To Succeed is to Fail: Chapter Three
Fear me not.
Repetition. Those three words appear again.
They hang in the balance between sanity and slavery of the mind. To fear something is to believe that it has power over you. But, by my telling you not to fear me, the same effect occurs; I have the power over you to command upon you the idea that you should believe we are, at the very least, equals.
I told you at the beginning I would get inside your head.
Just like the zombies have gotten into Judy's head.
Perhaps you would not have believed me to be in your head had I not just implied the statement. But I am, aren't I? You know not what I am, though you know what you think I am.
Judy knows her opinion of the living dead she has just encountered.
She believes these members are, in fact, unfortunate creatures locked within the confines of a witch's dastardly spell. She knows she must help them.
Does she know whether or not it's in her best interest to?
Does she believe it to be in her best interest?
So far as she and I are concerned, yes.
Is anything ever as it seems?
Do we still see things from a certain viewpoint and interpret our experiences as truth, despite those truths often being based on our one-sided, incomplete, or otherwise circumstantial evidence?
Of course. ***
Aside II -- Ray
"You're mad," the Shoyru huffed at him in conclusion as he made his way further down the stairs.
"Just come, new apprentice," he called as the Scorchio casually flew down the steps. "And let's hope, for your sake, that what happened to my old apprentice doesn't happen to you."
She sighed. Melisma just couldn’t win. ***
The Shoyru had been looking for work for what... it must have been several months; ever since the summer, when the Haunted Woods had entered its annual down-period as the tourists flocked to beach paradises, like Mystery Island.
She was one of them. Feeling bored with herself and Neopia in general, she decided to expand her horizons and venture out of the woods, like so many others.
Melisma did not realize the beauty of the refurbished Krawk Island -- her last visit was before Gavril McGill's rise to supremacy -- until she arrived there. It really was neat, and she spent several months walking around and enjoying herself.
Probably longer than she should have.
Returning from the pirate haven at the end of September, she expected a load of "Help Wanted" signs.
Alas, it seemed the pre-Halloween tourism industry was exceptionally large this year, and most of the good jobs had been filled by the time she returned.
Posting her name up on the local hiring board just around the corner from the impaled masks, Melisma received a call shortly thereafter, much to her surprise and relief.
The only thing the gruff Neopet said on the other end of the line was his address, and, "Come if you want the job. I can give you no further details, and when you arrive I can't let you leave..."
That was then.
The Shoyru arrived at his address and entered his grand house. It wasn't too difficult to find; the mysterious fellow's home was the only building in the uninhabited corner of the Haunted Woods, at the time known only by its segment number -- X027-AC.
This is now.
She was flying down the stairs after him.
"Behold," the Scorchio proclaimed at she reached his basement.
"Behold what?" Melisma asked. It looked like some kind of ray, but it was hidden under a sheet.
"Well," he said, "I can't show you just yet. Do you agree to the job?"
"What does it pay?"
"I can start you off with 10,000NP an hour."
Melisma wanted to gape. She was in shock -- she'd be earning more money in an hour than she currently had in her entire bank account.
Maintaining her composure, the Shoyru casually replied, "I accept your offer."
"Excellent!" the Scorchio said as he went to shake her hand. "My name is Edgar. Edgar Skiensay."
"Melisma," she returned, not giving her last name. She didn't want to get too involved with this fellow; he seemed a tad off.
He unveiled his machine.
Her suspicions were confirmed.
"What, is it some kind of ray?" It sure looked like one.
He laughed. "Kind of... it's a zombification ray."
"You mean," she asked, curiosity painted over her face, "this thing can turn Neopets into zombies?"
He smiled mischievously. "Yes," he responded. And then he frowned. "Well, actually, not quite yet. Your task will be to help me complete it. You will pass me tools, and I will teach you the internal mechanisms." He opened a panel and pointed to small blue orb. "For example, this contains the 'Essence of Zombification'."
"Sounds like fun," Melisma uttered emphatically. Well, she wasn't totally sure if would be fun; the Shoyru just wanted to say something nice.
"Splendid!" he exclaimed. He seemed to find excitement in anything. "We start after lunch."
"Do I get lunch too?"
"I don't see why you wouldn't."
They ate a marvelous lunch. Roast meat on toast and there was gravy and potatoes and it was just a marvelous lunch.
And then Melisma's life was changed forever. ***
What was the end result of Melisma's tale?
I could tell you now.
Or I could tell you later.
Listener, you act as though your very existence depends on you knowing the outcome of the aforementioned aside.
You already know: eventually, the Shoyru huffs, "You're mad"; the Scorchio talks a bit; and Melisma is forced to go back to work. The rest was mostly a flashback, told from Melisma's perspective.
A flashback within a flashback.
On the other hand... If you're wise, you may have wondered what the outcome of Melsima's said return was. Namely... How was the little Shoyru's life changed forever?
