March 15, Y9
It's the Ides of March. At least, that's what my owner tells me. She says it's a day remembering the death of a guy named Seize Her, or something like that. It doesn't matter to me. MossflowerElf says I don't need to think about pain right now. There's too much of it around here already.
A young blue Blumaroo, General_Broo, looked up from his ragged journal as his stomach growled noisily. He rubbed his torso painfully, then looked down and began writing again in the journal on his lap, trying not to think about the food he wouldn't get, as he sat on the cold wooden floor of the small house.
Keli's so cruel. She won't let us eat. There's the odd scrap here and there, but other than that, there's no food. None. We all think she's crazy or something. Reno has already tried to convince her that he really doesn't want the paint brush after all, but she's already insane from it. You should see the wild look in her eyes when she's counting points--
"Whatcha doin', Broo?" The Blumaroo's owner strolled casually into the room, and the little Neopet hurriedly snapped his journal closed.
"Nothin', Mom. Just... writin'." He traced a pattern on the floor with a paw, trying hard to look innocent. He noticed her face looked eerily strange in the torchlight. His owner, commonly known as Keli, sighed and looked around the room.
"That's good. Just checkin' on ya." She pushed her fingers back through her long blonde hair, then turned back to General_Broo. "Do you feel a draft in here?" she asked, hands on her hips, glancing around at the stone walls.
Broo sighed. "Mom, you demolished Flame's room yesterday."
She stood silently for a moment, a confused look on her face, then seemed to suddenly remember. She laughed. "Ah, yeah. Well, the whole house is comin' down soon. More points from the property..." She sucked thoughtfully on a fingertip, then swiftly left the bare room, leaving Broo alone once again. The Blumaroo sighed long and heavily. His owner was completely insane. No food, and they would soon have no home. What were they to do? He glumly scooped up his journal and headed outside.
A stale wind was blowing through the gnarled trees of the Spooky Woods. It was a grey, dreary cloudy day as usual. Broo sighed once more. Living in this kind of neighborhood didn't help their dim outlook. He flopped down under a tree, wrapped his arms tightly around his knees and sobbed. Everything seemed utterly hopeless.
An acorn bounced off his head, landing at his feet. He glanced up angrily into the branches of the tree above him and saw his red Xweetok brother, flaminchipmunk, sitting on a high branch and swinging his legs playfully. Flame grinned impishly down at Broo.
Broo jumped up, wiping the tears from his face with the back of his paw, and hurled the acorn back at the Xweetok. It missed, of course, making him even more irate. He sat down in a huff and began throwing pebbles at the base of the tree. Flame jumped nimbly down from the branch, landing right beside Broo. He sat down and pulled his knees to his chest.
"Hey, li'l bro, what's eatin' ya? I haven't seen you bouncin' much recently." Getting no response, he poked Broo firmly in the side.
"OUCH! Don't do that!" Broo yelled, grasping his side and slapping Flame's paw in the same motion.
"Sorry," Flame mumbled apologetically. For the first time, he had noticed he could see all his little brother's ribs clearly. He looked at himself, and he sadly noticed the same thing. Dying. "I didn't know it could feel so bad," he whispered.
"Yeah, well, it did." Broo leapt up and began scuffling his feet around in the dirt, stopping to forcefully kick any rock or stick that got in his way. "I wish-- I wish-- I wish I had never been chosen! I wish I was never in this family! I wish I was back at the pound right now! I wish--"
Flame's paw clamped forcefully over Broo's mouth, silencing him immediately. The Xweetok's voice remained calm as he scolded the youngster. "Don't say those kinds of things. Especially don't wish like that. We are, after all, in Neopia. You never know when a faerie might hear you."
Broo shoved Flame away and stomped off, calling over his shoulder, "Yeah, well, I do wish all that! I don't care if they hear! You all hate me!"
"We do not, and you know we don't!"
"You do, too! Mom never EVER feeds us, she's destroyin' our home, we live in the absolute weirdest place possible, and-- and-- and--" Tears welled up in his small eyes, and he spun around to look directly at Flame. "--and I hate it." He burst out crying and dashed off into the forest.
"Wait!" Flame called after Broo, but he knew it was too late. Broo could run off like this and come back only after he had made up his mind to, which could take days. It was Flame's turn to sigh deeply. He heard someone approaching from behind him, but needed not turn around to know it was the distinctive four-footed gait of his older brother, RenoRuki.
"What's goin' on?" The blue Ruki came up beside Flame, arms crossed and a questioning look on his face. "It's Broo again, isn't it," he said, reading Flame's exasperated expression. Flame nodded, and Reno's antennae drooped. "What is it this time?"
Flame bent down and touched a scuff mark in the dirt where Broo had kicked the ground. "He's upset about our... poverty. As usual. He'll never get over it."
Reno's head dropped to his chest. "I feel so bad for 'im. I mean, adopted in the middle of this--" He swept his arm towards the demolished side of the house, then dropped it to his side. "Mom's insane. Loony!"
Flame mumbled low, "She pounded two pets."
Reno stared. "Wh-- what?" He stood stock still in disbelief. A long pause followed.
Finally, Flame spoke again. "...a while back... a Zafara and a Bori... both dumped 'cause we're 'too poor'."
The Ruki continued to stare, then swallowed and looked down at his feet. "I-- I didn't know," he choked.
Flame looked up with a start. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have told you," he said, standing up and dusting off his fur.
