Unis and Ukalis: To Find a Friend
The Earth Faerie tied her brown hair back and looked at herself in the mirror. She tossed her head slightly, letting her hair fall back in a swish behind her shoulders. Then she smoothed out her green dress. After one last check in the mirror, satisfied even a Uni would consider her fit to go out in public, she walked out of her bedroom and into the back room of her Petpet shop.
The Petpets all sat in individual little cages stacked up on top of each other along the rounded bare, wooden and dimly lit walls of her storage room. Across from them was the closet where she kept their food and toys and next to that the door that opened up to the thin strip of cloud between the edge of the Faerieland and the shop. A Miamouse mewed down at the Faerie from her cage perched near the ceiling.
“I’ll bet you’re hungry,” cooed the Faerie, who went to the closet and produced a handful of seeds for the excited little Petpet. She reached into a pocket in her dress and got out a key which she used to unlock the cage. The Miamouse then scurried down her outreached arm and onto his favorite place on her shoulder.
“Good boy, Spark.” The Faerie held the seeds up to her shoulder and the Miamouse immediately grabbed them and stuffed them into its puffy cheeks. He grinned through his full mouth at the Faerie and swished his green ears and she giggled. Then the Faerie set about feeding the other Petpets. Then, when at last the Teasquito had finished munching its tea leaves, she opened the door to the front room of her Petpet shop, and led the parade of little creatures through.
The front room was pink colored and cylinder-shaped, and the ceiling was cone shaped, like someone had stuck an upside down ice cream cone on the top of the building. At the top, three small windows made of green glass and one large one formed the shape of a paw, and let in light for the Faerie and her Petpets. All around the dome and up into the cone shaped ceiling were attached perches and other places for the Petpets to sit and watch the shoppers who came in looking for the perfect pet. The Faerie liked her Petpets to be free most of the time. It was only for sleeping or misbehavior that she would make them sit in their cages.
Their daily procedure was fairly simple. The Faerie would sit at her wooden desk across from the door and greet visiting Neopets. The Petpets would continue to flit about in the rafters until the Neopet had picked one it liked (or in some cases, a Petpet would flit down and land on the Neopet’s shoulder and refuse to move, picking it) and then the faerie would collect their neopoints and the happy Uni or Usul or Poogle, or whatever, would leave with their new best friend.
As the Faerie bustled into the room, marking things on her notepad like, ‘running low on tea leaves’ or ‘need new brushes for Magarals’ while her Miamouse, Spark, sat on her shoulder, she heard a whine come from outside the front door. Looking up from her notepad she noticed a Pikis floating near the door. On its chest in red, instead of a heart showing contentedness was the mark of a worried face. The Faerie got up, frowning to herself, and opened the door. When she looked out, she was in for a surprise. On the front stoop of her shop was a bedraggled looking little Ukali sitting on a small towel with an envelope secured in its teeth.
The Faerie, not wanting to leave the little petpet shivering outside, reached her hand out towards the white, scaly Ukali. It shied away.
“I’m not going to hurt you.”
Before it could run off, the Faerie scooped the Ukali up and brought it into her shop.
“What are you doing here?” she asked the little white Petpet. It just stared back at her with big, sad, red eyes. Then, to answer her question, the Petpet dropped the envelope into the Faerie’s hand.
The Faerie set the Ukali down on her desk where it curled up into a little ball. Spark hopped down from her shoulder and sniffed the Ukali, who just curled up tighter and shut its eyes. The Miamouse shrugged and jumped back up onto the Faerie’s shoulder and looked down at the note that the Faerie had pulled out of the envelope.
To the shopkeeper:
Please take care of this Petpet. I cannot look after him and he needs a good home, or a better home than I can provide. I know that you will be able to find this for him. Thank you, this means a lot to us both.
“That’s strange, there’s no signature,” murmured the Faerie. She looked down at the little Ukali, who was still curled up in a ball, its tail over its eyes. A Faellie flitted over to it and landed on the desk. Cocking its head, it approached the little Ukali. The little white ball just shivered and pressed even flatter onto the desk. The Faellie mewed and puffed back into the air again.
“He’s so... sad.” The Faerie sighed. So different from the Faerie Petpets she cared for. The Ukali shivered again. Deciding that it probably wanted to be alone for a while, the Faerie gently picked up the Ukali in the towel and brought it into the back room. She laid the Petpet in the cage that usually belonged to Spark and gently closed the door, locking it inside. Then she left without a word.
The Ukali uncurled, looked out through the bars of the cage and let out a soft squeak. There was no reply. He was totally and utterly alone.
