The Sun and the Moon
There are a lot of things he’d always assumed would disappear from his life once…well, once his life itself disappeared. Or, really, what his life was before because he’s still here even after it’s been long gone. The time that they very cautiously only refer to as ‘before’ and nothing else.
His entire family all have ‘before’s too, like some sort of misfit tradition, but his is entirely different in nature than his brothers’. They’ve always been the way that they are, odd and spooky and subject to unwarranted assumptions, both pets’ and owners’ alike.
What they know now is what they’ve always known and being that they’ve always been them, even in the before, they knew inherently what did and didn’t ring true in those assumptions.
Not him. In his before, it was him making the assumptions.
The him before and the him now, they don’t feel like the same pet. It feels like an eternity ago even though it’s hardly been that long at all. Sometimes the him before feels like someone else he knows too well from the recollection of a third party. It’s as if he’s a ghost of the him before but to be fair, being a literal ghost probably does that to a guy.
To be honest, he couldn’t tell you how much time has passed since then. Since he blinked and was suddenly someone else entirely. In a lot of ways, he’s stopped feeling the need to count. The present becomes less and less an unwanted disruption to the time before as life…death(?) goes on.
Still, he feels horrible when he thinks about all the things he use to ‘know’. They weren’t the obvious facts he thought them to be. He’d even go as far to say that they were willful ignorance, although that phrasing sounds more like his brother than himself.
The him from before might have felt like someone else, but it was still him. He’d made the assumptions. He’d accepted judgement from others as truth. He’d been the one who had to learn and unlearn from old mistakes.
It’s still him; learning, growing, making mistakes.
When he’d first came to, at the beginning of ‘now’ and the end of ‘before’, he’d felt for the very first time the sting of real loneliness. That’s the thing they don’t tell you about ghosts while they’re too busy reciting scary stories: you don’t start off seen.
He’d always been social. He’d always been lively. He’d always been the opposite of everything a stereotypical Haunted Woods resident was assumed to be. Isolation had been worse than death. The fear and assumption would even have been preferable to being invisible.
That was the first of many assumption of what was to become of himself. That forever would consist of nothing. That he would be nothing, forever.
Then, one day, Jax had seen him. Noticed him before he’d ever learned how to make anyone else do so in a way that is purely Jax. If anyone was going to see the invisible, it’d be his brother. Mutants are special like that though, he thinks. They’re keenly aware and nothing is too unusual enough to be dismissed.
Jax had brought him to the Woods and something about that had felt like banishment. The final nail in the coffin of his life before. No longer was he a part of the greater picture, of Neopia. Just another shadow in the Woods. Another scary story.
Looking back, it’s a terrible thought about a place that has been nothing less than home but it’s what he had known.
From there, he had decided that there was no going back to the before. His only choice was to bend and break himself until he filled the mold of what a ghost was supposed to be. Life became weighed down with more assumptions.
He’d stalked and spooked and embraced each day with a dreary reluctance. He was the epitome of ghost. And he was miserable.
“Are you acting?” Jax had asked one day, soft and curious and out of nowhere. Jax has this way of voicing his keen observations that makes him sound as if he knows much more than he does. Knowing it now, Ray finds it obnoxious but back then before the familiarity had blossomed, it has been a source of wonder.
“What?” He’d asked, confused by the question. Jax is never forth coming with context and embarrassingly, he’s never been quite as clever, as quick on the uptake as the other inhabitants of the woods.
Something about that had been so heartbreakingly funny.
“Strange is how I’m supposed to act, isn’t it?” he’d said, frustration coloring his voice. Try as he might, the act just wasn’t coming as naturally to him as it did to others. The rest of the inhabitants of his new home made it seem so easy. As if it were part of them.
He was a ghost now so why was being ghostly still such a foreign concept.
His brother had been silent for a moment, tail twitching erratically in thought as he brought his mug of tea, chipped and weird and ugly, to his mouth. It paused at his lips and Ray had watched him, uneasy at the contemplation. It had felt like such a failure to be an oddity in the land of the odd.
“It’s not you,” his brother had decided on finally, taking an irritatingly dignified sip.
“What isn’t me?” he'd demanded, like maybe Jax held all the answers. Back then, it had certainly seemed like he held the answer to everything. Ray figures that just comes with age and experience.
Calmly placing the mug back down on the table, his brother had cocked his head ever so slightly at the agitated tone. Ray hadn’t been one for speaking up like he is now, an annoying source of contradiction for his brother, comfortable in his home. Comfortable with his family.
“Strange. You’re the sun,” Jax had answered, as if that was suppose to make any sense at all. To Jax, it probably had. Even now, Ray isn’t sure if it’s the type of sentiment he can wrap his head around. His look must have voiced his confusion well because Jax had continued. “I’m the moon. You’re the sun. We’re different even though we occupy the same space. But you’ve stopped shining obnoxiously bright. You’re no moon, Odrayn.”
“What is that even suppose to mean!?”
Jax had sighed, shooting him a look that has become very familiar to Ray. Disbelief at his stupidity saturated heavily with affection. The kind of look that makes his chest heavy with returned affection.
“No matter what you do, what you like, what you think, you’re already how a ghost should be. When you do something, it’s what a ghost does. What they like. What they think. You’re a ghost; that’s the only requirement.”
He remembers the moment clearly, as if it had just happened. He’d stared, mouth open while his brother had gone back to his tea like nothing happened. As if it were simple. It hadn’t felt simple. Back then, everything had felt needlessly complicated.
“We’re not ‘weird’ or whatever term you’ve been thinking because of what we are. We’re weird because of who we are and some of the what just happens to fall in line sometimes,” Jax had added, almost as an afterthought.
“Alright, so what’s my what?” he’d asked, hoping to make sense of it.
“A ghost, of course. Or something spooky, if you want to be broad.” Jax had certainly sounded like he thought broad was beyond Ray’s thought process.
“And my who?”
“Annoying,” his brother had answered, infuriating smirk on his face while Ray fluttered offended around him. It’s fine though. He thinks he knows what his who is, the same as it was in the before, if not a little more aware of his faults. The before and the now, they’re the same. He realizes that now and he’s sure Jax had known as much.
Usually, he hates his brother’s know-it-all attitude. Sometimes, it’s everything he needs. There are things about himself that he’s sure his brother feels the same way about. They compliment each other like that.
They’re the sun and the moon.