Finding Boochi: Part One
Charlie still remembered the day he had turned Grey. How could he ever forget the day that caused all of his misery and despair?
It all began when he moved to Neopia Central with Isabelle, his owner. There was talk everywhere about a mysterious source of water called the Rainbow Pool. Isabelle admitted that she was curious about the pool, and Charlie found his own interest piquing, as well. Isabelle told Charlie that if she could save enough Neopoints for a paint brush, they could visit the pool.
But as the weeks went by, Charlie found himself getting impatient. Isabelle had always cared for him, and he had always had a loving home, but most of their income went on food. There was never much to spare after the weekly shopping had been done. Definitely not enough for a magical paintbrush.
One night, when Isabelle was fast sleep, Charlie made up his mind to go and investigate the Rainbow Pool alone. He only wanted to look at the magical water he had heard so much about. The pool's magical properties wouldn't work without a paint brush, anyway, so there was no harm in what he was doing. That's what he kept telling himself as he crept out of the house and disappeared into the trees.
Crickets were chirping everywhere, filling Neopia Central with a buzzing lullaby. Charlie hurried through the bracken, taking a short-cut through the marketplace and winding his way towards the clearing where he would find the Rainbow Pool.
He broke through the trees and his breath caught in his throat. What a magical sight! Lightmites littered the air like tiny floating candles, casting their yellow glow onto the sleeping face of the Money Tree, whose soft snores caused the grass to sway and ripple.
Charlie's eyes fell on the pool. He could see the glowing reflections of the Lightmites in the water, even from this distance. The Rainbow Pool was beautiful – a clear aquamarine that shimmered as if it had been blessed with faerie dust. Perhaps it had.
He approached the pool slowly, shaking with excitement. There was nobody else around at this hour, and he closed in on the water, peering at his own reflection. His fuzzy purple mane seemed to glitter, and he giggled, happiness welling up inside of him.
Charlie could sense the magic of the pool, and he felt blissful and ecstatic all at once. He dipped his fluffy hands into the water, and splashed his face for good measure. The water felt amazing! It was as though he had doused himself in magic. Forgetting that he had snuck away from his home in the middle of the night, he resolved to rush home and tell Isabelle all about his wonderful experience.
As he turned to leave, however, he stumbled over his own feet, too excitable for his own good. He threw out his arms out to protect himself as he tumbled towards the ground. But Yurble's arms aren't the strongest or biggest of arms. Charlie crashed to the ground in a heap, landing on something rather uncomfortable. There was a squelch from somewhere beneath him.
Charlie scrambled to his feet, searching frantically for what he had fallen on. Lying in the grass was a slightly bent paint brush with smeared grey paint gathering in a puddle around it.
"A... a paint brush?" spluttered Charlie, unable to believe that someone would leave something so valuable lying around.
His wondering ceased when a tingling sensation began working its way up his body, like an electric current. He looked down in surprise, and his chubby stomach had begun to shimmer. Gradually, his purple fur faded to a dull grey. For a split second, he was excited – he was changing colour!
But as soon as the change was complete – his mood became as colourless as the fur that covered him.
And that was how he had become Grey. Not just in colour, but in mood and manner. Isabelle had hugged him, insisting she would find the currency to paint him again. Miserably, Charlie had nodded his head, but expected no such thing.
Now, he sat in Neopia Central on a daily basis, under the shade of a large tree, too ashamed of himself to be at home. Isabelle knew that he was withdrawing, and she tried with all her might to encourage him to be positive. But that side of him had faded along with his purple fur.
It was a day like any other. Charlie was sat observing the world, reflecting on his poor luck and feeling generally miserable. The smell of hot dogs wafted over to him from the market, but the scent didn't hold the same appeal as it once had. He watched families bustling about the market, smiling and laughing together. Tears prickled at the corners of his eyes as he watched them go about their business.
"Hey! Hey you!" called a squeaky voice.
Charlie jumped, blinking away his tears. He looked to his left and saw a tiny baby Aisha blinking up at him, a wide smile on her face.
Repelled by her smile, Charlie snapped, "Rude. It's not 'you'. I have a name."
The Aisha blinked again and then giggled. Her large eyes were quite unnerving. "Then what is your name?" she piped up, her tail wagging.
"Charlie, huh?" she studied him for a moment, and he shifted uncomfortably. "I'm Mhewsie."
Charlie grunted in response. He wanted to be left alone to be with his thoughts – why was this baby Neopet pestering him?
"You look unhappy, Charlie," she said, hopping closer to him, moving like a Cybunny rather than an Aisha.
Charlie deeply wished that she would vanish. Nevertheless, he sighed and said, "Yes, I am unhappy. That's why I'm up here alone. I really don't want any company."
"Then why are you looking at those people like that?" Mhewsie asked, following his gaze towards the marketplace, where another family was shopping together, their faces jubilant.
Charlie was surprised. She was perceptive, and quite intelligent, for a baby.
Mhewsie rolled her eyes. His thoughts must have shown on his face. "Look, I came up to talk to you because I think I can help you," said Mhewsie.
A tiny spark of hope emerged within Charlie, but he squashed it quickly. "How could you possibly help me? I doubt you'd give a paint brush to a random stranger!"
Mhewsie shook her head, but she was still smiling. "Have you ever heard of Boochi?"
Charlie nodded. There was nobody who hadn't heard of the famous baby Bruce who travelled the world, randomly firing his ray gun at unsuspecting Neopians, turning them into babies. Even back in Mystery Island, where Charlie used to live, there had been Boochi sightings and rumours.
"Well... I was zapped by Boochi myself," said Mhewsie.
"Is that why you're so... smart?" ventured Charlie.
A laugh burst free from Mhewsie. "Not really. All baby Neopets are different. Anyway – what I'm saying is... if we can find Boochi, and get him to zap you... you could go back to normal. You could be happy. Just like those people at the market."
"Why would you help me?"
Mhewsie looked at the ground. Her eyes had become sad, and the smile on her lips had faded. "I... I used to be Grey, once. A long time ago, I was in the pound, and somebody came in and adopted me. They took me somewhere strange every morning. A machine would shoot a ray at me, and strange things would happen... sometimes I would feel very weak. Other days, strong. Sometimes my fur changed colour. For three weeks, I was Grey."
Silence fell, filled only by the hustle and bustle of the marketplace behind them. Charlie had no idea what to say. He was quite flabbergasted. So far, he hadn't met anyone who had experienced being Grey.
"Eventually I changed colour again. But after a while... my new owner got bored. She said that the ray wasn't working the way it should, and she wanted to try a new pet. She left me at the pound and replaced me with a Kacheek."
"I.. I was so sad." Mhewsie paused for a moment, looking up at Charlie with her ears drooping. "I thought I'd be in the pound forever. Until my owner, Violet, adopted me. I was still distraught over my experience, though. Then one day, we were shopping, and Boochi jumped out of the bushes... he zapped me with his ray gun. I thought something terrible had happened. But when the smoke cleared... I was like this."
"I-I'm sorry, Mhewsie, that sounds awful."
Mhewsie shook her head. "I feel amazing, Charlie. Getting turned into a baby pet was the best thing that ever happened to me! I'm happy all the time, and I have so much energy! I love playing, and laughing... it's so exciting! Every day is an adventure."
In that moment, Charlie envied her. He could see her tail wagging, and her ears pricking up. She was telling him the truth, she really was happy. Like he used to be.
"What do you say, Charlie?" asked Mhewsie, grinning widely and nudging him with her paw. "Do you want to go and find Boochi? It'll be an adventure! I'm sure you miss adventures, don't you?"
Truthfully, Charlie hadn't had an 'adventure' since the night at the Rainbow Pool. The thought of having another frightened him. It was daunting, and he wanted to curl up and hide in the shade of the tree forever. But if he did that... he would be Grey forever.
"Alright, Mhewsie," he said. "You've got yourself a deal."
To be continued...