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Beyond the Hole


by surging

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Flora was a quiet little Symol who lived in a quiet hole in a quiet part of Meridell. There were many Symols who lived deep within the hole, in an expansive city of its own. Many years ago on the eighth day of Hunting, many Symols decided to move to the newly discovered Meridell. This was long before Flora was born. She did not know much about the outside, or why her family ended up here, but she was content. It was quiet, it was peaceful, it was easy.

     Every Symol in the hole had a duty for the colony; some built and maintained shelter, some gathered food from above, some babysat the young ones, and some like Flora were chefs. For many, including Flora, it was an important duty to be part of the greater good of their colony. There was no stress like the outside world. She heard stories from the gatherers and she had no interest in going above. It seemed loud, busy, and stressful.

     One morning Flora was gathering up the supplies to start the cooking at her station. Today she was in charge of desserts. Desserts were not her strongest task, but it did feel good to rotate on occasion. Plus, desserts were a more solitary event and she liked to keep to herself. Flora carefully lined up everything so she could see what she was working with.

     “Hmm…” she thought to herself. “I do not have enough sugar for this.”

     She looked around the kitchen. She glanced at the other chefs.

     “Sugar?” She asked no one in particular.

     No one responded.

     Not unusual. Flora mostly kept to herself, they probably didn’t even know she was talking to them. She was too embarrassed to try again. She decided to catch someone on their way out to see if they could grab some more instead.

     Her cousin Monty was a gatherer. She felt comfortable talking to him.

     Flora made her way over to Monty’s cave, carefully avoiding eye contact so she wouldn’t get sucked into a conversation.

     “Hello?”

     “Is that my little cousin?”

     “Erm. Yes. Hi Monty.”

     “What brings you by? I actually need to get moving, walk with me.”

     They were complete opposites. He was always on the go, a real social Carmariller.

     “Okay but please don’t stop to talk you know how anxious it makes me.”

     “Yeah yeah fine whatever. Listen – Hey Jim! How are the kids? … Good to hear. – what can I help you with, cuz?”

     “I need more –”

     “Mary! Love the new paint job. Disco is SO you.”

     “– sugar. We’re running low, I can’t finish my job without more.”

     “Oh no problem I can get you more. Hey listen, here’s my exit, gotta go up. Be back soon. You can count on me.”

     Monty leapt up and out of the hole with a bunch of other Symols. Quickly and loudly until it was suddenly still. Watching all of the hustle and bustle made Flora nervous. She didn’t like that kind of speed, or chatter, or physical activity. It was all too much for her.

     She stood around for a few minutes and listened to the stillness of the colony. She practised her breathing and she was calm again.

     She heard some chattering above her at the entry point of the hole. She couldn’t quite make out most of it.

     “... too large … you go … scared … small … fine … alright!!!!! … no …”

     Some dirt fell on her head. She brushed it off. She looked up. Who was coming down?

     Suddenly a Faellie fell down from above. Their eyes were closed. They opened one, then the other.

     “Whoa, cool!” she said. She looked at Flora. “What are you giving me?”

     “What?” Flora asked.

     “I was told that if I was brave and came down here, I may get lucky and run into a Symol. You ARE a Symol aren’t you?”

     Flora felt her heart beat faster. This was too much perception, especially from a stranger.

     “Aren’t you?” The Faellie looked annoyed.

     “Well. Yes.”

     “If I am lucky and I run into a Symol, the Symol is supposed to have a gift for me. An offering, a token, a welcoming present, a souvenir, whatever. I was promised. I was brave. Where is my item?”

     “I’m just a chef… I don’t know…”

     The Faellie began to hum a vaguely familiar tune, like she was counting down to something with it.

     “Whatever. This was no fun. I’m leaving.”

     And with that the Faellie jumped up and out and was gone.

     Flora looked up at the hole.

     “Surface dwellers are strange,” she thought to herself.

     “CANNONBALL!”

     A harris suddenly appeared at Flora’s feet from above.

     “Oh! Hi! I’m Henry!”

     “H-h-hi…”

     “I’ve seen a few Symols before but not you. Are you new? It’s so cool down here, I love your setup. I’m a little jealous to be honest, but I do love to visit as often as I am able. Oh! A dirt shield!” Henry reached over just behind Flora and picked up a dirt shield. “I haven’t gotten this yet before. That’s so cool. Thank you!” Henry jumped up and out and was gone.

     Flora’s heart was in her throat. She couldn’t breathe. She was so scared. What was happening? She thought the colony was safe but others are treating it like some sort of treasure-hunting expedition? Did the others know? They had to, right? That Faellie said Symols gave gifts or something. Henry indicated he had gotten things before. What is happening to her safe place?

     A Bython slowly slithered down the hole. They blinked at Flora with all four eyes. Flora shuddered. The Bython slowly slithered back up. Did they not want a treasure? Flora was so confused.

     Flora looked up at the hole. The light was so bright. She squinted. Suddenly she found herself being launched up through the hole and was in what she assumed was Meridell. She started screaming. She never had left the colony before. This was truly terrifying.

     Everyone around stopped and looked at her.

     She got too nervous to keep screaming. She stood there shaking. Slowly everyone else started to turn away and go about their business, leaving Flora standing above the hole. She was too scared to move, but knew all she had to do was go back in the hole to safety.

     She practiced her breathing.

     She found her strength.

     And then her eyes began adjusting to the light.

     Meridell was beautiful. So many different Neopets and Petpets, walking around in harmony. Laughing together, playing together, exploring the sites of the colourful happy land. There were Neopets chasing cheese down a hill, Turdle racing, a sign for Illusen herself.

     And, best of all, no one was actually looking at her. Once the initial crowd dissipated, she was allowed her quiet anonymity just like in the colony. She sat down outside the hole, taking it in. A Krawk and his Meepit waddled up to her.

     “Aren’t you supposed to be down there?” The Meepit had a puzzled look on her face.

     “That’s not my job.”

     The Krawk and Meepit looked at each other. The Krawk shrugged. The Meepit jumped up and tumbled down the hole.

     “So. How do you like it down there?”

     “It’s nice. Quiet. I have my job, helping out the colony. Keep to myself.”

      “I see.”

     Neither Flora nor the Krawk appeared to like small talk. Flora tried not to let her anxiety get the better of her. They sat in silence for a few minutes while various chirps and other sounds were coming from the hole.

     The Meepit popped back out. “That was fun! No treasure today but it was fun! Hope we can come back tomorrow!”

     And off they went.

     Flora’s timer started beeping from her apron pocket.

     “Oh dear. I need to start cooking.”

     She slid back down the hole and quietly made her way back to the kitchen.

     “Where have you been, chef?” Maria and Greg looked irritated.

     “Sugar. We’re low on sugar. I asked my cousin to get more so I could finish.”

     “You haven’t even started. Get to work.”

     “Yes, chef.”

     Flora got to work. Monty came through as promised. Just in time too, after two batches she was out of sugar and she needed to do 3 more. All the while she could hear in the distance the sounds of visitors.

     She finally felt less afraid of the unknown and less alone in the known for the first time in her life. She couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

     The End.

 
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