A Clean Slate

Miranda's in a Jam...

After moving to Chestnut, Miranda's life changes- her Best Friend denies her, her previous town is flooded- and she's depressed. She has one suspicion about this- the animals she's befriending are actually clones.

Prologue

I woke up, and looked around at my surroundings. Not much. I slept in the attic, to leave room for guests in my 3-room home. To my right, there was a small telephone, which was a sickening shade of yellow. To my right, a wall: simple white brick with cedar beams. Today was the day, but I wasn’t sure that I was ready. I’d only seen Rover once, on my journey here, to Walnut. Ahh, Walnut, my hometown, my security. But that was all about to change. Was I ready? Of course. I had thought the matter over long and hard. But did I REALLY want to? Part of me said “Don’t!” I was half ready to follow that half's will. But I’d say more was commanding me to do it. Or was I simply guessing? That was my real trouble. What I couldn’t pack in my little leather suitcase, I had put in my friend’s town, where it sat. My precious belongings, my treasures, now were sitting in the dirt. I trusted Ashley to hold on to them, until I bought a new home. That’s right. My plan was simple…

I was going to leave Walnut behind. Forever.

Chapter One:

I walked. The place I was going is top secret, so sadly I can’t tell the way. But you know that place Rover stands, and stands, and stands, and shines a spotlight at himself? That creepy, dark, room, with the common wall and floor? That’s the place.

“It’s Miranda!” Walker ran to me, his grin ear-to-ear. My already worried face sunk into an even deeper frown. How could I tell my very best friend I was leaving him behind, for good?

“What’s the rush?” he questioned, cocking his delicate brown head. “Is Nook giving out free samples?” He began drooling.

“Uhhh…” I wasn’t sure what to say, so, for some strange reason, I ran. And, for an even stranger reason then that, I dared look behind my shoulder, to see none other than a hurt and rather offended looking Walker.

At last I reached my destination.

Rover grabbed a clipboard, and began madly looking through it.

Finally, he looked up slowly, then clicked on a phony grin “Welcome, Amanda!” he said at last.

I stared with a confused expression, before finally saying “I’m not Amanda.”

“Really?” Rover looked really confused. “Are you… Lisa?”

“No, Miranda.”

“Oh,” he mumbled, before blurting out “WELCOME, MIRANDA! What can I do for you today?”

“I-I’d like to…”

“WHAT? WHAT?” Rover’s grin and happy voice was so obvious. Scripts, I thought.

“I’d like to leave town,” I said at last.

His fake smile melted into a not-so fake scowl. “Are you sure about that?” he said.

“Absolutely-positively,” I replied.

Rover's fake smile melted, and his deep red eyes widened. “DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?!? ALL THE HARD-EARNED BELLS, ALL THE FURNITURE IN YOUR HOME-’’

I cut him off. “My friend is holding onto that stuff, for your information.”

“[i]Any[/i]-way, they’ll be gone! You’ll leave them all behind!”

“I like challenges,” I said confidently.

“You’re positive?” he choked.

I paused for a second then managed to say, “Yes.”

“OK, then…” Rover sighed.

The room began spinning at the speed of light. I fell to my knees, but struggled and managed to push myself up. Once standing, Rover collapsed.

“ROVER!” I wailed, which was pretty rare for confident me.

“So… weak…” his words came out slowly.

“Grab my hand!” I screamed.

“No.. this is… your… will…” his voice grew to a whisper.

“No… no… I just wanted to leave town…” I began sobbing.

“Good-bye, Miranda,” those were his last words. Then, the room went pitch black. I closed my eyes and pinched myself, hoping this was simply a nightmare.

But it wasn’t.

Chapter Two:


My eyes opened slowly. Why, I was in the same room!

Click, click! Click, click! the noise made me spin around. Once I did, I realized it was a cat walking into the room. My face grew as white as a sheet of paper. It was Rover. Except he looked young, limber, and healthy!

“Was that all an act?” I peeped.

“What? And who are you?” Rover asked.

“You know very well that I’m Miranda,” I said. “You should remember, after our little struggle,” I snapped sarcastically.

“I’ve never heard of you, kid,” he replied. Now, this was confusing! My mouth twisted, and the cat- Rover?- was moving on.

“My name is Rover,” he said. (like I'd have guessed...) “And I’ll help you along the way during your move.”

“How do you know about me?” I said, deciding to give him a test,

“Secret of the trade, kid,” he replied. Trade? I was starting to catch on. He was a clone. There must be one for every town. When I left, that rover passed away, and a new clone was sent out. But what were the requirements? Did a human have to be in each town for Rover to be there? But didn’t he move from town to town? Wasn’t that his nick-name's meaning? Perhaps all the other Rovers were HIS clone! Now I was just jumping to conclusions.

“Well?” Rover asked.

“What were you saying?” I asked, returning to the real world.

“Weren’t you listening to a word I said?” he sighed.

“I guess my head was in the clouds…” I mumbled.

“As I WAS saying,” he went on, “is this your first time living alone?”

“Yes,” I lied, curious. I’d say that I’m a very curious person, but any sentence starting with 'I'd say I'm' usually was a good thing about yourself. Still, in this case, my curiosity was a good thing.

“I’m following you, I'm following you. Nothing like starting with a clean slate!”

A clean slate, I thought. I loved collecting new vocabulary. A clean slate… I liked the sound of that.

“Oh no! We’ll miss the bus! Hurry up!” Rover commanded.

I followed him, but my mind was on other things. These clones, if they were, seemed very suspicious.

Chapter Three:


I climbed onto the bright yellow bus. Kapp’n! Thank goodness!

“Kapp’n!” I said, my voice filled with delight.

Kapp’n had driven me to the city many times, and we had a personal bond. Not the romantic kind, just a deep friendship. I realize how corny that sounds.

“Kapp’n, tell me you remember! It’s me! Miranda!”

“You been to ‘em doctors lately, ye sea turtle?” Kapp’n said gently.

“Kapp’n…” I whispered. This was getting stranger by the second. For some unknown reason (again!), I sprinted towards him, and began sobbing.

“Step away from the turtle, missy,” Rover snarled.

“Kappa!” I yelled. “HE’S A KAPPA!” with that, I continued crying.

“Kappa, fine. But you have no right to sit next to him! You just met!” said Rover.

“As a matter of fact, I know him personally,” I said, satisfied.

“I sure don’t know ye,” Kapp’n said softly.

“No…” my voice was merely a whisper. What was happening?

                                                                             * * *

“Oh, I forgot to ask what your name was!” the Rover exclaimed.

“Miranda,” I said simply. You forgetful clone!

“Miranda what?” the cat asked slyly.

“Just Miranda…” I mumbled, sliding farther from his seat. What right does the clone have to know my personal information?

“Fine,” the cat mumbled. “Where are you going?”

After thinking, I decided on a made-up town. “Chestnut.”

“Chestnut? I’ve heard that town is lovely. Actually, I know it is- it's one of my favorite vacation spots.” Uh-oh. I was starting to reconsider. “Are you excited?” Rover said, on his obvious script.

“You mean it’s real?” I was at a lose of words. This fantasy town might be below Boondox! I mean, I'd never heard of it.

