I finally have another chapter for you to read. I do apologize for such slow progress. My dearest pet passed away, and the loss has been especially hard on me. But I am feeling better now. And I am eager to finish off this tale.
As we near the end, I want to remind everyone that there will be a final "Special Thanks" chapter. All illustrators will recieve a special slot in this chapter, as well as anyone and everyone who ever left me a review. I want you all to know just how much those mean to me. I never could've made it this far without the unending support.
Please be sure to review this chapter as well. Hopefully the next one will be done much sooner.
And I hope you all had a chance to read and review the sneak peek to my next tale Always By My Side. I also have two short shipfics up, so feel free to read and review those as well.
As always, message me if you need anything. Thanks and enjoy!
Chapter 44: Worth 1000 Words
The living room of the modest San Francisco house now resembled an art studio.
Scattered across the carpet in little stations, four of the five emotions reclined upon the ground, using the tiny wax spears to create colorful drawings. The four sheets of once white printer paper were already coming to life with what would soon be full, vibrant pictures. The fifth emotion, still seated in her makeshift bed, was drawing her own colorful scene, just on a much smaller canvas. Despite some initial grumbles and complaints, all five of the creatures were very much enjoying the little art break. Their faces were alight with smiles, the atmosphere around them light.
Aside from an occasional request for another color, the colleagues were remaining surprisingly quiet. It was taking all their concentration to transfer the complex ideas in their heads to the papers below, especially during these early stages. Finding the silence slightly unnerving, Riley decided now was as good a time as ever to turn on some background music.
The young girl grabbed the small stack of CD's from beside her and held them up so the little creatures could see. "Alright." She began, fanning the jewel cases like a hand of cards. "I'm gonna put on some music. Which cd do you guys want to hear?"
Breaking away from their art momentarily, the emotions picked their heads up and studied the boxes in their host's hands. There was the newest CD from the hottest boy band, one of her dads old AC DC albums, a cd of 90's songs that Riley's cousin had given her... But one disc stood out from the rest, one which all the emotions could agree on.
"Meg's mix." They chanted in almost perfect unison.
Riley smiled. It was the CD her best friend Meg had burned for her shortly before she moved to California. All the tracks were of her favorite songs, including the ones Riley and Meg would scream sing together while studying or hanging out. Riley was happy with the emotions choice, and she quickly rose to pop the disc in the boom box.
The familiar, catchy songs quickly filled the house, the energy level within rising with the upbeat tempo. The young girl smiled brightly, memories of her best friend flowing through her mind, and she began to quietly hum along. Her mood only continuing to get better, she trotted over to the table to retrieve the donuts she had placed there moments earlier, then bounded back into the living room, setting herself up with her own sheet of paper and full sized crayons.
Before she began drawing, though, she tore open the plastic wrapper on the treats. She removed a single donut, sending a small flurry of powdered sugar drifting to the carpet, and tore it into five tiny pieces. These she handed to each of the emotions upon the floor, who had all perked up like Pavlov's dog to the sound of the packaging being torn.
Drawing, donuts, and their favorite music. Riley smiled, plucking the black crayon from the box. What could be better?
Joy, taking a quick bite of her donut while she waited for the blue crayon, began to gently kick her foot in rhythm with the music. "I'd forgotten how much I liked this song." She smiled. "We listened to it on our first big road trip with Meg. Remember?"
"You mean to that giant science museum?" Disgust laughed, filling in a large area of pink. "Of course. You decided to keep it singing it that whole day, no matter how much I protested."
The golden emotion giggled, her aura glowing brighter as she laughed. "Hey, it was a good song! I mean, it wasn't the worst song we could've been singing."
Fear huffed, pretending to be angrier than he was. "You kept me off of the console, telling me we were too busy singing and that I shouldn't mess us up." He shook his head. "Riley wound up riding a bike across a tightrope because you wouldn't let me stop her."
Joy's laugh took on a more nervous tone. "Well, yeah... But it was completely safe! You heard the employee who buckled us in. It was physically impossible for us to fall."
