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A Cautionary Tail


by tranqz

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"Really, Roo?" Darla, a pink Bori, was regarding the Blumaroo standing before her with a look of complete distaste. "What are you supposed to be, a haunted bed sheet?"

      Uncertain, Roo tilted his head to the side and peered down at his costume. The sheet was long enough to cover his large tail and he had carefully cut three holes for his eyes and nose. Clearly he was a ghost! He thought that much was obvious.

      "I'm a ghost," He responded as cool as could be, taken aback slightly by her negative reaction. "See?" To demonstrate his haunting abilities, he waved his arms around to make the sheet rustle and flutter in the autumn breeze.

      "We all agreed to be scary things, not neohome furnishings," A haughty voice retorted from behind him. Roo turned slowly on tail to face Remy, the skunk Lupe. He was carrying two small buckets of paint and a large mason jar. "Or did you miss that memo?"

      The derisive giggle that escaped Darla struck a chord with Roo. Heat rushed to his face, and he was grateful that the sheet could hide his affronted expression. "I'm a ghost," he insisted fiercely, suddenly defensive. "What are you supposed to be?"

      Remy brandished the buckets and jar proudly and declared, "I'm going as Balthazar." He grinned from ear to ear as he produced a faerie doll from behind his back and stuffed it roughly into the jar. "See? I'm even going to paint my fur."

      As much as he loathed admitting it, Roo could not help but think that Remy's costume was totally brilliant. Balthazar was ferocious, fearsome, and easily recognizable. Other neopets would be complimenting him on his terrifying choice in costume all night, Roo thought bitterly.

      "And I'm going as the shadow Usul," Darla beamed, looking rather pleased with herself. "I've been working on my costume for weeks. I even splurged on a pair of yellow contacts." She paused, throwing the Blumaroo in the sheet another quelling look. "But I mean, you can still come trick-or-treating with us,"

      "Yeah, if you want to look like a big baby," Remy jeered, laughing merrily through a haughty little sneer. Suddenly his face lit up, as if he had been struck with a brilliant idea. "I've got it," he declared. "Let's find a baby paint brush and we can paint you—Oh, lighten up, Roo!"

      Roo had turned on tail and was bouncing furiously away, tears stinging in his eyes. Darla's malicious giggle and Remy's cold, derisive laughter echoed in his ears as he tried desperately to escape. When he was halfway through the thicket of trees that separated his neohome from Darla's, he finally stopped bouncing. Glum and defeated, he took a seat on a large, flat boulder.

      More than anything he wished that his friends would stop teasing him. With a disgruntled sigh, he wrenched the white sheet off and threw it furiously on the ground. No—more than anything he wished that he could give them a taste of their own medicine. "If only I could come up with a costume so terrifying, it would scare the paint right off of Remy," Roo mused desperately. Glumly he hung his head and slumped forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "Hmm, what's this...?"

      The Blumaroo had noticed something very large coiled under a layer of crunchy, dried leaves. Curious, he brushed a few leaves aside to retrieve the object. "A rubber Draik tail?" He crinkled his nose in befuddlement, holding the tail closer to his face to inspect it further. Aside from its rubbery exterior, the tail looked very realistic, Roo noted. In fact, it looked like the perfect addition to a Draik costume...

      "That's it!" the Blumaroo blurted, leaping up onto his tail in his excitement. "I'll be... I'll be a zombie Draik!" The idea alone put an enormous smile on his face. "Balthazar? Ha! My costume will blow that one out of the water. I'll scare those two, and I'll scare them GOOD." Suddenly the smile on Roo's face grew fiendish. With an uncharacteristically malicious chuckle, and with the tail in hand, the Blumaroo set off to put together what would surely be his greatest costume to date.

      Roo was neither seen nor heard from for the next three days. Day and night, the Blumaroo toiled tirelessly to put his costume together. Whenever he felt his eyelids grow heavy, he thought of the horrified looks on his friend's faces when they finally saw his masterpiece in its splendor, and that kept him motivated to keep working.

      Finally, on Halloween night, it was finished. Roo slipped on the costume, admiring his handiwork in the mirror and smiling smugly to himself. As he grabbed his candy pail and started for the door, he realized with a jolt that he had forgotten the most important detail—the tail! Quickly he scrambled back up the stairs, fastened some elastic on the ends of the rubber tail, and fastened it around his waist. Satisfied, he turned to take one last gander at his reflection in the mirror.

      And he screamed.

      "I... I... I..." Roo stammered wildly, too shocked and stricken to form a coherent sentence. Instead of a Blumaroo in a zombie Draik costume, the mirror revealed him as a zombie Draik! Horrified, he looked down to examine himself and discovered that he had indeed been transformed into a zombie Draik.

      "This tail must be enchanted," he decided, dropping his voice to a hushed whisper. "I don't think I want to mess with this kind of magic..." He started to pull the elastic, but found himself hesitating. Again, he was suddenly haunted by the derisive laughter of his friends ringing in his ears. With a scowl, he let his hand drop to his side. They deserved to be scared, he reasoned silently to himself as he scooped up his candy pail and made his way to Darla's neohome.

