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||You are on Week 219
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Two Hundred and Nineteen Ends March 25th
"No, no... that goes over there!" the blue Zafara said, pointing to the opposite corner of the room. Her friend, a green Skeith, took a moment to glare at her before pushing the large blue chair to the indicated corner. "And don't you glare at me, Miles," the Zafara said, grinning. "You offered to help me move into my new Neohome, remember?" she added with a wink.
Miles chuckled. Sekara could be a pain from time to time, but at least she had a sense of humour. The Zafara walked over to the wall and pinned up a poster of a Faellie. She then turned around and admired her newly furnished room. "Perfect!" she said. "Thanks a ton, Miles. Everything is just how I want it."
The Skeith smiled. "Happy to help, as always. I'm terribly thirsty, though. Do you have anything to drink?"
Sekara nodded. "I've got some Achyfi in the fridge, come on." She waved for her friend to follow and they headed toward the kitchen area, where a few boxes still needed unpacking. The Zafara gingerly stepped over the boxes and
got two cans of Achyfi from the fridge. She then stepped back over the boxes and handed one to her friend.
"Ahh, great," he said, "this will hit the spot." Sekara smiled and sat down next to Miles on the sofa. They enjoyed the break from unpacking and chatted for a little while before standing up, stretching their backs, then heading back to work.
"Now, we just need to—" Sekara stopped short as she passed the room they had just finished arranging.
Miles stopped behind her, as the Zafara was now blocking the hallway. "What's wrong?"
"T-the room..." Sekara stuttered.
Befuddled, Miles craned his neck over the Zafara and peered into the room. "What happened?!?" he cried.
The Zafara shook her head back and forth in confusion, her mouth still hanging open from shock. Inside, the room was no longer arranged how they'd left it...
Author: Big comfortable blue chair|
Date: 18th March
...Instead, all the items in the room were rearranged. Not just any old rearrangement either -- the room was arranged in a way that was orderly and organized. Too orderly, even for Sekara's exacting standards. All the furniture was placed in a manner that seemed to correspond to some geometric standard, angles of objects fitted perfectly to the walls. The furniture itself was changed too -- any structural flaws, such as one worn-down corner of the desk, and one shelf of a bookshelf that was starting to bend from overuse, were corrected. But what was creepiest of all about the newly arranged, "optimized" furniture was that it was drained of all color it once had -- the Zen pattern on the desk was no more, nor did the chair have any blue. Instead, they were the exact same color of the walls and floor of the room, almost camouflaged within it. The posters and decorations Sekara had put up were gone, as if they disrupted the newfound order of the room.
"Sekara, I always knew you were a bit of a control freak, but this -- this is too creepily orderly, even for your standards!" exclaimed Miles.
Sekara shot a withering glare in his direction, replying, "This is no time for jokes, Miles!" Hesitantly, she approached her formerly Zen desk and opened one of the drawers to see if the contents were okay. Although they appeared all right, they too were rearranged, again, in that unsettling too-orderly fashion -- all the color in her pens and pencils drained away, other tools rearranged in geometrically "correct" patterns, and even sticky notes in her desk tacked back to the sticky note deck... and devoid of their former writing.
"Something's wrong here," Sekara said with a quavering voice.
"Thank you, Miss Obvious," retorted the Skeith, who was becoming agitated at this newfound order imposed against their will. "I need to sit down; I'll be in the kitchen," he said as he hurried back towards the kitchen, Achyfi still in hand. However, when he arrived in the kitchen, he skidded to a halt, and Sekara heard the distinctive dull tink of a can of Achyfi drop onto the floor. Startled, she ran towards Miles, who stood at the entrance to the kitchen with the same slack-jawed expression Sekara had moments earlier.
The Skeith finally stated, "It's happened here, too..."
Date: 21st March
…And it did.
The disco fridge stood systematically facing the doorway, as if to minimize the time it took to move towards it. The shelves and cupboards themselves were lined in perfect rows to either side of the fridge, unobtrusive and arranged in an ascending order according to their height. And if that wasn’t weird enough, the unpacked boxes, opened and unopened alike, were stacked in one neat pile that resembled a perfect cube.
