Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 112,409,164 Issue: 224 | 20th day of Sleeping, Y8
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Today and Every Day


by neo_star_queen

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He fell asleep.

     In the morning, pale sunlight filled the room. It wasn't too hard for the beams to enter; the curtains were made of white cloth, after all. The light fell onto a lump in a bed, a pet burrowed under his blankets. 'Get up,' giggled the light, nudging him.

     "I am up," came the muffled reply. The soft red blanket was thrown off. Two chocolate feet hit the carpeted floor, and a brown Yurble sat upright, rubbing his eyes sleepily. He winced as the sunlight jabbed at his closed eyelids, begging to get in. 'Come on,' the rays whined.

     "I should change those curtains," he yawned. "A darker colour would do, I think. Maybe dark green."

     He got to his feet and peered into the mirror. A sleepy heart-shaped face gazed back- but it wasn't fair to judge people by their morning faces. The middle-aged Yurble's wide eyes were usually energetic.

     He reached for a comb from his bedside table, only the comb wasn't there. Strange. He knew he'd put it there yesterday… or had he? "Actually, I can't seem to remember where I put it," he said out loud, befuddled. But then that happened a lot. He always seemed to lose things.

     The Yurble thought for a moment, his brow furrowed, and then he chuckled. "Oh well! I can always buy a new one. Right now, I have to get to work."

     His mane tangled and messy, the Yurble exited his small house and looked both ways before crossing the street. A young Poogle on a bike waved at him merrily. The Yurble waved back, although he had no idea who the Poogle was. Strangers were just friends waiting to be made.

     It was a nice morning. The air was crisp and fresh, the sun a small white circle in the sky. The air was bluish-grey, and cloudless. Light wafts of air strew fallen red, orange and brown leaves across the Yurble's path.

     It was a short walk to the health food shop where the Yurble worked. Ignoring the 'closed' sign on the front door, the pet walked into the shop. His boss sometimes forgot to turn around the sign in the morning.

     Ambling up to the counter, the Yurble waved at an elderly green Quiggle who was washing some pears. "Morning, Mr. Quinton," he said brightly.

     Quinton looked up, and seeing the Yurble, he sighed. "Good morning, Alvin. You didn't have to come to work today," he said kindly. "It's Sunday, you see."

     "Is it?" asked Alvin the Yurble, blinking in surprise. "Why, I had no idea!" He chuckled. "Time does fly fast."

     "Yes it does." Quinton smiled sincerely for a second, and then he sighed again. "Would you like a pear?" he asked, holding the fruit up.

     "Don't mind if I do," replied Alvin. He reached across the counter and took a pear. It was crisp and fresh. Like the air, Alvin noted. Only, air wasn't sweet like pears were. Or was it?

     The door swung open and a stick-like young Nimmo was chaperoned into by the shop by his red bike. He took off his helmet and waved with one long arm. "Hi, grandpa, hi, Alvin. I thought the shop was closed today? It's Saturday, right? Or did I lose track of the time again?"

     "Time does move awfully fast," Alvin chimed in, taking another bite of pear. "I was just saying that."

     "The shop is closed today," Quinton confirmed, "it's Sunday. Come help me stock the aisles for tomorrow, Billy."

     "It's too early," the Nimmo complained, swinging his helmet through the air dangerously. "I don't wanna help with the shop, grandpa, I just want to play. Alvin, let's go walk around."

     The Yurble looked up hopefully. "Well, certainly. I don't have work today, do I, Mr. Quinton?"

     Quinton observed him for a moment, and then smiled and waved his hand dismissively. "No, go on. I'll mind the shop." He picked up a rag and started to clean the counter.

     Alvin watched him for a moment, thinking hard. There was something wrong about leaving Mr. Quinton in the shop without help, but Alvin couldn't quite place his finger on it, so he ran out the door with Billy the Nimmo. Mr. Quinton was old and experienced. He could handle the shop.

