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The Power of Water


by candykitty

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Jackie ran down the steps of her Neohome and strode out onto the coarse, dry grass; a large blue and white beach towel slung over her shoulder. She looked eagerly towards the coastal areas with her bright blue eyes, which were almost as sparkly as the beautiful ocean itself, and her big pink Acara ears quivered as they sensed the sound of the waves roaring and pounding onto the wet sand.

     "Come on, you guys!" she cried, swiveling back towards the open door of the Neohome. "It's a perfect day for a swim at the beach!"

     "Now, now, Jackie. Don't get impatient," her mother called as she slipped on her sandals in the hallway. "Give us some time to get ready, poppet. We'll be with you very -"

     Before she could say 'soon', a green Kyrii suddenly shot past her and darted outside, looking even more eager than his small sister who waited on the lawn. "Hey Jack! Race you to the shore?" he grinned, grabbing the heavy towel off her shoulder and dumping it on the ground.

     "You bet, Leify!" Jackie yelled, after she had started sprinting as fast as her short legs could carry her.

     The two of them had arrived at the shoreline way before their parents, who caught up about five minutes later, puffing and panting in the Mystery Island heat. "You kids," wheezed their father as he gently placed the picnic basket on the sand. "It's amazing how enthusiastic you are about swimming. Which one of you loves it more?"

     "I think we both love it equally as much, Daddy," Jackie replied as she waded through the shallows and jumped into the deeper water.

     The small red Acara gently glided through the sparkling, salty water, her eyes closed in serenity and her ears upright in happiness. Shoals of tiny fish darted past, and seaweed rippled peacefully, tickling her belly as she floated onward. She was in a world of absolute freedom and warmth, never wanting to rise up again and break through the surface of -

     "Ow! Hey!" Jackie gasped as she was suddenly tugged upright, splashing out of her dreams and back into Neopia. She felt bony paws gripping her shoulders painfully. Someone had interrupted her magical fantasy…

     She twisted her neck around, squinting through the sunlight. It was Leif, grinning like a shark with his tangled fur sopping wet. And the look on his face was so triumphant that his joking, dismissive nature seemed like it had vanished mysteriously.

     "Gotcha, Jackie," he laughed, his copper eyes glinting in a strange way.

     And then he pushed her, thrusting her hard into the water.

     Jackie screamed "No, Leif!" but it was too late. Her older, funny, adventurous brother had pushed her into one of the only places she hated about the seaside they lived by - an extremely strong, immense current.

     Jackie shrieked just before she hit the surface of the swirling water. There was a terrifying wet SPLASH, and she disappeared under.

     The red Acara tried frantically over and over again to struggle back up above the water, but it was no use… the current was dragging her in like a vacuum cleaner… her arms flailed weakly against the weight of the water… her mouth opened to scream, but she only swallowed murky water and choked… her eyes were bulging… and then they were closing as she slipped into unconsciousness… she fell… down… down into nothingness…

     As Jackie slowly descended below, a large figure swam into the scene not far away, looking panicked at what was happening to his daughter. Wasting no time, the blue Gelert cautiously moved closer to the swirling current - and one paw shot out as he grabbed his unaware daughter, just avoiding slipping into the current with her. Tucking her under his arm, the Gelert kicked off back up to the surface of the water.

     *

     "Jackie! Jackie! Wake up!"

     The voice of the Acara's mother rang through her ears like a church bell. Not bothering to suppress a groan as pain spread out all through her soaked body, Jackie blearily opened her eyes to find fuzzy figures towering above her. She shrunk back, warm tears and cold seawater blending together on her cheeks, but as the figures slowly came into focus, she could just make out the frantic face of her mother and the worried, stricken movement of her father.

     When Jackie's mother saw her awaken, she burst into a fresh flood of tears.

     "Oh, Jackie!" she sobbed, wrapping her arms around her daughter. "I w-was so w-w-worried… you could have d-died…" She cried hysterically, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue as she let Jackie go at long last.

