White Weewoos don't exist. *shifty eyes* Circulation: 196,462,368 Issue: 917 | 23rd day of Collecting, Y22
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A Mind Full of Shadow


by ade1

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“You really need to take a break.”

     Dark blinked away the heaviness from his eyes and looked across the room. Vinas was talking to a Wocky in a lab coat. She had strange green fur, purple tentacles sprouting from her chin, pupilless red eyes, a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, an impossibly long tongue, and a tail that looked like it was stained with red, purple, and yellow paint. A mutant!

     Vinas reached up and started to pull his fingers through his hair, looked at his hand and placed it at his side. “I will Tasha… But… Something happened, something big.”

     “What? And why do you sound so nervous?” Tasha adjusted a stethoscope that dangled around her neck. Her hands were a sickly yellow colour.

     “He brought another lost experiment in,” a new voice said, as the Plushie Lupe from the front room walked in. “I’m not sure what’s so big about that.”

     Tasha turned around to face him and gave a polite nod. “Hello Luis.”

     Dark gave a small grunt. All three of them turned in his direction.

     “Vinas,” Tasha said as she pointed at Dark. “Why is my patient on the floor?”

     Dark slowly sat up, his mind swirling with thoughts still trapped by sleep.

     “He passed out,“ Vinas said, frowning. “It’s not like the floor’s going to kill him.”

     The two of them stared at him. Tasha shook her head. “What’s gotten into you?”

     “I’m still asking myself the same question,” Dark said. “Say, you’re one of those mutants, aren’t you? Kind of freaky, but I like it.”

     Tasha gasped and nearly slipped trying to get back to the door. Her whole body trembled. Vinas put an arm around her shoulder.

     Dark snorted. “Don’t tell me you recognize my voice as well. Are you going to get all annoying about it like Vinas?”

     Luis walked over and jabbed his finger right on Dark’s nose. “What’s your problem? Leave them alone.”

     Dark’s eyes narrowed and he made a move to grab the Lupe’s finger, but his hands were still bound. He struggled against the ropes. “Get your finger out of my face.”

     Vinas ran up to them. He grabbed the enraged Lupe’s shoulder and yanked him away. “Luis, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”

     “Hey, he’s the one who started it,” Luis said.

     Dark glared at him. “I did not! You came up to me! I wasn’t even talking to you, you plush headed fool! And what are you anyway? A talking toy? Your colour is ridiculous!”

     “Touchy,” Luis said. “Maybe you should invest in some deep calming breaths.”

     Vinas turned to look at Luis. “Just stop. There’s a lot going on that you don’t know about.”

     Dark continued to glare at Lucas. “Maybe we should settle this outside.” His voice cooled to something akin to ice, just like his rage. Cool and sharp.

     Luis shook his head. “What’s gotten into you? You’re acting like I was poking the Snowager with a stick.”

     “You were,” Tasha said. She turned to Vinas. “How did this happen? How is he suddenly a Uni?”

     Vinas sighed. “I have no clue. He just showed up, with no memory, like all the other experiments I’ve found out there. Well not exactly like them. He sort of faded into view like a ghost.”

     Dark took a breath, not a calming one like that idiot Lupe suggested, just a breath. He needed to focus on the two people discussing his life and who quite possibly held his future in their hands.

     “I was in some sort of void,” he said. “It was… strange. I can’t really explain it more than that.”

     Luis frowned. “Guys, seriously. Stop ignoring me. What is going on here?”

     Vinas took a few breaths. Dark figured they were of the calming variety. He seemed the type to need such things.

     “This Uni is not a Uni,” Vinas said. “He’s not even a Neopet. I don’t know how he ended up looking that way… But that man is Dr. Frank Sloth.”

     Lucus laughed. “Oh, come on. I mean, I admit those eyes of his are very Sloth-like, but this is just… silly. Are you sure he’s not some sort of strange clone? Or some Uni that Sloth altered to look like him?”

     “You know very well that both my brother and I spent years around Sloth,” Tasha said. “We know his voice, his mannerisms. As soon as he spoke, I knew.”

