Experimenting with Identity
In a secret corner of Neopia, fish-like mysteries swirled in the waters, and even the mountains were translucent. Nothing was real in that place.
Somewhere deep within the rock, surrounded by whispering mists, a dark fortress stood and leered. From time to time a subdued cackle was heard, accompanied by hums and whirrs.
This was where identities were forged, worn, and discarded.
In the merry warmth of Neopia Central, Yinna the yellow Wocky bounded excitedly towards her Neohome.
“Look what I found!” she cried, bursting through the door.
Yoyote looked up from her reading. “What?”
“Another piece of the secret laboratory map!” Yinna exclaimed, waving it triumphantly. “Only 5 more pieces to go!”
“Why do you want to find the secret laboratory, Yinna?” asked Blippita, swooping down from where she was practicing her Battledome flying techniques. “I’ve heard it’s dangerous. You could be turned into anything.”
“That’s exactly why I want to find it,” said Yinna. “I don’t mind being a Wocky, but I’d like to try being another Neopet. Won’t it be cool to fly like you!” She looked at the Shoyru’s wings enviously. “Or to swim like a Flotsam! It won’t hurt to gain some strength, either.”
Blippita thought about this. “But I’m used to having a yellow Wocky for a sister,” she said unhappily.
“Too bad.” Yinna shrugged.
“You’re mean.” Blippita turned and soared away.
“You’re young,” Yinna murmured, half to herself. “You don’t understand what it’s like to start wondering about who you are.” She sighed, went over to where she kept her treasure box, and started taking out the other map pieces.
Yoyote watched her eldest Neopet sit absorbed upon the incomplete map, smoothing and rearranging the pieces. An hour went by, and Yinna was still sitting there, staring at the holes in the map.
“Yinna,” said Yoyote at last, “if you really want to go to the laboratory, I could buy the other five map pieces for you.”
“Really?!” the Wocky leapt up as though struck by lightning.
“Yes,” Yoyote answered gently. “I support your search for your identity. But know that the lab ray is not a fun toy. There could be consequences, and you must be willing to accept that.”
Yinna nodded solemnly. “I understand.”
“I must be willing to accept that, too,” Yoyote added to herself, as an afterthought.
And so it happened that a loving owner and her Neopet ventured into the place of shifting realness. Misty fingers tugged at their outlines as they journeyed carefully along the dim path. They were two blurry shapes in a wild, shadow-filled landscape.
Yinna clung on to Yoyote’s arm. “Are we there yet?” she asked. “Are we there yet?” Her tiny voice echoed in the emptiness of the grey mountains.
“Don’t worry,” Yoyote reassured her. “We’re almost there. Would you like another hot meat wrap?”
Yinna munched on it silently, letting the soft, rich warmness fill her troubled soul.
The lab scientist opened the door. An owner and her yellow Wocky stood out in the dampness, looking at him with solid, brilliant eyes.
“Ahhh,” said the spiky golden Scorchio, straightening his lab coat, “so you have found your way to my lab, have you?”
“Yes,” said Yoyote. “My pet here wants to try your lab ray.”
“I see.” The Scorchio flung back his electric white hair. “I’m working on a new experiment, a ray that will give any pet super powers and great strength. Of course it’s not finished yet, but if you are willing to take the risk, then I may let you have a go.” His dark eyebrows jiggled challengingly above his churning fiery eyes.
“This is your last chance to back out,” Yoyote told her pet quietly.
Grey light stabbed through the cracked blue window, giving Yinna’s face a stark, earnest quality. Her eyes were clear and her voice calm as she said, “I will give it a try.”
“Very well.” The scientist’s horny wings flapped gently as he marched into the lab. “Come this way.”
The corridor was long and dreary. An occasional spider scuttled along the ceiling, its body gleaming like a black star. The small procession passed underneath, quickly, soundlessly.
And then they were in the room.
Yinna stared in fear and awe at the massive machinery that hummed in the centre of the floor. Domes of electricity fizzed and sparked. Gears grinded and levers creaked. Throughout the dark complexity, wires snaked.
The lab scientist turned with a jagged grin to face the yellow Wocky. “Impressive, huh?” he cackled as he lifted Yinna into a chair.
Iron buckles sprang into being around the Neopet’s body.
“I’m scared!” cried Yinna, as the great ray gun swung around slowly.
Yoyote stood helplessly on the other side of the room. “This is your quest!” she called out to her pet. “Be brave!”
The ray gun was aimed directly at Yinna now... she squirmed...
Yinna opened her eyes, dazed. She felt... different. She tried moving her paw— and a fin stirred instead.
“I’m a Kiko!” she exclaimed, in wonder and bewilderment. “I’m a white Kiko!”
The lab scientist shook his head, muttering to himself as he freed the new Jetsam from her chair. “I knew there was something not quite right,” he sighed.
Yoyote rushed forward to embrace her pet. “I was so afraid for you,” she whispered.
“I’m a Kiko,” Yinna repeated, and the word tasted foreign and delicious in her mouth. A cool thrill trickled through her as she realized the enormity of her change. “I’m a white Kiko now! I’ll be able to swim home!”
“You’re going home?” The golden Scorchio looked around sadly. “Be sure to come back tomorrow, will you? I swear I’ll fix this machine.”
“You’ve already fixed me,” said Yinna happily.
Yoyote wasn’t quite sure about that, but Yinna was content, and that was what mattered. For now, she waved farewell to the lab scientist and set out with her new Neopet to find the way home.
Yinna delved into the murky waters. All the way home, she swam through the foggy depths and chased the small marine creatures. She bobbed up on the waves and sent up spectacular bursts of spray. She was having the time of her life.
“Yinna!” Yoyote called, running alongside on the bank. “Be careful down there!”
But Yinna was too delighted to take notice. She splashed and dived and somersaulted and whizzed... the joy of being waterborne was too great to describe.
Eventually she pulled herself out of the water, dripping wet and exhausted. The world spun like a woozy top. She felt Yoyote’s hands scoop her up gently and carry her the rest of the way.
It wasn’t long, however, that Yinna grew tired of her new form and yearned for change again. And so the secret laboratory became a frequent place of visit. Every time Yoyote and Yinna came back from the lab, Blippita would fly anxiously to the window to welcome her new sister. Yinna would enter the Neohome proudly, showing off her new abilities.
As time went on, the people around Yinna gradually grew tolerant of her adventures. Nobody minded when she suddenly turned into a green Jetsam. No matter what shape she was in, she was still Yinna, with the same stubbornness, same bossiness, and same eagerness.
Yinna may take a long time to settle on a fixed shape. The search for one’s true identity is never short nor easy. But what’s important is the support of friends and family, the courage of taking up new challenges, and above all the joy of discovery that comes with each venture.
I wish all the identity-seekers out there the very best of luck. Thank you for reading my story.