The Beauty Queen's Curse
I knew from the first moment I stepped foot on the porch of the house on Elm Lane that something was very, very wrong. It was a prickly sensation on the back of my neck, the way my skin chilled despite the warm summer air. But what choice did I have? I had been looking for my dream Neohome for years and no matter how hard I worked I just couldn't find it. I'd looked in every sector of Neopia and Kiko Lake but none of them felt right for me. Budget was an issue, no doubt about it. I had never been the wealthiest but I did my best to get by. That was what first brought me to the house on Elm Lane, it was the only listing within my budget. Well, to be honest, it was dirt cheap. For some reason it wouldn't be until after it all happened that I would bother to ask myself why that was.
The realtor cleared his throat, and stared at me lost in my own thoughts. He was an impatient Nimmo who tapped his foot as I had slowly looked over the house. I wanted to see every nook and cranny and ensure that it was all functioning. Sure it needed a new coat of paint and a little love in the dry garden but perhaps I was just the girl for the job. I looked over at him, "Sorry, just making sure everything is in order."
"I assure you madam that it is," he nearly rolled his eyes, "can we go ahead and head back to my office now to sign the paperwork?"
If I hadn't known any better I would have thought he was impatient to get out of the house, he seemed off- and not the in normal way he always seemed annoyed with my presence. I nodded and headed for the door, turning around to take one last look at the small home. My home.
It took a few days to get paperwork in order, but finally the realtor dropped off the keys and the house on Elm Lane was mine. I couldn't help but dream of plans for the house, how I would fix it up and make it my own. When I arrived on moving day, with a truck full of my belongings and even as I started to unload them into the house with the help of the movers it hadn't quite sunk in yet. Once they had finished and left, I stood alone in my home. I took a deep breath and smiled, letting myself collapse onto the couch, I was finally home.
It was a loud crash that woke me up the first night. I jolted up out of bed, heart racing. I quickly flipped on the light and ran down the staircase. Looking around the foyer I couldn't spot anything but then I saw a light. I headed to the bathroom, throwing open the door and was surprised to find that the lights were on - surely I had turned those off? On the floor, shattered into many pieces was a glass perfume bottle that I had been gifted a few years back. I sighed in relief, I must have simply left it too close to the edge of the counter. Quickly sweeping up the glass, I headed back up to bed and fell into a deep sleep.
Many normal days and nights passed in the house before the next incident occurred. I was working tirelessly on renovations. First step was painting the outside of the house. The wooden boards had started to peel back and were damaged heavily. I removed some and repainted them all from a dingy brown to a lovely tan. At least on the outside the house was really starting to get a new life. My next project was the attic which desperately needed to be cleaned out as many old owner's items had been stored and forgotten there. I reached the latch at the top of the stairs and pulled as hard as I could but it wouldn't budge. Maybe I needed a key? The realtor hadn't mentioned it but then he wasn't the most helpful person ever.
I shrugged it off, making a mental note to call him in the morning and try to sort it out. It was as I began to walk back down the stairs that I heard it. All at once like a powerful explosion I head the shattering of every single mirror in my house. I nearly fell to the ground it startled me so much, I heard glass falling in several rooms and covered my head out of reflex. When it stopped I cautiously lowered my hands and looked around me. What could have caused that?
The realtor was, unsurprisingly, very unhelpful. He said to his knowledge the attic wasn't locked and I was simply not strong enough to pull the handle by myself. He agreed to come by and do it for me, but he too was unable to get it to budge. He huffed and before leaving told me it was best to forget about a 'room full of junk'. And for a while I did just that.
I was curled up by the fire reading a good book when I heard a creaking that I could not ignore. I had started to feel uneasy being in the house alone after the mirrors (another situation the realtor refused to see the gravity of) so I was more than tempted to pretend I had imagined it but something tugged at my mind and I had to get up and investigate. It sounded as though it was coming from upstairs so I carefully, one step at a time made my way up. When I reached the landing a horrible wave of fear washed over me. The door to the attic was open, the rickety staircase pulled down. How could this be, someone would have had to get passed where I had sat and pulled the door down without making a sound.
