Chet Flash wuz here Circulation: 130,067,293 Issue: 259 | 29th day of Gathering, Y8
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by yatomiyuka


It's been a long day, I think to myself as I glare at the rusty room key. It cost me all of a thousand Neopoints, and that's without a meal. There are no carpets here in the hall; I expect the rooms to be in an even worse state. Still, I couldn't have gone any further today. I'm just about ready to collapse as it is.

     With a soft sigh, I make my way to the end of the corridor, where my room awaits me. I can see candlelight flickering away inside; it shines from the crack between door and floor. Hesitantly I turn the key and push the door, which swings open silently, despite the rusty hinges and the cobwebs.

     A black book lies abandoned on the stone table. The cover, illuminated only by the dim light of three torches hanging from the walls, bears the following name in flowing golden script:


     Isaiko must have been the last person to use this room, I realise. A chill breeze drifts in through the hole in the wall; a window not fit to be called a window. Suddenly I wonder if it was wise to stop for the night in such a desolate place. Again, the glinting gold catches my eye. As I reach out for the book, it falls open in my hands, almost inviting me to read.

     Isaiko... who was Isaiko? I have to know, now, and this book is an opportunity to find out. Hesitantly my eyes shift from the cover to the first page, which is filled with black text of the same flowing quality as the name written on the outer cover...


     My name, as you already know, is Isaiko.

     I left my family and friends behind to follow fame. Later, when I realised it was all in vain, I became bitter and twisted inside.

     Pride is a simple thing. It can cost the world, or put it at your feet. Why did I give in? I didn't see what I was doing to you. You cared so much about me. Now I have no one to turn to. I'm sorry. It's been so long, now, since I saw your face. I'd give anything to turn back time. As if rhyme has such a power; as if words can make a memory real again... my long-lost friends; my family--and everyone I never knew but should have known; anyone who would have made me less alone. I'm sorry.

     To whoever is reading this: please take care, for in your hands you hold my past and my future. My last endeavour is to tell this tale; for by the day, I grow more frail, and still they hunt me. I document this mainly so that you will not follow me, for my fate is a grim one. Don't get pulled in, just hold on tight to your mind and soul and you'll be all right...

     These pages are soaked with the last of my magic. Preserve them, and you will be preserved by me.


     Such a strange book, I think to myself... it seems as if the pages are charged with magic. I have to know more. Resigned to a night of reading, I settle into a stone chair beside the table and turn the page.


     At the beginning, I had everything. No pet could have asked for more. I had many friends; family I would have died for. They all watched me rise with joy, not knowing I would fall. Most of all, they fed my dreams; even when it seemed that all was lost, they were on my side. I never even tried to make it work when things got hard.

     As a child I dreamt of many things; I wished I could dance, write, sing. Then I discovered music. I felt like I was meant for it, and it for me-when my fingers danced across the strings, it set me free. Without complaint, my mother slaved away to pay for my obsession. Night after night she returned home late, eyes heavy with exhaustion.

     The day I got my first guitar, I cried. It was painted gold-and-black, and my name was etched in silver on the side. That night my fingers bled; I never even went to bed, and all the time my sister sat up with me. She was only three back then. Nobody wanted to drag her away. Eyes bright, she watched me play all night, and slept all day.

     When I grew older, my world view changed. We were a poor family; living from day to day, scouring the streets for change. Then my mother lost her job. Things would never be the same. Little Lea often had to beg, and we were always hungry. I thought if I could make them happy, any price would be a bargain deal. Filled with zeal, I left them with a promise and a kiss. My mother only said, "I wish it hadn't come to this."

     For some time, I was alone; a blue Acara in a world of golden Draiks. I grew to hate the rich and their cold attitudes. Most of them were rude enough to laugh at me when they saw me stood there, in my rags and strumming my guitar. Every single night I prayed on a shooting star. That never seemed to get me very far.

     All I had was music, and it kept me alive. It still took real effort to survive out on the streets. Nobody would hire a musician with no music of his own. In the end, I took a sheet and tried to write a song, but everything I tried to write went wrong. I was ready to give up, then, but I struggled grimly on. For Lea, and mother, and all of my friends who might never see me again. I knew they would remember me always, and I them.

     One night, as I settled down to sleep, I heard a voice. It spoke in a deep whisper that sent shivers down my spine, for I could not see the speaker. "This way," it said, and took me by the paw. I dug my claws into the earth in vain.

