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The Cave


by arsenal_seaman

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Night falls.

     A family of grey Korbats droops from the ceiling of a dark, damp cave.

     There is no light. No shimmer. No sparkle.

     Just plain, solid darkness.

     Moaches creek, scoaches jump. A vernax scurries across the floor, desperately looking for some kind of new ground, tired of pacing the cold, moody walls of the depressing-looking cave.

     Keila the grey Korbat looks around, her eyes already accustomed to the darkness. She sees her brothers and sisters all around her, hanging from the ceiling, engaging in little, humble Korbat talk.

     Keila wiggles her toes against the branch she is hanging from. There are at least two hundred of them; she is sure. Two hundred Korbats, of all colours.

     She is hesitant – colours. What does that mean? Her mother, queen of the cave, had once explained that the word ‘colour’ simply means ‘bright and dark shades’. Keila looks at her wings. They are of striking ‘bright shades’ while their undersides are ‘dark shades’. That – her mother had explained – that, is colour.

     And that is her life. Her life – made up of shades, some more striking than others. The brighter a shade, the more Keila is attracted. The best part of it: to look into the distance, and what one sees - an astonishing sight! A Korbat cave full of colour.

     That is all Keila’s siblings have ever seen. But that, in itself, is enough. A Korbat should be satisfied with having such enviable fortune to be able to witness such an amazing sight. That is all a Korbat can ask for.

     Keila and her siblings hang from the ceiling, shoulder-to-shoulder, wing-to-wing. They are a happy family, with a caring mother who is always there to spread out her wings to protect her children. They live in contentment, basking in life’s beauty and sunshine. Sunshine – it is always present.

     Night falls.

     A family of grey Korbats droops from the ceiling of a dark, damp cave.

     There is no light. No shimmer. No sparkle.

     Just plain, solid darkness.

     * * *

     “What is colour?”

     The cave turned quiet all of a sudden.

     “What did you say?” someone squeaked.

     “What... is colour?” Keila repeated, with a little stammer. Hundreds of eyes were now fixed on the young Korbat, and Keila had never experienced attention on such a large scale before.

     The Korbats exchanged glances; some curious, some worried, and some plain confused. Murmurs turned to a little commotion, before a loud ‘shh!’ quietened the cave.

     “You do know,” someone said, “what it means. You do.”

     “I do,” Keila nodded, “...but, I doubt.”

     “Doubt?!” someone else, from the north-east corner of the cave, exclaimed. “What’s there to doubt?!”

     “Colours!” another Korbat, with a hoarse voice continued. “Colours are shades!”

     “Dark!”

     “Bright!”

     “Anything in between!”

     “Beauty!”

     “Wonders!”

     “Are that of nature’s colours!”

     “Nature!” Keila shook her head vigorously. “What is that?”

     The cave fell silent again, after a few gasps of shock. No one knew what had come over Keila, and why she was acting so strangely all of a sudden.

     Keila released the branch (or whatever it was; she was not too sure, actually) she was clinging onto, flapped her feeble wings and flew towards the centre of the cave. “No one knows,” Keila sighed, setting foot on ground. “No one knows what ‘nature’ is. No one can define it.”

     “Nature,” someone from the west of the cave remarked, “is what we are given. We don’t change it, and we don’t question.”

     “Why?” Keila asked, innocently.

     “That is just the way it is!” the same voice snapped. He was clearly much older than most of the Korbats, from the tone of his voice, and he was certainly behaving like that. “Young lady, we do not question what we are given. We live with it.”

     “But why?!” Keila exclaimed. “Is this how it is meant to be? Can’t we influence it? Hasn’t anyone wanted to step up to change it?”

     The Korbats fell silent, exchanging gazes with one another; this time, worried ones.

     “That is the reason why,” Keila paced up and down. “That is the reason why we are stuck in this place. We accept what is around us without questioning! We do not seek for more! Is this our world? Is this our destiny?”

     Keila suddenly felt as if she had been empowered by some kind of force which nature even she was not sure of. She just continued with her impromptu speech, motivated by her innermost thoughts.

