It's a gentle, dull kind of gold, not the kind that reminds you of riches and treasure and Lost Desert, but more of brass handrails or the ornate jewelry passed down in the family which isn't worth much anyway, which had sentimental value to someone but it's been forgotten long ago. In a bag of Neopoints, shiny and bouncing as it's given from the bank manager to the eager Neopet, ready to be spent on hot dogs or toys, it would be bright and special, but it would also be one of five hundred, nothing. Now it is single, alone, and it is such an old coin that all the luster has died out and the engraved "NP" has almost worn out, leaving only a shadow behind.
Clink, a simple toss, just a flick up in the air with a forefinger and a thumb, it twirls above the well for a moment, reflecting the sunlight, dancing even as an inanimate object--and then it has fallen, bouncing against the stone walls of the Wishing Well, falling long after it has disappeared from sight.
It falls into a pile of hundreds, thousands of other coins just like it, some dull, some shiny, some old, some sparkly new, piles and piles that may go down indefinitely.
After the coin comes a whisper, a tentative hope, slithering in to echo against the walls of the well: a wish. Silent, unheard but by the coins, unheard by the Neopets outside, unheard by anyone except the species-less, color-less, whispering voice that stumbles out: "I wish for a Pirate Paint Brush."
Laughable, the other coins snicker soundlessly, laughable, this poor beggar thinks they can donate a single Neopoint and receive an item worth millions? That's not how it works, darling, not how it works, you get what you work for, sometimes you get lucky, but not that lucky, stupid Neopet, well, what do you expect... Mutterings go on that will last forever, continue endlessly, in this dark pit of a Wishing Well, and the stone walls swallow up every mumble.
The Neopet walks away, and by the slow, heavy footsteps you can tell that the paint brush is not expected. Before even throwing the coin, this one could already taste disappointment. It did not dare to hope, and did not even consider it.
Yet a wish is something.
The remaining echoing whispers of the Neopet's wish finally die off, "Pirate, Pirate Paint Brush, I wish for a Pirate Paint Brush, Pirate Paint Brush..." haunting as they slip into the cracks between the stones and disappear into nothing. This is how it has happened with all the other coins; the wishes never stay with them for long. None of their lives stay with them for long; they change and they become and they are what they are. Objects. Neopoints.
Already the Neopoint, the I-Wish-For-A-Pirate-Paint-Brush Neopoint, is already beginning to forget its past. It's beginning to melt all together and into the cold silver-gold metal and now it seems as if it has been here, in this dark bottom of a well, forever.
* * *
It was created new and shiny, gold that glinted all the time, sparkled in the sunlight and the moonlight and the starlight, not only a dull glow when you held it a certain way. Perfectly round, without a dent, not a single scratch, and it was flawless.
Not that anyone noticed. It was just another Neopoint in hundreds, thousands, millions of Neopoints, and who cared what it looked like? It was money, and by itself, it wasn't even very much money--one Neopoint could buy nothing.
But it knew. It knew itself. It knew every ridge on the sides of it's round edge, the smooth surface before and after the memorized initials: 'NP'. Two letters were its name, the only name it had ever known. And yet there was nothing much to know, nothing much to remember. It was just a coin, not a collectable coin, not anything interesting, just a bland circle-shaped cutout with the Neopoint symbol on it.
A Desert Hissi earned it by playing Pyramids; it and one hundred eighty brothers. The Desert Hissi was a dedicated gamer, and quite skilled as well, so even the hundred eighty (let alone the single one!) meant less than nothing to him. Not even enough to deposit in the bank to keep it safe. He would not even notice if such a small amount of Neopoints disappeared.
Yet the Neopoint still remembers that Desert Hissi, remembers every time it traveled in a rough brown bag at the Hissi's side to the sweltering heat of the Lost Desert--which affected the Neopoint little as its cool metal flesh was invulnerable to the petty changes of Neopia's weather--and when the Hissi's hand would grasp, unceremoniously and undiscriminating, fifty Neopoints. They would clink against it, push it to the sides and the corners of the bag, and he would not be taken. The Hissi, it came to know, was not playing Pyramids for the thousands of Neopoints he earned each day, for this was nothing for the professional gamer. He was playing it for a trophy, a shiny golden trophy that was infinitely more valued than the Neopoint cowering at the corner of the money bag. And so all the Neopoints the Hissi earned were shoved into the old, straining bag, and when that was full and showing signs of collapse at the seams, he filled other bags that he dumped at his Neohome and determined to take to the bank at some later date.