     "Who are you?" I cried out, pained by his strong grip.

     "There's no time to explain." In this fashion I was led away. We slipped past leaning houses, between other sleeping forms that lay in doorways and behind bins. Soon we arrived at a dark wood door. My eyes found the floor, where a thin trail of light streamed out into the night. It swung open suddenly; the stranger released his grip on me and I stepped inside.

     The room was small and bright. Two candles perched on the edge of a table where a Ruki sat working. As the door closed, he looked up, eyes beady and searching. I flinched, suddenly uncertain.

     "Is this the one you were talking about?"

     "Yes." The speaker, my captor, was a shadow Eyrie. Outside, his fur had blended with the walls and made him hard to see. His eyes were green and blue, and they were fixed on me.

     "Why did you bring me here?" My voice echoed clear and true in the silence of the room. Both continued to stare at me.

     "You mean you don't know who we are?" the Ruki asked, surprise dawning on his face. There was no trace of anger in his eyes.

     "Obviously not. I've been on the streets these past three years," I said. "Throughout this time, my hopes have been dashed and my mind has been filled with fears."

     "Say," the Eyrie said. "Can I look at that instrument?" My grip on it tightened.

     "It's the only thing I have left in the world," I said, and my eyes grew wet with unshed tears.

     "I mean it no harm." His eyes were kind, so I lifted it over my arm and presented it to him. "You must have spent a fortune on this thing," he said after a moment.

     "Not me," I said. "My family..."

     "I see." With great care, he returned the guitar. "Isaiko, if that is your real name, I--that is to say, we--have a proposition to make." It was then that I first dared to hope again. My hope was fleeting; I quickly realised their meaning. Shame filled me as I realised I had done nothing for my family. I could not miss this opportunity, though it would pain me to lose my guitar. Again, tears threatened; I lowered my eyes with a shuddering sigh.

     "Why look so down?" the Ruki inquired. "I know you've got more reason than most to be wearing a frown, but why don't you hear us out?"

     "Fine," I said, almost viciously. I felt betrayed; they had given me hope and snatched it away before I had a chance to catch it.

     "Well, I heard you playing in the street the other day. You have a lot of talent," I heard him say. I felt my teeth grind and tried to occupy my mind with other matters. What he said next would shatter my world. "I was hoping you would play for us. We're missing a guitarist, and it's a shame to see such skill go to waste..."

     "I--what?" My heart was racing. This was it! The chance to prove my worth! It was sink or swim. "Of course I will!"

     "Brilliant. Well, since we're band mates now, it can't hurt to tell you my name," he said, offering a clawed hand. "I'm Shane."


     I look up from the page. The world is growing light around me, already; according to the clock, it's exactly 5:00. The night has passed me by without my notice, and I never even thought to check the time! Perhaps this bizarre diary does have some magic properties, after all.

     Standing up, I fold the page and place the book into my bag. Although the bed is made of stone, I need a place to think on what I read, so I lay down. Why me, out of all the people in the world? Why was I chosen to find this book? Maybe it would be better to throw it away. And yet... it calls to me again. I find myself needing to know how the story ends. Sleepless and frustrated, I finally fish the book from my bag and flip back to the folded page...


     From that day on, I had a purpose once again. My days of struggle seemed like an eternity away. My band mates, Shane, Lukas and Ian, were like a second family. I felt so safe and happy with them, travelling and playing for a pittance, and not caring that our clothes were old and tattered. Nothing mattered--neither fame nor riches had a place in our hearts. Some say it's what set us apart from the crowd.

     As with all things, time and fate brought change. For a time, I think we were deranged. As we moved from place to place, we gathered fame; our names were plastered on proud banners, fans would flock to hear us play. Night and day, it never stopped. We were thrown into a different world; more serious, and strange.

     With recognition came the riches. Bitterness crept between us, wraithlike, daring us to exercise our greed. I acted only out of need. I took just enough to feed and clothe my family; it was less than a tenth of the total pay for one concert. I thought it would be okay, but things never work out that way, do they?

     Old tensions rose to the surface. It didn't take them long to notice something was amiss. They knew about my situation; I'd told them many tales about my family, how they still lived in poverty awaiting my return. But nothing seemed to sway them when that tension started to burn.

