Rainbow Lane: Part One
I looked out the window of my Neopia Central neohome. It was on Rainbow Lane... or at least how I had remembered it. I’m not so sure anymore.
All I saw were houses—neohomes—cube-like, and white with grayish-black roofs, that were pointed like triangular blocks that a child or young neopet would place on square blocks to imitate my world. Each had two windows, with the shutters painted red, and a door, also red. I could describe what was going on with my eyes closed. This was the blandness I endured for three months.
At the point of three months, it was supposed to be a special time for pets here... being accepted. Being accepted into the community. Until then, we were at the disposal of our parents and even the "council" of our segment of Neopia. It was hard to even call it Neopia... we were cut off from the rest of the world. Even the majority of Neopia Central. So being accepted into this prestigious practice of social acceptance on Rainbow Lane was an honor. It had never occurred to me why it all was so small.
I took my mind off the subject as I looked out the window. This would be my home. Three months have passed, and I was reminded that this was where I was merely staying. But a week before the special day, I was congratulated that I could finally call this my dwelling place. And now today was the day. All I needed to do was wait for the right time.
I had never understood.
I would never.
I will never, not now. Not that I need to, at least. I have left it all behind.
I had risen from the wicker chair that I had planted myself in a daze, and headed down the wooden staircase and into my kitchen. This was the same setup of each of the houses. My mother was standing there, brown eyes carefully set on the ummagine she was slicing, long white Kyrii hair (my entire family was composed of Kyrii, including myself) tied back with a purple band, and her pale complexion glowing, cheeks flushed, as they always seemed to be. I looked down at my own skin. Red. But that’s just how the humans labeled the color, so it stuck even among us neopets. I would call it auburn. It was my hair that was fluorescent red.
She turned around to face me. “Father will be home soon. Wash up.” She turned back to her work. That was our communication. Stale gestures that were bittersweet, emotionless. Yet I obeyed.
I washed my hands and ran a comb through my hair. I looked in the mirror, oval, rimmed with imitation gold. My long face, which many had described as a snout-like structure, except with a pressed nose and narrow eyes, was framed by my sinisterly red hair, hanging down my back like a royal red carpet, only fur-like. It was to be time soon. The ceremony of my three-monthhood would begin at the hour of twelve p.m. I was born exactly at that time. I would be painted white, supposedly the color of purity in my community. I highly doubt that now. It is any other color, the color of the clouds, (except in Faerieland, where they range from pink to light lavender) the color of the suds of bubbles rising up from the platinum sink in my kitchen, the color of my bedroom walls, the color of the sheen of platinum itself, and the base of the spiritual canvas to all other known colors. Alas, the beautiful rainbow outside our community that was intended to adorn our flesh and fur was shunned. Only young children as I was back then were permitted the colors of red, blue, green, and yellow. As if we were the unused tubes of paint hidden away from the blanche-white canvas of Rainbow Lane, named not for the colors, but by the humans, for this place had no name before they arrived in Neopia. Nobody knew, thanks to this method, what a rainbow was.
Sure, there were colors here and there, like the red doors and shutters, but barely.
This was my world.
I felt blind, afterwards.
To the world that I had missed in those three months.
Now back to my explanation of the night of the ceremony. I had waited on the sofa, green (See? Colors!) and made with a tough, strong material, for at least three quarters of an hour. My mother finished her work with the ummagine, then carefully punctured a puntec fruit and squeezed the juice into a pitcher, and washed tcheas. It seemed we were having Lost Desert food again. Typical dinner. Food was the only hint of variety here. Mother finished up her work, set the food on three plates, one for me, one for her, and one for my father, and then waited.
She glanced at her watch after a minute had passed and then glanced over at me. She bit her lip. Then she sat a foot away from me on the sofa, looking at her watch now and then. “I’m worried,” she muttered. I pricked my ears to the tone of cold anxiety in her voice. When any part of the day was off schedule, the whole neighborhood had an emotional breakdown. Then they would abandon their calm, bland sense of lifestyle for the time being and go into cahoots. And it was usually over something small. Like my father not arriving home from his job with the council at eight p.m. sharp like he normally does. Ridiculous.
