Come dance with the Wanderers... Circulation: 164,193,660 Issue: 179 | 25th day of Awakening, Y7
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The Courage to Save A Life

by bladedkittiz


Kacey the purple Kougra ran home from Neoschool, backpack swinging in one hand. Her little Slorg, Swifty, slid alongside her, basking in the bright sunshine of Neopia Central. Everyone was happy; life was good.

      She burst through the door of her pretty wooden Neohome, setting her backpack on the table. "Mom, can I go to Terror Mountain with Hanna?"

      Her owner, Adriana, came in from the kitchen, blond hair tied back in a low ponytail. "Sure!" she said brightly. "I'll give you some money to spend, as long as you bring me back a slushie or a Chia Pop."

      Kacey took the NP and put it in the pocket of her warm jacket as she pulled it from the closet. "Bye, Mom!" she said, giving Adriana a quick hug before running out the door. "Love you!"

      Outside, a dark thundercloud loomed ominously over the horizon, seemingly warning of trouble to come. Kacey didn't even notice; she was only focused on reaching her best friend's house as soon as possible. When she finally got there, an orange Lupe answered the door. "Hey, Kacey!" she said. "Ready to go?"

      "Of course!" replied Kacey, and after a quick goodbye to Hanna's owner, Kelsey, they set off to catch the next hot-air balloon to Terror Mountain, chatting excitedly. As they boarded the basket of the gigantic balloon, Kacey felt a sting of nervousness about being high above solid ground in a tiny basket crammed with Neopets and their owners.

      As the great vehicle started to rise, the Kougra shuddered. Hanna noticed. "You okay?"

      "Um, it's just that I've never been this high off the ground before," said Kacey, clinging to the rail that surrounded the basket.

      "Just don't look down," Hanna advised her. "Pretend you're on a boat."

      "I'm scared of boats!" Kacey said, her voice becoming shrill with fear. "Haven't you seen all the reports in the news about them sinking and all the people drowning?"

      Hanna raised an eyebrow. "Okay, then pretend we're on solid ground, inside a wheelbarrow in Meridell, having a picnic."

      Slowly, Kacey's panic disappeared, as she envisioned herself sitting in a wheelbarrow, eating delicious Kougra Cakes and listening to the wind blow a melody through the trees, the soft sound of…

      "Hey, we're here! Wake up!" Hanna's voice tore her out of her imaginary picnic and back into the hot air balloon basket, which was now sitting solidly on top of the mountain. Carefully, the two pets climbed out of the basket, snow crunching noisily under their boots.

      "What do you want to do first?" asked Hanna. "I say we hit the ski slopes."

      "How about the Super Happy Icy Fun Snow Shop," Kacey suggested. She had always stayed away from downhill sports like skiing and snowboarding; there were so many accidents in the news that she thought it was way too dangerous. She preferred building snowmen and visiting the shops. "Or maybe we could go play Cliffhanger."

      "Sure, but I'm not leaving this place until I get you down that slope on a pair of skis," replied Hanna. "Come on, let's go now; there's no one in line at the rental place."

      Before Kacey could protest, Hanna was dragging her at a run toward the ski rental booth, where a bored-looking Mynci waited to serve them. "Listen, Hanna, I really don't think this is such a good idea," Kacey said, before Hanna had a chance to rent their skis. "It's really dangerous."

      "Don't be silly, I've done it tons of times, and nothing's ever happened to me," replied Hanna. "Come on, I'll go first and show you how."

      "Well, as long as you think it's safe," Kacey said reluctantly, but Hanna barely heard her, as she was busy ordering two pairs of skis.

      Kacey watched her friend enviously. Hanna was everything she wanted to be; fearless, skillful, brave…almost what you could call perfect. Everyone at Neoschool loved her, while Kacey was just another face in the crowd, someone that nobody paid any attention to. Hanna was so great and wonderful, and Kacey was what? A scaredy-Kougra, that's all.

