Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 174,460,927 Issue: 409 | 11th day of Gathering, Y11
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The Clouds Above Us

by kinda_klepto


The day had begun with an explosion of color: pinks and oranges streaked the skies in thick, fluffy clouds, creating a gorgeous collage for all to view. The crisp morning air clung like a fog to the image, refusing to relinquish the beauty until all Neopians had awoken and laid eyes on the never-ending coloring page that stretched out before them.

     Far below the colors lay a Lupe, his head tucked neatly under gray paw and tail wrapped tightly around gray body. An aura of misfortune seemed to loom about him, and even the clouds above him had gathered, creating a dark plume that acted as a beacon. Yes, all knew where the Lupe lay, and none dared approach him; none dared face those large, sad eyes that were sure to greet them should they speak to the Neopet.

     As he awoke, the clouds returned to their normal, white hue, and continued on their way, escorting a mild breeze that had begun creeping through Neopia Central. A yawn, large and full, revealed two rows of off-white teeth and a long tongue. As his mouth closed, he rose to his full height and stretched, releasing the morning rigidities from his joints. Then, to complete his daily routine, the Lupe raised his head to the sky, locked his dark eyes on the equally dark cloud that hung over him, and sighed.

     It was how it had always been for him: a veil preventing the light of day to fully reach him. Even as he looked about himself, there existed a definite line where the cloud stopped and the sun shone down brilliantly. Blades of grass reached up towards the warmth, and the Lupe looked down to find the foliage about himself wilted and bent over, as though sharing in his misery.

     As he looked about, a figure at the edge of the cloud’s shadow caught his eye. A beautiful Lenny stood there, gazing at him. She was primarily blue, although shades of green and purples shimmered in the sun’s glare, creating dark rainbows over the Neopet’s glorious plumage.

     “Hello, there. Now, what’d you be doin’ in that shadow there?” the Lenny asked, striding towards him.

     Creasing his brow, the Lupe looked at the Lenny in disbelief. Never before had another Neopet approached him, and he really did not know what to say. “Hi. I, erm, I can’t get out of the shadow.” At that the Lupe released yet another sigh, bowing his head.

     “Now, I’ve heard of Neopets following clouds around: t’is the only way to get to Faerieland. But, never before have I heard of a cloud following a Neopet around. You must be a very important Neopet, indeed. My name’s Kayla, by the way.” Lowering a wing to the ground, Kayla took a seat next to the Lupe. Her eyes held his gaze with an intensity that demanded a response, and the Lupe complied.

     “Hah, yeah, I’m the most important Neopet in all of Neopia!” he replied, sarcasm lacing his voice, “I really don’t know why it’s always above me. I suppose it just likes me. At least something does . . . “ He paused, looking to Kayla for a reply, but she remained quiet. Confusion once again wrote itself over his features, until he realized how rude he had been. “Oh, sorry, I’m Max.”

     “Well, it is quite a pleasure to meet you, Max,” laughed Kayla, examining her feathers under the cloud’s glow. “Tell me, Max, why’re you so sad? Surely this cloud alone cannot completely turn a Neopet blue. Or, in your case, gray. You get abandoned?”

     Nodding, Max wrapped his tail about his hind legs, feeling the soft earth brush against his fur. The sensation brought no comfort to him, and he shrugged his shoulders in response to the question the Lenny had posed. Indeed, he had been abandoned, but that had been quite a while ago, and long before he had been painted gray. No, the Lupe really was not certain as to what had lowered his spirits to such a level.

     “Well, you know what I think your problem is?” Kayla smiled, scrutinizing every feather on her wing. When she found one that pleased her, the Lenny pulled it out and placed it behind Max’s ear. “I think you need some more color. I mean, more than gray and light-gray. You need blues and yellows and reds! You need to see that your world isn’t only a strange balance between black and white!” As she finished, the Lenny rose to her feet. Enthusiasm painted her features, complementing the fine array of colors she herself bore.

     “Well . . .” Max muttered, chewing his lip. He really had no wish to search for new colors, but Kayla’s grin at the idea convinced him otherwise. After all, if she grew so excited about such an idea, why shouldn’t Max as well? Raising his eyebrows, Max said, “Well, all right, I’ll go look for some more colors. But, I doubt I’ll find any . . . or, at least, any worth using.”

     “Hehe, good!” clapped Kayla, “and, good luck with the search. I do hope we meet again . . .” She paused, glancing at the cloud that had made a home above Max’s head, “And I hope that, when we do meet again, it will be in a sunnier place.” With that, Kayla turned headed off.

