Of Faerieland and Flying
On the sixth morning of the Month of Running, the air smelled of flowers and grass. It was the kind of scent that you noticed right after a big rainstorm, where the world smelled fresh and new. The gentle wind and clear skies made flying quite enjoyable, even at an early hour.
I slowly veered to the left, curving my body to accommodate for the large cab I was pulling. You see, my job in Neopia was an Eyrie Cab flyer. Instead of taxiing around random Neopians, I transported Neoschool kids up to Faerieland. Just this year, a new school opened in Faerieland called The Faerieland Academy of Mathematics and Science. The school board spoke with my employers at the Eyrie Cab station to find a way to “reach out” to Neopia Central as well. That was a fancy way of saying they needed someone to fly some kids up to Faerieland and back every weekday.
Guess who they chose?
I knew I wasn’t good with kids. I didn’t really know what to say to them, or what they needed. My mind was in denial that I had ever been a child in the first place because I certainly didn’t remember anything useful for when I grew up. Speaking of growing up, I did a lot of that. I grew so far up that my owner needed to expand my bedroom ceiling so I wouldn’t have to slouch (granted, she was a small person). Eyrie Cab flyers were usually big Eyries anyway, so I didn’t stand out.
At seven thirty I landed on the platform, parallel to the sea of heads, and waited as they trickled in. The Cab that was quiet just a moment ago soon filled with sound.
“Hi, Mr. Cullen!” A royal Zafara waved as he climbed on board.
“Didja know that today is Gelert Day? Didja?” The little Zafara had a funny way of remembering every single event on the face of Neopia.
I didn’t attempt to disguise the monotony in my voice. “No, Bryan. I didn’t know that.”
“Well now you do!” Bryan said with a small laugh, and he hopped up the steps to find a seat.
I glanced in the rearview mirror to make sure that everything was in order before take off. All eleven passengers had taken a seat. Shortly after liftoff, I counted the heads behind me just to make sure that there was the correct number. Cab number 11 coincidentally had eleven passengers, and I knew all of the kids by species and name. I never said much to any of them, but I knew who they were. That made me proud.
Towards the front of the cab was the trio of girls: twins Andrea and Quinn, faerie Pteris, and Valerie, a pink Acara. Across from them sat Garth, who could be quite obnoxious, and Rory, a cloud Kacheek.
I almost felt bad for that one. Rory’s owner insisted on sending him to The Faerieland Academy of Mathematics and Science but the poor Kacheek always got airsick on the way there. His cloud face already looked slightly green. I sighed and averted my attention back to the sky.
“...So that’s what I told her but she still didn’t believe me,” Valerie was saying just behind me.
“Don’t worry, we know you totally got your boots first,” Andrea chimed in. She gave her Faerie-painted head a toss. “We’ll just have to try to convince people otherwise.”
“I just feel like screaming!”
Quinn gave her a nudge. “Then let’s do it. On three, okay?”
Now was an appropriate time to interrupt. “Let’s not and say we did.”
“Oops!” Quinn clapped a wing over her beak. She gave me an apologetic smile. “Sorry, Mr. Cullen.”
“Mmhmm.” Oh, teenage drama. I chuckled, amused. The three of them always had something to gossip about.
It was smooth sailing after that. Well, smooth flying. The lull of chat was easy to drown out, especially on such a beautiful day. The air was already getting warmer, even though we were constantly ascending. After twenty minutes or so of ongoing conversations, paper airplanes, and last-minute-finishing of homework, Faerieland came into sight.
Sometimes between drop off and pick up I would go and explore. In a city like Faerieland, there was always something to do.
I turned around to see Bryan gritting his teeth in worry. “Rory says he doesn’t feel good.”
Straightening my neck for a moment, I rolled my eyes and surged forward. There was always drama when you were an Eyrie Cab flyer. I glanced over Bryan’s shoulder. Rory’s blue face was flushed with green. “Tell him we’ll be landing in two minutes.”
If this were a more rare phenomenon, I would have been more concerned. However, Rory’s morning airsickness happened almost every day. With a few flaps of my powerful blue wings, we landed on a cluster of clouds. One by one, the kids filed out, laughing and talking.
“Bye, Mr. Cullen!” called Bryan, swinging his lunch box as he hurried to join the others.
I waved and slipped out of the cab harness. Rory tentatively climbed down the cab steps with his lunchbox and sat down on the cloud. I sat down next to him, mumbling something about deep breaths.
After a moment or so, Rory stood up and steadied himself against the cab. “Thanks, Mr. Cullen... I’m feeling better now.”
“Take it easy,” I said, handing him his King Coltzan lunch box. The little Kacheek nodded and scurried up to the gates of the school.
After a morning of Faerie Bubbles, a Hidden Tower visit, and a spin by the Bookshop, it was getting to the midpoint of the day. I was ready to head back to Neopia Central. When you flew to Faerieland at least five times a week, there were only so many things to do until boredom could no longer be quenched.
