Hit the Showers
He had always believed in a clean victory. After every practice or league match, the showers were the only thing he wanted to see. He would only forego it to be at the side of an injured teammate. He valued his team greatly. Injuries happen, so he felt it was his job and responsibility to be with them. He also felt, being captain and a fellow teammate, that it was his job to keep his squad looking sharp, nothing but their best. This was Krell Vitor, captain of the Haunted Woods Yooyuball team.
Chelo Binay, dear friend, mentor, and retired center defender for the Haunted Woods team, had introduced Krell to the wonderful world of scented shampoo. Before he had only been using the stuff that smelled like glue. He now was all for anything cherry scented. He loved his cherry scented silk shampoo. It was a girl’s hair care product, but he didn't care. He loved the shine and softness of his hair. As a Kyrii, he was pretty vain about his hair; it was something not even he could escape. As far as he was concerned, he had the best hair in the entire Yooyuball league. He sometimes had people ask him what shampoo he used. No one dared make fun of him for using the shampoo, either; his teammates were all on the same page as him, each with their own favourite brands.
When 'Brains' Mortigan had first joined the team, he had a messy mop of hair. It was as coarse and rough as old straw found in Meridell's stables. Krell hated seeing that, so after the first week on the team, Brains's messy, scraggly hair was transformed. The Zombie now had hair as soft as a Cloud Cybunny Plushie, which Krell was envious of. He had also developed an obsession for all things strawberry-scented. After every match or practice, the team could always count on those three magic words being bellowed.
"Hit the showers!" Krell bellowed across their practice pitch.
* * *
The grocery store was packed after the day's practice; he was out of shampoo and needed more for tomorrow. Krell had a hard time just getting in the door. He worried that he might be here for a good twenty minutes and his favourite product might be gone.
"Awww what is this, a discount sale day? What a time for a sale!" Krell grumbled miserably as the crowded front door began to empty slowly. On the bright side, Krell would get his shampoo at half price.
Meanwhile, a ghostly Yurble swept down the aisles of the items he wanted. He hadn't thought much of being in the store until he saw a darkness Faerie. One with a very devious grin. What is she up to? he wondered, turning a deep red eye to the back of her head as he watched her. He followed her down to the cosmetics and shampoo aisle. He figured she was going to cause trouble. He quickly grabbed up some shampoo and some lip balm. Even a ghost's lips chap now and then. He quietly left the aisle, not drawing her attention. The Faerie made her selections, a wicked little giggle erupting from her throat. The passersby in the aisle didn't seem to notice her casting a spell here and there.
"This will be fun to see work." She snickered to herself quietly, as she noticed a big Halloween Kyrii march down the aisle.
Krell didn't even see the Faerie standing behind him; he was just too relieved to have gotten in the store and made it down to the hair product aisle. He grabbed his favourite shampoo, taking no notice of the cackling Faerie behind him, and headed for the aisle filled with snacks. He had the munchies for a bag of gummies. It was his turn to get snacks for the strategy meeting. Zo had requested oatmeal cookies. Zo was on a healthy snack tangent again. The Faerie watched him go, still snickering at her trickery. She decided her work was done here. She would go see what trouble she could cause in the fresh produce area.
In the span of only ten minutes, people were screaming and running in terror at the carrots they had picked up. The carrots were yelling about being eaten. At the fruits section. the apples and the pears were arguing with each other over which was the best. The Faerie laughed to herself and idly left the store.
"I love my veggies!" she said quietly to herself.
* * *
Practice had gone well that evening, as had the strategy meeting, if they ignored what their manager had to say. Retired teammates Chelo Binay and Autrey Fulse had helped out by pitching in as forwards from an opposing two person team. They joked that their invisible goalie was much more skilled than Fannetti, who got a little annoyed and did his best to remind them why he was one of the best net minders in the league. Brains had taken a couple of nasty hits from Autrey when the big ghost Yurble tackled him. Both Brains and Zo took a practice ball to the head at least twice. Both were fine, aside from some bumps and bruises, and a headache each.
"All right, hit those showers, people!" bellowed Krell with a pleased grin at his team’s performance.
Chelo and Fannetti both lived quite near the practice stadium, so they had gone to their homes. Chelo didn't like the showers in the practice stadium. She was always saying they were disgusting, and the Pant Devil kept stealing her favourite socks. Fannetti really didn't like them, because he was always afraid the Pant Devil might decide to show up and swipe his stuff when he wasn't looking, after it had happened to Chelo. Krell knew Fannetti would stay home too. It was pretty late. Chelo would come back, though. She always had some advice and ideas to share after each practice, and he could always count on her finding some hole in their game play.
* * *
There was no escaping for Krell; his vanity for his hair wasn't as strong as most Kyrii, but it was still there. He needed his shower. The soothing scent of cherries and the friendly rush of warm air produced by his spooky hair dryer made him feel like he could play one hundred matches against any team. After he had accomplished getting his hair nice and perfect, his act of vanity complete, he waited in the lobby of their stadium for his teammates to finish up. He still smelled his cherry shampoo, until an overwhelming blast of strawberry hit his nose five minutes later. He turned to see Brains come trudging out of the showers, a goofy grin on his pale grey face. He approached Krell slowly; Brains's forehead came right up to the top of Krell's shoulder when standing side by side. At times it was hard to believe Brains could be slow given his size and stamina. The zombie Usul stopped right in front of his captain and sniffed; he then looked up slightly into Krell's face and snickered.
"You... smell good... Krell," he said slowly. "Like... gravy."
Brains continued to snicker and giggle. Krell did not seem so amused by his friend anymore.
