In Chronological Order: Part One
I sat at the Rainbow Table located in the kitchen, its bright colors mocking my suppressed state, which had been my normal for the past fourteen years. For the last six months I had been living in the Gooeysweet family. Their Neohome was located in Faerieland. My story was a long and complicated one. My family was puzzled by me.
I hoped to soon change that. I was finally willing to share with them in the hope that I could change into a new me. My ears pricked as I heard the distinctive clop of hooves. A moment later, Legend entered the kitchen, walked past me and perused the cabinets for a sweet treat. I thought I knew the outgoing Uni well enough that he wasn't in the kitchen just for something to eat; he had also come to check on me.
Suddenly, I couldn't make myself speak. I clenched my hands into fists, eyes fixed firmly on the flat tabletop. Hardly a moment passed before Edgar let out a low snort and head butted me in the shin. He did it lightly but it brought me to my senses. I thanked my Fire Alabriss for helping me but I kept my head lowered.
"Legend," I whispered, still not sure of the Uni's reception of my voice.
I heard the sudden silence and cringed. What had I done?
"Yes, Aamina. I'm listening," Legend said.
I didn't risk looking at Legend and kept my eyes lowered. Edgar nudged my hand.
"I want to tell you something... im... important," I continued.
Another pause. Now what?
"Let's take a walk to the Faerie Caverns. It will give us privacy," Legend suggested.
I nodded my head. I waited until Legend had exited the kitchen before following after. At this point, the only thing that kept me moving was the steady clop of Edgar's hooves and the constant pressure of one of his wings at the backs of my legs. I looked everywhere except at Legend. I almost bumped into him as he came to a sudden stop at the front door.
Legend had stepped aside as three others entered: Lofty, Gracy and X, Legend's siblings. Legend filled them in on where we were going and why. They promptly invited themselves along. Now were a group of seven, five pets, one Petpet and my faithfully constant companion, silence. It didn't take us long to reach the Faerie Caverns.
There was a large bunching of boulders and we found various places to settle. Any pets coming our way would be heading into the caverns and didn't linger long. I waited until the others were completely still. Even now, I was hesitant to speak.
"Why don't you tell us what you need to tell us," Lofty urged.
I gulped, never letting my gaze rise higher than Edgar's ears. I drew strength from my Alabriss, letting it well inside, so that I could finally begin.
"My story is a long and arduous one. If... if you don't want to hear it, you can leave," I whispered and waited to hear receding steps.
After a moment's wait and no sound was made, I took a breath. A fear was squelched. It seemed these pets cared about my welfare.
"Aamina, we all want to hear what you have to say. Please, speak up," Legend urged gently.
Encouraged, I nodded my head. Edgar had to nudge my hand to get me to start once more.
"My first memory is of me finding a Brown Moehog Morphing Potion. It was hot that day and I was tired and thirsty. Without thought, I guzzled the potion down. I changed into a creature round as a barrel with sturdy hooves. I didn't mind my transformation; I could still run and play as I always had.
When I went home and met my owner, she was not pleased. Her face fell when she saw the new me. Being young, I didn't know that it was I that had upset her. When I asked her what was wrong, she wouldn't say. She avoided me that evening and didn't come home until the following afternoon of the next day, with a sibling for me in tow: Buddy, the Island Acara.
We got along well. We usually didn't play together. He enjoyed swimming. With my new bulk, I couldn't get into the sport. Our owner continued to distance herself from me but she did care for us.
Time passed in this manner. Until Buddy let something slip that shocked me.
"You upset her, you know," Buddy said one afternoon while we were playing basketball.
This statement utterly confused me. My brow furrowed and not just because Buddy had made a hoop shot. I let the ball roll away from us, unrestrained while I stared at my sibling.
"What, exactly, do you mean," I asked, hoping for clarity soon.
"You drank that potion and now you're... unattractive. She is embarrassed by you, Aamina," Buddy said, picking up the ball and dribbling it.