I waited diligently outside of the Faerieland Academy until precisely 2:30pm NST. The doors opened and a flurry of Neopets rushed out, swinging their lunchboxes and backpacks. Their cries filled the afternoon air with joy.
One by one, they filed into the cab and took seats. I glanced over my shoulder and counted eleven colorful heads. Without further ado, I gained a running start and felt the cab being pulled effortlessly behind me. Once again, I fell into a trance listening to the roar of the wind and creak of the harness.
As I veered left towards Neopia Central, I noticed something out of the corner of my left eye. It was a Galgarrath action figure sticking out the window. Garth’s yellow arm was fully extended.
“Garth,” I called behind me. “Get your hand inside the cab.”
With a startled yelp, the Darigan Grarrl pulled his arm inside. That kid was always causing trouble. No sooner than its retreat I noticed the action figure hanging out the window again.
“I mean it, boy, don’t you make me land this vehicle!”
Garth scowled and tossed the toy across the cab. I rolled my eyes and focused on descending. The blank slab of pavement was where the cab finally landed with a bumpy whoosh. First came Andrea, Quinn, and Valerie, and then Bryan, who waved good-bye, and then a group of six or so, and then Garth. The Grarrl looked saddened.
“He lost his sword,” he said, holding up his Galgarrath action figure. The toy’s plastic hand was empty. A frown tugged at Garth’s mouth and for the first time, the obnoxious troublemaker was actually upset.
I sighed. You shouldn’t have been waving him out the window, dummy; didn’t I just tell you that? The day had been long enough besides the fact that a plastic sword was missing. Still... “Go on, I’ll see if I can find it.”
When I arrived back at the Eyrie cab station, a mere two or three minutes from the landing platform, I worked my way out of the leather harness and squeezed into the cab. I reached my paw under Garth’s seat until something brushed against my blue feathers. I pulled it up, and flicked it triumphantly through the air, as if spearing an imaginary enemy.
A sniff made my blue ears perk up. I lifted my head slowly to peer down the isle but nothing moved. I heard the noise again, and a peculiar feeling came over me. I looked down in the seat behind me.
Hunched over and sniffling was a small, white Xweetok. He looked up at me with tear-filled eyes bluer than Kiko Lake. His face was unfamiliar. I was sure that the Xweetok had never been one of my passengers before.
“This isn’t my cab...” he said, in barely above a whisper.
What a brilliant observation, I thought, but then felt a wave of remorse. “No, I don’t think it is either. You, uh,” I paused, scratching my beak, “you go to the Faerieland Academy, right?” I needed to make sure this boy just didn’t wander onto a cab by accident.
“Today was my f-first day, sir,” he told me. “My Eyrie cab flyer was a blue Eyrie. And you’re a blue Eyrie.”
I didn’t bother containing a monstrous sigh. “Kid, do you have any idea how many blue Eyries are Eyrie cab flyers to the Faerieland Academy?”
Confusion and panic gripped my chest with an iron hand. Here was a young Neopet on his first day to school crying in the wrong cab in front of me. Of all Neopians! What am I supposed to do with him? A dilemma bounced around in my head like a ping-pong ball. Do I take him back to the school? No; too far away. Do I take him to wherever he lives? I was definitely ready to get back to my Neohome and relax, but I couldn’t just leave the Xweetok.
“Come on, son,” I said, making up my mind. The two of us started out of the cab. “What’s your name?”
“J-J-Jacoby, sir,” he said, between more sniffles.
“Alright,” I replied. “Now, which street do you live on?”
Jacoby swallowed before saying, “1762 Safari Lane.”
I resisted the urge to smack my forehead. Safari Lane was a street on Mystery Island. Of course, he just had to live so far away. It was like taking another trip to Faerieland and back. Then a strange thought struck me. Faerieland... Faerie... ferry!
“Jacoby, I have an idea.”
We had only been walking for five minutes until the Xweetok said, “Sir?”
“Call me Mr. Cullen.”
“Mr. Cullen?” I nodded. There was a pause. Jacoby folded his hands together like he was thinking. “Where are we going?”
I looked down at him. “To the ferry station. Have you ever ridden the ferry by yourself before?”
“Oh yes, many times.”
I felt myself lighten up a bit because now I didn’t have to play chaperone. “Good.” I felt Jacoby’s little hand slip into mine as we continued to walk down the street. The ferry station was right at the end.
When we arrived, however, the outcome was much different than I expected. A small, red Chia shook his head when I asked when the next ferry was.
“To Mystery Island? Those only go out in the mornings. Sorry to disappoint you.”
Forcing myself not to sigh or make a sarcastic remark, I glanced down at Jacoby. His lip was trembling and his eyes started to water. I had never seen a more pathetic white furball in my life. The Xweetok blinked his hopeful eyes.
“Alright, alright, let’s go,” I said, and bent my knees so he could climb on my back.
“Really?” he asked. “Flying?”
“Really,” I echoed, with an actual tune in my voice instead of monotony. “Flying. But we’ll have to stop at Garth’s street first. I have something to return to the Galgarrath action figure...”
Thanks to beewitched2 for editing. :)