“Do you have any money?” Rover moved on.

“Some…” I trusted Ashley to hold on to my bells.

“Oh,” Rover said.

There was a moment of awkward silence, surely even for these possible clones. I kicked the back seat, hoping it would somehow break the ice. Which it obviously didn’t.

“Next stop, Chestnut!” the Kapp’n ‘clone’ bellowed.

“Here’s our stop!” said Rover.

The bright sun was almost blinding, and all I could see was whiteness, when I dared to look.

The whiteness stopped, and although I told myself to stay were I was, my feet automatically stepped forward, very slowly. Must… go… back… but before I could the door slammed shut.

“Stop at the town hall before you do anything Rover yelled, as smoke began puffing out from the bus’s tailpipe.

I was all alone.

I turned around upon hearing a startlingly familiar voice. “Hi, what’s your name?”

What I saw made me jump.

Chapter Four:


Pelly. That’s right, the obnoxious white pelican. Now, while reading this, you might have thought I’d accidentally spelled “obnoxious” while trying to spell “adorable.” I know how to spell. Something about Pelly made me always feel awkward. Was it the goody-two-shoes personality, or perhaps the obvious script she had rehearsed? I haven’t the slightest idea, it was probably both. All I know is, I loathed Pelly. Yes, as you’ve probably realized, I hate “scripts.” I guess that started when my mom signed me up for acting. I got a taste of what it felt like to be the one reading them. When you’re supposed to sound happy, you sound happy, no questions asked. You aren't really trying to satisfy the audience, just yourself. At least, I was. But, back to the story.

“Oh, let me check my files. Are you Miss Miranda Vineyard?” Pelly asked.

“That’s me, only it’s VINRAD, Pelly. And how did you know my name?” I gritted my teeth. (Just so you know, it’s pronounced VEN- rah’d.)

“Secret of the trade, Miranda,” Pelly replied, flipping a compact mirror open. “The real question is, how do you know MINE?”

“Secret of the trade,” I said with a smirk. (Unlike most people writing about themselves, I’ll admit I’m not always perfectly nice… or perfect.)

Pelly snapped the mirror closed. “Follow me, Miranda VINEYARD.” Woah. Doctor Pelly and Mr. Hyde.

Knowing we were off to the town hall, I followed her faithfully.

                                                                                    * * *

When we got there, Pelly stepped gracefully behind the counter. “Mister Tortimer!” she said, in the phony-est, most high-pitched voice I’ve ever heard. “Come meet our new resident!”

Tortimer, who's clone I'd already met, yawned and got up slowly from his chair.

“What’s your name, whippersnapper?” he asked.

“Miranda,” came my reply.

“Hmm… nice name,” I had always loved the mayor in Walnut, and this clone showed no difference. I mean, he was a clone and all.

Pelly butted into our conversation. “You’d better get going. Go find a house.”

So I left the town hall. My feet hit the green grass, and made a soft, springy sound. I then realized that Pelly had slipped a map in my pocket, and pulled it out. I began eying the list of residents… Mitzi… Bones… Rosie… Lobo… Bree… and Rowan. Next I looked at the vacant houses. One looked like it was in the center of all the action, so I bounded towards it. Now I was getting nearer: The house had a peppermint- teal roof. It looked cozy, so I stepped inside. All I saw was a candle on a box, next to a tape player. The floor was hard concrete, that reeked of mildew. Did I, myself, consider this livable? Well, no. But it would have to do. I pressed the eject button on the tape player, and out popped a cassette tape with “K.K. Rally” written in black sharpie ink. Interested, I put it back in, and pressed play. An awful excuse for music filled the room. Shocked, I ran outside, only to find Tom Nook waiting for me. Only, rather then the purple sports jacket I’d grown so used to him wearing, he had on a denim apron.

“Welcome to town! I’m Tom Nook, and I run a shop near here. I also sell houses. Would you like to buy this home?” his words came out a mile a minute.

“Uhh… sure… I guess…” my speed, however, was the exact opposite.

“OK! How are you expecting to make a living? I know, you could work for me, doing a part-time job! It would be perfect! You would also learn how things work here in Chestnut! Two birds, one stone, yes?”

Realizing I had no say, I mumbled “Yes,” in reply.

“Great! I’ll meet you at my shop!” He ran away with that. “Why not get to know the residents?”

So, I walked into the nearest house: Lobo’s.

Chapter Five:



The sound of music- much better then that awful K.K. Rally- was in the air.

“What’s your name?” I spun around at the sudden sound of a booming voice.

“Miranda,” I said softly. “You’re Lobo, I’m assuming?”

“That’s me,” he mumbled in reply.

“What’s this song called?” I asked.

“K.K. Safari.”

“Oh, I like it. It matched your style,” I didn’t know what to say.

“Thanks…” Lobo didn’t seem so talkative.

“Well, I’m new in town, so I just came over because Nook demanded me to,” I tried my best to make a joke.

“OK, bye!” Lobo literally pushed me out of the room.

Woah. That was a shock. I pulled out my map, and discovered Bree’s house was nearest to me, so I walked over.

When I stepped in, yet another song played. I loved this tune, it was catchy and bouncy, while at the same time soft and mysterious. I read the record: it was called Café K.K.

“Hallo, daaarrling. Are you visiting?” I faced the regal vanity, and saw a white mouse with a green wig.

“No, I’m moving in,” This time I sounded more confident.

“Well, my name is Bree. I’m really the only fashionesta in the backwater town, so if you have any questions, contact me FIRST,” she applied some blush.

“Oh… I’m Miranda,” my voice sounded short and stubby compared to her luxurious, silky voice. Like putting my fingernails next to a pageant queen’s.

“Welcome, Miranda daaarrrrlliiing.”

I quickly left her house, and moved on to Mitzi’s.

When I stepped in, I noticed Cabana furniture, and the sweet smell of gingerbread.

“Careful, child! Don’t slouch so!” said who I assumed was Mitzi. It was! I saw a Siamese cat, her white coat glistening.

“Mmm, Gingerbread!” I loved any cookies.

“Would you like some?” her voice sounded soft, and sweet. “And, might I ask what your name is?”

“Yes, please! I’m Miranda Vinrad!” I only told my last name to friends, but I could tell this would be a fast friendship.

“They’re about to come out of the oven!” she said with a smile. “Vinrad…” she mumbled. “How do you spell that?”

“V-I-N-R-A-D, and thank you. I love cookies.”

We chatted for the next 10 minutes, then I heard a cheerful ding!

She sprinkled them with sugar, then let them cool well we talked.

I ate one, then two, then finally three, before exclaiming “Look at the time!”

We paid each other farewell, then I left to Rosie’s.

“HiI’mRosiewhat’syourname?” I heard a peppy voice exclaim.

“Uhhh… Miranda…” I said.

“Ohsorry.. I…talk.. Too fast,” she finally sounded normal.

We talked and talked, about girl things. You know…

Next I went to Rowan’s. Not much to say about him, except for the fact I almost got hit by a weight.


I knocked on the Bones' door, and was shocked by how quickly it opened. The dog in front of me made me think of Walker.