     "Sweetie, that current could have sucked you under!" Her father peered at her anxiously, tears also welling in his eyes. "I was so scared of losing you…"

     Jackie felt miserable, seeing her parents crying and hugging each other in sorrow - but her stomach lurched when she saw her brother. The green Kyrii was not crying. He looked scared and shaken instead, his eyes wide with fear and apprehensiveness when he stared her at her, as if he couldn't believe that she was real.

     "Jack… I'm…" His voice trailed off. And then he quavered, "I'm - I'm so sorry… I can't believe what I've done… I… I nearly killed you when… when I pushed you into that current…" He buried his face in his hands, and disappeared from view.

     Jackie did not crane her head to see him leave. Not only because she felt weak, cold and shaky and didn't have the strength to move her body… she had simply not wanted to look at her brother: as Leif was whispering to her, his voice trembling with worry and sorrow, the red Acara had felt a burning sensation in her heart, as if it were really in fire inside her body.

     It was a fiery burning of hatred towards her brother.

Two years later…

     "Come on in, Jack! Water can't hurt you!"

     Yeah, I wish, Jackie thought bitterly as she watched Leif jump about in the water, waving his arms madly at her.

     "I've told you heaps of times; I hate that stuff. NO THANKS."

     But Leif would not drop the subject. With an encouraging smile, the green Kyrii sent water flying everywhere as he duck-dived into the sea. Next thing Jackie knew, he was reappearing from beneath the surface and spraying fistfuls of salt water at her as he waded onto the wet sand.

     "Hey! Cut it out!" she yelped, attempting to shield herself from the downpour. Her brother just laughed and continued to splash her.

     "Leif! Don't overdo it," a female blue Wocky sunbathing on a towel called from further up the beach.

     Between blasts of water, Jackie gaped at her mother. Had she forgotten about 'the incident'? Had her father forgotten about it, too? She didn't need to ponder about her brother, though. It was obvious that he was just an annoying thing that liked to irk her at every opportunity. She groaned as she edged away from the tide and the purposeful water spray.

     After all, wasn't it HIS fault that she had almost drowned two years ago?

     "Lee, come over here and get some sun block," the voice of their father shouted over the roar of the waves. "You'll get sunburned!"

     Ah, thank Fyora, thought Jackie with relief. The perfect time to get away from that boisterous nut.

     However, success did not occur.

     "Aw, Daaaad! Just one more dive! Please?"

     Jackie watched her parents look exasperatedly at each other and sigh. "No, Lee," said their mother firmly. "Don't get another sunburn, like you did just last week. Your skin has just healed from that!"

     "Pleeeaaase?" Leif begged from the shore, putting on his oh-I'm-such-a-good-boy voice. "One more? I'll promise to do the dishes and clean the windows when we get back!"

     Their parents glanced painfully at each other, as if being reluctant to get up from their towels - and their father called back, "All right. Five more minutes."

     The cheek of it! thought the red Acara angrily, watching Leif punch the air. That creep is older than me, and yet he's more spoilt than ever…

     But to Jackie's surprise, her brother didn't continue to splash her with cold salt water. Instead, he jogged across the blazing sand, towards the palm trees bordering the beach - and started clambering up the sandy rock wall that supported the small cliff protruding off the shore. Jackie, startled, looked wildly towards her parents, and saw that they were totally oblivious to what was going on.

     "Are you crazy?" she yelled desperately at Leif. "Get back down here! You know we're not allowed up there!"

     But before she could bawl for their parents, her older brother hoisted himself up onto the peak of the cliff and laughed loudly. "Chill out, sis'! It's not like I'm going to hurt myself or anything," he cried back down at her, dancing around and showing off.

     "But - but…" Jackie began weakly.