“Tairah,” she muttered, attempting to relieve herself of the awkward off-set by straightening her posture, lifting up her head, and speaking clearly. “Go find your father.”
I carefully got up, as if I thought if I were to jump up in a hurry, Mother would fall to the ground and fall to pieces like a porcelain figure. My mother was tender and sweet, honestly sweet, although still melancholic and seemingly boring. I grabbed my light-grey jacket and opened the rust-red door, as that was the color from the inside, slipped out, and shut it quietly.
The sky was gray and bleak, with an occasional streak of white, stretched out clouds. Stratus clouds, usually, as were this time too. But something seemed strange tonight. It was summer, so it wasn’t quite that dark until around nine. But the colors seemed to flip on and off slowly, getting lighter and darker, and changing in value. And it was chilly. I was thankful for my woolen jacket and silently crept, as if something were to jump out of the bushes and grab my ankles, like the cruel rumors that were spread of the dwellings outside Rainbow Lane. That’s why nobody who had been raised here since they were small children, like my great-grandparents and even some before them, had dared to leave the community. That’s why we were stuck here.
I knew where my father usually worked. I had headed in the direction of the council building (similar to the houses, except bigger), and it had seemed as if I had gone over it three times over. There was no sign of my father.
If he was on the streets, there was no way he could possibly be missed. Absolutely nobody thought to roam the streets at this time of the evening, so I was alone while all the other inhabitants of all species lay tucked away in their beds, or having a late dinner together, like my family. I kept thinking, Where in Neopia is my father?!! But it wasn’t until the earth-shattering acknowledgement that I was being followed that I found out.
It started with footsteps. Like bare Kyrii feet scampering around. I turned around, expecting to see my father standing there. But instead of seeing a white Kyrii much larger than I was, I saw... something else.
It was a tall looming figure, cloaked in dark grey. It seemingly had four legs... and they all were bright purple, obnoxiously rimmed and dotted with an insane orange. So they didn’t match the cloaked figure, but this was indeed a monster to me. I opened my mouth to scream and protest, but a cloaked hand reached out and clamped over it. Then the monster broke apart.
What had seemed to be a hideous creature was just a neopet dismounting a Uni. But seeing the Uni was enough... a purple Uni? Purple had been described as a ridiculous color... but for me, this was frightening, as I had not ever seen anything like it before. The Uni’s face had been in shadow, and it reached its head out in attempt to rub its muzzle on my cold cheeks, but upon sight of my distinguished whimpering, it withdrew and whinnied.
“Oh what a poor, poor child...” it said, obviously female. I was almost surprised that she could talk. “Rio, please refrain from doing anything sudden. The last thing we want is to ruin our chances of putting an end to these cruel practices. I don’t want to wait another day out here!”
I slowly began to back away. I didn’t understand what the Uni was trying to say. Cruel practices?
The cloaked figure gently put its two strong hands on my shoulders. Then it began to speak.
“Child,” he said (presumably male... his voice was very deep.) “I apologize for startling you. But I had no other choice. You’re our last hope.” He relaxed his muscles so that they didn’t clamp me so hard. “I am Rio, by the way. And this is Clairise,” he said, motioning to the Uni, who dipped her head modestly.
“Now, I know this will sound... odd... to you, due to your upbringing on this Rainbow Lane. But I must tell you... you need to get out of here as soon as you can.”
I trembled, and he grasped me tighter, but carefully, so I might not be hurt. “B-but...” I stuttered. “Why?!! This is my home! This is where I’m supposed to be!” I began to cry. “This is where I’m supposed to be purified, and have a family... and bring up my own child! A little Kyrii girl! At least, I hope it’s a girl, but...”
“Shhh...” Clairise brought her hoof up to her muzzle. “You don’t want to wake the present Kyrii girls, do you?”
