A Waffle Paradise Circulation: 117,249,079 Issue: 235 | 14th day of Eating, Y8
Home | Archives Articles | Editorial | Short Stories | Comics | New Series | Continued Series
 

The Sleeper


by nut862

--------

The middle of a pitch-black night was no time to be climbing what seemed like a mountain. The Glowing Techo took a deep breath and threw her hand over the top of the cliff, taking hold of the hard dirt as soon as her palm touched it. For a moment Glari held still, trying to catch her breath. Her every muscle was tense; she was locked into position on the face of that crag, for she feared that if she loosened a muscle she would fall. She stared up, her eyes taking in all the little rocks and bits of dirt that her hand's green glow illuminated. She gathered her courage and heaved her other hand up, dragging herself along.

     For one terrifying moment she feared she was going to fall all the long way down to the campsite from which she'd come. But with one great push and a jerk of her tail, her whole body went up over the edge, and she was sitting on solid ground.

     As Glari drew in a shaky breath, a cheer erupted from below her. She had nearly forgotten that her friends had been watching her climb. It didn't take much for them to track her, of course: a bright green glowing Techo scaling a cliff in the dark of night wasn't something that required external equipment to observe. Still, it was nice to hear their support. Glari stared down the cliff, feeling wobbly as she saw how far down it was. Had she really climbed this high? Far below, she could see the small flickering light of her friends' campfire. Her friends themselves had been swallowed into the limits of her eyesight, but their voices were not out of range of her ears.

     "Hey, can I come back down now?" Glari shouted down the side of the cliff, half-joking.

     Someone yelled back, "No! Finish your dare! You got halfway through, now keep going!"

     "Aww, she doesn't have to if she doesn't want to," another voice rose to Glari's ears. It was a mischievous, teasing sound. "I understand that such a hard climb was tough for poor little Glari. She can come down if she wants. After all, she's probably tired out after all that effort."

     Glari grabbed a rock and threw it down the precipice, as if to hit the speaker. "You rat, you know I'm not coming down now!" she yelled. "I will finish my dare! Show you!"

     The Glowing Techo turned her back on the little campfire and stalked forward. She could just barely hear a murmur of laughter coming from the camp, most likely as they joked about her dare, but the wind carried most of the noises away.

     Glari shivered. Was it her imagination, or was the wind getting stronger? The trees around her shook, their leaves making wild rustling noises. The Glowing Techo hadn't noticed how cold the night air was while she was climbing, but now her sweaty body felt chilled. The radiance of her body heated her skin, but the air was colder than the glow was warm.

     Around her, trees with broad trucks and thick masses of purple leaves grew from the rocky ground. Large weeds trembled in the wind. If there had ever been a path here, it had been torn away by a thousand years of disuse. The way was apparent even without one, though; the main, and only, attraction on this hill was the great white building at the other edge of the crest. It was said to be a tomb.

     All Glari had to do was walk up to the tomb and touch the door, and she would have fulfilled what her friends dared her to do. The difficult part of the task--climbing the cliff--was over; all she had to do now was cross the mere seventy yards or so over to the building, poke its door, and she could return to camp triumphant.

     Glari hugged herself, beginning to tremble more from fear than from the cold as she moved steadily onward. She longed to see the friendly red glow of the campfire once again, but she had left that behind many paces ago. She knew her friends couldn't see her now, but the feeling that she was being watched prickled up her spine. Her inherent glow lit her path, casting everything immediately before her in an eerie green light.

     The movement of a shadow caught Glari's eye. She whirled around, her heart pounding furiously. The Techo found herself staring at a tree, its trunk tinted green from her light. There was no one behind the tree, but Glari had been sure something had moved. For a while she stood frozen in place, her heart longing for safety and hammering away for fear.

     She felt silly when she realized that the tree's shadow had changed position when her own glow fell on it. She crept forward, a ghostly green phantom stealing through the dark. She began to notice the shadows that her glow cast. They followed her, twisting into strange shapes that to the corner of her frightened eye seemed to take the form of every beast that could possibly be out to get her. Glari tried not to look at the shadows, instead focusing on the green-tinted rocks and dirt below her feet.

     The feeling that she was being watched crept up her spine once again. Glari stopped. Don't look up, she told herself. You'll just scare yourself if you look at the shadows. The Techo kept her eyes on the ground. But what if someone was following her? Don't be silly. There are no monsters around here. And who would be sneaking around a locked old tomb at this time of night? She answered her own question: Madmen, or criminals, or thieves… She shuddered, putting a hand around her glowing throat to protect it, as if it were in danger. She had to look. If there was someone following her, she didn't want to let him get the jump on her.

