The One Who Opted Out
"There were originally six protectors, but one rejected the offer. They drank a potion to erase their memory of the incident and were sent on their way."
- Paraphrased from the Y14 Festival of Neggs page, under the Mysterious Negg tab
The wind is far too cold, especially when the day is so bright and beautiful, and it cuts through the light jacket of the Neopian walking down the street. He's already regretting coming out here, breaking his schedule. Nothing had changed – why would it? He had done the same thing, every single month, every single week, every single day, for years.
But today is different.
He feels listless, bored, his mind unusually hazy. He finds it hard to concentrate on anything – it's almost like he's tired, and yet he can't possibly hope to sleep. Nothing can hold his interest – even the novel he had been reading had come to an unsatisfying, boring ending.
So here he was, walking to Neopia Central for the weekly newspaper. He usually doesn't bother reading it – why would he be interested in what was going on in the rest of Neopia if it doesn't concern him? But none-the-less, he finds himself at the newspaper stand anyway. He tosses the Kacheek running the newsstand fifty Neopoints and grabs a paper off the top of the stack.
He sits down on a cold metal bench, sighs as he opens the paper up; headlines flash past his eyes. It was Lawyerbot Appreciation Day a while ago; he had completely forgotten about that one. Grey Day- he hadn't remembered that one either. Lutari Day- he's not a Lutari, so he doesn't bother second glancing that one. It was the same boring, droll news that was the reason he never usually read the paper. He's just about to throw the article away in disinterest when one headline catches his eye, displayed at the very top of the 10th Day of Eating's news.
JOURNAL CONTAINING INFORMATION ABOUT A MYSTERIOUS NEGG FOUND
(NEGGARY, T.M.) The yearly Negg Festival took an unexpected turn earlier today as a statement released by the Negg Faerie's apprentice, Zaira, revealed that she has located an old journal that may hold the secret to an incredibly powerful Negg. The journal was discovered behind an old cabinet while Zaira was doing her spring cleaning. She had picked it up, assuming it was simply some old forgotten Negg illustrations. A quick flip through it, however, revealed it to be much more. "It seems to have cryptic entries, detailing some sort of party that had gathered to protect a powerful Negg found [decades] ago," Zaira stated during a press conference. "We think that, using [simple logic], we can figure out where the negg was taken and rediscover it..."
He's received some sort of letter in the Neomail today, bound with a wax seal with an intricate shape imprinted into it. He breaks it and pulls open the letter, a map falling to the ground in the process, and begins to read.
"You have been selected for a task of utmost importance..."
He frowns. At what point had that happened? It had to have been a long time ago - five, ten, twenty years? Why did something so minor suddenly pop into his mind?
Perhaps what bothers him the most is the fact that he can't remember the rest of the letter.
"...There were five Neopians who had been selected, protectors, if you will, that had gathered together and had decided what lands both the powerful [Mysterious Negg] and the four other decoy neggs would be brought to and who would take which one. We think that if we can figure out who took what negg and to where, we can figure out where the Mysterious Negg is hidden..."
A large blue Kau, carrying several heavy-looking packs, ungracefully crashes into a clearing- where was it...
The Kau - his name started with a V, what was the rest of it, why can't he remember- walks over - and there's fog - "Sorry I'm so late - the weather near Mystery Island was just awful-" the haziness takes over, and he can't remember what else was said
Someone – who was it – rolls his eyes. "I hope that whoever requested we come here got caught in that storm, seeing as they're still not here. This better not be some sort of joke" –why is it so hard to concentrate
I doubt it's a joke." He jolts slightly at the sound of the voice – the Poogle had been so quiet the entire time that he had completely forgotten she was there -all he can remember about her now was that she had kind-looking eyes "After all, why would someone go to all the trouble of sending out letters asking us to come here and maps to this location if they were just messing with us? Not to mention that they chose out us – we're not exactly well known, are we-" and everything clouds over
A fine-featured Purple Ixi – what was his name – nods. "Rutu's got a point there. And besides, that letter sounded awfully urgent. Maybe they-"
He's cut off as another figure –the one who called them there- walks into the clearing, and
The fog returns, and he can't remember what happened next.
