The Draik in Black: The Proxies
It had been three months since Travis had first noticed the mysterious figure.
Three months since he had first seen the Draik in Black.
Now... the Lupe was seeing him all the time.
Travis was sitting by himself in the kitchen of his Neohome. A single light was shining above the kitchen table above him. He tried to remember the times before he had noticed him. The happier days before he knew that he was being followed by a faceless monster. The happier days when the worst thing that ever happened to him was a Pant Devil attack. The happier days when his biggest concern is what game he would play with his best friend Caleb.
Travis could remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was almost five months now, to the day. He had been playing Hide-and-Seek with his Scorchio friend in the park. They had each found each other three times so far, and Travis was going for the tie-breaker, when Caleb had run out of the bushes that he had been hiding in.
"FOUND YOU!" Travis declared happily.
His happiness only lasted for a moment when he saw that Caleb was shaking. It was a sunny day, with only a few clouds. There was a bit of a wind, but it was a refreshing breeze, not a chill wind. It certainly wasn't enough for a Scorchio to be feeling the chills. In that moment, his joy melted to concern for his friend.
"Caleb?" Travis asked, the Lupe rushing over to him. "Are you okay? You're shivering!"
Caleb was breathing quickly, and Travis brought his arm around his shoulder to steady him. The Scorchio continued to shake and shiver for a few more moments before he looked up to his friend.
"I... saw something..." Caleb said, "Something not right."
"What did you see?" Travis asked.
"While I was hiding..." The Scorchio continued, "Over in the trees, near the edge of the park. I saw this Draik. He was dressed entirely in black. But... it looked like he didn't have a face!"
Travis couldn't believe what he was hearing. A Draik dressed in black, and he didn't have a face? That didn't make any sense at all! After all, who would wear nothing but black on a beautiful day like this?
"Can you point out where you saw him?" Travis asked.
Caleb was as he pointed towards the park's edge where he had seen the frightening figure. Travis looked about, trying to make sure he didn't miss anything, but it was just trees and leaves. There was nobody there, and there certainly wasn't anything that would stand out like a faceless Draik.
"I don't see anyone," Travis said. "Are you sure you just didn't see a tree?"
"I know what I saw, Travis!" Caleb snapped. "I know that I saw a faceless Draik dressed entirely in black! I just... I don't want to see anything that horrible again. I want to go home..."
Travis nodded. He wasn't sure what Caleb had seen, but whatever it was, it had spooked the Scorchio badly. Caleb had never shouted like that before, so perhaps it would be best to take him home. He'd probably feel better about it tomorrow. So, being the good friend he was, he walked Caleb home.
That was only the start.
When he went to visit Caleb the next day, he was sick with a constant cough. The Scorchio could barely get a word out between his hacking. As much as Travis wanted to help, all he could do was make some soup for his sick friend and come back tomorrow.
The next day was even worse.
When the Lupe arrived at his friend's house, Caleb was scribbling over sheets of paper, drawing strange symbols and pictures of trees. What was most disturbing was that he was constantly drawing pictures of a Draik, but not drawing in his face. Sometimes, he drew pictures of just the head of a Draik, but kept putting X's where the eyes should have gone.
On all of those pictures, Caleb wrote strange and unusual phrases.
"HE SEES YOU!"
"LEAVE ME ALONE!"
Travis didn't know what any of that meant. When he asked Caleb about it, he said that it made him feel better. He said that writing and drawing things like that felt like he was getting it out of his system. While seeing his friend act like this was making him feel incredibly uncomfortable, if it was making him feel better, then it couldn't hurt. He just hoped that this strange and sudden obsession he had about this Draik in Black would pass soon.
It did not.
Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Every time Travis went to visit his friend, it seemed like he was descending further and further into madness about that faceless Draik. What was worse, however, was that Caleb said that he was seeing him again. The Draik in Black. The Scorchio said that he was seeing him every day now, no matter where he went or what he did.
The last day that Travis had seen Caleb, the Scorchio had moved his mattress into the closet of his hallway and had barricaded himself within. He begged and pleaded with his friend to get help. But Caleb said that there was nothing that could help now. The Draik in Black couldn't be stopped.
When Travis left Caleb's house that day, he saw the Draik as well, in the backyard of his friend's house. He only caught a glimpse of him, out of the corner of his eye. At first he thought he imagined it, but for the rest of the day, he had a horrible headache. It also felt like he had a swarm of Unidentified Petpetpet's buzzing in his head, and later he started having a nasty coughing fit.
