The red Xweetok lifted her skirts as she stepped over a fallen log, the black masquerade mask held daintily in one paw. Despite her taste for fancy clothes, Sahrani had never been one to back down from a dare. The Haunted Woods didn’t scare her any more than Eyeball Sushi did—and that was one of her favorite foods.
If only, thought the watcher. If only Sahrani had the common sense to stay away from the Haunted Woods. Or would it have changed anything?
The Xweetok dodged a glop of slime falling from the Brain Tree, pulsing above her. The dare was to spend a night in the Deserted Fairground, alone, with no light or Battledome weapons.
Now the Meepits, thought the watcher. Ghost Meepits skipped along the path, and Sahrani stumbled away. Not that she was afraid, of course. She was always a prideful Xweetok. So prideful.
Don’t look up, thought the watcher.
Sahrani looked up. A fire burned in the distance, beyond the Deserted Fairground. Her curiosity piqued, she stepped closer.
Turn around! thought the watcher. Run! Go far away from here! Stop, and go back to the Fairground! Anything but the Gypsy Camp!
Sahrani didn’t turn... but then, the watcher knew she wouldn’t. The past was unchangeable. The red Xweetok crept forward until the gypsies sitting around the fire became visible.
The watcher stared at the twig on the path as if trying to move it through sheer power of will. But the watcher’s powers didn’t extend that far, and the twig stayed put. The red Xweetok stepped on it, alerting the gypsies to her presence.
Now the gypsies were beckoning to Sahrani. Don’t go! thought the watcher. Don’t accept their offer!
“Would you like to see your future?” asked a gypsy. No! the watcher screamed in her mind. No one should know their future! Walk away. Go to the Fairgrounds. What about the dare?
But Sahrani stepped into the Aisha gypsy’s caravan. It was too late, now. Sahrani had passed the point of no return, the watcher knew. The watcher’s heart sank, even though she had watched this scene over and over. Sahrani never turned back, never escaped the fate looming just above her proud head.
The gypsy stared into the crystal ball—after Sahrani relinquished a few Neopoints she had brought with her for whatever reason. Mist swirled inside the ball. Sahrani saw nothing.
Suddenly, the gypsy screamed. She screamed at whatever vision the ball had shown her. The watcher knew all too well what had frightened her so.
Sahrani was scared now. She pulled up her skirts and fled the gypsy caravan. It’s too late, you fool! the watcher thought. But maybe it wasn’t too late. If only something would delay Sahrani before she reached Neopia Central... But nothing did. The red Xweetok didn’t stop to bob for apples. She didn’t hesitate for even a moment to try and wait out her time in the Fairground to complete the dare. Why at night? Why did the dare have to take place at night?
Sahrani’s only thought was to reach the calm safety of Neopia Central. If only you knew... the watcher thought. It was too late. Sahrani reached Neopia Central. She reached her house. That night, while she slept, came the object of the gypsy’s terror: the Shadow Usul.
“Sahrani?” a voice broke through the watcher’s thoughts. She tore her eyes away from the crystal ball. Kirithro stood in the doorway, watching her. “Watching it over and over won’t change anything,” the Jetsam told her gently.
“I know,” Sahrani_2, Sahrani to her friends, said quietly. She still had the gypsy’s crystal ball. She had gotten it after her encounter with the Shadow Usul, the same time her red color had been replaced by a translucent greenish-blue. She was a Ghost Xweetok now, and nothing would change that.
So Sahrani embraced it. And tonight was the night of her anniversary of her encounter.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked Kirithro. Kirithro wasn’t a ghost, but Sahrani had found a way around that. She reached a ghostly paw into the air and pulled on the Holiday Ghost Marshmallow Garland that hovered above her at all times. She wrapped the garland around Kirithro in an X pattern.
“Let’s go,” Kirithro replied, showing his teeth in a wicked grin. Sahrani mimicked his smile and flew out the window, Kirithro following with the help of the ghost garland.
Their first stop? The Gypsy Camp. Specifically, the gypsy who saw Sahrani’s demise, the gypsy whose crystal ball was now in Sahrani’s ghostly possession. The gypsy who could have prevented what happened if she merely told Sahrani to wait with them until the danger was past.
Kirithro swooped in the air next to her. The gypsy camp was directly below them. Sahrani nodded at Kirithro and, with a shriek, she plummeted to the ground, Kirithro next to her. They pulled up at the last moment. A collision with the ground wouldn’t hurt Sahrani, of course—she could just become intangible and slide right through—but Kirithro had no choice about his solidity.
Sahrani and her companion ignored the screaming Neopets. Sahrani was looking for one Aisha in particular.
There! Sahrani swooped at her, shrieking. The gypsy screamed back. She looked confused and terrified. Then the Aisha took in Sahrani’s familiar purple dress and black mask. Her eyes widened with recognition.
“No!” she screamed. “There was nothing I could do! I can’t change the future!” Just as Sahrani couldn’t change the past that she saw each time she looked into her crystal ball. But the future was changeable. Everything done now, in the present, influenced the future in tremendous ways. It would have been so easy. If the Aisha had just warned her, instead of just screaming...
Kirithro bared his teeth and growled. Sahrani poured all the misery she could into her features and dived toward the Aisha.
“You!” she howled. “You did this to me!”
“I didn’t!” the gypsy protested. Sahrani shrieked again, and the Aisha covered her face and cowered.
Sahrani decided she had had enough and suddenly pulled away, spiraling off into the night. Kirithro followed.
“Keep this up and we’ll make it into the Gallery of Evil for sure,” Kirithro said. Sahrani smiled. Some Neopets dreamed of being immortalized in stone in the Hall of Heroes. Not Sahrani. Even before her meeting with the Shadow Usul, Sahrani had wanted to be next to Neopia’s greatest villains. She would be right between Malkus Vile and the Shadow Usul herself.
“She comes silently, without warning...” Sahrani said.
“...her fiendish friend beside her...” Kirithro added.
“...looking for those who stood by and let danger fall on others...” Sahrani continued. They had long ago written their own article for the Gallery of Evil.
“...so she can reap revenge for those who can’t!” Kirithro completed. They laughed. Someday, that article would be written, Sahrani knew.
They flew over Neopia Central. Sahrani’s home before... the incident. Sadness threatened to wash over her. Sahrani pushed it back. A normal, red Xweetok couldn’t fly. A normal, red Xweetok couldn’t get into the Gallery of Evil. She preferred being a ghost. It was better this way, she told herself. It was better this way.