My Monocerous Encounter
Something had happened; it was a while ago and it plagued me since it occurred. Like other Neopets, I grew up being told that the Monocerous was a vicious monster. Two powerful horns adorn his skull while a pair of Neopet-impaling tusks sit firmly in his jaw, jutting outward for maximum efficiency. His roar, I was told, could paralyze others and his breath stinks of death thanks to the bits of Neopets and petpets that managed to fall victim to this monstrosity. No one was certain of his exact lineage. I was told that many assumed he was born of the distant volcano seen on the horizon from the Tyrannian plateau. A creature of fire, he came equipped with skin ablaze, aflame with a fire that did not quit or consume. There was no way to know for sure of his nature and history as no one who came close enough to ask questions ever managed to do so. At least if any had, none survived to bring word of the beast.
It was near that volcano where I had my strange encounter. I was going about my business sampling some of the lovely foliage that can only be found in that area when I heard a rustling in the tree line immediately behind me. Overcoming the trepidation that built suddenly within me, I forced my head to turn. My snout touched something hard. It was white, long and after what seemed like several glorious seconds afforded to me for inspection, I realized it was a tusk. My initial thought was a Moehog, perhaps someone with whom I could pick and inspect the exquisite plants. My hope turned to dread when I realized this was no Moehog. The size tipped me off first, followed quickly by the shape as it walked out of the trees, pushing me backward.
It was him. He was not mere legend. I stood face-to-face with the Monocerous.
I remember berating myself for being so foolish. "Why didn't I listen to the stories?" I asked myself. My friends never accompanied me on my flora hunts because they found it too tedious, too boring and too out-of-the way from their comfortable daily lives. I loved the hunt and consequent excitement of finding a new plant, especially if it happened to be edible. Something about the volcanic soil added a flavor that was worth the pursuit. Was it worth death? Everything seemed so trivial now. I stepped back, unable to turn or run. All I could do was carefully walk backwards while facing my doom.
The Monocerous wheezed. It sighed. It flopped to the ground, exhausted. He mumbled something and looked away.
"Excuse me, did you say something?" I asked, suddenly realizing how stupid it was to try to engage the monster. Why I stayed to question him instead of running away is something I ponder to this day.
"Once... I once ate sixteen JubJubs. It was in a week. Sixteen JubJubs in one week," he said weakly with labored breathing. He attempted to stand, but wobbly forelegs brought him crashing down again.
"Oh my Gnorbu, you're old." I said the words flatly as the concept dawned on me; only thereafter did I realize it might be seen as very rude by this monster; though, at this point, I could hardly consider him monstrous.
I stood, waiting for him to reply. He wore his age like a burden, as if each year added more weight and robbed him of the strength with which to carry it. Loose skin fell around his waist, the remnants of a belly once expanded by the flesh of prey such as those sixteen JubJubs. Ribs jutted out, pushing against his skin with a threat to burst through. He stank of age, not Neopets. The flames in the legends either never existed or were long-extinguished around his blackened hide.
I stood, waiting for his reply. I waited maybe five minutes, maybe ten. "Is it true? Did you ever eat all those JubJubs?"
A gruff sound came from his throat, but it was no answer. I watched his gaze shift away. His eyelids never seemed to stop growing, and the movement of his eyes caused the pile of loose, wrinkled skin to fall around them like the folds of heavy blankets.
I wondered if he was lying, not so much about his JubJub consumption boast to me but throughout his entire life; I wondered if he lied his way into infamy. Perhaps he boasted and roared in his youth because he was a drifter. Rejected by society like so many unique creatures in Neopia like the Snowager and Esophagor, perhaps he tried to frighten away Neopets so as to guard hurt feelings. It made me suddenly feel guilty for fearing him, for thinking the Brain Tree is ugly and the Snowager an awful and selfish creature of ice. Perhaps they fit into Neopia the only way they knew how, all because we Neopets shunned them for being different. Maybe even Dr. Frank Sloth was just a misunderstood entrepreneur.
Though perhaps he was not lying. It could have been that his grumble was the mourning of a youth that escaped him. His reputation preceding him, he is no longer the nightmare he worked his whole life to become. His boast was a reminder to me that, back in his day, he would have consumed me without hesitation. He would have paralyzed me with his fearsome roar, only to swallow me whole before I could realize what happened. Maybe he was angry, maybe depressed, that a chubby Neopet like myself would simply walk away uneaten, unshaken and even unimpressed with this encounter of the famed beast.
I took this encounter as an opportunity to take in his size with a quick walk around his body as he lie prone. Even if less muscular, he was still large and surprisingly long for a four-legged creature. Tall, too; even in his position I could barely see over his shoulders. Actually dangerous or not, I could definitely understand how he became part of the collective fears of Neopia. I noted blackened skin in some parts, making me think perhaps he used to have the flames about which I had always been told, but I could not say if someone saw the blackened parts and assumed their charred appearance was related to fire. That's how legends work, repeated and exaggerated over time.
To this day, I do not know how much exaggeration envelops him. I wanted to ask, certainly I felt the desire, but I was overwhelmed with a feeling of pity. Much of his short fur was white and it had been rubbed off in patches where he came in frequent contact with the ground. The skin it revealed was swollen, red and bumpy. I asked myself if I really was here feeling sorry for the Monocerous, the same Monocerous that might have in fact gone on a voracious JubJub massacre and felt it something necessary for me to know; bragging about his destruction to me as a way to cheerfully reminisce.
I came around to his massive head once more and could tell he probably would be uninterested in answering my questions as his eyelids heavily came to a close, overwhelmed with the fatigue of the day. I quietly left him, glancing over my shoulder every few seconds just to be safe, and returned home with a basket full of tasty volcanic vegetation and a memory full of an encounter I could not fully understand. Of course, I wanted to share my tale with friends but they would accuse me of exaggerating. After all, no one comes face to face with death incarnate and lives to tell the tale; at least, that is how they still view him.
I am unsure whether he is still alive; I never saw him again despite returning to that location with uninterrupted regularity. The idea that he is a misunderstood member of Neopia who adopted the role of the villain after being rejected by my fellow Neopets never left me. It is for that reason I make a point to visit the unique Neopians and give them a small gift of treats baked using some of the special vegetables and herbs I find near the volcano where I met the Monocerous. Everyone deserves to feel special sometimes.