Horseradish and Shrink Rays
Pansy was a red Usul with big plans. It was summer time, after all, and she was out of that dull Neoschool. Her owner and her brother, Sappy, had rolled their eyes and told her that her large, enormous plans weren’t really all that great, but she had laughed at them. Of course her plans were great! They were monumental! She was going to continue her garden that she had cultivated all last year—but this time she would actually remember to water it daily, no exceptions.
It was the night of the third day of Swimming and Pansy was slumped over her dinner of fresh veggies with a dessert of a super-sweet, blow your teeth out chocolate Uni when she remembered that she had been so busy reading a novel that she had forgotten to water her garden. She jumped up from the table with a start and Sappy looked up, annoyed. “What is it this time?” he said.
Pansy looked resolutely out the back window of the kitchen into the garden in the back yard. “I have forgotten to water my garden,” she proclaimed with a grand gesture towards the ceiling.
“It rained today,” Sappy said slowly, then flicked his blue Bori tail. “You don’t need to water them; it’s already been done FOR you.”
“But...” Pansy bit her lip. “I don’t want to make the rain do all the hard work. I’ll go out and water them right now to show it that it doesn’t need to from now on!”
Sappy gave a short shrug. “Okay, fine. Go water your flowers. It’s not like it’ll make a difference.”
Pansy stomped over to the door and flung it wide. “Of COURSE it will!” she cried as the door hit the wall of the house with a bang, making the whole house shudder on its foundations. The Usul then walked surprisingly daintily across the damp grass over to the watering can that she had left beside the garden. A Whoot hooted somewhere out in the distance and she looked around with a disconcerted look on her face. “It’s sort of creepy out here,” she said softly to no one in particular. She began to hum as she watered her plants carefully.
Suddenly, there was a rustle in the grass. Pansy’s head shot up; her eyes were as wide as a Usul’s can go. “Anyone out there?” she said nervously. Of course, there was silence. She sighed in relief just in time for another rustle to bring her fears rushing back to her. “I... I...” Her throat began to feel uncharacteristically thick. “I think my watering can is empty,” she finished lamely and sloshed it around. It was around half full. This time the rustles continued and they seemed to be coming closer. It could’ve just been Pansy’s imagination, or it could have been the acoustics caused by the aluminum shed behind her, but one way or another, the Usul was freaking out. She dropped her watering can right on a flowering stalk of a zucchini plant and ran straight back into the house. “Sappy!” she screamed out.
Sappy looked up again from poking around at his food. “What is it THIS time? You’ve hardly been three minutes!”
“There’s something out there,” Pansy said.
“Um, yes,” Sappy replied, flicking his tail again. “There’s all of Neopia out there.”
“I think it might be a rabid petpet, Sappy,” Pansy said in a low voice. “My garden needs watering, but I’m afraid to go out there!”
“Your garden will be fine until morning,” Sappy said tiredly. “Maybe you need to go get some sleep.”
Pansy looked over her shoulder out the window and inched towards the staircase that led to her bedroom. “Yeah...” She trailed off. “Maybe I should.”
The Usul walked slowly up the steps, her tail dragging along. She turned the corner into her room flopped onto her large, pink bed. Staring up at the ceiling was disconcerting, she decided as she turned to her side. It made her feel like she shouldn’t have a care in the world, like when she first had gotten out of Neoschool for the summer and it wasn’t at all fitting for how she felt now. No, not at all fitting. The Usul lay like that for a while, her ears perked woefully for the crash and a bang that signified that the creature outside had just broken into the house.
After a while, though, it got boring to stare at the wall and wait for her impending doom so Pansy blinked rapidly for a moment or two and then got up and went over to her window. The window overlooked the backyard—Pansy’s room was directly over the kitchen in relation to things. The moon glanced off the few vegetables that were still wet from Pansy’s watering techniques. Pansy leaned heavily on her dust-free windowsill and looked out over the yard, her eyes searching for anything that might be informative about her opponent.
The moon was bright and everything looked normal. The edges of the garden were perfectly squared. The watering can was where Pansy had dropped it; the shed was still standing, glinting half-heartedly through its rust. There had to be something, though. Pansy’s eyes scanned the grass, clipped to a decent inch and a half. It was still and unmoving. Even the hedges that bordered the property were still in their normal boxy splendor. It wasn’t until Pansy took a second look back up by the garden, near the hedge, that she noticed what she had missed on her first run.
The watering can had moved to the left by two plants, the first plant she had crushed looked to be propped up somehow. It was then that Pansy’s decision-making skills came again into effect. Her paws swung up to her hips and a determined expression came over her face. “Who would willingly wreck another perfectly fine zucchini?” she muttered. Pansy about-faced and marched out her door, down the stairs and into the kitchen again.
Sappy was still sitting at the table, his vegetables seemingly untouched from when Pansy had last seem him. He looked up once again from his book. “You’ve only been up there thirty minutes,” he said.
“It squashed a zucchini!” Pansy said with a pert look at her brother.
“It seems your nerves are better,” Sappy remarked blandly as he returned to his book.
