Perils of the Petpet Laboratory
As we all should know, the petpet lab ray is not without risks. Countless Neopets have seen their beloved petpets transformed, mutated, blown up or simply vanish. As a service to the Neopian community, this user would like to provide you with a cautionary tale of a Mutant Korbat, Terry, and his beloved Chumablah, Snarkie.
Based on a true Neopian story.
Terry was sitting at the kitchen table, munching on month-old "carrot and pea" omelette (it didn't matter what the label said, they ALL ended up rotten eventually), when his owner came into the kitchen, treading lightly so as not to disturb her pet's breakfast.
That set off alarm bells in Terry's mind. His owner never tread lightly; it was why she was so prone to tripping over things. Not to mention the fact that his owner had never before had any qualms about interrupting him, disturbing him or otherwise derailing his entire schedule for her own convenience. Glancing up from his plate, he noticed something in her hand. A tiny, rectangular something.
"Wazzat?" he asked, swallowing the last of his meagre meal.
"Honey..." she trailed off, unsure of what to say.
"...What?" Terry asked, suspicion aroused. Walking around as though the floor was covered in eggshells, trying not to disturb him and now pet names? What was going on? Was she going to give him up for adoption? He shuddered minutely at the thought.
Terry felt the omelette churn in his stomach.
"...What about Snarkie?" Terry asked, fighting not to choke on his tongue.
His owner placed a match box on the table, pushing it towards him before stepping back.
"I took her to the lab today," she said sheepishly. "You may not recognise her."
Terry stared at the box for a few moments, utterly bewildered. His pet had turned into a match box?
"This isn't my petpet," he said, looking up at his owner. Confusion was written all over his face.
"Open it," his owner said, eyes fixed on the floor.
Doing as he was told, he pulled the little box open. Inside was a fine, black powder with two beady eyes, blinking at him.
"You see, honey, sometimes the lab ray does funny things to petpets..." She trailed off again, eyes still on the floor.
For a few awkward moments, neither pet nor owner spoke.
"Well, then," his owner said, apparently unable to bear the silence any longer. "I'll leave you to it then."
He watched her go, then bent low to inspect Snarkie.
The day before, she had been a healthy and happy Abominable Snowball. Now she was a pile of soot.
It took a few days adjustment for Terry to get over his petpet becoming soot, but by then she had become something else.
"A faerie meepit!" Elly chirped excitedly. "How cool! Isn't she adorable, Terry?"
"Yeah, I guess," Terry responded in a monotone, watching as Snarkie tested out her new set of teeth on the hapless Kookith 'scientist'.
"Oh, that's a lovely zap! I hope the next one is as good, don't you?" she asked, hoping to enthuse him somewhat.
Terry did a double take. "Next zap?!" he cried, startling Snarkie and causing her drop her prey. The little Kookith wasted no time in scurrying further into his lab to hide.
"...Of course. Why do you think we bought the ray, Terry?" She looked at him as if he had asked the most ridiculous question in the world.
"You don't want to keep her this way? Weren't you just saying how cool it was, or something?" What was it with humans, how they seemed to contradict themselves at every turn?
"...Huh?" Elly replied stupidly, uncomprehending.
"Guess who I've got!" Elly said, a comically huge smile lighting her features. She held out her arms, Snarkie leaping out of them to pounce at Terry.
"Aagh!" Terry cried, falling backwards off of his chair as his petpet tackled him to the ground. Snarkie eagerly nuzzled his neck, chirring contently.
Wrapping his wings around her new form, he struggled to sit up. When he finally managed to right himself, he began to inspect the now calm creature in his lap.
She had a beak now; that was new. Long, dark talons protruded from her feet and she had two tiny skeletal wings. Large red eyes gazed at him, their perfect oval shape distorted slightly by her smile.
"She's a Chumablah now," Elly explained. "Do you like her?"
"Yeah," Terry said, rubbing Snarkie's belly. Snarkie chirruped, hind leg twitching. Terry looked up at Elly, putting on his best bambi-face as he asked, "Can we keep her this way for a bit? Please?"
