Clumsy Claudia and the Great Negg Hunt: Part One
Also by autbum
Claudia hummed to herself gleefully as she skipped down the street, her steps light and bouncy. The friendly Yellow Usul had been in an inexplicably good mood since morning. The sun appeared to share her sentiment. Its rays bathed the beautiful Meridellian landscape with a resplendent, comforting glow. Casting her eyes around the ethereal landscape, her attention was caught by the vivid, colorful flyer advertising the annual neighborhood Great Negg Hunt on Sunday. Her heartbeat quickened, and a silly grin stretched across her face involuntarily.
“Oh wow, the Negg Hunt!” she exclaimed to herself. “I can’t wait!” She was enthralled to go home to her owner Helen and explain that the upcoming Negg Hunt was coming up much sooner than expected. Last year, Claudia had a fantastic time looking high and low around Meridell for Neggs. Even though she didn’t even come close to winning, she still had an excellent time. Immediately after last year’s Negg Hunt finished, she anticipated the following year’s Hunt, despite the fact that her legs were still fatigued and aching from running all around Meridell.
Mid-reverie, Claudia heard some familiar and unfriendly laughter. Fear twitched through her veins like adrenaline. A stone sank to the bottom of her stomach, and her positive outlook seemed to dissipate on the spot. She spun around, her heart thudding a tattoo against her ribs, almost jumping into her throat. Please, oh please, don’t let them bully me today... for once, just have Jenna ask me how I’m doing, please... she begged internally—to whom, she was unsure.
“Ha! You seriously think that you can win this year, Clumsy Claudia?” Jenna, a mean-spirited Royal Aisha, laughed snidely. Impassively, she twirled a perfect spiral of silky red hair on her bejeweled finger, as if the conversation was too proletarian for her. No matter where she was or what she was doing, Jenna seemed completely and utterly composed. In essence, she was everything that Claudia aspired to be: collected, sophisticated, respected. “You’re so clumsy that you can’t even walk down the street without tripping over your own shadow!” Jenna laughed meanly. She was flanked by the two other people she least wanted to see: Spike, a Royal Buzz, and Nick, a Royal Krawk. Both glared at Claudia fiercely.
Claudia was determined not to let them get her down. “What do you guys want?” she asked meekly, trying to sound tough. Instead, she squeaked like a deflating balloon. Laughter boomed from the trio of bullies.
“Oh, just to make it clear that you don’t have a shot of winning a thing at the Hunt this Sunday, that’s all,” replied Jenna quickly. She walked past Jenna and accidentally-on-purpose bumped into her, causing her books to tumble in a heap to the ground. “My, my, my. Look at what you just did, Clumsy Claudia—you can’t even carry your own books!” she said, cackling maniacally. The three bullies sauntered away and turned the corner. Lower lip trembling precariously, Claudia tried to will the tears away. She picked up her books from the ground and stashed the flyer between the pages of her history book.
Walking home, Claudia couldn’t help but feel dejected. She had never done anything to any of them, yet the three bullies insisted on calling her “Clumsy Claudia” constantly! They seemed to derive pleasure from making her upset; Claudia just didn’t get it. Claudia was the kind of Usul who got a rush from helping people, whether it was doling out soup on holidays at the Soup Kitchen or staying after school to help people with their math homework. Yet these bullies seemed to live solely to make her miserable! As she tried to comprehend it, her head throbbed with a dull confusion.
With a sour look on her face, she climbed the stairs to her shabby but cozy Neohome. She threw open the door as if she had a personal grudge against it, then she hurled her books at the coffee table without aiming. Surprised, Helen glanced up from the crossword puzzle she was doing. Her radiant smile lit up her face, and she pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “Oh, honey, the Great Negg Hunt is this weekend!” she said, obliviously cheerful. “Aren’t you excited? We had a blast at last year’s Hunt!”
“I’m not going,” Claudia said flatly, face scrunched up like she had just inhaled a whiff of spoiled milk.
Helen furrowed her brow, unsure of what to say to cheer Claudia up. Normally, her pet was vibrant and radiant, with a pleasantly infectious disposition and a genuine smile. If anything, Claudia would be the one to cheer Helen up—never the other way around. Now, Claudia seemed to have lost her sparkle; she was completely and utterly crestfallen.
“We’ll never win, so what’s the point?” Claudia continued.
