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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 17th day of Eating, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 135 > Short Stories > Winds and Woes

Winds and Woes

by erokai

It was a cold, rather chilly day, third of the month of Gathering, about noon. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself, wishing I had brought my jacket, shivering slightly at the arrival of a soft breeze. A heavy gust passed through the area, spraying the rain directly into my distraught face. With a shiver, I exhaled, watching my frozen breath drift away, looking up at the clouded, dark gray sky. Trying my best to wrestle a moan down my throat, I shoved the sound of the rain pounding heavily against the earth out of my mind. My skin had a silvery shimmer to it, because of the many raindrops that clung to its surface.

     To my side, I heard the faint sound of chattering teeth. I was walking through Neopian Central; my two friends Gaby and Marlon accompanied me with our pets beside us. They where shivering just as I was, and their clothes were soaking wet, causing them to cling tightly to their bodies. They both had frowns set upon their faces, and looked as if nothing could change that.

     The atmosphere itself had a rather crestfallen aura to it, something quite against the nature of the usually good-humored Neopia. The facial features of my companions were twisted into rather pitiful looks of depression, causing me to feel a guilt that I could not quite explain.

     The source of their disappointment was quite obvious, considering the surprising turn our luck had taken in the past few hours: The day had begun surprisingly pleasant, with the three of us (and our pets) taking a small stroll in the park. The sun was shining and the clear sky held not even a single cloud. Pets and owners were skipping joyfully throughout the flower dotted hillsides, or some simply rolling around in the bright green grass. The air was a pleasantly warm breeze, and felt quite refreshing as it skimmed over your face. All was well in Neopia. It felt like it would stay this way forever.

     But this was wrong. Several hours after, things had changed. As time dwindled by, things became gloomier and gloomier. The once beautiful, fresh air was now thick and groggy. Veils of newly formed mist gave everything an eerie effect, and all seemed to disappear. Rays of sunlight were blocked out by many large, gray clouds that created a barrier between the earth and the sky. A small drizzle had formed out of nowhere, which quickly evolved to an all out downpour. The sunny morning had quickly changed to a dark afternoon, thanks to a sudden, unexpected weather change. Now Neopia did not seem so perfect.

     My mind wandered off, caught on the ghostly trees and lampposts, which stood parallel to the road's edge. The ground beneath my feet was no longer visible, shielded from view by the misty air. A rattling sound came from above as a harsh burst of wind and rain cut violently through the treetops, shaking large clumps of leaves down to the earth. Several long, damp, dark brown locks of hair fell in front of my face, and I reluctantly lifted my arms and pushed them behind my shoulders, each bare raindrop that hit my skin biting at me with cold. I gave a small sigh, as the last wisps of hope escaped me, and I felt only despair.

     Truth be told, my friends and I where all quite unhappy, but none of us could gather the courage to say so. None of us had planned for the day to turn out like this, and none of us wished to make matters worse with rude comments.

     Suddenly, I stopped staring at the ground and looked up, no longer tangled in my disappointed emotion, startled by a horrid yelp from up ahead.

     "Come on!" the voice screeched impatiently. This was with no doubt, the voice of my pet, Ektri. The young, green Eyrie scampered hastily towards me, skidding to a halt right at my feet.

     "Hurry up, Erokai! We're almost there! The Food Shop is right up ahead!" she announced to me. She spoke hurriedly and in a dissatisfied tone. Being the hyper little maniac that she was, she either took no notice to the bad weather, or simply did not care.

     Her friends _Flying_Serpent_, a glowing Lupe, and Schnawzey, a mutant buzz, paraded behind her, also encouraging us to move faster, in hope of getting their lunches soon. They were not quite as hyper as Ektri, but were not fully sane either, so they took some notice of the weather and rain, but merely dismissed it as unimportant. All three looked to me for help.

     "We'll be there in a few minutes," I replied breathlessly, tired from their constant nagging that had been going on for the past hour or so. They all whined in disapproval.

     Serpent rocked back and forth on the heels of her paws. "I'm so hungry," she wailed, speaking in a voice that would cause one to think she had been starved for years.

     "Oh, stop being so dramatic," Gaby spoke for the first time in a while, replying to her pet's complaint, her voice sounding strained and exhausted.

     "I'm hungry too," Schnawzey murmured softly, fearing that he too would be scolded. He looked hopefully at his owner.

     Marlon raised his head. "We'll be there soon," he said, giving his pet a small smile. "Don't worry."

***

For the next few minutes, silence fell over the six of us. We were all hungry, cold, and completely soaked. We trotted quietly down the dirt path, no words escaping any ones lips.

     After several minutes of moaning and whining (coming mainly from our pets), we reached our destination. A large sign rested firmly upon the building (which happened to be shaped like a large hamburger). It read: THE NEOPIAN FOOD SHOP.

     We all hurried over to the building, scrambling for the door, and felt a strange feeling of relief as we stepped inside, with our stomachs empty, hands numb, faces dripping, and drenched to the bone. A wave of warmth washed over me, and I enjoyed every moment as it soaked into my freezing skin.

