During the month of Celebrating, Year 10, many Neopets turned bald. Read on to find out what had happened.
It was on a Wednesday that he first noticed. Fumanya was sure of the day because Mrs. Rosebud was getting a delivery of flowers, like every Wednesday. What she did with them, the skunk Shoyru did not know. He just watched as the delivery boy carried a large bouquet to his neighbour’s house.
Actually, it was not even Fumanya who noticed first but Eliza, his red Karren. Perched on the chimney the Shoyru was leaning against, she shrieked and pointed down at the Kyrii carrying the flowers. It was then that Fumanya realised something was amiss.
The delivery boy who he saw once a week had turned bald. Even though he wore a hat, it was not enough to hide the lack of hair.
Fumanya frowned, leaning forward until he nearly fell off the roof of his house to get a better glimpse of the kid. Was it shaven? Why would any respectable pet shave their head? Maybe a new trend. One that couldn’t have spread to Krawk Island yet, because the Shoyru couldn’t remember having seen any bald classmates at school.
With a shrug, Fumanya put it off. Whatever was going on in the Kyrii’s head, he would probably never understand.
It wasn’t until nearly a week later that the Shoyru remembered the delivery boy.
Icy wind rattled on the windows that Monday morning. While snow was rare on Krawk Island even in winter, the humidity of the sea combined with the strong wind made that season freezing cold. Wrapped in the warmest cloak he could find, Fumanya braced himself against the storm as he left the house.
Today, he would not be found on the roof watching the neighbourhood.
People didn’t talk much that morning. The Shoyru passed pets on their way to work, all tightly wrapped in warm clothes. Nobody spent more time in the cold than necessary. Everybody hurried, bumping into each other as they tried to get to their destination as quickly as possible.
Fumanya was relieved when he reached school. Warmth enveloped him as he entered the building and he took off his hat and scarf. Hopefully, the weather would improve until he had to go home in the afternoon.
It was on the way to his first class that he saw the first bald pupil – a blue Chia girl. The hair that had covered her was gone. No trace was left and the top of her head reflected the light.
The girl whispered to her friend, looking at Fumanya and both began to giggle. The Shoyru suddenly realised that he had been staring and abruptly turned his head away in embarrassment. Remembering the delivery boy from last week, he was glad that he did not have any hair and would never be faced with the choice of following this trend. Yet, he couldn’t help but lift a hand to his horn to assure himself that it was still there.
On the way to his classroom, Fumanya passed three more bald pets – a Moehog, a Lenny and another Kyrii. None of them seemed to mind the fact that they were now without hair.
“Did you hear about the hair sweater project?”
Fumanya, who had been prodding his beans, looked up with interest at his younger brother’s question.
“Oh, come on,” Pandoriano, the fire JubJub, groaned. “Don’t tell me you don’t know about it. Where do you live?”
“Pets donate their hair so sweaters can be made of it to protect the poor of the cold this winter.”
Fumanya’s eyes widened at his sister’s explanation. So that’s why he had seen all those bald pets at school today. Until the end of classes, he had kept running into students without hair and even one of his teachers, Mrs. Mordog, a green Lenny, had lost the feathers on her head.
“Personally, I wouldn’t wear a sweater made of hair. It’s icky,” Montalis added.
The Shoyru resisted the temptation to roll his eyes. Of course his sister wouldn’t wear anything that wasn’t the latest fashion. When had the chocolate Ogrin ever been anything else than impeccably dressed? “What do you think wool is? If it helps to keep poor pets warm, it doesn’t matter if you find it icky. I think it’s a good idea.”
“I agree,” Pandoriano said. “Besides, it’s kind of cool to wear a sweater that someone else donated their hair for, isn’t it?”
But when Montalis suggested to shave the fire JubJub, he didn’t want to know anything about it.
By the end of the week, more than half of the students had turned bald. It seemed like nearly all those who had hair, fur or even feather to donate did so and carried their empty head proudly.
“It’s a pity Shoyrus don’t have hair to donate,” Fumanya said to Eliza, holding out a cookie to her. “I would have given mine, too, if I had some.”
The Karren accepted the cookie gratefully, tilting her head sideways as she listened to her owner.
“Giving to the poor is a good idea, especially in winter when it’s cold and they have to suffer most. Montalis might find it disgusting, but I would wear a hair sweater if I had nothing else.”
Once more, they were sitting up on the roof of their house, watching the people walking by. Most pets had their heads covered with hats, but the skunk Shoyru didn’t need to see them to know that many of them were bald.
“You know, I wonder what they look like. I have actually yet to see someone with such a sweater. Maybe they go to the poor on Terror Mountain first because that’s where the winter is hardest?”
Eliza cooed gently in reply, crumbles from the cookie falling down on the roof tiles where they were carried away by the wind.
“Someone in school today said that the donation place for the hair is over at the other side of the town. Maybe they know where the sweaters are then given out. I could imagine that the clothes are knitted close to there and then distributed.”