Across the Neopian ocean, many miles from the little Petpet, another Neopian lay curled up in a cage.
Mist, a blue Uni, lay shivering in a dingy cage in the dark depths of the pound. She’d been dumped there by her previous owner who had lost interest in her. Mist, was not like other Unis. She was quiet, obtuse, and dreamy, rarely on time and not obsessed with things that most Unis were like clothes, fashion, and popularity. For many weeks Mist had sat in the cage hoping against all hopes that some kind human might decide they liked her and adopt her. But after weeks of visitors, most searching for a painted pet or something of the like, she’d begun to lose the last of her hopes that she might make friends. She’d been let down too many times by potential adopters, and every time it happened, it hurt. Being in the pound was like being placed on the backburner and then forgotten and left to burn. Mist was beginning to feel that she’d never be remembered. But she was wrong.
“Excuse me? Adoption? Yes. Do you have any Unis?”
“Any particular color?”
“We have just one.”
A human and a pink Zafara walked by her cage. The Zafara put her head down and looked at the sad little Uni through the bars.
“How long has she been here?” the Zafara asked her owner.
“I don’t know, Emily. It looks like she’s been here a while.”
Just then, a green Kacheek wearing an official uniform walked by.
“Excuse me, do you know how long this Uni has been here?” the Zafara asked.
“I don’t know,” answered the worker. “Longer than I’ve been here, that’s for sure. I’ve never heard her talk.”
“What’s her name?”
“Mist,” said the Kacheek, rather bluntly before walking off down the corridor.
“It’s a pretty name,” observed the Zafara. “Should we adopt her?”
“I don’t know...”
“Well,” said the human. “Sometimes pound pets can be difficult to help. The trauma of being left in the pound is hard to undo.”
“She is the only blue Uni here. You did say blue is your favorite color of Uni.”
The human paused, staring at Mist, who still was refusing to believe her luck.
The next thing Mist knew, the door to her prison was unlocked and she was whisked away in a strange aircraft, pulled by a couple of Eyries, with her new owner and friend. Their destination: Faerieland.
The Faerie waved as the giggling little Kacheek skipped out of the petpet shop, Barbat flying after her.
“Thank you!” she squeaked.
“You’re welcome, dear,” answered the Faerie, stifling a yawn. Luckily, it was almost closing time, because the Petpets were beginning to look drowsy.
The Faerie went to the front door and flipped the closed/open sign over and locked the door. Then she whistled to the rest of the Petpets and they all filed in a fairly orderly fashion into the back room. She fed them each in turn and then put slipped them one by one into their personal cages. She was almost finished, only Spark was left, but when she opened the door to the Miamouse’s cage, a tiny, quivering whine sounded.
“Oh, dear,” the Faerie murmured, suddenly remembering the little Ukali. “Spark, I guess you’ll have to sleep with me.”
With the little Miamouse perched on her shoulder, she opened the door to her room. She set Spark down on her dresser, and then turned and grabbed a pillow off her bed. When she looked back again, Spark was already asleep.
“Good night, Spark,” whispered the Faerie, lifting up his furry little body and carefully sliding the satin pillow under him. Then she let her hair down, climbed into bed, and slid the covers over her. Slowly, she slipped into a deep sleep.
When the Faerie woke, she was starring into a pair of big black eyes. She screamed. There was a squeak and the eyes disappeared. She sat up in bed to see a dazed little Spark sitting confusedly on the floor.
“Oh, Spark, it was only you!”
The Faerie checked the clock on her wall and started up with surprise. She was late opening the shop!!
In a panic, she made herself partially presentable, dashed into the back room, unlocked all the cages, fed all the Petpets and hurried them all into the main room and flipped the closed/open sign around.
In her hurry, though, the Faerie had not realized her mistake. She had unlocked Spark’s cage and accidentally knocked the back door open. The little Ukali poked his head out of the cage and tumbled onto the floor. He tottered, in a daze, towards a glittering sun, and the door blew shut behind him. He was trapped outside.
Mist walked cautiously into her new Faerieland home. It was beautiful. The light of the setting sun shown off the florescent pink walls, the floor was a dazzling yellow and the bed in the corner was the same color as her mane.
“That’s your bed,” said Emily, the Zafara, bouncing around the room, barely able to contain herself. “And this is mine.” She jumped onto a pink bed. “And that’s the kitchen, and over here is my Petpet.” She pointed to a little Harris in the corner. “His name is Fluffball! And that’s...”
“Okay, Em, give Mist a break!” laughed Mist’s new owner, Anna. She handed Mist a faerie pastry. “Here eat this. You must be starving.”
