I n his single bedroom apartment, Mason, a green Hissi, stared at his computer screen with blank eyes and a blank mind. Monomers, polymers, Neomers, achiral, epoxides, esters, hydration, elimination reactions. Every word his eyes glanced over ran together, creating a gross and complex mess of words inside his head. These terms had been familiar with him days and weeks ago, but now they meant nothing. The anxiety he was experiencing about his Organic Neopian Chemistry I final was consuming his mind.
“…” He sat in silence, scrolling through the practice problems. After attempting to work out a problem and getting it repeatedly wrong, he would look at the correct answer, only to think, “Oh, that’s right.” He would believe that he understood how that reaction, process, or whatever worked. Obviously he had the ability to simply glance at a problem and understand the deeper functions and mechanics of such a complex problem. No need to study anymore, right? On to the next problem.
A mind and memory of a miracle. A true genius that would move on from college and have a sudden breakthrough that would change the world. After receiving millions of Neopoints, gifts, gratitude, and all the likes, he would retire to his home and live comfortably. His parents would live a life of luxury, as well, with stipends that would ensure their quality of life. Everything would be picturesque and perfect.
But that’s not exactly how that story will go. Mason can’t simply glance at a problem and understand the deeper functions and mechanics. He says to himself, “Oh, that’s right,” and completely forgets what he just saw. No deeper understanding of any kind. He moves on to a similar problem, only to continue struggling and repeating the process. Now that is quite a problem.
Spinning away from the screen in his computer chair, he bites on his pencil and fixes his gaze on an empty part of the wall. His blank mind fills up with thoughts about his parents.
Initially, they didn’t believe that pursuing a degree in Chemistry would be the best for him. Two years ago, a few months before he left for college in Neopia Central, his parents confronted him during dinner. Mason talked about his major, mentioning some of the classes he would have to take. His mother picked at her food, rolling it back and forth with a fork, while his father checked his Neomail on his laptop.
“Why not… you know, something better?” his mother, a pink Hissi, interrupted Mason and asked, “like your dad?”
His father, a spotted Hissi, looked up from his laptop and, with a chuckle, said “Yeah, son, why not be an adventurer like me?”
His father was a well-known explorer that made regular trips throughout Neopia. He does most of his work in the Lost Desert, but from time to time he enjoys traveling to Mystery Island. All around the house are pictures of wind-whipped dunes and ancient artifacts that he fortunately stumbled upon underneath the sand. Many people asked why a Hissi would want to spend most of their time in such a hot place, what with their blood temperature changing with heat and cold. “Yeah right, as if something like that would bother me,” would always be his answer, as he quickly excused himself with an odd smile. There are rumors that he spends most of him time inside tents with fans on hand, but these rumors have not been proved.
“It’s not that adventuring is boring, it’s just th-“ Mason began, but he was again cut off by his mother.
“Boring!? Dad is always coming back with cool stories and awesome stuff that he finds on his trips,” his mom blurted out, “Don’t you remember that story he told us about that boulder he triggered in some tomb? And how he had to slither out so quick he was stumbling left and right and…” she continued on. She started to forget some of the story, and with a concerned look on her face, turned away from the table and mumbled to herself, “Oh, was that what happened?”
As she continued to think, Mason’s dad rolled his eyes and closed his laptop. He looked at his son with a worried expression.
“Listen, boy. I know that you did great in school all throughout the years, but really. You have to think a little bit about this,” he paused and took a bite of his food. He thought about the next question he would ask as he chewed. “How many Hissis do you know of that are actual scientists?”
Mason didn’t have to think for long. “There are probably, like, three in all of Neopia. Do you realize how big of a deal it would be if I actually graduated and became a chemist? I would be doing all kinds of awesome stuff.”
“You think researching about boring chemicals and reactions in a lab is fun?” his father asked with a smirk.
“No, dad, that’s not all I would be doing. Just like you, I would be going out into the field, researching and examining the natural world. Understanding how things work on a molecular level, stuff like that.” Mason’s eyes lit up as he talked about his future. He had been dreaming about this for years. Growing up he had always been fascinated with nature and how things actually worked. During recess in grade school, the other Hissis would be romping around the playground while he sat and read books underneath a tree. His teachers were concerned for him, notifying his parents of his behavior during recess. Mother and father would sigh and say that he has always been like that; nothing can change him.
