The apple was purchased, in a perfectly straightforward way, from the Hidden Tower in Faerieland.
The price of the apple was not perfectly straightforward, at least not to my owner when she first saw it, but in the end she decided it was a decent investment. And she bought it, and she brought it home. And there it was.
This is the story of our Everlasting Apple.
* * *
Before the apple we'd been eating omelettes and jelly. Not because we were poor, but because our owner thought it was a lot of trouble to go out and purchase food items. Omelettes and jelly were free and convenient! Besides, if she did end up buying something that wasn't an omelette or a jelly, it'd probably end up being some cheap Lost Desert fruit, or Altadorian Bread, or something from Weltrude's Toy Chest—one of those sickeningly sweet Drym-Shaped Frosted Sugar Cookies. If it wasn't an omelette or a jelly it'd be something cheap and easy to find in the marketplace.
Our owner was something of a miser. Which made the purchase of the apple even more surprising. But I get ahead of myself.
Anyway, the food was the same, and it was boring, but it tasted alright, so we gulped down our dinners as quickly as we could and went off to play games. At least we had food, after all; lifetimes of reading stories of Pound pets in the Neopian Times had made us grateful for that.
But sometimes even the omelette and the jelly was not enough. Sometimes the omelette was rotten, or the jelly poisonous, or the Giant Omelette/Giant Jelly eaten, and then we'd only have two or three bites of food between the four of us, and that couldn't do, could it?
"Food!" our owner grumbled. "So much trouble!"
She didn't want us to starve, of course, but she also didn't want to have to go to the marketplace to buy things that were quickly consumed. She was a rather lazy owner when it came to things like that. You did not hear that from me; if you repeat it, I'll deny it. But I digress.
One day, she decided on the Everlasting Apple.
I repeat: we weren't poor. We had lovely toys and clothes and things, and our Neohome was very nicely furnished. So the apple, while putting something of a dent in the bank account, did not empty it.
Our owner came home from Faerieland with the apple in her hands. She was clutching it very tightly, afraid of the Pant Devil and also the Grundo Leader. She didn't dare to put it in her purse, for fear of pickpockets. We'd taken sides against the Thieves' Guild in the obelisk war anyway. They didn't really need much more of an excuse.
But she came home safe, with the apple still there, and shouted, "Girls!"
The four of us gathered around her.
"This," she said proudly, "is an Everlasting Apple; you can eat as much of it as you want and it'll never run out. Our food problems are solved!"
"We never had any food problems," said Sapphirine, my Kacheek sister; "we've only had a lazy—"
"Hush!" I said, and looked at my owner. "Is it really Everlasting?"
"That's what it says in the item description," she said, a little uncomfortably. "Oh, dear, I hope it is. I don't want to blow nine-ninety-thousand on an ordinary apple."
"Nine-hundred-ninety-thousand!" I shrieked.
"Calm down, we've still got several times that amount in the bank," said my owner. "But let's test if this thing is real! Who wants a bite?"
"I do!" exclaimed Gipri, my Bori sister.
And she took a bite.
"How is it?" I said.
"But what does it taste like?"
"Tastes like apple," she said.
"I wouldn't have guessed," said Viridri, my Uni sister (and now you have been introduced to all of my sisters).
"But it tastes like a really great apple," said Gipri, "so there's that!"
"But is it regenerating?" said my owner. "Gipri, take a bite of it! Come on."
"But I did!" said Gipri.
"No, you didn't, this apple's unbitten—oh."
The expression on my owner's face right then was probably worth all the 990,000 NP.
"So," she finally said, "it works. Well, then, if you ever get hungry... well... there's that apple."
"No omelettes or jelly?" I said.
"Well, good," said Viridri, "'cause I was tired of sun-baked dinosaur eggs anyway, and who knows what the jellies were made of. I mean, really, the Blunella Jelly was hairy..."
* * *
The Everlasting Apple did indeed taste like a 'really great apple'. It was sweet and juicy and crunchy, the pinnacle of perfection of applekind. An example for young apples everywhere, who would devote their lives striving to be like the Everlasting Apple. You get my point: it was magical, the taste beyond that of ordinary apples. I swear, this thing belonged in a forbidden garden or something.
When we weren't taking bites out of it, we were busy experimenting on it. We cut it in half, hoping to create two Everlasting Apples, but the two halves simply shook a little, twitching, and then, in an almost disapproving way, snapped back together into one. We shaved off a smaller piece, about one-sixteenth, of the apple, to see if it would snap back. It did not; another piece grew back in its place, and the original piece simply remained. Gipri ate it.
We also spent some time cooking. After all, there are many ways to eat an Everlasting Apple, all of them deliciously magical, and magically delicious. We made apple cobbler and apple pie; we tried making an apple cake, but it ended up as a sugary fruity mess. We dipped apple pieces in caramel, melted chocolate, cake frosting (Viridri said this was disgusting and refused to eat it), cake batter (She repeated her statement), cookie dough (She was out of the house by then, having left in disgust), and so on and so on.
There are many ways to eat an Everlasting Apple.
* * *
But there are only so many.
* * *
A week into the apple, we were tired of it, even Gipri, who'd loved it the most when it had first arrived. And yet the apple remained, and our owner expected us to eat it and be happy.
"Nine-hundred-ninety-thousand," she'd say. "I don't want that to go to waste..."
We ate the apple, and ate the apple, and ate the apple. We didn't want to disappoint her. But we stopped being happy about it.
Still, I never realized how awful the situation was until Viridri went apple bobbing.
This was without our owner; I was the only one that accompanied her. She went and bobbed up a Golden Apple.
