Searching for Sunshine
I would like it to rain today.
To rain, to rain, like it does every day.
To pour and weep in that shimmering grey,
So I know that, always, you’re here to stay.
There is something quite quaint about a snug little window seat on a dark and stormy night. When outside all the land is asleep and dreary, there was nothing more I loved than to curl up amongst the blue pin-striped cushions and the worn Babaa-skin throws that lay on the bay window, where thick purple drapes enclosed me in my own little world. There I liked to simply sit, and just stare. On and on and on, I would stare.
I used to love staring when I was a young Draik because it is always raining here and often we are too busy, too bothered with petty matters to simply sit and observe, to appreciate the wonder that befalls the whole of Neopia when the heavens release upon us the rain. Because it is beautiful when it rains, and we don’t notice that when we shriek and flee from the sudden downpour that ruins our hair, or soaks our shoes, or wrecks the washing that we’ve just hung out.
What you fail to see are the little iridescent specks that, in the light of the gloomy street lamps, glow like spangles on the dress of a sashaying Qasalan dancer. They breathe life and the whole world is a ghost beneath the cover of the rain.
From my window I would watch it pound against the glass, as the droplets became shimmering rivulets that trickled down and disappeared like a wish upon a star, and for a moment – just for a second – I would lose myself in this silver reverie.
Sometimes I used to let Felix and Amber come and watch with me; together in the company of three huge mugs of steaming hot chocolate we could sit for hours on end just listening to the rhythmic pitter patter of the raindrops against stone, metal, glass. At times it seemed the world would stop, time would cease to shift beneath our muddle of blankets and cushions, and we were suspended, if just for the night, in this wonderful, magical moment together with the ever perpetual rainfall.
But as I grew older I found myself slowly drifting; the inescapable necessities of Neoschool and then later my frequent trips to the Job Agency had driven me from the solace of my window, and there were days when I did not even steal a glance at the familiarity of its welcoming panes. Soon my trips there diminished so much that the drapes were drawn at a permanent closure and a light layer of dust was allowed to settle on the purple velvet.
But even so somehow it never left me, the rain; where I could not see it I could hear it, an insistent thrumming that always throbbed somewhere in the back of my mind, obtrusive with its bold beats. And it bothered me.
It bothered me because after what had seemed a lifetime to my younger self, I had become tired of this habit of idle observation. I had grown up, left my years as an inquisitive child behind and realised with a convulsion of the mind that I was discontent, having wasted years of my life by simply sitting at a window like a sluggish bore.
My friends were long gone; all had recognised the need for change and had moved to Neopia Central where the sun would shine for once and they now enjoyed a life of freedom and hard graft in the city. As a result my displeasure for the trivial had also spread to the simplicities of my own life within the outskirts of proper civilisation. I was stuck in the cyclical lifestyle of a simple Meridellian villager and it frustrated me to no end knowing that in the distance, beyond the haze of the rain, there was a place where I could be and do so much more, make something of my life like Felix and Amber had. I needed that; I needed the certainty, the comfort and the opportunities a city life offered because, because...
Because it seemed so wonderful, I suppose.
I realise now that I had often offended my mother with my criticisms of her village lifestyle; as monotonous as it was, it was her way of life, the only way of life that she had known and I had simply cast it aside – a part of my own heritage – put a scowl on the old Draik’s face with my harsh words.
But they were true words no less. I wanted to find a life beyond the rolling hills, beyond the hideous stench of the farm yard, beyond the dusty country lanes and, most importantly, beyond the rain.
So I left.
It was a rather shambolic process to say the least. Being both young and rash, I was completely oblivious to the struggles that would lie ahead as I snuck away in the dead of the night with only a loaf of bread to my name and the good earth beneath my feet for a friend.
It was not long before I encountered my first enemy on my quest for freedom. Succumbing to my own insatiable hunger, I had finished my loaf of bread within a couple of hours of setting off and was now left without food and, penniless, could do nothing but hope that a rickety old fruit wagon would come trundling down the lane so that I might steal an apple or two for myself.
