Shush for the Screamer
Susannah the Cloud Poogle grinned happily to herself as she ploughed through the snow towards her home. Her eyes were bright with excitement. She had just won her school’s annual poetry competition! She clutched the newest edition of the school newsletter with her poem proudly printed on it tightly in one paw. She couldn't wait to get home and tell her owner about it! Miriam would be very proud. She’d give Susannah a delighted hug, as usual, and compliment her endlessly about her brilliance.
She glanced up at the sky and the snow that was gently falling. Her nimble poet’s mind sought for a couplet that would describe what she saw.
Swirling drifts of snow descend,
Gentle flurries that never end.
She flung open the door to her Neohome and raced in, waving the newsletter around excitedly. "Miriam! Miriam! Guess what, I-"
She was drowned out abruptly but a high, piercing shriek that filled the room. Susannah clapped her paws over her ears, wincing. What on Neopia...
"Hi, Susie," whispered a familiar voice.
Miriam was kneeling down on the carpet. Sitting next to her was a small Baby Acara, the one who, Susannah presumed, had just screamed. She stared.
"Shush!" Miriam whispered hurriedly. "This is Andrea, your new baby sister. Andrea, meet Susie, your big sister."
"Um, okay. Why’re we whispering, though?"
"Andy hates loud noises. She’ll scream if we don’t."
Susannah gazed closely at Andrea’s large, defiant violet eyes. She was the epitome of cuteness, what with the soft, silky-looking pale blue fur and the bib and all. Hard to imagine that such a small creature could produce such a tremendously loud scream.
"You didn't say you were planning on getting a new pet, though," she whispered, squatting down. "You could have told m- hey! Is that my Limited Edition Poet Queen Plushie?" she demanded, staring indignantly at the toy that Andrea was grasping. "I won that at the Poetry Festival three years ago! It’s not supposed to be touched!"
She had inadvertently raised her voice again. Andrea gave another shrill scream.
"Be careful!" Miriam cautioned, her tone still hushed. "Yes, I know, I’m sorry, darling. But she doesn’t seem to like any other toys. I bought her loads, but she won’t play with them."
Susannah saw that the carpet was indeed littered with numerous brand-new toys of all kinds.
"That’s ridiculous!" she whispered in irritation. "How can she not like any of them?" She snatched a plushie up from the floor, thrust it at Andrea, and snatched back her own Poet plushie.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Andrea screeched. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
With surprising agility, the young Acara leaped up and threw herself at Susannah, screaming her little head off. Miriam let out a cry of alarm. Susannah, utterly surprised, stumbled back and dropped the plushie. Andrea pounced on it and hugged it to her chest protectively, glaring up at her elder sister murderously.
"I’m sorry, Susie, but it can’t be helped," Miriam whispered. "You’ll just have to let her have it for now." She caught the Poogle’s silently fuming gaze and quickly looked around for a distraction. Her eye fell on the newsletter than Susannah had dropped on the floor earlier. "What’s that? What were you saying when you came in?"
Some of Susannah’s smoldering anger dissipated. She brightened a little as she announced quietly. "I won the school’s poetry competition."
"Well, that’s wonderful!" Miriam whispered back, smiling. "I’m really prou- "
Andrea let out a brief, rather bark-like shriek.
"Oh! That’s the signal that she wants food," Miriam said, scooping the Acara up carefully. They had disappeared into the kitchen before Susannah could blink twice.
Susannah stood there for a while. There had been no hug and no compliments. She picked up the newsletter and went up the stairs into her room without a word.
I got a new baby sister today.
I should be happy, I should rejoice;
But all I feel is just... dismay.
Susannah jumped, startled. Consequently, her spoon jerked from the bowl, flinging cereal into the air and splattering onto the table.
"What now?" she muttered, nursing her throbbing ears.
It was the next morning and they were at the table for breakfast. Miriam looked around for the source of her new pet’s discomfort. Unable to locate it, she confusedly started to feed Andrea again.
To her surprise, Andrea pulled back disgustedly and tried to push the spoon of mushy baby food away with her paw. "AAAAAH!"
"You don't like the baby food?" Miriam whispered.
Susannah groaned. "Great! We bought cartloads of it..."
"I don't understand. She was fine with it yesterday."
"Perhaps she’s sick of it already," Susannah suggested.
"I don't think she has enough teeth to eat anything else," Miriam worried. "What if she doesn't eat? She’ll die!"
"She’ll get hungry eventually," Susannah assured her. She stood up, grabbing her backpack. "Well, I’m off to school now. See ya!"
She had had a busy, tiring day at school. So much so that when she arrived back home, she had forgotten completely about her new disaster of a baby sister. She opened the door and announced loudly, "I’m back, Mir –"
Susannah flinched. The unhappy memories all came flooding back at the trigger of the scream.
"Shush!" Miriam whispered.
Shush for the Screamer, Susannah thought bitterly. Aloud, she whispered, "So, did you get her to eat?"
Miriam shook her head. "No."
It was then that Susannah noticed how worried her owner looked. She was pale, her brows creased in anxiety, and her usually bright, lively eyes now clouded with disquiet. This sparked off more irritation in Susannah at her sister. Miriam was a lovely owner, and didn't deserve the trouble Andrea was giving her.
Suddenly, there came the rumbling noise of a large vehicle outside the house. Then there was a screeching sound as it stopped. Moments later, the doorbell rang.
