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...is a wonderful way to start a story, provided it hasn't happened before.
Uncle Rupert, Avaula's mother's older brother, came for dinner about once a year, more or less depending on how far he'd been traveling. The visits were, for Avaula at any rate, just as good as a birthday and very nearly as pleasant as Christmas. Her mother did not always hold the same opinion, and made very sure that Avaula understood the rules of the visits. It was rude to ask about presents. Staring at his oversized leather suitcase intently was not officially prohibited, though. It was also rude to ask exactly how Uncle Rupert managed to come across the things he did. Avaula thought this made the whole matter terribly interesting, but nevertheless refrained from asking. She was also not to go getting the impression that his way of life was a particularly healthy one, or that everything he told her about far-off places was true in the strictest sense.
"He's here!" the Aisha called excitedly, jumping down from the stool she'd been using to look out the wîndow. Her uncle never arrived when he said he would, since the visit was always immediately after he got back from traveling.
"Already?" her mother muttered. "He said it would be a half-hour later than this at least. Well, the negg salad is ready at any rate."
Avaula ran excitedly to open the door. Her uncle bustled in, managing between his thick overcoat, his stuffed suitcase, and the packages he held, to appear to take up at least twice the space he actually occupied. "And how is the clan doing these days? And my adventurer in training?" he asked her, grinning broadly.
"Great! We learned about Shenkuu in Geography, so I got to bring in the wooden training sword to show everybody. Mom made me promise not to hit Beven with it, though."
Rupert chuckled, shaking his head. "She would, wouldn't she. Well, how is my favorite sister holding out? Not too disappointed that I decided to show up again this year, I hope," he added with a glance at the kitchen.
"I don't think she's too happy that you're early. She was kind of expecting you to be late, actually. The negg salad is ready, though," she added, sticking out her tongue.
Uncle Rupert laughed. "Sorry 'bout that. See if you can't slip it to me when she's not looking. I've put up with one or two things that were worse. You wouldn't believe what they eat in the Lost Desert. Although," he amended, leaning in conspiratorially, "considering your mom's negg salad, it might not be that much of a stretch to imagine the roast gracklebug on a stick."
It was another hour before dinner was ready, which Avaula spent listening to Uncle Rupert tell about his travels across the globe. About half way through, her father arrived home, and joined in the listening, smiling at some of the less feasible exaggerations and the occasional hyperbole. These were invariably followed by some assurance, such as, "And if you don't believe me, you can just ask the natives about the crater."
At last, however, the food was ready, salad and all. The four of them sat down once Avaula had finished setting the table. "So where is Mina?" Avaula's mother inquired, looking a little put out that she'd been deprived of a companion to gossip with. "I spoke with her just last week, and she said she'd be coming this time."
Rupert shook his head. "Sorry, but she's only just getting over the flu. Nasty case, she said, and she doesn't want to make you all miserable till next Tuesday. She gives her regards, and says to call as soon as you manage to get rid of me. But speaking of giving..." he said, reaching down and retrieving two parcels wrapped in brown paper. "This is for you," he declared, handing the larger of the two to his brother-in-law.
When he in turn had opened it and pulled out a significant amount of packing peanuts, his face spread into a grin. "I don't think my wife needs to see this," he said. "At least, not until we can find a decent spot on the mantelpiece for her to admire it properly."
"Quite right. I thought exactly that when I got it. I do hope you can persuade her to let you keep it around. I just had to pick him up, and Mina would never have stood for it in the house, so it's up to you to persuade her."
"Why? What wouldn't Mina have stood for?" Avaula's mother demanded, her curiosity getting the better of her composure. Avaula craned to see, quite interested in anything Aunt Mina would refuse to let over the threshold.
Her father finally pulled it out of the package. It was an exceptionally life-like stuffed reptile with three serpentine heads. "It's a hydruplit," Rupert explained. "They're nasty little buggers, and the only use Altador has found for them yet is stuffing them and selling them to stupid foreigners," he added with a wink. "Now don't look so unhappy," he addressed Avaula's mother, who looked about ready to go into shock at the thought of the triumvirate serpents prominently displayed on the mantelpiece. "This one's for you, to make amends."
She let out a gasp upon opening the parcel, holding up a pair of golden earrings set with some kind of yellow stone that sparkled in the light. "They're marvelous! How on earth did you... well, never mind that, they're lovely," she hastily corrected as she nearly broke one of her own taboos regarding her brother's visits.
