The Fortunate Misfortune
Bzzzzt. Bzzzzt. Bzzzzt.
The buzzing of the Secret Laboratory Ray commingled with the humming of The Mad Scientist, who sat behind a complex-looking control panel. He had one hand on the controls, the other in the pockets of his laboratory coat. His frightening shock of white hair was a mess; his reptilian yellow skin translucent from years spent in the dark of his lab. He never saw the light of day—unless you counted the bluish-white glow of his own ray. He looked less like himself somehow, less like a typical evil genius. However, nothing was typical about The Mad Scientist. But his humming spoke volumes, and he was happy.
He was watching the workings of his Secret Laboratory Ray, where underneath stood its next hundredth-or-so victim of the day, a sweet-hearted Cybunny girl. Just a moment ago she had been yellow, but with a single zap! and a bzzzzt! all of that had changed. Now she wept not into paws, but claws. And as she wept, her tears fell into the mass of her red coat, her protests made incoherent by teeth fashioned into vampire fangs. She had been dreaming of becoming a Faerie or Plushie so that someone—anyone—would want to play with her, instead zapped into the colour of Halloween.
The Mad Scientist said nothing. If the Cybunny’s misfortune had made him feel any remorse or guilt, or even pity, he didn’t show it.
As she sullenly shuffled off and out of the Secret Laboratory, her sobs continued to reach the ears of the next pet in line. Cassius. A young, bright-eyed blue Eyrie. He had been watching the process without looking away. He was at first in awe, fascinated. But now his stomach threatened to fly away to the Healing Springs for a cure of his anxiety and nervousness, or even to Jhudora for a cure to have the Cybunny’s misfortune removed from his memory.
And yet, Cassius was not deterred.
He was brave. He was determined.
But above all, he was ready to meet his own misfortune.
He stepped up onto the platform that stood below the Ray, his gaze steady as he stared back into the eye of the laser aimed toward him. It looked as menacing as a Darigan—yet, somehow also as innocent as an Angelpuss.
Innocently menacing, he would later recall when retelling his time under the Secret Laboratory Ray.
He could hear the clicking and the clacking of gears and levers from The Mad Scientist’s control panel as it was being reset for its next zap.
What is taking so long? he thought. It took less than the hop of a Cybunny for the last pet to be zapped into misfortune.
The wait alone was making his stomach want to take flight again, but still he remained, staring into the eye of the laser above.
“Why won’t you . . . move . . . Oh dear, it’s . . .”
What could possibly be going on behind the control panel that The Mad Scientist hasn’t been doing for the past . . . many years? Those hundreds of thousands zaps. Maybe even millions.
After what felt like minutes had only been seconds, but it was enough for the young pet in question—Cassius—to feel genuinely afraid until he could hear the sudden whir of the Ray working. Somehow, though, this whir sounded abnormal. Even though he had nothing to compare it to, no previous experiences. No prior visits. He knew it was a different sort of whir than what his friends often described. Normally it was the whir of an incoming storm or the whir of wind, almost like a whoosh!
Not the whir of a malfunction.
He felt different all of a sudden. Unlike himself.
The whir turned into the bzzzzt! bzzzzt! bzzzzt! of electricity that made every hair stand on end like he was being shocked. And maybe he was. He felt . . . tingly all over. He was tingling from his roots and down to his toes. He even felt a sort of restlessness settling over him, like he just had to jump around or forever feel edgy, impatient. Cassius did not know what for. It was not usual for him to feel any of these things; he was normally a quiet boy who was content feeling rooted to one spot. He was also curious to see the world. He often travelled in his dreams at night to places he had only read about in books borrowed from the librarian faerie.
But nothing from his borrowed books explained the survival of a Secret Laboratory Ray malfunction.
Bzzzzt Bzzzzt! Bzzzzt!
“. . . doesn’t sound good . . . must be . . .,” murmured the now frantic Mad Scientist in fractured sentences. He had quit humming. “. . . never happened before . . .”
The air around Cassius shifted all of a sudden, sparking like static. It was then that a loud explosion sounded from somewhere inside the laboratory but the young Eyrie didn’t have time to locate its source as a bright light blinded him from the Ray; its bluish-white glow had been so abrupt, so unexpected.
“Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.”
“What’s happening?” Cassius shouted to be heard over the popping and the crackling and the bzzzzt! and the zap! of the Secret Laboratory Ray.
But The Mad Scientist did not reply.
He could only hear the whipping of the wind around him. The calls of the birds. The whooshing and the whishing of incoming and outgoing ocean tides. The shouts of pets and petpets—young, old, female, male—as they went about their day.
None of this could be right.
Cassius could not recall a time when his friends had ever described the sounds of the Mad Scientist’s Secret Laboratory Ray as bird calls and ocean tides.
They sounded an awful lot like Krawk Island.
He had no time to dwell on these new sounds, however. He had a more important matter to attend to—to meet the misfortunes of a malfunctioned lab ray that awaited him. Cassius considered for a moment in pause, knowing that whatever misfortunes he met would still be there in the morning if he decided to wait. Until he was able to get back to the Secret Laboratory again to have The Mad Scientist zap him into something else unrecognizable to hide his shame. But then he slowly lowered his clawed fingers from his face after deciding that, no, he would not wait. Still so confused. He looked first down at his paws to find them whole and intact. Then he looked at his arms, his legs. After this Cassius pondered on his colouring that had once been a majestic blue, as it had been zapped to grey; light and soft—not red like the unfortunate Cybunny’s had been. But changed nonetheless.
It was the changes in his face and body that truly exhibited transformation. He could see these changes reflected back at him in the mirrored surface of the water as he leaned over it, finally noting the missing laboratory scene and relinquishing in its transportation. His face had taken on a more mature shape for male Eyries his age. His beak appeared sharper and more rounded; his eyes more golden than yellow. His body itself appeared fuller all over, as did his wings when spread out behind him. Cassius discovered that despite these physical changes—and coming to terms with the beauty of his soft, light grey coat—he was still himself.
Except . . .
Cassius looked more closely this time at his reflection.
Was he really . . . a pirate?
Much like other pirate pets he had read about in books from the library faerie, he too was now wearing a single golden hooped earring in his right ear and the most spectacular golden medallion around his neck on a velvety red ribbon, with the bright sunlight bouncing off of their golden surfaces proudly as if to say no, you are not dreaming. Some inches below his pierced ears had been tied neatly a red-and-white polka-dotted bandanna—also much like the ones he admired on other pirate pets from the library faerie’s books. But not all of those pirate pets from pictures and books wore the uniformed blouse that he now wore, his dark washed grey mane made darker in contrast with its dark wash compared to the soft light of khaki.
“Welcome to Krawk Island, matey.”
Cassius looked up to find another pirate pet—likely born of the island—standing behind him with a warm smile and a hand held out. A Krawk. He shook with him. “Thank you. I’ve always wanted to explore the world. Sail the seas.”
“Then you’ve come to the right place! Let me introduce you to the crew; they’ll be ecstatic to meet a wanderer like you.”
As the two pirate pets walked away from the water deep in friendly conversation and the large ships that rode it, they moved farther down towards a dock where Cassius ultimately would become a part of their crew and their family.