The Story of B.: Part One
I am awake tonight. I'm out of bed once again, pacing up and down the hall as I try to think of something to do: a book to read, a game to play... a story to write. But nothing comes. I sit down at my desk in defeat, trying to ignore the monotonous ticking of the clock on the wall, and staring and this nearly blank page.
My mind wanders, thinking of one of my old poems. For a brief while, I try brainstorming and jotting down short ideas. None of them seem to lead me anywhere. The raging storm winds outside sway our wind chimes, adding the sound of their cheerful bells to its lonely howl.
Why am I writing all this down? This story isn't going anywhere...
I jump in my chair and instantly turn around to scan the room. Oddly, I find it's empty.
I shake my head. Was I hearing things? Maybe I'm a little more tired than I thought. I guess I should just get to sleep-
A soft chuckle interrupts my thoughts. "I know the feeling."
There it is again! I leap to my feet, and try to shout "Who's there?" as I look around again. It comes out as more of a tired squeak, and I clear my throat irritably.
"I'm over here," answers the voice. I notice I'm staring directly at the source: an old plush armchair of mine. There appears to be nothing... but wait!
After I stare at the chair for a moment, I see a slight shimmer in the air. "Come on," says the voice. "Haven't you ever seen an invisible pet before?"
I sigh in relief, quietly saying, "Oh," in response. I smile after a moment when I realize the irony. Then my look turns to suspicion. "Who are you?" I demand. "What are you doing in my house?"
The empty spot shines again when the voice returns. "I saw the light on," he (I decide it's definitely a male voice) explains. "And your door was open."
I groan. I knew I should have left it locked!
"I saw you were still up, and I thought you could use some entertainment? Perhaps, a story to help you sleep?"
My questions do not leave me, but he has certainly quieted them for now. After all, travelling story tellers are common all over Neopia; I've had the good fortune of stumbling across a couple in the past. But coming into a stranger's house to tell a story? It seemed a little suspicious...
Who am I kidding? I'll take a good tale any night, and I'll ask my questions later. I nod eagerly; the sudden motion makes my eyelids droop.
The invisible pet glistens; I imagine that's him smiling. "Very well. Now sit back and listen well. This is the story of a little Techo named..." He trails off, probably thinking of a suitable name for the story's protagonist. I am surprised then, that after all that thought, he would finish the sentence with, "B."
"Bee?" I question him.
"Yes, B. The letter," he clarifies. "B. had lived in the pound for as long as he could remember. His full name was a long string of letters, so complex that even he had trouble remembering it, so he told everyone he met to simply call him 'B.'." I nod, and he takes this as permission to continue. "Seeing as his name was long, and his color and species were commonplace... well, needless to say, he'd never known what it was like to have an owner.
"But you shouldn't feel sorry for him. After all, when you spend all your life in one place, it starts to feel like home. And to B., the pound was his home, and every Neopet inside it was family to him."
All I can think to do is nod yet again when he pauses here. A theme like this is common in many stories. I suspect he's going to meet a human who wants to adopt him, taking him away from the only home he's ever known. Eventually, he/she earns his trust, and they both live happily ever after.
I sigh. He clears his throat... I realize just now that I never found out his name. I am about to ask, but he continues.
"It was a couple years ago when I first met B., when I was working there as a volunteer." He stops again and sees my expression. "Did I lose you already?"
"Hmm?" I say, processing his words only a second later. "Oh! Sorry, I didn't really hear much after 'I'. Don't most of you storytellers leave yourselves out of your tales?" As I write this down myself, I realize how redundant it sounds, so I quickly correct myself. "I just assumed it would be third person."
He must be staring at me; he says nothing for a minute. "I didn't know they did," he mutters. "By profession, I'm not really a writer. I am a scientist."
Before I have a chance to scold him for deceiving me, or wonder what a scientist is doing in my neohome in the first place, he picks up the story. "I was volunteering one night," he restates. "It was past nine o'clock, and my job was to check in all the pets' rooms, to see which ones were sleeping and which were awake. I passed one room, which only held one occupant: a Techo, sitting on the floor and drawing with a flashlight.
"This alone struck me as odd. Ever since the pound was remodeled, almost every room had three pets inside. I dismissed it at first, pulling out a notebook to write down the boy's name. 'Evening, sir,' I heard him say. I mumbled back a 'Hello,' continuing to write.
"Then his words hit me. I looked up from my book and over at him. He had dropped his markers, and was now staring, straight at me."
