The Gray Flower
There was something about those woods that soothed me. I followed the well worn path that led me through the forest. Many Neopets wouldn’t dare venture out into that part of Neopia, and I had always wondered why. The Haunted Woods weren’t scary; I think they were just misunderstood.
I continued down the walkway, clutching my well worn shawl closer to my body. A light breeze, thick with the smell of autumn blew past me. I paused lifting my nose into the air and smelling the sweet fall waft. As I continued, I moved off the path and towards the trees. Being a shadow Xweetok, I blended in with the forest’s dark complexion and I loved that. I loved becoming unseen, it brought me peace.
I knew those woods like the back of my paw. There was no tree I hadn’t seen. At least I thought. I walked through the forest, eventually coming to an opening. I had never seen that clearing before. Below me, the grass was long. Scattered across the clearance were numerous gray flowers. I took a few steps, leaving the shelter of the trees. I breathed in; the air was especially syrupy with mid-autumn air.
I pulled my shawl closer and walked around the perimeter of the area. I stopped, stooping over to examine a pale flower. It was beautifully delicate. I gently lifted it up for a better look. It smelled as pretty as it seemed. As I put the flower down, I wondered why I had never seen that place before. I sighed and glanced around, putting the area to memory.
I turned and left, glancing behind me for one last glimpse. But as I looked back, a shadow darted out of the clearing and into the trees. I spun around. “Hello?” I called, but what ever I had seen was long gone. I turned around, shivering but not because I was cold.
I turned and locked the door to my house. That lovely cold autumn breeze tousled my fur as I twisted down the cobblestone road. I glanced up at the gray sky, breathing in deeply. I followed the familiar Neovia road, heading for the general store.
I opened the door, causing a small bell to ring. The old Kau at the counter looked up. “Hello.” She smiled, causing many wrinkles to appear on her face.
“Hello.” I smiled. I walked towards the back of the store. The shelves back there were littered with all sorts of threads, ranging from color to thickness. I glanced up, looking for the gray colored threads. I reached up and grabbed a thin gray spool. I carried it over to the counter and set it down.
“Will that be all?” the old Kau asked.
“Yes, thank you,” I replied.
“Have some mending to do?” she asked as she typed in some numbers to the old cash register.
“I have a hole in my old shawl.”
“Prigpants and Swolthy Tailors, just down the road, has some nice new shawls,” the Kau suggested while she dug around under the counter for a small bag. “I was thinking of getting one myself.”
“Not a bad idea...” I said, examining some key chains that were displayed next to the register. “However, I don’t think I could part with my shawl...” I set down 15 neopoints on the counter.
The Kau emerged with a small paper sack. She placed the thread inside the bag. “There you are, ma'am.” She took the money and put it in the cash register.
“Thank you,” I said, taking the shopping bag and leaving the store. It was cold outside, especially without my shawl to keep me warm. I strolled down the old sidewalk, glancing at the shops as I passed. When I came in front of the small clothing shop, the shawls in the window caught my eye. I looked inside. They really were nice shawls. But as I glanced down to the price tag I continued forward, back towards my home.
I walked up to my door, fumbling around in the pocket of my dress for my keys. When I finally found them, I accidently dropped them. I crouched down and retrieved my keys, but I stopped. Next to my keys, lying perfectly centered on my doormat, was a gray flower. It was the same type of flower that I had seen the day before in the meadow. “Who?” I said as I picked it up. “Who left this here?”
I unlocked my door and went inside, setting my keys and the thread on a small table inside the entryway. I went to the kitchen and opened up a cupboard. I pulled an old vase out and filled it with water from the sink. I placed the fragile flower in the vase and set the vase in the middle of my kitchen table.
Something knocked at my door. “It's late to be having visitors.” I set my shawl down, carefully placing the needle and thread on top of it. I shuffled over to the door, lifting my gown so that it wouldn’t drag. I opened the entrance. There was no one at the door, just small sack. I reached down and picked up the bag. I opened it up and inside there were neopoints. I gasped. I stepped out onto my doorstep, glancing down the road. There was no one in sight.
I walked back over to my couch and set the bag of neopoints down. As I looked into my kitchen, a petal fell off of the gray flower.
