I am disgusting.
“Oh my Meepit! What is it?”
“Stop staring, Jules, come on.”
“But Mother, look at it! It's got one eye... and... and it's scary. I want to go home!”
“Yes, yes. Now shh, you're making a scene. Everybody's looking at you. We'll get you an ice cream; calm you down. It's a Mutant Uni, Jules, sweetheart. It has drank a transmogrification potion and turned into... that. They're just like you and me, but more... grotesque appearing and have mighty tempers. Promise me you'll run away if you see one alone. Any mutant creature. They're dangerous. They support Sloth himself!”
“Okay, Mother... I would never want to go near one anyway!”
The mother blue Uni hurried her child away and as they passed me the child turned her head to get another good look, before shuddering and clutching her mother's sleeve protectively. After they turned a corner, I noticed the crowd that had gathered to listen were carrying on with their own business now. Everyone heard that, but no one leaped to my defence. In fact, many of them edged further away from me or cast sideways glances which quickly retreated as I glared at them with my eye. It was so unfair.
I had to get away, but I came out here, risking the stares and the comments and, sometimes, the muffled snickers, to buy my weekly copy of the Neopian Times. By now, the stall owner selling them was used to me, but today it was a different Neopet selling them. There was a sign explaining the original seller was on holiday in Mystery Island for a fortnight.
Neopia Central was bustling with people. It was a gloriously sunny day, without a cloud in sight in the wide, blue sky, so there were a load of Neopets out doing their restocking or shopping. Everyone was in an especially happy mood, too, mimicking the weather like a shadow, apart from me – a melancholy grey cloud permanently hung above my head. Of course, I'm speaking metaphorically but it may as well have been a literal thing. Nothing made me smile anymore. I was sick of the treatment I got for the way I was. For being a Mutant Uni. Even now, I was almost too nervous to get my copy of the Neopian Times!
This angered me; this hesitation and worry about everyday things. Surely I was used to everything by now? Tears threatened at my eyes – tears of frustration. I marched purposefully to the stall and slapped my neopoints on the counter.
It surprised the young red Kyrii, who had been busy doing her make-up with a hand-held mirror. She blinked her big green eyes at me, surrounded by long ebony lashes, and a flicker of fear crossed her soul. I could see it in her eyes.
“Oh, I'm sorry, does my appearance bother you? Am I not normal enough to do normal things like this? Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you think I fit our stereotype?” I was yelling now, yelling at this poor Kyrii who hadn't a clue what to do. I guess I was fitting the temper stereotype at that moment. I picked up a Neopian Times issue, my heart pounding. “I'm sick of this. I'm sick of being stared at and laughed at and judged for what I look like! Does no one want to know the person beneath this?”
The Kyrii shook her head dumbly. “I'm sorry, miss, but you're going to have to leave if you're going to be – be making such noise.” Her voice was shaking with fear, but to be fair to her, she held herself well. “Take your Neopian Times and go,” she added firmly.
As I did so, I could hear behind me mutters of: “Good riddance!”
* * *
Not much of an introduction, was it? But you might as well know the true me and how people perceive me if you want to hear my story. And if I've given you a bad first impression – well, sorry! However, it doesn't bother me anymore. What people think of me. They judged me based on what I looked like, and I turned around and did the same thing. Judged someone on their appearance. I know, I'm a hypocrite. Indeed, it was this realisation and the helping heart of someone who was a stranger at the time that made me who I am now. A happy individual not bothered by any comments I may receive in my life from now on.
My name is Casey. I am a Mutant Uni.
I haven't been one long; a year and twenty six days to be precise. I was fooled by a Meerca salesman into thinking the potion he was selling was something that made Unis stronger and more agile. I was a keen Battledomer and still am to this day. My mutant looks tend to give me a bit of advantage - the only good thing about them, I used to think. The weakest opponents were frightened off straight away just by glancing at me! Alas, this potion turned me into a Mutant Uni and my life fell apart at that very moment.
Before that, I had been a Royal Uni, you see. Highly respected around the area and admired by all. I had plenty of friends and a wonderful home and great jobs from the Faerieland Employment Agency. They stopped accepting my coupons when I looked like this because I was scaring others away, so my home was lost, and gradually, my friends lost contact with me too, too caught up in their high social status lifestyle, what I had once been a part of, to remember their Mutant friend, practically homeless and desperately seeking refuge anywhere, and almost too horrific appearing for words.
Even I couldn't fathom it. I was in denial, shock, anger... then I just cried hysterically.
It was two months ago when I bought that issue of the Neopian Times from the red Kyrii. As I stomped away and found a place to sit under a tree, the front page caught my eye. On it was Cassandra, a Faerie Uni who modelled for various clothes shops. She beamed at the camera and waved her hoof proudly. She looked stunning and she knew it.
'Cassandra Star takes to Neopia Central in style! The model, born in Terror Mountain, says all of the shops here are “just wonderful”. She's here doing a shoot for the NC Mall and will be here all week. Apparently she will be wandering around trying on different things in different shops and buying lots of chocolate from the Chocolate Factory! “Being a model is really fun,” Cassandra tells us in this exclusive interview, “but it will never stop me from remembering what I used to be.”
Before being painted faerie, the Uni was plain green and had to put up with the harsh weather conditions of Terror Mountain. Orphaned at a young age, she had to bring herself to the top of the success ladder on her own four hooves, whilst at the same looking after her younger brother. “I always treat people with the utmost respect, no matter who they are or what they look like,” she explains now, “because anyone can be whoever they want to be with a little encouragement and support.”
That was Cassandra Star in an interview for the Neopian Times. Turn over for an in depth look at the Money Tree. Good, or bad? This reporter...'
