Taking and Giving
Three Quiggles hid behind a great tree, snickering to themselves as they spied on a young Kacheek playing with his toy truck, not too far from them.
"Watch this," said one of them, a Skunk Quiggle, no doubt their leader, and approached the Blue Kacheek haughtily, his head raised high and arrogantly, a smug smile on his face.
The little Kacheek glanced up a s a shadow grew on the floor. He beamed in a friendly way. "Do you wanna play with me and my twuck?" he asked sweetly.
The Skunk Quiggle's smile turned into a nasty grin. "Let me see your truck for a second," he said.
"Shuwe!" chirped the Kacheek, handing his toy to the Quiggle. "It's so fun! Look at its wheels; they weally spin!"
The Quiggle burst out laughing when the toy was in his hands. The little Kacheek blinked, confused, but continued to smile, albeit waveringly.
"You're stupid!" guffawed the Quiggle, kicking up a cloud of dust and blinding the Kacheek, who shrieked. "Your truck is now mine!"
The Skunk Quiggle's companions ran from behind the tree and joined him, barking with laughter.
"That was hilarious, Jackson!" said one of the Quiggles, colored Brown, in between giggles. "Like taking candy from a baby!"
"Yeah!" said the other, a Spotted Quiggle, laughing in a goofy voice, "A-a real dumb baby, right, guys?" He snorted from laughing so hard.
The Skunk Quiggle beamed proudly. "Now we have for ourselves a new, shiny truck." His face darkened with malicious amusement. "How about we 'ask' that little Xweetok over there for his blue hat? My head's feeling awful cold..."
The other two continued to laugh and nod in gleeful agreement.
* * *
The three Quiggles were the terror of the town. Headed by Jackson (the one colored Skunk), with Chase (the Brown one) and Jim (he was Spotted) as his sidekicks, the three caused many young Neopets' smiles to turn to teary pouts. They trotted about as if they owned the place, heads held high while smiling smugly. If one of them was near you, there was no escape.
With no one to discipline them, they were free to do as they pleased.
The few who spoke up against their actions had their words fall on deaf ears. The three would not listen, so ignorant were they.
They were unstoppable.
* * *
TEN YEARS LATER...
The Skunk Quiggle tightened his tie, looking at the mirror so he could see the adjustment was right. He smiled confidently when he saw his appearance was impeccable.
He turned to his business partners. The Brown Quiggle was also smartly dressed, but the Spotted Quiggle was struggling to put his shoes on.
The Skunk Quiggle's face fell.
"Jim," he grumbled, rolling his eyes, "You're putting on your shoes on the opposite feet."
Jim looked up, emitting a confused "Huh?" He looked back down at his shoes.
"Oh," he said dumbly, elongating the vowel sound.
The Brown Quiggle smacked him in the head. "Do something right for once, you goof!"
"Sorry, Chase," apologized Jim, but his expression turned sour. "Not!" he added with a laugh, and pushed Chase to the ground.
"Gentlemen, please," said Jackson, "We have our jobs to do."
Jim and Chase stopped their scuffle. "Oh, right," the mumbled, and they all headed out the door, cloth sacks in hand.
They walked through the town, now a more bustling hub called Neopia Central; past fairly new houses, past familiar faces, past the great tree, until they reached a house they deemed worthy.
They approached and knocked on its bright red door. Jackson was in the front, their leader as always, his trademark arrogant smile plastered on his face; these days, it seemed that it was permanent.
The door was answered by a kind Yellow Gnorbu.
"Hello," she drawled pleasantly, "What can I do for you nice young Neopets?"
Jackson pushed the sack in front of her face."We work for the Tax Beast, and we are here to collect your yearly 10% percent of all your money!"
The Gnorbu stammered. "T-Tax Beast assistants?"
"You haven't been paying your bills lately!" said Jim.
"How many neopoints do you have?" asked Chase.
"O-only 10,000," replied the Gnorbu, "Can I-?"
She was interrupted by Jackson. "Give us 1,000!" he said, shaking the satchel.
The Gnorbu obliged, trembling.
The trio laughed as the coins jingled in their sacks. They walked away without a word of thanks.
