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Ezanna on Edge


by battlesunn

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Ezanna slumped in his chair and stared at the pile of unfinished homework assignments that squatted on his desk. Pencil in hand, the skunk Krawk tried mustering the energy to work, but whenever he thought of taking a sheet of paper, writing out the question and filling in the answer his heart began to beat at a quicker pace and his claws became moist with sweat.

      "I'll never finish it all," he moaned. "Never! Why bother even starting?" Ezanna sighed and turned to gaze out his window. The glass, he noted, was desperate for cleaning.

      The whole room was in need of a good clean. A fine grey curtain had settled over everything and large colonies of dust balls had taken to lurking in the corners and crevices between various pieces of furniture. His bed was unmade and it seemed as though his entire library had migrated from the bookshelf to the floor. His Petpet, a soot-colored Gruslen, napped in a nest of torn socks and yellowed scraps of newsprint.

      Ezanna looked from his surroundings to his homework and gnawed his lip. He still had to feed his Gruslen and water the Neogarden for his brother. The Krawk gulped dryly and drummed his claws on the desk, trying to clear his troubled head. At last, he steeled himself and grabbed the first assignment from his homework pile, determined to finish something.

      "Enklebert the Elephante," he read in a steady, even tone, "sells pies at three Neopoints each and sells fifty pies per day. He finds that for each one hundred Neopoint increase in price he will sell ten fewer pies. By how much should Enklebert increase the price of pies to maximize his daily revenue?" Ezanna blinked. He scratched his head and scribbled a few meaningless equations on a sheet of loose-leaf shortly before crumpling the paper into a ball and tossing it into the wastepaper basket.

      "I can't do it!" he cried. "Oh Fyora, I'm going to fail and get kicked out of Neoschool and be forced to go and live among the Tyrannians."

      Ezanna exhaled, nearly choking on the dryness of his throat, and rose from his chair to scurry out of his room and into the sunny kitchen where he poured himself a glass of water. He leaned against the countertop and tried not to think about his homework. Tersely sipping, he looked out the kitchen window and saw the scraggly Neogarden, which reminded him of an earlier promise he had made to water and weed it for his brother.

      The Krawk shut his eyes and gritted his teeth, willing the tightly wound knot that had constricted his brain to unravel. He gripped the empty glass and inhaled as deeply as he could. He was just about ready to curl up on the checker-patterned floor when someone tapped him on the shoulder.

      "Ack!" Ezanna yelped as he snapped open his eyes and jolted around to see who had startled him. The culprit was his sister, Shelleylou, an Island Gelert. Ezanna glared at her. "Shelly! What did you do that for, you scared me half to death," he barked, slamming the glass on the countertop.

      Shelly smirked. "You were scared half to death when I came in. I just would've been putting you out of your misery." She adopted a softer tone. "What's up with you, Ez? You haven't been yourself lately. You come home from Neoschool and then all you do is work. You're moody and irritable and you never go outside."

      Ezanna rubbed his temples. "I don't have time to go outside. I have too much homework. And then when I'm not doing homework, I'm doing chores."

      Shelly sighed and visibly relaxed. "Ah, good. I thought it was something serious. Well, the cure for this is obvious. You just have to have more fun."

      Ezanna cast his eyes to the floor. "I don't have time," he hissed.

      "Yes, you do! You do nothing but work! Ez, you have to relax and slow down. You can do a lousy job on some homework," the Gelert said, trying to catch his eye.

      The Krawk scowled and continued to glare at the floor. "You don't understand. I have to finish all of my homework. Look, right now I have a fifty question math assignment, a history project on the rise of King Skarl, four upcoming tests in various subjects and a two thousand word essay on Scaredy Acara that's due tomorrow." Shelly caught his eye and saw that they were engraved with spider webs of bloodshot. She shuddered at the sight, but continued her attempted bantering.

      "An essay on Scaredy Acara? What's the topic, aquatic Neopets as symbols of fear?" she quipped.

