Chiaroscuro: Part Three
Whatever Candice is doing with my collection of wing parts, I don't understand any of it. So I tell her I'm going to go look for some more discarded things, and I leave her to her own devices.
I remember I never did find those pieces from the Wocky sculpture. I go to the alleyway and retrieve a few gears and a handful of nuts and bolts, which I pocket. Then I look around. It's dark now—darker than usual, since the lights on the horizon are not so abundant. I sigh. Darkness is a constant here. Like magma and ash.
I go back inside.
Candice is still kneeling on the floor, messing with all the metal pieces. "Do you have glue?" she asks.
"Glue? A little bit. It should be in the box of parts."
"Where—Oh. Found it. Thank you."
"If you get tired you can sleep on the sofa," I say, and go to bed.
Morning arrives. The lights are brighter, and the city is active. I stumble into the living room, half-wondering if Candice is still up. She isn't; she's asleep on the sofa. But on the floor is a statue of something made out of glue and gears and tiny metal pieces. A figure made of metal.
"Candice!" I shout.
She rolls over, then falls off the sofa with a thump that makes me wince. She picks herself up. "Sorry? W-what is it?"
"What's this?" I say, pointing at the sculpture.
"That... It's a sculpture of a Faerie. You ran out of glue. I used it all up... sorry."
"A Faerie. Like... the Faeries on the surface? In the air? Flying?"
"Yes. Do you like it?" she says. "I hope someone will buy it."
"I think someone will," I say, staring, transfixed. The Faerie sculpture has delicate wings—somehow Candice has made them delicate, even though they're made out of metal—and a long flowing skirt that seems to be moving.
"Come on!" I say. "Let's go find a customer. Someone's going to buy this!"
I know someone will.
Umbra drags me to the front of the Town Hall. I hold up my sculpture—it's supposed to look something like a Fire Faerie—and look around. It scares me a bit to be selling things again. What if this turns out the same way my paintings did? Rejected and ignored, even laughed at. Umbra says I'll be fine, she knows she'd want to buy the sculpture if she could. But perhaps she's only being kind.
Neopets mill around the town square, some glancing our way, but most passing us by without even looking at us. I spend my time staring at the back of the Fire Faerie's dress and thinking about how many mistakes this sculpture has. The arms are not natural enough. The wings are either too big or too small. And that thing in her hand doesn't look like fire. It looks like a blob of metal pieces stuck together with glue.
Which it is, I suppose, but it wasn't supposed to look like it.
I look around. So many Neopets. An Usul shoots me a derisive glance, and I can almost hear her whisper: "Look at that. Hah!" A Krawk bumps into me and the sculpture almost topples. Umbra catches it just in time. I wince at the thought of what might have happened if she hadn't.
Then a Magma Lenny walks over and examines the sculpture. He's wearing an Elegant Gear Top Hat, and I think he's wealthy. Wealthy enough to buy this sculpture, anyway. I hope he is.
"What might this be?" says the Lenny, taking out a Gear Spectacle and peering closely at the metal Faerie and her tiny wings.
I gulp. "It's... it's a sculpture... of a Faerie," I say. "Would you... like to buy it? Maybe?"
"It is interesting," he proclaims. "But not quite enough." He turns and leaves.
"See?" I whisper to Umbra.
"He's only one Neopet, Candice!" she says. "Trust me, the others will want to buy this."
A Shadow Techo approaches us. "A Faerie?" he says.
"And only two thousand Neopoints," says Umbra.
"How about one thousand?" he says. My heart leaps.
"One thousand five hundred," says Umbra.
"One two fifty."
"One thousand five hundred," says Umbra again, firmly.
The Techo frowns, shakes his head, and walks away.
"Umbra!" I cry. "Why did you do that?"
"It took me years to gather all the parts you've used in that sculpture," she says, "and I'm not letting them get it for only one thousand two hundred fifty. That's ridiculous!"
"But—you just scared away a potential customer!"
"Trust me," she says, "there will be more potential customers."
And just as she says it, a Red Korbat flies down and greets us. "Hello!"
"Hello," says Umbra confidently.
"You selling that?" says the Korbat.
"Yes," says Umbra.
"Looks interesting. Is it a Faerie?"
"Yes," says Umbra.
And, though I can hardly believe it, the Korbat pays us two thousand Neopoints, and leaves with the Faerie statue, my Faerie statue, my art, which he wanted to buy. He wanted to buy my art!
Umbra drags me to Molten Morsels where we buy two Molten Lasagnes. And then to Lampwyck's Lights Fantastic, where we get a new Brass Lantern. And when we walk home, we both begin to laugh. Because something marvelous has just happened.
