“Every time I close my eyes, I see them. People. People who I’ve known, people who I’ve loved. People who have left me forever. And I just can’t accept the fact that they’re not coming back.”
I sighed, and leaned back against a tree trunk, pulling Empathy closer as I did. The grey faellie yipped, but came willingly.
“What was the point of coming here anyway?” I asked myself. The Haunted Woods was no place for a grey Kyrii. No place for a depressed, isolated neopet, and his faithful but oblivious faellie.
I groaned and leaned back, banging my head against the tree’s rough bark in the process. “This was a complete waste of time. What did she expect to do here, have an epiphany and come home an optimistic faerie? Honestly, there’s nothing here except a bunch of rigged games and inhospitable inhabitants.”
I wallowed in my grief; it momentarily caught me off guard.
Life had no point right now. What was I, but a single speck of dust in a world that expected me to be great, before I could find myself? What was the point of waking up each morning, only to relive the nightmare that one could never really wake from? The people I cared about were gone, deserted me, left me stranded in a cold, cruel world, with nothing but the knowledge that it couldn’t possibly get any worse than this? I had only that thought, that one solitary bit of comfort to keep me going.
True, there was but one person that might actually care about what happened to me, but I was beyond noticing that, paranoid of the moment that she too would leave me. I had turned myself away, closed my heart, so that it would not be a fatal blow when the last bond tying me to any form of happiness shattered.
I carried on each day; I wandered. There was nothing that interested me, nothing that grasped my attention. My petpet was but a lifeline; caring for this creature had become more of a desperate obsession than anything else. She was empathetic, but I got the feeling that not even she truly understood me. I was alone.
Alone. Alone. Alone.
The word pounded through my head like an omnipresent drum, never letting me forget it for one instance, never giving me one moment in which I might lose myself, and hold off the constant anguish that plagued me.
It haunted me in my sleep; I dreaded the thought of slumber, for in my nightmares I remembered.
I remembered those who once loved me. The ones I called friends. Who departed one day into a different world, without so much as a goodbye.
In my mind, I recalled the memories with vivid clarity. They replayed like a broken film, a soundless serenade.
I closed my eyes, and listened to my heartbeat. Listened to its steady rhythm...
All too soon, it changed. I could feel it speeding up, getting louder, until it was just one note, ringing through my head, threatening to overthrow me. I covered my ears in an attempt to drown it out, but my attempts were fruitless. It was inside me. The one place I could never escape from.
I grunted in pain as the pounding reached its climax. It continued to beat, every stroke shattering against my soul.
All of a sudden, it stopped.
I opened my eyes to find myself on my back, panting from exertion. I looked up only to see a giant face looking over me.
I flinched. When I opened them again, I realized it was just the Brain Tree.
Groaning, I got up. “What do you want from me?” I asked, emphasizing the word you.
“On the contrary, young one, it was you who wandered into my territory. I’ve been here for quite a while.”
He paused for a moment. “Aren’t you going to demand a quest from me?” he asked.
“Aren’t you going to force one upon me?” I sneered back. I wasn’t in the mood.
“If you don’t mind, I was busy doing something important. I don’t have time to talk to dumb trees,” I continued, venom leaking into my voice. It had been a while since I had talked to anyone.
“Oh, today’s youth,” he said with a touch of bitterness. “Think they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.”
I slumped forward, my anger evaporating as quickly as it had come. “You’re right. What am I to the world? Just another soulless wanderer.”
The old tree looked at me with a curious expression. “Do you really believe that you have been cursed with misfortune?” he asked, his eyes growing sad. “You have no idea what it is to be stuck in one place for as long as I have been.”
I stared back at him, a feeling of remorse washing over me. But in an instant, my depression was back. “You have no idea, though, what it’s like to know someone, truly know them, and have them disappear from you one day.”
I lowered my eyes. He urged me to go on. “I have known so many people, my friends... I’ve seen them all walk away from Neopia, never to come back. You can’t imagine the feeling of seeing them fade away; they take a part of you with them. So in the end, your own life is shattering with every person you lose.”
He seemed to understand for a moment. I looked at him. Really looked at him, and tried to see the soul behind the withered branches. “Surely you can’t understand that.”
He smiled wryly at me. “I have been here, quite a while,” he said. “Quite a while. I am the most intelligent of all the trees, though that doesn’t really say much now, does it? But I have seen my fair share of eager Neopians, I’ve watched them, and over time, seen them fade away as well.”
He paused for a moment, before going on. “You see, I am trapped here. I do not have the blessing that you do, to walk around as I please. I cannot see the world. So I have young ones like yourself come to tell me stories, to teach me more about what I am missing. My thirst for knowledge is simply a desire; to see something besides these lonely woods. But in a way, that too is a curse. For I know everything about this world; how high Faerieland floats, the depth of Maraqua, how immense the Lost Desert really is. But you cannot imagine the agony of knowing everything about a world, but not being able to see it all for yourself,” he finished.
I felt my eyes widen. This was the Brain Tree. The true person behind the bark. A sad lonely creature, who longed to see the world.
“Only when I sleep,” he continued with a small smile. “I have the chance to dream. A rare occurrence, but on occasion I can dream, and live the stories that others have told me. In my dreams I can smell the salt of Maraqua’s majestic waters, see the sun set over its perfect waves. I’ll never see it for real, but in those precious moments, I can feel it. It’s a magical feeling.”
I shifted uncomfortably. I dreaded dreams, for in them, I saw those who I’d lost leaving me. While here was a being who longed for nothing more than to be a part of it.
“Maybe we can both find a way,” I muttered softly. “Together.”
The old tree smiled at me, a true smile, that for a moment gave me a glimpse into his weary life. I saw at once what he had told me, I felt the longing, the aching desperation to be a part of something bigger. “I’d like that,” he said. “Very much.”
I turned to leave, calling Empathy behind me.
I was just stepping out of the forest, when the sun came out. For a moment it dazzled me. I groaned.
I was having my epiphany.