And as before, everything around the kitchen was drained of their rightful colour -- especially the now dull grey disco fridge, a shadow of its former self.
It was too much for Sekara. Her mouth hung open and for once emitted not a peep.
"Who would do such a thing?" Miles shuddered, unaware that his Achyfi had fallen from his grasp. The Zafara could only shake her head slowly, speechless at the creepy turn of events.
Sure she liked her place neat and tidy, but this was ridiculous. It was the colour, or the lack of it, that left her flummoxed. And irritated.
"Well," Sekara finally said, her amber eyes narrowed. "Whoever it was had better have a good explanation for all this." Then she noticed that Miles’ face had (to her amusement) drained of any colour, just like the furniture. "What’s wrong with you?" the Zafara asked.
If the Skeith even heard her question, it wasn’t obvious, for Miles continued to stare blankly into space, pointing one shaking claw behind her. A shiver passed down Sekara’s spine at her friend’s horror-stricken face. She spun around -- and let loose a scream.
The kitchen floor was spotless, the Achyfi stain mysteriously vanishing into the floor. But that wasn’t what Sekara was looking at. The spilt can of Achyfi was floating in midair, directly level with her nose. As they stared, it drifted neatly into the trashcan on its own.
The Zafara stood frozen, just like Miles. I never bargained for my new Neohome to be like this. I certainly didn’t order it. The previous tenant surely never mentioned it, Sekara thought in horror.
No one ever said my Neohome could be haunted...
Date: 22nd March
...Maybe it's just a dream. An eerie dream, and I'll wake up from it soon...
"Sekara. Sekara!" The insistent voice awakened the Zafara from her reverie, instead of from her supposed dream. Miles looked down at her in concern. "Sekara, we have to do something! You can't go on staying in this creepy Neohome."
Sekara silently shook her head. She seemed to be in a trance. The truth of the matter still hadn't fully sunken in. Miles firmly gripped her shoulders, causing her to wince.
"Sekara, look at me. Who lived here before you bought this bizarre house?" He said each word meticulously slowly, as if he were talking to a child.
Finally, the blue Zafara responded, "I have her new address written down somewhere. Her name was Jesefeen, and she was an Usul, and--"
"Where did you write her address down?" Miles asked anxiously. What if the address had been written on one of Sekara's sticky notes? The Skeith glanced behind him to glare at the desk that held the expunged sticky notes.
Meanwhile, Sekara was searching through her coat pocket. "Aha!" she exclaimed, startling her friend. In her paw, she held a scrap of paper, and hastily, the Zafara scanned it. "Her address is 1945 Rainbow Lane. I think she left her new number also, but--"
"Hold on, Miles, I'm looking to see if I wrote--"
"But Sekara, this is pretty urgent." Miles's voice seemed to have gone an octave higher, though Sekara had no idea why.
Irritated, the Zafara looked up. "What is -- oh my goodness!" she shrieked. The two friends watched in sheer horror as ever-so-slowly, the bright hues of their feet drained away...
Date: 22nd March
...and stared at each other, slackjawed, as the colors of their vivid bodies began to match their ashen faces.
"We've got to get out of here," whispered Sekara in a wavering voice, then gasped. The hairs on her head were raising and twisting themselves from their unkempt part into a sleek, tight braid. As she explored the grey locks with her fingertips, awestruck, the cap that Miles had been wearing jauntily to the side hovered in midair, straightened itself, and fell delicately onto his head again.
He nodded, and the cap fell forward. As it corrected itself, he murmured, "You're absolutely right. Let's go."
Darting though the kitchen, the friends rushed past a matching, orderly dining room and into a spotless front hall. The door handle shone as if freshly polished as Sekara reached for it.
As her fingers touched it, it turned a searing red and emitted a cloud of black smoke, hissing with heat. "Ow!" cried the Zafara, springing back. "It won't let me out!"
"Break the window!" suggested Miles, snatching up a newly upholstered chair. Swinging it mightily, he brought the leg of the chair crashing against the window. The glass broke with a musical sound -- the sound of freedom. "Quick, now, out!" he called.
