Rules of the House
“Do you all understand me?” the boy asked.
“Yes,” Commet, a blue Shoyru, droned in dull response, “we understand you, Micro.”
“Good,” Micro added with a nod and a smile. Though still considered “young” by his species, he often acted much older than he was. “Now,” he said slowly, “can you repeat to me what I just said to you?”
Commet sighed, exasperated. “Must you always speak in riddles?”
Micro frowned and was about to respond when Stella, his red Shoyru and Commet’s younger sister, interrupted and said, “You told us, in triplicate, the schedule for the next week or until later decided, and how, when we do the dishes--rather, when Commet does the dishes--we have to scrub in circular, clockwise motions and rinse in lukewarm water. And that’s with leaving out the excruciating details that you have inflicted upon us in these last twenty minutes, on doing the dishes alone.”
Micro sighed, shaking his head. Morning light from around the house glinted off his glasses as he turned to gaze out the window; house meetings were few and far between, but when they were, they seemed to take the most out of his pets, and his pets seemed to take the least out of them. The boy sighed, running his hand back through his coarse, black hair and said, “Fine, then, run about, do what you will, but, please, allow me time to write.”
“Eh, Micro,” Jasmine said sarcastically, fluttering her mutant Buzz wings to grab her owner’s attention before continuing, “why do you even write anymore? It’s been, like,” she sighed, “forever since your last piece was published.”
“I know,” Micro answered unhappily, slumping back into a nearby chair. “It’s hard, trying to make a living off being published in the Neopian Times.”
“But, Micro,” Commet said with mild interest, “you don’t get paid for being published.”
“Precisely why it’s so hard making a living,” Micro said with a saddened sigh. He and a few fellow writers had been petitioning for a higher salary for contributors, yet it seemed that whatever money was put into the paper ended up being used to continue it.
“So,” Micro said, turning his attention back to his four pets, “I need you each to pick up on the chores for a bit, okay, just until I get a few things sorted out and in order.”
“Alright,” Stella said with a smile.
“Fine,” came Commet’s terse response.
“So be it,” Jasmine added with a shrug.
Ashaka, presently a robotic Kyrii, smiled as best as he could but said nothing.
After only a moment, the four pets had left the room, leaving Micro alone to leave this room and enter his own study. It was full of everything a Times writer needed--stacks of past papers for inspiration and advice, a framed pair of lucky green boots, for obvious reasons, a large white Weewoo plushie set upon its own gold-plated pedestal--everything.
Micro sat down in his seat and sighed, resting his head in his hands. He hadn’t written in days and was feeling the pain of writer’s block. He needed something to write, simply for the sake of writing, to loosen up his finger joints and get into other works that he had let linger when raising four pets had become too demanding.
He lifted his hands and placed his fingers atop the keys of his typewriter; the metal circles were cold, but welcoming. Typing slowly, each click of the key hitting the paper as it turned the levers and whatnot inside it, he spelled out the word “Untitled.”
Carabelle the yellow Yurble blinked her eyes open and greeted the day from inside her neohome, gazing out across her lush and well-tended lawn and towards the bright sky overhead. She gasped and jumped out of bed when she realized that, as the sun was midway through the sky, she had slept late! But for what...? She truthfully couldn’t recall what she had slept late for, but she knew, just knew that she was late, and getting later still.
Hurrying out of her bedroom, she ran into the washroom and quickly ran a specially-made potion of cleansing through her fur. Not only did it brighten her color, it scented her with the lovely scent of fresh spring air and chamomile! Rushing into the kitchen, she quickly sought out her calendar hanging above the counter and found the day’s date--
Eyes widening and mouth ajar, Carabelle exclaimed, “It’s my birthday! At last, I am a full dozen years old!” She pouted, looking downtrodden for a moment. “But... what am I late for? I can’t be late for my very own birthday, can I?”