This is where my curiosity got the best of me and I felt myself almost out of body moving toward the door. I climbed the short staircase and found myself staring into darkness. I fumbled around until my hand found a chain hanging from the ceiling and with a swift tug the room was bathed in a faint, warm light. For the most part I wasn't surprised by what I saw there. There were dusty boxes covered in cobwebs and some old furniture draped in sheets. I walked around the small storage area for a moment or two before deeming it entirely not scary and turned to head back down the stairs when I felt it.
Almost as if it had miraculously appeared out of thin air, my foot brushed up against the cold glass of a hand mirror, sitting perfectly clean and brand new in the middle of the attic floor. My heart racing, I reached down and took the handle of the mirror in my hand, slowly lifting it up. The base had a border of ruby roses and silver branches with thorns that nearly hurt my hand as I clasped it. It was extremely beautiful and I couldn't help myself from looking into it.
At first I couldn't believe my own beauty in the mirror, it was impossible of course as I was sweaty from working on the house, my messy hair pushed back into a ponytail but somehow I was suddenly a super model, as gorgeous as ever. But as quickly as I saw this, it started to fade to twist into something else. My eyes became sunken, my hair fell from my head, and my teeth yellowed before my eyes. Soon I was wrinkled, my skin covered in blemishes so ugly I felt my eyes start to tear up from the fear of what I was seeing. Then I saw it. Just over my shoulder in the mirror I saw an Acara. She was not beautiful, nor was she ugly, she was sad. She had matted hair with dark horns growing out from it. Her makeup once well applied was streaming down her face and her eyes were bloodshot like she hadn't slept in years.
I let out a scream and dropped the mirror, shattered into a thousand pieces across the attic floor. I ran so fast I couldn't feel my legs moving and soon I was outside the house in the daylight, trying to catch my breath but it felt like I would never be able to.
I was convinced that what I had seen that night was real. The realtor laughed me out of his office, the authorities told me to get some rest and my own friends looked at me in a way that made me feel foolish. After three nights of no sleep and feeling I was seeing the Acara in every surface I decided to take drastic measures. After getting a list of previous owners of the house from my realtor I crossed checked the names against the Neopian Times copies at the library. Finally, I found a match.
The article was about the beauty pageant that took place a few years before I bought the house. It was a fierce competition but the winner was chosen unanimously between the judges for her impeccable beauty and grace. Her name was Vira. My heart nearly stopped when I looked across the page to the attached photo. Standing there was the Acara from the mirror, but she was so different. Standing tall, proud and so beautiful she glowed. Her hair was flowing and her dress shimmered in the stage lights. She had the most stunning smile and she wore a single daisy in her hair. She held the trophy and smiled to the crowd.
I couldn't believe this could be the same girl. I rented out the Neopian Times issue and headed home. With one gulp I pulled down the door to the attic, and wasn't truly surprised when it easily opened for me this time. I carefully avoiding stepping on the broken glass I had left there and glanced around me. "Vira? Are you there?" My voice was cracking.
A cold air filled the room and I could feel she was there but couldn't see her. I grabbed a shard of the broken mirror off the ground, trying desperately to ignore my frightening appearance in it I turned around trying to get her in my view. Finally, I saw her. "I know who you are - or, who you were. I found this." I handed the Neopian Times clipping of her over my shoulder. She glanced at it and I saw a terrible sadness in her eyes. She seemed to barely recognize herself. When she spoke it sounded like the hissing of a snake and it was nearly a whisper, "I was so beautiful then."
I felt her heart breaking, "What happened to you?"
I saw tears start to roll down her cheeks, "I was cursed. She thought I was vain and selfish, she wanted me to be ugly forever."
