In Other Words: Part Four
Everything was white.
“Where am I?” Chai muttered, glancing around at the vast emptiness. “Where is everyone?”
The Darigan Zafara ran his fingers through his choppy hair, straining his memory. Something had happened, something big, but all he could remember were small pieces: a stage, a cry, a Lupe, and then blackness.
And then suddenly it all came back.
“That Spotted Lupe,” he groaned helplessly, yanking at his hair. “I hope he’s alright.” He continued to glance around, and then wondered if he himself was okay. Was it normal to be surrounded by such complete and utter emptiness after crashing into the ground from several feet up in the air? But whether this was typical or not, Chai couldn’t help but shiver. The pure whiteness was creepy, and he was utterly alone.
Or was he?
Suddenly, out in the distance, he spotted a figure coming toward him. It was small and slight, growing slightly larger as it approached, but instead of feeling a knot of dread in his stomach, Chai felt a strange sense of relief wash over him. And then he realized why: he knew who it was.
The faerie Pteri paused in midair, hovering a few feet front of her son. She looked more radiant than he had ever remembered. Her feathers were splayed like brilliantly spun gold, dotted with splashes of violet, magenta, and burnt orange. Her eyes were deep amethyst, and her mouth was curved in a gentle smile. “Hello Chai.”
Chai didn’t know what to say. For once, he seemed completely devoid of all words.
His mother meanwhile continued to smile sweetly at him. Her eyes were bright, sparkling like the brightest of stars. “I’m proud of you, son.”
Then, after giving Chai a small peck on the top of his head, she turned off and flew away into the whiteness.
And then Chai woke up.
When his eyelids flickered open, Chai was greeting with an unfamiliar set of surroundings: a starch white ceiling, linoleum flooring, and a thinly-covered bed. But almost immediately his eyes fell upon two familiar figures looming above him: a Fire Kyrii and a Speckled Bori.
Chai’s face stretched into a tired smile. “Hey guys, what’s up?”
Rayze immediately turned around at the sound of his voice. “Thank Zo,” he sighed. His deep brown eyes looked immediately relieved. “The doctors weren’t sure how long it’d take for you to wake up.”
“How long have I been out for?”
“Two days,” Sed answered. He bit into a tchea fruit he held in his paw, looking more relaxed as he realized his friend was alright. “You had a concussion from the fall, and bruised a rib. The doc said it was a miracle you didn’t break anything.”
Chai nodded, feeling a slight throbbing in his forehead and side. Well that explained it. But suddenly, his stomach dropped. “What about the pup?” he blurted. “The little Lupe from before... is he okay?” The Darigan Zafara’s pulse quickened. If anything had happened to him...
“He’s fine,” the Fire Kyrii answered, his voice strong and reassuring. “He got a little bruised, but you managed to cushion him from the worst of the fall. His mother came in here earlier and dropped off a fruit basket in appreciation, but someone has been eating it for the past two days.” He shot a glance over to Sed, and the Speckled Bori blushed, but Chai just laughed. It hurt slightly, but he ignored the pain. It was good to be back.
“So did the doctor say when I’ll be able to perform again?”
“About a week.”
Chai winced; they had about three other gigs booked. “That means I’m going to have to miss a few shows. Sorry guys, I never thought this would happ--” Suddenly his eyes widened. “Oh Zo!” he cursed. He sat up quickly, ignoring his sore side and pounding headache. “Oh Zo!”
“Chai, is there something wrong?” Rayze asked concerned, his eyebrows furrowed.
He shook his head miserably. “Oh Zo, I ruined the show.” He dropped his head in his hands. “The music exec was there that night, and I totally ruined everything! We didn’t even finish the gig! Guys, I’m so sorry--”
“Hey, don’t be sorry,” Rayze interrupted. “You saved that little neopet. You’re deathly afraid of heights and you got over it just to help him. That doesn’t sound like you ruined everything.”
“But that might have been our only chance to become famous, and I ruined it--”
“Dude, relax, man,” Sed said, finishing up his tchea fruit and dropping the core into a nearby waste basket.
Chai frowned, feeling slightly disconcerted at the Bori’s smile. He glanced back over at Rayze, who was wearing a similar expression on his face. “Guys, what’s going on?” he asked.
