Sold Out For A Prize
As she said this, there was another rumble and flash of light. Ubronga was again lifted to the ceiling while he screamed in horror. He again crashed to the floor, shaken and afraid. His family gathered around him letting him know he was home and safe. He sobbed quietly, not able to speak. Millkins stroked his head as she whispered softly to him.
“It’s okay, Brongy. Whatever is going on looks like it’s gonna stop. You’re a Gnorbu again.”
Ubronga stopped crying and tried to sit up.
“I am? Honest?”
The other three nodded with tears in their eyes. They were quite concerned for their brother and what was happening to him. He turned to look at himself in the mirror and fresh tears welled in his eyes. What his family had told him was true. He was in fact a Gnorbu again, but he was still green. He hated it. Boo came to his side.
“Maybe you’ll change again, Norby, and go back to being a star?”
Ubronga hung his head in shame.
“I was so beautiful with my blue and gold starry coat. Now I look like some sickly beast. Do you really think I’ll change back to the way I was?”
They all nodded in agreement, secretly hoping and wishing with all their might that their brother would once again be lifted and changed back to his starry self. Boo remained by his side.
“Does it hurt Norby when the light flashes?”
Ubronga shook his head. “No, it’s just scary because I don’t know what’s happening. But I’m ready this time.”
He gathered his strength and pulled himself up, waiting. He kept looking at the ceiling, waiting for the light to flash, but nothing happened. His heart felt heavy in his chest as he lay down on the floor and curled up in a ball, crying quietly. He wished his mother was home. The others lay around and over him, keeping him safe and close. They all wished their mother was home.
Just as soon as the thought entered their heads, their mother came bursting in, excited and out of breath. She saw her children all huddled together on the floor and ran to them looking around wildly.
“Norby. Where’s Norby. I need to see him. Where is he?” She sorted through pets until she saw her green son curled up in a ball. She scooped him up in her arms and hugged him close. He squeezed her tight and tried to fight back his tears but found he couldn’t.
“Mommy! I’m so glad you’re home. Look what’s happened to me.”
“Oh Norby! I know, baby, I know. I’m trying to fix you back. But it worked, it really worked. You’re a Gnorbu again.”
Ubronga looked at her, confused.
“What worked, Mommy?”
She put him down gently and looked at the anxious faces of her other children. They were confused and trying to understand what their mother was saying.
“Mommy? What do you mean? You know what happened to Norby?” Millkins asked in a scared and tiny voice.
“Yes, my precious, I know. I did it to him.”
They all gasped collectively.
“Wait, wait, wait. Before you all get upset, let me explain. See, I needed to get an avatar so I bought a Green Uni Morphing Potion and used it on Brongy. I planned to change him back immediately before he knew what happened. I wasn’t counting on all of you being up. It’s well past your bedtime.”
“Mommy!” Ubronga was horrified. “You did this to me? You made me a Uni? And green? How could you?”
She still had him in her arms and he scrambled to get away from her. The others backed away slowly, not understanding why their mother had changed their brother.
“Baby, try to understand. I needed the avatar. This was the only way right now. If you had been in bed, I would’ve had you back to being Starry before you woke up.”
He looked at her with huge, sad eyes.
“But Mommy, if you were going to change me back, why didn’t you finish? Why am I still green? Are you going to leave me like this?”
She hung her head and could not look her son in the eye.
“I don’t have enough neopoints to change you back right now, honey. As soon as I save up, I can buy another Starry Paintbrush and fix you right up.”
“What do you mean you don’t have enough neopoints? You always have neopoints.”
“Well, sweetie, I had the shop to keep stocked and your sisters needed things and then there was the training academy for you and your brother. It gets expensive. But I promise I will have enough saved up soon to make this right. Okay? Will you trust me?”
Ubronga looked at her with shocked eyes.
“No, Mommy, I don’t. Look what you did to me! Oh my goodness! How could you do it? Look at me! I mean just look at me! I was a beautiful starry Gnorbu and then you decided that you needed to get some stupid avatar? I'm ruined.”
He began to pace as he ranted.
“At least you had the decency to put me back to a Gnorbu. I can't believe you’d do this to me. Aren't mothers supposed to protect their children? I mean, I hear all the time about parents zapping their pets with some kind of ray, changing them into all kinds of experimental looks. I didn't believe it, though. And even if I did, I always thought, 'not my mom. No way. She loves me. She'd never zap me or change me.' Well, apparently I was WRONG! I mean, LOOK AT ME! Green? Green!!! I'm not some frog! Green!!! Oh, the horror.”
He started to sob.
“Do you swear that you'll make me starry again?”
His mother nodded, quickly reaching out for him. He stepped away, not wanting her to touch him.
“I don't know whether to believe you or not. I feel as ill as I look. I need to go lie down. What about the rest? Will you do this to them too? It's just so horrid. At least I have a picture of me BEFORE the incident. What is wrong in the world? The horror, the horror!!! I can't talk anymore.”
He ran out of the room as his mother called after him with several heartfelt apologies. She turned to look at the rest of her children, startled by the shocked and disappointed looks on their faces.
“My darlings, you have to believe me that I never meant to hurt Brongy or any of you. I just needed to get this avatar and then I was going to change him back. None of you were to ever know. It’s what people do in Neopia.”
The children all looked at her, not understanding. Millkins walked up to her with huge tears welled in her eyes.
“Mommy, have you changed us before?”
She stroked her head as she tried to explain. “Well, yes, sweetie. I’ve changed all of you. You were an adult Usul and I made you my sweet baby forever. Baji was a regular Peophin and I gave her beautiful faerie wings because I think the faeries are the most beautiful things in Neopia. When Boo came to us, he was blue. I made him purple because it’s my favorite color. All of you have a part of me with you.”
Bajoria shook her head. “No, Mom. We know all of that. She means, did you change our species? Have we been made something else like Brongy? He was a Uni.”
Their mother drew in a ragged breath. “No, sweetness, I never have. This is the first time. I’m so sorry it happened like this.”
The three huddled together trying to figure out what to do. They loved their mother dearly. She had always looked out for them, took care of them and never let them get into any trouble. They truly did not understand why she had done this. She tried to explain.
“Sweeties, look. In Neopia, we have the option to be anything we want. We can change color, gender, species... anything. We can even be invisible. It’s a wonderful place with so much to see and do. The avatars are just one of the things I enjoy collecting. But I see I should’ve discussed it with you all first. I am very sorry. I hope you can forgive me. I will make it up to your brother. I promise. Go to bed now. It’s very late.”
They all gave their mother a tentative hug and went off to bed. No one got any sleep that night, though. They were all afraid of being changed in their sleep. Their mother worried over how to restore her son. There would be no peace in the Austin household for quite some time...