     "Let's play catch, Alvin," said Billy, running through the fallen leaves excitedly, his bike left forgotten in the health food shop. "I've got a new ball. Or let's go swimming; it's not too cold today. We could play with these marbles I found; we could make ice cream-"

     "There's so much that we can do!" exclaimed Alvin, panting a bit as he struggled to keep up with the lively Nimmo child. He began to think of all the fun things that they could do as well, and failed to notice as a tall blue Bori waved at him. And if someone had asked Alvin later, what had that Bori looked like? Well, he was tall. He was blue.

     Quinton looked up as yet another person entered his supposedly closed shop, and he saw a fit male Bori walk in on his hind legs, his tail unusually short, his snout rather long, his fur darker than a Sniddberry, lighter than the dark colour associated with winter evenings, or maybe late autumn, if winter was too far away for most people to remember. But Quinton could remember. He'd seen many winters.

     "Morning, Dhaster," Quinton greeted the Bori. "The shop is closed today."

     "Oh, I know." The Bori looked around the shop. "Would you like some help stocking for tomorrow?" Dhaster didn't work in the shop. He also had a rather busy schedule for the day. But offering assistance was the right thing to do; Quinton, although healthy for his age, was getting on in years.

     "That would be greatly appreciated," said Quinton. "One can't be doing too much work in the morning, you know, unless one is young and fit like yourself."

     "Or your grandson," laughed Dhaster, as he began to move a few crates. "And by the way, that was Alvin that I just saw leave the shop, right? Was he just visiting, or did he come to work by accident?"

     "The latter," sighed Quinton, still washing fruits. "He did yesterday, as well."

     Dhaster unloaded a box of apples and noted, "Rather poor memory that chap has."

     Quinton looked up sharply. "Dhaster, do you not know of Alvin's condition?"

     The Bori looked confused as he turned away from a shelf to face the elderly Quiggle. "I am still rather new in town. I don't know anyone too well yet. Umm… condition?"

     Quinton stared at the Bori for a moment, as if sizing him up. Then he set a basket of celery in the sink and came around the counter, drying his hands on a towel.

     "Alvin has an unusual problem which is noticeable quite quickly, although not at first glance." As he spoke, the Quiggle gazed at Dhaster thoughtfully. "His memory is so bad that it cripples him."

     "Is it a disease?" asked Dhaster in concern.

     "Not quite. Well… I suppose you could call it that. He started to lose his memory at around age 9. I know; he's lived here all his life in his one little town. I've watched him grow up, or rather, not grow up. When he goes to sleep it's like his memories are reset; he forgets nearly everything about the day."

     "He forgets about his entire day?" Dhaster repeated, a perplexed look on his face.

     "Not all of it. Sometimes he remembers certain things. It seems to be random. Half of the time he remembers new people that he meets. Once he remembered a present someone gave him… another time, a story I told him about Faerieland… on one occasion, the price of a sandwich he bought, or it might've been a jam pastry… I don't remember, but if you ask him, he could tell you. He hasn't got many other memories to confuse it with."

     Dhaster was setting his crate slowly on the floor. "Everything? He just… forgets? At the end of the day, all his memories, the people he meets, the events of the day, if half of Neopia froze over, he would just forget?"

     "There's about a twenty-five percent chance he would remember," verified Quinton. "He can remember his life up to the age of nine, and after that, he loses it."

     Before the Bori could answer, the door swung open again. Billy ran back inside, sweets nearly spilling out of his hands. "Grandpa, where's my bike?!" he shouted.

     "And where are your manners?" responded Quinton, nudging his head towards Dhaster.

     "Can you pleeeease tell me where my bike is?" groaned Billy in exasperation. "Oh, hi, Dhaster! Don't you have that thing to go to? That job interview, or whatev- Hey, there's my bike!" He grabbed the bike roughly by its handles and ran outside. "Let's go, Alvin!"

     "Am I keeping you from something, Dhaster?" asked Quinton.

     "No, it's alright. Although I should probably get going now, I don't want to be late. Thank you for… um… telling me about Alvin, Mr. Quinton."

     "It's no problem. Good luck with your interview."

     Dhaster walked to the door and stepped outside. Alvin and Billy were standing there, Alvin waiting as Billy got on his bike.

     "Remember to wear your helmet, Billy," Dhaster reminded him with a smile.

