Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 111,439,808 Issue: 182 | 17th day of Running, Y7
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To Defeat a Secret

by ginger23456


She looked into the pool of shimmering silvery water and saw her reflection staring up at her. Her eyes were blue, just like the sky on a beautiful sunny day, but beneath that vibrant colour lay the colour of sorrow; grey but overwhelming, seeming to suffocate the tranquil calm tones of her eyes, the colours in which her eyes used to look before this day.

     She felt weak; empty. Her heart felt like a ton, weighed down by the sorrow that had grasped it. A shiny tear fell down her cheek and hit the water with a shrill plop, startling her. The ripples distorted her reflection and for a moment it had seemed like her mouth had turned upward into a smile. It was an illusion caused by the ripples. She had never smiled and she knew that she would never smile again, not after this day; not for the rest of her life.

     She had removed the blue bows from her head and tail and held them in her paws, watching them dance in the cold wind. They didn't belong on her anymore. Nothing belonged to her anymore. She was just a lonely Usul, locked from the warmness of others and left out in the cold by her false owner.

     She was false, Cherin knew that. The love her owner had given her was nothing but a lie. It was just a mirage of happiness and now it had gone forever. When Cherin was normal she believed her owner liked her but not as her Neopet. Yes, she liked her because she did the chores, liked her because she was clever and gave her a good image, but now Cherin's secret was out and so her owner abandoned her.

     She let go of her bows and watched them as the wind carried them far away. They were still dancing, twisting this way and that way as the wind caught them. A heavy gust got under them, blew them high up into the air and then they were gone; a part of her had gone for good and she looked at her reflection again. She swirled one finger in the water, distorting her reflection again, hoping to see a smile, but there was no smile, not this time. Instead the distorted reflection no longer looked like Cherin but of someone else; someone nestled deep in her heart and in her thoughts.

     She continued to weep as she got colder and colder. It was winter and the gusts of wind were chilling to the bone. She curled up into a ball, wrapping her tail around herself like a protective cocoon. She couldn't stay here by this pool forever, but she was warm beneath her tail now and she felt safe. She would stay here until she could figure out her next move.

     Night was drawing closer and Cherin knew that the temperature at night was apt to plummet considerably. She couldn't stay here any longer. She would have to find shelter somewhere... but who would let an Usul from the street into their Neohome? It wouldn't happen and she knew it; she didn't want to, but she knew. And if, just by one small chance, that she did get shelter, who could be sure that they wouldn't be able to find out about her little secret, the one she has hidden all her life until now?

     Mulling over her thoughts, Cherin stayed in her little spot by the pool, secluded from everyone, and fell asleep beneath her tail. She shivered as she slept and her dreams were nothing but fragmented nightmares drifting in and out of her mind. She awoke a few times, frightened by her dreams, but she drifted off again almost immediately and continued to shudder with the cold of the night air.

     Footsteps were approaching, unheard by the Usul. A woman coughed and then gasped as she saw the little Usul lying on the floor, covered by a bushy tail. She knelt down besides the Usul and tapped it once. No movement, not even a sound.

     "Hello?" she called out. "Hello?"

     The Usul stirred and the woman called out again. The Usul unwrapped herself, exposing herself to the cold wind and her teeth clattered together.

     "What are you doing out here all on your own?" the woman asked. "You're freezing. Here, have my coat."

     "No, I'm alright, honest," the Usul replied. "You can keep it on."

     There was a silence and then the woman spoke again.

     "So what are you doing out here on your own?" she asked for the second time.

     The Usul felt something grasp at her heart and tug it, and suddenly it felt as if her heart was beating ten thousand times a second. What was it she was feeling? Guilt? Guilt for telling this woman, this stranger, that her owner had abandoned her? Or was it worry? Was she worried that this woman would reject her just like her owner did?

     "Are you alright?" the woman asked, shaking the Usul from her thoughts.

     "M-My owner…She-she abandoned me."

     The woman's face looked shocked, but in that shock came an expression of concern and worry for the little Usul. She spread her arms and embraced her, warming her immediately.

     "I'm so sorry to hear about that," she said. "Why did she abandon you?"

     And then that feeling of tightness grasped at her heart again but diminished almost immediately as she replied: "Because she didn't love me."

