Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 122,607,461 Issue: 247 | 7th day of Swimming, Y8
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by valkyriemaiden


With such an air of excitement and desperate haste I dashed from the Neopian shop on that fateful day and took off into the air, clutching the precious treasure between my claws. From my hurry one might have thought that I had stolen it, but no, I had paid for it as a lawful transaction. The only problem was that the ignorant shopkeeper - I suppose the real one had left his assistant in charge - had not known the true monetary value of the piece, and I wanted to get far away before he realized his mistake. I must admit that I gloated to myself a bit as I flew home, chuckling as I imagined the look on the shopkeeper's face when he should return to find that this valuable item had been sold at a fraction of its real price. But the potion that I had held between my talons had far more value to me.

      I forgot to mention that I was a yellow Pteri in those days, a scrappy little citizen of Tyrannia. Mischievous, irreverent, always full of boundless energy was I, a well-fed carefree pet with the best of two worlds, Neopia and Tyrannia both- though Tyrannia was and shall always be my homeland. Even to this day I swell with pride to know I was born in that mighty world. I suppose I should have been happy forever as I was; I never lusted after such things as paintbrushes or morphing potions to alter my appearance. I was comfortable in my own skin. I was a winning, precious personality loved by all, a little golden joy to my owner and a kind friend to fellow pets. So why, do you ask, am I the fearsome mutant Korbat that appears before you now? Patience friend, I am coming to that.

      I suppose it began on the day my owner decided to take me and my three sisters on a visit to the Haunted Woods. It was Halloween, and we had decided to make a grand night of it, scaring ourselves half to death with the exciting games and rides of the Deserted Fairground. I remember what fun we had that night. We had stuffed ourselves with so much candy we could hardly move, but that did not stop us from playing the sundry carnival games. One game I remember in particular involved tossing a small talisman (for which you paid a certain amount of Neopoints) into any number of small bowls. If your coin went in, you won the prize that went with that bowl. I digress, it seems, but it is strangely significant in what I am about to relate. At the moment that I had paid my money for a talisman, I heard a disquieting yet oddly ingratiating voice in my ear:

      "Hello, little one."

      I turned round quickly at the voice and found myself beak-to-nose with a striking- even beautiful- mutant Korbat. At first I started in fright- I had never seen one of these creatures before. But her eyes were large, gleaming and kind and I knew at once that she would not harm me. I greeted her in the formal Tyrannian style and she laughed in delight, baring her long pretty front teeth. Strange to say I was quite fascinated by her. She was graceful and elegant, not like the other Korbats I had seen in Neopia, with small clumsy wings in ordinary shades of red or yellow. Her fur was thick and an unusual dark bluish-green, and her ears were long and velvety, sensitive to sounds I most likely could not hear. Where others saw ugliness, I saw a beautiful soul.

      In any case, I remember that she bought a talisman as well and we both tossed them into the booth at the same time. Mine hit its mark; hers, unfortunately, bounced off the edge of the bowl, chipping it. I fancied that she appeared rather sad at having lost, and, in a moment of generosity, I gave her the prize I had won, a mutant Blumaroo plushie. She was delighted by my kindness and we soon became fast friends. We talked for the remainder of the carnival, telling each other frightening tales of Halloween and exchanging stories of our childhood. I was loath to leave her when it was time to go home, but she stayed just long enough to tell me her name: Ligea.

     "When can I see you again?" I had asked her. She smiled - and looking back now I wonder if there was not something strange in that smile. It was not malicious, not cruel, no - but something else, something unsettling, which escaped me at the time.

     "It is only a pity," she said smoothly, "a pity you are not a Korbat. You are a fine creature, but alas! Not quite perfect yet." She said nothing else, but took her leave of me, gliding away on soft wings to her home deep in the Haunted Woods. I went home that night with fond thoughts of this Unique creature, and wished to see her again with all my heart, thinking about all she had said.

      From that day on I could hardly stop thinking about her. I read any books I could find about Korbats, mutants especially, I scribbled pictures of her in the margins of my notebooks during class, but overall, I became obsessed with the idea that she should love me. Love me! Unlikely thought. She, a graceful and accomplished Korbat, love a ragged feathered pest from Tyrannia! I thought on what she had said about it being a pity I was not a Korbat. Why was I not yet "perfect," as she had said? Did she mean that I ought to become a Korbat like her? I would have done so gladly, had it meant that she would then love me.

      Thus I agonized and tortured myself over this hopeless passion, until one day I read in the daily news of some tragedy involving a mix-up in the shipping of some morphing potions; instead of the expected White Chia potion, the manufacturers had accidentally switched a large batch with Kacheek Transmogrification potion. There was talk of a lawsuit, but that was unimportant. The article had given me an idea. The next day I casually broached the idea that "if we could possibly afford" the Korbat Transmogrification potion, when could we buy one? In so many words, she told me no, and wondered why I would ever want to buy it. I backed off and didn't mention it again, all hopes of my transformation for Ligea shattered. I had almost given up.