“Hi, I’m Bones! And you’re…”

“I started to open my mouth, but he finished it.

“Miranda, I’m guessing?”

“That’s me,” I replied. “Miranda Vinard.”

“If you need any help, ANY, hen you can come to me,” Bones said.

“Wow, thanks!” I was at a lose of words.

“Aww, now I sound like your big brother or something!” he said with a chuckle.

We talked for about fifteen minutes, before I remembered Nook was waiting.

When I reached Nook’s Cranny, I noticed a tape player, which was playing a bad-quality recording of music almost as bad as K.K. Rally. ALMOST. I mean, screeching fiddle music isn’t as bad as poorly choreographed screaming.

Nook was tapping his foot on the dirt floor. “You took quite a while, hm?”

“I suppose I did. You told me to meet everyone, and I felt like chatting,” I felt like a bottle of soda that had been shaken up- like I was going to explode.

“Well, I have more work, yes?” Nook smirked.

“What?” I asked.

“Plant these flowers and saplings. But, I don’t have all day. Chop chop!”

I sighed, and planted them all, not caring if two trees were next to each other. Then I walked back inside.

“Well, I suppose I’ll have to trust your sense in design,” he said with a sniff. “PUT THIS ON!”

I reached for his paw, and saw a blue shirt, with a leaf. Remembering that I had put this on in Walnut, I used the good ‘ol back flip. I did it so quickly, Nook never saw me. Thank goodness!

“Deliver this to Mitzi,” Nook handed me a leaf, which I slipped into my pocket.

“Yes sir!” with that, I was off to Mitzi’s.

“Back so soon?” Mitzi’s warm, cheery, voice made me want to stay awhile.

“Yes, I’m here to deliver this,” I handed the leaf to her.

“It’s my Classic Bed!” she exclaimed.

That’s funny, it seemed like she preferred the cabana set!

“Thank you for ordering from Nook’s Cran-” I began to say, walking out of the door.

“Actually, when I heard you were moving in, I ordered this as a little housewarming gift for you,” Mitzi handed me the leaf.

“For… me?” I was shocked.

“Yes, for you. Please enjoy!” she replied. Oh, how I wished I didn’t have to leave! But I ran straight to Nook’s after the delivery.

When I got there, I began panting.

“Once again, you took longer then I expected,” Nook growled. “Deliver this carpet to Rowan.

“Yes sir!” I ran to Rowan’s house, as fast as I could.

Chapter Six:


“YO!” Rowan yelled, stepping off his treadmill.

“I’m here to deliver something you ordered from Nook’s Cranny?” I peeped.

“Oh, yeah! That!” Rowan snatched the little package wrapped in green paper to reveal a beautiful carpet. “Here, you can have my old shanty mat!”

At first I thought he was joking, but he handed me a mat made of twigs. “Thanks…”

“You know how to roll out carpeting, right?” he asked. I was shocked by how serious he sounded.

“Uhhhh, yeah… don’t you?” I replied.

“Just making sure,” what was his problem?

I felt awkward near Rowan, so I was glad to leave and go to Nook’s Cranny.

“Much better!” Nook gave me a grin of approval. “VERY commendable.”

I tapped my foot on the ground, and nodded my head.

“Next, write a letter to Bones! Tell him about our big sale tomorrow!” Nook handed me some paper and a pencil.

“My I write outside?” I asked.

Nook squinted his eyes, and stared for a moment. “OK, but come RIGHT back!”

With a nod of my head, I walked out the door, and began to write.

Dear Bones,

I wrote on the paper.

No, that doesn’t sound right…

I started over.

Bones! Help!

I’m sending you an S.O.S. message. Nook is
Torturing me, and I don’t thank I can
Do this for much longer. HELP!

~ Miranda


That was much better. I walked to the town hall, ready to face Pelly.

When I got there, Pelly was waiting, looking just as sickening as ever. “Welcome to the town hall!”

I walked on the red mat, not wanting to speak to Pelly.

“Would you like to mail a letter?” she asked.

I nodded my head slowly, and handed her the envelope.

“Thank you!” she said. “Come again soon!”

I left the building silently, and went back to Nook’s.

“Next, Right a note on the bulletin board,” Nook commanded. “Nothing offensive.”

I ran back to the town hall, and pulled the pencil Nook had given me out of my pocket.

Nook wanted me to write this, I wrote then I galloped back to Nook’s.

“Next , deliver this watering can to Bones,” Nook asked.

When I walked outside, I bumped into Bones.

“Thank goodness! Did you get my letter?” I asked.

“You mean this? Nice letter,” Bones looked at it.

He didn’t see what the message was!

This was creepy. First clones, now this? What would happen next?

Chapter Seven:


I handed Bones the can, then walked back in.

“You’re DONE!” Nook yelled. Then, he dropped a few golden coins in my pocket. “Your pay.”

“’K, bye!” I didn’t want to waste a second of time in that shack. I ran outside, and danced with glee.

But what should I do now? I decided to investigate these… clones.

I reached in my pocket. Good. I still had an extra sheet of paper from Nook, and the pencil. Remembering the Able sister shop in Walnut, I figured there was one here. I checked my map, and there was.

“Hello, Mable!” I said. Then I realized she would probably wonder how I knew her name.

“Umm… hi?” she asked, her normally peppy voice very slow.

“Can I have a detective hat and shirt?” I begged. If I was doing detective work, I wanted to look stylish. “With M.V. embroidered with hot pink thread on both?” OK, that might have been a little to far, but why not?

I waited for Sable to complete my request, then watched as Mable wrapped it up in tissue, then put it in a box.

“Thank you!” I paid her the bells I’d just earned from Nook, then walked out. I reached in to my pocket, and discovered a small magnifying glass in the shirt. Strange, yet nice. It was sure to come in handy.

First things first: I needed to talk to the mayor.


* * *

My red patent-leather mary-janes tapped against the rough wooden floor. “Pelly, I need to speak to the mayor. ALONE.”

“Why would the newest resident talk to the mayor, who rarely talks to ME?” she snorted.

“PLEASE! You’ll all benefit from this talk!” I begged.

“NO! YOU ARE NOT TALKING TO TORT-” Pelly screamed. But Mayor Tortimer was waking up.

“Pelly? What’s all that racket about?” he asked.

“WELL,” Pelly was defiantly starting dramatically. “THIS resident was begging to SPEAK to YOU. I was SIMPLY explaining that you CANNOT be awaken!” she said, confidently.

“Pelly, it’s very sweet of you,” Tortimer began. I noticed Pelly beaming with delight. “But I think residents should be able to talk to the mayor.”

“WELL, FINE, but I’ll HAVE to keep an eye on you, sir,” she said.

“No thank you. Could you please go outside, Pelly?” he commanded.

Pelly’s jaw dropped. But still, she mumbled “fine….”

When we were alone, I asked Tortrimer something. “Are you a clone?” I couldn’t think of a better way to word it.

“What do you mean by that?” he looked shocked.

“I told Rover I was starting fresh. I told him I’d never lived on my own before. But…” I took a deep breath. “I have.”

“So?” Tortimer looked confused now.

