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The rain ceased the moment Evina expected it to. He trudged out into the deserted streets and his feet splashed in the puddles of water, glistening with reflected light from the buildings. He was angry and confused. He wondered why he had made this decision but at the same time knew that there wasn't a better alternative. He would never rest until he found this darkness and learned why it was haunting him.
As he headed back to his estate, he was startled by a chilling sound, the mournful howl of the doodle. He despised the sound each time he heard it. Since the sun abandoned Toontown, all the doodles fled their owners and never returned. Now homeless, hungry, and going crazy, they howled out at random. It was a constant reminder of the depressing decay of their world.
Finally, he had arrived at his estate. He was always surprised and relieved to discover that it hadn't been robbed while he was away, not that it would matter anymore. He went inside and walked to his room to see if there was anything he needed to pack for his trip. But in the end, he decided it was best to go lightweight with only the clothes on his back. Everything that had been important in the old days was trivial now. He cared little about anything anymore. Lily was one of the few exceptions, though he didn't have a need for love or friends now.
Then he spotted that mysterious book, the one with more questions surrounding it than the answers it gave. He picked it up and chose to bring it with him. He thought it might be a good place to start. At last, he left his house, not knowing when or if he would ever return and not sure if it even mattered to him.
He went to the backyard where a spaceship Gyro had given to him was hidden under a dirty tarp. This was the first prototype of the bigger ship they used in their journey to Earth. It was very small, metallic, disc-shaped, and had a glass dome on the top through which the driver could climb into it. It looked stupid, but it worked well, and he found it useful now that teleportation was no longer an option. He clambered inside and started the engine. It hummed and rose off the ground.
He flew it away into the dark, starless night. The towns and cities below were easily discernible from the lights they emitted that pierced the shroud of darkness around their world. It was a small glimmer of hope that the darkness had not consumed everything yet, but he knew it too was fading. With every passing moment, with s<um and d!rt around, with the doodles howling, with the toons losing hope, how much longer could it last? In the end, the darkness would claim them all.
He started brainstorming ideas of places to go. A library would be a good place, but the Toontown Central one had the creepy librarian he didn't like, and it reminded him too much of Lily. He made up his mind he would go to Pete's Palace and search through the library there. As far as he knew, it was the largest library in Toontown and would probably have a better chance of giving him the information he sought. So, south he went, and over the mountains he flew until one patch of light was seen in the valley, just beyond the tallest peak. It was Pete's Palace. He descended gracefully just outside the city limits and hid the ship among some shrubs where nobody would find it. Silently, he went into the town.
He walked through the doors of the library and headed back to the place where all the old books were kept. He didn't know how long it would take, but he had to start somewhere. He went to the books and started scanning them. He opened every book that looked interesting, and he checked them, and he closed them. A few of them seemed to contain good information, and he took them to the table to deeply search through the pages before finding out they answered nothing. Then he put them back and continued. As the hours passed, he was growing weary and considered quitting his hopeless search.
Then, near the end of the shelf, he found a book that looked more promising. It was titled Strange Mysteries and Myths of the History of Toontown. It seemed to be the kind of unusual information he was searching for, the kind that most toons would forget about because it sounded so irrelevant to them. There was information in there so vast that he couldn't absorb it all. He had to force himself to filter through it. He only needed to read the parts that might be useful to him. At last, he stumbled upon a section that seized his attention instantly. At the top of the page, he found the symbol. It was the same symbol that was on the cover of his own book, the triangle made of three pencils with an eye in the middle. Only then was he confident he had hit the jackpot. He read the chapter.
Of all the strange tales concerning the north, none seem to recur more often than this: A secret organization of some kind living in the icy mountains of the Northern Wastelands.
The first such sighting was recorded by the famous explorer, Sir Walter Pippenhopper, who claimed to have seen a monk in the distance while he was lost in the snow. But even he later admitted that it may have been a hallucination.
Other such reported sightings have been similar in nature. Claims of kidnapping and alien activity are usually discredited. But another theme seems to be in common, a triangular symbol composed of three pencils with an eye in the center. Again, this was first recorded by Pippenhopper who found it carved in a glacier. Others who came back after being lost in the north claim to have lost their memory but write down the symbol as something that they still remember.
As for their exact location, the facts are conflicting. Some scientists have tried to investigate where these monks may be hiding, with no success. This has led them to believe that they do not exist. But firm believers still say they are there, only very well hidden. Perhaps, it is because all the sightings have taken place on the ground, usually in places where aircraft or other vehicles would not be able to get to. This has made further research difficult and unprofitable, which is why this myth is unlikely to ever be proven.
