Maemo and Vrai Visit Mystery Island: Part Three
Maemo pulled a small duffle bag over her shoulder and nodded her head towards the door. "I packed this as I was putting our things away, so we can head outside right away. The beach can't be far away, if I remember how we got here."
"The beach is quite close, that's not a concern." Vrai tapped his skull with a knowing look. "But that doesn't quite address my main concern. Maemo, my sweet owner, you already packed your duffle?" Vrai let his face fall into an exaggerated expression of shock and alarm.
Maemo rolled her eyes. "Don't look so shocked. I can plan things too, you know." She paused. "Sometimes. Now shoo!" Maemo butted her petpet out of the freshly-opened door with the top of her head, and they trod trepidatiously through tastelessly decorated corridors in pursuit of the hotel's exit.
They shuffled past tiny tables with spindly, many-jointed legs and brown, gnarled vases holding flowers for a minute or two before they arrived at the door leading outside. Maemo pressed a paw to the door's surface – it didn't only look, but also felt as though it was legitimately constructed of brown insect chitin. Maemo grimaced slightly as she pushed open the door and tiptoed out.
Magically, they had not managed to attract the attention of the manager in their progress to the door. He seemed to be off doing another task, perhaps escorting some other hapless traveler to a room. Maemo shook her head at the thought, pitying any newcomers who might be in the same position as herself.
The groundskeeper, Siri, was harder to avoid. Maemo and Vrai exchanged glances as the island Usul made his plodding way to greet them. He leaned on a gardening hoe he had been using when he reached them. He nodded his head as he assessed the hotel's unfortunate visitors.
"I know that expression," he finally said, smiling at his conversation partners, "You're stunned by the beauty of the place." He held out a paw as Vrai tried to protest, "No need to go on about it. I know everything you're thinking." He winked at the visitors. "Now go on, is there anything you want to ask me? There's no need to be shy!"
"Er, yes," Maemo said, recovering faster than her petpet for once. "What's the best way to the beach?"
"Well," the old Usul pondered, looking into the sky, "the way you came isn't bad, but that path over there," he pointed to a dank-looking, barely visible path through the tropical forest, "is a mite quicker and a lot prettier."
"Thank you, Siri. We'll walk around a bit before heading off, and think about which way to go. Have a nice day." Maemo walked quickly away, to a spot on the grounds halfway between the two indicated paths. Vrai swished quickly behind her.
When they were out of earshot of the Usul, Vrai chimed in with a quip that he'd clearly been holding in, "Forty neopoints says the path he pointed out is crawling with disgusting insects and mud."
"You're probably right," Maemo said, "but what if it really is a prettier, shorter path?"
Vrai bristled. "I'm really not sure why we should care," he said while sulking into his cloak, "but if you're too curious to let it go, I suppose I can follow you. You're the master here, after all."
Maemo pondered this, her paw rubbing her chin as she looked from one path to the other.
"I think we should take the new path," she said finally, "After all, how will we know who wins your bet if we don't try it out?"
Vrai sighed dejectedly, but summarily followed his master just the same.
"This is actually really nice!" Maemo shouted excitedly as they walked down the Usul's trail.
Lush pink and orange flowers bloomed wetly as they walked along the jungle trail, their petals and stamens splayed to demonstrate their delicately striped colours. Giant, dark green leaves drooped from the vines and tree canopies to brush the heads and faces of our travelling duo, as if offering affectionate greetings. Lightmites and springabees flittered from flower to flower and leaf to leaf as they walked, making the path feel alive and welcoming.
"We haven't gotten to the beach yet," grumbled Vraiment, brushing a glyme from his shoulder in disgust. "There's still plenty of time to fall into a muddy pit teeming with hungry slorgs, or a giant spyder's nest, or—"
"Vrai, could you please just stop and enjoy the scenery for once? I'm having fun, and you're ruining it for me."
Vraiment hushed, but didn't stop himself from making his hand jabber and tilting his head back and forth mockingly. He was behind his master in any case – his cynicism couldn't hurt her if he was silent. In spite of his constant condemnations of his master, he did truly care about making her happy.
They walked on, with Vraiment, in a rare moment of charity, agreeing with his master's assertions about beautiful flowers, and affirming her excitement over rocky waterfalls near the path.
"This really was a great path to take," rambled Maemocala. "We'll have to thank Siri for showing it to us when we go back." Bright yellow sunlight and flashes of white sand were visible in front of our pair, and Maemo now felt completely confident that her choice had been a good one. As they walked out of the thick canopy of trees and onto slippery white sand, she turned to look at her petpet. She held out a big, silver paw before she spoke. "You owe me forty neopoints," she said.