     Ektri, who was down at my heels, moaned wearily and looked angrily up at me. Her beak curved downward into a frown.

     "Sorry that took so long," I said with a shrug. "Let's just get in line." She rolled her eyes and reluctantly followed behind.

     The line was short, with only about three people in front of us. As we took our places, silence blanketed us once more. Apparently, we were all in a bad mood.

     No one spoke for awhile. We stood quietly in line, and my vision turned to the people in front of us. Previously, there had been three people, though the front two had already departed, leaving one man in line.

     He was a fair height, standing his tallest at several feet, and wore a black jacket. A red Scorchio stood at his side, eagerly awaiting its food. The man tapped his foot impatiently against the ground. He had finally ordered, and left the store with a jumpy pet begging for its meal.

     Now it was our turn. Serpent, who was first in line, lugged herself over to the counter, looking as tired as us. She limped slightly, dragging her right paw.

     "May I take your order?" the cashier, a chubby yellow Chia, chimed happily, his head bobbing from side to side, and a rather stupid looking smile plastered across his face. But Serpent took no notice, and looked at him gratefully. "I'd like a NeoTaco and a raspberry Neocola please." She sounded quite defeated.

     Slowly, she handed two hundred and fifty Neopoints to the cashier, then walked over and rested her head on Gaby's leg. She petted her and stared blankly at the cash register.

     As we awaited the delivery of his food, Ektri and Schnawzey chased each other around the shop. The rest of us waited patiently in line.

     "Tag, you're it!" Ektri screeched as she tackled schnawzey, an ear to ear grin smeared across her face. She then let out a high-pitched yelp as Schnawzey recovered and began to advance on her.

     I then heard the ding of a bell, and whirled around to see where it had come from. The cashier stepped up to the counter, carrying Serpent's meal in one hand, a small bell clutched in the other. "Your food is ready," he said calmly, placing the meal down.

     "Wow, that was fast!" Serpent exclaimed as she got up from his resting spot, now full of life again, grinning with delight as she stood up and took his tray, then seated herself at a nearby table.

     I looked to the cashier. To my surprise, he did not take the next order, but instead turned to me and said; "Can you please quiet those two down a bit? They're causing quite a racket." He pointed his finger, indicating Ektri and Schnawzey.

     "Sure," I replied, looking down in embarrassment, my cheeks flooding with bright red. I slowly strode over to them.

     Ektri was speeding over to a green table, but I stood right in her path, arms folded over my chest. She saw me, but it was too late. She skidded a bit, screeched, and smacked right into me, sending her toppling to the ground. Schnawzey scurried to her side. They looked up at me, giving me a questioning look as if to say "What?"

     "C'mon you two," I said with a smile. "We're going to get thrown out if you don't settle down." They both fidgeted uncomfortably.

     "Aw, please let us play?" Ektri said in an innocent voice, curling her beak into a sob and giving me the beady-eyed look, her head cocked to the side.

     My smile changed to a frown. I scowled at her so loudly that she hid under the table, then I grabbed her neck ruff and began to drag her with me. She got the message. She squirmed free of my grip, passed Schnawzey a disappointed look, then whined and followed me to the end of the line.

***

We waited in line for what seemed like hours. One by one, the line was shortened, and one by one, a member of our group left, a pleased smile following behind. After we had all ordered, we sat at a white, circular table.

     As I ripped open the bag of sunflower seeds that rested on my plate, Ektri padded up to me, her tray clenched in her beak. She lowered her body close to the ground, in a ready, springing position, then pounced, daintily landing on the chair beside me. She released her tray, leaving behind an echoing clatter as it hit the table's surface.

     "What did you get?" I asked her, leaning over to get a closer look. She gestured at her meal with a small paw flick.

     "An exploding pizza pasty," she replied happily, a smile descending upon her small face. I frowned.

     "But Ektri," I began, pausing to sit back down in my seat. "That's not food, it's a-'' Though it was already too late. She had already begun to dig her fork into the crusty object, and stuck a small portion into her mouth. With an earsplitting BOOM the object exploded all over her, scorching every patch of her fur to a dark black. I cringed and closed my eyes as the streaks of smoke trailed away from her.

     "That was a Battledome weapon, not food," I concluded my sentence, beginning to open my eyes. When the cloud of smoke cleared, I stared at her, looking at her tear-streamed face.

     Serpent and Schnawzey burst out laughing, clutching their stomachs and rolling around on the blue tiled floor. They pointed at her and continued laughing, too busy to use speech. A small sob escaped her trembling lips (beak), and his two friends laughed so hard their eyes bulged.

     Gaby, having felt some pity for the poor Eyrie, scooped up her pet and clasped her hand over her muzzle, in an unsuccessful attempt to muffle her laughter. She struggled to get loose, his laughter never ceasing. Marlon, who was watching Gaby closely, picked up his pet and did the same. Ektri looked to them gratefully from under her glossy, tear coated eyes.

