Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 180,824,489 Issue: 451 | 9th day of Swimming, Y12
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Another Chance

by dariask8_14


You lie on the grass in the silent darkness of the night. The navy sky is cluttered with tiny, twinkling white grains: thousands... millions of stars, and a bright orb hanging in the midst of it all -- Kreludor. You marvel at the immense ceiling of vast sky that curves and reaches beyond the ends of the planet, and a familiar feeling of loneliness aches in your heart.

     You think about why you were so mistaken in your friends; why did they leave you? Why did they have to abandon you in the most difficult of times? There was so much trust, such strong friendship...

     A gentle breeze brushes the shadowy trees and envelops you in cool wind against your skin, trying to dry up the tears that are pooling up in your eyes and spilling down your cheeks. Shivering, you reach for your fleece jacket. Upon grabbing hold of a sleeve, something... or someone... tugs back.

     You pull once more, but whatever is holding the jacket captive clings to it tightly. Your hand brushes against their smooth skin. You slowly lift your gaze, fearing the worst. Red, watery eyes glare back at you in the darkness, and a single shriek escapes your lips.

     Heart-pounding, numbing terror seizes you, the giant cold hand of ultimate doom. A sudden urge to get away, to repel the eyes -- the evil -- reaches you, and you run down the sloping hill. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh goes the knee-high grass against your sneakers on your hot, aching feet. It is becoming colder, and stray leaves get caught in your hair. The only thing crossing your mind is to run as fast as possible. In desperate search, you rush into a dark forest for cover. The sound of pawsteps continues, close behind you. Patty-pat-pat, patty-pat-pat.

     Your adrenaline reaches the highest level.

     As you run in random directions, branches slap your arms, and you are gasping for breath. The pawsteps suddenly disappear as the howl of a Werelupe shakes the forest.

     Your heart pounds so fast that you wonder why your veins have not yet burst, and the realisation that you are completely lost somewhere you don't even know suddenly hits you. You sit, leaning against a tree, and close your eyes.

     What have I done?

     The tiredness in your body is overwhelming. The tree behind you shifts, and you wearily turn around to face the unknown.

     The tree has eyes and a gaping mouth. A bolt of realisation jolts your body.

     Of course! You must be in the Haunted Woods! (Only the Haunted Woods has spooky-faced trees, after all.)

     You feel exhaustion weigh down your limbs, and forgetting the risk, the danger, and the unknown, you gather up a sizeable bunch of dry leaves and curl up in it, wishing for the cozy Neohome bed that stands vacant a long way from here. You feel your eyelids begin to get heavy from the day's events.

     You mumble something incomprehensible on the brink of sleep, but before you doze off, you feel a shadow loom over you and vaguely realise that the tree has just covered you in a safe cage of creaky wooden limbs.

     A strange dream troubles you this night.

     Walking to Neopian Fresh Foods, you held your Neopet's paw. It smiled gently, revealing a frightening row of sharp teeth. All the nearby Neopets crossed the street and walked with their owners on the other side. You took no notice, because this happened nearly every day. You entered the food shop to the sound of a ding from the silver bell on the door. A wave of delicious smells wafted up your nose, and the pet at your side licked his lips. The Chia shopkeeper's grin faded as its gaze fell upon your frightening Neopet. Some of the less brave customers dropped their items and zoomed out of the store in fear. You picked up a carton of milk and a sandwich, trying to act casually, but in reality anger began to bubble inside of you. A dropped orange rolled in your direction, and your pet gobbled it up in seconds. The shopkeeper sat stock-still, not bothering to complain about the theft. The shivering Chia ducked to the floor, because just then the pet roughly placed a sum of Neopoints on the counter and apologised; you were giving him a very stern look. The Chia took the Neopoints and ducked under the counter again, shivering. A friend of yours entered the store, but left right away at the sight of your pet. Your anger burst, and you stormed in the direction of the Pound, dragging your confused Neopet along.

     The dream fades, and you are annoyed by a bright beam of sunlight shining in your face.

     Good morning! the golden rays cry out. Wake up!

     You groan tiredly. Your body feels as stiff as if you had been painted stone for five years. You stand up and brush the crinkly leaves off your clothing, then look around and wonder what to do next. Your stomach grumbles loudly in response. You immediately spot a pink rat scuttling by. It stops and looks at you. It is an Almost Gummy Rat... somehow; this one must have turned out barely gummy at all. Remembering your intense hunger, you dive for it; maybe it could still be edible!

     The Almost Gummy Rat slips from your grasp in the nick of time.

     Suddenly, out of nowhere, the surprising figure of a Neopet steps out from behind a tree.

     It is a Poogle... with red eyes.

     You feel a jolt of surprise and comprehension in your stomach. Of course... it was an MSP all along! Bathed in a warm beam of sunlight that breaks through the thicket of trees, the Poogle smiles and slightly lowers its malevolent ears. Without a word, the pet beckons you toward it and leads you to a thin, squiggly path in the trees. Quietly, it points to the left. Quizzically, you try a step to the left. Is it helping me find a way out? you wonder. The MSP nods kindly and hands you your much-needed fleece jacket.

     "I'm sorry," a message attached reads. "I didn't mean to scare you away. Follow the path, and it will lead you out. Be careful." You look down into the Poogle's deep eyes, which look distantly familiar...

     You may look scary, you think, but I know who you are. You're my pet who I had abandoned many years ago. You feel a connection and sympathy swell up inside you. "I'm sorry," you say. "I should have never left you. I still love you. I really do." You hug the MSP tightly. "I am so sorry." Guilt and sadness fill your heart, and a million questions swoosh around in your brain like water in a canteen.

     Why had I not seen this before? Why did I have to put my friend's opinions before my own pet?

     You gaze deeply in the beautiful red eyes of your long-lost pet. They look back with a sense of absolution, an expression that says that everything is going to be all right.

     At this moment, when your eyes are fixed together, all the reasons and excuses of the past are forgotten, and you feel like maybe it's OK to start again. Maybe there is such thing as forgiveness. And maybe, there is such thing as true friendship.

The End

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