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In Color


by 77thbigby

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      I’ve known Dagny our entire lives. She grew up in the underground Bori tunnels in Terror Mountain. From the very beginning, she was different. Artistic, intelligent and optimistic, she was the complete opposite of every other Bori. It never bothered her that she had no Bori friends, but she did have me.

      Let me explain that I am not her Petpet.

      My name is Erna and I am Dagny’s imaginary friend.

      At the beginning of our relationship, I was invisible. The other Bori did not humor Dagny and did not believe in my existence. It was difficult for me to constantly dodge out of the way so I wasn’t hit, stepped or sat on. It was even more difficult to see Dagny’s creativity stifled. The tunnel walls were so confining.

      Then, one day, our lives changed forever.

      Dagny and I left the tunnels.

      We found ourselves in a land of white with heavy grey clouds above. Snow was falling thick and fast whipped around by fierce winds. Dagny’s hazel eyes were huge in her small face as she took in this new world. I imagined my eyes to look the same. We didn’t know at the time that we had come out of one of the exits on the edge of Happy Valley.

      As we got used to our surroundings, we saw a baby Yurble and jelly Shoyru coming towards us. They looked friendly as the Yurble sat on one side of Dagny, proving to be an effective buffer against the cutting wind.

      “My name is Lofty and this is my sister, Sweet,” the Yurble made introductions.

      “My name is Dagny and this is my best friend, Erna,” Dagny said, pointing to me as I sat on her other side.

      I was fully prepared to be ignored. Lofty and Sweet, however, seemed to look right at me, as if I were a flesh and blood Neopet to them as I was to Dagny. I felt a thrill run through me. Even though I knew they could not see me, they treated me as if they could. No one had ever treated me that way and I knew I would never forget it.

      “It’s nice to meet you both. This is your first time out of the tunnels,” Lofty said with a flick of one cinnamon roll ear.

      Dagny nodded her head and smiled.

      “You’re not afraid. Most Bori are timid by nature but not you,” Sweet said.

      I felt myself swell with pride. Dagny was different in a good way. Up to that point, I had been the only one to see it.

      “Sweet and I were just going to build some snow ‘pets. Would you like to join us?” Lofty asked, rising to his feet.

      “Yeah!” Dagny hopped up eagerly.

      So, we built Neopets out of snow. To my great surprise, Dagny built me out of snow. I had never thought about it before but I learned that day that I was an Usul. Lofty and Sweet both stopped to admire my snow self. Again, I was proud that Dagny was finally getting the attention I knew she deserved.

      “She’s pretty,” Sweet said.

      “It’s hard to believe, Dagny that you’ve never worked with snow before. You’re a natural!” Lofty exclaimed.

      “Thank you both,” Dagny said, flushing with pleasure.

      A blizzard hit just then so we all went home. That was our first taste of the great wide world. Dagny and I both wanted more.

           On our second time out, Lofty and Sweet were there to greet us. They had a gift for Dagny: a sketchbook, pencil, Snowball Pencil Sharpener and an Igloo Eraser. This gift changed our lives forever (again). My best friend could finally get her imagination down on paper. Her favorite subject was me and in all sorts of situations.

      It turned out that Lofty and Sweet had traveled Neopia several times. So, they delighted Dagny and me with tales of their adventures. Each new story got a new sketch with me at the center. With Dagny’s pencil and paper I traveled to Mystery Island, Maraqua and even space! We soaked up everything that Lofty and Sweet shared with us.

      The sibling pair took us all over the mountain, teaching Dagny how to snowboard, ski, ice skate and so much more!

      Dagny also made many new friends on the mountain. They all loved the bright, cheerful child that she was. I adored her of course and was pleased that I was no longer the only one to do so. Even so, Lofty and Sweet remained the only ones to acknowledge my existence in the real world. No one else took such notice of me.