      Darla and Remy were sitting on the porch, each admiring their excellent choice in costume and hoping that their treat bags would be spilling with candy by the end of the night. The sun was dipping into the horizon, and the ghouls and mischief makers of Neopia were already on the prowl.

      "What's taking Roo so long?" Darla asked, exasperated. "It's not like he put effort into his costume like we did. He's just wearing a sheet with holes..." The little shadow Usul was getting anxious. She danced in place for a moment, throwing worried looks down the street every few moments.

      "Let's go without him," Remy said gruffly, leaping to his feet. "I won't waste a minute of my precious trick-or-treating time waiting for that silly Bluma—"

      "Hey, you two," an all too familiar voice interrupted the griping Balthazar. The other two pets heaved exaggerated sighs of impatience before they turned around to reproach their friend. But before they could even open their mouths to let out their scornful remarks, they caught sight of the particularly eerie zombie Draik and let out identical shrill screams of terror.

      "It's me, Roo!" the Draik insisted, unable to repress his snort of laughter at their horrified reactions. The other two neopets had scrambled back onto the porch in an attempt to distance themselves from the zombie, and they were wary to come any closer. "I'm just dressed as a zombie Draik. This is my costume!"

      The little shadow Usul poked her head out from behind the railing, her yellow eyes wider than dinner plates. "That's your costume?" she squeaked incredulously, trembling from ear to tail. "But you're... you're..."

      "We said we were going to be scary things in Neopia, right?" With a toothy grin, the zombie Draik shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. "I guess I've got the best costume after all, huh?" He threw back his head and positively cackled in malevolent glee.

      Uncertainly, Darla and Remy exchanged a quizzical look. Not only had Roo managed to trump their incredibly clever costumes with a far scarier and disturbingly good quality costume, but he was behaving rather strangely. But after a few moments of bewilderment, they decided to shake it off their wariness, gather their treat bags, and head out to harvest some delicious free candy!

      As the hours passed, Roo could not help but wonder if a peculiar change was coming over him. Each time they knocked on a door, he was overcome with a sense of foreboding and a craving for... well, he could not quite place his claw on what he was craving, but it certainly wasn't candy. At one point, when Darla scrunched up her nose and complained of a dreadful smell, the zombie Draik realized that the stench was coming from him.

      "Trick or treat!" The three neopets had finally decided to call it a night as things were winding down, but they had to hit one last house before turning in for the evening. They offered the Halloween Kacheek that answered the door their biggest, sweetest smiles and held up their bags expectantly. Smiling a most curious smile, the Kacheek obliged... but not with treats!

      "Ugh, gross!" The little shadow Usul screeched when the chuckling Kacheek deposited a millipede lollipop into her treat bag. Disgusted, she wrenched the bag away and threw the lollipop onto the ground. To her horror, the zombie Draik dropped to the dirt to scoop it up and swallowed it whole! He popped a handful of jellied eyeballs into his mouth and even accepted the squishy brain wrap that the Kacheek had tried to give Remy. It was as if he had an insatiable hunger that could only be cured by...

      "Brrraaiiinss..." the zombie Draik suddenly groaned, smacking his lips. The Kacheek slammed his door with a squeak of fright, leaving Darla and Remy to fend for themselves on the porch. Roo could feel himself advancing toward them, and he felt his lips move to form his terrifying, undead groans—but his attempts to stop himself were in vain.

      "Stop it, Roo!" Darla wailed, shaking her head furiously from side to side. She had pushed the hood down to her shadow usual costume and was holding her treat bag in front of her like a shield. But the zombie Draik kept shuffling forward, arms outstretched. "Roo, this isn't funny! You're scaring me!"

      Fed up and scared out of his wits, Remy grabbed hold of Darla and the pair took off sprinting into the night. They were so determined to escape the path of the zombie Draik that they left their loaded treat bags sitting on the porch.

      For a brief moment, Roo felt flushed with pride. He had successfully terrified the friends that always tormented him, and he knew that they would never tease him again. But the proud moment quickly fizzled away when he realized just what he had done. His friends were not scared off because he did such an excellent job impersonating a zombie—they ran away because he WAS a zombie!

      "That's enough horror for one night," Roo decided grimly, reaching around to adjust the elastic band. But the elastic was no longer there. Puzzled, Roo reached back and gave the long tail trailing behind him a good tug. Nothing happened. Frantically, he tried again, with greater force... but all he got was a twinge of pain. That tail would not come off of because it was no longer a rubber, novelty tail. The tail was now his.

      Aghast, the zombie Draik started off in the direction where his friends had fled, but stopped himself. As long as he looked like this, he knew that he could not get within fifty feet of them before they took off screaming. They would not believe him if he tried to explain the situation, either. And who knew how long the enchantment would last?

      Dejected, he turned and retreated to the forest, never to be seen or heard from again.

      It has been three years since the first zombie Draik sighting in Neopia. Nobody knows where the shy, amiable red Blumaroo called 'Roo' ever went, but mention the name around this time of year and you are sure to be reproached.

      Keep your wits about you when you head out to trick-or-treat this year, and remember: Be careful what you wish for...

The End

 
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