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An Island Christmas


by laurelinden

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The white Draik closed his eyes, smiling faintly. It would be cold, now, in Terror Mountain; just cold enough for water to freeze. Snow would be funneling from the clouds in millions of white eddies – not the icy, bitter snow of the month of Sleeping, but the gentle, peaceful snow of Celebrating. It would swirl down in gusts of snappy wind to rest in silent drifts across the ground.

    The wind would be howling outside, now, in Terror Mountain, while all of its creatures sat snugly in their fire-warmed, fire-lit homes. There was a coziness created by that wind – knowing that no matter how loud its wailed and its wined, how persistent its frosty breaths on the windows, they would be safe inside, sipping mugs of hot chocolate and humming carols late into the night.

    Oh, how beautiful it would be tomorrow, on Christmas morning, when the snow stopped. The Draik's smile widened as he visualized the silent world, and its untouched, untrodden whiteness. New snow could do that – bring a purity to the world around it; replenish the holiness of the world for that brief, eternal morning.

    How brightly the sun would rise over the mountains – how delightfully orange it would paint the snow, flushing warm light onto the drifts, the piles. The lights of Christmas trees would shine through the windows: lights of red, of green, of blue, of white. Eager eyes would snap open within the homes, shining with the excitement that only Christmas morning could bring.

    The white Draik opened his own eyes, then, and his smile faded. The warm, humid air seemed to rub against his skin like a sponge through the open window; the sky was heavy and dark with rainclouds. It had already been raining for a week, and showed no signs of slowing now.

    After all, the Draik reminded himself, the month of Celebrating was rainy season in Mystery Island.

    His heart ached as he looked at the tropics around him. Some agile pet had scurried up the trunk of a palm tree and hung lights there; they looked ludicrous, dangled around its broad leaves and wrapped haphazardly along its tall, rough trunk. The rain on the ground made the earth soggy with mud, and ran in brown torrents down the roads.

    Turning from the window, the Draik glanced in disgust at the Cocoa Juppie plant in the middle of his house, feebly strung with lights. They looked almost as ridiculous there as they did on the palm outside.

    Why had his owner insisted they come here? How could there be Christmas without snow, without real Christmas trees? How could grass-skirted natives sing the Christmas songs? They knew nothing of Christmas. Christmas on the Island was a parody, a mockery.

    The ringing of the doorbell jarred the Draik from his miserable thoughts. It would be his owner returning now with some of her Island friends. He sighed, and cleared his face of expression. He was not talented enough to act happy, but he'd decided long ago that he would not ruin his owner's Christmas by being sullen. It was her choice to come here, and he should not complain.

    He opened the door, and a rush of laughter greeted him, along with a gust of humid, sticky air. Shuddering, he closed the door behind the breathless three who bustled in – his owner, and an Island Uni and Yurble, both wearing the bright flowers famous on the Island. Oh, if only they'd be wearing hats and coats, with their cheeks flushed with cold...

    “Brandon, this is Konde,” his owner said to him, gesturing to the Uni, “and Turi-ne,” she added, pointing to the Yurble. Each Neopet bowed in the Island fashion when introduced.

    The Draik forced his lips to curl into a smile. “Nice to meet you,” he muttered.

    None of them seemed to take notice of his less-than-friendly attitude, and continued their chatter as they swept themselves off to the sitting room. “Why don't you get us some hot chocolate, Brandon?” suggested his owner, arranging some pillows on the couch to make room for the guests. “And please close that window; Fyora knows we're wet enough already!”

    The Draik stared at her in confusion. “Hot chocolate? But it's not even cold outside.”

    His owner laughed at her mistake. “I almost forgot, with all of the Christmas lights everywhere. After all those years of living in Terror Mountain, hot chocolate seems to go right along with the holiday! But you're right, here we've got to try something else. How about some coconut slushies?”

    Konde and Turi-ne made appreciative noises at this suggestion, so Brandon turned to the kitchen to mix up some Christmas coconut slushies. Just perfect, he thought to himself as he dug out the ingredients and went to shut the window against the rain.

    His owner and her guests were humming Christmas songs when the slushies were ready. After serving them, the Draik sat stiffly down next to the Yurble.

    At first he tried not to listen at all – the idea of singing Christmas songs with the warm rain outside, sipping coconut slushies, was almost too much to bear. But the Draik found the music hard to tune out, and the notes stirred his memory, bringing up images of his beloved Terror Mountain, so many long miles away. He saw again the snow falling across the ground, the tall proud Christmas trees, the lighted windows...

    After a moment he realized he was singing, too. He stopped himself as soon as he came to his senses, of course, but the idea that the song had made him forget that he was not in the right land for Christmas surprised him nonetheless.

    Konde was grinning at him. “You have a nice voice,” she said kindly.

    Flushing a light shade of pink, Brandon muttered his thanks and proceeded to begin a staring contest with his slushie. When they started the next song, he found himself singing again, and a little more loudly than before.

    It was many carols later that his owner yawned, stretching her arms far above her head, and glanced at her watch. The window was dark, now, and the palm tree outside was invisible in the night shadows – only the lights could be seen, as if they hovered high above the ground by magic.

    “Time we go to sleep, I think,” said his owner. “It's late – we don't want to be tired on Christmas morning.”

    Brandon finished his slushie in one coconut-flavored gulp, noticing with an inward smile as he did so that it was the same white as snow. He set his dish in the sink and curled up on the couch, in front of the Cocoa Juppie plant, narrowing his eyes so that the Christmas lights blurred together in long lines of red, of green, of blue, of white. The fruits that hung heavy from the plant's branches smelled so good... like hot chocolate...

    As his mind began to cloud with sleep, the Draik noticed that the rain had slowed from its rushing to a slow and steady beat. It pounded lightly on the roof like the sound... like the sound of what?

    Half-asleep, he smiled. It pounded on the roof like the sound of reindeer-hooves.

The End

 
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