Story of a Zombie: Part One
Also by alcatraz_the_amazing
Don't judge a pet by their colour.
It is repeated again and again to young pets, by their parents, their teachers, everyone they look up to. It is one of the golden rules of Neopia.
But all of that repetition is useless. I should know. I'm a zombie Kau.
It's all I've ever known. Sure, my mother and father, a Peophin and a Lupe, have always been kind, even if they haven't loved me. But they don't know what it's like. They don't know what it's like to be stared at, ridiculed, avoided, or even ignored. They're both respectable colours, speckled and orange. Not like me, Jomanth. Their son. Their zombie.
I've been going to Flipoll Stemburg Neoschool in Neopia Central for eight years now, ever since I was five. No one there has ever made an effort to know me. Therefore, I don't have any friends.
I still remember my very first day, every little bit of it... Mum showed me the way, led me to my classroom's door. "Behave yourself, Manth," she murmured as she slipped around the corner. Leaving me.
Gathering my courage, I slid into the room and sat down next to a rainbow Ruki. He immediately scooched his chair away from me. I had no idea why, naive young boy that I was.
When the teacher, a lovely yellow Poogle, called out names, she paused at "Jomanth Terriplot." "Here," I called out, raising my hand. Her gaze rested on me, her face twisting into something that even I, at five years old, recognized as disgust. And something inside me died.
The day went on, and I noticed how Ms. Glophi, as I learned she was called, showed favouritism to the beautiful, amazingly coloured pets. She didn't pay any attention to me. All of the other pets ignored me, too, except for when their faces twisted in repulsion, much like the teacher's had.
At lunch, I didn't know what to do. Not a soul looked at me. Even when they did, it was a glare or a scowl. How could they all disregard what they had been taught their whole lives? Never judge a pet by their colour. So much for that phrase.
I finally selected a seat in the corner, all by myself.
The years went on. Almost nothing changed. I still sat by myself, I was still ignored, I was still a zombie. The other kids' interests varied over the years. When we were eight, gormball was popular. We played it every day at recess. When teams were picked, I was always the last one to join a side. When I joined at all.
The winter I turned ten, everyone was listening to M*YCNI. At lunch one day, I perked up my ears and listened to the others singing as I sat in my corner. When I started crooning the song along with them, they shuddered and stopped. Suddenly my voice was the only one still in the air. Everyone laughed, and a little bit of colour came to my cheeks. After that, I almost never so much as opened my mouth in school.
On my thirteenth birthday, I was disappointed to yet again find a Tombola T-shirt. Dad is a bit of a fan. I looked up at my parents, who were both staring down at me, looking bored. "Like it?" Mum asked, not even managing a smile.
"Um, I guess," I replied, no grin residing on my face either.
Dad leaned down over me, his shaggy orange fur falling in his face. "There's something your mother and I would like to talk to you about." He looked over his shoulder.
Mum joined him. "Manth, I- We- We're adopting another pet."
Dad beamed. "You'll have a little sister!"
"A sister?" I spat out, incredulous. The girls at school are all giggly and prissy. No way did I want to share a house with one. The girls avoided me even more than the boys did.
"Yes!" Mum exclaimed, now grinning too. "A girl!"
I vaguely recalled a time, not all that long ago, when Mum had been sorting through some of her old toys. I remember her hugging her Fun In the Sun Usuki and muttering something under her breath. Had she been wishing for a girl?
I didn't know what to say. Some might think zombies are beyond feeling. They couldn't be further from the truth.
"I need-" I started, but couldn't finish. I didn't know what I needed. Except to be alone. I fled to my room.
Five minutes later, I heard a knock on my door. I didn't make a move to open it, or even ask if it was Mum or Dad. Probably Mum.
"Manth? I'm coming in," came a voice from beyond the door. Yep. It was Mum. I still didn't move.
The door opened. In glided my mother, looking stern. "Manth, whether you like it or not, you're getting a sister. You will treat her with respect and be a good big brother. Understand?"
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I understood. I wasn't dumb, whatever Mum may have thought.
She hesitated. "I know- I know you think that this has something to do with you being a zombie. It doesn't. Your father and I, we just wanted a daughter."
No way did I believe that. Well, maybe the last part. They wanted someone normal, someone who wouldn't make small pets scream. Someone who wasn't like me.
