Voice of the Neopian Pound Circulation: 93,823,843 Issue: 183 | 26th day of Running, Y7
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He Never Really Left


by 3dcourtney12044

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The sweet scents of flowers and earth reached a skunk Kougra's nose and he grinned; Meridell was indeed one of the, by far, calmest lands in Neopia. Often called the land of heroes and legends, Snickers thought it the perfect world to find a quiet place near a tree or on a stump, pull out his sketch book, and draw detailed images of his surroundings.

     Alongside him trotted a loyal Feepit by the name of Maxx. Maxx's ears perked up as he cocked his head, taking in the scene around him; peasants, warriors, and Snickers thought he even spotted Jeran, the brave Lupe knight, in the mass of crowded Neopians.

     Tucked under his arm was a sketch book and a sharpened pencil. Snickers glanced around, found a rather short, wide stump off to the distance on the outskirts of a forest, and strode over to it. He took a seat, flipped a few pages in his book, and said casually, "Maxx, think you could stand still for a bit? I'll really be able to get a good sketch -- "

     Obediently, the Feepit struck a thoughtful pose and gazed into the azure sky with a faraway look in his eyes.

     Snickers grinned and instantly put pencil to paper, taking great care to add in extra details. He included a politely inquisitive expression as Maxx stared into the cloudless sky.

     The Feepit's gaze, of course, wandered from the purely blue sky and down to where chattering locals were haggling with potion prices, hurrying forward to a grassy hill surrounded with exotic looking plants where Illusen (no doubt) lived, or aiming carefully towards the bullseye in Ultimate Bullseye.

     But Maxx's beaming eyes settled on a large, boulder-sized chunk of what looked like cropped earth. But it rose and fell rapidly, as though it were breathing, and the Feepit drowned out the scratching of Snickers' pencil in amusement. What was that pile of dirt?

     Curiosity overtook him and Maxx moved forward. "Maxx, where're you going?" asked Snickers, watching the Feepit. "Maxx -- wait, what're you -- "

     But the Petpet bolted, wind whipping at him, stinging his face. He was nearly there -- almost there -- the heap of dirt was in plainer view --

     A second too late, Maxx had a last glance of enormous eyelids lifting, and a large mouth opening in a yawn as he skidded to a halt.

     "MAXX -- NO!"

     Snickers had thrown his sketch book and pencil aside as he sprinted down the hill, but the Turmaculus stood on all fours, eyes agleam with a hungry glint....

     ***

     The next day, Snickers shut his bedroom door and stared fixedly at the wall, though that wasn't really a big help; most of the wall on Snickers' side of the room was covered in drawings he'd sketched, and more than half of them (to his displeasure) were of Maxx.

     Tears streamed down his face; the weather outside looked as bad as the skunk Kougra felt. Rain splattered the window as he turned his gaze towards that instead. It trickled down the window pane, and a fresh roar of thunder boomed overhead. Snickers saw a streak of lightning pierce the gray sky outside, that was barely seen due to the dark clouds, heavy with rain, that loomed above.

     Snickers forced himself to look at the other side of the room, but for all the good it had done he might as well have stared at the paintings of Maxx again; he recalled a time when Maxx had paraded around Snickers' brother's half of the room, knocking books off his shelf and squealing blissfully. It was really quite funny, at the time, but now -- Snickers couldn't ever imagining himself smiling again.

     Why'd I have to go to Meridell? he thought. Why'd Maxx have to be so keen to see the Turmaculus?

     More thunder... Snickers felt alone. More alone than he'd ever felt before.

     The world didn't seem real now. He knew Maxx was well out of reach -- there was no bringing him back -- and the world of Neopia seemed to have left Snickers far behind. Nothing was real anymore. Life seemed to have no meaning.

     Devastated, Snickers plopped down on his bed and buried his face in his pillow. Tears dotted it, but he made no effort to wipe them away.

     An image of Maxx appeared in his mind. The twitching whiskers, the cocking head, the beady eyes -- but it all seemed so fuzzy now. The outlines of him seemed faint, as though Snickers were trying to keep the memories of the Feepit in his mind -- but it was like trying to keep water from slipping through his paws. The image of Maxx flickered in his mind and slowly turned to nothing. He racked his brain, and brought the image back -- but it no longer moved. He was merely a sketch, and photo that was unreal.

     There was a knock on his door.

     Snickers hesitated. The last thing he felt like doing was talking to his siblings. Yesterday, he came home and ran straight up to the bedroom he shared with his older brother, Alec. But his family guessed the truth, as there was no Maxx the Feepit in sight.