     For a moment, Max considered whether he should partake in the quest the Lenny had set for him. After all, if he did end his search empty-handed, all he would have gained would have been lost time. On the other hand, if he did succeed in finding some way to make himself more colorful . . .

     Reaching a decision, Max headed towards the Money Tree. With every step he took, a new doubt clawed at his resolve, but in the back of Max’s mind he knew every stride also brought him closer to a conclusion. Every step brought him closer to either a way out from under the cloud that constantly hung over his mind, or a way to conclude that he would be better off leaving what exists to exist.

     As he approached the tree, Max caught sight of a neat pile of Neopian paraphernalia, and the Lupe scanned the area for any item that may serve his purpose. At first, crowds of Neopians surrounded the Money Tree, but as Max’s presence migrated towards the center of the group, more and more Neopets dispersed from the area, as though the cloud’s shadow warded them off. Before Max knew it, he was alone in front of the ever-smiling tree. Not even the ghosts ventured near the gray Lupe, and he saw the cloud above him thicken, as though absorbing his emotions. Yes, Max felt alone, but the sensation only fueled his search.

     A wide array of items caught his attention, but only a few suited his needs. The first item he picked was a large, bright-red kelp, which Max put to the side before continuing his search. A green plant was soon added to the Lupe’s stash, along with a yellow hat.

     For over and hour the Lupe searched, until Max finally examined his collection, deemed it enough, and began fitting the assortment to his fur. For this, Max was very careful to cover every speck of gray that had stained his fur over the years, while making sure to have variation between the colors he fastened to himself. Red accompanied blue while green complemented yellow and spun purple like a wheel into the mixture.

     At last, when Max felt he had sufficiently spread the colors out on himself, the Lupe looked over his back. A rainbow awaited his eyes, and for a moment even his thoughts eluded him. Everything was just as he had imagined; the outcome was perfect. Not a bit of gray remained on his pelt: he had covered the color up completely, replacing it with joyful, amazing hues that rivaled even Kayla’s.

     Then, Max did what he had been wanting to the entire time: he wanted to raise his eyes to the sky and see the sun. He wanted to feel its soft, warm caress against his fur. Oh, and how Max wanted that cloud to lift from above him. So, the Lupe lifted his head to the sky, opened his eyes, and felt his heart drop. The cloud remained in its normal place, and it grew as a sense of despair engulfed him.

     “Ew, what is that!

     Turning his attention from the sky, Max looked at his surroundings. While he had been lost in his own thoughts, a crowd had grouped around him, and an air of disgust hung in the air. Some gawked at him, while others averted their eyes, as though embarrassed.

     “Is it a Mutant?” some whispered.

     Others replied, “No, definitely something Maraquan.”

     “I-I’m not Maraquan! I’m a Lupe! Can’t you see?” Max shouted, approaching a few of the bystanders, who shrunk away. “I’m not scary!” he growled, confused. He was colorful! He was beautiful! Why did they not see this?

     Frustration consumed Max, and he ran from the center of the crowd. They parted obediently, allowing him to pass without trouble. On and on Max ran, dropping a colorful mask with each step he took. The Lupe sprinted until the Money Tree was nothing more than a twig in the distance, and at that point he collapsed into a heap.

     Having gone to such lengths to make himself colorful, Max felt so hurt by his fellow Neopians’ reactions to him. They gawked at him when he tried to be normal, and they avoided him when he remained gloomy.

     Then a new thought occurred to him: he had been gloomy his entire life. Was that not normal for him? Max was miserable as he was, and he had only become more miserable when he had tried to change himself into something he was not. He had always been Grey, but that fact was what the Lupe had fought against his entire life, rather than simply accepting it.

     That was right, he could learn to accept what he was, but Max knew he could never accept himself for something he was not: something colorful. No matter how hard he tried, Max knew himself, and so he both knew and understood what he was. He was not a Faerie Lenny. He bore no shades of blue or purple. He was a Grey Lupe , and so strung up on that fact that he had simply forgotten how to feel anything other than the negative emotions.

     With that epiphany, Max looked back towards the Money Tree. He was a Grey Lupe, but that did not necessarily mean he had to remain miserable his entire life. He merely had to accept the fact that he was gray; he merely had to accept who he was,. Above the Lupe, the clouds slowly drifted apart, and for the first time in his entire life, Max felt a smile creep upon his lips.

The End

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