"I know," I lied, mostly just to make her leave. Frowning, she stalked out of the room.
I buried my head in the pillow. What could I do?
The next day Mum and Dad went to the pound. I stayed home, munching crispy pumpkin chips, my favourite snack. I wondered what kind of pet they'd get. Probably a basic. The pound was full of them. Still, I thought, being basic is better than being zombie.
The door to our neohome flew open with a bang. In walked my parents, a small pink Usul in front of them. She looked sweet, but I could detect a mischievous gleam in her eye.
"Manth, we're home!" Dad strode into the living room, where I was sitting, watching Neovision. I sighed. Time to be introduced to torture.
My new sister stuck out a paw. "Roxi Elizabeth, at your service." She smiled brightly. "I'm ten years old. How 'bout you? You are Jomanth, right?"
"Yep, I'm Jomanth," I muttered, feeling queasy. At least she wasn't trying to get away, now that she knew she had a zombie for a brother. Of course I got stuck with a foo-foo pink pet. Apparently my parents had gotten lucky. "And I'm thirteen," I added in answer to her first question.
Roxi turned to my parents. "So, where am I staying? Do I have to share a room with Manth?"
"No, darling, you won't need to do that. You can have the spare bedroom."
"Oh, goody!" cried Roxi, running up the stairs.
"Will you show Roxi where her room is? I have to file these papers." My dad walked in the direction of the kitchen. I nodded and ran up the stairs.
"Oh, Roxi!" I yelled, annoyed. How could she disappear so quickly?
I heard a small noise coming from my parents' bedroom, like something lightweight being dropped. I opened the door. And there stood my new sister, an innocent look on her face. I sighed. "What are you doing in here?"
"Oh, hi, Manth! I was looking for my room. Do you know where it is?"
I grabbed her paw and dragged her out into the hallway, through her doorway, and into the spare bedroom. "I know you're up to something," I hissed.
She smirked. "Oh, you big, scary zombie, who would suspect a precious pink Usul with a horror like you in the house?"
And I knew it was true. Don't judge a pet by their colour, thrown out the window all over again. No matter that I was well-behaved, no matter that this little girl was the word mischief come to life. She was pink, and me a zombie.
The next morning, I awoke to a scream.
Not just any scream. An ear piercing, brain stabbing, excruciating scream. And it was coming from my parents' room. From my mother.
"Oh no," I muttered, suddenly wide awake. I should have known something like this would happen. I suppose I sort of guessed it earlier, but I had completely forgotten about Roxi sneaking around.
I ran out of my room - and knocked into Mum, apparently out of her room. We both toppled to the floor.
"Jomanth Eli Terriplot!" she screamed, shaking with rage. "How dare you?"
"How dare I what?" I asked. I really did want to know. But I guess she took it the wrong way.
"Don't get smart with me," she spat, glaring. "You were getting back at us for adopting Roxi. Well! Jealousy is not a good quality. Really, Manth, you have so much. Can't you just share a little?"
"Ahh!" I yelled. "Don't you understand, Mum? I truly do want to know what happened. Because whatever it was, it wasn't me. Roxi did it."
Of course she didn't believe me. And so it came to be that I spent the rest of the week in my room, leaving only to go to school. I even had to eat my meals in there.
Roxi was spoiled beyond belief. My parents bought lots of toys for her, some new clothes, even a petpet. And not some cheap petpet, either. A doglefox. I never even got some worthless one that I would have loved all the same. No matter how much I begged, my parents would never cave. Apparently they do for Roxi.
When my week of confinement was finally up, the first thing I did was run outside and run around. I've always loved being outside, even if I've never really had anyone to enjoy it with. No friends.
I spun around, and there was my little sister. Right there. Standing under a tree.
"Roxi," I murmured dangerously. "You're gonna get it."
And then we were chasing each other. Before I knew it, I was laughing, and she was laughing, and I was having fun for the first time in what seems like forever. When we were almost out of energy, we climbed the tree and sat in one of the highest branches.
"For an evil pink Usul, you're not so bad, sis." I smiled down at her.
"And for a goody-goody zombie Kau, you sure know how to play." She paused. "Forgive me?"
I nod. "Peace," I said, holding out a paw.
"Peace," she said, smiling back.
But there was something not quite right about that smile. Something hesitant. I wrote it off as guilt for her previous pranks, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
To be continued...