Walk with Me: Part One
Bonita wrote gently, her pencil strokes flowing across the paper. They glided over the white sheet, making a light noise that few could hear.
'...and Tara is having me read The History of Meridell,' she wrote. 'Guinevere is likewise doing fine, and has just meet a new Gelert and they've (pardon the cliché) become fast friends.'
The red Peophin stopped briefly to read her progress before resuming. 'There is an excessive amount of snow here! Tara says it's unusual for Altador to get this much and we're all speculating what it's like at Terror Mountain if it's like this here. In truth, I've been enjoying it!' Bonita paused again.
She gazed at a picture of her and a blue Peophin grinning at the camera. Bonita half smiled as she proceeded, 'Tom is also doing well. The best of all of us, I should say, but he misses his favorite big brother. And I don't blame him! Tara is thinking about placing him in the Mystery Island Training School and as a result, Tom is overjoyed and all the same frightened. We both know he'll do well, even if...'
Bonita ceased her writing and glanced at the picture again. It seemed that it had been taken many years ago, like it was in another world entirely. Looking at it caused her mind to wander and seek the memories....
Two Years Earlier
"Wake up, Bonita! Today is the family day trip Aunt Cassie promised for a month! Get up!"
Bonita tugged the covers up over her head and groaned, "Go away, Tom." Her annoyed response was muffled by the sheets.
She peeked past the covers to look at the being responsible for interrupting her sleep. A blue Peophin smiled back at her. "There's nothing that could make me leave, except getting your lazy fin out of bed," he boasted.
It was a challenge and Bonita readily accepted. "Oh yeah? What if I threaten to paint you with a pink paint brush."
Tom scoffed. "Is that all?" he asked. But Bonita couldn't help but think Tom looked a scant paler than before.
"Nope! That would only be the first part. Next would be a baby paint brush. Then I could dress you up in cute wittle baby cwothes! And I could take you out in your wittle stroller and..." Bonita was interrupted by Tom's shout of terror and the slam of her bedroom door. Bonita hauled herself out of bed and stretched. "Works every time." She smiled to herself.
Bonita quickly brushed her mane and fur and polished her head-plate extra shiny. She did have to admit, she was just as excited as Tom about going on the day trip. After she was done, Bonita fled down the stairs and into the kitchen.
"Good morning," Bonita greeted her family. A few good mornings and one 'bout-time-sleepy-head answered her back. Bonita scowled at Tom as she sat down.
Bonita's family consisted of five members, not including the three petpets. Tom didn't have a petpet of his own yet. First there was the owner Tara. The oldest of the pets was Silver Streak, a handsome pirate Lupe and a strong leader. Then there was Guinevere, a small, shy cloud Bori. Then, of course, there was Bonita herself, a fun-loving red Peophin. And lastly was the youngest, Tom, a blue Peophin and a mischievous trickster.
Occasionally, Tara's elder sister Cassie would come to visit. Aunt Cassie, she was lovingly called, had promised them to take the pets to Mystery Island. All day long, they would get to take the Tiki Tour, play Tombola and Volleyball, explore the Island and maybe even get to throw something into the Cooking Pot. To say the pets were excited was a gross understatement.
"All right, guys, eat quickly. We're leaving in twenty minutes," Aunt Cassie announced. "And don't forget to feed your petpets," Tara added, not bothering to look above the Neopian Times.
Bonita gulped down her Neocrunch Cereal and quickly finished her breakfast. She fed Brighty her Bika, and raced like a Poogle in the derby to get her other chores done. Shouts leapt from wall to wall of "Where's my hat?" "Did anyone bother making lunch?" and "Oh Tom, don't you ever make your bed?"
However, the chaos was soon under control and twenty three and a half minutes later, Tara locked the door. Everyone quickly walked down the long path to Altador city that lay below them.
Another eighteen minutes and everyone was in line to get on the Ferry that would take them to Mystery Island. Water Maid was painted in cursive letters on the back and side of the ferry. Harnessed to the large vessel was ten Delfins, some impatiently tugging at the leather. A flotsam swam near the front of the Delfins ready to clear any trouble that might arise.
"This is so exciting!" Guinevere grinned at Bonita. Bonita could only nod in agreement and rub her shoulders, hoping it would get rid of the goosebumps she had acquired from her thrill.