Sekara jumped forward, but the shards were already lifting, spinning, and like a fast-forwarded jigsaw puzzle they fit themselves together, and the cracks disappeared. The Zafara's paws fell harmlessly against the glass.
Miles looked at her. The usually lighthearted Skeith was breathing fast, and Sekara could tell that he was thinking hard. "Maybe if I break the window by jumping through it, I will be on the other side before it fixes itself."
"Miles, you could be hurt!" warned Sekara.
But her friend was already preparing himself. He sprinted forward and threw himself at the glass. Instead of shattering, though, it shone brightly as his body touched it, and repelled him back as if he'd run into a brick wall.
"Miles, are you okay?" cried Sekara, running to his side.
Wincing, Miles nodded. His forehead was already purpling against the grey into a nasty bruise. "Sekara, the house learned. It's a smart house. Once the window smashed, it reinforced all the windows."
Sekara stifled a sob. "Then how will we get out?"...
Date: 23rd March
…"The phone!" Miles said after a moment of thinking in silence. "Try calling someone, anyone!"
Sekara nodded slowly, wiping the beginnings of tears from her eyes. Swiftly the two friends flew to the living room, ashen and tidy, where Sekara yanked the telephone from its receiver on a small white table.
Hastily she punched in a number, then pressed the device to her ear. Miles stood beside her, eyes cast at the pristine white carpet. Finally, she got a tone.
"Who are you calling?" Miles asked shakily after an uncomfortable, tense silence fell upon the room.
Sekara looked at him. "I'm calling the Chia Police," she replied. "They could find a way to stop this house, and get us out of here." Her words weren't supported by any confidence whatsoever. It was very obvious that Sekara doubted the police would fix this situation -- after all, they hardly ever seemed to fix any situation. But it was someone to call.
"Neopia Central Chia Police Depart--"
The receiving end of the call was cut off before the speaker could even finish speaking. Surprised by the sudden cut, Sekara placed the phone back down with a quivering hand.
"What happened?" Miles asked, turning towards his friend with concern in his eyes.
"They... got cut off," Sekara replied, tears forming in her eyelids. She batted them away, and sat down hopelessly on her once blue chair, sighing deeply.
"We're trapped inside this house!" she cried desperately after several seconds. Miles stared at the ground. "There's no way out. No way." She slouched in defeat.
"There has to be a way," Miles replied. "After all, we got into the house; we can well get out of it." His voice was reassuring. Sekara glanced at him hopefully.
"There's no way," she said, her doubts becoming even more real. "We tried the door and the windows. What other way is there to escape? We've already tried phoning for help."
"We tried phoning the police for help," Miles said, gently correcting her. "The police don't solve anything that well. Do you have any more reliable numbers?"
"Well, I had a phonebook, but it'll be impossible to find. And besides, its pages'll be blank."
"Think, Sekara. Think. Any notes, pieces of paper, that weren't turned white?" Miles inquired, trying to keep his friend in the light of the small hope that they might escape.
Suddenly, she remembered. "Jesefeen!" she cried. "The past owner of the house! I remember where I put her number!" In a flash, she darted for the countertop where she had placed the note. Hastily, she grabbed it and flew back to the telephone, crunching in numbers as fast as her mind and fingers could coordinate.
The phone connected, but the ring of the other line stayed constant. Sekara placed the note back down on the table where the phone's receiver rested... and, in horror, watched as it turned completely blank and floated effortlessly through the air, dropping only to fall into the trashbin.
Luckily, there was still a connection on the phone. No one had picked up, but she still had a connection. It was her last thread. She suddenly realized that if no one picked up, she truly was stranded.
The phone on the other line kept ringing. "C'mon, pick up," she said hopefully. Miles stood beside her, shaking slightly and trying to keep himself calm.
Finally, someone picked up.
"Hi, who is this?" asked the cheery voice of an Usul, obviously feminine.
"Jesefeen?" Sekara asked, crossing her fingers.
"Yes, this is she. Who is this?"
Sekara's eyes danced with joy. "Jesefeen, this is Sekara. I'm the one who bought the house you recently sold--"
"Are you calling from the house?!?" shouted a frantic voice on the other end of the phone. Sekara's heart skipped a beat.
