I spy my reflection in the ripples of a puddle, my face morphing and twisting psychedelically, and I pause. The floppy grey ears, the red-rimmed irises stare back at me, jutting away sharply from the blue sky background.
A gasp escapes my sore throat, rough from crying, and I turn away to escape the haunting image. I don’t want to look at myself anymore. I don’t want to behold the monster I have become, the prisoner of sadness that has replaced my cheerfulness. My own skin is a cage that pins me down into hopeless realities.
The thump of my paws against the cobblestone pavement bores a path into my consciousness. Boom, boom, boom. I come back from despair and notice that I’m not just walking away from the puddle, I’m running.
Like the transition from crutches to a cast, I stumble up over the sidewalk’s concrete lip. The next thing I am aware of is the acute taste of blood in my mouth, as I slip on the wet ground and find myself clawing wildly to get back up.
Boom, boom, boom. As though I am a madman, or one so deranged, I watch myself galloping away over hills and dales as I leave Neopia Central. My knees and jeans quickly become thickly crusted with globs of mud and dead leaves that hang like broken Christmas ornaments. My injured tongue, no longer bleeding, throbs off and on in my mouth. I hear my own heartbeat in my ears like it’s the only sound in the world.
Boom, boom, boom. It is as relentless as a metronome, and though I feel a searing hatred of the obnoxious thumping, I find myself subconsciously wanting to increase its tempo. It has a dangerous appeal; almost like you can wish to stick your finger into a candle flame and admire the scar that it leaves. My paws barely even touch the ground now, as I skim over twigs and brush, fighting to escape from the pain of my past and trying to avoid my future.
Boom, boom, boom. My heart and feet are in perfect synchronization. One slaps the ground, the other sends life coursing through me.
A sudden whirlwind of colors catches my eye, only half-interested in the world anymore. Gold chasing blue, green blurring together with copper and black. It is as if I am caught in the midst of a supernatural combining of worlds; endlessly beautiful and shocking.
As suddenly as I noticed that I was running, I understand now that I am falling. The crystalline suspension of my tears on my face, the clumps of cold earth flying away from my limbs, my broken heart’s state of frozen surprise. Of wonderment.
There is no time for fear, I guess, because I didn’t see it coming.
For those few seconds, I can’t hear my own pounding chest but faintly. Boom. Boom. Boom. The captivating glory of the awakening morning sun rising above the hilltops, glinting off of the coins slowly dribbling out of my pockets makes me silence my own thoughts. Windblown, taffy-thin petals brush against my cheeks, my forehead.
But, like some mischievous imp removed the cloth from my eyes, I see the dangerously still ground below me. I see the patches of dead, water-sodden grass trying to push up into the path of sunlight, disguising the shrapnel of a million crushed leaves.
The instant my silky smooth appendage taps the ground, the moment ends. In a flurry of tangled limbs, I am catapulted into the soft piles of mud, raking stalks of yellowed and brown-tinged plant life into a heap beneath my body.
Boom boom. Boom boom. Startled by the sudden end to my arbitrary exercise, I don’t move for several seconds. The morning is quiet now, the path I had made through the meadows slowly coming back to life with calls and Mootix songs.
And now the tears come, hot and salty, staining my fur as they tear their way down. My breath comes in jagged gasps; instead of fighting it, I succumb to the numbing grief. Curling up on my side, I shut my lids tights and try to remember life before the paint brush...
I had been beautiful once, you see. One of the most lovely creatures to ever grace the streets of this world. A Royalgirl Cybunny, wearing my tiara with heavenly pride. I used to glide down the city streets, beaming benevolently at those who passed. Many once whispered as I passed, exchanging ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ over my looks and graces.
“There she goes,” they would mouth, “How stately! How regal! How I wish I could be just like her!” And then they would turn their sly eyes to their grocery cart, simpering over the choice of canned, processed food, as if embarrassed to have found a passer-by so stunning.
Or they would turn to their young, disobedient daughters and scold. “You see that princess over there? I’ll bet she doesn’t act like you do. Look at how pretty she is, too! Don’t you want to be like that?”
At first, it was unsettling to have eyes on you wherever you went, to feel like you were being constantly measured as the world’s opinion of beauty. But, as with all things, I adjusted over time. Soon it wasn’t odd to see me, generously passing out neopoints to those poor souls that squat outside the soup kitchen, or forfeiting my place in line for others. It became natural.
Boom, boom, boom. My pulse races again with the backwards view of my life.
I took it for granted.
One warm morning, I wake up in a puddle of rainbow oils mixing together. Shocked, I flail around with my arms, trying to escape the cloying liquid. But, for some unknown reason, I can’t manage to separate my body from the mass of particles suddenly clinging to my satiny, white fuzz.
A few minutes later, after clawing my way to the top of the mysterious lake, I spot my beloved owner standing guiltily in the middle of a mass of humans. She holds a paintbrush handle in her hands, but the bristles are stark white.
Oh, no, I panic, running my paws up over the roof of my head. What color am I now?
My dark grey elbow makes me freeze, and then collapse in a puddle of tears. The soothing attempts of my owner over the next couple of hours only make me feel worse, more alien. Like there is a reason why she should be soothing me. Unsettled and hiccupping with anger, I pass out on our couch chewing on my third sugar cookie.
My palms dig into the ground, raking frosted dirt up under my nails. The embedded anger at my owner is still hiding in me; how, I ask myself, could anyone be so cruel? So malicious?
Boom. Boom. As it always is, the rage is quickly swallowing by the sadness as I continue to retell my tale within my mind.
After being painted, I slowly began to withdraw from the world that I had once owned. Those same neopets who had murmured as I passed began to turn their backs on me, to shun their forgotten princess. Now that the grandeur of her glistening crown and bulky, pricey robes had vanished, most slowly allowed me to slip their occupied minds.
I had felt the rift of sadness gouge out a canyon in my heart, leaving me stranded on one half and the rest of Neopia on the other. Stranded for no reason other than I’m not the same color anymore, and I don’t always feel chipper at all hours of the day.
But I’m the same girl on the inside! I want to yell, feeling my heart pound in my chest. I still love all flavors of ice cream, hate high shoes and love to sketch. I still eat a fruit salad and an orange soda for lunch every day. I love the color green and the joy of feeling sand between my toes. I sing terribly and dance like a ballerina reincarnated in the middle of the supermarket.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
I still twirl my ears when I get nervous. I collect snow globes in a giant cardboard box in my room. I relish the soothing scents of vanilla bean lotion.
Boom, boom, boom.
I actually enjoy eating broccoli and green beans. I can’t ice skate to save my life. My laugh sounds like a jar of sandpaper rattling around.
Boom boom boom.
I still want to be loved!
The frantic pulsating of my heart falters, thumps twice out of beat, and settles back down into an acceptable pitch. I remain splayed out across the meadow, smelling the damp reek of rotted vegetation, absently pulling on my right ear as I continue to shake with the complete sadness of the moment.
I still want to be loved.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
Don’t I deserve it?
If you're reading this, please neomail me with your thoughts on my story! :) Thanks for reading!