"What'd you mean?" Elly asked, brow furrowing.
"As in, could we please not zap her for a while?" Terry concentrated very hard on making his eyes look as big as possible. "Please?"
"Uh... Sure, I guess. I was gonna start zapping Dirigibles anyway," Elly said with a shrug. "You can hold onto her for a while."
Terry grinned, petting Snarkie as she drifted off on his lap.
It was a little like having a ton of bricks dropped on your head.
It was so surreal. She had simply crawled in after the little Kookith and never returned. Terry had waited hours before Elly had forcibly dragged him away.
He wondered where the petpets who were zapped and disappeared went. They had to end up somewhere, right?
"I'm sure they just get sent to a petpet shop, or something. Or the mountains around Altador... Or something," Elly said, patting his back reassuringly as she pulled him towards Neopia Central. "You might see her again someday?"
She didn't sound like she meant it.
It was odd. He knew that he didn't have a petpet anymore, but sometimes he felt like there was one following him. He wasn't sure what caused this feeling, but he suspected that it was just a side effect of losing his petpet. He still missed Snarkie.
However, the feeling didn't go away. Sometimes he could swear he could feel someone looking at him, but he'd turn around and no one would be there.
It was starting to scare him.
It had gotten to a point where he was so desperate, he was willing to do the one thing he had promised himself he wouldn't do.
He was going to ask his owner.
Humans always had weird explanations for things, but a phenomenon this weird warranted a weird explanation.
He found her in the lounge room, napping on the couch. A strange little creature, like a miniature Uni made of metal, was curled up on her lap.
...Okay. Whatever. Humans were weird, he already knew that.
"Mum?" he said loudly, announcing his presence.
"Who- Bu... Wha-...?" she asked, eyes snapping open. She glanced around the room, bleary eyes coming to rest on Terry. "Oh, hey. I was just looking for you."
Terry raised an eyebrow.
"Well- I mean, what I meant was, I was just going to look for you," she amended quickly. "I have a surprise for you!"
Uh-oh. That couldn't be good. Abort! Abort!
"Oh, no, that's okay. I, um... have to be somewhere-" Terry began, trying to think of someplace he might need to be.
"Oh, whatever it is, it can wait!" Elly said, passing him the metal bundle. It gave an indignant squawk of protest.
Terry took it and adjusted his hold on it, looking it over.
He was almost afraid to ask. "What is it?" he said cautiously.
"It's a robot Bika," Elly informed him cheerfully, rubbing sleep out of her eyes. "His name is Laurrie."
Terry nodded. "Right. Why is he here?"
Elly laughed nervously. "Actually," she said, her voice unusually high pitched, "He's your petpet. He has been for a few weeks now!"
Terry balked. "... No, he hasn't. I mean, I think I would have noticed him before now."
"You might have, if he hadn't been invisible," Elly said, rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly. "It's as I said... The ray does funny things to petpets."
Well, that explained the feeling of being watched. Ugh, why were humans so stupid?
"I would have told you, but... I didn't want you to be upset if he disappeared. You know?" she said, ringing her hands. "I'm not going to zap him anymore, so I thought it was time to tell you."
Terry looked from his owner down to his new pet. Laurrie's eyes were smaller than Snarkie's, and they were green. The metal was smooth and, to his surprise, warm. Terry couldn't keep his lips from twitching into a smile when he saw the little saddle perched on his back.
"... Terry?" Elly asked, looking guilty. "I know he's not Snarkie, but do you like him?"
Laurrie whinnied, squirming in Terry's grasp. He managed to wiggle free, jumping gracefully onto the couch and immediately turning around to nudge Terry's hand. Terry obliged, scratching behind his metallic ears. Laurrie made a contented noise, eyelids drooping.
"Yeah, I like him."
In loving memory of Snarkie, who now works for Dr. Sloth on the Kreludor Mining Operation.