The Life of a Lab Rat
I suppose that it all started the day my first owner took me to the pound. At first, I thought maybe I was getting a new brother or sister. But as we headed towards the "abandon" sign, my heart began to grow heavy with anxiety. After entering, I saw the Techo everyone referred to as "Dr. Death." My owner started to talk to him, only turning my fears into a deeper reality. It did not take long for my owner to give me up. They did not listen to my cries or pleas, only handed over the abandon fee to the Techo before leaving me with only my misfortune.
It was worse than the stories. There were others like me, all hungry, some sick. The majority of them had been there for the majority of their life. I did not have a pretty color. I was not strong. My name was not beautiful. I knew I would become one of them.
But there was hope in my life. One day, someone pointed at me. My heart soared this time as I walked out of the pound with my head held high. I had managed to avoid a catastrophe. Things seemed to be even better than before the pound. I was instantly given a Petpet than I adored and cared for. I had two siblings that were nice but distant. I no longer starved, though I was hungry.
The day after my adoption, my new owner took us to a location I had never been to before. It was an island that seemed remote and was not on any map of Neopia I had ever seen. We trekked through a forest before coming up on a long line of other pets, all waiting in a row in front of a run-down, clunky metal building. When I asked my siblings what was happening, they either replied with rolled eyes or looks of pity.
We entered the building after much waiting. That is where I saw it: the Secret Laboratory Ray. I had not known of its existence prior to the pound, but while there I overhead many horror stories of "lab rats" and this diabolical machine. I did not want it to be true. The closer we drew to this machine, the more I was sure of what was happening. I began to beg my owner for mercy, all unheard the same as before.
While under this huge device, I wept for my continuous misfortunes. The crazy-eyed Scorchio pointed the ray at me, and the jolt it released shook my body to the core. The scientist inspected me afterwards to report that nothing about me had changed at all. Great, all of that for nothing. If this were to be my fate, I would rather return to the pound. Unfortunately, it was not my decision and this continued every day. Not only to me, but to my beloved Petpet, also. Some days were worse than others, specifically the days I lost my hard-earned strength.
Around a month and a half later, the day finally came when everything about me changed. My color and my species were not my own. After returning home, I stared into the mirror for hours wondering who this Neopet was in my supposed reflection. My features that I once coveted were now nonexistent. The entire day, I sulked and sobbed for what I knew was to come.
The trip to the pound was still fresh in my mind from before. The abandon sign, the Techo, and the deep, aching feeling in my soul were all familiar. I did not cry or plea for mercy this time. I knew that my owner imagined I should be thankful for giving me such high chances, but I could not find it in myself to feel that way. I was once again alone and hungry in a body that I did not recognize.
Some prospective owners sought me out because of my color, majority of them turned away by my drab name or low level. However, the wait was not as long as my prior experience. A new owner picked me up the day after I had been placed there. They seemed awed by my presence, something I was not used to. My belly was immediately stuffed to the rim by the Soup Faerie. A Petpet joined my side once more. I had siblings that reminded me of the Neopet I used to be. They were joyous and welcoming.
Though this new owner was loving, attentive, and kind, my body had been shaken too many times by the ray and my soul crushed too many times by past owners. I could not trust them the way I had trusted others in the past. They noticed this early on, and the lengths to which they went to correct it were all in vain. They loved me, but not for whom I truly was.
Slowly and with great effort, they convinced me to open up to them. I told them of all the horrors that had been done to me, all of my misfortunes and grievances. I told them who it was I used to be before that scientist got ahold of me. They seemed distraught at my history, and promised that they would make things right no matter what it took. At the time, I felt it was a lie.
My owner began to take us out every day to play games, from counting potatoes to trying rigged circus games. They would stand outside of shops, pushing and shoving to be the first in line for when rare items were stocked. They attended auctions, took donations from the Money Tree, even invested in some stocks. My siblings and I were exhausted running from place to place with them all the time. The expensive items in our home either disappeared or were replaced with cheaper ones, same for our clothing.
"At last! At last!" my owner's voice echoed through our home. There was something tucked under their arm that intrigued us all. When she set it out to show us, we noticed it was a morphing potion. Living a life not as luxurious as most, we couldn't identify the exact type. The color, a deep red, made a warm space in my chest. It reminded me of my past – that red.
"It's yours." When they spoke, they spoke to me. I was confused at first, in a twist of awe and disbelief. It couldn't be what I wanted it to be. Not the thing that I had hoped for every night before drifting off to sleep. They confirmed it for me, "Who you used to be, right?"
The cork made a "pop!" noise as it was removed. It was the only thing that had managed to pull me out of my shock. After they set it to my lips, the soiled-tasting liquid passed down my throat. And I waited. And I grew anxious. As I opened my mouth to ask them why nothing was happening to me, I felt a whirling sensation in my stomach that made my heart feel like it was going to explode. Jerking motions sounded all throughout my muscles and bones. It was nowhere near as painful as the Laboratory Ray, though the aftertaste of the potion still lingered.
When the sparks stopped pounding off inside of me, I rushed to the nearest mirror. And there I was – the me that I knew. My owner was not far behind me. I saw them in my reflection, a smile plastered on their face. "How do you feel?" they asked.
I could not thank them enough, and part of me knew that I would probably be visiting the pound now that I was not colorful enough to be wanted. And the days that I waited grew old, but I never saw the pound. My owner loved me regardless of my bland existence. The pain that was once set deep in me soon lifted, and I was able to enjoy my life with my new amazing family.