From Mud to Royalty: Part One
It was a very special day for the other Kikos - they danced (or at least seemed to, they were really just bobbing up and down) and stuffed their faces with rock sticks. Lights were strung in all directions, glistening off of the ripple in the water created by the fast and lively beat. Voices carried throughout the air, probably travelling all the way to Roo Island. It was surprising to think that all these festivities were just for me, but I guess most Kikos couldn’t remember the last time a Kiko left Kiko Lake.
Kikos are a very secluded species. There are rumors that we are disliked, but I think it’s because we mainly live underwater. Of course there are always those who disagree and point out that Maraqua is underwater and everybody loves Maraquans. But they aren’t a species, they’re just a bunch of stuck up Neopets that got painted with an expensive paint brush or got zapped by that daunting ray and instantly became popular. Besides, you don’t see Maraqua getting tons of tourists. It may have a fancy restaurant, but you can only get Glass Bottom Boat Tours at Kiko Lake.
I’m Zurmire, a clay Kiko. It’s always been my dream to explore Neopia, and ever since I was little everybody said I was very special and would go places because it’s very rare to be clay. Of course, at the time I didn’t know that “going places” meant being a tourist attraction. “COME SEE THE RARE KIKO MADE OF MUD” the sign on the tour building used to read, but now it had been crossed out and replaced with “Farewell KIKO MADE OF MUD.” I always hated that sign as I sat behind that desk every day charging five Neopoints for a tour of the lake (ten for a picture of me). Not once did any tourist thank me for the tour or the picture, but instead they always walked away snickering at the photo and murmuring, “Wow, what a freak!” as the next in line snapped a picture.
The festivities lasted all night, but I went into my house early to pack. It only took ten minutes to pack my belongings: food and clothes for a week (I’m sure I’ll find somewhere to stay before then), toiletries, and a map of Neopia. I looked for something else to add to my bag but couldn’t find anything, so I just stayed in bed for the rest of the night. At first I couldn’t fall asleep because of the music, but eventually I realized that my own heartbeat was drowning it out. Then it hit me - I was leaving, I was free.
I woke up early the next morning and tried to get out of the door as quickly as possible, but found the way blocked by my mother.
“Are you sure you want to go? It’s a big world out there, and you don’t know what kind of creatures are out there,” she said in a croaky voice as if she had been crying all night, “Like JubJubs - they pick everything up with their feet, how disgusting!” She forced a smile while fighting back tears.
“Yes, Mom, I’m just a circus freak here; I can’t live with having my picture taken every second. But I feel like I can actually do something out there!”
“Fine,” she sighed, “but do you at least know where you’re going?”
“I’m going to swim down to Brightvale and find somewhere to stay there. After that, I want to make my way to Altador and catch the last half of the Altador Cup. Maybe I’ll even meet ‘Poke’ Cellers!” I replied, and then continued out the door after she gave me a satisfied smile and a long embrace.
“ZURMIRE! Wait!” She came running out of the house with a bag. “When you were a baby and I saw all the other kids laughing at you because of your color, your father and I decided we would put some Neopoints aside every month to buy you a paint brush. I wanted to get you a nice color like Desert or Island, but I could only afford this Green Paint Brush.” She took the brush out of the bag, handed it to me, and told me how to use it. “If people are mean to you down in Brightvale, just swim back up to Neopia Central and go to the Rainbow Pool, but don’t forget to come back and say hello while you’re in the area.” She turned away and went into the house, tears freely flowing from her eyes now. I was starting to choke up too. All my life I had lived with the humiliation that came with being clay. I just wished she had bought me a Christmas Paint Brush sooner, but still, I could finally be normal. I just wanted to rush up to Neopia Central right away, maybe then I wouldn’t even want to leave Kiko Lake. I stopped myself. Who knew what I would find in Brightvale? I could always come back if I felt like an outcast. I put the paint brush in my bag and turned towards Brightvale.
The swim to Brightvale was long and monotonous. I didn’t encounter any other Neopets, just endless waves as I looped and twirled boundlessly through the ocean. I was overwhelmed by the freedom - nothing was going to hold me back now. But then, just as the coastline was coming into view, a majestic turtle swam up to me. No, it wasn’t a turtle, it was a Shoyru.
“Great, a Maraquan...” I murmured under my breath.
“Wh-wh-what are you?” the Shoyru stuttered. It was only then that I realized that she looked scared.
“I’m a Kiko, obviously. Or are you just pretending to be ignorant because you don’t want to be associated with me?” Of course I knew that wasn’t true - she approached me, and that was genuine fear in her eyes... Maybe she had never heard of Kiko Lake, maybe not even Kikos! Are we really that isolated?
“You mean they’re real? I always thought that Kikos were make-believe. I never thought I’d see one with my own eyes.”
That was a surprise. Back home I was only liked because of my color, and even then only because I funded half of the town reparations last year. But now I’m a celebrity to the first non-Kiko I meet. We talked for a bit. I introduced myself and she said her name was Icksma. Eventually she asked me where I was going and when I told her, her eyes grew twice as big.
“You mean you can go on land too? Wow, I wish I were a Kiko, but instead my old owner threw me into the ocean saying ‘I wanted a Faerie!’ after I was zapped Maraquan, and I’ve been swimming around looking for anybody to talk to ever since.”
“Hold on, I have an idea!” The thought of helping her escape isolation gave me an adrenaline rush. I rustled through my bag until I was calm enough to wrap my hands around it. “Here, my mom gave me this paint brush because she thinks I don’t like being clay, but I have no use for it.” I lied just to make sure Icksma would take the brush.
“Wow, are you sure you want to give me this? Surely your mother had some reason to think that you would need it.”
I moved closer with my arms extended. “No, it’s very special to be a clay Kiko. I was made fun of for the first few years of my life, but after all the bullies saw that I didn’t care and that I held my head high even when they called me rotten names, they didn’t care either. I don’t need to fit in. I’m different and I’m proud.” I set the paint brush in her hands and closed them. She stared in awe at my confidence; I think I even convinced myself that I loved being clay, but the feeling soon washed over and she began thanking me. “Just go to Neopia Central and find the Rainbow Fountain.” I took out the map and showed her how to go around Kiko Lake so she wouldn’t have to crawl on the ground too much. She kept thanking me for a few more seconds, gave me a quick hug, and then swam away, sprinting as fast as she could.
I held back tears until she was out of sight. She didn’t even know about Kikos! I’d still be a spectacle in Brightvale. And worst of all, I still considered Kiko Lake home. I thought I’d enjoy being out and about, but I hadn’t even been gone a day and I was homesick. And now there was no chance of becoming “normal” and returning to Kiko Lake. I quickly got over it and continued swimming toward the shore. Once I was out of the water, I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on through the woods toward Brightvale.
To be continued...