Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 196,828,660 Issue: 944 | 17th day of Gathering, Y23
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The Adventures of Fanny in the Land of the Bizarre

by rielcz



      Fanny’s adventure had taken a turn toward the dire.

      As the Korbat escorted her away, the young girl thought back on her life. Her greatest accomplishment: living to be eleven. Her biggest regret: only living to be that simple pair of ones. That, and never holding an Aquaberry. Or teaching a Weewoo to tap dance ten times. Sigh, there was still much she wanted to do. And still, perhaps she would get the chance—

      Her thoughts were broken by speech from the Executioner. “Oy!” he started in a harsh hushed voice as he held the jar containing the diminutive Ixi up to his eye; Fanny could see pity spread across his face. “I don’t like habin’ to hang da’ young, ya’ know? Seems like an awful waste – would much prefa’ ya’ was just sentenced ta’ torture.” He grinned madly. “I’d hab more fun, too, den. I’m no stranger ta’ torturing da’ children.”

      Fanny frowned at him. “You don’t have to hang me, you know,” she replied with level-headedness as she raised a hoof like an olive branch. “You can just let me go and we can pretend that you hung me.”

      The Korbat furrowed his brow. “Like… lie?”

      She grinned charismatically through the jar. “More like… an objection based off your conscience. That sounds plausible, no?”

      The clown shrugged. “Could, but ma’ conscience tells me it’s just betta’ to obey da’ audority, hang ya’, and den go grab a real stiff drink.” He stopped walking, and Fanny looked through the jar and out over a very tall, very unfriendly looking cliff. “Well,” he said, “we’re here fer yer hangin’ – hangin’ off a cliff ‘til ya’ fall and perish, dat is!”

      Fanny pouted and crossed her arms. “So, you’d rather see me die than live?”

      “Nah, I’d radder see ya’ lib, but it’s ma’ blood or yers.” He looked up, and Fanny followed the Korbat’s gaze – right into the furious eyes of Princess, who stood beside them.

      The Ixi sighed, resigned. Well, she was done for. But, a haggler until the item she wanted was sold out, she quickly turned to face her direct captor and started, “What about if—”

      “Goodbye,” the Korbat idly replied, cutting short her thought, as he dumped the contents of the jar over the side of the cliff.

      Fanny screamed, and just managed to catch a branch growing out the side of the cliff. She panted heavily and held on for dear life.

      “Any last words?” Princess asked snarkily as she strode up to Fanny.

      The Ixi paused and thought a moment. “No,” she stated a few seconds later. “I wish to be remembered by all my young life’s words, not just my last ones.”

      The faerie sneered and looked over the cliff edge – it was a far, far drop. “No matter, your strength can’t last forever. You’ll be gone in a matter of minutes.”

      But minutes passed, and yet Fanny hung. Being out in nature, amongst the rocks and the breeze, was almost peaceful to the young Ixi. It was certainly more peaceful than the time she gobbled down approximately twenty-two sevenths of turnip pudding pies; she had a terrible tummy ache for exactly three consecutive days.

      “Well isn’t this quite the cliff-hanger?” spoke the faerie softly, in the sort of voice with which one delivers one-liners.

      “Not really,” rebutted the Ixi. “A cliffhanger would imply an abrupt and unresolved ending to the story,” she commented matter-of-factly, though with a shade of snark. “I dare say my story will have quite the satisfactory conclusion.” She smiled smugly.

      “This isn’t some Saturday-morning cartoon from Y4,” seethed the faerie through gritted teeth. “The protagonist doesn’t always win.”

      Fanny, with a barely perceptible smile, looked up at Princess and innocently batted her eyelashes. “So, you’re calling me the protagonist?”

      Princess scowled. “You little brat!” She started to march over to the cliff, shaking her fist at the tiny Neopet. “I’ll knock you down myself if I have to!”

      Fanny winced. Her caustic wit had suddenly placed her in a more life-threatening situation.

      But then… she heard a voice. “Hogwash,” breathed the air.

      “Advocate?” asked Fanny hopefully, looking wildly about.

      “Not her!” came the voice again as, suddenly, Fanny felt herself being lifted into the air, high above the cliff, high above the muted chaos, high above her enemies. “But she owes me a toaster now – I bet her that you’d guess her!”