“As if she actually treats people like that,” I grumbled to myself, tossing the Neopian Times aside for a moment. “All celebrities are the same. Especially pretty ones! Vain, ignorant and have no consideration for the rest of us. I bet if I met her right now she'd walk straight past, or make a spiteful comment, or even run away from me.”
A sudden gust of wind lifted my Neopian Times and carried it away. “Meepit!” I growled, jumping up and running to try and catch it. I wasn't looking where I was going and suddenly collided into someone turned away from me.
We landed in a heap on the dusty path, faces inches from one another. I couldn't believe it. I was staring into the eyes of Cassandra Star, and she was staring straight back at me.
She was even more beautiful in real life. Her shopping bags had flown from her grasp and onto the ground, many of the contents emptied around the area. Under her left front hoof was my Neopian Times copy; she'd caught it for me. Her big, blue eyes did not stray away from my gaze, and she did not shudder.
“What's your name?” she asked, as she picked herself up then offered her hoof to me. “I'm Cassandra –”
“I know who you are.” I interrupted, rather rudely of me. I ignored her hoof and got up myself. “You're Cassandra Star. So what publicity stunt is this? Model doesn't flinch when faced with a Mutant of the same species?”
Cassandra frowned. “What are you talking about?” She puzzled. She handed my Neopian Times to me. “Was this yours? I caught it blowing in the breeze. I think a page of two might be missing, but... oh goodness, this is the issue I'm in. I hadn't realised.” She gave a high, tinkly giggle.
“I'm sorry, but could you drop the act?” I snapped, losing my patience. “I don't have time to be part of some story here. Pick on some other helpless mutant. What's the deal? You show you're a nice person? Perhaps throw me a red paint brush or something? Well, no thank you. Not me. I'll be leaving now.”
With that, I stalked off down the path, not sure where I was heading. I heard the clicking of hooves behind me and turned to find Cassandra hurrying to catch me up, a furious scowl on her face. It almost made her seem ugly, and I laughed. My laughter died when she rounded on me, however, because she did not think any of this was a laughing matter at all. It surprised me, seeing her so hurt and angry, so not like how I expected her to be. I expected her to be the one laughing at me, not the other way round! I expected her to be spiteful and sharp and mean. I expected her to squeal and run away. I expected all of these things as separate things that could happen... but what actually happened I did not expect at all.
“Just what is your problem?” Sshe demanded. “There's no story! No stunt. What are you on about?”
“What?” I said quietly. “There's no story?”
Cassandra shook her head, bemused. “Why would there be a story? Cassandra Star bumps into civilian on her way back from shopping? I'm not sure that'd sell!” she joked, but lightly, sensing the situation was still risky.
“Well... because... because I'm mutant.” The last part came out as a pathetic whisper.
She didn't hear me. “Hmm?” She leaned forward slightly. “What did you say?”
“I'm mutant!” I shouted it this time, then lowered my head in shame.
Again, she looked confused. “So?” she said.
“You don't care?” I was shocked by this.
Cassandra shook her head again, an eyebrow raised. “Why should I care? My brother Paul is a Mutant Uni too.”
My astonishment must have clearly shown on my face, because she patted me gently on the leg. Her eyes were warm, and understanding. “I see,” she whispered now, her mane blowing behind her in the wind, making her look even prettier if that were possible. I was facing the wrong way and my mane was flying in my face; but then, it wasn't possible for me to look any uglier. “You get treated differently because of the way you look, don't you? You expect the worst.”
“Especially from people like you!” I blurted out, then winced.
“People like me?” Cassandra echoed, puzzled.
I nodded. “Yes... beautiful people. People that can't understand what it is like to look like this because they never will unless they make the same mistake I did. But they wouldn't. I was just stupid.” Tears threatened so I stopped talking abruptly.
The model finally smiled again, visibly relaxing. “You know what you've done, don't you?” she said.
“You've judged me based on how I look. Yet you hate it when people do that to you. Hypocritical, yes?” She threw me a knowing grin, as I realised what she was saying was true. Cassandra took a deep breath. “I'm going to let you in on a secret,” she told me.
Curious, I took a step towards her. “What is it?” I asked.
“My brother always told me he got looks like that. I can't imagine what that felt like, and I was really angry he was being treated this way. I was more angry than him! When I asked him why he wasn't upset, or cross, he simply told me he had better things to do than care about what a stranger thinks of him for one moment in a day. He told me that seemed so insignificant compared to his life with me and his friends by his side who loved him for who he was no matter his appearance, that he felt sorry for those that insulted him. They didn't have the happiness he had.”
Cassandra meant this with all of her heart. You could tell her brother meant the world to her as well – pride shone in her eyes and a small smile permanently remained on her lips as she spoke.
I still wasn't fully convinced. This wouldn't work for me. “I have no friends, no family,” I told Cassandra glumly. “Your brother is luckier than me. My friends dumped me the moment I became what I am now and I was an orphan from a very young age.” My eyes widened. “Just like you...” I realised. We had more in common than I thought.
She beamed at me like a lighthouse. Then she did something unexpected – she ran forward and gave me a hug.
As I broke from the warm embrace, she nodded. “I'm your friend now, though you still haven't told me your name!”
Part of me still wanted to run away, unable to believe this was happening. But another part of me craved this – this new friendship, the hope for someone with whom I could share my fears, worries, hopes and dreams, and then have them still be there for me no matter what. I had judged her harshly for what she looked like and who she was, just as others had done to me. I would never do the same to anyone ever again. As long as I had a friend, it was like Cassandra's brother said, I felt sorry for those that made hateful comments, because they were missing out on happy times.
“I'm Casey,” I said, grinning for the first time in ages. “Let's start again. It's great to meet you, Cassandra.”