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From Within


by chirigami

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Also by grapesourhorse

They don't include me.

     Me and that other Neopet who doesn't shower a lot. I mean, he is pretty smelly, but I'm still nice to him because it’s not as if he’s done something wrong other than smell bad. The other Neopets are mean. They play tag in the yard behind the school, and I asked to join one time -- I even offered to be the person who was 'it'. No one really wants to be 'it' because then you have to run a lot more. But then, one of them started giggling, and everyone else started giggling, and then they walked away without me. They made someone else be ‘it’, and he didn’t even want to.

     I dunno what I did to make them not like me, but it must have been big.

     My name is Ilena; I don't think I've mentioned that. Mommy says that I should always start with my name, but it didn't seem like a very exciting thing to start with. I've been a Plushie Yurble for almost ten years, and I've loved every moment of it (even if I can't swim because my plush fur will get all wet). I come from a big family, and I'm really close to all of them. My brother Mozke does the funniest things with me. He is a Korbat, so he is tiny with little fangs, and he wears this silly Korbat Aviator get-up and zooms around. When I was littler, he used to pick me up by the arms and pull me into the air so I could fly too, but he tried it two days ago and it didn’t work. Mommy says it's because I'm having a growth spurt. I hope so. I want to be much bigger and older. Big people have all the fun.

     I'm a really big fan of school; I love art and gym, but not English. I can speak English, so why do I have to study it? We only read boring books in class, but my teacher is great. I have a big sweet tooth and she always lets me bring gummies to class and eat them when she’s teaching. Not a lot of teachers will let you do that, but Miss Kay does because she’s nice. So I like school.

     I'm getting ready to go to school right now. Today is going to be a great day because we are playing dodgeball and I'm really good at it. One of the mean Neopets said that everyone’s good at dodgeball because all you have to do is dodge the ball. But if that was true, why did that Neopet get out of the game in like five minutes? Sometimes I think people just try to be mean.

     "Ilena, time to go!"

     My mommy’s voice sounds really impatient. That probably means that one of my siblings didn't get up when she asked them to.

     Our house in Meridell is amazing. It has these great stair railings that are so much fun to slide down, especially when you are in a hurry. It can hurt if you’re not careful, though; a lot of times I’ve ended up sprawled on the bottom of the stairs because I forgot to jump off at the end. I like my floor, but it’s not a very nice thing to land on.

     It doesn't snow much in Meridell, but I wish it did. There is something exciting about walking to school in the snow, and I think it makes the journey funner. (Miss Kay says funner is not a word but to me it is.) It’s so green here. Green is one of my favourite colors after purple and blue, but Mommy always said too much of one thing is not good, and I agree.

     With so many siblings, I think it would be fun to have snowball fights. There’s nothing better than wearing your woolen mitts and making a snowball, packing the crunchy snow into a ball and then throwing it at someone. I think I would throw it at Mozke because he squeaks when he’s caught off guard and it’s funny.

     The school that I go to stands out because it's red and it’s at the top of a little hill. It's nice to be able to see it from a bit of a distance, because you’d never get lost on the way there. At the top of the hill, my siblings and I separate because we’re in different grades. So I go to my class and sit down at my desk like I always do.

     Then I hear someone behind me.

     "Hey Ilena, what did you do to your fur?" someone calls.

     I can feel my face turn red. I haven’t changed my fur at all. What’s going on?

     "It looks so weird. It looks like a Beekadoodle made a nest in it," he continues.

     Why is he continuing?!

     Everyone else in the classroom starts giggling and I slink down into my chair.

      I don't want to be here anymore.

     --

     His steely black eyes focus on the piece of grass in his hand, as if to destroy it through sheer will power. His silhouette is strong against the horizon, fierce and taut. A black tail fans out behind him, lined with fiery colors that dance and flicker on his body like flame. His paws tighten, and waves of intense heat roil from him, until the utter force of the inferno threatens to consume him.

     In the space between one heartbeat and the next, the grass bursts into flame, embers sparking through the air. Holding the ashen remnants of the grass in his paw, the Blumaroo smiled, his teeth a stark white against the coal of his body. He turns his attention on the world around him, the green hills of Meridell rolling pure and sweet, and his smile grows wider.

     His smile is a mockery of a smile itself, for it so completely joyless that it is almost pitiful. And the wider his leer grows, the greater the destruction becomes. The grass and the colors of the flowers began to disappear, replaced by dust and dirt. Little pools of lava formed at the Blumaroo's feet, and he let out a harsh sound, a piercing laughter that was totally without emotion, embers bursting from his fiery maw. His cold, black eyes fixed on a speck of red in the distance, and he started to walk towards it. He could finally do what he had always wanted.