"Wow," I said, "do you think it's real gold?"
But Viridri seemed not to hear me. Her fiery mane was still dripping; her head was still hanging over the apple-bobbing tank.
"Hey, lady," said Bart, "you've got your prize, now go on and get out! There's a line waitin' for you!"
Viridri opened her mouth and let the golden apple fall back into the tank with a splash. Then she turned and left the apple-bobbing station. Behind her, Bart was screaming about hygiene and cleanliness and my sister had ruined his apple-bobbing tank! Disgusting! Disgusting!
Funny he should be talking about health; I'd gotten Blurred Vision from his tank three times. But I suppose he had a point.
"Viridri," I said, running to catch up with her, "what—"
"I am tired," she snarled, "of apples!"
We went back home in silence. But only apples were waiting for us there.
No, not apples; apple.
"Please," said Viridri, and this was very uncharacteristic of her; "please let's eat something else. Anything. I'll take a Scab Cake. I'll take a Rotten Omelette. Oh, Fyora!"
(Although Fyora's Hidden Tower had been the source of the Everlasting Apple, so I wasn't quite sure why my sister was petitioning her.)
But our owner said, "I can't return the apple to the Hidden Tower, you know. Nine-hundred-ninety-thousand..."
Viridri stalked off to bed without dinner. I myself had a half-hearted bite of the apple. But it did not taste quite as sweet as it had before.
* * *
The next day Viridri was gone.
"Do you think she's run away from home?" Gipri whispered fearfully.
"She wouldn't do that," said Sapphirine.
They both turned to me. I was the eldest. I shrugged. "I don't know where she is."
We found out in the evening, when she returned with an omelette.
"Viridri!" said Gipri. "So you didn't run away!"
"No," said Viridri, and then ate the omelette, bite by bite by bite. "That was good."
"Did you fly all the way to Tyrannia?" said Sapphirine slowly.
"Yes," said Viridri.
"For that omelette?"
"To eat it in front of us?"
"Why?" Sapphirine exclaimed. "To mock us? You're the only one who has wings! You know that!"
"There are Charred Steam Wings in the closet if you want," said Viridri.
"But it's not like we can get another piece of the omelette anyway," said Sapphirine. "There's been... one recorded time in Neopian history when second pieces of omelette were handed out."
"Go to the Giant Jelly," said Viridri, shrugging. "Go to the Games Room and buy food. I don't know. All I know is I'm not eating another apple until Faerieland rises up again."
"Fine," said Sapphirine, marching over to the closet and pulling out the Charred Steam Wings. "See you," she said, strapping them on. And then she was flying away.
She returned with a Whole Blunella Jelly.
"Share?" said Gipri.
"Eh..." said Sapphirine. "Gipri, I really like you, you're my sister and all, but... I am actually pretty hungry for something that isn't an apple."
"Oh...!" said Gipri, and stamped a foot. "Oh, look what this apple has done to us! We aren't a happy sharing family anymore... Oh, this is unfair!"
"Apples. Never trust 'em," said Sapphirine, through a mouthful of jelly. "Gold or delicious or otherwise."
"Sapphirine," I said, "maybe you could give me those wings."
I put them on and flew to the Games Room, where a quick round of Kass Basher was enough to buy Space Faerie Cupcakes to last a week. I flew back home, and everyone enjoyed the cupcakes, and that was how we acquired food for the next few weeks.
We did not tell our owner. We didn't want to disappoint her. We let her think that we were eating the apple, and being happy.
* * *
Until our owner said, "Girls?"
"Yes?" we answered. We were sitting in my room; I shoved our stash of Caramel Creams underneath the bed. She came into the room holding the apple, and I think at least one of us visibly flinched.
"You haven't been eating this," she said.
"What?" I said. "Why do you say—"
She wiped off the thick layer of dust that had formed on the apple's skin.
"Oh," I said.
Our owner sat down next to us. She wasn't angry, or disappointed, but sad. "I guess you were tired of the apple, weren't you?"
"Well... yes," said Viridri uncomfortably.
"Sorry," said Sapphirine.
"No," she said, "I guess... I should be sorry about that. I guess it was silly of me to expect you to eat the same apple forever, magical or not."
"It was kind of silly—" said Sapphirine.
"But it was still a good idea!" said Gipri. "I mean... I mean it wasn't a good idea, but I guess you can see why it was kind of a good idea at the beginning. We all liked the apple in the beginning. It was just... later on, we got tired of apples."
"Yeah," said my owner, "that's it. So I'm going to start getting you real food—oh."
"What have you been eating?" she shrieked. "Without the apple—what have you—have you starved?!"
"Relax," said Viridri. "We can take care of ourselves. See?"
She pulled out our stash of Caramel Creams from underneath the bed.
One second passed.
Then our owner began laughing.
"Goodness," she said, "you—you four—oh, gosh—oh, nooo!"
And then the rest of us began laughing, and none of us could say a word for the next fifteen minutes.
* * *
And so the Everlasting Apple sits in our Safety Deposit Box, and we go to the marketplace with our owner to buy food. It's great fun, despite the fact that Gipri buys so much cake that Viridri temporarily disowns us at least once an evening. And then Viridri gets an Aggressive Casserole or something, and our owner spends the next hour coaxing Gipri out from underneath the bed.
But we have a lot more fun at mealtimes than we used to. So I suppose that apple was, in the end, worth 990,000 NP. Or perhaps infinitely more. What can I say? Family is everlasting.
* * *
Yesterday I opened the Safety Deposit Box, dug around in its maze-like interior, found the apple, wiped it free of dust, and took a bite.
It tasted perfectly ordinary.