I let the Acara's words sink in. Does she really think that badly of me? We continued to play, though my heart was no longer in the game. My self-esteem had taken a steep dive, from which it could not recover. That's when I began to go through the motions of living; though I breathed, I was nothing without love.
I would spend hours alone in my bedroom, picking my brain for something, anything that would win back Frankie's affection. Finally, the answer came to me, in a dream: The Secret Laboratory! Sharing my idea was easy. The reception it received, was not. Frankie looked doubtful and Buddy had turned pale.
"That's not a good idea, Aamina. Its expensive and you could be zapped for years before you become something..." Frankie trailed off but the word hung in the air: acceptable.
Frankie and Buddy left the room, as if chased by a Spyder. I frowned but my eyes glowed with determination. I wouldn't give up! Later that day I was having a snack in the kitchen when Buddy entered. He sat at the table across from me, looking quite solemn.
I was about to leap into reasons why labbing was good but Buddy beat me to the punch. He took a deep breath, steadying his quaking body. I raised my eyebrows, curious about what had shaken him up so badly.
"I have to tell you something. Labbing isn't the best experience in the world. Being zapped daily is unpleasant. I remember being filled with trepidation, headed into that dark room with blinking lights and the Mad Scientist cackling evilly. I never knew what I would become next. The constant changes gave me nervous breakdowns. Then, I was traded away almost constantly. After that, I was... 'adopted' into a home where I thought I was loved. I was wrong! A year later I was traded once more and then 'adopted' here. I don't expect to last long. it's the usual story with labbed pets. You're a nice pet, Aamina. Frankie may be a slight snob but she isn't the type to abandon a pet. I don't want you to end up like me," Buddy said, squeezing my arm before exiting.
My mouth twitched and I called out, "Thank you for sharing!"
Buddy wasn't a liar but I was willing to take my chances. He may have had a bad experience but I was more positive in my outlook. I wanted to believe that I would be different. I continued to ask about getting the map and I continued to be turned down. As a result, the relationship between Buddy and me became strained.
Summer rolled around and Frankie planned a vacation... in Maraqua. Buddy was absolutely thrilled. Me, not so much. After his exhilaration had passed, Buddy remembered me.
"What about Aamina? We can't leave her behind. She can't swim so she can't go to Maraqua," Buddy said.
Frankie blinked, looking first at Buddy, then at me, and back, again. The good news was that she didn't look mad. The bad news was that she didn't look happy, either. There was silence for a long time. Us pets took this as a sign she was thinking things over.
"Fine, Aamina can vacation on Mystery Island," Frankie said.
Buddy dipped his head in acquiesce and I smiled. Now a vacation sounded like fun! We packed our bags and boarded a boat. Buddy and I didn't know that the trip to Maraqua would take seven hours! Buddy looked longingly at the water, wishing he could dive right in.
I was preoccupied with sighting as much aquatic life as I could, knowing that the next seven hours would probably be my only contact with the ocean and its dwellers for the rest of my life. Since it was a nice day and Maraqua was quite the popular place, I saw plenty of pets and Petpets. I decided to make a list of every one that I saw, so that I could look back and remember. I still have that list, tucked away for safekeeping. I waited patiently for half an hour before I had my first sighting; It was a green Nimmo and his Slymook swimming quite fast.
I admired their skill, for I had none. They must be athletes, I thought. It took only moments for them to bypass the boat. For an hour, I idly scanned the open ocean, wondering who the Nimmo was, where he was going and why. My intensity sharpened when I saw another flash of green.
However, this was a different green Nimmo! He had a Hegelob with him, instead of a Slymook. He was also taking his time. Other than his color and species, the only thing he had in common with the first Nimmo was his direction. Maraqua really was that popular!