“In my old town, Walnut… you were the mayor. Pelly was your secretary, and Nook ran the store.”

“So?”

“So, you don’t remember me, do you?” I tapped my foot impatiently.

“I don’t believe so…”

“And, when I told the old Rover… the one in Walnut… that I wanted to move, he became weak. The room started spinning, and then it went black. And a healthy cat- just like Rover- told me the same things the old Rover had told me before… when I moved to Walnut,” I explained.

“I’m not following you…” he mumbled.

“YOU’RE A CLONE. Face it,” I said.

“Well, I don’t know about that… I did hear something, once… about ten pieces of dough, perhaps?” he said.

I scratched on my pad of paper: Ten pieces of dough?

“Thank you,” with that, I left. I decided to ask Lobo… he seemed to have lived here for a while!

Chapter Eight:


I knocked on the door. Once, twice. Lobo opened it, and stared for a second. “Yes? What do you want?” he asked.

“Well…” I explained my suspicion to him carefully.

“Clones?” he asked. “I don’t know…”

“Haven’t you heard ANYTHING strange?” I begged.

“I did hear something about “a German no…” he said.

“Nein?” I remembered my German class.

“I guess,” he replied. I left, unsatisfied.

I grabbed my paper and pencil, then wrote: “German no. (Nein)” putting it back in my pocket, I let out one long sigh. Thousands of questions ran though my mind- dough? A German no? And where had they heard about these things, anyway? Maybe I should just give up- but nein. I’m going to continue. Mitzi might have some experience about this. I headed for her house next.

* * *

“No, I don’t think so,” Mitzi said with a frown, pouring some chai tea in a teacup for me.

I sighed. “You haven’t heard anything?” I was desperate.

“Nope. Sorry!” she said, taking a sip of tea.

“Well, bye, Mitzi. Thank you for the tea!” with that, I left. Things weren’t looking up for me… or so it seemed. The only clues I had were those two ridiculous things. What would I do now? I decided I’d call it a day.

That night, as I brushed my hair, I thought about my day. So much had happened, in less then 24 hours! I was very sleepy. And, hungry! But I didn’t have anything to eat, so I simply rubbed my eyes, and hopped into my basic red bed. I’ll sell this and replace it with the classic bed… tomorrow. With that I fell into a deep sleep. I had the strangest dream that night- I saw a red logo, spinning around, and a white… box? I wasn’t sure. Then I saw what appeared to be a colorful book cover. It had animals, running around happily, catching butterflies. Green grass surrounded them. A girl and boy sat under an apple tree, and a yellow canary held a clover. He was perched on a sign. I couldn’t make out what it said. Then, I woke up, only to discover it was still night. I was parched, but didn’t have a facet, or a pitcher, and NO WAY was I going outside to the river! So, I went back to sleep. And had yet another dream.

This time, what looked like an army of Tom Nooks marched towards me. “YES, YES, HMMM? TIME IS MONEY!” they screamed. That was obviously a nightmare, so I didn’t give it a second thought. Then I woke up, and yawned. I looked at the beam of sunlight that shone through the small attic window, and smiled. I’d slept in the attic, without thinking about it. Old habits die hard, I guess. Next, I brushed my honey-brown hair. I realized that I’d slept in my detective top. That would never do, a secret agent would never show themselves in uniform! So, I put on my toad shirt. Not being a huge fan of Mario, I decided I should sell my classic bed, and check out Able sister’s.

“What would you like, hmm?” Nook didn’t even say hello.

“I’d like to sell this,” I pulled the leaf out of my pocket, and Nook bought it for 800 bells.

I left, then went straight to the tailor’s. When I got there, I saw an gorgeous pink top with a white daisy on it.

“Would you like to buy that daisy shirt? It’s 200 bells!” Mable asked.

“Yes,” I handed her the money, and grabbed the top off the mannequin.

I then left without a sound.

Chapter Nine:


I changed into the beautiful shirt, then thought I might as well earn some money. I decided to pick some fruit. Cherries must be this town’s native fruit, I thought, noticing the cherry trees everywhere. I began stuffing my pocket with them- I managed to fit in 15. Then I ran to Nook’s, pleased with my harvesting. Covering my ears over the music, I managed to say “Hello!”

“What would you like, hmmm?” Nook asked, without even saying Hi.

“I’d like to sell these cherries,” came my reply.

Nook quickly handed me 1,500 bells. What a cheapskate… But, I handed him the cherries, all the same.

Hmmm, what should I do now? I thought. After a while, I decided to talk to Rosie.

I knocked on the door, and Rosie opened it quickly.

“HI MIRANDA!” she exclaimed. “I’M GLAD YOU CAME!” now she was talking at a normal speed, but you pitch was VERY high.

“Hi, Rosie!” my voice sounded like a whisper compared to hers.

“Well, would you like some cookies? Mitzi delivered them to me today!” she said.

“No, I got some gingerbread from her, and I think I’ve had enough cookies for today,” I replied.

“ENOUGH COOKIES FOR A DAY?!? NOSENSE!” she shrieked.

“Well, for some reason I have,” I giggled. . I liked Rosie. But maybe I should ask her about- well, you know. “Have you heard anything about clones?” I asked, trying to sound causal . Rosie swallowed her cookie, then started. “Clones? What about them?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Just clones in general…” I’m sure that sounded ridiculous.

“Well, clones are like copies of someone or thing, and…” she started.

“No! I know what they are!” I sighed.

She stopped chewing, then paused. “Sorry, can’t help you!”

I got up to leave, but was stopped by Rosie yelling “Wait!” I stopped and stared. “I just wanted to say goodbye!” she said. “BYE!!”

“Bye!” I said. With that I left. I’d visit Bones now.

Cleanslatecleanslatecleanslatecleanslateclean* * *

Bones was eating peach cobbler. “Hello,” he said.

“Hi!” I licked my lips at the sight of cobbler. But believe it or not, he ate the whole pie before my very eyes.

“Oh, sorry. Did you want some?” he asked. “Mitzi just delivered this to me. Peach cobbler’s my favorite.” He drooled, and I felt like I might as well.

“Oh, I’m fine…” although I had been secretly hoping he would offer me some, I had to be polite. But peach cobbler wasn’t why I came- I had to ask him. Ask him if he knew anything.

Chapter Ten:


He knew nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Not that that surprised me at this point. I felt unprofessional. Then I noticed I wasn’t even in my detective outfit. Talk about unprofessional! Maybe a little fishing will cheer me up, I decided. Fishing had always made me feel good in Walnut. But I didn’t have a rod! I knew how much one cost- 400 bells. If I sold 4 cherries, I’d have enough. And surely I’d earn more -and then some! by selling my fish.

“Hello, yes?” Nook said.

“I have some more cherries to sell,” I said.

Nook looked at me suspiciously. “Trying to earn more money than I ever had, hmm?” he snorted.

“But Nook, If you’d earned more than 1 bell, surely you’d have a nicer store?” I asked.

Nook squinted his eyes. “I guess I know something you don’t, hmm?”

I was shocked. “About the clones?”

“On the contrary, maybe you know as much as I do. I won’t tell you a thing!” he chuckled.