This is certainly a twist. I can't remember the last time I heard a story like this, one that starts out so simple and predictable, and then jerks the reader in a strange new direction. I'll have to try that method with my own writing someday.
"I stood there, unsure of whether I should move or speak. The Techo, then, spoke for me. "You're invisible, aren't you?' he asked.
"I nodded once. Not knowing if he'd seen the gesture, I whispered 'Yes.' I gulped, and nervously added, 'How did you see me?'"
(At this point, I have to admit that I'm finding it difficult to keep this mysterious storyteller's - or scientist's – story in quotations. Thus, for a while, I'm letting him take over; I'll merely be transcribing this part of his tale.)
"How did you see me?"
The little boy laughed good-naturedly, having to lower his voice a lot when he heard it echo in the silent room. "I didn't see you," he said. "Your friend showed me where you were!"
"F-f-friend?" I stammered. I looked around frantically. Was I being followed?
"Yeah, the Island Kougra," he explained. He laughed again, more quietly, and added, "If you're trying to be sneaky, you'll have to tell him to stop pointing at you!"
My fear had gone; now I was confused, and slightly irritated. "There is no Kougra here-"
"Yes, there is," he argued, as if used to this sort of response. "He has the coolest eyes, too: the white part is blue instead, with orange in the middle. He looks kind of mean, but I like him."
I had still been looking around to see if there was anyone. If the Kougra was invisible, I'd know where he was. So then how could this kid see him when I couldn't?
"See? That explains it!" he said suddenly.
I raise an eyebrow, and say, "What explains it?"
He stared for second. "Oh right, you can't hear him either," he said, seeming embarrassed. "He said he thinks you need to be seen more, so he was making you known. He's only trying to help you." He nodded. "He'll help you find out what you want to know."
All I could do was stare at him.
Those last eight words seem to sum up my reaction fairly well, too.
"You remember when I said I was a scientist, right?" he asks, pausing the story. "I'm afraid I neglected to say what my study was, and at this point, I think it's necessary."
"Okay," I mumble, partially out of disinterest for any kind of science, but also because my voice had fallen asleep. I certainly do not want the rest of me to follow. I'm still trying not to glance up at the clock; just in case it's gotten too late, I'd rather not find out.
"It's not usually thought of as science..." he hums a couple of times, in an uncertain way. "Let me put it this way: in my field, Neopets are divided into three groups. About half the population, probably more, is considered 'normal'. The other half is made up of pets with strange or unique abilities. These include levitation, mind-reading, any sort of power that is usually thought of as supernormal, or supernatural. The final group, however..."
He takes a deep breath. "The last group is a tiny niche within the second one. Those within it are characterized by powers so amazing, complex, and simply bizarre, that they are nearly unexplainable by any means. I focus on this third group."
There is a long pause. I think hard, trying to understand this. Amazing and bizarre abilities... I wish he could give me an example. "You mean like..." I think of something off the top of my head. "Like walking behind a tree and walking out from a different one?"
"Not quite," he says. "More like walking into a tree in the Mystery Island jungle, then coming out from behind one in the Haunted Woods."
That certainly sounds amazing. Suddenly, it hits me that he's taking this all completely seriously. "This isn't just a story, is it?" I ask. No answer comes, but I see another glimmer in the chair. I guess I don't need the answer after all. "Well then," I wonder, "why are you telling me all of this? Should it be confidential?"
"It should be," he says mischievously. "I just had to share this with someone. I feel like the world should know about B."
I decide not to question him further; I really want to hear more of the story.
"So anyway, you can imagine how confused I must have been. All I could think to do at the time was back away from him. In my state of surprise, I simply assumed that living in the pound for his whole life had made the boy mad. I left, forgetting all about my volunteer duties and heading straight home. I told myself not to worry about it, that I would forget all about him after a good night's sleep."
"And it didn't work?"
"Maybe it would have... if I'd even been able to sleep.
"All night long, I lay awake, baffled by the strange Techo. And yet, his mystery captivated me, compelled me to solve it. Had there really been someone behind me, someone only he could see? Did he have some level of perception no other Neopian did? Was he a cryptic genius, and this was some sort of riddle? Or was he simply insane?"
I immediately think of Eliv Thade when I hear these last two options listed. I shake my head and force myself to focus; I pick the weirdest characters to obsess over.
"These questions," he went on, unaware of my distraction, "kept me up, along with many others that branched off of them. And when I saw the sun rise outside my window, I decided I'd had enough. I wanted answers."
To be continued...