High and Lifted Up
It was a very windy day in the Haunted Woods.
Life was dull, mused Tommy, looking out the window. Life was dreary and life was flat and life was boring here in the Haunted Woods. It was especially boring in the Witch’s Tower, with a fussy witch as his “mentor” who was too lazy (or busy, as she claimed) to go out and get her own potion ingredients, never mind make his life fun and non-boring and colorful and adventure-packed and... well, all the stuff that Heroes had in their lives.
He hated boring-ness. He hated grey-ness. He hated spells. He wanted fun. He wanted color and friends and games and adventure. He wanted a book about him, or a game, or maybe just an action figure modeled after him, preferably on a velvet cushion in a glass case with a hefty price tag in the Hidden Tower and coveted by everyone in Neopia.
Of course, when he mentioned this to Edna, the witch had laughed and told him to go get her a Blue Koi Keyring.
Outside, the wind taunted the trees, the signs, the pets. Come and get me.
It skipped and flew, then skidded to a stop and went at a 90-degree angle into the air.
The mailman barely made it to the front door. When the door opened, Edna said, "hello", but before she had a real chance to say "thank you", the mail blew out of the Chia’s paws, into the house and the front door slammed in his face. Edna ran to pick up the mail.
"Oh my," she said.
Tommy was watching the shutters open and then shut, curtains fluttering like ghostly fingers, beckoning to him...
Come and play, Tommy.
"Edna," he said, "May I go outside?"
"Oh—I suppose. But be careful," she answered absentmindedly. "It's so windy today."
The small red Kougra crawled down from the window-seat and ran to the door. He rushed out, the door closing with an empathic bang. The wind blew fiercely and snatched the newly recovered mail from Edna’s hands. Envelopes flew off, far into the tower.
"Oh my," she said again, chasing after them. Behind her, windows slammed.
Outside, multicolored leaves were leaping from swaying trees, landing on the ground, hurling themselves off the roof, and then chasing one another down the lane in tiny whirlwinds of merriment. They ruffled the fur of the Petpet shop Cybunny—they blew into Sophie’s cauldron, eliciting a wave of cursing—they tickled the Brain Tree, reminding him of what he had given up in his quest for knowledge. He frowned and blew them away, in the direction of the Esophagor.
Tommy watched in fascination.
"If I were a leaf, I would fly clear across Neopia," Tommy thought, and pranced out into the yard among the swirl of colors.
Edna came out, holding her wand aloft.
"Tommy, come in. It’s time you practiced your spells. You don’t want to grow up to be just a normal, boring pet, do you?"
However, the young Kougra was not there. A few leaves waved at her, then danced off on a runaway wind.
Tommy was a leaf. He was blowing down the street with the rest of his playmates.
A maple leaf came close by, touched him and moved ahead. Tommy met him shortly, brushed against him, and moved even farther ahead. They swirled around and around, hit trees and pets, flew up into the air and then down again, in a never ending game of “Tag, you’re It”.
"This is fun," Tommy thought.
The maple leaf blew in front of him. It was a bright lacquered yellow with well-defined veins. The murky sunlight shone through it, giving it a luster never before seen by a little pet's eyes.
"Where do you think we are going?" Tommy asked the leaf.
"Does it matter?" The leaf made a close approximation of a shrug. "Have fun. Life is short."
"I beg to differ," an older leaf said, suddenly coming beside them. "The journey may be short, but the end is the beginning."
Tommy pondered this the best a leaf could ponder.
"Where do we end up?"
"Wherever the wind takes us. In an Earth Faerie’s delicate palm, in the hot, dry alleys of Sakhmet, down the wishing well.” The leaf waved around.
Tommy listened, entranced.
“However...” The leaf cleared his throat. “If the wind blows you in that direction—you will end up in the gypsy’s camp. And probably end up in their campfire."
"I don't want that," Tommy said.
"If you are blown in that direction, you will fly high into the air and see things that no leaf has seen before."
"Follow me to the gypsy’s camp," the maple leaf said. "Most of my friends are there."
The wind blew Tommy and the maple leaf along. Tommy thought of his choices. He wanted to continue to play.
"Okay," Tommy said, "I will go with you to the camp."
The winds shifted and Tommy and the leaf were blown in the direction of the gypsy’s camp.
The old leaf didn't follow. He was blown farther down the road and suddenly lifted up high into the air.
"Hey," he called out. "Look at the sights up here. They are spectacular. Come and see."
Tommy and the maple leaf ignored him.
"I see things. I see the camp," the old leaf cried out. "I see smoke. Come up here. I see fire."
"I see nothing," the maple leaf said.
Tommy saw the tents that made up the camp. He was happy to be with his friend. They would have fun in the camp. Of course they would.
He saw the gypsies sitting around the fire. An Aisha was dancing around, catching leaves and throwing them—
Suddenly, a black-clad figure ran over, huffing and puffing. It was Edna. She wasn't about to let her ward run off into the gypsy’s camp. (You never knew about them—they were such dangerously exciting people!)
"Not so fast," she said, grabbing Tommy. "You are not allowed to play in there. Don't you see the smoke? Don’t you?"
Tommy watched the maple leaf catch against a tent and struggle to get over. He scampered over to help it but was unable to reach it.
Behind the tents, a light flared and the smell of ashes wafted over.
Edna walked over and plucked the leaf. She put it in her pocket.
"There," she said, "it will be safe until we get back. Now come with me, please. You still have spells to practice."
Tommy smiled, waved in the direction of his friends, and followed Edna back to the tower.
“I’m really tired,” Tommy whined. “Can’t I have a break?”
Edna frowned, obviously displeased, but nodded. “We’ll practice again tomorrow—where are you going?”
“Outside!” Tommy yelled with delight, already halfway out the door.
Edna sighed. Honestly, the pet was like one of those gypsies.
“Well, don’t run off again, understand? If you do, don’t ever come back again! Got it? Tommy? Do you understand?”
But he was already gone.
The young Kougra lay down in the yard and looked up into his narrow circle of sky, encircled by trees. A few feathers—from the Golden Pteri?—wafted across. Their golden sheen reminded him of the tawny old leaf. He wondered where it had gone. Perhaps one day he would see what the old leaf had seen—perhaps.
His musing stopped as one feather alighted on his face and gently tickled his nose.
Why not fly with us? High up in the sky. Come on.