Life, Death, Friendship: Part Three
Even if Neopets die in the wild, they can still live on. Moving through life without changing or growing. A simple mirror-copy of their former life.
It can become hard. Having no owner or friends can become unbearably painful over the years. Then that pain turns into a numbness that slowly consumes the pet until there's nothing left. They're there, but with no soul.
Some can break free of this horror. And that's what Ruben has just proved...
A strange creature came out of the trees. It had pearly white skin and blood-red eyes. Ruben hissed and stepped in front of Gina protectively. Gina stared at the creature with a mixture of horror and wonder. It walked closer till it was standing no more than a couple of meters away.
"I'm so glad that someone has heard of my work," it purred in a falsely prideful voice. There was a sneer on its face. Gina tried to step around Ruben, but gave up when she saw his spinal cord contract.
She compromised by peeking over his shoulder, then said, "Yes, I've heard of your work. Are you still doing it?"
The creature cackled for a moment, then said, "Why don't you ask that little spit-fire in front of you? He seems to know more about it than you." Gina blinked and then looked at Ruben. He was still glaring defensively at the creature, but deep in his eyes there was a sliver of fear.
"Ruben? What's this guy talking about? Do you know him?" Gina asked gently. Ruben didn't answer.
The creature laughed again. "He's afraid to let his guard down. You must be important to him, little pet. So I'll fill you in." It paused to take a breath before saying coolly, "I expect you know just how long Ruben's been dead?"
Gina nodded and replied, "Yeah, He said he's been alone for twenty years. What's that got to do with it though?"
The creature nodded back and continued, "Correct. But he didn't tell you how he died?"
Gina shook her head slowly and then replied hurriedly, "I didn't want him to feel uncomfortable. It didn't matter-"
The creature interrupted smoothly, "It does now. It was me. It was all me. See?" It stopped talking and spat out something to land at their feet.
Gina was barely able to recognize a small little shiny locket. She reached around Ruben to pick it up. Opening it was difficult, but Gina soon saw the contents. Inside was a picture of a brown Xweetok holding a baby Xweetok in its arms. The brown Xweetok was smiling in a way that was very familiar....
Gina's head snapped up toward Ruben who, taking a precious moment of focus, met her eyes and nodded.
"My baby sister," he blinked and then continued, "Jewel..."
Gina felt a surge of anger toward the creature and demanded, "Where's Jewel? Where's his sister?"
The creature cocked its head and said in a sneering tone, "Don't know, don't care. Little worm got away from me." Ruben's stance faltered dramatically.
He said in an awe-hushed voice, "Jewel's still alive? You didn't get her?"
The creature rolled its eyes and replied, "Yes the little pup is still alive somewhere. Is there an echo out here?" Gina stepped closer to the monster.
"Where is she?" she demanded again. As she spoke Ruben gently pushed her back to give the creature a wider berth.
"Good grief! Is this all pets care about nowadays?! If it'll shut you up, she got picked up by a caravan of Gypsies and was taken out of the Haunted Woods. What's it matter to you anyway? You're just a friend." As the creature replied, several things happened at once.
It stepped closer, Ruben hissed and prepared to pounce, and a huge thing came rolling out of the woods shouting and clanging.
The monster hissed and ran off. Ruben froze as the thing rolled faster toward them. As it came closer both Neopets wondered if they were better off or in even more danger than before
The thing came rolling toward them, right past them, and then smashed into a tree. It collapsed to the ground in a pile of broken bells and cloth.
Gina gasped and ran over to the pile. Ruben followed her after a minute. Coming from the center were peals of laughter. Suddenly three familiar ghost Meepits popped their heads out of the cloth. They were all laughing so hard they couldn't speak.
Finally one of them gasped out, "Hi-*high-pitched giggles* hi, Ruben...*laughter* Did it work?...*insane laughter* It better have *giggle, snort* The gypsies are pretty upset *side-busting laughter* we took their favorite *tear streaming laughter* tent!" Their laughter was contagious.
Soon Gina started laughing along with them. And then Ruben was laughing. Really laughing. As he laughed the Meepits stopped and looked at him quietly.