“Molecular what?” his dad said, chunks of food falling out of his mouth. His father sat his fork down and crossed his arms, his face contorting. He sighed, “Whatever, Mason. You can do whatever you want, but honestly I think Mom and I know what’s best for you. I know that you’re going to pass all of your classes, but if you start to slack in even one,” he held up one finger, “we are taking you out. And when I mean slack, I mean even getting a B. I know you’ve been a straight A student, so that’s obviously what I expect. Got it?”
“Of course, Dad. I’m going to be just fine, don’t worry,” Mason said. He picked up his plate, put it in the sink, and slithered upstairs to his room. His father watched Mason go up the stairs with a solemn look on his face. His mother turned around, exclaiming, “Oh, that’s right!” and stared at Mason’s seat.
“Um, where did he go?” she asked.
“Upstairs. Him and I talked,” his father said. He turned his head away from the staircase and toward his wife, with a smile on his face.
“Is he alright?” she asked somewhat insincerely. She knew that when Mason and his father talked, Mason’s feelings were going to get hurt. Besides being smart, he was sensitive.
“Yeah, he’s fine. Don’t worry about him,” he said, slowly turning his head away. “He’s good.”
Mason turned away from the wall and picked up his Chemistry binder. He began to flip through the pages of notes he took in class. Words and drawings littered the front and back of every page, with extra side notes and reactions scribbled in the margins. He scrutinized every part of the page with any writing on it, hoping that he would somehow absorb the information.
He continuously looked up and away from the notes, distracted by his own thoughts. Frustrated, he threw the notebook onto his bed. He laid his head on his desk and looked at his alarm clock. “2:41 AM” the clock said. His Organic Neopian Chemistry I final was at 8:00 AM, only a few hours away. All day he had been trying his hardest to study, but he couldn’t help his wandering thoughts.
Currently, he had a C in the class. Every exam he took in the class produced a worse grade. Others in the class were struggling; there’s a reason the class is considered one of the harder undergraduate chemistry classes. However, Mason believed that he could cruise through the class with diligent studying.
His freshman semester was full of success. When entering and settling into a seat in his classes, he was met with hundreds of odd and perplexed gazes. Many of the Neopets in his college (or any college for that matter) were not used to seeing, of all things, a Hissi roaming the campus. Mason never batted an eye as he was used to being seen as an oddity. But as time moved on, many Neopets became more comfortable in his presence. He began to make a great deal of acquaintances, even friends, of all things.
As Mason passed through his freshman year and entered into his sophomore year, he was somewhat excited to take Organic Neopian Chemistry I. He had heard talk that the class was difficult. He believed, though, that he would be the outlier. He possessed the confidence that he could pull an A out of the class with minimal studying, and that his college career would progress forward without hindrance.
At 2:41 AM, Mason regretted taking the class. Something about the topic was not clicking with him. Making a perfect grade on this final was essential to continuing on. But all he could think about was how disappointed his parents would be with him, while also sporting an “I told you so” kind of attitude. He was not ready for the immense embarrassment he was going to experience. Hopelessness had consumed him. Turning off all electronics in his room, Mason lifted the covers of his bed, closed his eyes, and let the darkness take over.
He awoke, only to find himself in a small white room. Immediately he began to panic, frantically looking around for a way out. He slid his hands across the walls and floor, looking for some kind of indentation or switch. Nothing could be found, and he slumped against a wall. Slowly sliding down the wall, his panic turned into resignation. He closed his eyes and thought.
“Hey, Mason,” a voice said.
Mason opened his eyes again and shifted them back and forth, examining his new prison. No one was in there with him. The lids of his eyes drooped again, but the voice started once again.
“Hey, Mason,” it repeated.
“What? Who the heck is talking to me?” he asked, the annoyance in his voice palpable. He feared that he wouldn’t do well on his final, but now it seemed he wouldn’t take it all. He’d also be stuck in an empty room, to boot.
“Yourself,” the voice replied back.
Mason raised his forehead, creases appearing. He wasn’t even confused, just annoyed. “Oh, okay. Obviously, it’s me talking to myself. I guess my anxiety about this test has just made me go crazy. I’m imagining all of this, right?” he asked, stretching out his body and closing his eyes again.
“Yes, this is your dream. I am your consciousness, and I have something I need to tell you.”
“Oh, really now? Well, what is it? Go on, then,” Mason said, emitting small chuckles after finishing his sentence.
“Stop worrying about this test,” his consciousness said.
Mason’s eyes shot open and he sprang up, his face turning red and his teeth clenching. Some Hissi aggression that he never displayed was popping up. “Don’t worry about this test!? Oh, I really am going insane,” he moaned. His head began to experience a dull pain, and he clasped both of his hands on top of his head.
