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As the Clouds Clear: Part One


by puppy200010

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Note: This series is a sequel to the series When the Weather is Grey, published in issues 217-219.

"And how does this make you feel? Do these events anger you?"

     Nilika sat with the same Green Gelert who had been monitoring her progress since the island. She'd recently been undergoing some counseling, and it was appearing to help some, even though Nili was fully sick of being asked how she felt.

     No one could understand why she always seemed so upset now. They'd approach her and ask, "Why so sad?" without noticing her grey coloring. Nili would try to convince them that, no, she wasn't feeling depressed, and she was really quite happy. The response to that was almost always the same. "Well... If you say so..." they'd say unconvincingly, and they'd walk away. Frequently Nili wished that she could become shadow again, instead of the dreary grey that she was covered in from head to foot, but her owner had already made it quite clear to her that she just didn't have the neopoints for it now, and she was saving up for it as fast as she possibly could.

     Since her departure from the island, Nili had been frantically trying to research information about its mysterious location, but she had found nothing. Not that she was surprised by that either, but Nili figured that it couldn't hurt to try. She had even already completed a short list of what she did know about the island to help her research. So far, it read:

  1. It's an island.

2. It never stops raining on this island.

3. Pets who stay on the island long enough turn grey.

4.

     Nili looked up from the list in her lap and sighed. She hadn't been able to think of an item for number four. Three items- that was all. Three pieces-no, three specks- of information to use to piece together the puzzle! Nili's goal seemed impossible.

     The Gelert was asking her more questions now, but her mind was too occupied to answer. His voice simply mashed together into one long droning noise. As she normally did when she was thinking, she turned to stare out the window. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted something. It was a Blue Tuskaninny, walking down the street! Completely forgetting that the Gelert was there, she jumped up and bolted out the door and down the building's hallways.

     "Hey! Hey you!" Nili shouted as she sprinted down the street after the Tuskaninny. The pace of the pet seemed to quicken as she shouted. Once the Tuskaninny was within reach, she took a strong leap off the pavement, tackling the pet.

     "Get off!" whined the voice of the startled but completely uninjured pet.

     "Oh, you're not-not him..." mumbled Nili as she inspected the pet at a closer range. Disappointed, she stepped aside and let him go.

     He ran off, yelling, "You crazy Wocky!"

    ***

     "Nilika." There was a tense pause. "Nilika!" More silence. Nili liked the silence. In fact, she was ignoring the doctor just to create it. "Nilika," started the doctor a third time, "why did you go and chase that poor Tuskaninny? What are you trying to find? Or who?" He slammed his paws down onto the top of his wooden desk. He was certain by now that she wasn't going to answer his questions. Suddenly, it dawned on him. He walked over to Nili and placed both of his paws on her shoulders. "Oh, I know who you're looking for! You're looking for the Blue Tuskaninny who helped you around on the island, aren't you? You shouldn't be looking for him, Nilika!"

     "Why?" Her voice, sharp and sudden, interrupted the doctor.

     "Because, Nilika! You told me he didn't exist! You told me he was a figment of your imagination!" He shook her shoulders, trying to make his words settle in. "This is very disappointing to me, Nilika," said the doctor, releasing his grasp on her shoulders and walking over to a large window in the opposite wall. "We were making so much progress, and now, it seems that we're losing the foundation we worked on.

     "The worst part is," continued the doctor, facing away from Nili, "that you know what you're doing. You know-and I know-that the Blue Tuskaninny never did and never has existed. I know because you told me yourself! He approached you while you were on this island and told you he wasn't real! It was all something your mind invented."

     "It wasn't on the island," she said clearly.

     "Where did it happen, then?"

     "I...I-" She struggled to remember. "It didn't happen on the island; it happened as I was leaving."

     "Good. This is good," assured the doctor. "What else do you know or remember about him?"

     "He was in a painting in a village- the same village that he saved me from."

     "You mean the one you saved yourself from," he corrected. "If you don't mind," the doctor said, grabbing a pen and clipboard, "describe this village to me."