After a while Gina stopped laughing too and asked, "Why are you guys staring at Ruben? Haven't you ever seen a Neopet laughing?"
One of the Meepits piped up before the rest, "Never with Ruben though. We've been trying to get him to laugh for nine years now!" Gina raised her eyebrows and looked over at Ruben. He grinned sheepishly back at her. The Meepits watched with wide eyes, then began to whisper amongst themselves....
"Ruben seems different now..." Beatrice said.
Bernard opened his mouth joyfully but Brian interrupted,"Not the way you joked about before, dummy."
Bernard slumped down and said dolefully,"Oh..."
Beatrice eyeballed the two Xweetoks for a moment before saying, "I think Rubens found a new favorite friend."
Brian added, "I think that too. How favorite you think? More than us?"
Bernard said cheerily, "I think he's happy. Ruben seems so... light!" His siblings shushed him before he could start laughing....
Ruben and Gina watched the Meepits whisper to themselves for a moment before Gina looked at him and said, "Maybe going back to the hotel is a good idea. Before something else happens." Ruben nodded breathlessly. Gina smiled and took his paw. Together they left the Meepits chortling in the meadow to return to the hotel.
Eventually Ruben found his younger sister...
Ruben gulped as he stared at the grand house before him, then at the paper in his paw. The paper said that his sister lived in this Neohome. It was a mere matter of knocking on the door and asking. He didn't know if he was up to that right away, so he dodged the lawn ornaments and peeked into the window.
The Neohome was even more grand inside than out. Beds, bathrooms, chairs, tables, decor. Every inch of the floor was filled with purpose. It took him a minute to see a small figure coloring on the red and white bed below the window.
It was easy to recognize Jewel, even though she was wearing green Pjs and had her hair combed. Ruben took a deep breath and tapped on the glass to get her attention.
When she noticed him standing by the window peeking in, Jewel said, "Ruben? Is that really you?"
Ruben nodded with a smile. Jewel leaped off the bed and raced to the front door. Throwing it open she she ran around the house and threw herself into Ruben's hug.
"Ruben! I missed you so much!" she squealed gleefully, "I thought that I would never see you again. I asked Robin to look for you, but she told me that wild Neopets don't show up on the search."
"Jewel. I missed you too." Ruben hugged his little sister till her back paws left the ground. "I got eaten though, and was a little confused when I woke up. By the way, who's-"
Just then a soft female voice asked, "Llois? Who's this?" Ruben looked up to see a woman standing there looking at the two of them.
Jewel jumped out of Ruben's hug and ran over to the woman saying happily, "This is my brother Ruben. He's the one I told you so much about. 'Member?" Ruben nervously watched realization dawn in the owner's eyes. People still made him nervous. Then something sank in.
"Llois?" His little sister looked up in response to the name. "'Jewel' isn't your name anymore?"
Jewel, now known as Llois, replied sheepishly, "It's kinda a rite of passage for adopted pets. I don't mind though. It's nice having a name that everyone knows. Don't you think?"
Ruben smiled at his little sister and replied, "I don't mind if you don't. I'm glad you're happy here. I just wanted to make sure you were doing OK." Llois' face fell slightly.
"You're not leaving, are you?" she said sadly.
Ruben sighed quietly and answered gently, "I have to. You have a life here now. A life that I'm not a part of anymore. I'll still visit you. And you'll always be my little sister."
Robin spoke again. "Our door will always be open to you. Feel free to come anytime you wish." She smiled kindly. Ruben nodded nervously and slowly departed.
Llois came running after him, saying, "Wait." Ruben turned just in time to be bowled over. Llois hugged him tightly and said, "I love you, big brother. Visit me soon."
Ruben hugged her back and replied, "I will. I love you too. Be safe. "
Special thanks to:
my Mom for helping me spell and grammar check my story,
the Neopian Times for allowing my story to be shown,
and 5966001 for allowing me to use Llois in my story.
Author's note: Gina and Ruben may be back. Until then, keep looking for more stories. I enjoyed writing this story. It was a lot of fun. It took me less than a week to write it and even more time to have it proofread. I hope to write more for the Neopian Times in the future.