Singing Despite Snowfall
The Beast’s ghastly breath rumbled throughout the caves.
Yet, the Bori took this as his cue. Quietly, he stepped closer.
With every step, it was as if his face fell further. The Bori, out of sight from his friend, looked absolutely horrified. Gingerly, he took another step forward. The terrorized child rubbed his fragile little hands together, keeping them warm.
Fragile. He’s so, so fragile...
The Snowager wasn’t really asleep.
Snow was falling gently outside of the caves. It was ice here – pure, slippery ice. It was cold and frigid. The air took the shape of ghosts, viciously biting at one’s face.
How could one survive in such an environment? How could one live – and still have fun?
The ice caves were possibly colder than anything else in Neopia. If you forgot your jacket, you had better run fast into the Neggery. But nobody ever forgot their jacket. You couldn’t get two steps without being bundled up.
It was a funhouse. A maddening funhouse. You could see yourself from every angle, shining back at you in a metallic silver. Everything glistened back at you, and every step was more like ice skating than walking. The place was decked out with ice sculptures. But instead of having a definite form, they were natural.
Natural, but purposeless.
Yet... the crystals glittered brilliantly. That, the Snowager thought bitterly, is probably what they all see. The brilliance...
There was still laughter. There was still happiness and cheer. Christmas spirit.
Dumb little Neopets risking their lives for a Negg. Risking pain for two thousand measly Neopoints...
The Snowager breathed, just a little slower this time. But nobody noticed.
He stopped himself from screaming to the echoing tunnels. He stopped a bloodcurdling screech from terrorizing Neopia.
He had started out vicious. He had started out with hatred and snarling and fighting the whole way...
After eight years, he was tired. After eight years, he could see no point in playing his part.
The Snowager was magnificent. Every inch of his angled ice was sculpted to perfection. Some ice was brighter than other patches, but overall, he looked like a patchwork quilt. A intricate masterpiece of frost. His brilliant red eyes terrorized all who came near...
The Snowager – the most formidable snowman of the mountain – closed his eyes. He squeezed them shut, fighting the pain the whole way. He could still see the outline of the crystals around him. He could see the pain – the vicious cold behind the friendly snowflakes.
But he knew that the Neopians would never see what he saw.
Freezing them wouldn’t teach them anything. Freezing them would just make the risk more fun...
Reluctantly, he let the Bori steal a Negg. Yet his mind pounded in agony, ripping through his thoughts...
He had chosen the path of riches. A choice to sit upon piles upon piles of stuff – in exchange for his freedom.
He had made his choice.
And now he would pay, for the rest of his life...
It drifted through the air.
The song rippled throughout the frigid winter air. It traveled over the mountain, over the clouds, and up towards the moon. Then, it came back down, floating around her, its transparent claws reaching out from every angle. It unwound itself, farther and farther, until it was a blanket covering the entire room. Even through the windows, it had reached her. The sweetest song had found its way back home.
It floated majestically, picking up a new note with every second. The tune was gathering speed, and snowballing down the mountain. The song was collecting itself, and growing louder, with every blink. With every heartbeat, it pounded louder and louder in her ears.
Yet Camilla wanted no more.
Covering her pale Ixi ears, she had to hide from it. She had to hide from the song.
It threatened to devour her whole. She had to save her sanity.
She had to hide from herself
Camilla could open her eyes, and pretend he was right there. Pretend that all of her friends were outside of her window. But what good did it do? What good did any of this do?
The song was a lullaby, singing her to sleep. The sweetest melody in her ear.
But she knew that if she fell asleep once more, she'd wake up with nightmares.
She had told herself, when she was younger, that this would be her motivation. The fact she needed to say thank you to them pushed her to be the best she could be.
Yet, she realized something else now.
She was saying thank you to a phantom. She was thanking a ghost, someone who was no longer close to hear her words. Someone who was different now. Someone who no longer existed.
She just wanted him to see that he had changed her life. In those days, she had just wanted to have proof for him.
Now she had the proof, but she didn’t have her friends.
The person who had kept her sane was gone.
The memories picked up volume.
She couldn’t drown them out any longer.
She needed sleep...
Her face was delicately resting against the glass window. She could see all of Neopia from here, up on top of the mountain. She could see her whole world... yet part of it was still missing.
With one last thought, she wondered who had invented moving.
Silently, Camilla drifted off into dreamland.
The Snowager could no longer count how many days.
He had sat here for so long. Yet, he’d rather be anywhere else.
He had watched Neopia grow larger and larger from his little spot in the caves. He had watched all of the art gradually change before his eyes. Gradient. Html. Flash. 3D... pets growing smaller and smaller, lines growing thicker and thicker, pets getting more and more shadows...
