A Rescue for Callie
It had been months since she had exercised. Now Callie hunched over on the sidewalk, her eyes tightly closed. It was cold outside and already her ears were numb, her cheeks flushed. She tried to slow down her breathing, but instinctively gulped a lungful of bitter, freezing air that stung her mouth and her throat.
The little Aisha had decided to go out for a jog, and had proudly padded along the road for an impressive half an hour before she realised that she had to make it all the way back home too. Now she was exhausted, her breaths coming fast, and was several miles away from home with no way of returning... except her own two feet.
Slowly she turned around. A long stretch of smooth Neopia Central road faced her, punctuated by Neohomes and the occasional traveller. Callie rubbed her paws together, trying to instil some warmth into them, and began to walk. She couldn’t run – she didn’t have the energy left for anything beyond the slow process of putting one foot in front of another. Eventually even that became too much, and she sat down on the sidewalk in defeat.
Callie thought of herself as she had been when she had left the house, clad in her cheap pants and her cheap shirt and full of youthful determination to go for a run and just generally be healthy. Now that she had bought her own Neohome – a small one to be sure, but her own nonetheless – her parents were not there to remind her, and neither could she go out and play hockey with the neighbourhood kids.
She was practically all grown up now, and had to start acting like it.
Clearly, though, she had not been thinking like a grown-up – because here she was, winded on the side of the road with no help in sight and her comfy Neohome miles away.
She got to her feet, brushing dust off the cheap pants. Callie was so tired she could barely keep her eyes open, but she had no intention of staying out here in the cold until some kindly Defender of Neopia happened by.
A shape materialised on the horizon. She debated asking for help but her pride got the best of her; Callie plodded on, her feet dragging across the cool asphalt. The soles of her cheap shoes were probably ruined, Callie thought, but then told herself she had bigger concerns than shoes.
The other Neopet was close to her now, and Callie realized it, too, was an Aisha. Compared to her own dull Red paint, the other Aisha’s skin gleamed a smooth, even, purple that reminded Callie of late sunsets and vibrant flowers. She noted this with a sense of envy, only made worse when she noticed the heavy cloak draped over the Purple Aisha’s shoulders. It was probably fur-lined and warm.
The Aisha was very near and Callie decided to ask for help. She wasn’t sure she could lift up a paw, let alone take another step. Just as she opened her mouth, the Aisha spoke.
“Would you like to buy some potions?”
“I – what...?” Callie trailed off.
They stood face to face now, and the Aisha fixed her with a cool stare. Her eyes were the palest of purples, an eerie shade of lavender that transformed into grey at the edges of her irises. Callie felt hopelessly trapped under the weight of that gaze, pinned like a butterfly. “Potions,” the Aisha repeated, an edge to her voice. “Would you like to buy a potion?”
“Umm,” Callie said uncertainly. She fished in her pocket, pulling out the emerald velvet drawstring pouch she used to store her Neopoints. The bag was pitifully empty, but a few coins clanged against each out, coins which she promptly drew out, fisting her paw around them. “Do you have something that could give me energy?”
She looked at Callie for another moment, her gaze still unsettling. Callie tried to take a step back from that disquieting look, but swayed. Despite the cold, she felt hot, dizzy, and her throat was parched.
One finely manicured paw disappeared into the depths of the heavy emerald cloak. The material was even finer up close, rippling and soft, flowing smoothly over the shoulders of the Purple Aisha. The paw remerged, closed around a thin vial. She opened her palm; the glass vial sat delicately in the middle, stoppered with a standard cork. A surprisingly viscous green fluid swirled around in it.
“This will give you energy,” the Aisha said, and although her voice was once again impersonal, it had taken on an ethereal quality, sounding compelling. “You will be dancing around in a moment,” she said, holding the vial out in front of Callie enticingly.
“How much?” Callie asked.
A smile appeared on the Aisha’s face, unfurling like a flag in the wind, slow and bright, proud. “For you, only 25,000 Neopoints.”
Callie’s own smile slipped off her face. She doubted she had that much, and even if she did, it was a week worth of food, or the cost of some new furnishings for her cosy Neohome. Sternly, she reminded herself she would have no use for food or furnishings if she didn’t make it home, and anger boiled up in the pit of her stomach, anger at her own foolishness for getting herself into this mess.
Her eagerness to go for a jog was about to cost her 25,000 Neopoints.
You have a clever brain, Callie, her mother always said. Why don’t you use it sometimes?
“Mama knows best,” Callie muttered, still angry at herself.
Although the hood of the cloak hid the Aisha’s forehead, Callie got the distinct impression she was raising an eyebrow. Flushing, Callie said, “Sorry, I was just talking to myself. Um. Let me count out the Neopoints...” Suddenly in a hurry to be home, she sorted through the coins in her hand. She counted them once, then twice, and then again.
“Is there a problem?”
Tears dampened Callie’s eyes as she looked up at the stranger. She held out her paw, coins neatly arranged on it. “I only have 22,000,” she murmured. The potion had been her saving grace, and yet she didn’t have enough.
The Aisha nodded, going to put the vial back in her cloak – but she stopped. Perhaps it was Callie’s face, which was paler than she had thought possible; or the tips of her ears, which were surely going to get frostbite soon; or just the overall sickly appearance of her, swaying whenever she even attempted to take a step.
Callie was too caught up her overwhelming despair to notice the Aisha’s hesitation. A jog, she thought. A jog and now she was stranded in the middle of a mostly empty road. How thoughtless could she be?
“I’ll sell it to you for 22,000,” the Aisha said finally.
Callie looked up, so surprised she asked the Aisha to repeat herself. “I’ll sell it to you for 22,000.”
“Would you really?” Callie gushed. The hope that now surged through her small body infused with warmth as she handed over the Neopoints, gently taking the vial from the stranger so it would not break. Clumsily she slipped the stopper out, and then tipped it upside down, draining it to the last drop.
A half smile played on the Purple Aisha’s lips, unbeknownst to Callie, who now had her eyes closed tightly in hope. The Aisha pulled the rich emerald cloak more tightly around her body, and made her way down the road. A few yards away from Callie, she spun on the spot, disappearing into thin air.
Callie did not notice. She was testing out her legs, taking one step and then another, until she was walking down the road with ease. She broke into a light jog, suddenly full of more energy than what she had when she left the house; excited, she did not think to turn and thank the Aisha.
She made it home easily, barely tired at all. It was time for a bath, she decided, and walked to the back of her Neohome, where the bathroom was. Along the way she watered the plants and grabbed a small apple from the counter. The bathroom was the one room Callie had finished remodelling; it was done in white and gold, with white tiles and a white bath tub with golden fixtures and golden lights.
She turned the faucet on and turned to face the mirror. In disbelief, she raised a paw to her face; but it was not her paw, not the thick red paw of an Aisha, but a slender blue one.
She was a Blumaroo!
Scrambling and in a daze, Callie reached into her pocket, where the vial was still comfortably nestled. She turned it this way and that, and then held it up to the light, noticing the faintest of markings on the side. Squinting through tears, she read the words: