Curiosity Killed the Xweetok
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to know about everything.
When I was a kid, I was always snooping around in places I wasn't supposed to be, eavesdropping on conversations I wasn't meant to hear, asking a constant stream of questions to anyone who made the mistake of coming too close. As soon as I learned to read, I started devouring books voraciously. But even that wasn't enough. I still wanted to see, to get out in the world and find out as much as I could possibly know about everything.
"Be careful, Ilathu," my mother would tell me, when I was young and lived at home. "Curiosity killed the Xweetok, you know."
"But satisfaction brought her back!" I would respond, grinning from ear to ear.
Little did I know just how true that would turn out to be.
* * *
I moved into the city so I could learn more about Neopia. In the city, you can find jobs, and a movie theater, libraries filled with thousands of books, even a newspaper that I swiftly subscribed to so I could keep up with all the current events. I found a little house with a couple of roommates – a dimwitted Gnorbu named Tidovis and a pompous Ogrin named Zydaro – and for a while it was fine. I had plenty to read and see and do.
Eventually, though, I started to get bored. I had won every game of Neocheckers that I challenged Tidovis to, and I'd read my way through all of the bookshelves at the local library. Pretty soon I knew every nook and cranny of Neopia Central and nothing could surprise me any more. Quite simply, the town had started to get a little small, and I was destined for bigger things. It was time to find an adventure, to see things I had never seen, to learn things I had never known. Maybe when it was all finished, I'd write an epic tale of my experience and get it published in the Neopian Times, becoming a prize-winning journalist. The whole prospect was so exciting that I could taste it.
The problem was, I had no idea where I should go.
I raised this problem to Zydaro, since he's always traveling all over Neopia performing with his "band." I say "band" in quotations because, strictly speaking, none of us has ever seen any of his bandmates, or even heard him play. Actually, I don't know what instrument he plays. It's never seemed very important. Mostly, he just seems to dress nicely and travel around, looking good and primping his mohawk. All the same, he does do a lot of traveling, and I figured he would have at least a few ideas for me.
I didn't really expect him to come up with anything, so I was very surprised when an odd look came over his face. "You know," he said, "I think I know just the thing."
He then proceeded to tell me about a fabled Brain Tree, an ancient sentient tree dwelling deep in an old, spooky forest. A tree who, rumors say, had a thirst for knowledge even greater than my own.
From that moment on, I knew what I had to do. I had to find this Brain Tree and convince it to tell me everything that it knew about Neopia. It didn't matter if it took days and days. I would talk to him and get him to tell me all of his secrets and I would become the most well-educated Xweetok in the universe. I couldn't wait to get started.
* * *
The day I left, Tidovis was doing push-ups in the living room. His petpet, Atticus, was sitting on his back, counting. The two of them are always training. Fighting and getting into shape are really the only things that Tidovis ever seems to care about.
"Are you... sure... you're okay... going... alone?" Tidovis panted out between pushups. He didn't look up at me. "Brain... Tree... is really... tough. It sounds... dangerous." He groaned, heaving himself up into a sitting position. Atticus slid off his back and landed with a plop beside him. "I could come with you, just in case something happened."
"No thanks," I said, not at all looking forward to the idea of dragging a boring, personality-free lump of Gnorbu around with me on my adventure. "I'm sure I'll be fine."
He badgered me about it for a while longer, but I wouldn't hear a word of it. I adjusted my pack and set off on a journey for the Spooky Woods, looking forward to all of the things I was going to learn.
* * *
The Spooky Woods were well-named. I spent some time sight-seeing before reaching my destination. I lost most of my money to a run-down carnival, I wandered through some poorly lit paths, I evaded the attention of creepy-looking petpets that lingered in the shadows and watched me with unnervingly bright red eyes. I was only slightly frightened; mostly, I was fascinated.
Unfortunately, I never got to the Brain Tree. I made a little detour, instead, and found myself inside of a strange shop filled with an assortment of bottles, all of them filled with strange-colored liquids. I had visited Kauvara's Magic Shop several times, and I suspected this place must be the same.
