The Meepits of Chia Close
No one glanced at the snowy house sitting ominously along the road of Chia Close, nor breathe a word about it. When children curiously pointed at the seemingly vacant home, their mothers hushed them and quickly pulled away from sight of the windows. When balls were thrown too far near the yard, they were never retrieved. When petpets paused to empty their- Okay, you get it. But why were they so cautious, you ask? Surely nothing could cause so much fear; not in a quaint little neighborhood like this.
Unfortunately, dear reader, such a thing may not be conceivable to many, but it is indeed possible. Rumors once rolled off the willing tongues of the locals. “It’s an evil place,” they had said. Vile creatures, a gruesome past, lost souls. The gossip was never truly silenced- you and I both know that people go out of their way to be busybodies these days- but it would always be spoken in whispers, for fear that whatever horrid thing within the house would wreak its revenge. What no one knew of, let alone expected, was the true resident of the house.
His name was Maurdecai. For a Yurble, he was definitely a jolly little fellow, always skipping through the dreary halls of his neohome. He spent his long hours painting and dusting his soot collection (ironic, no?). They were typical hobbies, and he wasn’t necessarily good at them. But Maurdecai was undeterred and happy, because he had fulfilled a secret wish. All the other Yurbles he had once known, long before his owner passed away (she was eventually resurrected and became well-known for her INGENIOUS Neopian Times stories and enormously fake ego, but that’s another story), had always wanted to be Noil tamers. They had special clothing, lessons, and even a little troupe of Noils to train with. Maurdecai, however, preferred Meepits. They were much more intelligent than Noils, and much easier to work with. They ate cheese and carrots, while Noils demanded expensive neggs. However, his owner could never afford Meepits themselves, being as expensive as they were (and she being as pathetically lazy as she was).
Now, Maurdecai had his Meepits. He had found them himself, wandering freely in the Haunted Woods. They were odd, loyal little creatures; His best and only friends. He held no aversion to their large eyes, or the knowledge that they were feared by almost everyone. In turn, they seemed to accept him into their coven- er, I mean group. He practiced with them each day, and they excelled at doing tricks. The best part was that both the Yurble and the Meepits loved each other, and nothing would change that. He wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.
“Not now, Phil.”
“Okay, what is it?” the Yurble finally asked, somewhat frustrated at the interruption. He had been painting a lovely picture of soot, and he was determined to finish it by the end of the day.
“Is that so? I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner... What do you think?”
“Meep,” replied the Meepit, reassuring him (and for lack of anything else to say).
“That’s wonderful! Is he already here?” At that point, a light knock came from the front door. It had been years since anyone came to visit Maurdecai, and he was delighted at the thought of it. Without hesitating once, he ran (or waddled, rather; Yurbles have short legs) to greet the Lenny that Phil had told him would come.
“Hi,” Maurdecai said, suddenly shy. The visitor was very tall, and well-dressed. He looked over Maurdecai, still in a paint-stained smock with a bit of soot in his hair, skeptically before speaking.
“Hello, I’m Stephano Snottagucci. I’ve come from the local performing arts campus, and I’m recruiting acts for the Cirque,” he replied, with a clearly stilted accent.
“Cirque?” Maurdecai wondered aloud, taking a liking to the foreign word.
“Err... I believe your people would call it Circus.”
“Oh, the circus! That’s splendidly convenient, because I have an act myself!” Maurdecai exclaimed, quite proudly.
“You? I mean... That’s lovely. May I see it, perhaps?” Stephano squeaked, more than a bit reluctantly. He dabbed his brow with a handkerchief.
“Of course, come on in and take a seat. Oop! Please... Watch my collection,” the Yurble said in a rush, slightly flustered himself. The Lenny had stepped right in a pile of his soot, muttering and dabbing his forehead. Maurdecai frowned slightly and whistled. His face brightened instantly as his six Meepits immediately arrived before him at his call. The Lenny seemed to feel otherwise, his face had turned an incredible shade of red (which is saying a lot, because he was already a red Lenny), and he was dabbing it almost obsessively as he looked on, eyes wide with disbelief.
“This is Annie, Joe, Lauren, Phil, Beth, and Kevin,” he introduced, beaming. “I’ve trained with them forever, and I found them myself in the Haunted Woods.”
“Surprise, surprise,” muttered the Lenny, but a curious look from Maurdecai caused him to ‘rephrase.’ “They are a lovely bunch. I’m sure you’re all very talented, but I believe I’ve run out of time. There are many others eager to be in the Cirque, you see.”