"Yes..." Sekara murmured. "Listen, you have to help us."
"It locked you in, didn't it?" Jesefeen asked, her voice shaking with fear. Sekara's blood ran cold.
"Yes," she replied softly, gulping down a lump in her throat.
No one spoke for several seconds, although Sekara could've sworn that Jesefeen was saying something. Softly, and incomprehensibly, but it seemed she was murmuring softly.
The line went dead. Sekara's heart raced. Had the conversation really just ended? No... no... Tears welled up in her eyes. Her last strand of hope had just been cut. Defeated, the white Zafara fell into her once blue armchair, crying softly. Miles placed a hand on her shoulder.
"The phone line went dead," she said softly. "We're stranded."
Miles, for once, couldn't think of any way out. They were trapped.
Wait... what was that?
Miles stared out the window. Had he really just seen what he thought he saw? "Sekara!" he shouted, his voice shaking. "Did you just see that?!?"
Sekara wiped her eyes. "What?" she answered glumly.
"There... there was..."
"What was it?" Sekara said, then turned towards the window. She gasped.
The air suddenly became very cold...
Date: 23rd March
...The house almost seemed to detect its former occupant lurking outside its reach, its chills of dread causing the temperature around Sekara and Miles to dramatically descend. For the first time since this perfectionist nightmare began, Sekara could feel her heart dance with a renewed surge of hope. Despite the tears that lingered, clouding her eyes, a faint smile brightened her face as she raced toward the window to peer outside. Jesefeen was living proof that the house had a weakness they hadn't realized yet, possibly knowing a crucial detail that could aid in their escape.
Miles trailed behind his friend, his reluctant step quickly increasing pace when he saw the petite Usul.
"Oh, my!" Jesefeen gasped when she saw the Zafara's and Skeith's monotonous coloring blend with the rest of the room, making them almost invisible. "I hurried over as soon as I heard the phone go dead -- I didn't think it would come alive again! It already began rearranging everything again!"
"Again?" Miles questioned anxiously. "So, it has done this before?"
"It has, but I honestly thought it was defeated! I just couldn't endure staying there anymore when so many horrible memories lingered, so I sold it and moved to an area that's the exact opposite. I'm so sorry that you also have had to suffer."
What optimism reached to embrace Sekara's fears dwindled when she noticed the windows becoming even more reinforced, the house trying to prevent them from learning its secrets.
"What did you do?!?" Sekara exclaimed, their time running out. "How did you manage to defeat it? What's causing this phenomenon?!?"
"Listen to me carefully, and do exactly what I tell you…"
Date: 24th March
…The ever-thickening window panes obscured Jesefeen's otherwise lucid instructions. "Wreck everything that you can as quickly as you can, Sekara. Wreck everything; every piece of furniture in the house, regardless of whether or not you have it in a box."
These instructions befuddled Sekara. "What?" she asked. "Won't the house just tidy everything up?"
"Not if you can manage to wreck everything so badly that it must correct everything all at once. If you can do that... be prepared, because you're going to go up against the bite behind the bark."
What did Jesefeen mean by "the bite behind the bark?" Sekara knew it; Miles, who stood beside her, vaguely understood. If they were to do this, they'd have to face the cause behind this madness.
"Whatever you do, don't..."
Whatever Jesefeen was trying to say, Sekara couldn't hear it. The glass was almost three inches thick now, and Jesefeen's voice had slowly faded from lucid to opaque. All that she could hear now were nonsensical, muffled noises.
Jesefeen must have noticed this, because she quickly stopped speaking, pressing a hand against the glass. She wasn't going anywhere. Sekara took a deep breath.
"You heard her," the Zafara said, an uncertain but devilish gleam in her eyes. "We need to wreck everything."
Miles nodded, and the two split up. "I'll take the kitchen. Sekara, you take the living room." The two nodded, and then streaked like lightning to their assigned rooms.
"Let's see," Miles said, stuffing a towel in the drain and turning on the faucet. He promptly picked up the trash bin and threw it haphazardly across the room at the fridge, then began pulling pots and pans out of their drawers.