      "No," Ezanna replied darkly. "It's on the invocation of Maraquan war metaphors. And it's worth twenty percent of my mark in that class!"

      Shelly rolled her eyes. "You're taking Neoschool far too seriously, Ezanna. In case you've forgotten, you're a pet. You being sent to Neoschool is like a baby Kacheek making their Usuki doll get a job. It's meant to be fun for our owners, as you well know. Half the pets don't even do their homework, and it doesn't matter. Look at Zarrelian! He knows that it's a joke."

      The Krawk snorted. "Sure, whatever. I'll purposely fail all my classes. That'd be a good way to go about getting a future for myself!"

      Shelly shook her head in disbelief. "What in Neopia are you talking about? What future? Our owner takes care of all our needs!"

      Ezanna laughed humorlessly. "That's what you think. What if our owner decides to make us get jobs and provide for ourselves? Then what? We'll be destitute."

      The Gelert snorted. "I doubt that being a shopkeeper requires an extensive knowledge of Maraquan War metaphors. Anyway, Ez, that isn't going to happen. So why don't you chill out, go outside and take your Gruslen for a walk. He's getting fat from being cooped up in your room all day."

      Ezanna groaned. "I can't. I have too much work. Oh, Fyora, I've already wasted fifteen minutes!"

      Shelly threw a comforting paw around his shoulders. "You know what you need? You need some chocolate."

      Ezanna jerked from her touch. "I need Borovan. Then I can just stay awake all night."

      "No caffeine for you! You're anxious enough as it is," Shelly lectured. "You're going to give yourself a headache."

      "You think I don't have a headache right now?" Ezanna screeched. He stomped to the kitchen table, dragged out a chair, and collapsed into it, burying his snout in his arms on the tabletop. "I can't take it any longer," he said, his voice muffled by his arms. "Life in Neopia Central is too hard."

      Shelly scoffed. "Now you're being ridiculous. Neopia Central's great. You're just making too big a deal of things, as usual."

      Ezanna didn't look up. "No I'm not. I'm being completely reasonable." He raised his head and narrowed his eyes. "I'm sick of working and responsibility. I don't want to live in a place where problems are as obligatory as security codes."

      "They aren't--"

      "I'm leaving!" Ezanna declared. He shot to his feet, knocking the chair to the floor. "I'm tired of this Doglefox-eat-Doglefox town. I've had it with this Chezzum race."

      Shelly clenched her paws. "You're really wearing out your metaphors, Ez."

      The Krawk ignored her and resumed his rant. "Why should I slave away in a dark little room when I could be living in a place where nobody has any problems to deal with in the first place?"

      "You don't have to slave away, you idiot, that's what I've been trying to tell you!"

      "You do HERE," he shot back. "In Neopia Central they expect you to go to Neoschool and work your tail off." The Krawk pushed his mane out of his eyes. "I've had it with all that. I've had it with responsibility."

      Shelly furrowed her brow. "Who's 'they'?"

      Ezanna didn't reply. His face had broken into a smile. "I'm going to Mystery Island!" he proclaimed.

      The Gelert blanched. "What?"

      "It just occurred to me. The people there know how to live. They never go to Neoschool and worry about stuff. I want to live with them."

      "You could live that way here, Ez. You don't have to get so worked up over a homework assignment."

      "You're delusional, Shelly. Don't try to stop me. I'm going to live on Mystery Island and there's nothing you can do about it," he breezed.

      Shelly threw up her paws. "Fine, go to Mystery Island! Don't blame me if you get attacked by Coconuts."

      "I'm going right now!" The Krawk strode out the kitchen and to the Neohome door. He yanked it open and stepped onto the porch, blinking against the sunshine. Shelly hovered behind him in the doorway.

      "They have lots of sun on Mystery Island, Ezanna," she said dryly, noting his discomfort. "Are you sure your poor little eyes can handle it?"

      "I'm sure," he spat. The Krawk started down the steps and onto the garden path, then stopped and glanced back at his sister.

