Preparing Neopia for the Meepits Circulation: 193,968,077 Issue: 658 | 15th day of Hiding, Y16
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The Invisible Menace: Part One

by 77thbigby


The eleven year old silver Lupe waved his tail in understated delight when he saw his best friend heading in his direction. It had been six weeks since they had last seen each other. They were looking forward to seeing each other very much. Brandi gave a happy cry and raced to meet him. Adino waited, a gentle, almost shy smile on his face.

      That's when the young silver Lupe stiffened. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong. Of course, Brandi noticed. Her smile faded and her blue eyes were confused and hurt by Adino's abrupt change.

      The orange Aisha cocked her head, brow furrowed. "Adino, what is it?"

      Adino narrowed his eyes and twitched his nose. "Can't you smell that?"

      "Smell what?"

      Adino raised his eyebrows and gazed steadily back at his friend. Right. He had taught her how to use her senses like a wild Lupe. Even though it had been a year, she still forgot that she was capable of doing such things herself. Copying her friend's movement, she twitched her nose wildly and drew in the still, warm air.

      It took Brandi a moment or two but, after sorting through a multitude of smells, there was one that stuck out to her.

      Brandi crossed her arms. "Huh. Yes, it is odd, now isn't it? Strong, once you know it's there. It's damp, like steam, metallic and sharp. Plus, a hint of fire and smoke. All of that is wrapped up in the same smell. Wow! How crazy is that?"

      Adino frowned. "I don't like it."

      Brandi shrugged it off. She was far more focused on spending time with Adino and the other Collared Greens. Yet, no matter where they went or what they did, the strange scent remained. The other Lupes also noticed the scent but it didn't bother them like it bothered Adino. What troubled the young silver Lupe the most was that the smell arrived and left with Brandi.

      Oblivious to this fact and having already forgotten about it, Brandi skipped home, as filled with energy as she had been that morning. It was the Petpets who noticed first. Brandi's family was gathered in the living room. Love, her father's spotted Puppyblew, came up to greet her but stopped abruptly, as Adino had done. Her gentle face was filled with concern, her nose twitching wildly, tail stiff and short fur bristling.

      Love whined anxiously but she wasn't looking at Brandi. She was looking to the left of Brandi, as if someone were standing in the hallway. X flicked his ears at his Petpet, puzzled by her behavior. As with Adino, Brandi looked hurt, feeling rejected by the normally friendly Puppyblew. Recalling what Adino had told her, Brandi sniffed the air.

      Yes, the scent was there! Brandi frowned and looked behind her but she saw nothing that could be causing the smell. She didn't understand it! The ten year old orange Aisha huffed, sitting on the couch, arms crossed.

      "Love," X called his Petpet gently.

      Obediently, the Puppyblew trotted back to X's side and sat. He rubbed her ears-which she loved-but remained tense. It was odd and X didn't discount his Petpet; he trusted her instincts far too much for that. The spotted Gelert would have looked into it but his wife had leaned forward towards their distraught daughter.

      "Brandi, tell us what's wrong," Nisha said gently.

      "Yeah, Brandi. You look like you've had a really bad day," Zach, Brandi's older brother, put in, having raised himself up with his hands, where he had been lounging on the floor.

      Brandi opened her jaws to reply when high-pitched yapping sounded instead. Fluffy, Nisha's Drugal, had been sleeping soundly on the couch next to his owner. He had been woken up by Brandi coming home. He jumped off of the couch and raced, barking madly, for the hall. Love raced after him and gently herded him back.

      Nisha scooped up her Petpet and held him close. He was shaking violently, as if he had been scared badly, highly unusual in his own home. Nisha glanced at X and said more than words can.

      "Alright, you lot, to bed with you," X said to his children.

      The twins went without protest, Brandi following after. While X and Nisha wished to know what was bothering their youngest so much, they wished to find out what was bothering their Petpets more. X tilted his head towards the front door, silently communicating with his wife. The eventide Aisha gave a curt nod. The spotted Gelert opened the front door, cool night air washing over them.

      As they stepped outside, Love relaxed and Fluffy stopped shaking.

      "Whatever is bothering them is inside," X said.

      However, when they went back inside, the two Petpets didn't react as they had before. X and Nisha could only look at each other.

      "I wonder what spooked them so badly," X said.

      "Whatever it is, Brandi has something to do with it," Nisha said.

      "That's what spooks me."

      The next morning, Brandi woke with a start, half-raising in bed, hands braced on her mattress. The young orange Aisha looked wildly around her bedroom but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Normally a sound but active sleeper (she often awoke on the floor, having fallen out of bed), she had sensed someone or something watching her. The smell from before lingered in her room, making Brandi uncomfortable. Abacuc wrapped his tentacles around her arm to get her attention.

