There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 179,399,125 Issue: 441 | 30th day of Eating, Y12
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A Division of Houses


by lyraedi

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Amidst the ominous trees, beyond the invisible eyes watching every intruding movement, hostile and afraid, lies a sad house. It reeks with longing, wistful sighs oozing through the rotted cracks of the old soft wood. It cries though no one can hear – or maybe no one cares to listen. At night, when the pale face of the moon shines brightest, the house seems to lean to the east, stretching beyond its limits, scraping with its forgotten nails against the rusty locks that bind it to these Haunted Woods. It wishes to be free.

      This house was not always sad. This house was not always aware, not always yearning. But it has been so long since the tragedy that they have become one – the hasty seams swollen with anger and fear from memories lost amid the seas of the ancient times have melded, merged. They do not know where one ends and the other begins. They do not know which is wistful, wishing to hear the familiar sound of an unfamiliar past, the melody of water breaking, waves dancing, and sand sighing. They do not know which wants the sea.

      * * *

      “Raiyne, come on! You can’t peadackle out now.” The blue Lutari turned back at the sound of her name and affixed the taunting mutant Lenny with a glare.

      “Ivah, how many times do I have to tell you? I do NOT like the Haunted Woods! I mean, it’s the summer,” Raiyne faced the easterly winds and closed her eyes, the salts of the sea ruffling through her fur, whispering sweet nothings into her skin, “and summer is an absolute perfect match with the ocean. Look at this day – it’s gorgeous! We are so not going to waste it stuck in those awful dark trees.”

      The day truly was beautiful. The lemonade sun shone brilliantly at the height of its arc, noon, sprinkling the tranquil waters below with shattered light and glittering reflections of bubbling sea foam. The surface of the soft sand, so fine, seemed to sway and tiptoe with the breeze, creating a fine low level mist of golden powder. Why would such a regal view be a direct neighbor with the Woods? The Haunted Woods, in complete contrast with the famous Woods Coast, reeked of darkness and evil. Childhood stories rumor that the sun hasn’t touched the floor of the Woods in over nine thousand years. Raiyne turned back to Ivah, who still perched expectantly on a gnarled, knobby branch, not unlike Jhudora’s twisted and wrinkled skin. Knowing that she could fight the large, Puppyblew eyes of her friend, the Lutari gave the Lenny one last hard look before sighing and conceding defeat.

      Ivah giggled and hopped off her branch (Raiyne could have sworn that the dark oak shuddered) and took two great flaps before soaring into the constricted airspace granted by the claustrophobic prison of the trees. Raiyne couldn’t help the small shiver that shook through her teeth, nor the sinking cold enveloping her limbs the further they headed into the Woods. What struck Raiyne the most was the silence. She could not hear the calm, soothing noises of the ocean left long behind them. She could not feel the saddening calls of the common crokabeks. She couldn’t discern any other sound other than the soft padding of her feet on the hardened dirt below her and the swooshing of Ivah’s ruffled wings. The atmosphere seemed... angry. So preoccupied with the journey itself, she barely acknowledged the Lenny’s flighty voice through the irritated and otherwise soundless air.

      “...and that’s how I learned about this house! So I figure we just pop over, spend the night or whatever, and then head back to the village by the coast. That reward is as good as ours, Rai! I’ve had my eyes on this really cute outfit that I saw in the Clothing Shop last week...”

      “I don’t know, Ivah. I’ve heard about this house and it’s pretty spooky. It’s the one nearby Edna’s place, right? It’s just all run down and moldy... yuck. Can’t we just not stay in it and say we –” Raiyne’s words halted abruptly along with her footsteps, for her breath froze in her throat as she felt something lightly tug on her tail.

      Letting out a shriek of pure fright, she whirled around and protectively clutched her tail, chest heaving. On the ground slightly off from the dirt-worn path she and Ivah had been traveling was a tombstone.

      “What the...” Raiyne murmured to herself, her heart still hammering out staccato beats.

      “Rai! What happened?” At the sound of Raiyne’s outburst, Ivah swooped back to land on the ground next to her.

      “A Halloween Pet Rock? Come on, Rai. That’s silly – you’ve seen tombstones before.” Ivah giggled. Raiyne ignored her and crept cautiously towards the offending rock. Something had touched her, she was sure of it. On closer inspection, Raiyne could begin to make out a few words on the stone.

      “Bewa... hous... lose yourself. What? What does that even mean?” Ivah cocked her head to one side and continued, “It sounds like it is saying to beware the house... or we’ll lose ourselves? Wow, that’s such a letdown. I was expecting some sort of awesome mysterious coded message.”

      “I don’t know, Ivah. There’s something about this tombstone. It seems... well, it seems kind of alive. And I swear I felt something touch me!” Raiyne said thoughtfully, “Maybe we should take this warning seriously.” The Lenny scoffed at her words and began gliding down the path towards the house once again.

      “Look, I’m going into that house whether or not you come. But I won’t be sharing the prize neopoints if you back out of this!” Raiyne gave a small groan and began to trot after her friend. Looking back, she couldn’t help noticing that the lone tombstone seemed a little sad.

      * * *

      The house was more sinister and more menacing than Raiyne had imagined. Even the bubbly Ivah seemed a little hesitant about entering its gate. Something about these Woods, Raiyne thought, feels like things are alive when they shouldn’t be. It was true; the house carried an air of dark excitement, almost to the point of silent begging to have one of the two friends cross into its walls. The doors, blackened and rotted, were slightly ajar, revealing the inky blackness inside the home. The windows were boarded up, some of the wood planks deteriorated and broken. On one side of the house, a trellis had been overrun with thick, dark green vines, clutching and grabbing the walls and roof.

