During my last week of grade school, a young Neopian sitting in the desk behind me called me a “creature.” I will never forget the sting of those words, nor the look of my peers’ faces as they registered whom she was referring to. I was the one whose once-normal looking paws began webbing together; I was the one whose backside started developing abnormally spiky scales. I was the creature.
ONE YEAR AGO
Growing up in Faerieland had never been easy. Everyone around me was beautiful, sporting elegant wings and immaculate fur. It always seemed effortless for them. Not to mention, the faeries themselves were monitoring our every moves, making sure that the Faerieland citizens upheld their esteemed reputations. I never truly fit in around there. While the majority of my schoolmates lived in or around Faerie City, my mother and I lived on the outskirts of Faerieland. My commute to school was twenty minutes longer than everyone else, and I was always getting in trouble by my teachers for being late. I never invited friends over to my house. For starters, the only real friend I had at school was Dex, but he tended to be sickly and rarely showed up. I also didn’t invite friends over because I didn’t want them to know that my mother was unemployed. She was working for the Faerieland Employment Agency for the past decade until they laid her off because they were “downsizing.” The whole situation had left my mother jobless and somewhat hopeless. The real reason I didn’t invite anyone over was because I didn’t want anyone to know that I don’t have a father. He passed away when I was one. I don't really remember much at all from the time when he was alive, and my mother refused to discuss it. I think his passing changed my mother – she has never been the same since.
While it seemed as though many things in my life had been going awry, I had one thing to look forward to. Once every Neopian reaches the age of 16, they undergo their own personal transformations. Depending on one’s home location, he or she transforms into a Neopian of the corresponding colour. Since I lived in Faerieland, I would become a Faerie Neopet. The transformation, however, does not begin immediately. It is usually a somewhat awkward process, where our bodies and features slowly but surely take on a new identity. I was one of the youngest in my grade, so the majority of my peers were already flaunting their beautiful wings and colours. It had made that year of school especially difficult. My transformation began happening during the last week of school. I was thrilled.
“Jemma, I won’t be home tonight when you get home from school. I left a bowl of soup in the fridge that you’re more than welcome to heat up.” Before I had a chance to respond, my beautiful Faerie Cybunny mother kissed my cheek before shutting the front door behind her. I assumed she was going job-hunting for the day.
I rolled my eyes. This was supposed to be one of the most exciting weeks of my life, and my mother would most likely be absent for it. This would finally be the time when I became equal to my peers. People would not look at me differently; I would be accepted.
My paws started to tingle and I threw my pencil down. I assumed it was just my paw aching from writing so much, so I grabbed my backpack and hurriedly began my commute to school.
School dragged on that day. I was feeling uncomfortable in my fur, and the tingling continued in my paws and progressed to my back. During third period, my history teacher, Ms. Moehegga was having our class complete practice questions to prepare for our finals which would take place the following Thursday. Although I was quiet during the majority of the school day, I always looked forward to participating in history class. History is a topic that comes naturally to me. I love learning about the historical events that have taken place throughout the years that Neopia has existed. At that time, I had never left Faerieland before, but Ms. Moehegga had made me interested in visiting other lands.
“Charlotte, who is currently the leader of Maraqua?” Ms. Moehegga always questioned her students without directly looking them in the eye. While it intimidated most of my schoolmates, I always thought it added an element of surprise to her somewhat stale classroom atmosphere.
“King Kelpbeard is currently the leader of Maraqua,” answered Charlotte without a moment’s pause. Charlotte had transformed into a Faerie Usul two weeks prior, and her confidence had skyrocketed. I couldn’t wait for that to happen to me. My back started itching uncontrollably. I reached back to scratch my back and felt a lump forming, which could only mean one thing: my wings were starting to develop! They might even be here by the end of today! My heart swelled with happiness.
“Very good! Does anyone know who once destroyed Maraqua? This will be an essay question on your test, so I recommend you know this answer.” All of my classmates looked down at their desks, silently hoping that Ms. Moehegga would not call on any of them. I waited for my teacher to say someone’s name, but she remained quiet, silently surveying her classroom.
I raised my paw, eager to answer. I never normally felt confident enough to answer questions, but just knowing that my transformation was beginning gave me an unusual sense of confidence.
I did not have my paw raised for more than two seconds before I started hearing whispers. The whispers became more and more gradual, and one student in the back even gasped. I looked around me. Every students’ eyes were on me, staring me up and down. One student even flew out of the room. She seemed to be sick… or was she sick with disgust?
“Creature,” I heard someone mutter in the desk behind me. My heartbeat quickened. She was referring to me.
“What is everyone - ” Ms. Moehegga stopped mid-sentence. Her look of frustration turned into a look of bewilderment. I attempted to give her a look, pleading for some type of understanding. My back began itching again, and when I went to scratch it, my hand came across something rough and scaly. What in the world…
“Everyone needs to evacuate this room. NOW!” My heartbeat quickened as Ms. Moehegga began to usher students out of the classroom. As I began making my way towards the door, my schoolmates began stepping away from me as though I was carrying some type of deadly sickness.
“Not you, Jemma. You’re staying in here until the Faerie Force gets here.” With that statement, Ms. Moehegga quickly left and slammed the door behind her. The entire situation happened in a mere five minutes, and I remember sitting alone, succumbed by fear and misunderstanding. My paws began sweating uncontrollably, and when I looked down I noticed what my peers did. My paws were webbing together. My fur was slowly turning aqua blue and my mane was dying into a fuchsia colour. I was becoming a Maraquan Cybunny. I was the creature that my peers were afraid of being around.
I heard a knock on the door, and a faerie wearing all black and holding handcuffs walked up to me.
“Ms. Jemma? You are being thrown out of Faerieland. You and your mother are considered traitors, and we will be moving you to your new home. You may never return to Faerieland.”
This life changing event all happened over a year ago. At that time, if you would have told me that I would be writing this memoir, I would have never believed you. In my mind, my world had completely crumpled. And for a period of time, it had. My mother and I had to evacuate our home in Faerieland immediately. Surprisingly, my mother did not seem shocked in the slightest. She knew it was coming. She finally confided in me that she actually lived in Maraqua prior to my father’s passing. Once he passed, my mother said that living in Maraqua only reminded her of him, and made her healing more difficult. She wanted a change in her life and spent all of my father’s hard earned Neopoints on a Faerie Paint Brush. She painted herself in secrecy, packed all of her belongings, and moved me away from all of my friends. She assumed that once I reached my transformation age I would turn Faerie since I lived in Faerieland for the majority of my life. Of course, we realized that this was not the case. One’s transformation depended on where one was born. When my mother finally opened up to me, my anger with her was almost palpable. Although I am still frustrated at her for lying, I am no longer mad. I understand why she needed to make that change in her life.
Surprisingly enough, leaving Faerieland and moving to Maraqua has actually been good for me. I finally feel as though I fit in with my peers. I don’t have to hide my blue fur and my scaly back. I am free to be who I am: a Maraquan Neopet. I never felt like I truly identified with Faerieland, and now I understand why: it was not my real home. Adapting to a lifestyle in Maraqua seemed effortless. Although I was considered the “new girl” when I started school at the beginning of this year, no one treated me differently. I was no longer living in a world where I felt judged. I could finally accept who I am, and who I always was. After sixteen years of feeling self-conscious and intimidated, I finally belonged. I was finally home.