Life, Death, Friendship: Part One
Life, Death, Friendship. Part 1
Just because a Neopet dies, doesn't necessarily mean that its life is over. You may have heard stories of Neopets that did die, but continued moving in a shadow-life version of their old life. Some owners make their pets this way using paint brushes and morphing potions. But what happens to the wild Neopets when fate decides that their lives are coming to an end? That's what this story is about; two Xweetoks named Gina, and Ruben....
"Gina? Gina, wake up already!" Gina slowly cracked her speckled eyelids open and looked up into the face of her older sister, Polly. Sighing heavily, Gina turned over and tried to sleep further. Polly wasn't having that, though. Shoving her gently but firmly out of bed, the Pink Xweetok continued, "Come on. We have to get ready. Our owner is sending enough NP from Krawk Island to send us on the trip we've always dreamed about... Don't you care anymore? Gina?"
Gina sighed a heavier sigh than before and turned to her older sister saying, "I doubt that both of us want to go to the same place. You hate the Haunted Woods..." Polly took a step back as she thought about what Gina had just accused.
Finally, with a look of sacrifice on her face she said, "I don't think it would kill me to spend a week in the Haunted Woods with you... So long," she finished hurriedly, "as we head to Lost Desert right after." Gina smiled and hugged her big sister. Polly may be a little much at times, but underneath it all she was a good pet. After a minute more of hugging, Polly bustled out of the room to go pack. Gina stared out the window at the sunny sky and green grass of Neopia Central. Soon she hoped to look out a similar window at the full Kreludor and the gloomy but exciting Haunted Woods.
"'Feelings of hate or love usually reach those they are aimed at,' retorted the mutant pet with a cackle..." Ruben stopped reading aloud to himself and sighed. It was nice to hear a voice in the gloomy fog of the clearing, but disappointing that it was only his own. Sure he could change his voice to sound like another's, but it wasn't the same.
He glanced around the clearing quickly, checked to see if anyone was watching him,and then sighed again. No one ever came to this field; not since the accident that had ended his life. He flopped over onto the musty grass thinking quietly to himself. It was all very quiet. He hadn't needed to speak, breathe, or even live for too much time. He touched his chest quietly and felt no heartbeat. He didn't care though. Nothing really mattered when you were dead. You could do anything, but never really change. Always moving, but never changing.
His eyes drifted shut and the book on his lap sank through his chest to the ground with a dusty thump. He didn't open his eyes. Things moving through him when he lost concentration wasn't surprising to him anymore. There were no more things to learn about being a ghost. He had learned them all. There was nothing to read, nothing to write on, and nothing to be. He might as well die, but he couldn't.
Even the Meepit trio didn't bring cheer to him. They tried to whenever they saw him, but to no avail. There was nothing left...
"Polly? I'm thinking that no creepy things are going to leap out at you on the caravan..." Gina said to her older sister's cowering form. Polly glanced up and looked around. Lots of pets were going home on the Gypsey to the Haunted Woods. Mutants, Zombies, Shadows, and a Wraith. Polly gulped and allowed the smiling Elephante to help her into the wagon. Talking stopped as they sat down, but started up again after a moment.
Gina looked around excitedly saying, "Isn't this great? We are finally going on our dream adventures! I could just squeal with glee." Polly was trying very hard not to look around too much as she nodded in agreement. Finally the caravan creaked and started moving. The two Xweetoks watched the only home they had known move slowly past them through a rough canvas window.
Soon an Aisha wearing a long dress stood up and said, "Haunted Woods five minutes checkpoint. Haunted Woods, five minutes."
Polly began to shake uncontrollably and whimper to herself. Gina started looking excitedly out the window at her dream trip beginning.
Ruben was drifting quietly around in his head till he was interrupted by a the sound of small bells coming closer. Flashing his blood-red eyes open, he sat up and looked into the forest to find the source. More curious than he had been in years he floated quickly toward the noise and peered through the trees.
He saw the caravan moving past, but slowly enough so that he could see the passengers. A mutant Zafara and her child napping in their seat. A Msp Poogle staring at a book in its paws. And then, near the end of the caravan he saw one pet that didn't fit in with the Haunted Woods.
