It was Monday and it was hump day. Most people consider Wednesday hump day, but not him. He actually considered Wednesday dip day, because Wednesday was the day which it was easiest to get a good debate going, or at least an interested audience. But not Mondays. Everyone was too sleepy from the weekend to start a proper conversation.
“He” was a blue Draik. It was the middle of another long school day, and the room was stuffy. Mr. Whymes, a blue Hissi, was lecturing about math, and writing crazily all over the board as he excitedly explained everything.
“...and so,” Mr. Whymes was saying, “through rise over run, we know that the slope of this line is two, and we all know what two is, so we can replace ‘m’ in slope-intercept form with two and – ”
At this point, Sean, the blue Draik, raised his paw. Mr. Whymes kept right on talking.
“...that leaves us with the equation – ”
Sean coughed lightly.
“...y = 2x + b, which of course we can’t solve yet; we have too many unknowns. But, we know the values of y and x, they are given to us – ”
Sean coughed louder. Mr. Whymes sighed, setting down the chalk, and turned around.
“What is it, Sean?” he asked, exasperated.
“Well,” Sean began, “We all assume that we know what two is, but how do we know that we know? Two, after all, is much less a fact than it is an idea. What, precisely, is two? And how do we know that two is not something else?...”
After approximately 15 minutes, including a rundown of the origin of numbers, and the history of numerical patterns and Tyrannian calendars, a droopy-eyed Mr. Whymes finally cut Sean off.
“Sean, this is all very interesting, but now is not the time,” Mr. Whymes said.
“But, I – ” Sean started.
“Sean, this is math class, not debate club,” Mr. Whymes said forcefully, before picking up the chalk and continuing with his lecture.
Sean slumped in his chair. It was always this way. He always tried to help people. Sure, he realized that sometimes he got sidetracked, but he really knew more information than the teachers. He liked to talk about all these different subjects, they were so interesting! But nobody shared his enthusiasm.
* * * *
Exactly 3 hours and 22 minutes later, Sean sat bored at an outside picnic table, munching on a sandwich made of pressed peanuts and cheops plant oil. Actually, munching wasn’t quite the right term. He was more chewing in a thoughtful manner. Yes, that sounded much better.
That’s when he overheard the conversation a blue Shoyru and green Xweetok were having.
“...and so the Negg Faerie is really one of the Dark Faeries, and she has a deal with the Snowager so that she can take all the really good neggs away from him, which is one of the reasons you can never get any good ones, and those are the ones that she gives you for your Negg Tokens,” the blue Shoyru was saying.
“How scandalous!” the green Xweetok exclaimed.
“And that’s not all. The Dark Faeries will tip off one of the Water Faeries, who will go of course straight to Fyora. She’ll go and straighten everything up, of course, but by then the Negg Faerie will have gotten away! Then Fyora will have no way to tell who all was involved, and so anyone who’s traded with the Negg Faerie will be in trouble while TNT sorts out the matter!”
“Oh, no!” the Xweetok gasped, covering her mouth with her paw.
“And that’s when the Dark Faeries will strike!” the blue Shoyru said, slamming her fist on the table for emphasis, “when all the rich and well-trained pets are arrested in the mayhem! We’ll have no chance then!”
“I can’t believe TNT is letting all this happen!” the Xweetok said, shocked.
Sean sighed. Some pets would believe anything that was told to them, without asking for a shred of evidence to prove it. He got up and walked over to the Shoyru’s and Xweetok’s table.
“Now, guys,” he said, as they turned to look at him, “do you honestly believe that? The Negg Faerie has been in business for over three decades – ask anyone who’s worked in Terror Mountain for a long time. The Dark Faeries never have that kind of attention span or patience.” The blue Shoyru’s eyes narrowed and she became very defensive.
“Explain how she gets all those expensive neggs, then!” she snapped. “Explain why there has been no plot involving the Dark Faeries forever! The Dark Faeries have never been known to keep their pesky little noses out of bad business unless they were already involved in something else. Why should that change now, huh?”
