The Little Artifact That Destroyed the Universe
Yiiva’s most prized possession was an antique Faerie Queen Doll, lovingly given to her by her grandmother for her 16th birthday. She didn’t mind owning a mere plain faerie doll while her friends showed off their shinier, bolder Supreme Deluxe Faerie Queen Dolls; her doll was special in a way that more than made up for the price difference, although, for most of her life, she didn’t quite understand why.
The doll had been sitting on the mantle in the center of her grandmother’s house for a long, long time. When the dolls went on sale in the Hidden Tower and her friends began obsessing over them, she was shocked; they looked almost exactly like the doll that had been sitting on her grandmother’s shelf for years! When the Supreme Deluxe model went on sale later, she was initially miffed; however, her grandmother assured her that the classic doll Yiiva had been given was better; it was special. It was an almost frighteningly old heirloom, her grandmother said. It had been passed down among her family since time immemorial. She was shocked to discover that the faerie doll design sold in the Hidden Tower was relatively new, and, apparently, completely unrelated to her doll; none other like it appeared to exist in the entire cosmos until some clever faerie toymaker had drawn up the design. It occurred to her that the matter might be of interest to the faeries, but her people had a long, tense history with the faerie race. Until recently, trade between Alien Aishas and the Neopian Faerie kingdom had been strictly limited and Faerie dolls were rare on her planet. Besides, though her mind was burdened with the curiosity to know how the faeries had crafted a doll so shockingly like hers, she didn’t want her doll to be confiscated for study. Though the chosen explanation never really sat well with her or her grandmother, they chose to chalk it up to an odd coincidence; perhaps there was some long-lost Faerie cache of dolls, recently rediscovered, that her doll had uniquely become separated from since antiquity.
Still, she kept the wondrous, ancient object with her almost all of the time, and the wear and tear of the ages appeared to have little effect on it. Sadly, none of her friends seemed to like her doll; even though they all had their own well cared-for faerie dolls and often swapped stories with each other, they all looked at hers with a general sense of malaise. At first, she thought it was because the basic model had become rather unfashionable, but, twice, a complete stranger had hurriedly come up to her while she carried the doll around and began to fawn excitedly over it when, suddenly, a strange, clouded, almost inexplicable expression came over their face before they abruptly apologized and walked away.
She thought there must be something deformed or imperfect about the doll that, having grown up with it, she was simply ignorant of; but when she asked around, she learned that the doll was not aesthetically imperfect or, as she had originally thought, unfashionable, but that her friends felt uneasy about it in a way they could simply not explain. She thought of the stories of rooms with creepy, glass-eyed dolls that seemed to follow you with their empty gaze, but when she looked at her own doll she simply could not understand it. She only ever felt happy and comfortable around her doll, and loved it as much as anyone can love a treasured possession.
Eventually, though, she came to stop carrying the doll in her arms, and hid it from the uneasy gazes of friends and strangers. One night, she sat it on her desk and began brushing the doll’s hair.
“Don’t you worry about what other people think of you. I don’t know what their problem is, but I won’t abandon you.”
She sighed, than crawled into bed and under her covers, weary from the day’s work. She closed her eyes...
A loud crash startled her to sitting position. She wasn’t sure what time it was but.. wait, someone was in her room? Where was all this blue light coming from?
Her sleepy eyes were momentarily blinded when the light clicked on overhead.
If she hadn’t been roused from sleep so harshly, she would have thought she was dreaming; but the furious pounding in her chest and sense of relief at seeing her mother were undoubtedly real. Unfortunately, the momentary ease lapsed almost immediately. Her mother appeared disheveled and was breathing heavily, clutching an object she knew to be a teleportation device though she’d never seen one in person. Her mother lifted her paw and tossed it to her; it smacked against her chest as she made a stunned attempt to grab it.
“Yiiva, you have to take your doll now and go to where the teleporter transports you. You must take your doll and you must leave immediately. This is very important. I can’t...”
Her mother disappeared mid-sentence while Yiiva’s mouth hung on shock, having never said a word. She looked blankly at the teleportation device in her lap, then heard a door slam downstairs and was shocked into action. She leapt out of her bed and hurriedly crossed her room, grabbed her beloved doll, and hit the button on the device just as her door slammed open and scared her half to death...
She didn’t get the chance to see her would-be assailant. The calm environment she suddenly found herself did little to soothe her nerves, and had even less effect on the churning sensation that being instantaneously transmitted from one point in space-time to another caused in her stomach. She had never teleported before, or even seen such a device, even though she knew her mother must use them all the time... her mother. What had happened to her? Was she okay? And her grandmother, alone at the house...