      Princess and the Executioner looked on, stupefied, as the Ixi flitted away.

      “Wha…” asked the faerie dumbly, before shaking herself and regaining her senses. “After them!” She pointed her bony finger upward, and the chase was on.

      “You rescued me,” said the voice, reverberating all about the cushion of air on which Fanny floated.


      “Oh!” exclaimed Fanny with recognition. “You are the baby Kacheek who turned into a Snorkle and then went for a… swim…”

      “Yes!” affirmed the voice. “I am the Spirit of the Plane of Air; I had been cursed into a Petpet’s body, and subsequently cursed again into a Neopet’s. Your kindness and assistance allowed me to free myself from the imprisonment of matter, and return again to my true higher form.”

      The Ixi just beamed. This escape was becoming too perfect.

      “You saved me from the Mistress’s clutches – she had been trying to find a way to siphon my essence to make her live forever. But thanks to you, I’m free!” The Spirit laughed giddily as they did a loop in the air.

      Fanny laughed alongside her saviour. “But how did you find me?” she asked with a pleasantly disbelieving grin.

      “Quantum entanglement,” the Spirit replied curtly, a sparkle about itself.

      The Ixi gave a quick and affirmative nod. That sounded like a scientifically plausible deus ex machina to her – and at the end of the day, just being alive was what really mattered.

      Princess and the Executioner were now joined by the Mistress, all in hot pursuit of the airborne Fanny.

      “We must make haste,” said the Spirit; Fanny nodded determinedly in agreement. “I will take you back,” the cushion continued, “to where the Spirit of the Plane of Causality – yes, you have met her – noted the anomaly in the law of conservation of energy… the location at which you entered our world.”

      “That sounds like a most excellent course of action to me,” replied the Ixi bodaciously. But, for the time being, Fanny revelled in flying and soaring through the clouds and particles of air. Each bone in her body felt perfectly in place. Small and refreshing droplets hit her face in irregular yet mathematically knowable intervals. She swore she could hear a beautiful music – the music of natural beauty – reverberate about her. She would never experience this again, she thought with a bittersweet sigh.

      At last, her flight came to an end, and the Spirit lowered her down just beside the bush through which she had passed into this Land of the Bizarre. “Thank you very much,” Fanny said affectionately as she hugged the air about her – which was mostly just hugging her own body.

      “Whenever you feel the wind dance and blow,” the Spirit warmly replied, “remember that that is only me, come to say hello.”

      Fanny’s eyes went wide. “You mean, you are not confined only to this multiverse?” she inquired with great amazement.

      The Spirit chuckled. “Some forces transcend known and unknown time and space.”

      The Ixi marvelled… but she knew her time for seeking answers to life’s greatest questions was over; for then her assailants appeared over the horizon, brandishing a scythe, a laser, and a seltzer bottle, respectively.

      “Godspeed, Fanny!” proclaimed the Spirit.

      “Goodbye, you wonderful magical thing!” she responded merrily.

      “Oh, magic is only another name for something you do not yet understand!” The Spirit chuckled, and seemed to dissolve into the air about.

      Fanny smiled and waved. With a last, tearful glance at the world, she leapt into the bushes.


      She walked a few tiny paces, and then bumped into someone she knew well.

      “Fanny!” she exclaimed. “You’re alive!”

      “Fanny!” she cried with happiness as she embraced herself. “I am! I got trapped in here and lost you when you passed through the brush!”

      “I’m so sorry, I should have kept better watch for you!” she apologized. “But we need to run. I am being chased, which means you are being chased – and our pursuers are near.”

      The two started to crawl through the brush. They were both tiny… and like before, going one way seemed to make them larger, and other ways made them shrink. And, like before, there seemed to be no way out of this foliaged madness… even worse, Fanny could hear the vile three approaching behind them.

      Except, Fanny knew what to do. “Whilst I was waiting, hoping, praying for your return,” she started, “I did some exploring around these bushes by myself… I realized that the observer’s output multiverse depends on their size!”

      “Ooh, tell me more,” urged Fanny.

      “For example,” continued Fanny, “I walked around a bit and grew to a different size than you had been. I jumped and poked my head up outside the top of the bush, and I did not see you; I realized I must have been in a different place than you were. So, given that I was not sure quite what size we were when you exited, I just re-entered the bush, and have been awaiting your arrival.”

