The Magma is Always Hotter
“There it is guys, the magma pool!” Deman called to his siblings. A towering waterfall of boiling liquid fire cascaded majestically down the center of the large rock formation, flowing effortlessly into an ever-growing pool of magma below. Tiny fires roared and simmered at the edges of the pool, igniting and ceasing in an almost musical pattern. The Tonu standing guard stood alert and focused at the entrance of the pool, watching diligently for any trespassers looking to take a dip. Deman stared down wistfully at his dull coat of painted flames, which seemed to be growing more faded and tacky by the minute. The young Gelert stood a few feet away from the pool and stared at the passersby who had managed to sneak past the guard and emerge transformed into glowing beacons of molten rock. “Wouldn’t it be great to take a swim in there?”
“Well, it would suit your personality,” joked his sister Split, a strawberry Gelert. “You do have a hot temper, after all.” She began to giggle and Deman stuck his tongue out at her.
“Yeah well, one of these days when the guard is distracted, I’m going to jump in that pool and become magma too,” Deman declared.
“That’s great, Deman,” said his brother Chip, a spotted Gelert. “I think you’d look really good as a magma pet. And it would be as if you were really made of fire!” Deman smiled at his brother’s observation.
“Yep! That’s exactly why I want to do it as soon as possible.” He looked down at his fading coat of paint again. “No more painted flames for me!”
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” said a rainbow Gelert emerging from one of the caves. “You already look like you’re made of fire. What’s so special about magma?”
“What’s so spec- WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT MAGMA?!” Deman spluttered, baffled that someone could say such a thing. “Magma isn’t just a paint job, Hugs, it’s a whole new way of life!” Deman stood up excitedly as he motioned toward the magma pool with a wild gesture of his paws. “Before going in that pool, you’re nobody. You’re just another ordinary pet visiting the caves. But as soon as you set foot into that pool, BAM, you really belong here. Then you can really say that you’re made of flame. I want to be a REAL fire pet. I want to be just like the other magma pets! I want to be ablaze!”
Hugs gave her brother a puzzling look. “But what’s wrong with the paint job you’ve got now? You’ve never complained about it before. In fact, if I recall correctly you’ve always been really happy being painted fire. You loved it when our owner took you to the Rainbow Pool and applied the first strokes of paint. By the time you got out of there, I honestly think you were the happiest I’ve ever seen you.” She took a step toward Deman and looked into his eyes, attempting to get a read on how he was feeling. “Now you believe it’s a tragedy to be seen in painted flames? What happened to being happy?”
Deman shook his head furiously. “You just don’t get it, do you? Look at them!” He then pointed to a small group of magma pets gathering by a distant cave. A Cybunny had a mane of roaring flame that danced gently in the nearby darkness. The Xweetok standing next to him had a dim glow outlining her entire body in smoldering embers. Suddenly, a Draik shot into the air in a blaze of fiery glory. Deman looked up in amazement as the magma Draik soared in the open air, his wings roaring as he performed back flips and other acrobatic stunts in midair. Pets and their owners alike applauded and whistled loudly as the Draik made a flawless landing next to his comrades. Deman grinned triumphantly.
“You see!” he said in a fit of giddiness, “You see how wonderful they are! That’s what I want to be! And that’s what I will be!” He then shouted at the top of his lungs so everyone nearby could hear him. “I’M GOING TO BE MAGMA!” Nearby observers cheered in response to Deman’s declaration, including Split and Chip. Hugs, however, was not amused.
“Deman, I really think you should-”
“Forget it, Hugs!” Deman said, cutting her off. “It’s over! I’m going to be magma and that’s final!” The other two Gelerts began to chatter excitedly at their brother’s decision.
“When are you going to do it?” asked Chip.
“As soon as I can get past that guard,” Deman said as he jerked his head in the Tonu’s direction. The Tonu was still standing vigilantly in front of the entrance to the magma pool, looking as alert and focused as ever. Deman groaned in frustration.
“Don’t sweat it,” said Split optimistically, “Just wait until the guard’s asleep. Then you can just go ahead and jump right in!” Deman perked up almost instantly.