Alas, such a thing did not happen of course and I was forced to scavenge what I could from the few Snidberry bushes littering the marshy outskirts of Meridell.
Despite my lack of nourishment, it was a pleasant journey. For the first time in my life I felt truly free and without restraint rambling amongst the verdant wilderness of Neopia, where everywhere I looked the gaudy white flowers smiled in the breeze, the joy of complacency blossomed and I walked with a spring of contentment about me.
Although that is not to say that my journey was free of troubles. Apart from my hunger I was forced into a rather tattered state; as I progressed, the more amicable daisy fields that marked the edge of Meridell merged into the harsher terrains of the outlands and these were by far easier to conquer. I spent many of my days bruising and battering myself on the rocky valleys, where cruel winds and the lack of sleep made slipping on the gnarled surfaces all the more likely. I still have a scar on my arm from one particular fall in the rain and it hurts sometimes when I touch it.
My salvation came in the most unlikely of forms. Until this point I had travelled without consequence, walked wherever my wearied feet would take me but as I staggered through the last of the thick woodland that bordered the edge of the valley I knew exactly where I was going to go.
It hit me with an indefinable vigour as I scrambled through the briar, the smell of salt and faraway wonder. It almost crackled in the air and the occasional wisps of seaside breeze evoked the memories of a childhood long gone.
I had come to the coast just to the East of Meridell and before me soaring white cliffs glistened in the sunlight and a crumbled stone path snaked through the swaying cattails, urging me towards the shore.
I had come here once before as a child and had been struck by the mesmerising blue undulations that were the sea. It was not so much the beauty that had appealed to me, but its almost story-like quality, how it held within it an abundance of endless possibilities – swashbuckling adventures with pirates, expeditions to the mysterious depths of Maraqua and, of course, the delight of discovering new lands.
As I walked along the sandy path I spotted the small marina, watched the rainbow of sails flutter with the breeze as the boats bobbed. I had decided that this would do, would be my final adventure before I settled in my dream city.
I wondered how I would gain passage across the sea; without a penny on me it was unlikely that any captain would let me board. I decided to resort to pitying. Armed with the story of a poor, shipwrecked sailor far from home, I went about essentially begging for a passage home. I was rejected many times of course, but sheer determination and a very convincing show of tears finally bought me a place on a ship bound for... well, neither of us knew; the Captain was a wanderer like myself and liked to go where the winds took him. Which was fine by me; he would have to stop by a city sooner or later to restock on food.
It was a long and tiring journey, and I found myself frequenting the half-rotting rails of the deck to hurl over its side. After a couple of bouts of seasickness, which I later explained to a rather confused captain that it was due to my lack of nourishment and not my inexperience as a sailor, and a stomach-lurching storm later, I arrived at last at the City.
Towering buildings, grey and harsh against the skyline, bristled with a metallic beauty and I watched the world go by in awe as I weaved amongst the endless throng of commuters so casually coifed in stiff linen and ruthless, business demeanour as they hurried about the streets. It was wonderful; everything I had ever dreamed of was now open before me. It was time to start a new life.
As one may expect, as a newcomer it was hard for me to establish myself in anything being unfamiliar with the City, with a lack of knowledge and experience I was frequently rejected from many job applications and spent many of my years struggling for an existence in the grimy slums.
But as time passed and opportunities opened themselves to me I grasped onto them with a furious tenacity and as a result gained myself a nice job in publishing, a nice apartment and an all round, nice life.
There was much travelling involved in my job and I got to see not just my city, but many other, wonderful cities and as I sit here now reminiscing in my hotel room, I am glad that I made the choice to leave and pursue a city life. Because I was right; it is wonderful here.
And I don’t regret it.
But as of late, there was a horrible nagging feeling in the back of my mind and I felt strangely restless, somewhat empty, and when before I had looked upon the cityscape with a fond feeling I could only furrow my brows slightly as I looked down at the city at night. Something was missing but I couldn't think what as I let my eyes rest on the hills in the distance.