A Speckled Xweetok was peeking happily out the window at the world passing. Ruben frowned in confusion and wondered why she looked so happy. This wasn't a place Neopets came to be happy, this was a place where they came to be scared. But she did look happy. A smile was alight on her face and her eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.
The caravan holding her was moving past his hiding place and he watched it go almost in slow motion. Suddenly she looked in his direction and smiled wider. She waved cheerily at him before the last wagon disappeared around the corner.
Ruben closed his eyes slowly, seeing her face in his mind. Something about the way she smiled and waved when she saw him made him feel different. Like everything wasn't pointless. It made him feel strangely, and almost giddily, happy...
"Polly. Guess what I just saw? A Xweetok all by himself in the woods. He was looking at me. Isn't that exciting?" Gina said as she looked at her sister. Unfortunately Polly wasn't looking at her. She was looking at the ground and gasping in a scared-stiff way. Gina looked down too.
There was a Mutant Spyder right underneath her older sister's paws. It didn't look hostile, but was frightening enough for her sister to panic. Gina hurriedly brushed the Petpet out into the aisle where it was found and picked up by its owner. Polly had blacked out by this time, though.
The wagon suddenly stopped with a jerk and a voice said, "OK, time to get off. Hurry it up. We have to keep moving to our camp so the next Caravan doesn't collide with us."
Gina dragged her sister and luggage out of the caravan and onto solid ground. Not a moment too soon. The gypsies started the wagon again when all the Neopets were off.
Gina's supercharged excitement chose this moment to surface. She was really standing in the middle of the Haunted Woods. With a squeal she danced around the pile of luggage, dragging her sister after her. Finally it wore off some and she started thinking; where to stay while she and her sister were here?
Gina deposited her sister on the luggage and walked over to a booth. "Excuse me?" she asked the Usul working there. "Where can I find a hotel?"
The Usul looked through some papers for a moment before replying, "There is a hotel not far from here. Here's the address. Have a nice time in Haunted Woods." Gina smiled back and took the paper back to her sister.
Polly was waking up blearily and asked, "What happened?"
Gina answered as she grabbed up their stuff, "You fainted on the Caravan. Help me carry this to our hotel." Polly seemed to cheer up slightly at the word 'Hotel'.
"Where's the hotel? Is it five-star? I hope its not infested..." Gina let her sister talk to herself. After years of living with Polly, she knew that it was pointless to answer her questions. Polly wouldn't fully hear the answers till she was calmer.
In the meantime Gina could plan. Now that she was here she could do all the things she had read about. Apple-bobbing, spooky shopping, tasting foods, the list was endless...
Ruben opened his eyes after a moment and looked around. The bells had already passed twice. He had heard it move past before. A thought occurred to him. What if the Speckled Xweetok wasn't staying in the Haunted Woods at all? What if she was merely passing through and had taken the opposite caravan out again?
After a moment of panicking Ruben pulled himself together. It was none of his concern what the Xweetok did. Why should he care? He stalked off into the woods. A scream echoed from the woods behind him, causing him to turn around.
More thoughts filled his mind. What if that was the Xweetok? And she was in trouble? Should he care? No, but he did. Sighing heavily he floated, faster than usual, toward the echoing sound.
Gina stopped walking as her sister's blood-curdling scream began. She turned to see Polly backed against a tree with three ghost Meepits standing in front of her. Gina stepped forward to intervene. The three Petpets were laughing at Polly's reaction and congratulating themselves.
Gina stepped between the two and said calmly, "Come on, guys. Fun's over. Move along." They stared at her for a moment before breaking into peals of laughter. Gina stood firmly, staring them down. Finally they stopped and realized she was seriously telling them to get lost.
One by one they backed off and disappeared into the forest. Polly hugged her brave little sister gratefully. Each unaware of an audience...
Ruben watched Gina protect her sister from the Meepits. He continued to watch as they picked their luggage back up and walk toward the Hotel. Again he closed his eyes, to better reenact the scene he had just witnessed. The Speckled Xweetok was brave even in the face of uncertainty. This proved more interesting than he had previously thought.
A sudden urge to watch her closely embedded itself into Ruben's mind. He wanted to make sure that she never had to worry about things. But he equally wanted to end his sad existence. As he battled between the two paths one of the Meepits appeared in front of him.
