Life As A Food
Elmer was a special Neopet. Sure, he did things a lot of young Neopets did, such as go to school, buy new plushies for his collection, and gripe about his homework.
But Elmer was also a Chia. A lemon Chia.
One would think that being a food Neopet would be fun. Sure, the lemon peel that was his skin protected him from small falls and bumps, but he found himself very small in the entire scale of his school.
He was the only food Neopet in the entire school. There were no garlic friends, no gooseberry enemies, not even a tiny grape.
Sure there were a handful of pets in the school who were kind to Elmer. But most just wanted to eat him.
In fact, there was a pack of angry Grarrls who seemed to enjoy going to school for one reason only: to hunt Elmer.
The leader of the pack was Minja. Minja was a scaly red Grarrl with a voice too deep to belong to a young Neopian. Even if he was smaller than half of his pack, Minja was the boss and if Minja was not listened to, his wrath was fierce.
One day while Elmer sat outside, eating a lunch of loveberry salad, Tyrannian cheese and crackers, Illusen's cookies, and a bottle of Cherry Krawk-Aid, Minja and his pack stomped over to Elmer.
"'Ello, Chia," Minja said. Bending down, he asked, "What's for lunch?"
"S-salad, cookies, ch-ch-cheese --"
The five Grarrls all dove at Elmer, trying their best to pin him down. Elmer managed to wriggle away, mourning his spilled lunch for only a second or two as he raced along the schoolyard, trying to remember where the hole in the fence was.
"Why couldn't I have been home-schooled?" he thought as he managed to squirm through the small hole in the fence.
The smallest Grarrl of the group, a blue scrawny little thing known only as E, tried to crawl through the hole in the fence after Elmer. E only succeeded in getting stuck.
Risking a laugh, Elmer raced down the streets of Neopia Central. He knew the Grarrls would be after him soon and he had to hide somewhere. He ducked into the food shop, hoping that if they saw him go in there, the Grarrls would be distracted by the food and he could sneak out and run home to his mother.
"Now what are you doing on the floor?"
Elmer gulped. The next thing he knew, he was being lifted into the air, dusted off, and placed on a high shelf.
"But I'm not food!" he argued.
The food shop Chia stared at Elmer for a second, then he shook his head. "Talking food, ha! I haven't eaten lunch yet. I must be seeing things."
Elmer sighed sadly. He knew he was not "talking food". But no one seemed to understand that. He was a Neopet! A living, breathing Neopian who just happened to look like a lemon!
Then he heard it. The unmistakable sounds of dozens of Neopets stampeding towards the food shop for restocks.
"No..." he whispered. "Please don't let someone buy me!"
Elmer was bumped and nudged and poked and finally pushed off the shelf as feathered wings and furry paws reached for the foods beside him, including a Rainbow Negg and some strange jelly food.
"I have to hurry! A Kaddy wants this!"
"I need this for the Gourmet Club!"
He heard those cries and others as the lemon Chia tumbled to the floor and rolled under the shelf. It was there he stayed as he could now only see feet, hooves, and claws. He did not wish to be crushed. Or mistaken as food yet again!
It seemed like ages, but it was only hours, when the food shop was closed and the owner went to bed in his little house at the top of the hamburger-shaped shop. Only then did Elmer peer out from under the rack of shelves were he had taken refuge during the day.
He was cold. He was tired. He was hungry. And most of all, Elmer wanted to see his mother.
It took several minutes, but Elmer finally managed to pry one of the windows open enough so that he could escape. What he did not know was how long it took to reach the ground. He bounced off several shrubs and finally landed on the street.
But Elmer forgot about the minor scratches and bumps he received as he thought of home. He raced down the street towards his Neohome.
Panting, he slowed. There were no people on the street. No one to chase him. And no one who wanted to eat him. He slowed to a walk and smiled softly to himself.
There was a clang to his left. Reluctantly, Elmer looked into the alley. What he saw saddened him.
Two Wockies, one red, one purple, were digging around through the trash bins outside a shop. Their collars and fur was matted and dirty and they looked as though they could use a good meal.
The purple one looked up and saw Elmer as he stared at them in shock.
"A lemon!" she cried, pouncing at Elmer.
Elmer raced down the street as the two homeless Wockies chased him. They cut a corner, and another. He raced down the left fork of a divided path in order to try to avoid them.
Finally, the tiny fruit Chia could run no more. His little legs were about to give out. He crawled under a bush, having no idea where he was. But he did feel a bit relieved when he heard the Wockies' paws thudding down the path and past his hiding spot.
Panting, Elmer groaned. Thanks to them, he had no idea where home was. After slowly counting to ten a dozen times, Elmer crawled out from under the bush and tried to retrace his steps.
Before he had even taken three, he felt someone lurking behind him. Turning, he shut his eyes, expecting to feel a Wocky's paw against his lemon peel skin.
Instead he heard a soft voice. "Poor thing. Why don't you come with me?"
Timidly, Elmer opened his eyes. Instead of a starving Wocky he found himself facing a coconut JubJub. "Huh?" he asked, confused by her words.
"Come with me," she said again. "I will show you a place where our kind is safe."
Elmer expected a long walk. Instead he and the JubJub, whose name was Azura, only walked for five minutes, stopping outside a large Neohome set way back into the woods.
"What is this?" Elmer asked.
"This is home," she said. Turning the doorknob with her foot, she led Elmer inside. "Home for us," she added.
As they entered the large living room, all the pets inside stopped what they were doing. Upon seeing Azura, they resumed, knowing things were safe.
A pair of garlic JubJubs were playing cards at a table. A chocolate Kacheek was reading in a large armchair. Custard pets, a Bori, Chomby, and Ruki, were sitting at a couch, watching Neovision. Over by a window, a jelly Usul and strawberry Poogle were playing with Usuki dolls.
There were also several more chocolate, custard, strawberry, and jelly pets hanging out in the other rooms that Elmer could catch glimpses into. He even saw more fruit and vegetable Chias around, which made him grin very widely.
But he also saw a few Neopets that were not food-like. Azura explained immediately.
"They're sort of our care-takers," she said. "They bring us food, toys, books, you name it. Here no one wants to eat us. And here we're safe. We even have an old tomato Chia who teaches the little ones."
Elmer grinned happily. This was the place for him. But then his grin vanished.
"My mom..." he said with a whimper. "Will I ever see her again?"
Azura smiled. "The care-takers are the parents of the food pets. We'll send one to your mother straight away. I'm sure she would love to stay here with you. She does take care of you and love you, I'm sure."
Elmer nodded. As Azura hopped away to a blue Mynci, he sank down at a nearby armchair. Here he felt safe. Here he would not have to fight to make it through the day. Here he was loved.