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Running Faster than Destiny: Part One


by tj_wagner

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It was a peaceful day in Meridell. The sun was shimmering from its appointed place in the azure expanse of the sky as white, fluffy clouds gently floated by as if they were in no hurry. A warm breeze, perfumed by a thousand wildflowers, caressed the land like a warm and loving hand as the emerald sea of grass swayed and danced in the fields. To say that this was a beautiful day seemed like a gross understatement. Somehow this day was so wonderful, it seemed nothing short of perfection.

      Gar, an older royal Cybunny, was sitting in his study on this lovely day. In his paws he held a novel, a recent purchase from the Bookshop, but every few minutes he would look up from the pages to gaze out his window. As much as he enjoyed reading, the wondrous world outside seemed more pleasant than anything that existed in an author’s imagination. Every few minutes, he would sigh happily.

      Suddenly, the back door to his cozy neohome was slammed shut - shattering the peace as if it had been nothing more than a dream. Slightly annoyed, Gar looked up just in time to see his granddaughter, Kari, run to the open door of the study. The young Island Xweetok was obviously upset, tears tracing down her face like tiny, silver fingers as she looked into the room. “Is Grandma here?” she asked, her voice hitching slightly.

      “No,” Gar answered, placing his book aside as he stood. “She went shopping in Neopia Central. What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?”

      She shook her head. “You wouldn’t understand,” she mumbled.

      He smiled kindly. “Maybe I would,” he said. “Just tell me what’s bothering you.”

      “How could you understand?” she demanded, her voice rising, “How can you know what it feels like to be a loser?” As if to illustrate her point, she pointed to the numerous trophies which lined the shelves and stared down at them like gentle, golden faces.

      Finally, Gar realized what had upset her granddaughter so much. When he was young, he had been recognized as being one of the fastest Neopets in all of Neopia. He had entered numerous races and had won the many trophies to which his granddaughter was now pointing. Kari had apparently taken after her grandfather in that she too was very fast and seemed to have a natural love and talent for racing. Unfortunately, she hadn’t yet finished first in any of the races that she had entered despite her speed. There was another race that was going to be held that afternoon, and Kari was undoubtedly feeling stress and self-doubt.

      “If you‘re worried about the race,” he began, “I’m sure you’ll do fine.” He made his way over to his granddaughter and placed his hand upon her shoulder so he could guide her back to a small chair near his own seat.

      “But Roth is going to be in the race. You know, she’s that grey Krawk that always places first,” she complained as she sat. “I can never beat her. It’s not fair!”

      “What’s not fair?” he asked, although he thought he already knew the answer.

      “It’s not fair because she always wins,” Kari explained. “I don’t have a chance against her. She must have a million trophies by now, but all I want is one. Why can’t she just sit out one race so that I could win?” Her tears began anew, her blue eyes glistening brilliantly.

      A ghost of a smile found its way to Gar’s mouth. Kari didn’t see it because she was crying so hard, but this secret smile of her grandfather’s was full of knowledge. “You may not believe this,” he said, “but I do know how you feel.”

      “I don’t think you could, Grandpa,” she stated.

      “Oh, but I do,” insisted Gar, “In fact, let me tell you a story that happened to a guy I know who was struggling with the same problem you are.”

      She regarded her grandfather with a raised eyebrow. “This isn’t going to be one of those ‘life lesson’ stories, is it?” she asked.

      Despite the situation, Gar threw back his head and laughed aloud. His granddaughter certainly had a way with words! “In a way,” he admitted, as his laughter subsided, “but let me tell you the story. It’s one of the perks of being a grandfather, after all.”

      “Okay then,” Kari said dramatically, as if reluctantly agreeing to her grandfather’s request. However, a tiny smile revealed that she was looking forward to hearing his story despite he own frustration.

      “Well,” he began, “this happened to a young pet, only a little older than yourself, called Twitch.”

      “Twitch?” she repeated. “That sure is a strange name.”

      “Well it wasn’t exactly his name,” he explained, “It was more of a nickname. Anyway, Twitch loved to run and he was the fastest runner in his neoschool. However, it was a slightly different story when it came to official races.”

     **********

      Twitch looked up at the sky, secretly wishing to see a storm brewing upon the horizon. Yet, the sky was a blue as clear as the waters around Mystery Island. It was a perfect day for a race, unfortunately. The young blue Cybunny sighed deeply as he tried to push his negative thoughts aside, but his worries seemed as unmovable as Terror Mountain.

      He did some preliminary stretches, but it was more for show. Despite his efforts to the contrary, his eyes kept drifting back to the runner in the first lane. He was a Pteri named Greysoon, and he was impossible to beat.

      Twitch was fast, he knew that much, but he had raced against Greysoon many times and the result was always the same. Twitch ran as fast as he could, but Greysoon was always just a bit faster. The moment that the green Pteri entered the race, the outcome was already decided. With a sigh of discontent, he got into place and waited for the race to begin.

      “Go!” came the shout as all the races spring into action. As Twitch expected, Greysoon pulled into the lead as Twitch desperately followed.

      The world faded into blurs and colors. He could see only a blur of faces and the only sounds he could hear was the beating of his own heart thudding in his ears and the pounding of his feet upon the ground. Yet Greysoon’s green feathers stood out brightly just ahead. Twitch focused on those feathers, begging his feet to go just a little faster. He had to win. He couldn’t win. He had to win.

      Then, it was all over as Greysoon crossed the finish line first. Twitch was second and he was far ahead of the third place runner, but that wasn’t enough. He had tried so hard to win, even though he had known it was impossible. Struggling to hold back tears, he did his best to smile as he was handed a second place ribbon as Greysoon accepted another first place trophy.

      Twitch felt his anger rise as he watched. The Pteri had to have a dozen trophies by now, but that wasn’t enough for him. He had to keep entering and winning these races. It was selfish! Why couldn’t he just sit out one race and let someone else win? It wasn’t fair! Twitch held his ribbon tightly in his paw, squeezing it as his anger grew.

      Finally, he couldn’t take any more of Greysoon’s celebrating, so he turned and ran away from the scene that was apparently happy for everyone but him. After such an intense race, he would have thought that he couldn’t run as fast as before, but his anger, disappointment, and frustration seem to fuel and guide his steps. Tears blurred his vision as he blindly ran through a grassy field and onto the banks of a clear stream.

      “It’s not fair,” he cried, as he fell to his knees beside the stream. “Why can’t I be a winner?”

      “But you can be,” a voice hissed nearby.

      Startled, the Cybunny jumped to his feet and looked across the stream. A tall Shadow Shoyru was standing there serenely, a satisfied yet dangerous smile upon his face. His violet cloak, an indication that this stranger was a sorcerer, floated about his form in the breeze as his dark eyes shone with cold knowledge.

      “Who are you?” Twitch demanded, taking a step away from the stranger.

      The Shoyru’s smile grew as he bowed slightly, almost mockingly. “Forgive me for not introducing myself before,” he said, “My name is Onyx. I am a humble sorcerer, but I think that perhaps I can help you.”

      “Why would you want to help me?” asked Twitch, “I can’t pay you or anything. I don’t have any neopoints.”

      Onyx laughed at this statement, but his laugh was anything but pleasant. Twitch couldn’t help but shudder at the sound of this horrible laugh. “My young friend,” Onyx finally said. “How little you know. I have no use for neopoints. Besides, I only want to help you--to make things fair.”

      “I don’t know,” Twitch said. A part of him knew that he should just turn around right now and leave. Onyx was obviously not someone who could be trusted. Yet Twitch wanted to hear what this peculiar fellow had to say. After all, just listening to someone couldn’t cause any trouble.

      Could it?

To be continued...

 
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