     "Look, 'the incident' only happened because you were so careless," Leif shouted from up above. He suddenly didn't seem so fun-loving anymore - his face was serious, he was looking at his sister with dislike… and this was the first time he had mentioned 'the incident' in ages.

     Before Jackie could protest, the Kyrii was speeding off like a hairy green rocket; sand spewing out behind him as his legs became nothing more than blurs; carrying him faster and faster and faster towards the edge of the cliff - Jackie screamed -

     It happened within a matter of seconds. Leif leapt off the edge with a triumphant yell, plummeted downwards, and fell through the ice-cold water with a gigantic SPLASH.

     The red Acara, gaping in horror from the sidelines, let out a gasp. "Leif…!"

     But then she controlled herself. It's okay, she fiercely told herself. Leif is a daredevil. He usually does crazy things like this, and he has never badly injured himself in his life. He knows what he's doing; he'll bob back up to the surface just now and laugh at me again…

     Jackie waited. The gray sea washed up against the wall of the small cliff, as if trying to claw its way up like a cat on a tree. The deafening roar of the waves continued; the very slight breeze tufted her crimson fur to one side - and yet, there was still no sign of her brother. Jackie's heart lurched. What if something really HAD happened to him?

     "Jack, where's Leif? His five minutes is up, and he's meant to be here now to get his sun block!"

     It was her mother. The blue Wocky walked up to her daughter's side and squinted through the sunlight. Menacing waves continued to crash against the cliff wall.

     Jackie could not speak. Her throat was dry.

     "Jack?" She felt a warm paw on her shoulder. "If he's hurt your feelings, I can always talk to you, and -"

     Suddenly her mother shrieked, piercing the warm midday air. All drowsiness swept away from the Acara's mind, to be replaced with concern and alertness, as she looked up at her panicking mother.

     "What is it?" her father asked in surprise, running up towards the two Neopets.

     "Leify… Lee… I asked Jack if she had seen him, and… look, I know it, he's jumped off the cliff!" the Wocky stammered, clutching at her sunhat so hard that it could have torn apart. "And… and -"

     She said nothing. Instead, she pointed one trembling furry finger at the base of the cliff - and Jackie instantly understood.

     Leif had jumped straight into a raging current.

     She had no time to waste. Without even thinking about what she was doing, the red Acara dropped her towel and sped off towards the shore. "Leif!" she yelled frantically, sprinting so fast that she was nearly tripping up in the thick sand. Her father was shouting after her and her mother's screams were audible, but she just ignored them. She needed to get to her brother… he could be swept away under the surface of the water, suffocating…

     "LEIF!" she yelled. "Don't worry, I'm coming to get you - just wait -"

     Jackie ran to the water edge - and immediately yelped, jumping back from the waves as if she had received an electric shock. The water… no, she couldn't go in there - after what happened two years ago -

     But this was her brother, not her fear of water! For all she knew, he could be almost dead, drowning, seeing his own life fade away as he sunk into utter darkness…

     The Acara felt tears sting her eyes. And so, without a second thought, she waded through the wet sand, took a deep breath, and jumped into the freezing ocean.

     It was as if she had just entered the Ice Caves - or worse. A shuddering breath erupted from Jackie's chest as she felt the stinging cold pierce her skin all over, and she swallowed some water. Jackie coughed and spluttered, sending bubbles emitting from her gaping mouth, but struggled to pull herself together - even though she felt like she was inside a nightmare. Feeling sick and far from worried, she hysterically paddled deeper into the world of water.

     She nearly gulped down another terrible helping of seawater as she screamed. There he was, floating lifelessly like a corpse, his eyes closed and his mouth open - her brother, Leif the Kyrii.

