Number 400: Part One
I once had a dream. In my dream, I was standing in front of a steel cage. Inside the steel cage was a red Uni.
In my dream, I had reached forward to open the cage, to let the pathetic creature out. But when she tasted freedom, she rushed forward and trod on me with her hooves. Sharp, painful cuts streaked red on my blue fur. I cried for mercy but she did not relent. Instead, she cried out and another Uni came. They both started to kick me, and I cried and sobbed and begged but they wouldn’t stop.
I was confused when I woke up. I had to ask Paria what that dream was about. She would have known.
My name is Cyan, and I am a blue Lupe. Paria is my sister.
I was a Pound pet, making me the eldest pet and the youngest in the family. Paria was the youngest member of the family, age-wise. I have been in this family for about two years now.
We weren’t rich, but our owner made do with what we had. Paria was obviously the family favorite, even Rachel, our owner, worked tooth and nail to save up for a baby paint brush for her. Paria is now a baby Xweetok. I don’t mean to be biased, but I loved her more than any other member of my family, even more than Rachel. She just had a way of brightening your day somehow.
She was wise too. Behind that babyish façade, she understood everything with a cutting clarity, so sharp that you would be ripped to shreds if you weren’t careful.
But she had her own little oddities. For example, her marble collection. She had virtually amassed a Terror Mountain of marbles. Stellar blue, galactic green, cosmic yellow, all piled high in her room. If you weren’t careful, you could trigger an avalanche. But if no one ventured into her room, they would sit there, untouched, glittering even in the dim light. Glittering only the one pure color they were painted.
Once, I had found a pretty rainbow coloured marble on the road, and decided that it would be a nice addition to her collection. She smiled when I handed it to her, but instead of placing it in the tall stack of marbles in her room, she chose to wrap it in tissue and put it in her drawer.
“Isn’t it going to join the rest?” I remembered asking her.
“No.” She smiled. “This one’s different.”
The mix of colors in the marble made it stand out from its peers, and she was fickle when it came to her marble collection.
“Can’t you just put it in too?”
She frowned and shook her head. “No.”
And that was the end of that conversation.
“Ria, it’s time to sleep. It’s already past your bedtime,” Rachel’s warning flitted into the playroom, where Ria and I sat.
“But I wanna stay up with Cyan more,” she protested.
“No, dear,” Rachel appeared at the door. “You can talk to him in the morning.”
Paria vehemently shook her head, and turned it so her pleading eyes were fixed on me. “Please, stay with me.”
I laughed lightly; she was being unusually demanding today. “No, Ria, you do as Rachel says. Time to sleep.”
Rachel laughed at her childish outcry. “You kids,” she sighed. “Up to bed, Ria. Cyan will still be here in the morning so you can talk to him then.”
Sulking, she did as she was told but allowed me to tuck her in. I gently kissed her forehead to bid her goodnight, and noticed that the marble stacks seemed unusually tall that night.
“Hey... how many of those things you got there anyway?” I curiously jerked my head in their direction.
“400,” she promptly said as she fell asleep.
If I think about it now, it was ironic that that was the last word she said to me.
I woke up late the next morning, the house was empty, so I assumed they had all gone for breakfast and that I was eating stale omelette again. Presently, Rachel, Carna and Salamadria appeared in the doorway, bearing armfuls of omelette and talking happily. I noticed the absence of Paria more than their presence.
“Where’s Ria?” I asked, but my mouth was full so it came out as ‘Fferes Frea?’
They looked at me strangely so I swallowed and tried again, “Where’s Ria?”
Carna and Salamadria blinked at me and Rachel went, “Who's dat?”
I took it that they were a little dazed in the morning so I said slowly, “Paria. Your other pet. My sister. Little baby Xweetok.”
Rachel burst into laughter, “Oh, Cyan, not again. I told you I’m not rich enough to paint anyone anything, much less baby.”
I stared at her in surprise. My stale omelette became more so as the seconds ticked by. I scoured their expressions for a glimpse of falsehood. Perhaps it was just a cruel, cruel joke.
“Hey, you feeling alright?” Salamadria walked towards me with her paws outstretched. “You got a case of Neezles or something?”
