“Come out from behind that rock!” she cried in her high-pitched voice, obvious curiosity as to why I was hiding bleeding off each word that pierced my ears. Fear had habituated itself inside of me from the very day I was born. It was part of me, and I knew how to deal with it. I was trained to react to it in an efficient and steadfast way. Fight or flight? Fight. But here I was, cowering behind a nasty smelling rock in order to prevent my long-time snailmail buddy from seeing who I really was: a pest. Yes, a pest of the Habitarium world. You know, the type that aggravates you so much when they deplete your resources. Let’s not get into a heated debate, but jot it off to–we all have our own aims! Just trying to live, man!
Anyway, Ria, my snailmail buddy, was a P3, and I had no idea about this until a couple weeks ago when she made a pest joke at my own expense. She was blissfully unaware of the whole situation, and I intended to keep her this way. Immediately, I stopped writing, no explanation, of course, and now she was here to get answers. Demanding them in fact, and not taking no or ‘maybe later’ for an answer. We could not be friends, I was sure of that. I was the best fighter of my group, and I could not back down from one single fight. Friendship gets in the way.
“I can’t,” I responded to her persistent demands. Had this ever happened before? The snail mail service prided itself on keeping the pests writing to the pests and the P3s to the P3s. This is how it had always been. Now what was happening? The world had been turned upside down! What could be trusted in a world like this?
“Come on,” she nagged, trying to pop her head around. I scuttled away from her line of vision.
“It’s better you get to know my condition at a slow and gradual rate,” I announced prudently, taking a little sniff and looking around. What a pretty day it was, in fact: the sky blue, the butterflies dancing, and the looming doom of being discovered was ruining all of it!
“Look, fine. I’ll leave! You never want to talk to me again? I get it.” Her voice dropping with a note of sadness. Guilt panged at my insides. A silence loomed. I wondered if she had left me. No more letters to brighten my long arduous days. Decisions, decisions.
“Ugh, okay. Look I’ll come out, but you’re not going to like what you see,” I finally said, letting out an uneasy sigh. This seemed to perk her up.
“Ooh! Cool! Get out here already! I want to see what type of dysfunction you have.”
“Er... well, you got me all curious.” She paused, and then to recover herself added: “You shouldn’t be so insecure!”
I rolled my eyes, braced myself, and walked with careful steps out from behind the grey rock. Her eyes got large, larger than the usual Mootix eyes (which are pretty big in fact), and her jaw dropped. She stood there for a seconds in a state of confused limbo. My heart was pounding, blood raising: would she leave me forever? This is why she should not have come. A mysterious stop in letters... that could be interpreted in a multitude of ways that could very well enhance my image in her eyes, but this... this could ruin everything. She understood things none of my other friends did. I cared for her as one of my closest friends. I had looked so forward each day to getting that next scribbly written letter with fantastic tales of brutal victories.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, her lips began to move and words began to form “wha-yo-hu-.” Ok, it was more like nonsense, but after that: “You’re evil.” Bam. It stung and burned, despite my foreshadowing of the incriminating words. “I’m a soldier, and you said you were a soldier?” Her eyes glistened, brimming with water.
“I am a soldier!” I insisted passionately. “Just... we’re on different sides, that’s all. Isn’t that how all beautiful stories go anyway?”
This didn’t seem to please her as her face turned sour and angry. “This isn’t a story, Belle!” She addressed me by my former name, making me gulp a little. “This is life. You’re on the other side; why didn’t you tell me? How did this happen? We shouldn’t even be talking right now... it’s forbidden!”
“I don’t know how it happened! I’ve never heard of it happening before...” I trailed off, trying to find some solution to the horrible predicament we had found ourselves in. Nothing came to mind.
“We can’t talk.” With that, she turned and left me. My face fell, and as I turned my mother was glowering down at me. She tended to sneak up at the worst of times, and here she was.
“I knooow,” I answered her wordy silence, pushing past her. The next couple weeks droned on at an usually slow rate. Battles lost their flavor, and everyone I talked to I compared to Ria. Her sense of humor, her unique outlook on the short life of a bug, and even the way she wrote her name. I found myself writing myself fake letters from her on my time off from pillaging. Ria, Ria, Ria.
“Belle, would you get out of the house already!” my mother shrieked. “It’s time to invade another town. A week off is enough time to get yourself together. Time to bring all your force. They say these soldiers are particularly strong and smart.”
Closing my book, I slipped off the soft grass bed and came to my mother’s side. “I’m ready. I think I’ve got my fire back.” It was true. I was feeling strong, even a little bit angry at being slighted by Ria. Didn’t she know how to be a good friend? I was ready to set my amazing fighting reputation back to it’s all time high. The clan and I set off for the town, which was not that far. Once we got there, the battle began.
“Take the flower!” called my mother. Obediently, I darted across the field toward the flower to collect as much pollen as I could stuff in my leaf satchels. Victory, victory, I smell victory, repeated in my head over and over. Back to my old self and ooh, how good it felt!
“Not so fast!” cried a voice, and before I knew what was happening, I got a blow to my head. This one was faster than the rest, I thought, and stronger too. But I was ready. Preparing myself, I turned to unleash a stronger blow, but two familiar eyes met mine: it was her. My old friend Ria. I didn’t hit. I stood there dumbfounded. Her eyes got wide and confused, like before. Then, she flung her arms around me and hugged me, bursting into tears.
“I have missed you so much. I posted all your letters on my walls! I’m so, so sorry!” she sobbed, and I found salty tears of relief sweeping down my cheeks as well. Her friendship felt so much better than any victory.
“I missed you too!” I managed to get out between our fitful sobs and nonsensical words, which totally made sense to us.
“We have to go!” I heard my mother cry my way as the clan formed a group to leave. Some of my fellow pests shot curious glances our way, but they must've assumed we were in some sort of battle. My worries about how I looked seemed no longer important. Ria gave me a long look, knowing we wouldn’t see each other for quite some time. She pulled out a note from her satchel and slipped it into mine.
“Write me when you get back?” She was swept away by one of her own.
“I will!” I called after her. Happiness swelled inside me, and the air even smelled sweeter. Perhaps it was all the pollen I had dropped. As we both walked in different directions with our different families, we glanced back. Catching each other’s eyes, we shared a furtive smile.