A breath, scarcely heard by unobservant ears. Footsteps, padding softly over cobblestones and dirt. Nobody hears these. No kind ear turns to find the sound. Even as I sigh in disappointment, no one takes notice. If I could talk, I would cry out for help, but I am mute. I was born that way. I am a nobody: no remembered name, no home, unloved, and unseen. I brush past unfeeling shoulders, constantly holding back my stinging tears. Only those who I imagine hear me. Them, with their caring hearts, keen ears, and open arms – living deep within my taunting imagination. They bring both peace and madness, bliss and devastation. They are perfect, yet horrid, for though I can see them in my head, somewhere deeper in myself I always know they are unreal. Imperfect. Nonexistent. With that, I continue on with my monotonous life. Invisible. Silent. Unheard.
Day turns to night, morphing back into day. I walk through cities, stumble over rough paths, and watch passing Neopians as they hurry by, as they always do.
‘Today is different,’ I try to tell myself. ‘Today you will find a way to get someone’s attention.’
Biting my lip, I walk cautiously into the busy street. Almost instantly, a rushing pet hits me. With a quiet “oof!” they stumble, only to stand and run off, mumbling about uncoordination. Holding back my silent sobs, I stand to dust off. There will be bruises on my invisible limbs. Invisible bruises, but still painful bruises. Silent as ever, I drag myself over to the curb, pain flooding my mind. Even my conscience taunts me, beating my mind with its cold comments.
“Nonexistent. Unwanted. Street Child.” Thousands of words thrash at my confidence. I am my own enemy. As these words pass through my head, hot tears pricke at my lonely eyes; my only connection to the hurrying world of Neopia. I curl up, shaking with unheard tears, my stomach cramping hard with hunger. With no blanket to keep me warm, I huddle up beside a hard, cold, concrete wall. A small shudder of cold and hunger shakes through me violently. My tears dance down my face, swirling and slithering miserably in a familiar way. Soon, even with the taunting words from my own mind, sleep comes, as painful as waking, enabling my nightmares to creep into view.
A familiar cold feeling... sadness? pain? devastation? It wells up inside this dream: creeping up to leech what must have been happiness. I see a face – a human Neopian, concern obvious on her face. A warm feeling (relief?) spreads through my limbs. I reach towards them – the earlier cold feeling has vanished at their sight.
“Rhaine,” she says, a smile in her voice. “My sweet, silent Rhaine. Everything’s alright now. You’re ok.”
The warmth lingers, renewing my energy; renewing my will. Just as sudden, their face fades, leaving white emptiness. Terror shoots through me – where have they gone? Why have they left me alone for so long? They stopped talking to me, stopped seeing me. The icy feeling rushes through my veins again, and tosses me into a dream of constant falling.
I knew I was now awake, but I kept my tear-stained eyes shut. I had tried to forget why I was on a constant journey. In this, I’d forgotten who I was seeking. I had forgotten even my name. Rhaine. The word felt comfortable, yet held the pain of loss, of hunger for both love and food. It held the memory of them, of their constant support, their love even though I couldn’t speak. Sadness pierced my heart as I remembered not being able to find them for so long, panicking as I rushed through the house, being as loud as I could be with my lack of vocal ability. Cold finally reached me, gripping my body harshly, causing me to shudder uncontrollably. I opened my tear stained, tired eyes to be greeted with the misty darkness.
‘Too cold,’ I thought, mildly panicked.
I dragged myself into a wobbly standing position, weakly clinging to the cold concrete for support, my vision impaired by the grey mist. I walked slowly along the wall. Was it my hunger? Or maybe the memory had leached my energy and will? I heard steps. A large outline came closer and closer, breathing evenly. My own breath was uneven and ragged. I felt weaker than ever, my legs shaky as jelly.
“Hello?” said the figure softly, “Are you alright? You sound hurt. Are you an invisible pet?”
I wished I wasn’t mute – longed to cry out, to let them know where I was. They had heard me, and talked to me. My heart raced - I couldn’t speak, but I could move, although shakily. I stumbled forward, grabbing hold of their arm. They jumped, obviously surprised.
“Is that you? You don’t have a home, do you...” After a pause, they laughed. “Never mind. Let me carry you. You must be tired.”
I put my paws into their hands; their warm, careful hands. Slowly, I was lifted into their arms, and held close to their body. I felt the fabric of a coat surround me.
‘Warm,’ I thought happily, letting my mind enter sleep. ‘Seen, heard, warm.’
I woke in an unfamiliar place. A blanket was draped over me, and clear shining light flowed through a glistening window. Still looking around, I pulled off the blanket. I padded down the hallway. I peeked into the room at the end of the hall. A boy sat there, reading the Neopian Times. A skunk Bori sat beside him.
“I found them last night,” the boy was saying. This must be the person who found me outside. “Silent, they are, but horribly hurt. Cold, with ragged breathing, and skinny as a twig.”
“Do you think they’ll be alright?” inquired the Bori, their eyes sympathetic.
“I hope so.”
I blinked in surprise. I had been noticed, and they were worried about me. Nobody had been this kind since... since... There was no name. The space where it should have been was empty. Even as I saw her face in my head, I could not find a name to match it. For a moment, I worried. What if she was looking for me? What if... no. She was gone. She wouldn’t come looking for me. She hadn’t even said good-bye. I glanced back to the room where the boy and Bori sat. With a deep breath and a hopeful thought I pushed the door open, and walked towards them.
“You’re awake! I’m so glad you’re alright!” the boy exclaimed, pulling a pad of paper from behind him, “Here you go – I have a pen too. I thought maybe this way we could speak.”
I took both the paper and pen and wrote quickly, excited to have some form of communication.
‘My name is Rhaine.’ I wrote in small letters at the head of the page. It felt good to be decisive about this.
“Rhaine? That’s beautiful!”
‘Thank you! What’s yours?’
“My name is Will,” he said, fiddling with the edge of the paper. He pushed a small picture of a shining yellow Xweetok towards me. “I was wondering... do you... want to be like this? I have a potion and everything.”
‘Yes!’ I wrote, almost illegibly.
“Then I’ll go get the potion from my safety deposit box!” He ran out the door that I had entered from. The Bori stayed sitting, a small, relieved smile on their face. Silent, as I always was, I pulled my chair close to the Bori.
“He’s really happy now, Rhaine. Thanks... a lot.” He smiled. “I’m Fatel... or Fate.”
On my paper, I drew a smile. A bright, happy, warm smile. With this, I set down my pen, and happily waited for Jake to come back.
I sat at the kitchen table, munching hungrily on an omelette lunch. My soft brown and yellow tail wrapped around my chair, silky and bright. Fate sat across the table, reading comics. With a now visible smile, I pushed my sketch of him reading across the table. Jake and Fate were now quite used to this – It was my way of talking. The paper and pen were my voice now, letting me tell them everything I needed or wanted to.
With a laugh, Fate exclaimed: “Fantastic! It’s like a mirror.”
My now visible smile came yet again. Inside my head, my mind whispered new words at me.
‘Visible. Loved. Heard,’ it told me. ‘Real.’