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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 11th day of Eating, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 125 > Continuing Series > The Path to the Stars: Part Two

The Path to the Stars: Part Two

by buddy33774

Mikes Musical Madness was situated in Downtown Neopia Central. In it, Bey the Lupe stood, listening to the free samples of music the store provided. Behind the counter, the blue Wocky attendant stood, watching the Lupe, muttering to his to his green Techo assistant. "He's been in here for nearly two hours listening to music and he hasn't bought a thing."

     Bey glanced up, taking notice of the two workers as they approached. "Is there something we can help you with?"

     "No," the Lupe answered sourly, a tad of annoyance in his voice. "I'm fine."

     The workers exchanged glances. This pet just didn't get it. "Sir," began the Wocky, a little apprehensively, "these CD's are for paying customers. Do you actually have any money?"

     Bey felt his blood boil. How dare they ask him this question! "What if I don't?" he shot back, contempt and sarcasm in his voice, a "what are you gonna do about it?" look on his face.

     The next moment, the blue pet was back out on the cold, damp, noisy streets. Mad as a hornet, he couldn't even speak. Instead, Bey spit on the sidewalk in front of the shop before turning and storming off. He was plainly not wanted here.

     The air was thick with smog, gas, and a variety of other pollutants, which worked well with the way Bey was fuming, infuriated at the injustice in it all. How could they just throw him out like that? Why did they have that right? If he had looked clean, combed, as though he had money, they would have held their tongues and not said a word. All he wanted to do was listen to some music.

     Tomorrow he would have to search for another store. Again. This was the third one this month to throw him out.

     He was seething so, that as he walked past a nearby factory, he almost missed the sign taped outside to the window.

     The plant appeared to have been shut down for years. But it wasn't the inoperable machines he was paying attention to, though. It was the flyer taped to the outside of window that attracted the Lupe's attention. And the words written on it.

     Grinning, Bey snatched the flyer off the window and took off back to the garage. This was something he had to tell everyone immediately.

***

In the garage, a Lupe, a Zafara, and one Kyrii sat, practicing on the drums, playing riffs on a bass, and writing music on a pad of paper, respectively.

     "I'm bored," Sparta announced out of the blue.

     "So?" Zaines replied. "What do you want me to do?"

     Suddenly, Bey burst in, smiling ear to ear. "Everyone, look at this!" he shouted excitedly to the rest of his band mates.

     He slammed the flyer onto the table Tranis was sitting, still grinning. Looking up from his notes, Tranis began glancing over the flyer which had so excited the Lupe It was a notice advertising a competition between bands, a 'Battle of the Bands,' as it was called.

     It talked about when (the following night), where (in a small theater downtown), and prizes (the grand prize being 5000 in Neopoints). It even hinted that some music industry insiders would be there, though Tranis couldn't see how they could truthfully promise that. It certainly appeared that any up-and-coming band would be there, though.

     "Are you serious?" Sparta challenged, turning to her brother. "You want US to sign up for this?"

     Bey's smile faded. "Why not? I mean, we're good enough!"

     "I think we should," chimed in the blue Zafara "This might just be our chance to make something of ourselves! I don't know about you all, but I'm tired of living down at the poor house and eating out of dumpsters half the time."

     "At least you have a roof over your head every night!" Bey retorted.

     At that moment, Tranis spoke up; everyone immediately stopped their bickering and listened to what the band leader had to say.

     "I can't speak for the rest of you, but I'll tell you one thing. I'm tired of this life. I'm tired of working at a factory for dirt, then going home to live in it and eat platefuls of it for diner. I'm tired of all of it. We have a chance to change our lives, a chance we may not have ever again. So, are we just going to sit by and let it pass?"

     There wasn't much left for one to say after such a heartfelt speech. Bey could find but simple words to express how everyone felt.

     "I suppose that settles it."

***

Chill Pill the Chia wandered along the Industrial District of Neopia Central. He just had to find that band he had heard yesterday. It was imperative. The way that guitar was plucked, the beat, the use of a saxophone…it was definitely the thing he and his boss were looking for.

     The blue Chia was lost; not in nautical direction, but in how to find this 'mystery band.' Asking random people and pets on the street was a futile task.