A Scorchio blew a whistle, signaling the start of boarding and opened the safety gate of the Water Maid. At the sound of the short musical note, the Delfins chattered and made clicking noises as they splashed their fins on the water, rearing to go! "Look at them pull!" pointed Silver Streak. As soon as the four siblings set paw and hoof on the ferry they raced to the front to get a better view of the Delfins.
It wasn't long before the last owner and pet were on the ferry. The Scorchio closed the gate, waved to the flotsam at the front and blew two short blasts. The flotsam waved back and called to the Delfins, shouting, "All right, let's swim!" He then dove just under the surface of the water and began to swim in the direction of Mystery Island. The Delfins, trained to follow him, tugged and strained at the harnesses. Slowly, at first, the Water Maid began to pull out of the dock. It then began to pick up speed and the Delfins pumped their tails furiously. Finally happy to be moving, the Delfins leapt in and out of the water as they sped along.
The four pets laughed at the Delfins' joy. "I think they're having more fun pulling us then we are riding!" Tom smiled joyfully. When you're having fun, time has a habit of flying and before very long, or so the Pets thought, Mystery Island was insight.
Bonita sat on her bed, drying her long mane after a hot shower. A few shells lay on her dresser, prizes from a walk on the beach with her family. Bonita yawned, exhausted from the walking, jumping, running, and swimming they had done all day long on Mystery Island.
She got up and held up each shell at a time, admiring them closely. One was a faint purple with pink lines running through it. Another had reds and oranges blended together. It reminded her of the sunset they had watched just before leaving on the Ferry to go home. But Bonita's favorite was a light blue round shell, with dark blue at the tips. Tom had promised that he would carve an ocean scene on it for her, since he was so good at art.
Bonita held the shell in her hooves, marveling at its beauty. She couldn't help but wonder if it was a sapphire, mischievously disguising itself as a shell. She gently returned her treasure back with the other shells, turned out her lamp, and crawled into bed. As she lay there, a smile spread over her face. Silver Streak's face had been so comical when he won at Tombola....
Tara opened the oven door and pulled out a pan with a dozen hot chocolate chip cookies. My, don't they smell wonderful! Tara thought as she quickly put them on a cooling rack. She turned off the oven and ate one of the hot cookies.
"The Pats 'ould be hoome swoon," she said to herself, talking around the cookie. The only reason she got away with talking with her mouth full was because no one else was in the house. Finishing her cookie, Tara made four plates ready with glasses of milk.
The first one in the door was Tom, since he was the youngest and he got out of school first. "Hiya Tara!" Tom gave her a goofy grin.
"Good afternoon, Tom," Tara said more respectfully. "I made some cookies. Want some?" she asked, holding out a plate and a glass of milk. She was perfectly aware that it was an absurd question.
"Would I?" Tom grabbed the plate and mumbled a thank you from behind a mouthful of cookie. Tara thought about scolding him for talking with his mouth full, but then remembered her own slip-up, so she decided to let it go this time.
"So," she prepared to ask the most common household question of Neopia and the human world. "How was school?" Tom swallowed some cookie down before responding. "Tara," he said. "That was a pathetic question. You're always telling us to use our imaginations and encourage us to use a wide variety of vocabulary.
"Why is it then, that you ask me a question that is as old as pre-tyranimun times and as dull as a grey painted pet?"
Tara stared at Tom only a moment.
"How long did it take for you to put together that speech? A few weeks?"
"Actually, it was only one week."
"Liar. Knowing you, it only took a couple of minutes."
"Okay, so maybe it was only a few minutes. But you're getting off the subject."
"You want an imaginative question? Fine. How did you consume the duration of time and what events transpired whilst at your academy of learning?"
Tom blinked. "Are you going to make me answer that question as good as you asked it?"
Tara laughed. "I should, just to teach you a lesson not to mess with me!" She ruffled Tom's mane. "In truth, I have no doubt that you would be able to do so at a moment's notice, if given time and practice."
Tom bit into another piece of cookie. "Maybe," he said. "Perhaps one day I shall be a celebrated and illustrious scholar with unfathomable wits and unending fame. Hm?"
Tara rolled her eyes. "I can see you as a great scholar, but I think the 'unending fame' would just go to your head."
"What would go to who's head?" asked Silver Streak, stepping inside the kitchen.
"Hi, Silver." Tara greeted him with a like plate of cookies and milk as Tom's.
"My head," said Tom in response to Silver Streak's question. "I'm going to have unending fame and Tara said it would go to my head." Tom reached a hoof for another cookie, but was batted away by Tara.
