Life in a Snowy Shadow: Part Three
Marzely was a Puppyblew, with a body of pale indigo blue and large, clear eyes. He looked at me in interest, but I could only sit still, watching him, in response.
Owen then left without a word. I breathed a sigh of relief. We were alone! Puppyblews did understand what I said, and now I had the chance to ask my many questions. But where could I begin?
I didn’t have time to think about it. Marzely came right up to me and examined me with interest, leaving me speechless. Finally, he said, “You’re a Snowbunny, eh?”
I nodded vigorously. “Yes! And you must be a Puppyblew!” I did my best to smile at him.
Marzely smiled back, but without much enthusiasm. “So... how did you end up here? I thought that Snowbunnies weren’t known to Neopets. At least, that was what I heard at the Neopian Petpet Store.”
“Store...? What’s a store?”
Marzely looked back at me in bewilderment. “How can you not know?!” Before I could answer, however, he paused and added, “Well, I suppose you have lived up on the top of Terror Mountain all your life. You wouldn’t know that much about the cruel Neopian world, would you? Where Petpets are treated as though we have no feelings at all?”
I shook my head slowly, although his last words had shocked me quite a bit. Treated as though we had no feelings at all? How could that be?
Seeing my expression, Marzely sighed. “You’ve got a lot to learn. Never been inside a house, have you?”
“Err... no. And I thought this place was called a home?”
“It can be called that, too, and also a Neohome,” he replied patiently. My face must’ve shown how confused I felt, because he then said, “Do you want me to teach you more about what all the basic stuff is?”
“Then come on.” He walked out of the glassy white area, out into the open space and sat down at the foot of one of the soft, squishy things that Nikki was still sitting on. She glanced at us as we approached, but said nothing.
“How come you don’t sit on top of that soft thing? Isn’t it better there?” I was used to the cold, hard floor from the winters in Terror Mountain, but having such a luxury beside us, it was very tempting to go and sit on top of it. Why wouldn’t Marzely?
He shook his head. “Petpets aren’t allowed to sit on the sofas.”
“Sofas, is that what they’re called? And how come?”
“Because, I told you, Neopets treat us like we are objects. Like we’re not living. Like we have no feelings.”
“Why?” I asked, anger starting to well up inside me.
“I don’t know,” Marzely said. “But... maybe I should teach you about what Neopian life is like first. Then... maybe you’ll understand.”
And so it began. Starting from that moment, Marzely began to teach me everything there was to know about Neopets. It did make me feel really stupid at times, because I had started to realise how little I knew. But Marzely was patient. He became my best friend -- my only friend, in fact, while I had to live in this place. Every day, every chance we got, he taught me.
I learnt about houses, roads, clothes, books, tables, and all the objects Neopets used in their everyday life. I learnt about all the rooms in the house -- the kitchen, the bedrooms, the dining room, the living room. I swallowed up and remembered every single bit of knowledge Marzely tried to teach me. But most of all, I learnt about the nature of Neopets.
Marzely didn’t start telling me about it until I had learnt all the basics of life here in Neopia Central, and could understand all the terms he used. But when he did, two weeks after I had arrived at Nikki, Cecilia and Owen’s home, he told me some very grim and unappealing facts indeed.
“Neopets are always selling, trading and giving off Petpets,” he said. “They think of us like we’re nothing. That’s what happened to Flutter, the Faellie, when you came. She was sold off for Neopoints, just so that Nikki can eventually get a pretty Paint Brush. It’s totally unfair.”
I felt a little squirm of guilt, and it must’ve shown, because Marzely hastily added, “It’s not your fault. We’ll all go through this buying-selling-trading thing on the market at some stage.”
That didn’t make me feel much better.
The Day of Giving came soon after that. Marzely had explained that the Day of Giving was a day on the Neopian Calendar, at the end of the year, when owners and Neopets gave each other presents. On this day, Cecilia was painted Faerie, and she became a whirl of purple and blue colour. Owen had finally become Royal, something which Marzely resented because of Flutter, who he used to be friends with. Naturally, we hadn’t been given any presents, or even allowed to participate in decorating at all. Everything in the world seemed to be primarily Neopets- and owner-centred.