Sean sighed inwardly again. It was especially hard to have a logical argument with someone who closed their ears when confronted with logic and spewed whatever facts they were told, regardless of how obviously false they were.
“Simple,” he countered. “The Negg Faerie gets all her neggs like all the shopkeepers get their supplies when they restock. Unless now you want to accuse all of them of fraud as well?”
“That’s not the point!” the Shoyru shot back. Sean barreled on like he hadn’t heard.
“Regardless of all the times that TNT is bashed on the boards, they will always uncover a scheme like that before it gets out of hand and let us deal with it. Has your confidence in their leadership really dipped so low that you think they wouldn’t have such an obvious scandal under control?” Sean replied.
The Xweetok stood up slowly, eyes flashing.
“You act like you know everything, Sean, but you don’t! You’re so annoying and rude! Now will you just butt out of our conversation and go away!” she said, glaring at Sean.
Sean could feel himself racing towards the boiling point.
“I don’t see how you guys are any better!” Sean shot back. “Spreading false rumors and talking about people behind their backs? Oh, yes, I’ve heard what you all say about me when I’m supposedly out of the room!”
The Shoyru’s eyes hardened as she stood up as well.
“I’m so sick of you; everybody is. Come on, Sheela, this place is starting to smell like know-it-alls!” she said. And with that, the two pets turned up their noses, spun around, and walked away.
Sean’s eyes glinted in the sunlight. Some pets seriously shouldn’t be allowed on boards.
* * * *
Sean’s class stood out on the grassy field behind the school, waiting impatiently as the gym teacher, Mr. Temo, took roll. Sean shifted his weight from foot to foot, gazing at the cumulous clouds overhead. He was glad the sky was overcast – overcast afternoons were, on average, 12-15 degrees cooler than clear afternoons.
And cooler afternoons were much better for playing sports.
A high-pitched whistle split the air, calling everyone’s attention. “Right then,” called Mr. Temo, a red Kyrii. “Today we’re playing soccer.” A loud cheer rose up from the students, drowning out Mr. Temo. Moments later, the piercing whistle split the air again.
“Hold it, hold it, hold it!” shouted Mr. Temo, as the students quieted. “Now, that’s much better. You two,” here he pointed at two pets, “are the team leads. Break into two teams; hurry now, come on, we haven’t got all day.
“And winged pets, you’re playing in the air today!” All around, Eyries, Hissis, Shoyrus, Unis and others beat their wings and took off. Sean obediently rose into the air as well, feeling the cool, slight northeasterly breeze on his face. Above, two floating hoops at opposite ends of the field marked their goals as plainly as the soccer goals did for the land-bound pets.
Sean narrowed his eyes, all business now. He was usually chosen last in sports, simply because of his lack of anyone who liked him. But they no longer bothered to sort out teams because they always ended up on the same side, so it really didn’t matter.
One of the best players on the other team, a Shoyru, snagged the ball quickly out of the air, and ducked between pets, heading for the goal. Sean had bean carefully watching him for the past few days or so, and knew that Shoyrus were the most aerodynamic pets around. This would take careful timing.
Quickly he rose up in the air, counting the seconds as he ascended. The Shoyru was waylaid a moment, but was quick to get around the Pteri in front of him. Now, with no pets in the way, the Shoyru made a buzzer-line for the goal.
Three, two, one, NOW! Sean turned to a steep dive, tucking his wings with careful precision to align with his body. He rocketed towards the awaiting Shoyru at almost terrifying speeds. He reached his paw for the ball, whisked his tail to the right to act like a rudder to bring him right beside the Shoyru...
But instead of smoothly snagging the ball from the Shoyru’s paws as the laws of physics should have dictated, he smacked straight into the surprised pet, sending them both careening from the sky. He landed on the field under the Shoyru, and all the air was forced from his lungs.
His eyes watered up for a moment, making it infuriatingly hard to see. But he did see one of the Shoyru’s team mates whiz down, snag the ball, and zoom off to score a point.
Sean sighed as he pushed the coughing Shoyru off his chest. This is so not my day, he thought.
