There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 131,950,016 Issue: 271 | 22nd day of Celebrating, Y8
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Baubles


by violet_nose

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There was an unmerciful blizzard on Terror Mountain that dark Christmas Eve, and there was not a soul who set foot outside. But inside every Neohome a family was enjoying their time together, decorating, baking, wrapping presents or just settled down in front of a warm fire, with a mug of Borovan, happily reflecting on their thoughts, satisfied that their shopping was done and that tomorrow it would be nothing but laughter and excitement, and wrapping paper left in shreds on the floor, as everyone marvelled at their presents.

     But it was not quite so in one Neohome.

     Inside that Neohome was a family of six Neopets, decorating a fine Christmas tree.

     But the owner was nowhere in sight.

     A small yellow Kacheek, by the name of Zenia, sighed as she wrapped silver tinsel around the lower branches of the tree, since she was too short to reach the upper branches.

     "Like, it's so typical of her!" Sibeal the teenage Uni suddenly spoke up. "She's, like, always late!"

     "I would have to disagree with you," said Zenia, "Mama is usually quite punctual."

     "Like, how would you know?" Sibeal scoffed. "You, like, always have your nose in a book! You wouldn't, like, even notice if she was here!"

     "Please don't fight," Duckie the small Starry Scorchio pleaded.

     "She's right," Peacock agreed with Duckie. "Arguing won't do us any good."

     "Groovy pumpkins!" Peacock's green twin sister Evelina cried out.

     Everyone ignored Evelina. They were all too used to her sudden spontaneous outbursts.

     "Aw!" Beda whined as Sibeal and Zenia were reduced to glaring at each other from across the room. "It was just getting good, too! How else can I keep myself entrotuned until Mama comes home?"

     "'Entertained'," Zenia corrected Beda. "And why don't you assist us in decorating the tree if you want to be kept occupied?"

     Beda groaned.

     "Beda, could you please fetch another box of ornaments?" Peacock asked her.

     Beda trotted across the room and picked up a box that was written on with black marker "Xmas stuff". But instead of giving it to Peacock, as she was asked, Beda opened the box and looked inside.

     "More baubles?" Beda cried out.

     Zenia blinked, bewildered.

     "What's wrong with baubles?" she asked.

     "Trippy pumpkins!" Evelina shouted.

     Ignoring Evelina, Beda answered Zenia. "Nothing, I guess, but why do we need so many?" She pointed towards the Christmas tree, which was laden with glass baubles as well as tinsel and other decorations, but there were more baubles than anything else.

     "And it's not like there's anything really Christmassy about them!"

     "Especially these ones," Sibeal said, pulling a bright purple bauble out of the 'Xmas stuff' box.

     Peacock shrugged. "Well, they are rather nice to look upon," he commented.

     "Yes," Zenia agreed. "And have you seen the neighbour's Christmas tree? Sometimes I think they are confusing Christmas with Halloween! So not everyone has to have their tree completely in tune with the season."

     "Purple pumpkins?" Evelina said hopefully. Realizing that no one was taking notice of her, Evelina decided to see what was all the fuss about the 'Xmas stuff' box.

     Dipping a pale green paw into the box, she dug around for a moment, then her eyes grew wide.

     "Pumpkin..." she whispered, saliva dripping from her muzzle and her tongue lolling as she held up an orange glass bauble, which she had foolishly mistaken for a miniature pumpkin.

     Zenia glanced over at Evelina, confused, then her eyes widened in horror.

     "No, Evelina! Don't!" she cried out, as Evelina prepared to take a bite out of the bauble.

     Peacock dove at Evelina, knocking the bauble out of her paw.

     Evelina tried to chase after the bauble, but Peacock quickly pinned her to the ground.

     "Pumpkin!" Evelina whined.

     "That wasn't a pumpkin, Ev," Zenia said. "It was a bauble!"

     "What is it with you people and baubles?!" Evelina cried out suddenly.

     Sibeal heaved an exasperated sigh.

     "It looked so real..." Evelina whispered, staring in awe at the orange bauble as it rolled lazily under the sofa.

     Peacock climbed off Evelina, shaking his head.

     A brief silence lay before the six pets, and Duckie's head was filled with the same questions as the rest of them: When would Nonni be back? Would she ever come back? Had she been in some terrible accident? She had never before been late for their Christmas Eve tradition of decorating the tree as a family!

     Duckie's thoughts were interrupted as Sibeal reached into the Xmas box, pulled out a bright pink bauble, and exclaimed, "Like, oh my gosh! This one's, like, the queen of baubles!" She held the bauble up high, admiring its shining pink glass.

     Zenia then pulled out of the box a dark blue bauble. She giggled.

     "Hey, this one reminds me of Mama!" she said, thinking of the chubby, blue-furred, winged bunny that was their owner.

