An Eyrie Again: Part Two
I hate getting zapped.
Colorful spots swarmed like angry petpetpets in my vision, and I immediately slammed my eyes shut to try to get rid of the sudden dizziness. That all-over fizzing sensation that always came after the blast started to work its way down in a wave from my head. It almost felt like someone had dropped a water balloon filled with little lightning bolts on me. The imaginary bolts wiggled over my feathers, sparkling and popping and tingling. After a moment, the sparks and spots began to fade. I started my post-blast check, eyes still firmly closed. Was anything different? Did I feel weaker? Stronger? More purple? I couldn't tell. Maybe nothing had happened. And maybe, if we all cross our fingers and say "please," all the Gallery of Evil members will start doing community service.
I finally opened my eyes and looked at my companions to complete the check. Gabi was gawping at me, looking completely horrified. That seemed like a bad sign. Bill, on the other hand, was trying not to look smug. (He didn't quite pull it off.) Also a bad sign.
"Not quite an Eyrie, but she has been transformed!" he announced. "Shame I can't do anything about her personality."
"He-ey!" I protested. I flew over to Gabi, hoping she'd defend me –
Only I didn't fly over. I tried to flap my wings, but I couldn't feel anything - no breeze, no movement, nothing. "What happened?" I asked slowly, nervously. "Gabi?" She still seemed frozen, and didn't reply. A weird sort of calmness descended over me, pushing down a rising panic. Gabi was obviously having a moment, so she'd be no help. I would have to figure it out myself. But how? The answer came to me: I began to look around the room, hoping some of the more reflective computer screens could do what Gabi apparently couldn't at the moment. I saw something bluish in the small screens, but the image was distorted and hazy. Plus the screens were blue to begin with. I finally located a good candidate, flat and shiny silver, and peered into its depths.
I wasn't at all prepared for what I saw.
I whirled around to face Gabi with a dozen angry words on my tongue, but before I could speak I tripped over a long bluish thing.
"I'm a Blumaroo!" I shrieked from the floor. "An ugly lumpy smelly stupid Blumaroo!"
"A camouflage Blumaroo," Bill added helpfully. He was practically cackling with glee. Stupid scientist. "And I think the 'pets over on Roo Island might take offense at that description." I glowered up at him and wished we were in the Battledome, so I could properly express what I thought of him and his stupid face and his stupid machine. My sword would do most of the talking. And my blaster.
Gabi chose that moment to come out of her coma. "Come on," she muttered faintly. "Let's go home." I struggled to my feet, trying to get the hang of moving my limbs. After I succeeded in standing, I attempted a slow walk. I felt... heavy. Probably because of the bones, I thought. Pteri bones are hollow, so we can fly - I think I heard that somewhere. Probably from Lirila. My feet felt like giant anchors, and as I shuffled along, I could feel my tail dragging on the floor. Well, that's unhygienic. I think shock had begun to set in at that point. I tried to move my tail, but it was either too heavy or I just hadn't figured out what muscles to use yet. I'd had a tail as a Pteri, but it had seemed effortless to move it. And when I flew, it... oh, yeah. No wings now. I hastily started thinking about something else. Anything else.
I grabbed the tip clumsily with my paw-hand thing – Feels weird to be able to do that - and heaved it up over my arm. Yep, definitely heavy. I joined Gabi, and together we walked down the long hallway out of the lab. It seemed to go on forever, but eventually we reached the exit and began the long trek back to our house. Gabi didn't even try to apologize on the way; she just trudged beside me like her bones were heavier, too. I recognized the silence; it was the sound of her doing mental math. I already knew how it would end, though: we were going nowhere fast with the saving. If we bought a Pteri morphing potion (we'd seen a few that were much cheaper than the Eyrie ones) and I morphed back into a Pteri, the Eyrie fund would be badly hit. We'd use up the savings from these past few weeks and the ones that we'd already had to begin with. It'd take months to get to our goal. Thinking of the atmosphere at home, I knew I couldn't do that to my sisters – or, for that matter, to myself – for much longer. I felt certainty settle in my stomach – it felt like I'd swallowed a brick. There was only one thing I could do.
I would have to stay a Blumaroo. At least, until I could become an Eyrie. In a few months.
The trip home was a bit of a blur. When we got there, I ignored my sisters' alarmed looks and tried to make a dash for my room. Well, actually, I wanted to dash, but I still wasn't used to the big ol' feet, and I was worried I'd fall flat on my face again. So, I had to settle for plodding away. Listening to their questions just made me feel worse. Who was that Blumaroo? Had we adopted another pet? Where was Flirlia? Did we visit the Pound on our way home? Why would we do a thing like that? Could we stop saving now Flirlia was gone and buy books again? (No matter what the crisis, books were never far from Lirila's mind.) I finally reached my bedroom door and gratefully slipped inside; it closed behind me with a small, defeated-sounding click. When I flopped down on my bed, it groaned and creaked complaints at me.