     Glari pulled her head up in one swift motion and looked all around her. The dark seemed to leap on her, and shadows rose up everywhere. Shadows. How could she know if someone was following her, when they could hide in the shadows?

     Then she looked forward, and saw the great dark figure of the tomb looming up out of the ground. Its presence chilled her through; the whole building exuded a foreboding aura. Its walls were dark gray in the night. A bar lay across the double doors, keeping the tomb's resident in.

     The tomb's resident… Glari thought of all the Altadorian legends she'd heard. They said that The Betrayer herself slept in this tomb, imprisoned for her one dastardly act that threw all of Altador into turmoil hundreds of years ago. The Betrayer was a Dark Faerie.

     A shiver ran through Glari as a thought occurred to her: Faeries never die. She stared at the tomb, and it seemed to look back at her. The old watched feeling made Glari's scales nearly stand on end. She was so close to her goal; she couldn't turn back now. The Glowing Techo approached the double doors of the tomb.

     Six queer black dots were painted on the doors in a wide V shape, with lines connecting them. Somehow, something about those dots made it feel as if they were staring straight at Glari. The wind whipped around her, tearing leaves off trees and shooting cold chills through her body. All she needed to do was touch that door… Glari reached out and pressed her outstretched finger, shaking with cold and fear, against one of the glaring black dots, as if to blind its watching eye.

     The black dots slowly began to gain light. It was faint at first, but before long all six of them were glowing bright white, along with the lines between them. The lights bore into Glari, looking at her with sinister intensity. There was malicious life behind these innocent markings on the door. The tomb held her body, but these doors were her eyes.

     Eyes. Eyes! Suddenly, there were eyes everywhere. Watching from the door, from the shadows, from the sky. Glari felt so many eyes on her, all belonging to the same horrible imprisoned creature, and she was too terrified to face any of them. She ran. She ran back the way she came, not stopping to look at any shadows or to turn around and see what was watching her. She felt eyes boring into her back the entire way.

     Glari did not climb back down the cliff, but took the gentle path back to low ground. When her eyes caught sight of the flickering red glow of the still-burning campfire, relief washed through her body. She was safe as long as she could see that campfire. She ran towards it, not looking back at the eyes that watched. Before long, her friends came into view. They were sitting around the campfire, waiting for her. They had normal eyes, not glowing or attached to doors, and their eyes turned a friendly gaze on her when she came barreling into the little camp.

     "Glari, you're back!" cheered a Ruki. "Did you do everything? Touch the door and all?"

     "I sure did," Glari said, managing a triumphant grin in spite of her lingering fear. "I'm not one to chicken out on dares, you know."

     "You sure about that?" asked an Aisha, lying leisurely on her stomach in her sleeping bag. "You looked pretty chicken when you came running in here."

     Glari blushed. "Did I look that bad?"

     Mardo, the Kougra who had teased Glari into completing her dare earlier, nodded. "Something scare you?" he asked with a grin.

     "N…" Glari bit her lip, and her friends laughed. "Hey, it's creepy up there in the dark. I dare one of you to try it!"

     "Nah," the Aisha said. "It was your dare."

     "Chicken." Glari stuck out her tongue teasingly.

     "Hey!"

     Their laughter rose, seeming to help the campfire beat back the dark of the night. There might be monsters all around, but within the orange glow of the fire, the pets were protected. There might be eyes peering hard from all sides, but the fiery curtain shielded the campers from view. They were safe.

     Of course, the time came to beat out the fire's last embers and go to sleep in the dark. After Glari's story had been told to all and laughed over, the four pets climbed into their sleeping bags, snuggling up to the warm fabric and shutting their eyes.

     Glari felt a bit less secure now that the fire was out, but at least she was still surrounded by her friends. She closed her eyes, her green glow shining faintly through her eyelids. The green that filled her vision slowly gave way to black as she drifted off into slumber.

     And then, somewhere in all that black, six small glowing white dots appeared. A hazy blue mist began to form around the dots, slowly taking the shape of an outline…

     Eyes.

     The watched feeling returned. Why? The tomb was at the top of the cliff, and Glari was safe in the little camp at the bottom. That door couldn't see all the way down to here.

     Glari turned her gaze to the dark sky, studded with tiny glowing stars. Six of them stood out to her. Her skin prickled as they all began to glow…

     Glari started up, her heart beating hard. She looked around, and was relieved to see the familiar little darkened camp, and the peacefully sleeping faces of her friends. She'd had a dream, most likely caused by her overworked imagination after her visit to the tomb. For a while Glari lay awake in her sleeping bag, staring at the night sky.