“Great! I’ll do it tonight, then! That old Tonu has got to sleep sometime.”
The four Gelerts soon headed back to their home in Neopia Central after a long day of exploring the newly discovered land of Moltara. However, while the others were discussing building petpets out of scrap metal and collecting colorful worms, Deman’s only thoughts were of molten rock and glowing embers.
At about 5:00 NST, Deman and the others sat on the living room couch of their spacious neohome, carefully formulating a plan to infiltrate the magma pool.
“Okay,” Deman said, turning to his siblings. “Here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll leave the house at around midnight, and by the time I make it back to the caves the guard should be asleep. Well, I hope so, anyway.” He gave the others a nervous look before continuing. “Then, when he’s asleep I’ll have a one way ticket to becoming magma!”
“Alright!” Chip shouted!
“Awesome!” Split agreed.
“I better get some sleep now,” Deman said, making his way toward the stairs. “Or else I might fall asleep right in the pool!” Deman let out a hearty laugh and Split and Chip echoed it.
“Okay, well, good night, Deman! See you in the morning!” Split called.
“Thanks,” Deman said. “Just think, tomorrow I’ll be made of fiery rock!” Split and Chip left the living room and entered the kitchen to make dinner. Hugs, however, followed her determined brother up the stairs.
Deman entered his room and set an alarm for midnight. As he was getting ready for bed, however, he heard a knock on the door.
“Come in!” he shouted. The doorknob turned slowly and Hugs cautiously entered, holding a large, oversized book. “Hi, Deman,” she said kindly. “Getting ready for tonight?”
“Yep,” he said, eyeing her warily. He knew she must be up to something. He then pointed to the book she was holding. “What’s that?” he asked.
“It’s a scrapbook,” Hugs said as she sat down on Deman’s bed and opened the front cover. “I’ve been keeping it since we were pups.” She began flipping through various pictures of her and the others as babies and during other major events. She finally stopped on a page toward the middle of the book. It had only one picture on it, though this one was much larger than the others were.
A much younger Deman was sitting in the middle of the Rainbow Pool, streams of different colors pooling underneath him. A huge grin traced the young Gelert’s newly painted face, flames stretching downward from the top of his head to the bottoms of his paws. The other three Gelerts were visible to the side of the frame, with Split and Chip cheering happily, and Hugs giving him a proud smile. Deman held up the fiery brush for everyone to see. It still had a small trace of paint on the edges, which would be used to cover up the remaining blue specks on his tail.
After a few minutes of gazing at the picture in silence, Deman looked up at his sister. “I remember that day,” he said thoughtfully. “It was the happiest day of my life.”
“I know it was,” said Hugs as she too gazed at Deman’s happy expression. “You were so excited when you found out we finally had enough to buy the brush. And so was I, for I knew it suited you well.” She then closed the book and gave Deman a serious look. “And I think it still does.”
Deman looked over at her with dismay. “What do you mean by that?”
Hugs paused for a moment, trying to find the right words. “The grass is always greener on the other side, Deman,” she said. “At least, it always looks like it is.” Hugs looked over at Deman, who was wearing a look of confusion on his ashen face. She then began to elaborate.
“Look,” she said, “I know when we went down to Moltara today that those magma pets looked incredible. Now, I know you, and I know your love of fire and warm places. But honestly, just because something is new and different from what you’re used to, that doesn’t mean it’s better.” She then repeated herself once more, “The grass is greener on the other side.”
Deman shook his head. “But there is no grass in Moltara,” he said, confused.
“That’s not what I meant, Deman, and you know it!” Deman’s look of confusion was not subsiding. “Hmm,” said Hugs, “perhaps you really don’t understand.”
“No, I don’t,” Deman spat. “Now, I really do need to get some sleep for tonight. So if you wouldn’t mind-”
“Fine, I’ll leave,” Hugs said briskly. “But just try to remember one thing: Magma may seem like the greatest thing in Neopia right now, but it might be a good idea to figure out exactly what it is you’ll be giving up before you dive right in. I’ll see you in the morning,” she said as she closed the door behind her, leaving Deman to himself.
