Also by pafc_will
In a hidden glade, deep in the forests of Meridell, the large Turmaculus sleeps. Time moves soundlessly, nights into days and minutes into years, and the large being, King of Petpets, wakes but one hour every twenty-four.
The sun shines on his back. Around him, the chipper grass sways in the lively wind, Petpets play, and the endless noise of Neopia, of life, rustles and chirps and laughs. The Turmaculus sleeps to drown out the sound and the neighbors and the conversation because it has been a long time since he was interested in such things. So very long.
What does he do as he sleeps?
He dreams of the past.
Benjy the Turmac is young and full of life. He sees the sun and delights in its warmth. He runs and jumps and plays in the glades of Meridell because his world is beautiful and new and he wants to experience it all at once. He eats berries and their tart, sweet juice explodes in his mouth. He savors the taste as he does every moment.
He knows of the Turmaculus. He dreams that if he eats enough berries, runs so hard his muscles burn, jump and bounce and fly, he will one day become just as great and monstrous as the Turmaculus. One day.
But one day is one day and today is right now. The fun is in the trying, not the achievement. He knows this because he is a small Turmac and he is young.
Sometimes Benjy visits the Turmaculus. Most of the time, he cannot wake the snoring beast at all, but sometimes he does, and in those instances he is rewarded with a book, a snack, or even some Neopoints.
Benjy always greets the Turmaculus cheerfully, with a parting, "See you tomorrow!" or, "Have a great day!" Usually, the Turmaculus answers his impotence with a gruff grunt or a snore, but occasionally he lets slip out a small chuckle.
One time Benjy, seeing the Turmaculus simply lying awake in the glade, staring at nothing, feels a pang of empathy. After all, the Turmaculus must have, sometime, been just like him. Though the large beast gruffly quashes any attempts at friendliness by visiting Neopets, Benjy alone senses that the King of Petpets might be lonely. And so he approaches the Turmaculus and asks, with his usual cheeriness, "Would you like to play?"
The Turmaculus spares him an astonished glance, then turns away, but surprisingly responds.
"I do not play."
He gestures at himself. "I am the Turmaculus. I have made myself what I am. I am too old, too large, too slow to play. And," he hesitates, "I have no interest in playing."
"Oh," Benjy says, sadly. "Did you never like to play?"
The small Turmac feels the sharp wind whip past him as he, lifting off of the hill's crest, soars into the air. He feels as if he is flying, cannot imagine landing. He is small and weightless, yet high up here, he is the king of the world.
He lands and rolls, becoming pleasantly dizzy, basking in the enjoyment of playing and being out in the hot sun. He has energy and can feel it in the rolled-up ball that is himself.
SLAM! The wind is knocked out of him as a tree stump rises out of nowhere, straight into his face. He stumbles and stops, disoriented.
Ahead, a Kookith springs easily forward, effortlessly covering ground until the Turmac is left far behind. Onlookers cheer and yell, racing after the Kookith to offer encouragement. They do not mean to shun the small Turmac. They merely do not notice him.
He knows he is slow, and small. He knows there is nothing particularly special about him, nothing that should bring attention or honor to him.
Before, he didn't care. Before, he rolled for the dizzy thrill and leaped for the exhilarating feeling of flying. But now, he plays this game that he has played for his entire life as a race. A race against himself, against others though they do not know it. Constantly striving to improve. To excel.
He promises himself that he will become the best.
"And did you?" Benjy asks, enthralled. His game is forgotten and he sits in front of the Turmaculus, eyes wide. The Turmaculus does not have the heart to deny the little Turmac, so similar to who he once was.
"I didn't at first. It took a long time, and a lot of work..."
The Turmac's days slowly turn from carefree hours in which he does what he wishes at the moment, to rigorous workouts in which every minute is dedicated to his goal. He does the same things: rolls, jumps, and eats berries, but when he eats he eats not because the berry tastes good but because he knows it will make him bigger and stronger. Somehow, because of this, the taste that he used to love dulls and he has to force down every berry.
He also begins to alienate himself from his friends, his playmates. Their only interest is fun; he has a goal. And they are his competitors. He wishes to become better than them, so he cannot frolic with them as equals.
Day after day he works, he eats, he strengthens himself until the sun goes down in the small glade he comes to call his own. He realizes he is growing bigger and stronger, and this gives him pleasure. Happiness.
It is when he comes across a small Warf in the forest, by chance, that he realizes how far he has come. The Warf looks small in his eyes, but he seems to remember looking up to his old friend Donald to be able to meet his eyes.
He opens his mouth, gives a trial growl. It sounds weak in his ears, but the Warf gives a shriek and runs away. Knowing he has inspired fear in the other Petpet makes him feel powerful. Important. Special. And he feels good about himself.
"But you don't now, do you?" Benjy asks with the blunt innocence of a young Petpet. He can tell, with perceptive eyes, that the Turmaculus is sad. He doesn't know how, but he can tell.