Riley swallowed the last of the donut she was eating and withdrew another from the package beside her. It was a little off putting remembering that day and realizing that all the choices she had made were actually the result of these little creatures at a console. It was strange to hear that the emotions remembered that day from her eyes. As she switched to a red crayon, she wondered about when the creatures would return to her head. Now that she had the knowledge of their existence, would it change the way she thought? After every choice she made, would she be caught wondering if it was truly her own?
Perhaps, she wondered, there was a reason she didn't know about these creatures before.
From the art station beside her, Sadness breathed a long sigh. "No matter how many times we repeated it, Meg never stopped singing with us..." She mumbled. "I miss Meg."
Suddenly, all of Riley's thoughts of her own emotional knowledge dissipated, replaced by a new question.
"Hey guys." Riley's coloring slowed significantly as her numbed mind burned in deep thought. "Does Meg... Do other people have emotions too..?"
The colorful creatures artistic progress began to slow as well, a few of them lifting their gaze and exchanging a quick glance filled with mild surprise and confusion.
"Well... I assume so..." Fear murmured after much contemplation, once again picking up speed with his drawing. "I mean, they would have to... Right?"
Riley was taken aback by their lack of knowledge on the subject. It seemed they had had an answer for all of her previous questions about themselves and where they came from. "Wait. You don't know?"
Anger, switching crayon spears to a different shade of red, shrugged his blocky shoulders. "It's not really something we think about." He grunted. "If there are other emotions out there, we never see 'em. So it doesn't really matter to us."
The young girl sighed, slightly disappointed with the answer she had received. Now she would be forever curious about whether or not there were more tiny creatures like these in other peoples heads. But at the same time, it was a little depressing to learn that her little companions could never interact with their own kind, if more existed. They had only each other in their world. It was no wonder they couldn't tolerate being separated; their little family of five was all they knew.
As Riley's mind continued to buzz with new questions and curiosities as to the existence of more emotions in other mindscapes, time quickly began to slip by. The little figures, trying not to get hung up on questions which they had no answers to, focused instead on the music that radiated from the old boombox, singing along to all their favorite songs and vividly remembering where they had last heard each tune. As the disc played on, eventually reaching the last few tracks, the emotions began to finish their pictures one by one. They brushed themselves off, studied their finished master pieces, then reclined on the soft carpet as they waited for the others.
It was Riley who was eventually left as the last one still coloring, since she had begun her picture long after the others. Worried that she was boring her little companions, she attempted to pick up the pace, which was made slightly easier by the fast paced final track of the cd. But as she pushed hard to finish her work quickly, she heard a faint growl rise from the little figures beside her.
"I know, I'm sorry Anger..." She mumbled, moving faster still. "I'm almost done..."
The crimson creature lifted his brow in confusion. "I didn't say anything." He shrugged.
Thoroughly puzzled, Riley lifted her gaze. "Then... Who growled?"
Disgust, whose soft cheeks had blushed to a rosy pink hue, took an embarrassed step backwards. "That... That was my stomach, heh." She chuckled nervously, rubbing a hand down her lime green arm. "Gross, right? I guess I'm just hungry, but eating only donuts is making me feel a little sick."
Riley quickly turned her head around to study the clock beneath the tv. "Whoa, you're right." She marveled, swiftly rising to her feet. "It's already 1:30. We haven't eaten lunch!"
The mere mention of a meal was all it took to pique the shared interest of the five colleagues. They had previously been so enthralled with their own little projects that they hadn't realized just how hungry their small bodies had become. Now the thought of food had entered their heads, drowning out any and all unrelated thoughts.
Deciding that feeding her small companions was more pressing than finishing her little drawing, Riley brought her cupped hands to the floor near their feet, a waiting transport to the dining room table. Recognizing the signal in an instant, the emotions began to climb aboard. Much to Riley's surprise, Joy stood from her bed and carefully walked over as well, rather than wait for the young girl to move her and the mattress together. Though the other emotions offered their hands, worried that their golden leader may still require walking assistance, she politely declined their help. Riley smiled as she situated herself in the center with the others. Many more of her gashes had sealed during their coloring. Though she still had some remaining, she was already looking worlds better than she had in the shed. Her glow even seemed to shine brighter.