Mist devoured the pastry in less than two seconds. Her legs shook under her. She wasn’t used to so much excitement.
“You look tired,” said Anna. “Go lie down.” She pointed to Mist’s new bed.
Mist gratefully hobbled over to her bed and sank into the thick blue covers. It was the softest thing she’d slept on in months.
“Get a good night’s sleep,” Anna whispered to Mist. “You too Em. I’ll see you in the morning.” Then she quietly turned out the light.
The next day was even more exciting than the first. Emily was up at the crack of dawn, waiting, raring and ready to go. Mist was still frightened. She was unsure of herself and terrified that if she said the wrong thing, she would be sent back to the pound. As many times as Anna reassured her, Mist still could barely utter a whimper.
“We’re going to the Poogle races today!” Emily yipped. “Can you believe it? It’s been weeks since we’ve last gone! You’ve seen the Poogle races, haven’t you, Mist?”
Mist nodded slightly and looked down at her breakfast omelette, her stomach churning sickly with anticipation. Even though she was hungry, she didn’t really feel like having an omelette. Emily had already gobbled up hers.
“Em, if you’re done, why don’t you go pack a lunch?”
“Okay, sure!” Emily hopped down from her chair and skipped out of the dinning room.
“If you don’t want to go, it’s okay,” Anna whispered to Mist.
Mist’s eyes widened. “You don’t like me?” It was the first thing she’d said.
“No, of course I like you! But if you aren’t comfortable...”
“Alright then. Finish your omelette.”
Mist shoved a few bites of egg into her mouth in an attempt to please Anna though she began to feel even sicker, just as Emily bounded back through the dining room door.
“All set!” she proclaimed, holding up a large wicker basket. “Hey Mist, want to borrow my scarf? It’s supposed to be kind of cold today.”
Mist looked at Anna.
“I think that’s a lovely idea; it’s good of you to be so generous,” Anna cooed.
Emily giggled and grabbed a fluffy pink scarf off a hook on the wall.
The pink scarf sailed through the air towards Mist. She panicked and jumped out of the way. Emily looked at her uncomfortably.
“You were supposed to catch it.”
“I-I... sorry.” Shamefaced, Mist quickly scooped the scarf up and tied it around her neck.
“Lets go,” Anna said quickly, striding towards the door. Emily stared at Mist for a moment sadly and then walked after Anna. Mist followed.
The Poogle racing arena was the largest thing Mist had ever seen. A huge ovular track, surrounded by bleachers that rose up, up, up! On the track, the Poogles wore colored capes and numbers and were stretching and trotting in place. The air was abuzz with excited conversation. The whole array left Mist feeling dizzy.
“Our seats are way up there.” Anna pointed up the stairs.
Mist put an unsteady hoof on the rickety bleacher steps.
“It’s okay, Mist,” said Anna. “Just start walking, and don’t think about how high up you are.
Taking a deep breath, Mist began climbing.
By the time she reached the top, Emily was already in her seat. Mist slid into place next to her and Anna next to Mist.
Just then, an Elephante walked up the steps past them.
“Peanuts for sale!”
Mist’s stomach growled. She hadn’t finished her omelette that morning.
Anna handed Mist a few neopoints. “Go buy some peanuts if you’re hungry.”
Mist hurried after the Elephante. “S-sir?” Mist whispered.
The Elephante didn’t hear her.
The Elephante turned. “Would you like a bag?”
“Yes, please.” Mist handed over the Neopoints.
“Alright then, dear.” The Elephante handed her a warm, greasy paper bag.
The Elephante grunted and continued climbing.
Mist started back down the steps, but stopped when she heard Anna and Emily talking to each other.
“Well, I guess I like her.”
“I know how you feel, Em.”
“I just expected her to be a little more fun.”
“Give her a chance.”
Emily sighed. “Now I know why she’d been there so long. I almost think we should take her back. She might be...”
“Broken beyond repair?”
The Zafara nodded, and Anna patted her on the shoulder knowingly.
Mist’s bottom lip quivered and tears welled up in her eyes. She dropped the bag of peanuts and ran out down the bleachers and out of the stadium.
“Mist, come back!!” Anna and Emily called after her.
But she wouldn’t stop. She couldn’t stop. Her dread was too severe. She couldn’t face the pound again. Not again.
Mist ran until her hooves hurt and she was completely out of breath. She looked around to get her bearings, and found herself at the heart of Faerie City. She selfconsciously ducked behind a Petpet shop.
Mist’s tears were flowing freely now. Broken beyond repair! How could she go back now? Just when she’d found a home. Her tears continued.