Evina had read enough. He noticed his mouth was open, so he closed it and closed the book too. He knew what this was about now. He looked down at his book and saw the symbol again. This organization in the Northern Wastelands must have authored the book, and he knew he had to find them. They clearly knew a lot about mysterious topics. He thought there was a chance they could help him find what he needed. And so, he returned the book to its shelf and walked back to the little ship.
Should I leave now? No, I don't think so. It would be better to prepare myself first. I might need supplies. And what better place to find supplies than Cog Nation? I feel like I should visit the city one last time.
And so, he flew to the east, far to the east. Fast and high he went until the city lights faded, and there was nothing left but a great black sea beneath him.
A few hours passed, and he waited. Then he saw a faint glimmer of orange. It grew brighter and brighter. Then he saw the sun. It hadn't completely disappeared; that much was obvious. But it was hiding its face from Toontown. It stayed as far from the toons as possible because they had insulted it.
Across the ocean, he could see the skyline of Cogtropolis. It was that beautiful, glistening city from his memories that was always impressive, so impressive that it seemed unreal. It was so beautiful, so lonely. He soared over the gigantic skyscrapers. Nothing had changed. There it stood, empty but powerful, a symbol of the past somehow surviving in the cruel world of the present.
The city was perpetually stuck in sunset, the sunset that reminded him of those memories years ago, of the cogs. He remembered the time he found his father, when they stood on the roof and saw the end of all their fears. He felt a pang in his heart as nostalgia overwhelmed him. It appeared so wonderful that he forgot for a moment what he was doing here. Then he saw the needle skyscraper, the former headquarters of Cogs Incorporated. He landed his tiny ship on the roof and stepped outside. It was surprisingly warm outside. He looked out over the city and marveled at it.
He sat down and thought about everything. He thought about how he had left Toontown, his best friend, his career, and everything else. He thought about the meaning of his life and the meaning of the darkness. He thought about how confused he was, and how worried he was, and he didn't know if he was up to this job or not. All he could do was watch the sunset until his thinking was interrupted by the sound of an engine behind him.
Gyro's other ship landed on the roof behind him. Evina hadn't spoken to him in a couple years and wondered why he suddenly showed up at this time and in this place of all places. When the ship landed, the old chicken stepped out. He looked extremely old and was so gray now that it was hard to believe he was once white. He hobbled over to Evina and sat down beside him. It felt like reliving the past.
"Hello, son," Gyro said.
"I had a feeling I would find you here."
"Really?" Evina asked.
"Yeah, you know, nostalgia and the feeling of wanting to be alone. I know that feeling. The apple didn't fall too far from the tree, you know?" Then he unexpectedly took an apple from his pocket and began eating it.
Evina remained silent for a minute. "How did it come to this?"
"What do you mean?"
"Toontown is full of so much filth that even the sun has abandoned it. Was it all because of the portal closing? I don't get the significance. It's like everything I did to help this world has backfired."
"It's complicated and boring to explain, but yes, it is a big deal. Consequently, the toons forgot who they were and what their purpose was; but the sun never forgets."
"But if the sun hadn't left then crime wouldn't have had the advantage of the dark."
"Well, the sun is a toon too, you know, although nobody ever talks with it. It makes its own decisions, and I don't think anyone can reason with it, especially not now."
"Of course not," Evina said. "That would be too easy. But enough about that. Tell me where you've been all this time."
"Oh, I haven't been up to much," he said. "I received a message from the cogs. They're doing fine. They're working on some kind of special project. It probably doesn't matter to us. Since then, I've been wandering, wondering what else I could do these days. Looking at the condition of Toontown is depressing, and I can only stand it for so long."
"I know. I had to get away from it too," Evina admitted. "I had to quit my job... among other things."
"I don't think this is healthy for you," Gyro warned.
"Sure, but you did it too," Evina said. "Neither of us can stay anywhere for very long. And now that we're both here, there's no point in arguing over what we've done. We should focus on where we're going next."
"Agreed," Gyro said. Then he paused. The smile of seeing his son faded away into a kind of wrinkled frown. The more Evina looked at him, the more he appeared like some kind of undead creature. He was a grim figure, gray and slowly dying. It was horrific what The Shadow had done to him. "Our days are numbered."
It was a very grave statement and said without any sarcasm or tone. This shocked Evina. He had known this all along, but the way it had been said reminded him of the awful truth he was trying to suppress. His time was steadily running out. As The Shadow spread throughout their bodies, they were slowly being eaten away. Soon, their toon forms wouldn't be able to withstand it. Then it would end. It would be like they never existed.