Great, she’s gone, he thought as he prepared for bed once more. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Tomorrow, I’m going to be magma, and it will be the happiest day of my life! With this final thought, Deman turned down the covers of his bed, turned off the lights, and promptly fell asleep.
He awoke at midnight exactly, for he was too excited to miss a moment such as this. He silently prepared for his journey to Moltara, with nothing but dreams of molten rock and tiny pools of flame to occupy his mind.
The journey to Moltara was a treacherous one, especially in the dark. However, when Deman finally arrived at the Moltaran cave site, he discovered that it looked the same in the dead of night as it did during the day, for no trace of sunlight could permeate its rocky walls. Deman was thrilled to discover that his plan had worked out exactly as he thought it would; the Tonu guard stood fast asleep at the entrance to the pool. Deman also realized that he wasn’t the only one with the idea to come to the caves at night, as about a dozen others were gathered around the giant pool of magma, taking turns bathing in its wondrous essence.
Deman stood apart from the crowd as he saw pets of all species and colors diving, jumping, and cautiously setting foot into the pool. He laughed to himself as he took in the sights around him. “I think I’ll dive in, head first!” he said, and he made his way to one of the edges, patiently awaiting his turn.
As he waited for an open spot in the pool, he glanced curiously at the others around him. While a few plain colored pets were present, Deman noticed that the majority of them were already painted. Some of them were painted easily obtainable colors such as cloud and striped, and while they were pleasant colors, Deman saw nothing wrong with trading up for a color as wonderful as magma. Then, he noticed something rather peculiar; approaching one of the sides was a beautiful faerie Xweetok, wings arched and angelic face smiling. Deman could not help but admire her beauty, for he did not see faeries very often, and when he did, he could not help but always stop to admire their grace and poise.
To his horror, the faerie Xweetok dove headlong into the pool of magma. Deman covered his eyes in pure horror, barely able to watch the once gorgeous faerie swim gleefully in the pool of menacing hot fire, mutating her into a molten monster, just like the others.
Deman’s jaw dropped to the floor. Why would someone so blessed with a beautiful color suddenly want to give it up for something so ugly in comparison? He then looked down at his own coat of paint. He was emitting a dim glow in the light of the surrounding caves, looking even more brilliant than the day the paint brush first touched his fur. He looked back at the newly emerged magma pets, now seeing something he had not noticed before. Every one of them looked exactly the same. Not one showed a spark of personality through their molten exterior, all of their individuality melting away along with their former color. They were part of a collective whole now, something much bigger than themselves, only Deman wasn’t so sure he wanted to be a part of it anymore.
Deman took a step back from the edge, trying to determine the best course of action having now made his discovery. All of the pets who arrived ahead of him were climbing out of the pool, having been transformed into newly formed magma pets. The former faerie Xweetok Deman noticed earlier looked over at him, silently gesturing that it was now his turn to enter the pool.
Deman took another step backward. All of the magma pets were staring at him now, kind looks etched on their synthetic faces.
“Aww, it’s okay,” said a magma Shoyru making her way towards him. “Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt at all! Just jump right in! And when you’re done, you’ll be just like us!”
Deman gulped out of nervousness. Somehow, that was no longer a comforting thought to him. He then took one last look at all of the magma pets. Despite being all the same, they seemed so happy to be magma. Perhaps it wasn’t such a terrible thing after all.
“Look!” cried a magma Usul, pointing to the entrance of the pool. The old Tonu guard was stirring, letting out a loud yawn and stretching his charred arms into the air.
“Quick,” whispered the Shoyru, “You don’t have much time! Jump in!”
“Yes, just jump in! Hurry!” echoed the Usul. Soon the entire cavern was ringing in a chorus of audible whispers.
“Jump! Jump!” All of the magma pets cried together, urging Deman to plunge into the magma pool. He looked anxiously over at the stirring guard and gazed thoughtfully into the pool. It was now, or never. He looked over at the other magma pets, held his head up high, and took a final step toward the pool.
The next morning Split, Chip, and Hugs were sitting around the kitchen table, waiting for their brother to come down for breakfast.