He does know something! I thought.

“How many cherries are you selling?” he said.

“Four,” I replied simply.

He snatched them, then handed me four golden coins. Where is the money coming from? I thought. is he a clone? Is anyone a clone? How does he know? WHERE ARE THESE ANIMAL’S SCRIPTS COMING FROM? everything was confusing me. Then I remembered the fishing. “I’d like to buy a fishing rod.”

Nook snatched the coins back, then handed me a inexpensive looking fishing rod. In Walnut, I had earned a golden one, and I suppose my standards had risen. “Thank you, Mr. Nook!” with that, I left the store.

Cleanslatecleanslatecleanslatecleanslateclean* * *

It’s going to be a big one! I thought, as I pulled the rod in gently. What I saw stuck to the hook was a can. An old, cheap, tin can. I felt strangely glad- now I had a can to kick. I kicked it very far, with more power then I knew that I had- right into Bree’s ankle.

“AAHH!” she screamed. It’s sharp edge had hit her soft, well-kept fur. “YOU! HOW COULD YOU?!?”

I stared blankly, unsure of what to say.

“AND BESIDES THAT, WHAT BRAND OF BAKED BEANS IS THIS? NINTENDO?” she shrieked. I was guilty, but at the same time, I noticed something- Nintendo. Nein-ten-pieces-of-dough. NINTENDO. This was confusing. Just for fun, I began writing down ideas about what Nintendo was. But I snapped back into the real world after hearing Bree let out the loudest screech yet- I was sure people in the next village could hear it.

“Very sorry?” I peeped.

Bree stared. Then she marched off. “I’ll remember this, Miranda!”

I would, too. Well, the Nintendo part. Suddenly, I bumped into a house I hadn’t noticed yesterday. The plaque read- “Axel.”

Chapter Eleven:


I carefully walked in to the door, after knocking and noticing it was unlocked. “Hello?”

“’Sup, dude?” I heard. Rowan, maybe?

“Where are you?” I asked whoever it was- surely Rowan.

“Over here!” Suddenly, the room shook. A huge blue elephant jumped up from behind some boxes!

I simply couldn’t hold in the scream. It must have been louder then Bree’s last shriek.

“Sorry. I guess I forget that even though I work out, I’m still an elephant. Jumping jacks aren’t my strong point…” he said.

“Oh! No, I’m sorry that I screamed. I’m sure I frightened the people in the next village,” I joked.

He chuckled a bit, but then his face grew stern. “Probably not. The next village is Walnut.”

I paused. “Walnut? How are they doing?”

“Terrible. I was going to move there, but I thought twice when I saw what was going on,” he replied.

“What?” I asked anxiously.

“Well…” he began. “They’re all growing weak. There was a Tom Nook there- that’s weird enough, but he said… ‘It’s Miranda’s fault!’”

I stared, not sure what to say. My fault? “How’s Walker?”

He stared, now. “Weak.”

I felt like crying. Everything was turning upside down. It was almost like I was starting fresh, like I had told Rover. Rover’s clone. I was starting from a clean slate. Then I remembered- Ashley had my furniture! My money! All of my precious belongings! If I went there and got them, maybe I’d feel better! Yes, I thought. I’ll feel much better.

* * *

I’d finally reached CrystalView, Ashley’s town. Everything was so familiar, that I felt instantly better.

“Ashley!” I yelled, seeing her bury a sapling.

She paused. “Huh? Do I know you?”

I rolled my eyes. “Duh! It’s me, Miranda!” surely she was joking!

“If you’re really Miranda, what’s your last name?” she asked.

“Vinard,” I said. “Can I have my stuff back?”

“No. You don’t look like Miranda. Have you looked in a mirror lately?”

Actually, I hadn’t. She’d been holding on to my only mirror. But I noticed a pond, which was crystal-clear… That’s where CrystalView got its name. I ran over, and looked at my face. It didn’t look a thing like it had when I lived in Walnut! It was true… I was starting fresh.

With a clean slate.

Chapter Twelve:


I know what you think. Ashley will suddenly believe me, give me my things, I’ll feel better, and forget about the clones, THE END. Nada. This story WILL have a happy ending, but this isn’t it. In fact, at that moment, a cloud covered the sun. How classic, right? Just like in a movie. Thunder clashed. Lightning flashed. I took one last look at my face, which now seemed to be falling in pieces because of the rain ripples. It was dangerous to be near water and lightning at the same time. Now, if I had been the normal Miranda, not this weird Miranda, who looked different, acted differently, and was treated differently, I’m 100% sure Ashley would let me stay. Only thing was, I wasn’t. And I wouldn’t be allowed in her house, not even during a rain storm. She stared, then left to the shelter of her home.

This was dangerous. I knew it. It seemed like a flood, with lightning. I had no shelter, so here I was, in the puddle which was getting thicker by the second, which was covering the town. The lightning was getting very low, and I was very scared. It would hit the ground soon. Then it would touch the water, where I was sitting, and…

I began sobbing. I was sure the amount of water doubled with the salt water from my tears. I heard splashing, and suddenly I couldn’t feel rain on my shoulders. I looked up, and saw Lolly, whom I knew. She was holding an umbrella, and looking down to me.

“Come quickly, child!” she said. “Give me your paw… err, hand!”

I made haste, and clutched it with a

“Now, come with me!” she was shivering, and I knew I needed to follow her to shelter quickly, for both our sakes.

We walked into her house. I noticed fruit furniture everywhere. She had the weather channel on a T.V., which was shaped like an apple.

“Are you cold, little bon-bon?” Lolly asked.

Little bon-bon? I felt like laughing, but managed to only laugh inside. “No, I’m fine. It was summer rain, so it was pretty warm.” I shrugged, and stared at the T.V..

A squirrel with a troubled look on her face was seen on the screen. “I’m Peanut Shells, and this is an emergency weather report. Towns in Campbell County are experiencing massive floods and power outages. Many towns are suffering, but the eye of the storm is most defiantly Walnut. They have eight feet of rain. Believe it or not, it’s true. But, here at channel 12, we managed to get a helicopter view over the poor town of Walnut on tape,” she said. I was interested. “And here it-” the T.V. went off, and the lights, too. Oh, no! A blackout!

Lolly sighed. “Poor little darlings. I used to know someone from Walnut. Her name was Miranda.”

This was my chance. Maybe Lolly would believe me.

“Ma’am?” I asked.

“Yes?” she responded.

“I have something to tell you…”

“What, bon-bon?”

I am Miranda.”

Chapter Thirteen


Lolly looked out the window. Her face was expressionless, and her paws crossed.

I looked at her, trying to read her thoughts.

“I’m not surprised,” she said at last. “More and more humans are.” I noticed that she still wore her rain clothes. As she turned around to face me her bright red rubber boots hit the floor, creating a squishy noise. “Poor little dears…” she sighed. “I can only hope Ashley doesn’t do the same.”

“What?” I asked.

“Move,” she said simply. “When the human leaves, the town has major problems. Eventually, it’s so bad that the town is wiped off the map.”

“So… you’re saying this is all my fault?” I peeped.