     She was lying already and she hated that. Why did secrets hurt so much? Why did we have to have secrets in the first place? Why couldn't people just be straight with each other? The last one answered itself; because people will hate, people will hurt, people will cause upset and owners will abandon their Neopets just because of one little secret.

     She wept into the woman's arms and she cradled her lovingly.

     "You can stay with me for as long as you like. I don't have any Neopets of my own, you see, and I could do with the company."

     "You really mean that?"

     "Of course. So then, what's your name?"


     "Cherin. That's a sweet name. Come on then, Cherin, it's time to take you to your new Neohome where it's lovely and warm. You must be hungry too. How about a lovely tin of hot soup when we get back?"

     "That would be lovely, thanks," and the two of them walked back, bracing the cold wind together.

     The owner, who Cherin found out was named Gracie, had a beautiful traditional Neohome with wooden beams across the ceiling and tiles on the floor. The walls were painted creams and yellows, neutral but warming and relaxing. They were in the kitchen and a wooden table was in the centre. A dish had been placed upon it and the smell coming from the stove was mouth watering.

     She ate her soup without speaking at all, and the only sounds she made were slurps of pure enjoyment and the spoon clanking against the dish.

     "That was delicious," she stated, dropping her spoon into the empty dish.

     "I'm glad you liked it," Gracie said with a smile.

     A couple of hours had passed and the two of them got to know each other. They seemed to instantly click and Cherin loved her like she had been her owner right from the very start. They had been living together for a week now and Cherin couldn't be happier. She realised that nothing could break the friendship they had with each other, not even her secret.

     But she knew she was lying to herself, for every time the secret came into her mind her heart would tremble with worry and she would feel sick to the stomach. Gracie was lovely, a really caring young person, but she thought that her previous owner at least had a bit of likeness for her before she told her the dreaded secret and look what had happened. Abandoned.

     "Cherin, would you like some cookies?" Gracie asked one morning.

     "Yes please!" It was then that Cherin realised that Gracie didn't just like her, but loved her. She would not abandon her and whatever nasty feelings Cherin had in her heart, she had to be brave and face them.

     Munching on a cookie as Gracie sat besides her reading the Neopian Times, Cherin said the words she had been meaning to say for quite some time.

     "There's something I need to tell you."

     Gracie looked up from the newspaper and her eyes were now firmly on Cherin's.

     "What is it?"

     "I'm…" She looked down at her paws. "It doesn't matter."

     "No, tell me please. I can tell that it's worrying you. Tell me. What ever it is I promise I won't get angry. Okay?"

     "Okay then," Cherin said. "I'm…I'm related to the Shadow Usul."

     Cherin realised that she had made the biggest mistake of her life immediately, and what she saw in front of her eyes confirmed that. Gracie shot from her seat and moved away from the little Usul as if afraid of her.

     "You're related to a monster!" she gasped, immediately. "When you told me about your previous owner you didn't tell me WHY. No wonder she abandoned you! Get out of my house!"

     "But Gracie! Gracie, I'm not a monster! I've not seen my…my sister for years, I'm not like her! Please let me stay! Please!"

     "I won't have a monster in my house," she snarled and opened the front door. "Get out."

     "But I thought you loved me!"

     "I did love you, Cherin, I really did. But you've kept a secret from me, an important one, and now I feel that I don't know you at all. You are a monster. You always have been and you always will be."

     "I'M NOT!" she screamed. "I'm not a monster! I'm just a normal Usul!" she charged at her owner, wanting to hug her, let her owner know that she wasn't a monster like her sister, that she was a normal Usul capable of loving and caring. Gracie didn't see it like that though and she moved quickly away from Cherin, the tiny Usul.

     "See what I mean? You were going to attack me! Monster! Get out! Get out of my house right now!"

     "Gracie, I wasn't!"

     But her owner would have none of it. This time, instead of keeping her distance from Cherin, she grabbed the bowless Usul by the scruff of her neck, threw her outside and slammed the door behind her. Cherin didn't even look back for she knew it wouldn't matter if she did anyway; Gracie wouldn't be changing her mind.

     She wept silently, hot tears flooding down her cheeks, and walked into the cold, brisk wind, not knowing where to go or what to do. Her sister, the Shadow Usul; what could she be doing now? Sleeping probably for it was not dark yet. Or perhaps she was getting ready to plan an attack on any by passer that crossed her path. Either way, it was her, that retched Usul that had gotten Cherin into this mess in the first place. Why did she have to be a monster? Why did she have to hurt and terrorise so many innocent Neopets? Why did she make others hate her?