From his spot in the caves, he had seen it all. He’d seen it all from the creation of the Battledome to Keyquest. From glowing fonts to avatars...
Yet he was stuck here. He couldn’t travel to another part of the mountain without flocks of Snowager fanatics following him. The Snowager isn’t exactly your average carry on bag. Staying neatly hidden would be impossible.
He couldn’t leave the mountain. Leaving the mountain would be a death sentence. He needed to stay frozen.
He hated the snow. He despised it with every fiber of his being.
Yet, he was simply ice...
Where, then, could he go?
When will Neopia ever learn to think before acting?
The answer, he feared, would be never.
He just had to change something. He had to take this world, and make it just a glimmer lighter... he had once sat here, willing to give Neopians ‘something to do’. He hadn’t realized just how isolated he’d get.
What good was it being the richest Neopian if you couldn’t do anything with the riches?
He didn’t really need sleep. That, too, was an act... it wasn’t in his job description, but it gave him something to do.
He closed his eyes in apathy.
He was bored. Bored because he was what he despised. Ice. Cold, unforgiving, see through. Water. A block of frozen water.
He was nothing more than ice, trapped in a world of more ice, trapped in a world of snow.
He was bored because he couldn’t change anything from here. People were not persuaded by nice little bits of advice from a stupid block of ice.
People were persuaded by avatars.
People were persuaded by Neopoints.
Just as he had been.
And, as long as there were Neopoints and avatars, people would always ‘wake up’ the Snowager...
People would rob him, day after day. And it wasn’t the items missing that bugged him.
If I wasn’t ice, I could probably get some good sleep. I could finally close my eyes and see something other than ice caves... If I wasn’t ice, I could be out there.
He looked up, his frozen ice eyes shimmering.
I’ve heard about what they get to do. They get to dream. They get to see something else when they close their eyes. When they sleep, they see new worlds. They see more than icicles and failure. They see more than loneliness and snowflakes...
It wasn’t annoying pets that bugged him.
They had everything, but they still wanted more. They had so much...
Most people... most people say that a dream is something they want. Something they see in their mind and want to achieve. They point at my rare items. They say that’s their dream.
But I’ve got something bigger.
My dream is to be able to dream.. To see something else. To be able to see the world, and imagine all of the wonderful things I had never thought of before. To know that I’m not just another... bit of ice.
Camilla shoved her yellow paws into her jacket.
She stared up at the Snowager blankly, watching his body moving slowly up and down.
How does ice breathe?
Too numb to be startled, she vaguely recognized that he must be something more than ice. He must be something brilliant, some new hybrid of creature.
She figured she should probably try to steal something. That was what all Neopians did. But she didn’t really want to. Her heart wasn’t in it.
Heck, her heart wasn’t in anything. As soon as she started thinking, the song would come back. Lost friends and family would come back, pounding through her head. Making her dizzy. Making her want nothing more than a good quality time machine and a yearbook.
It’s so cold here.
The Snowager was a safe topic. Time machines simply were not.
She could feel the tune bouncing off of her ears. It was trying to break in. Trying to rob her of her sanity – rob her of her happiness. It was trying to force its way in, and she could feel every individual note soaring around her head.
A demented game of Rink Runner.
Camilla bitterly thought that she must have hit a few sharps. Or maybe even led her Bruce into one of the puddles. You can’t rob someone of happiness when they’re bitterly nostalgic. You can’t rob happiness when there’s nothing to steal.
Slowly, she looked back up at the Snowager.
He was peering at her, his best vicious mask plastered to his face.
She stared right into his eyes, almost challenging him to take action.
Challenging him to give her something to do.
“Aren’t... aren’t you going to take anything?”
The Snowager’s voice rumbled throughout the Ice Caves. It sounded as if he hadn’t used it in ages. The voice was broken and crackly... yet cautious all the same.
He probably picked up language from all the scoundrels who stole from him.
Vaguely, she felt pity for the creature that hadn’t even had anyone to teach him how to speak.
However, it wasn’t enough of an emotion to act on.
“Well, aren’t you going to growl at me?” She blankly looked into his face, no emotion seeping from her eyes.
Some people hide their emotions. Camilla tried her best to make sure there was nothing to hide.
The Snowager’s eyes softened slightly.
“Go on. Snarl.” Camilla, bored out of her mind, decided to egg him on.
Finally, the Snowager snapped. “If I’ve learned anything in these past eight years, it’s simple. What’s the point of growling when I’ve got nothing to lose?”
He motioned at all of the rare items with his tail, and Camilla realized it was of no use to him. He was in the Ice Caves all day... where was he going to sell his Neggs?