She sighed. “Yes. I’m sorry to sound rude, but it is.”

I stared for a moment. At least she believed me…

“Funny thing, though- I never feel like it’s really the person’s will. There must be something…” she stopped, obviously at a loss of words.

I nodded, understanding, yet I couldn’t help but hang my head. One little thing I had done, for my own will, had destructed an entire civil town? How could it be possible?

I heard thunder crash, and thought of what Peanut Shells said… Many towns are suffering, but the eye of the storm is most defiantly Walnut. I wasn’t sure what time it was exactly, but I wanted to go to bed. I let out a big yawn, and Lolly did, too.

“Sleepy?” she asked.

“Mm-hmm.”

“You can take the pineapple bed right there. I’ll sleep in the attic,” she said. I probably should have offered to sleep in the attic, but I was far to sleepy.

Cleanslatecleanslatecleanslatecleanslateclean* * *

When I woke up, I wasn’t in Lolly’s comfy home, but instead, floating on the pineapple bed.

“MIRANDA!” I heard Lolly yell. She floated across the horizon, on a basic red bed. She Had found a paddle! She paddled over to me, and stopped. With a deep breath, she said it. “Ashley moved.”

I didn’t know what to say, much less do. I was trapped in a flooded town, which was soon to leave the map? At that moment, I saw Kapp’n. A clone of Kapp’n, who had a boat. This was my chance.

Chapter Fourteen


Lolly and I obviously had the same plan. I grabbed her paw with my hand. We pulled against current, while I clutched the pineapple mattress with my other hand. Lolly quickly jumped onto the pineapple bed. I guess that was a bit too much weight, though- it sunk. I screamed, but was soon simply swallowing water, which I began rapidly treading. Lolly did the same, only she was choking. Oh, please don’t drown, Lolly!

The Kapp’n clone paddled towards us. I listened carefully to his sea chantey.

"She was a pretty lassie, who had a good taste! Every single-day, cucumbers were on her plate…"
It was that, almost repeatedly, but it did have more words.

“Grab the oars, lassies!” he said, pushing one towards Lolly, then me.

We hopped in the boat, glad to get a chance to dry.

Kapp’n chuckled. “Ye lassies should have known better than expect a bed to work as well as me rowboat!” Lolly blushed, and I hung my head low.

“But, I suppose we shall be off,” he said.

“To where?” asked Lolly.

Once again, Kapp’n chuckled. “The only place not affected by the flood is Chestnut.”

“Chestnut? That’s where I live!” I exclaimed. But I then hung my head in shame, hoping I wouldn’t seem like a baby still in it’s mother’s womb.

Lolly and Kapp’n didn’t seem to care, but you never know. I began to shiver, than noticed Lolly still had her rain coat and hat on.

Water rushed from the cliff, like a waterfall. Kapp’n was paddling towards the gate. He than stopped over it, and clutched Lolly, who pulled me near her.

“What’re you doing?” I demanded.

“Shush, child. Watch and learn. You’re still a green tomato to this process,” Lolly responded.

A green Tomato… off it went to my vocabulary storage.

Kapp’n and Lolly hugged me tightly, and waited. I saw a tear in Lolly’s eye.

That’s when it happened. I saw what looked like an atomic bomb of some sort, except much larger. It covered the center of the town in a sphere of flames, creating a pit. The water seeped into it instantly, but the still-warm dirt drunk it up in only about 10 seconds.

Lolly was defiantly crying now. “Oh, why, why! Why, Ashley?!”

I hung my head in shame, imagining Walnut. At that moment, I heard another BOOM! Something told me I knew that town well… very, very well. Now I began crying, as I looked at the remains of once-thriving CrystalView.

It wasn’t the same. Now I didn’t even know where my best friend lived, not that she would remember me!

Oh, why did I start from a clean slate?

Chapter Fifteen


Kapp’n let out a big sigh, and I saw one, huge, glassy tear roll down Lolly’s eye.

Kapp’n left his boat floating over the gate, which was now no more then a deep pond, and we stepped onto the cliff, which actually looked very grassy and plain-like. Lolly put one delicate paw onto the cliff, then the other, and… sunk in.

“LOLLY!” I screamed.

“Miranda?” she coughed.

“Wha-what happened?” I asked.

“I-I’m not sure… come see for yourself…”

With a deep breath, I stepped onto the cliff. And, once again, I sunk as well.

What I saw left me in shock. I had fallen through what looked like a barrier of tiny squares, which revealed a new dimension. A black sheet of little squares covered a view of CrystalView, only noticeable when you looked directly down. Lolly stared. I touched the little squares creating the black sheet, my hand sunk right through it.

Lolly stared into space. “Pixels,” she mumbled.

“…Pixels?” I asked.

Lolly nodded. I decided not to ask what these “pixels” were. Maybe another time.

“YE LASSIES? CAN YE HEAR ME?” I heard Kapp’n yell.

“YES!” we yelled in unison.

“Come under!” I yelled.

“NO! I need to help ye! I must find I way to get ye out!” but he must have slipped on the wet gate, because at that moment I looked up to see him falling into the “Pixels.”

Oh, no! How will we get out now?

We looked at each other, and I could tell we all knew what to do.

“HELP! HEEELP!! HELP!!!” we all screamed.

“Y-yes?” I heard. “Where, and WHO are you?”

“We’re under here!” I yelled. After hearing footsteps, I added “BUT STAY THERE!”

“Oh… what’s going on?”

We described the story, one by one, from each of our points of view.

“And what are your names?” the voice asked.

“Miranda… Vinrad.” I said.

“Lolly McPop.”

“Yaar Lassie, I be Kapp’n.”

“My name is Celestia, but you may call me Celeste for short,” the voice, err, Celeste, said.

“Would you please help us… somehow?” Lolly asked.

“I’ll try,” she said.

I could only hope it would work.

“Do you have any more help?” I asked.

“No, Miranda. The only person I could have asked for help was my older brother, Blathers… who was killed during the bomb,” she responded.

“Oh, we’re so sorry!” Lolly asked, while I nodded in agreement. Kapp’n, however, began silently mocking her. “Aren’t we, Kapp’n?” she asked.

“Yaar…” he groaned.

I wasn’t sure, but that might slightly mean ‘Neutral’ in pirate talk.

Celeste sighed. “I still don’t understand what happened,” she said.

“Drop something onto the cliff!” Lolly said.

I saw a baby-pink bow drop onto the ground, right by my feet.

“Huh?” she seemed shocked.

“WE DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON EITHER!” I screamed. “JUST HEELP!”

Chapter Sixteen:


After many failed attempts at getting out, we were beginning to loose hope. We’d tried almost everything, and yes, I mean everything… even jumping with Lolly’s umbrella! I’d tried digging, but it was impossible… But then I had an obvious idea. I jumped. High. And clutched the edge of the gate with one hand. There was a small, pink, owl sitting on the edge.

“Pull, Celeste!” I commanded. The owl grabbed my hand, and I forced my other on, clutched with both, pushed them towards Celeste, who pulled, and finally put my feet on the edge. Being careful not to slip, I took one dainty step, then another, and sat down.

“You must be Celeste,” I commented.

