Memories of the PPL: Rock Pool Rescue
The Coffee Shop, residing deep in the rocky tombs of the Catacombs, was alive and bustling with noise. On one table in particular, situated in the very centre of the rustic shop, was a group of aging Neopets, all simply amazed at the story they’d just been told by Samrin.
The Yellow Kougra, named Duke, looked at each of his companions one by one. After the last tale, Girjor, the Yellow Chia was still wiping a tear from his eyes, while Glasgow, the Royal Boy Draik remained speechless. Samrin, on the other hand, was eager to hear the next adventure.
Duke took a bite of his iced bun before speaking. “It’s a tale I’ll never forget...”
I remember the day so well. It was quite some time before I officially became a member of the PPL. In fact, I had no desires or dreams of joining such an organisation. Back then, I was just a lazy Kougra, taking each day as it came. It just so happened that this specific day would change my life forever.
For the most part, it seemed to be a day just like any other. The sky was a melodious blue, without a single cloud in the sky to block out that bright gleaming sun. There was a breeze every now and then, blowing the palm trees softly, as they cast their overbearing shadows onto the sand.
In short, it was the perfect day. And as usual, I was flying through the waves - ‘cutting them up’ as I used to call it.
I was quite the surfer back then. I’d always place in the top three at the annual Mystery Island surfing competition; it was second nature to me. The sea had become one of my best friends, and I would often spend more time in it than out.
So, as I was saying, the wind was blowing the salty air into my face at breakneck speed – just the way I love it. Every wave presented an opportunity to perform an incredible new stunt, something to ‘wow’ everybody with at the upcoming contests. I had the next wave in my sights. It was ‘radical’, if I remember the lingo correctly. The perfect wave for something outrageous.
But, something strange happened before I got a chance to even reach the coil of water. It was a noise, something I’d only ever heard once before. The whole island shook like an Earthquake, and my attention immediately moved to Techo Mountain. What I feared could be a volcanic eruption, I know now, was nothing of the sort.
Of course, one of the first things you learn when surfing is to never take your eyes off of the water. I didn’t have a second to realise this, as I was instantly pulled underneath the liquid by the wave I had been so looking forward to conquering.
Naturally, I’d experienced many wipe-outs in my surfing days, but this wave seemed particularly violent and aggressive.
I thought nothing of it at the time, fought my way to the surface, and clung to my board. It took me a few moments to realise what had happened, and deciding it was time for a rest, I made my way out of the water.
With my trusty surfboard stuck firmly into the sand, I kicked back on the beautiful beach I’d come to know and love, and stared up at the sky. Its endless voice of blue took me in, and before I knew it, my eyes were closed.
The next thing I remembered was a very familiar voice.
“Yo, dude, you’re not gonna beat me at the surfing comp’ if you’re lazing about like that,” the voice called.
My eyes opened instantly, and I sat up to stare out at the sea. It didn’t strike me as strange then, but the tide had risen to my feet, bringing the cooling liquid to stop me from getting overheated.
My glance settled on an Island Lutari – named Kai. He was my best friend at the time, and still is. We always shared a deep passion for surfing the waves, and relaxing in the sun. It just so happened that Kai was far more determined and enthusiastic than I ever was. For him, sleeping when there were perfectly good waves crashing about wasn’t an option. I lifted my arm in a drowsy wave.
“Come on, you beach bum. There are some killer waves out here - supremely awesome. You gotta get out and try this.”
I shrugged my shoulders, still feeling tired from my nap. “I already did, dude, and got a radical wipe-out too.”
Kai splashed some water at me playfully. “Man, looks like I’m gonna win the surfing comp’ again, just like every year.” He smirked; he knew he’d hit a weak spot in me.
“No way,” I retorted. “I’ll walk away with that trophy and you’ll be left in the pipeline.” No sooner had I finished my sentence, a giant wave began hurtling towards Kai at a speed I never thought imaginable for something surrounding our shores. I barely had time to shout out to poor Kai before he was forced under the water, like I was before.
I doubted he’d be able to hear me screaming his name, but I did so anyway. I knew that if anybody were to survive a torrent like that, it’d be Kai; he was the best swimmer I’d ever witnessed, and still is to this day.
The water shot up the beach, completely covering my feet, and slowly pushing them under the sand. If there was one thing I hated, it was getting sand stuck in between my paws. But I didn’t care about any of that; I was far too concerned for Kai’s safety.
Before long, after the water had declined back down the shore, I saw my buddy’s head pop out of it some way off. His board on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen.
“Dude,” I yelled over to him, still in a bit of shock. I saw him inhale, before starting the swim towards me.
“I don’t suggest trying that one, man,” he said once he’d reached me, still panting from the whole ordeal.
I could tell he was still a little shaken, and definitely disappointed from wiping out. “I guess this means you’re the beach bum, floating around in the water while there’s surfing to be done.”
He forced a smile, before wading out of the water, and roughly sitting down on the sand. “That was one heavy wave.”
I nodded in agreement. “It sure was. I wonder what could’ve caused it,” I muttered, partly to myself. For the first time since I’d fallen asleep earlier, my glance moved back the sky. I’d barely noticed how dark it’d gotten, but now the sky was saturated with clouds.
I scratched the back of my head with my paw. “Well, that’s strange. It was so sunny just now. I sure hope Mara-” I paused as my eyes darted off into the distance.