      The orange Aisha looked down at her Nedler and rubbed the sweet spot between his ears. She sat up, sitting cross-legged on her bed, scooping Abacuc onto her lap. For the next little while, she just petted her Petpet as his tentacles ran lightly over her hands. Then, she got up for the day and she and Abacuc went to the kitchen for breakfast.

      "All of our hot sauce is gone," X said.

      "No! Food just doesn't taste right without hot sauce," Zach complained.

      "What? That can't be right," Brandi said, brow furrowed.

      Brandi moved past her gathered family and climbed onto the counter, opening the cupboard door. What her father said was true! Their cupboards were completely void of all hot sauce.

      "Brandi," X said sternly, removing his daughter from the counter and setting her gently on the floor.

      Brandi sighed, barely paying attention to her father. She shook her head, confused.

      "This doesn't make sense! We never run out of hot sauce," Brandi huffed, crossing her arms.

      The Aisha saw her mother and sister exchange a bemused glance.

      "You'll survive one meal without hot sauce," Nisha said.

      "We shouldn't have to. Besides, what happened to the supply that we had just yesterday evening," Zach asked.

      "Maybe we had a burglar last night! That's why I woke up and felt so weird this morning," Brandi said excitedly.

      "A burglar? Don't be ridiculous! Why would they just steal all our hot sauce?"

      "There was no burglar. The Petpets would have found them out," X said.

      "What do you mean you felt weird this morning, Brandi," Nisha asked, kneeling down to her daughter's level.

      Brandi shrugged her shoulders and frowned, not looking at her mother, "I don't know. I woke up this morning and it felt like I was being watched. I felt really uncomfortable."

      Nisha quirked her brows and rose to her feet. The look she gave her husband said it all. The Alms family sat down to eat breakfast. Which, sans hot sauce, tasted like sawdust to more than half of the family. Not even a hearty dose of ketchup on the scrambled eggs saved the meal. After breakfast, Brandi shot off to play and the twins... well, their parents didn't know what the twins did a good amount of time.

      Nisha and X cleared the table and began to wash the dishes. It was only a few moments before Nisha's hands began to tremble. She had to place her hands on the sink edge to steady herself. X quickly placed one arm over her shoulders and the other about her waist, holding her securely. She turned to look at him, eyes wide with distress while his own blue eyes were filled with gentle concern.

      "What does this mean?" Nisha said in a low voice.

      "I don't know but we'll come through it. You'll see," X said.

      "I'm worried. What if our family is in danger, X?"

      "I don't think so. I feel uncomfortable with what's happening but I don't feel like an impending cloud of doom is hanging over our heads."

      "Over Brandi's head."

      "Our daughter, young as she is, is fully capable of handling herself. Not to mention, she is never alone."

      "You're right. I just hope things settle down soon."

      Yekaterina and Zachary had gone outside in the backyard; their Petpets, Avicena, a snow Wherfy and Amity, a spotted Symol, needed exercise. Over the years, Amity had dug a vast system of tunnels in the backyard and the two Petpets loved playing in their subterranean burrows. They received a shock when they went outside and found a large hole where a portion of the tunnels used to be.

      "What the-," Zach began to say before breaking off, nose twitching wildly.

      The fourteen year old Gelerts walked to the edge of the hole, sending more loose dirt tumbling in. Zach growled, hands clenching into fists at his sides and his blue eyes glowing with heat. His reaction wasn't surprising when he saw hot sauce splashed all over the hole.

      "What a waste," Zach said in disgust.

      The young Gelert turned on his heel, long thin tail whipping in agitation, heading for the house, his older twin at his side. Zach swung the back door open.

      "Father! Mother! Come quick," Zach called.

      Nisha and X came running. Zach told of what they had found.

      "Yekaterina, get your sister before she happens upon it on her own and gets into trouble," Nisha instructed her oldest child.

      Yekaterina nodded her head and did as she had been bid. Then, Nisha, X and Zach trooped outside, only to see Brandi standing at the edge of the hole, looking much like her brother had when he had first come upon the scene. As her family approached they could feel heat radiating from her hands.

      "I want to know who did this," Brandi spat.

      "Brandi! Control yourself! Think of your sister," Nisha said, placing a hand on her daughter's shoulder.

      Slowly, Brandi did cool down, swallowing hard. She looked away from the sink hole, blue eyes hard. Yekaterina, having not found her sister, came to the backyard. Seeing Brandi not in control, and being a snow Gelert, kept her distance until she saw her little sister chill out. Then, she came over to stand beside her.

      "There's no use being upset about this. We'll get more hot sauce. I'll need to speak to Legend about getting this hole filled in. Until then, try not to fall in," X said, looking at his family (though he looked at Brandi longest and she tried to look innocent).

      Through the next week, Legend came and filled in the hole, more hot sauce was bought and more strange occurrences continued. They were always accompanied by the strange smell that Brandi had first noticed. They almost always happened while the ten year old Aisha was present. All in all, the Alms family were having a most unusual week. It didn't help that the Torches were coming to visit.

To be continued...

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