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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 11th day of Celebrating, Yr 21
The Neopian Times Week 57 > Short Stories > Second Chance: MaltaAre's Tale

Second Chance: MaltaAre's Tale

by starhamster42

Evening had fallen. The sun had long since disappeared over the horizon, streaking it only briefly with the vibrant sunset shades of richest purple, red, and yellow before giving way to the deeper blues of twilight.

     In a remote location on the Tyrannian Plateau, a small campfire burned, illuminating a tiny portion of the darkness with its flickering light. Three creatures sat around its glow: a spotted Gelert, a fire Eyrie, and a golden Zafara.

     "Omelette!" the fire Eyrie announced, taking the steaming creation away from the fire and forking it onto his friends' plates.

     Dunari took a large whiff with his keen canine nose and smiled. "What did you forage this time to make it, Blaze - slugs? Poisonous mushrooms?"

     MaltaAre was already halfway done with hers; it had been a long hike that day and she was starving. "Oh, come on, Dune, it tastes fine!"

     This comment was too late to pacify the furious Eyrie, who whirled around and dealt the Gelert a sound smack with the spatula. "Just for that, you'll be washing the plates tonight!"

     "No I won't!" Dunari protested, neatly ducking the next blow. "I washed them last night. It's your turn!"

     MaltaAre forked the last of her food into her mouth and set her plate down, blocking out the squabbles of her two friends and instead staring meditatively into the fire. The campfire flames leaped and danced before her; watching their endless play of light and shadow, the Zafara could understand what had so fascinated the first prehistoric Neopet to see fire.

     The flames licking the crackling wood were constantly in motion, building to form new shapes, shivering apart to create others. And at the centre of the furnace, a spot of pure light, so blindingly white it was almost impossible to look at.

     Even as she stared into the middle of the flames, an old memory, half-forgotten and coated with the dust of time, surfaced in MaltaAre's mind.

***

Light. It was the one thing the young Zafara craved to see; after so many - days? Months? Years? - here, she could feel herself slipping away, like sand through a sieve. The days now all blurred together for her; she could no longer tell nor care when one ended and a new day began here. Her past life? Too painful to think about. All she had left were rapidly fading memories of the outside world.

     How do you explain light, warmth to those who have never experienced it? Many of the other pets in the metal cages around her knew of no other existence than their life in the Pound, had never felt anything besides the chill of the room, nor seen any light which did not come from the dull electrical lightbulbs overhead.

     MaltaAre longed to tell them of the grassy fields she had once run in outside, the trees she had once climbed - and most of all, the feeling of the sunlight on her back, but deep in her heart, she knew she would only be met with blank, uncomprehending stares.

     She gripped the sleek metal bars of her cage, looking out with that dull gaze so commonly seen in the Pound: the bleak expression that means, I have given up all hope. By leaning forward, the Zafara could see the other Neopets around her, sleeping away the lonely hours under the glare of the lamps.

     Ahead, a little off to her right, was the main door through which Dr_Death would come in occasionally to feed them; it was mainly for owners who wanted to adopt pets, of course, but few ever came this far into the Pound. She longed for a window - even a small one would do - if she could just look outside and see one last bright beam of sunlight, she would feel better. But she knew that was impossible; unless she was adopted, that would never happen.

     The old ache rose up inside her - adopted. A home. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and pushed the feelings away. A great shuddering sigh escaped the young Zafara, echoing her emptiness inside; finally she sank into a deep sleep.

Some time later...

     MaltaAre had lost all track of time; she had been wandering in the dream-fog for what seemed like days. It pressed in upon her from all sides, cold and clammy, always swirling, half-forming shapes before dissipating again.

     Suddenly, without any warning, a bright light appeared in front of her. The light at the end of the tunnel, she thought distantly, but soon reconsidered as it grew brighter, its yellow glow growing in intensity until it was pure white light, burning away the fog to expose a far different landscape. The Zafara stood in a gleaming pillared room constructed of the purest white marble; everything here seemed to glow with inner light. She took a few hesitant steps forward, golden sparks forming every time she put a footpaw down on the polished milky-white floor.

     "Beautiful, isn't it?" a soft voice whispered, echoing slightly around the chamber. Sweet as a Beekadoodle singing, heralding a new day. "My home."

     Home, MaltaAre thought, her heart wrenching involuntarily at the word. She blinked a threatening tear away - and there before her stood a luminous being, a delicate faerie clothed in robes of purest gold.

     "A simple word to bring so much sorrow to your face," the faerie observed, a slight frown coming to her lips. "I have watched you for many days, little one. Do you know what it is you wish for?"

     "I do," she whispered, so softly that her voice was almost inaudible. "All I want is a second chance to gain back what I've lost…"

     The Light Faerie raised MaltaAre's chin and gazed into her brown eyes. Suddenly the green Zafara knew what it meant to live, the hardships and sorrows to overcome, the friendships and happiness to find, but most of all, the ability to watch the sunrise and know that no matter what had happened previously, this was a new day.

     "All will not come easily to you," she said softly. "I foresee many rough times for you, yet there always will be better times ahead. You have seen what can happen if you ruin your gift of life. Are you ready for that second chance?"

     "Yes," the Zafara said, filled with a new determination. "I am ready." The Faerie nodded, then raised her arms. A golden light began to fill the room again, growing ever-brighter, almost white…

     …And the Zafara opened her eyes. She was standing in the centre of the Neopian Marketplace, the metal doors of the Pound at her back. How did I get here? she wondered briefly, and almost in answer, heard the voice of the faerie in the back of her mind: Are you ready for that second chance?

     MaltaAre looked up at the sky, which still held the blue of night. However, even as she watched, it began to lighten; now it was streaked with light pink and yellow. Hopping nimbly onto the ledge of a concrete fountain, the Zafara looked at the horizon.

     The glowing red orb of the sun rose slowly into the sky, tingeing it with vibrant colour. The first shafts of light fell onto the cobblestone streets of the Marketplace and crept slowly forward, illuminating all in their path.

     MaltaAre watched as the first light fell on her fur, turning its dirty green colour to that of pure gold. For long minutes she stood there, feeling the radiance of the sun, fixing the scene firmly in her mind.

     Then, her mind filled with hope and joy for perhaps the first time ever, she hopped down from the fountain and began walking through the beginnings of the early-morning crowd. She had a second chance at life… and was going to make the best of it.

***

MaltaAre smiled at the memory, looking down at her paws. Her fur had remained a golden colour after that first touch of sunlight, and she liked to think it was for a reason: a reminder, of sorts, about life itself.

     To her right she could see Blaze and Dunari still battling over who was going to clean the dishes; the spotted Gelert had found a metal ladle somewhere and was now skilfully parrying the Eyrie's advances.

     With a small grin, MaltaAre hefted the unfinished remains of her omelette in one hand. "Dunari! Blaze!" The two pets stopped fighting and turned, only to get hit in the face by the flying food.

     "I'll get you for that!" they howled, and grabbed their omelettes. Even as she was using her plate as a shield, a quiet part of the gold Zafara's mind was still reflecting. I foresee many rough times for you, yet there always will be better times ahead, the Light Faerie had said. And it was true - the Zafara had experienced many hardships, but always managed to overcome them, one way or another. Being given a second chance was a rare gift, but more precious to her now than anything she could imagine.

     The Zafara knew that she would never give it up carelessly, as she had before. Now she looked forward to each day as a new opportunity, a way to make the best of life, to experience something new with her friends by her side.

The End

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