"I know," I murmured, "you aren't a big fan of the new, heavier me. Bet the tail alone adds ten pounds. Well, I'm not too thrilled either, pal. I mean, I can't work my own body. I can't run at all, and I can barely walk. And I won't be able to fly, not at all. It's awful." I scooted forward until I was by the pillow, still babbling half to the bed and half to myself. "See, when I was a Pteri, I thought I was unhappy. But this... this is so much worse. I didn't realize it, but I've always had wings, and light bones, and that stuff. Blumaroos are big, and, and clumsy, and they most certainly do not have wings." Suddenly, I stopped. I started to laugh bitterly at the sheer absurdity of it all. I was a Blumaroo – a Blumaroo! – and I was confiding in a bed. I laughed until my eyes prickled and I started to cry. Then I buried my face in the sheets and just cried until I couldn't cry anymore.
"Wake up, Flirlia!" Gabi called. It was a week after the disaster, and I was still... let's say, less than pleased about the whole Blumaroo business. The atmosphere in the house had definitely changed, though; instead of accusing glares, I got pity from my siblings.
I preferred the glares.
"Come on, don't you know what day it is?" Tia shouted, pounding on my door. I opened it to find her standing outside my room, balancing on one foot, looking peeved.
"Thursday," I grumbled. She ignored me.
"You haven't gotten out of bed in forever. You have to do something today, at least." She smiled hopefully and wiggled her eyebrows. "Like maybe go for a little free training?"
"What are you...?" I started. Then I remembered, and felt suddenly sick.
"Tieresa, I am not going to cheer up just because it's Blumaroo Day!" Tia, hurt, scurried off to breakfast. I felt bad for a moment, until I remembered I was completely justified. What kind of a sick joke was she trying to pull on me? Why would I want to celebrate the worst days of my life? If anything, I'd shown restraint.
Gabi silently came to stand next to me. I glared at her and muttered, "I am not going to celebrate this... this... disaster. I'm not."
"Stop being melodramatic," she replied. I blinked. The pity in her voice I'd come to expect had been replaced by steel. "You've done nothing but mope for the past week, and you've been short with all of us when we're just trying to help. You'll still get your potion, so cheer up already! Besides, with funding as it is – because of you, I might add – we can't pass up free anything. Now, you are going to get out of your pajamas, and you are going to go, and you are going to train, and you will do it happily. You have to stop wallowing in your... Blumaroo-ness." She paused. "You know, that sounded way better in my head." Then she smiled. Actually smiled.
I stared at her like she had Meepits crawling out of her nose.
She quickly dropped the smile and put her new serious face back on. "Come on, Flirlia. Quit acting like the world is ending. Go have some fun."
I didn't answer.
"That's an order."
"Fine," I spat. "I'll go." I shut the door in her face, and, after a second, called, "But you can't make me be happy about it!"
In the next hour, I deliberately moved at a Slorg's pace, my expression daring anyone to argue. I took my time selecting an outfit, eating my omelette, and finally trudging through the doorway. When I glanced back, Gabi, Lirila, and Tia were all looking at me from the front window. They scattered when they noticed my gaze, but not before I'd seen them all... smiling? No, not even that: they were beaming. I shook my head and trudged onward. I had to catch a boat to Krawk Island.
At the end of the day, after I'd sailed back, I was sore, grumpy, and only a bit stronger. (Turns out it's hard to train when you only just got the hang of using your feet.) There was no storybook revelation, though. I know I'm supposed to tell you I met some wise old Blumaroo who showed me to like my new species, but I didn't. I wanted to be an Eyrie more than ever.
On the long walk through Neopia Central toward our house, my head was firmly planted in the clouds. Only the glow of shop lights was visible as darkness fell over the land like snow. Kicking a pebble along the path, I started hearing that same little voice in my head. It had decided to take a vacation, I guess, during my Blumaroo blues, so it was annoying and oddly comforting to hear it again. Just go with the Pteri morphing potion. It's cheaper. You won't have to take another day of this. And why the Eyrie obsession, anyway? You never bothered to answer that question.
I glared at nothing in particular and rubbed my forehead; I could feel a headache coming on. Stop nagging me! Just because I change my mind sometimes doesn't mean I can't make a good decision!
The voice wouldn't leave it alone. You have to know why. Come on, Flir, stop and think for once in your life. Think about something before you throw yourself into it. For just one second, don't be you. Don't—
I realized I'd halted next to a bench. Trembling from fury and fatigue, I sank onto the rough wooden boards and put my head in my paw-hands. The voice, knowing it had struck the deathblow, retreated, leaving me alone in my mind. Was that really all the whole fiasco had been about? Not wanting to be me anymore? I mean, I'd been aware of the comments, the light jokes – there goes Flirlia, head in the clouds again. Hey, Flirlia, what is it this week? What happened to last week's project? Weren't you going to train Miamice and start your own traveling show or something? I never really though much of it – at least, I didn't think I had. But I guess somewhere, deep in my brain, the words had stuck and started to putrefy. That's how you get snide voices in your head – brain-rot. I don't think the Pharmacy carries a cure for that.