“Don’t worry about what will happen. Do your best and accept your fate.”
“Yeah, my fate of getting pulled out of college by my parents. Do I really even need to tell you this? I mean, you are… me.”
“I mean to keep this encounter short. So let me say one more thing.”
“What? I’m so excited to hear this,” Mason said sarcastically. He was ready to leave; he was more than annoyed at this point.
“You did your best, and no one can change that. Believe in yourself, and you will be fine.”
“Absolutely cliché,” Mason began to say, but his sentence was interrupted by an annoying ringing.
Opening his eyes, Mason slowly turned onto his side and glanced at his alarm clock. It was 7:00 AM. He closed his eyes again and sank further beneath his covers, dreading the test that was to take place in an hour. He pondered over his odd dream, and decided to forget about it before taking the test. But for some reason he couldn’t shake it out of his head. For thirty minutes he thought about his dream and debated whether or not he should go back to sleep. Eventually he forced himself out of bed and began his quick morning routine. He left his apartment and made his way to the chemistry building.
Mason arrived to the classroom and sat down in a desk. He looked around the room and noticed the hundreds of other students in the same class. Many Neopets he had not seen before, and others he had seen countless times. His anxiety was mounting; he could feel himself begin to shake and his stomach become upset as he waited for the teacher’s assistants to pass out the test.
The hands on the clock at the front of the classroom struck eight, and the tests were passed out. The tests worked their way down the rows of students, each student taking one test and passing the stack on to the rest. When the test arrived to Mason’s test, he dropped the test on his desk and stared at the cover page. Like before, his mind slowly began to blank. He panicked; he had already forgotten how to write his own name.
Some time had passed, and Mason stood outside the chemistry building, eyes staring off into the distance. He examined a Warf walking along the sidewalk, running up to students and wagging its tail. Once it tired of a particular student, the Warf would run on to the next one, again wagging its tail and begging for treats. Mason smiled to himself and was entertained by the simplicity of its life. Mason wished he could be carefree.
He couldn’t remember what happened during the test. Some kind of brain fog was eclipsing the past hour and a half he spent in the building. However, Mason didn’t care. His anxiety had been lifted and he felt at peace. Breaking his gaze, he began to walk toward his apartment, the Warf following behind him.
When the semester was over, Mason returned home. He was nervous to tell his parents about his classes, as he didn’t know how they would respond. After greetings and warm hugs were exchanged, Mason announced to his parents that he wanted to speak with them in the kitchen. Mother, father, and son all took their seats at the dinner table, and Mason inhaled.
“I got a B in Organic Neopian Chemistry, guys,” Mason said to his parents. His face was stern, but his mouth was quivering with slight fear and anticipation. There was a long silence, his parents showing no discernible type of expression on their face. Mason instantly regretted his decision to tell them, but he knew they would find out eventually. He believed that it may have been better for them to find out later when he wasn’t there. He closed his eyes and lowered his head.
“That’s great, Mason. We’re both really proud of you. You know, I talk about you all the time with my colleagues,” his father said. Mason’s eyes shot open and his mouth gaped. This was not the response he was expecting.
“You guys are proud of me? What the heck changed your minds all of a sudden?” Mason blurted out. He stood up and slammed his hands on the table. The emotions he was experiencing were complex; confusion, happiness, and anger all mixed together. His parents looked at each other for a bit, and with a smile they both turned toward him.
“Well, son. We realized it was wrong of us to shoot down your dreams. We did it without ever giving a second thought as to how you felt,” his father said, slightly embarrassed. He cleared his throat, “We know that once you graduate, you’re going to do great things for Neopia. Honestly much more than I really ever have.” His father laughed awkwardly, and Mason sat back down, more relaxed.
“We thought about it while you were away, and we realized we were in the wrong,” his mother said, nodding her head. “I think we need more Hissi scientists anyway. I mean, to prove that we’re not just wild Neopets with bad tempers, right?”
Mason’s lips curled into a smile and he began to laugh. His ridiculous dream a few days ago made sense. He realized that he could be what he wanted to be; no one else can dictate his life for him. His choices are to be made by the one person that really matters: himself.
“Alright, Mason, so tell us a little about what happened in that class, huh?” his father asked. His mother agreed, and Mason’s parents began to lean in toward him. Mason paused, but then he began.
“Oh, well… You see, there’s this element called Neopium…”