The Story of B.: Part Two
Here, he goes into a dialogue again. I'll be separating these parts from my own writing, from now on. And now, back to the story:
The next day (er, that day by then), I went back to the pound and sought out the Pink Uni that ran the adoption center. She kept track of all the information about the inhabitants, so she had to have something to help explain this Techo. When I came to her, she asked if I wanted to volunteer again today, but I declined.
"I'd like to ask about one of the pets here," I began.
"Oh, how wonderful!" she exclaimed. "Are you looking to adopt?"
I hadn't thought about that at all; I settled with "I might be," and continued. "What can you tell me about a Green Techo named..." I thought for a minute, but I couldn't remember the boy's complex name.
"Do you mean B.?" she asked.
"Yes, his name started with 'B'-"
"What did he tell you?" she practically groaned.
I blinked. "What do you mean?" I asked.
"That boy... he's always making up stories. He tells everyone about how these invisible 'friends' follow them! Frankly, it scares us, not to mention anyone who comes to try and adopt him."
"Friends... following them..." I mused. "That's exactly what he told me! What other stories does he tell?"
"Why would you want to know?" She gave me a stern look. "Do you plan on teasing him?"
I shook my head. "No, no, of course not! It's just... this could be important. It could be a scientific breakthrough! Please, just tell me!"
"How on Neopia does science have anything to do with B.?"
"It does, trust me!"
She hardened her glare at me. She opened her mouth to argue once again-
But I was fed up with arguing. I grabbed her by the shoulders and stared into her eyes. I had no doubt she couldn't see the stare, but I did all the same. She silenced herself and gazed back, her glare gone.
"Please," I repeated with a sigh, "just tell me more."
After a moment, she let herself relax again. "Okay," she said, and I released my grip. "You're right; I made too big of a deal out of it. I guess I'm just a bit protective of the poor boy. Here, sit," she said, gesturing to one of the chairs, "and I'll tell you everything we know."
I sat down gratefully where she had indicated, and waited as she took the seat opposite me.
"But just a fair warning," she said, "that we don't know much about him. He showed up one day, many years ago. I've asked him time and again, but Dr. Death insists he was alone. No owner brought him here and abandoned him; he simply came. And he's stayed here ever since.
"We first noticed it one night when the doctor was going down the halls, seeing if everyone was asleep, as you were doing. He had a flashlight with him, and when he got to B., he saw him just lying in bed, wide awake. Well, he shone the flashlight at him, and he just smiled and said, 'Hello, Dr. Death. Hello, Mr. Bright.' Then he turned away, trying to get to sleep.
"The doctor came back and told me what had happened. I laughed, thinking it was the cutest thing. The next morning, however, when he and I happened past the boy, he still addressed him as 'Dr. Death and Mr. Bright.'
"I tried to correct him gently. 'No, no sweetie,' I said; 'Dr. Death doesn't have his flashlight today.'
"The boy chuckled a couple times. 'I didn't mean the light, Ma'am,' he told me. 'I was talking about Dr. Death's friend!'
"Both of us looked around for a bit, but there appeared to be no one else in the hallway. 'Me?' I asked.
"'The Ixi!' clarified B. 'The golden Ixi walking around...' He smiled. 'Well, it looks more like dancing around him. Isn't he graceful, Ma'am?' he said in an admiring tone.
"I stopped looking around for the Ixi in question and stared at the Techo. 'There's no one else here, B. What are you talking about?'
"He looked heartbroken all of a sudden. 'You mean... you don't see him?' I shook my head warily. 'Oh. I'm so sorry! I didn't realize...' He hung his head. We tried to talk to him some more, but he stayed silent, as if mourning."
After a significant pause from the Uni, I asked, "Is that it?"
"That's my entire story," she said. "However, I have heard many others complain about him. For instance, a girl telling us how he'd scared her little Usul with tales of a mutant Lupe stalking her, or a volunteer like you saying B. was talking to his shadow, claiming it was a shadow Hissi in disguise.
"But the most peculiar thing of all, is that whenever someone comes to try and adopt him, he says the exact same thing: that they already have a Techo just like him riding on their backs. And then he goes on to ask how they can even see with the Techo covering their eyes like that."
I scratched my head as I thought, but I couldn't see what to make of it. There was nothing to connect any of these stories to anything! To this day, I might still be lost, had the Uni not asked what he'd told me in the first place that got me so interested. "That an island Kougra with strange eyes was pointing me out for everyone. He said he would-"
I stopped. I could have sworn I heard a "click" in my head.
"He would help me..." It was all coming together! "Yes! Those eyes- he helped me find out what I wanted! Oh, thank you madam!" I gratefully kissed the back of her hoof, then sprung up and practically skipped out into the plaza.
"So B. was right!" I exclaim. This is getting so exciting! "Does that mean, those other stories..."
"That's what I intended to find out," he assures me.
"Are you okay?" he asks.
I start to nod, but I notice the page. He's been talking for several minutes now, but I haven't been writing anything down. I guess I was so absorbed in his tale that I forgot to.
He, however, draws the wrong conclusion from my distraction. "It is getting quite late," he says. "Maybe we should-"
"No!" I won't even let him say it. "You can't stop now; it's getting so good! I can stay awake, honestly! I've been up much later than this." The last part, I have to assume is true. I've always been quite the night Whoot, staying up well into the morning, unintentionally or otherwise. Still, I am forbidding myself from seeing the clock. The only way I can tell it's still there is that infernal ticking it's making.
"Go on," I urge, "don't worry about me!"
