From a Rock to a Hard Place: Part One
“Vivily! Where are you?” I called from the entrance of the den. My friend was nowhere in sight. “Visom, do you think you could help me find Vivily?” The green Kougra who was curled up in our den showed no sign of hearing me, busy doing something or other in dreamland. I kept calling and looking at the treetops, knowing that the faerie Hissi was probably out for a morning fly. All of a sudden a familiar face poked her head out from the canopy, grinning widely.
“Here I am! Guess what I have behind my back in three guesses,” she giggled.
“Somebody,” I hoped. “It took two years for Visom to turn up, and it’s been another two years.”
“You’ve been keeping track? Didn’t you lose count of the days?”
“I didn’t keep track of the days. I kept track of the seasons. So far it’s been four winters, four springs, four summers and four falls.”
Vivily gave an understanding nod. “Well, I’m afraid you’re wrong, but who knows when somebody will turn up? You still have two guesses left. I’ll give you a hint, you can eat it.”
“A piece of fruit?”
“Nuts?” Once the word was out she held out two armloads of strange, almost glowing blue chestnuts I’d never seen before, then swooped down to land.
“Can I have some?” I said.
“If I gave a nut to every Yurble in the world, then I wouldn’t have any anymore,” she chimed, knowing that I would find a way to get some from her in one way or another.
“What if there were only one other Yurble in the world you could share them with? Because there is only one other Yurble you could share them with.”
That was true. Four entire years ago, we had woken up to see that our own forest world had disappeared, including their memories of our lives. We remembered what we learned about how things work and what they do, but we didn’t remember anybody in our lives (including our parents), anywhere we went or anything that happened to us.
Everybody we knew had vanished in a mysterious way, except each other. There was nobody else I’d rather be stuck with than Vivily, though. We had always stayed true to each other despite our places on the food chain. Our home became this new forest; we discovered something else here every day, our every wish came true the day after we wished it; it had to involve some enchantment.
If we tried to get out of it, I just ran beneath Vivily as she picked our directions from above the canopy. We just traveled, and traveled; it never ended. Then we would get tired and stop to rest. When we awoke from our naps, we would be in our usual den.
Two years later, Visom turned up from... nowhere. He claimed to have just woken up here. Whenever we discussed whether the forest was real or not, he denied everything. He sometimes even attacked us. I shuddered at the thought of his teeth.
“Some higher force wants us to have this new, better place!” he always claimed. “Why should we try to escape it?”
That statement was as ridiculous as an ice cream shop in the Lost Desert.
“Okay, you win; I never really liked nuts anyway, so you and Visom can have all of them.” Vivily paused. “Speaking of Visom, is he up yet?”
“He probably is. Let’s go.” We started walking back, with her in front (flying, as always) and me in back. I picked up any nuts that she dropped. After probably halfway back to what we called the “central forest” (because that’s where our den was), I popped a question we’d asked each other many times.
“Do you think this forest is real, Vivily?”
“It probably isn’t; it seems too... perfect. It’s as if somebody wants us to stay here. Either that, or just not be let out.” I gave an understanding nod, despite the fact she probably couldn’t see me from up above.
“I have a question for you too, Redd.”
Her face paled. It was a long time before she asked it. “Are you real?”
My heart dropped. I never knew Vivily would ask that question. I felt like crying out my heart and soul. I’d known her just about my entire life. It took me a while to answer her.
“If I were false, why would I doubt this forest’s realness? Visom has to be a dummy and he’s set on trying to convince us that this is real.”
“I knew you’d come up with that witty answer.”
As I flew above the red Yurble, I started to think. While I didn’t have nearly as much brain power as he did, I could still convince him about almost anything, being the elder.
“Should we try to get Visom to help us find a way out of here? I’ve had enough of this place,” I said, making eye contact with Redd.
“We’ll be stuck here all our lives if we don’t, but if we do, we couldn’t possibly convince him...” he said. Then his ears perked up. “I thought up a plan! I get on your back; you fly up and land on a branch on that tree with a slippery trunk near the den. We call him over and bargain with him from up on the branch. I doubt anybody could climb it, so it would most likely work.”
“Let’s go for it.”
“Hang on, I found a flaw. Would it work if we just call to him and ask, ‘Hey, Visom? Do you think this forest is real?’ That’s what I thought you’d say. Technically, you didn’t say anything whatsoever, but I was nonetheless correct with my last sentence. Let’s get back on subject. It would seem like we were taunting him. We should instead try to ease into the topic of the forest’s realness.” I nodded like I always would when he was done explaining something.
I landed and we dumped our loads of nuts in the den. Then I felt his claws gripping my back. I took it as a signal to start flying, so I did and I curled around a branch on the tree we’d talk to Visom from. He got off my back and we waited for Visom. Soon enough, I saw him wandering around below.