I left my room quite suddenly then, leaving my papers, my research, in a flapping mess on my desk as I navigated the winding corridors and hurried through the streets.
After my ordeal through the Meridellian wilderness, I had grown fond of idle ambling and now took the opportunity to go out and walk off my sleeplessness. To where it didn’t matter so much, I just wanted to walk and think, perhaps even take the time to look around and observe my surroundings properly for once.
There was no breeze that night but I became painfully aware of the biting cold as it nipped at my exposed arms and I shivered, regretted leaving so abruptly without my coat. Indeed, the conditions were not suitable for a night time ramble and I found myself grumbling angrily under my breath and rubbing my Green claws together furiously more than contemplating my sense of something missing in my life as I had hoped whilst I shuffled along.
It was only when I felt the first few drops that I realised I had roamed much further than I had expected. They landed with a splash plop on my cheeks, startling me, and when I looked up for the first time I could no longer see the lights of the city hidden amongst the hills behind me.
Above me I could see the dark clouds swirling angrily, rain bulging and thunder rumbling in their thick, black bellies and all at once, they heaved and emptied onto me a flurry of hard, silver globules.
I squealed and ducked under a nearby tree, but as I observed the relentless rain from beneath my shelter, it occurred to me that unless I at least tried to make my way back to the hotel, I would be stranded here in the cold and rain.
So I ran.
It was an unpleasant sensation at first; the rain pelted me with an excruciating force and was cold like a slice of white ice against my skin, but as I ran, splashing through the muddy tracks, a feeling of nostalgia swept over me and I felt strangely child-like again – like visiting the fairground for the first time in many years and shrieking, delighted, at the bright lights and the endless rows of food stalls.
My footsteps slowed until I was moving at a brisk walk and I allowed myself to be immersed in the shower. It felt refreshing and almost welcoming, the faint dusty smell familiar like a distant, old aunt as it slicked my fur against my skin.
It was the first time in what seemed like years that I had felt so... peaceful. Away from the stress and complexities of city life, I could relax at last, feel my muscles loosen and my worries drain away into an insatiable feeling of bliss.
As I walked, no, skipped through the tall swathes of grass, I could not help but let a wide smile stretch across my face. It was wonderful, and for a moment I lost myself in my joy, beaming, twirling, laughing in the mud and the rain.
Suddenly, I sneezed.
And I started, as if waking from a dream, and realised to my dismay that I was still lost and shivering viciously; I would catch my death if I did not get back soon.
I stumbled blindly now, thrashing and sloshing through the thick mire and the puddles as I desperately tried to locate civilisation of any sort, anywhere. I had used much of my valuable energy frolicking in the rain, and although I did not regret the reacquaintance with an old friend, I knew I could not go on moving so recklessly now.
My knees buckled and I fell hard on my side, crying out faintly in pain. I looked up wearily and in the distance I could see the warm, orange embers of a flame flickering in a window. There was a flash of purple and something familiar lurched in my mind.
I tried to heave myself up but slipped and was met with a face full of dirt. My strength was being sapped and I could feel myself slowly slipping into a state of unconsciousness.
I groaned, my eyelids heavy now from exhaustion. Somewhere behind me I could hear the faint patter of footsteps. There was a gasp, something squelched and all at once arms surrounded me, bundling me close, and whispered into my ear over and over again, “You’re home now, son.”
Weakly I lifted my head and although all was a blur beneath the haze of the rain, I could recognise her, the faint smell of roses, the slight creases around her eyes, her withering, grey hair. She hadn't changed at all.
And I leaned closer into my mother's arms, gentle, loving as they cradled me, and she radiated such a tender affection that I could feel somewhere within me a fuzzy warmth stirring and I smiled. Knowing that I was home, at last, that feeling spread, embraced me all over, so that I felt so, so very warm inside.
So warm. Just like sunshine.