Voice of the Neopian Pound Circulation: 117,885,008 Issue: 236 | 21st day of Eating, Y8
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The Day Spike's Life Changed

by esmerulesok


"Ouch! Hey, watch it!" shouted the Maraquan Kyrii angrily.

     "Sorry, sorry," mumbled Spike, the Maraquan Meerca. He sighed and continued towards the seashell shop. It had been the same thing everyday - neopets shouting at him when he bumped into them, frightened petpets swimming away. Even his toys were avoiding him, if that was possible.

     "It'll be fun when you're Maraquan! Trust me, you'll love it," his owner had said, brandishing a paintbrush.

     "Ha! Fun," he muttered and pushed the door of the shop open.

     "Good morning!" sang out the shopkeeper. "What can I do for you?" Spike smiled but didn't answer. He looked carefully at the shelves and picked up a shell, stroking its smooth sides. The shopkeeper hurried over. "I'm sorry, sir, please don't touch the merchandise."

     "They're touching," pointed out Spike, indicating two Maraquan Eyries, who scowled and turned away.

     "Yes, but they are regular customers…" the shopkeeper's voice trailed away and she sighed. "To tell the truth, I'm worried you'll scratch something." She looked nervously at his spines and then cried out as he turned and bashed a shelf.

     "Oh! I'm sorry! Here, let me help!," wailed Spike. He quailed under the glare he found himself facing.

     "You have done quite enough damage today. Please leave sir!" snapped the shopkeeper. Sighing, Spike did as he was told and sat miserably on a stone bench. Two Maraquan babycas squealed with fright and swam away. If Spike hadn't been underwater, he would have cried.

      Suddenly, he looked up at the sound of screams. To his horror, he saw that the shell shop was destroyed and an impossibly huge Maraquan Grarrl was eating the roof. Pets everywhere were shrieking and yelling as the hungry beast gobbled the rest of the shop and turned to the petpet shop. Spike gasped as the petpets cried and squeaked in terror. The shop owner had run away and left his poor petpets to die! Spike loved petpets and was desperate to do something. He paddled over and hid behind a rock to decide what to do. If he was careful, he could steal the petpets away from the monster but that seemed too tricky. Absent-mindedly, he scratched his head and winced as he stabbed himself with a spike. Like a poppit, an idea sprang into his head. Quickly, Spike breathed out until he resembled a deflated balloon and cautiously paddled over and poked the Grarrl, who roared angrily.

     "Leave the petpets alone!" shouted Spike. "Don't you dare eat them!" Furious, the Grarrl bent down to whack Spike, who suddenly inflated himself. A sting shot up the Grarrl's fin and he howled in pain, clutching it. Spike grabbed a petpet and threw it to the shell shopkeeper, who was watching in awe. Soon, her friends and assistant were helping catch the rescued petpets, and all the while, Spike was taunting the Grarrl and throwing petpets. Finally, there was one more, a Maraquan gruslen. A huge wooden box that had fallen over pinned it down and the Grarrl was in the way. Most pets would have left it and saved their own life, but Spike pitied this helpless creature and was determined to rescue it. He began by dancing around the Grarrl, which twisted round and clashed its jaws with a sickening crunch. Wincing with the strain Spike put his back under the lifted part of the box and puffed himself up so much, he thought he would burst. It worked though; the box flipped over and the gruslen stretched its cramped tail. Spike gently picked it up and held it away from his spines. Then he faced the Grarrl.

     "GO AWAY!" he bellowed. "WE DON'T WANT YOU HERE!" Pausing, as though confused, the Grarrl waited, lashing its tail. Spike looked as fierce as he could and just when he though the beast would eat him, a storm of ferocious Maraquan pets, led by the weapon shop owner, the Maraquan Acara. They brandished maractite daggers and yelled at the Grarrl, who turned tail and fled, chased out of town by a horde of angry pets. The Acara turned to Spike and thanked him warmly. The shell shop owner swam over, apologised and congratulated him. Then there was a shout and they all turned to see a group of Neopian Times reporters.

     "We heard that someone rescued a bunch of petpets and defeated a mutant Grarrl! Where's the hero?" they cried. The Acara opened his mouth when there was a cough. It was the Maraquan Grundo who ran the petpet shop.

     "It was I," he said. "Yes, I rescued my merchandise…er…I mean I rescued my precious petpets. I couldn't stand to watch them die." The reporters silenced a furious outburst from everyone else and interviewed the Grundo. Spike was so mad he ground his teeth. He had finally gotten some respect and fame! Then the shell keeper spoke up.

     "If it was you," she said, "then can you explain why we all saw you run away in terror, too afraid to save your own petpets?" The rest of Maraqua agreed noisily.

     "I….err.. that is complete rubbish," replied the Grundo haughtily. "I fought the beast and won! That is all there is to be said."

     "Well, we all saw this brave Meerca save our town!" shouted the Acara. Then a young Nimmo forced his way forwards.

     "I have a camera!" he said eagerly, brandishing a yellow camera, the kind that gave the photos instantly. "I have proof!" He dug in his pocket and brought out a bundle of photos. He took out photos of Maraqua, buildings, and shops and then produced eight photos showing different stages of Spike's battle; the most impressive was of Spike yelling at the Grarrl, his spines up and clutching the injured gruslen. By now, the Grundo was biting his lip and grinning sheepishly. The Nimmo smiled at Spike while the reporters examined the pictures. Eventually, they looked up.

     "This is valid proof," they announced, and Maraqua cheered. Then one looked thoughtful. "This would make a great story."

     "Yeah," said another. "I can see the headline: Fiendish Grundo ruins Meerca's victory. We'll need photos, though."

     "Can we borrow these, sonny?" asked another reporter.