* * * *
Sean walked home from school, thoroughly absorbed in his book, Inside the Mind of a Lupe. Psychology was so intriguing, and this book was really helping him in analyzing Lupes. So absorbed was he that it was rather surprising that he got all the way home without walking into anything, until he walked into the front door.
Sean looked up, surprised. He usually took much longer than this to get home. After all, he walked down three different streets, up one alley, across a street and down two more before he got home. Then he remembered he hadn’t tripped over anything or run into anyone. Satisfied, he opened up the door and stepped into his house, still reading his book.
“Mom, I’m home!” he shouted in the general direction of the kitchen. Amilee stuck her head through the door.
“Hi Sean, good day at school?” she asked, wiping her hands on a towel.
“Not really.” Sean’s voice floated back from somewhere in the living room. “I got bruised up pretty bad in gym class, and the classes were boring.”
“Well, I’ve got to go and work for a bit, and then do my shopping,” Amilee called, her voice changing to a reprimand. “You make sure to do your homework, Sean. I don’t want another F on that report card; because I know you’re capable of the work.”
Sean grumbled, grabbing a pile of papers and pencil ends off of the floor. He could be doing so much more, but because he never got good enough grades, he wasn’t allowed to move ahead in class.
It wasn’t that he didn’t understand the work; really, it was all too simple. It was so simple that he rarely bothered to do the work, and got low grades. But Amilee said she wouldn’t buy him more books if his grades dipped again, so grudgingly he grabbed his notebook and started on the useless homework.
* * * *
At the dinner table, Sean held a fiction book in his left paw, reading intently, while using his right paw to scoop food from his plate into his mouth with a fork without seeming to notice what he was eating. Across the table Amilee cut bites out of her omelette and jelly, watching Sean with a grin on her face.
Amilee sacrificed a lot for his interest in reading. They ate free foods, and she didn’t have any of the luxuries other owners had, but she was happy to spend her NP to make her Draik’s life enjoyable.
“So, Sean, how’s that book?” Amilee asked.
“It’s good,” Sean replied, “but there is this one part that doesn’t make sense. The main character, Will, eats oatmeal before suddenly realizing what he missed in his mystery. But what is the symbolism of eating oatmeal? I mean, oatmeal is good for your health, yes, but what does it especially symbolize about...”
Amilee smiled slightly. Sean always overanalyzed everything. He looked for things that weren’t there. It got him into trouble at school and with other pets, but Amilee didn’t mind, most of the time. Quietly, she set down her knife and fork.
“Sean,” she said, “‘Sometimes a box is just a box’.”
Sean paused in his rant and looked up, perplexed. He set the book in his lap as he pondered what Amilee had just said.
“‘Sometimes a box...’ What is that in reference to?” Sean asked as he mulled her words over. For once, he was presented with something that was completely out of his domain.
Amilee smiled again as she picked up a napkin and folded it, before setting it back down on the table.
“It was a saying by a psychologist, some time ago,” she replied.
“Ah, I see,” he said, then looked up at her. “Not everything that happens happens for a reason. A part of chaos theory, I suppose?” A moment later, the blue Draik had picked up his book again and was off solving a mystery before the investigator could. Amilee shook her head and went back to eating.
* * * *
“Sean, aren’t you ready yet?” Amilee called into his bedroom. Sean stuffed the book he was reading into his backpack and leapt onto his bed, burrowing hurriedly under the sheets.
“Yes, Mom,” he called back. Amilee stuck her head in his door.
“Good night, honey. Sleep tight. See you in the morning,” she said.
“You know,” Sean said, raising himself onto his elbows, “that’s not entirely true. Any number of circumstances could happen that could detain either of us...”
“Night, Sean,” Amilee called, closing the door with a soft click. Sean slowly lay back down on the bed, sighing. He looked out the window and the stars innumerable in the night sky. There was the Shield, and there the Sleeper...
Why, he thought, do we always use Altadorian constellations? Almost every land has its own unique constellations. For instance, in the Lost Desert...