      “Well then,” theorized Fanny, “we must get back to our ‘normal’ size! Then, we can arrive back at Meri Acres Farms!”

      “That sounds sensible, but…” Fanny tilted her head. “Why the emphasis on ‘normal’?”

      Fanny heard the clatter of the scythe against the seltzer bottle and noticed the laser fire over her head, singeing a branch in front of them. She quickly pulled herself up and darted through the brush. “Hurry now, I’ll tell you later…” And then the Ixi grinned. “You should be lucky that I have become adept at knowing my sizes, and being able to discern that size at which I am most comfortable as a girl who is ten and one!”

      Fanny was lucky indeed. The two put their knowledge together and made an excellent team, well capable of navigating the brush and escaping the clutches of their would-be captors.

      “We’ll get you!” shouted Princess from close behind. “Just you wait! No one upstages the Aquaberry Princess!”

      “You who WERE the Aquaberry Princess!” Fanny taunted back. “Oh, dear ‘Princess’, where is your Aquaberry now?”

      The Princess growled and shouted some expletives.

      At last, the girls had grown and/or the leaves had shrunk to just the right size – the size they were at Meri Acres Farms. Fanny took her hand, and the two leapt – just in time to avoid the grasp of the Mistress – out of the bush. Shutting their eyes, the two became one, and the one landed with a heavy whomp against the cool soil of Pick Your Own.

      Fanny panted, and slowly brought her eyes open.

      Farmer Gilbert and her brother stood over her, the last rays of the sun streaking the clouds pink and purple and gold behind them. The farmer shook his head, and the boy, who had been fanning her with a map of Meri Acres, grinned and hugged her.

      “Dumb kid, don’t you know you’ll get heatstroke if you’re out here for too long?” He grumbled and walked away. “That’s the reason you only get twenty moves,” he muttered. “At least you came to and I don’t have to pay a higher insurance premium.”

      Fanny looked around, uncertain of what was happening. “Where… what’s going on?” she asked her brother as she broke the embrace.

      “You passed out by a bush,” Stephan replied.

      The Ixi frowned and shook her head. “No… no, YOU fell to rest,” she hastily began. “And then a Turtum came by, and then spoke to me, and I followed her, and—”

      Her brother gave her a flat, bemused look that made her stop. “Do you really believe all that?” he gently asked. “It was just a vivid fever dream brought on by the hot sun of late spring,” he added reassuringly.

      But the Ixi protested. “I gave my berries to a band of Petpetpet criminals – though I’d say their judge is a bigger criminal – but still,” she continued, searching herself, “I no longer have the berries. See?” Her eyes widened with furious excitement.

      “You probably lost them when you collapsed,” Stephen replied, brushing his little sister’s cheek, and handing her back her empty basket. “But… alright then. What happened after following the Turtum?”

      Fanny proceeded to delight her brother with all sorts of marvellous tales of her time in the Land of the Bizarre. She had recounted her tales so vividly that, for the briefest of moments, the Lenny believed her stories to be truth.

      Stephan had to shake himself – sure, they sounded real, but they were just embellished fictions from an overactive imagination, after all… Right? “Come, let’s leave this place for today,” he said to her. “Twilight has fallen.”

      The two, hoof in wing, started the journey back to their homestead on the Meridellian countryside. The young girl felt a breeze dance past her face, and she smiled knowingly.

      Fanny waved her hoof dismissively; she would find another Aquaberry one day, she knew she would – and she could touch it and marvel at it without fear of being hanged off a cliff.

      And Fanny held fast to her belief in the existence of the Land of the Bizarre, and frequently chatted with herself about her experiences… until such a time as a child abandons childish things and moves onto other, more “rewarding” and “practical” pursuits, at least according to the utilitarian society in which she finds herself.

      But through her life, some part – some small, subconscious part – of Fanny’s mind stayed rooted to that world… stayed ready, waiting, for the time in which she might fly through the melodious air once more, listen to the Y-Trio and finally understand their music, heckle the comedians and hear the laughter of the Snowbunny, or be welcomed by her Advocate with open arms.

      The End.

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