Silver laughed. "It would go to your head, make no mistake about that!" Tom only glared at his older brother.
"Anyways," said Tara, "I had to ask a long and inventive question and it never got answered."
"'Long and inventive'?" interrupted Silver. "What do you mean?"
Tara snorted. "Long story, short - Tom was just being sassy."
Silver Streak snickered. "What else is new?" That earned him another glare from Tom.
"What transpired, Tara, was we're studying the history of Altador. Tomorrow we're taking a field trip to the Hall of Heroes and maybe even get to see King Altador himself!" Tom finished emphatically.
Tara chuckled. "I wouldn't count on it, Tom, but you never know."
Before long the rest of the pets came home and all were sitting around the table, chatting about the day. Tom got up to put his dishes in the sink. He was looking where he was going, but walked straight into the edge of the doorway with a resounding WHACK!
"You klutz!" Silver roared with laughter.
"Are you okay, Tom?" Guinevere asked, trying to sound concerned, but the smile that crept onto her lips exposed her true thoughts. Bonita just laughed with Silver.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Tom said, rubbing his head, but grinning all the same. "I could've sworn the doorway was right there!" he said, making a joke of the thing.
Odd that Tom should be so clumsy, Tara thought. Unlike other pets who could manage to trip over their own feet, Tom was always steady on his. But he doesn't have feet, he has a fin, Tara smirked at herself. But any worried thoughts that Tara might have entertained further where quickly brushed away by the resolution that it was just a simple mistake and that she was being an over-worrisome owner.
Two weeks later, Tara and Tom were at the NeoHospital. Since that first day after school, Tom had suddenly turned upside down. He ran into poles, vases, and walls consistently. He also didn't make a great impression to the janitor of the Hall of Heroes, who was more than relieved when Tom left with the rest of his class.
Tom frequently complained about seeing spots and often found it difficult to finish his homework. Tara originally thought his sudden klutziness was due to him growing, but it had excelled to such a point that Tara sent a Neomail to the Principle saying Tom would be absent from his classes until further notice.
After sitting in the waiting room for a time, a nurse called Tom's name and the two were spirited away into a small office. "The doctor will be right with you." The nurse said before leaving. Tara squeezed Tom's hoof and gave him a reassuring smile.
Soon, a green Gelert whizzed into the office. "Sorry to keep you waiting, we've had a busy morning," he said apologizing, but without looking up from the clipboard he held in his paw.
"I understand." Tara nodded. The doctor pushed up his glasses and glanced up at Tom. "From what it says here," he motioned to his clipboard, "you've been having some seeing problems, right, Tom?"
Tom nodded his head. "I keep bumping into things and sometimes I see spots."
The doctor again pushed up his ever-sliding glasses. Then he smiled. "There's no need to worry. All you have is a mild case of Blurred Vision." He then scribbled down a note and gave it to Tara.
It read, Extra Thick Goggles – Two weeks
"Go to the Neopian Pharmacy and buy some Extra Thick Goggles," he said. "Wear them for two weeks and then come back for another appointment. By then, you should be mostly better, if not completely."
Tara smiled and shook the doctor's paw. "Thank you, Doctor, you've been very helpful."
"Don't mention it." The doctor waved his paw. "I'll see both of you in two weeks." And just as quickly as the doctor had come, he left.
Tara and Tom ran over to the Neopian Pharmacy. But, as Tara suspected, they were out of just what she needed. "Always are." Tara rolled her eyes as they left. So they then made a stop at the Shop Wizard. He was most helpful and found Tara a good price on the Goggles.
As soon as they were home, Tom put on his new spectacles. He ran outside to find Bonita and show her his new "look." Bonita giggled when she saw him. It made his eyes look three-times larger. When she told him so, Tom began to make faces at her (and a passing slorg which squealed in fright and slid away as fast as it could) and they both laughed until their sides hurt.
At first, Tom seemed to make some improvements. He didn't bump into near as many items and he complained less about the spots. However, by the time the first week ended, Tom seemed to get worse. By the tenth day, Tara was worried.
Tom was wearing his goggles everyday, but the spots he saw were almost always there. He tried not to move around for fear of running into things and now, of all things, he was getting headaches frequently.
Tara put him to bed early every night, but nothing helped. "I think you're being a little paranoid, Tara," Aunt Cassie told her over neomail one day.