I was quiet for a few seconds, which seemed like hours. There was a rule on Rainbow Lane... there could only be one family for every species, with up to one child per family. When both parents of the child passed on, a new child of the opposite gender would be created and raised by the government until they grew to be more than three months. I wondered what would happen if there were twins or triplets, but that wasn’t something I was permitted to question.
“...I’m the only one,” I replied, sniffing.
Rio brought one hand up to my face. “There’s a reason why that is,” he said. “If there were more than one Kyrii family, then there would be a bigger group of the Kyrii species. Correct? And you know that out of fifty-four species of neopets, none can interfere with one another. Are you getting this so far?”
“And if there were more than one group of Kyrii, then there would be more people to interfere with—you know, like communicating? Making friends with them? Falling in love?—then there would be this big Kyrii clan.
“Now, Kyrii aren’t the only species this can happen to. Lutaris, Aishas, Lupes... it could happen to anyone. But the point is, is that the reason that there can only be one family per species here, is that the government of this Rainbow Lane place doesn’t want one particular species to gain too much power. That’s why there’s no particular ruler. A member from each family—usually the father—is a part of the government, to at least keep this place running.”
“Father is,” I interrupted.
“See? Now am I right about this?”
“But...” I began to panic. “Do you automatically know this stuff when you grow up? Because... I had no clue! I thought it was just my father, and I don’t think he talks about his job... and there are fifty-four species?!! I mean, I’ve heard of Unis that faerie princesses rode on in my storybooks, but... what’s an Aisha?!!”
“It’s worse than I thought!” Clairise whinnied. “This poor child! She isn’t allowed to at least know about other species, let alone talk to them? And the description she was given of a Uni was as a being that was meant to cart around lazy faeries! Now I refuse to be some pack-petpet—although you probably don’t know what that is either—although Rio is fairly lighter than he looks, but—mmph!”
“That’s enough, Clair,” Rio mumbled, with his hand clasped over her mouth. “All of this is why we need to get you out of here.”
“I don’t understand... I mean, maybe I would have figured this stuff out once I was purified...” It burned in me that the reason I was sent out of the house was to find my father so the purification process would go smoothly. And it was two hours til twelve!
“I-I’m sorry...” I blubbered, turning to run away. “But tonight’s the night I’m actually accepted here! I’m sure everything will be fine then!”
“Wait!” Rio shouted, lifting me up underneath my arms with his. It was before then that I forgot he was well around three times my size. I squirmed, kicking my legs and letting my whole body shake, until I let out a yelp. Rio held me close and clamped his hand over my mouth. “Shh... please! Calm down! Please tell me that the purification sequence isn’t happening tonight!”
I began to cry again, but silently now, as I was still and weakly nodded a yes. Clairise’s eyes were brimming with tears as well, and although Rio’s eyes were hardly visible, I could tell that they were too.
“Day seventeen in the month of relaxing...” Clairise muttered. She looked at Rio. “Y8.”
“No... it couldn’t be...” Rio stammered. “...is your father’s name Korsin?”
Korsin? Surely, I heard the name before... I had, in fact. I had overheard my mother calling him that.
“Yes... I think... That’s what Mother calls him.”
He set me down, trusting me not to run away. I didn’t. He then removed his cloak...
He bent down to my level. His tears had dried to where he could cry no more.
“Your father was my brother... sort of... I had stopped breathing when I was created, so they were intending to do away with me and created another Kyrii, your father,” he said clearly, but with a glimmer of sadness in his voice. "And then I started showing signs of life again after your father was alive. And since he was seemingly healthier, he was the one that they kept."
So that’s where the second and third children went. Wherever Rio had come from.
Clairise, however, did not attempt hold back her wailing sobs that echoed off the streets. So both Rio and I held our hands over her muzzle until we managed to calm her down.
“I was sent away,” Rio continued. “Your father was much healthier than I was. So I was left outside the gates to die. That’s when Clairise found me.”
The Uni lifted her head above Tairah’s proudly, bringing her muzzle up to Rio’s chin. “And you were just a little baby then. Smaller than you, my dear. By the way,” she said, leaning down to my face, “your name must be Tairah. The next name of the line.”
