Box
Story by Thawly, D14Mo7Y2o00



Intro:

It was a relatively quiet day in the Neverhood. Thull was despondent -as usual-, Gnimen had run off to study some Klaymice -as usual-, Klenn had blown a few small things up -as usual-, and Doodles was drawing -as is per the norm.

Then, as Oches was strolling across the public park, a medium-sized purple klay box came falling out of the sky and landed on his foot. While he was busy hopping around on one foot while holding the other and making a kind of "meeyeh, meeyeh, meeyeh" sound, a few Hoodians came by to see what exactly this thing was that had so uninvitedly crashed into their peaceful world. Others followed. Soon, a group of about 24 Hoodians were gathered around the box. It took a full 15 minutes of everyone just sort of staring and muttering amongst themselves until someone -Srom, maybe- said that someone should probably go get Hoborg, that he might know what this box was doing here.

By the time Hoborg got there, the Hoodians had become more brave.... they were poking, prodding, and kicking the box. Tramen looked and looked for an opening, but there seemed to be none apparent. He was trying to use a chisel to get into it when Hoborg walked up.

Hoborg looked at the box, picking it up and turning it over -it really wasn't *that* heavy- and decided, in the end, that he really had no idea where it came from. It looked vaguely like the kind of thing he would make -he was *sure* it was made of the same Klay as the rest of his world- but he hadn't made it.

Just then, as Hoborg was pondering as to what to do with the box, and the rest of the Hoodians were getting kind of restless and bored, seeing as there wasn't actually much action anymore, the box started to shake. Hoborg quickly set it on the ground, and backed up a little bit -just in case!

The box turned a greenish shade, then quickly changed to bright orange, then back to purple. Then it started to crumble! When the box had stopped shaking, only the bottom side remained - and on that was set a ragged orange cloth (actual non-klay fabric, which most of the Hoodians had never seen before, and thus didn't know that it *was* cloth), a golden ring, a guitar-like instrument, and a..... lifeseed.

Before Rem could call 'dibs' on the ring, the lifeseed started to wiggle a little.

With a collective "oooo...", all the Hoodians crowded forwards. The seed sunk into the soft Klay below it, and popped up as a strangely Hoodian-like being!

The being was skinny and purple-coloured (much like the box), with a green shirt and a blue spiral in the middle of its chest. It had five brown stems, but it also had a sort of hoop thing - it was like the number eight on its side. The being had two lopsided black boots, and four spikes down its back.

The being was curled in a little ball on top of the remains of the box. Hearing the voices of the Hoodians trying to get a good view of it, the being looked up. It froze for a second, then grabbed the orange cloth and the ring and ran straight through the crowd, up the bridge, and through the explosives shack.

Hoborg looked after the being. He supposed it would come to talk to him when it was ready. He shrugged, picked up the instrument, and started walking off towards the castle. The crowd quickly dispersed themselves.

No one knows what happened to the remains of the box, but some think that when the panel on the spring-punch in the Nursery broke, Tramen painted it blue and used the box as the replacement!


Part One: Arrival

I crouched, panting, in a largish 'sideroom' or something made of Klay (somehow, I knew what it was called, almost instinctively), not daring to move. From as far back as I could remember, I had never been so scared. Not that my memory went very far back.... I closed my eyes and went backwards through my memories.

Running. Running, running, through landscape that seemed, somehow, almost familiar. Knowing, somehow, that I could go through the door in the little red house across the bridge and there would be another door, that there would be, beyond that, someplace to hide.

Before that.... darkness, then suddenly a burst of sensation, sight, smell, taste, touch...... sound..... a low murmur in front of me.... looking up and seeing.... what? Beings, many of them, all staring at me. Grab my ring, grab Orangecape -*how* did I know these words?- and RUN!

Ah.... so those memories tied together nicely, yes..... I tried remembering further back... I assumed there would be nothing, but no.... there was *something*, something I couldn't quite get a hold of..... a slippery memory, one that faded away as soon as I tried to recall.....

Yes, there *had* been something before that burst of sensation...... but as to *what* it was......? I put it out of my head, telling myself that I had to focus on the matter at hand.

First off, where the zark was I? Well, the word 'Klay' was there in my head, describing the stuff my hiding place -and the rest of the world that I had come into- was made of. Describing also, I realized, what all the beings that I had seen were made of. I knew there were many beings here, that there was a lake, and a bridge, and a spiky tall tree, and a little red room filled with..... something. I hadn't taken the time to look around. Running for your life can make you miss details like that. There was this place. I looked at my surroundings. Tan coloured Klay, with darker stripes on it. This place seemed almost angular, but the beautiful Klay softened the look. I peeked around the corner - the door to the little red house, with a tall, red-roofed house with a circular window on top of it. Closer to me was a bush-like thing, with a brown stem and red upper-part. There were green spheres on it too, some of them partially hidden by the red stuff. Next to me, in the little almost-enclosure I had taken asylum in, was a green box with a handle coming out of it, sitting on a little ledge sticking out of the wall. I was very curious as to what it was, but I figured I'd come to that when I came to it.