“Yes. I’m guessing you’re…” she paused for a moment. “Miranda?”

“That’s me,” I said.


We sat in silence, before I said “I suppose we should be brainstorming, shouldn’t we?”

“Yes,” Celeste mumbled.

“If we had a long pole, we could stick it through the pixels, then pull the other two up,” I thought out loud.

“Good idea,” she replied, “but I don’t have a pole.”

I was about to say that an oar would work, but then I realized it was much too short. But maybe…

“Celeste,” I began.

“Yes, Miranda?”

“What if we tied my fishing rod to an oar? We could use fishing line, I have plenty in my tackle box,” I said.

Celeste looked very thoughtful, then finally said “That should work.”

I pulled a fishing rod, and tackle box out of my pocket, then snipped a lot of line of with some pliers. Celeste grabbed the oar, and we began wrapping the line around the oar and rod. Celeste was humming the national anthem, and I couldn’t help but join in. We made a lovely duet.

“Da-da-da, daaa, da, daaa da dada da dooo da da daaaa, doo dum dum dum, d… humm huum hum-hum, hum-hum, hum-hum, huuum-hum. Daaaa da, daaa da da! Daa-aaa, da da, na na naaaaaa daaa…”

By the time we’d hummed the tune 3 times, we were done. It was sturdy, and very long.

“LOLLY! KAPP’N!” I yelled.

“Grab the oar, one at a time!” said Celeste. We both gripped it, and pulled very hard, until Kapp’n was revealed clutching the oar. Then we did the same with Lolly.

“To Chestnut?” Lolly asked sweetly.

Kapp’n said nothing, but motioned for us to enter the boat, then began rowing.

“Land sakes, I do believe I’ve forgotten the way to Chestnut! Did you say you know the way, Miranda?” he asked.

“Yes!” I exclaimed.

“Well, come up here and help me!”

I felt strangely proud. This wasn’t a cruise, it was an important trip, and I was sort of helping! I slowly stepped to the edge of the rowboat, to help Kapp’n.

To help Kapp’n help us. But why had this happened? Could it have been because I started fresh? Because Ashley did, too? Because we started from a clean slate?

Chapter Seventeen:


As I pointed the way, I realized how hungry I was.

“I’m huuungry!” I moaned.

Celeste rolled her eyes. “You must adapt to this. We are on a journey, not a cruise,” she sounded very sensible, but converted to her strange ways. “Feed yourself with the STAAARRS!” …then blushed.

Lolly hung her head, and I heard her stomach growl.

Kapp’n looked at me, waiting for directions.

“Just keep going straight,” I muttered.

He paddled slowly, and I wished he’d go faster. But I didn’t dare ask him to.

We’d been sitting there, silently, for around 10 minutes, when he finally cracked the ice by singing another chantey- this time I thought he had a message in there for me.

”Every single day, she got up with haste! And she then, commanded me, to wash my face! I tried to tell her, to calm down, and switch out that fancy ball gown. But she never listened, simply continued you see! And that-is-what- slow-ed down meeeee…

Once again, silence. Celeste began tightening her bow, Lolly licking her paw, and Kapp’n rowed a little faster.

I then got a strange feeling- I realized that we were paddling over the ruins of once thriving towns… until last night. Then I remembered Nintendo.

“Do you know anything about… Nintendo?” I asked.

Lolly paused. “What do you know about it?”

Kapp’n stared at me with shock.

“Well…” I began. “Look, could you just tell me anything you know about it? Anything?

“No,” said Lolly, simply.

“…Why?” I was shocked.

“Young ladies like you don’t need such knowledge, little bon-bon.”

I was horrified. Finally, someone knew, but they wouldn’t tell me? I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, take it.

“LOLLY!” I screamed. “I’VE BEEN SEARCHING FOR THIS INFORMATION FOR WEEKS! Please, tell me!”

“Lassie,” Kapp’n said coolly. “You need no such information.”

“But…” I said. “But… why?”

“Because,” he said with a smile, “Anyone who REALLY wants to know will find it. And you really want to know. I PROMISE you’ll find it.”

Lolly nodded.

I wished I could be sure.

Chapter Eighteen:


Lolly looked from Kapp’n, to Celeste, to me. “Who else is hungry?” she asked.

“All who are hungry, say I,” said Celeste. With a frown she added “I.”

“I.”

“I.”

Kapp’n didn’t say ‘I,’ and I’m sure we were all confused. “Are you hungry, Kapp’n?” I asked.

“No,” he said, softly.

“…Really?” Lolly asked.

“Really,” he said, hanging his head. “I’ve been sneaking cucumbers at night, when you thought I was singin’ my chanteys.”

There was a moment of silence. “That’s fine,” said Lolly, pulling out her umbrella.

“Lolly? You’re not leaving… are you?” I asked.

She sniffed. “I should hope you wouldn’t HAVE to ask.”

Celeste looked worried. “Kapp’n did tell the truth…”

“There’s no stopping me, Celestia, Miranda,” she said. “I’m tired of listening to sea chanteys, sung by a thief.”

Everyone’s eyes grew wide, even Celeste’s, which already were huge.

“Yarr, ye lassie… I’ll share my secret cucumber stash with ye…”

“Too late,” she said, standing up in the rowboat.

“AAAHHH!” we all screamed. The boat flipped over. Celeste and Kapp’n treaded the water, while Lolly swam away.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t swim.

I began gulping the dirty rainwater. It rubbed against my throat, choking me. Air… must… get… air… If only I could get myself up! I worked my way up a bit, and my mouth was above the surface for a spilt second. “Drown…ing!”

At that moment, something happened. Something that shocked all three of us.

Lolly turned around.

Chapter Nineteen:


She began swimming madly towards me. I stared at her paws underwater. A delicate piece of skin-- with the tiniest golden hairs-- was folded between each toe, creating webbed feet when stretched out, like they were now. I always thought cats hated water, but I guess they could swim when they were desperate.

“Grab onto my paw, bon-bon!” she gasped, pulling a twitching arm towards me. I grabbed automatically, and found myself being gently pulled up, by all three of my companions. Finally, I was in the rowboat, which was now right-side-up.

“Are you alright, Miranda?” asked Celeste.

“Y-yea…” I mumbled, between gasps. Everything went black.

* * *

My eyes opened a little bit, and I saw a man-- a human man-- staring at me.

“She’s waking up!” exclaimed a familiar voice.

“Yaarr, lassie! Ye be awake?” said another.

I felt around. I felt fur, caked with mud. Lolly, I remembered. I opened my eyes a bit wider, and saw a hospital room.

The man turned around, and faced Celeste. “She lost a few pixels- they both did,” he mumbled. Who?

“Oh, dear!” Celeste exclaimed. “Will they be alright?”

The man nodded. “Her gamer hacks, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Gamer?

Using all my strength, I finally asked. “What happened?”

Celeste spun around, and faced me.

“You fainted, Miranda.”

“What about Lolly? What happened to her?”

Celeste gulped. “We don’t know what happened… or what’s going to happen.”

I stared.

“Lassie…” Kapp’n began. “Lolly be blind.”

I didn’t know what to say. A few tears escaped my eyes.