     A cold shock ran through her as she noticed the presence of six evenly placed stars in the middle of the sky, positioned in a wide V shape. The stars from her dream. No, they can't be. My imagination's running wild now, she told herself. There were hundreds of stars in the sky, and looked at from the right angle, practically any six of them could be fit to that arrangement. But these stars were so perfectly aligned… Glari shook her head. She was seeing eyes in everything now. All the Techo needed was a good sleep.

     Glari dragged her sleeping bag closer to Mardo. She fell asleep to the sound of the peaceful Kougra's snores.

      * * * * *

     A gentle breeze was blowing as a Glowing Techo and a red Kougra walked up to the great white building standing atop the cliff. Their steps were sure and unafraid, and not once did either check for lurking shadows. There weren't many to check for. The morning sun lit everything, filling the crannies of trees with light and lifting the night's shroud from the hill.

     "It looks so different in the daytime," Glari said, looking around at the sunlit trees that just last night she would have cowered from in terror.

     "It's not spooky at all. Now, that is," Mardo added for the Techo's comfort. "So show me what it is about the door of the tomb that caused me to wake up with a Techo snoozing on top of my sleeping bag?" He grinned.

     Glari blushed. "So I move in my sleep. Anyway, here's the tomb," she said, waving her hand towards the gold-roofed structure before them.

     The tomb, too, looked more… well, not more pleasant, but certainly not as ominous as it had last night. A grave stillness hung in the air around it, but there was no aura of malice. The half-covered sun sigil above the doorway gleamed in the light as the building waited in melancholy silence. A faint chill found its way to Glari's body as she stood before the tomb.

     The black dots on the door looked like an innocent decorative pattern in the daylight. But after all the strange references to them she'd seen yesterday, Glari felt her skin begin to creep when she looked at the six circles. She pointed to them, being careful not to touch them, and said, "Last night, when I touched one of the dots, they all glowed and… and looked at me. I couldn't get them to stop watching me all night. They were in my dreams, and in the sky." She shuddered.

     "So you've told me." Mardo studied the door's markings carefully. "Odd… they're in the shape of the constellation called The Sleeper."

     Glari stiffened. "Constellation? As in, stars in the sky?"

     "Yes. My father taught me some things about the sky last summer. He was in the Astronomy Club when he was a boy."

     "They actually have a name for it?" Glari stared at the six dots. "The Sleeper… isn't that another name for The Betrayer?"

     "Yeah, the Dark Faerie who's supposed to be buried here." Mardo eyed the tomb. "The six stars are supposed to represent her eyes."

     Glari started. "Eyes?"

     "Yeah. Frankly I don't see the resemblance, but apparently the middle stars are her pupils, the bottom stars are…"

     "I see the resemblance." Glari bit her lip, remembering with a shiver the blue outlines that formed around the stars in her dream last night.

     Mardo reached forward and poked one of the black dots with his paw. Glari barely stopped herself from restraining him. To her relief, the dots did not change. They were still just flat markings on the door.

     "They're not glowing," the Kougra commented. "Which dot did you press?"

     "The same one you did." Glari let out her breath. "Mardo, let's go back to camp," she begged. "This place is starting to creep me out."

     "Hold on." Mardo grabbed the wooden bar that lay across the two white doors, holding them closed. "Why don't we see what's inside?"

     "No!" Glari burst out, horrified. She dragged the Kougra's paw away. "Not now. Please, let's just go back."

     "It's daytime, and probably all that's in that tomb is a bunch of artifacts and a faerie skeleton," Mardo argued.

     "Have you ever heard of a faerie skeleton?"

     "Come to think of it, no. All the faeries I can think of are still alive."

     "That's right. Let's go back to camp, now."

     The Glowing Techo and red Kougra walked away down the tree-lined cliff top. Eyes followed them. Behind the door, a being snorted.

     They wouldn't have been able to get in even if the Techo hadn't stopped him. There was strong magic barring the door. But one day, those spells would be broken, and the double doors that had been shut for hundreds of years would open once again.

     Until then, all she could do was watch.

The End

 
Search the Neopian Times




Great stories!


---------

That's Just Crazy
They don't make wheels like they used to...

by crazycomics7

---------

Spilt Milk: CHEAP!
Wush "cheap" mean?

by nomitts

---------

10 Ways to Celebrate Gloominess
*sigh* Grey Day has once again made its way to Neopia and it hasn’t failed to bring all its miserable feelings with it...

by lassie_nikki

---------

How to Improve Your Restocking
Are you one of those Neopians that knows how to restock, but you're not really all that good at it? Whatever you do, don't give up!

by bittersweetish



Submit your stories, articles, and comics using the new submission form.