Oh Glory: Part One
As the tears streaked down his face, falling into the basin below, he slammed his fists against the bathroom mirror in angst. Darric had no idea who he was, what he was about, what he was doing. Sure, he was able to talk a big game to everyone, but when it came down to it, would he really accomplish half the things he said he'd do? Chances are, the discouraged Zafara wouldn't, and somewhere in his heart he knew this to be true. He dropped to the floor, crutching his face in his hands, and sobbed.
A voice in his head pleaded, It's okay; everyone wants to be remembered for something, but it wasn't enough to know it. Unlike him, everyone who wanted to be known for something actually accomplished it, went out into Neopia and made some name for themselves for the ages. Hannah explored the ice caves, Bruno and Sophie freed Neovia... heck, even Dr. Sloth made a name for himself, albeit one out of evil actions and malicious deeds. But Darric could not ignore the reality around him. As it seemed, the world was filled with extraordinary individuals, and him? He was just an ordinary nobody, a no-talent hack of minimal notability. And he feared that's all he'd ever be.
He led a pretty normal life, compared to that of his peers around him. He lived in a decent home, took part in regular leisure activities, worked a steady, well-paying job to make ends meet. And yet despite his stability, he wanted more, something to make him feel like he wasn't overshadowed by those around him, especially his friends.
He loved them dearly, for they were remarkable individuals. But that was just it; they were more remarkable than he'd ever hope to be. He thought of them all in succession, and with each face that crossed his mind, his tears begun to flow again.
There was Margaret, a Pteri who was an expert at analyzing the actions of those around her. Whenever a crime is committed or a distant land is overtaken by war or sunken to the depths by a Krawken, Neopian Times reporters nearly trample down her door to receive her expert opinion on the events.
And Maggie, her twin sister, was equally as impressive, having won the Gormball championships so many times that she was disqualified from participating to give everyone else a chance. This led her to abandon her days as a player and instead assume a position as a coveted league coach. If a new player arose in the ranks, devastating all opponents they faced, one could be certain that Maggie was their coach.
Their quartet was rounded out by Laren, Darric's childhood friend, a market-savvy business-Shoyru who had made a name for himself in the stock market. Having built himself from the ground up with only little starting funds, he became one of the most powerful entities in the market, owning shares in all the big companies. He was so successful that his days were filled with leisure activities of his choosing, his work only involving him buying or selling, and no more.
This was perhaps a collection of some of the most brilliant minds in Neopia, their individual traits representing brains, brawn, and savvy. And then there was Darric, the odd Zafara out, only a part of the group because of his connections with Laren, who was kind enough to keep their standing friendship despite his newfound success. Every get-together was filled with the same esteem-crushing conversations for Darric, as he got to hear firsthand about how everyone was spending their time accomplishing, achieving, striving and solidifying their names within Neopian history. Each time Darric said little, smiling and nodding and pretending to be happy for his friends and their endeavors.
On some level, he was indeed satisfied that the people he cared about were pleased with their lives, but as a whole, he felt worthless and insincere. He resented his life as the tag-along friend, a group-crasher because he was riding on the coattails of another's success, and at this point, he had definitely overstayed his welcome.
Darric knew at some point he would no longer be able to handle the passive existence; there were only so many times he could feign satisfaction before he snapped. Sadly, that moment came faster than he could have ever expected, occurring early in that day, and he was so shocked at his outburst that he could do no more than flee from the group, his head swimming with emotions that were flowing through his tears.
The quartet had decided to meet for dinner, as they usually did on days like today. For the most part, Darric enjoyed these get-togethers, and on the best of days was able to ignore the sinking feeling in his chest whenever he was reminded of his ordinary existence. At first, the meal had seemed like this would be the outcome, until he heard the low whispers around him.
"Is that... no, that can't be her," a young Aisha whispered to her friend.
"It is!" her companion, a blue Acara, replied. "It's Maggie! You have no idea how big of a fan I am of her."
"Ugh, it's so cool that someone as famous as her can eat at restaurants just like the rest of us."
Overhearing the conversation, Maggie suppressed a smirk as she took a sip from her water glass. Darric had suddenly lost his appetite.
"Oh don't act like you're not pleased," Margaret said, reaching across the table to bump her sister in the wing. "You love it when people do that, don't you?"
"It's so common, though, that I just tend to tune it out," Maggie replied. "I find it kind of hilarious that it's surprising to them. I may be well-known, but I have to eat too!"
And then the conversation dissolved into discussing their encounters with fans, acquaintances, co-workers and ordinary citizens that they had interacted with, exchanging humorous stories and witty anecdotes. They smirked and laughed about the behavior of those around them, how the public regarded them, how adored they were, each word exchanged making Darric's head spin faster with negative feelings. Maybe he could steer the conversation in a different direction, suggest a new topic that he could try and involve himself in. But before he could attempt to talk about something else, Margaret dropped the one sentence that caused him to snap.
"Well, if anything else, I'm glad I'm going to be remembered for something," she said off-handedly.
