Remembering Mr. Scary
Patricia the Aisha took another bomberry from the basket and began washing it. Her friend Sally was peeling potatoes for supper. They hadn't seen each other in weeks, both of them being busy with preparing the fields and planting. Now that they were half-way through the Month of Relaxing, the farmers of Meridell could finally take a breather and catch up on gossip. And Patricia had wasted no time in heading over to Sally's farmhouse for a little afternoon visit.
Sally and Patricia had been friends since they were little children growing up on their parents' adjacent farms. Patricia had inherited her parents' farm after her older brother went off to study in Brightvale. Sally had married Jack, a former farmhand at her parents' farm who now owned the largest marrow fields in Meridell. Though they weren't next-door neighbours anymore, they spent a considerable chunk of their afternoons and evenings together, getting chores done or taking breaks after a long day in the fields. Patricia was always happy that both of them ended up being farmers, when so many neopets moved away from Meridell in search of other careers nowadays.
'Say, Patty, do you like our new curtains?' Sally asked her friend as she picked up another potato.
'Good heavens, Sally, I was with you when you bought it, remember? I helped you pick it out!' Patty rolled her eyes. That was something about Sally that had never changed – she wasn't the brightest Usul in Meridell. 'You'll forget who your daughter is if you didn't see her every day.'
'Don't scold me, Patty, I had a lot of things on my mind!' Sally said, going red. 'Oh yes, I remember going with you that day, we ran into ol' Dame Winkles. What was it she said about 'er zebies...'
'Who cares?! Listen, Sally, what do you make of all this commotion over at Tyrannia? You can't have heard nothing about it,' Patty said, waving the bomberry in the air.
The Usul continued to peel the potato in her hand. 'Tyrannia, eh? Now that you mention it, I heard somethin' was goin' on there...' she said absently. 'I didn't bother askin' around.'
'They say there's something powerful that's been dug up... some obelisk or orb or something... people are all goin' after it,' Patty pressed the topic, with an irritated glance at her friend. 'An' what d'you s'pose our king does? Order more turkey from the kitchen, that's what! Even King Hagan's sent 'is people down there to see for themselves.'
'Oh, is your brother goin'? I haven' seen 'im in a long time!'
'Yeah, he is, an' he promised to write about it soon. It's such a shame our king doesn't bother with these things!' Patty said, cutting the leaves off a bomberry with a little more force than necessary.
'Maybe it's because he remembers the las' time we bothered with mysterious artefac's an' such,' Sally said quietly.
Patty fell silent. She put the now clean and ready-to-eat bomberries in a bowl and left it on the table to get tea ready. Sally looked out of the kitchen window, finishing up the potatoes. Her daughter Madeleine was playing with Puddles, Patty's spardel.
'You got a good point, Sally. Maybe we've had enough excitement to last us a while down 'ere,' Patty said, putting the kettle over the fire. Sally put a pot of water on the stove. Outside, the sky darkened. Both neopets tensed and looked outside. Darigan Citadel was floating overhead again.
'More than enough,' Patty murmured. Sally called Madeleine in, telling her tea was ready.
The little Usul ran inside, almost forgetting to wipe her shoes at the door. Puddles stayed at the door obediently, drooling. Sally set a plate of oatmeal cookies on the table and went over to the stove.
'Mommy, can I take a cookie for Puddles, pleeeaaase?' Madeleine asked. 'Puddles doesn't like oatmeal cookies, Maddy,' Patty said, smiling warmly.
'But he looks real hungry!' Maddy persisted.
'You stop that, Maddy. Go wash yer hands before you sit down,' Sally said sharply.
Maddy walked off in a huff to clean her hands. Patty chuckled. 'She's not even half as troublesome as you were,' she said. Sally's expression softened.
'At least she doesn' have an imaginary friend,' Patty said, biting into a cookie.
'Patty! Don' bring that up again!' Sally said, going red.
'What was his name? Mister Spooky? Scary? Somethin' like that,' Patty said, giggling. 'You had the funniest ideas, Sally. Mister Spooky who lives in the old barn!' She was stifling her laughter. Sally turned away and began cutting up the bomberries, wearing a stiff expression. 'Okay, okay, sorry,' Patty said, trying to calm her friend.