Krell looked at Brains quizzically. It had been a rough practice match. but surely the zombie’s nose hadn’t gotten damaged. Whenever they were visiting different places on vacations or training with another team, the Haunted Woods team relied on Brains's nose. He usually found food stands before anyone else did. Krell continued to look at Brains, and then placed his hand on the zombie’s forehead. Zombies were bizarre; Chelo had grown up with a friend who was a zombie Aisha. She explained few things about them, as well as some very important facts the day Brains had joined them, just in case their new teammate had a hard time adjusting.
“A zombie’s brain works the same way a living person's brain does, except it usually is simpler, more instinct focused,” Chelo had mentioned.
This was caused by whatever magical energy in them that kept them animated. No one knew what type of magical life force. No one dared ask. Neovians were asked all the time, but no one answered. Neovians actually hated getting asked questions about zombies or their past before Gilly and Sophie rescued them from Krawley.
Every zombie Neopet was different, to be sure, but basics were basics and in other cases. Brains was smarter than most, especially in the case that he was literate, and was a pen pal with Kreludor's captain Derlyn, not looking past the fact he was also a sports star. He was nothing like the zombies portrayed in monster movies. Brains actually got offended at every mention of said movies.
“We’re... not actually like that... Who writes these movies anyway?” he had said to Krell and Wan once during movie night at Wan’s house.
He later wrote a letter to Derlyn expressing how he felt; her reply on the matter cheered him up greatly. She never had been one for scary movies featuring zombies, and knowing one made her stand by not liking the movies.
Krell’s thoughts soon returned to the giggling zombie Usul in front of him.
"You're clammy and cold," Krell stated to the zombie, who continued to snicker and grin up at him. "Not a thing out of order with you!"
Krell was not amused. Out of the corner of his eye. he could see Wan and Zo coming over to him. Krell removed his hand from the forehead of his giggling teammate and poked the zombie in the forehead as the pair came within four feet of them. Zo looked up at Krell and then to Brains, then back to Krell again, his face showing concern.
"Is something wrong with Brains?" the little fire Korbat asked.
Zo looked back at Brains, who was now smiling gently down on him, trying his hardest to contain his laughter. Krell gave a big sigh and his face turned into a pout. He looked like an oversized child when he did that. He eyed Brains a minute and then spoke.
"He said I smell like gravy!" Krell mumbled, obviously displeased.
Wan gave a glance at Zo, and then to Brains, who was now giggling uncontrollably behind Krell. The Halloween Techo and the small fire Korbat both started to snicker a bit, then started wheezing as they tried not to laugh.
"You do smell like gravy, buddy. I hate to break it to you!" Wan wheezed as he tried to breathe, only to start laughing even harder.
Krell was very confused at this point. All he could smell was his cherry shampoo, and the mingling shampoos of his teammates. Strawberries, peaches, and wild berry. He was starting to grow angry at the lot of them, feeling as though he had been made a joke of. He turned to look at Brains, who had quieted down. The reason he was quiet now was because he had laughed the stitches in his jaw loose. He now had his jaw cradled in his hands. He would have to go to the clinic and get his jaw sewn back on. Brains did not look impressed. Autrey was the next to exit the showers, and Chelo was just walking in the front door of the lobby. Both walked up to him and Autrey threw a bottle at him.
"You forgot your side dressing, captain," the ghostly Yurble said with a grin, shaking his head. "It looks like you have fallen victim to the prank of a dark Faerie."
Autrey had been in the store when he saw the faerie come sneaking down the aisles, knowing she was up to no good, and since he was a nice guy looking to repay a favor, he grabbed Krell's favourite shampoo before the faerie had cast her magic. It was the bottle he had just tossed to Krell, having tossed out the tainted bottle.
"It should be fun trying to sneak you past the Esophagor," Autrey added as an afterthought. The prank was meant to anger the victim. All Krell could smell was the cherries, but the people around him smelled gravy, one thing Esophagor liked as a late night snack. This truth did not thrill poor Krell. Chelo and Autrey tried thinking of ways they could get him past the hungry beast, but they both failed. Zo had thrown an idea into their little pool of bad ideas, but it involved soaking Krell in perfume. Perfume possibly tainted by that pesky Faerie. It would also mean a trip to the store, which also meant travelling past the Esophagor, which no one wanted to do more than twice a day. He was always bugging people and some people go missing.
In the end, they were out of ideas. Wan had taken Brains to the clinic to get his jaw sewn back on. They'd be there for a good hour or two. Both Chelo and Autrey offered to let Krell spend the night at their homes, so they could go over strategies for game plays. Chelo had found several flaws in their practice, most of which involved Brains's coordination. Autrey had noticed the same problem; the cup would be tough this year. Krell agreed; he would spend the night at Autrey's house. How embarrassing would it be to walk around in public smelling like a delicious dinner dressing, especially for someone as well known around the woods as Krell. It was an hour walk to Krell’s own home, so going home wasn’t something he wanted to do. He didn’t want attention drawn on himself.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part of the Faerie’s prank was the fact that an hour after he had used the shampoo, his hair had become slimy and stiff as if someone had actually poured gravy all over his beautiful soft hair. It scared him at first, but when they got to Autrey's house, he just hit the showers and washed away all the grime. The news that night said they had caught the Faerie that had been pulling the pranks, after a few of the haunted denizens including other dark Faeries started complaining about their friends telling them they smelled like gravy.
In the end, everything was back to normal. Everything was just peaceful and cherry scented. The way it should be.
Thank you to Chimp_Chicken_Fish for helping brainstorm a delicious idea! Good luck on your future stories, buddy!