It truly was magnificent, too. The steel and glass had been melted together, twisting and bending in just the right way.
"But..." the gold Kyrii continued, biting his lip.
"But...?" Laylabelle encouraged. What could be wrong? Her sculpture was perfect!
"I can't, err, feel anything. Where is the meaning?" He adjusted his cotton vest and fiddled with the silver buttons anxiously before looking back at the checkered Ixi before him.
Laylabelle felt her jaw fall, but did nothing to stop it. She snapped her mouth shut before looking back to her creation. The object was painstakingly crafted out of the finest glass and metal she could afford with her meager budget. Meaning?
As if sensing her confusion, he continued, “You know, uh...” He scratched his head. “When you look at a piece of artwork, you can feel every emotion the artist had while creating it. Anger, worry, eh, sadness, ...you understand?” The neopet nervously rubbed his palms together before carrying on. “To me, it feels as if you were, um, blank while shaping this model. What were you, er, thinking about?”
“I was thinking about winning!” The words snapped out of her mouth before she knew what she was saying. The Kyrii stared at her, wide eyed, as she bound her muzzle shut with her hands. “I didn’t mean that! I really didn’t!” She grabbed the neopet’s gray fur covered shoulders in a tight grip before shaking him to-and-fro. “Really! Really, truly! I didn’t!” She retracted her hands from the Kyrii before wrapping them around herself.
“Maybe I should leave-“
“No!” she cried, interrupting the man. “I-, I mean, how can I add... meaning?” Her eyes wandered to every figure in the room save the Kyrii. Creations lined her vision, beautiful figures of blues, greens, teals, glass, bronze, clay, fabric, rough, smooth, bumpy, with all the trimmings. She didn’t feel anything from looking at these pieces. Meaning...?
“I, eh, can’t add the meaning for you,” he started. “ You have to find- discover your own meaning.”
The man scurried away, his hind legs thumping on the cold marble floor as he judged the next creation, nodding. Laylabelle looked dejectedly at her sculpture. Thoughts of ‘Meaning. Meaning... Meaning?’ reverberating in her eardrums.
The words still echoed as she mechanically unlocked the door to her neohome, took a bath, and lay in her bed. Sleepless, she closed her eyes and thought. Meaning. What is meaning, really? What is the meaning of sleep? Of the clouds? Of hunger, or trees, or fast rivers or friends or dancing or laughing or or or or or-
What is the meaning of living?
Her eyes seemed to dilate to slits. What if there is no meaning? Also, if there is a meaning, what is it? Is it to be successful? To be rich? To be happy? What if everyone didn’t want to be happy or rich or successful, but revengeful or angsty or even blank, blind to the world and all of its problems?
Laylabelle slowly turned her checkered head towards the open window, where Kreludor shone brightly through. What, she pondered, was the meaning of the moon? It shed its rays at night, illuminating Neopia, she concluded. But, then again, what was the meaning of sight? To take in the surroundings, she supposed. Laylabelle let out a breath before deciding to stop analyzing everything.
The next morning, at precisely 8:27 AM, Laylabelle found herself sitting on a small, grassy hill in Meridell, eyes blank and hooves motionless, still musing, reflecting, speculating over meanings. Her mind was a mess, cluttered with these inklings. Before she could blink, these thoughts came outside of her mind, screaming, yelling, shrieking, screeching, wailing at her, these questions she quietly had pondered just moments before.
‘What is the meaning of fun, Laylabelle?’
‘Laylabelle, the meaning of the sun, Laylabelle! What is it?’
‘Laylabelle, answer me, me first! I want to know the meaning of love! Tell me, Laylabelle!’
‘What? You, first? No, I should be answered first! Laylabelle, portray me the meaning of art!’
Her eyes spun, she felt as though her arms had melted, and her legs had frozen over. Those voices... those horrible, horrible voices!
"I'm hearing things," she tried to convince herself, "Hearing words, words, beautiful, meaningless words, sentences, sounds!" She tightly gripped her head behind the ears and took a deep gulp of air.
‘Just ignore them,’ she told herself. ‘Ignore them, and they’ll leave. They’ll go someplace new and bother someone new! Oh please, Fyora, make them leave!’
The instant the words came into her mind, the voices quieted down to a gentle buzzing in the back of her ears. She sluggishly moved her hooves from her head, cautiously making positive the voices wouldn’t return.
‘Laylabelle... Laylabelle... what is...’
‘No,’ she thought, her eyes widening. ‘No no no no no, they’re back!’
Quickly snapping her head left and right, she concluded no one else was there to make the sounds; these voices were her burdens and hers alone.
‘Run, run run run RUN.’
Her hooves carried her far to the knowledgeable kingdom of Brightvale, where intelligent neopets were having quiet conversations amongst themselves, scholars and philosophers debated in the town square, and others enjoyed a stroll by the castle.
‘Laylabelle... I want to know...’
She bounded out in a flash to the thick trees and wood of the Haunted Woods, the howling of the wind easing her mind slightly, drowning out the voices in her head for a small bit.
‘Describe me the meaning of flowers!’
She tore through the forest, before winding up in the sand dunes and blaring heat of the Lost Desert. The locals shot her strange looks, as she blinked quickly and shook her head at random intervals. The pyramids and sand seemed to taunt her as well, joining in with the voices.
‘Utter the meaning of flying!’
She turned tail and fled back into the Haunted Woods, hoping the groans of the trees and the screams of the rusty gates could ease the sounds in her mind. Laylabelle, halfway to Edna’s Tower, suddenly stopped in the middle of her rush. Looking towards the sky, she seemed to give up, and let the voices cry out in her head.
‘Laylabelle, speak the meaning of warmth!’
‘No, speak the meaning of smiles!’
The bright red Usul straightened her apron, brushing off imaginary dust, before continuing to push the small wooden cart down the halls of the Meepit Oaks Sanitorium for the Psychologically Fragile. Adjusting her apron once more, she softly knocked three times on a wooden door, labeled 721-B. Opening it, without a sound from the inside, she pushed the metal cart inside the small room, and shut the door with a soft click behind her.
“Good morning, Laylabelle! How are you feeling this morning?” the nurse said, making a forced smile in the inmate’s direction. “And how are the voices doing?”
The Ixi, lying on the dirty cot on the other side of the room, lifted her head to the nurse in a silent greeting, before plunking it back down onto the mattress.
“I’ve brought your favorite today--cheese and grapes with a side of peas.” The Usul lifted the paper dish of food and sat it down on the small, wooden table by the bed.
“Excuse me... nurse?”
“Do-...do you know the meaning of the sky?”
The nurse looked out of the little, barred window in the room, where bits of blue could be seen between the bars.
“I’m afraid not. Maybe you should make your own meaning.”
The Usul nurse looked back at the Ixi, before grabbing her cart and leaving the chambers the same way she came in, with a small click.
“My own meaning...” she whispered to herself. She looked towards the window, eyes following the clouds. Laylabelle grinned, albeit a bit crazily, baby blues squinting.
“The sky... it sure is magnificent, no?”