The pots and pans began flying back up to their designated shelves in neat piles, but Miles didn't stop. Not even as the trash bin floated through the air to its correct spot and began refilling itself with the scant waste that had been shaken from it. Miles pulled out a stack of teetering saucers.
Without much concern, he dropped the saucers onto the ground. With a deafening smash the ones supporting the tower broke, and the others came toppling down. Hurriedly the house began to repair the damages, but Miles was one step ahead. He pulled mugs and glasses out of the drawers, slamming them down onto the ground. Strangely, the sound of breaking things was soothing to his ears.
Meanwhile, Sekara was throwing cushions on her sofa and couch across the room. In the process, she threw her entire book collection to the floor and started tearing blank sticky notes from out of her desk's drawer. She kicked a lamp, ripped off her windows' curtains, and swept every plant off any surface in sight. Finally, she ripped the phone out from the wall, smiling as sweat streamed down her face.
Miles opened the fridge, thrusting can after can of Achyfi at the cupboards and countertops, watching delightedly as the sink's basin began to overflow. In one instance, Miles grabbed several Achyfi cans all at once and threw them to the ground, hearing them fizz, foam, and explode like bombs.
A heavy breeze swept around the house, one that chilled each Neopet to the bone. They ignored it, wrecking everything they could get their hands on, loyally obeying everything Jesefeen had told them to do.
As they continued, the breeze intensified to a roaring gale. As cups and mugs began fixing themselves, water spilled out onto the floor. Books flew back to their shelves only to be knocked back down again. Sunlight streamed onto overturned furniture, unobscured by curtains.
The gust that was sweeping throughout the house had been a dull moan at first, but as it reached a climax, they could almost hear the whisper of a voice.
"Get... out... stop... now..."
The winds howled and moaned, sweeping the wrecked items with it and hastily fixing them. Sekara grunted and slammed a book against the wall, shouting loudly.
And it stopped. The winds died and the two Neopets were left in silence, only penetrated by their deep, heavy breathing and the constant gushing of water from the sink. Sekara's head dropped as she drew one exhausted pant after another.
In the windless aftermath, Sekara had not realized two very important things. For one, her once intricate, tightly wound braid was no longer tidy and neat; instead, it was almost falling apart. Secondly, although the wind had died, the cold had not.
"Miles," she croaked, as the exhausted Skeith walked back into the room.
"Yeah, Sekara?" he panted, walking up to his friend. Sekara smiled.
"We wrecked it. The wind died..."
"But it's still cold," Miles said. "It's not over... I have a hunch, Sekara, that this isn't done yet. Not even close."
The two friends stayed in hushed silence for several moments. That is, until Miles realized that the steady flow of water from the faucet in the sink had stopped. Its sound was no longer there.
And suddenly, a low, hushed moan groaned throughout the house, as if the entire house was being shaken violently. Mist began to creep down the stairs... It was this time that the two friends stood up straight and terrified, looking around the room.
Miles was right. It wasn't over.
The voice was harsh and bitter, and it echoed for several seconds. When it finally faded, Sekara's heart was racing. By the look of Miles' face, his heart was beating just as fast.
And before they could say a word, a wind with a force unlike anything they'd ever felt tore through the house...
Date: 24th March
…The sound of the wind was like a raging, howling beast trampling through the house on powerful yet invisible claws. Sekara was shoved back upon the floor, against the overturned chair and amidst the clutter she herself had caused. All her hair had been torn violently from its braid now and was whipping about her head until she could barely even see. "Miles?" she cried out desperately. "What's going on?"
The Skeith didn't answer at first. He was clinging desperately onto the kitchen doorway, trying to stand in the angry wind that assailed him. The wind was still raging, as icy as an artic blast from the Snowager, and he could see its cold fingers rearranging the house meticulously. "It's arranging itself again!" he yelled.
"Go..." a voice from outside called. It was Jesefeen, shouting as loud as she could, her voice almost unable to call over the raging storm within the Neohome. Sekara listened as closely as she could to hear the former occupant's instructions. "Go now!" the Usul cried, "...distracted."
Distracted? Confused, Sekara couldn't understand was Jesefeen had meant. What was distracted? Then suddenly, it came to her with an almost physical force. "The Neohome is distracted!" she yelled triumphantly.