I longed to be able to join them; to experience Buddy's passion, at least once. Another half hour passed as I zoned out from the world. I let myself absorb everything that I could: the sun warming my body, a breeze every now and then, the salt spray and the scent of the salt that reached me. When I finally opened my eyes, bright yellow caught my attention. Things seemed to happen in slow motion in that moment.
The look on the yellow Tuskaninny's face as he leapt high out of the water was one of pure joy. To me, it seemed like he was trying to reach the sun. To add to this image, a Yellow Nuranna leapt at his side. Unlike the Nimmos, they were headed north, to Terror Mountain, I felt sure. The ripple that he left after he had reentered the water lasted for long moments.
I waited, hoping to catch another glimpse. My stomach rumbled loudly, releasing me from my observations. Checking my watch, I realized it was one o'clock. An hour after lunchtime! Horrified, I raced to find Frankie and Buddy.
They were seated at a bench. Each of them was talking to someone different, animated, happy. I envied their easy ways with others. I didn't dwell on my feelings for long, hunger gnawing at me.
"Frankie, when are we having lunch? I'm really hungry," I said, whining, my eyes pleading.
My owner shot me a look. I had interrupted her conversation. That was a no, no.
"Excuse me. That was very rude, Aamina. Buddy and I already had lunch," Frankie explained.
Then, my owner handed me a crumpled paper bag and waved her hand in dismissal. Her actions hurt me, a lot. I had no one to turn to. I recalled the pets I had seen. They had been alone, save for a faithful Petpet.
That's what I needed! It wasn't what I was going to get. As hopeless for me to wish for a Petpet as it was to wish for happiness, love and to be zapped by the lab ray. I took the sack and stood at the rail. I opened my bag to reveal Scorched Veggies.
The stench of burned foliage almost made me wretch. Hunger made me eat the only meal I would get for awhile. As I choked down the last vegetable, I heard excited voices.
"Look, it's a pod of Flotsam!"
"They're coming right at us!"
I eagerly looked and saw the pod. Quite a few were doing amazing flips, leaps and dives. Others played a game of tag. Their dorsal fins cut through the water like a knife through butter. Indeed, these Flotsam and their high speed, dynamic antics were headed straight for the boat.
Within moments the pod had reached the vessel. Five swam in front. Then, five jumped over! Water rained down. A collective gasp was heard. Then, the splash as they dived over the other side.
Five more Flotsam swam behind us. It seemed they would stick with us for the rest of the trip. I was pleased by this prospect and contented myself with watching the Flotsam fins. Every once in awhile, a fin would wave. I waved back, smiling to myself.
The next five hours passed uneventfully. I was quite surprised when our boat came to a sudden stop. Anchor was dropped. I watched Buddy dive from the deck. A ladder was unfurled all the way to the water's edge for people and pets who weren't as brave as my Acara sibling.
Frankie didn't even wave goodbye. Half of the passengers disembarked. A handful of Maraquans awaited those arriving. I didn't watch the ladder and anchor drawn up. My throat felt choked up.
My journey continued for the next hour and a half. I walked onto the Mystery Island dock assaulted by the chaotic scene. Had this not been the case, I would have grown roots to the dock. I had been so excited by the prospect of vacationing on Mystery Island that I had forgotten to ask where I would be staying. My blood ran cold with dread.
Following a steady stream of traffic, I left the dock. I wandered aimlessly, in a daze. It didn't take me long to find myself lost in thick jungle. The heat was beginning to get to me. I longed for water.
Suddenly, a small wooden shack appeared. There was no door and no windows. I walked through the open entrance, wishing to gather my thoughts and gain some control. Jars in the corner revealed water and I chugged down the tepid liquid. Thirst sated, I settled down for a nap, exhausted after such a long and trying day.
It seemed I had barely slept when a commanding shriek awoke me. I scrabbled to my feet before I was slammed against the wall, a massive wing pinning me there. Four Eyrie had crowded into the small shack with me, while a fifth blocked the little light in the entrance. To say the least, I was scared spit less. Eyes wide, breathing fast and shallow, I was sure I was going to faint.