Still clutching her doll, she looked around the room she found herself in and found it so surreal she almost believed once again that she was dreaming. Although the room was covered in white tile, it didn’t feel stark; it was actually comforting, in a way. Above her head, the walls gave way to a giant arched window and a brilliant view of the milky night sky. Based on the number and luminosity of the starscape, she guessed she was on a space station or ship. She was in the process of searching for familiar constellations when heard the whooshing sound of a door sliding opening, and spun around to see its source: her mother!
They ran toward one another and embraced.
“I’m so sorry, Yiiva. I didn’t mean to scare you. I had no choice; this place is safe, but they can find me if I teleport anywhere else...”
“What’s going on, Mom?”
Her mother stepped back from her.
“I wish we didn’t have to meet like this after so long. But I found out something important, something so important, about your doll...”
Yiiva clutched the doll, a sense of dread growing within her, as her mother hurriedly explained what she had slowly discovered over the past few months.
She had been hired by the alliance working against Sloth to infiltrate his organization, posing as a rebellious and moral-less scientist. Her goal had been to leak Sloth’s most advanced technology to the alliance. Instead, she’d discovered something frighteningly close to home.
There was a room, she said, guarded by two security Skeiths and a bio-lock, hidden deep underground on the cold, dark side of Kreludor that held some of the best researchers she’d seen in a single room on that side of the galaxy. They were working toward a single goal - uncovering the secrets of an object that both Alien Aishas and Neopia’s Faeries knew well, if only in myth.
It was the Aisha Myriad, the original, legendary object that the Alien Aisha hero Captain Xelqued had created. It was said to contain the powers of every item in the Hidden Tower and the ability to change its form. Sloth was after it, and what’s more, he had tracked it - and in a form she knew all too well.
It began, she said, when the scientists had begun examining ancient records and found reference to an object that was undeniably modern - the Faerie doll. Originally, once the possibility of a hoax was removed, they had thought that one of the Tower’s dolls had fallen out of time somehow, and Sloth’s researchers were interested in it for its time-tampering implications. But then the research crossed over into the hunt for the myriad when researchers found even more ancient records.
These records, she said, were almost impossibly ancient; and though she’d never seen them herself or spoke with anyone who worked directly with them, there were terrifying whispers that they were from some wholly unknown source. What’s worse, she began to slowly realize that they were tracing the Myriad Sloth was after back to her home planet... and her own family.
“I don’t know for sure, Yiiva,” she said, shaking her head. “But I think this doll is what Sloth is looking for, and if it is, we’re in terrible danger. Because I think the reason Sloth is after it is...”
At that moment, she suddenly found herself surrounded by a group of mutant pets, all clutching teleportation discs. Her mother shouted, leapt to her feet and pointed her weapon, but couldn’t bear to shoot into the crowd surrounding Yiiva. She felt herself being teleported outside the sun system for the second time in her life...
She was lying on her back. The brilliant, foggy streak of stars in the sky gave her the distinct impression that she was in a very young, and very very far away, galaxy - but why?
Then she saw a shadowy figure standing before her. It was Sloth. Her body went cold.
Sloth smiled fiendishly. Yiiva started to her feet, prepared to run at Sloth.
“Don’t worry, girl. Your mother is fine. She’s a traitor, and I usually punish traitors with the most delightfully torturous mutations-” Yiiva’s stomach turned “-but since she led me to the object of my destiny, I will forgive her. All I want in return is your doll... Ah, but you know it’s not a doll anymore, don’t you? It’s no longer your precious possession.”
Her beloved doll was slowly morphing in her hands, and the horrifying truth was beginning to set in as it realized its true shape for the first time since antiquity. Her mind was quickly overwhelmed with images from so, so long ago, long before her home planet or Neopia were anything more than cosmic dust baking in the unrelenting heat from a brilliant, ancient supernova. Billions and billions of miles away and years past, it had belonged to a civilization that had been long lost in the death of stars and the patient destruction caused by time itself. That the Myriad had survived all that, and the reason why, was only slowly beginning to dawn on her...
“The Aisha Myriad wasn’t actually created by the Alien Aishas, as your mother suspected. It’s actually existed for a very long time.”
“The true function of the Aisha Myriad isn’t to become any item it chooses; the fool Xelqued chose to use it for that regrettable purpose. Though I suppose it’s lucky that he inadvertently made it so covetable and hideable...”