Pansy paused at the back door, then went over to the cupboard and dug out a mostly full jar of horseradish. Sappy had apparently peeked up from his book when he said, “What’s that for?”
Pansy gave a toothy grin. “It’s for the intruder in my garden. It’ll deserve what it gets.”
“Horseradish...?” Sappy raised his eyebrows.
“It’ll take its breath away,” Pansy said confidently as she dug in a drawer for a spoon.
Pansy was now equipped with what she needed, so she walked over to the door and flung it open dramatically, as before. After a moment of staring out into the yard, Pansy made her first advances out to the now dangerous garden.
Pansy looked suspiciously from side to side. Her one paw gripped the horseradish container tightly, the other held the spoon rather like one holds a dagger. She took a few faltering steps, then she began to walk more readily. Twenty steps later and she was on the side of the garden at which she had begun to water first. Pansy carefully retraced her steps from plant to plant, her eyes down, analyzing the ground.
She reached the originally crushed zucchini and lifted its leaves carefully. Surprisingly, it was not a stake propping up the zucchini, but what seemed to be a miniature blue Uni. It had been propping up the plant using its horn. As Pansy lifted up the leaf, it gave a start and looked up at her wild-eyed. “Are you the proprietor of this facility?” The Uni’s squeaky voice was surprising. Pansy looked at it, taken aback.
“I suppose you could... call me that.” The Usul blushed and ran the hand holding the spoon awkwardly over her ears, somehow managing to keep the leaf from falling back over the tiny Neopet.
“We have come to make use of your garden for the greater good of our Master, the most glorious Doctor Frank Sloth,” it said with an almost childish glee. “You will be pleased with his new regime.”
“My garden,” Pansy said dubiously. This was too much like some of the books she read. “Why hold a base for world domination in my garden? Moreover, why tell me straight off?” Pansy’s mind was racing rapidly. She could expose a grand plot and be named the hero of Neopia Central!
“Why else but to make sure that our grand façade will not be discovered? This leafy vegetation is perfect for a base. You are centered in the middle of one of the most prominent lands in all of Neopia.”
“If you say so.” Pansy held up the leaf with her spoon-holding hand and set the horseradish jar down. “Now,” she said, trying to conceal her excitement. She felt like a spy. “Why are you so small and teensy-weensy?”
The Uni gave an almost imperceptible nod and a few more Unis came out. “We are the first test subjects of the shrink ray which our most adored master has just recently come up with,” it replied, almost smugly. “I cannot tell you how very happy I am to—”
“No, no, I can guess how exited you must be,” Pansy said with a rapid nodding of her head.
“A guess?” The Uni cocked its head. “An unsure advance. A statement that you are not sure is true. It is irregular. You cannot possibly know.” For the first time, the shrunken Neopet seemed slightly disgruntled. “It is not a wise decision to make, to guess.”
Pansy’s nervousness immediately returned to her and she grabbed up the horseradish jar again. “Well—it doesn’t matter how irregular it is—I can’t let you take over Neopia Central.” Thoughts were flashing through Pansy’s mind at a mile a minute. She was so frightened, but at the same time a sense of euphoria was coming over her. She was acting just the way she had always hoped she would under an invasion that had come ridiculously to her doorstep. This was it—she would drive them off, back to where they came from.
The Uni was silent as Pansy fumbled with her horseradish jar, the lid refusing to come off. It gave no signs of any real emotion, it just stood there under the shade of the zucchini leaf, which had fallen back over most of its head. “Your efforts are futile,” it said at last. “Even the container is against you.”
Pansy began to growl angrily. “Not if I have anything to say with it!” She raised up her arm and threw the horseradish jar heroically to the ground. Unlike all the times she had imagined this sort of scenario, however, the jar did not break. It thudded harmlessly into the soft, broken earth, right in front of the Uni, who walked back into the leaves a few paces.
“I am sorry that you are not willing to cooperate with Doctor Frank Sloth’s marvelous plan. We see that you are not an amiable being. We will return at a more opportune time. I hope by then... you may have seen that we are for the true government of this delightful planet.”
Pansy looked up with a start from her shocked expression at her secret weapon. “Wait!” Her scream echoed through the late night air and the moon shone down coldly. Pansy looked wildly around her garden. It was like the Unis had never been there. Sure, one zucchini plant was a bit crushed, but that could happen to anyone. Pansy ran back to the house, spoon in one hand, horseradish left behind.
“Sappy, they’re gone!”
Sappy looked up again from his book. “It’s been ten minutes,” he observed.
“Now no one will ever know how close Sloth is to dominating the earth!” Pansy wailed.
“And you’re hysterical again,” Sappy said with a frown on his face. “Maybe you just shouldn’t go out at night.”
Pansy held out her thumb and forefinger around an inch apart. “We were THIS close to having a secret base established right in our back yard, Sappy!”
Sappy looked at the clock on the wall. “It’s late; we should get to bed. Want to go upstairs together?”
Pansy bit her lip. Fine, so Sappy wouldn’t believe her. But when the Uni reconnaissance teams reported back to Sloth and told him all the weaknesses of Neopia, he’d be sorry. But at least then, maybe she could find out more about that shrink ray.