“Did he even come home last night?” asked Split, munching on a piece of toast.
“Yeah, he did,” said Chip, finishing his own piece of bread. “I heard him come in. I haven’t seen him yet, though. I wonder how he looks.”
“I bet he looks amazing,” said Split. “Magma is such a spiffy color.”
“I just hope he made the right choice,” said Hugs, taking a sip of hot chocolate. The other two gave her a puzzled look. Before either of them could say anything, however, they heard sound of stairs creaking. Deman slowly descended them, his fur sporting the same fiery pattern as the night before. Yet, it was not really the same to Deman anymore. It meant something much deeper now. His three siblings rushed over to him, with Split and Chip wearing looks of disappointment and confusion, and Hugs wearing one of admiration.
“What happened last night, Deman?” Split asked. “I thought you were going to paint yourself magma.”
“Wouldn’t you know it,” Deman said angrily. “The darn Tonu woke up just as I was about to go into the pool. I was so close!” he yelled with a violent clap of his paws.
“No way!” Chip said with disbelief.
“Seriously?” Split asked, her look of disappointment deepening. “Well, that stinks.”
“Yeah,” said Deman, looking over at Hugs. Apart from raising a single eyebrow, she remained ever silent, her face etched in a stone-like, emotionless state. Deman continued on his tirade. “There I was, standing at the edge of the magma pool, waiting my turn to go in, when all of a sudden the guard wakes up, and chases us all away! I was the only one who didn’t get a chance to go in.” He let out a sigh of disappointment and looked down at the floor.
“Well, that’s alright,” said Split encouragingly. “You can always go back another night.”
“I don’t think so,” said Deman.
“Really?” Split asked, confused. “Why not?”
“I don’t really think it’s worth it anyway,” he said, looking over at Hugs, her eyes widening slightly. “I don’t really feel like sneaking off to Moltara every night just to see if I’ll have a chance at turning to stone! I’ve got better things to do!”
“Wow, Deman. This is a real change from yesterday,” Split said, impressed.
“Yeah, well, that’s what running off in the dead of night does to you, I guess,” he said, turning away from his siblings. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get some toast.” He brushed his way past them and walked purposefully toward the kitchen.
“Okay, well, Chip and I have already finished eating, so we’ll see you later.”
Deman nodded and the two of them went up the stairs and out of sight. Hugs, however, followed him into the kitchen and took a seat next to him.
“So, you couldn’t get past the guard, eh?” said Hugs, giving Deman a knowing smile.
“Well, you know, that old guard is really hard to get past,” Deman said, fumbling for his words, for he could tell that Hugs wasn’t buying it. “I’ve really got to give him credit. Who knows how many pets would have free paint jobs if he wasn’t there!” He then let out a little laugh and looked over at his sister’s face, etched in an understanding smile.
“You couldn’t go through with it, could you?”
“I stepped back at the last second,” he admitted, averting his eyes. “I had to. I was starting to have second thoughts about taking the plunge, and I figured I was just getting cold feet.” Deman let out a small laugh. “But as soon as I took my last step toward the pool, I realized that if I went any further I’d be making a mistake, one that I don’t think I could forgive myself for making.” He tilted his head upward and faced his sister. “Some mistakes just aren’t worth making.”
Hugs looked at her brother curiously. “What finally made you change your mind?”
“Well, let’s just put it this way,” Deman said, looking into Hugs’s eyes, “The magma is always hotter on the other side of Neopia.” He gave her a wink as he took a bite out of an untoasted bagel, his sister’s smile growing wider at the notion that Deman finally understood what she had been trying to tell him.
“Well, good for you,” Hugs said, trying to hide her jubilation. “I’ll be upstairs if you need me,” she said, giving Deman one last grin.
“Don’t worry, I will,” he said, as he enjoyed his breakfast. When he was finished, he put everything in its rightful place and decided to return to his room to make up for the sleep he missed. Before leaving the kitchen, however, he found himself gazing into the reflection of the mirror hanging on the back wall. As he traced the outline of the finely detailed flames flowing over his darkly tinted fur, he wondered what in the world he would ever do without them.