An Eyrie Again: Part One
"I want a morphing potion."
My owner, clearly startled, looked over her glasses at me incredulously; my two sisters wore similar expressions. It was morning in our Neohome, a breezy summer morning, and we were all eating our omelettes without complaint (for once), since it actually made sense to eat omelettes for breakfast. I had just been wondering if it was cannibalism to eat eggs (being a Pteri and all) when the words slipped out of me. As soon as I said it, though, I knew it was true.
"Where did that come from? And why do you want one of those?" asked Tieresa, the littlest one. She seemed confused. (I wasn't sure, though; being a JubJub, most of her face was underneath the table.) Lirila, sitting next to her, was easier to read.
"What kind?" she asked, glancing over the top of her book with an expression of mild, polite interest. Her Chocolate wings rested on the table as she flipped a page in Heroic Pteri Tales.
"Why are you people all taking this seriously?" Gabi mumbled, stifling a yawn. Any time before eleven was too early for her to be up. "I 'gree with Tia. Where did the morphing potion idea come from, Flirlia?" She raised an eyebrow. "Or, rather, where is the potion going to come from? If you have one, go ahead and use it."
I resisted the urge to sigh and very patiently said, "I don't have one, I want one." I paused, and then added, "I think I want to be an Eyrie again."
The effect was surprisingly dramatic. Everyone stopped eating, and the only sound was that of Lirila turning another page. (She had, in typical Lirila style, gone back to reading.) Tieresa looked shocked; Gabi's face was hard to read, as she was staring at her breakfast plate the way she usually stares at that Splat-a-Sloth game.
"Eyrie again? But you're a Pteri. A Starry one. Last I checked. " Tia was staring at me as if I might morph before her eyes. "You- you really used to be...?"
I heroically defeated the urge to say, "Overreact much?" and instead nodded mutely.
"It was back when I was new to Neopia," Gabi muttered, brushing back a strand of hair that had escaped from her ponytail. She still didn't look up. "I decided I wanted another pet, so I went out and got one. No consideration. No thought. I just went out one day and came back with a little green Eyrie named Flirlia. The next day I decided I liked Pteris better than Eyries, and she almost went to the Pound...." Lirila and I nodded. After a little pause, Gabi continued. "But then I decided I could just get a morphing potion for her. She's been a Pteri ever since."
"You never asked me if I wanted to change, you know," I said, knowing I was on shaky ground. Hm. Weird expression. I have wings; why would I care about shaky ground? I gave my head a little shake, determined to stay focused for once. "I think maybe I didn't. Want to change, I mean." There was another awkward silence. Lirila flipped a page.
"Thanks for the guilt trip," Gabi said, finally looking up and making a face at me. She heaved a big sigh and tried for a grin. "Well, I don't want to say no – actually, yeah, I want to say no. Funds are a bit tight now."
"Oh, I see. Unlike last month and the month before, you mean, when we were rich?" I asked, raising an eyebrow. Wait - do I even have eyebrows? I wondered, despite my good intentions. (What can I say? I get distracted.) Do Eyries have eyebrows? Ooh, nice alliteration. It could be in a tongue twister. Elated Eyries elevate elegant eyebrows.... Why do eyebrows exist, anyway? Little strips of fur over your eyes. What are they even supposed to do?
I blinked and tried to steer my wandering brain back onto some sort of track. "Sorrywhat?"
Gabi did manage a smile this time. (She knew what had happened from experience. Lots of it.) "I said I know we've never been rich, which is why I don't want to buy something as expensive as a morphing potion if you're just going to change your mind. You know what she's like." The last part was directed at Lirila; she tore herself away from her book long enough to nod knowingly.
"You disagree?" she asked, glancing at me. "Have you even met yourself before?"
"Yes," I said defensively. Lirila just shook her head.
I turned to Gabi. "Look, I know I'm fickle... and easily distracted... and my attention span is shorter than a Goldy's...."
"Actually," Tia chimed in, "Goldies are pretty focused. You know, in comparison."
"I once read a study where they showed you could train Goldies to swim through mazes. Flir gets lost on her way to the bathroom," Lirila commented. She didn't even bother to look up.
I figured I'd better cut in before my argument was totally destroyed. "Anyway, I'm really sure of this. I like being a Pteri, but I want to go back to my birth species. It just felt" – I fumbled for the words – "um, better. When I was what I am, I mean, and not what I am not, which I am currently."
"You're being confusing again," Tia grumbled. She poked at her food with her fork, gripping it firmly between her toes. I couldn't see it, but I knew her other foot clutched the plushie she got from her first-ever quest for Delina.
"I'm sure," I concluded. Gabi stared at her plate again, this time lost in thought.