     “We talk about colour as if we know all there is to it.” The young Korbat looked around the cave, curious gazes fixed upon her. “But for all we know, there is a much more brilliant world of colour out there, waiting for us to discover!”

     A commotion broke out again. It was a controversy. The Korbats started discussing amongst one another as Keila watched on. It was an unprecedented move on her part, which no other Korbat had even thought of before.

     “Young lady,” a Darigan Korbat hanging just above Keila raised her voice above the commotion, bringing the cave back to a pin-drop silence. Keila looked up, suddenly aware of the attention she was getting again. At the corner of her eye she could see those pairs of knife-like eyes, staring at her in darting fashion.

     “Young lady,” the Darigan Korbat repeated, clearing her throat. “‘A much more brilliant world of colour out there’, I quote. Outrageous, my friend, simply outrageous!”

     The other hundred heads nodded in unison, nearly in perfect synchronisation. Keila squeezed her little fingers, a sudden nervous break hitting her. She stepped into a pool of water by accident, taking her aback by the sudden coolness which overwhelmed her.

     Keila looked down into the pool of water, watching the ripples disappear. She watched her own reflection gaze back at her, eyes blinking in perfect harmony with her very own pair. Her hair was unkempt, her fur was uncombed. And she suddenly felt that she was being made a mockery by her very own family – family! if she ever comprehended that word.

     It did not matter, because she noticed that all the other Korbats had unkempt hair and uncombed fur. She blended in, yet, the more she looked at her reflection, somehow, she did not. She could not understand why, but something drew her into that puddle of water. It was as if it was beckoning her to realise...

     That those Korbats were in the background – she was taking the lead in this portrait holding much symbolism.

     Keila was stumped, eyes fixed upon the puddle of water, back facing the unsupportive Korbats hanging all around her. They were engaging in small talk once again, this time, about the audacity of Keila, that she was even thinking of a world more perfect than the one they were currently living in.

     ‘There is a world out there, waiting for me to discover.’ Thoughts ran through Keila’s mind. ‘We are just oblivious souls trapped in a world of fake ‘colour’.’

     Keila tried to block out the stage fright she was going through. She was young and immature, and this was probably the first time the family had even heard her speak. But she was one determined young lady, stubborn in her thoughts, yet afraid to voice them out – until today.

     ‘The world out there – Mum is always out hunting!’ Keila bit her lip. ‘There must be something out there that is giving us life, there must be something out there which is more beautiful than here, there must be something out there worth discovering!’

     Keila suddenly remembered the corner their mother always turned into when leaving to hunt. She always said that she would be ‘back with food for the family’, but never to ask her ‘where she got her food from’, because the ‘food would arrive no matter what’. Her mother always flew into the horizon of the cave, turned a bend, and then disappeared. Her mother always flew into the horizon of the cave – a horizon which no one, except her mother, had ever reached.

     A cave! That was the world they were living in. Was it a name? Was it a place? Or was it just a small feature of the outer world which Keila had never explored? She was not sure, but she wanted to be. She wanted to:

     “Leave the cave,” Keila concluded.

     A loud, unison gasp filled the area, followed by more loud, disjointed ones.

     Keila was aware of the huge controversy and gigantic mess she was creating, but she did not really care anymore. For the first time in her life, she felt empowered by a personal goal, and that was to discover something which no one else ever had, although she personally was not sure what was in store for her. It did not matter.

     “You do know that Mother would not allow that,” a ghost Korbat said, monotonously.

     “Why would Mother not allow it?” Keila questioned. “It is, after all, safe.”

     “How do you know?” rebutted the ghost Korbat.

     “Because she leaves this place every day and always returns safe and sound.”

     “That is because she is our Mother!” one of Keila’s brothers exclaimed. “She knows what to do! It is a dangerous world out there, and right here is where it is safest for us.”

     “And it has been like this for as long as anyone can remember, Keila,” an elderly Korbat remarked. “Only the fittest from a generation is allowed to leave the cave to hunt for us, because it is a dark world out there.”