     Cherin realised that she wanted to see her sister, the Shadow Usul, for it was the only place she had left to go. Nobody would want her but her sister might. If she did not, Cherin would not know where to go or what to do. She had seen it before though; abandoned pets roamed for a while before being picked up and placed into the Pound where they stayed for all eternity. Cherin would be one of those. Of course, she could keep her secret but it was hard. Constantly knowing the truth, hiding it from people she cared about; it was a strong burden on her heart and an emotional strain for her and after a while her mind couldn't take it and she blurted the secret out. It was a vicious circle.

     She waited until nightfall before visiting Neopia Central, for that was where her sister lived…and preyed. It was a chilly night and Cherin could see her breath rise as steam in front of her. She had been crying and her cheeks were sodden with tears before, but now they felt stiff, hard and cold as the tears froze to almost ice.

     "Amelia, where are you?" she called out. "Amelia?"

     That was her name, but Cherin had figured that the Shadow Usul no longer had that name anymore. She was known simply as the Shadow Usul to everybody. She had even wondered if her sister had forgotten what her real name was. Probably, Cherin thought and fought back another wave of tears.

     "Amelia?" Nothing. Not a sound, nor a movement.

     "Shadow Usul, where are you?" Still nothing.

     Cherin continued to search. She looked in every nook and cranny, every dark shadowed corner and then, in the distance, she saw them; two leering yellow eyes in the far corner. They didn't look frightening however, no, they looked calm, peaceful, safe. Her sister wasn't as bad as everybody made her out to be. She was misunderstood, that was all.

     "Amelia!" she cried, running up to those eyes. "Amelia, it's me, Cherin, your sister!"

     The eyes turned into black ones suddenly and the shape of a Kyrii formed in the darkness.

     "What are you doing?" the Kyrii asked. "I'm not your sister. For one thing, I'm a BOY. I think you have me mistaken for someone else."

     "Oh," Cherin replied, taken back. "I-I'm sorry, I thought you were my…sister."

     Those eyes, she thought. They were yellow just like my sister's eyes.

     She glanced up at the moon and realised why. The light of the moon had reflected into the young Kyrii's eyes and made them seem yellow, that was all. She sighed.

     "Something the matter?" he asked.

     "I need to find my…" she was abruptly cut off by the Kyrii, who let out a piercing scream.

     "Help me!!"

     A black shadow appeared behind him, seeming to engulf him. Those yellow eyes were penetrating into Cherin's skin and into her mind and she clasped her tiny hands to her head to shield it. She had found her sister but she didn't expect it to be like this. The Kyrii was cowering beneath the Shadow Usul and she snarled, bearing white fangs as sharp as knives. She was going to hurt the Kyrii, maybe even…

     She didn't want to think about that. She would have to act but what would she do? The choice she had to make was unbearable. Should she save the Kyrii from her sister, or just leave until her sister had done what she had devoted her life to doing?

     Acting on instinct, Cherin pulled a flashlight out of one her pockets, flicked on the switch and instantly doused her sister in a pool of bright light. The Shadow Usul screamed this time and it sounded like the screams of a thousand Usul's. She was hurting; the light was hurting her, and badly.

     The scream dissipated slowly, but that wasn't the only thing. The Shadow Usul was also disappearing. Into the light it seemed. Yes, the light was overpowering the darkness of the Shadow Usul. Light was winning. The Kyrii was lay at the bottom of the pool of light as the Shadow Usul, Cherin's sister, was becoming less and less.

     "I'll get…you, little…sister," the Shadow Usul uttered, and Cherin's heart dropped into the pit of her stomach. She knew and had done all along and what must it have felt like to watch your own sister defeating you? She couldn't even begin to imagine that and didn't want to. But deep in her heart she knew that she already had known what it felt like. The Shadow Usul had been defeating her time after time, each time that her owners abandoned her, each time she felt her heart, as heavy as a lead weight.

     But now it was over as the Shadow Usul became no more. She flicked the switch off, and darkness once again enveloped her surroundings. The Kyrii was rubbing his head and looking up at Cherin.

     "What happened?" he asked.

     "I just defeated one of the demons that had been haunting me all of my life. I can start afresh now. I hold no secrets anymore."

The End

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