     “I know as well,” Vinas said. “And everything about him, his way of walking, his movements, are all exactly like I remember. I didn’t want to accept it at first, it was as if my brain just skipped over the possibility. But now, I’m sure.”

     “I… it just seems so strange.” Luis looked over at Dark. “I mean, nothing’s impossible with the level of technology Sloth had, but why? Why is he a Uni? Why doesn’t he remember anything?”

     Dark smiled. There was one way to truly see if he was who they said he was. “I want to test something out. Luis doesn’t seem to recognize my voice or the way I act or move. Vinas, you said there’s one thing about Sloth that everyone knows…”

     His smile grew and he began to laugh. Vinas and Tasha winced and stepped closer together, almost as if they were trying to protect each other from… a laugh. This made Dark laugh more.

     Luis’ jaw went slack and his eyes widened in fear. He swallowed and narrowed his eyes. “Stop it! You’re scaring them! I don’t care who you are, you will not torment my friends like that!”

     Dark stopped laughing. His experiment told him two things. First, he was Dr. Frank Sloth, though part of him always knew. Second, Luis may look like a children’s toy, but there was toughness under that plush.

     “Fine,” Dark said. “I learned what I needed to learn. Now I can at least stop wasting time wondering who I am. Though I wish I could remember.”

     “Do you really not remember anything?” Tasha asked. She still seemed a little put off, but there was something new in her eyes, in the way they glared over at him. “Or is this whole thing just another plot of yours?”

     “What could I possibly gain by turning myself into a Uni and claiming I can’t remember anything?” Dark asked. “That’s the plot of an idiot.”

     Luis snorted. “Well, seeing as you’ve failed to take over this planet multiple times, I think you ran out of smart plans long before you got here.”

     “I am not stupid,” Dark said. “And neither are my plans. I might not remember them, but I am sure they were all well thought out and expertly designed.”

     “We need to stop wasting time,” Vinas said. “Tasha, is there any way you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s Sloth? We can’t just rely on our word, not if we want to make sure he’s brought to justice.”

     Tasha blinked. “Uh Vinas… You’re my brother and I love you, but you can be a bit dense sometimes. I’m just a regular doctor and this is just a regular hospital. We don’t have that kind of technology.”

     Dark laughed. “See? I told you this pitiful hospital wouldn’t have the means to do the tests you want!”

     “Don’t be so happy,” Luis said. “We'll just need to find a place that does. How about the Defenders of Neopia? Or we could go to Faerieland. Even if they can’t help, they’d know how to contact the Space Faerie.”

     Now that name made Dark’s blood run cold. An image appeared in his head. Blue hair, red eyes that were nowhere near as magnificent as his. No more memories after that, just a mix of terror and rage. There was no way they were going to hand him over to her.

     Dark stood up and ran towards the hallway, barreling into Vinas and knocking over Tasha and Luis with his shoulders when they tried to make a grab for him. If they really wanted to keep him there, they should have remembered to shut the door.

     He hurled himself into the hall and raced back down the way they had come earlier. Dark kicked the door to the lobby with his foot. It opened with a crash. He rammed his shoulder into the door leading outside. It swung open easily and Dark tumbled into the open air.

     No time to dawdle. He quickly got up and ran down the path leading back into the town, but skirted around the buildings run on the outskirts. He ran until his lungs felt like lead balloons hurtling about his chest. Dark found an alley between two buildings and hid behind a pile of old discarded boxes.

     He sat down and took a few deep painful breaths. Hopefully no one would spot him while he recovered from his daring escape. Dark nearly laughed. It was pretty daring. Those fools didn’t know what hit them.

     Dark closed his eyes. Not for a nap. This was no time for sleep. But his body didn’t want to listen.

     ***

     He opened his eyes. The spot behind the boxes was very cramped but at least he was alone. Dark took a breath. Looks like his exhaustion was gone as well.

     What now? While his strength had lasted much longer than it had when he fought Vinas, it still didn’t last nearly long enough. He’d been able to outrun Vinas and his group, but he still needed to find a way to escape.

