"I've never known what it was like to be her," Sophie muttered to no one in particular.
The green Ixi gazed out of her shack as Gilly the Usul left from another one of her frequent visits. Her red hood and orange hair disappeared out of sight as she left behind the swamps and entered the woods. Sophie sighed as she closed her door and returned to the comfort of her shack. The swamp witch’s long hair was knotted and unwashed. Her old, patched up clothes were dirt covered and her hat flopped over her eyes. Now that Gilly had left, her home was much quieter. Still, Sophie did enjoy Gilly’s company, as long as it didn’t last too long.
“I just don’t understand her,” said Sophie to any Meowclopses in the room. “How can she be so cheerful and smiley all the time?”
The Meowclopses gave confused noises to show that they had no answer to Sophie’s rhetorical question. Sophie sank down into her rocking chair. Normally it would have been outside, but the winters were cold in the Haunted Woods and she had brought it inside as soon as she had felt the first cold breeze. There wasn’t really much space for it in her shack, but lack of room had never been a problem for Sophie. She had merely crammed the chair on top of her pile of books and beside her vast cauldron. It just fit.
“No one who is homeless in the Haunted Woods should be full of joy,” Sophie continued her monologue. “There are so many spooks and creeps and ghouls; she’d have to be on guard every second of her life. I can’t imagine sleeping out with all those creatures every night. Not to mention, it’s winter now and the outdoors are no place to be spending the night.”
Sophie had gotten up from her seat now and was pacing the floor as her speech began more in depth, “And then there’s food; that girl has to beg just for breakfast. She must be starving. The thing that surprises me the most, though, is how trusting she is. The Haunted Woods are full of monsters who would gobble that Usul up in a blink of an eye, yet she has no trouble talking to anybody. She walked right into Bruno’s cave and made friends with him, a disfigured Gelert.”
Sophie stopped pacing as she realized that she was gripping her wooden staff tightly. She ended her speech with, “I don’t get it!”
Sophie was the type of person that if she didn’t understand something, she found out. She hated puzzles and mysteries that made her brain hurt.
“I suppose I could ask Gilly, but she probably doesn’t understand it any better than I do. Any explanation she gave me would only add more confusion,” Sophie thought out loud, “I guess I could... no, no, no; that’s completely out of the question. Although, I don’t have anything better to do. Alright, I’ll do it; I’ll spend one night in the Haunted Woods. If Gilly can do it, then so can I. Now, I’ll finally see how she survives.”
With that, she grabbed her staff and left her shack.
Sophie passed through what appeared to be the same grove that she’d passed through five minutes ago. Once she got a closer look at the bark, she thought that it might be a different grove. Unless she was just entering though another direction, which was highly possible.
“Oh, this forest is so similar!” Sophie shouted out to the woods. “At least now I know why Gilly’s always lost.”
The Ixi continued to march through the woods looking for somewhere she could spend the night. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for; something along the lines of a cave. As she stomped through mud she came to a realization, she was hungry. She cursed herself for not eating anything before she left. She knew that her stomach would not leave her alone until she got something in it. On a normal day she would often cook something with her cauldron, but right now she had no cauldron and no ingredients.
“I guess I’ll have to ask some shopkeeper for food. That’s, no doubt, what Gilly does,” Sophie reasoned. “Now, my shack is to the west, which is in the direction of that stump, so the marketplace should be to the east, which would be in the direction of that rock. Unless my shack is actually in the direction of that other stump.”
Sophie grabbed her head in frustration and headed in the direction which she assumed was east. After walking for a very long time, she found that the forest was not getting thinner and the signs of civilization were no more plentiful. She was considering whether she wanted to retrace her steps or continue the way she was going, when her stomach rumbled.
She threw down her staff in anger and began to stomp the ground with fury. It was then that her eye was drawn to a bush full of berries. They were furry and a deep shade of blue, but they didn’t look poisonous to Sophie. She cautiously picked a berry off the bush and examined it. There were no telltale signs of poison, and the bush looked like it had been plucked before, so someone must have eaten these berries. Sophie placed it in her mouth and began to chew. The flavour was slightly bitter with a sweet aftertaste. She found that, though the fur tickled her throat, they were easy to swallow. She picked the rest of the berries and finished them off. She was surprised to find that they were quite filling.
“Maybe this is how Gilly stays nourished,” Sophie mused. “It would make sense, since there are all kinds of berries throughout the woods.”
Sophie was brought back to her first predicament by a gust of cold air. She wrapped her arms around her chest to try and stay warm. Now, she needed to find someplace to sleep before she froze. She dashed through the woods looking for someplace she could squeeze into. Her hopes for a cave were no longer; now she only wanted something to keep her safe from the cold.
“This whole idea was stupid!” Sophie declared furiously. “I don’t know how Gilly survives these winters, but I don’t care anymore.”
Unfortunately, Sophie had been getting herself lost in the woods all night. She had no idea where her shack was. She frantically ran through the forest searching desperately for any familiar landmarks. She found none and now the wind was getting relentless. Suddenly Sophie saw something that might do for a bed for tonight. As she got closer she confirmed that she had seen an empty log. It was full of moss and leaves that formed a comfy lining. As she crawled in carefully, she found that it was quite warm inside. No wind could get in and as long as she huddled up she could stay warm.
Sophie closed her eyes and tried to sleep through the night. As she became more comfortable and relaxed, she found that the sounds were different from her shack. There was no creaking and snapping from the dilapidated house. There were only the sounds of the petpetpets and the wind blowing harshly.
“This is beautiful,” she thought as she drifted of to sleep.
Sophie awoke the next morning to find that she was not in her ordinary bed. Then she remembered the night before and realized that she was still in the log. Her body ached from being in a cramped position for hours. She exited the log and found that it was a morning now. The wind had died down and the temperature wasn’t as cold; she decided that it was time to continue searching for her home.
Sophie walked through the confusing maze of trees making little progress. She had no idea which way was west and which was east. Now she was only searching for something that would lead her to civilization. After useless searching saw some movement in the distance. It was too big to be a petpet so she decided to investigate. All thoughts of beasts and monsters had left her mind; now she only wanted something that could help her. As she got closer she saw that it was a Cybunny.
“Excuse me,” Sophie called out trying to get the Cybunny’s attention.
The Cybunny turned and noticed Sophie.
“Yes?” he asked not realizing who she was.
“I need help,” gasped Sophie who was completely out of breath. “Do you know how I can get to Neovia?”
“Oh, sure,” said the Cybunny casually, “I live in a nearby village. You just keep going straight and when you come to a clearing turn left. If you have any trouble look for another resident, they’re all very nice.”
Sophie thanked him then followed his directions. Sophie had never thought of Haunted Woods habitants as nice, but maybe Neopia was changing. With more people moving in and ghosts becoming less threatening, maybe the Haunted Woods hadn’t been as terrible as she had thought.
She found that the directions were easy to follow and soon Neovia was in view. With this knowledge, she entered the woods on the outskirts of the village and followed a path that lead to the swamps. In no time she was back in her usual shack.
Now, she was relaxing in her rocking chair, saying, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I was wrong. Those woods are not a big problem; there’s food, shelter and the people are friendly. Gilly has a good life; it must be wonderful to be her.”