The End of the Endless Plains
The afternoon lay hot and still on the Endless Plains. The
sun shone down steadily, baking the earth. Small animals searched for food beneath
the cover of the grasses, birds perching in the few scattered, wind-bent trees
chirped drowsily, and two young Lupe pups play-fought in a small hollow.
The yellow pup grabbed the blue one's foot in
her mouth and dragged him in a circle until, twisting on his side, he caught
her tail. They wrestled, rolling over and over, each trying to pin the other.
Yelps and snarls floated through the air. Finally the yellow one gained the
upper paw and crouched on top of the blue, holding him down.
"Hah," she said, grinning down at her brother.
"I let you win," growled the blue pup, struggling
to get free. When she let him up, he lay down again and began licking his small
injuries. His sister did likewise. When he was finished, the blue pup rolled
over on his back and gazed up at the cloudless blue sky. Limitless, it seemed.
His contemplations were interrupted by a rustle
of grass to his left, and into the hollow came an old green Lupe, still tall
and strong despite his years. One ear was bent and a thin scar traced its way
down his left foreleg. On seeing the pups, he gave a great sigh and flopped
down on the sun-warmed earth beside them, scolding with mock-sternness.
"You young rascals keep running off. How am
I supposed to keep track of you both? I'm responsible while the rest of the
pack is hunting, and these old bones can't go racing all over."
"Aww, Uncle," the blue pup protested, squirming
onto his stomach. "You're not that old. Besides, we don't need to be baby-sat.
We were just practicing fighting."
To which his sister added, "I won." The blue
pup glared at her.
The old Lupe grinned at them both. "Well, stay
closer from now on, you hear?" The blue pup nodded reluctantly, then the yellow.
"Good." He put his head down and closed his eyes. The yellow pup, tired out
for once, followed suit.
The blue pup, not feeling sleepy, sat up and
stared out across the waving grass. It reminded him of what he'd thought of
the sky before Uncle came. Going over to the sleeping Lupe, he tugged on an
ear to wake him.
One yellow eye opened and fixed on the pup.
"I just want to know... why is this called the
Endless Plains?" asked the pup in a whisper.
The green Lupe groaned and turned on his side.
"Because they're endless."
"But they can't be. There has to be an end somewhere."
The Lupe groaned again and got to his haunches,
giving up on sleep. "Well, I guess there is an end. About three days' journey
that way there's a big city, called Neopia Central. A city is a place where
lots of Neopets live, not just Lupes, and other creatures too. Hundreds of them."
"Oh." The pup had no interest in such a place.
It seemed so unreal anyway. "But then... where do they begin?"
"Well, maybe that's really where they begin."
"Then where do they end?"
The old green Lupe sighed and looked at him
wearily. "I don't know, young'un. I guess nobody does. You'll reach hills or
mountains if you travel to either side, eventually... but that direction, the
plains go on forever, as far as I know. Can I go to sleep now?"
The blue pup wasn't listening. He was looking
across the grass, into unknown distances, thinking about the end of the Endless
Plains. Long after Uncle's snores sounded in the still, hot air, he sat there,
Then he got up.
Softly he padded across the hollow, not wanting
to wake the two sleepers. When he reached the other side he began to run, soundlessly,
through the long grass, using a steady lope that an adult Lupe could keep up
for a long time. But he wasn't an adult Lupe, and soon he slowed to a walk.
He felt a prickle of guilt as he realized he was disobeying Uncle, but his curiosity,
once awoken, was too great to set aside.
He walked on through the afternoon heat, steadily,
every step taking him a little farther towards the end of the plains. For surely
there had to be an end somewhere. The grass could not go on forever and forever.
And he would be the one to find it. He would be the first one ever to reach
On and on, on and on he walked, as the sun crept
lower and lower in the sky. The young Lupe pup stopped to rest beneath a gnarled
tree. The plains here looked the same, smelled the same, sounded the same as
where he'd started, with no sign of the end coming up. But it was just a little
farther, surely... maybe it would come into view in the next minute, maybe it
was just over this low ridge. It couldn't be very far now...
He started walking again.
At last, as the sun touched the rim of the earth,
the pup realized the end was farther than he'd thought. He sat and stared longingly
in the direction he'd been traveling, then turned and headed for home. He was
hungry and thirsty and weary, his paws sore and aching. All he wanted now was
to reach his den and his pack. The rest of them would be back by now, getting
ready to sleep - but no, they would be looking for him instead. He wondered
what Uncle had thought when he woke up and saw him gone.
The pup knew he'd walked for a long time, but
going back time seemed to slow unbearably. Stopping to rest his tired paws,
he realized all of a sudden that he hadn't been paying attention to which way
he was heading. He didn't know which way was home.
Keeping to the direction he was going, hoping
he wasn't getting more and more lost with each step, he continued trudging through
the now full darkness. The air had lost its daytime warmth and he was beginning
to be cold as well as hungry, thirsty, and tired. He stopped for another rest
in the middle of a stretch of grass just like a hundred others he'd crossed
today. Leaning his head back, he looked up at the sky.
The stars were bright as ever, shining from
so far up, uncountable numbers of them. They made the pup seem small and unimportant.
The moon floated, huge and pale and round in the vast black expanse. As the
pup gazed at it, he was filled with a yearning for something he couldn't quite
name. Lifting his muzzle, he howled to the moon. His first howl ever.
In the distance, a Lupe howled back.
The pup pricked up his ears and turned towards
the sound. Not only was it a sign of another Lupe, but the voice sounded familiar.
The far-off Lupe howled again, and the pup was sure. It was Uncle.
Raising his muzzle to the sky again, he howled
back. He and Uncle traded howls across the plains, letting the other know that
they were there, that they were coming.
The pup stopped howling and started loping towards
Uncle, given new energy by the thought of reaching home. Uncle's howl also stopped.
The pup strained his eyes to see through the darkness. The wind was blowing
the scent away from him, but he knew Uncle could smell him.
When he saw the shape of the old Lupe in the
moonlight, the pup slowed down and came to a stop, expecting to be scolded.
But nothing was said. After a minute, he looked up into Uncle's eyes.
"I was trying to reach the end," he said.
The Lupe nodded, a strangely gentle expression
on his face. "I know."
They walked back together towards the den. The
wind blew across the grass, and the pup turned and looked one more time behind
him, as if he could see through the dark and all the long distance to the end
of the Endless Plains.
He'd be back, he knew. He'd be back, and he'd
go farther. One day he'd go all the way. One day he would reach the end. One