You could say that I'm a survivor. Don't take that the wrong way, my brothers and sisters are fine – I just haven't seen them in years. Back when the Boss was a child she decided they were disposable. I witnessed many an egg hatched and many a sibling shooed off into the system in my formative years.
Ironically, my current housemates are both foundlings, second-hand adoptees thrown from owner to owner as if they were commodities. I witnessed, in my travels to the places where humans gather, the sort of banter they engage in. At home they had prized pets that had been transformed every which way over the course of their short lives, names chosen solely for their value.
I never spoke to one of them, and I didn't think I would keep my sanity if I did. The kids Boss brought home weren't of this sort. They had ugly names, half-word half-abstract, and they came in with all sorts of deformities. Tira, my youngest sibling, came in with hollow eyes and skin so colourless I could see right through her. She never spoke a word to me. She was still fresh out of the egg and she'd already been before the ray more times than I could survive.
Then there was Vondafool – we called her Vonya, Vond'yushka even. Underneath the thick coat of slime I could see the vague shape of a Cybunny. She was three times taller than any creature of her sort I'd ever laid eyes upon, and four times as wide. She was nearly as old as I was, and I'd heard her speak – just not to me. She spoke only to herself. I think someone from somewhere far off in the Earth-world must've raised her, as she didn't speak any words I knew.
When she presented herself, she was sucking a pair of wax lips like a pacifier. I imagined whatever mouth was underneath must be strong enough to bend an iron bar, what with all the exercise. I never saw her replace those wax lips. She treated them with utmost care. She was serious about her beauty.
So serious, in fact, that I heard her cry at night. The babies from the trader's club had been teasing her today. It was rare that Vonya left the house, and if she did, she headed straight to the pharmacy in a long raincoat, mucus dripping from its hems.
I couldn't see Vonya do this. I'd seen a lot, mind you, but I hadn't seen raw emotion in years. The house was a calm place, and I kept to my corner of it.
"Vonya," I said to her, beckoning for the poor girl to lift her face from the bed.
"Ah – vhat?" she asked, her cheeks sizzling from the salt of her own tears.
"You're one of us," I said, stroking the bristles that sprouted from my own calloused forehead. "They'll never understand you out there. Don't blame yourself for their closed mi—"
"I know, I know, I know vhat you say!" she cried, "I don't vant to hear it!"
So, I couldn't talk her out of it. Fine. In the morning I figured she'd either stay and sulk or leave again.
I entered her room again in the morning – everything was as usual, covered in plastic wrap, covered in snot. A big bucket of flour sat by the vanity, for special occasions, and the emergency showerhead was tucked into the closet. We had really gone full monty for Vonya.
Vonya was not in the house.
Vonya had found her way to Neopia Central in the wee hours, and she had darted and dived through backalleys and picked up on word of mouth til she found the place of her ruin, the spot where her life had been turned upside-down so many years prior. In the abandoned husk of a once-lovely Achyfi processing plant, hidden in the mouldy basement, she had stood as a little red Usul - so many years back - before the eye of the infamous Lab Ray.
Three weeks later, she returned as a boy, twelve times stronger and six times slower, glowing bright green. The next week, she was a girl again, and dragging herself out of bed on flippers. The next month, all of her teeth fell out, and she felt dead and alive at once.
This pattern continued for some time, until the big stalks of cartilage began to sprout from her head. Lovely and pink, Vonya was in her prime, and for the first time in her life she carried herself with pride. Then the next visit came. She bit her lip. Whatever change was to come, it was just as uncertain as the last.
Vonya went home feeling green, and she had a terrible cold to boot. It was not til the night fell that she realized her fur was falling out. She woke in shock, a bubble of mucus taut over her lips, pulsing with each breath. Her scream fell on deaf ears.
That day, her owner received a letter. Someone was interested in the snotty girl. That someone is now the Boss.
Vonya felt particularly degraded when she realized some human enjoyed her torment, found the encumbrance of this mucosal coat endearing. Today, as she stood waiting before the eye of the Ray, she vowed silently to best her keeper.
"Give me your best!" she cried to the doctor. "Take it all off!"
With a flick of the switch, she hoped for anything but this current sorry state. It was over in a second. I saw her at the door that evening, her mucosa cracked in every place, her wax lips tucked beneath her arm, her yellow teeth glinting at me behind a half-smile.
"You did it, eh?" I said.
"I've did it!" she cried, and as she shook a fist in victory, scales of cooked snot dropped to the floor like so many snowflakes. A cast of her elbow popped off in the aftermath. I picked it up and took it down for analysis, and I thought to myself, (italicized) could I make a second Vonya from this?
In the morning, Vonya came to my room again. She was babbling without any rhyme or reason, waving her arms about, asking me how in the world a travesty like this could take place. The first thing I noticed, of course, was that Vonya was looking great. She had grown a full winter coat of thick black fur overnight, and a shock of white through her temple that made her look clever as a fox.
Being an insectoid, I don't smell the way you smell. As a matter of fact, the very concept is alien to me. People tell me I can't even taste food right. It drives me nuts, to be frank, but that's a topic for another day.
I didn't know what was wrong til I heard Tira scream her first words, as ineloquently as I would expect.
"It SMELLS! It SMELLS! It SMEEEEELLLLLSSSS IN HEEEEREEE!"
So it goes – once a freakshow, always a freakshow. I couldn't help but feel, though, that this had taught them both a valuable lesson.