      "Oh, Shelly, can you tell our owner where I've gone?" he chirped. "And feed my Gruslen, okay?"

      Shelly leaned against the doorframe. "I can't believe that you aren't the least bit concerned about what our owner's going to think," she said.

      Ezanna sniggered. "I only worry about important things, Shelly."

      The Gelert glowered at him for a moment before withdrawing into the Neohome and slamming the door. Ezanna frowned and turned away, heading down the winding dirt path through his brother's overgrown Neogarden. He emerged onto the main road and began traveling south, in the direction of the docks and the boats that would deliver him to the island.

      ***

      Ezanna stood at the prow of the small dinghy that churned over the waves on its journey to Mystery Island. He leaned on the wooden railing and squinted against the glittering waters, wondering if the dark smudge that he saw on the horizon was the island or a particularly large Jetsam.

      He was the only passenger on the craft, the other body being the Captain, a wiry Kougra who had been willing to accept Ezanna's lucky Lupe Moon Charm as payment for the trip. The Krawk had felt a strange pang of sadness as he relinquished the finely polished pendant; it had been a gift from his brother. The Krawk was beginning to wonder if perhaps he had made too hasty a decision in taking off for Mystery Island, but the very thought caused him to sweat and palpitate, so he quickly pushed it from his mind.

      At last the little vessel scraped to a halt on the island's shore. The Captain leaned nonchalantly against the steering wheel and gestured to the tropical vista.

      "Welcome to paradise, my friend," he drawled, smirking.

      An unbidden smile twitched over Ezanna's face as he surveyed his new home and allowed his nostrils to flood with the scent of salted air and loamy jungle. "Paradise," he repeated reverently, and swung his leg over the side of the boat to disembark.

      Ezanna was unaware that the boat was still surrounded by water, and so when he attempted to step nimbly from the deck and onto the shore, he found himself splashing awkwardly into the ocean. The Captain chortled as Ezanna struggled to his feet in the boggy sand, gagging on mouthfuls of seawater. The Krawk lurched onto the shore and shook the water from his frosted mane, shooting the Kougra a glare. The Captain was unperturbed.

      "Relax, mate. No worries on the island, eh?" he laughed again and then pushed the boat away from the shore with a long oar, rocking back onto the sea.

      Ezanna sighed and rubbed his arms until they tingled warm again. Then he started up the beach, following the sounds of laughing locals that carried over from the village a little ways up the shoreline.

      The village soon came into view. It was a quaint arrangement of coconut-shaped huts with thatched straw roofs, backed by a thick, twisting jungle and flanked by two rivers that ran out from the depths of the jungle and down to the sea. Ochre-furred natives, decked in flowery leis, grass skirts and swirling white face paint, milled about the village. They didn't notice the newcomer, so Ezanna cleared his throat to attract their attention. They paused in their tracks and raised their hooded eyes to the Krawk who stood fidgeting at the entrance to their village.

      "Uh, hi," he greeted, raising his claws in a feeble wave. Ezanna swallowed as his throat began to rattle and his palms dampened with sweat.

      This was a bad idea, he thought, feeling on his skin the burn from a hundred pairs of eyes. This was a terrible idea. I didn't think this through at all. Now I'm going to be driven out of the village and probably run through with a spear or something.

      The natives silently regarded Ezanna for a few tense moments before breaking out into collective smiles. One of them, a flower-garlanded Eyrie, stepped forward and clasped Ezanna's hand in her sandy paws.

      "Welcome, stranger," she greeted, vigorously shaking the Krawk's hand. "Are you visiting? Where are you from? What's your name?"

      "I'm Ezanna," he stammered, disoriented from the barrage of questions. "I, uh, came from Neopia Central. I was actually hoping that maybe I could live here for a while."

      The Eyrie released Ezanna's claws and clapped him on the shoulder. "Certainly! Our home is your home. But why did you leave Neopia Central?" she asked, her eyes twinkling.