Thinking deeply, the yellow Yurble turned from her calendar and wandered back through her neohome until she found herself at the front door. She opened it listlessly, still pondering her wonderings, and reached out to grab the daily paper. Perhaps the answers would lay somewhere inside...
“Micro,” Commet interrupted, and the boy turned to listen to his pet, “are you writing another Hyperion story? I really, really like Hyperion!”
Micro sighed. “Uh, no,” he said, looking back at the sheet of paper already covered in ink with his writing; it wasn’t much, but it was helping.
“When are you going to write another, Micro?” Commet’s eyes were bright with intrigue as he continued excitedly, acting out what he hoped to be written. “There could be a fight with Sloth for the sake of all Neopia, with a punch, and a kick, and a boom! I just love the action, Micro, I do! So, when are you going to write another, huh, huh?”
Micro sighed. “Well, I have this story and another one that I have to finish, and then I’ll be able to write another Hyperion.”
Commet jumped up happily, fluttering in the air a moment before landing.
There was silence and stillness.
“May I write now?” Micro asked, raising his eyebrows.
Commet shrugged. “Sure, go ahead,” and left the room.
Flipping open the newspaper, Carabelle browsed the headings she saw: “Two-headed Hissi eats neighbor’s Doglefox,” “Sloth plans new invasion,” “Kreludan eclipse in one week--plan ahead now for cosmic melt-down!”
Laughing at the absurd titles--really, Sloth, planning a new invasion? It was just unheard of--she wondered for a moment why she had even subscribed to this clearly unworthy periodical. Ah, yes, she thought to herself, because it was fun to read, and laugh at.
Accepting the fact that this paper held no answers for her, the yellow Yurble stood up once more and sighed. There was nothing left to do but turn elsewhere for answers, and to turn elsewhere meant leaving, and when she knew not where to go, Carabelle was suddenly frightened with the prospect of getting lost and then getting later.
She knew, however, that there was no other option, so she stepped peaceably out of her residence and turned the corner onto the sidewalk. The fallen leaves were so pretty this time of year, she found as she bumped into her neighbor, a red Uni named Miss Abron.
“Hello there, dear,” the Uni said kindly, thinking fondly of the girl’s pleasant manners, “how are you this morning?”
“Micro,” Stella interrupted, her voice ridden with a sense of grave urgency.
“Yes?” Micro asked, turning to face his eldest girl.
“Ashaka’s in his room again, mumbling about something. I... I thought you should know.”
Micro sighed, standing up. “Thank you, Stella.” Both he and the red Shoyru were walking into Ashaka’s room only a moment later. Though Stella remained near the door, Micro sat on the bed next to his yellow Kyrii. “So,” he said, “what’s up?”
“It’s...” Ashaka began, his voice a mechanic hum, before trailing off and staring at Stella.
“Fine, I’ll go,” she said hastily and left.
“You were saying?” Micro asked kindly, turning his full attention to his distressed pet.
“Well... yesterday, the Lab Ray gave me more endurance, so now I have more energy, but today, the Lab Ray made me slower, and now I feel all... Slorgish. It’s... I don’t know, Micro, but I don’t like it.” The Kyrii tried to pout, and when he saw that he could not, he rolled back onto his pillow with a buzzing moan.
“Well,” Micro said encouragingly, “at least you’re not a Moehog anymore.”
The comment forced Ashaka’s glassy eyes to light up just the tiniest bit. “And at least I’m not pink anymore, either!”
They both shared a laugh.
“Are you alright now?” Micro asked with genuine concern. “May I return to my writing?”
Ashaka’s eyes brightened a bit more. “Yeah, I can’t wait to see your next story in print!”
Back in his writing room, Micro once more sat before his typewriter, placing his fingers back upon the keys as he delved once more into his story.
What else could Carabelle say but that she was doing just splendidly and that she knew she had forgotten something, but that she could simply not recall it for the life of her? Miss Abron was kind, though, and offered to help where she was needed. Carabelle kindly refused, however, and said her pleasant goodbyes before continuing on her way. Still unable to recall her misplaced memories, her steps fell downtrodden.
