"Come on…don't be shy, scratch it, come on…"
I picked up the scratch card and bit my Aisha
claws. Glancing at my brunette owner for support, I swallowed hard.
Aileen smiled at me. "Make that six hundred
Neopoints worth it, Sandy, and we can get out of this refrigerator."
The Wocky scowled at her. "Refrigerator, huh?
You Neopia Central sunlovers don't know anything about Mount Terror!"
My owner glared spitefully at the Scratch Card
Kiosk Wocky, and he shrank back from her strange, amber gaze. "It's all right,
Sandy, it's only six hundred Neopoints!"
Blindly, I groped my way around the tiny yellow
piece of paper, feeling for circles, and scratching them, all the while squeezing
my eyelids tightly together. One, two, three, four, five…
Behind me, I heard the intake of breath and
hearts pounding in suspense.
Six! No, I didn't win. I was sure.
"Open your eyes, Sandy."
Slowly, and apprehensively, I squinted at the
scratch card. Jackpot, jackpot…
WAS THAT A THIRD JACKPOT?
"Open your peepers, WIDE."
Through my sapphire eyes, I looked at the scratch
card. Yep, triple jackpot win. That was nice…
"YYYYESSSS! YYYESSSSS! WOOHOO!"
My heart skipped as the bag of one million Neopoints
landed in my blue paw. This could pay for a lot. The Petpets I wanted, the furniture
Aileen coveted, a years worth of codestones for Maureen…
My paws couldn't close over the Neopoints. They
were frozen solid.
Aileen laughed. "Come on Sandy, let's get out
of this refrigerator, and warm up."
Behind us, the Wocky sulked. "NOT A REFRIGERATOR!"
* * *
I warmed my hands in the fireplace, contemplating
the big win I thought I'd never get. One million…I didn't feel like spending
it just yet. Petpets, faeries, furniture, clothes, books, neggs, food, Illusen
quests…One million…"NO I WON'T SPEND IT I WILL NEVER I'M NOT A GREEDY ITEM-LOVING
KAU NEVER EVER!!"
I recovered from my spaz attack and turned towards
Aileen, blushing furiously. "I'm fine. No, don't have to give me that Bubbling
Healing Gross, or whatever that was called. It tasted like contaminated wallpaper,
and I'll never, never, NEVER -"
"Um, no. But I wish. I think you need it, your
little warped mind (groan). Anyways, um, Maureen's, um, written something for,
um, you. Um, maybe you should, um, read it."
"Um, yes, um, Maureen."
I took the piece of paper from my owner, and
How are you? I'm SPIFFING HAPPY!!!!!!!!
Um, sorry. Anyways, I'm on the one-player high-score
list for the Snowager, just so you'd know. It's completely awesome. How are
you? I heard you got top marks yet again in Science. Thumbs up! Yay! Good job!
I awaiteth ye reply, ye maiden of the Plains of Meridell. NOT!
--Signing off, Maureen.
P.S. That joke about the gold and tinfoil was
FUNNY!!!! LOL!!! XD!!!!
I took a pen and wrote.
Deareth Maureenella (or however your name is
You are INSANE.
--Your loving sister Sandy-poo.
I folded the letter up and gave it back to Aileen.
As I gazed at her amber eyes, I felt my own eyes water. "Will I ever get to
My owner sighed, and turned away, avoiding my
gaze. "Write to her," she murmured.
I forced back my tears, and stared back into
the fire. Maureen was my sister, but I had never seen her. Never. Once. All
I had heard were stories.
* * *
"She was a real strong Aisha, blue like you,"
said Aileen when I first asked her. I had found some photos of a blue Aisha
that wasn't me, along with a dusty bronze Balthazar Basher trophy. She had sounded
nervous when I asked.
"She was a hardworking girl and passed all of
the levels at the Mystery Island Training School real quick. The Techo Master
was especially proud of her. And then she started to make the one-player hi-score
lists. First Boochi, then Bob, then that Zafara Rogue, I was real proud."
And then she stopped abruptly at that. She leaned
back in the red armchair, and seemed to savor the triumphs of the sister I had
never known. I let her do that for a while, imagining the name "Aileen" appear
on the long list of famous pets.
"Well, what happened?" I pressed.
"Never mind. Don't you have homework due tomorrow?"
That was a deliberate lie.
"But why can't I see her?"
My owner grimaced, twisting the ends of her
brown hair, troubled. "You can write to her."
* * *
As I gazed into the fire, I imagined. The silhouette
of an Aisha in the midst of a crowd, cheering, as the Snowager lay, defeated,
on the floor a few metres away. She was triumphant, with an arm raised above
her head, cheering. I could feel the excitement rising up in the Battledome.
But I could not see her face. Just shadow. No
face. She was just a mere fantasy in my mind, like Masila and Hannah and Armin.
What made it sad, though, was that she was more
than a fantasy.
She was my sister, and I didn't even know what
she looked like.
Something terrible must have happened to her.
My owner rarely talked about her, and seemed to grow nervous every time she
wrote to me. I knew my owner saw her at night to take her to training school,
but no one else could even glimpse her. All of her one-player hi-scores were
reached in private, and no one had ever seen her face, even though she was famous.