The Turmaculus gives a deep sigh, which turns into a yawn. "I'm tired, young one," he says. "I don't usually stay awake this long. Go on, and I'll finish my story tomorrow."
Benjy arrives right on time the next day. The Turmaculus is awake when he arrives, the eyes in his frightening, monster-like face brighter than they have been in a long time. "Hello, young one," he greets Benjy as the little Turmac plops down on the small tree stump he had chosen the day before, eager to continue hearing the story.
The Turmaculus reflects that it has been a long time since anyone has been this eager to talk to him. Or, for that matter, been this interested in what he has to say.
"Why do you sleep so much?" Benjy asks, curious, interrupting the Turmaculus' thoughts as he attempts to remember where he left off the day before.
The Turmaculus smiles sadly. "I really have nothing else to do. There is no point in being awake, because when awake my life is just as empty. When I sleep... I can dream. I can pretend I am as I was before."
"Oh." This strikes Benjy into silence, who cannot imagine sleeping for so long because one has nothing else to do. He cannot imagine missing so many daylight hours in which he can enjoy existence.
"Shall I go on?"
The Turmac adopts a name for himself, one that befits the being he is now. The Turmaculus, he calls himself, and in time Meridell grows to know him as such.
Instead of being a small, unknown Petpet who frolics in the fields of Meridell alone, he is now the King of the Petpets, feared and respected. He is as large as six Petpets and as strong as twenty. His glade in which he resides is avoided, for rumors abound that he is a fearful monster who would eat a Petpet as soon as look at it.
He hears the rumors, and smiles. He likes the fact that he is talked about. And he does eat the occasional Petpet in order to encourage the talk. After all, fear is a kind of respect, and that's what he's always wanted.
He considers himself above the others, now. After all, he is too large to be a mere Petpet. He is the Turmaculus. Finally, he is himself.
And slowly, his routine settles into this new one, this new being, this new life. He eats berries; he needs a lot more now he is so large. He finds it harder to roll and jump now. When he leaps into the air, he no longer feels he is flying; he just falls back down. He is too heavy to fly.
Eventually he gives up on it. It's not a big sacrifice. It was just a means to an end, and the game had lost its fun long ago.
He lays in his glade, scares visiting Petpets, eats berries. He watches the sunset, tastes the sweet wind coming from the field, smells the whiff of time passing and days ending.
He is older now. He learns to find the enjoyment of doing nothing and simply watching. He realizes that his previous endless play was pointless, monotonous. Now he sits in his glade and thinks. It is peaceful.
One day, a small Turmac rolls by in the forest, near the Turmaculus' glade. The Turmaculus watches as the Petpet rolls and leaps, squealing in excitement. He continues watching long after the Turmac has disappeared out of sight, and he feels a bitter taste on his tongue. It is nostalgia.
He is satisfied with what he is now, and proud of what he has achieved. But he is not so cocky that he does not miss what he has.
He knows that he had to lose it. That was a time of youth, and everyone outgrows it. That living in the moment, the enjoyment of play. He remembers it, and for the first time, he closes his eyes, and watches the memories play out on the inside of his eyelids.
He falls asleep and descends into dream.
When he wakes, he does not know who he is. Is he the small, happy Turmac from his dream, or the lonely, great beast he is now? When he realizes the reality, returns from the past to the present, it is with regret. For the first time he knows that what he has lost, he misses.
And now simply watching and thinking is not enough. Just staring at the sky is boredom. Time presses onto him and he is painfully aware of every second of simply lying there, every year which goes by so quickly, wasted.
So he closes his eyes.
And he is the King of Petpets. He is great. He is the best. He is all he always wanted to be.
Funny how it is only when you have lost what you have that you truly discover its value.
For the Turmaculus, it is too late.
Benjy rolls over and stands on his head. "I don't get it," he says, confused. "If you want to play, why don't you? It's not too late."
The Turmaculus smiles. "You don't understand because you are young."
Benjy responds stubbornly. "I don't care. I think you are great. I still want to be like you when I grow up. Changing isn't always bad."
The older Petpet rolls over, grumbling. He is tired from all the talking. "Enjoy your life while you can, young one. You're young. You're lively. Sure you're not big like me. But does that really matter?" He gestures out to the meadow, which in the afternoon sun can be seen for miles and miles, and it seems as if he can see all Meridell. "Go play. Leave me to my memories. You live in your life."
Benjy jumps up, and the Turmaculus feels a pang, knowing that his brief companion will soon leave him, and then he'll be alone again. But maybe that's okay. In his memories, his dreams of the past, he has a better life, and he is happier.
"Come on, Turmaculus," Benjy says, obstinate. He gives a gentle shove, pulling the large beast upright. "Come play with me. You're not too old yet. You don't have to dwell in your memories to live as you did. Come on and be who you want to be, now."
Benjy runs off a little ways, still in sight, and gives a leap off of an incline. His eyes are bright and his limbs relax as the wind takes him up. The Turmaculus watches the small Turmac fly through the air and remembers himself. Who he used to be.
He gets up and follows.