“Where did you guys go? Really, where are you?” he said.
“We’re over here! Some nuts are in the den, if you’re hungry,” Redd shouted. Visom ignored him.
“Well, what’re you doing way up there?”
“There was something we wanted to discuss with you, actually, Visom,” Redd shouted louder, in fear of Visom not hearing him. So much for easing into the subject.
“WHY CAN’T YOU COME DOWN AND DISCUSS IT? IT’S GETTING HARD, YELLING FROM WAY DOWN HERE!”
“BECAUSE WE WANTED TO DISCUSS THE THING THAT YOU ALWAYS ATTACK US FOR WHEN WE TRY TO DISCUSS IT!” I could’ve sworn Redd was going hoarse.
“WHAT IS IT YOU WANTED TO DISCUSS THEN?”
“WHETHER THIS FOREST IS REAL OR NOT!”
I had always thought that as well as being slippery and branch-lacking, that tree was also hard as steel. If Redd ever tried digging in with his claws, he couldn’t penetrate the wood. But apparently, Visom’s claws somehow got in (most likely because they were longer), and he ascended up the tree at a rapid pace. It was impossible, I reflected during the few seconds standing between him and us, for anyone to climb like that, have such a perfect rhythm.
Then he was up. I was instantly feeling sharp pain as four fangs penetrated my scales. My body uncurled around the branch. My wings couldn’t move fast enough to at least break the fall a little.
I had just enough consciousness left to see Redd tumble to the ground beside me and watch Visom march out of sight.
When I got up, it was already sunset. Vivily was awake already.
“All the nuts somehow vanished,” she said with a frown. I heaved a sigh.
“What about the rest of the food storage?”
“By all means, let’s go find some more food as much as our injuries will allow.”
“I tried that. I couldn’t find any food at all.” I sighed again.
“I suppose all we can do is go to rest now and hope that food has grown by tomorrow.” She followed me into the den. She curled around me and we went to sleep. As I drifted into rest, I started seeing gaps in midair. In them, I saw images suddenly flashing into and out of sight. Many different mutant pets. Futuristic devices. A mutant Draik with a long scar across one leg and very long, but thin wings. The leaves lining the den felt hot. It was difficult making out one thing or another before I gave into sleep. This forest is fake was my last thought before darkness flooded my vision.
I stretched, or at least tried to stretch. I looked around me. I was tethered to a stone platform with rusted chains. The room around me had little light, what it did have came from the floor, making a haze of illumination. Redd was next to me, also chained, but he was asleep. Visom wasn’t there, but in his place a Mutant Kougra with some sort of oversized ray gun stood guard by the only door. Pipes ran along the ceiling. Some were lavender ones large enough for the average pet to fit through (the only girly objects in the room) and also many very slender gray ones; some had openings that were pointed towards the center of the room. It was difficult to breathe.
“What’s going on...?” Redd said drowsily as he came to his senses. The mutant Kougra cackled.
“What is going on is that you have been chained up for four years and you didn’t even know it!” He cackled again, slapping his hand to his forehead. Then it all came back to me. I remembered my parents, a faerie Hissi mother and mutant Hissi father. I remembered seeing Redd’s two brothers when I came over to play with him. I remembered being caught in some sort of web, then being wrestled and captured and kept in a crate before our mystery forest life began.
“Explain more,” I said, scowling at the mysterious Kougra.
“While all the non-mutant Neopets in the world were busy living their lives, doing unimportant errands, we mutants, were driven into caves. One of you...” The Kougra scoffed,”...normal pets had started a rumor that mutant pets wanted to destroy towns. This was wrong. Our lives were very dreary and depressing in the caves. That was until one day, somebody came into our lives. That somebody was Our Master. His true name must only be spoken in his presence, and only as a formal addressing. Our Master told that mutants wouldn’t be frowned upon if all pets were mutant.
“So he organized small attacks, in which the mutants, who had multiplied in the caverns and outnumbered the ordinary pets, captured tiny forests, towns and bodies of water. We made the rumor come true and then some, which struck terror into the hearts of every pet, so we captured and transmogrified them all the easier. Our Master made our base here a few years later, so we could get organized and have a little more comfort. He made ranks, different departments, a mess hall and he developed a way to incubate the captured pets. Some of his trusted magicians would keep the captured pets in a sort of stasis where they were in a mysterious habitat, all alone except for their most trusted friends. Eventually we had to enter the stases to keep the pets from coming out quickly. We did it because he wanted us to grow slowly so we would stand less of a chance of being overthrown by rebels.
“He also magic-drained all the pets suspected of having magic and faeries using faeryllium pipes and he channeled it to the magical department. He didn’t drain the dark faeries, of course. They agreed to help us. Our Master works in the Supreme Magical Department, which is the highest security area, and gives commands from the loudspeaker pipes.” Then it all came back to me.
To be continued...