"What?" Miles asked.
"The Neohome is distracted," she repeated, "It can't focus on both cleaning itself and holding the doors and windows shut. If we hurry, we can get out now!" Sekara tried to stand, but found that she could not against the massive force of the wind. Instead, she crawled along the floor as she tried to reach the front door.
Miles also inched away from the kitchen doorway. He hugged the wall as he slowly made his way towards the door -- towards the glorious colorful freedom of outside. Along his way, he passed a small, decorative mirror hanging on the wall. His own grey face stared back at him, and suddenly anger welled up inside him. How dare it take his color!
He leaned back and drove his fist into the mirror, shattering it into a dozen tiny shards that glistened as they fell to the floor. He almost smiled, until...
Date: 25th March
...the pieces of glass leapt up and back into the frame, grabbing his hand along the way. He flinched in expectation of pain as they plunged into his wrist, but they didn't hurt his wrist. They did hurt his shoulder, as his arm was yanked up and through the frame. Miles gasped and wriggled his fingers. He could still feel them, but they were on the other side of the glass of the mirror. His hand was thrust through the mirror, which was flat against the wall.
He yanked desperately, trying to get himself free, but something closed in around his hand and held it hard.
It felt like the wall.
And the glass of the mirror, like the glass of the windows, was thickening.
* * * * *
Sekara, assuming Miles was right behind her, kept crawling until she at last reached the front door. She pulled herself up, bracing against the wall, and reached for the doorknob, steeling herself against being zapped again.
There was no zap. The doorknob turned.
But the door wouldn't open!
Sekara nearly let go and slumped to the floor in despair, but then she heard Jesefeen's voice shouting something faint about "...the wind... fight..." and realized: of course, the door was just hard to open because of the wind! The Zafara hung all her weight against the doorknob, pulling it open just a crack, and then flicked her tail around and wedged it in the door. She had to take her weight off the knob to get closer to the opening; the door tried to slam shut, and tears came to her eyes as it squished the end of her tail.
Slowly, painfully, she wrestled the door open wider, wedging more and more of herself into the crack and wondering why Miles wasn't helping her.
* * * * *
Miles was rather busy panicking. He had tried pulling away from the wall. He had tried beating against the mirror, but with one of his hands stuck in the middle of it, there wasn't enough room around the edges. His wrist barely fit through, really. He didn't want to think about where the glass had gone. He tried hitting the frame, but for something so delicate-looking, it was remarkably sturdy.
The Skeith had just slumped against the wall in despair when he heard Sekara calling his name.
"Miles! Miles, I've got the door open, where are y-- MILES?!?"
His first thought was to shout, "Help!" -- but he choked on the words as, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a chair sliding back into place, neatly aligned with a wall. The mirror, knocked crooked by his struggles, straightened itself with a twitch.
"Get out!" he shouted. "I'm -- I'll be right there, just get out!"
It was a noble enough impulse, but Miles hadn't reckoned with the fact that Sekara could still see him -- despite the camouflage of his drained hue. She froze in horror, half in and half out of the door, staring back.
The Usul, Jesefeen, grabbed her arm and tugged. "What are you doing? Come on! You've got to get out before it finishes cleaning itself up!"
"But Miles," Sekara cried. " He's stuck!"
Jesefeen stared, a look of horror coming across her face. The delights of color and freedom were just within reach; Sekara could see the color starting to come back into her fur -- but she had to go back. She had to save Miles.
But Jesefeen wouldn't let go of her. "How is he stuck?" the Usul asked, trembling.
"He -- he looks like he's got his hand stuck through a mirror."
"Oh, no!" Jesefeen cried. "I told you not to break any mirrors!"
"We couldn't hear that part!" Sekara wailed. "Please, please -- how can I get him out? I can't leave him!"
Jesefeen bit her lip. "I'll get him. He can't free himself now that he's been caught that way, and you might have trouble -- until your color comes back. The house has stolen too much of you. Hold the door!"
And the Usul took a running leap, bouncing off the Zafara's head and propelling herself inward.
