The night hung over Neopia Central, completely black and abyssal. The stars and the moon hid behind the clouds, which were gently pouring rain over the streets, which is why they were more or less abandoned. One lone figure, however, an older blue Techo in a rain coat and a hat, walked slowly down a side street, heading toward his home, after a long day at work at the National Neopian. He was exhausted, and couldn’t wait to sink into his sheets and fall into sleep.
The only things that kept him awake were the gentle rain coming down on him and the jingling noise of his leftover Neopoints that he hadn’t spent on lunch in his pocket. There was nothing else around him to pay attention to, so if it weren’t for them, he might as well have been sleep walking.
As he made a turn onto another street he took a breath and paused as he heard a distant thunderclap. He raised an eyebrow and looked around as the rain started getting a little heavier.
“I’ve gotta get home...” he said to himself, wearily, and kept walking. He pulled his hat tighter over his head and continued on, keeping his face down to avoid the rain. He didn’t need to see, really... he knew this street by heart.
He was expecting it to be a normal walk home... And it was a normal walk home... until he met another.
In a moment that passed quicker than a lightning flash, the Techo was face to face with a rather weather-beaten, distressed looking grey Zafara, who was tackling him from out of an alleyway. Another thunderclap rang in the distance as the Zafara pushed the Techo against the wall so he couldn’t move.
“How much money you got?” the Zafara said. He was stronger than his puny figure let on. “Huh?”
“I can’t get at it if you hold me against this wall,” the Techo wheezed. The Zafara smacked him.
“Don’t make this harder than it has to be, old man,” the Zafara said, letting him go and throwing him on the ground. The Techo dug his Neopoints out of his pocket and threw them to the Zafara as he rubbed his face, which was stinging from the strike. The Zafara counted the money. “Not that much... What about valuables? Got anything?”
The Techo shook his head and started to get up, but the Zafara kicked him down. The Techo yelled and threw the Zafara against the wall in response.
“Tell me, kid. What do you have to earn here?” he whispered coolly in the Zafara’s ear. He tried to break free from his hold, but to no avail. “Is getting your hands on my pocket change really worth it? Or are you just some punk kid out with his friends thinking ‘Hey watch me rob that old Techo over there!’ Is that it?”
The Zafara broke free of the Techo’s hold and dropped the Neopoints all over the ground. The Techo was expecting him to run, but he didn’t. Instead he ignored the Neopoints and got in the Techo’s face.
“You think this is a game for me, old man?!” he shouted, pure aggression pouring out of his mouth. “You think I’m doing this for fun?! You’re even dumber than you look! Listen, you geezer, I’m out here every night fighting for a cause! And nothing makes me fight harder than jerks like you who think they can read me!”
“Yeah, a cause? What cause could you possibly have to fight for?” the Techo said back, keeping his cool. Being such a seasoned gentleman, he knew that the worst thing he could do in a situation like this was show his emotion, because that would only give the Zafara more reasons to get angry.
The Zafara stared the old Techo down, straight in the eye and said bitterly, “I have a mother who’s depending on me. And this is the only way I can bring home money.”
“That’s ridiculous!” the Techo said. “There are plenty of opportunities for a young man like you to earn money in this city! Why, just down the street, where I work at the bank, most of the staff is your age!”
“You work for the bank?” the Zafara asked, with suddenly even more bitterness filling his voice. When the Techo nodded he started shouting again. “The bank is the reason I have to do this! After my father disappeared and my mother fell sick... They couldn’t make any money... And because of the bank, we lost our house! It wasn’t our fault that my father left! Why should we be the ones who get punished for it?! I hate the bank!”
The Zafara yelled and threw another punch at the Techo, but the Techo blocked the shot and held him by the arm.
“Boy, if you strike me now, you’re going to regret it,” the Techo said. “I may be old but I won’t stand here and by smacked around by a punk like you.”
The Techo threw the Zafara back and looked at him, straight in the face. There was something familiar about that face... Something that he had seen-
And then he realized.
The last time he had seen her was ages ago. She was a beautiful red Zafara with everything somebody needed to be happy; a nice home on the outskirts of Neopian Central, a moderately good income, and a happy young son named Nathan.
He had used to live near her and her family for a few years, before he moved away to the city to pursue a career in journalism... It never worked out, but he liked the city, so he decided to stay.
Over time, they eventually just lost contact with each other. Never in a million years would he of guessed that they would end up like this... They had seemed like such a perfect family, with their entire lives ahead of them.
Sarah, his old neighbor, was living like this?
“Nathan?” the Techo said gently. The Zafara’s ears perked up slightly.
“What did you say?” he asked.
“Nathan, is that you?” the Techo asked again. “It’s me... Michael. I used to live by you when you lived out in the country.”
“How did you know my name?” Nathan yelled. “I don’t know you!”
“Nathan, quiet,” Michael said. “You were too young to remember-”
“No, I wasn’t! I remember the old house perfectly!” Nathan yelled, getting defensive. “It was small and quaint... And the plains were beautiful... I had my own room, right next to my parents’ room... And every day I would be able to play in the fields until the sun went down, so long as I did all my homework... But then you and your co-workers came and took it away! You took it all away from me!”
“Nathan, calm down-” Michael stepped forward and tried grabbing Nathan’s hand, but he knocked him away.
“Stop calling me that! You don’t know who I am!” the Zafara was on the verge of sobbing. He started to get up and try to run away, but he fell over.
“Nathan, I can help you and Sarah-” He tried reaching for the little Zafara’s hand again.
“No! If you wanted to help us you wouldn’t have taken our house away!” Tears were rolling down Nathan’s cheeks as he knocked Michael away again and said, “If you really wanted to help us, you never would have created the situation where we needed to be helped!”
And then he ran. He ignored the Neopoints on the ground and ignored the calls that Michael made to get him to stop running. He ignored it all as he ran away, not even knowing where it was he was going... Just running somewhere where that man wouldn’t be messing with his head.
And before Michael knew it, Nathan was gone, leaving him standing alone, accompanied by nothing but the gradually lightening rain and memories of his innocence.