* * *
They made their money this way, and unfortunately, it was credible. The Tax Beast truly employed them, and so the three rude Quiggles received money through mean ways, something they'd done since a young age. Old habits die hard, it's said.
Their jobs corrupted them. The three Quiggles demanded more and more money, raising the taxing increments slowly, so they could keep more of the neopoints they collected.
Soon, they were the richest around. They spent copious amounts of money on trivial and material things – expensive suits, fancy watches – and still plenty left over. While everyone else made a modest living, Jackson, Chase and Jim pursued the richest items they could and would discard of them when they grew tired of them, as if they were nothing.
Yet this didn't stop their love of money or bullying. They would mock the Neopets with less than them, and despite having no use for it, would still swipe a young one's toy, just to see them cry.
The three Quiggles' lives were going perfectly.
* * *
TWENTY YEARS LATER....
The Skunk Quiggle's once youthful face was now tired with age. The greed that boiled inside his heart had spread visibility to the outside. No matter where he walked in Neopia Central ("This place used to be empty," he grumbled mentally as he wove his way through the busy crowds), Neopets of all ages would flinch at his sight. The corruption had made Jackson ugly and undesirable.
He'd never quite gotten along with others, anyway, so it didn't bother him too much to see children cry because of his appearance, no longer because of his cruel antics. Once upon a time, he'd had two friends – no, that was too strong a word; he'd once had two acquaintances. But they had parted ways long ago.
He tutted. The three of them – Chase, who always sought to please Jackson; Jim, who blindly followed Jackson despite being dumb; and himself – they were once business partners, employed by the Tax Beast. They'd made a lot of neopoints that way for a while, but one day, Jackson discovered Chase took part of Jackson's shares for himself, and he promptly kicked the other two Quiggles out. He hadn't seen them since.
"Good riddance," he said aloud. He slowed down his pace a bit, panting for breath, leaning against the bark of a strong tree. He wasn't nearly as fast as he'd once been, and walking too much made him tired. He sat down under the tree, closing his eyes for a quick nap...
...and opened them again, only to see darkness.
He gasped, alarmed. Had night already fallen? No, he couldn't see the outline of any familiar building.
A ghostly silhouette appeared in front of him. Jackson whimpered, backing up.
Two more figures appeared, but their features were still dark.
The three shapes grew closer and closer, until Jackson could very clearly see what they were.
"Chase?" he stammered, "And Jim? B-but... you're ghosts?"
The two ghostly figures bobbed up and down in affirmation. They were wrapped in bandages.
The third figure was in the middle, and Jackson noted with some confusion it was a tree.
"What's going on?" whimpered Jackson, "where am I and what-?"
"Jackson the Skunk Quiggle," boomed the tree, scaring Jackson. "Silence."
The tree looked at him with steely eyes. "All your life, you have been a greedy little Quiggle. You never once stopped taking, never once having given. You had no one to call friend, no one to depend on, because none liked you for your nasty behavior."
The tree's eyes flashed. "It ends now. I, the Money Tree, protector of Neopia's goods, watcher of the needy, am calling for your ghost to help me out."
"What?" squeaked Jackson.
"You will also watch over the donations placed under my shade, and you will make sure they go to someone who really needs them. Perhaps then you will realize what it is you missed, what it is you really needed in all your life."
The tree shifted its leaves. "You will also take a bit of neopoints from the haughty Neopians you may encounter, and place them under me for someone needy to take. Wealth will be given generously, as it is meant to."
A pinprick of light shone from behind the tree and continued t o grow in size, blooming like a flower blossom.
"We're better now than how we once were..." eerily called out Chase and Jim as they were eaten by the light.
Before Jackson could say anything, the light took him in too.
* * *
In Neopia Central, it is rumored that if you have a heavy load of neopoints in your pockets, ghosts will hear them and take some for the Money Tree. No one knows why they do this, but they seem to have always been around. Some will run in fright at the appearance of the ghosts, but if they bothered to follow them, they'd see that the spirits will place the money under a great tree and patiently wait for someone needy to pick it up, when they will then smile...