"Now, let's see... what am I forgetting?" Uncle Rupert said in mock thoughtfulness, stroking his chin. Avaula giggled, and shot her hand into the air. "Ah yes, that's what." So saying, he pulled the suitcase over, and withdrew from it an ornate cube. "I thought I'd get you something special before you're too grown up for your old uncle. Something to keep assorted treasures you dig up in." In awe, Avaula took the box and turned it around in her hands. It was symmetric on all six faces, with swirling silver patterns on a dark black background. The edges were all silver, and it was almost impossible to find the lid and its latch, which was set carefully into one of the faces. "Well, you all take care of those, and then we can begin dinner properly. It's been ages since I've had anything more normal to eat than fried miamouse."
|...the first time, a foolish girl got a box. She was told not to open it, but of course she did. Inside were all manner of unpleasant things. She didn't close the box, and so one of them probably ate her. That was the story roughly as Avaula had heard it something like four years ago. Of course, she didn't remember it now, and besides, she had been told she could keep her stuff in it. So the next day when she opened it, she was not at all expecting the tentacle that reached out, its suction cups latching onto the outside of the box. Stifling a shriek, she slammed the box shut, or at least attempted to do so. Unfortunately for its owner, a certain tentacle was in the way, but after such violent treatment, it withdrew and Alaula was able to shut it properly. She promptly latched it, and sat down on it to think.
The tentacle had most definitely moved, and she was not yet to the age at which it became easy to rule out concrete evidence simply because it was impossible. Unless the tentacle didn't have anything attached to the rest of it, which seemed even more unlikely in her mind, then it couldn't have fit in the box in the first place. Besides that, it would have to have weighed next to nothing. The fact that the box was not thumping around beneath her was somewhat reassuring. That was when it hit her that she didn't know anything about the tentacle-thing. If she were stuck in a box and lugged around in a suitcase all over the place, she'd be rather annoyed if, as soon as the box were opened, somebody slammed the lid down on her fingers. On the other hand, if she were the sort to have a tentacle, she might just be disappointed at not getting to snack on whomever opened the box. Either way, though, she couldn't just tell her uncle that she'd never used his beautiful box. The question was what to do about the tentacle and anything attached. The kitchen, she figured, was the best place to start.
It was her father's turn to cook, so she asked him, "Could I use a frying pan, some salt, and a cookie?"
Her father looked up from the omelette he was preparing, somewhat surprised at the question. "Okay, I'll bite. What for?"
There were times, Avaula decided right then, that having an "overactive imagination" could come in handy. "There's a monster in my room. If he's a nice monster, he can have the cookie. If he's not a nice monster, I'll give him the frying pan whether he wants it or not," she stated matter-of-factly.
No parent cares to hear that their child, after five years without thinking there's a monster under their bed, has suddenly decided they've moved back in. But since she seemed to be intent on handling it rather than waking him up at three in the morning, he was not unduly worried. "And let me guess; the salt is in case it's an edible monster, right?"
"Eeew!" Avaula replied, making a face. "I'd rather have negg salad again. I don't know if Uncle Rupert would try it. The salt is just in case it grabs the frying pan." She didn't know what tentacles did if you put salt on them, but they looked a lot like slorgs, and those got all shrively when you put salt on them to keep them out of the garden.
"All right, then, you go ahead and take them. But I'll be wanting the salt and frying pan back afterwards," he said. A cookie now and then wouldn't hurt a growing kid. "Try not to spoil your appetite, looking at monsters and all."
In her room once more and satisfied that her secret was safe, Avaula confronted the box once more. Frying pan beside her, she sat down in front of the box, cookie in hand. With her other hand, she gingerly unlatched and opened the box, holding the cookie carefully over the opening. Something reached out and grabbed it, but not the tentacle. It was more like the hand a bug or a crab would have if they had three fingers. This time, she managed to not slam the lid shut, and a few seconds later, a head poked out of the box. It had a large nose that looked very beak-like, and where the mouth would be were thin black tendrils, one of which still had a cookie crumb on it. The thing's eyes blinked inquisitively, and it slithered out of the box, looking rather like a sort of armadillo-snake hybrid, about the size of a house kadoatie.
"Umm… hi?" Avaula said, not entirely what she was supposed to say. 'Sorry, but that's my box you've been living in?' She closed the box and latched it, since one monster at a time sounded like a good idea. With her other hand, she reached for the frying pan. The salt didn't seem like it would do much in an emergency.
The thing eyed her frying pan nervously, sliding back around to put the box between it and her. Avaula hastily pulled her hand away from the pan, apologizing, "Sorry! I'm just not used to… uh… 'whatever-you-are's." Well, whatever it was, it was not the only thing in the box. Just by itself, it would have trouble curling up to fit in the box, which was about eight inches to a side. Throw in a large tentacle, and there just wasn't space. There must be an awful lot of them in there, then. After all, what was the point of a small box that held more than it should if it only held a little more?
"Well, I guess you can stay if you're house trained," Avaula conceded, looking at thing. "But you've got to stay under the bed or in the closet. My parents haven't checked for monsters there in years."
Hi! My name is Avaula Memeni. I'm eleven and a half years old, so I've got double ones. I'm a girl, in case the long hair wasn't enough. I'm shorter than everybody else in my class, but I'm the youngest, too. Right now I've got my favorite t-shirt on- it's got a picture of a really old-fashioned map of Neopia, with all the little lines on it and everything. It's the kind of thing people used to use to sail around the globe with. I've got oval glasses, which would be fine, except that I'm a Darigan Aisha, so people make jokes about four eyes and four ears. But people don't pick on me much (apart from Beven, that is) because they think that anybody who's Darigan is automatically really tough and mean. That's a little funny, since nobody thinks anything different of Grundos, even though they used to work for Dr. Sloth. But people are kind of funny anyways, so I don't pay much attention.