I pulled on my newly repaired shawl and set out down the road. I walked towards the edge of town, down to the path that led through the Haunted Woods and out of Neovia. I followed the path, trying to remember where I had found the clearing. I walked down the walkway, glancing up at the trees. When I came across an especially gnarled tree, I turned off the path and walked forward. I glanced to my right, trying to remember if that was the way I had come. As I turned ahead again, there it was, the clearing.
I walked further, leaving the trees. I gazed down at the tall grass and gentle flowers. I sighed. I was slowly beginning to love that place.
As I was walking away, I glanced behind me, to see a shadow... again. I stopped and turned around slipping behind a tree so that I wouldn’t be seen. I looked, seeing a figure move into sight. It was a ghost. My stomach flipped. I held my breath, wondering what I should do next. When the ghost didn’t move, I stepped out from behind the tree and walked towards it. “Hello?” I called.
The ghost froze, looking as if it were about to evaporate into thin air. “Don’t go,” I said, walking towards it cautiously. “My name is Adela.” I paused waiting for a reaction. “What’s yours?”
The ghost, which was that of a Lupe, floated forward, leaving a misty trail behind it. “Eva...” it said, its voice barely that of a whisper.
“Hello,” I said again. But Eva still looked frightened. “I won’t hurt you, I promise.” I reached a hand out to comfort her, but I pulled it back when she shied away from the gesture. “Why are you here?”
Eva paused hovering in front of me. “I don’t know.” She floated in silence as if she were wondering if she should say more. “Get rid of the flower.”
I paused, confusion over taking me. “What?”
“The flower, don’t keep it.”
“What?” I said again, trying to understand.
“Its not good.” She suddenly disappeared leaving only a few vapors behind.
“That was peculiar...” I said to myself.
I moved my fingers over the piano keys, weaving a simple tune. I wasn’t very good at playing the piano, but I loved to do it anyway. I finished up my song before going to the window. I glanced outside just as a Pteri in a fancy gown walked by. I sighed, looking down at my shabby dress. I truly wished I could afford a gown like that.
I sat down on my old velvet armchair. The small bag of neopoints had helped me out. I looked into the kitchen seeing the small bag of food I had bought from Crumpetmonger. Their food was frightfully expensive, for me at least, but with that small satchel of neopoints, I had had enough to buy some scones in assorted flavors.
I used the rest to buy other foods that I needed, and I bought myself a new shawl. It was a dull gray, like my old one, but not nearly as worn. And it was much warmer than my previous shawl. I was happy I had bought it.
But once again, I had little money. That small bag of neopoints had only lasted me a little a while, so there was no way I would ever be able to buy a gown as fancy as the one the Pteri was wearing. I stood up and walked to my kitchen. I pulled a scone out of the bag and took a bite, savoring its flavor.
I went to my kitchen table and picked up the vase and the gray flower. I filled it with water and set it back down.
That night was cold. I had lit a fire, but my house was still chilly. I pulled my chair up closer to the fire and curled up, pulling a blanket over me. I leaned forward and grabbed a worn book off my coffee table. It was history book about Neovia that I had found at the Money Tree. I had read it countless times, but I never grew tired of it. I flipped open the cover and began reading.
As the fire finally began to warm me, I felt serene. There was nothing that I loved more than reading by the fire. I sank deeper in my chair and continued reading. My doorbell rang. “Hmm.” I set my book down and stood up, walking towards the door. I opened it up to find no one there. When I took a step out to glance down the street, my toe hit something. I looked down to see a white box, wrapped elegantly with a red ribbon. I picked up the box and went back indoors.
I sat down on my chair and pulled the ribbon off the box. I lifted the lid to reveal a dress. I raised the dress out of the box, causing the box to slide to the floor. The gown was beautiful. Even more classy and stylish than the dress I saw the Pteri wearing. “It's lovely...” I whispered to myself.
I stood up in order to get a better look at the dress. I held it out in front of me, marveling at its beauty. I carried the dress out of my living room towards my bedroom. As I did, I glanced into the kitchen. Another petal had fallen off of the gray flower.
I strolled down the street, feeling exquisite in my new gown. Neopets glanced at me, many admiring my dress. I felt rich, like I was finally one of the upper-class. It was a great feeling. I walked down the Neovian walkways, just for the sake of walking. It was a beautiful day, and I couldn’t resist wanting to get outside.
I glanced up at the clock tower. It was getting late. I decided to head home. I turned around walking towards my house. When I got home, I sat down at my piano. I let my fingers glide over the keys. I sighed as I realized the keys were off pitch. “This old thing needs tuning...” I said. But as I sat there longer, I realized I couldn’t pay for a piano tuner. I needed to save all of my money so I could buy food next week.