     Turning to cross the street, Chill Pill noticed a flyer pinned up on the telephone pole. Closer examination brought forth it's true purpose - and advertisement for a musical competition.

     An idea struck him. Perhaps, just perhaps, this was his chance to see who the mystery band was. This could be his chance… Snatching the flyer off the post and stuffing it into his jacket pocket, Chill Pill took off back to the studio. He only had 'till tomorrow night to get ready.

***

Stepping into the run-down theater (just about everything around them seemed run-down), the four pets saw clearly their competition. Many of the seats in the sitting area were missing while others had unidentifiable stains on them. Eight other bands were set up in various areas on and around the stage.

     Tranis made note of the many different types of bands present. One band was entirely formed of Nimmos. There were no guitars in this band, just drums fitted to every note. The entire band was formed of drummers with different size drums and cymbals. Quite impressive, if not extraordinarily strange.

     But up on the stage was a band that towered over all others; not just in material size, but in disposition as well. Two Grarrls stood out front with guitars, like sentries ready to take down anyone who might try to steal their victory; in the back, a Skeith loomed, wielding a storm cloud of a bass drum; another Skeith sat in the far back, manning a mountain of a drum-set with two bats of drum sticks, ready to bring forth a rhythm that could crush all before it. The drum set was far larger and impressive than the puny excuse of one Sparta had strapped crushingly to her back. All four were painted red, which seemed crimson in the dull light (or was it blood?).

     They noticed the wretched examples of pets standing in awe, and responded with huge smirks. They plainly enjoyed being the center of these measly, nobodies' attention.

     Still smirking, the band began their sound check. And what a sound test it was! With one strike of a bass chord, the ground around them shook. Bey and his sister had to cover their ears, Tranis cringed; it felt as if his eardrums were being blown out of his head. Even Zaines, who was used to bass, even in its most powerful way, had to cover his big Zafara ears from the sheer intensity of it all.

     After the sound-check was over, the 'measly, nobodies' went over to a desk set up at the steps leading up to the stage. It was being run by a yellow Lenny. "Hello?" he asked as they approached.

     "We'd like to sign up for the Battle of the Bands, please," Tranis explained to the Lenny. The Lenny just shrugged and pulled out a sign-up form. "I need your names and the name of your band, please."

     Tranis turned back to his band mates. It had never occurred to him, nor to any of them, to come up with a name. "Hey, guys," (Sparta cleared her throat at this, hating to be referred to as a 'guy'). "What's our name?" he asked, rather rushed. The Kyrii was worried that perhaps they wouldn't be allowed to enter if they didn't come up with a name quickly.

     Bey looked stunned; Sparta looked to the floor in thought; Zaines was just clueless. "I…I don't know," the Zafara confessed plainly. "I'm not good at coming up with names. Its all one big puzzle to me."

     Tranis may have been the songwriter in the group, but words weren't his specialty. "Puzzle," he thought to himself. "Puzzle…enigma…mystery…riddle…conundrum…"

     And he had it. Turning to the Lenny, not even stopping to consult with his band mates Tranis announced what this new band would be called. "The Conundrums," he said simply. "We're The Conundrums."

***

Standing backstage, Tranis felt impedingly nauseous. They would be up third; the Nimmo drum band was first with the Grarrls and Skeiths second. Time passed all too fast for the pets.

     The auditorium was near packed with pets from all across Neopia Central. In the back stood (as the seats that remained were far too dirty and layered with goop to be enticing enough to sit down in) a blue Chia. The Conundrums, along with the 'bass band', however, didn't even notice. All were stuck in there own thoughts.

     Soon, the Nimmos were done (honestly, had Tranis bothered to watch, he'd have found the performance very interesting how each drum was fitted to be a different note) and the Grarrls and Skeiths were up. The Conundrums stood off to the side, just behind the curtain, as they were up next.

     "Are you ready to rock!?!" the lead guitarist Grarrl shouted into the microphone, his deep voice bellowing out of the speakers around them.

     The crowd went wild, jumping out of their seats and screaming up at the band in anticipation of the song to come; it was sure to be good.

     Tranis didn't find it to be very good at all. It was loud, that was for sure, but good? Not in the most remote sense. Basically, the band played loud bass and guitar chords, neither sound complementing the other like the sound of the song the Kyrii had prepared. But the crowd went wild, anyway.

