Faerie City bustled with morning commerce. All across the cloud, a variety of Neopians scurried from shop to shop, attempting to complete their daily business before the afternoon’s heat. But one denizen of Neopia was not here to purchase the wares of the various shops. He was here to steal whatever he could from the crowd below him. The Pant Devil, cool, calm and collected, floated behind the Employment Agency, just out of sight from his victims down below. He looked upon this masses, and chose his morning’s first target: a rainbow Lenny, who was so absorbed in her new Floud that she did not notice a shadow creeping up behind her, eyeing the chocolate faerie cake she carried in a small bag at her side. The Lenny had bought this cake to share with her friends that afternoon. The second that the Pent Devil had smelled the sweet aroma emanating from the bag, he had decided that it would be his breakfast. In an instant, the shadow swooped down upon his unsuspecting victim, and was gone from sigh before the Lenny had even realized what had happened.
The Pant Devil munched on the chocolaty goodness of the cake, and looked for his next target. He then saw her: a yellow Yurble carrying a newly bought Battledome weapon. A gust of wind later, and the Yurble stood confused and empty handed in the crowd, while the Pant Devil whizzed away to deliver his new find to his lair.
Tucked away in a deserted corner of the Haunted Woods was a large cave that the Pant Devil called his home. Though it looked like a rather tiny cave from the outside, the interior of the cavern was as large as Altador’s Hall of Heroes. But unlike the Hall of Heroes, which only has a dozen statues within it, the Pant Devil’s lair was full of everything imaginable. In one corner, there was a mound of furniture, stacked to the ceiling and leaning dangerously to one side. Nearby, a pile of weapons glittered in the little light that managed to find its way to this cave. Atop this mass, the Pant Devil threw his newest acquisition. Such was the fate of most items that he stole; they would simply be thrown into a pile and forgotten about.
One stolen artifact was different, though; it hung framed in the back of the cave. This was the object that had gotten the Pant Devil his name. Before he had begun his campaign of thievery, he was simply called Larry (this was also what the Pant Devil still considered to be his true name, though he would never admit it to anyone). Once he had begun his looting of random Neopians, he acquired the name of “The item Devil”. But one day, when Larry was feeling particularly vicious and bored, he swooped down upon the crowd and stole the Pants off of someone. From then on, he was known as the Pant Devil. And so, that pair of Pants that he had taken years ago still hung proudly in Larry’s cave.
The eyes of a thousand plushies stared at Larry. They too were packed half-heartedly together. Larry smiled at the mass of colors and cuteness. Plushies were his favorite things to steal. He proceeded to do a belly flop in them. After relaxing for a while, he once again had the urge to add to his “collection” and returned to Faerieland.
That was how Larry’s morning was passed. He would steal from a few unsuspecting victims, return to his cave once he could carry no more, and then return back to the crowded streets of Faerieland for more stuff. For that was how he viewed his acquisitions. To him, a Battledome weapon was not something that someone had saved up months to get just so they could challenge their friends to a light-hearted duel- it was stuff. A plushie was not a child’s favorite toy that he had carried around since he was first created- it was stuff. Strawberry shortcake was not the dish that a neopet desperately wanted to eat for their birthday dessert and their owner had purchased for that purpose- it was stuff. Larry never even considered what the pets he had stolen from would feel after he took their possessions. After all, it was just stuff.
One of the members of this crowd in Faerieland shopping that day happened to be a cloud Kacheek by the name of Adele. She had been instructed by her owner to make a few minor purchases, and was checking things off her list as she went from shop to shop. In one hand, she carried a large, bulky bag. With her other she guided her little brother, Hector the baby JubJub, along the streets. Hector always enjoyed his visits to Faerieland. He loved watching all of the people rushing besides him, with the tall buildings towering over the crowd and the occasional faerie flying across the sky. Of course, all of the Neopians also made him a tad scared, so he was sure to bring Bee along. Bee was no more than a tattered Bruce plushie, but she was also a source of great comfort whenever Hector was scared or alone.
Bee was what the Pant Devil had his eye on, though he had no idea that the ragged plushie Bruce even had a name and certainly couldn’t comprehend the attachment that the baby JubJub had to his stuffed companion. He did know that this plushie had caught his eye, though, and so it was as good as his. In an instant, Larry swooped down upon Hector and stole Bee from him.
“The Pant Devil!” Adele shouted in shock. She was usually shy, quiet, and passive, but when it came to her brother, she was incredibly fierce. “Give that back! It’s my baby brother’s favorite toy!”
But Larry was gone before she had even exclaimed his nickname, and so Hector and Adele walked forlornly back to their home.
Larry returned to his cave that night to, as usual, marvel at his collection.
Larry noticed a Sloth Lunch box that had fallen out of one of the piles. He picked it up. Few knew it, but he had met Sloth on numerous occasions, but not willingly on Larry’s part. They had run into each other for the first time at a get together lunch for villains (these sorts of occasions happen often so that the attendees can swap tactics or just exchange stories about their evil doings). Sloth was so proud of himself, for then he was just beginning to amass his army of mutant Grundos. When Larry told Sloth about how he devoted all of his time to thievery, the Dr. had laughed at him.