“I guess I’ll just keep playing it out of tune...” I muttered to myself.
Someone knocked at my door. I glanced into my kitchen at the flower before walking to my entry. I opened it to see a Techo standing there. “G’day m'am!” he exclaimed, looking at me. “I’m here to tune your piano.”
I looked at him. “How did you know my piano needs tuning?” I asked. But he was already inside, opening up my instrument. “Um, sir?” He ignored me. He had his arms inside the piano and was adjusting cords and wires.
When he was done, he closed the piano and dusted off his hands. “There you are!” he said with a smile.
“Well, thank you, but I don’t have any money to pay you with...” I said.
“Not a problem, ma'am.” He turned and exited my house. “G’day,” he said with a tip of his hat. Then he left.
“Odd...” I said. “Well, my piano is tuned,” I said happily. I walked into my kitchen. When I glanced at the flower, another petal had fallen.
I found the meadow easier this time, which was pleasing. I walked in and inhaled the sweet air. I closed my eyes, savoring the feeling. When I opened them again, the ghost Lupe was right in front of me. “Oh!” I exclaimed. I jumped back.
“Sorry....” Eva said. She disappeared only to reappear on the other side of the clearing.
“Hello,” I said, smiling.
“Have you gotten rid of the flower?” she suddenly asked.
“What? What flower?”
“The gray one that was on your doorstep,” she said, sounding slightly impatient.
“I don’t know, it brings me good luck,” I said stubbornly.
Eva froze. She looked at me, her red eyes piercingly serious. “What do you mean?”
“Well, great things have been happening to me since I found that flower on my doorstep. I found neopoints and I got a dress. Some guy came over and tuned my piano for free. I think that flower is... lucky.”
“No, no, no!” Eva shouted. She flew up in the air and then quickly disappeared. Suddenly she was in front of me. “This is only the beginning. Get rid of it!”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, frustrated.
She looked away. “Do you remember... a long time ago when Neovia was plagued by an evil potion?”
“Of-Of course I do. How could I forget?”
“The potion was backed by evil,” Eva continued. “It seemed good but it wasn’t. It was very very bad.” She disappeared, rematerializing a few feet away. “That flower on your doorstep is enchanted, with evil.”
“I don’t believe you,” I said defiantly. “It’s only brought me good things.”
“You must believe me!” Eva cried out. “It seems good just like the potion did, but soon it will become very, very bad! It will rob you of everything you have!”
I looked at her. “Fine, then tell me who enchanted it.”
She paused, looking as if she were deep in thought. “I... I don’t know.”
“Then how can you prove it's evil?!”
“I just know!” She vanished, but was suddenly behind me. “The flower was supposed to bring great fortune, but whoever cast the spell on these flowers, cast the spell wrong! The flowers...” She paused, flying over several flowers. “...are supposed to help.” She flew into the ground, disappearing. She came soaring out of a tree and stopped in front of me. “But whoever enchanted them did it wrong.”
I looked at her. “I still don’t fully believe you.” And she vanished. This time she didn’t come back.
I sat at my kitchen table, staring at the flower. I didn’t believe Eva; this flower brought me good things. I stood up and left the kitchen heading towards my room. I lay down on my bed and quickly fell asleep.
The next morning when I woke up, it was raining. I went into my kitchen yawning as I did. I opened up a cupboard and grabbed a cup. I filled it with water and drank it.
Suddenly there was a rapping at my door. I glanced at the small flower and smiled. I sauntered over to the door and opened it. Two large Gelerts stood at my door. They pushed past me and walked to my piano. They lifted it up and carried it out of my house.
“Wait!” I shouted, chasing after them. But they turned down a street and I soon lost them. I shivered; I was soaking wet. I ran back to my house. I went to my room and threw open the closet. I reached inside and pulled out my beautiful dress. As I pulled it on, there was a huge rip in the bodice. “Where did this come from?” As I walked out into my living room, I noticed my ceiling was leaking. I stared at the leak before grabbing an umbrella, preparing to head outside. When I entered my kitchen, I noticed the flower had lost three more petals. I threw open the door and dashed outside. I jogged down the main street, my dress growing dirty from the mud on the road.