The wind was whistling into the house, as it had tried to blow Sekara and Miles back away from the door. Jesefeen took advantage of that, reaching Miles in seconds -- though not so quickly that Sekara couldn't see the Usul's bright colors beginning to drain away. "Hurry," she cried. "It's doing it to you, too!"
"I know," Jesefeen said through gritted teeth, "I've felt this before." She reached up and, very simply, took the mirror off its hook. Miles felt a sharp pain in his wrist, but he was free -- sort of. He still had a mirror stuck to his wrist, he couldn't see his hand except by peering into the reflection, and the wind was picking up -- but at least he wasn't stuck to the wall.
"Come on," the Usul muttered, shivering in the icy wind. In the kitchen, dishes chimed as they stacked themselves neatly. Chairs scraped softly as they arranged themselves to that last perfect inch and degree. Jesefeen's feet were grey, and the color was climbing. "It's almost done rearranging."
She and Miles started crawling toward the door again, Jesefeen having trouble as the wind caught her fur and tail, throwing her backward.
Sekara suddenly screamed.
The house was in perfect order again. Everything torn was repaired; everything displaced was realigned.
Except for Jesefeen's rapidly fading ruff, and the Zafara in the open door.
The door began to close.
Sekara braced herself. She couldn't let her friends down -- Miles who had come to help her, Jesefeen whom she barely knew but who had come to rescue them and gone back into the house of her nightmares to get Miles.
The door pushed harder.
Sekara gritted her teeth and shouted for her friends to hurry.
The door slammed its edge into her ribcage, knocking the wind out of her in mid-cry.
Sekara set herself so that the door could not squeeze her in or out, and the only way for her to give way would be to be cut in two by the door.
As she thought it, the edge of the door began to feel sharper.
She swallowed hard.
It was only a faint whisper, but the angry, inward-blowing wind carried it inadvertently to Miles's ears. Anguish in his friend's voice spurred the Skeith to new efforts; he scooped up Jesefeen in his strong arms, so that the wind only threw her against his bulk, and bulled his way along with panic driving his limbs.
As he reached the door and tried to grab the knob to pull it further open, a bolt of magic burned his only available hand. He yelped.
More bolts began to sizzle in the gap where Sekara stood, singing her fur, looking as if they meant to stitch the door shut. Sekara screamed in pain and fury and planted her back against the doorjamb and her large feet against the door, throwing it convulsively open. Miles made a last, desperate rush, knocking Sekara through to the outside as he tumbled after her, still carrying Jesefeen.
And the door slammed shut behind them.
But they were free.
"Let's get -- let's get out of the yard," Jesefeen said shakily. Neither of the other two had any desire to argue. They hurried down the path, past the neatly-mown lawn, shuddering at the sight.
They didn't stop until they had reached a park -- not a very well-kept one, either, a riot of weeds and vines with one end of the only visible bench broken off.
It suited them just fine.
"I'm really sorry," Jesefeen said. "I really thought the house was beaten. I don't understand the curse, but after I once got out of it, it never tried anything again. I just hated it by then. I'll give you your Neopoints back, Sekara."
"You did save Miles," Sekara said.
"He saved me, too. And you saved both of us, holding out against the door like that."
"Well...." Sekara shrugged uncomfortably. "What was that about the mirrors?"
"If you break a mirror," Jesefeen explained, "you get caught in the reflection. That's where the house puts its colors at first." She took Miles's mirrored wrist, tilting it so the glass caught the sun. "But I think full natural light will --"
The glass melted away like ice, and Miles gasped as his hand appeared at the end of his arm where it belonged.
"Well," he said. "Thanks. Now what?"
"Why don't you come back to my new Neohome?" Jesefeen suggested. "I have some extra room, and it's my fault you don't have your own place to stay anymore. Um..." She hesitated, looking embarrassed and trying to smooth out her windblown fur. "I should warn you, though, it's kind of a mess right now. I haven't been very tidy since--"
"That's okay!" Sekara and Miles chorused.
"Just fine with me."
"Suits me, too."
"...Right." Jesefeen gave them a wobbly smile.
And off they went, leaving the perfectly orderly house to tidy itself, grey and cold and empty.
The mirror-frame, forgotten, began to inch along the ground, back to its home.
Date: 25th March
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