“Stealing? That’s all you do?” Dr. Sloth had said, those many years ago. “Steal the items of Neopians? Well, little demon, you may steal items, but I will one day steal the freedom of all of residents of this... Neopia. You carry on with your petty theft, and watch me rule the world!”
Larry chuckled to himself as he threw the lunch box back into the mound of stuff. Dr. Sloth may have had an army of mutant Grundos at his command and threatened to enslave all of Neopia, but those days were gone, and Dr. Sloth was once again back to the drawing board on how to rule Neopia. Meanwhile, Larry still had an army of things: legions of everything from food to furniture, from petpets to plushies, from T-shirts to toys. All were his.
Larry then drifted off to sleep in one of his numerous beds. But that night was not peaceful.
A stack of paint brushes shimmered in the sunlight. It was as high as the tallest of buildings in Neopia. Surrounding it, a sea of plushies. Larry was delighted. Here he was, surrounded by the product of years of thievery. He dug through the plushies, overjoyed to find that no matter how hard he tried, he could not see the floor of the cave beneath the endless accumulation of plushies. Faeries in bottles glowed from all corners of the room. Clothing was lumped in a heap. Larry laughed in the excitement of that beautiful moment. It was perfect. But something changed. The tower of Battledome weapons fell behind him. That collapse was followed by numerous other stacks nearby. Larry ran. He ran through his cave, but still, pile after pile crashed right behind him. He desperately sought the cave’s entrance, but it was not to be found. He searched, but it was to no avail. The labyrinth of stolen items closed in on Larry, leaving him surrounded. Finally, the plushie’s kind faces morphed into those of evil monsters, and Larry began to sink into that sea of fangs and claws. He fought them, trying to get back up to the surface, but it was no use, for Larry was no match for the strength of thousands of plushies, all pulling him down. Down, down, down into the depths. He sank screaming...
Larry awoke with a start. He looked around as sweat ran down his face. He wasn’t surrounded by demonized plushies, but soft, cute ones, as they should be. And though all of his towers of stuff leaned dangerously as if to collapse, none of them did.
“It was... a dream.”
But it was so realistic and terrifying that Larry could not return to restful sleep. Alarmed, he headed out early that morning. He reviewed his options, and decided to return to Faerieland, for he had such good luck there yesterday. Shaken but determined, the Pant Devil left his cave.
Just as determined as he that morning was Adele. She also had a less than restful night, as Hector could not sleep without Bee. He cried every time he saw so much as a shadow, and despite her owner’s attempts to give him new plushies, Adele’s little brother simply wouldn’t sleep. Leading her groggy brother along, Adele was determined to find the Pant Devil and demand that he give her brother his stuffed Bruce back. How she would force him to return this item, she did not know; however, she did have a plan of how to find the dreaded monster. She pulled something out of a bag, and then walked into the bustling streets of Faerie City
Meanwhile, the Pant Devil zoomed through the winding paths and back alleyways of the city, sniping what he could. But suddenly he felt something. Something was tugging on his mind to go a certain directions. He could not figure out what caused this sudden urge to go down a particular street without any reason but, not one to ignore his impulses, he followed his feelings and flew down that path.
Dogging members of the crowd, the Pant Devil followed that invisible force. Finally he saw it: An image of himself attached to a string. A Pant Devil attractor! He reached out to grab it and...
The Pant Devil felt someone grab his arm. A cloud Kacheek, who he only vaguely recognized from the prior day, was trying to hold onto him despite the fact that he was much stronger than she.
“What... what are you trying to do?” the Pant Devil inquired. He managed to wiggle himself free from the Kacheek’s grasp. He thought for a moment that he should flee, but stayed for a moment out of idle curiosity.
All of the courage that Adele possessed suddenly left her as she looked the feared Pant Devil in the eye.
The Pant Devil looked at her impatiently. She had half a mind to grab Hector and run from the monster, but a pathetic look from her little brother was all it took to reinstate her determination to retrieve her brother’s stuffed toy.
“I want you to give my brother back the plushie you stole from him yesterday. Now.”
The Pant Devil responded with a stare that could have curdled milk. Adele looked nervously at the ground (well, clouds really; she was in Faerieland, after all), and then back at her adversary.
“Please?” she asked pathetically.
The Pant Devil was amazed. This Kacheek was the only one who had ever asked for an item back. And yet, what would she do? There was no way she could force him to give it back. Did she honestly believe that he would oblige to returning the plushie just because she asked?
“You fool! I never return anything! That plushie is mine now. I took it, so it’s mine and you will not get it back!” the Pant Devil stated stubbornly.
Adele once again looked down at the clouds beneath her feet. She hadn’t exactly prepared for what she would do once the Pant Devil rejected her demand. After a few moments of silence, Adele found her voice again:
“Well... what are you going to do with it anyway? It’s just a plushie to you, one of probably hundreds you’ve taken!”