     Turning around, the Kyrii walked into a bathroom right off to the side. It was a real nasty bathroom, reflecting the same dirty, disgusting atmosphere of the rest of the theater. Looking into the mirror, Tranis saw a red Kyrii looking back at him.

     "This is your moment," he told himself. "This is it. You need to go out there and play like you've never played before. Play for Bey, for Zaines, for Sparta, for Shamus. Play for Lily."

     Through the walls, Tranis heard the 'fore band drawing to close. Turning around, not feeling much more confidence in himself, the guitarist walked towards the door and, just as he reached for the handle, turned around and lost his lunch in the toilet next to the door.

     It was time.

     Soon, they were out on the stage setting up for their performance. The previous band had done well; the crowd had loved them. It was going to be a tough act to follow.

     Sparta took the drum set off her back and began arranging the drums and cymbals into their positions. Zaines and Tranis plugged their respective guitars into amps while Bey attached a microphone onto the bell of his saxophone.

     The lead guitarist Kyrii stepped up to the microphone he would sing in and accidentally bumped into it, nearly knocking it over. A few pets in the audience snickered at this.

     Tranis couldn't see much of the audience; the lights were far too bright. They were focused directly on the band and suddenly it seemed that this building, which had the worst of every other utility, had the brightest, most powerful lights of any he had been in.

     Looking back at the band, Tranis silently prayed to himself. "Don't screw this up. Please, don't screw this up." With one last glance at the band behind him, his army, the 'general' nodded to Sparta to count them off. Click, click, click, click…

     Tranis began playing the intro, but with the plucking of the first three chords, he realized something was wrong. The sound coming through the speakers was badly distorted; it didn't even sound like a guitar. Well, maybe a guitar of some sort, but undoubtedly a badly tuned one.

     Tanis stopped and looked back at Zaines; his bass sound was off, too. He looked from Zaines to Bey to Sparta looking for direction. All seemed as lost as him, all as confused.

     Some pets in the audience started to catch on to what was going and began snickering. For what seemed to be an eternity, the band stood up there. Tranis dearly wished someone, anyone would strike them down and simply end this all.

     After another thirty seconds, what had been a mere few pets' snickers erupted into a crowds' laughter as more pets began to catch on. Then, the booing began, the awful, heart-wrenching sound of distaste and total disgust. Some were shouting unpleasant things at the band, some ordering them to get off the stage, some just simply laughing for all they were worth.

     Throwing his instrument to the stage floor, Bey stomped off the stage in a fit of malice and humiliation. Tranis solemnly unhooked his guitar from around his back as Sparta began to silently re-pack the drums. Not waiting for the rest of his band, the Kyrii walked off the stage after his saxophonist, all amid the crowd's incessant catcalls.

     Tranis followed Bey outside into the cool night air, trying to catch up as the Lupe hurried down the street.

     "Bey, wait up."

     Bey stopped and turned to the Kyrii He seemed to be close to tears, which was strange considering the Lupe always kept up a tough outer appearance. "No, Tranis. No stopping. I'm going home." Bey turned and continued his trek.

     "You don't want to do that," Tranis called, still standing where he had stopped. "You've been down that path before. You know where it leads and you don't like where it ends up."

     Bey slowed, then came to a halt, and turned slowly to face Tranis. His eyes were welled with tears, tears of embarrassment, tears of loss, tears of failure. "They laughed at us, Tranis! They laughed at us!"

     The Kyrii took a couple of slow steps towards his lifelong friend. "I know they did, I know. But we can't let that get us down. We have to keep going. There's only one path for us, now. We've taken that first step forward and we can't look back. We can't afford to settle for less. We, you, me, Zaines, and Sparta, we have to keep going no matter what."

     Bey thought for a moment, then looked back up at Tranis. "Oh yeah? And where does this path of ours lead to?"

     The Kyrii smiled warmly and pointed upwards, answering the Lupe's question. He pointed up to night sky above; where the chill of the night's air made those little shining dots in the sky shine even brighter.

     He pointed to the stars.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

The Path to the Stars: Part One

The Path to the Stars: Part Three

The Path to the Stars: Part Four

The Path to the Stars: Part Five

The Path to the Stars: Part Six

The Path to the Stars: Part Seven

The Path to the Stars: Part E


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