He sleeps restlessly that night, dreams full of wooded clearings and important discussions and a decision. When he wakes up, feelings of shame course through him, but he can't begin to remember why.
The neighbor ladies are gossiping again.
"...I heard that they had already been searching for the cave for weeks... people have no sense of direction anymore, I swear... anyways, they apparently found the corpse of that Poogle who was guarding the negg; poor dear, but at least she went out with honor; that's the most we can hope for, I think. So anyways, now people are attempting to solve some sort of puzzle to open the negg, though why they're even trying to open it is beyond me..."
The headstone is surprisingly simple - a slab of rock with a name carved into it, but then again, isn't that what every headstone is? Someone, a passing groundskeeper, a graveyard keeper, a passing bystander who just felt like leaving something behind in memoriam, someone has planted a young vine of ivy next to it, and someday it would grow and wrap around and completely cover the grave. A fitting marker for a botanist.
He's the only one there. The mourners, most of them never actually knowing the Poogle but wanting to honor her sacrifice, had already come and gone, and then, because they were still living, returned to their normal lives. He was still living, he had other things to do, so why was he still here?
He stares at the grave intently, little clips of memories flashing past in his mind, but they're hazy, jumbled, too confused to properly understand and they all run together there was a potion a decision because he didn't want to he didn't care about the rest of Neopia he didn't want to die dear Fyora, why him?
His mind feels foggy, weighted down. It seems impossible to hold onto the memories, and it's almost as if something's working against him, trying to make sure he doesn't remember...
He seals his eyes shut in frustration, trying to focus, to overcome the fogginess. The faint feeling of a headache starts and he's overcome with the desire to give up, go home and forget, but he keeps trying because he has to know what happened and what he did.
And suddenly, the fog clears, and he remembers.
A statement, short but condemning, is uttered about that powerful negg and the others in the clearing forget their frustration at how long it took for him to get here and become sober. There are more important things to focus on- so much is being asked of them and the rest of Neopia could be at stake, because if the Negg ever fell into the wrong hands...
His mind races as he looks for a way out. What seems like a hundred excuses, none of them sufficient, enter his mind at the same time. I don't want to - I can't - I don't want to die protecting it - if I run as fast as I can, can I escape?
A potion is offered – whoever called them here isn't going to force them to do this. It's a way out, a way to forget, and then they can carry on with their lives, never to know, never to remember. The others in the group watch the ground, bite their lips, close their eyes and try to decide whether to take the chance and leave, and live, or not. But then they, one at a time, shake their heads and reject the proposal.
He never even hesitated in taking it.
Someone taps him on the shoulder. "Excuse me, are you alright?"
The potion takes back over. Something in his mind slips as he loses his concentration and the memories start to disappear in the fog, and he panics as he struggles not to forget no please I need to know what happens next that couldn't have been me I wouldn't have been so pathetic as to leave!
But deep down, he knows it's true, and he can't fight it.
A clearing other Neopians something about a Negg who were the others why was he here?
The Neopian who had tapped him observes his expression, the panicked, sad, desperate, expression of someone who had lost something important. He looks at Rutu's grave, placing two and two together. "Did you... know her?"
Someone with kind eyes a wizard knight explorer blacksmith botanist a clearing a letter what did it say and why does he feel like such a coward?
He can't remember.
He blinks, tearing his gaze from the grave, swallowing hard and trying to clear his head, forcing the rest of his emotions back. One at a time, things snap back into focus. Why was he out here, standing by an old grave? He hadn't been to a cemetery in years, so why was he standing at the headstone of someone he didn't know? He should be at home; he has a novel to finish reading.
Memories gone now, he turns to leave, but, just for a second, he pauses and turns back to gaze at the burial site, pondering over the Neopian's question. Did he –
"No," he says slowly, shaking his head. "I didn't know her." And with that, he walks back home, in a wind that is too cold for such a beautiful bright spring day.