“Well, what’s the point of stealing if I have nothing to gain?” Camilla spat out her words one by one, the song beginning to shine through.
Neggs couldn’t solve her problems....
Camilla had been apathetic this entire time, yet an acidic wave began to sweep across her face.
The Snowager peered at her once more, the way he had been when she had first walked up. He was trying to be serious – trying to play his role – but something was off.
His eyes softened once more.
Then, he smiled.
“What happened, anyways?”
He hadn’t meant to say it. It seemed ironic that the toughest snow beast, in his head, was really as fragile as a snowflake. He had just been doing his job...
But here she was, again, staring off into space. The only person who came to him when he was ‘asleep’... and didn’t steal a thing.
She looked up, her yellow Ixi eyes glaring despite the pale landscape. “I thought you were asleep.”
The Snowager laughed.
“What... what’s so funny? The petpages told me you’d be asleep.”
Trying to smile, his expression came out with nearly barred teeth. “I can’t sleep.”
“Lucky for you.” She snorted, and began scratching at the ice with her foot.
The Snowager froze in place. His eyes suddenly flashed a different color, and then he gracefully lowered his neck back down to earth.
He stretched his neck forward, all of the layers of ice neatly extending itself as if it was a system of intricate scales. Each layer melded above the other as he reached out towards her. The face that once looked malevolent – the face of Neopia’s own snow beast – looked concerned. Vulnerable.
He was within a few feet of her, close enough for her to feel his breath.
How could something so cold breathe warmth?
How could a block of ice be so warm on the inside – so warm with every breath – that it could be felt from feet away?
He was supposed to breathe cold. Anyone with common sense would agree that was how he froze people. Every one had told Camilla that he froze Neopians with his malevolence. He froze them because he was just as frozen on the inside, a heartless space among the outer layers of ice...
Camilla looked up in confusion. She was so tiny compared to him. She was even smaller than his head. Yet she felt no fear. She was just... confused.
All the legends say he’s so cold hearted.
His red eyes shimmered slightly as he blinked. “Why do you say that I’m lucky?”
Camilla was taken aback, still rather confused. “Because... I don’t like nightmares.”
The Snowager stared at her, his glance unwavering even from so close.
Camilla was recovering from the shock. Her voice grew fiercer with every word, tougher as she looked up and defiantly tried to teach him the harsh realities of a nightmare. “When I dream, I see people that have disappeared. People who are far away in Neopia now – people I’ll never talk to again.” Her emotionless face was completely gone now. Confusion had first replaced apathy, and now pain was replacing confusion. Her voice reached for missing objects, far away stars she’d never get close enough to. “I just wanted to say thank you...”
“Why can’t you say thanks?”
She could see just how level his reptile-like nose was. It was smooth, and almost eerie... yet his face was beautifully glistening. Glistening because, for some reason, he was occupied.
Glistening because he wants to help.
This realization made Camilla draw back.
“You don’t understand. I don’t even know where the heck these people are.” Her laugh came out painfully, piercing the ice.
He paused, looking at the exit to the Ice Caves. “But you... you have something I don’t.”
He, the giant ice sculpture, the “cold hearted” creature... He felt nothing, but tried to pass it off as boredom.
She felt every emotion in technicolor... but fought it every step of the way.
“Why would you want this?” Camilla’s voice cracked as she pulled her eyes away from the glistening floor.
The Snowager’s answer was short, but Camilla would never forget it.
“I’d rather feel pain than apathy.”
“He’s not in Happy Valley.” Camilla shook her head, certain of this single fact. “He wasn’t a fan of the snow.”
“I don’t blame him.” The Snowager shivered in disgust at the cold. At the mountain. At the very substance he was made of.
“Explain to me, once again, where we’re going? And WHY?” Camilla looked down the mountain, terror shining in her eyes. She wrapped her scarf around her pale yellow Ixi neck, and rubbed her cold hands together.
“We’ll find out when we get there.”
The Snowager looked down too. Fear shimmered in his eyes.
“This is really a stupid idea.”
“Didn’t I tell you that before?” Camilla glared at him, slightly, but most of the hostility was gone. “I told you it was dumb... but you dragged me up here anyways.”
The snowflakes glittered gently from every angle. The snow was falling steady – fast enough to coat them, but not fast enough for a blizzard. Happy Valley – a few thousand miles below them – looked horribly, horribly far away.
“Whoa.” A breath of wonder escaped Camilla’s mouth.
“What?” The Snowager lifted an icicle eyebrow, confusion shimmering in his face.
His fierce frost eyes followed her hand.
I can see all of Neopia from here.
The top of the mountain. He had been here before.
