Purple Flowers and Drums
That sky. Those stars.
The bright of the moon sears my eyes, so I close them and the landscape disappears. But when I close my eyes, more feelings come. The grass is soft and damp beneath my hands, and the smell of it all is so familiar; it reminds me of the color purple. And I can clearly visualize the little blue Gelert with his red drum and its triumphant beat.
Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the simple things: I have name, and an occupation.
Occupation: Air Faerie.
Because yes, being an Air Faerie feels like an occupation, a job, or at least these days it does. I wake up, brush my hair, and continue my training. The Faerie Academy is nice and beautiful, but in a strange way. My fellow classmates are so serene, but it drives me crazy; they want nothing, not even the most basic and wonderful things, like love, like comfort.
I suppose my classmates are so perfect that they don’t need those things. And yet, I think they will, someday. While I wait for that someday, I have no one to talk to who similarly understands how monotonous the day is. And so I crawl inside myself, and I watch the world of Neopia. I, Natasha, am a born observer.
Observations, I suppose you could say, are my livelihood. I don’t need to eat, I don’t need to breathe, I just need to watch. You see, inside me is this feeling of weightlessness, like I’m flying up, up, up closer to that sky and those stars. And it’s such an interesting feeling but such a cold one, too, and I feel so empty, so aloof. So to color that blank slate inside me, I watch everything that goes on at my little corner of Neopia. Incidentally, I live in the quiet terrain between Altador and Shenkuu. The headmistress of the Faerie Academy said something about needing to learn magic in absolute secrecy.
So here I am, hidden away.
But I don’t mind, because I see interesting things in places where few dare to look.
Even in the early days of life at the academy, I snuck out at night, and sat somewhere quiet until dawn, when I was expected back for classes. I still haven’t gotten over being forced out of Faerieland to continue my training. A severe case of homesickness? I think so. But sometimes I’d fall asleep in my hiding places, and I’d accidentally stay out too long. There would be repercussions, of course, when I turned up to classes late, but now as I reflect, oversleeping was entirely worth it.
There was a small farming village on the outskirts of Altador, which was only visible to me if I sat on a small hill and faced east. It was a very quiet location, surrounded by trees, and I could never be found if my teachers went looking for me, which they often did, early on. These days, they let me do as I please, because they know I’ll be back when the dawn returns, with no harm done.
But those early days at the academy were the hardest. How could they blame me, for wanting to go back home? I had had two sisters, both Light Faeries. I wanted to be just like them, but it didn’t work out that way. At any rate, I like being an Air Faerie. But I didn’t back then and so I ran.
Initially, I continually changed my hiding spot. There was a pond full of lilies, a tall tree which had perfect branches to fall asleep in, and even a low, flat cloud, soft like a mattress. But when I found that little hill, I knew I had struck gold. What a village it was! Its inhabitants were always up at odd hours, doing chores; all that glorious outside labor. I watched the Neopets living there, but one day, one came to watch me.
He was a little blue Gelert, and he had a red drum fastened to his body by fraying straps. He came to me at dawn, on that hill, and he said, “Aren’t you one of those faeries up at the school?”
His voice was lovely and childlike, as though he were constantly singing. I jumped out of sleep and I looked around, but he was smiling, holding that drumstick aloft.
“Yes, my name’s Natasha,” I said, after piecing back together my composure.
“What are you doing up here?”
I thought for a moment. “Just watching and hiding, I suppose.”
He moved forward and sat down in the sun-dried grass beside me. “My name’s Samson, but everyone just calls me Drum. What sorts of things do you like to watch?”
Ah; I had found a questioner. The Observer and The Questioner, sitting together atop a hill. What an interesting thought.
“I like to watch your village, and pretty things like the stars.”
He scrunched up the side of his mouth and tapped lightly on the surface of his drum. The sound was faint, distant; like the echo of an echo. Then, he stood up. “You like to see pretty things?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Come with me, then,”
I had hesitated but his smile was so true and friendly. I rose and I followed him to a cliff, just past the trees but leaning out precariously over the sea, looking like it was going to crumble and break away at a given second. Tapping unconsciously on his drum, the Gelert walked to the end of cliff, picked something off the ground, and then returned to me.
“I’ve always thought these were kinda pretty.”
He was holding out a flower.
A purple one, in fact. I took it from him and stared at it blankly for a brief moment, before feeling my mouth curve upward, into a tiny smile.
“You’re right. They’re very pretty; thank you.”
And with nothing but a grin he made his way back down the hill, hitting the red drum in a constant, life-affirming beat and that strange weightlessness vanished, and I was tethered back to the ground.
Every night after that, I went back to the cliff to pick another flower, and I woke up hearing the blue Gelert’s drum, resounding in the distance. How long did this last, you wonder? For roughly a year, I would go up there and hear that drum and feel so full of an unknown, glorious purpose. But according to Life’s dictation, nothing can continue in the same, unbroken pattern for too long.
The first thing I noticed after a year was the flowers and the grass of the cliff were dying. But even for that, they died beautifully. The flowers turned a pale, pearly white in their wilting state, and the grass was a delicious, sun-baked yellow. I didn’t lament too terribly over this at first, but then, the sound of the drum every dawn stopped.
After three days I was worried and walked down to the village. Samson is sick, they said. He’ll be better soon, they said. I unpinned the last of the purple flowers from my hair, and handed them to his parents without explanation. Then that drifting feeling returned.
But here I am, on that cliff overlooking the rollicking sea, a few months later. The little Gelert called Drum has not returned, so I watch the sea instead. My wings have taken on the strange sensation of not being there, though I know they are, and I feel like they’re carrying me upward, though they’re not visibly moving. Vaguely I wish, somewhere in my deep subconscious, that Drum was there. But he is not so I sit at the edge of the cliff, feeling the soft grass underneath my hands, seeing those stars drooping above my head. I wonder how my sisters are faring at the Faerie Academy back home.
I close my eyes.
And the scent that floods my nostrils is so strongly reminiscent of the Gelert called Drum, that I inhale sharply and look around, expecting, daring to hope, that he’s there. However, no one is in sight.
It’s a strange smell that reminds me of him, you know. It smells like... Summer. And for some odd reason, freshly cleaned linen. I could sail away on that scent alone.
But then, I spot something, a little to my left.
It’s a small patch of purple flowers, and I lunge forward, breaking the stem of one and feasting my eyes on it. A small yellow center, surrounded by featherlike petals. I close my eyes, and lay back, still holding onto the flower as though it is a talisman. A beautiful, beautiful talisman. I open my eyes and the sky is a breathtaking, clear dark blue.
“Hello, stars,” I say quietly, and the flower feels soft in my hand.