"OKAY, WE GET IT ALREADY, ALRIGHT?!" Darric yelled, standing up so swiftly that he knocked his chair onto its back while simultaneously shaking the table. His glass tumbled over, cascading ice cold water onto the tablecloth, soaking it instantly. The clank of unsettled silverware and toppled glasses drew the attention of the entire restaurant, quickly changing the atmosphere of the place from lively and bustling to dead silent, focused on this disruption. His friends stared at Darric, wide-eyed in disbelief, vision glued to his face contorted with anger.
"You're all really cool people, you know that?!" he stammered out, shaking with rage. "Living such famous lives, laughing at the attention you get. Well at least you're something! At least you get this attention!"
"Darric..." Maggie whispered.
"What is this all about?" Laren asked.
"You're taking all of this for granted, you know that? Life is so different because you're known for something. You're all accomplished, so lucky, so smart, and what are the rest of us compared to you? We're NOTHING!"
"Darric!" Maggie said firmly, rising from her seat. "Something's bothering you, okay? Let's just go, alright? Laren can settle the bill, and we can go and talk."
"No, I don't want to talk, because you won't get it!" Darric yelled, slamming his hands down onto the table, the noise echoing through the silent restaurant. "What are you going to tell me? 'It's okay, everyone feels that way. Things are just different for us and you'll find your place.' They're nothing more than empty words for empty people like me."
Darric stopped, breathless, and glared around the table, looking at the confused faces of his friends, Maggie and Margaret appearing scared, while Laren reflected concern. These reactions satisfied him, because in his mind he was reminding them of their humanity, their normalcy that they rejected when they achieved their status. Having caught his breath, however, he was aware of all the eyes glued to his form, an entire restaurant fixated on the spectacle he had created. Almost immediately his mind filled with panic and other overwhelming emotions, as the reality of the situation began seeping in. He had just revealed the dark contents of his mind to the vicinity to the shock of those around him, and he felt more than anything that he needed to leave.
He rushed out of the restaurant, ignoring the calls of his friends and the stares of the patrons. In his haste he threw open the door, slamming it into the wall, and just ran, the tears streaking his face. What had he just done? He had just ruined his friendships with individuals who, despite their notoriety, were still good people, people who he had just hurt with his words. He thought about stopping, about going back and apologizing and helping to clean up his mess. Instead, he just kept running until he returned to his house, rushing into his bathroom and slamming the door behind him.
This is where he cried, sobbing madly, overwhelmed by the thoughts in his head and the previous proceedings. All of it just revealed a harsh reality to him that he never wanted to face, that was now glaring him in the face full-force. He was weak, broken, and unexceptional in every sense. If he could not even feel well enough about himself to hold his head high in comparison with those around him, how could he ever expect to be remembered for something, for anything?
Gradually, his violent sobs reduced to quiet sniffles, and he arose from the bathroom floor and faced himself in the mirror. He was greeted back by green fur, bloodshot red watery eyes, and an expression of depression and defeat. This is you from now on, he thought. This is all you're ever going to be.
Darric sighed deeply, and exited the bathroom, reasoning that a walk might be the best for him to clear his head at the moment. He left his house to see that night had descended in Neopia Central, the twilight sky that had accompanied him home replaced by a midnight blue hue littered with white stars. A chill wind blew past as he began to trek down the road, sending a shiver down his spine. Should he dress more warmly? No. This wind was just as cold as his heart, he reasoned. He would fit right in.
As if it were a stark contrast to the restaurant, the neighborhood was quiet, empty, still and silent. He passed by many houses, light spilling out some windows, darkness consuming others. In the homes where the residents were present, he could see them moving about their abodes, laughing, smiling, and socializing. They were probably warm in their home, happy in their lives, and that was all well and good. He could serve as the representation of the other side, a cold, shivering soul with a heavy heart and a broken mind.
And then, breaking him out of the contemplation of his situation, he heard it: a scream, shrill and crass against the still night. What was that? he thought, looking quizzically about, and that's where he saw smoke, pitch black billowing against the night sky. Fire. He began running towards the smoke, and drew upon the vicinity to witness a heart-stopping scene.
A two-story home, flames spilling out of almost every part of the house. The orange and yellow fires crackled and threw a brilliant light illuminating the midnight sky surrounding them. In front of the house, a crowd was beginning to form, mouths agape in wonder, awe, and fear, and at the forefront of the congregation was a lone figure acting hysterically. Darric realized that this white Draik was the source of the scream he heard, as she continued to wail and protest amid the reactions of those around her. It seemed she kept trying to enter the home, while a few of the assembled continued to hold her back as she struggled.
"No, no you don't understand, he's in there, HE'S IN THERE!" she yelled, as Darric drew closer.
"Who's in there?" Darric asked.
"My son!" the Draik replied. She struggled against the hold on her captors, trying valiantly to break from their grasp. "Let me go. Let me go! I have to rescue him! He'll die in there!"
"But the fire fighters..."
"There's no time! There's no time! Please, let me go!"
Darric took one look into the fiery abode, and without hesitation rushed into the flames, darting across the threshold into the home.
To be continued...
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