      Terror Mountain was a great place to be but Lofty and Sweet had given Dagny and me a thirst for adventure. When we found out that Tyrannia was less than an hour away, Dagny begged them to take us on a day trip. They were reluctant at first, believing Dagny too young to go. She was determined, however and Lofty spoke with Dagny’s parents. We were going to Tyrannia!

      The first thing that struck us was the heat. Then it was the color and the sounds. Tyrannia was even more foreign to us than our first entrance to Terror Mountain. As we adjusted to our surroundings, Dagny took out her sketchbook and began to draw. Lofty and Sweet didn’t leave us for a moment, never rushing Dagny on but allowing her to set the pace.

      After a lunch of Blossom Omelettes, we found the cave paintings. Dagny stopped so suddenly in the entrance that I almost bumped into her. I looked over her head and understood why. The cave walls loomed over us, fading into darkness. The light from our torches flickered, casting odd shadows on the wall.

      The paintings were simplistic but absolutely massive. The unsteady light made the colorful paintings seem as if they moved. Lofty had explained to Dagny and me that Tyrannia was looked at as a primitive place. Clearly, anyone who thought that had never seen its art. Seeing the cave paintings made a great impression on Dagny that has remained to this day.

      We returned to Terror Mountain, bolstered by our experience in Tyrannia. As Dagny grew, she longed to see more of Neopia. We loved Terror Mountain, it was our home but knowing there was more than what our lives were made us restless. Dagny relied upon her imagination and it grew. She sketched me having rather fantastic adventures.

      One of the most memorable for me is when Dagny sketched me as a Moltaran inventor with a robot assistant. Though, that was just a cover. I was actually a spy for a super-secret organization! While I enjoyed every sketch that Dagny drew of me, I felt myself become increasingly frustrated. Staying in Terror Mountain was blocking my best friend from reaching her full potential.

      Dagny became an adult and a beautiful cloud Bori. With encouragement from Lofty and Sweet, we made the move to Neopia Central. The transition was a little difficult, getting used to the temperate climate and the hustle and bustle of N.C. It helped when Dagny found a community of artists that encouraged and, at times, instructed her. My lifelong friend had finally found her purpose.

      I loved the variety to our days. We always did something different or met someone new. There was also so much color! It wasn’t muted by snow or oppressed by heat. Neopia Central was so alive.

      After six months, we had settled in well. Just one thing puzzled me. Dagny stuck adamantly to her sketchbook and pencil. We had been exposed to myriad media: paint, charcoal and sculpture. I didn’t understand why my best friend, who had always been open for new things, was unwilling to branch out now.

      So, one day, I asked Dagny.

      “Why haven’t you tried any of the new art forms that we’ve learned about?” I sat, my back against the solid trunk of a tree as I looked at Dagny.

      The cloud Bori turned her beautiful hazel eyes on me and smiled. “It’s not that there is anything wrong with painting, pottery or origami. I’m just most comfortable with my sketchbook. Besides…what if I try those other things and I’m no good at them? I’m just starting to get accepted here. You know we haven’t found anything like what we have here.”

      Horrified that I had unwittingly upset Dagny, I embraced her in a hug. I let the matter sit, determined not to bring the topic up ever again. I had always thought that the early treatment she had received in Terror Mountain had been difficult but ultimately forgettable. I truly was surprised at my best friend’s reaction. Dagny’s reticence to branch out artistically may have been left alone if it weren’t for an incident that happened three months later.

      “Don’t you just love it?”

      This exclamation of joy came from Parker, a pastel Blumaroo. He had been one of Dagny’s first friends in Neopia Central. It had been his dream for the last few years to open his own gallery. Now he was dancing around the open space of his new gallery. I had to keep dodging out of the way so he wouldn’t accidently hit me; at this point, I was used to it.

      “It is wonderful. It will look even better when you get some pieces in here,” Dagny said.

      “Yes! I’ll get our friends started right away. Including you, Dagny,” Parker said, finally stopping in front of the cloud Bori, his hands on his hips as he looked at her.

      “Me?!”

      “Yes, you!”