The young girl quickly brought her miniature friends over to the table and dropped them off, then made her way to the refrigerator. Still humming along with the final song in the mix, she popped open the freezer. From a brightly colored package decorated with the logo of a Mexican restaurant, she produced a few frozen steak and cheese taquitos, which her parents had picked up for her as a quick and easy lunch option. She threw these onto a plate, scattering bits of glittering frost across the ceramic, and set them in the microwave to cook.
With the food now cooking and the emotions waiting patiently atop the table, Riley decided to take the time to clean up their last activity. As she walked by the stairs, the boombox on the shelf reached the end of the cd, the laser straining as it looped back to the first track. The young girl quickly switched it off. As much as she enjoyed the music, it was nice to have a break of silence to enjoy their meal in.
Riley laughed to herself as she gathered the colorful wax spears, now worn down into a variety of strange shapes. She really knew how it felt to be a mother. Preparing lunch, cleaning up previous activities, planning the next fun thing to do; it was like she had five children of her own. Even though she would dearly miss her tiny little creatures, it would be nice, she thought, to once more live the life of a pre teen and not that of a soccer mom.
With the art supplies neatly packed away, all that remained were the six colorful drawings. Riley shot a quick glance to the table behind her. The emotions meandered about, talking amongst each other while occasionally sniffing at the air, eagerly awaiting their food. They were too distracted to even realize where their host was and what she was doing. The young girl smiled a sly grin. She had been planning on letting the emotions present their drawings themselves. But surely, she decided, they wouldn't notice if she were to take a quick peek...
Her curiosity quickly overpowering her, she put a hand on the nearest crayon drawing other than her own and pulled it closer.
On the paper was a waxy image of herself. Like Fear's drawings from days ago, the style it had been drawn in exactly matched her own, causing her to have to remind herself she hadn't produced the image. The Riley drawing was wearing a patterned pink and black dress topped with a snazzy black half jacket, with black leggings, pink shoes, and an emerald colored necklace as an accent. The young girl smiled. It was Disgust's outfit design. She had to admit, it looked pretty cool. She was excited to see what it looked like on herself.
Not wanting to linger on any picture too long, she pulled the next drawing to her. This one depicted a sullen looking man in a jean jacket, his hands buried in his pockets and with rain clouds overhead. It took her only a moment to recognize the figure as the main character in the newest teen drama movie that she and her friends had seen in the fall. With the way the falling rain rolled down his face, she knew this picture had been drawn by Sadness. Riley marveled at how well she had captured the feeling of sorrow in the crayon drawing.
The next piece of paper, which the young girl plucked from the sea foam green mattress, was far smaller than the others. It had been the one drawn by Joy. She had illustrated her own golden form, posed with her arms outstretched and a huge smile on her face. Absent were the gashes in her flesh and the tears in her dress. In the image, she was well again, and brimming with positive energy. Scribbled across the top in large golden letters was the word "SMILE", a message for her host for whenever she may feel down. Riley couldn't help but follow the one word instruction.
With a quick glance to reaffirm the emotions were still distracted, she placed the paper back on the mattress and grabbed the next one. A huge, looming figure took up nearly the entire 8.5 by 11 space. It was a fearsome red dragon, with flames spilling down its head and neck, sharp spines trailing down its tail, and huge bat-like wings spread proudly. Protruding from its head were two long branched horns, both tipped in a small red fire. The young girl could tell this was an artistic rendition of Anger as a dragon, and she was blown away by how well he had done with this challenge.
Through the process of elimination, she knew the last picture was Fear's. She gently picked up the paper and held it close. As she studied the wax image, she briefly thought how thankful she was in this moment to have her feelings numbed, as it made it much easier to hold back the tears that formed in her eyes. She breathed a long sigh and smiled, her lip gently quivering.
It was a detailed picture of the young girl holding Fear in her hands, exchanging an expression of familial love. Written below the image in a royal purple, it read,
"Don't ever forget me, Riley."