Everything She'd Asked For
It was dark – it was always dark for her, even when the sun burned hot in the sky. She was not a creature of light, had not been for some time.
But it was night now, and that was her domain. The shadows swirled around her as she dove through starlight and mirrors, her bat wings scything through ever-changing scenery – narrow hallways and dark Neohomes interspersed the space between reflections. Unfamiliar and familiar – but even the unfamiliar places were familiar, in their own way. It was nothing she hadn’t seen before.
Vira was not without purpose – long past were the days where she had found joy in idle pasttimes. No, she had a target in mind. At this distance, it was little more than brief impressions. The color tan. Sunshine and giggling. Flowers.
But the story was always the same. Somewhere, somebody’s vanity was calling to her. Somebody’s beauty. Somebody’s pride.
It fell to her to destroy it.
She was getting closer. Mirrors had a way of reaching to each other, though not always in ways that were immediately obvious. A simple wall mirror in Neopia Central might lead to the neighbor two doors down, or to their aunt’s place in the outskirts of the city, or to a shiny decoration in the guest wing of Sakhmet’s royal palace. Another mirror in the same house’s office might lead to a bathroom mirror at the Neopian bank, or the dusty mirror of a cottage on Terror Mountain. A casual observer would fail to see the rhyme or reason to it, but Vira had been traversing this half-reality for many years. It was a trail of sentiment, of emotional connections – fleeting things she cared not to understand, but she had come to recognize the patterns out of necessity, for as long as they lasted.
It was not a linear pathway, but the thing that called her was like a single string through the mirrors – a siren song she could neither ignore nor resist. But the siren knew not what they lured.
The houses she travelled through changed, grew more specific. She recognized this place – Mystery Island. White beaches and bright sand. Fields of fruit and flowers. Something she might have considered beautiful, in another time. Something she might stop to poison, on the way back.
She flitted through a hut whose walls were hung with strange masks, travelled its reflection to a hair salon, and dove into the mirror next to the one from which she’d emerged – though not before hurling a bolt of solid spite at the beauty products neatly arrayed on its pristine shelves.
Their vanity called to her – her master Vanity had made sure of that. It grew louder, more insistent, until the trail of mirrors ended and she found herself at last peering into a reflection of the real Neopia. Her window rested atop an armoire, the view partially obstructed by bottles of conditioner and combs. But past those…
Red-green eyes fell upon their newest target.
A young Kougra stood alone in a purple bedroom, her coat in the tan-and-white colors so common to the Island. She was busily brushing her fur, stopping every now and then to twine a bright island blossom into it. Around her neck was a verdant wreath, and atop her head rested a blooming circlet of those same vibrant flowers.
Silent as the reflection she was, Vira canted her head slightly, drinking in the faintly familiar sight of her prey. She had liked flowers, once, in a time when her fur was blue as the daylit skies and she had believed in beauty of a simpler sort. Vira still liked flowers now, but not the kinds she had once braided in her hair, no. Flowers could hold the most fascinating of poisons – and yet still they lured others close enough to touch. A wave of silky petals, a sweet smell, and no one noticed the thorns until it was far too late.
There was familiarity in that, too, familiarity of a sharper, more bitter sort. Less distant, more real… less happy. But happiness was not something she believed in anymore, either.
She watched as the Kougra crossed the room over to the vanity where she hid. All the Neopet saw in the mirror was her own pretty face – it was not yet time to reveal herself. The Kougra scrutinized herself, and so did Vira. Mirror-eyes narrowed. She had sweet features and a shiny coat, white teeth and polished claws. She was beautiful. She wouldn’t be for long.
The Kougra did a little twirl, revoltingly saccharine. She paused, admiring her crown of flowers, and her pretty features turned thoughtful. There were a few moments of silence, and then…
“I wish I were the most beautiful Neopet in all of Neopia.”
There they were, the words Vira had known were coming. The words, unspoken, that had drawn her here.
She almost hesitated.***
“I wish I were the most beautiful Acara in all of Neopia.”
Bright skies. Grassy fields. A crown of daisies.
Clouds. A voice, her own and not her own. “You are very pretty,” it had told her. “But I could make you beautiful...”
The naïve acquiescence of a child. Awful pain, shooting down her back, her ears, her eyes. Fur turned dull. Ears became twisted horns. Nails grew sharp. Gnarled wings burst from her back. Sclera were tainted red, even as they beaded up with abject tears.
The daisies fell from her head, made sickly and wilted by her touch.
“There’s only one way to get your beauty back…”
A word, choked through the sobs. A pact struck. A soul sold.
Darkness. Everlasting darkness. ***
That darkness still burned in her – in her magic, in her eyes, in her heart. It burned away the tears that threatened to rise, burned away the regret, burned away everything but the seething, icy rage at everything that dared to be pure in this hideous world.
No, she would not stop. The darkness had not spared her – why should she spare anyone else from it, if she had not been saved?
“What would you do,” she murmured through the mirror – faceless and nearly voiceless as well, silent enough to be a mere figment of the Kougra’s mind, “to make that a reality? What would you do, to be the most beautiful pet in Neopia?”
Her prey squinted, considering the thought that was more than just a thought. Vira let her soak it in before pressing forward, nearly touching the mirror’s surface.
“Anything?” she whispered, with the reflection of a Kougra’s face.
Say it, Vira breathed into the mirror, letting Vanity’s magic saturate the room. The Kougra’s fur rose and her eyes grew unfocused. Say the words!
(don’t do it!)
“I’d do anything,” the Kougra murmured back.
And the Kougra’s doppelganger smiled a terrible, cruel smile as she claimed another victim.
She was a monster, after all. She’d made herself this way.
It was everything she’d asked for.
The Kougra fell. She let out a startled cry as the darkness reached out and seized her. The flowers were the first to go; the pretty tropical hibiscuses and lilies wilted and crumbled to brown dust. Her white stripes bulged, growing ridged and strange; her fur, so smooth and lush, turned dull and matted, then fell out in clumps. Her bright eyes turned slitted and her claws grew long and sharp. All the while, she wailed a terrible, heartbroken wail.
It was music – something she’d heard a hundred times, each time as terribly sweet. It was familiar – something she’d uttered herself only once.
In the mirror, she whispered just one thing, and let herself materialize in all her twisted glory.
“There’s only one way to get your beauty back...”
Somewhere far, far beneath the sea of venom Vanity had drowned her in, Vira cried.