The Five Stages of Grief
Xandra cycled through the stages of grief rather slowly. Perhaps it was because she was one to ruminate in her misery. Or perhaps it was that she was a statue and her cognitive thought had slowed down accordingly.
First, the denial. Surprisingly, she didn’t stay in this stage for long. Possibly because she was hit with truth of her rocky situation in every moment of every day. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t speak, and though she could see, hear, think. She didn’t know how that worked, but she supposed it was a special kind of punishment – to be able to see the world but never interact with it again, to hear voices but never retort a scathing remark.
Truthfully, Xandra would have enjoyed a minute to deny her situation, but you can never truly believe it is all a bad dream when you are forever awake.
Next, came the anger. Surely, the anger had always been there, but then it overboiled. Screaming curses, yelling threats, and spewing megalomaniacal rants; it was a mercy upon the world that Xandra could not move her mouth.
It was difficult to keep track of the time as a statue. Days and days blurred and merged, lost without a true purpose to occupy them. Xandra’s thoughts became quieter, though still malevolent. Scheme after scheme, how to get out of the stone, what would she do after she got out of the stone, how would she exact revenge! She went through about fifty or more plans a day, each one more desperate than the last.
As she realized the futility of the situation, she swore for a moment she could feel the cold winter snow dusting her body.
The resourcefulness and determination Xandra possessed in life mutated to ruminating over details as stone. Her bargaining chips were aplenty, and her mind waged a bartering war, poking holes in plans and plugging them up with possibilities and probabilities. So many uncontrolled variables, they spun in Xandra’s mind.
The cold seeped into Xandra’s thoughts. She was the one that failed. Every plan, every ideal world had been irreparably destroyed. She was supposed to save her people, lead them into a new age of prosperity. No more black and white. No more tyrants. In that sickening moment of clarity, Xandra failed to convince herself that she was any better.
Icicles formed, draping her body in glistening shards. She didn’t want to do anything anymore. She didn’t want to think. A piece of her former self would’ve been disgusted at the sentiment, and in truth, some of the disgusting self-hatred still boiled within her. But Xandra was so exhausted, she neither had the energy nor the will to feel it, to feel anything. Instead, she watched the sun melt her icicles, watched the rhythm of the dripping. She watched the icicles reform during the night, smaller, smaller, until one day, they didn’t come back. The white underneath her turned to green in a splotchy pattern like what her fur used to look like. Ping pong balls on grass. Not stone.
The day the ping pong balls disappeared was the day Fyora visited her for the first time.
"Hello Alexandra," she said. Xandra felt a stab a fury run through her immediately. How dare she call her by her full name. How dare she be standing here, speaking in her familiar melodic tones, voice filled with pity? How dare she be gleaming with the spark of magic, body lithe and fluid, when all the Xweetok could do was glare on?
She murmured a spell, and a stone bench was placed alongside Xandra. She sat down, turning slightly to face the glaring face of her pupil. There was a small, sad frown on her face. It made Xandra want to look away, but she couldn’t.
"I’m sorry for not visiting earlier. Life has been hectic, putting Faerieland back together. But we’re adjusting. I think I’m starting to like life on the ground better than the sky."
The obscenities racing through Xandra’s mind were silenced for a moment, mulling the words over. Faerieland would stay on the ground, on the same level as pets?
"You know, it’s funny. When the faeries needed help, pets came flocking from every walk of life. There’s no way we would’ve progressed as much as we have if not for their sacrifice."
She gave what Xandra was sure to be a meaningful look, but it was just annoying. Of course the pets would help. Of course, they always helped those lazy stupid tyrants who wouldn’t help Neopia because they didn’t want to chip a nail-
"Why you did what you did wasn’t lost on me," Fyora said, eyebrows knitting together. "We’ve been taking steps, to be better to Neopia and all its inhabitants."
More faerie quests? Xandra thought scathingly.
"…I know I can’t make you see what you did was wrong. But you know it yourself, deep down. You had so much potential… you still do," the faerie queen met the unblinking stare of her pupil for a split-second. She then sighed and stood up. "I believe in you Alexandra. I’ll visit soon."
The visit sparked a new loathing for the faerie queen in Xandra’s mind. How could she act like the faeries – an immortal species whose isolationism had brought Neopia suffering for thousands of years - were capable of change? It was pointless. That’s why she had to resort to such drastic measure.
You think I wanted to do it? I tried everything. Everything! Do you think I wanted it to end like this? Do you think I wanted to end up like this?
She wasn’t always this washed up statue, aching to feel the cold on her stone. She had potential. She was smart, resourceful, powerful.
I was powerful for a pet.
That statement was burned into her identity by passive aggressive remarks of faeries who believed she didn’t belong among them. Xandra knew, they were accurate in a way. She didn’t belong among them. They had made it abundantly clear, looking down on her figuratively and literally. She wanted to prove herself so badly then. But then came the whiplash, the crumbling pedestal.
The first time was the faerie dust.
She had ended up in Faerieland Academy’s infirmary after an unfortunate incident trying to kill a spyder, which resulted in setting herself and a small part of the room on fire.
"How do you even manage to burn yourself like that?" the infirmary water faerie tutted, cutting away the seared fabric and applying cerulean magic on the singed fur.
"But I got it. I got the spyder," Xandra said with a hint of pride. She immediately yelped of her clothes grazing her seared skin.
After the treatment, the water faerie swam into her pool and emerged holding a sack of glittering powder.
"You’re lucky there won’t be permanent scarring. Apply this daily and come see again in a week."
Xandra took the glinting pouch doubtfully. "This is… healing dust. Isn’t it supposed to be rare?"
"Is it? I don’t think so, it’s pretty easy to make."
