my owner, Phroto, had hollered up the stairs. "It looks like you got a letter in the mail!"
I had jumped up with a start, and ran down the stairs to the living room where Phroto was standing, holding the doorknob.
"Mail? I've never gotten mail before," I had muttered, grabbing the letter.
"Who's it from?" she had asked me.
"I don't know. It doesn't have a return address," I had replied, carefully opening the white envelope.
The letter had read:
"Be careful, Invader, Phroto. It could come back this year.
I'd looked up at Phroto, and repeated what the letter read.
"It'll be okay. Don't worry about that letter," she had said, and then walked quietly out the door.
Phroto had clearly ignored me the rest of that day. Every time I had walked up to her, she looked at me with such a peculiar expression on her face. It was like that letter reopened some old emotion, but I wasn't sure what type. Was it sorrow? Bitterness? Anger? It seemed to me like a combination of all three.
'Today I'll find out what it's about,' I thought and sighed again, knowing whatever that letter meant, it would be bad. Nothing good made people act the way Phroto was.
I walked down the stairs and found Phroto reading that letter again. I paused. She was whispering something to the letter. I strained my small, Baby Grundo antennae towards her and listened.
"No," I heard her say quietly. "This can't be happening. Not after everything I've done for him. Not after what I've done for him..."
An icy chill went down my spine. I felt as if spyders were crawling down my neck, down my back, down my legs. Who was she talking about? Was it me?
Had I done something long ago that I didn't remember doing?
Not knowing what would happen, I stepped into the kitchen.
Phroto jumped. She brushed her brown hair behind her ears and said, "Oh, hey Invader, I didn't notice you there. Go eat some breakfast with your siblings; it's on the table. I'm going... to try to restock at the Magic Shop." She whisked out the door before I could even say good morning.
As I was snatching the last Ghost Pancake from my brother Shadow, a Shadow Aisha, I realized something. What had Phroto said she was going to do? Restock? Phroto never restocked. She was terrible at it; even she herself admits that. To make our neopoints, she played Habitarium and Key Quest.
So where was she really going?
"Here, take it," I said to Shadow, shoving the pancake back over to him. "I'm not hungry anymore." I got up and ran towards the door.
As I shut the door, I heard Shadow ask Galbatorix, my Royalboy Kyrii brother, "What's up with him?"
Phroto was nowhere to be seen. I looked all over Neopia Central, but I couldn't find even a trace of her. The stars were out now, and I had to get home, but the darkness felt cool on my blue skin.
So my owner had lied. Big deal. (I knew it was a big deal.)
So what if she was ignoring me? (It hurt, but I couldn't admit it.)
I wouldn't let it bother me.
Phroto came home late. It was almost 10:00 PM NST when she finally walked through the door, covered in mud, lightning illuminating her figure.
Mud hadn't been the first thing I thought was covering her when she walked in.
"Invader!" Phroto said, grasping my shoulders. "What's wrong with you? Stop screaming."
"Wha-what..." I paused to recollect my thoughts. What had I thought was covering her? It's raining and our house has a ton of dirt surrounding it. It was perfectly normal to be all muddy, wasn't it? "I'm sorry, I just... I don't know. You scared me, is all."
Phroto let out a small smile. "I'm sorry for scaring you. What are you doing still up? You should be in bed! Do you know what time it is?"
Yes, actually, I did know what time it was. Did she?
"Go on, go to bed." She pointed towards the stairs. I knew I couldn't disobey. "Good-night, Invader."
"'Night, Phroto," I mumbled as I climbed up the stairs. I settled down into my bed, snuggling deep into my pillow. My head was hurting. Maybe all I needed was a good sleep.
But I couldn't sleep. That letter probably meant nothing. Was I just imagining that things were different between Phroto and me?
This morning it wasn't raining. The sun filtered through the windows, creating a soft glow in my room. The glow wasn't comforting.
Yawning, I stumbled down the stairs, trying to stay afoot. My legs felt like jelly, and my head had a small throbbing sensation. What was wrong with me?
As I stepped off the last step, I felt a cold sensation fall upon my shoulders. What was that? I felt darkness, a bitter, cold darkness fall around the room. Shadowy figures were beckoning towards me, calling me over to them, calling, calling...
Oh, how sweet their calls were. Welcoming, wonderfully beautiful, amazingly gentle voices were calling me over. I smiled to them. How nice, them talking about me as if I was Fyora. Yes, yes, they wanted me, they respected me, they wouldn't ignore me...
The sensation vanished. The sweet allure of their voices was gone, replaced by a searing heat. What... what was happening?
Who was talking to me? Was someone saying my name? I tried to turn around, but my head was aching. Oh, the pain, the pain was too much...
