The Price You Pay
The entire Neopian Times weather forecast for all of Friday
contained one word: "Rainy." Unfortunately, the Weatherchia had been correct in
his simple prediction, and the dark clouds proceeded to drench all of Neopia Central
that Friday morning. The atmosphere was completely calm until late afternoon,
when tension started to build over anticipation that the Twisted Roses were giving
a charity concert the next day in front of the music store, as a sort of "for
old time's sake" gig. Although there was some anxiety over the state of the weather,
no one doubted that the Twisted Roses would give the concert anyway, because they
were just like that; the local Weatherchia later assured everyone that things
would "Dry Up".
"Becky!" the shocked Ixi gasped, cornering her
band mate. "Becky, come quick, it's Lycanthra... she's wrong.."
"Lycanthra? What's wrong?"
"What is it?"
"She's gone mad," the Ixi said. "She's standing
in the middle on Neopia Central, crying her eyes out, screaming at the sky.."
It starts like this:
Lycanthra had been wanting to go home, to her
real house, but her home was now a traveling trailer (albeit a nice one) and
her family was Grenville, her sister's Gremble. She hadn't seen Sarah in months,
and letters were coming less frequently than before; she would often talk to
Grenville after a concert, or after writing or working on new music.
Grenville was an especially good listener; he
never once interrupted her, and he always listened carefully. Of course, this
is generally a petpet's nature, but Lycanthra liked to think Grenville was special;
partly because he was actually particularly intelligent, but mostly because
she just needed someone special like that.
"I should write her, shouldn't I?" she said to
Grenville. "Everything I do is for her.. but she hasn't written in so long.."
She picked up an ink-spotted piece of paper,
her unfinished letter to Sarah. She hesitated while reaching for a pencil, and
began to read the letter aloud:
I haven't heard from you in awhile; is everything
okay? You're probably really busy with your life. Come to think of it, I haven't
heard any news from anyone back home lately. What's up? Grenville's doing okay;
I think he really misses you, though, he just doesn't show it -
She looked at Grenville, who was looking out
the window quite emotionlessly. She once again toyed with the idea of writing
a little more, but at last she simply sighed, folded up the paper, and tucked
it into a desk drawer.
"I'll just wait for her letter," she said, absentmindedly
"Your lyrics are too dark, Lycanthra."
The Zafara simply sneered at her manager. "We're
a Goth band. What do you mean, my lyrics are too dark?"
"I mean, your lyrics aren't going to work. People
don't want to listen to this."
Lycanthra stared in horror as the solemn, calm
Bori, always business-like, tore her tear-streaked lyrics papers down the middle,
without showing a hint of emotion.
She slammed her fist on the table and made a
sideswiping motion, spilling various documents onto the floor.
"What do you mean, they don't want to listen
to that? People want to listen to US! You can't-"
"They want to listen to the Twisted Roses, not
pitiful Lycanthra's angst-ridden life story," he said.
"I wrote those lyrics from... my... heart" she
growled. "You can't just tear them up. I could fire you right now.."
The Bori chuckled, leaning back in his chair.
"Fire the one who gave the Twisted Roses what they have today? You would still
have nothing if it wasn't for me. You'd have nothing. You would be nothing.
Fire me? Ask your little friends, they'd kick you out before firing me."
Lycanthra squeezed her eyes shut and turned her
face away, clutching a pencil from her manager's desk. She held onto it only
to keep from lashing out at him, but as she shook with anger, the pencil broke
cleanly in her hands. With white makeup streaming down her cheeks, not knowing
whether to scream at him or to simply break down, not consciously in control
of her emotions, she simply looked the Bori in the eye, then turned and left.
The price you pay for fame...
"Those lyrics were from my heart," she repeated
to Grenville, back in the traveling trailer. "He thought it was raindrops, but
they weren't... raindrops.."
