Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 191,088,474 Issue: 596 | 24th day of Hunting, Y15
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The Draik in Black: Pictures of Darkness - Part Two


by dr_tomoe

--------

The night was dark and cool, as the moon was hidden by the grey clouds that covered the sky. Occasionally, a beam of moonlight would break through, giving the area a bit of eerie lighting. Troy stood in silence outside of Jack's Neohome, mentally slapping himself as he gripped his flashlight.

      "Why did I come at night?" he thought to himself, noting how even the familiar Neohome of his friend seemed like a sinister and foreboding place in the dark.

      Troy shook his head as he turned on the light, the beam illuminating the dark windows of Jack's home. He took a few cautious steps forward, not sure what to expect as he approached the abandoned Neohome. There was nothing out of the ordinary so far. That was good. When he got to the front door, though, he noticed that it was locked.

      The Lupe's mind thought about that for a moment. When they all vanished, did they lock the door behind them? Or perhaps, someone was still here? Troy pulled out the spare key that Jack had given him years ago and unlocked the door.

      The door opened easily and he took a few cautious steps into the Neohome. The first thing that he noticed was that the place was a mess. One of the chairs was overturned in the living room, the sofa had been pushed against the staircase that lead upstairs, and Ashton's favorite arm chair had been ripped open and the stuffing had been scattered all over the floor. He wouldn't be happy to see that, if he ever came back.

      "What happened here?" Troy thought, closing the door slowly behind him as he shined his light on the mess that was everywhere. "It's like a herd of wild Petpets rampaged through here."

      He instinctively moved his hand to the room's light switch and flipped it. As expected, the lights were out. The occasional shine of moonlight through the windows and his flashlight were all the help he was going to get in searching the place.

      The Lupe took a few steps deeper into the living room. As he shined the light around a bit, he noticed that all of the picture frames on the walls had been shattered and broken. When he took a closer look, he saw that someone had drawn all over them. It was hard to tell what it used to be a picture of, but it looked like Marco had been in it. There was a black X scratched over him. All of the broken pictures had scribbles and markings on them, blacking them out.

      "Who did this?" Troy thought to himself, stepping away from the picture frames. "And why?"

      Troy looked around the room a bit more and then noticed something a bit strange. The stuffing that had been ripped out of Ashton's arm chair and scattered everywhere looked like it had been kicked around a bit. It didn't seem to be random; more like that it had been walked through. It was leading towards the hall closet.

      Troy's breathing grew a bit heavier as he slowly followed the path the stuffing had made into the hallway. The flashlight he had only seemed to help make the darkness in Jack's home all the more suffocating, as shadows bounced and played off of the light. The silence of the house made each of his footsteps echo in his ears, sounding like a drum. He shook his head again. It was just his nerves. He couldn't let that get the better of him.

      When the Lupe got to the closet, the door stood before him, almost like it was some sort of dark portal that he didn't dare look into, but he needed to. He took a few seconds to steel his nerves and steady his breath before he slowly reached to the handle and opened the closet door.

      Empty.

      Unconsciously, Troy sighed with relief. Then he realized that he was mistaken. One of the upstairs bedroom mattresses was in the closet, along with another picture. The Lupe stuck his head into the closet and looked around for a moment. Nothing else seemed to be in here. There was just the mattress and the photo.

      "Was someone sleeping in here?" he wondered to himself.

      He shined the flashlight onto the picture. It was face-down so he couldn't see what it was a picture of. Troy reached down and picked up the photograph to see what it was.

      Black. Marked out entirely.

      He shook his head again. Nothing was making sense. The only thing he had learned so far was that someone had a vendetta against their furniture and didn't like pictures. Troy was about to put the photograph back on the mattress when he heard a loud thump come from a few feet away.

      Troy quickly turned around, shining his light into the darkness, trying to see who or what had made that noise. He pocketed the photograph as he looked to his right and left. His ears started to twitch a bit, trying to place where the sound had come from. It came from a few feet away. If his memory served from the last time he had been to his friend's house, it sounded like it came from the dining room.

      Troy's steps were cautious now, as he was unsure if he was in there alone. He was debating if he should turn out the light, but decided against it. If someone was here, they would be more likely to hear him trip over something in the dark than to see the light. The Lupe kept his ears peeled in case another loud bump came in the darkness. So far, nothing.

      As he stepped into the dining room, he could feel that there was a distinct change in the air. A thin layer of dust was covering the table, signifying its lack of use. But what came as a surprise to Troy was that photographs were scattered all over the table and on the floor surrounding it. What was surprising to the Lupe was that none of them were marked.

      The images on the photographs were clear as he shined the light upon them. They were the pictures of the grand trip around Neopia the three of them had taken. Troy slowly reached out for one of the dust-covered photographs to examine it.

      It was a picture of the three of them on the Kiko Lake dock, apparently just before they were going to take a glass-bottomed boat tour. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, just the three of them smiling and having a good time. Seeing his friend Jack so happy in that photograph only helped to make Troy's heart feel heavy. He had to know what had happened here. He had to know what happened to his friend.