I backed away from her, shaking my head. Perhaps I should not have done that, for my head began to spin, and my thoughts became unfocused.
“Here,” Rachel said worriedly. “Sit down, I might have to make an appointment at the Pharmacy...”
I jerked out of her grasp. “Paria! How can you all not know who she is? If this is a joke, it’s gone too far.”
All three of them looked at each other and exchanged nervous smiles. Salamadria cleared her throat.
“Oh yes! Paria!” she chimed in a falsetto. “We all know who that is, don’t we?!”
“I have no clu-” Rachel began but was jabbed hard in the ribs. She immediately changed her tune.
“Oh yes! Paria!” she smacked herself on the head, “What was she now... a baby Tonu?”
I stared at them in disbelief. They were all treating me like some kind of raving lunatic.
“Xweetok,” I found myself saying. “She lives here, you know, in that room down the hall. With the blue door.”
“But that’s the toile-” Rachel began again but was rewarded with another jab, “I mean, yes, that’s her room.”
I found myself nodding furiously. “Yeah and she was sleeping in it last night.”
“I’m pretty sure I was-Mmph!” Salamadria had gagged her with the checked kitchen towel.
“I’ll show you all,” I declared suddenly and all of them looked at me in surprise as I stalked out of the kitchen and walked down the hallway. Gingerly, they traced my footsteps.
But the room beyond that blue door was a toilet, just as Rachel said. It smelt clean, like someone had sprayed some flowery air freshener inside. The scent burned my nostrils.
“See, a toilet.” The normally soft-spoken Carna appeared behind me. “There’s nothing here.”
“It-it’s not possible.” I vehemently shook my head. “Just last night she was here. I tucked her in. There were marbles here. Stacks and stacks of them.”
Everyone looked at me like I had lost my marbles. Carna spoke up again.
“Cyan, we honestly don’t know who you’re talking about.” Her melodic voice seemed to grow more distant. “But this Paria never existed.”
There was no hint of her anywhere. I had run around Neopia Central, but no one had seen her. No one had ever seen her.
Thinking back, this reminded me of a conversation I had with Paria a long time ago.
“Hey, Cyan, do you think it would be better if people who did bad things just never existed?” she asked me.
I had glanced into her cerulean eyes, my mouth full of omelette. “Vhatcha mean?”
“I mean like the Pant Devil,” she explained to me, as if I were a five year old kid being taught manners. “No one likes him. Would it be better if he never existed?”
“Well... I guess so.”
“But he wouldn’t like it if he never existed, would he?”
“Uhm... if he never existed, he wouldn’t know if he would like it or not.” My head was starting to hurt at this point.
She studied me thoughtfully. “I suppose that’s true.”
But Paria was nothing like the Pant Devil, I mused. I liked her. I loved her. She had no right not to exist.
Rachel was convinced that I had started my spiral into lunacy and kept her promise to make an appointment at the Pharmacy. But I knew I was sane. I knew she did exist. But that was just me.
“So... you say you had a sister called Paria, who was a baby Xweetok?” he inquired over his very professional looking clipboard.
“No, I HAVE a sister called Paria and she IS a baby Xweetok.”
He nodded curtly. “What was she like?”
“Oh, she’s really lively and gets into trouble a lot so we-, wait, you’ve met her. She came in last week with a bout of Neoflu!” I pointed out to him, searching desperately for a sign of recognition in his eyes.
“Oh-oh, yes,” he started, “I remember... she was a cute little thing.”
“You don’t believe me.”
“Of course I do!” he cried indignantly. “But, Cyan, don’t you find it a little odd that no one besides you has seen her? Maybe she was an apparition your unconscious mind conjured up to get rid of the trauma you faced in the Pound...”
“She’s real!” I hollered, loosing my temper and rising to me feet, knocking the chair I was sitting on away, “I’m telling you, she’s real! WHY WON’T ANYONE BELIEVE ME?!”
After that outburst, it was obvious that the doctor was not going to take me seriously. I heard him and Rachel conversing in hushed tones. I caught words like “unstable” and “rest” and “love”. It was official. The whole world was convinced I was a lunatic. The whole world except me.
To be continued...