Life Through the Eyes of a Lab Rat: Part One
I was created to be a lab rat. I am a neopet that was especially created to be a kind of "great experiment", to be tested, to be the guinea pig of a certain mad scientist so maybe one day, I would tun into the "perfect neopet" of someone.
My name, my species, my gender... everything was strictly determined by someone; I already existed in someone's head before I actually existed. I already had a certain personality, a character. Before I even had the chance to actually exist, I abstractly existed in someone's mind. Too much pressure, don't you think? To start your own journey already having expectations to meet like that, I mean. Still, it was against this background that I found myself when I first arrived my first home.
The beginning of my journey was in the hands of a sweet person, my first owner. She had carefully chosen my name, dreaming that one day I would turn into her pet dream: a faerie Xweetok. I was created, then, as a red Xweetok. My personality and everything about me was meticulously thought by her so one them they would match perfectly with the faerie Xweetok she wanted me to be.
While I was with her I lived with three other neopets. None of them had been a lab rat before; she had recently completed the map and I was the first neopet in which she was willing to allow the mad scientist's ray to be fired at.
One of the neopets with whom I lived with a baby Xweetok. She was gentle, gracious and seemed to like me. The other two neopets were both Unis: a royal boy and a royal girl. They have never been hostile to me but I could feel I was undoubtedly regarded as something inferior by those two distinguished members of the nobility.
It was not a all bad environment, especially as I am not one to complain, but it was always terrifying when every afternoon I was taken to a dark laboratory and then left at the mercy of the rough hands of that mad scientist. He would stop daydreaming every time we got there, smile ominously at me and then turn his machine's ray on, and then, for a moment, all I could see was light. Then, when I finally was able to see something again, that almost always meant that I was somehow different.
Most of the time, I felt weaker or slower. Then I would be informed that I had lost "status", and I soon learned that losing status was bad. Sometimes, though, I would get out of there refreshed, stronger, faster, and that was the clue: I had gained some status, which was not bad but also not that good.
The rarest things for me were the physical changes, and during the time I was living in that family, they were not frequent. The first time it happened was when, in a certain afternoon, I left the laboratory different than I had came in. I was not red anymore but kind of... flaming. I had turned into a fire Xweetok.
Maybe I was not yet the neopet that we all dreamed that one day I would become, but that small change gave me hope that, since I had turned into a fire neopet I would soon enough turn into a faerie Xweetok. It was not what we've been expecting, but it was enough for now and I slept happy that night.
The following day, however, I went back to only gaining status, and so it was in the days that followed. Only after two weeks of daily visits to the laboratory which at that point had already become the scenery of my worst nightmares that I had some physical changes. That time a very inconvenient change, I must say: the ray changed my gender. Needless to say, that change didn't made my owner pleased and, at that same afternoon, I ended up having to fight that insane Scorchio three times in the battledome in order to, finally, be a female neopet again.
Three days later, a new change: the lab turned me into a pink Xweetok. That change made my owner to rethink her wish of having a faerie Xweetok and, for three days, I didn't visit the lab. In the end, she ended up deciding that it was not enough: the ultimate goal was for me to get turned into a faerie Xweetok and she would not stop until so. And so my visits to that scary laboratory started again, to my dismay. Every day that passed I could only hope the desired change to happen the sooner the possible so my torment could finally come to a end.
But I never got to become a faerie Xweetok, or at least not while I was living with that family. At a certain afternoon, the mad scientist's ray got me blinded as it would blind me every day, but when I finally was able to see again, I was no longer a pink Xweetok, but something entirely different: I was turned into a chubby green Meerca.
The following afternoon, I was taken out for a ride. I left home still trying to understand the body functioning of the strange body in which I was now trapped, and also trying to figure out the reason for the use of a euphemism to refer to my daily visits to that mad Scorchio laboratory, but it didn't take me much time to realise that that was not an ordinary afternoon; that was an exceptional situation and when you are a lab rat like me, you soon learn that, as much terrible as going to that ghastly laboratory is, it will never be as dangerous as a change in your routine. The change could be good, no doubt, but that was difficult. And in the end, it was not.
