Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 174,142,867 Issue: 408 | 4th day of Gathering, Y11
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In Other Words: Part Two


by vanessa1357924680

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“Wakey wakey lemon cakey!”

      Chai groaned at the singsong voice. Opening his weary eyes, he was greeted with the scary sight of a Speckled Bori a mere two inches away from his face with an eerie grin.

      “Sed, what are you doing?” the Darigan Zafara mumbled groggily, rubbing his face as he slowly sat up.

      “Giving you some breakfast, man. Rayze and I got you that Three Layered Hummus you wanted last night, but you were asleep by time we got in. So here it is!” Sed held up the bowl and shoved it towards his band mate along with a plastic spoon. “Enjoy.”

      Chai eyed the strange concoction warily as his mind rewound itself. Of course. To keep them in the restaurant while he had his mental breakdown, he had ordered something completely random off the menu. He had never expected them to actually get it for him.

      “Er... thanks,” he mumbled helplessly, taking the bowl and staring at the creamy green, red, and off-white mixture. Then, with a tentative spoonful, he tasted it and winced. Spicy. “Wow,” he lied, “this is... er...delicious.”

      Sed rolled his eyes and grabbed the bowl out of the Darigan Zafara’s claws, chowing down on the rest of the hummus, uninhibited by the extreme hotness. But that was Sed for you: a living, breathing garbage disposal.

      “Hey sleepyhead,” Rayze called out. The Fire Kyrii was folding clothes and stacking them neatly in his suitcase. “You better hurry up and pack. We’re leaving here in about an hour for the Haunted Woods.”

      “Oh yeah,” Chai remembered, his crimson eyes widening as he swung himself out of bed. Altador had been a sweet gig, but now it was time to play for the folks back home.

      He pulled his suitcase out from under the bed and plopped it atop the comforter, a slight squeak issuing from the mattress. Then, ignoring all the white envelopes scatted on top of his clothes, he withdrew a clean pair of pants and his Nightsteed T-shirt. After changing, it didn’t take long for him to wash himself up in the small bathroom and eat a makeshift breakfast of stale chips and flat Neocola.

      “All right,” Rayze said, shoving all of the leftover food into the garbage so that the hotel room was nearly spotless. “Let’s check out and get a move on.”

      “Awesome,” Chai nodded, grabbing his suitcase and microphone stand as the three members of Stut filed out of the room into the hallway. “Hey Rayze, you made the reservations, right?”

      “Yeah, of course,” the Fire Kyrii answered, shutting the door with a click.

      “Well, I was just thinking,” Chai continued. “The Haunted Woods are pretty far away, and we have a show tonight. So how in the world is a boat going to get there in only a few hours?”

      Rayze was silent for a moment, refusing to look at his friend. Chai stared at him quizzically, wondering what was up, when Sed suddenly jumped in between them. “Oh look!” the Speckled Bori interrupted, pointing to the carpeted ground. “I think I... er, saw a Moach!”

      Chai’s face crumpled in confusion. “Sed? Rayze?” He looked at his friends; they were both shifting nervously in their spots. “What’s going on?”

      “Er, well,” Rayze muttered, running his fingers through his fiery hair nervously, “a boat would have taken us more than a week to get to the Haunted Woods, so I got us three tickets on a... er, on a Virtu-flyer instead.”

      Chai felt his stomach drop to his feet. “A WHAT?” he repeated, his eyes wide as his heart began racing. “Rayze, are you crazy? A Virtu-flyer? You know I can’t deal with heights!”

      “Last night you said you were trying to get over it!” the Kyrii fired back sharply, walking briskly down the hall to the lobby. “A boat would have taken too long and was way too expensive. Meanwhile, the flight’ll only be thirty minutes max since we’ll be flying eastward over the Lost Desert!”

      “Well, when were you planning on telling me?” he demanded, turning towards Sed who was nervously playing with his suitcase handle. “Well?”

      “When we got to the take-off field,” the Speckled Bori admitted sheepishly.

      Chai groaned, rubbing his face.

      “Come on, man,” Sed pleaded, his ochre eyes silently begging with him. “It’ll be over before you know it. And then we’ll be back home in the Haunted Woods. Everything will be fine.”

      Chai’s frowned, his stomach knotting painfully as his thoughts flickered to his mother. As much as he was afraid of heights, he couldn’t let his friends down. Not again. “It better be.”

     ***

      It was a beautiful day outside. The sun was high and bright, sending down strong rays that danced across their skin and warmed the air, and a light breeze kept the temperature at a comfortable level. Meanwhile, the field they were standing in was bright and green, the verdant hills dotted with pink wild flowers. It was only by straining their eyes could anyone make out the stone city in the distance.

      But Chai only had eyes for the hulking metal craft in front of him. It was a dull metallic grey with the word “Virtu-flyer” painted on the side in green paint, and was shaped vaguely like a space craft with a pointed nose and wide wings.

      There weren’t that many people boarding; in fact, including the band mates and pilot, there were probably no more than thirty Neopians who planned to head on out to the Haunted Woods. However, as the Darigan Zafara made his way up the staircase into the craft, his legs felt like cold jelly and he thought he was about to faint.