     Keila fell silent. She had always been an obedient granddaughter to Gramps Iterii, and she was not going to fall out with her in front of everyone else.

     “Now, go back to your spot and continue hanging, Keila,” one of her sisters advised.

     Keila sighed and did as she was told.

     It was a dark and silent night.

     But inside of Keila’s mind, it was a hurricane.

     * * *

     The young Korbat.

     She twisted and turned as she flew along, her sight blurred from such a high speed of flying. She had never flown so freely; she had never flown so much. She was leaving her past behind; she was going into her future – one of hope, one of joy, one of unexpected happiness that she could hardly imagine.

     She reached a wall - a slab of hard, solid rock. Slowly turning her head towards the left, she saw it:

     The corner.

     She took a long, good look, observing its every detail. It was a long passageway, similar to the one she had just flown through. It had a horizon, which appeared to be much further away than the one she had just reached. And at the end of it all, there was a wall – a slab of hard, solid rock.

     She flew.

     She flew.

     She flew.

     And as she flew, she noticed the colour around her.

     Bright shades.

     Bright shades.

     Brighter shades.

     She was excited, she was tense, she was like a child (she was, in fact) yearning for new toys and was about to get them. She flew faster. She flew faster.

     Faster.

     Faster.

     Her wings were tired, but she did not notice. Her anticipation in reaching the corner was too great to handle, so that all she could think of was the brilliant world she was about to enter. She had no idea how she was flying, she had no idea where she was flying, and she had no idea—

     She was blind.

     The young Korbat squinted her eyes, letting out a loud shriek. It hurt her. It hurt her badly. It was bright – no! It was not just bright, it was something which she could not describe. Engulfing her was not a bright shade, it was something which she could not even see, something which was attacking her and trying to swallow her whole. She was stunned; she was immobilised. She panicked as she desperately looked for comfort, suddenly losing the skill of flight as she darted around on her puny legs, running helter-skelter with her vulnerable eyes squeezed shut in absolute pain.

     She was as blind as a Korbat.

     She was as blind as a Korbat could be.

     This was not where she belonged. She belonged to the ‘cave’; she belonged to a perfect harmony of colour – ahh! Those bright and dark shades, perfect for the eye. A symphony of colour dancing around the family of Korbats, never failing to make them feel contented – that! That was where she belonged.

     Out in the unknown, she was blind and cold. The young Korbat shivered, whining like a baby. She limped along, regretting the rash decision she had made. If only she had listened to her brothers and sisters, and her beloved grandmother. Her mother would be so disappointed with her, but then again, that would be if she ever made it back home.

     If she ever made it back home.

     She teared, she sniffed, she cried. She sat down in defeat, hugging her legs, shrinking to the size of a gormball. And there she remained, for the next few moments, until she had grown tired of sniffing.

     She stood up and gazed at the Bluebells surrounding her. They were pretty little flowers, just like the Mordongos by their side. They were in full bloom, healthy and free, unlike her, restrained by her own selfish passions and rash decisions.

     She walked down the pavement of her foreign world. It was beautiful. The sky was clear, painted with shades of blue. The grass was in fresh shades of green while the pavement itself was in shades of brown – chocolate brown. The Korbat smiled meekly. If only she had abandoned her crazy ‘dream’ and listened to her family, she would have been as happy as her surroundings—

     Her surroundings! The Korbat blinked in sheer disbelief. Her surroundings! She could see!

     The Korbat stood rooted to the ground for a couple of moments. She could not believe it – this! This was what she had been dreaming of for so long, this was what she had always believed existed and this! This was the beauty of the outer world which she had always talked about but no one took in, and now she got to experience it for herself.

     This was the world that no other Korbat knew about, except the ‘chosen ones’ who never uttered a word about!

     The young Korbat rubbed her eyes to make sure that she that was in reality. She slowly peered over her shoulder, and alas! She realised: This was the world outside ‘the cave’. Her home was just an element of the vast universe; it was minute. It was hidden amongst the beautiful flowers of the fascinating world and the endless pastures of green.