      Hanna, returning with two sets of skis, interrupted her thoughts. She showed Kacey how to fasten the bindings and how to steer, and then, with a quick reassurance, she headed off to the ski lift. Kacey wondered how Hanna could stand sitting on that tiny bench, with no seatbelt, legs and skis dangling toward the ground, far below. When Hanna's bench on the ski lift finally reached the top, all Kacey could see of her friend was a tiny orange speck.

      She was afraid for Hanna, even though she knew the Lupe was a good skier and there was little danger. Still, she was high up, and so far away from the safe ground where Kacey stood. She couldn't tear her eyes away as Hanna pushed off and began weaving her way down the slope.

      Soon Kacey relaxed, seeing the ease with which Hanna avoided the other skiers and trees dotting the slope, and she began cheering for her friend. Hanna, seeming to hear Kacey's yells, grinned and sped up, making a close circle around a large pine.

      And that's when disaster struck. A snowboarder, skiing to the side of Hanna, veered left. Hanna turned right. They collided, hard. One of Hanna's skis caught in the bindings of the snowboard, sending the yellow Techo riding it skidding face-first into a mound of snow. Hanna flew into the air, slashing her neck on a ski and landing hard on a patch of ice. She slid down the slope, her limp body picking up speed like a dead weight.

      Kacey, strengthened by her panic, raced up the slope, clawing for footholds. "Somebody get help!" she screamed, hardly aware that it was her own voice. "Hanna!"

      The Lupe had come to rest in a slight indent in the snow. She was breathing. Unconscious, but breathing. Behind tear-blurred eyes, Kacey saw paramedics from the Neopian Hospital rushing up the slope. Without so much as a glance at Kacey, they loaded Hanna into a stretcher and carried her away.


      Kacey sat miserably on the train to Neopia Central. She wished it would move faster; Hanna would be at the hospital by now. The Kougra's mind was moving slowly, clouded with shock. She closed her eyes and thought over and over, "Please let Hanna be okay." She had to be okay, she was brave and strong and she could do anything. She had to be okay.


      "Where's Hanna?" Kacey asked frantically. Most of Hanna's friends from school were sitting in the emergency waiting room, some crying, some white with shock.

      "In the exam room," said the blue Aisha who her question had been directed at. Her name was Abby, Kacey thought, but she wasn't quite sure. It didn't matter; all that mattered was Hanna. "We aren't allowed to go…" She trailed off, because Kacey had already run through the steel double doors.

      "Hanna, is she alright?" she screamed at the nearest doctor, grabbing him by the shoulder. "Where is she? I have to see her!"

      Wordlessly, the doctor steered her to a hospital bed containing an orange Lupe. Hanna. She looked horrible. Her eyes were open, but they were glassy and unfocused, as if all her concentration was focused on staying alive. Each breath she took was ragged and strained, and blood showed through thick bandages taped onto the cuts all over her. Kelsey stood on one side of the bed, crying loudly, and Adriana was silent on the other. Upon seeing her pet, Kacey's owner curved one arm around her and drew her close, communicating without words her shared sorrow and hope.

      "Is she going to be alright?" asked Kacey in a small voice, seeing for the first time the reality of the danger Hanna was in.

      Adriana wasn't one to lie to her pet. "Maybe, maybe not," she replied. "All we can do is hope."

      Kacey sighed. She wished more than anything that it could have been her, not Hanna, lying in the hospital bed; if she had offered to go first, none of this would have happened. Silently, she cursed her lack of courage, knowing that that was what had caused the accident. Hanna was suffering -in danger of dying!- and it was all her fault.

      "I think we should leave them alone," Kelsey whispered to Adriana, who nodded and quietly left. Kelsey looked back tearfully, and followed her out of the room.

      Now that Kacey was alone, there was an unbearable silence, the only noise being the whirr of the machinery. She had to fill the lonely quiet, so she talked, hoping Hanna could hear her.