     First he’d need his arms free. He didn’t want to go into town and ask someone, as they’d want to know why his arms were bound in the first place. That and Vinas and the others were probably running around, asking people if they’d seen a red eyed Uni.

     He’d been trying to get free ever since Vinas had captured him. Obviously, the Bori knew how to tie a knot. Perhaps he could just break the rope. It hadn’t worked before, but his strength was returning. Was he strong enough for that? Had he ever been?

     “Only one way to find out.”

     Dark pulled at the ropes as hard as he could. The rope creaked but didn’t break. He kept pulling his hands in opposite directions, straining against the pain in his wrists. Finally, the ropes snapped and arms flung apart.

     “I hope I didn’t waste all my energy on that,” Dark said, rubbing his wrists.

     Now for the second part of his escape. He needed some sort of disguise. Something quick and simple that covered his face and clothes. Maybe the boxes would have something useful.

     Dark searched through one of them. Dried bits of bread and torn copies of Lenny Crosswords for some reason. He went to the next one. Orange peels and Usuki doll heads? Great, was everything just a bunch of garbage?

      One box had old scraps of cloth. Dark took some larger green pieces and tied them into a shirt and pants, covering his old brown clothing. He picked out a smaller piece of fabric that matched his makeshift clothing. He placed the cloth on his head and tied the ends at the front so that it formed a hood. Dark probably looked like a wandering vagrant, but at least people wouldn’t be able to see his eyes.

      Vinas and his group would be on the lookout for someone in a brown shirt and pants. Why was he even wearing that in the first place? It didn’t feel right. Yet more questions that would have to wait.

     He walked out of the alley and into the town. The sun blasted into Dark’s eyes. He pulled the hood lower and he made his way down the sidewalk. There were plenty of oddly dressed Neopets, even some with hoods covering their faces, so he didn’t stick out too much.

     Everyone rushed about, pushing and jostling each other as they tried to move forward. The air was filled with nervous chatter and no one even bothered to enter the shops.

     Dark felt a tug on his leg and looked down to see a little blue Grundo girl in a pink dress and sparkly pink shoes. She clutched a red Gelert plushie in one hand.

     “Hello,” she said. “I’m lost.”

     Grundos were important, but he didn’t remember why. What he did remember was that he needed to get out of town and didn’t have time to talk to some brat.

     “Go bother someone else,” he said.

     The girl blinked back tears. “But I’m lost…”

     Dark grumbled but his lips curled up in a slight smile. This child could be useful. If he could get her to her parents, then perhaps they would help him leave the city.

     “Fine,” he said in a voice he hoped was trustworthy. “I’ll help you find your family. Where did you see them last?”

     “The Chocolate Factory,” she said.

     Dark smiled. “Don’t worry, I bet they’re still there. Come on.”

     She took his hand. It felt strange, almost annoying, to have a child hold his hand that way. Dark had no clue where the Chocolate Factory was, so he decided to walk in the direction he figured the child had come from. He doubted she had wandered off far.

     “What’s your name?” the girl asked. “I’m Tivana.”

     Dark chewed on his lip. That was a good question. Why did he still think of himself as Dark, when he knew his real name? Why didn’t he see himself as Sloth, or Frank?

     Tivana looked up at him. “Aren’t you gonna answer?”

     “Dave,” he said. Best not to answer with Dark, since word may have already gotten out that he was going by that name.

     “I like that name. My doll’s name is Evan. He’s the best Gelert in the whole world.”

     He half listened to more of Tivana’s prattle, while looking around for anyone who might be her parents. He spotted a green Grundo in a black suit and yellow and green striped tie walking with a yellow Grundo in an orange shirt and blue jeans. Their eyes were wide as they jerked their heads around, searching the crowd.

     Dark pulled Tivana toward them. As soon as they saw her, the two rushed over. They all moved to the side so as to not be in the way of the crowd.

     The Grundo in the suit picked her up. “Tivana, we told you not to rush off like that!”

     “Sorry Daddy,” she said. “Dave helped me find you.”

     The two adult Grundos looked at Dark.

     He fought the sudden urge to capture all three of them. What purpose would that serve? He had no resources to speak of and didn’t even know what he would do with a group of Grundos anyway.