The speckled Xweetok frowned. "I saw it once in Brightvale, I asked the storekeeper about it and he said it was rare, which made it so expensive." She opened the bag a sliver, and gingerly poured on a burn, which immediately turned shiny with new tissue. Her eyes gleamed. "How can I make this?"
"I don’t think you can. It’s made when faeries flap their wings, or ground up water faerie scales. It’s kind of gross honestly, but it works," the nurse replied, making a face.
It was odd, but not tyrannical.
New life began to bloom all around. Flowers that she once knew the name of weaved their way around her stone form, not that she realized until they were choking her. It took her a day to remember the name of the plant, but Xandra finally settled on it being a faerwing. The pink petals had taken on a more greenish tint than what she remembered. But then again, they had never used real dirt for nutrients before.
The Petpets emerged from their burrows after a long winter’s sleep. Faellies flitted in and out of the garden, collecting berries and flowers. Cirrus floated by in the breeze, now out of place in this place brimming with leafy life instead of clouds. Carmarillers sang in the distance, but upon entering her green prison, they became abruptly quiet. In fact, no Petpet ever dared to approach her. The echo of the Carmariller’s voice hanging in the air, Xandra felt a shame creep into her. Not even Petpets would associate with her now.
If I had just known about the wraiths… Years of ruminating over the faeries’ blind eyes and the pets’ pedestal turned into sleepless nights of planning, practicing. She trapped a Spyder in a bowl, and did the incantation. Hesitatingly opening the cover, she almost jumped with joy when she saw the stone. However, no plan ever assumed that dark monsters would emerge. Back then, she thought she would find a way to dispel them. Her thoughts turned to the people in the cave, helpless. She couldn’t save them back then. But it was less about saving them, and more about the greater good back then.
I hurt them…
Xandra had been accustomed to depression. She had felt in when she finally gave up hope that the faeries could change. But this heaviness was different, crushing. Instead of righteous fury, she felt guilt.
She always knew that the end justified the means, that it wasn’t black and white, but if the means meant destroying the pets she wanted to save…
Would I have stopped? For the pets?
Deep down, remembering old delusions of grandeur, she knew the answer was no.
It was winter now. When did that happen?
Xandra thought of her family. Did they miss her? She couldn’t convince herself of it, considering how much time she spent away from home, back when she could visit home. Had she become a bad thought that festered only during sleepless nights?
She thought of Hanso and Brynn. For a moment, she genuinely hoped that their talents hadn’t gone to waste, but thinking of it made her seethe with hate again.
She thought of Hubrid Nox. He was a villain. A villain. He deserved what he got. Now I’m no different.
She thought about the petrified Spyder. I need to go free it. It doesn’t deserve this.
She thought of the petrified faeries. They didn’t deserve this. No one deserves this.
No one except for me.
The guilt gnawed its way through her, more unbearable than the anger, more excruciating than anything she had ever experienced. Her thoughts waged a battle of wanting to make things right, to convincing herself that it was impossible. There would never be anything right about her ever again.
It was fall. The leaves were floating down. One landed over her eyes, obscuring her vision. A paw brushed across her to remove it, and she met the gaze of a wide-eyed Kacheek. A gardener. He painstakingly raked up the leaves, and chopped them into smaller pieces. He then spread the broken pieces through the soil of the withering plants. She hadn’t even noticed him before, but as she watched, she discovered he did this every fall. And in spring, he would water the faerwing. But he was constantly changing, trying out different hairstyles, different shades of plaid, adding wrinkles to his face.
One day, he didn’t show up at all. Xandra tried to convince herself that he would come back, but he never did.
Fyora came and went. Sometimes there was snow. Sometimes there was fluffy clouds. Without fail, she was condescendingly kind. She reminisced of better days, better memories, but it couldn’t erase what happened after.
There were bells ringing in the distance when Fyora interrupted them, crunching the snow. She dusted off the snow, and sat on the bench. She sat in silence for a long while, not even looking at her company. "At the Day of Giving celebration, you insisted upon trying the Neggnog every year. You would always hate it, and regret the choice, but come next year…" she chuckled, but there was no joy in it. They both watched the peaceful snowflakes fall, swirling free in the wind.
She must be cold.
Fyora gripped her staff tighter, looking down. "You said it was because you wanted to see if you liked it yet, since it’s an honoured tradition, and there had to be a reason…" Xandra could almost taste the awful drink, feel the gagging it brought on. She wanted to feel it again. Maybe now she would actually like it.
"I miss you." The admittance hung in the cold air, sharp like snow on skin. "I know, to you it must sound so… hypocritical. It probably is. How could I ever deserve to miss you, after what I’ve done to you…" She sighed, and in the dim glow of the Faerie Queen’s scepter, Xandra saw her tears. "But I do. I wish you were here with me now."
The Xweetok wished that she could find another part of her mentor to detest. But Fyora had done what she had to do to keep Neopia safe from her. For that, Xandra could not blame her.
It was now a summer evening, the sky a brilliant splash of pinkish orange as it recovered from a storm. Fyora sat at the bench, with the same melancholy gaze. "I think faeries and pets have come to a new respect for the other. There’s so much you can’t see when you’re up in the sky…" Xandra hoped with everything she had left that she was telling the truth. But even she could sense it – something had changed.
For once, Xandra didn’t think. She just watched. The world stayed the same, but constantly changed. It was slow, but steadily moving forward, or backwards, or in every direction all at once. A Carmariller landed on her shoulder, singing soft melodies. Cirrus and Faellies played tag. The trees shifted gently in the wind.
The world was brimming with colour, not black and white. It was never black and white.
And in that quiet, she felt happy.