'Who's Mister Spoopy, mommy?' asked Maddy as she came into the kitchen, wiping her hands.
'Come get your tea, Maddy,' said Sally, pouring it into Madeleine's special cup. Patty began asking Sally about her games and steered the conversation away. Sally stared out of the window as she poured the tea into each cup. Darigan Citadel was drifting away from them again, the shadow passing over the cornfields. As she saw the darkened stalks, she remembered how they had looked that fateful night, when she had sneaked out to the barn to get her forgotten doll, and when she saw it crouching in the darkness. She remembered another night, when they were surrounded by chaos, the terror of being chased by monsters, the panic as she hurried to see if It was safe in that barn. Not It, him; he was a person, a friend, and, as Sally sometimes thought, a dream.
'Sally! The bomberries!' Patty's yell brought her thoughts back to her kitchen and she looked down to see that she had begun pouring the piping hot tea into the bowl. The bowl of bomberries. The berries began swelling.
'UNDER THE TABLE!' Patty screamed and dived. Sally pushed Maddy's head down just as the bomberries started to explode one by one, shaking the little farm house from its basement to its attic and putting their evening of relaxation to an end.
Madeleine looked around once more and sniffed a tear back. It was a late afternoon in the Month of Hiding, and the days were getting shorter. The little Usul had chased a wild mortog into a corn field. Now she was lost in the huge field. The corn stalks reached high above her ears and seemed to crowd around her, keeping her captive.
'Mooommyyyy...' the girl called out. She was in tears now. The tiny patch of sky she could see over the corn grew darker every passing minute. The faint cries of moaches filled the air.
Suddenly, there was a rustling noise behind her. Maddy spun around, trembling. A giant form loomed in the shadows.
The form started towards her.
'Is that y- AAAAIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!'
Sally was sick with worry. She had taken Maddy for a walk and had let her wander a bit while she stopped to talk to Mrs Eizzil at her front gate. 'Can't you even take a walk without losin' yer daughter, fer Fyora's sake?' she scolded herself as she ran up and down the paths. Mr Jugg's farm was nearby, and Sally feared Maddy had gotten lost in the cornfield. She couldn't even find her way around their own fields.
As she considered going back to her husband to get help, she felt a shadow passed over her. She looked up and was alarmed to see a large hooded figure descending from the sky on giant Korbat wings. 'Oh no, the angels have finally come to punish me fer my mistakes!' the scatterbrained Usul cried, backing away. The figure landed majestically in front of her and stood still.
'Please mister angel-sir, don' take me away till I find my daughter an' say g'bye to my husband!' Sally pleaded, shivering head to foot. The figure paused and then let out a booming laugh that sent a chill down Sally's spine. He set the bundle he was carrying on the ground. A little Usul poked her head out of the cloth, then jumped out and ran to her astonished mother.
'Maddy!' Sally pulled her daughter into her arms and held her tight. She looked up at the figure with fear. Those wings looked terribly familiar. The being raised its hands and shifted its hood slightly, letting a little light fall on its face. Sally became motionless, staring, mouth slightly open. The Korbat stood just as still, his face an expressionless mask, impossible to penetrate. His cold eyes scanned the Usul and her daughter.
'It seems you have not changed much,' he said in a quiet voice that Sally had never quite forgotten.
'Y-you... you remember...' Sally whispered. Straightening up, she stared at the half-hidden face with wide eyes. Her daughter was clinging to her skirt, trembling, but Sally showed no signs of fear or apprehension. Her chest filled with emotion, and she seemed to swell a little. Seeing this, the sinister red eyes, which could silence an entire citadel into submission, softened a little. The mask broke, if only for a moment.
'I'm awful glad you found your way home. You're real strong now.' Sally said. She broke into a warm, wide smile.
The Korbat pulled its hood forward and turned away. 'Your child is just as inquisitive as you were. Take care of her, and of yourself,' he said. Then he opened his enormous wings and took off into the sky, in the direction of Darigan Citadel. Sally watched his figure grow smaller and smaller until it disappeared.
'Mommy...' Maddy was still trembling. Sally bent down and put her arms around her daughter to calm her down. She was still smiling, and her eyes were moist. 'Mommy, what was that?'
Sally pulled her daughter even closer and stroked her head.
'That was Mr. Scary. An old friend of Mommy's.'