"But," Tara argued, "the doctor said he should be getting along great by now, not worse!" By the twelfth day, when Aunt Cassie came to visit, even she was worried.
Tara was relieved when the day of Tom's appointment finally arrived. Her relief was short-lived. The doctor examined Tom's eyes very carefully before saying anything. His brow was furrowed and his silence put Tara on edge. "Miss Tara," he said finally. "Could you please follow me for just a minute?" They stepped outside the office and the doctor latched the door behind them.
For a few moments the doctor was silent. "I'm afraid..." He paused, reluctant to continue. "I'm afraid this is worse than I originally thought."
"What do you mean?" Tara asked fearfully. The doctor rubbed a paw over his muzzle before continuing.
"Tom originally had Blurred Vision. But now it seems to have manifested itself into something more. Instead of the occasional spots that appear every once in a while, they've become... permanent."
"Permanent?" Tara's jaw dropped. She struggled to grasp the situation. "What do you mean? Where are you going with this?" She struggled to hold her impatience.
"What I mean," stated the doctor, "is that those spots he sees will never leave his eyesight. I am also sure that..." He stopped a moment.
Tara could not help but feel sorry for the doctor. How many times did he have to share terrible news to some worried owner, to be the bearer of the awful and harrowing words that shattered a family's happy life?
"I am quite sure that his eyesight will entirely disappear. I regret to tell you this, but he will become totally blind."
Blind?! Tara tried desperately to calm her panicky thoughts. "Is there nothing you can do?" she asked. "Nothing at all?"
The doctor shook his head. "No."
Tara slid her hands over her face. What could she do? The doctor couldn't do anything, so what made her think that she could? How was she supposed to tell Tom and the rest of the family?
"What about his headaches?" she asked. "Will they go away?"
The doctor pondered over this for a few minutes. "I think so. While I don't know for sure, my guess is that the cause of his headaches is the sudden change of his eyesight. Once he loses it entirely and he has become used to it, they should go away. But, again, that's just a guess." Tara only nodded, still trying organize her disarrayed thoughts.
A sudden idea hit her. "What about the Healing Faerie?" she asked.
The doctor gave a grim smile. "Do you really think that she could heal Tom?" He raised an eyebrow.
Tara tightened her lips. "It certainly is worth a shot," she replied, somewhat shortly.
The doctor shook his head. "You can try," he said. "But I don't think you're going to get what you hope for."
He was right.
Tom knew that something was wrong from the moment he heard the doctor's voice, asking Tara to step outside. And Tara's distressed face gave enough clues by itself. Tara never really was good at hiding her feelings, he thought. So when the doctor and Tara returned and told him that he would become blind within a couple weeks time, Tom was only half surprised. At that very moment, he didn't really care, because his head felt like it had been used as a substitute plushie in Kass Basher. But at least it did explain why he could hardly see anymore. Everything had become dark and hazy. But the shock quickly settled in. What about school? His friends? And his drawing that he loved to do? The thought of being stuck in a dark world was rather unsettling.
As they walked home, Tara tried to reassure Tom (as much as herself) by telling him the things he would still be able to do. But, at the moment, Tara's mind was blank, so the list was painfully short.
"What do you mean Tom's going blind?!" Bonita practically screamed.
"I mean exactly what I say," Tara said evenly. As evenly as she could manage anyway. As soon as Tara and Tom had gotten home from the Neohospital, she told to rest of the pets. Bonita was taking it especially hard.
"You said that Tom only had Blurred Vision and now he's practically blind! You said he'd be better!" Bonita pointed a hoof at Tara. "And what about the doctor, huh? He didn't do anything! He didn't even tell us until it was too late!" Bonita was determined to blame someone.
Tara's face darkened. "Shame on you, Bonita, you know better!" she said. Bonita hung her head at these words. Tara continued, more softly this time. "Yes, we did say that he would be better. We all thought that he would. But this was just as unexpected for the doctor as well as us. It's unfair of you to blame this on him when it's not his fault. Do you understand?"
Bonita nodded, still staring at the floor. "Yes ma'am," she said quietly. Then she lifted her head and looked at Tara.
"What about the Healing Fae—"
"Already tried that." Tara quickly interrupted her. Like 'All of your Neopets gain three hit points. Sorry, that was the best I could do' was really going to help with Tom's blindness, Tara thought irritably.
"So what do we do now?" Bonita asked.
Tara shook her head. "I have no idea."
To be continued...