     Without another word, I scooped Ektri up and carried her into the bathroom. I sat her down on the sink counter, then pulled a paper towel from the dispenser, which was mounted firmly on the wall.

     "I-I-I th-thought that p-p-pasty was f-food," she stuttered quietly

     With a turn of the sink faucet, cold water spilled out. As I dampened the cloth, Ektri curled her body into a tight ball, making neither her front or back legs visible. She was straining to hold back tears, battling against them in order to look brave. My hand moved to her head, and I tilted it to an upright position. I began to stroke him softly with the cloth at the area around her face, and with each stroke a bit of scorched black fur turned to the natural light green.

     After several minutes, the door creaked open, and in stepped Gaby. "Need a hand?" she asked gently, looking down on the half-black-half-green Ektri, her tears beginning to come to a halt.

     "Sure," I replied. "Just do the same as I do." She followed my orders, and in no time at all, Ektri was back to her normal, pale green color.

     I crumpled the paper ball and tossed it into the garbage can. It spun around the rim a few times, then landed with a soft thud. I turned to my pet, who was trembling uncontrollably on the sink counter. Her eyes were coated by glossy shells of tears, though they no longer streamed down his face as they had earlier.

     I sighed, gave her a small hug, and finally asked, "Are you okay?" She sniffled, gave a slight nod of her head, and hugged me back. I carried her back outside, this time much more gently, and set her down on a chair, then handed her what remained of my sunflower seeds.

     "Here, you can finish this," I told her. She nodded silently, looking grateful.

     Marlon was still patiently seated at our lunch table.

     "Is she okay?" he asked me, his voice showing a hint of concern.

     "Oh yeah, she's fine, just a little startled from the explosion," I replied with a shrug. "Hey, where are Schnawzey and Serpent?"

     Marlon laughed. "They're over there."

     He pointed over to the farthest corner of the shop, where a bored looking buzz and Lupe lay sprawled lazily across the hard stone floor. "I think the cashier is about ready to throw us out, so we better leave before he gets the chance." Gaby and I nodded in agreement, then quickly gathered our pets and possessions, and hurried back out the door.

     As we emerged back into the icy cold air of the out doors, like a bullet, a shiver shot through my body, followed by another. I shook uncontrollably. "Br-r-r-r-r-r! I'm freezing already!" I gasped, starting down the hard dirt path alongside my friends, who already were several feet up ahead. "It's colder than before, we better hurry on home." Everyone agreed, including our pets, who, miraculously, had managed not to get too far ahead this time. Well, at least the rain had stopped.

     And so began our travel. As we walked on for many more minutes, the food shop, now so distant behind us, seemed like such a luxury. The walk stretched onward, and whenever it seemed it would end, there would be quite some distance left to walk, making the food shop seem more luxurious by the second. But still, we trudged along, and never ceased to maintain our not-so-steady pace.

     Every now and then someone in our group would attempt to start a conversation, but it would soon end in silence, for no one seemed to care much to continue it. And so, once again, all was quiet. It continued this way for the next few blocks, and then even longer. We soon arrived at a small fork in the road, and all of us came to a halt. The road split in three directions, each one leading to one of our homes.

     "Well," I said with a sigh, finally breaking the silence. "I guess this is where our trip meets its end."

     "Yeah," Gaby and Marlon said in unison, both reluctantly shuffling over to their own paths. "Bye!" We all paused yet again, as a feeling of reluctance settled upon us. Though our trip had not turned out perfect, it was obvious that we still had enjoyed it.

     "That was fun, thanks for coming guys. Sorry about the bad weather!" I yelled back to them. We all waved one last time, before slipping out of view and onto our own roads.

     Minutes later, I arrived at my doorstep, Ektri trotting loyally at my side. The moment I opened the door, she barged in, knocking me to the ground. I stood up and sighed, then walked in, closing it behind me and watching my pet scramble farther into our Neohome.

     I cleaned my self up a bit, then walked in to the living room. Ektri was already snuggled up on the couch, right next to the fireplace, a small blanket thrown messily over her. He clutched a mug of hot cocoa in her paws. I sat down next to her and fixed the blanket so it was a little straighter. She turned his head and gave me a small smile, then quickly muttered "Thanks."

     "No problem," I replied, then asked, "Hey, what knocked the energy out of you so quickly? Just a minute ago you were hopping all over the place like a mad Cybunny." She shrugged and placed her mug down on the couch arm.

     "I dunno. I guess I just wasn't tired then and I am tired now." Then she flopped back onto the couch.

     I smiled. "That's a good enough answer for me. So, did you have fun today?"

     She grinned broadly. "Yeah! Can we do that again?" She looked hopefully at me, waiting for an answer.

     I smiled once more. "Sure, Ektri. Whenever you want." Then I got up and left the room, leaving my pet to snooze on the couch.

     And I could tell that it was only a matter of time before our next adventure.

The End

Author's note: This story includes two of my real-life friends, Gaby and Marlon (and their pets!). Gaby's username is Squeaky_Squish, and Marlon's is Vetch_Dragonmaster. I just wanted to give them a quick thanks for letting me include them in this story.

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