“Please, Sir. Just let me show you what we can do. I promise it will be quick, and it will be worth your time! Please,” the Yurble pleaded, on the brink of hysteria. The Meepits turned in unison to glare at Stephano. That’s when he miraculously decided to change his mind.
“Uh, alright. Carry on, then,” he stammered, eyes never leaving the Meepits. They were looking up at Maurdecai now, awaiting his commands.
“Thank you so much, sir. I promise you won’t regret it. No, I swear! Okay. Kevin, Annie?” Maurdecai called to them, and within a second the two meepits were careening across the room, doing multiple flips and somersaults.
“Phil, Joe? Lauren, Beth?” Now six Meepits were dancing with unbelievable grace throughout the dark house. Maurdecai pulled out a makeshift hoop, and they leapt through two-by-two with ease. As Lauren and Beth flew through the hoop a second time, Lauren flipped and landed on Beth’s back. Kevin and Annie did the same. Finally, Phil and Joe followed suit. The ensemble started veering toward each other as they ran, almost to the point of collision. They wove through each other once more. Then, as a finale, they did collide. They had leapt upon each other to form a kind of pyramid with Annie at the top. Maurdecai clapped enthusiastically and threw them some small cubes of cheese. All signs of skepticism in Stephano had disappeared.
“Bravo, bravo!” he cried, giving Maurdecai his first standing ovation. “I’ve never seen such a feat. And to think... Meepits, of all things. It was incredible. It was daring. It was... Perfect!”
“Really?” Maurdecai said to himself, thoughtfully. A circus would mean people would actually get to cheer for him, and he’d have so many friends. Right now, he was sort of an outcast. People feared his house as he feared leaving it behind.
“Yes! I’ve made my decision... How would YOU like to join the circus? You’ll have your own trailer, and your Meepits can stay in first-class Neopian kennels, and-”
“Kennels? You mean, they have to be locked up?” Maurdecai was no longer ecstatic about this life-changing offer. He was horrorstruck.
“Why, yes. Where else would we put them? We certainly can’t let them roam free, now can we?” the Lenny replied, oblivious to Maurdecai’s change of emotion.
“I don’t think I want to do this after all. These Meepits are my best friends. I could never do anything to them that would be so unfair.”
“But... They’re Meepits. They can’t possibly know what’s best for themselves anyway.”
“What do you mean? They’re as smart as you and I!” Maurdecai cried, angry now. Stephano held up his hands in defense.
“Alright, whatever you say. So are you going to perform with us or not?” The impatient Lenny sighed.
“No... I think the Meepits and I would rather stay here. We’re happy, anyway. There’s no reason for us to come with you. We have everything we could ever want,” he decided. He heard several ‘meeps’ of agreement from behind him. The Lenny stared at him with an expression that clearly said he wanted to break something because he was tired of this poorly paying job. (Aren’t we all? Why can’t people just cooperate...)
“You know what? Your act was pathetic. I only stayed because I pitied you. You’re on your own. I’m done with this,” Stephano cried, raising his fist in a sudden burst of rebellion. His accent was as long gone as his joy, and he stormed out of the house, careful to trample on the pile of soot once more. Maurdecai sighed. The sound was shaky with sobs that he refused to let go.
“Meep,” growled one of the female Meepits. The others echoed her. There was anger in their voices. Before Maurdecai could stop them, they had dashed after the Lenny. Terrified cries echoed through Chia Close and faded slowly. The Meepits returned, all covered in feathers and shreds of fabric. Maurdecai scolded them reluctantly, but they seemed unfazed as if they knew he didn’t really mean it. They were suddenly alert. Maurdecai looked up at a softer tapping on the door. He shuffled over, defeated, to open it. It was probably the police or something. They always had an excuse to get him into trouble. He was taken aback, and a little frightened, by who was at the door. It was a Darigan Lupe.
“Hi...” she said quietly. Maybe she was shy too.
“I heard something going on over here, and I wanted to make sure everything was okay. I see you in the windows a lot, and I’ve always wanted to...” She stopped herself.
“Oh.” Surprised, Maurdecai replied, “Well, everything’s okay. Some guy wanted me to join the circus or something.” He scratched his head, unsure what to say.
“You too?” She chuckled. He looked up at the sound to see that she was smiling. He smiled back. “Maybe... Do you want to come outside and we can go somewhere later?” Maurdecai tried futilely to conceal his shock once more.
“Sure!” he said, enthusiastic. “I’ll be right out. Can I bring some friends?”
“Of course.” Her smile widened.