"Invader! Can you hear me? Stay awake, Invader, stay awake..."
There was that voice again, a harsh, grating voice. Was that my name it was calling?
But there in the background, the songs, the sweet voice of the shadows were calling to me again. Oh, how much nicer their voices were... how much nicer they seemed to treat Neopets. Couldn't I go with them?
Crying was coming from the harsh voice now. It was saying something, but I couldn't understand it. I strained to ignore it. It was annoying me, blocking the affectionate honey-filled voices. I just wanted to go with the shadows... the darkness... it was inviting.
I smiled and let the darkness wash over me, cherishing its feel.
The harsh voice was gone, and I felt like the sun.
I couldn't tell where I was. There was silence except for the occasional beeping. Slow, dull, and irksome though the beeping was, it was also relaxing. It allowed the shadows to slip from my consciousness, but I no longer felt complete.
I didn't know what day it was. Who had taken me to this place? I couldn't see anything but darkness, and my eyelids were too heavy to lift. Perhaps I should drift back into the unconscious... this bed was comfy enough.
"Are you sure he'll be okay this time?"
My eyes shot open. I groaned. Wherever I was, it was a horribly and a blindingly bright white place. "Wh-wha's goin' on?"
"Invader! You're awake!"
I turned my head to the right. "Ph-roto?"
And it all came back to me: the letter, the ignoring, the mud.
She smiled. Next to her was a green Gelert dressed in medical-type clothing. "Who is he?" I asked. My words were still sounding slurred.
"He's D, the Doctor. He's cured you—again."
D? I remembered the letter. "D? Were you the D in the... the letter?" He nodded. "Why couldn't you... have just signed with Doctor?" I turned to Phroto, confused. "Why didn't you tell me the letter was from a doctor? I... I thought it was something terrible, you were ignoring me..."
Phroto looked confused. "Ignoring you? Invader, you got the Doldrums again. I don't know how—"
"What?" I asked, all my weariness gone. Anger built up inside me. I had been ignoring her? "What! I haven't ignored you or anyone! It was you! And I have been outside!" I tried to remember, but my memories seemed to be merging together into a great mush of nothingness. What was going on? "I followed you outside yesterday... or it might've not been yesterday, I don't know what day it is... but I tried following you but I couldn't find you... what?"
The Doctor was shaking his head. "Invader, you had a really bad case of the Doldrums. I know you probably don't remember when you had it the first time, you were just created at the time, but you caught it again."
My brain was hurting. "Doldrums? What in the name of Sloth is that? I don't believe you." I turned away from him and Phroto. How dare they lie to me.
The Doctor smiled slightly. "Doldrums is a disease, Invader. Its symptoms include hiding in dark corners, headaches, and not coming out into the light. The darkness seems welcoming to Neopets with this disease, but it is very curable once diagnosed. Phroto recognized the symptoms yesterday, after you fainted, and took you here. You're at the Neopian Hospital, and your Doldrums has just been cured."
Was this true? I tried to think back to the shadows... how sweet the calling was. Were they really just the corners of the house? "But... but I followed Phroto outside two days ago... and I was in the kitchen with my siblings..."
Phroto nodded. "It was raining that day, remember? It wasn't that bright out, and your symptoms weren't really there yet. It was only yesterday morning that they came out, probably because the rain finally went away."
As much as I wanted to say that they were wrong, that they were so terribly, utterly wrong, I knew they were right. It made sense. The letter, the headaches, mistaking mud for something other than mud, the shadows; being uncomfortable in the soft glow of sunlight in the morning... it was true. "I—I think I understand it now. It fits. I... I'm sorry."
The Doctor smiled. "It's okay, Invader. It's not your fault, you know. Doldrums is a very nasty disease. I'm sure Phroto understands."
Phroto nodded. "I do, Invader. It's okay. I'm just happy that you're safe. If anything, it's my fault for not letting you know what the letter meant. I hadn't realized it was bothering you so much. I promise I won't do that to you again, and I hope that this time you'll remember the symptoms of Doldrums. You were too young to remember last time."
Invader let out a small, tired laugh. "Well, I'm just glad that I now know what was going on. I can't believe that a disease could be so dangerous... those shadows, they were so alluring."
"That they are. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go get the nurse to release you. Have a safe day, Invader." The Doctor patted me on the back before leaving.
As Phroto and I exchanged a few more words, I heard rain splash against the windows and a roll of thunder sound off in the distance. The shadows were stirring again, but this time they wouldn't get me.
Happy Halloween, Neopia! :3 I hope everyone has a spooky (and safe!) Halloween this year. ~Phroto