     "Oh, right. Sure." The Nimmo stuck his helmet on his head carelessly.

     About to leave, the Bori turned around again. "Bye, Alvin," he said.

     Alvin looked confused. He stared at Dhaster for a few seconds, and then said slowly, "Um, bye."

     Dhaster faked a smile and went on his way.

     Alvin stared at his back. This was the second time a stranger had greeted him. Or maybe there had been a third time… or was it four? It all seemed rather hazy.

     "Let's go, Alvin!" repeated Billy, cycling away. Forgetting his thoughts, Alvin hurried to keep up.

     Meanwhile, Dhaster was waiting in the front office of the Kadoatery. Actually, he hated Kadoaties. Couldn't stand their constant mewing. They were pretty greedy creatures too.

     The Bori shifted in his seat to allow another job applicant to pass him. Dhaster really didn't want this job. But… he had responsibilities. He still had a small family to feed, and there weren't many open jobs in this quieter part of Neopia Central, especially for the new guy in town. Until he built a reputation, he'd have to make do with the less pleasant jobs. There were people depending on him. He couldn't be selfish.

     'Only children can be selfish,' Dhaster reminded himself as he waited. The applicant before him was taking a long time. Maybe the interviewers liked him. 'Only children can do whatever they want without considering the consequences.'

     ***

     "Wooooaaaah!" The bike hurtled its way down the hill at mach speed. It was planning to set a new world record, and the forecast looked bright. The bike only hoped that its wheels wouldn't catch fire from the friction.

     "Too fast!" shouted Billy, clutching the handlebars as tight as he could. "Help!"

     Alvin stared after the racing bicycle, panting and wheezing heavily, his paws on his knees. He wanted to help, he really did, but how was he supposed to stop the bike? There had to be a way. Think, think!

     "Oh, what are those kids up to?" A motherly-like yellow Scorchio in a pale pink apron stepped out of a nearby café, a tray of cookies in her paws. She set the tray on the table and shielded her eyes, squinting into the cold, bright afternoon.

     "Well, there's Alvin," chuckled a Pteri sitting at the table.

     "Oh goodness, and there's Billy. He's going to crash into something. He's not riding his bike properly." The Scorchio clucked her tongue. "Proscan, will you watch these for me? Poor Billy, he looks scared out of his wits."

     She marched across the road and in one movement, had the handlebars to the bike clamped in her paws. Her wings beat against the air, pulling backwards, as her feet skid across the pavement. Finally the bike came to a stop. World record. Broken. It would take more than a bucket of ice cream to get over this one.

     "What do you think you're doing, Billy?" asked the Scorchio sternly. She wiped her paws on her apron as Billy tumbled off his bike and landed in a heap on the floor.

     "Aunt Sadie! Why didn't you do that earlier? I could've crashed!" Billy whined.

     "Oh, you kids! You're always complaining about something!" Sadie put her paws on her hips. "Just be glad I bothered helping you at all. You'll have completely forgotten about this in ten minutes."

     "My bike's wheels are all weird!" groaned Billy, checking the damage on his bike.

     Still panting, Alvin caught up to the two. "I got here as fast as I could!" he said. "I'm sorry, Billy. Are you okay?"

     "Yeah, I'm okay," said Billy, waving his hand quickly. "Are those cookies, Aunt Sadie?"

     Without waiting for an answer, the Nimmo was on his way to the café. Alvin and Sadie followed him. "You can only have one!" called Sadie.

     A question had popped into Alvin's mind, so he asked it. He often found himself asking questions. When he got curious, he just couldn't help himself. "Sadie, are you actually Billy's aunt? Or does he just call you that?"

     Sadie smiled gently. "He just calls me that. We're not related." They reached the table where the tray of freshly baked cookies was sitting. "Cookie? They're chocolate chip."

     "Hello, Alvin," said the Pteri, waving his wing. He was reading a battered, thick volume of poetry. Alvin recognized it.

     "Hi, Dr. Proscan. Weren't you reading that last week?"

     "Why, yes I was," confirmed the Pteri, a surprised smile on his face. "I'm reading it again."