     "Sure!" said the Nimmo. "Can you put my name in too? It's Xerxeastaya. That's X-E-R…" While the reporters were immersed in ideas and interviews, Spike sighed and then remembered the gruslen. Where was it? He must have dropped it! Frantically, he searched through the crowd, which parted respectfully for him.

     "And you sir, can we have you na-" a reporter asked Spike.

     "Wait! We've got to find the gruslen!" shouted Spike desperately. Pushing aside a bunch of excited Gelerts, he lifted boxes and moved coral aside. Then he listened carefully for any sounds the current would bring him. He heard a soft crying, a faint whimper coming from behind a lump of stone. Carefully, he swam round and found the gruslen huddled up.

     "There you are!" Gently, Spike picked it up and stroked it. "We'll need to take care of that graze on your tail." Cooing to it, he calmed it down and carried it to the ruined shop. There, he found some cream and bandages and patched up the wound. Immediately, reporters swarmed around him, shouting questions, taking photos and generally being a nuisance. At last, Spike managed to tell them his name and waved them away. Satisfied, the reporters stopped interviewing and left to begin writing the article. Spike sighed with relief and then realised something.

     "Hey, where did the petpet shop keeper go?" he asked, frowning. Xerxeastaya giggled and pointed to the disappearing reporters.

     "They took him for interviewing and said that they're going to give him to the police afterwards. Serve him right!" Spike sighed with relief.

     "But who's going to look after the petpets?" he enquired hopefully. Everyone looked at the ruined shop.

     "We do need a new owner," mused the Acara. Then he saw all the petpets crowded around Spike, clamouring for attention. Spike blushed and bent low, pretending to be stroking a meowclops. He heard the Acara asking him to run the shop though.

     "Oh could I?" said Spike breathlessly. "I'll take good care of them, I promise!"

     So Spike was made the new petpet shopkeeper. He adopted the gruslen, though, and called her Gruffle. Rather than keeping the petpets in cages and feeding them once every two days, as the old shopkeeper had done, Spike put a high wooden fence around the backyard so the petpets could roam free and come in for meals, night or bad weather. People all over Neopia heard about the wonderful shop and pretty soon Spike began making a profit. He was sad to see the petpets go but he was happy because he knew they were. He always said the same thing to customers.

     "If you're going to adopt a petpet, then make sure you're making the right decision. Has your owner agreed? Do you have the time or money to take care of it? If you're a beginner, I suggest these petpets…" And then he would show the customers the happy, healthy petpets running and playing in the backyard, pointing out particular species. Every pet that bought there left happy and hugging a new and also happy petpet. One day though, powerful, sweeping currents and cold weather hit Maraqua. All the petpets squealed for Spike, who ushered them in. He put them all in a safe indoor pen where most of them fell asleep. Quickly, Spike locked the doors and sat down in a comfy chair with a sigh. Outside, the currents swept past, uninterested but haughty and strong. Spike was so content; he jumped at the sound of the bell ringing.

     "Stupid!" he muttered. "Forgot to close the shop! Who could this be in such weather?" He bustled out to find a young Maraquan Elephante standing shyly in the corner, perusing the shelves of petpet food and toys. Coughing, Spike drew near, smiling kindly.

     "Hello! What can I do for you, young lady?" the Elephante jumped and blushed.

     "Oh! Hello, ummm, I'm just looking, sorry," she stammered. Spike scratched his tail thoughtfully.

     "I've never seen you in the shop before. Who are you?" Spike knew that young pets just like this Elephante often visited the shop to gaze longingly at the petpets, waiting for when they were old enough. It struck him as odd that this Elephante had never been here before.

     "My name's Marika. I don't like the other pets. They…they tease me." Marika's lip trembled and she stared at the floor so Spike wouldn't notice her tears. But Spike did notice. He remembered what it was like. Gently, he took Marika back to his office and offered her a cup of hot chocolate. Sniffing quietly, Marika clutched her mug and stared into the smoky purple drink.

     "Tell me why they tease you," Spike said calmly. Marika gulped her hot chocolate and explained.

     "They laugh at me because I have a trunk," she mumbled. "Because I'm the only Elephante which hangs around Maraqua." As she explained further, Spike's frown grew deeper and deeper. Eventually, he said

     "I'll have to talk to them. Anyway, do you like petpets?" Marika nodded vigorously. Spike smiled and showed her to the petpet pen indoors. He picked out Gruffle.

     "This is my petpet Gruffle. Look, she likes you!" Marika giggled as Gruffle licked her paw and laid her head in Marika's lap. Then Spike grew serious and plucked out a Maraquan noil.

     "I call this one Nory. He's been really ill recently. D'you want to help me by looking after him?" asked Spike Marika grinned for ear to ear.

     "YES, PLEASE!" she cried happily. She tenderly took Nory and rocked him gently. Nory sighed and went to sleep. "What shall I do then?" she asked, stroking Nory's mane. Spike handed her a bottle, explained she needed to feed him milk and medicine every 2 hours. Marika settled herself on a cushion, Nory in her arms and prepared the medicine for when he woke up.

      So Marika became Spike's shop assistant. He stopped the bullying and it never happened again because - well, would you dare disobey an angry, spiky and famous Meerca? When Spike grew old, he handed the shop over to a joyful Marika. He was happy to just sit in the backyard in a deckchair while the petpets played and jumped around him. Nory had made an excellent recovery but refused to be sold and was devoted to Marika, who relented and adopted Nory. As for Gruffle, she never left Spike's side and spent the days swimming around him and bringing him shells and pretty treasures she found. She hadn't forgotten how brave Spike had been when he rescued all the petpets. None of the other petpets had, either. Marika still thought him brave for standing up to the bullies for her. As for Spike, he always remembered the day that changed his life and brought him new friends.

The End

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