Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 113,598,787 Issue: 227 | 10th day of Awakening, Y8
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by rainbow_daydreamer


For Jen-with my best wishes

You will find Neopians on any street corner who can tell you that Faeries govern the elements of Neopia. Some will even suggest that the more powerful ones, like Illusen, have pets who help them. Message-carriers. Potion-mixers.

      But if you mention sunbeam pets... they will shake their heads, turn away, ask you what you mean. There are very few in Neopia who know of the sunbeam pets. And most of those who know would rather keep the secret.

     It was a cold day, in the last weeks of a sharp winter. The humans and pets in Neopia Central were huddled indoors, relishing the warmth and light of their cosy firesides. Nobody was out on the backstreets of the town. Nobody saw the place where, on an unnoticed doorstep, with no-one to watch over it... an egg lay.

      Inside the shell, an unborn Neopet stirred, feeling the cold from outside penetrate through the warmth of the egg. Outside, the first raindrops of a winter shower fell, staining the eggshell a darker shade as they splashed on the pavements.

      There had been no-one there in the backstreet. But out of nowhere, delicate, slender hands lifted the egg from the ground.

      Perfect, murmured a sweet-sounding voice, almost as soft as the murmur of the rain. Let's get you out of the wet, little one. We don't like it, do we?

      A few moments later, there was only the rain-scattered alleyway. Though nobody would miss it, the egg was gone.

     Somewhere far above even the coloured clouds of Faerieland, a Light Faerie was channelling sunbeams.

      If anyone had been watching, they might have thought they heard laughter as the golden light flowed past her fingertips.

      Dozens of creatures were playing in the perfect light, only visible by the glowing highlights on their fur and scales. Sparkling. Shining. Had they been on the ground, they might have been called yellow pets, or golden. Here, there was no such distinction. Every one of them seemed to be made of the light, shimmering as they leapt from one cloudbank to another like newborn pets having fun in freshly-fallen snowdrifts.

      The Faerie clapped her hands and they were still for a moment, listening.

      I have brought you a new brother, she told them. Be sure to make him welcome.

      Placing the egg in one of the rays of sunlight, she watched protectively as it began to show a crack. Then another.

      He had never had a name, and never known his species. What colour he was, it was impossible to tell amidst the dazzling light that the Faerie had imparted to him. He was a sunbeam pet.

      His life was an endless game, a whirl of laughter and delight. Together with his friends, he would leap from cloud to cloud in the blue skies.

      The Light Faerie who had cared for him was always somewhere close at hand, watching over the sunbeam pets. What are we doing? he asked once, when he was very young.

      We are helping to light up the world, was her reply.

      She let them go where they pleased, anywhere across the beautiful sky. There was only one rule.

      "You mustn't look down below the clouds," she had told him, sternly. "No good will come of it. Go where you like, but remember not to look down."

      So he continued to play, bouncing with all four paws on the surface of a cloud, jumping in bright circles at terrifying speeds. The other sunbeam pets laughed to see him, but never unkindly.

     It was an Eyrie, one day, that frightened him as it came speeding up through the clouds. It was green, a colour that no sunbeam pet had ever been. Hurtling through his sunbeam, it spiralled helplessly off its course until the ever-watchful Faerie caught it in a beam of light magic. Gently but firmly, she lifted it back down to wherever its home might have been.

      Where did it go? asked the sunbeam pet, silently as they all spoke.

      Nowhere for you to worry about, replied his Faerie in a strange sharp tone. Don't try to follow.

      What's down there? he persisted, glowing with burning light as he questioned her impatiently.

      Nothing good.

     The Eyrie occupied his thoughts for a long time. Where had it gone? Could there be another cloudworld below this one, where the sunlight was emerald green like that strange pet's wings? Could there be something he had never seen?

      He decided he had to find out.

     It was when the Light Faerie was busy, occupied with his newest little sister-- just hatched from her egg-- that he made his move. Ducking his head and going into one of the aerial acrobatics that he loved, he dodged between the clouds and looked out into the world below.

      A baby Uni was sitting by her window in Neopia Central, gazing at the sky. "Oh!" she breathed, staring at the vision outside. "James, James, come and see the pet on the cwoud!"

