Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 142,874,434 Issue: 200 | 22nd day of Swimming, Y7
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Wanderlust: Part One


by extreme_fj0rd

--------

It was a warm summer afternoon in Neopia Central; many pets and owners were out on their front yards, playing games or just relaxing in lawn chairs. One family was playing at lawn bowls; another was just starting a game of Tag. Laughter rang in the air as small pets ran in circles on the neatly-trimmed grass, trying to catch up with each other.

      Jamie trotted down the sidewalk, waving to his friends. The red Kyrii had a leather satchel slung over his shoulder; it swung with the rhythm of his stride, brushing his fur ever so lightly as it sailed past.

      He glanced down at it and smiled. Fridays were his pay days at his job in the Food Shop, and the small bag of Neopoints clinked pleasantly in the bottom of his bag.

      The Kyrii slowed down as he neared his house, and walked at a normal pace up the path to the porch. He unlocked the front door with a key from his satchel and pushed it open, withdrawing the key from the lock as he did so.

      "Annalise?" he called, stepping inside. He kicked the door shut absently and wandered into the kitchen, where he dumped his satchel on the table. "Annalise?"

      No answer--perhaps she was out somewhere, at a friend's house--but a faint whispering nagged at him, and the floorboards up on the second floor squeaked like someone was walking on them. He left his bag on the table and walked slowly up the stairs.

      "Annalise?" he asked again at the top of the steps, but there was still no reply. But the murmuring was louder now, and he pushed her door open sharply.

      The brown Aisha was pacing her room, door to bed, bed to wall, wall to door; and, as he came in, she turned abruptly. Her eyes widened, but she didn't speak; didn't even say his name.

      He frowned at her. "Annalise, are you--" Okay, he was going to add, but he couldn't. Even while he spoke to her, she continued to pace.

      Her brown paws padded the bare floorboards softly, and Jamie closed his eyes. Annalise was usually calm and collected, never this restless. She was the stable one, the one who'd kept them together when their owner left.

      "Annalise," he whispered. "Oh, Annalise."

      He still had his eyes closed, but the squeaks of the floor told him that she was still pacing, a wild animal cooped up in a small room. Except that she wasn't wild; not usually.

      The Kyrii opened his eyes again, wide, and watched his sister for a long moment. Her ears twitched slightly, as if she was aware of his inspection, but she didn't speak.

      Her front paws were twitching too, he noticed, which reminded him of something, something that was just out of reach...

      "The Jitters!" he cried triumphantly, and Annalise turned towards him once more, her eyes wide and startled.

      "Y-you stay here," he said, his voice shaking. "I'll go get the medicine--okay?" He backed towards the door, scared suddenly. If Annalise could become this roving, captured monster, what might he do should he catch the disease? He didn't know if it was transmitted any way, but he didn't want to find out.

      Jamie took the stairs two at a time on his way down; he snatched their hoard of Neopoints from their hiding place and ran into the kitchen. The Kyrii shoved the bag into his satchel and swung it over his shoulder; then he dashed out of the front door, only pausing to close it, and vaulted the fence into the next yard over.

      The lone occupant of the yard, a blue Mynci, hurriedly stood up when Jamie swung over the fence.

      "What's wrong, James?" the Mynci asked, after a quick look at his friend's face.

      "Annalise," the Kyrii gasped. "Sick. I have to go buy her the cure--would you watch her?"

      The Mynci nodded.

      "Thanks, Thomas. I owe you one," Jamie added, and ran towards the center of Neopia Central and the Shop Wizard.

     The line seemed impossibly long; Jamie shifted his weight from paw to paw impatiently. To his relief, it didn't take nearly as long as he'd thought it might, and he stepped up to the wizard Jubjub after only ten minutes.

      "What would you like me to find for you today?" the Shop Wizard asked, peering at the Kyrii.

      "Uh--" He realized that he didn't know the name of the cure for the Jitters. "D'you know... what the medicine is for Jitters?"

      "Potion of Containment," the Jubjub said. "1295 Soup Alley. That way," he added, and pointed a large, orange foot.

      "Thanks!" Jamie called, and then he was off again, pounding down streets paved with cobblestones that threatened to trip him up but somehow never did.