Vrai shrugged casually, reached into his cloak, and pulled out four shiny coins for his master. He jumped up to place them in her paw, and then proceeded to walk on towards the beach.
Maemo furrowed her eyebrows in confusion as she looked at the coins in her paw. "Vrai!" she yelled, prancing to her petpet after shoving the coins in her purse. "Where did you get neopoints?"
Her petpet scoffed before answering. "From your purse, of course. Do you think me an utterly incompetent pickpocket?"
Maemo merely shook her head and smiled in response.
Soon they stepped onto a broad boardwalk, joined a line leading to a small ticketing booth, and waited to pay their fee to enter the beach for the day.
As soon as our pair found a comfortable spot on the beach, Vrai plopped down a pulled a petpet-sized beach umbrella from his cloak. He also produced a book roughly 2/3 his size, and promptly arranged himself for comfortable, well-shaded beach reading.
"How many things do you keep in that cloak?" Maemo asked in bewilderment.
Vrai responded by fluttering his hand dismissively and saying, "Shhh!"
The Kougra let her taciturn petpet read, and spread out the beach blanket beside him. She propped her duffle bag near Vraiment's umbrella, and began stripping down to her swimsuit. When she had finished, she made one last attempt to talk to her petpet.
"You wouldn't mind if I—"
"SHHHH!!" was his only response.
Maemo smiled, having expected this response, and ran off to play in the water.
They spent the day in that manner: Vraiment turning pages with dainty hands under his self-provided shade, and Maemocala splashing, swimming, and rolling about in the water. The petpet sat silently, occasionally interrupting his stern, academic demeanor with smiles or gasps of enlightenment. The neopet was all giggles and screams and uninhibited joy.
When the sun had begun to set over the water and it was time to go back to the hotel, they were both immensely satisfied with the manner in which they had spent their day. They walked slowly along their jungle path as the last rays of sunlight fell beyond the horizon, with Vraiment jabbering on about socio-political theories that Maemocala had never known existed, and Maemo letting out periodic, excited exclamations about how much fun she had in the water.
They reached the hotel and walked towards their room in animated conversation, barely giving a glance to the gigantic, hideous statue in the yard or the bizarre furniture in the hallways. And then they reached their room, and their conversation came to a sudden, unpleasant halt.
Upon opening their door, they were greeted with a million skittering points of light. The light-specks moved in disorderly, seemingly random patterns, moving first in and then out of conjunction with each other. When either of them focused enough to find one of the points of light alone, they noticed the full details of the effect. These points of light had articulated legs, heads, and even antennae on oblong bodies. They were meant to be tiny, skittering replicas of the statue out front – this time formed of light rather than painted stone.
Maemo flicked on the light and watched the tiny points of light be replaced by the bright overhead light bulb. She turned off the light, and the travesty returned. She flicked the switch a few more times, until Vraiment told her to stop.
"It looks like that's just the way this place is made," he said miserably, "Lights off – skittering bug replicas. Lights on – well, that's bad enough, isn't it?"
She flipped off the switch, and they stared at their room. After a few seconds, a scratching, vinyl-scraping noise blasted from the speakers at the top of the room.
"Sorry for the delay," boomed the amplified voice of the Scorchio manager, "had some technical difficulties tonight. The sound should be fixed now."
"The sound?" both pet and petpet gasped as they stared at each other.
But the sound was coming, and no questions were required. The air inside their room was filled with the sound of chitin rubbing against chitin, of tiny hard legs skittering quickly over tile, of amplified insectile screeches and chirrups.
"We can't sleep like this," Maemocala announced, shocked and aghast at the very idea. "We have to leave." Her eyes were dull, her voice deadpan. Vraiment waved a hand in front of her face and discovered that she had quite lost her wits. He sighed.
"I'll pack," he said.
Vraiment veritably flew around the darkness of the room, gathering grooming items and clothes, hats and shoes. His cape flapped through the skittering points of light as he threw games and toys into Maemo's giant trunk, and finally clasped it shut.
"Let's go," he said while guiding his master to the trunk's carrying strap.
"I can't believe it," she muttered as she grabbed the strap in a daze and slowly followed her petpet. "We had such a nice day..."
"Yeah, it was wonderful, now come on."
Slowly, step by step, Vraiment guided his master out of the hotel and onto a late-night airship. They posted the fare for the last flight to Faerieland, and arrived safely at their home just past midnight. The Baby Vampire settled his master on their living room couch, and sat down beside her.
"I don't think I ever want to go on vacation again," he said.
"But..." Maemo started, finally recovering her senses in the safety of her own home, "We had so much fun. And if we choose a better hotel...!" She smiled, and her tail gave the faintest wag from its position on the couch.
Vraiment buried his head in his hands, and that was the end of their journey.