The Hissi did not know of the Neopoint, probably had never even given it a glance, but the Neopoint knew the Hissi like he was its owner, its friend. It went with him whenever he went to the Bakery to get a bite to eat, to the Catacombs whenever he felt like perusing the Neopian Times, to the Game Room to inspect the High Score Tables and compare numbers, frustrated. And when the Hissi finally achieved the coveted Pyramids trophy, the Neopoint felt as elated as if it had assisted in some way, as if it had achieved something as well.
It was some time until the Hissi finally spent the Neopoint, for the gamer was a scrounger and, in addition to aspiring after high game scores and trophies, wanted to become rich. Therefore for many months the Neopoint spent its life in the dry, cold vault box that it knew belonged to the Hissi, just another Neopoint deposited in the bank. The walls did not press around it, did not cause it to become claustrophobic, and nor did monotony overcome it, for it simply closed its mind and went to sleep.
When it finally was spent, it was for a quest item. The Fountain Faerie had asked for a Rainbow Buzz Plushie, which happened to be extraordinarily cheap for such a rare and expensive bestower of quests, and so the Hissi eagerly bought the item at the trading post, forking over more than he had spent over the entire time the Neopoint had spent in his possession. He was already an elite and renowned color, but he wanted more, and as the Neopoint looked back as he was being carried off by his new owner, he knew that if he ever saw the Hissi again it would not recognize him, for he would be painted Darigan or Maraquan or Pirate or Plushie. And it looked back not with fondness, for the months in the bank vault had stolen its adoration for the Hissi, but with some nostalgia for the first life it had ever known.
The new owner was a bright and cheerful yellow Kacheek. He was not wealthy, and this was, in fact, the most Neopoints he had ever owned, and upgrading his bank account to Diamond Deposit made him feel very rich indeed. He played games long enough to buy a treat at the food store or bakery, and only played extra when he truly enjoyed the game. He did not have a fancy Neohome or a cabinet full of silver and golden trophies.
Nonetheless, being with the lighthearted Kacheek was enjoyable, while it lasted. He often went to play at the Merry-Go-Round, went fishing in Maraqua, and explored the Deserted Tomb. His new-found wealth was spent quickly and sporadically in a way that would have disgusted the Hissi: on toys, food, and grooming items. It was not long until the Neopoint was spent, along with fifty thousand others, on a rare gourmet food to be fed to a Kadoatie. The shopkeeper swiftly stuffed them into the shop till, and it was left abandoned there for some time.
After what seemed like years later, or maybe hours, a grubby hand reached into the till to grab a handful of Neopoints. The shopkeeper was a ratty-looking pink Aisha, draped with secondhand clothes and hung with bangles on her wrists. She grinned at the Neopoints, clenching her fist around them. The Neopoint could tell that she had not had money to spend for a long time. And so she went out and spent it: on hats and shoes and skirts and jewelry, all in flashy colors and expensive textures.
Five thousand Neopoints she kept, tucked in a pocket sewn onto her skirt. She jangled as she danced and skipped across Neopia, sequins sparkling, bracelets tinkling, and Neopoints jingling. The from-rags-to-riches Aisha quite liked the effect, and having so much money on her made her feel important. But unlike those who had been rich since birth and were accustomed to it, every time she bought something it was because she honestly wanted it and it made her happy.
The Neopoint knew that it was not held in high esteem, and that it had been much more respectable in the Desert Hissi's bank vault, yet he enjoyed the carefree life of the Aisha. By days, she danced for strangers in the Neopian Plaza, near the Money Tree. The nights were spent perched high in the foliage of Meridell forests. The cold did not affect the Neopoint like it did the Aisha, but the calm and the cool silence did.
Of course, good times always come to an end. One day, while the pink Aisha spun with her arms outstretched for an audience of nine beggars, a ghost, sneaky and wispy and silent, slipped up behind her, gently unattaching the sack of Neopoints from her sequined purple skirt. It took her a couple more turns to realize that she was unexpectedly lighter, but when she whirled around, slender fingers pinching behind her, there was nothing there but an echoing, ghostly cackle.