Not even her little sister.
I felt really tired. The events of the day still
shocked me hours later, and I wasn't ready to claim the responsibility of one
million Neopoints. I felt my forehead, and it burned. If I didn't get sleep,
I was going to have a fever tomorrow. I yawned, and my owner took the opportunity
to pour a bottle of Bubbling Healing Goo down my throat. "OY!"
I suddenly felt wide awake. Throwing aside my
Maureen thoughts, I chased my owner out of the living room with a feather duster.
* * *
I should have never underestimated my owner's
supreme wrestling skills.
As I lay in bed, finally defeated by the Great
and Terrifying Aileen, I felt the taste of Bubbling Healing (whatever) circulate
around my mouth. I grimaced; it tasted worse than contaminated wallpaper. I
shifted in my bed.
There was a History test tomorrow, but I had
not studied, being so caught up with the scratch card. One Million!! One Million!!
Well, if I wasn't tired, I supposed I could study.
In the Ice Caves, Hannah found a gem that was WORTH A MILLION NEOPOINTS!!!!!
"Stoppit," I told myself.
Masila was a well-known thief born in Meridell
who stole ONE MILLION NEOPOINTS!!!!!!
I sighed. This was no use. If my big win kept
on invading my academic space, then there was no point in studying. I'd just
have to play my luck tomorrow. After all, I already had a good mark in History;
one fall-out couldn't do that much. I relaxed from the school-marks-tests-stress
world and lay in my pillow, sleepless and silent.
I lay there for quite a while, unable to sleep.
I jerked out of my trance, even more wide awake
than I was before. Who sobbed? And it sounded unnaturally close as well, as
if the only thing that separated it from me was the floor. I quietly got out
of bed, put on my Cybunny slippers, and knelt down to the floor, pressing my
long blue ears on the cold wood to listen.
Someone was sobbing. Sobbing hard, and desperately.
Breathing between convulsions, sniffling. But whoever that was, I could tell
by the tone of voice that it wasn't Aileen. It was slightly higher than my owner's
pitch, and sounded faintly more feminine. A young girl, who was a bit older
than me, was crying.
But whoever that was, it was a stranger that
didn't belong in our Neohome. But that voice sounded so sad, so miserable, that
I couldn't help but feel sorry for the mourner downstairs. It's a figment
of your imagination, I told myself, and lay back in bed, attempting to sleep.
But the sobbing continued, and I was compelled to listen to it. Who was mourning,
and why? What had happened? Who could come into my Neohome at night just to
pour out their sorrows for Aileen and me to listen? I tossed and turned, unable
to figure it out.
Finally, I had enough.
I put on my Cybunny slippers, and crawled out
of bed silently. I somehow had the notion that Aileen wouldn't want to be woken
up at 1 AM in the morning.
Hardly daring to breathe, I crept out of my
room, into the hallway, like a thief. Creeeeeeaaaakkk…
Every noise sounded like doom. What would
I do when I saw the stranger? I thought nervously. Well, I had been training
hard. And the stranger didn't sound too strong or even mean. How he-she-it had
broken into our house was a mystery.
I walked down the stairs and there was no one
* * *
The last time I had taken a camera with me as
I crept down the stairs at midnight was at Christmas some years ago, when I
had been convinced that "Santa" really existed. Fat chance. All I got out of
this experience was a memorable photo of Aileen, glaring at me and baring her
But now, I was ready to do that again. The desk
light had been on when the mysterious, grieving stranger had left, but the desk
below the light was unoccupied. Depending on the fact that the young mourner
would probably (probably!) come again tomorrow night, I bought the camera and
hung in my wardrobe, reminding myself to set my alarm clock for midnight.
Aileen, however, was mortified. "Why in the
world do you need a camera in the house?" she snapped, suddenly sounding scared.
Well, what was I supposed to say? Someone is
crying downstairs at night and I want to find out who it is? Last time I checked,
Aileen wasn't the type of owner to believe excuses like this. Even thinking
it sounded stupid and babyish.
"Well, see, me and my friends, we're doing this
photo thingy tomorrow, and I have to bring the camera."
"Um, it's for Yearbook."
"All right then…"
But Aileen looked nervous as she walked away
from me. Forcing it out of my mind, I set the alarm clock for midnight.
* * *
The camera weighed down my neck, but I didn't
really care. The only thing that filled up my mind was my sudden passion - to
find out who the mourning stranger was. Ignoring the strange creaking floor
noises, I made my way quietly through the dark hallway, intent on seeing the
stranger. The sound of my breathing seemed like a heavy burden of sound - it
was the only evidence of movement in the night, and every breath seemed as if
it would wake Aileen. I was the only moving thing in the night.
Or was I?
I approached the stairwell, and started my long
descent down to the main floor. Breath, breath, breath, breath, heartbeat, thump,
thump, D-dear Sands…
I jolted back from the banister on the landing
in surprise. Did I just hear words? I paused to listen.
"How are you? I feel fantastic. Marvelous! BWAHAHAHA!
Wanna know why? Huh? Huh?
"Cuz I'm in second place for number of wins
against the Snowager! See? Ain't that awesome?