But now he doubted it. He had never seen it like this...
The brilliant green of Neopia Central sparkled in the distance. The pale plains of Tyrannia billowed dust up in the skies, floating towards the heavens. Faerieland sparkled and glistened its brilliant purple, moving up and down gently as if a ball of fabulous cotton candy. The oceans sparkled in a disorganized unity, shimmering with every breath brighter than before. The most brilliant blues surrounded the most vibrant greens... more color than he could have ever imagined...
Instead of seeing yourself, reflected in the funhouse ice of the caves... you see everyone else.
He didn’t understand why, but a smile crept across his face. A pure smile. The kind of smile that you would protect.
Yet the kind of smile that can’t be taken away.
Camilla must have agreed. Neopia, too, caught her wonder.
“They’re out there...” Her delicate finger traced the skyline, swirling above the land she had forgotten.
Yet, despite her nostalgia... today she was joyful.
“You’ll say thanks someday. You’ll say thanks to all of them.” He had no way to prove it, but he knew it was true.
Camilla climbed on the Snowager’s back, fiercely preparing herself.
Yet fierce didn’t mean apathetic. Fierce didn’t mean pessimistic.
Fierce was the look plastered to her face.
It was something new.
The Snowager began to lurch forward now, his monstrous body leaning in towards the slope. Camilla was a pinprick on his back. An ant on a cookie.
The final moments of doubt clouded the beauty of Neopia, the Snowager’s fears shining through for one last second. “I’m going to hate this. This is going to hurt. This will be...”
But he could still feel her warmth on his back.
And she could still hear him.
Something silenced him as he began to get faster, inching along.
The Snowager gulped, and forced himself to speak despite it all. “Promise me... one thing.” The Snowager looked back, his brilliant face shining in the glorious sunshine. “Promise me that you thank them for the memories. For the ability to smile.”
Neopia’s notorious beast, terrified of his next movement.
One slender index finger pointed at the horizon as Camilla nodded ahead.
Aren’t I doing just what I fought? A stupid risk...
Downward. Downhill. A brilliant, glorious white in all directions, blotted out by the random tree or rock. But trees and rocks were no matter to the Snowager. The Snowager could fly over them, gathering speed. Gathering light. Gathering view.
He had always hated being ice. But now he didn’t mind. He slid down the side of the mountain, soaring above all of Neopia. Seeing the world. He could now see the world he had never thought he’d be a part of...
He wasn’t a part of it.
He was something better.
He was flying.
With every inch, shatters of ice flew in every direction, trapping the reflection of Neopia inside of its tiny particles. Neopia was glistening before his eyes, spraying up as a wave on all sides of him. The snow and snowflakes joined in the wave, and he was gliding faster and faster – every shard of frost a picture screen to the world.
Every shard was new memories.
New memories. New memories that would leave nobody nostalgic, and instead leave them ready for action. New memories that would fuel a million things, things that would get anyone onto their feet. Every shard was a snapshot of all that was – and all that would be.
New memories. A beautiful new creation.
He could feel Camilla’s warmth on his back. He could fear the air zooming past, and he knew, he knew... he knew he had helped somehow. He didn’t know how. Camilla had said that zooming down the mountain was a dumb idea, back in the Ice Caves.
He knew she had changed her mind.
And that was enough.
As the snow flurried around him, all of the shards of ice and glass forming in his wake seemed to reflect snapshots of his life. Snapshots of his memories.
Snapshots of his dreams.
Some risks, although seemingly dumb, were worth the flight.
Some things, such as being made of ice... it seemed like a restraint. Yet it made the world of the difference.
The Snowager closed his eyes, soaring down in brilliance.
Camilla’s eyes watered as she soared down the mountain, her brilliant yellow Ixi fur shimmering brighter with every second.
She looked down at Neopia, as tiny as it was from here.
She had no way to prove that anything would ever work. That the puzzle pieces would fit together.
But she didn’t need proof.
She owed her family something.
She owned the Snowager something..
She could feel that her life was changing, if only in the slightest.
She had tried to be apathetic for so long.
Yet the music creeped back. The music that had been following her all this time began to drift around her, drifting despite the immense speed. Making her dizzy despite her firm grip.
This time, the music seeped in.
As the melody filled her ears, she realized what emotionless had done.
Her story had temporarily stopped, breaking off from everything in her past. The chapter had ended, leaving her distraught. Leaving her afraid to read on.
Apathy had prevented joy.
Apathy had prevented flying. It had prevented her from remembering the good times, along with the bad.
It had stopped her from living.
As she flew down the mountain... it finally made sense.
The tune pulsed in her ears. A smile lined her face.
It was time for a new chapter.