Saved by Grey
Circe was no ordinary Neopet. When she would wake up in the morning, the Woodland Acara would not cheer at the rising sun or the prospect of a cloudless sky. She would moan inwardly, close her curtains and crawl back into bed, covering her ears with her pillow, attempting to block out the shouts and tantrums of her brothers and sisters. Perfect, she thought, rolling on her side, another sunshine-filled Thursday. Around midday she mustered all her courage and went downstairs, only to be welcomed by a piece of toast flying in her direction and hitting her square in the face. She wiped the jam out of her face and glowered at Rune, her baby Gelert brother. He smirked maliciously and grabbed himself another piece of toast.
Circe didn’t need telling twice; she side-stepped the Krawk twins playing catch and made straight for the back door. It was no better in the garden, of course; her other five brothers and sisters were screaming and running around, making the back-yard a hostile and treacherous environment. She scratched her ears, internally mapped out the safest route towards the garden gate, and sprinted off. Once the gate had swung shut, she could feel the pressure in her chest loosen slightly, even though she could still hear the shrill voices of her siblings.
Circe looked up and glared at the insolent sun, just shining there, looking happy, making her feel dehydrated and slow. Sighing heavily, the Woodland Acara ventured down the street, her paws tightly shutting her ears. Eventually, she broke into a run as she saw that every single garden of the street was filled with playing Neopets. It is not that she hated children or objected to them playing, but she couldn’t stand the constant lack of peace she had to endure. For years now, her head would constantly feel warm and fuzzy, as if a million Mozitos were nesting inside her skull. Staying in the house or garden was unbearable to her, especially during summer break.
She had been running so fast she was now walking along green meadows and tiny babbling brooks. Circe lowered her paws and headed into the fields, enjoying the crunchy feel of the earth at every step and letting her paws graze the green and luscious grass. Taking deep breaths she spread out her arms and welcomed a soft breeze that tickled her nose and lapped at her knees.
“If only it could rain,” she whispered softly into the breeze.
She opened her eyes hopefully, yet again there was only sun and a clear-blue sky to be seen. Even seeing the tiniest white fluffy cloud floating by would have raised her spirits. It hadn’t rained in weeks. She felt stiff and tired, of course she could have had a swim in a nearby stream, but she did not find relief being in the water.
Circe sighed warily and lay down in the grass, her arms and legs stretched out as far as they could. Even though the sun scorched her skin she dozed off, lazily listening to the wind’s lullaby. She could vaguely discern a soft whispering in her right ear, though she could not distinguish any kind of language. Circe listened to the whispers for a very long time before she opened her eyes and shifted her head to the right. Finally so curious about the source of the enigmatic whispers. On a nearby flower sat a small Grey Faerie, her wings fluttering softly in the wind, her eyes cast downwards. She seemed not to be aware of the Acara lying in close proximity to her. Circe dared not to move, breathing shallowly, she continued to observe the wondrous creature. The faerie was softly muttering under her breath whilst making small circular movements with her hands.
The Grey Faerie suddenly stopped moving and turned towards Circe with a sad look on her features. The Acara stared back shyly yet not quite daring to meet the faerie’s hollow grey eyes.
“My name is Anthea,” the faerie said. She paused for a long time, turning her small head towards the perfumed breeze that was now drifting towards them. Anthea closed her eyes and her wings quivered quickly as she took a deep breath.
“My friends have told me you crave rain,” she said, her eyes still closed.
Circe found her voice and managed to stutter: “My f-friends? What friends?”
“The wind, the soil, the grass. They have heard your plea, and as it is also their own, have asked me for help.”
Circe swallowed and felt her chest constrict. Nature? Nature had understood what she was craving for and had asked a Faerie to help? She must have stayed in the sun too long, she thought, and must be hallucinating. On a sudden daring whim she reached out and poked the Faerie in the stomach. The Faerie Anthea jumped and fell off her flower, her eyes in tears.
“Oh dear, I-I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to harm you,” Circe stammered at the sight of the tears welling in the Grey Faerie’s eyes. “I just couldn’t believe you were real, I- I’m really sorry,” she finished somewhat lamely.
“Your lack of trust wounds me deeply,” she said sadly, pushing a loose strand of grey hair out of her eyes and stared reproachfully at Circe.
“I'm sorry,” Circe replied in earnest. “I just couldn’t believe a real Faerie was speaking to me...”
“Your problem runs much deeper, Circe. You trust no-one. You deign no Neopet high enough to earn your confidence. You have surrounded yourself by walls, convinced of your own superiority and other’s inferiority. That is a grave predicament. Therefore I have decided to try and help you.”
The Faerie stood up, raised her hands above her head and fluttered her wings furiously. There was a flash of grey, Circe blinked several times and saw the Faerie stand in front of her, now twice Circe’s size. The Woodland Acara backed away, suddenly intimidated by the Faerie’s new appearance, tripped over a rock, fell flat on her back and had the wind knocked out of her. Gasping she struggled into a sitting position and stared at her dirty fingernails, unable to hold the gaze of the Grey Faerie.
Anthea sighed deeply and sadly shook her head from left to right. “Circe,” she began sadly, “I can only help those who wish to be helped.” With every word, the Faerie shrank a few inches until she was back to her original size. “Goodbye,” she added, as if it were an afterthought, as she turned and vanished in the grassy meadow.
The lonely Acara blinked several times, rubbed her eyes with her knuckles for good measure and stood up with the sinking feeling she had just passed on a unique opportunity. Fear overtook her once more, coaxing her into letting it get the better of her, into surrendering fully to those feelings of desolation and inadequacy. Fear told her she would never change, that people would never understand her and that there was no point in trying for she would only end up broken and alone. A single thick pearly tear trickled down Circe’s right cheek.
“Alone,” she murmured to herself, as she walked the familiar road back home, vaguely seeing green meadows turn into large streets lined with trees and white picket fences containing playful children. A few Neopets waved at her as she slouched through the streets, but she didn’t see or recognize them. She walked in this unbelieving daze until she was brought back to reality by being hit square in the face with a water balloon. The balloon instantly split itself in a million pieces as it made contact with her nose, soaking her from head to foot.
“Hey Circe!” yelled one of the Krawk-twins – she wasn’t sure which one – “water balloons! Come and play with us.” Circe mopped the water out of her eyes, put her hands on the garden gate and looked into their tiny garden. Both twins and her other brothers and sisters were spread across the lawn, all soaking wet, all clutching balloons, all smiling and all expectantly looking up at their older sister.
For an instant Circe tottered on the brink between anger and sadness. She pushed the gate, hanging her head, walked towards the back door, changed route mid-way, tackled the other Krawk-twin, stole his water balloon and aimed it at one of her sisters, grinning broadly.
The balloon hit the young Ixi on the knee. Circe’s wide-eyed siblings froze, exchanging quizzical looks, raised eyebrows and general frowns. The Woodland Acara shrugged and grinned shyly. There was no need for words. All players dove towards the large tub holding all the water balloons in order to replenish their ammunitions. Circe dove behind a tree and laughed as she sent another couple of balloons flying; she could have sworn she saw a flash of grey at that precise moment.