      Looking down, Raiyne could see a few words, slightly faded, etched into the rock hard packed dirt below their feet.

      “’Do not pass this threshold.’ Oh great, another warning. You – you know what? I bet it’s the people hosting the contest. They just don’t want to lose all their money!” Ivah nervously said, her attempt at sounding nonchalant failing miserably. Raiyne didn’t respond, leaving the eerie quiet after Ivah’s words faded away intact.

      Suddenly, the silence was pierced with a mechanical jingle.

      “Oh shoot, I have a new neomail! I had no idea there was reception in here! I’ll be right back, Rai. Go on without me! I’ll be back really soon.” Ivah pulled out the letter that had appeared in her portable neomail bag and immediately soared upwards, struggling through the thick, dense foliage that blocked out the sun.

      Raiyne watched her friend fly upward until the leaves blocked her view before centering her focus on the house again. Now that she was alone, the quiet seemed so loud that it pounded on her eardrums, threatening to overcome her will.

      “Okay, Rai,” the Lutari said out loud, desperate for some kind of noise in the empty air. “I might as well get started, right? Ivah’s probably expecting me to find the perfect room to sleep in overnight.” With those words, Raiyne inhaled, straightened up, passed the threshold, and took the first steps inside. Outside, a slight gust of wind passed and the warning on the dirt slowly disappeared from view.

      As soon as she passed the entrance, Raiyne sensed something was very, very wrong. The air indoors was significantly icier than outdoors. There seemed to be a sort of strange breeze inside the main corridor, undulating in and out, reminiscent of shallow breathing. Slowly, behind her, the door began to swing shut on its own accord, the small light that filtered in from outside diminishing. Panicking, Raiyne turned to leave but found that she couldn’t move her body at all – her limbs felt like they had been filled with lead.

      The door clicked shut.

      All light was extinguished from the house. Standing in the darkness, thick like black paint, Raiyne couldn’t make a noise. However, she didn’t need to. Somewhere in front of her, faint footsteps were growing louder – slow, deliberate footsteps. Her heart fluttered in her chest as she was consumed by terror. The footsteps kept growing louder and louder until Raiyne was sure that whoever or whatever was walking closer to her in the black air was going to walk right through her.

      Then the footsteps stopped directly in front of her. There was a moment of silence until a voice, wafting up from all around her whispered,

      “I am sorry, but I wish to be free.”

      With those words, Raiyne suddenly felt extremely light. She tried to wiggle or move but to no avail. The light feeling evolved into weightlessness, and she felt like she was floating above the floor. All of a sudden, the lights in the house snapped back on. Chandeliers covered in dust glowed with intense luster and the whole interior was bathed in liquid golden light.

      Raiyne then realized that she was looking at her own body.

      “What?” she tried to say, but instead of words, all the shutters on the outside of the house slammed shut. Raiyne watched her body twitch, her eyes slowly opening.

      She watched the dark smile come across her own face.

      “Finally,” she heard her voice say, “I’m finally free! A Lutari? Ah well, it could have been a Skeith or some other monstrous body. I’m sorry that I’ll have to leave you like this, my dear, but you should have heeded the warning. You’ll get used to the silence sooner or later.”

     Raiyne struggled to move, struggled to say something, but only succeeded in making the whole house groan and tremble. Realization dawned on her that she was the house.

      “Calm down, foolish girl. You haven’t even inhabited the house for a minute! I’ve been trapped in this wretched, run-down shack for nearly a century. I’ve learned my lesson: never anger a swamp witch. That miserable little Ixi hasn’t heard the last of me.” He chuckled.

      “It was a silly thing, really. I had been Sophie’s apprentice for quite some time. I had so much potential! So much talent! Deep down I knew that the foolish Ixi was trying to hold me back. I believe that she was afraid of my power and what I could accomplish.

      “I began to seek help elsewhere and I started to steal books from her personal library on, well, darker magic. Typically, she found out just as I was about to leave to venture to Faerieland to beg Jhudora to teach me her secrets. Outraged, Sophie trapped me in this house. Pathetic, wouldn’t you say? Anyway, I’m sorry I have to leave you like this. Think about it this way – the next person who steps in this house you shall inhabit. It’ll be like a little trip into the future for you.”

      Raiyne thrashed in her mind, screaming, begging whoever had control over her person now to feel pity for her and return her to her body. The house only shuddered. Outside, a familiar voice drifted in through the door.

      “Rai? You in there?” It was Ivah, having returned from her neomail.

      Unable to respond, Raiyne was forced to watch her body glance outside, turn back and give the house a salute, and then step outside.

      “Hey! I have a better idea! We’re really close to Neopia Central, so why don’t we stop by the Chocolate Factory? It’s on me. And maybe afterwards we can head over to Faerieland. I’ve always wanted to visit!” she heard her voice say outside.

      “Oh, girl, you sure know how to spoil me. All right, let’s go! Besides, I actually change my mind about this house thing. It sure was a lot creepier than I expected.” Ivah’s voice slowly faded away with the doppelganger as the pair put distance between them and the house – Raiyne.

      It began to rain.

      * * *

      Some nights, people who happen to walk by that sad house say that it seems to be falling apart. The incident that happened nearly a century ago has left the house divided between the one who wants the sea and the one who wants to sleep. They do not know who is who – they do not know which memory is theirs, nor which desire is the one that they carry. All they know is that they are divided, but whole.

      And a house divided will fall.

The End

 
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