     “This is my Mommy and Daddy,” Tivana said. “Mommy and Daddy, this is Dave.”

     “I’m Rivus,” the green Grundo said. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

     “And I’m Malix,” the yellow Grundo said. “I want to thank you for finding our daughter.”

     “Yes, thank you,” Rivus said. “We were terribly worried about her.”

     Malix nodded. “There are rumors that Sloth is on the loose. No one knows anything yet, but when she vanished, we feared the worst.”

     Dark grinned under his hood. If he had his memories, they would probably be very right to fear the worst. Lucky Grundos.

     “I was just doing what any Neopet would,” he said, careful to mask his voice and make it higher and softer than normal. There was no telling if these two would recognize it.

     “Not everyone would help a child in need,” Rivus said. “Is there any way we can repay you?”

     So polite and right to the point. He’d easily get what he wanted from this group. Dark shook his head and carefully thought about what he needed to say.

     “I require no reward,” he said. “I just ask for help in return. I am a wanderer from Meridell and do not know how the rest of the world works. Do you know of a way of travel I could use to make my way back home?”

     Meridell. He didn’t know what it was, but the name came to Dark as something that would fit.

     “The Uni Ferry would be your best bet,” Malix said. “But it might be a bit crowded. Many people are trying to get out of town. There’s a bit of a panic with Sloth on the loose.”

     “I do not know who that is,” Dark said. “Meridell does not get much news of the outside world.”

     “Dr. Frank Sloth is a menace,” Rivus said, his voice suddenly quivering. “He’s dangerous and whatever his plans are, we are all a lot safer far away from them.”

     “He’s a big dung head,” Trivana said. “Mommy and Daddy say he’s especially mean to Grundos.”

     “He is,” Malix said. Her voice quivered too, but it had a bit of bite to it. “Enough dawdling. We need to leave. You’re welcome to come with us, Dave. We know the way to the ferry.”

     What a perfect idea! From what he’d gathered, everyone would expect him to run around attacking Neopets, especially Grundos. And if he had such a desire to capture them even without his memories, then he must have a very deep history with their species. Walking docilely next to this family of Grundos would give him just the cover he needed to escape.

     “Thank you,” he said, still speaking in the same soft, high voice. “I truly appreciate it.”

     The Grundos weaved through the crowd as it surged forward. Rivus still clutched Trivana in his arms. Dark fought to keep up, but made sure not to jostle anyone too much. He couldn’t seem too aggressive, but he also couldn’t seem too unconcerned with the situation. So, he let his body tremble a little, borrowing a bit from the thought that if this didn’t work, he’d most likely never see the light of day again.

     “I see the ferry!” Trivana called out.

     She pointed with the hand clutching the red plushie. Its cloth ears flopped about.

     The ferry was more like a wagon, crafted out of wood and metal. The whole thing was painted to look like a sunset, a red sun setting against a maroon and pink sky, plus clouds tinted with a soft glow of orange and purple. Dark pursed his lips. Of all the garish, tacky nonsense!

     Seven silver Unis stood in front of the ferry. They were all attached to it by harnesses and two strips of gold thread. They stomped their hooves and whispered among each other. The one at the front had a large pink and black polka dot bag around her neck.

     These unis almost looked like him, but not quite. They stood on all fours and had hooves at the ends of all their limbs. If he had access to technology and his memories, could he change them to look more like his current form? Or maybe something completely new that no Neopian had ever laid their pitiful eyes on before?

     No, this was not the time to daydream about the future. He had to focus on the present and right now he needed to get away. Dark stuck with Rivus and Malix as they pushed toward the ferry.

     “Everyone calm down,” the Uni at the front of the group said. “More ferries are coming soon. We can only take the first twenty people at the head of the group.”

     She stomped a hoof on the ground so hard that dust flew up. “Hey! No pushing! I can see who’s at the head of the group right now and if I see anyone try to push forward, I will make sure they are banned from the ferry for a year!”

     Dark smiled. What spunk. Good thing he and his group of Grundo camouflage were near the front. Almost there. Still, Dark kept his body tense and scanned his eyes around the crowd.