Rayze shook his head, a chuckle in his throat. “After your tumble, Arena paramedics made sure you and the Lupe were all right. And once they said you would be fine and wheeled you off to the hospital, well, Sed and I decided to finish off the show.”
Chai’s jaw dropped. He looked from one mate to the other. “But how? Who was on vocals?” Rayze sang backup part of the time, but Chai could never imagine him taking the main microphone. And Sed was utterly tone deaf.
The Fire Kyrii grinned. “We ended up passing the Virtu-mic around the audience. One of the guys who worked the lighting had apprenticed as a sorcerer back when he was a kid, and he helped us out by magicking up the lyrics so that they ran across a screen on the stage. That way people could sing along. It was actually a lot of fun.”
“And the music executive?” Chai asked hopefully.
“He loved every second of it,” Sed answered, reaching into his pocket. “He ran into us as we were leaving the Arena to come check on you. First he mentioned how brave he thought you were to go and save the boy, and then he said how much he loved the show and our music.” He brandished a small white card in front of Chai. “And he said he’d love to work with us!”
Chai tore the business card from the Bori’s paws, and his jaw dropped. Golden embossed letters read “Mitchell Pike, CEO of Revved Up Music.” It was legit.
“Revved Up Music,” Chai breathed. “Twisted Roses is on that label!”
“And now Stut is too,” Rayze said firmly with a grin. “Mr. Pike said he wants us recording as soon as possible, probably once you get back on your feet in a few weeks. And he thinks we’ll be big. That means no more cheap motels, and if you want, no more Virtu-flights.”
The Darigan Zafara grinned. “Thanks Rayze.”
“Anytime, man,” he nodded. “Anyway, Mr. Pike says that we might need some more songs to fill up the album with. So that’s where your injury becomes an asset.” He grinned. “It gives you plenty of time to come up with some new lyrics.”
“Wow. Talk about being sensitive,” Chai mocked, but he was smiling. “Yeah, totally. New songs coming up.”
“Nice,” Rayze exclaimed, pounding his fist to Chai’s. Sed joined in the handshake with a joking cry of “Go team!” and everyone erupted into peals of laughter, their fists still connected as one. The moment was perfect.
That is, until Chai’s stomach grumbled loudly.
Rayze rolled his eyes. “You’re starting to sound like Sed.”
“Hey, I haven’t eaten in two days,” Chai said defensively, rubbing his empty stomach self-consciously. “Do you guys think you could run down to the cafeteria and get me something?”
“Triple Layered Hummus?”
“Haha funny, Sed,” Chai said sarcastically. “Just get me whatever you can find that doesn’t have too many eyeballs in it.” He shivered. Despite growing up in the Haunted Woods, Chai had always found some of the local delicacies too grotesque for his liking.
“Sure, mate,” Sed answered, saluting him. “See you in a few.”
“Yep.” Chai nodded, and with that, the two neopets turned towards the open door and headed into the hallway.
He drummed his claws on the bedspread for a moment, gazing around the room absentmindedly for a moment. The hospital room was pretty typical. The white walls were blank save for one that was adorned with a tranquil watercolor of a tree; Chai was actually surprised it didn’t depict the Brain Tree or some other infamous Haunted Wood landmark. The bed meanwhile was nothing more than a cot with sheets.
But it was the side table that caught his attention. In a glass vase was a wilting bouquet of flowers, but besides that was what appeared to be a notepad with a pen atop it.
Chai shook his head with a grin, grabbing it off the table. Rayze had obviously planted it there for him.
The Darigan Zafara took the pen into his claws, shifting up against the headboard. The entire week had been a hectic mess, and yet his head was strangely clear. He could already hear a new beat invading his mind, and he could feel new lyrics forming on his tongue, ready to be sung. All he had to do was jot them down on paper.
However, before he could write that, he felt as if there was one thing left to do.
With a small smile, he addressed the top sheet of the notepad to his mother, and scribbled down a short one sentence message. Later, he would place it in an envelope--the last envelope he would ever need to use--and label it with the number 95. This last letter, along with the 94 others, would then continue to be at his side, following him in his red suitcase as he traveled across the globe. By land, sea...
...and even air.
I am no longer afraid.
Love your son,