I also like Geography, even though it has a lot of homework. We get to learn about all sorts of places, and sometimes I bring in stuff from Uncle Rupert to show the class. It's more fun when we're learning the interesting bits, though, than when we're stuck trying to remember the capitals and that sort of thing.
I really like my box. Not everything in it is very nice, but that would be boring. There are always more monsters inside, so if one of them gets et while hunting in the box, I can let another one. It's a little sad, but it's like the shows on Neovision. If noils didn't hunt, we wouldn't have any noils and there would be too many snowbunnies running around. I'm careful with the box, though. I only open it with a frying pan and some other monsters ready, just in case.
I think Beven could have been from the box. He kind of looks like it, anyway. He's a really mean kid at school who like to get into trouble all of the time. If I knew where he lived, I could put something under his bed. Probably not large enough to eat him, but he wouldn't have to know that. Maybe Ishkin, but he might try to nibble on Beven's feet, and I don't know if even he could handle that.
People who think they know everything are silly, and I don't really care much for them. They act really smart, but they don't know about my box, so they don't really know everything. If they'd gotten it, they'd probably have sold the monsters to places like Virtupets that would do experiments on them, even the nice ones. There's always something you don't know, and if you don't think so, that's one thing right there.
There are two kinds of heroes. There are the ones that are nice, friendly people that make your world a better place, and there are the ones that have really cool costumes, superpowers, and beat up bad guys in comic books. Personally, I think Uncle Rupert should be in both categories, but I still haven't seen any comic books of him. He's really funny, and always treats you like you've got something interesting to say, even when he gets back from somewhere in the middle of the night and you can hardly get your words straight. He also tells really good stories, with just enough bits that are probably true to make it interesting.
Cal is one of the heroes that beats up bad guys in comic books. He does it without any superpowers, though, which is really cool. He's got a robotic arm, and lots of gadgets. Even when he's being attacked by giant crab-things, he always jokes like it's no big deal. When there's something really bad that's trying to get out of the box, I think about how Cal would handle it. I've got the whole series, if you want to see!
Effri is another hero, one who gets stories written about her in the Neopian Times. She's an Usul who has two identities: Effri, who works at a coffee shop, and Uber Usul, who can make ice and freeze stuff. She's really sneaky, and usually catches the bad guys by surprise because she knows something that they don't. I saved the stories from the Times, so you can read them if you want. This is the first one, and then they ran a second because people liked it. I've got a t-shirt with the Uber Usul logo, but somebody at school has a ton of stuff with her on it.
"Bestiary" is a fancy old fashioned word I learned that means a book of monsters. I keep a notebook with pictures of some of the monsters, so it's kind of like that. I give them names that sound right for them so it's easier to keep them straight, and write down anything I think I might need to know later.
Ishkin is the first monster that I really met. He's kind of like a snake, except that he's got a really hard shell, arms, and what might be a nose. It looks a lot like one, anyway. He's very nice, but a little shy. He'll be your friend if you give him anything to eat. I mean anything, too. The little black things where his mouth would be can sort of dissolve stuff and drink it right up. I gave him something to eat once, and he ate the plate, too. He's really tough, so I don't worry about him going to hunt, and he always helps out if there's something nasty trying to get out of the box.
Squij is a little blobby thing, who, for some reason, seems to like stars. When I first met him, he was just a dull looking bunch of goo that scrounged under the bed for dust bunnies to eat. When he found my collection of oragami stars, though, he immediately took a fancy to them and now wears them with pride. At least, I think it's with pride. It's a little hard to tell since he's not the expressive type.
A lot of the monsters can be kind of nice once you get to know them. The Bogey Man is not. He's always trying to get out of the box so he can go and eat stuff. He got out in the woods once, and gobbled up a few animals before I tricked him back into the box. He still sometimes manages to get an arm out, but I know better than to let any more than that out now. Ugh… when he manages that much, though, I can hear his big, ugly lips smacking from inside.
I kind of wonder sometimes why all this weird stuff happens around me. I don't mind- it's more fun that way. And it also means I got to meet Nuize. Not many people get to meet aliens. He's stuck here, and not very happy about it, so I've been doing my best to cheer him up a bit. Show him that it's not so bad out here. I've even got a plan to get him out around town without people noticing.
Nuize is very bright- not many people can pick up a foreign language without help, let alone one from another planet. I do hope he figures out a way to get back home, but for now I'm happy that he's here and hope he can learn to enjoy it as well.
|I've got monsters under my bed
But they never try to eat me
I feed them my veggies instead
Since they really aren't so creepy
My closet has a few as well
The larger ones didn't quite fit
If I show you, swear not to tell
Even if your finger gets bit
They've got tentacles and bug eyes
And odd squirmy bits for their hair
I'd give my friends a big surprise
If I were more willing to share
Thanks for dropping by! You can always get back by following Squij's trail.
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