“Thousands,” the Pant Devil corrected her, “but carry on, if you must.”
“Okay... but really! You don’t need another plushie, especially one you didn’t buy yourself. It’s just another stolen item to you, but to my brother it’s his best friend! Ever since my owner got it for Hector, he’s carried it around with him wherever he goes! It’s his most treasured possession, even though he is a baby, and you just swiped it from him like you didn’t even care about his feelings!” Adele stopped and took a long breath after this speech.
“That is because I don’t, little girl,” the Pant Devil said frankly. And with that, he flew back into the sky.
Before he was out of sight, though, Larry looked back at the two pathetic Neopets standing below him. The Kacheek was trying to comfort the baby JubJub. Suddenly, the child looked straight up at the Pant Devil. With enormous pathetic eyes, he conveyed to Larry what his sister could not through words. Larry had stolen this kid’s plushie, but it was not just a plushie, like it was to so many other people. It was a friend. A soft comfort when the child was scared in the night and had no one else to protect him. And Larry had stolen it from it. For a moment, he paused in the sky, looking at Hector’s face. He then quickly flew off, wanting nothing more than to flee from the gaze of those two eyes.
Larry flew all the way back to his cave, but the eyes of that child still followed him. Finally, he realized why that child’s gaze haunted him so. It was because, long ago, he had seen a similar expression while looking in the mirror. Against his will, Larry was plunged into his own memory.
“Give it back!” shouted Larry.
Looking down on him was a Grarrl. For a Grarrl, this one was not that large, but to the tiny Larry he was enormous.
“And why should I?” The Grarrl laughed. His name was Herbert (but he went by Rock), and he was the playground bully.
“Because it’s mine!” cried Larry. Herbert dangled the action figure above Larry’s head enticingly (Larry would have grabbed it, but he did not yet know how to fly).
“So? It’s mine now!” And with that the menacing Grarrl stalked off.
“I’ll... I’ll...” Larry paused. What was he supposed to do? Herbert was bigger and stronger than he was. And now his favorite action toy had been taken away. A few stray tears slid down Larry’s face. He had always been picked on. But maybe eventually he would be big enough, smart enough, and fast enough to stop the bullying.
“I’ll get you back one day! I swear it!” Larry shouted. He looked around the playground only to see more of his classmates laughing at him.
“All of you! You’ll regret what you did to me!”
And with that, Larry ran to the bathroom to cry in solitude. When he had finally regained some composure, he washed his face off in one of the sinks. Larry then looked into the mirror.
“How pathetic I am,” Larry thought at he stared at himself. “I can’t even stand up to them. I... I just want my stuff back. Maybe I am right, though. Maybe one day, I really will get all of them back. One day...”
That day, of course, had come long ago. Larry learned how to fly, and how to quickly grab things and steal them before anyone even noticed they were missing. It started with Herbert. He had taken Larry’s favorite action figure, so Larry stole his toy sword. Then he stole the things of his other classmates, the ones who had laughed at him and picked on him. But, soon enough, he began to take things from whomever he could. Larry told himself that all the things he took were no more than stuff to him. He knew he was lying. Every item that he stole was revenge for lunch money taken, an insult hurled at him, or a push into a mud puddle. Those towering piles of stuff that lined the walls of his cave were like giant trophies of triumph. The stuff that Larry took made up for the tears that he had shed.
Still, those two pathetic eyes burned into his mind. A helpless child’s favorite toy, and a bully cruelly taking it away from him. Somehow, in years of seeking revenge, Larry had never realized he had become what he despised. Now he was the bully, his victims as helpless as he once was. And that JubJub, begging him with his eyes, pleading for that single plushie...
Larry frantically ran around his cave. All of the things stacked into towers didn’t bring him the pride they used to. He jumped into the pile of plushies, hoping that they would offer him some sort of comfort that the other things had not, but all they did was stare at him with cold, plastic eyes. Larry looked around, and everything seemed to spin. The furniture might as well have crashed around him, for to Larry, it felt like his world was falling apart. Something had to be done. Larry dove into the plushies and began to dig through them, knowing that he was in for a long day of searching...
Adele’s eyes opened to the blue ceiling of her bedroom. It was one o’clock in the morning, yet she could hear her owner in her brother’s bedroom. Hector was crying, though not as loud as last night (perhaps he was just as worn out as she). She was surprised that she had even slept until now. She rolled over and tried to return to sleep, despite her brother’s whines. Adele heard her owner leave Hector’s room and walk to the kitchen, probably to fix him some warm milk or something else to calm him down. But then, Adele heard a strange noise. It sounded almost like a window opening. Before Adele could get up and check, she heard the window softly shut. And then... nothing. Nothing? For the first time all night, Hector was not whining, crying, screaming, or doing a combination of the three. Worried, she quickly ran to her brother’s room.
Adele scurried through the open door and turned on the light. There, Hector slept peacefully, curled up next to a ragged Bruce plushie.