I turned off the road and ran down the path that led into the forest. I tripped on my dress and fell face first into a pile of sludge. I stood up and wiped my face off. I ran off the path and towards the meadow. When I finally found it, I was soaked through with water. The umbrella had done nothing to keep me dry. “Hello?!” I yelled. Thunder cracked above. “Eva?!” I called. I grew worried. “Eva!!”
All of a sudden, she was in front of me. “Do you believe me yet?!” she called as lightning flashed in the sky.
“Yes! Yes! I believe you!”
She disappeared for a moment, but came back quickly. “Once all the petals are gone, you’ll be left with nothing!” she yelled, trying to be heard above the rain’s racket. “You have to get rid of it, and quick!”
“What do I do to get rid of it?!” I yelled. I was freezing cold, and of course it began to rain harder.
“My grave...” she said quietly to herself.
“My grave! Leave the flower on my grave! I’ll take care of the rest!” She vanished into thin air.
I paused, standing in the middle of the meadow. “Go! Run!” something said in my ear. I bolted, dropping my umbrella in the middle of the meadow. I ran down the path, mud splashing up on me. I ran into Neovia, tripping several times on the cobblestone. I stumbled towards my house. I threw open the door. Inside, the floor was soaked with water. I ran into the kitchen, noticing that my kitchen window had a huge crack in it. The chairs had been overturned and the rug beneath the kitchen table was torn in half. I grabbed the flower, which only had three petals left. I turned and ran outside. The minute I got outside, the rain was pouring even heavier than before.
I turned and ran down the road that went towards the graveyard. I sprinted down the way, hoping that the flower wouldn’t lose any more petals. Another petal fell, right when I got to the graveyard. I grabbed the gate to the cemetery and tried to pull it open, but it was locked. I looked down to the flower with two petals. “Open!” I yelled to the gate. “Please open!” But it wouldn’t budge.
I looked around, looking for any alternate way into the graveyard. There wasn’t. I was going to have to climb the wall. I put the flower’s stem between my teeth, reaching up the stone wall. I found a hand hold and used that to boost me up. I pulled myself further up, hoping that I could make it to the top. I wrapped my arm over the top of the wall and pulled myself over.
I ran up the hill, heading towards the tombstones. I glanced at each one, looking for the name ‘Eva’. I ran frantically searching for the one tombstone I needed. I panted heavily, shivering. “Where is it?!” I said to myself, urging myself not to cry. Another petal fell off the flower. The rain came down in sheets, making it near impossible to read the tombstones. “Where is it?!” I called again.
Eva appeared in front of me. “Follow me!” she yelled.
I followed her as she soared through tombstones. She’d disappear a moment only to be seen again in a slightly different spot. She glided through the rain. I hurried, following her. I knew that last petal was about to fall. Any second, I braced myself.
Suddenly, we were there. Eva hovered above her tombstone. “Hurry, put it down!” she yelled.
I dropped the flower on the small mound of dirt. Simultaneously, as the flower hit the ground, the rain ceased. Eva looked up to the sky smiling. The storm clouds parted to reveal the normally gray sky. I sighed. Eva looked at me. “Thank you,” I said, completely out of breath.
“For what?” Eva said quietly.
“For fixing... this,” I said gesturing to the sky and then to the flower.
“It was no problem... I just didn’t want you to suffer the same fate.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, looking up at her.
She floated down to my level. “Many many years ago...” She paused. “I think it was a hundred years ago actually, a flower just like that appeared on my doorstep after I visited the same meadow you did. I put it in a vase, and good things started happening to me. But then one day, everything went wrong. I didn’t know what to do...” She glanced away. She floated up and weaved in and out of a gnarled tree’s branches. She drifted back. “This continued until one day my house was consumed in flames. I was left with nothing...”
“I wanted to make sure... make sure that this never happened to anyone else.”
“I’m so sorry that happened to you....” I said, staring down at the dangerously beautiful flower. “Thank you, for saving me.”
“No, thank you.” She smiled. “You set me free.” She smiled before floating up into the sky. And she disappeared. Pure bliss washed over the graveyard.
When I returned home, my ceiling had stopped leaking. My piano was back. The window wasn’t cracked anymore. The chairs were sitting up right, and the rug was whole. And as I glanced down at my dress, it wasn’t ripped anymore, just muddy. I sighed, throwing a few logs into the fire place. I lit it, causing the logs to light ablaze. I sank down in my old velvet chair.
I was free.