     Calmly, Nili answered the question. The doctor kept a steady stream of questions going to Nili, but released her after a half hour for a lunch break.

     "How's her progress coming?" asked the doctor's assistant, poking her head in the doorway.

     "Well..." The doctor trailed off. "Let me just say that some of her answers to questions I've asked her haven't exactly made sense.

     "Like, for example," the doctor said, immediately rambling on to explain. "I asked her what this 'island' looked like. You'll never guess what she told me!"

     "What did she tell you?"

     "Her description matched that of Mystery Island exactly! It's absolutely preposterous! I've never seen a case like this in my whole career!"

     "How do you know she's not lying, though?"

     The doctor stared at his assistant. "How many tribes or strange, grey pets have you seen running around Mystery Island?"

     "Well." The assistant shrugged. "I haven't seen any tribes or any grey pets on Mystery Island, but I did see this other grey pet-a Draik-on Terror Mountain just last week!"

     "You what?!" shouted the doctor in disbelief. He certainly hoped that his whole office wasn't starting to go nutty on him. "Did you get his name? His address? Maybe we should get the two together, to help work through some group counseling."

     The assistant nodded. "Yes, I've got his name and address. I'll go get them for you."

    ***

     "Another grey pet?" Nili asked skeptically.

     "Yes!" said the doctor, smiling broadly. "We'd like you to meet him! He's supposed to be arriving here from Terror Mountain any minute now!"

     Almost as if on cue, there was a quiet knocking on the door, and a sad-looking grey Draik strode into the room. "Is this the room of Dr. Gelert?" asked the Draik.

     "Yes, yes," the doctor said warmly. After a brief pause of silence, the Gelert got up. "Well, I guess I'll just leave you two alone for a few minutes to meet each other."

     Silence still filled the room. The Draik shifted his weight and quietly gazed around the room. "The island-were you on the island?" Nili asked, finally breaking the everlasting silence.

     Even as he answered, the Draik still didn't make eye contact. "Yes," he said bitterly. "For longer than a sane pet should." He turned his head to look at her. "My assumption is that you were there as well?"

     "Unfortunately." Tension still hung in the air between the two. In an attempt to break it, she introduced herself. "I'm Nili."

     "Jake." Finally there was eye contact. "I was on the island for six months, trapped there against my will. My memory of my life before the island is almost completely gone from my mind. I've only come back from the island recently."

     "Same with me," she mumbled. "Well, at least part of that. I was only stranded on the island for three days; I can't imagine being there for six months. However, my past memories are also faded, and I've been back from the island for no more than a month." She attempted to change the subject, since Jake seemed to be slightly uncomfortable. "Any siblings?"

     "Nah..." He shook his head. "I've always been an only pet. My owner must have been a wreck without me when she noticed I was gone. I'm almost surprised that she didn't just go and get a new pet to replace me. Six months is a long time to go petless."

     "Six months is a long time to do anything!" Even though the topic of the island appeared to make him uncomfortable, Nili still couldn't help but ask, "How recently have you come back from the island?"

     Jake picked up a random book off a shelf and paged through it. "I got back last weekend," he replied, avoiding Nili's gaze again.

     Last weekend? Wouldn't that have meant that both he and I were on the island at the same time? Nili wondered. She remembered being around most of the island the first day, but she didn't remember seeing him anywhere. She couldn't even recall seeing any Grey Draiks among the "others" once she had been captured. "Where did you stay?"

     "I stayed in this one cave... It was back in the woods a little bit, but if you came out of the forest and walked down the beach, you had a view of a cliff. On this cliff, every morning, they'd--"

     "What?! That's impossible!" shouted Nili, interrupting him. He had stayed in her cave? How was that possible? Did the island have two identical sides, and Nili lived on one while Jake lived on the other?

     Jake gave her a puzzled stare. "What? What's impossible?"

     She opened her mouth to explain, but she could hear the doctor's claws clicking against the tiles in the hallway just outside the room. "I'll meet you later to explain," she promised as the doctor walked back through the door with a cup of hot coffee in his paw.

To be continued...

 
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