     "1295... 1295," he muttered, scanning the numbers above the shop doors. "1295!" He crossed the narrow street with just a few strides and pushed the door open. A bell tinkled somewhere in the back of the shop, announcing his arrival to the owner of the shop.

      "Hi, welcome to the shop," a girl's voice called from the back room. "Take a look around, I'll be right out."

      "Okay," Jamie called back, gasping a bit from his run down Soup Alley. He peered around at the shelves, which were stuffed full of items of every size and description. "Hey, would you happen to know--"

      "Hmm?" A door swung open on the back wall, and a teenaged girl stepped out into the area behind the counter. "What're you looking for?"

      "Potion of Containment," the Kyrii said; he'd nearly caught his breath by this time.

      "I'm sure I have one of those," she muttered. "I think it's on this shelf," she added in a normal tone, pointing. "Here, I'll help look."

      Together they went through the books, plushies, and keychains on the shelf and eventually found the potion. It was in a clear glass bottle shaped almost like a tall, skinny Gebmid; the potion itself was a rather ominous maroon color. But the cork was securely in the mouth of the bottle, and there was a rope wrapped around it--presumably for carrying it with--and if it would cure Annalise, Jamie didn't care what color it was. It could be slime green, for all he cared.

      "How much is it?" he asked. The girl consulted a small tag hanging off the rope.

      "Fifty-five thousand," she said.

      "What?" he cried. That was nearly all of their savings for the year.

      But Annalise was back at the house, pacing and pacing, a caged feral animal...

      He reluctantly upended the bag of Neopoints on the counter and sorted out the money.

      "Thanks," she said with a smile and a nod.

      He just nodded and put the bottle in his satchel, along with the remaining Neopoints. He had to get back to Annalise; he just had to.

      The Kyrii managed a calm walking pace until he was out of sight of the shop; then he ran.

      "Annalise!" he called, banging the door open and dashing in. "Annalise!" He didn't bother to stop in the kitchen, but ran straight for the stairs, still yelling, "Annalise!"

      He only stopped when he came to her room and there was no Annalise, no brown Aisha wearing away the floorboards pacing back and forth. He shook his head, sure his eyes were playing tricks on him, but the room remained what it was: empty.

      Jamie fell to his knees. Where could she be? Where, where, where? He nearly didn't hear Thomas's approach up the stairs; as it was, he only heard his friend's pawsteps on the very last steps. The Kyrii turned his head with an effort.

      "Annalise?"

      Thomas shook his head. "I--I'm sorry, Jamie. I couldn't stop her. She ran out while I was in the kitchen, making tea. By the time I realized she was gone..."

      "It was too late," Jamie said numbly. From some long-forgotten science textbook the description of Jitters came back to him:

      If you notice that your pet runs around constantly and just can't seem to sit still to sleep, eat or do anything, it might have this disease.

      "Annalise," he said softly, and then, louder, "How long? How long has she been gone?" He twisted his head up to see Thomas's face.

      The Mynci glanced at the clock on the wall of Annalise's empty room. "Nearly twenty minutes, now," he said sadly.

      But his friend's words put new energy into Jamie; if she'd only been gone twenty minutes, then there was still hope. He rose from the floor and dusted off his knees.

      "I'm going after her," he said quietly. Thomas didn't argue; nor did he offer to come along. But then, Annalise was Jamie's sister; the Mynci didn't know her well at all.

      "You have to take some food," the Mynci offered into the silence that followed. "Do you have anything--I could get you something from our pantry, my owner's out--"

      Jamie shook his head. "I have some omelette," he said. "Goodbye, Thomas. I'll be back after I find Annalise."

      Thomas nodded gravely; suddenly he embraced his friend. "Good luck, Jamie." After a moment they both let go, and the Mynci managed a smile. "She went north," he said, and pointed a paw.

      "Thanks," Jamie said softly. He walked slowly down the stairs and out the front door, which still stood wide open. Thomas looked after him for a long moment; he shivered, caught by the feeling that he might never see his friend again. Don't be silly, he told himself, and went out, closing the door securely behind him.

To be continued...

 
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