We did, however, both get a nice Day of Giving dinner that was better than usual. What we usually ate was either the scraps, left over from Nikki and the Neopets’ meals, or supposed ‘Petpet Food’ that tasted more like mud mixed with old cabbage. Seriously. But on the Day of Giving, Nikki went out and bought a platter of rice, vegetables, lamb, potato and gravy, which Marzely and I absolutely loved. We dug into it ravenously, our usual worries forgotten, while listening to an interesting conversation that had arisen on the dinner table.
“Are you alright, Nikki?” Owen asked in worry. “You haven’t eaten anything. It’s delicious! Come on, it’s the Day of Giving! Eat something!”
Nikki shook her head slowly. “I’ve got something really important to tell you. Especially you, Cecilia.”
Cecilia’s head jerked up from the luxurious dinner she had been eating. “Huh? What?”
Nikki went slightly pale, and she chewed onto her fingers nervously, appearing to consider what to say. When she realised that Owen and Cecilia were staring at her so intently she could delay it no longer, she lifted her head to face them.
“Cecilia, I’ve... planned out your future.”
“Planned out my future?” Cecilia repeated in confusion. “What do you mean? We already have it planned out, remember? I’ll come top of my class at Neoschool, then go on to be a famous singer, dancer and actress.” She puffed out her chest. “And a very beautiful one, too!”
“As if that will happen!” I said, rolling my eyes. The one good thing about Nikki, Owen and Cecilia not understanding Marzely and me was that we could say something really bad about them if we wished, without them understanding or paying any attention. It was no different on that Day of Giving. None of the three even glanced at us.
“That’s not what I mean,” Nikki said, even more quietly. “I mean... I’ve found a new owner for you.”
Nikki seemed to be expecting Cecilia’s reaction, and Owen didn’t seem particularly surprised by it, but Marzely and I were shocked. Cecilia screamed, whined, cried tears that might as well have flooded the house, and yelled to Nikki at the top of her voice.
“WHAT?! HOW COULD YOU SEND ME TO ANOTHER HOME?! DON’T YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT ME?!”
“I do!” Nikki insisted. “I do! I’ve talked to the new owner, visited their Neohome and seen their pets! It was the most loving and caring home I could find you!”
“I DON’T CARE! WHY ARE YOU FORCING ME TO LEAVE? YOU DON’T LOVE OR CARE ABOUT ME AT ALL!”
“It’s not like that!” Nikki cried. “The girl was offering a Royal Girl Shoyru in exchange, and I have really, really wanted one, for years, you know, and the only Neopet she would take in exchange was a Faerie Cybunny! Besides, there won’t be enough room for you, after Korlie comes! It’s for the best!”
“THERE’S PLENTY OF ROOM! THE MAXIMUM IS FOUR NEOPETS PER HOME! THERE WILL ONLY BE TWO WHEN I’M TRADED!”
“B-b-but I’m a-d-d-dopting two new Neopets over the next few months, as well. And... tr-trading Owen for a Maraquan Gelert.”
Now Owen joined the shouting match.
“WHAT?! YOU’RE TRADING ME AWAY, TOO? DO I MEAN NOTHING TO YOU?!”
“You do!” Nikki said again, tears pouring down her cheeks. “You mean the world to me! But M-maraquan Gelerts and R-r-royal Shoyrus are my dream pets! It’s the only way!”
Cecilia grabbed her plate, still with food on it, and smashed it onto the ground. Owen, too, started kicking and throwing things. Pretty soon, the whole dining room was a mess. Marzely and I ducked into a corner and sheltered there to avoid it, while Nikki kept on pleading with her Neopets to calm down.
“Listen to me... just for a moment, please... it’s for the best... their Neohomes are nearby... I’ll see you again soon...”
“Why did it have to be today?!” Cecilia demanded furiously. “It’s the Day of Giving!”
Nikki hung her head. “Your new owner wanted you, as the new sibling, to be a surprise present for their current pets. I asked them to let me transfer you just before midnight, so I could spend a longer time with you. Owen will be staying here until next month.”
And so the shouting and crying resumed. Marzely and I watched, half in fear, half in fascination. I found it quite stupid for Cecilia and Owen to overreact so much. After all, Petpets were labelled as items, treated as items, traded all the time and even sold. But we had the same feelings and we were just as smart as Neopets and owners. The only different between us was in size. Neopets and owners plainly didn’t think that way, but why should they care so much about this trading business? We should all be treated equally, shouldn’t we?