“We think it was because she had her eyes underwater for so long,” said the man. “You broke your arm.”

I felt my left arm. It felt fine. But I felt plaster on my right.

“You were propping yourself up in the rowboat, Miranda. With your arms. When you fainted, your body crushed it,” said Celeste.

Silence.

Then I heard the door creak open. A girl peeked out from behind it. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t place my finger on it. The girl had red hair, and a few wisps escaped from a tight ponytail. Her eyes were a lovely light brown, and she wore a silk bloom shirt. That’s when it came to me.

“I’m sorry,” said the girl… Ashley.

Chapter Twenty:


“You’re Ashley, aren’t you?” I said, with a slightly surprised tone.

“That’s me,” she said. She held five scraps of paper in one hand, the other grabbed part of her skirt, a habit she had.

A raw silence filled the room. The few seconds it lasted seemed like years. The doctor stared on, while Kapp’n whistled, Celeste glared at Ashley, and Lolly rubbed her now blind eyes.

Ashley handed me the slips of paper, and then waited patiently.

I slowly began reading it. Four were train tickets to Chestnut. I wanted to scream with delight, but Ashley gave a hand motion to continue. The fifth looked like a note. It read:

I’m sorry. If I knew it was you, I would have let you come. It’s to late to apologize, though… and that’s all because of me. You wouldn’t have a broken arm, Lolly wouldn’t be blind, and Celeste wouldn’t be dragged around if it weren’t for me. I should be in jail. But, maybe that arm of yours will remind you of your new life. You already had a clean slate, but now you have… well… a cleaner slate. Read your cast.

My cast had writing on it, in Ashley’s handwriting.

No matter what happens, we’re always BFFs.

That made me so happy- you might not get it. If you don’t, don’t ask me. It’s unexplainable. You know how books always say “She had a moment of sheer joy,” but you didn’t really get it? You probably didn’t ponder it. I didn’t either, but now I didn’t have to.

I looked at Ashley, and felt tears- the good kind- rolling down my cheek. Ashley was right. I’d started with a clean slate, but I’d let a few dusty chalk marks get in the way. Now I could forget all of that. “Oh, Ashley…” I said. She looked up, then forced a crooked smile.

“I came as soon as I could. You guys were in the paper!” She took a newspaper clipping out of her pocket. I didn’t look at it. I wasn’t going to read about what happened. I was starting fresh.

At that moment, I looked towards the door. Two doctors were pushing a wheelchair. I had to squint to make out what was in it. A cat- at least, kind of a cat. He looked very old. He had crimson eyes, and blue-gray fur. He looked very old. He was Rover. The Walnut Rover.

“Miranda,” his voice cracked. “I want to tell you something.”

I stared it him. “What?”

“Miranda…” his face looked worried and sore. “We’re in a video game.”

I paused. “What’s… what’s a video game?”

“A video game,” said Rover, his voice shaky, “Is something humans do for entertainment. You’re controlled by a human, Miranda.”

“Why, of course I am!” I exclaimed. “I’m a human, and I control myself!”

Rover shook his head. “No, Miranda. You were made by humans. And you’re supposed to look like them, so they can imagine themselves in the game. It’s a very greedy hobby.”

There was a moment of silence. At last, I managed to speak, although my voice was no more then a whisper. “These video games- how many are there? Are we the only one?”

“No. There are lots of video games.”

I really didn’t know what to say. “What do real humans look like?”

“Their hands are flat, with five little spikes coming out in a triangle,” Rover said. “Their hair isn’t one big clump- it’s thousands of tiny strands.”

“What does their world look like?”

“A little like ours,” he said, “But different.”

I had one final question. “How do you know this?”

His mouth wrinkled into a smile. “Secret of the trade, kid. Now, are we going to Walnut, or are we talking about video games all day?”

I laughed. “Not much of a choice, is there?”

Ashley grinned, and Lolly ‘looked’ at me. “Oh, Miranda…” she said, “I thought I’d never hear you laugh again!”

I smiled.

“Ready, ye whippersnappers?” said Kapp’n. “I want to see how the transportation system works here.”

And with that, we were off.

Chapter Twenty-one:

Chugga-chugga-huuummmm… Chugga chugga.

The old-fashioned locomotive made a soft noise. Rover got a free ride. He was quite the celebrity, apparently. Kapp’n was mumbling about the awful service, Celeste was reading a book about stars, Lolly was getting a brail lesson from Ashley, and I was reading something I’d forgotten about- my old diary. It gave me such strong flashbacks, I felt like crying when I’d cried before, and laughing at my old jokes. I read about when I’d first moved to Walnut, about my adventures with Walker, about my fights with Felicity, about my trips to CrystalView. But those were all wiped out with one entry. The last entry, actually. My last ‘normal’ day.

I’ve made up my mind- I’m leaving Walnut. I love it here, but change is good, isn’t it?

I paused. Sometimes change isn’t that great.

I can still visit Walker and Ashley, can’t I?

Oh, how wrong I was!

I think this’ll be a good experience. I’ve grown up a lot, and I need more mature friends than a dog who talks about nothing but peach cobbler. I’m catching a bus tomorrow.

I slammed the book shut, and tried to keep from crying. Crying fake, unrealistic, video game tears. I madly jammed the little book in my bag, then slumped down.

“HAVEN’T YE EVER HEARD OF DRIVING SLOWLY?!?” Kapp’n yelled.

The conductor, a monkey wearing a blue uniform, looked confused.

“AND SINGING SEA CHANTEYS HELPS GIVE YOUR RIDE A HOMEY FEEL!”

I grinned, and remembered something- I was in a video game, and the characters all had scripts. I didn’t hate them for it anymore. Walker would always be my best friend, but someone else like him would come along, someday. In fact, I already had met someone exactly like him, I just didn’t know it at the time.

Bones.

Cleanslatecleanslatecleanslatecleanslatecleansl* * *

The train stopped, and everyone ran off. The sight of fresh, dry , green grass seemed heavenly to me.

“Bo-ones!” I called. I heard a sobbing sound. Bones was sitting next to a tree, crying. “What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I’m lonely,” he choked. “I moved here right before you did, and it’s my first time living alone. I miss my mom,”

“It’s OK,” I said. But he didn’t stop. “I could be your friend,” I added.

His crying slowed down a little. “R-really?” he asked.

“Yup,” I said.

He seemed to perk up. “We’ll be the best of buddies! We can use matching forks when we eat lemon tarts!“

I laughed. “Sure! I think we already have a lot in common- I remember starting out in a new town, with a clean slate.”

Epilogue:


Alyssa ran towards the Wii. Her family just got back from a vacation. “Mom, can I check on Chestnut? I reset before we left, and I need to work on the layout.”

“Sure, Alyssa,” said her mom.

Trent, Alyssa’s little brother, watched her start the game.

“Wonder what Miranda did while you were gone?” he said at last.

Alyssa rolled her eyes. “She’s in a video game, silly. She didn’t do anything!”

Trent shrugged, and left the room.

But as she made the little character walk through the town, that question haunted her:

What did Miranda do while they were gone?


                                                                     ~THE END~