Ghostentine's Day Parade
"Blue! Where are we going?" yelled my younger brother, Grayden, with a bandanna tied around his eyes. I pushed him towards our destination and carefully lifted him onto stone curbing, pulling the bandanna off. He looked at me, puzzled.
"We're going swimming for my birthday?" the Korbat inquired. I grinned slyly.
"We're not. You are!" I exclaimed, pushing him into the waters and pulling the ghost paint brush out from my pocket. I glared at the item. All his life, Grayden had wanted to be ghost. While he was at school, I had been in the games room, working towards his goal. Weeks before this, I had earned exactly enough neopoints to buy his paint brush. I felt myself drift into approving thoughts as Grayden growled.
"What was that for?" he shouted angrily, grabbing my ankle. I didn't think he had caught on to the fact that we were in the Rainbow Pool.
"Gray, no--" I yelped, falling into the large pond. My thin arms flew across the air, bringing the paint brush into the liquid as well. I watched in horror as the item whisked over the atmosphere, dropping directly above me. I held my breath and ducked my head beneath the waters in an attempt to avoid what was to happen. Grayden spun around in the pool, and observed his surroundings. It was then that he realized that I was going to give him his dream color. The Korbat abruptly jumped under the paint brush, and despite his and my own efforts, he was too late. Within the windy conditions was a hint of sabotage. My silky, purple fur had transformed into a ghostly turquoise, and would remain the same. A ghostly Xweetok.
A year passed by, and I was still a ghost. My brother and I-- we were opposites. Opposites attract, but opposites cannot, and will not adjust. Grayden was now working towards his paint brush, determined to obtain the title as "The Undead Family". Now, don't get me wrong, being a ghost had advantages. I could walk through walls, and I never got hurt when I tripped or fell. I moved very swiftly at dance recitals and practices, I also could glide across the air with my faerie-painted friends, who tried their hardest to accept me and my new form. Though I was still me on the inside, I often got excluded from doing things that I loved, merely because of my coat of paint.
One thing that I was hoping not to be excluded from, however, was the Valentine's Day parade. Every year my dance class-- the best in Neopia Central-- was signed up to dance on a pink and red float in the Valentine's Day parade. My class consisted of pink, faerie, disco, purple, red, and royal pets, along with rainbow, striped, and speckled pets. In a class of cheerfully painted pets, I stuck out like a sore thumb. But I was a born dancer, I couldn't deny that.
"Grayden, I'm leaving for the Valentine's dance rehearsal," I called, racing out the soft, wooden door. I rapidly tied my dark and unruly, greenish-blue hair into a ponytail and stepped into the cool air. Our house was directly across from the dance studio, so I didn't have to dart over to the building and enter with beads of sweat dripping from my forehead. I could take a brief stroll over to the Rainbow Works Dance Studio with ease, and come to practice ready and energized. I sped down the walkway, noticing a thin leaf fluttering past me. It was moving ever so elegantly, almost as if it were a graceful dancer like me. I imagined it flowing into the dance studio with me, but decided to devote my focus to rehearsal. I slid my hand against the brass doorknob and twisted it. Slowly, the door drifted open. I smiled at my friends and waved.
"Hey," I greeted them. No response. I looked around the room. My fellow dancers were pointing at me and whispering mysteriously.
I walked up to a crowd. "What's going on?" I asked inquisitively. Everybody turned their heads and glared at me, then nervously turned away. I felt a cold finger touch my shoulder, I jumped slightly. It was only my dance instructor, Ms. Kerew. I spun around and faced her. The Cybunny looked down at me with a hint of sympathy in her eyes.
"Blue, may I speak with you for a moment?" Ms. Kerew asked. I nodded and followed her over to a corner.
"The Valentine's Dance at the parade, you know about it, correct?" she asked casually. I nodded.
"I'm in it every year. We're in it every year," I answered slowly. Ms. Kerew bit her lip.
"Yes, well, I'm afraid that you are not permitted to be in the parade this year, sweetie."