Wondering what it could be, Susannah ran to open the door. Two Techos stood at the doorstep, carrying between them a large, square cardboard box.
"Delivery for a Ms. Miriam," one of them said cheerfully. "Would that be you?"
"No, it’s me," Miriam said, coming up behind Susannah.
"Well then, please sign here..."
After the Techos had left with the enormous box sitting silently in the middle of the living room, Susannah asked, "What is it?"
"Andy’s new playpen, of course." Miriam beamed.
After they had taken the beautiful Cloud Playpen out, decorated it with ribbons and thrown in some cushions and, to Susannah’s reluctance, her Poet Plushie, it was time to put Andrea in it.
"Come on, Andy darling," Miriam cooed as she picked the Acara up, "it’s time to get into your new playpen! Look, isn’t it lovely?"
She deposited Andrea gently into the playpen. But as soon as Andrea’s feet hit the bottom, her eyes grew wide and she started to scream again. She scrabbled at Miriam’s arms before Miriam could withdraw them and clung, shrieking and kicking wildly.
"AAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!"
Shush for the Screamer,
The baby of Doom.
She’s one nasty schemer,
Who brings me nothing but gloom.
She avoids anything she doesn't like,
Food and playpens; plushies too.
You can’t tell when she will strike,
But it’s always by hullabaloo.
"Susie, I need to go out for a while. Will you watch your little sister for me?" Miriam asked.
Susannah glanced at Andrea uncertainly. The Acara was sitting on the rug in front of the sofa, making happy gurgling noises as she played with the Poet Plushie. "Sure..."
"I’ll try to get back as soon as possible," Miriam promised. "Have fun, girls!" She went out, closing the front door behind her.
Susannah sighed and plopped down onto the sofa with a book. She hoped there wouldn't be any trouble with Andrea in the time that Miriam was gone. She read her book silently, keeping watch on Andrea out of the corner of her eye.
The book turned out to be a boring one. Susannah could feel herself becoming drowsy. Her eyelids were slowly drooping...
Susannah woke up quite suddenly. For a moment, she was unsure of what had happened. She sat up and looked around. She had fallen asleep on the sofa. The book had slipped out of her grasp and fallen to the ground. It was unsettlingly quiet.
Hold on... where did the Screamer go?
That was when her eye fell on the rug in front of her. Or, more specifically, a certain object that lay silently on the rug. She gasped. It was her Poet Plushie... and it had been ripped.
Shocked, she slid off the sofa and picked it up slowly. She inspected it disbelievingly. The Plushie had a large tear across the middle. Stuffing stuck out of the gaping hole. Susannah’s paws were shaking.
Oh my God... I am going to kill that little brat!
"Andrea!" she shouted. "Where are you?!"
She raced up the stairs and checked the nursery room. It was empty. She went into Miriam’s room and the bathroom. Andrea wasn't there either. Worried, she stood on the landing, wondering where the little troublemaker could have gone. If anything had happened to her, Susannah would be so dead when Miriam came back.
A soft giggle sounded somewhere to her right. She spun around, staring at the door of her own bedroom. It was slightly ajar. Susannah pushed it fully-open roughly and strode in, waving the Plushie in the air wildly. "Andrea! What did you d- ?"
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Andrea shrieked in protest to her above-whisper volume. She was sitting in the middle of the floor, a large red magic marker held in one paw.
But it wasn't Andrea’s scream that had cut Susannah off. The Poogle stared down at the floor, her face pale. Bits of paper were scattered everywhere. Some had been torn; others bore huge red streaks across the writing.
She stood very still for a while. Then, suddenly, something in Susannah snapped. She clenched her fists tightly. She could feel her blood boiling. It was the last straw. She had had enough.
"ANDREA!" she hollered angrily.
Andrea screamed. But Susannah paid no attention to it. She yanked the Acara up by the armpits and slammed her down onto the bed, forcefully.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Andrea screamed even harder, indignant at the rough treatment.
"SHUT. UP!" Susannah yelled, even louder than Andrea.
Andrea’s scream was cut off abruptly. She stared silently up at Susannah, her eyes widened in surprise. The Poogle’s face was twisted in anger and she was trembling with rage.
"I AM SO SICK OF YOU!" Susannah shouted. "YOUR NONSENSE IS GOING TO END NOW! WHY MIRIAM HAS LET YOU HAVE YOUR WAY FOR SO LONG I HAVE NO IDEA! IT’S RIDICULOUS! YOU ARE GOING TO EAT YOUR FOOD! YOU ARE GOING TO PLAY WITH THE PLUSHIES YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN! YOU ARE GOING TO GO IN YOUR PLAYPEN WHEN YOU ARE TOLD TO! YOU ARE GOING TO STOP MAKING MIRIAM SO WORRIED! DO. YOU. UNDERSTAND?"
Andrea gaped up at the enraged Poogle for a few seconds. She swallowed. And then, slowly, she gave a timid nod.
Susannah let out a long, slow breath to regain control of herself. "Okay. Now, go downstairs and play quietly while I clean up this mess."
Andrea hurriedly slipped off the bed and rushed towards the doorway.
"Wait!" Susannah called.
Andrea turned back. Susannah walked over to her, knelt down, and gave her a hug.
Although it’s been tough,
These last few days,
We’re now finally through that stuff,
And I think things will be okay.