Under the shade of a tree around the corner from Miss Abron’s house, Carabelle happened upon a lone Spardel. “What might your name be?” the Yurble asked, kneeling down before the periwinkle-blue creature. “You look unhappy,” she whispered sympathetically. “Are you lost, hungry, perhaps?”
Zealously barking in response, the Spardel tilted its head, spinning around, and began running down the path. “Wait,” she cried, running after it, “I only want to help!” As the Yurble chased after the Spardel, its playful and yap-like barking continued, providing a perfect course for Carabelle to follow.
Micro sighed, saying, “Yes, Jasmine?”
The gloom-clad child looked up at him with mild interest. “Say, are you ever goin’ to write a story about us? I mean, really, we’re a cool bunch of Neopets. Don’t you recall the time I caught that Titanic Giant Squid?”
Micro smiled. “Of course I remember it. But fishing doesn’t usually make for the best of stories... and we rarely do much besides that.”
Jasmine shrugged. “Well, it was worth asking, I guess.”
“Y’know,” her owner added, “if you guys were to ever give me a good enough story to write, I would write it.”
Jasmine smiled, a faint and almost unseen smile, but a smile nonetheless. “Thanks,” she said, “I’ll... I’ll leave you be for now.” She turned around lightly, the soft buzzing of her transparent wings passing as she flowed further down the hall.
Micro wasted no time.
Heaving for breath, for new air in her lungs, Carabelle ran after the Spardel with even more interest. The little guy--it was a guy, yes?--had carried her all around her town, passing past Miss Abron twice, before running off into the streets of Neopia Central and leading her to the door of a large, grey-brick building in the hidden alleys of the main city. The Spardel, finding a conveniently-placed petpet door, entered it quickly.
Eager to follow the Spardel to find where it was going--and, now, where it had gone--Carabelle took a brief moment to catch her breath before reaching out her paw and wrapping it around the doorknob. The metal orb was cold, and chilling to the bone. Her heart fluttered with intense anxiousness; her breath was slow in anticipation. Slowly, ever so slowly, the Yurble twisted the doorknob and pulled the door outwards.
“Right,” she affirmed herself, gazing into the thick darkness before her. “I want to find the Spardel... and this building is empty.” She paused. “Right?” She stepped closer to the opening, inching into the doorway itself. “Hello?” she called out, “Is anyone here?” She waited a moment, then two more, yet an answer never came. She could not even hear the faintest traces of breathing coming from the darkness. It was silent, almost too silent.
Entering at last, the Yurble’s feet stepped upon cool, smooth stone. She stepped inside further, risking a step only as far as the light falling in through the doorway fell. Her pulse quickened, though, as the light slowly lessened, being cut off as the door rolled shut behind her. She gasped, suddenly frozen in terror-- “Hello, Carabelle.”
Micro looked up and glanced out his window--a fuzzy blur jumped back and ran off, almost entirely unnoticed--and sighed. He had been staring at the keys for hours already and the sun was beginning to set. It was all too evident as little light poured in through the window. In another room, his pets were getting restless.
The boy sighed, running his hand through his hair. “Well,” he whispered.
“We’re getting hungry.”
“I’m sure.” He laughed. “I’ll be there to make dinner in a moment, ‘k?”
“Sure.” The blue Shoyru flew off to tell his siblings the news.
With an exasperated sigh, Micro pulled the paper from the antique system and solemnly set it down nearby. Then, he grabbed his trusty Light Faerie Pen and, in scraggly letters, wrote a single word beneath the type. After setting the pen down, he grabbed a paperclip and fastened the two papers together before filing them away in a basket.
The boy left his room, led onwards towards the sound of playful, even if yet hungry, cries from the living room.
The word had been, “Unfinished.”