The Dark Side of NeoPhobia
NeoPhobia: A chronic fear of leaving the house.
Will hid under the covers of his bed for what felt like a lifetime. He couldn't go outside. He just couldn't. It was too scary. The Outside was where people and germs were. They were mean and cruel. The Outside was where evil was. Here in his nice warm bed, Will didn't have to worry about such bad things. Here in his bed he was safe.
Neopians were nasty and malicious. They thought only for themselves and refused to help others. Selfish thoughts filled their minds. They were mean. They were scary.
Germs. Germs everywhere. Everything was dirty. Filth and mud were everywhere. Will couldn't leave his home because of all the dirt. It was everywhere. Just everywhere.
But Will could trick them. Will didn't have to leave his home, or even his bed. He could just lie there and not have to worry. He never had to go outside where it was dark and scary.
Will had shut the curtains over his window. He didn't want to see the Outside. It was cruel. It was scary. The Outside was where germs and Neopians were. He hated people. They were mean. They were scary and selfish and pitiless and callous and insensitive.
Alone in a dark room was where Will spent his time. He didn't need to go outside. There was no need. Absolutely no need. He could fulfil his life right here in this very room. He didn't need to see sunlight. The sun burned his skin anyway; now he would never again have to worry about the awful redness that appeared every time on his white Lupe fur...
Three days had passed since he had decided never to leave his house again. It had been the best decision of his life. There was too much worry on the Outside; now he would never again have to feel the terrible heaviness that came with anxiety. Never again would he have to feel the sadness and worry press down on his mind.
Sadness. He felt no sadness. Why would he? There was nothing to be sad about anymore, not since he had decided to stay inside. Will would never have to feel sad again. He could remain in his house, in his bed, and be happy all the time.
His life wouldn't be empty. It would have meaning. He could stay in his dim room and read books, play games with himself. He could fill his life with anything now. His thoughts could have more freedom, more space. He didn't need to listen to Neopians or be forced to talk to anyone or anything. He could remain here, in his room, with his thoughts. His thoughts were nice. His thoughts were peaceful and good and wholesome and pleasant.
He could create stories. A pad of paper and pencils rested on a shelf in his room. His mind was limitless, vast. He could write lovely stories about kind Neopians and clean items. Will could create entire worlds with the power of his mind.
Will was the smart one. He couldn't believe that no one else had thought of never leaving home. He had everything he could possibly need here at home. There was nothing anyone could ever say that could convince him otherwise. Will was smart. Will was right.
He liked the serenity, the calm. His dark warm room was peaceful and quiet. The rhythmic, slow breaths he took were the only sound, and even then it made hardly any noise. No longer did he have to put up with the mindless jabber that had filled up so much of his life before. Now he could just stay home and think and write in utter silence.
Lonely? Will could have laughed at the idea. He wasn't lonely. Yes, he was indeed alone, but he liked it that way. Neopians were superficial, only caring about outward appearances. They didn't care about anyone but themselves.
The Outside was dangerous. There were cruel Neopians who stole from and hurt other people. They couldn't be trusted. Nobody could be trusted. Which was why Will decided to remain in his room. He didn't want to feel the pain of abandonment, of betrayal. He didn't want to make friends because friends led to enemies, and enemies were scary. Enemies were bad.
Will heard the door open and close. He groaned inwardly. It was his owner. She would be home now. She had been gone quite a bit, searching for a cure. He wasn't sick. He wasn't sick at all. He was smarter than everyone else. Oh, yes. He had realised what others hadn't figured out yet.
He didn't respond, even when his owner walked in the room and crouched down by the side of his bed. He knew she would come to her senses eventually. She had to. She was the one he was closest to. She knew him better than anyone.
"I have the cure." Will's owner pulled out a pair of sparkling shoes. She placed them on the floor, still looking at him nervously. There was no way he was going to put the shoes on. Absolutely no way. He was going to remain in his home. The Outside had germs. The Outside had mean people. Will had made that mistake before; he wasn't going to repeat it.
"Please put them on."
Will hid beneath his blankets, his exhaled breath quickly making the small space hot and claustrophobic.
"Will," said his owner, removing the blanket from his face. "Please. You'll feel much better."
"I'm fine," he replied, his voice harsh and croaky from not much use.
"No, you're not. It's been three days. Please, you're not feeling well."
"No." He was going to remain here, in his bed. His owner would understand eventually. Even if no other Neopian understood why he remained inside all day, his owner would. His owner understood everyone. She was smart. She would see his reasons.
"You have to. Come on, get up." His owner took the covers off his bed. Will shivered in the sudden cold. Before he could move, she swiftly grabbed his feet and slipped the sparkling shoes on.
Will scowled at her. "Nothing's happening. I'm not sick."
"I..." his owner looked worried. "I think you need to stand in them. Please. Just stand up."
Will gave his owner a long look. He twisted around in the bed and placed his paws on the floor and then straightened up.
Instantly, Will became dizzy. He stumbled and held onto his owner. She took his front paws and helped him stand.
"How do you feel?"
"I..." Will stopped talking.
It was like a light flickered on in his head.
He... he wasn't afraid of the Outside.
How could this be?
The Outside... it had friends. It had games and happiness. It had life and meaning. How could he possibly have been convinced that staying inside all day was the right thing to do?
"I think you're well again," his owner said warmly, rubbing his back.
"I need to go outside," he muttered, unsure if his memories had only been a dream. They didn't feel real. He had been trapped in the confines of his home for three days. Three days! Three days alone in the dimness of his room...
Stumbling slightly on his weak legs, his owner supported him down the stairs and out the front door. Will closed his eyes.
Sun. He could feel the sun. It was warmth beyond imagination. He couldn't believe he hadn't felt it in so long.
Wind. The cool rush of air across his face was indescribable.
Will opened his eyes and was immediately assaulted by the rays of colours. Everything was so bright and... and... just wonderful.
How could he have believed that staying inside was the right thing to do? He had been foolish. Yes there were Neopians who were simply cruel, but there were kind, honest people too. They weren't all bad. They weren't all evil.
Will felt like a whole new person. He stared up at his smiling owner, tears springing from his eyes. "Thank you," he whispered, hugging her. His owner didn't say anything, but she didn't have to.
The shoes sparkled brighter before vanishing. Will was shaking. "I don't – I can't believe..."
"It's okay," his owner reassured him. "That's over now. It was just a case of NeoPhobia. You're healed."
Will stared up at the cloudless blue sky. He had never really appreciated before just how vast it was.
He had never before been so happy to be alive.