     No sign of Vinas, Tasha, or Luis. Fools. They should have known he would try and escape. Perhaps they thought he’d try and take the town hostage or some other such dramatic act. Maybe that’s something he would have done back when he had all his memories.

     Having a clear head had its advantages. He wasn’t held down by his past and anything he might be prone to do. His mind was open to the clearest and most practical path.

     “The first twenty may slowly walk to the ferry,” the uni said. She quickly turned and glared at a Skeith. “I saw that! What did I say about pushing to the front? Banned!”

     The crowd went much more smoothly after that. The doors to the ferry opened and people began filing inside. Rivus reached into his pocket and placed some Neopoints in the head Uni’s bag.

     “I paid for you,” he said, turning to look at Dark. “I hope you don’t mind, but it’s the least I could do to repay you for helping Trivana.”

     “Thank you,” Dark said softly, careful not to let any of his true voice come through. “I am grateful to have met such kind people.”

     “As I am grateful to have met you,” Rivus said.

     Malix smiled. “Fate smiled kindly on all four of us today.”

     Dark nodded. “It did, indeed.”

     Such kind folk and trusting too. Never once asking to see inside his hood, or questioning him more about his claims of being a wanderer from Meridell. Maybe they figured he was horribly disfigured and didn’t want to pry. Or perhaps they just didn’t want to invade his privacy. Either way, it worked to his advantage.

     He climbed into the ferry and took a seat near the back, next to one of the windows. The Grundos took a seat near the front. Good. He didn’t want to spend the trip trying to come up with vapid conversation.

     The doors closed and the ferry rose off the ground. Dark watched the land fall away. He’d made it. Whatever problems awaited him in the future, at least for right now, he’d won.

     Dark smiled. Winning, however tiny the victory, made his heart feel as light as the ferry now flying across the sky. And he finally knew why he still saw himself as Dark and not Sloth or Frank.

     From what others said about him, Dr. Frank Sloth was a force of nature, a storm that destroyed and dominated the ruins of his conquests. That’s why he couldn’t bring himself to use those names. He hadn’t earned them. At least not yet.

     Sloth was his past… and his future. Dark would travel the world and learn more about the man he used to be. He would find a way to return his memories, all of them. And after that, he would reclaim his name and take back his rightful place in the world.

     

     “I hope I didn’t waste all my energy on that,” Dark said, rubbing his wrists.

     Now for the second part of his escape. He needed some sort of disguise. Something quick and simple that covered his face and clothes. Maybe the boxes would have something useful.

     Dark searched through one of them. Dried bits of bread and torn copies of Lenny Crosswords for some reason. He went to the next one. Orange peels and Usuki doll heads? Great, was everything just a bunch of garbage?

      One box had old scraps of cloth. Dark took some larger green pieces and tied them into a shirt and pants, covering his old brown clothing. He picked out a smaller piece of fabric that matched his makeshift clothing. He placed the cloth on his head and tied the ends at the front so that it formed a hood. Dark probably looked like a wandering vagrant, but at least people wouldn’t be able to see his eyes.

      Vinas and his group would be on the lookout for someone in a brown shirt and pants. Why was he even wearing that in the first place? It didn’t feel right. Yet more questions that would have to wait.

     He walked out of the alley and into the town. The sun blasted into Dark’s eyes. He pulled the hood lower and he made his way down the sidewalk. There were plenty of oddly dressed Neopets, even some with hoods covering their faces, so he didn’t stick out too much.

     Everyone rushed about, pushing and jostling each other as they tried to move forward. The air was filled with nervous chatter and no one even bothered to enter the shops.

     Dark felt a tug on his leg and looked down to see a little blue Grundo girl in a pink dress and sparkly pink shoes. She clutched a red Gelert plushie in one hand.

     “Hello,” she said. “I’m lost.”

     Grundos were important, but he didn’t remember why. What he did remember was that he needed to get out of town and didn’t have time to talk to some brat.

     “Go bother someone else,” he said.