When he went to Caleb's house, the Scorchio was gone. His home was just the way that he had left it, except during the night, he must have taped up every piece of paper he had drawn on during those last few months onto the walls of his bedroom and of the closet he had been hiding in.
Travis searched the entire house. There was no sign of his best friend and there was no sign of a struggle either. It was like Caleb had just vanished into thin air.
Then, when he checked out his bedroom window again, he saw the Draik in Black once more.
Travis figured that the Draik must have had something to do with Caleb vanishing. He had to have done something to drive his friend to such a horrible state of mind. But, by the time that he had gotten downstairs and to the backyard, the faceless Draik had vanished.
Three months ago...
In that period of time, Travis noticed that the Draik in Black was following him as well. Wherever he went, he saw that Draik at least once. He saw him out of windows in shops, down alleyways between buildings, and most disturbingly of all, in his own house as well. But, no matter who he told, no one believed him. Even when he saw the mysterious Draik while with others, he was the only one who saw him. They kept trying to tell him that there was nobody there.
Travis started to feel like he was losing his mind.
He found himself making the same drawings and scratches that Caleb had made. The Scorchio was right. Drawing and writing those over and over did help him feel better. Hundreds of pages he wrote and drew on, each of them seemingly coming from some dark part of his psyche. They felt like premonitions or warnings coming from himself. Deep down, he knew he needed to find some way to escape... but also knew that there was no escape.
He knew the Draik in Black was real. He knew that the Draik in Black had done something to Caleb, and was somehow responsible for his disappearance. He knew that faceless monster was behind all of this. He needed to confront the monster.
He needed to confront the Draik in Black.
The light above him started to flicker. Travis started to feel a cold chill run down his spine. He looked around him. He was still alone, but the light was still flickering.
The Draik in Black was coming...
Travis looked out the window in the kitchen, and saw the Draik in Black in his yard. He suddenly started coughing hard, air being stolen from his lungs as he hacked. His head started to buzz and it felt like the room was spinning. The buzzing was louder than it had ever been before, pounding and swarming through his head, sounding just like a swarm of Unidentified Petpetpets. He felt the strength get sapped from his body as he started to fall to all fours. He caught a final glimpse of the Draik in Black before the light over his table went out.
Pitch darkness engulfed the kitchen as Travis lay on the ground coughing violently. The buzzing was so loud, it seemed like it was turning to static. It felt like an eternity was passing in seconds as he lay in the dark.
The light turned back on.
The Draik in Black was in front of him.
It took all the remaining strength that Travis had to slowly crawl towards the monster. The violent coughs and the mental buzzing felt like they were draining away his very life.
"Give... me... my friend... back..." Travis gasped out, reaching out towards the Draik in Black.
He passed out moments later.
Yesterday, Travis had confronted the Draik in Black.
When he woke up, he was back in his own bed. He felt like he had slept for days. He was refreshed and relaxed. His mood and spirit was up, like he could take on the world. He knew what this mood was. It was the joyful and chipper mood of someone who had a goal in life. No... more then a goal. A mission....
He opened the closet in his bedroom, and pulled out the large package that was there, waiting for him. Travis picked it up off of the ground and cradled it in his arms like it was a precious jewel or an adorable Petpet. He had a spring in his step as he walked downstairs into his living room.
Caleb was there, waiting for him on the sofa.
"Are you ready?" the Scorchio asked once the Lupe entered the room.
"I am," Travis said, offering his friend the box.
Caleb took the package from the Lupe and opened it. Inside were a set of masks and cloaks, a blue one, and a red one.
"You first, my friend," Caleb said.
Travis pulled out the blue mask and the red cloak. Without a word, he put the mask on. The cloak soon followed, giving a small flourish as it covered his shoulders before he clasped it in place. Caleb did the same, putting on the red mask and blue cloak.
"It's time..." Travis said.
Caleb nodded, and the two of them exited the Lupe's Neohome out through the back door.
Travis had found his friend. But they also found so much more. They found their destiny. Neopia didn't believe them when they spoke about the Draik in Black.
They would show them all how wrong they were. They would make sure everyone in Neopia would know about the Draik in Black. They would act as his proxies, picking new targets to spread his influence.
After all, it was much easier to serve than to fight.