“So.” Rio chuckled. “That’s my mysterious past. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised on account of that one-family rule.” He tucked a lock of long, blood-red hair behind his auburn ear. I looked into his brown eyes. I automatically saw a bit of my father in him, except Rio was more muscular in a weird sort of way. And more feral-looking. Not to mention red. Deep down inside, I was developing a warm, fuzzy feeling... not the kind when you rest your furry neck down on your mother’s, or stroke a petpet, but it comes from the inside... I soon discovered that this was love. Something I received in a cold, harsh, stale manner back at home.
“Now, listen...” Rio began once more. “We need to get down to business...”
Fuzzy feeling’s gone. Great, more business.
“As you know, there’s a whole other world out there. A huge world. I came out here to welcome the people of Rainbow Lane to the likes of the world around the gates when I found you, supposedly our ticket to putting an end to this. Alas, this is much more serious than I thought... all Kyrii are born at around midnight here, so we have...” he glanced at a tall building that acted as some sort of gigantic grandfather clock. “An hour and forty-five minutes. Not counting the aftermath when the word gets around. It’s a long walk, but we’ll probably be out of here in time.”
“What?” I asked. “What’s so serious about the purification process, anyway? I’m just getting painted, that’s all. I still don’t get it.”
Rio sighed. “I guess it shouldn’t be much of a shock to me, still. Your little knowledge.”
Ouch. My ears perked up.
“Sorry for the blow...” Rio continued. “But I guess it’s time to tell you of the purification process’s contents, other than the paint job;
“You were right about having to be painted white. That’s one aspect, since colours like red are considered unsuitable for skin the council. But that’s just a stupid rule made by the leaders of Rainbow Lane. The part that they don’t tell you about is deep-down purification.”
I blinked absent-mindedly.
“To the point that it’s basically brain surgery. They use much of the leftover faerie magic from when this place was free to take away your childish memories.”
I blinked again, but this time harder, as if to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Yet, I opened my eyes to find Rio’s solemn expression looking back at me, still.
“And that’s not all. It takes your emotions, and even part of your soul. Then they train what’s left of your mind into the coaxing of the routine of all the families here. It trains you to eat, sleep, and even breathe the same, and to work on your own time without question.”
So it wasn’t that they were scared to leave... it was that they couldn’t. I guess that would throw off the circulation of the community. So it was all a pattern.
“That way, nobody would leave.”
My question answered.
“And they set it to where your children will never be the same color as you. That way, there’s nothing that can jog your memory. Your father was green, you know.”
I was all of a sudden angry that somebody was manipulating my father and mother—two people whom I actually, truly loved, whether they knew how to love me back or not—into going berserk when things couldn’t be the same. “But what’s the point?!!” I growled. “Who would do such a thing? Why would anybody want a bunch of people separated by species in one place, going about daily lives in Unison without skipping a beat? Who?!!”
Rio crossed his arms and almost smirked. “Now you’re getting the question behind it all; who would do such a thing? I’ll tell you... there is no "council". There’s one person behind it all... even I don’t know who. But they’re using some sort of ancient dark faerie magic...”
“So there is no council?” I interrupted, my other question answered about my father’s invisible job. “And one person is just toying around with us? Using magic from the evil dark faeries from my story books?”
“Now you’re getting the whole picture, Tairah.” Rio smiled slightly. “But as for your father’s ‘invisible job’... he really just does grunt work. Like operating the create-a-pet machines—a device derived from human technology. And it is dark faerie magic keeping your parents and the others under the spell. But modern faeries—even the faerie queen, Fyora—can’t perform such a feat. There are still spells, though, used for hypnotizing. And not just used by dark faeries, either.”
Clairise piped up, sick of being silent for so long. “So we are at a conclusion that whoever is doing this has a sick mind. Or has unraveled intentions.”
Rio and I nodded at the same time.
“Exactly!” we both said.
To be continued...