The Lonely Stranger: Part Seven
Turning back to my previous sentiments, I think I really would rather continue living as I am than know who I am. When you added all the broken shards of memories I still had together, it equaled me. I was an okay person, I guess.
Looking up at my ceiling, Twisted Roses playing in the background, I wondered where Ifflarb was. I wondered if he was out there somewhere, still rallying armies and making waves. I wondered if Asheton's silly philosophies were true, if there really could be a reason for everything. I wondered about the box in the streets when I was only a tot.
I groaned. "Since when have I been such a softie?"
Since now, I suppose.
Asheton was out with Damian treating him to ice cream. He was our newest foster pet, and everyone loved him.
Lashikee had burst into tears and apologized as soon as I returned home.
Somewhere in Virtupets, Linear was signing a law of some sort or addressing the people, and
Trixaf was, hopefully, rotting where she belonged.
And after all this, I couldn't really find it in my heart to be angry anymore. I didn't really want to continue to revel in my vitriol as I had been. I was tired of constantly lamenting on my bad memories and mistakes I had made. I just wanted to move on.
"Would that be all right, Ifflarb?" I called out. "Would it be all right if I forget you?"
If I let him go, and if I let Virtupets go, what would I have left? Who would I be? Would there even be anything left of me?
But maybe, just maybe, I would be able to start over again. Maybe I could become someone new; someone people liked. Someone likeable.
"I'm sorry that I let you down that day."
I think I would like that. To be happy, so to speak.
"But buddy, I've gotta start living my life. I hope you understand."
"I hope you'll forgive me."
If anyone could forgive me, it was Ifflarb.
I sat up.
I took a deep breath in.
I let it out.
My last day on the Station was just like any other. I was roaming the Market; doing my thing; looking to get into some trouble. It was all I really ever did. (Golly, what was I doing with my life? It all seems so stupid now.)
I was not my normal smug self.
In fact I was in a horrible mood. Perhaps, you might even say, depressed.
It was crisp and drafty, my clothes were ripped, and I was hungry as anything. I had hit a slump. Ifflarb was gone, Sloth had tightened his control on the Station, and I hadn't had a good night's sleep in weeks. I was done with the Station; I was done with Neopia; I was done with all of man- and pet-kind. Stealing wasn't sport anymore; it was a chore. I had no motivation to taunt the shopkeepers or harass the citizens anymore. I just wanted to get the heck off of the Station.
The only thing stopping me was the ticket price. The soldiers had confiscated my belongings one too many times and I now had close to nothing.
I pulled the few coins I had out of my pocket and flopped into a chair at ol' Grundo's Café.
"What can I getcha?" Gargarox smiled.
I cleared my raspy, worn throat. "Just some Space Slug Soup and a small water."
He took my money and reappeared with the food. "There you go. Hey, don't I know you?"
I flushed, pulling my collar a little higher. "Yeah, I'm the monster under your bed."
He burst into a fit of laughter, just as hearty and warm as I had remembered. "You're a character, all right!"
Luckily he went away without much more questioning. I didn't want him to recognize my face from all the wanted ads and call the cops on me before I could finish my hard-earned meal. I quaffed the soup and water without barely tasting it. My stomach whined for something more solid, but it would have to wait until I had more cash.
I eyed the tip jar. It looked like it could have a thousand or two. Was it even worth the trouble? Gargarox was right there. I'd have to be a fool to even bother. I was going to end up in Sloth's prison, and then I'd REALLY be going hungry.
My stomach growled again.
I grabbed it and ran.
"Oh my Juppie, I think it's the Lonely Stranger!"
I had already started to run, but I certainly didn't have the head start I would've liked. Sloth's soldiers, being literally everywhere, picked up on the commotion as if they had saw it coming two hours ago. My head ached from lack of sleep and hunger. My legs were sore all over. I knew this was a bad idea, I knew this was a bad idea, darn it!