"In response to your last message: I am NOT
insane. I pwn joo!
"Your Sort-of Friend…"
As I said the name, I heard bells toll inside
of me. Ignoring all impulse to be silent, I raced down the stairs. The desk
light shone steadily, but it was partially blocked by a shadow of an Aisha,
hunched over a piece of paper, examining it. I ran over to the Aisha. "Maureen?"
The Aisha did not turn towards me, although
I could feel the shock inside of her. "You shouldn't be up and running at midnight."
This was the stranger that had been crying last
night. I felt her voice succumb to sadness as I watched the back of her head.
But so close she seemed, and yet so far off. The only person I had felt that
way about was my sister.
"I know who you are," she said. "At least, I
think I do."
"I think I do too." I swallowed, suddenly feeling
very self-conscious. "Are - are you my - my..."
"I'm your sister, Sandy. I think I know that
I wasn't so sure. My sister didn't even want
to look at me.
"But why can't I see you?"
"I'm your sister!"
The Aisha stirred, and shook her head, letting
her ears droop down. "Aileen zapped me with the Lab Ray."
She sighed, and continued. "Even the Mad Scientist
said I was hideous. Even Edna. I didn't want to ever be seen by anyone but Aileen
again, so I told her to hide me. That was before you."
Something terrible had happened. "Let me see
your face," I pressed. Gently, though - I could feel her suffering.
"No. You'd just turn and run the other way as
fast as you can."
"I don't care how bad you look, I'm your sister!"
The Aisha gave a long sigh. "Fine then, but
please, don't scream. Aileen would be real mad if she found out you saw me."
Slowly and grudgingly, the Aisha turned around,
and finally, I knew how she felt.
The tearstained, ugly face of a Mutant Aisha
stared at me, daring me to laugh, to scream, to run away. A single, perceiving
eye watched me, outlined by gruesome red eyelids. In the dim desk light's glow,
I could see the shadows of unnatural ears, with small jaws at their tips. Two
fangs hung down from her lip.
But even with the hideous face that somewhat
scared me, I knew by instinct, without doubt, on who this was.
"Oh, Maureen, I'm so sorry."
My sister, the one that I had just met, shook
her head. "I know you are."
"But why couldn't Aileen buy another paint brush?
Why couldn't you be zapped by the Ray again?"
"I was afraid to go near the Lab Ray, and tore
up all the maps. As for the paint brush, we just couldn't afford it, with all
I inwardly admired my sister, who had sacrificed
her looks and her freedom to become stronger.
"I wish I were blue like you, though. I want
to just show my face sometimes, but then they'll just run away."
"Oh, Maureen…what can I do?"
I stared at my sister for quite a while, taking
in her hideous face that hid the insane, hardworking, and strong Neopian underneath.
What else had been hidden from me? Some circles, perhaps, with symbols on them
that meant prizes?
Suddenly, I grinned. "No, we can afford a paintbrush.
I know I'm not supposed to go sneaking around at the dead of night, but I think
I'll be pretty safe with a sister like you."
* * *
"Go Maureen Go! Go Maureen Go! GO MAUREEN GO!!!!!!!!!!"
Maureen had beaten the Snowager two thousand
times, and now she was first place on the hi-score list. A crowd of Maureen
fans were waiting outside the Battledome, waiting for the Battledome Queen -
my sister - to appear.
A lot had happened in the months since I discovered
Maureen. She had reached plus 1000, then plus 2000 in all of her stats, and
since then, everyone knew who she looked like - the blue Aisha who loved her
sister so much. In the midst of the crowd, I grinned. I was extremely proud
Suddenly, the curtains at the side of the stage
rippled. The crowd hushed.
And then, there were loud, loud cheers that
shook the curtains and the stage wildly. A tall blue Aisha had come out and
she smiled and waved at everyone. "MAU-REEN! MAU-REEN! WOOOHOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!"
She jumped off the stage and landed lightly
just in front of the audience, punching the air before mingling with the crowd.
All night long, there were celebrations going
on. There was food, and dancing, and music, but there was one thing missing
* * *
I found her huddled up in a corner, sobbing
like she did that night so long ago.
"Maureen, what's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing. Go away." She sounded miserable.
"Maureen, please. I'm your sister."
Maureen stared at me - two eyes - and sighed.
"It's all right, spit it out."
She looked away, tears dripping down her cheeks.
"I thought I'd be happy when you bought the paintbrush and painted me blue.
I thought I'd be free."
"I did too."
"But I'm not. I just can't seem to accept this
new, absurd, normal thing. It's like I miss being a Mutant Aisha. I don't miss
the hiding, just the strangeness. Oh, I feel so stupid, just being able to come
out into the open because of colour. But I don't think we could afford a Mutant
"Don't you remember the million Neopoints I
won from the scratch cards? I'll buy a potion for you with the rest of that
"I don't think you'd be happy to see me so ugly
"Mau-reen! You're my sister! I don't care how
you look, as long as I still get to see you."
Maureen grinned at me. "I won't hide."
"I know you won't. Get up, and if we're quick
with the potion, we can make it back before the party's over."