     At last, he is free.

     --

     I am in Miss Kay’s English class. We are having a spelling bee and I’m already out even though it’s only been two rounds. I hate spelling. My word was ‘almighty’ and everyone laughed when I couldn’t spell it even after Miss Kay said the definition.

     I am dozing off, my head lolling on my plush, plushie paws. Is it just me, or is it getting really hot in here? I look around and see that all my classmates are wearing the same uncomfortable expressions, tugging at their shirts and fanning themselves.

     Then, there is an almighty crash.

     Miss Kay gets up, looking anxious, and opens the door to the classroom. Her face goes white. I have never seen a big Neopet look that scared before. The smell of smoke wafts through the door and she quickly shuts it. She opens the window and says: "Okay, children, we are going to leave the classroom through the window, because it looks like there is a fire in the hallway. No one panic, please; just form a single file line."

     Good thing our classroom is on the first floor. I immediately think of Mozke and my other siblings, because they aren’t all like Mozke who can fly. But they are big and I know they can take care of themselves.

     Some of the other kids in the class look really scared, though, and they all rush to the window. One of them pushes me on the way so I end up being last in line. It doesn't take too long for everyone to get out because Miss Kay works really fast. As she is helping the last kid before me out of the window (the yellow Aisha who is always ‘it’ when the others play tag) there is another crash. I turn my head and see a Fire Blumaroo standing in the doorway.

     This Blumaroo... he looks like one huge ball of fire. He scares me, his eyes are so dark. Miss Kay hurriedly picks me up and jumps out of the window with me before I can get a better look.

     I don’t get it. There is a fire in the hallway! The Blumaroo will get hurt.

     “Shouldn’t someone go back for that Blumaroo?” I ask, tugging at Miss Kay’s shirt.

     She looks down at me, her face still white. “No, honey,” she says quietly, “no.”

     “But he’s gonna get hurt!” I exclaim, and I feel fear clutch at me. I tug harder at Miss Kay’s shirt. “Miss Kay, we gotta go get him! The building’s burning up, Miss Kay! C’mon! We gotta rescue him!”

     She squats down, her gentle brown eyes full of compassion. “Darling,” she says quietly, taking my paws in hers. “You don’t understand. That Blumaroo...”

     She trails off, not finishing her sentence. But somehow -- I see it in her eyes -- she knows that Blumaroo from before. And the memories seem to be anything but pleasant.

     “I think that Blumaroo may have caused the fire. He’s a fire Neopet, you see? Remember what we learned about what happens when fire Neopets get too angry?” Her voice catches, and I look up to see tears in her eyes as she watches her classroom burn. I am sad. That classroom was nice. The door was covered with paper flowers we made in class one day.

     Before she can say anything else, I spot my brother S-Bad.

     “S-bad!” I cry, racing over to him. “S-bad, Miss Kay said that Blumaroo did this to the school, oh, did he really? S-bad, he couldn’t have, could he?”

     And my rough Pirate Gelert brother, usually so brusque and gruff, reaches down to scoop me up. In his arms I snuggle, safe and secure. Mozke hovers above us, and I fall asleep in the shadows of his wings. The school building smolders in front of our eyes. No one sees the Blumaroo leave.

     But I want to see him again.

     --

     I wake up in bed and look outside -- I'm not really sure what I’m looking for. Flames, maybe, or sparks, flying embers... something that would show me where he is. I have to find him!

     I peer around at the dark world around me, so cold and strange in the night. Nothing. Kreludor looks down on me from high up in the sky, its eerie light turning my fur silver. It is enough light so I can find him – find the Blumaroo! My plushie toes touch the ground; the wooden floor is cold. I want to hop back into my warm bed, but no! I have to see him again. I have to ask him why he did that to the school.

     I think he just wanted a hug.

     I look around my room for stuff I should bring. I hope my mommy won’t come into my room and see me gone. She worries a lot, and scolds me too, but it’s because she loves me and doesn’t want anything to happen to me. After a bit of digging, I pull out my camouflage clothes that Mommy bought for me a few months ago, and find some black face paint left over from Halloween. I was Eliv Thade and I was really scary! Well, S-bad and Mozke laughed, but I’m sure Mommy was scared of me.