I widened my eyes; the words hit me like darts. I froze, fighting the urge to cry at this moment, in this position. I stammered.
"Wh-why...?" I listened to myself, realizing that I sounded like a young baby. But I might as well be one-- I'd gain more respect than with being a ghost.
"The Neopia Central council members don't want any gloomily-colored pets depressing the parade fans. I tried my best to fight for your right, I really did, but they wer--"
I stopped my dance instructor and headed for the door, without another word. I ran across the path to my house, and ran inside to think.
Everything had happened too quickly; I couldn't keep up! That's how it all began, this whole situation I'm stuck in. It seems pretty innocent, right? It all happened normally, and usually I'd take the news normally. I did... I suppose. Any average neopet would be upset, perhaps they'd shed a tear or two, and a day later, it'll be over. Old news. But this was different. I knew in my heart that I wasn't going to take this gracefully-- but I didn't see another clear alternative.
I closed my eyes and tried to come up with a plan. Dance was my passion-- I was always in this parade. This parade was one of the few things that made me feel better. I forgot that I was a hideous old ghost when I danced, and especially dancing on a beautiful float in my native land. I rubbed the sides of my head and concentrated. The Neopia Central council members held event meetings somewhere... but where? I pondered this, knowing that it was on the tip of my tongue. "Art Centre!" I gasped. I saw a meeting room in a corner one time before... it only seemed logical that the meetings be held there. Half of a neopet event was art, and there obviously wasn't a specific building for event meetings. I'd go to the Art Centre and talk with the council members. I kne that they'd see how important the parade was to me.
I arose from the dirty floor and walked into the kitchen, where I heard shuffling. "Grayden?" I observed, seeing the yellow Korbat rummaging around in the cabinets.
"What're you doing?" I questioned my younger brother. He backed away from the cabinet.
"I thought you'd be at practice for a long time, so I wanted to make my own dinner," he explained cautiously. I smiled and patted him on the shoulder.
"I'll make dinner tonight. Want some soup?" I asked, opening the cupboard.
The Korbat looked at me strangely. "Blue, are you okay? Your face is all red-- were you crying or something?"
I looked at my feet. If I was, I certainly didn't realize it."No, it was just really warm in the studio," I lied, pulling a small can from a shelf. "Soup?" I repeated, hurriedly making an attempt to change the subject.
Grayden squinted. "What's the real reason?" he asked.
I sighed, and hung my head. "I'm not allowed in the parade because I'm a ghost now," I explained sadly. My brother looked up.
"B-but... you have to be in the parade! It's essential; you're the best dancer in Neopia Central!" Grayden pointed out furiously. I sighed again.
"That's why I'm going to talk with the Neopia Central council members tonight to straighten this out." My voice was firm and confident. The Korbat's eyes widened.
"What are you waiting for, Blue? Go now! You can't ignore this; confront it," he encouraged me. I narrowed my eyes.
"You're acting different than usual," I noticed suspiciously. He jumped.
"Just go to the council members, I'll go to the food shop and grab a bite to eat." It seemed that my brother had this entire thing planned out.
"Fine," I agreed, nodding sheepishly. I marched out the door, my Xweetok tail trailing behind me. "And when I said you're being different, I meant it," I confirmed. I closed the door slowly. "Different in a good way."
Obviously, this is going a bit quicker than it actually occurred. Minutes were like days when Mrs. Kerew told me about the parade. And like my brother said, I had to confront this. I had to. And again, I'll say that this is going at rapid speed, but my heart sure wasn't. I'm just standing here-- as if I am air. But air keeps moving. It always does.
The Art Centre was crowded. Creative Neopians were strewn across the building. A variety of neopets were sketching portraits of one another, and others were reciting brilliant poetry. I listened contently to the beautiful words. A checkered Chomby had read a poem that caught my attention. A haiku, I observed.
"Learn from what you see
Mistakes are a million
The bad can be good," the Chomby read happily.