He didn’t need to explain; the truth of the Myriad was reverberating through her consciousness as if the object itself was one with her mind. The Myriad, she realized, was a device that should never have existed at all, yet every single conscious thing in the entire cosmos had it to thank for their very existence at the moment. The Myriad was a device that was being used to control the black holes that were siphoning off the excess entropy that would lead to the death of the universe. Her people had always known that the universe would eventually use up its energy; that was suspected to happen long after everything they could possibly imagine could ever happen had occurred - a devastating timeline of over one trillion years. Yet this little device in her paw was an artifact, merely ten billion years old, and she had already come to the terrible realization that all the time in the universe had already run out millions and millions of years past. It was sustaining the balance of the cosmos itself. The Myriad was siphoning the energy that would lead to the death of every star in the sky off into vast, unknown pocket universes, lest everything in the known universe die out.
The most advanced and important device in the universe... She understood why Sloth had called Xelqued a fool, using it as a toy to upset a queen! Though it was fortunate that the Myriad had gained the ability to mask itself. She saw it changing shape throughout time; Xelqued didn’t realize it, but when he made the device he’d salvaged from some ancient scrap heap capable of transforming into the glorious Hidden Tower objects, its extra-dimensional nature caused it to use objects from any point in time. The Faerie Queen Doll shape had been pulled from her timeline back all those thousands of years ago because the myriad, in some inexplicable and almost conscious way, knew it would appeal to her. It had waited for her - but why?
Yiiva’s face paled and her body shook violently. Holding the Aisha Myriad - or whatever it was truly called, as she knew now it had never been of Aisha origin - in her paw, despite being formidable enough to survive the destruction of a race billions of years prior, felt like holding an unstable nuclear gormball. Sloth laughed.
“So you know now, huh? Funny, what that object is capable of. I’m a little afraid to touch it...” He eyed the Myriad nervously, and she recalled the expressions of her friends. They had known, instinctively, that it was no ordinary toy; but she alone, having grown up with the Myriad beside her, felt comfortable with it.
“You want to know how I’m going to use it, right? I’m not evil enough to destroy the universe. Not if I get my way, that is.” He grinned toothily.
“But the mere exposure of what this object actually is, along with the implied threat that it’s in my possession, should be enough to pressure any organization in the galaxy to agree with my views. Having the most powerful object in the universe at your side has a certain effect on people.”
Yiiva’s mind had, until now, felt overwhelmed. But suddenly, everything seemed so clear - as if someone had simply whispered a command in her ear. The Myriad had contained an impossible power for too long, and this was the moment to correct it. She looked Sloth straight in the eye, then placed the Myriad on the ground. He laughed, assuming she planned to surrender the device to him.
She knew exactly what to do - it was as if the instructions were embedded in her very DNA, that long line of Alien Aishas that had passed the myriad down for eons so that she could be here for what was about to happen. She crouched in front of the transformed myriad, pressing the exact sequence of keys into a tiny panel, pushing exactly the right buttons at the right time. She was opening the myriad.
Sloth rolled his eyes and laughed. “You’re bluffing, you fool! You think I would fall for the same trick I myself...”
She didn’t hear him. The myriad was already splitting apart. She sat it down and watched as white beams crisscrossed over its surface, and as Sloth leapt desperately at it in an absurd attempt to push the pieces back together, a terrible cyclone flung him aside. The bursting light and the howling of the wind pierced every single nerve in Yiiva's body, every bit of her consciousness, as she backed away from the myriad.
Yiiva had expected... well, a rather abrupt and painless end to her being. Instead, she saw a glimmering, white form in front of her.
Someone... something... had come from the myriad.
She squinted enough to barely make out the outline of the figure. She could tell that it was roughly faerie-like, bipedal, and dressed in shimmering white cloth, but the blinding, brilliant light obscured all further impression. She felt an intense sense of calm as the brilliance began to radiate warmly over her, consuming her entire body, and, soon, impossibly, the entirety of time and space, in a single moment lost within the overwhelming expanse of time.
She understood at last. The myriad had chosen her, from all of space and time, because she would, in that moment, invariably make the decision. She would be there to stop Sloth and open the myriad. She would always be there...
Yiiva woke up in her bed with the overwhelming feeling that something, somehow, was different. Did her bedroom really look like this? The picture on her bedside stand told her she lived alone with her grandfather - could that be true? She remembered hearing a door slamming, a voice from impossibly far away... but that had all been a very long and very weary dream.
Turning over, she realized she had fallen asleep with her childhood toy, a Jhudora Faerie Doll. She looked into its eyes, and was surprised to find that they were not dull and expressionless, but impossibly ancient, as though it had survived through another universe entirely.