     "Y-Yes?" he stammered.

     "Can I come in?" the voice asked softly.

     Snickers hated to ignore his family members, and, reluctantly, he squeaked, "Alright, then."

     The door opened and in came his eldest sister, Xrai. The Christmas Shoyru watched him closely, but Snickers kept his gaze carefully averted; he pretended he had suddenly become engrossed with the ceiling.

     "I'm sorry," she said finally, after an awkward pause. "I know -- know how much he -- he meant to you -- "

     Snickers turned away from her, keeping his eyes on the ceiling; tears trilled down his already-tearstained face. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Xrai crouching down and rummaging through his bedside table drawer.

     He didn't feel like asking what Xrai was doing; he felt as though if he talked he'd be sick. He just began furiously blinking away tears.

     "You know, Snickers," the Shoyru said softly, still digging through his drawer, "Maxx isn't really gone unless you think he's gone. Yes. You hear that a lot -- in stories with morals and stuff -- but it's true. It is."

     How could she say that? Life wasn't something Snickers felt he could pretend with; sure, his little sister could play with her Usukis and pretend they were alive and real, but it didn't work with Maxx. The little Feepit was really, truly gone. He couldn't come back. He couldn't be played with like a plushie.

     "He's -- gone," stuttered Snickers at last, shaking his head. "He really is." The Kougra felt a pain tugging at his heart; now that he'd said it, now that he had stated the truth, it seemed to be set -- final.

     "He isn't," his sister said softly, "as long as he's in your heart."

     Snickers had to suppress a snort. Sure, he'd believed that long ago, before Maxx had left. Maxx couldn't be in his heart, it didn't work like that. Maxx was far away by now, you couldn't pretend with things like that anymore. As much as he wanted to believe it, he just couldn't.

     Shaking his head, Snickers said, "But, Xrai, c'mon -- you can't mean that -- look -- "

     Xrai shook her head but did not object. She pulled out an item, kicked the drawer closed and stood there, gazing at her brother. "Snickers, think about it -- Maxx is with you -- always -- "

     "You could say that," grumbled Snickers in a cold voice unlike his own, unable to stop himself, "you haven't lost your best friend!"

     A roll of thunder and a streak of lightning... Snickers suddenly became very aware of the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. Xrai wore a mysterious look without a frown nor a smile, and she placed two objects in his lap. Bewildered, Snickers stared at her.

     "You still have me," she said quietly, before strolling to the door and shutting it slowly behind her.

     Worrying that he had upset her, Snickers watched the door close and then glanced at the objects. One was a thick, leather-bound book, and all of a sudden, as though following orders, Snickers blew it off and waved aside the dust that filtered the air. Printed on the cover of the book were the words SNICKERS and MAXX.

     His heart hammered against his chest; Snickers had completely forgotten about this. He eagerly opened it and surveyed the first page. The pages were a bit stuck together, but Snickers' eyes widened as he flipped through the scrapbook.

     One showed a cheery skunk Kougra with Maxx atop his head. Another was of Maxx sitting in a pile of mud, aiming to throw a glob of it at the holder of the camera. Yet another photo was of Maxx as he beamed brightly in the kitchen with a large spoon in hand.

     On and on went the scrapbook, and by the time Snickers had finished it, his eyes were brimming with tears yet again. On the back cover was Snickers' signature; next to it was a paw print, made by (no doubt) a Feepit.

     Snickers let out a small, stifled sob and laid the scrapbook aside. Beneath it was the exact sketch book he'd taken with him to Meridell. Flipping trough it, Snickers turned to the last sketch he'd drawn of Maxx.

     Maxx beamed with his beady eyes. His fur looked as though it were gently blowing in the breeze. He looked as though he'd never been happier, and Snickers managed a small smile.

     The thunder and lightning had subsided; even the rain was letting up. Clutching the sketch book tightly, Snickers peered out of the window and his smile widened just a little bit more.

     The sun was peeking out from behind a cloud; rays of sun were shining down. And Snickers was positive he spotted an oddly-shaped cloud that looked exactly like a Feepit; or perhaps he'd only imagined it.

     Had Maxx really left? Snickers wasn't sure. The odd Feepit-shaped cloud became more pronounced, more solid -- and the image in Snickers' mind of a Feepit became less fuzzy. He could see Maxx clearer now -- and he wasn't just an unmoving picture. He was really, truly there.

The End

 
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