      "A pet on a cloud?" asked her brother, craning his neck round the bedroom door. "What do you mean?"

      "He's gowden aww over," lisped the Uni, unable to tear her eyes away. She clutched her Buzz plushie to her heart as if she were trying to grasp the creature in the sunlight. "Oh, James, isn't he fabuwous?"

      But the sunbeam pet had darted behind the wisp of cloud, out of sight. The Peophin simply nodded and stroked his sister's head. "Fabulous. I'm sure he was, Tammy, but he's gone now."

     Fabulous. The word was a new one to the sunbeam pet, and as he returned-- a little guiltily-- to his friends, he let the unfamiliar syllables flow through his mind. Fabulous!

      Where have you been all day? The others were gently teasing. He didn't answer, but they could almost sense something was wrong. The games that had made him laugh in delight all his life were failing to please him today. He had something else on his mind.

      All day long, sitting apart from his friends, he remembered the pet at the window. Her sweet expression. The way she'd spoken. The room full of toys, and books, and the bed with its soft-coloured blankets. The house with its painted roof and brick walls. Her smile at him.

      Perhaps that's why she said not to look down, he reflected, in case someone sees us there. Maybe we aren't meant to be seen. That's got to be it.

      In that case... I might have another look, he thought secretively. As long as I stay out of sight, it's sure to be all right.

     It was summer. The world was a symphony of green and blue and gold, warm and bright.

      The sunbeam pet looked down into a back garden, where three figures were standing. One was a Uni, taller than the one he'd seen before, and coloured with pretty stars. Another was almost like a Faerie in her appearance, but wingless and with black hair. Although the sunbeam pet didn't know it, she was a creature known as a human being to those who lived in Neopia. The third was small, a ball of yellow fluff with two large feet.

      "Happy Jubjub Day, Sam!" exclaimed the human and the Uni in perfect unison. The Neopet blushed, pink among its yellow fur, and offered them each a slice of thick, sweet-iced cake from a china plate.

      The sunbeam pet, watching, felt as if he was soaking up the joy and love from the little scene. He had never been so happy.

      I must come back, he told himself like a promise, and returned to his cloudbound home.

     Where have you been?

      It was the Light Faerie who asked, her eyes on him as though she could see through to the truth.

      Exploring, he tried. I didn't know you needed me.

      You were trying to look down. Weren't you? Her tone was stern and cold.

      Yes, I was. He didn't tell her that he had succeeded.

      You-- must-- never-- look-- down. He felt the Light Faerie's fury hit him like a blast, like a cold gust of wind. I found you. I care for you. Don't you think I know best? The ones down there are loveless. You are a sunbeam pet. Do-- not-- look-- down.

     He heard her. How could he not hear her? In his heart, he knew she was right. As a Faerie, she knew best.

      But he had to look down. Otherwise, what was there? Only the vast distances among the clouds. Only gold on white on blue, as far as the eye could see.

      Lifting himself into a sunray, he moved awkwardly out of her sight, wondering if she could tell he was going to betray her trust again.

     This time, it was a different part of Neopia that met his eyes. At first, he wondered if he was still surrounded by clouds, as pure whiteness dazzled his eyes. In a snowy wasteland high above the cities and towns he'd seen before, a fight was going on.

      This was different from the play-scuffles he'd had with his friends on the cloudplains. It seemed more intent, more serious. A pet ran to a human's arms as he watched. "Sorry, Shelle. I'm sick again. I'm gonna have to pull out..."

      All the same, there was an air of excitement about it. Flashing blades of silver metal clashed against shields, spells and snowballs filled the air as they flew from one side to another. More pets than he'd ever seen were involved, some enjoying themselves, some deadly serious, but all intent on helping their side to win.

      He wished he could help them. It seemed like an adventure. But the ground was still miles and miles below him, though his sight was sharp and clear. He could never go down there.

     The world below is not loveless. How he longed to tell his Faerie that. The love he'd seen between the inhabitants of Neopia was stronger than everything he'd experienced among the clouds. It was a wonderful, magical life that they led.