      The Krawk had buckled slightly under the Eyrie's paw. "Well, Neopia Central isn't a very nice place," he began, hesitantly at first but with increasing fervor as he continued. "There's so much to do there. Neoschool, chores… All I do is go to school and come home and work. I couldn't take it anymore. I was sick of feeling anxious. I wanted to, oh, to leave it all behind. So I came here." Ezanna was panting a little after his long-winded explanation. He cleared his throat weakly and scuffed the ground with his foot, etching little patterns into the sand. "I figured that I wouldn't have to worry about anything here," he concluded.

      The Eyrie gazed sympathetically at the downtrodden Krawk, her feathery head tilted to the side. She turned to her fellow villagers, who had congregated behind her, and gestured them closer. She then nudged Ezanna with her beak. "Well, Ezanna, we certainly have no worries here," she purred.

      Ezanna relaxed his stiffened shoulders. "Thank Fyora," he exhaled. "An end to my problems!"

      Suddenly, the entire village erupted in laughter. Ezanna started and whipped his head around quizzically. "What?" he cried. "What did I say?"

      A chuckling, grass-skirted Wocky poked Ezanna in his side. "You're a nutbar if you think we have no problems, Krawky." He nodded at the Eyrie. "We all have problems! We all have troubles. We just don't worry about them."

      Ezanna furrowed his brow. "What?"

      The laughing Eyrie shook her head and wiped her eyes. "We think of it this way," she said. "Whatever happens is going to happen, and all the sadness and worry that anyone feels is usually because of what they think is going happen, not because of what really does happen, and almost never because of what's happening to them right then."

      Nods of agreement rippled throughout the crowd. The Krawk, however, was still confused. "I don't get it," he lamented. "I mean, that's all fine and well if you live on an island where you don't have due dates and deadlines and things, but where I come from I have things 'happening' all the time. I don't have time to not worry!"

      The Eyrie raised her eyebrows as the chuckling dissipated. "Don't be so sure about us not having deadlines. You ever try to harvest an orchard of Tigersquash in time for a Saturday market? Sometimes we only have a day to pick a season's worth of fruit! Now don't tell me that that isn't a deadline."

      Ezanna had been thinking the exact opposite. In fact, the very thought of having to deal with so much pressure had him visibly quaking, his scales paling to a chalky gray and his eyes flickering and bloodshot. He squeezed his eyes shut and clutched his hair. "How do you deal with that?" he moaned. "I-look, I get anxious just thinking of it!"

      The Wocky whistled. "Wow, man, you have got to relax. What fun is life if you spend it worrying? Here, sit down and have a glass of Tigersquash juice."

      He gave Ezanna a little push, which caused the Krawk to lose his balance and plop down in the sand on his tail. Little more than a second had passed before another islander, a Blumaroo, thrust a hollowed Tigersquash filled with bright orange juice into Ezanna's claws.

      "Enjoy," she chirruped.

      Ezanna took a tentative sip and grinned. "Hey, that's really good!"

      The Eyrie's beak twitched. "You like it? Everyone likes it. See, when we have a problem, we just sit down and drink some Tigersquash juice and laugh with each other. After that, the problem isn't such a worry."

      The Wocky nodded and seated himself beside Ezanna. "You see, Mr. Krawk, no one has to worry. It's too nice to worry." He lay back and stretched out in the sun. "It's better to chill."

      Ezanna finished his juice and lay beside the Wocky. "You're right," he murmured. "Coming here was the best thing I ever did. I'm going to live here and never worry about anything again."

      At his declaration, the Eyrie frowned and exchanged a knowing glance with a few of her fellow islanders. Sighing, she lowered herself to her haunches and sat next to the Krawk.

      "Ezanna, don't you have a family back home?" she coaxed.

      The Krawk stirred and propped himself up on his elbows. "Well, yes, I do…" he admitted.

      The Eyrie nodded. "And you love them, yes?"

      "Well, yeah, of course I do," he said.