      “Well, I’ve never done anything like this before, Parker.”

      Here Dagny cast a glance at me, her hazel eyes on the verge of panic. Parker didn’t take any notice.

      “I know that, Dagny. I’ve seen your sketches. They’re great. So, I’d like something from you, in color,” Parker said.

      There was a long pause. Poor Dagny! I did know the dilemma she now found herself in. IF she refused, she would seem rude to a good friend. If she accepted, she risked ruining the gallery opening of a good friend with her potentially bad art.

      Dagny seemed to gather herself, taking a deep breath and swallowing hard before replying. I almost couldn’t believe my ears.

      “Yes, I’ll do something, in color, for you, Parker. For the gallery,” Dagny said.

      “Yes!” Parker bounced eagerly in his glee.

      We left shortly afterward. Dagny was unusually quiet. I didn’t try to draw her into conversation. I figured that my best friend was thinking of the challenge set before her. I knew I would do everything I could to support her.

      It turned out that I did nothing.

      Dagny locked herself in a room, coming out sporadically. She never told me what she was working on. It frustrated me, hurt me, worried me and scared me. I tried to respect her but I just couldn’t get used to her shutting me out. I felt like I was turning invisible to the only one who could see me.

      Then, of course, the fear was that Dagny was outgrowing me. What would happen to me? I didn’t share any of this with Dagny, loathe to stress her. I didn’t want to be the distraction from…whatever she was doing. It was the toughest three months of my life.

      Finally, the day arrived.

      Dagny came out of the room holding a covered canvas. What was it? Oil, charcoal, ketchup? I had no idea. I was dying of curiosity but I only followed along in silence.

      After three months with little to no contact with Dagny, I felt like a complete stranger to her. I hated that! I didn’t know what to do about it but I hoped things would get better now that this whole gallery business was almost over. It was, thankfully, a short walk from our home. Every other artist seemed to have already arrived.

      It meant that I was shoved to the back of the crowd as Dagny’s artist friends trooped after her to where her work would be placed. I couldn’t see the spot, being shorter than those around me. My height had never bothered me before but it irked me this night. I heard a collective gasp and then a pleased murmur ran through the crowd. I clenched my fists, unable to shove anyone aside so I could see.

      There was no time seeing as the gallery had just been opened to the public. Dagny passed me and I followed her. The evening seemed to slip away as ‘pets came and went. I don’t know how many came up to Dagny to praise her for her work. Work that I had yet to see!

      At last, Dagny seemed to be making her way back to her work. I walked impatiently beside her. As we got closer, I could have screamed as that particular section of wall was blocked by two huge Elephantes. We were practically standing on top of them before they stepped out of the way. Then, it was my turn to stop in my tracks and gasp.

      Dagny had drawn me but as I had never been before: in color! I almost didn’t recognize the gorgeous rainbow Usul in the soft tones of colored pencil that I could see Dagny had used. I felt tears pooling in my eyes as I beheld the portrait. I looked at the artist I had known my entire life, speechless. She, my creator, understood and smiled warmly at me.

      The moment was the most special of my life. Everything I had felt in the last three months was forgotten. That moment was broken by Parker, ebullient as always.

      “Dagny! You must tell everyone about this drawing of yours. I keep getting bombarded with questions. Plus, I’m just dying to know all about it,” Parker said.

      Dagny tensed a little as the crowd gathered around. Then, she looked at me. I smiled and nodded my head. I had always been proud of her. Now, everyone else was too.

      “This is Erna. I’ve known her my entire life. She is as real to me as all of you in this room are. Since you cannot know her as I do, I give you this drawing instead.”

      There was a moment of silence then the crowd surged around Dagny as they gave their approval of the young artist and her art. I practically glowed as I saw that Dagny had finally found where she belonged. I also felt touched that she gave me credit for getting her there. I only saw a bright future ahead. There was no mistaking that. We would finally live our lives as I knew we should.

      In color.

      The End.

 
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