"Hey, Ruben. What's up, man?...besides you!" The Meepit fell to the grass chortling in its own joke.
Ruben rolled his eyes and said quickly, "I'm not in the mood for your jokes right now, Brian. Where is Bernard and Beatrice?" The ghost Meepit looked suspiciously at him before signalling his siblings. The three petpets stared at Ruben waiting for him to speak.
"Do you know the name of those Xweetoks?" he asked.
Beatrice raised her paw tentatively and replied, "Ummm. One of them is named Polly and the other is named...?" She waited for her brothers to jump in. When no one did she shrugged at him.
Bernard interrupted their thoughts and said, "Why do you want to know, Ruben? And you seem different. Almost... LIGHTER!!!" A second passed as his last word escaped, and then the three pets fell to the ground laughing. Ruben sighed heavily and sank through the ground. He had seen them laugh before, heard them joke before. It had little meaning to him now.
Wanting to know the Speckled Xweetok's name had given him a new light. Something to seek, knowledge that wouldn't be found easily. Her companion was named Polly. That seemed to be a start, but it didn't help him learn anything about the Neopet that had so captured his attention.
It was the one thing he had found that seemed worth the effort for a long time. The one thing that actually mattered to him. He tracked the pair slowly, listening and learning...
After Polly had stopped hyperventilating Gina was able to lead her into the hotel just miles away from the Brain Tree's clearing. Gina felt even more excitement as they checked in and unpacked their bags. They were really here in the Haunted Woods; and they weren't leaving for a couple weeks.
Polly collapsed on the bed after the last shirt was put away and said weakly, "I'm going to take a nap. You go do freaky, horrible things and send me a postcard." She had drifted off by the time she finished the sentence.
Gina smiled and then shrugged. Her sister was brave, but not when it came to the Haunted Woods. Couldn't be helped, but didn't bring down her spirits. Gina stepped out of the Hotel into the new world and inhaled deeply. She could taste the fresh air and strange smells of the forest. Sighing in contentment she took a step forward and instantly ran right through someone.
Ruben watched the Speckled Xweetok run straight through a ghost and fall on her face. The ghost didn't notice and continued floating toward the hotel. The Speckled Xweetok sat up and dusted off her fur. She stood back up after a minute and then walked straight into the Haunted Woods without breaking her smile.
Ruben was confused. She seemed genuinely happy to be here, in the scariest place on Neopia. That much was obvious. He followed her for a few minutes before stopping and thinking to himself; why was he following her? To learn more about her. What for? No reason, she was just the most interesting thing that had happened to him. But why should he care? She was a stranger, and there were plenty of other Neopets to watch and learn about. Following just one seemed to be a little strange; for him anyway. He turned away and started to float back to his meadow.
Another scream pierced the forest. He didn't turn, as he had before, but froze. As the sound echoed through the forest he ran it through his memory banks. He had witnessed her bravery so it wasn't her screaming... Or was it? He also shouldn't care, but he still did. This would be the death of him... Which made no sense as he was already dead... If this would be the death of him then wasn't it worth pursuing?
With an agonizingly exasperated sigh, Ruben floated toward the sound's origin, wished all the while that he could say no to himself.
Gina heard the scream begin, echo, and then fade. She walked toward the sound briskly. There was a clearing just to her right with panicked screams coming from it. In the clearing were several owners and Neopets running away amidst a swarm of... Halloween Buzzers. Fear slowly gripped Gina. It wasn't the fact that they were halloween-colored, but that she was deathly allergic to Buzzer's stings.
For the first time she felt scared. The last time she was stung by a Buzzer, her owner barely got the cure in time. She had nearly died. Now here she was in the middle of the Haunted woods, all alone with no cure in sight.
Suddenly the swarm noticed her and charged. Gina knew that she should try and run away, but fear kept her paralyzed. The Buzzers got closer and closer...
Ruben got to the edge of the field and saw the Speckled Xweetok standing there. He wondered briefly why she didn't run away from the oncoming Buzzer swarm. "Maybe she can't," he thought to himself. "Maybe she's finally scared. But why be scared of these petpets if she wasn't of those others? Unless..." Something clicked in his brain and he leaped forward...
To be continued...