Believed to be located at the very core of the earth, there lies the unknown world called The Land of Quest. This is ruled by a beautiful goddess named Ahcha. This world is where the seekers of truth, known as the quabouter creatures, live.
Quabouters are the littlest of people — they have the features of leprechauns, but have a more distinct appearance due to their long, shiny hair that changes colors. It is believed that each color is earned when a quabouter learned something new.
One day, the goddess Ahcha called a young quabouter named Maruqua.
“Goddess Ahcha,” Maruqua bowed politely, “how may I serve thee?”
The goddess smiled. “Maruqua, it’s time for you to learn something new.”
“What shall I seek, dear goddess?” Maruqua asked eagerly.
Ahcha noticed the perseverance in the young quabouter’s voice and smiled. “I have heard that there is an old disease on Earth that rips through the hearts of the people. This disease gets stronger now, and we need to find out what this is — and seek a cure — before it gets planted too deep in the core and affect us all.”
“Let me handle this quest, dear goddess,” Maruqua said, determined.
After saying those words, Maruqua was suddenly engulfed by a strong wind that looks like a tornado. Not a minute after, she found herself in a strange land, not so unlike her world, but a land where most creatures are big and everyone’s busy with their own life. The land where everyone acts and speaks like they are learned — but deep inside them, there are so many questions unasked, unanswered.
Maruqua then understood that she was transported to the surface of the Earth. This is the place where quabouters are sent if they need to experience and understand something they cannot understand in their world. She noticed that she blended in – her appearance is now like the others of this world — not anymore a quabouter, but a regular earth-being.
She stood from the ground and walked straight, not knowing where to go. She knew her time is limited. Quabouters couldn’t stay longer than 3 hours on the surface of the Earth, else they will die. After about a mile of walking, she saw two girls at a corner, talking. She discreetly went near them, trying not to get as much attention as possible.
“She is mean. Be careful of her. If I were you, I will not hang out with her,” she heard the girl with chin-length hair saying to another girl with waist-length hair.
The girl with long hair looked unconvinced. “She is actually very nice to me,” she said silently.
Maruqua wondered what and whom they were talking about. So she slowly went nearer to hear more. Why was she led to these girls, she wondered. Perhaps they were a key to her quest. She needs to hurry and find out what they were discussing.
“She is not nice! She is mean!” the girl shrieked impatiently. “Don’t make friends with her!”
Maruqua couldn’t take it anymore. She realized she needed to ask if she is to find out what they are talking about. “Hi!” she greeted, a little bit enthusiastically. “May I know who is mean?” she asked, trying to sound casual.
“Liza, our other friend. She is mean,” the girl with the short hair said.
“Ari, she is not. She is actually very nice to me and to others,” retorted the other girl.
“Why do you think she is mean?” Maruqua asked Ari.
“Because…” Ari started, “because she always gets attention for herself. It’s always her! She doesn’t share the spotlight with others… She is always at the top of the class! Many boys like her! She wears nice dresses that get too much attention! She… she…”
The girl with long hair rolled her eyes. “Just because she is good at what she is doing doesn’t make her a cruel person. Just because she is better than most of us doesn’t make her mean!” she said matter-of-factly. “You are just envious of her!”
Envious. Maruqua noted the word. Could it be possible, that the disease Ahcha wants her to find out — the one that rips through the hearts of the people — is actually envy?
Ari’s face turned suddenly red. “I am not! Sasha! You know I am not envious of her!”
“Then why would you spread rumors about her? Why would you tell people who want to make friends with her to back off, because she is mean and a bully? I don’t see her bullying anybody! In fact, you are the one bullying her,” Sasha said.
After a few seconds of silence, she added, “Open your eyes, Ari! Those people who are better than you… they are are not mean people. Instead of ranting about other people and spreading bad rumors about them, why don’t you just use that effort to work on yourself so you will better too? If you’re too lazy to do that, just be contented and don’t compare yourself with others!”
Maruqua just watched and listened to them in silence, learning the ways of human behavior. Envy is an old disease that tears an individual’s heart. It makes people do things to hurt the persons being envied. The cure? Sasha mentioned them, she knew. She mentioned three cures: one, use the effort of envying others instead to better one’s self; two, stop comparing yourself with others; and three, be contented.
After she made these realizations, Maruqua felt her head begin to spin. She closed her eyes and had a sudden vision of her quabouter appearance. A streak of hair turned silvery gold – a shade of color she didn’t have before. This only means one thing: she had succeeded in her quest.
As soon as she opened her eyes, she found herself standing in front of the goddess Ahcha. The goddess gave her a warm smile. “What information do you have for us?” she inquired.
Maruqua narrated everything that had happened to her, from the moment she landed on the surface of the earth, to seeing the two girls talking about another, and to learning that envy is a disease that can rip through a person’s heart, making that person capable of doing ugly and evil things — such as spreading bad rumors against another.
Ahcha listened intently, her face grim and solemn upon learning what envy can do.
She sighed and closed her eyes. “Spreading of rumors is actually a small thing, in this case. What’s more alarming is, envy can even compel an individual to steal, or even commit murder,” she said, worried.
Maruqua saw the concern in their goddess’ expression.
“But there are cures!” she added, a trace of hope in her voice. “I heard the other girl mentioned three different cures.” And she told Ahcha the possible cures.
Ahcha listened patiently. “Hmmm… contentment,” she murmured, in deep thoughts. “It’s not a readily available cure.”
She looked at Maruqua and gave her another warm yet sad smile. “Thank you for your courage, Maruqua. You succeeded in this quest,” she told her sincerely. “Yet, I’m afraid, we have another quest to make. To find where contentment lies. Our world and theirs would need lots and lots of it.”
This short story was written by the author when she was 12 years old. This was originally written and published as a literary contribution to YoungBlood, the literary folio of the author’s high school publication. This story was published in YoungBlood 2020 issue.