With the remaining Neopoints I buy some glue. And then I run around Moltara and bring back everything I can find for Candice's art. Pieces of Shiny Obsidian. Miscellaneous Gears. I find a Golden Gear Table someone's selling and take it apart, as quickly as I can.
Meanwhile, Candice creates. She makes more Faeries. And then she builds other things. Miniature castles and cities. With the obsidian, she makes a model of a place called Darigan Citadel. "I don't like it much," she says, "it's too dark there, but the architecture is gorgeous."
"How about Altador?" I say. I've heard about the city, with its sun symbols and heroes and halls. A place filled with light.
"Well, of course the architecture there is lovely too," says Candice. "Hand me that chunk—thanks." She begins scraping away at another piece of obsidian, shaping it into a tower. "How long," she says, while she works, "do you think it will take until we've got enough for a pair of wings?"
"Not very long," I say.
So far we've got about ten thousand Neopoints, which is still quite a long way from the thirty-three thousand we might need for wings. We have enough to pay for a taxi by now, for both of us, from Moltara and back again, but the idea of wings appeals to me. With wings, I could fly back and forth as many times as I want.
But Candice will have the first pair of Steam Wings. After all, she has a home to return to.
"No," I say.
"What?" says Umbra.
"I said no," I say. "I'm not flying away until we both have wings."
"Candice," says Umbra, "this is ridiculous. I thought you wanted to go home."
"Yeah!" I say. "But I thought you also wanted to go to the surface and see Neopia."
"I do!" Umbra shouts. "But you don't have to stay here. You've made enough sculptures already, I can sell the rest of them in a week and go buy wings and join you on the surface. You don't have to wait a week."
I stare around at the room. Statues of Faeries and castles and worlds cover the floor; I've made a model of the Hall of Heroes, and one of the Tyrannian Concert Hall. They will sell, I know this, but...
"If I go a week early," I say, "I'll spend that week worrying whether or not you've sold them yet and have your wings yet."
"Look," Umbra snaps, "this is really sweet of you and all, but your wings are already here and are you just going to let them sit and rot, unused?"
"No, but I'm going to let them wait a week."
She sighs. And I win the argument. We sell enough sculptures to buy another pair of wings, and we still have some money left over. A week later we fly out of Moltara.
The sunlight blinds me at first, and for about fifteen minutes I can't see anything, but it doesn't matter because I'm so happy. I'm giddy with excitement. I probably wouldn't be able to do anything even if I still had my vision.
Eventually, the lights in my eyes fade, and I look around. Color! Who knew? The grass is so green. The sky—I can see the sky!—is blue. Bright blue. Unbelieveable blue. Gorgeous.
Candice is laughing at my reaction to all this, but she's excited as well. It's been months since she's been on the surface too.
"Well," she says, "it certainly isn't Moltara."
Candice's home in Neopia Central is blue, with many windows to let all the sunlight in. Inside the walls are lined with paintings and pictures in so many colors. She runs around brushing dust off of everything and opens the cupboard. "Everything's still here," she says breathlessly, and pulls out a tin of Black Cherry Tea.
"You really think that's safe to drink?" I say.
"No," she says, sighing. "I will have to get rid of all this food, won't I? But Black Cherry Tea's cheap. I'll get some more later in the market. Anyway—aaah!"
She's opened up another cupboard. A Spyder stares at her.
"Getawaygetawaygetaway!" Candice shrieks. I find a broom and began whacking at the cupboard, releasing clouds of cobwebs and dust. The Spyder leaps out of the cupboard and onto the floor, then scuttles out the front door.
"Eugh," says Candice, shuddering.
"Why don't we clean this place out?" I say.
So with a Mop and Bucket and Blue Broom we restore my home to something of its former glory. We get rid of all the food, which has spoiled, except for a Buzz Honey Pot, which hasn't. We head to the marketplace and buy dinner, and Umbra spends the rest of the day running around looking at things.
Night falls. It's been so long since I've seen night in Neopia Central. The stars come out, scattered across the velvet sky. I point out Kreludor.
"You mean," Umbra says, frowning, "it just hangs there, in the middle of the sky?"
"Well, yes," I say, "I guess—oh, look! Virtupets. The Space Station, see?" A blinking dot moving slowly across the horizon.
"That one too?" she says. "It just floats there? This is ridiculous. Unbelievable."
I yawn. "Well, I'm going to bed. You can go sleep in the guest room."
"Yeah. Good night," she says. I leave her staring at the inexplicably floating moon.
When I am out of Umbra's earshot, I begin laughing. The guest room has a Hover Bed.