Curse Of The Kookith
Asha spent her night dreaming about all the things that had transpired over the last few months. Visions of her mother being stressed out, her parents fighting, the exhaustion in her father's eyes. She had been watching them work themselves to the bone to put her into the private school so that she could thrive, so she could get into a good school, get a good job, and earn enough to support them. The stress was weighing so heavily on her. Her passion was writing, it was her escape from all this stress, but it came easily to her so she should be putting her focus on her math and science work. The voice of her mother played constantly through her dreams: "You won't make enough money as a writer to take care of us!" Why was the burden on me, Asha thought. She often wondered why her mother didn't work harder in school to get a good job, she knew her mother was capable of working hard, she saw it with her own eyes, but she never went to university. Why did all of it have to fall on Asha's shoulders, the burden of the family, when she was just a teenager. Asha felt it wasn't fair but also felt as though there was nothing she could do about it, especially after seeing all that her parents had sacrificed for her. She knew she would have to sacrifice some things herself, and that might mean becoming a doctor instead of a writer.
She was jolted awake by her alarm clock, in a panic and a daze from a rough night of dreaming and a sudden start to her day. She quickly leapt up out of bed and got dressed, packed up her bag with all her notebooks and calculator, and headed down the hall where she could smell breakfast cooking. The fragrant scent of vanilla being steeped in warm coconut milk and rice, with a dash of cinnamon filled the house. This was one of her favourite breakfasts, warm and hearty for a chilly morning, and she knew her mother was preparing it just to boost Asha's morale before the big math test. The big day was here and the weight of her family's future was resting on her shoulders.
"Go ahead darling, eat up," Asha's mother said while she scooped a big spoonful of rice pudding into Asha's bowl. The smell was wafting right up into Asha's nose, it was divine. "You'll need the energy for your brain! You are going to ace this exam today, no problem."
"We're proud of you sweetie," Asha's father said, reinforcing her parents' love for her. "No matter what, we're proud of you."
"We will be even more proud of you when the results come back showing you got top scores," added Karen, confidently.
Asha just smiled half-heartedly at them and raised a spoonful of sweet, coconutty rice pudding to her mouth. She had almost no appetite, the anxiety was getting to her, but she knew she needed to eat something. She didn't want to be lethargic during her exam. She finished off her bowl and threw her backpack over her shoulder and headed to the door.
"You've got this, don't stress too much," her father said smiling.
"Stress just enough to do well!!"
Asha waved goodbye to her parents and set off on her walk to school. Along the way she tried to clear her brain of all the thoughts of the future, trying to focus solely on the math problems she had been working on for the past few weeks. She ran all the algorithms through her head, thought over the test problems, and tried to commit to memory all of the different equations she would have to rely on to solve the problems of the test. This shouldn't be hard, she thought, everything in math has a rule and if I follow it I will succeed.
It was a chilly day on Roo Island, something that was rare in this otherwise sunny paradise. As Asha navigated through the back alleyways of her dingey neighbourhood, she was walking against whipping winds. The area she lived in was tucked away from all the main streets, the big houses, all of the fancy restaurants and tourist shops. Her neighbourhood was full of apartment buildings all crammed tightly together, alleyways that they considered roads, barely big enough for a car to fit down. The infrastructure was crumbling and it wasn't uncommon to find bricks from the buildings lying in the road. Every day was a reminder to her and her family that they needed to get out of here and live a better life on the other side of Roo Island, the place where the sun was always shining and the people were never frowning. All of her neighbours had a grey appearance to them, years of exhaustion and misery from working long hours for little pay, struggling just to get by. No one here smiled, and no one was surprised by that either. It's a place in Roo Island no one really knows about, or no one cares to acknowledge. In other Neopian lands people acknowledge the struggle of the working class, and even celebrate it, like in Tyrannia or Kiko Lake, they are full of humble people who work hard and don't have to suffer for it. Roo Island tries to hold itself to a certain level of prestige though, and so they sweep the struggling under the rug, the people like Asha and her family. Many tourists come and buy from the shops, take boat tours or walking tours, and think that the guides and shopkeeps are living lavish lives just beyond the hotels and the main strips. And some of them are, some of them are able to make a good income, or own a lot of property that allows them to do so. But Asha's father could never afford his own boat for the tours, so he has to rent from one of the wealthy people which seriously cuts into his profits, and her mother works in a warehouse underneath a Neomillionaire, the money doesn't trickle down to her. The people in this neighbourhood are caught in an endless cycle until someone like Asha can break it.
She tried to shrug off the pressure of the whole situation, knowing that it was near impossible to do so. She continued her walk and eventually emerged into the nicer neighbourhoods, where kids were out riding bikes carefree and tourists were taking photos of all the beautiful streets. People posing with ice cream cones in front of bright pink walls and carrying their umbrellas to the beach to soak up the sun and waves all day. It was so carefree out here, out of the alleys where she lived. This is the area that her school was in, the prestigious school that her parents paid so much for her to go to. She wondered how all her classmates' families could not only afford the school but to live in such nice parts of the island. Maybe they are all doctors, she thought. She had an internal problem every time she walked through neighbourhoods like this, on one hand, she loved it because it was so open and free, green grass and beautiful flowers everywhere, and the sun was always shining. On the other hand, however, it was a stark contrast to her home and a reminder of what she was missing out on.
She arrived at her school, a large victorian style building with white and gold everywhere. It was the epitome of expense, lavishness, and a little bit gaudy. Asha had often wondered if they spent less on making the school LOOK so expensive that they could offer this good education to a lot more people. They have an incredible staff, the teachers are amazing, but did they have to spend so much making it look so elite? A lot of kids in her neighbourhood could go to this school and get a great education, but it seems like this school cares more about being exclusive and expensive than it does about educating Neopians. That's a battle for another day though, today Asha had to tackle her math exam. She soldiered up to the giant doors and entered, walking past all the lockers and kids getting ready for the day and right to her classroom, she pushed the door open and went to her seat. After a few minutes, the tests were handed out, each student picked up their pencils and began writing.
Asha looked at the first question and her heart stopped. She was immediately overtaken with anxiety and the pressure all came crashing down on her, and she could barely even recognize the words and numbers in front of her. Her skin started feeling hot and then nausea came over her. She was frantically reading and re-reading questions, trying to comprehend anything, but none of it was making sense to her. It was like it was all written in some foreign language, something only Eliv Thade could concoct, and she started losing it. Everything started to go dark, and Asha passed out at her desk...
To be continued…