      He should be getting back to her now. But he decided, on the spur of the moment, that one last look wouldn't hurt. Perhaps he would see how the fight had ended.

      Finding a random ray of sunshine, he followed its path through the clouds. What treat would be in store for him down there?

     The human boy sat miserably on the bed, surrounded by packed suitcases. The pictures had been taken from the wall and the curtains stripped from the windows.

      As he stared at the opposite wall, a blue Kacheek entered, holding a purse in her paw. "I got two K for the petpet, Joe. What should I do with it?"

      "Give it to the Money Tree," was the only response. The boy picked up his cases and gently coaxed the Kacheek out of the room, locking the door behind him on the empty flat.

      The two of them, human and pet, descended the stairs and walked out into the streets of Neopia Central, the Kacheek smiling bravely. Throwing the purse full of Neopoints at the foot of an enormous, benevolently smiling tree, they headed down one of the avenues, clutching tightly to one another.

      Eventually, they arrived outside a large, imposing building. The Kacheek tugged on her owner's shirt. "Joe, if... if you give me the money, I'll take care of the forms. You don't have to come in. Just go on home."

      The boy kicked furiously out at an abandoned tin can. "Stupid parents saying I have to go back and live in their world! Stupid!"

      His pet took a few Neopoints from his unresisting hand, her paw shaking. "Give my love to them, Joe."

      Then she was running away from him, as if she was trying to escape their past together, into the building as he walked away.

      The sunbeam pet stared in horror, not understanding. Craning his neck to see, he peered through the dusty windows of the red-brick building.

      The Kacheek had gone. He saw her disappearing around the corner, holding the paw of a uniformed Aisha. Meanwhile, at the counter stood a fierce-eyed girl with a beautifully-dressed Usul at her side, and a young green Gelert held in her grip.

      "Well, I warned you, didn't I?" she yelled. "I warned you what would happen if you bit my darling Sherri again! And now it's too late!"

      The Gelert kicked, howled, whimpered. Throwing down a filled-out form and a few jangling coins, his owner hurled him forcefully into the grasp of a coat-wearing Techo.

      As he was lifted in yellow-scaled arms, the Gelert finally overcame his hysterics enough to manage two simple words.

      "Please... No!"

      But the girl turned her back and led the beautiful Usul away.

     From the cloudbank where he had climbed, the sunbeam pet stared down at what was happening below him. He couldn't believe that such things could be taking place in his perfect world.

      Something happened, then, that the pet had never experienced in his life. A drop of water spilt from his bright eyes, then another. He was crying.

      The teardrops fell away from him, tumbling, caught by the breeze. Somewhere far below, they were falling to the ground. And still he did not stop crying.

     The wingbeats of the Light Faerie were behind him. He expected fury, but instead he heard two words, spoken aloud-- a rare thing among the cloudplains. "Oh, no," she breathed in shock, and took off like a mounting hurricane. And still he did not stop crying.

      Other sunbeam pets were there, staring at the strange occurrence, not quite daring to come near. And still he kept crying, unable to stop as his tears were swept away by the winds.

      His teardrops were weighting down the sunbeam on which he stood, tearing the delicate light. Forgetting his sadness for a moment as panic mounted, his paws scrabbled for a safer hold. There was none to be had. With terror in his eyes, he fell.

     The community hall in Neopia Central was never normally as busy as this. Families of Neopians sat clustered together in the huge building, their voices echoing against the high ceiling, suitcases at their feet holding their most important belongings. Young pets clawed impatiently at the windowpanes, tired of their confinement in the strongly-built, weather-proof hall. Others shared sweets and books, or played card games in corners.

      A brown-haired girl sighed as she read the previous day's copy of the Neopian Daily News, sitting on a checkered blanket with her two pets by her side. One, a blue Kougra with waterdrops staining his fur, jumped up to rest his paws on her shoulders and read the headline.

      Neopia experiences worst rainstorm in 1,000 years

      Scientists Baffled by Semi-Natural Phenomenon

     Outside in the street, unnoticed by the sheltering population, a yellow Wocky lay huddled beneath the glow of a streetlight, looking up at the charcoal grey sky. He whimpered softly, tears brimming in his eyes, as the rain poured down...

The End

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