     And then, she saw colour.

     Her mother was right. Colour was shades, but she had only known them in grayscale. In her new world, there were shades everywhere, but this time, in the form of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet and whatnot. She skipped down the pavement, basking in the morning sun. This was the true meaning of colour. No one in the cave could even imagine what the Rainbow Pool looked like – it was just in front of her.

     She pranced around. She was a mix between a graceful ballerina and a curious Wocky, inquisitively observing every tree and every plant. There were strange creatures pacing along the same grounds as her; she soon came to learn that these creatures were also known as ‘Neopets’. She was told that she, too, was a Neopet, and that ‘Korbat’ was only one of the many species of Neopets. All the Neopets she met were warm and friendly. She had never received such hospitality before in her entire life, until she visited Neopia Central for the first time.

     There were so many new things: Shops, petpets, gamerooms, a grinning tree with donations under it, and even a place where people left their poor, wailing petpets. The Korbat came to learn that that was also known as the ‘kadoatery’. Excitedly, she fed a couple of them, earning herself a sense of accomplishment when the kadoaties mewed happily.

     She met a few faeries along the way, striking up a conversation. She learned that her cave was in the Haunted Woods, where majority of the Korbats in Neopia reside. The faeries took her for a tour around Neopia, and even to the beautiful land of the faeries – Faerieland. The young Korbat watched Poogles race, took up a job at the Employment Agency for fun and even visited Queen Fyora in her tower.

     But all good things have to come to an end. By dusk, the young Korbat decided that she needed to go home. She wanted to tell her family about the wonders of the outer world and that it was not dangerous in any way, like how they had always described. She would then bring them out the next day for another day of fun and adventure, and they would then discover that she was right all along.

     She smiled – she had never felt a smile so real before – broadly. She was right.

     And she now knew the true meaning of colour.

     * * *

     Keila winced.

     Her surroundings were too dark for her to handle.

     Already accustomed to the natural light from outside, Keila could barely see what was directly in front of her.

     She was as blind as a Korbat.

     She was as blind as a Korbat could be.

     This was not where she belonged. She belonged to the outer world; she belonged to a place knowing the true meaning of colour – ahh! Those brilliant varying shades, perfect for the eye. A symphony of colour dancing around the world of Neopia, never failing to make them feel at home – that! That was where she belonged.

     Amidst her pain, she could hear them screaming:

     “You traitor!”

     “Go away!”

     “You rebellious thing!”

     “You don’t deserve to be here!”

     “What audacity!”

     “We do not know you!”

     Keila let out a scream of despair. She protested, she teared, she tried to let her voice be heard. But, no, she was nowhere close. They were angry, fuming, raging beyond control. She could not see them, but she could feel it – Korbats stomping on the ground, closing in on her and scorning her.

     Keila could not take it in. She pressed her wings hard against her ears and buried her head in them. There was too much noise. There were voices coming from her brothers. There were voices coming from her sisters. Voices from cousins. Voices from aunts. Voices from her Gramps and voices bouncing off those cold, solid walls.

     Voices in her head.

     She knew that she could no longer return. She knew that the cave was never going to accept her again. Not that she wanted to, either. She had seen enough of the world out there to want to live there forever. She wanted real colour in her life, not ‘colours’ of delusion – to imagine that a dull world was scenic, no! She was not going to lead such a life anymore. And if no one listened, it was their own loss.

     Keila ran. She ran as fast as she could.

     She ran like the wind; she ran as if she was the wind.

     Faster.

     Faster.

     Faster.

     * * *

     Night falls.

     Keila the grey Korbat looks at her surroundings.

     It is dark, damp and silent.

     She remembers how the place was bustling with life not too long ago.

     But why not now?

     Why?

     All of a sudden, she realises how similar the cave is to the outer world.

     But now, she can have neither.

     * * *

     Night falls.

     A family of grey Korbats droops from the ceiling of a dark, damp cave.

     There is no light. No shimmer. No sparkle.

     Just plain, solid darkness.

The End

 
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