      Troy put the picture back on the table and continued to look around. He started to make his way towards the kitchen, and, as he was doing so, his foot kicked an empty can of Neocola that was on the ground. It started to slide across the floor before it hit the wall with a soft metallic rattle.

      The Lupe froze, the sound of the Neocola can hitting the wall felt like it was echoing through his very being. After several tense seconds, he slowly started to exhale. His nerves were still on edge.

      "It's your own fault for coming at night," he said to himself.

      The kitchen looked to be just as big of a mess as the living room. Napkins and paper towels were scattered everywhere. Plates and glasses were broken on the floor. The forks, knives, and spoons were spilled out on the counters and floor. The door to the pantry was open. Troy remembered that they had a large, walk-in pantry, necessary for how much Ashton ate in the day.

      A hint of moonlight shined through the kitchen windows, almost like it was illuminating the pantry door. Troy slowly made his way across the floor, doing his best to avoid the broken shards of glass and porcelain that littered the floor at his feet.

      "Why is this place such a mess?" Troy thought to himself. "Did burglars come in? That can't be it. They would have stolen the valuables. Vandals maybe? Then why didn't they vandalize the pictures in the dining room? None of this is making any sense!"

      The pantry was fully stocked, which came as a huge surprise. Knowing Ashton's appetite, even if they did leave, he would have taken the food. Troy took a few steps inside of the pantry, examining the shelves as he slowly closed the door behind him. Boxes of cereal, cans of peas, and other assorted food items lined the shelves. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except for the fact that it was here in the first place.

      As he was examining the shelves though, a faint glimmer of black caught his eye just as his flashlight beam caught it. Troy's attention perked up a bit as he saw it came from behind a bag of flour. The Lupe started to push the bag aside then gasped as he saw writing on the wall.

      "NO ESCAPE!"

      It was the same unknown handwriting that had scribbled on the back of the photograph he had gotten the other day.

      "No escape from what?" he said aloud. He didn't have much time to muse on that thought as another loud thump echoed through the house. Troy froze up again. This time, it had come from upstairs. Troy gulped. There was no mistaking it. There had to be someone in the house other than him.

      He slowly reached for the handle of the pantry and slowly began to open it.

      He had to stifle a gasp.

      He was back in the hallway. He had just emerged from the hall closet.

      Troy turned around quickly. That wasn't the pantry. It was the four walls of the closet, the mattress still on the ground. This time, however, there was the crudely drawn picture of a Draik's head. Just like on the photo he had, there were x's where his eyes should have been.

      Troy was getting very scared now. Not only had he somehow been warped back here after exiting the pantry, but someone had to have drawn that in the short period of time that he was away. He could feel his fur rise on edge. He felt like he was being watched.

      'Like he was being watched.' That thought echoed through his head.

      "He sees you..." he softly breathed out, remembering the message on the photograph he had gotten the other day.

      Troy quickly turned back to face the hallway, pointing his light down the dark corridors of the Neohome. He didn't see anyone to his left or right. He only saw the wreckage of the living room and the darkness of the shadows as they danced around the light beam. He knew that there had to be someone here though. Someone was watching him. Who was it though? It couldn't have been Jack, or any of his roommates, could it? Maybe it was that Draik in the crude drawing, with his crossed out eyes.

      The only clue that he had was the noise that came from upstairs. Troy's breathing came a bit faster as he made his way back to the wrecked living room. Stuffing was still all over the floor and the pictures were still shattered and broken. Likewise, the sofa was still blocking the staircase. It would be too heavy for him to move it himself. He was going to have to climb over it to get to the stairs.

      Troy climbed over the piece of furniture as best as he could, rolling onto the cushions before flashing his light to the top of the stairs. He kicked some of the stuffing that had latched onto his paws as he waded his way through the mess in the living room before he headed up the steps. Every step he took upward creaked and echoed throughout the house. It was unnerving, but at the same time, he already knew someone was watching him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he figured that if they were going to do something, they would have acted by now.

      Once Troy was at the top, he surveyed the scene. The upper hallway was relatively clean, and all the doorways, except for one, were shut. He remembered that door. It was the door to Marco's room. Troy remembered that, from all the times that he visited, the Kyrii never let anyone into his room. Even though he shared the house with the other two, he always wanted to keep his own room private. Now the door was open.

      The Lupe took a few steps and poked his head through the doorway, shining his flashlight in as well. Marco's room was a mess. The dressers were pulled out and overturned. His closet door was off of its hinges and his vast array of clothes were scattered on the floor. Troy could see various combs and hair-care products scattered about as well. His bed was unmade, with blankets and pillows scattered about it. Marco also had a full-length mirror on one of the walls. It was broken and shattered with glass spread out along the floor near it. The Kyrii's room had been ransacked.

      Troy was about to step in and see if Marco's room held any clues, when he heard the distinct sound of a squeaky door opening. He froze up for a moment and slowly pulled his head out of Marco's room, taking his light with him as he looked down the hallway.

      The faintest shimmer of moonlight was pouring into the hallway as another door had been slightly opened. It was the door leading into Jack's room.

      "Jack?" Troy whispered out. "Is that you?"