     "LEIF!!!" Jackie tried to cry, but only let more water into her mouth instead. Almost gagging with fright, she kicked off towards Leif, arms outstretched. Becoming entangled in some horrible brown seaweed, she watched desperately as her brother slowly sunk, down, down, down into the depths of the ocean… she wasn't going to make it… he wasn't going to make it -

     "NO! Leif! I won't let you die!!!" the Acara suddenly burbled fruitlessly, more bubbles popping out from her mouth. Ignoring the way that she could feel a monster of risk creeping up behind her, casting a shadow over the pair; she grabbed her older brother and, hugging him to her chest, instantaneously paddled upwards, her eyes watering with pain and sorrow… the darkness faded… a bright azure filled the atmosphere once more, and the sun could just be made out through the ceiling of water, shining brightly and giving off glittering patterns across it, like a disco ball…

     The red Acara broke out from the surface of the water, gasping for breath, her face pale and sweaty. She clasped her brother to her chest and stared blearily up towards the beach - for there, wading ruthlessly through the shallows and bellowing frantically, were her parents.

     "JACKIE! LEIF!"

     She felt dizzy and sick to her stomach as she was embedded in a squeezing hug given by her mother, who would refuse to let her go. Not bearing to watch the death of Leif, Jackie closed her eyes and cried, praying to the Space Faerie above that this dreadful day would end… that she could die too, along with her brother.

     *

     "Jackie? Are you awake?"

     No, the Acara thought sullenly, pulling the duvet covers over her head. I don't want to wake up ever again. I don't even want to attend the funeral…

     "Jackie, I know you're awake," her mother said softly, stroking the tip of her daughter's ear, which was sticking out from underneath the sheets.

     "Leave me alone," Jackie mumbled into the mattress. "I don't want to hear about what happened. Can you please let me sleep some more, Mum?" She sleepily pulled the covers off her head and looked dolefully up at her mother - who, for some strange reason she couldn't think of, was not crying.

     The blue Wocky looked surprised. "Don't you want to see your brother? He's awake too, you know… he's perfectly fine."

     Now it was Jackie's turn to look totally bewildered.

     Leif?

     Awake?

     "He's alive?" Jackie asked excitedly, ripping the sheets from her body and sitting upright. "Leif is ALIVE???"

     Her mother gave a glad smile. "Yes," she murmured, giving her daughter a gentle pat on the back. "Go on, get up. He really wants to see you, darling… he's in the dining room."

     Jackie could not wait! She leapt out of bed, hurtled down the stairs, zipped around the corner - and -

     "Leify!"

     "Jack!"

     They both flew into each other's arms. After Jackie had wiped the sleep from her eyes and Leif had abandoned his warm towel on the floor, they were happily blabbering things to each other and hugging tighter than ever - but very soon they were both crying with joy, not letting go and nearly falling over with emotion. Their father, the blue Gelert, smiled and dabbed at his eye with a tissue as he watched the two siblings embrace each other.

     "Oh, Leify Leif - I thought… I thought you had…" Jackie sobbed some more, not able to say the word.

     Her brother smiled and ruffled her fringe, tears silently pouring down his own cheeks. "I know. I thought that, too," he whispered. "But, Jack… have you realized what a great deed you have done?"

     "I saved your life," Jackie mumbled hoarsely, sniffling.

     "That's right," the Kyrii replied softly, still smiling. "If you hadn't overcome your fear of water and had just left me… well, I probably would have survived anyway, because Mum and Dad were there too, weren't they? One of them would have come down to get me. But… Jack, I'm really proud of you for saving my life anyway, and realizing that water is only harmful if you're either careless or pushed into the danger by somebody else."

     He paused. "Which reminds me…" Suddenly a fresh flow of tears spilled out of Leif's eyes. He looked at his sister miserably, and hugged her tighter. "Look, I… I am really, really sorry about what happened two years ago… and this time I mean it more than ever. I shouldn't have done it. I should have known better than to push you in… and now here I am, carelessly letting myself nearly drown…"

     But Jackie smiled confidently up at the Kyrii. She lifted a small pink paw, and wiped the tears away from his cheeks.

     "Don't worry about it, Leif. Don't you worry about it."

The End

 
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