The ghosts dropped the Neopoints through the branches of the Money Tree to plop between a moldy slipper and a half-eaten berry. An empty-eyed brown Lupe, bony and patchy with hunger, instantly brightened and sat up, but when a sprightly yellow Lenny in a smart-looking suit snapped them up, he slouched back down, disappointed. As the Neopoint jerked along with the Lenny's bouncy steps, it wished it had been taken by the Lupe, instead. Throughout its short existence, it had discovered that the poorer Neopets were to be preferred.
The Lenny, it soon discovered, was an avid Neopian Times writer, without much need for Neopoints. It didn't deposit them in the bank, but just let them rot next to him as he scribbled and crossed out and stared out into space for "inspiration." The only time he went out, and the Neopoints were permitted to see the light of day, was when he got "writer's block." When this happened, he traveled all across Neopia, braving horrible beasts and climbing to precarious heights, merely to think of an idea for a story. Then he'd see what others would consider an everyday event or sight, such as a Poogle buying a Ice Pop at the Super Happy Icy Fun Snow Shop, and immediately run home to fill page after page with his sloping, messy script. The Neopoint despaired that it was ever going to get spent.
Its opportunity arose one day when the Lenny was returning to his Neohome after a day spent in the Catacombs. He had been so concentrated in his work that he hadn't stopped to even grab a bite at the Coffee Shop, and the Neopoint wondered if perhaps the Lenny might get a snack at the Food Shop or the Bakery. It was then that he noticed a cookie on the ground, and reached down to pick it up. When his attention was distracted, a hundred Neopoints fell out of his pocket and bounced, clinking against the pavement, to a standstill. The Lenny didn't notice, and walked on.
When the sun peeked above the horizon the next day, who would walk along the path, and notice the glint of the Neopoints on the ground, but the brown Lupe from the Money Tree? The Lupe's paw was warm and alive as he gripped the points, and his wide, excited grin was bright and happy, as if his eyes had never looked hungry and dead. Paws pounded against the ground as he ran to the Bakery, which was just opening for the morning, and bought rolls and muffins and cookies and cakes. He stuffed his mouth with them and the Neopoint, still unspent in the Lupe's paw, felt as happy as if it was the one enjoying the food.
Finally the money ran out, for in reality there is not much one can buy with a hundred Neopoints. The Neopoint was the only one left, and the Lupe looked at it sadly as he trudged out of the Bakery on a rare full stomach. What could he do with just one Neopoint?
It was then that he looked up to the sound of a bright, young voice. It was a red Chia, dropping a bag of five hundred Neopoints into the Wishing Well as she proclaimed proudly, "I wish for a Bag of Peanuts!" It made a satisfying splash as it hit the water, and she marched off, face alight with expectance and hope.
Why not? Why not wish for one of his dreams? He had always wanted to be Pirate. He knew it was something that would never be granted to him, knew that it was an impossibility... but why not? He looked at the worn down Neopoint, looking as tired and careworn by life as he felt, and then made a fist around it as he decided. Then with a flick and a toss it was gone.
* * *
The Neopoint wonders if the Lupe's wish might be granted. If somewhere, the Lupe is parading around with a red-and-white spotted bandana, a gold earring, and a fancy white shirt. And if so, would the Neopoint have been worth it? Though it rests forever in this silent, cold grave, would it have been worth it? After all, if the Lupe's dream has come true, it would have changed a Neopet's life. It would have granted him what he wanted most, and made him important.
Probably not. Getting your wish fulfilled is a one in a million chance. And the whisper of the wish is gone already, dry and dead. The Lupe has probably returned to his home near the Money Tree, shivering in ragged clothing, with nothing behind his eyes but a wish that will never come true.
There's a one in a million chance. Who knows; there's a lot more than a million coins down here.
During their short connection, the Neopoint identified with the Lupe, just as it had with all the previous hands it had passed through. The Hissi, rich and snobby, the Kacheek, with no goals but happiness, the Aisha, flighty but joyous, the Lenny, obsessively dedicated to his single passion, and finally the Lupe. Now that it has no owner, now that it is buried in piles and piles of faded Neopoints, what is it? Just a piece of metal?
Metal grips at its identity and pulls at its thoughts, and the darkness presses at it. It is forgetting.
So what is it now?
The other coins whisper to it. Silent whispers that it cannot understand. Silent whispers that will not become voices until all the dreams they represent become realities.
You are a wish.
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|A Valentine for Dr. Sloth|
"It is my opinion that the residents of this Space Station fear me enough to do anything I say, and I say that they must love me. And further, I say that they must demonstrate their love for me this year by making and sending me Valentines."