      Troy pulled out of the Kyrii's room, leaving the door open the way he had found it and he tiptoed slowly across the hall, trying his best to not be heard. He was thankful that they had soft carpeting on the second floor, as it muffled his footsteps as he approached the slightly opened door. Slowly, he opened the door a bit more, poking his light into it before he looked into his friend's bedroom. What he saw filled him with stunned terror.

      The Zafara's bed was broken in half. The mattress was gone. Perhaps it found a new home in the closet in the downstairs hallway. But that wasn't the worst of it. There was large writing scrawled all over the walls. The only part that wasn't covered in writing was the window.

      "NO ESCAPE! CAN'T RUN! HELP! HELP! HELP! HELP! HELP! WATCHING NOW! NO! LEAVE US ALONE!" All of that was just written on the small bit of wall that Troy could see with his flashlight. All four walls of the room were covered in words like that. But it wasn't just words. The same Draik head with crossed out eyes was drawn every so often as well. One was drawn much larger than the others, nearly full-sized. "NO EYES!" was written across the drawings face where one eye would have been. "ALL IN BLACK!"

      Troy looked on in horror as he looked around the room. "Jack..." he said softly. "What happened?"

      The Lupe had a heavy feeling of dread washing over him. He didn't want to stay in this room any longer. He didn't know if Jack had written this or if someone else did, but it was making him feel extremely uncomfortable seeing his friend's room like this. Shaking his head in sadness, Troy turned to leave Jack's room, his light shining in the doorway.

      A figure in a long grey cloak and wearing a blue mask was in the doorway, watching him. Troy froze in horror at seeing the figure, his light shining on their face. The mask had eyes, but that wasn't even a fleeting feeling of relief as the two looked at each other. With the long cloak and the mask, it was impossible to tell who or what that was.

      "Jack?" Troy said, somewhat hopefully.

      Without warning, the figure charged him. Troy didn't have time to move before the figure crashed into him. The air was knocked out his lungs.

      The figure didn't stop, lifting him up into the air as he continued forward. Troy didn't have time to react as he felt his back hit the glass of the window. The window didn't stand a chance and shattered into a storm of glass.

      Troy mentally cried out as he felt gravity take over as he was pushed out the window.

      As he was falling, it felt like things were going in slow motion. He could see the cloaked figure standing at the broken window, looking down at him as he fell. Troy wanted to scream and cry out as he was falling, but he was still winded from the blow. He could only look as he fell.

      He landed with a hard thud onto the bushes below.

      Troy gasped in pain as he landed flat on his back. Tears started to well up in his eyes as he cried out from the landing. He could still see the figure in the window, looking at him before it turned away. A sense of urgency started to flood the Lupe's brain.

      "Run! He's coming back!" his mind shouted at his body in an effort to get him up and on his feet again.

      The Lupe gasped as he forced himself back onto his feet. He grabbed his flashlight and tried to ignore the nagging pain in his body as he stumbled on his feet for a moment. It took several tense seconds for Troy to get his bearings before he started running. He ran. He ran faster than he ever thought possible back to his home...

      ******

      Two days ago, I went to my friend Jack's house to try and see if there were any clues as to what happened to him. My search that night ended when an unknown assailant pushed me out of the second floor window. As soon as I got back to my home, I locked the door behind me and collapsed on the floor.

      The first thing I did when I woke up was go to the hospital. Aside from some small cuts and bruises, I was unhurt. The doctor said I was very lucky to fall out a window and not end up with anything broken. I didn't tell him the how or why I fell out the window. He wanted to keep me overnight just to make sure that I was fine, to which I agreed.

      When I got home the next day, there was a letter slid under my door with no name or return address listed.

      It was filled with photographs. Specifically, it was filled with photographs of me inside Jack's house last night. There were ten pictures, each taken at different times and from different positions, starting from the moment that I entered his house and continuing through until the point I had gone into Jack's bedroom. The final picture, however, was of me falling out the window, the grey cloaked and blue-masked figure clearly seen pushing me out of it.

      There were at least two people watching me last night, and they know where I live.

      Each photograph had words scribbled onto the back of it. They were written in the same style as the words in Jack's room and the phrase in the kitchen pantry. Unlike the writing on the walls, these seemed directed towards me.

      "STAY OUT!" was scribbled on the back of the picture of me entering the house.

      "BROKEN! CANNOT BE FIXED!" was written on the back of the picture of me looking into the kitchen pantry.

      "NOT SAFE!" was scrawled on the back of the picture of me looking into the hallway closet.

      "WE WILL TAKE CONTROL!" That was what they had written on the back of my falling out the window.

      As I looked through the messages they sent, I noticed that some of them seemed like warnings, while the others seemed like threats. It seems that whoever was watching me, their intention was to keep me from getting involved. At least, most of them seemed like warnings or threats. There was one message that was odd.

      "NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!" This was the one that seemed out of place, written on the back of the picture of me looking at the pictures scattered across the dining room table. It was after seeing this one that I remembered I had picked up the photograph that was completely blacked out from the closet.

      It's my only clue to help me find Jack.

      I have to find out what's on this picture.

To be continued...

 
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» The Draik in Black: Pictures of Darkness - Part One
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