“What’s the point? The point is we get to talk to all our friends from far away! It’s been so long since we saw our friends from Faerieland and Neopia Central! It’s not about winning, dear; it’s about having a good time! We didn’t win last year, but we had a really fun time all the same. Don’t you remember?” Helen implored, hoping that her excitement would rub off. It broke her heart to see Claudia so upset. “Why are you suddenly so upset, honey? I thought you loved the Hunt!”
“I do...” Claudia began, trailing off a bit. “It’s just that... well, you know Jenna, Spike, and Nick... they made fun of me when I was walking home today. They called me ‘Clumsy Claudia’ again, and they said that I had no chance of winning. I don’t understand why they don’t like me! I’m nice to everyone!” she said. Her voice was choked with mingled frustration and tears.
“Oh, honey!” Helen cried, getting off the couch to give Claudia a hug. “They’re just stupid bullies; that’s all. They’re probably intimidated by how intelligent and kind you are, so they make fun of you as a way of making themselves feel better. When I was younger, bullies bothered me all the time because of my glasses. You’ll see. All bullies get their comeuppance. In the meantime, don’t let what they say stop you from doing what you want; you’re just giving them exactly what they want. So cheer up! We’re going to have an amazing time at the Negg Hunt!”
“I guess you’re right...” Claudia sniffled, already feeling better. “We did have fun last year, didn’t we? All those Faerie Hot Dogs and that Altadorian food... mmm!” Claudia added. Her stomach growled audibly.
Helen grinned. “I heard that! I think you know what that means... time for ice cream!” She tapped Claudia on the nose gently and walked towards the freezer. Claudia smiled and bounded after Helen, her spirit already renewed. She couldn’t wait to go upstairs and start mapping out her hunt! But first, ice cream was calling her name, and who was she not to listen?
The days before the Negg Hunt crawled by at a Slorg’s pace. Sunday finally came after what felt like eons, and Claudia could barely hold her excitement. Instinctively, she woke up at the crack of dawn when there was only a tiny crescent of sun peeking shyly above the horizon. Eyes wide and alert, she tried to force herself to go back to bed but failed miserably. She lay in bed anxiously, waiting for her clock to reveal a slightly more reasonable hour. Seconds passed languidly, refusing to rush. The clock still displayed an absurdly early hour, but finally Claudia just couldn’t handle the anticipation anymore. She leapt out of bed and ran to Helen’s door. She knocked wildly, and the door wobbled nervously on its hinges; it seemed frightened of the force of Claudia’s excitement.
“Okay, okay, I’m getting up!” Helen called sleepily.
“We have to get going! Let’s go, let’s go! It’s going to start!” Claudia proclaimed wildly, dancing a mad jig and acting as if she had just drunk numerous cups of coffee.
“Sweetie, the Pteris haven’t even woken up yet. We still have a few hours before it begins, don’t worry.”
How in the name of Fyora am I supposed to make it through another few hours? Claudia thought to herself. She crawled back in bed and cracked open a book, but all the words swam together and formed an inky mess. Frustrated, she slammed the book shut and willed time to move faster.
Slowly but surely, the hours went by. Before long, Claudia and Helen were at the festival, their eyes taking in all the glorious sights like hungry Neopians in the Chocolate Factory. Neopians everywhere were milling about, chatting animatedly with friends new and old. Neopets of every species, shape, and color were checking out the booths placed all over Meridell. Claudia was so entranced by all the sights to be seen and friends to be reunited with that she almost forgot the real reason why everyone was gathered in Meridell: the Great Negg Hunt!
A faint “Ahem!” was heard over the hustle and bustle of the crowd. The Negg Faerie stood on a platform, smiling benevolently. “May I have your attention please?”
At once, the entire crowd fell eerily silent. The Negg Faerie continued, still grinning. “Welcome! Thank you for gathering here today for the 7th annual Great Negg Hunt! It is a pleasure to see so many smiling faces here today. Like always, the hunt will be split into two parts. The first part of the hunt lasts for two hours. After that, we will break for lunch. Today, I am proud to offer you some of the finest foods that Neopia has to offer, so please check out our vendors! After lunch, the hunt resumes and will continue until promptly 6:00 NST. The awards ceremony begins at approximately 6:10 NST in the auditorium. As always, the pet with the most Neggs collected wins!”
The crowd cheered madly; their applause seemed to know no end. Claudia began getting anxious. This was it: the moment of truth. Her blood pounded swiftly in her ears, and her heart fluttered somewhere close to her throat. In just a few seconds, the Great Negg Hunt would begin...
To be continued...