Minus Nymph

Holding tight to her brush, The Creator splashed a few clouds across the well-painted sky. She was still shaken from her earlier encounter with Wilfre, although her dizziness had since lifted. All it left was a memory of mild nausea and the desire to paint more. As she quelled the latter urge, Reeth let her mind wander away, to a place far away from the current stressful memories. Wilfre, the sickness, that bright light, it all trickled away under the calming influence of her meditation. She didn't need to think about what she was painting and just let it flow from the brush, staring off to the far white wall of her Studio.

When she finally came out of her trance, her hand had stopped moving and the picture she had painted worried her. Lime, Mari, Jowee, Navy J, Cricket, and Rylee were searching, searching for something. What that something was, Reeth had no idea, but as she stared into that painting, another figure in the back drew her attention. He was pale yellow, with blank eyes and an odd smile- Oz. Oz was staring directly at her from the back of her own picture. Everyone else was engaged in looking around, but his gaze was glued to her.

Shuddering, The Creator turned the canvas around on the easel. The fact that she had painted Oz just staring meant something; probably that he knew what the other Raposa had been searching for and he knew where it was. Why in the world had he been staring at her, though? Was he calling her out? Just watching her? Whatever the reason, it gave Reeth the heebie jeebies. She felt that she had to be there to figure out what was going on, even though she knew she could just pull up a canvas and the storyboard for the whole day would fly out of her brush.

There was something wrong with wanting to go to her world instead of taking the easier way, she knew there was, but she didn't know what and she didn't know why. Reeth found herself transforming into a Raposa anyway, landing herself near the police department. Fortunately, there were no other Rapos there to see her appear out of nowhere, and she reminded herself to be more careful next time. She didn't have time to think about it, though, because from around the corner came Sheriff Cricket. His eyes widened as he saw her, but the surprise quickly went out of them.

"Afternoon, Reeth. I don't have time to chat; Nymph's missing. Mind helping us look?"

Nymph? Why was Nymph missing? For that matter, where had she gone? Reeth couldn't see the entire village in this form like she could if she was in her Studio, but she could sense everyone inside and outside its boundaries. Here, she could feel Cricket's presence, there, she could feel Navy J's, and somewhere on North Beach was Tubba, but there was no Rylee anywhere. ("Yes, that's fine. I'll help," she agreed absent-mindedly and Cricket thanked her and left.) Where could she have gone that even The Creator couldn't sense her?

Blood roared through Reeth's ears as her eyes grew to the size of dinner plates, her expression going from worried to aghast in seconds. Her realization was an awful one, but so painfully obvious in its own way. The Creator couldn't feel a Raposa who was dead.

Common sense on the backburner, Reeth sprinted toward where she had painted Oz in that picture. If anyone knew whether or not someone was dead, it would be Oz. It was what he was designed for, after all. The white Rapo slammed past Jowee, their shoulders knocking together. Although she encountered some resistance and thought she might lose her balance, Jowee was the one who fell. "Hey!" He cried after her, but his goggles had flown off and he had to snatch them up before he could pursue her. By that time all she was was a faint 'Sorry!' in the distance, so he just grumbled a little and kept up his hunt.

She skidded to a stop at the stage's steps, where she found herself staring at a paw that was a clear signal to stop. "Slow down, Reeth. You'll hurt yourself on the stairs," said Oz, sounding dimly amused but more tired than anything. His keys jangled on his belt as he flipped his paw over, holding it out to her to help her up the steps. Reeth stared at it warily for all of a split second before she ignored it and made her way onto the stage. Oz's smile grew a little meeker as his eyes grew a little livelier. He withdrew the offending appendage without saying a word.

The Creator was not sure how to break the ice with this Raposa she had created, so she came right out and said it. "Is Nymph dead?"

"Do you not feel her, Reeth?" Now his mouth fell flat and his eyes danced, boring into her own with a look she could barely describe. It was animalistic and amused, some sort of bloodlust mixed with an indiscernible emotion. Saying the white Raposa was frightened by that gaze was an understatement. She was terrified, horror-struck, weak-at-the-knees, scared out of her fur. Was Oz supposed to have these sorts of emotions? Was he supposed to know she could sense other Raposa? Reeth knew he wasn't, and then she wondered what went wrong with him.

Still, she pursed her lips and pushed away the panic. "I cannot. Is she dead?" Her voice was forceful, imploring the blond Rapo to answer the question. Minutes passed, and in that time, his expression returned to hollow eyes and an emotionless smile.

"Why, I don't know, Reeth. Why don't you check for yourself?" That was a load of rapo and they both knew it. Oz thumbed a key on his belt, a shiny silver one with a plastic black top, and it caused a chain reaction of jingles that made Reeth's ears twitch. While this was happening, The Creator wondered what to do.

Oz isn't going to just tell me, for whatever reason, but I have to know if Nymph is okay. He's obviously planning something, so I probably shouldn't take up his offer, which is no doubt to send me through that gate again. Thisisnotgood. I still have to know, I must know. Slowly, Reeth nodded. "Okay, Oz. Unlock the gate." His smile twitched into something larger for a moment, but it was gone quickly. Taking the black-topped key off his belt, he thrust it into the air, and clicked it to the right.

The gate appeared, in all its demon-esque glory, exquisite in craftsmanship even though she had not designed it. It opened to its nothingness, and suddenly Reeth wondered why this didn't cause Raposa to shout and stare in wonder. She glanced around, seeing Navy J a short distance away, but he didn't even look at the dark portal that appeared out of nowhere. "He can't see it, Reeth. Now, go on. Satiate your curiosity," Oz said, eyes half-lidded, mouth quirked. Cautiously, she flicked her wrist for no apparent reason.

His eyes flashed, but he said nothing, not even as Reeth walked into the blackness and a faint glow surrounded her.