      That was, of course, until, by the most fantastic chance, I found the desired potion in an obscure shop- and as I said, at a truly bargain price. I was astounded- at first I thought I had lost my mind! But I quickly came to my senses and bought the potion immediately, scurrying home like a rat to its hole.

      When I arrived home, I shut myself in my bedroom and bolted the door. My heart beating rapidly, I gently set the squat glass bottle on the floor and peered at it. What appeared to be bits of leathery Korbat wings were hovering within a nauseatingly murky liquid. I could almost smell the stuff even with the cork firmly in place; a stinking, noxious odor of a swamp. But I did not flinch at these things. Indeed, I relished it. This Transmogrification potion would surely make me attractive in Ligea's eyes. I could not suppress a delighted grin.

      "What luck I was able to procure this," I murmured to myself, stroking the smooth bottle with the tip of a yellow wing. Without another thought, I impulsively uncorked it and tipped the potion into my mouth, swallowing the slimy fluid in a gulp.

      Immediately I felt the horrible change come over me; my mouth went dry as cotton and my legs became weak. I shuddered as the potion slid into my belly, and a violent nausea swept over me. I watched in terror as my bright yellow feathers turned a grayish-blue and transformed into thick fur, my wings lengthened and grew leathery webbing between the fingers, my tail became scaly. My stomach writhed and growled as though I had ingested deadly poison, I gasped for breath as I felt myself blacking out and I fell to the floor...

      When I came to, the first thing I can remember was an intense hunger within my hollow belly that I had never felt before. It was as though the potion had completely emptied me, leaving behind a horrible craving for sustenance. I groaned aloud and clutched my aching stomach, and upon looking down at myself, realized that I now had long Korbat wings, terminating in fearsome claws. Momentarily forgetting hunger I touched my face- my claws no longer touched soft feathers and a beak, but now thick fur and a pair of pointed fangs. I turned slowly to regard myself in a mirror, as though fearful of what I should see there. But I felt no fear; in fact, I was pleased with what I saw. Here was my new self, my powerful self! I was strong and dire, powerful! Surely Ligea would accept me now. The two burning Korbat eyes that were my own glared back at me in the mirror, and I spread my new wings in triumph.

      After appeasing my raging hunger, I immediately flew off in search of Ligea. How I searched- I questioned everyone who may have seen her, I scoured the Fairgrounds, even went to the Pound, but she had simply disappeared. No one knew where she had gone! As I grew more and more despairing, I began to notice how others looked at me warily when I spoke to them, how they seemed to back away at the sound of my voice, as if I were about to bite them at any moment. One poor baby Eyrie began to cry bitterly upon seeing me- and the truly sad thing was that I knew this child; we had been friends once. Even when I went to Tyrannia again to see my friends, my own nest-brothers rejected me after they saw what I had done. "Go back to those foul woods where you belong, Korbat!" they shouted, and pecked me cruelly until I fled in pain and tears.

      Disheartened and hungry (my appetite seemed to have increased tenfold since taking the potion) I returned home and walked into the dining room, where my owner and my three sisters were eating dinner. The effect was electric; upon seeing me my sisters started in fear and screamed, their eyes wide as saucers. Looking back, their astonished expressions were quite humorous, but at the time my situation was anything but funny.

      "Please, don't scream," I pleaded. "Please don't..."

      "What are you doing here?!" shrieked Kena, my Peophin sister. "Get out, this isn't your home!" At these words tears came to my eyes again. My own family hates me, I thought. Beseechingly I stretched out my hands to them, hoping for a glimmer of recognition.

      "Please, Kena, Schickie, Angel- you must know me! It's me, Peter! Please don't turn me away!" I began to cry miserably, exhausted from my fruitless journey and feeling that now I was beyond hope.

     But to my surprise, my owner rose from her seat and approached without fear. She gently picked me up and began to wipe away the tears from my matted fur.

     "I believe you," she said. "Tell me everything that happened."

      Breathlessly, with a kind of relief, I confessed everything that had happened to me, everything about Ligea on Halloween night, the potion, and my hopeless search. As I talked, my sisters gradually lost their fear and began to accept me again as their brother. I was so grateful it felt as though a weight had been lifted from my heart. I was still wanted here.

      I will be eternally grateful for my owner's kindness and understanding. However, she did remind me gently that I may have gotten the mutating potion cheaply, but it would be near impossible to turn me back should I ever change my mind about being a Korbat; after all, at the time we were by no means affluent. I realized this, and resigned myself to my fate.

      Actually, I rather like being a Korbat. I am certainly more popular at costume parties and such, and people have learned not to be afraid of me. My only sorrow is that I never found Ligea. It was as though she had completely disappeared into thin air, a compelling ghost appearing once on All Hallow's Eve but never to return again.

      Perhaps she never really existed at all.

The End

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