Face Your Fear
16th Day of the Month of Hunting, Year 8
It was finally Lua’s turn. The young Island Ixi twirled and did a few stretches as the judges scored the pet that had been before her. There were a few quiet cheers, and she knew that the pet had not done well. Lua smiled, knowing the thunderous applause that would follow her performance.
The Ixi took a few deep breaths before climbing up the rocks that led to the high dive into the ocean surrounding Mystery Island. She smiled again as she imagined her family clapping and cheering loudly as she was handed a trophy for completing the Mystery Island Sports Finals.
The water from Mysterious Stream flowed quickly over the giant rock from which she would dive. She had made the dive here many, many times before and hardly felt scared at all as the dizzying length to the ground loomed before her.
Placing her hooves together, Lua prepared to dive. She took a step forward, her eyes gazing confidently about. In front of her the judges sat waiting, arms folded. Lua felt confident. Lua felt happy. She knew that she loved diving, and that she was an expert at it. And Lua jumped, feeling no fear but only exhilaration and contentment.
But something was wrong. Very wrong. It may have been that the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, or that Lua had misjudged the dive. But it didn’t matter. Not now.
As Lua dived, her back hoof slipped against a loose rock. She was thrown to the side and slammed into the rock. Her last thought was that her chances of winning would surely be ruined now. Then everything was dark.
23rd Day of the Month of Awakening, Year 9
“Come on, Lua!”
Lua sighed. Would these pets never stop bugging her? First her mom, then her dad, then her little brother, Taren. And now Katie.
“It’s fun!” the Island Krawk said impatiently, splashing her friend. “Aren’t you hot?”
“That’s what fans are for,” said Lua boredly, waving herself with a palm fan specially handcrafted by Katie’s father, a renowned weaver.
“You haven’t swam since the accident,” said Katie. “Come on, it wasn’t swimming that got you, right? It was diving! Just wade or something. You’re going to die of heatstroke!”
It had been over a year since Lua’s diving accident. Lua couldn’t even remember it that well. But Katie did. She remembered watching in horror as Lua was rushed to the island medicine man, and been diagnosed with a broken leg. That was it. Of course, Lua had gotten a couple of scrapes, including a scar on her broken leg that couldn’t even be seen if it was covered with a grass skirt. True, Lua was better now, but she wouldn’t go anywhere near High Dive Rock, the scene of her accident.
“Lua!” called Lua’s mother from inside. “I have to go out now, and Taren’s in the pool; could you please watch him?”
“Sure,” muttered Lua, glaring at Taren, her two-year-old brother, who was playing happily in the large and deep natural pool that was next to their hut. “Stay in the shallows, Taren,” she said. He burbled back happily.
“Lua,” said Katie again as Lua’s mother left to go to the Island Market. “Won’t you come in with me? We’ll stay in the shallow water, I promise. Please?”
Lua sighed. “Fine. But only for a little while.” Katie beamed with triumph as Lua crawled slowly into the shallow water. She shivered at the water’s cold temperature, and sat there sulkily as Katie swam like a Catamara through the still water.
“Come in the deep end with me!” Katie shouted happily from the other end of the pool. Lua sullenly shook her head. “Come on!” said Katie impatiently. “How are you going to ever get into the next Mystery Island Sports Competition if you don’t relearn how to swim?”
“I’m not entering the Mystery Islands Sports Competition.”
“What?” Katie looked aghast. “But you always enter the Mystery Island Sports Competition!”
“Not this year,” said Lua, shaking her head. She glared at Katie, daring her to argue.
“But you could play Beach Volleyball!” said Katie brightly, paddling over to Taren.
“Maybe,” said Lua, turning away grumpily. Katie sighed. Her friend would never learn to face her fear.
1st Day of the Month of Hunting, Year 9
“I can’t wait until the Mystery Island Sports Competition!”
Lua cast a sideways glance at her friend. Katie glanced back. Yep, she was trying to change Lua’s mind again.
“Me neither,” gushed Lua’s mom. She and Katie were preparing the decorations for the famous contest.
“Me no wait contest!” laughed Taren, showing his toothless smile. He unsteadily tottered onto his feet and wobbled over to Lua, who was reading a book. “Lua dive Island contest?”
“No, Taren,” Lua sighed. “Lua no dive Island contest.”
Lua’s mother, Banan, cast a glance at her daughter. “Oh come on, Lu. It’ll be fun.”
“No,” said Lua firmly.
“My cousin fell off a Whinny once,” said Katie brightly. “She went right back on after she fell, and she’s ever so glad she did.”
“Oh, your poor cousin,” snapped Lua sarcastically. “Falling half a foot--how drastic!”
“Lua,” warned Banan. “Be nice.”
“But she keeps bugging me!” complained Lua, glaring at her former friend. “It’s annoying! I already told her, I don’t want to compete!”
“Well, maybe you’ll change your mind,” said Katie, smiling at Lua.
“Very unlikely,” Lua muttered.
“Maybe you could play Beach Volleyball?” suggested Banan.
“That’s what I told her!” Katie exclaimed.