We walked a lot until finally getting to what seemed to be our final destination: a beige building. It was neat and looked quite a lot like a house as any other. It had a red front door and we went through it. Then there were three other doors: the first, a pink door, all decorated with glitter; the second, a metal door that transmitted seriousness; and the last one, a blue door all covered in cobwebs. For a moment I had hope that we would enter the pink door, but we didn't.
We entered the third door, only to end up bumping into the neopet that could haunt the worst nightmares of all other neopets: Dr. Death, all dressed up with his classic coat and his grumpy face. Then I froze for a a moment. All neopets have heard of Dr. Death and of what to be left with him meant.
"Oh, look," Dr. Death said, showing no emotion. "I see that our new Meerca finally is coming to stay with me for a while. How wonderful. A certain mad scientist has told me a lot about you."
There was no answer. Papers were signed quickly, making the whole situation official. I tried to scream, I tried to hide myself so I wouldn't be left there in that dark room with that grumpy neopet that could barely look me at the face, but it was no use.
Words were spoken to me quickly as a goodbye. An empty promise of the temporariness of the situation was made, a promise that said that "soon I would find a new family", followed by a quick hug and a goodbye. I was told later that she went through the pink door right after abandoning me, looking for a replacement. An unfortunate neopet was adopted to replace me, to take the personality she had thought out for me. To take up my destiny.
For several months the pound was my home. Dr. Death, the creepy neopet that has taken care of the pound since, like, ever, soon became just a grumpy old man to me. I was not scared of him anymore, but I've got to say I was still not his biggest fan. I eventually got used to my chubby body and my long tail as well. I also made some friends in that place, being the two most important friends, a blue Wocky, Helen, and a green Ruki, Luke.
The Wocky had a name that was impossible to pronounce, which made it difficult enough for her to be adopted, but she asked us all to call her Helen to make thing easier. She was very strong and healthy, and she told me she was lab rat for a while too.
"I was a Cybunny for a while," Helen once confessed, "but then the lab ray turned me into a Wocky and I was abandoned three days later."
She was an exceptionally intelligent neopet. She had read lots of books, being especially fascinated by dictionaries and encyclopedias. She had read all the books available at the pound (they were not many, but she read them all) and, from time to time, she would even read books or newspapers other visitors who were there to adopt other neopets would hand her.
She once commented on my name:
"I have heard that your name is actually a word from real life, you know?" she told me.
I raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Yes, I'm sure. It's what they call "RW". A real word. Your name is a real word."
"Interesting," I said sarcastically; I was at the pound for so long that there was little out there that could excite me.
"A nice name can always make it easy for you to be adopted," she whispered.
I frowned; I was at the pound for at least two months by that time. It didn't look so advantageous to have that name when you were a chubby Meerca and not a fancy Draik that would be adopted at a blink of an eye or a neopet painted on expensive colours that everybody seemed to like. I was basic and odd; I was surely not the preference of no one that went through that pink door.
"It doesn't seem like it," I finally replied.
"It's because it is not a common word, it's a different word, just like you, Ego. I like, and I know that one day, someone will like it too."
I quickly glanced at the badge I was wearing. It had my name written on it: Egocentrica.
"I hope you're right." I sighed.
She smiled and hugged me. "Of course I am! You'll see! I really believe that, in the end, there is a special person for each one of us out there. Maybe it won't be today, nor tomorrow. Maybe it won't be even on the day after tomorrow... But eventually, you will find your place in this vast world called Neopia. And so will I. We just have to have hope."
Two days later, one of us was adopted.
Helen has left me on a rainy evening. She was adopted by someone who was a Wocky lover and, from what I have been told later, in a few days she has changed colour and she was already well adapted to her new home.
And I? Well, I was left by myself in the pound once again. I was alone in the world again.
To be continued...