"Do you want me to go back a little?" he asks, and I politely tell him to do so. "Very well. I was saying that after finding out B. was right about me, my first thought was, 'What about those other pets?' The Uni hadn't given me any names or descriptions, and tracking them down without specifics would definitely arouse suspicion. So I decided to let their stories be. Instead, I needed information straight from its source; it was time B. and I spent some time together.
"It took me longer than I expected to get my bearings. With all of my excitement over the Techo, I had neglected some of my other... projects." He puts questionable emphasis on this last word, but I decide to ignore it. "But after a few days, I was ready. I raced over to the School Supply shop and purchased a notebook, then wrote down an overview of the Uni's report. When I reached the pound, the pets looked like they were on their way back from a recess.
"I found B. in a crowd of other children returning to their rooms. He didn't look back and see me. The Kougra, having done his job already, must have left."
I've been trying so hard not to interrupt, but now one question jumps out before I can stop it: "Do you think they're really there?"
He stops to think for a second. "Generally speaking, I'm not sure. Well, at least I wasn't back then," he corrects himself. "I do have a better idea now, but..."
"You want to get further in the story first, right?"
"Exactly," he says. "Anyway, I followed him back to his room. He sat down in the very center of the floor, next to his box of markers, and pulled a stack of papers out from under his bed. I sat behind him, my left arm laid out in front of the notebook, so as to keep others from seeing it."
"I didn't know invisibility worked that way."
"Invisible pets can choose how far to extend their blank color," he explains, "with a bit of practice." I hear a small creak as he stands up from the armchair. I stare at it when all of a sudden, the chair vanishes completely! "If I stand in front of something, in the same way a normal pet would obstruct the object from view, I can choose to make it disappear." It reappears once again as he takes his seat with a sigh.
I smile widely. "That's brilliant!"
There is a slight ripple from his spot, followed by a modest "hmm", an audible shrug.
It occurs to me that I have interrupted this tale of his several times, but he never seems to mind. It's almost as if we're having a conversation rather than telling a story. (Man, I wish there were more words for "story"; I've written it so many times that it's starting to feel foreign.)
"But anyway, let's get back to B."
I had to wait for a while, passing the time mostly by watching him doodle. I kept my eye on the pets outside and the owners who passed by, both barely sparing him a glance. Occasionally, he would stare after one of them, even waving to them as they left (though it may have just been their "friends" that interested him).
After over an hour of tedious waiting and observation, long after I had put my pen away, I heard a noise out in the hallway. A dark yellow streak raced past us, and I heard a small screech as it skidded to a stop. When the creature came into view, I saw it was a Darigan Flotsam. Menacing spikes lined his back and the crest of his head, but his fierce red eyes were instead widened in panic.
"Hey kid," he said, panting, "is anyone else in there?"
I tensed for a moment, but the Techo replied, "Nope, it's just me."
"Fantastic!" The Flotsam slipped his lithe figure through the bars on the door and dove beneath B.'s bed. Just as he did, a cacophony echoed through the cement room, and a huge mob of humans ran past. Their eyes (in the split second that I saw them) were wide and frenzied, like the eyes of a predator. But they passed right by our room, not even looking inside. In a few moments, their arguing receded and finally died down.
I heard a heavy sigh from the Flotsam as he crawled back out of his hideaway. His relief, after a moment, was replaced with bitterness. "Traders," he spat, though the way he enunciated it could have been confused with traitors. "Those evil Vullards... Thanks, kid. You really helped me out there."
"B." He smiled. "Call me B."
"Nice to meet you, B. I'm Rex," the Flotsam said as he smiled back. Actually, it was more of a sharp-toothed sneer than a smile, but the sincerity was still there. B. didn't seem to mind.
"Who were those people chasing you?" B. wondered aloud.
"They're called pet traders," he said acidly. "They look for 'rare' pets here at the pound. Then they trade them for pets they deem more 'valuable'."
"Pets have different values?"
Rex scoffed. "To humans, they must. I've been avoiding them for almost a month, but I'm afraid I'll be snatched and dragged off any day now..." He looked over at B. and stopped, seeing his sad look. "But you know what?" he began, his tone already lightening. "I'm sure there are plenty of nicer owners out there. Someone who'd rather give a good home to such a sweet pet as you, instead of a scary ol' Flotsam like me."
B. seemed a bit shaken at the idea of being adopted, but he lightened up when he heard Rex's mock-scary voice. He laughed joyfully, and Rex chuckled back, though not whole-heartedly. "And," he continued, "if you ever get to meet that owner..." He winked. "Maybe you can convince 'em to adopt both of us."
B. looked oddly fearful and sheepish. "I don't wanna be adopted." He frowned more deeply and added, "I've never had an owner before; I'm scared. What if they're mean?"
If Rex's kindness had been a façade before, it was now completely genuine. His features all relaxed and his smile softened, caring and sympathetic, a very unusual expression for a Darigan. "If you're scared, then I'll be right here with you, okay?"
B. sniffled. "Okay," he said.
"And if the person who adopts you is ever mean to you," he added, "I'll make sure they're sorry."
B.'s smile turned into a playful grin. "I don't think you need to. No one would mess with a boy who hangs out with such a 'scary ol' Flotsam'," he said, mimicking Rex's voice.
They laughed together for a while. Even I smiled; I was surprised at how good the boy was at making friends.
"You're alright, B.," said the Flotsam. "I'm really glad I picked here to hide."
B. laughed again for a short time. Rex joined in, unsure what it was about. "Don't you mean you're glad your friend picked here for you to hide?"
To be continued...