     Duckie looked into the box, and something caught her eye. Reaching into the box, she pulled out of it a gold coloured bauble.

     "I like this one," she said quietly. Nobody heard her.

     She stared at the bauble, giggling at her reflection, which made her snout look three times larger. Soon she found herself staring into the gold bauble, deeper and deeper, and the room seemed to slowly fade away...

     *****

     Duckie blinked, and stared around her.

     "Where am I?" she asked aloud.

      She appeared to be in the Lost Desert, some distance away from the city. Behind her was a seemingly endless length of barren sandy wasteland; in front of her was the city, a few minutes walk away. She found it stiflingly hot under the blazing sun.

     "That's strange," she muttered. "I thought it was evening, but it seems to be midday now!"

     But she soon found she couldn't stand there pondering for much longer.

     Glancing behind her, she saw the most curious thing.

     A strange, low cloud in the distance was nearing her, faster and faster. But the truly strange thing about it was that it appeared to be coming from the sand.

     Duckie's eyes widened in horror.

     "SANDSTORM!" she shrieked in terror.

     She quickly turned tail and ran towards the city.

     Though only a few minutes walk away, Duckie found the distance between her and the city immense, as she forced her short, chubby legs to run faster.

     She desperately flapped her wings, but being young as she was she could only hover a couple of feet above the ground.

     The powerful cloud of sand chased her, and only fear drove Duckie on.

     With a last spurt of energy, she sprinted past the city's gates, and entered the city of the Lost Desert.

     "HELP, HELP, A SANDSTORM! A SANDSTORM!" she screamed in panic as she ran up and down the sandy street.

     But no one heard her calls. In fact, the city seemed to be deserted!

     Duckie ran up to a house, and hammered on the door, screaming, "PLEASE, SOMEBODY HELP ME!"

     No one answered the door. The fact was, the inhabitants of the city had seen the danger signs of the sandstorm a while ago, and quickly ran inside their houses, barring the doors so no winds or sand could knock them down. And they dared not open their doors to anything, for fear of being swept away by the storm.

     Duckie collapsed at the door, sobbing.

     Then she felt a cloven hoof touch her shoulder.

     Looking up, she saw standing before her a kind looking yellow Ixi.

     He gave her a comforting smile.

     "Come with me," he said. "I'll find you some shelter." He held out his hoof to her.

     Sniffing, Duckie wiped away her tears, and grabbed onto his hoof.

     The Ixi pulled her to her feet.

     "Hurry, we must hurry!" the Ixi said, his voice now urgent.

     He half dragged her through the city, as she weakly stumbled after him.

     He led her past the deserted market place and into a dark alley. He brought her over to a niche in the crumbling stone wall, only just big enough for the Ixi himself to crawl through. He motioned her in.

     Duckie crawled through the niche, and soon found herself in what appeared to be a dark, hole-like room (if you could call it that), not much wider than the Christmas tree she and her siblings had been decorating.

     From pure exhaustion, she collapsed onto the dry, slightly sandy floor.

     The Ixi climbed in after her.

     Duckie noticed that there were two other pets in the room. A Chomby and a Cybunny. They looked worse for wear, but they both gave her tired smiles, as if realizing that she was in need of some comfort.

     Duckie also noticed that the niche, though small, was quite wide enough to let in a large amount of sand and wind.

     Duckie voiced her thoughts. "Er, isn't that niche going to let in a lot of sand?"

     "Yes," the Cybunny answered.

     "Well, isn't that a bit dangerous?" Duckie said.

     "It's terribly dangerous," the Chomby replied. "But it's the best shelter we can find."

     Duckie saw that neither of the other three pets seemed very worried. Just tired. She saw their ragged, un-groomed fur, the way their skin hung over their bones and their hollow, tired eyes. It was obvious these pets didn't lead an easy life. Duckie felt somewhat guilty, with her clean scales that had been recently washed, and her well fed stomach.

     "I... um..." Duckie struggled to find something to say, something sympathetic. "Uh, that's too bad."

     As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Duckie felt like ramming her head into the crumbly wall. That had been so sympathetic, it was insulting!

     But none of the pets seemed to be offended or hurt in any way.

     The Ixi said, "It's not so bad. So long as we have each other! So long as we're a family..."

     "...We can always be happy," the Chomby finished his sentence for him.

     Their words made Duckie feel strange... why did she have the feeling that they were trying to tell her something?

     Duckie turned her head towards the niche suddenly, at the sound of whistling wind. She trembled with fear, as she shut her eyes, preparing herself for the great blast that would blanket them in the stinging sand. Then she heard a different sound, a sweet sound of... singing.

     Duckie opened her eyes. Before her were the three pets singing cheerfully in chorus, chasing away the fears of the howling wind, ready to face all odds together.