* * *
Overall, that ended in quite an unsettling and traumatic Day of Giving. Owen had calmed down a bit. He didn’t seem upset at all when he and Nikki returned from the Neopian Pound. He had probably never cared about Cecilia at all, just about being traded.
The Royal Girl Shoyru, Korie, was very quiet and shy. She didn’t say much, just gave Nikki a weak smile as she was shown to Cecilia’s old bedroom, which was now hers. And over the next week, up to New Year’s Eve, she didn’t do anything to disturb Marzely or me. She barely came out of her room, and just spent the whole time reading or writing.
But as New Year’s Day dawned and Owen was traded for a Maraquan Gelert named Turqueila, Nikki began to consider what to do with Marzely and me. Neither of us could be sold or traded for very much at the moment, although Nikki guessed that my price on the market would slowly rise. Which left Marzely, who was very cheap and apparently not all that desirable. Nikki had picked him up at the Money Tree. She had tried giving us to Turqueila and Korie, but both of them refused to give up the Petpets they already had.
We didn't even know what Petpets they had. Turqueila was apparently very kind to her Petpet, who therefore felt no need to appear to Marzely and me. Korie's Petpet was just as shy and quiet as she was herself, and spent all day in her room. So for a week into January, everything was the same. Nikki let us stay in the house, and fed us what was left over from our Christmas dinner. Korie and Turqueila paid no attention to us.
Until that fateful day.
It started off like usual. Marzely and I woke up, wandered around the living room and talked about all the usual things. Nikki was sitting at the dining table, chewing the end of her pencil while she thought, a blank piece of paper laid out before her. She had been doing this for a couple of days, and I knew it was about Marzely and me. The two of us watched her silently.
It was a neomail alert. Nikki stood up immediately and walked over to the door, picking up the envelope that lay at its foot. With a flourish, she unsealed it, and a stranger’s voice appeared out of nowhere, speaking in obvious excitement.
“Turmy is sleeping lightly at the moment! He can be easily awoken!”
I frowned. Turmy? The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite put my paw on it. Where had I heard it before? I tried desperately to remember as I watched Nikki fold up the envelope, but I couldn’t. Strangely, the next thing she did was stare at Marzely and me intently.
I turned to Marzely as well, and was shocked to see the look of total fear and horror on his face. What was he so scared of? I saw Nikki begin to move away, and gazed at Marzely intensely.
“What’s wrong? Who’s... Turmy?”
Marzely swallowed. “Turmy... is really Turmaculus. Have you heard of him before?”
Turmaculus! I felt my fear and horror rise. The legendary, gigantic Turmac who ate other Petpets? My mother had told me that Turmaculus could come and attack me if I did something bad. But that had been years ago, and it had never occurred to me that Turmaculus could be real.
“Wh-what did the neomail mean, Turmaculus can be easily awoken?” I stammered.
Marzely shuddered. “Turmaculus spends almost all day sleeping. For an hour every day, he sleeps a lot lighter than usual, and other Petpets can awake him by yelling, hitting him with a stick, or something like that. If he is awoken, he can give rewards, like a level raise, or an item. But, sometimes...”
“He eats the Petpet,” I finished for him grimly.
Marzely nodded. “And that’s what owners want most of all. Because if the Petpet is eaten, they gain a new avatar.”
Avatars... by now I knew enough about the avatar-collecting owners’ greed. But how could they even think of trying to get Turmaculus to eat us?
Nikki came out from behind a corridor. She came directly to Marzely, who tried to scurry away. I jumped in front of him to try and fend her off as well. But she only clicked her tongue impatiently and (with those extremely long arms of hers) reached behind me and picked Marzely up.
“Don’t worry about me,” he whispered, as she pulled him up and away from me. “I’ve made Turmaculus wake up before, and nothing really bad has happened. He’ll probably give Nikki some Battledome equipment or something. Or maybe I’ll get a stat boost.”
That reassured me a little, but not entirely. It didn’t stop me from trying to stop Nikki from leaving, or from sitting at the foot of the door, waiting anxiously, hoping beyond hope that it would be OK.
To be continued...