I leaned closer. The piece of literature quite reminded me of my ghost situation. I tried to follow the poem's advice, but decided the goal wasn't something that could be achieved at an instant. I walked around and examined some artwork. All around, I was getting strange looks. Suddenly, my confidence lowered. Being ghost is nothing to be proud of, and these art fanatics made the statement clear. Ignoring the judgments, I scanned the area for a room that would be fit for an event meeting. I imagine that these meetings go on often, plans usually always change. There are many updates to discuss, there should be a meeting going on.
I scampered up to a red Scorchio sitting at the front desk. "May I help you?" she asked in a friendly tone.
I nodded. "Um, is the Neopia Central council here? I'd like to talk to someone there," I answered as politely as I could.
"I'll check," the Scorchio assured me. She arose and walked over to a tall, silver Grarrl. He had dark sunglasses and a tuxedo, and stood in front of a large, long hallway. The woman spoke briefly to the guard. Keeping a straight face, the Grarrl told her something that I didn't exactly hear clearly. The Scorchio pointed at me and shook her head. Confused, I waited for her to respond to me. As if to read my mind, she approached me and smiled.
"An event meeting was scheduled to end a few minutes ago, but a few of the council members haven't left yet," she explained, gesturing me towards the guard. Trembling, I followed the fast man. He was threatening, almost scary. As he showed me the meeting room, I thanked him quietly and proceeded into the room. A starry Gelert and a spotted Eyrie remained in the room, speaking to a young, ghost Cybunny.
"We apologize, but we can't let you sit on the Youngsters' Wagon at the parade; you'll scare the Neopians," said the sallow Eyrie. The Gelert agreed, and pushed the young pet out of the room. "Geesh, that's the fourteenth ghost today," he mumbled, looking up at me.
"Lemme guess, you wanna be in the parade?" he inquired straightforwardly. I nodded.
"Bang. Listen: Valentine's Day. Gotta theme: love. Ghost scare the little ones away, 'kay? Paint yourself a different color and we'll talk," the Gelert added in a matter-of-fact tone.
"I've been on the float every year. I'm a great dancer,." I insisted. "Please, this parade means so much to me."
The Eyrie chuckled. "It means a lot to all the other ghosts and zombies out there," he said, raising his eyebrow. I rolled my eyes.
"But why exclude us just because we're different than everyone else?" I demanded. The two council members cornered me out the room and shut the door.
"Bang. Because we can." The old Gelert smirked.
I stumbled down the hallway and saw a familiar face in tears. "It's no fair, right?" the Cybunny I had seen earlier said to me. "I wanna be in the parade! All my sisters are gonna," she whined.
"Well, the parade is in two days. There isn't much time before the parade actually happens, and we're not in it," I replied unwillingly. The young pet glared at me.
"There are protesting people out there," she pointed out, looking through the clear doors. We ran outside and stared at the group of ghost pets, holding signs.
In unison, the group chanted, "Valentines ain't just pink!" over and over. I grabbed a sign that read, "Have a ghostly Valentine's" and chimed in. Seconds later, the Cybunny, whose name was Gracie, chanted along as well. No more than five minutes later, the two council members I had seen in the meeting room rushed out and shooed us away.
"Get outta here! All of you!" they shouted angrily for several minutes. Eventually, we all huddled in a dark alley and a ghost Mynci, Steven, started rubbed a couple of thick sticks together to make a small fire to light the darkness.
We all exchanged serious looks for a minute or two, and stared at the ground. Most of us were plain-out befuddled.
"We have to think of a way to stop this. We're neopets, too! We have rights," Steven protested, as if the council members were still there.
"How can we?" I asked. "They have their minds set on keeping us away."
A few other ghosts approved of my 'epiphany', as a Poogle named Freddie called it. A ghost Kyrii named Catherine began to state her opinion.
"Those jerks said that we have Halloween, but anyone can dress up for Halloween. We can't dress up like frilly girly-girls!" she roared. I noticed something interesting from her words.
"Catherine, say that again..." I asked slyly.
"We can't dress up like girly-girls?" She raised an eyebrow.