Fumanya tilted his head up at his Karren. “Should we go and check it out?”
The gleam in Eliza’s eyes was reply enough for the Shoyru. He jumped down, stretched out his wings and took off, with his petpet following him closely.
Long queues had formed outside the building. It seemed like everybody who hadn’t donated their hair or fur yet was intent on doing so today. Fumanya and Eliza circled the building twice before coming to a rest behind a large chimney.
“It doesn’t look like they’re giving out anything here,” the Shoyru muttered. “Let’s go and look inside.”
Swinging down on the ground, he peaked in through a window. Before him lay a large hall. A mountain of hair, fur and feathers of all colours stood in its middle. “Wow,” Fumanya breathed out at the sigh. “That’s enormous. Why haven’t they used it for the sweaters yet?”
Someone entered the room. Fumanya had expected it to be a pet carrying a basket of fur to add to the pile, but what he saw instead turned his bowels to ice.
It was only a shadow, but the Shoyru had read enough books and heard enough stories to know him.
“The Spider Grundo.”
His voice had barely been above a whisper, but as if he had heard it, the Grundo turned around and looked at Fumanya.
An instant later, the glass window that separated the two disappeared.
“Indeed, I am the Spider Grundo. And you? What is a boy doing here, spying on me?”
Fumanya opened and closed his mouth, unable to utter a sound.
”Why don’t you come in?”
A thread shot out through the window frame. The sting where it hit Fumanya’s cheek unfroze the Shoyru and he dropped down to hide. He was an instant too late. The strong thread had already wrapped itself around his upper body.
“I... I don’t understand. Why... What are you doing here?” Fumanya stammered. From the corner of his eyes, he noticed that Eliza seemed to have disappeared.
“Isn’t that obvious?” The Grundo laughed, a cold and cruel laughter that would have made stand up the hairs of those who still possessed some. “I’m enlarging my net.”
A net... Suddenly, everything fell into place. The lack of sweaters on poor people, the Spider Grundo... He was using the hair to build a net.
“With that much material, I will be able to build a net large enough to stretch over all of Neopia. Nobody will be able to resist me.”
“You’re crazy,” Fumanya declared.
The rope around his ribcage tightened.
“Crazy, maybe, but brilliant at the same time.”
Fumanya felt a strong pull on the thread, tugging him forward. He pushed against the window frame, trying to resist. But all he did was tightening the rope around his chest. Breathing in became more difficult. Panic rose in the Shoyru.
He let go.
The sudden loss of resistance pulled him through the window into the hall where he fell on the floor. Fumanya stayed there, his body aching from the fall. His mind was racing frantically as he thought about a way to escape.
“You, my boy, are lucky. You will be witness to how I spin a net large enough to cover the whole of Krawk Island.”
The moment the Spider Grundo turned around, Fumanya felt the fluttering of wings behind him. Someone began nagging on the rope wound around his chest.
“What are you saying?” the Spider Grundo said.
“I said, your plan will never work out,” Fumanya spat.
“Of course it will. Who would stop me? You?”
Once again, the Grundo laughed his cruel laughter.
Fumanya forced himself to lie still until Eliza stopped her nagging on the thread. In the middle of the hall, on top of the mountain of hair, the Spider Grundo began his work, not paying much attention to the Shoyru anymore.
He did not even notice Fumanya frantically glancing around the room.
The skunk Shoyru’s eyes fell on a small table standing in the corner. Someone had lit a candle, a small flame that flickered in the draughty hall. Maybe it had been one of the workers, trying to make the place more comfortable, but all it did was making the hall look even more miserable.
“Eliza, I need the candle.”
This time, the Spider Grundo did not look up at Fumanya’s whispered words. As the red Karren flew off towards the light, the Shoyru began working his way to the hairy mountain.
“Yes, me. I will stop you,” he cried out, jumping to his feet. The moment the Grundo whirled around, Eliza came with the candle. Fumanya did not hesitate to throw it into the fur people had donated.
Everybody who has once come to close to a flame will know how well hair burns. The fire spread quickly. Within seconds, the whole mountain was burning.
Fumanya did not pay attention to the Spider Grundo anymore. Smoke filled the air. All that mattered was that they got out of the hall as quickly as possible. He jumped into the air and flew towards the window, the Karren just in front of him. Breathing heavily, he finally landed on the hard ground outside.
“That was close,” was all he muttered as he hugged Eliza tightly. He could feel her heart fluttering quickly. By now, people in front of the building had noticed the smoke. Someone called out. Soon, sirens filled the air. Fumanya only crouched a few meters away from the building. Someone would find him here, and he would then have to alert the Defenders of Neopia. They would be able to stop the Spider Grundo.
The rancid smell of burning hair filled the air. The fur was burning with nothing remaining, but the bald heads of his classmates would remind Fumanya for a long time of what had happened.