     "I can't believe you did this," Shane roared, voice rising over the discordant cries of rage. "We used to be a team! You're letting greed consume you! Isaiko... I don't know the new you. What happened?"

     Penned in, I had no choice. Their voice, united, was much louder than my own. Alone again, I never took the money home. I kept the dream alive, but it came at a terrible price. After that, we didn't really speak again. I had lost my friends, forsaken my family. My weakness was in letting them beat me.

     I wish that was the end of it, but there is more to tell. I withdrew into my shell, stopped being a part of the group. They didn't care. To tell the truth, I think they preferred it that way. In my loneliness, I became bitter and cold. It grew and festered like a lump of mould. I would have sold my soul to escape it. Looking back, it's all a blur. One day slurred into the next; I did my best to hold onto my sanity, but in the end, I was a travesty of a pet...


     At this point, the writing is slurred and shaky, as though this 'Isaiko' (if that is his real name) had trouble writing it. In places, the page is even blurred, as though waterlogged. Fascinated, I make to turn the page; when I do, I find it blank. Frustrated, I turn several more pages. On the seventh page-turn, the writing returns, as if it had never stopped.


     A storm shook Tyrannia that night. Thunder rent the clouds in two; lightning tore holes in the atmosphere, casting the world in stark white. I wanted to fight, to make right all the wrongs that surrounded me, but I lacked the power to do so. Power was one thing they promised me; it was not the only thing. It was just the most alluring. I was drawn by the dark beauty of the power they possessed; it was like ripples on the surface of a still ocean of secrets.

     "Now is the time," they whispered, "make us proud to be your allies. Go." One hand on my beloved guitar, one hand in the air, I spoke to the world. They began to stare.

     "Rise up!" I called. Obediently, the crowd rose; silently they waited for my next command. I moved my hand a fraction of an inch, and as I did so, I began to chant.

     "Ra'kun amareh... sah! Ra'kun amareh... SAH!" The call echoed through the hall, resonant and glorious. They thought it was part of the act. In some ways, that was a fact; but it was so much more than that...

     A slender whip of lightning struck the earth at my feet. Shane stepped in front of me, his face a starkly snowy white; his eyes, like fireflies, darted to and fro. "Isaiko? What?"

     "You are a disgrace," I told him flatly. He spat with fury, but said nothing; saving face as always. I moved my hand; the lightning hit the land again, this time in the middle of the dome. They dove and screamed with fear, the weaklings that they were. The children shed their tears. Some tried to run; there was no way out. I felt so invincible; for once, I was in control. I felt it tearing, like a fire, in my soul.

     Again, I reached for the power; the crowd could only watch in horror. Then, suddenly, I was on the ground. A terrible sound filled my mind, like writhing monsters crying out in pain.

     When I woke again, the noise was gone; I was alone on stage. Smoke filled the air and turned it black; tongues of cruel flame danced back and forth. The blame would rest with me. They would lock me away, never to be free. I could not let this be.

     Standing, I realized I had changed. My teeth and fur were longer now; my paws much larger, armed with claws; the horns upon my head were hard and smooth. So strange, so new. There was no time to lose. I sensed their approach; they were on the move. It made my flesh creep, just thinking about what I had caused. The heavy roar of fire pounded on my head; my limbs felt like over-heavy lead. But I was really, truly afraid; like never before. Ever since that day, I've been growing more and more paranoid. There was only one thing left to do; and that was to flee, to find sanctuary.

     So I ran. Through lands I'd seen only in dreams, past deserts and mountains, rivers and streams. Where I am now, only the wretched would follow. Constantly, I am filled with guilt and sorrow; longing for a chance to change the past; but I only have tomorrow, and it may not last. Time is late, and growing later all the time. Please remember this.



     For the first time in a long time, genuine fear has wormed its way into my heart and mind. I creep under the bed, reaching out, feeling for any sign of life. When none reveals itself, I let myself relax. Marginally. Then, an almost undetectable sound floats through the air and hits my ears; the sound of phantom fingers strumming a hidden guitar. And laughter, too, though I might have imagined that part.

      Is he here still, watching; waiting for someone to read his story?

     I didn't wait to find out. In fairness, you would have done the same, if you felt the way I did that early morning. My exhaustion was the least of my worries. I decide on leaving the book where I first found it, where the person destined to be its next reader will find it. That person could be anyone.

     Even you.

The End

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