I am alone. That fact has been the most apparent to me these past few hours. There are no sounds other than my claws clicking on the floor and my wings rustling uneasily as I try to tuck them in as best I can. It's dark, it's cold, and the air smells faintly of dust and decay. It has been a few hours, hasn't it? Perhaps it's only been a matter of minutes, or, just maybe, days have passed. It's hard to tell; there's no way to tell time here.
I don't know what I am. I don't even know my own name. Without a mirror, I don't really know what I look like, though it's too dark to see much anyways. And my memories...do I even have any? I don't remember a thing, and yet...words come to me without hesitation. I can speak, I can describe the texture of the stone floor, but I can't tell you from where I know such words or thoughts.
Someone has come to visit me. He refers to me as E47, which doesn't strike me as a very pleasant name. I don't know what he looks like either; his face and body are hidden beneath robes darker than whatever room I'm in. He measures my wings, pokes at my tail, and checks out my teeth without a sound. Then, as quietly as he came, he leaves. I am alone again.
I don't know how many days it's been, (weeks, maybe?), but I am still in the room. Cell, I mean. I am being treated as some form of prisoner, though what crime I've committed, I don't have a clue. I am brought food and water irregularly, but that's the extent of my interactions with anything outside of this cell. My days are spent dozing idly, walking in circles, or testing out my wings. I've discovered I can fly, though in the confines of the cell, I have difficulties. I dream of a time where I can go outside and fly, where an unforgiving stone wall won't limit me.
All too suddenly, I'm aware there's someone else in my cell. When did they come in? I notice now that the door is open, and a pale light spills in, bright on my eyes. In the light stands someone just like me, but not like me all at the same time. They are small, round, and have two feet and no arms, but they do not have wings nor do they have a tail. Before I can speak, a masculine voice cuts me off with a harsh whisper.
"We must be quiet. I'll explain later, just follow me." What other options do I have? The mysterious figure leaves the room cautiously, and with nothing better to do, I follow him. We arrive in a hallway dimly lit with wall torches. I see other doors like mine lining the long corridor. I distantly wonder if there are others like me behind them.
"Come on," the Jubjub -- I can see him better now -- hisses at me. His fur is dark, but he has a white streak at the top of his head. He wears an eye patch and a sword is strapped to his back. He takes off down the hall, and, snapping out of my daze, I jog to catch up with him.
We navigate through various hallways, each as dim as the last. Just when I start to think we'll never get anywhere, we exit to the outside world. The sky is dark but the air is fresh. I'm stunned, and stand in awe, taking in as much as I can. I've been outdoors before, though when that was, again I don't know. But, after having been cooped up in my cell for weeks, the fresh air is a glorious gift.
"This way, quickly." There's no time to go sightseeing. My rescuer takes off at a run down a dirt trail, and I waste no time chasing after him. Eventually, he slows his pace down to a walk, and falls in step beside me.
"We should be safe now. Sorry for the abrupt escape, but we had to get out of there as fast as possible." I nod, dumbly, as he speaks. "What's your name?" The question catches me off-guard.
"I...don't have one." I furrow my eyebrows. My name, assuming I had one in the past, never came back to me. And, having had no social contact in the cell, I never found the need to give myself one. Now, talking to the other Jubjub, I feel silly admitting that I don't have one. He looks pensive.
"What about Jack? That's a pretty good name," he shrugs, checking my reaction.
"Jack... It has a nice ring to it. I like it." The name rolls well off the tongue. It's true; I do like it.
"Well Jack, it's nice to meet you. My name is uh..." he hesitates, casting his gaze away from me and to the ground. There are a few seconds of silence as we continue walking before he pipes up again. "Puff. And...I'm the prince of Carnim, a kingdom not far from Meridell. My family won't be happy that I'm out here right now, though. I'm supposed to stay near the castle, but it gets dreadfully boring. When I heard there were imprisoned experiments nearby, well, I couldn't help it, I had to see if it was true." His voice trails off. An experiment. That's what he had called me. Is that what I am? Is that why I don't remember my past? My heart sinks. Puff must sense this, as he looks back at me with mild alarm.
"I-I didn't mean that in a bad way! Look, I don't know what happened to you in there, but you're free now, alright? No more being stuck in a dark room day after day. You can go wherever you want. You can go explore Neopia." Puff sighs wistfully and falls into silence. I reflect on my situation. Do I want to travel around the world? It seems a little daunting.
"I'm not so sure I-" I'm cut off as a snarling mass hurtles out from between the nearby trees and knocks Puff off his feet, sending him skidding along the ground. He looks shocked, but doesn't waste a moment hopping back upright and shrugging his sword off his back and holding it in his mouth. He narrows his uncovered eye and lunges at the attacker: a Werelupe. How does a Jubjub even hold a sword, much less use it in battle? It's baffling, but somehow, Puff makes it work.
My thoughts are cut off as something knocks me down and pins me to the ground. It's another Werelupe, and its razor-sharp teeth are mere inches from my face. My reflexes kick in, and instinctively I kick it with as much strength as I can muster. I feel my claws connect with the Lupe, and it jumps back in pain, giving me enough time to get back to my feet. It lunges at me again, but this time, I'm ready. I flap my wings a few times and sail over the angry Werelupe, slashing at it with my feet as I pass it. Before it can react, I land on the ground and swat it with my tail, growling. The Werelupe retreats hastily.
I turn my attention to Puff, who's still locked in battle against the first Werelupe. They both look battered, but neither wants to give up. Adrenaline pumps through my veins and I rush the Werelupe, smashing it with my tail. This distracts it enough for Puff to slash at it with his sword, and it lets out a yelp before running back into the forest. Puff sighs with relief and flips his sword onto his back. He turns to me, panting.
"Y'know, you're a good fighter. If you...if you wanted, you could be a castle guard." Puff trails off, giving me a lopsided grin and a shrug. I can't help but smile.
"I think I'd like that. A lot," I whisper. Puff's smile widens.
"Great, then that's settled. Let's head back to the castle and I can give you the tour. It's a gorgeous place. That is, if you're not forced to spend 24 hours a day there." Puff chuckles awkwardly. He turns around to face the direction we were headed, and starts walking again. I follow. * * *
Life since then has been great. As offered, I have become a guard for the Carnim Castle. My fighting abilities have grown, and I feel confident that I can protect the castle (and the royal family) from any danger. Puff remains my close friend to this day, and we often sneak off together to go wander around nearby towns and explore the surrounding forests and meadows. I couldn't be happier.
My name is Jack, and I am no longer alone.