     As Alvin ate a cookie in silence while Billy showed Proscan his bike, he thought about the way Sadie and Proscan had spoken to him. Sadie had used a gentle, almost sympathetic voice when he asked about her relation to Billy, and Alvin heard that a lot. Proscan had seemed rather delighted when Alvin asked about his book. Alvin got that sometimes too, whenever he brought up something that had happened before. He chewed the last bit of his cookie, savouring it. It was delicious. The dough was soft but chewy, the chocolate was gooey but not too much so, and it was warm and home-made.

     "You've never made cookies before, Sadie," said Alvin. "They're very good. Are you going to sell them in the shop? You should sell cookies; people like them."

     "Well, if they're so good, I guess I will sell them," she replied. That same sympathetic voice. As if she was sorry for him.

     'There's nothing to be sorry for,' thought Alvin as he left the café with Billy. 'My house is small, but comfortable. I have a good job, and I never seem to run into any major problems. Mr. Quinton is very kind, and so is everyone else. Most people in town are nice to me, even if I have never met them before. Everyone is so friendly. I have everything I need… a warm house in a pleasant neighborhood, good friends, the basic necessities like food and water… I hope I can live here all my life.'

     Back at the café, Sally brought the cookies back inside. She deposited them in the counter, behind the, 'Chocolate chop cookies: 20np each, 225np for a dozen,' label. She'd been selling them since the shop opened, after all. They were her specialty.

     "Well, that's the third time that Alvin's asked me if I'm Billy's aunt," she said. "But at least he remembered your book, Proscan."

     "The more I see him, the more his memory pattern seems to be completely random," replied the doctor, as he entered the shop as well and stood by the counter. "When I first met him, I thought there must be some sort of reason for why he memorizes what he does. It's all so curious, wouldn't you say?"

     "It certainly is," sighed Sadie. She looked at Proscan. "I wish I could help him, but there seems to be no cure. He seems happy, though, doesn't he?"

     "Indeed, he is happy with his life," agreed Proscan. "He does have a rather childish outlook on it, after all. Everything is simple for him. He always seems rather cheerful when I see him."

     "He always brightens my day," said Sadie, smiling. "Except when I feel bad for him, of course. Guilty, I suppose you could say. I can experience life properly and he can't. He deserves it. He's a good person."

     "Don't feel bad, Sadie. He's quite content. I think it best to leave him this way." Proscan picked up a copy of the Neopian Times. "Mmph… war breaking out in the Lost Desert, I see. My, my. Not this again."

     "Neopia's been seeing quite a lot of it lately, yes," grumbled Sadie. "What a terrible thing war is. It's so pointless!"

     Proscan smiled bitterly. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up tomorrow morning and forget all about it?"

     "If you don't mind me saying, Dr. Proscan, the only person who would benefit from that is you."

     Proscan chuckled as he folded up the newspaper. "Yes, it's true. I just wish I could be selfish, once in a while."

     "Don't we all."

     ***

     The bell tinkled pleasantly as Alvin opened the door. He was enveloped at once in warmth and the aroma of freshly baked bread.

     "Hey Alvin, Billy!" called a bearded fire Lupe from behind the counter. "Bit late for lunch, ain't you?"

     "We lost track of time!" said Alvin. "Time flies when you're having fun."

     "Well then, what would you like, boys?"

     Alvin chuckled. "What a silly question! I always have the same thing, Gunther. You know that."

     The large Lupe smiled gingerly. "Of course. And you, Billy?"

     Looking up at the rows of choices above, Billy said, "Umm… let's see, I guess I'll have the white bread with the special sauce of the day, onions, tomatoes, and uhh, haven't tried shrimp before, let's have that, Meridellian cheese, and some chopped Ummagines or whatever your special imported foreign food is."

     "Coming right up," announced Gunther. "Duvel! How's the bread?"

     Behind him, a lanky fire Gelert was shooting flames out of his mouth at a kiln. "Almost done, dad."

     Five minutes later both Alvin and Billy had their lunches. Alvin bit into his and tasted the wondrously familiar taste of tomatoes, swiss cheese, beef and wheat bread. In front of him, Billy stuck out his tongue.

     "It's spicy!" cried the Nimmo, gulping down some water.