Okay, next, who *was* I? I looked down at my two hands, the left four-fingered and green, the right three-red-fingered and purple. I picked up the ring and placed it on my middle left finger. Now *why*, I thought, did my number of fingers vary from hand to hand?

The answer came flitting across my mind, and thankfully I grabbed it before it could fade away - Why, so I could play my Garp, of course!

Oh, no! My Garp! I had left it in the place with those beings and the Spiky Tree! I would have to go back and retrieve it - but what if those beings saw me? Sadly, I tied my Orangecape where it belonged - around my shoulders, so it really was an Orange*cape*!

Hmm... well, I might as well go and try to get my Garp back..... I again peeked around the edge of the wall..... and saw two beings sitting by the bush-like thing, eating the green spheres! Bindergag! *What* was I supposed to do *now*? My attention turned to the green handle-box.

I walked over to it and picked it up. I tried pushing the handle and realized that it could turn! I continued turning it and it started playing a song! As with most of the things in this world, it seemed eerily familiar..... and then it stopped short. Hoping I hadn't broken it, I placed it back down and started walking away.

Then I heard a sudden crash behind me, as the tune completed itself. I had a sinking feeling about this one..... I turned around, to find meself face to face with a giant green crab with *lots* of teeth!

"Uh, heh..." I slowly backed away. The crab roared *very* loudly, almost knocking me down with the force of it and its horrible breath! I decided that running would, again, be a good idea.... but then I remembered the two beings by the bush. I rationalized the situation quickly - deal with a few beings with stems coming out of their heads, or deal with a huge crab-like monster which looked like it would love to eat me about now.

I tore around the corner. The two beings at the bush looked up at me, puzzled..... then they saw *why* I was running. Thankfully, instead of coming towards me, they jumped up and ran screaming towards the little red house's door, then dived inside.

I tried picking up one of the green spheres that the beings had dropped and throwing it at the beast, but I really don't think it noticed! I didn't know what to do! The only exit that I knew of was now inhabited by two of the beings, but this monster was going to *eat* me!

Just then, I spotted something that *looked* like a door, right behind the crab-thing! Without thinking, I ducked between its legs and raced towards the door, pulling it open.

It wasn't an exit! Just a fountain of bright blue water coming out of a dinosaurish Klay thing. However, it looked as if there might -mebbe- be enough space for me to fit in next to it. I mooshed myself in next to the fountain -perfect fit!- and closed the doors just as the beast realized what had happened and started to come after me. Not very smart, now is it, I thought.

And it wasn't. After a few pathetic tries at the door, it moved off and -I assume- attempted to open the other door. After a few seconds, I could hear it chomp away at something, and then move away, mebbe back to where it had come from. Surprisingly, I found myself hoping that whatever the crab had been eating, it wasn't one of those beings.

Suddenly, I heard a loud BOOM. Then silence for a few minutes. All I could hear was my own breathing and the sound of the water from the fountain beside me. Then, I heard voices.

"Well *that* was a close one!" The voice was loud, and sounded like the voice of one who was an entertainer.

"Heh hee... good thing for the boom sticks.... didja see that weasel's face just before it went?" The second voice was slightly quieter and deeper.

"Yeah.... hey, where'd that purple dude go? Think he got eaten?"

"Hmm.... maybe..... huh. Well, poor luck if he did."

Purple dude? He? Were they talking about *me*? They couldn't have been talking about the crab.... they had called it a weasel. I inferred that it was the cause of the 'boom' noise. Hmm... 'Purple Dude'.... that didn't sound quite right.... but I *was* purple. 'He' didn't sound quite right, either. But if I added an 's' to the beginning.... "Sshhheee...." I whispered, trying out the sound. Yes, that seemed to fit, seemed more.... familiar.

I tried to tune back into the conversation, but I only caught a few faint snatches before the voices faded, moving farther away.

"So, d'ya wanna go play on the cannon?"

"Weeellll, not right now.... I've got a 'surprise' for Thull... heh heh heh..."

"Rem... you really shouldn't bug him so much!"

"Aw, but it's so fun...."


Part Two: Acquaintances

I stayed next to the fountain in the darkness for quite a while thereafter, planning my next move. These beings didn't seem *too* bad -after all, they had said it would be 'poor luck' if I had been eaten-, and really, what did I have to base my fear of them on? The fact that they were standing around *looking* at me? The fact that they had my Garp? I sighed. Still, I didn't want more of them to see me unless I was *sure*....