I stuck out my heel and dug it into the ground, sliding myself around a corner. If I went through the alleys in a haphazard zigzag-like pattern and then looped back around, I could throw them off and hide in Hangar until the commotion had died down. By tomorrow morning everyone would forget, and after all it was so hard to track a generic looking Red Aisha. I could emerge and eat like a king.
A flash of blue.
Trixaf?! Dear Fyora, this was not my day. I picked up my speed. She tried to chase after me. She was surprisingly fast, for how small she was.
"Red! Ifflarb's gone, where is he?!"
"I don't know who you're talking about!" I hollered over my shoulder.
She wheezed, but kept on. "Yes, you do, he's our friend!"
"I'm not one of you!" I hissed. I just wanted these irritating Grundos to go away and leave me alone!
"AHHHH!" I screamed. I fell. My ankle screeched in pain.
Trixaf stood over me, a laser gun in her hand. "You're a liar!"
I was horrified. "You shot me!" This woman was absolutely and completely out of her mind! What on Neopia had happened to her after I disappeared?!
She was shaking, panting, pointing the laser gun at me. "You're Red and I know it! Tell me where Ifflarb is! Tell me where you've been!"
I looked up and down for some way out. The soldiers were coming for me if I didn't get out of here fast. I slid my good foot quietly towards Trixaf's left leg. "I already told you Lady, I don't know who you are!" With that I swung my foot around hers, slamming her to the ground. I grabbed the gun and hoisted myself to my feet, yelping in pain.
'I have to take my chance and go, now,' I thought, gritting my teeth through the pain. I sped off again, as quick as I could, water droplets stinging my eyes. It hurt so bad, but I had to keep going. I couldn't slide around corners as fast, and my stamina was quickly depleting.
I had to-
I had to-
Everything got real slow and started to sway. My ears blew out, and all I could hear was a high pitched ring.
The world turned black and I hit the ground.
"Hey, Miss, are you ok?"
I coughed, groaning. 'My head, oh Fyora, my head,' I thought.
I winced, prying my eyes open. "Oh Fyora..." I struggled to sit up straight.
Hands stopped me. "Maybe you should just take a breather for a minute, don't you think?"
I glared. "Who d'ya think you are tellin' me what to do..." I slurred.
The hands belonged to a human boy. Behind him hovered a Plushie Kacheek girl who looked sheltered as anything. I didn't know it at the time, but she was Lashikee.
"Well, I'm Asheton." He chuckled. "And you are?"
"I don't have a name." I spat.
Asheton frowned a bit. "Well everybody has a name, C.K."
My ears perked up. Irritation flared in me. Here we go, another person shoving a name onto me that I didn't ask for. Just like the Lonely Stranger; just like Red. "What did you say?" I bristled.
"Well, that is your name, isn't it?" He smiled again, unaffected. "Everybody's got one. Now you do too."
It wasn't my name. I knew that. He did too.
But for some reason, I stopped.
"Why?" I asked. It sounded more like a statement than a question.
Asheton laughed. "Two years ago I put my bets on a street thief named Lashikee and it was the best decision I ever made. Call it guts, but I'd like to do the same for you. So uh, I guess what I'm asking is... would you like to come live in Brightvale? With us?" He shrugged. "I mean it's your decision and you can come or go whenever you want, but it IS a pretty sweet mansion."
My eyes widened. "You would take me off the Station?"
He nodded. "If you want."
"And you would give me a home?"
"Absolutely," he replied. "Forever, if you'd like."
At first I thought maybe it was the pain my ankle affecting my common sense, or that maybe it was selfishness, wanting to leave the Station so bad.
Looking back on it now, I think I wanted that kid as my owner from the start. He took time out of his day to give me a name and offer me a home. He made it my choice – he wasn't going to force it, like everyone else had tried. He was giving me a chance.
Asheton held his hand out. "Do we have a deal, C.K.?"
I looked at him, and at the Station, and at the Kacheek girl.
I looked down at his hand.
I took it.
"Yeah, alright, you got yourself a deal."
Crazy as it was, I don't regret it.