“And what did she say?” asked Banan, talking about her daughter as if she wasn’t there.
“She said no,” sighed Katie, stringing a bead onto the garland she was decorating. “I don’t see why. I mean, there’s no swimming in playing volleyball.” She smirked at Lua.
“Lua,” said Banan, not seeing Katie’s smirk, “I really think you should compete. No, I want you to compete. I’m asking you to compete. I’m telling you. You don’t have to dive, or even swim, but please, just compete, dear.”
Lua scowled. “Fine. But I won’t get in the water.”
Banan sighed. “You don’t have to, dear.”
16th Day of the Month of Hunting, Year 9
Lua frowned. She was no good at beach volleyball. No good at all. She couldn’t believe she’d let Banan convince her to compete.
Lua was jerked away from her thoughts as one of the three judges, a burly Flotsam, announced the score. The audience clapped loudly, cheering for Lua’s opponent, who actually wasn’t that good. The reason he was winning was because Lua was horrible.
“You serve,” sneered the other player, a skinny Draik called Chris. “Seeing as the ball’s landed on your side.”
Lua frowned again and snatched the ball, which had been rolling downhill toward the water. She glanced at the scoreboard and winced. Nine to zero, Chris.
“Come on!” someone jeered from the crowd. “We don’t have all day!”
Lua glared. It was Zubber, the Buzz who had beaten her in the diving competition. Why, that--but wait. Why should she care? She should just congratulate him on his win. After all, diving was silly. It didn’t matter to her at all.
Punting the ball, Lua prepared for the worst. And the worst came. Chris flapped his scrawny wings and leaped into the air, returning the ball with an ugly smash. Lua ducked instinctively as the ball hurtled toward her.
“Chris wins!” shouted the prettiest of the judges, a slim female Kiko with pure white skin. She was the only female judge, and the only pet that had not smirked as Chris bashed his way to the top of the game. The other two judges, a Flotsam and a Grundo, clapped enthusiastically. “Well deserved!” said the Grundo, grinning wickedly at Lua.
Lua’s tail drooped. Se sighed as Chris happily twirled the ball on his finger, eagerly challenging a large Eyrie that would surely squash him in the next round. Lua didn’t even bother to return to her family and Katie, but walked forlornly across the beach alone.
Surprisingly enough, Lua’s feet took her to Mysterious Rock, the place of her accident. No one seemed to be there right now, they were all watching Chris and the Eyrie face off.
Lua sighed as she watched the sun make pretty patterns on the water. She ran her fingers through the small pool, enjoying the feel of water on her fur.
“Help! Help! HELP!”
Lua’s head jerked up. On the other side of pool she glimpsed a struggling body in the water. “Help!” it gasped again.
Lua jumped up. As the drowning person’s head rose above the surface to gasp for air, her eyes locked with his.
This was impossible. Taren was with Banan and Katie, watching the volleyball competition. How on Neopia could he be here? But here he was. Lua realized that he could be in serious trouble if he did not get help immediately.
But he was too far to reach. If she were to rescue him, she would have to swim out to him. Lua grimaced and prepared to swim.
Taren gasped for air again and fell under the surface. Lua hesitated, but he did not come up. She would not reach him in time if she swam all the way across the pool. And suddenly she knew what she must do.
Lua drew in her breath sharply and looked up at Mysterious Rock. It seemed to loom ominously thousands of feet above her, higher than even Techo Mountain, stretching up to sweep the clouds with its tip.
She had to save Taren, Lua told herself as she began to walk stiffly toward the rock. She had to do this. But there was no lifeguard here to fetch the village healer if she crashed again. There was only Taren. Lua was sure that if she dove she would die, and Katie and Banan and all the others would stand crying at her grave, sobbing that they never should have nagged her to swim again, to face her fear.
There were no bubbles now marking the place where Taren had gone under. What if it was too late? There would be no reason to dive. But what if he was still there, helpless, waiting, and all alone? She had to dive, she had to.
She was now on top of the rock. She walked slowly out to the edge, nearly tripping and grabbing the rock face just in time. Lua looked out at the pool, terrified half to death. There was no way she could possibly do this. But what about Taren? What would Banan think if she didn’t save him just because of a stupid fear? She wouldn’t dive, she told herself. She would just jump.
So she did.
There were a few moments of falling. Lua remembered how happy and exhilarated she had been at the competition. She was a different pet now.
There was a huge splash when Lua hit the water. She felt a moment of shock at leaping into the cold water, but she quickly recovered and felt for Taren.
Her arm brushed him and she lifted him into the air, treading water as she let her brother gulp it down gratefully and cough out some water. She clutched her brother tightly and emerged dripping from the water, and to Banan and Katie, who had noticed the Taren was gone and had come looking for him.
She silently handed Taren to them and started to walk away.
“Where are you going?” asked Katie.
“To Mysterious Rock,” said Lua. She smiled. “I need to practice my diving if I’m ever going to be ready for this year’s competition.”
Yay! My first published story! Please send your feedback by neomail to my cousin, hedgehog_queen.