Just then, she heard a crying sound. But it wasn’t her. Mist turned around to see a little Ukali curled up against the back door of the Petpet shop. It was staring up at the door and it was shivering and mewing. As Mist stared at it, its tiny white head snapped around to face her. Its red eyes widened, and the little Petpet ducked its head in fear. Mist just stared at the bedraggled little creature.
It’s just like me, Mist thought to herself.
Slowly, Mist approached the Ukali. She cooed to it softly, and it raised its head slightly.
“I know how you feel,” said Mist. “I know what it’s like to be alone. Let me help you.” Surprising even herself with her sudden regain of confidence, Mist lowered her head and extended herself towards the Ukali. Cautiously, the Petpet looked up at her. An understanding passed between them. Mist lay down next to the Ukali, who pressed up against her. The two outcasts looked up at the sky together.
They lay there for a time, simply enjoying the friendship that they provided each other, and the sun began to sink towards the horizon. Mist felt more at peace than she had in months. She began to wonder if maybe, if she just opened up and faced her fears, she could make more friends. After all, this Ukali was curled up with her right now and it seemed to like her. She bent her neck and nudged the Petpet lovingly with her nose.
“You need a name,” Mist decided. “Mine’s Mist.”
The Ukali cocked its head.
“How about... Sweetie?”
The Ukali wrinkled its nose.
Mist laughed for the first time in months. “No, I suppose not. What about... Dragonheart?”
The Ukali sneezed.
“No, that’s far too bold a name for you.”
Mist looked down at the cloud on which she was lying and a spark of inspiration lit.
“I know! What about Cloud?”
The Ukali smiled at her.
At that moment, the door behind them flew open, revealing a frantic Earth Faerie.
“Where could that Ukali have gotten to?!” Then she looked down to see Mist and the newly named Cloud sprawling on the ground in front of her.
“And who are you?!”
Mist was all in shock again, and hardly knew how to respond.
“I... I... he... that is... was here. I didn’t steal him!”
“I must have accidentally unlocked his cage,” the Earth Faerie observed. “Thank you for finding him.”
The surprised Ukali had scampered over to Mist and was now peeking out from behind her.
“My, you seem to have gotten farther with him than I did,” the Faerie said. “I couldn’t get him to trust me or the other Petpets at all, let alone make friends. I guess I’m just too used to faerie Petpets. Ukalis are so... different.”
A little Miamouse hopped onto the Faerie’s shoulder and swished his ears.
“Why don’t you come in?”
The Faerie stepped back and Mist stood up and took a hesitant step into the Petpet shop, Cloud following close behind. The Faerie led her into the main room and Mist was awed by the array of slowly drifting Petpets above her head.
“Cute, aren’t they?” the Faerie said, smiling.
Mist stared at the Petpets lovingly and the Faerie went to sit down at her desk.
“Now,” she said, grabbing Mist’s attention. “To business.”
“W-what do you mean?” Mist asked, frightened for a fleeting moment that the Faerie was referring returning her to Anna and Emily.
“I assume you would like to purchase the ukali?” the Faerie said, picking up a pen and a notebook.
“I...” Mist was about to say that she didn’t have any neopoints, when suddenly the door flew open to reveal Anna, clutching a few posters with Mist’s likeness and the words “Lost Uni!” on them.
“Mist!” Anna cried, dropping the posters in a heap and throwing her arms around the Uni. “Where have you been!”
“I...” Mist faltered, frightened, as the Faerie looked on, confused, and Cloud cocked his head.
Anna let out a flood of words. “I was so worried about you, and so was Emily! We thought you’d gotten lost! Emily was so upset about what she’d said and she’s organized a search party and oh, thank goodness you’re okay!”
Mist took a deep, shaky breath and then said, “I’m sorry I’ve been like this. I know it’s... been hard for you and Em... ”
“Look, Mist,” Anna said, placing a hand on the Uni’s forehead. “I’m the one who should be sorry. The neglect you went through at the pound... no pet should have to go through. When I went to adopt a Uni, well, I didn’t think she would be like you, and neither did Emily. But you are what you are, and you can’t help that. I love you, Mist, and I would never take you back. Neither would Emily.”
“You mean it?” Mist asked, tears of relief in her eyes.
“I mean it,” said Anna as they hugged. Mist pressed her face into Anna. Her new friend.
“Is there any way I can make up for what happened?” Anna asked.
Mist looked at the Ukali and smiled. Two souls would be saved today.
“Yes, I think there is.”
I wrote this story for all the unwanted pets in Neopia. May they all find loving homes.