"I guess... might work..." she muttered. "Okay," she finally announced. I beamed up at her. "But you have to help me earn the money for it, alright? And I'm serious - no changing your mind. If you do, I will personally march into the biggest, oldest, most haunted pyramid in the Lost Desert, pick out the scariest-looking amulet I can find, and rain down some old curse-of-a-thousand-somethings on your head. Got it?"
I jumped up, almost knocking over the table. Everyone watched, amused and perplexed all at once, as I hastily pushed in my chair and did a little hopping victory dance. "Pretty sure that's 'yes,'" Lirila observed dryly. I was so excited it didn't even bother me.
"Thankyouthankyouthankyou! I'll start looking through my room for stuff to put in the shop, then maybe some games, then-" I turned and raced away to the bedroom area, still babbling excitedly.
"And so it begins," Lirila sighed. (I heard about this part later.) She slid from her chair the moment I was out of sight, tucked her book under one wing, and started to follow me to the bedrooms.
"Where're you going?" Tieresa asked.
"To hide my valuables."
"I am so sick of bashing Kass!" I moaned. It was about a week after the conversation at breakfast – it felt like more, though. I flopped back onto my bed and wondered if earning neopoints had ever been easy. Gabi sat on the covers next to me, counting our day's earnings. "And of Key Quest, and of spinning wheels, and of taking stuff from Tia's roo- I mean, restocking. Can't we just rob a bank, or something?"
"So funny I forgot to laugh," Gabi muttered. "There's only one bank, in case you didn't notice, and it happens to be where we keep our Neopoints."
"Yeah, but..." I trailed off.
I hate it when she makes sense. I really do.
"Quit ruining my plans with your logic!"
"Quiet. You're distracting me." I wisely decided to shut up then, since she'd already had to start over six times. "Your idea," she mumbled vaguely, already absorbed in her task.
It'll be worth it, I guess, I reminded myself. It was your idea. I sat up and gazed off into the distance as the nagging voice that had haunted me all week started up again. Why do you want to be an Eyrie, anyway? Sure, they're in the top ten most popular, but you could care less about all that stuff, right? Eyries as a species are pretty great – they're so fluffy, and their tails are nice– but what's so wrong about being a Pteri? It's definitely not the worst species you could be. You were perfectly happy before you came up with this idea, and nothing big changed since then and now. So... What gives?
I sighed. I don't know; I only know that I don't want to be a Pteri anymore.
But if you don't know why, how can you be sure you're not making some horrible mistake? I frowned at this thought. Shut up, I told the voice.
You know I'm right. Wait a sec, isn't talking to yourself the first sign of madness?
I said shut up!
"Three thousand and one... three thousand and two... why do neopoints come in sacks... three thousand and three...." Gabi mumbled beside me. I let my eyes glaze over and mused. I'll show me. I know there's a perfectly logical explanation for this whole thing somewhere in my head. Probably. Maybe I have angst? A mid-life crisis? Nah, I'm not that old. I frowned. I mean, I don't feel old – just bored, right now. And a bit hungry. Do we have any omelettes? I think I left that chocolate one on the hall table....
"Done," Gabi announced, startling me out of my thoughts. "First off, Neopia really needs to invent paper money. Don't ask," she added hurriedly, noting my confusion.
I rolled my eyes. Gabi says the weirdest things sometimes. How could you make neopoints out of paper? Even if you did, wouldn't they dissolve in Maraqua?
"Flir. Flirlia! Come back!" I blinked and looked up at her. She'd plastered a big smile on her face when I wasn't looking. "I think we may have enough! Well, if we get lucky. And find a desperate shopkeeper. And bargain really, really well...." I just looked at her. "Okay, okay, so we don't have enough, I'm just sick of this." She dropped the act and sighed. "Sorry. At least it's summer vacation for both of us, right? So we have more time to game?"
Silence on my end.
"Again, this was your idea. So, anyway... up for more Key Questing?" I groaned and followed her quickly to the door. She opened it a crack and peered both ways before crossing the threshold. We almost sprinted through the halls, trying to avoid running into Lirila or Tia (in both senses of the phrase). Lately they'd taken to asking us how much we had every time we came home, and it got really, really depressing really, really fast. Finally, without incident, we reached the front door. Gabi paused, her hand on the knob.
"You know, I was kidding about that curse, before. Sure this is what you want?" She asked the question without turning around.
"I thought so, before you decided to kill me with games." She didn't move. "Yes, yes, I'm sure." Gabi looked back at me for a long moment, and then opened the door.
Are you, now? the little voice asked.
Don't make me come in there.
In the next few weeks, Gabi and I raised about one hundred thousand neopoints. (It probably would have been more, if we weren't so terrible at gaming.) Tia and Lirila helped, too, but we still weren't getting close. I was absolutely dying of impatience, and Gabi was constantly asking me if I really wanted a morphing potion – the same question that snide little voice kept throwing in my face. I figured Gabi was just hoping for an excuse to give up, so I insisted I did and led the way to the next game. Plus, I knew no one would ever let me live it down if I gave up now.