I could tell you now.
Or I could tell you later.
Let me assure you, there are many things more important than knowing the outcome.
Like water, or sunlight. Or ice cream.
See? Why don't you go, now, and enjoy a delicious cone of ice cream to help you forget your troubles.
But no, listener, you are in too deep.
Just like both Melisma and Judy are in too deep.
Both are entangled in their respective plots, yet both plots are entangled in an even greater plot.
Of course you are. ***
Part the Third -- Knowledge is Power
"Splendid!" Fredrick replied, a big grin on his little Bruce beak.
Judy realized that while his teeth were intact, they were very rotted. She quickly drew her paw over her own set to ensure they felt and therefore looked OK.
Content with her action, she emulated his smile. "Yes!" she exclaimed.
Another member of the zombie crowd stepped out and toward the center.
It was a little Usul. Judy thought she looked cute, in a strange kind of way. Her skin was peeling and gray, the small bow in her hair was reflecting the moonlight in a peculiar, yet enticing, manner, and, even though one of her eyes was tilted, it was clear they were once very symmetrical and appealing; but, all of these ails seemed to enhance her beauty in a way that made the Acara almost jealous of her. "Hello," she said in a quiet Shenkuuvian accent.
Judy recognized the voice. Didn't the Usul say something to her before? About... borovanian motion, or something..?
Still, she just glared at little zombie. "Er... hi," responded the stupefied Acara.
"My name is Hoshi Star."
"And mine is Judy." The Acara eased.
Fredrick stepped forward. "This young lady is our smartest member," he announced proudly.
Hoshi merely smiled humbly.
"And she," he continued, "has managed to track down all the information necessary for you to start the quest and find the item necessary to reverse the witch's spell."
"It is true," the Usul agreed, her voice quaint and quiet.
Judy followed Hoshi into a private room.
She recognized the room instantly; it was where little Hector McSweeny, one of her childhood friends, had tripped and hurt his hind paw on a loose nail in the dilapidated floor.
The Lupe had always been adventurous -- he had originally introduced the neighbourhood youths to the at the time dilapidated building and had access via skeleton key, too, to every room; these were because the home had once belonged to some relative of his (though his family line had since moved to the urban Haunted Woods) -- and Hector kept some form of map on him at all times, but he tended to injure himself too easily whilst on his pretend missions.
Anyway, Hector had thought he had seen some money, or something -- something shiny, the Lupe had said -- and pranced right into the room. And then the whole unfortunate nail incident occurred. Luckily, Judy was in the adjacent hall, and she heard and helped poor unfortunate Hector out of his awkward and painful position.
"Stupid floor!" the lad wailed. He complained about it for much time afterward.
Though he complained more about his inevitable need of help from a girl.
Present Judy sighed. She had not spoken to Hector in some time.
Regardless... Judy let her mind return to the task at hand. The Acara took in her surroundings. The floor looked beautiful, with replaced hardwood and an ornate gold and red carpet leading to a large oak desk that Ms. Star proceeded to sit behind.
"Please, sit," Hoshi said as she motioned for the Acara to sit in a little chair beside the desk.
Judy sat. It felt comfortable.
"Now, Judy," the Usul continued, "you have accepted the task of freeing us from the witch's spell; for that, I... well, we, are eternally grateful." She paused. "Hee. Eternal. That is almost a pun."
The Acara smiled, especially at Hoshi's cuteness. "The pleasure is all mine."
Hoshi smiled as well. "Yes. Well, you must know this will not be an easy endeavor. Along the way, you will face much adversity." Her non-slanted eye narrowed into a slit.
Judy nodded. "I understand the potential consequences," she said, "and I will be sure not to let anything get in the way of my quest."
"Good. Do you know what you must locate?"
"An item to free all of you from the witch's spell."
"Could you elucidate?"
The Acara was stuck. She didn't know anything more than that.
And then Hoshi giggled. "It is OK, young Acara," she said cutely, "no one has told you what it is, yet, you must fetch. I do not expect you to be psychic."
Judy paused nervously before she laughed as well. "I guess so." She paused. "So, what is it?"
"Can you swear you will not use this information for evil?"
"I swear." There was a determined glint in her pupil.
"Good," the Usul said, winking her non-slanted eye. "This knowledge is quite powerful. Anyway, from the research I've done -- you would be surprised how much information one can find hidden in the shadows -- I've concluded that the object which will save us, which will restore us to our former selves, lies deep within the dense mass of trees in the southeast woods. Out in that forest, there is a fair-sized home."
Judy listened intently.
"In the basement of that home there is giant ray, resembling the lab ray. In actuality, it is a zombification ray..."***
Do you understand, listener?
Regardless, let's hope Ms. Star succeeds in her explanations toward Judy. Else, it's failure for all the zombies.
But, in the eyes of yourself, listener, is this a good thing?
To be continued…