"It's okay. It doesn't matter now." There were a few minutes of silence between the two, with the only sound coming from the wind in the old oak trees. Both pets felt the tension of their situation, and shivered from both the weather and chilling fate. Finally, Reno spoke. "She's worse, you know."
Flame blinked. "Who?"
"I knew that already. She freaked out when she found 10 NP on the ground this mornin'. She ran off squealin' towards the bank." The corner of his mouth turned up in a half-smile as he remembered the event. "It's weird. I've never seen even a n00b act so freaky."
Reno laughed, but his head shook sadly. "I don't know what we're gonna do. She really is insane about that paintbrush."
Flame's eyes suddenly flashed at Reno. "The paintbrush... This is your fault! Look at you, you're not starvin' like the rest of us! Why, I'll bet Mom gives you extra food when we're not lookin'!" He stepped menacingly towards the Ruki, one paw raised in a fist. Reno's eyes met Flame's, and Reno saw that same hungry, pained look he had seen so many times before in Broo's gaze. He stepped back, arms raised in defense.
"Hey, come on! You're the crazy one now! You know I don't want that brush anymore! I'm hungry, too," he explained, tapping his hard shell with one hand, "but you can't see it 'cause of this. Come on, Flame, settle d--"
"Chirka chirka CHIRKA!" He didn't have time to finish his plea as the crazed Xweetok flung himself through the air and tackled the Ruki.
A frenzied scuffle ensued, with the Ruki finally pinning the struggling Flame to the ground. Reno braced himself as Flame kicked and snapped at the air between them in his rage. "Stop! Stop it! Get a hold of yourself!" Flame only snarled viciously in response to Reno's commands. Reno slapped him, hard.
Flame froze, then fell limp. He looked away ashamedly, mumbling, "I'm sorry. I won't do it again. I don't know what's gotten into me. I'm sorry." He squeezed his eyes shut, and a hot tear rolled down his cheek to the dusty ground. His body shuddered with contained sobs. After a pause, he sniffled and looked up at his older brother. "You really don't want that paint brush?" he asked quietly. Reno shook his head. "Then we gotta do somethin' about Mom," Flame muttered, still sniffling.
Reno looked confused. "What can we do? I've tried telling her--"
"No. You gave me an idea. We gotta get MossflowerElf to do this..." Flame jumped up as he was released from Reno's grasp and ran around the corner of the house. "Hey, Mossy!" he yelled, skidding to a stop in the leaf-covered backyard. A green Kyrii, sitting with her legs crossed on a fallen tree, looked up from her work.
"What is it, Flame?" she said in a voice that seemed both tired and playful in the same breath.
"You've got your Whackster, right?" Flame asked, pointing to Mossy's craft.
"Sure do. I've been polishing it." She grinned, hefting the large wooden mallet she used for whacking n00bs and despies on the NeoBoards.
"Good, then. I need you to use it on someone for me." Flame rocked back and forth on his heels expectantly.
"Well, who is it?"
"Mom?! What, are you crazy?" she yelled, just as Reno rounded the corner of the house.
The Ruki smiled broadly. "He was, two minutes ago, until I slapped some sense into him. I think I know what he's onto now."
Flame was hopping up and down with excitement. "Right, then. Mossy, you're the quietest one in our whole family. I need you to sneak up behind Mom and whack her right on the noggin. Got it?"
Mossy laughed and nodded. "I get it. Let's do it!"
Several minutes later, they were gathered around an unconscious Keli, a large bump decorating the top of her head. Mossy was smiling, leaning on the handle of her oversized mallet. "We should've thought of this sooner," she sighed. "Always works on despies."
"I hope it works," Flame said anxiously, poking Keli with his paw as he sat beside her on the floor.
Reno called over his shoulder as he stood leaning against the doorframe, looking out into the front yard. "Oh, it will. Just wait. It worked on you, didn't it?" Flame twitched his tail impatiently.
"Yeah, well, I guess so." He flopped over onto his stomach."I just wish she'd wake up so we'd know soon." Just then, Broo came running through the front door, shoving Reno out of the way as he entered.
"What's goin' on? What are you doing?" He spotted Keli on the floor and screamed. "What did you guys DO?! Now I'm living in a house of murderers! As if starving wasn't bad enough," he wailed. Reno quickly ran over to the distraught Blumaroo and placed both hands on the youngster's shoulders, looking him in the eyes.
"Broo, listen to me. We may have found a way to fix Mom's problem. You've just got to be cooperative now, okay? We're just waiting for her to wake up." He patted Broo's head and went back to his spot near the door. Broo looked back at Keli, and soon sat down cross-legged beside Flame. There was dead silence for several long minutes.
Suddenly, a groan escaped from Keli's lips, and all eyes turned immediately towards her. "Where... What... Ow, my head," she moaned, sitting upright. "What happened?"
Mossy fumbled for an answer. "Well-- uh-- you hit your head, I think," she said innocently, trying to hide the enormous mallet behind her back. A half-cough, half-laugh came from the direction of the door. Reno's shoulders were shaking.
Flame nodded vigorously. "Yeah! Hit your head. Now, what about that paintbrush?"
"What paintbrush?" Keli asked, blinking groggily. "I don't know what you're talking about." A joyous cry arose from the Neopets, and they all rushed out of the house, dancing and leaping ecstatically.
"Hey, look, guys!" Broo cried, bouncing, "The sun's comin' out!"