Uncertainly, I pushed open the doors a little. I could see the little red house, but not the bush, and that's where they had been last time... but judging from the lack of noise, I decided to take the chance. Carefully, I slipped out of the safety of the fountain doors, and sprinted to the red house. The door was partially open, and I could see no one inside.

Stepping inside, I saw what I had missed before. The room was white, with some shelves filled with red sticks saying 'TNT' on them to my right - explaining the 'boom'! The floor was a bridgey thing going to the other door, below that just being more white Klay. I took a few steps forwards. Suddenly, I heard footsteps approaching!

I dived under the bridge-thing and tried to make meself as small as possible. I heard the door opening and footsteps above me, then another door opening and closing. For some reason, the words "Who's that trip-trapping across my bridge?" came to mind. I shrugged it off, only slightly puzzled.

The door had been left open, and I peered up from my hiding place out of it. The bridge was clear, as was across the place where I had first been. I took a step onto the bridge. Below me, the lake I had seen earlier was gone, and now there was a big pit of greenish sludge. It must've been pretty compact, tho, cos I could see about ten beings of different sizes and colours walking on it. To my left I could see a stairway leading down into the pit, and leading up to a bit of land containing a cannon and a house.... there were several beings on the cannon, one of whom I recognised as one of the beings by the bush, the one with lots of stems coming from his head.

Thankfully, they didn't see me, and I ducked down and sort of crawled/slithered to the end of the bridge (I really must have looked hilariously stupid then). Not seeing any more of the beings, I dashed to behind the tree, then to behind a light blue house that I vaguely recognised as being there when I first arrived. There was no sign of my Garp anywhere. From behind, I climbed to the top of the blue building, then slid on my stomach to the front. Hopefully not many people would see me here, and I'd get a better look at my surroundings.

Unfortunately, just then along came two of the beings.... a short yellow one with a red shirt and a hoop on its head, and a taller one with intricate blue, green, and red designs on its chest, and about four brown stalks coming from the top of its head.

I ducked my head down so they couldn't see me, but when I looked up, they had sat down, their backs (or spikes) resting against the building I was in. I sighed quietly. I would have to wait until they left before I could make my escape. Ah, well.

After about 15 minutes, I looked down again. The little yellow being had taken out a thin sheet of Klay and was etching something into it. I was fascinated. This looked like lots of fun! I lowered my head over the end, trying to see what it was drawing. Not quite... its head still blocked the paper. Leaning over further still, I felt that sudden moment that you feel when you've gone just a little too far off balance, that your equilibrium has been upset, and you *know* you're going to fall, but you haven't yet.

Then I did.

"YAAAAAAAA...... OOF!" I landed on my back right in front of the two beings. I was stunned for a moment and just lay there blinking at them, but then my brain snapped back into action and I tried to get up - but I couldn't! I ley there, helpless, as the two beings loomed over me. I raised my hands to defend myself, and squinchied my eyes shut.

Then one of them spoke. "You look like you've gotten a little stuck there.... need some help?"

I opened one eye. These people didn't seem *that* bad... unless they were trying to trick me.... The bigger one reached down and grabbed.... my hand, pulling me up. "Looks like your spikes got pretty stuck there," it said.

Spikes? I looked at where I had been lying. There were four conical holes, each about a hand apart, driven into the soft green Klay. As I watched, they slowly shrunk, until you couldn't tell that they had ever been there. I reached around to my back, and sure enough, there were four spikes down the middle of it!

I turned to look at the two beings, who were staring at me in an amused manner. "Are you new?" asked the little yellow one.

I nodded slowly. "You're not... not going to try and eat me or blow me up or anything, are you?"

The bigger one laughed, but the little one stared at me. "You're that new being, the one who came in a box, aren't you?"

"Uh. . . " I had no idea what to say to that.

"Well, if you're new, you probably don't know much about this place yet." The big one looked at me and gestured to the little one beside him. "This is Doodles. He likes to draw a lot. I'm Billy Klay Bang. And *this* -" he indicated the whole world in general "- is the Neverhood, but you probably already know that."

"The....Neverhood," I repeated softly. Spunky name!

"You mean you didn't know? Huh. We're gonna have to show you around!" Billy Klay Bang made a 'shall we go?' gesture towards the bridge. I started to follow him, but Doodles called to us to wait - he had to put away his drawing.

"Hey, uh, Doodles, wait..... can I see that first?" Doodles shrugged. "Sure!" He handed me the paper. On it was a picture of another hoop-head, like Doodles, except he wore a blue shirt and looked kind of.... I dunno.... insane.

"This is really good! You *drew* that?"

"Uh, yeah..." Doodles took the paper back, pressed a button on his chest, which sprung open, surprising me, and jammed the paper into it. "Do you like to draw?"