The red Eyrie in the doorway had his amber eyes narrowed. By the commanding way he stood, I figured he was the leader of the group.
"Bicker, let her go," the command was sharp.
At once, the wing's pressure left my throat and I collapsed to the floor. I was on my hands and knees, catching my breath and slowly regaining control. I trembled violently and I was horrified I was going to be sick. I heard the pad of velvet soft paws on the dirt floor. My ears twitched and a quick glance confirmed it was the Eyrie leader.
"We aren't going to hurt you, as long as you answer our questions," the leader's voice was as soft as his paws.
I stayed frozen in place but I believed him. I risked a look up at his face. It was a sharp face, hardened. He wasn't old, evident by his easy manner as he sat before me. What had happened to him, that it was so plain on his face?
"Who are you," the leader asked.
"My name is Aamina. My owner is Frankie. She taught me not to speak to strangers," I said.
There was a long pause. I held my breath, tense. Had I upset him? Then, a cackling laugh, soon followed by others. In less than a moment, it had ceased.
"My name is Roger," the red Eyrie introduced himself.
With the introduction, I quickly rocked back onto my heels, back against the wall, hands on my knees. My gaze was level with Roger's. Crowded as it was, it seemed we were the only two in the room. I felt like an equal now, rather than an inferior. The questions continued.
"What are you doing here," Roger asked.
"Frankie went on vacation with Buddy, my Island Acara sibling, to Maraqua. Moehogs aren't the best of swimmers so it was arranged for me to come to Mystery Island. It was only after I had arrived that I realized I didn't know where I was supposed to stay," I explained myself, feeling a freedom I had never felt before in sharing.
"Sounds like she was trying to get rid of you, to me," a harsh voice sneered.
I didn't see who it was who made the comment but Roger snapped his head around, breaking his hold of me. The red Eyrie glared at his followers.
"Monty, all of you! Shut up! The next one of you who makes a sound will feel my beak," Roger shrieked at the other Eyrie, who cowered as if they had been physically hit.
Roger swiveled his head to look at me. His amber eyes smoldered for a moment before he cooled off.
"Do you know exactly where you're at right now," Roger asked.
"No, I got lost," I said.
"You're in Eyrie territory. This shack is the marker that tells you. All of the jungle north and west of here belongs to us. You're trespassing. We don't like trespassers. However, you haven't come far at all and you're answering all of my questions. When we're finished, you may leave, with an escort. How long have you been here?"
"An hour. I don't really know. I fell asleep soon after I arrived then you found me."
"You're free to go. Phoenix will escort you."
"Wait, please, may I stay? I mean, Monty may be right. My owner has been distancing herself from me for a while now. I don't think she loves me anymore. Besides, I told you that I don't know where to go."
"We don't live the easiest life. We're not some charity or club you can join and leave at will. Besides, I lead only Eyrie, not any other species, especially ones that can't fly."
"Please, I'll do anything! Let me prove myself to you."
Roger suddenly walked towards a fire Eyrie and murmured something in his ear. Together, they walked towards me.
"Phoenix will take you back. Then, you're on your own," Roger said.
I stood up and watched Phoenix's flame tipped tail. It was almost hypnotic. As we made our exit I received quite a shock. Five more Eyrie leapt out of our way, as if burned. Which they may very well could have been because I could feel a wave of heat radiating off of Phoenix.
My guide ignored the others but I could feel them staring. I was relieved when the jungle swallowed us. I shrugged my shoulders, relieving the sensation I had been left with. I had just been through an ordeal the likes of which I had never experienced before. The silence between Phoenix and myself was as heavy as the humid air.
As time passed and we continued walking, I realized we were walking a lot longer than it had taken me to reach the shack. I didn't want to speak up about my observation, afraid of what Phoenix might do to me if I did. It was only after we continued walking and I knew that I needed a break that I spoke up.
To be continued...