There was an oddly dressed green Zafara inside, and she eyed me with cool suspicion as I browsed the shelves and tried to get a closer look at everything.
"I don't suppose you'd like to help poor Edna...?" she asked.
"I'm all out of money, I'm afraid," I said, showing her my empty purse. "That fellow with the coconuts took my last neopoint."
"A pity, a pity," she said, clucking her tongue. "But it's all right, you pretty little thing. I actually had something else I needed help with. A potion I'm perfecting."
She moved to pull something down from the shelf. It was a sludgy gray-green color and churned slowly in its bottle. "See, I have this potion I've been working on, but I need someone to test it for me."
"Why can't you test it yourself?"
"Oh, it won't work on Zafaras," she said. "It was designed for Xweetoks, actually. If I mixed it right, it's supposed to make something really wonderful happen."
"Wonderful how?" I was skeptical, but I also couldn't help myself. I wanted to know what was in that bottle. I wanted to know if it would work. More than anything, I wanted to know what wonderful thing was supposed to happen.
Somehow – I'm really not sure on the details, it all starts to get fuzzy at this point – Edna convinced me to try out the potion. I drank it in one long gulp and set down the flagon, immediately feeling a very uncomfortable heat radiating through my belly and up my throat. This was followed by a terrible searing pain and a sudden wooziness.
My sight clouded over and my hearing went fuzzy. Just before I hit the ground, I remember hearing Edna say, "Well... I guess that one wasn't any good."
* * *
At first, I thought I had just passed out. But as time wore on, I started to worry that something bad had happened. I felt like I was trapped, just sitting in a dark room, unable to feel or see or hear anything at all. The numbness was the worst part, the part that frightened me the most. Everything had hurt so much that now I could feel nothing at all, and that seemed like a very bad sign.
I have to know what's going on, I thought. Just open your eyes and check to see what happened.
It took a while to convince myself to do it. My mind was hazy and just wanted to rest for a while in the darkness. But I couldn't let that happen. I was far, far too curious to figure out what was going on, what that potion had done, who that Edna person was, and whether the Brain Tree really knew everything that went on in Neopia.
I opened my eyes.
I was outside, in a heap of rubbish. It was very dark, and I could see no one around me except for one small, bug-eyed calabat that had been munching on a zeenana peel a few inches from my face. The petpet tilted its head and looked at me curiously, licking its lips as though hungry.
I moved my paw to swat the little beast away, but nothing happened. My paw slid through it as if it were made of water.
Suddenly frightened, I jumped up to my paws – and left my body behind in the rubbish heap.
I stared down at myself in disbelief. Sure enough, where once there had been lovely brown and red fur, everything was a smoky gray color. Worse, I could see right through myself. I didn't walk; I floated a few inches above the ground. And everything I tried to touch, my paw would just slide right through it.
Curiosity killed the Xweetok, I thought, numbly. But satisfaction brought it back...
"I'm a ghost," I announced, disbelieving.
The calabat looked up at me and wagged its stubby little tail.
* * *
Being a ghost isn't actually so bad.
Actually, in a lot of ways, it's a lot of fun. Sometimes it's even better than being alive. I can turn invisible whenever I want, which makes it easy to spy on people. I can float along way faster than I could walk, so I can travel nearly anywhere. I can walk through walls and, if I concentrate really hard, I can even make objects move, but that part is still kind of a challenge. Oh, and since I can't really keep a job, I don't have to pay rent at my house any more. It's not like Tidovis can kick me out.
I haunt my old bedroom now, for the most part, although I do travel quite a bit. I like to frighten the tourists on Roo Island. Some little kids think that the carousel is haunted. I guess, technically, they're right. At least some of the time.
I'm pretty sure that this wasn't what that witch Edna had meant when she said that potion would do something amazing. But if you have to be dead, this is the way to do it.