     What else do I need? I spot my old yoyo, something that entertained me for hours when I was littler. If I find him, maybe we can play with it again! Who knows, maybe he likes yoyos?

     It’s funny, but the door to my house always makes this annoying, creaky sound whenever I’m trying to be quiet. It never creaks during the daytime. Oh well. When I open it, it screeches, and I am afraid that S-bad will hear and come charging out of his room with his Battledome gear on.

     But no one hears.

     I close the door and step out onto the dirt path that I take every morning to school. The path seems so different in the night. Has that bush always been there? And where are the singing Beekadoodles? Oh yeah. It is night and they are sleeping.

     I don't know why I head to the school but I guess it's because I didn't see him leave and maybe it was because he had never left. When I get there, I walk up the hill and look around.

     The school is in ruins. The red walls were really big, but now they are only a little taller than me. My lovely school, ruined. As I look around, I feel disappointed. For some reason, I was sure he would be here, and he isn't.

     "I guess I’ll go home." I sigh sadly to myself.

     See, I really wanted to give him that hug. Maybe it would have made things a little better. Maybe it would have stopped him from being so angry. Hugs are a little like magic, you know. Tall people underestimate them but I know how special they are.

     "What are you doing here?" a raspy voice whispers.

     I turn around, and there he is! At the bottom of the hill. He looks smaller than he did before. His eyes aren’t as scary. He almost looks... sad.

     I think about being scared for a second, but I'm not here to be scared. I’m not too sure why I am here. But I know it has something to do with giving him a hug.

     "I'm Ilena," I call down to him. "Who are you?"

     He looks at me carefully, and I see the judgment flickering in his coal eyes. He is trying to see if he can trust me. But why couldn’t he?

      "Allumente," he says finally. "Why do you want to know?" His voice is passionate, and very pained. If I was this frustrated, I would be crying by now. But I guess he just wasn’t the type to cry. Like S-bad. Thinking of S-bad makes me feel better. Allumente is kind of like him, and S-bad would never hurt me.

     I am puzzled. "I wanted to meet you," I say, hopping down the hill for a closer look. It is dark, so I am careful. "I want to know why you did that to school." As I speak, I point to the debris that is around us.

     "It's complicated," Allumente mutters, looking down. "You wouldn't understand."

     "I dunno,” I reply, frowning. Now, I am right in front of him, and I feel the air crackle around him as if there is still fire smoldering in him. I sit down on a large rock next to him. "I might understand better than you think,” I add hopefully. I want him to tell me.

     I see him look me up and down. He is obviously thinking.

     Then he waves at what used to be the school.

     "I was very unhappy here. My family wasn't... we didn't have very many Neopoints so I had to wear hand-me-downs from my older siblings. The other Neopets didn't understand. I got teased a lot." His expression is sad, but growing angrier with every word. His dark black eyes start to glow fiery red, and his fists clench.

     "But why burn down the school?" I ask, utterly confused. “The Neopets in my class aren’t very nice either but I never got angry. I felt... ashamed,” I mutter, and I feel embarrassment spread in me.

     "I don't like feeling left out,” he continues, and he sounds worse than sad; he sounds heartbroken. “I am still angry. They were merciless. No one could stop them. They didn’t care." His eyes become hard again. They look like stones set in his face. "I wanted to destroy all my memories of this place."

     "Did it work?"

     ..."No."

     Allumente sits on the rock beside me, instantly heating it to comfortable warmth. Without thinking, I snuggle against him, grateful for the heat he provides. It is a cold night.

     He flinches, looking startled and afraid.

     “Sorry,” I say, hurt. Maybe he doesn’t like snuggling.

     He gets off the rock and kneels before me, gently taking my plushie paws in his fiery ones. Our eyes meet, and suddenly, they don’t look angry anymore. Maybe a little hurt, maybe a little weary, but nothing that wouldn’t go away with some time.

     "I get teased too," I whisper. "I don't know what I’m doing wrong."

     Allumente shakes his fiery head. "You’re not doing anything wrong,” he says gently. “Don’t let anyone trick you into thinking that you are.”

     He stands then, and so do I. I reach up and take his hand.

     “Allumente?” I whisper, feeling snugly warm from his heat.

     “Yes?”

     “Are you still angry?”

     “...No, Ilena. I’m not.”

     “Let’s go home.”

     I can move past what he’s done; I’m sure everyone else will understand as well. And he won’t ever do it again. I can see the change in him. Fire still covers his fur, but it seems to have left his heart.

The End

 
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