The Mirror: Part One
The cool night air of the Lost Desert slowly climbed through the window, sliding in through the slight opening and cautiously floating into the still, quiet room. It gently flew around the large area, touching each picture hanging on the wall, caressing the small stack of books resting on the dresser, and sweeping across everything it could reach with its ever moving breeze. The noises of moaches and moffits rode on its back, squeaking and chirping softly into the ears of not only the creature dreaming away in this bedroom, but into the ones of anybody who happened to be anywhere near the great river.
The blankets shifted as the tiny Kougra rolled over in his bed. He blinked a few times before yawning, and huddled deeply into his thick blankets. It was cold, and it was surprising to him how a place could be so hot during the day, and incredibly freezing during the night. His owner had mentioned that it was because it was just the desert climate, but he was suspicious. Maybe a dark faerie was doing this to the land as a sort of punishment or something. It couldn’t be natural.
He swallowed deeply to get rid of some of the dryness in his throat—he always woke up with it feeling somewhat dry, and he didn’t really understand how that could be, either—and found that it didn’t really help. It was as if he had no moisture in his mouth at all!
“Momma...?” he called out cautiously. Her room was right down the hall, and usually he didn’t have to shout very loud due to the nearness. “Momma, I want a glass of water...”
No answer came from the direction he wanted it to come from, or anywhere else for that matter, except for the petpetpets that were making a ruckus outdoors. He pouted and clutched at his plushie Spyder tightly. An unnerving sense that he was being watched crept over him, and usually the tiny creature would comfort him, even if the thing didn’t move or say a word, as if he were a real plushie instead of a living creature.
He called out for his owner a few more times, and when he realized that she wasn’t going to come unless he really shouted—and she’d scold him for that, because she was always frightened of disturbing the neighbors—he shifted once more a little deeper into his bedding, a little miffed, but slightly scared at the same time.
Finally, figuring that maybe he should get a glass of water just in case before he headed to bed every night, he brought up enough courage to get out of bed. The blankets rustled as he slipped out, and he gently placed his petpet on the pillow, not wanting to disturb his silent friend as well.
“It’s okay, Stitches,” whispered the Kougra. “I’ll be right back.”
Stitches stayed silent, staring mutely back up at the pet that cared for him so much.
The plushie Kougra hugged his sides as he walked out into the hallway, his eyes wide and his ears perked up for any noise that was out of the ordinary. Goose bumps rippled across his cotton arms, and he shivered slightly, half expecting a ghost to leap out into the hallway and steal eighty neopoints from him. Why hadn’t his owner answered? Usually the girl was a night Horus, staying up long past the time she felt tired as she drew pictures for the Art Gallery and comics for the Neopian Times in the hope that one day she might get into one of them.
Personally, he thought she’d get into the Art Gallery first. The girl wasn’t really very funny.
The reason why he usually made her get him a glass of water every time he woke up thirsty in the middle of the night was because everything in the neohome was gigantic. It had vaulted ceilings, enormous rooms, and quite a few twists and turns. He had gotten lost several times since the crazed teenage human had decided to move them to this dry country, and she’d even sometimes gotten herself lost when she came to look for him.
He came up to a large mirror that hung to his right on the wall. It was so tall that it stretched from the ceiling to the floor and captured quite a bit of the hallway in its reflective glass. He shivered as he looked into it, almost expecting something in it to scare him half to death.
The Kougra nearly jumped out of his skin. That hadn’t actually been a ghost, had it? Surely it was just his mind playing tricks on him! His owner always claimed that he had an overactive imagination, so why not? If there was any time to believe her words, it would be now.
In any case, his fur stood on edge as he ran the rest of the way to the kitchen.
When he got there, the first thing he noticed as a lit gas lamp on the kitchen counter, where he ate every morning before going outside to play. When he climbed onto a stool, he noticed a small bit of paper rested next to it, which some strange, almost unreadable scribbles on it. Being tired as he was—though he wasn’t sure if he could read it even when he was bursting with energy—he could barely make out what they said.
I’ve gone to Neopia Central for a few days to take care of a friend, since they’re sick. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was going to be gone, but the news came last night after you went to sleep, and I didn’t want to wake you up. Keep an eye on the neomail inbox for me, will you? I sent in a story to the Neopian Times (my first, I hope I get in!) and I can’t wait to see what they say!
He sighed and climbed down. She really needn’t have apologized. His owner did this type of thing often, disappearing without giving a two-week notice, and it really didn’t surprise him anymore. It was mainly a nuisance in certain circumstances, like this one, when he was feeling extremely alone, and was slightly afraid.
Huh? What was that? His head whipped around to look down the hall, and he saw... nothing. There was only the long corridor with its usual decorations and furniture.
I must be really sleepy, he decided, and dragged the stool over to where the cupboards were so he could be tall enough to reach one of the glasses. He managed to grab one, even though it was still quite a stretch, and filled it up with some tap water. When he was done, he set the glass up on the high counter and stood still for a moment.
He had to go back to his room. He wanted some sleep! However, there was also the chance that some big, scary monster would come out and attack him—... Balthazar?—and he didn’t want to have to face such a scary scene. What if he got kidnapped? He shivered and closed his eyes.
Well, he didn’t really hear anything to suggest that there was something moving around the house, and didn’t everybody make a noise, even when they were standing still? It was how his owner found him, after all, when they were playing hide and seek. However, that was also always restricted to the parts of the house that they actually knew well, so he didn’t know if that counted.
However, he did have to get some rest. One of the neighbor kids was going out with him to the river, and he wanted to have as much energy as possible to search the area down there. They had heard that there was a secret tomb, and he wanted to explore it as thoroughly as possible, in case they found some ancient, valuable artifact.
He sighed, and began to walk back to his room.
As he walked down the hall, however, something small and sharp bit into his foot, causing him to jump out of his somewhat comfortable feeling and his heart to leap up into his throat. He hissed with the pain and drew his leg up. Lying on the ground was a small bracelet, glittering in the light cast off by the torches that were hanging on the walls. It was a tiny gold thing, a loop that was a size fit for a pet with a really thin wrist. At the top sat a small red jewel, which was surrounded by several tiny diamonds.
So, it was this that had stabbed him...
“Can I have that back?” asked a sweet, polite voice.
Leran jumped once again and looked around. Where had it come from? Who had spoken? It hadn’t sounded normal, with a hollow tone to it, but the person hadn’t sounded like they intended him any harm. He blinked a few times as he found that he was standing right in front of the mirror, and then he felt the blood drain out of his face.
Instead of his own self, a petite white Ixi dressed in desert garb stood silently, smiling happily at the young plushie Kougra.
To be continued...