The Doctor's Tale: Part Five
Tad covers his face with his hand. But not before you see the tears sliding down his cheeks.
"You never saw him again?" you ask, surprised to find tears welling up in your own eyes. "Didn't you go look for him?"
"Of course I looked for him!" Tad snaps, brushing the tears away. You flinch, suddenly remembering the rumors of Dr. Death's temper. But as quickly as the anger appeared, it faded. "I searched for years. I looked in every square inch of Terror Mountain, from Happy Valley to the Top of the Mountain. He must have found a family and moved somewhere else. Eventually I lost hope. Neopia is a big place, and my little Puppyblew could be anywhere."
Tad's face is the picture of remorse. You've never seen such a miserable Neopet, and you wonder if there's anything you can do to make him feel better.
But before you can say something, Tad gets a hold of himself.
"I assume you want to hear more about my pitiful life?" he asks with a sigh. But his voice holds no contempt; only sad resignation. You nod, hoping desperately that the tale takes a more positive direction. You should've known better.
"As was expected, my prison location was changed quickly..."
I awoke to find myself not in my cell. It was no longer cold, and instead of rock I felt wooden floorboards beneath me. I knew that I had been moved from Terror Mountain. To where, I had no idea.
Shortly after this Teivel visited me. Though I could not see him, I could practically feel the anger pulsing from him. After enduring a rant about my behavior, I was informed that my punishment was to be no food for two days.
I soon found myself longing for another feast, although I doubted I'd get one, not after my 'inexcusable' conduct. So I sat alone in my new cell, nursing the ache in my heart.
On the eve of the second day, the bag was ripped off my head. Apep was standing before me, smiling wickedly.
Slowly, painfully, I got to my feet. I discovered that I was being kept in a dingy room. Outside was what seemed to be a hallway of a Neohome. Confused, I looked at pictures of Teivel and Apep at various Neopian locations: Mystery Island, the Lost Desert, even Meridell. Each was taken like a souvenir photo, with some famous landmark in the background. Had I been taken directly to their house?
I followed Apep into another room, too drained and disoriented to even attempt to run. A tattered rug, a ripped couch, and a wobbly wooden chair were the only pieces of furniture in the room.
It took me a second to notice Teivel in the corner, standing in front of a filthy window. He appeared to be deep in thought, and didn't even notice when Apep and I entered the room.
I stood uncomfortably, waiting for something-anything-to happen. After what seemed like an eternity, Teivel turned around deliberately slow.
"Tadherd," he sighed. "Didn't I tell you to be a good boy? Didn't I tell you that things would get better?"
His disappointed tone, like that of a teacher after his student made a careless mistake, fed fuel to my growing anger.
"You expected me to believe all of that?" I snapped. "That I would really get to live a wonderful life after being kidnapped?"
"I see that you still don't trust me," he tisked, shaking his head.
I laughed sardonically. "Trust you? Give me one good reason why I should even think about trusting you!"
Teivel tilted his head to the side, those lifeless eyes boring right through me.
"Take a seat," he growled.
Apep shoved me into the chair. After aiming a glare at him, I returned my gaze to Teivel, wondering what lies he'd feed me next.
"Do you remember your parents, Tadherd?"
"Of course I do!" I declared defiantly.
"Really now?" he asked, raising his eyebrows, a feat I hadn't though possible on his hideous face. "What were their names? What did they do for a living? Where did you live? And why did they leave you?"
Slightly taken aback, I spluttered, "I, well, they-"
"I didn't think so," he interrupted viciously. "You say you want a reason? I'll give you a reason. It's not that your parents didn't love you. It's that you never had parents to love you."
I stared at the Mutant Acara, dumbfounded.
"Why? Because you weren't even born. You were created. Have you ever wondered why your name is so odd? It's because it was given to you for a purpose."
"Purpose?" I squeaked, starting to feel frightened. He was deadly serious; I could see it in his eyes.