     The girl blinked back tears. “But I’m lost…”

     Dark grumbled but his lips curled up in a slight smile. This child could be useful. If he could get her to her parents, then perhaps they would help him leave the city.

     “Fine,” he said in a voice he hoped was trustworthy. “I’ll help you find your family. Where did you see them last?”

     “The Chocolate Factory,” she said.

     Dark smiled. “Don’t worry, I bet they’re still there. Come on.”

     She took his hand. It felt strange, almost annoying, to have a child hold his hand that way. Dark had no clue where the Chocolate Factory was, so he decided to walk in the direction he figured the child had come from. He doubted she had wandered off far.

     “What’s your name?” the girl asked. “I’m Tivana.”

     Dark chewed on his lip. That was a good question. Why did he still think of himself as Dark, when he knew his real name? Why didn’t he see himself as Sloth, or Frank?

     Tivana looked up at him. “Aren’t you gonna answer?”

     “Dave,” he said. Best not to answer with Dark, since word may have already gotten out that he was going by that name.

     “I like that name. My doll’s name is Evan. He’s the best Gelert in the whole world.”

     He half listened to more of Tivana’s prattle, while looking around for anyone who might be her parents. He spotted a green Grundo in a black suit and yellow and green striped tie walking with a yellow Grundo in an orange shirt and blue jeans. Their eyes were wide as they jerked their heads around, searching the crowd.

     Dark pulled Tivana toward them. As soon as they saw her, the two rushed over. They all moved to the side so as to not be in the way of the crowd.

     The Grundo in the suit picked her up. “Tivana, we told you not to rush off like that!”

     “Sorry Daddy,” she said. “Dave helped me find you.”

     The two adult Grundos looked at Dark.

     He fought the sudden urge to capture all three of them. What purpose would that serve? He had no resources to speak of and didn’t even know what he would do with a group of Grundos anyway.

     “This is my Mommy and Daddy,” Tivana said. “Mommy and Daddy, this is Dave.”

     “I’m Rivus,” the green Grundo said. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

     “And I’m Malix,” the yellow Grundo said. “I want to thank you for finding our daughter.”

     “Yes, thank you,” Rivus said. “We were terribly worried about her.”

     Malix nodded. “There are rumours that Sloth is on the loose. No one knows anything yet, but when she vanished, we feared the worst.”

     Dark grinned under his hood. If he had his memories, they would probably be very right to fear the worst. Lucky Grundos.

     “I was just doing what any Neopet would,” he said, careful to mask his voice and make it higher and softer than normal. There was no telling if these two would recognize it.

     “Not everyone would help a child in need,” Rivus said. “Is there any way we can repay you?”

     So polite and right to the point. He’d easily get what he wanted from this group. Dark shook his head and carefully thought about what he needed to say.

     “I require no reward,” he said. “I just ask for help in return. I am a wanderer from Meridell and do not know how the rest of the world works. Do you know of a way of travel I could use to make my way back home?”

     Meridell. He didn’t know what it was, but the name came to Dark as something that would fit.

     “The Uni Ferry would be your best bet,” Malix said. “But it might be a bit crowded. Many people are trying to get out of town. There’s a bit of a panic with Sloth on the loose.”

     “I do not know who that is,” Dark said. “Meridell does not get much news of the outside world.”

     “Dr. Frank Sloth is a menace,” Rivus said, his voice suddenly quivering. “He’s dangerous and whatever his plans are, we are all a lot safer far away from them.”

     “He’s a big dung head,” Trivana said. “Mommy and Daddy say he’s especially mean to Grundos.”

     “He is,” Malix said. Her voice quivered too, but it had a bit of bite to it. “Enough dawdling. We need to leave. You’re welcome to come with us, Dave. We know the way to the ferry.”

     What a perfect idea! From what he’d gathered, everyone would expect him to run around attacking Neopets, especially Grundos. And if he had such a desire to capture them even without his memories, then he must have a very deep history with their species. Walking docilely next to this family of Grundos would give him just the cover he needed to escape.

     “Thank you,” he said, still speaking in the same soft, high voice. “I truly appreciate it.”