I leaned back and delved further into my mind. A hazy memory floated to the surface: my first day in Neopia. I wasn't, and, then, like magic, I was. Gabi was there, and I knew who she was, and what my name was, but I didn't know really anything else about anything. I could see buildings and Neopets walking by, and everything was big and loud and fast and complicated.... I wasn't scared, though. The way I saw it, there was an entire world of people to meet, and places to be, and I would never run out of things to do. I know Neopia hasn't changed, but... it feels too big, now. Overwhelming. I know there's no way I can even do half of the stuff I could do, and I don't like that. I flit around and dream because... well, choosing one thing means I just slammed the door on a thousand possibilities.
I guess Eyrie isn't a just species, to me; it's more a state of mind. And I want it back.
Abruptly, I stood, stretching and rolling my stiff muscles. I started home again, hurrying along with a faint little smile on my face. I knew that no one in my family would understand my thoughts. They'd just dismiss it as craziness. Or they'd think I was being all pompous, playing at being a philosopher. But, somehow, it felt like enough that I knew. I knew why I wanted the potion, and I knew that it would be worth it. Even if I had to be a Blumaroo for a year. (Well, maybe a few months – I wasn't quite that enlightened.) I picked up the pace, wondering if Gabi had any leftover omelettes I could eat. Having epiphanies is hungry work.
When I reached the door of the Neohome, I heard hushed voices. Hm. It's not my birthday... oh, they had better not be throwing a Blumaroo Day party. Ah, well, maybe there'll be cake. I pushed open the door and walked into the brightly lit room. Tia and Lirila stood behind Gabi, looking excited, as she held out a cake.
"Blumaroo Day?" I asked.
Gabi grinned. "Nope."
"Late – or maybe early – Eyrie Day," Lirila put in, looking uncharacteristically happy. Tia giggled.
"Huh?" My mind, tired from its recent workout, struggled to catch up. Then I looked more closely at the cake. Instead of a candle, someone had crammed a glass bottle, wide-end down, into the center. It was filled with a shimmering green liquid that fizzed and bubbled like Neocola. Two green wings clung delicately to the bottle's neck, and a ruff of light green fur surrounded the cork. My mouth dropped open as I saw the proverbial light.
"You... but... but... how?" I stuttered.
Gabi answered with a mischievous spark in her eyes. "I raided the Safety Deposit Box again, and found something very interesting under a pile of ripped plushies. Remember that Disco Paint Brush I bought when Lirila was zapped Swamp Gas?" I nodded. "When we got a Chocolate the next day, I completely forgot about it. It's been up for auction all day – I didn't want to tell you until I was sure that it would sell."
Wow. Now, all of the odd smiles I'd seen on my family's faces earlier made perfect sense.
Gabi handed the cake to Lirila, who held it carefully. Then she pulled out the bottle, swiped a finger over the bottom (to save the frosting), and handed it to me. I took a second to beam at my family – Lirila, balancing the cake on one wing; Tia, hopping up and down with excitement; and Gabi, gazing proudly at me. We'd done it. Suddenly, I couldn't wait a second longer. I popped the cork and gulped down the potion.
A too-familiar electric tingle raced across my skin, but this time it felt different. It felt... good. Warm. I lifted my face to the ceiling, welcoming the feeling, basking in it. A pale, soft glow seemed to flow out of my very skin, and a faint breeze stole through the room. Then, the light flared, and I closed my eyes in sheer bliss. The moment lasted forever, yet it was gone all too soon: short as an eternity and long as a second. When the warmth began to fade away, I looked down at my paws – I had four of them, all a deep, vibrant emerald.
I beamed again, feeling like my beak – my beak! – would split from all the smiles, then raced outside and leaped into the velvet sky. My family came out to watch me as I looped the house, laughing and feeling the breezes tickle my feathers. A joyful scree! burst out of my beak from some spot deep within; I threw my head back and let out another for good measure. Flicking my tasseled tail, I hovered, surveying the area. I sighed deeply and alighted on the roof: a lone Eyrie, silhouetted against the gibbous moon. Sitting there, feeling the winds ruffle my fur and whisper in my ears, I felt... wild, and powerful, and free. I was me, and the world was there, and there was no limit to what I could do. I took that feeling, that little fire in my belly, and fixed it in my memory. The lights of Neopia Central twinkled below me like so many stars, so close I could reach out and touch them. A hundred thousand possibilities were out there waiting for me, and I wasn't scared at all.
I was ready.