Living By the Healing Springs
When Alice, my owner, purchased a Neohome, I was barely a few days old. I don’t remember moving into it at all.
It was a home in Faerieland, way up high above the other lands. I used to think that this fact somehow made us grander than all the other occupants of Neopia. I imagined myself a queen, like the Royal Faerie Queen herself.
I soon fell in love with Faerieland, and everything in it. I would spend hours strolling the clouds, searching for the secret Hidden Tower, spending hours in the Bookshop, watching the Poogle Races. Occasionally I’d stop by the Rainbow Fountain, or attempt a crossword. Or, when I needed some time on my own, I would skulk off and talk to the ownerless blue Grundo plushie, and make cloud angels near him.
We owned a small patch of cloud just outside the city, near the Healing Springs. From our yard, I could see sick Neopets coming, but because of the angle, I could never see them leaving.
I remember when I was little, barely a month old, I asked Alice a particular question for, quite possibly, the first time. Or perhaps I just had forgotten her previous explanations.
She was washing dishes, and I placed my paws upon the counter, gazing at her soap covered figure quizzically.
“What are they doing?” I asked.
“Who?” she asked in return. Her reply was short- impatient.
“Those pets over there. I see a few of them wobble up to those pools of water every few seconds.”
“Oh- those are the Healing Springs, dear,” she replied, more calmly. “When a Neopet is sick, the owner takes him or her to the Healing Springs. The faerie there heals them. They leave out the other side of the Springs, but we can’t see them leave from the angle our house is at.”
Her simple words became engraved in my mind so that whenever I saw the pets tottering up the clouds to the Springs, I would immediately recall them. Usually I would only hear the sick pets- I would be playing upstairs with a window open, and their hacking, coughing, moaning, and groaning would drift up to my room. I would stop my playing and glance up at the clear blue sky above. Sometimes I would imagine a specific scene- Neopets with broken limbs dangling uselessly at their sides, splotchy illnesses covering all their fur, scales, or skin...
It was an instantaneous, reflexive thing- the wailing or crying would reach my ears, and not a second later some scene was in my mind’s eye, my imagination running wild with it.
Once I was playing with my friend Clara. She was a pink Lenny, and I envied her glossy, coveted color. We were in my front yard, tossing cloud puffs back and forth, daydreaming about what Maraqua used to look like in the years before we were born. Then, out of nowhere, a yellow Uni staggered up the cloud patches, wheezing and moaning. I froze, dropping my cloud puff, watching her progress, waiting for the usual emotion to rise up within me. I was not disappointed- before long my whole chest ached with emptiness. I stopped listening to Clara- my focus upon the Uni alone.
“Erinya... ERINYA!” Clara was shouting.
“What?” I snapped, my eyes drifting back to hers as the Uni disappeared.
“What is with you? All I said was that I think that Kelp did not exist back then, and you started flipping out! Why can’t you appreciate my opinions, why can’t you?” Her yelling continued. I only half listened.
She left in a fiery storm of fury, and Alice stepped outside, asking what happened. Nothing, I said. Nothing happened.
It did not take long, though, for Alice to catch onto what internal struggle I faced on such a daily basis. She was no fool.
She told me that I would grow out of it, that it was some childhood emotional turmoil that would have to evaporate someday. She even took me to the Healing Springs so I could see that other pets’ going there was not that big of a deal.
“All it means,” she said, calm as always, “is that a pet is sick. It is nothing for you to worry your little green head about, Erin. It is sad that they are sick, of course, but not so great of a reason for you to break down as you so often do.”
And I did improve. Or, at least, I thought I was improving. The next week, I went on a walk with Tanya, a blue Kyrii like myself, who was new to the area. At least she possessed a color that I did not long for so much.
I lead her through all my favorite places in Faerie city. We gazed rapturously at the paint brushes, then traipsed over to the coloring pages to sketch out what we each would look like in our dream colors. We each purchased a cloud cookie- mine chocolate, hers orange- and nibbled at them as we sauntered back towards my house.
Inevitably, we approached the Springs. My voice trembled as I explained to her its purpose. She was courteous enough to nod once, then move on, asking me about the Poogle races.
I was stunned.
I approached my house slowly, then plopped down onto the clouds, my thoughts too thick to ignore. My first time without a panic attack!
Depressions appeared in the cool, soft clouds as I stretched out my limbs across our yard. I closed my eyes, attempting to make sense of my thoughts and emotions...
It had not left me. The emotion was still within me, but suddenly it was more subtle than it ever had been before. Or was it sudden...?
I could not tell you today how long I lay there, the bright, hot sun boiling me, a breeze ruffling my fir, the cool clouds comforting my body. But I can tell you that it was then that I began to realize that this feeling would never leave me.
Months passed, and years after them. Life went on... and sickness went on. Soon the scenes I had previously experienced so vividly faded gradually away, and the hollow, empty feeling I used to feel suddenly became less of a shock: it transformed into my constant companion. It was an underlying emotion, no matter what my temporary, surface mood was.
At first the complexity of my emotions seemed special. I again felt like a queen, the rest of the world just some meager peasant. But that was not the case, not the case at all...
I was unique, sure, along with the rest of the world. What made me different was my seemingly irrational response to the hurting of others. Alice seemed immune, as did Clara and Tanya, and so many others whom I had encountered since.
But as time passed, the truth of the matter soon became clear to me. I was never alone, never alone. My new emotional companion of emptiness and the absence of my vibrant inner eye scenes became, simply, a part of my life, because in the end it did not really matter who was suffering, or where. All that mattered was that they were.