The Cost of Freedom
We are in the Deserted Fairground. Rowan and I. At one time, I think, when I was young and innocent, I would have grasped my owner's hand in fear of being swept away and lost in the crowd that pushed at us from every direction.
But that time is no more. Now, I am neither young nor innocent, and this place of tortured moans and terrified screams feels just as much a home to me as my own bedroom. There is, however, slightly too large a crowd for my taste. Thankfully, I, being a ghost, am given a good deal of wiggle room by the tourists eager to leap out of my path.
I think I would have preferred to be Darigan, but then again, no one is afraid of Darigan pets anymore. They're old news, trophy pets to be paraded about and waved like a flag, a sign of their owner's wealth. No, when you get right down to it, there's nothing I would prefer being over a Ghost Aisha, save perhaps a Werelupe, and considering our (me and my owner, of course) current financial state, there was as much a chance of that as there is of my second pair of ears falling off.
But anyways, I sincerely doubt you are here to listen to a story about the woes of the Neopian middle class.
Through my eyes, red as embers, I cast a glance down at the stone pavement below me, and I scrape at it slightly with my paw. I tug on my owner's sleeve, and she smiles down at me. Suddenly, I can't help but feel a ripple of respect for Rowan; every other human here looks ready to turn tail and run home crying.
"I'm going to play Bagatelle." I inform the girl flatly, leaving her no room to refuse. Not that she would. Rowan knows I can take care of myself.
She nods solemnly, as though accepting an invitation to a funeral, then, surprisingly enough, speaks. Rowan has never been one for words. Nor am I. "Kianja..." she begins awkwardly, frowning.
I narrow my eyes (an impressive feat that is nearly impossible for an Aisha), and mutter roughly. My voice is raspy and hoarse from misuse, just as it always is, but for the first time I feel slightly embarrassed by the fact. In a single word, my owner had thrown me off entirely. No one, and I mean no one, stops me from doing as I wish if they value their life.
"Just be careful, Kianja."
"Mm." I grunt, nodding briskly. Though my owner is still watching me through worried amber eyes, I stride off into the crowd, ducking out of her sight. As always, the crowd darts out of my sight. I love it. It makes my smile, or at least smirk, coldly and disdainfully, the closest thing to a smile that I can get.
Am I twisted? Insane, even?
Either way, I am happy as I stride off into the darkness, into the shadows that few even dare to think about exploring. Soon, I reach the camp of the Bagatelle Lupe (one of the few at the dark Fairground that has ever refused to inform me of his name. I play, win nothing, not that I had expected better, and leave with my pockets considerably lighter than before.
My owner will be expecting me back now. This knowledge claws at my mind as I continue to head farther into the abandon encampment, but I ignore it. Who is she, one human, to hold me back from doing what I want?
Smiling gravely, I let my paws wander as they wished, sweeping me farther and farther away from the tourists, closer to the wild, abandon place that could truly be called a 'Deserted Fairground.'
"Ho there, Kianja!" A loud, cheerful drawl of a voice stops me right in my tracks. I whip around, irritated and ready to yowl my lungs out at whoever had decided to bother me. Then I see who exactly who it was that yelled, and I smile.
Pema, the tall, admittedly pretty young Aisha that mans the Cork Gun Gallery. And one of my oldest, and only friends. "Lovely day, Pema." I comment in a low growl. Quick as a flash, I drop to all fours and dash over to her stand.
To see me, gruff, serious Kianja, make such a spectacle of myself makes her laugh, and that makes me smile, happy to have made her day a little brighter, or at least give her something to laugh about.
"Yes, Kianja, I reckon it is gonna be one nice day." She smiles ironically, for above our heads the clouds are practically bursting with rain. "Saw this weather this morning, and I thought of you instantly."
I shrug and nod. "That's me."
Pema's grin fades from her face, like a ray of sunshine suddenly covered by a storm cloud. "Where are you going on a day like this, Kianja? Why isn't that little Rowan girl hanging around with you?"
"You ask a lot of questions," I mutter irritably.
"And I expect a lotta' answers," Pema retorts, unshaken.
I grimace my displeasure, managing to frown and bare my teeth at the same time. The only reaction I get out of the slender Blue Aisha is an unimpressed snort. "Are you quiet finished going on like a spoiled babe?"
"I'm just going for a walk, Pema." I turn to leave, but once again her words stop me in my tracks.
"Honey bunch, do me a favor and don't go getting yourself into any trouble, or do anything dangerous. You do have a knack for it."
I'm not sure why, but I'm suddenly furious. "No one tells me what to do," I snarl, turning sharply and stomping away from the stand like a great, wraithlike toddler. I hear Pema cry out behind me; her soft, musical voice rings in all four of my ears.
I ignore it. Gravel digging into my paws, I traipse away. My slow, lazy gait turns into a trot. And then into a jog. And before I know it, and I'm dashing full speed in my blind, raging effort to get away from Pema, away from anyone who might try to control, or tell me what to do. Its strange, I know. But I can still hear her nagging voice echoing in my ears.
And I HATE IT.
I might be mad, but I'm no superaisha. Finally, drained, I find myself crouching against the stone ground that surrounds the wheel of Misfortune, gasping for breath, my hind legs aching as though I had been running all night. But I'm still not alone. Will I ever be alone?
There's someone standing over me now. At least, I thought there was. But when I glance up, a shudder runs through me. I am in someone's shadow, crouched within the dark outline of a tall and wiry Gelert.
Except that there's no one around besides me.
I shudder. A voice whispers in my ears, smooth as honey, deep as a river.
"Poor child, sweet child. All you ever wanted was to be free."
I say nothing, but the detached, bodiless voice has struck a cord with me. And it knows it.
"And I can give you what you desire. The freedom you crave. You can have it all, right now. All you have to do is trust me."
Still, I remain silent, but I glance up now. My fur is standing on end, bristling and rippling over my body from head to tail. For the first time in my life, I am afraid. Very afraid. But still... it's hard not to want to believe that gentle, honest, honey-sweet voice. That voice, promising me everything I ever wanted. All I have to do it trust...
I try to keep my head, but its so hard... it feels as though tongues of white fog are flicking their way through my mind, leaving me with nothing but my desire, and the sound of that wonderful, miraculous voice. My mouth moves almost of its own accord.
"I trust you."
Again, my pelt ripples, as though blown by the breeze. A coldness sweeps over me, thick as a blanket. I haze down at my paws, clinging to the ground. Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop.
But something strange is happening to them. My paws are changing from their pale green color, fading into something little more than a shadow. A disembodied shadow. I cry out, but the cry comes from everywhere.
I am not a ghost anymore. I am something less, something wicked, a monster neither dead or alive.
But I am free.
And I HATE IT.