Abruptly, Teivel stormed out of the room. I stared after him, glued to my seat. Seconds later he returned, carrying a bundle, which he thrust into my hands.
With shaking hands I ripped open the brown paper and from it produced a white lab coat.
"Put it on."
I obeyed without question, slipping it on my small frame.
"That was why you were created."
And with that Teivel stalked out of the room. I looked down at my body. The coat was big, although I could easily grow into it. A scribble of black script caught my eye.
My head began to spin. Tadherd... if you moved around the letters, they spelt Dr. Death. The words blurred before my eyes, becoming a black swirl of nonsense. Nonsense... that's what it was. None of it was true. Nothing, not one word. Teivel had made it up, he had to have. I couldn't believe it, wouldn't...
But yet, it explained everything. Why I had no memory of his parents, not even a flash of a smile or a sniff of home. Why my life had been so difficult. Why I had never fit in.
Emotions crashed and roared through me: a storm in my body, threatening to crush me from the inside. At last I couldn't take it anymore. I bolted from the room, the coat tails flapping behind me.
It took me seconds to find the front door and escape through it. A part of my brain heard Teivel speak faintly to Apep.
"He won't go anywhere, not now that he knows."
I gasped, taking in as much fresh air that I could. I was in Neopia Central. Right where it all began. I could run to the Defenders and tell them everything. I could even return to my life with the Marolls and pretend like none of it had ever happened.
But I knew that I couldn't. I knew too much. The terrible knowledge suffocated and bound me tighter than any ropes. How could I ever return when I knew the truth: I was a monster.
I had heard about Dr. Death through little snippets of conversation I had picked up over the years. He was a cruel Neopet, one with no heart. He threw poor, helpless pets into the Pound, where many would never leave. He was almost more hated than Sloth himself.
A memory I didn't know I had blinked on in my head and played itself for me like a movie. There was nothing, and then in a flash of light there was me. I was a baby Techo, not much bigger than a Petpet. A dark figure looked down at me. I instantly recognized a younger version of Teivel.
"What do we do with him, boss?" asked Apep's voice from the background.
Teivel smiled evilly. "We let him go, somewhere where he'll find no pity."
"But where's that?" Apep asked dimly.
"Figure it out, you overgrown Reptillior!" Teivel snapped impatiently. Apep picked me up with rough arms and exited the room...
Now he was standing at the bridge to Meridell. I was snuggled into his arms, oblivious to his vindictive intent. My eyes were drooping, and I yawned softly.
"Sweet dreams, Doctor," he chuckled darkly, settling me down in a pile of hay...
Now I was delving into my sub-conscious: shadows in the backs of barns, watching me; whispers over my sleeping body; eyes following my every move during the day. Not one moment of my pathetic life had gone unobserved, and I had never realized it.
I snapped back to reality. A young Yellow Elephante scampered past. At his heels was a Puppyblew. My heart skipped a beat. Could it be Sym?
But my hopes died in my chest. This Puppyblew was much younger than Sym, barely more than a pup. I watched while the Petpet leapt at the boy. The two tumbled to the ground, laughing joyously. The Puppyblew covered the Elephante's face with licks, and the boy squeezed him closer.
"That can never be you."
The whisper in my ear nearly made me jump. So caught up in the happy scene, I hadn't even heard Teivel creep up on me.
I looked longingly at them again, and then down at my stark white coat. Sym, Thyla, and Meridell flashed before my eyes.
"Then why don't we go back inside?" Teivel invited, opening the door. He knew that he had won.
Deep down inside I had always hoped that someday I'd find my parents. Maybe there had been a mistake, and they had never meant to leave me. Maybe they were searching for their poor little boy, wondering how he was faring all on his own. Maybe eventually they would find me, and we would live happily ever after.
But now that hope had been snatched away from me and shattered into a million pieces. There were no parents out there. There never had been.
I turned my back on the boy and the Puppyblew. And I knew that it was too late to turn back.
To be continued...