     "It's the sauce," called Gunther, a hint of mirth in his voice.

     "And it tastes really weird!" groaned Billy.

     "Meridellian cheese is rather strong," Gunther noted.

     Billy put down the sandwich and claimed that he couldn't eat another bite.

     "It's because you ordered all of that weird stuff," laughed Alvin. "Like Ummagines. Do you know how far away the Lost Desert is? I bet they eat lots of weird stuff there."

     "It's not that far," scowled Billy. "My brother goes there like every day, almost. To go visit Coltzan's shrine. I've just never tried a lot of Lost Desert food before."

     "Then why did you get it? You didn't know if you'd like it or not."

     "What if I tried it and I really liked it?" countered Billy.

     Alvin shrugged and took another big bite of his sandwich. "Best to be safe."

     Duvel came to their table and tossed Billy a bag of chips. "Better eat something before you starve," he said warmly.

     "Grandpa will complain about me not eating a healthy lunch," said Billy, ripping open the bag and tossing some chips into his mouth in a way that showed he didn't really care.

     The Gelert sat down across from Alvin. "Alvin, I have something to tell you. You might want to write it down, okay?"

     "I'll remember," said Alvin politely. "Is it important?"

     "Quite," said Duvel in his soft, floating voice. That's how Alvin thought it sounded, at least. All light, like if voices were real items that you could hold in your hand, Duvel's would be a gentle feather that floated away on the wind. Unlike his fathers, which would be more like a rolling boulder, or something tough like that. And what would his own voice sound like? He hadn't given much thought to it before. He supposed one couldn't really hear their own voice, only others'. He tried to tune in to what Duvel was saying.

     "We won't be here next week, father and I. The shop will be closed starting Monday. We're going on vacation."

     "Won't be here? But where will I eat lunch?" panicked Alvin.

     "Don't worry, Alvin," said Duvel reassuringly. "There are plenty of restaurants and places to eat in Neopia Central. You'll be just fine."

     "If you say so," said Alvin, who thought that the feather was very comforting as well. Duvel's voice, that is. "Where are you going?" he added, trying to sound nonchalant.

     "Oh, Mystery Island. Father has some trading to do there, and I hear it's a beautiful island, so I decided to go along. Beaches, waves, the sand between your toes… there aren't any here in Neopia Central." Duvel flashed his encouraging smile.

     "I suppose," said Alvin. "I like to play it safe, though. Mystery Island is so different from what we're used to. It's so comforting to be in your own environment, with people you know, and your house just a few blocks away. I've always found change to be a bit intimidating."

     "Yes," agreed Duvel, "that's one way to put it." The smile was still locked on his face. "Well. I ought to get back to work now."

     "I'm done," said Alvin, throwing his empty wrapper away.

     "Me too," said Billy. He stood up and they exited the shop. The bell tinkled goodbye.

     "Do you think Alvin will ever leave Neopia Central, father?" asked Duvel, as he wiped the table clean.

     Gunther replied, "I don't think so. I think he'll stay here all his life, and he'll be perfectly happy to do so."

     "But…"

     "Yes," said Gunther, as if he had read his son's mind. "He'll never see what's out there. He'll never become more than what he currently is."

     "No more and no less," said Duvel. "He'll always stay the same. No happier… no sadder… no more or less successful…"

     "No change," finished Gunther, arranging fresh bread in the window display.

     ***

     Alvin always brushed his teeth before night. He usually ate dinner alone at his house, because he didn't like to be out too late. He watered the plants. Changed into his pajamas. There was something else that he was supposed to do, but he couldn't remember what it was. Oh well. It probably wasn't important.

     As Alvin got into bed, he noticed that he had forgotten to buy new curtains. The sunlight would wake him up in the morning again. But that was okay. He could always buy the curtains tomorrow.

     Alvin straightened a family portrait on the wall. Mother and father. How glad they would be if they knew how well their son was doing. But they probably did. They were very smart.

     The Yurble turned off the light and burrowed deep under his covers. It had been a very good day. But somehow…

     He couldn't help feeling that it had been just a little bit like yesterday.

The End

 
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