Remember The Fall
I'm falling. My eyes are searching for anything to hold
onto; they move from the deck of the Cyodrake's Gaze to the stormy skies split
by lightning and back again. I will myself to somehow fall slower, to give myself
more time to try and save myself, more time for someone to come running and
The scream doesn't burst out of my mouth until
I hit the icy water. Then I slip under, the salty cold of the sea filling my
lungs and stinging my eyes. I flail my arm wildly and kick, but for a horribly
frightening moment, I can't seem to find the surface.
When my head is above water, I cough and splutter;
my lungs are burning. Frantically, I grab hold of a wooden crate and bob up
and down with its movement in the water. A wave crashes over my head; as soon
as it subsides, I look up. The Cyodrake's Gaze is quickly moving away from me.
"Wait!" I yell, panic jolting my heart and stiffening
my limbs. Another wave comes down on my head. Again, I scream, cold terror gripping
me with steely fingers...
I sit up in bed with a yell. My petpet, a chubby
Pandaphant, leaps from her curled-up position at the foot of my bed, yelping
as she does so, completely startled by the sound that suddenly burst forth from
"Shh!" I hiss, reaching down and scooping the
yowling beast up in my arms. I settle her back into her spot, then lie back
against my pillow myself. Just a dream, I tell myself, just that same old nightmare.
But no matter how many times I repeat this mantra, I can't seem to relax. I'm
still tensed and shaky, my breath still comes fast and short.
Sighing, I turn and stare at the clock on my
bedside table. The numbers that stare back at me tell me it's too early to be
awake, but my mind tells me I will not be getting back to sleep tonight. I never
get back to sleep after that particular dream, and so I push back the bedcovers
(receiving an annoyed look from my petpet, who dislikes having her sleep disturbed)
and stand, stretching, in the middle of my dark bedroom. I cross the room and
gaze pensively into the mirror hanging on the wall.
The nightmare, even though it comes so often,
always feels so real. I half expected to see my hair wet and dripping, a tangle
of seaweed wrapped around one of my ears, my eyes red from the salt water. Of
course, I am perfectly dry. My face is, however, contorted in a horrified expression,
just as it was when I watched the Cyodrake's Gaze swiftly leaving me. I take
a gulping, deep, trembling breath. Hoban, you've got to let it go, I
say to myself, but I know letting it go isn't as easy as it sounds.
Those who worked beside me on the Cyodrake's
Gaze have forgotten the incident, moved on quickly. They've forgotten also the
harsh words spoken, the many arguments that left me feeling tired and hurt,
the whispers and the shouts of "Bad luck!" And they have assumed I have done
the same, but I cannot forget it and let it blow away in the wind. I feel no
anger against them, only the hurt feelings and terror of my weeks spent lost
at sea linger. This is what keeps me up at night, keeps me shaking when I've
long left the freezing waters of Neopia's oceans.
I pull myself away from the mirror, for in the
reflection of my eyes I can see the scars wrought by fear and spoken words that
stay with me still. Leaving behind my petpet, who I know will not want to leave
the warmth of the bed, I slip on shoes and step out of my house into the fresh
Shenkuu is beautiful in the early mornings,
when no Neopets hurrying to get their daily work done bustle to and fro on the
streets. When only the sounds of trees and bushes growing and wild petpets chirping
can be heard, and the sound of shopkeepers haggling with eager buyers seems
too far away to even grasp. Mist floats by on the crisp air, and drops of dew
glitter on everything. I take the long, winding path that is often walked by
tourists wanting a good sight-seeing route. They take the path, mostly, because
it passes the dock where the Cyodrake's Gaze is kept. That ship is a large tourist
attraction in Shenkuu. Normally, I avoid this route, but today I think I shall
I walk in complete silence. Even my thoughts
have turned the volume down so low that it becomes mute. The Cyodrake's Gaze
is the first thing I come to; it is long before all the other sights. I stop
and look at it. For a while, I look while standing, but then I sit cross-legged
on the ground and look that way. Suddenly, I am aware of someone walking up
When I turn, I see a female Kougra standing
there, her eyes nearly overflowing with tears.
"Linae-" I begin, not really knowing what I
will say after the name. I am thankful when she cuts me off and begins talking
quickly, words pouring from her mouth.
"I don't know why I'm here!" she says loudly,
her voice thick with trying to keep from crying. "I think it's sick how many
tourists want to see this ship. All it is for me is a memory of how horrid I
was... I couldn't do anything but play around with Kou-Jong tiles and blame
you for anything that went wrong. And then, everyone else just moved on, and
that oaf of a Blue Gnorbu didn't give a pile of sludge as long as he could turn
Shenkuu into a big attraction!"
She covers her face with her paws and turns
to run away, but I step in front of her and catch her by the arm.
"Don't leave!" I blurt out, then realize I still
don't have anything to say. "I... I... I..."
"Am speechless?" Linae finishes shyly for me,
and then looks away.
I laugh weakly. "I guess so."
She gives the same sort of pathetic laugh. "I
really am sorry, for everything I said to you, for every nasty look I gave you,
for every argument I started..."
"Hey!" I cut in, "I did my share of arguing;
it wasn't just you!"
"I know, I know," says Linae, beginning to sniffle
again, "but you're not the type to argue! You never would have said anything
against me if I hadn't acted so... oh, Hoban, I turned the whole ship against
you! It's all my fault you were pushed overboard!"
"Your fault? What in Fyora's name are you talking
about?" I ask, completely taken off guard. She is taking responsibility for
what Bonju did? "You know who pushed me."
"Yes, I know," she says, rubbing furiously at
her left eye with one paw, "but... I have dreams sometimes- I see everything
that happen all over again. I watch myself yell at you and tell you horrible
things. I watch myself ignore you when you ask me something. Then I relive that
terrible storm and see them pull you back on board again. I see that haunted
look in your eyes over and over again. I try to forget all that's happened,
to put it behind me, but I can't."
I bite my lip and feel my ears curling back-
which always happens whenever I feel uncomfortable.
"I have the dreams too," I admit finally.
"I see everything all over again. I feel terrified again. I think I am drowning...
and then I wake up and I just want to forget it all, too. I want to put it behind
me, same as you do, but I can't either... Linae, maybe, instead of forgetting,
we need to remember, just for the sake of learning something from it."
"It's so hard," she whispers. "It's so
hard when the memories terrify you, shake your very soul."
"It is hard," I tell her, and put an arm around
her shoulder. "But I think we can do it... just not alone."
She wriggles playfully away from me, a hint
of a smile playing across her face. Then she assumes a mock thoughtful look.
"I'm remembering," she says, "remembering that
Bonju had the biggest nose I've ever seen!"
This time I really laugh. I will get through
this. And, I think, I will learn to play Kou-Jong along the way.
Author's Note: Searching for an idea for a short story, the Cyodrake's Gaze
mini-plot inspired me to write this from the viewpoint of Hoban the Aisha. Hoban
was my favorite character, and I didn't think enough attention was given to
how the incident of being pushed off the ship must have affected him. On the
funny side, I use the Cyodrake's Gaze sidebar and have always thought that Bonju's
nose looks bigger than any other Blumaroo's nose - except for Commander Garoo.