She caught a glimpse of herself in the window-reflection,
and thought she might be seeing a monster staring back at her. She looked like
a mess, with her white eye makeup smeared across her face, and her hair still
damp from the actual rain. She sat with the lights dimmed, too sick to look
at herself, but too sick to wash her face and redo her makeup. She knew that
Grenville would not care either way, at least.
"It will be in the tabloids tomorrow," she said.
"They saw me like this outside. They'll say I've stopped caring, I'm quitting...
why shouldn't I..."
Grenville only looked at her.
She had lain her head down on her desk, with
her sister's petpet still beside her, and fallen asleep.
Lycanthra opened her eyes to the dimly-lit, chalky-white
room; she had rubbed makeup from her face into her eyes while asleep. She blinked,
trying to get things into focus.
She did not see the Gremble anywhere. How long
had she been asleep? He was not near he; he was not curled up under her desk,
nor was he staring into her looking-glass..
Gazing stupidly into the mirror, she caught sight
of her desk; how could she have not noticed the state it was in? Papers were
scattered everywhere, and Sarah's letter was on the floor.
Turning to look more closely, she saw something
definitely out of place.. a crimson envelope with a black rose laying atop it.
As she picked up the envelope, she felt sick
in her stomach. It read "From your biggest fan..."
The Twisted Roses had so many fans, some of
whom were most definitely a little crazy; they also had, supposedly, the top
security Skeiths that their money could buy. Nevertheless, things did get stolen.
Raven's favorite shirt had gone missing a month ago, and Becky couldn't find
several items of jewelry. Neopets were always waiting for them to throw away
trash outside, so they could take the used cup or napkin and sell it on the
underground. Lycanthra herself had a simple calligraphy pen stolen from her
very room once.
Lately, someone had been leaving crimson envelopes
with black roses around the girls' trailer. The security Skeiths were very concerned,
although the girls thought it might just be "another crazy fan." That is, until
the letters got steadily creepier, begging for a reply or a meeting and threatening
dire consequences if they did not comply.. of course, the Skeiths would not
let them contact the fan in any way.
"Why him?" she screamed at her reflection in
the mirror. "Why him? Why not another pen? Why not Raven's shirts? Why HIM?"
She seized a paperweight from her desk, then
hurled it toward the mirror. The glass instantly shattered, breaking her reflection
into hundreds of pieces.
"Curse me now, then!" she screamed at it. "As
if I'm not already cursed! They say fame is a gift, what kind of gift takes
the ones you love from you? I don't want it anymore!"
She turned away from the mirror to sit at her
desk, resting her head against the scattered stack of papers. She shook only
with sadness, letting her tears spill onto those many fan letters and unfinished
lyrics, not caring if she lost her brilliant words forever because of tear-smudged
" I can't stand myself... I can't stand living
in this skin anymore.."
With none of her trademark makeup on, Lycanthra
was invisible. Everyone around her was talking about the Twisted Roses concert,
but no one made any notice of the lone Zafara in the corner of the little cafe.
She had successfully become a Shadow. With a pen that barely had any ink left,
she began scratching out new lyrics on a napkin.
"Have you heard?" an excitable little Cybunny
said shrilly, tugging on her brother's sleeve. "They say the Twisted Roses have
gone insane, all of them! They say that they're going to break up, and the next
concert is going to be the last!"
"You're crazy, little sis," he snorted.
The little Cybunny caught sight of Lycanthra,
then shuddered; she hid her little face behind her brother's sleeve. The legendary
Zafara, now only a Shadow, was totally unrecognizable. She turned her face from
"Only one of the Roses is truly twisted," Lycanthra
said to herself.
Outside, it began pouring down rain harder and
harder. The Shadow gazed out the window, and suddenly, staring through the reflection
of her own black eyes into the stormy clouds, she was overcome with the idea
to ask them why it had to be. She wanted, with every fiber of her being, to
scream at those dark clouds; to ask them why, to scream for someone, anyone,
to listen, and just hope and pray that someone was listening to her, and that
they could answer her question.