      “Take it easy, Chai,” Rayze muttered as they shuffled their way down the central aisle. The craft was actually pretty roomy for its small size, but Chai still felt claustrophobic.

      The ship had three seats on each side of the aisle, and while Rayze and Sed fought over who would get the one by the window, Chai was happy to take his spot by the aisle.

      “Easy now,” he muttered to himself, placing his bag on the floor; it had been small enough to be considered a carry-on, while his microphone stand, Sed’s drum kit, and Rayze’s prized electric guitar were locked away in the underbelly of the craft.

      “Hello, everyone!” a chipper voice greeted. Chai looked up and spotted a pretty yellow Xweetok flight attendant with long eyelashes and a bright smile. “Welcome aboard Virtu-flyer flight 106 heading to the Haunted Woods. We’re about to take off in a few seconds, so please buckle up and enjoy the flight!”

      Chai’s stomach flipped as she fumbled for the seatbelt. It took him a full minute to get it to latch, and by time he heard it click, the craft had already started moving and a loud hum filled the air.

      “Oh Jerdana,” he mumbled, his eyes wide. “Oh Jerdana!” He turned his head towards his band mates, but then he caught a glimpse out the window; the hills were rushing past, and soon they were disappearing, becoming smaller and smaller as they were engulfed by the sky.

      “Look at that!” Sed exclaimed as the plane leveled out. The speckled Bori’s face was plastered to the small window as he took in the sight of flying above a sea of cottony clouds.

      Rayze glanced out the window in wonder and then turned towards Chai, his expression cautious. “Hey man, how are you doing?”

      Chai took a breath of stale air but forced a smile. “Alright, I think,” he said, unclenching his fists painfully; his nails had been digging into his palm. So far, being on the Virtu-flyer wasn’t so horrible. The ear-pounding sounds from take-off had died down to a muted murmur, and the ride was smooth and gentle, reminding him of when they usually traveled on boats across the sea.

      The Fire Kyrii smiled, relief on his face. “That’s good. Hey listen, Sed and I didn’t mean to stress you like this. I mean, you know if we had time, we would’ve booked tickets on a ship.”

      “Don’t worry about it,” Chai said, shaking his head and feeling like a total wimp. “It’s about time I’ve gotten over this stupid fear. And now that I’m up here, it’s not so ba—”

      “Attention, passengers!” interrupted the flight attendant’s voice through the loudspeaker. “Attention! It seems we are about to hit a bit of turbulence that should last a few minutes. Please make sure that you’re buckled up. Thank you.”

      Chai paled. “Turbulence?” he repeated, turning towards Rayze.

      “Take it easy,” Rayze said, catching Chai’s horrified expression. “It’ll be fine,” he reassured, trying to calm the Darigan Zafara, but by then the first jolt had arrived, sending a rough jerk throughout the cabin. Chai’s head bounced against the back of his headrest, and a moment later, he felt his stomach fly up into his throat as the plane dropped a few feet.

      “Get me off,” Chai said, his crimson eyes widening as he glared at his friends. “Get me off now!”

      “Calm down,” Sed said, holding up his paws defensively. “It’s just some turbulence. It’s no big deal.”

      But by now Chai was frantic. His stomach knotted, and every miniscule movement of the aircraft made his heart race. He looked around, needing air, but the metal walls suddenly seemed to fold around him suffocatingly. He gasped for breath and reached for his seatbelt, ready to let himself free.

      “Stop!” Rayze barked suddenly, wresting Chai’s hand away from the belt around his waist. The Kyrii’s dark eyes were sharp as he pinned his friend’s hand down. “Do you want to get hurt?”

      “GET ME OFF OF THIS PLANE!” Chai shouted, his voice echoing throughout the cabin. The other Neopians on the flight eyed him warily, but he would not be quiet. “GET ME OFF!” he repeated, thrashing in his seat. His eyesight had nearly gone dark; all he could see was a vision of his mother flying gracefully in the sky and then falling, falling, falling...

      Pain shot through his leg and Chai winced, glancing downward. He had accidentally kicked his carry-on bag, and a dark bruise was already forming on his shin.

      The bag.

      Suddenly Chai bent over himself, shoving Rayze to the side as he reached for his red suitcase. He unzipped it frantically and shook it upside down until all of his clothes toppled onto on the floor in a heap. The myriad of letters splattered everywhere, the cream-colored envelopes contrasting with the dark hues of his dirty shirts, but he didn’t care about that. Instead, he dug through the pile until he uncovered a crumpled piece of paper, a spare envelope, and a leaking pen.

      Dear Mom, he scribbled, biting off the pen cap.

      And then he was writing. The pen shook in his grasp, and his scrawl was nearly illegible, but he kept writing, the plane around him fading away as he was swept up into his world of words. He kept writing even when the turbulence had died down and the air was smooth. He kept writing when the aircraft finally reached the Haunted Woods and the flight attendant announced that it was time for their descent.

      In fact, Chai didn’t stop writing until Rayze cautiously patted him on the shoulder and gently told him it was time to get off the Virtu-flyer.

To be continued...

 
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