      "You have to get better, I know you can do it. You can do anything; you're the bravest pet I've ever seen. Please don't give up; you can't just leave us all. What would Kelsey do without you? Nothing will ever be the same without you. You can't give up, you have to fight, I know you can do it. Please don't give up. Oh, Hanna, I'm so sorry…"

      Tears streamed down her face, landing on Hanna's paw. The Lupe's glassy eyes blinked. "Kacey…I'm sorry…" she said, almost inaudibly.

      Kacey wiped away her tears. "You're going to be fine, they won't let anything happen to you!" she said, with a determination she'd never had before. "You'll be fine!"

      A single tear rolled down Hanna's pale face. "I'm so sorry…can't fight anymore. Please…take care of Kelsey for me. I'll…I'll miss you…" She gasped for breath, coughing and choking. Doctors hurried to put her on a stretcher, and the last thing Kacey saw of her best friend were her bright blue eyes, dulled by pain, that said one last thing: I'm sorry.


      Kacey sat miserably in her Neoschool classroom, not listening to the lecture her overly cheerful teacher was giving about the stock market. How could she be so cheerful? Kacey thought vaguely. How could anyone be happy when my whole world could fall apart?

      The door opened, and a Buzz came in to give a note to the teacher. Still smiling, she read it carefully. "Kacey, you need to go to the office for a bit," she said, the smile twisting into a grotesque grimace.

      Kacey got up, all the color draining from her face. "No…" she breathed, knowing what was about to come. "No, this can't be happening…" Numbly, she exited the classroom, hardly feeling everyone's eyes on her.

      The halls were empty and silent, and felt like a prison. Inside her was a strange mix of sadness and anger, and loneliness. She knew what news awaited her in the office, and she made her steps as small as possible, so that she could still hope for Hanna to be alive. She knew in her heart, though, that her best friend was gone. Forever.

      Shaking with dread, she opened the door and entered the office. The principal smiled, a forced smile, and directed her to a small room off to the side. "Your owner is waiting for you in there," he said, without any sign of concern or compassion. Now she shook even more, and every instinct in her body told her not to go in that room. She turned tail and ran.

      Out the door of the office, out of the school, all the way to her favorite tree overlooking the harbor. She leaned against the tree, a big pine, and cried her heart out. All this time she had been completely unaware of the figure following her, waiting for her to stop running. For now, the shadowed figure stepped into a shadow made by a rocky outcropping. She looked with great sorrow on the pitiful little Kougra, so sad. For nothing, nothing at all.

      "Don't cry," the figure said softly. "It's okay, everything's okay."

      Kacey lifted her tear-streaked face. "No, nothing's okay. How could anything be okay?"

      "No, it is okay. Stop crying, look at me!" The figure stepped out of the shadow and shook out her bright orange fur. "I told you it was okay!" said Hanna, unable to keep herself from laughing. "It really is, now."

      "Hanna!" Kacey jumped up and hugged her friend tightly. All of the emotions that had been coiled up inside of her dissolved, leaving her with only happy tears. "Oh, Hanna, you're alright! When they called me up to the office, I thought you were…"

      Hanna nodded, extracting herself from Kacey's hug. "I almost did, I almost gave up. There were so many times when my heart almost stopped beating, but I did it, I stayed alive for Kelsey, and Adriana, but mostly for you. What you said to me, that saved me. Really, it did. Thank you."


Epilogue: Kacey whizzed down the ski slope, Hanna right beside her. That nearly fatal experience on the mountain seemed like such a long time ago, or something they'd read in a story.

      Hanna had finally succeeded in teaching Kacey to ski, and now the two families shared a cabin in Terror Mountain, where Hanna and Kacey stayed on overnight ski trips. Kacey's fear of hot-air balloons, as well as skiing, completely disappeared, although she always made sure that she and Hanna wore the safety equipment that would protect them from another accident.

      Hanna was very happy to be healthy again, and very grateful to Kacey for those inspiring words, the words that saved her life. Kacey, however, refused to take any credit, saying that Hanna's strength and love for her family would have pulled her though. Everyone was happy. Once again, life was good.

The End

Author's Note: Thanks a million to corkey_shadow for being my editor :} Feedback rules!

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