Tension seemed to have seeped into the house like a putrid liquid, and it was affecting everyone. After the first hundred refusals, Lirila stopped asking Gabi to buy books, even though she was close to running out; the dwindling pile of reading material in her room made her irritable and ever-so-slightly twitchy. Tia was trying and failing to get craft supplies from the Money Tree, and her craft room (the gallery) was losing the odor of glue and drying paint that it had always emitted (and gaining a faintly moldy, seaweed-y scent). Eventually, she decided to just raid our rooms – if you so much as glanced away, your socks would vanish, and a new sock pouch would mysteriously appear in the gallery. Between her craft raids and my... restocking, no one could leave an item unattended for even a second. Omelettes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner didn't help anyone's mood. (We tried getting food from the Money Tree, too, but all those actual needy people hanging around the tree were kinda off-putting; no one wanted the bits of wool and sand Tia took, but taking food was an entirely different matter.) Gabi herself was perpetually half annoyed and half depressed, and she kept having that nightmare about all our neopoints being stolen. Scraps of ragged-edged paper covered in tallies and calculations drifted across the floor like tumbleweed. The general atmosphere was about as warm as Terror Mountain. In winter.
In short, it was getting very difficult to live in our house, and everyone blamed me for the situation. There were subtle hints – Tia glaring at me, Gabi's eyes flickering my way when she apologized for yet another omelette, Lirila marching out of a room when I entered... and, of course, everyone telling me it was all my fault. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse, it happened.
They got worse.
Gabi and I were standing in front of the Secret Laboratory, bickering out of habit.
"Why me?" I asked. "Why do I have to get zapped? It hurts, you know. A little. Kinda. And I've gotten nothing but lowered stats for days."
Gabi gritted her teeth and started to push open the big steel door. "We discussed this, remember? Yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. Since you're going to be the species you want to be in a couple of weeks, and there's a chance you might actually turn into an Eyrie this way, it just makes sense to try it. Besides, I know you don't care about your stats, so drop it."
"But Gabi," I whined, knowing I'd agreed and knowing her argument made sense. (Did I mention I hate it when that happens?) She stopped, slammed the door shut, and whirled around.
"This may turn you into your dream species. Do you want to go home? Just say the word, and we'll leave."
Wordlessly, I shook my head. She exhaled gustily and nodded. And so, we entered the lair of the lab ray.
Let me tell you, it gets less impressive the more you go there. Even so, the creepy hallway seemed creepier than usual. We walked down the coiling and twisting passages in silence, each examining the metallic gray tiles of the floor. Gabi finally had to look up to greet the scientist, who had popped out of the door at the end of the hall marked "Lab Room". As usual, the yellow Scorchio's grayish hair was sticking out as though he'd just had a close encounter of the lightning variety. His white lab coat had a few dark, greasy smudges on it. His eyes seemed focused on something far into the distance.
"Greetings," he said.
"Good to see you," Gabi replied unconvincingly.
"Hey, Bill." He frowned at me – just like he always did – but he knew from experience it was pointless to argue. (I just figured that, since no one knew the scientist's name, it could be Bill. He, for one, had never corrected me – only frowned. Anyway, "Bill" is way better than "Lab Ray Scientist." I mean, I'm doing the poor guy a favor.) "So, can you make me an Eyrie today?"
He looked insulted, I think. The weird swirls in his eyes – yellow and red, like fries and ketchup – made it hard to tell. He sure sounded insulted. "Of course I can. My incredible device can perform greater miracles than that. I suppose you can't be expected to comprehend its awesome might, but that is no excuse." He'd forgotten, as usual, that he had zero control over the "sophisticated" piece of scrap metal. I nobly refrained from pointing out that little fact, and instead flew past him, through the doorway and toward the ray. It drives him nuts when I flap my wings around his "delicate machinery." If it's so delicate, how come he uses it as a shield in battle? Hm?
Where was I? Oh, right, the lab ray.
The ray's appearance was not the sort of thing that inspired confidence. It looked a bit like someone had hung a giant drill from the ceiling and then placed a red rubber clown nose on the pointy end. The drill part was the color of dull silver, while the casing was an interesting shade of rancid mustard. There were thick wires and cables draped around it like streamers, or maybe the webs of an enormous Spyder. The lighting was dim and flickery, and somehow reminded me of the Haunted Woods. Computer screens sprung from every flat surface like robotic toadstools, completing the tableau. The room had clearly been designed by someone with a background in science and little to no experience with interior decorating.
Settling myself underneath the business end of the ray, I called, "Let 'er rip, Bill!" He frowned at me one last time, then shuffled over to a control panel. He ran his fingers down the metal surface, almost like he was petting it, and carefully flipped a switch. A blindingly bright, multicolored beam blasted out of the ray, hitting me squarely on the top of the head.
To be continued...