The Uncanny Horticulturist
You make your way along the outskirts of Neovia grumbling. Your pockets feel significantly lighter after a particularly annoying turn of events at the Apple Bobbing station. Why do you insist on still visiting that shady character Bart? That fast-talking charm of his gets you every time.
If your mood wasn’t foul enough, the dreary grey sky starts to dribble, adding dampness to the already chilly air. Fabulous. You shiver and continue your hike with the new goal of finding some shelter. Trekking towards the border of Neopian Central you spy the dark outline of a dome-shaped building through the trees. Not seeing any other options you forge ahead until the shape turns out to be a large solarium, covered in thick spindly vines. An eerie glow can be seen through some of the panes and you spot a cracked sign written with an ornate spidery scrawl:
Lambie’s Solarium-Mutants, Misfits and Miscreants Welcome.
You aren’t sure if you necessarily fit into any of those categories but decide to take them up on the “welcome” part.
The large bolt on the gnarled wooden door unlatches with a little coaxing and a large creak. Once inside you remember why you initially sought this place as a soft warmth envelopes you. You look around and let your eyes adjust to the light mist that blankets the space as you ponder over the cacophony of croaks, chittering and peeps that fill the room. What exactly was this place?
Ahead you make out a figure moving to and fro.
“Hello?” You call out tentatively.
“Yes, come in." Comes the reply from a sweet voice.
You hear another voice chattering away at the first one.
“Come in and shut the door already!” Calls the second voice grumpily.
You obey and turn around again. The shapes of the room finally come into focus and you notice the large glass room is filled with various plants. But not just any plants, these plants are writhing, wiggling, crawling and snapping. They hiss, titter and moan like the strange creatures they are. You’ve never seen so many wonderful and creepy plants together in one room before. Your mouth opens slightly in awe.
“Aren’t they lovely?” Says the sweet voice.
You almost forgot about the figure you saw earlier and turn to see a mutant Aisha in a frilly pink dress. Her hair coils beautifully around her face, framing a single large eye which blinks shyly. She smiles sweetly revealing a row of sharp teeth.
“Welcome.” Says the sweet voice. You turn to look for the source of the voice since it didn’t come from the mouth that was just smiling at you.
“Up here you meepit." Says the salty voice. The Aisha still smiles, her mouth closed. Your eyes shift upwards to her antennae, slithering and grinning with their own sets of razor teeth.
“That’s it, up here Genius." Says the left antennae. The right antennae responds by snapping at the first.
“Be polite, we aren’t rude to guests." The sweet antennae says, which encourages a retaliatory nip from the other.
Below, the Aisha’s single eye roll upward exasperatingly.
“Don’t mind them,” the antennas say in unison. You realize this must be the Aisha’s thoughts.
“It can be exhausting to feel so conflicted all the time,” she says through her antennae, “but they keep things interesting.”
You can’t think of how else to respond so you just nod.
“My name is Lambie." She continues. “I’m a horticulturist specializing in uncanny flora.”
“A horticulturist, Meepit.” Says the grumpy voice, which prompts a bop on the head by Lambie.
“Yes, a horticulturist.” She continues with her two voices. “I care for and propagate these many plants.” She opens her arms wide, gesturing to the room.
She turns back to the table where she had been working. A pot full of tentacles writhes and twitches.
“Are you looking for a plant? I do sell them. Rare and wonderful specimens from all over Neopia are in this room.”
“Um, I’m not sure I’m much of a plant person...” you start to say then trail off in horror as she picks up a pair of shears and snips of a tentacle, which responds with a squeak.
“Oh don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.” She says, thrusting the writhing tentacle into a new pot filled with pillowy dirt. The tentacle curls around her arm lovingly.
“If you don’t keep them pruned they burst right out of their pot and run around the place wreaking havoc. They are very clever at hiding.” She strokes the tentacle fondly before slipping her hand out of its grasp.
You feel a nudge and look down to find a toothy plant nuzzling your hand. You decide it is kind of cute and reach to pet it when it snaps your fingers.
“Oh shoo you naughty creature!” Lambie scolds, moving the plant away from you. Its tongue lolls out of its grinning mouth. It doesn’t seem a bit contrite.
“Oh dear." Says the sweet antennae.
“I’m sorry about that." Lambie says, narrowing her eyes at the naughty plant.
You notice your hand start to tingle and go numb. You don’t feel so good.
“Um...my hand feels kind of weird. That thing wasn’t poisonous, was it?” You say, clenching and unclenching the bitten hand.
“Oh extremely,” replies Lambie, “you wouldn’t survive the next hour. Luckily I have the antidote right here...” She says brightly, moving to a large cupboard in the corner of the room and producing a tiny key to unlock it.
“Somewhere...” She murmurs. Both of her antennae have paused their bickering and are intently scanning the shelves crowded with glass bottles, herbs and mushrooms of every sort.
You start to feel queasy and move to sit in a nearby chair. This is turning out to be a horrible day.
“Here we are!” She exclaims in a sing-song voice.
She pours a bit of dubious black liquid in a cracked china teacup and presses it to your lips.
“Try not to breathe in.” She advises, and you understand why as the stench wafts up to your nose. You groan and hesitate, but seeing no other option, swig the contents of the cup in one gulp. It feels a bit fuzzy going down, but doesn’t taste as bad as you thought. You hand the cup back to her and wipe your mouth with the back of your hand.
“There! Soon you’ll be good as new." She says cheerfully, both of her antennae nodding in agreement.
She turns the antidote vial upside down and a single drop crawls out.
“Wow, just enough. I’ll have to remember to make some more. My sister Flynn collects the ingredients. She travels all over Neopia gathering mushrooms and herbs...” She chatters on happily.
You pale a bit at how nonchalantly you brushed with death today. But sure enough, you move your hand again and feel the life coming back into it. You breathe a shaky sigh of relief and slump back into your chair.
What a day.
“Now, where were we?” Lambie says, moving back to her strange plants.
“Ah yes, I am determined to find a little plant friend for you to take home! They really do make delightful companions. We’ll stick to the non-poisonous ones though, shall we?” She says, smiling sheepishly.
“When you are feeling up to it, why don’t you take a look around and see if anything catches your eye? Keep your distance of course. Just point one out to me and I’ll tell you all about it...” she says, making kissy noises to a nearby plant with fluttery bat wings.
You look around dubiously. Well, you are feeling much better now. No harm done. The rain continues to patter on the window panes. Maybe a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt. Your curiosity gets the better of you and you stand to take a look around...