What had always been the top of the kingdom of Maraqua, usually protruding out of the water slightly, was empty. Not an aquatic tower in sight. “Where’s Maraqua?” I asked, turning around to Kai.
He shrugged in reply. “Beats me. Maybe they moved it.” He snickered loudly, but it did nothing to ease my nervousness.
I shook my head. “Dude, I’m being serious here; it’s totally disappeared. Looks pretty dangerous out there too.”
Kai snorted selfishly. “The only thing dangerous is the lack of surfing going on.” He raised his head momentarily to look at the aggressive sea in front of us. “Can’t even try to surf when the tide's like this.”
“Well, I think I’d better go check it out,” I said, reluctantly at first. After all, I still had my board, and Kai’s was lost at sea, probably broken into pieces by now.
“Man, you’d pull off some radical moves out there now, but it’s a death trap. Don’t even think about it. Let's just climb Techo Mountain or something.”
I couldn’t help but laugh; it was at this moment that I wished I could be as carefree and happy-go-lucky as Kai was. It just wasn’t in my nature to see something ominous and turn my back to it. “I’ll be back soon,” I said, looking over my shoulder to my despondent Lutari friend and grabbing my surfboard from the sand.
With one last look at my beloved Island, I dove into the water on my board, and began paddling towards where Maraqua used to be.
It seemed that with every stroke I took, ploughing through the sea, the more uncertain I found myself feeling. As if there was something happening far bigger than anything I’d ever experienced before. At first I’d thought it was probably just some storm of mist or fog covering Maraqua from my view, but as I edged closer, things just didn’t seem right.
I was broken out of my reverie by anxious chirping somewhere in the water nearby. I stopped paddling instantly.
A Catamara, usually found swimming gracefully through the shallow pools surrounding Mystery Island was visible, tangled up in a mass of seaweed. Often when surfing I’d find countless Catamara jumping over my board, but this was much too far away from the shore for a Catamara to be wandering about.
I grabbed hold of it with one paw, and slowly picked away the cobwebs of seaweed from the poor Petpet with the other. It seemed to whimper as it took in its surroundings and nuzzled close to me quickly afterwards.
“It’s alright, I’ll take you back to the shore in just a little while. You just make sure you stay on my board, alright?” I cooed, which it seemed to appreciate.
After making sure it was safe, I continued to make my way out to sea, stopping every so often to take a look around.
Before I knew it, I no longer needed to paddle at all. The current had picked up without me noticing a thing, and was pulling me much further out. I knew that it was only a matter of time before I’d need to turn back; my strength only went so far.
Another squeak caught my soggy ears, as I saw a Sproing swimming as hard as it possibly could to beat the current. I knew that if I were struggling to go against the current, such a Petpet would have no chance at all. I wrapped one arm around my board, securing the Catamara in the process, and swam towards the Sproing.
Before long, I had it safely in my arms, sitting on my board next to the Catamara.
This happened repeatedly. In the space of a few more minutes, and with precious few yards gained towards Maraqua, I already had at least half a dozen Maraquan Petpets sitting on my board. I knew it was definitely time to head back. I could see Mystery Island quite clearly from where I was, but the current was working against me, and I knew I couldn’t go too fast, for fear of losing some of my newfound friends.
I don’t remember a whole lot of what happened next, but I do recall that a huge wave knocked me into the water, and I consequently lost my surfboard to the depths of the sea. I was clutching the rescued Petpets as tightly as I could without hurting them, while kicking my legs for all they were worth.
I presumed that I’d blacked out in the water, as the next thing I knew, Kai’s welcoming voice, alongside his sand-covered hands shaking me lightly, woke me from my slumber.
“Dude, you’d better be ready for the next contest, I need my best buddy to surf right there with me,” I could hear him say as I slowly opened my eyes. To this day, I have absolutely no idea how I managed to get back to shore when I lost consciousness. Perhaps the Petpets I’d saved helped me in return, or maybe it was Kai who had swum out to save me. Well, whoever it was, I was eternally grateful.
“Gimme’ some sign, man. Let me know you haven’t swallowed too much of that gnarly water,” Kai shouted, a little too loudly in my ear.
My throat felt hoarse, but I managed to give him a thumbs-up sign, and a haphazard smile to calm his nerves.
It was some time before I managed to sit up. I shook my fur, spraying water and sand everywhere. The reply was numerous chirping, and squeaking. I looked over to the rock pool where I’d been left to rest, and saw the Petpets there to greet me.
My face lit up with joy as I saw them happily swimming about.
Kai later told me that there had been reports saying Maraqua had been destroyed by a mysterious whirlpool. I knew that there must have been thousands of aquatic Petpets still out at sea, awaiting rescue.
“And so that’s how I started off. I made so many trips out to sea, rescuing every Maraquan Petpet I saw. Kai often helped me out too, and together we’d like to think we made a real difference,” Duke said with a smile. “Kai came up with the idea of starting a business to sell the Petpets on Mystery Island, and a few days later, the PPL offered me an official position.”
He gave a satisfied nod, with which the other Neopets shook off their engaged looks to applaud his tale.
“What an enthralling story,” Girjor said joyously.
“Yes; you really have made a difference there. I’d hate to think what would have happened without your help in a situation like that,” Samrin agreed, after taking a quick sip of his drink.
The Kougra licked his paws as he finished his iced bun. “I’m just glad that those Petpets were able to find loving homes.”
Eyes were slowly turned to look at Glasgow, the only Pet with a story left to tell.
To be continued...