I shook my head. "Before that, about us having our own day," I told her, looking around the group Gracie and Steven caught on to my idea, and grinned. "I think that may just be our ticket to getting in the parade."
Today was Valentine's Day, my favorite holiday. The parade started in thirty minutes; I had to hurry. I awoke earlier than usual, and got dressed. I threw on a black sweater and black shorts. Speeding down the stairs, I grabbed an apple and headed outside. I had already told Grayden about our plan; he was obviously excited. I closed the door quietly and darted towards the Money Tree: where the Valentine's Day parade ended. It also happened to be where the Ghostentine's Day parade would start.
Crowds of curious Neopians had formed around our "float", though we only told ghost and zombie pets of the plan. Most of them hopped on our float and decided to join us. Our float consisted of four jumbo wagons, two bicycles on the front and back, and right in front of the wagons, was a large float. An actual float. Gracie and her sisters, along with six other ghost pets, had worked on it. They cut out cardboard and painted the pieces ghostly blue, and hung white ribbons from the bottom. They put metal play forms on the bottom for support, and ghost plushies, each holding red paper hearts, surrounded the structure. It was truly amazing; nothing less.
Catherine, a Flotsam named Anne, and a Yurble named Zeke, hopped atop the float.
"C'mon, Blue!" Catherine called. I shook my head.
"I need to see the Valentine's parade first. I'll be right back," I told her. The ghosts looked puzzled. I wanted to tell them that even though I was a horrifying ghoul now, I still had Valentine's spirit, but I didn't. They'd catch on eventually. I glided down a path that lead to the Neopian Plaza and hovered around the float. I saw my former friends, dancing their hearts out, not seeming a bit guilty about me not being in the parade.
I guess our 'Best Friends Forever' promise only applies to painted pets suitable for Valentine's day, I thought sadly. I made a fatal attempt to think about Valentine's Day in disgust, but just couldn't bear it.
I shook my head and jumped at the ground, this time walking back. It was a disappointment not to be in the parade, but I would be in one parade that Neopia dare not forget. I spun around and watched as the pink and red structure followed me, barely winning a race with a stray turdle that shifted around.
I turned back around and floated in air like a faerie, squinting to see that the crowd of twenty ghosts was now a crowd of over forty! I saw three zombies, whose species I couldn't quite identify. I smiled.
"That's one point for the rejects," I mumbled, hopping upon the float.
Gracie and a few young ghost pets were sitting in a wagon, waving to their "audience". I closed my eyes and tried to see the dancers again, but could not. I had erased it from my thoughts. I wanted to dance as gracefully as the leaf did just a few days ago. The elegant green leaf, swaying about. And then I knew. My thoughts drifted back.
I spun around on the float and let my arms rock back and forth. I lifted one leg and swung it forwards, jumping in the air and landing on tip-toes. I closed my eyes and flew against the wind gently, and whirled around beautifully. I was as light on my feet as a feather, and danced as if I had wings. Bit by bit, I felt the float move forward. More than sixty ghosts and a handful of zombies rode with us.
As I spun around, I looked at my surroundings. I saw ghosts and zombies hopping up onto the structure! Was I speaking to the people? Did these completely change everything, or did it completely change the day? I thought about this as I twirled around.
The golden sun arose from the hint of darkness that cradled the atmosphere, and made a truly majestic scene. A zombie rode on each bicycle, and the entire group of ghosts I had met the at the Art Centre was standing on the tip of the float. Seven other ghosts were moving with the same choreography that I had been dancing to. The young pets in the wagons were waving and twirling around, hollering "Happy Ghostentine's Day!" again and again.
I smiled and looked at the mass of Neopians, and saw the beaming face of Grayden. I chuckled and sped to to the edge of the float, pulling my younger brother up. With obvious satisfaction, he danced along. I sighed gratefully, realizing that I didn't have to live under a shadow. I could dance under the light. I was proud to be a ghost; I was not ashamed of it any longer.
Overall, this was surely a Ghostentine's Day to remember.