      The Eyrie offered a smile. "Well then, wouldn't it be worth going home, and facing all your worries and troubles, to be with them?"

      "I don't know," Ezanna choked out. "I want to spend time with my family, but I never have time. That's the problem."

      The Eyrie chuckled. "Oh, Ezanna. The answer to your particular problem is very simple. You need to have more fun. What's the use of slaving away at work and worrying yourself into a fit if you're never going to be able to relax, have fun and enjoy yourself? What's more important, Ezanna? Work or family? What if… What if you lost them, Ezanna? Would your work comfort you?"

      The Krawk's eyes widened as he imagined a world without his family, in which he had nothing to sustain him but his work, and no purpose or feeling within his heart. It was a terrible, empty feeling-far worse than any panic attack he had ever experienced. It was not the fear of missing a deadline or failing an assignment; it was the sick, instinctive fear of losing his family, and losing all emotion, and love, in the process. He slipped backwards at the realization. "You're right," he gasped. "You're completely right. I've neglected my family and, well, myself for so long…" He gazed imploringly at the Eyrie. "But what if I can't? What if I still think that I should be working?"

      She stared at him, meeting his weary, reddened eyes with her own. "You need to train your mind to remember what's really important. In the long run, your joy far outweighs your worry." The Eyrie got up and shook some sand from her mane. She then looked at Ezanna and chuckled. "Now, you're welcome to stay and have another glass of juice, but you've got to go home and deal with your troubles. The problems of this island are not yours, my friend. And don't fret the future; everything takes care of itself in time."

      Ezanna got to his feet and dusted himself off in a businesslike manner. "I'll take the juice to go, if that's possible," he replied. "I should get home, my siblings and owner are probably worried out of their minds."

      The Krawk bid his farewells to all of the islanders and left, stepping lightly down the yellow beach and filling his nostrils with the smells of the island. Fortunately the main tourist dock had several charter boats headed for Neopia Central, so Ezanna had no difficulty getting a ride home.

      Ezanna hopped off the boat when it docked in Neopia Central's port and ran as quickly as he could down the path to his little Neohome. The sun was setting and had bathed everything in a rich, golden-orange light. The Krawk saw his backlit Neohome looming ahead like a small island in an ocean and the sight caused his heart to warmly swell. He scurried up the steps and opened the door, bursting into the foyer.

      "I'm home!" he announced.

      Three heads followed by their bodies emerged in the foyer and came rushing forward to see their brother. Shelleylou appeared the most relieved; the other two, a green Lupe and a Halloween Ixi, simply looked bored.

      "I told you he'd come back," the Halloween Ixi, who was called Zarrelian, remarked acidly. Zarrelian smirked at Ezanna. "You were gone for, what, three hours? When I run away from home I stay out for days."

      Shelleylou scowled at him. "Shut up, Zarrel. You were just as worried as I was." She looked at Ezanna. "Are you alright? What happened?"

      The Krawk grinned. "I'm great. I went to the island. I was right, you know. They don't worry over there."

      "Then why didn't you stay?" Zarrelian interjected. "Shelly said that you were freaking out over your homework, for some weird reason."

      "Because I realized that problems are everywhere," he explained. "They're on the island, too. But there, they don't worry over them. They just relax and handle everything as it comes and have plenty of fun in the meantime. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to relax and enjoy myself."

      Shelleylou whacked Ezanna on his back. "That's my brother! So, you want to go weed the Neogarden now?"

      Ezanna shrugged and smiled. "In a little while. First I want to kick back and have some Tigersquash juice."

      Zarrelian watched as the Krawk flopped down in a patched beanbag chair and unscrewed the lid to the jar of Tigersquash juice that he had received as a parting gift from the islanders. The Ixi cocked his head to the side, ears twitching with barely restrained mirth.

      "Weird Krawk," he giggled to himself as Ezanna gulped down mouthfuls of the bright orange liquid. "Did he forget that he's got a delayed allergic reaction to that stuff?"

The End

 
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