     The Grundos weaved through the crowd as it surged forward. Rivus still clutched Trivana in his arms. Dark fought to keep up, but made sure not to jostle anyone too much. He couldn’t seem too aggressive, but he also couldn’t seem too unconcerned with the situation. So, he let his body tremble a little, borrowing a bit from the thought that if this didn’t work, he’d most likely never see the light of day again.

     “I see the ferry!” Trivana called out.

     She pointed with the hand clutching the red plushie. Its cloth ears flopped about.

     The ferry was more like a wagon, crafted out of wood and metal. The whole thing was painted to look like a sunset, a red sun setting against a maroon and pink sky, plus clouds tinted with a soft glow of orange and purple. Dark pursed his lips. Of all the garish, tacky nonsense!

     Seven silver Unis stood in front of the ferry. They were all attached to it by harnesses and two strips of gold thread. They stomped their hooves and whispered among each other. The one at the front had a large pink and black polka dot bag around her neck.

     These unis almost looked like him, but not quite. They stood on all fours and had hooves at the ends of all their limbs. If he had access to technology and his memories, could he change them to look more like his current form? Or maybe something completely new that no Neopian had ever laid their pitiful eyes on before?

     No, this was not the time to daydream about the future. He had to focus on the present and right now he needed to get away. Dark stuck with Rivus and Malix as they pushed toward the ferry.

     “Everyone calm down,” the Uni at the front of the group said. “More ferries are coming soon. We can only take the first twenty people at the head of the group.”

     She stomped a hoof on the ground so hard that dust flew up. “Hey! No pushing! I can see who’s at the head of the group right now and if I see anyone try to push forward, I will make sure they are banned from the ferry for a year!”

     Dark smiled. What spunk. Good thing he and his group of Grundo camouflage were near the front. Almost there. Still, Dark kept his body tense and scanned his eyes around the crowd.

     No sign of Vinas, Tasha, or Luis. Fools. They should have known he would try and escape. Perhaps they thought he’d try and take the town hostage or some other such dramatic act. Maybe that’s something he would have done back when he had all his memories.

     Having a clear head had its advantages. He wasn’t held down by his past and anything he might be prone to do. His mind was open to the clearest and most practical path.

     “The first twenty may slowly walk to the ferry,” the uni said. She quickly turned and glared at a Skeith. “I saw that! What did I say about pushing to the front? Banned!”

     The crowd went much more smoothly after that. The doors to the ferry opened and people began filing inside. Rivus reached into his pocket and placed some Neopoints in the head Uni’s bag.

     “I paid for you,” he said, turning to look at Dark. “I hope you don’t mind, but it’s the least I could do to repay you for helping Trivana.”

     “Thank you,” Dark said softly, careful not to let any of his true voice come through. “I am grateful to have met such kind people.”

     “As I am grateful to have met you,” Rivus said.

     Malix smiled. “Fate smiled kindly on all four of us today.”

     Dark nodded. “It did, indeed.”

     Such kind folk and trusting too. Never once asking to see inside his hood, or questioning him more about his claims of being a wanderer from Meridell. Maybe they figured he was horribly disfigured and didn’t want to pry. Or perhaps they just didn’t want to invade his privacy. Either way, it worked to his advantage.

     He climbed into the ferry and took a seat near the back, next to one of the windows. The Grundos took a seat near the front. Good. He didn’t want to spend the trip trying to come up with vapid conversation.

     The doors closed and the ferry rose off the ground. Dark watched the land fall away. He’d made it. Whatever problems awaited him in the future, at least for right now, he’d won.

     Dark smiled. Winning, however tiny the victory, made his heart feel as light as the ferry now flying across the sky. And he finally knew why he still saw himself as Dark and not Sloth or Frank.

     From what others said about him, Dr. Frank Sloth was a force of nature, a storm that destroyed and dominated the ruins of his conquests. That’s why he couldn’t bring himself to use those names. He hadn’t earned them. At least not yet.

     Sloth was his past… and his future. Dark would travel the world and learn more about the man he used to be. He would find a way to return his memories, all of them. And after that, he would reclaim his name and take back his rightful place in the world.

     The End.

 
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