"Yeah, I know," Evina said, trying to keep his voice from quivering. "But nobody else knows, nor would they care." He gazed out at the orange expanse. "This sunset is more than just a light in the sky; it's the sunset of our lives. Soon, it will be night, cold and black and..." He shifted his view down over the edge and dangled his legs absentmindedly. "Do you think anyone will remember us or will we be erased from their minds too?"
"I wish I had the answers, son. But I couldn't tell you."
"And also, no offense, but you really look awful. It's hard to see you so sick."
Gyro paused a moment. "It's hard for me to see you too."
Evina laughed in spite of himself. "No, I'm pretty sure I'm not in as bad a shape as you are."
"Oh yeah?" Gyro challenged him. "Tell me, what color are you?"
"You know... red like an apple."
Gyro took the remaining part of the apple he held and put it up against Evina's feathers. The contrast was undeniable. Evina had lost much of his color and was growing gray just like his father. It wasn't just the eyes at all. The color of his life was almost all gone.
"Son of a weasel."
Gyro shot him a disdaining look.
"Sorry," Evina said, "but this is just... wrong. I don't know what else to say."
"You're right," Gyro said. "It's pure evil. I'm afraid my days of inventing and shouting 'Eureka!' are over. I'm a thing of the past, and sadly, it seems you are too. The world has no place for creatures like us. We are wanderers. We are the dead walking among the living, and it's too painful to bear."
"I can already tell I'm losing power," Evina said. "Every time I think of using The Shadow's force I give up because I feel so weak."
"You better not use it!" Gyro exclaimed. "You know if you use that again it'll probably destroy you on the spot!"
"That's what I thought," Evina said.
"And it's probably aged you much faster than it's aged me," Gyro continued. "We're probably about the same age now."
Evina thought about it but didn't want to. He couldn't reply, because he didn't know what else to say.
"I wonder how much time we have left," Gyro thought aloud.
"Do I really want to know?"
"I'm thinking... maybe two weeks, and that's if we're lucky."
Evina closed his eyes. Again, he found no words to speak. He wanted to numb his brain, so he could stop thinking. All he tried to do was stare at the sunset. The warm glow felt like the most important thing right now.
"Ok, I've told you what I've been up to," Gyro said. "Now, I want you to tell me where you're going."
Evina considered the best way to say it. "Um, well, ever since that day we went to Earth, I've had this dream that keeps coming back. It's about something in the future, something huge and dark. It has nothing to do with Toontown or the crime or any of this familiar stuff. This is something new. And ever since Doom was destroyed I feel like he's had something to do with it. That whole story of wanting to destroy Earth still haunts me. He was a toon. Who would create something like that?"
Gyro shrugged. "He's gone now. I don't see how it matters."
"It does matter," Evina insisted, "because I've done too much trying to protect this world. I've been chosen to protect it. I can't sit back and watch it crumble, wondering if it's going to be attacked at any moment by some evil force much greater than anything we've seen before! Because if somebody is out there creating monsters like Doom, I don't think we're ever safe, never, no matter what! I need to know where the darkness is coming from!"
"And where would you look for it? You have a couple weeks left to live, probably less, and I don't see how you could do much good at this point."
"I have some ideas."
"Ideas that will probably go nowhere."
"I still have that book we found. If I can discover where it came from—"
"Do you really think that will make a difference?"
"Yes, I think it will! Because unless you have some other kind of explanation for this it's the only thing I have to guide me to what I need to do!"
Gyro sighed. He knew he had been defeated. "Alright, Evina. Go ahead. I can't stop you, but I am going to miss you. I'll miss you so much. I only wish we could have lived out the rest of our short days together."
"I wish I could," Evina admitted, "but we both know I can't do that. Mom named me my name for a reason, and I would never forgive myself if I knew I had a chance to do something and didn't at least try. I'm going to figure this out even if it's the last thing I do."
Gyro was frozen again, barely looking alive. "I really love you son, and I hope you find what you're looking for. I hope you can make one last change because, personally, I think this is the last generation of our world. It's going to end."
Evina looked at Gyro and knew that he was a symbol of Toontown, old, scared, and falling apart. It was almost at an end. There wasn't much else he could do. All he could do was try. That was all it would take to satisfy himself, even if it was fruitless. "I love you too, dad, and I always will." He scooted over and hugged him. "I probably won't see you again."
"Then I bid you farewell. And whatever you do, do it terrifically. I don't believe in much anymore, but I still believe in you."
And then with that, Evina stood up and walked to his small ship. He didn't think about taking any supplies now. There wasn't much he needed. He just wanted to get moving as fast as possible. So, he took off for the skies and left Cogtropolis, turning now to the northwest. Tears came to his eyes, but he fought them. He never looked back. The world was dying, and he was in search of something, anything, any hope at all.
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