     "Whatever may befall us,

     Whatever may challenge us,

     We are safe, hand in hand,

     Together, all of us,

     As a family we stand

     Winds may shriek,

     Tears may leak,

     But we shall never

     Be rendered weak

     From sea to land,

     Till the very end,

     As a family we stand."

     Duckie's heart was touched by their good cheer despite the situation, their courage and, most of all, their love. Their love for one another as a family, that not even a sandstorm could tear apart.

     Duckie's gaze was dragged away from the family of three pets, to her hand from which a golden glow came from - the gold bauble.

     She found herself staring into the bauble, deeper and deeper, leaving behind the singing family who now braced themselves for the approaching storm...

     *****

     Duckie blinked.

     She was in her family's living room. The same living room. The same tree, the same furniture, the same family pictures and her same toys lying around on the floor and sofa.

     But something was very different.

     Then, Duckie realized what it was.

     Beda and Evelina ran around the room, chasing after rolling baubles, Evelina's tongue lolling before her, and Beda giggling ecstatically. Peacock stood before the Christmas tree, holding Zenia up high as she hung a plastic Angelpuss on one of the higher branches. And Sibeal lay on the sofa, her shrill laugh ringing through the air at the sight of Evelina tripping over her ribbony ears.

     What had changed was the atmosphere. The living room that had once been filled with the pets' depression at the absence of their owner had now become a castle of joy! And all because they had each other. A family.

     But what left Duckie speechlessly bewildered was that nobody appeared to have noticed her absence!

     "Hey!" she shouted. "Didn't anyone miss me?"

     The five pets ceased their cheerful antics to stop and stare at her in confusion. But before anyone could say a word, six pairs of ears heard movement in the hallway. The sound of the front door opening and shutting. Someone shaking snow off their fur. Paw steps padding towards the living room. And that all too familiar voice saying,

     "Hiya, guys! Sorry I'm late! The shop was really slow restocking, so I had to..."

     But Nonni never got any further in her sentence, for she was soon stampeded by a mob of eager and now relieved pets!

     Seemingly endless questions and exclamations rang through the air, directed towards the confused blue bunny.

     "Mama, we were so worried!"

     "I had to entrotune myself while you were gone!"

     "Like, what took you so long? And where's, like, my present?"

     "Mama, I'm so glad you made it back safe and sound!"

     "Make-like-river pumpkins!"

     "Welcome home, Mom!"

     "GUYS, I CAN'T BREATHE!" Nonni screamed above her pets' loud voices, her own voice slightly muffled by the tight embrace she was caught in.

     Soon her pets climbed off their exhausted owner, except for Beda, who dangled herself from Nonni's oversized ear like some enormous earring.

     They all went back into the living room, and Nonni settled down on the sofa with Beda and Duckie on her lap, while the rest of the pets scattered themselves on the floor.

     Nonni gazed at the newly decorated tree.

     "Thanks for waiting for me before you decorated the tree!" she said, her voice full of playful sarcasm.

     "Like, we did wait!" Sibeal protested. "For, like, hours! How were we supposed to, like, know that you were coming home?"

     "Besides," Zenia said, "We didn't quite finish."

     At the sight of Nonni's puzzled face, Peacock produced from behind his back a golden star ornament, as he beamed at her.

     Smiling softly, Nonni took the star from him. Climbing from the sofa, she fluttered up to the tree, and placed the star at its top.

     The room was filled with silent awe and bliss as they admired the star, as it shone from its perch.

     Nonni soon broke the silence by saying, "So, who's up for some Christmas Eve dinner?"

     *****

     Later that night, Duckie lay in bed with the light still on, and Nonni sitting beside her.

     Nonni pulled the blankets up to Duckie's chin, kissed her on her forehead, and said, "Goodnight, Duckie."

     "Goodnight, Mama," Duckie replied.

     "Don't let the Mootix bite!"

     "Sweet dreams."

     "And cookie-dough ice-creams!

     Nonni got up, and turned out the lights. She went out of the room, and was just about to close the door, when Duckie said, "Mama?"

     "Yes, Duckie?" Nonni poked her head back into the room.

     "I'm glad you're back."

     Nonni smiled.

     "I am too."

     And she left the room.

     Duckie was about to dose off, when out of the corner of her eye, she saw a golden glow coming from her bedside table. She turned her head to look at it properly. It was the gold bauble. And coming from it, was the faint sound of singing,

     "Whatever may befall us,

     Whatever may challenge us,

     We are safe, hand in hand,

     Together, all of us,

     As a family we stand.

     Winds may shriek,

     Tears may leak,

     But we shall never

     Be rendered weak

     From sea to land,

     Till the very end,

     As a family we stand."

The End

 
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