Vira sighed, "The gypsy, Esmella. She lived in the camp just beyond this house. I lived here many years ago, and I've been trapped here forever to watch people much more beautiful than me live their happy lives here."
Suddenly a sense of guilt washed over me. How many times had I primped myself in the mirror or tried on a pretty dress, twirling around my bedroom? "Maybe I can help you, Vira. Maybe we can free you of your curse? Then you can stop haunting this house and move on."
She clenched her jaw, "No, it's impossible. I'm going to be trapped like this forever!"
As she yelled the final world the house shook and the shard of mirror in my hand started to crack. That's when I truly understood. She wasn't trapped in the house, she was trapped in the mirrors. "Vira, please calm down. I think we can figure this out. Just give me a chance okay?"
Vira shook her head and tears streamed down her face. She vanished as quickly as she had appeared, and the chill left the room.
As I approached the gypsy camp through the clearing in the woods my breath was short. I was incredibly nervous, what if my plan didn't work? I had sunk all my savings into that house and as much as I ached for Vira, I couldn't live with her haunting me for the rest of my life. The camp was a short walk north of my house. I saw the fire burning in the center of camp through the trees and heard the sound of music and laughter echoing around me.
No one paid me much mind when I arrived, they were used to wanderers. I stopped a rather odd looking Aisha and asked for his help, "Can you tell me where to find Esmella?"
He hiccupped from his warm ale and pointed in the direction of one of the caravans. It was lit from the inside, apparently she wasn't enjoying the festivities with everyone else. I knocked on her door and when she opened it she immediately eyed me up and down. "What do you want?"
"Hi, are you Esmella?" I asked, trying to sound brave.
She raised an eyebrow, "Who's asking?"
"I live in the house just south of here-"
She smirked, "I know why you are here then, girl. You're not the first to ask and you're out of luck. I won't lift my curse on that brat. Not now and not ever. She deserves everything she got after the pain she's caused others."
I took a deep breath, time to put on my best performance. "So you do believe me then? No one else will take me seriously. There is a horrible, terrifying monster in that house. She is the ugliest creature I have ever seen! I have awful nightmares and it just has to stop."
The gypsy smiled, clearly proud of her own work. “Is she truly so grotesque?”
I couldn’t believe her smugness. I nodded, “Truly! You have to help me.”
It was nearly dark when we reached the house, Esmella hadn’t spoken a word to me. We entered and that familiar cold chill filled the air. She was nearby.
I led her upstairs to the attic, she didn’t seem scared at all but then she knew exactly what we were about to face. She looked around the dusty room, “Well, where is she?”
I reached for the newly repaired hand mirror I had broken only a few nights prior, feeling the cold glass against my hand and outstretched it to her. She smiled and took it in her hands, peering into the glass. Her appearance did not distort in the glass, immune to own curse I was sure. I waited a few moments until I saw her face change.
A nasty smile crawled across her face as she saw her work, “Oh my, you truly are hideous!”
She almost sounded delighted, it was awful to listen to. “You were so concerned with being beautiful and loved, and look at you now you monster.”
Finally, it was my que, I slowly moved behind the gypsy, and held up a hand mirror of my own. The reflection doubled down and started to create a strange illusion. It was now as if it were Vira looking in the mirror, not Esmella.
She seemed confused and then all at once it happened. I watched as Esmella was pulled into the hand mirror she held and Vira emerged from the one I held, switching places in a moment. Esmella screamed at me, “No! You fool! You freed her!”
But it wasn’t the dark, ugly Vira who stood before me – no she was a beauty queen once again. She was crying, she must have been so happy. But then just as soon as I saw the tears they dissipated. Instead, a smile, a wicked smile spread across her face with perfect teeth smiling at me. I knew, in that moment, I had made a horrible, horrible mistake. It wasn’t Vira who needed saving, it was me she had tricked me and I had freed a very evil presence indeed.