"Uh.... yeah, I suppose. I've never tried it before, but it really seems like fun!"

"Well, here," Doo said, one again reaching into his, uh, chest (this time I noticed him wince a little). He brought out a piece of the Klaypaper and handed it to me. "You can practise now!"

"For.. me? Oh thankyou thankyou thankyou!" I hugged the paper happily to my spiral. I was very very glad that these people weren't to be scared of after all! "Um, but.... where am I supposed to put it?"

"Well, your chest, I assume," Billy Klay Bang pointed to the blue spiral on my chest.

"My, uh,.... but, *how*?"

"There's usually a button..." said Doodles uncertainly. I looked closer at my chest. I noticed a teeny red blob in the middle of the blue spiral. Warily, I pressed it..... and a square hole in my chest appeared where previously my spiral had been.

"Aug! My spiral! Whersit gone?" I frantically poked around the outside of the hole.

Doo smirked. "It takes a while to get used to - believe me! Just put the paper in!" I picked up the paper from where it had fallen in my panic, and shoved it hurriedly into my chest. I could feel it tickle my insides as it floated down to the 'bottom' of, uh, my chest. After a few seconds my chest shut again and my spiral was back. I felt relieved. I liked my spiral!

"Come on," said BKB. "You've got a lot to learn."


Part Three: An Atypical Adoption and an Alien Artifact

After BKB and Doo had shown me around the 'Hood and introduced me to about everyone (and I had apologised to Rem and Manies for accidentally setting a weasel on us all), Doodles decided that it was time that I met Hoborg. After all, he *was* the ruler here, and I was pretty sure that he would know where my Garp was.

After showing me to the castle, Billy Klay Bang and Doo had to leave, the former to head off to his outpost and blow up a few passing weasels, the latter to meet with his friends, Tramen and Gnimen.

I entered through the big main door to the castle, and went down a corridor to a room with a mouse and some cheese in it. from there there was a hole in the wall going to the next room, which Billy Klay Bang had said had previously been guarded with some spiky things and a hole in the ground, but which now had a friendly-looking blue bridge to the next room. Here there was a door at the end, with a nice brown handle - the first I had seen here yet!

I opened the door nervously, and stepped in. I cleared my throat and spoke.

"Uh, Mr. Hoborg, sir? I've... come to see you... I was the one in the purple box...?"

"Come in, come in," said a deep and happy-sounding voice. Down from a throne stepped the strangest being I had seen here yet. He was very tall, with a huge golden crown on his head. His face was.... a cube, with no visible protrusions except for a smaller square right at the front... a mouth of some sort. Or a mouth and an ear and an eye and a nose. . . . .

"I've been expecting you," he boomed in his low voice. "I believe we have a few things to discuss...." He started to walk out of the throne room and gestured for me to follow. I obligingly did so. Hoborg was the type of guy who you instantly liked. The perfect kind of ruler.

"So, do you have a name yet?"

I frowned. I had been trying to think of a name ever since I realized that I needed one - but I couldn't think of a name that felt.... *right*. "Uh, not really, sir. I'm still working on that."

"Ah. Let me ask you a question that we've all been wondering..... where, exactly, did you come from?"

I hadn't expected this. "Well, uh, from a lifeseed inside a box - or so I'm told. Sir."

"No, no. I mean, where did the *box* come from? It seems to be made of Klay, yet it's not a creation of any of the sons of Quater that I know of.... or the sons of the sons for that matter. Or the sons of the sons of the sons...."

I adjusted my Orangecape. "Well, I don't really know, Mr. Hoborg, sir. I was just.... here."

"So, no memories of any time before that...?"

This was not a topic I really wanted to discuss at the moment, because I really wasn't sure if the glimpses of memories that I caught were mine, or my imagination, or what. I shrugged uncomfortably. To his credit, Hoborg let it drop.

"Well, since you seem, then, to have no father, how would you like it if I adopted you as my son?"

This pleased me immensely, and I told him so, but there was one thing we had to straighten out here. "Daughter."

"What?"

"Mr. Hoborg, sir, I would love to be adopted by you....as a daughter. I know we're all sort of genderless here, but it just seems...I dunno.....*right* somehow. Is that okay, sir?"

"Of course it is!" though he had no facial expressions, I could tell Hoborg was smiling at me. "But I have a request of my own."

"Yes, sir?"

"Call me 'Dad', not 'Sir'."

"Sure, Dad!" I hugged him tightly. It was very happy to *belong* somewhere finally!

"Now there's just a few more things to clear up," Dad said. By this time we had reached the throne room again.

"What are those things, Dad?" He reached up to a shelf too high up for me too see what was on it... and brought down..... my Garp!!!!!

"I believe that this.... artifact is yours," Hoborg said, handing it to me.

"Oh, thankyou thankyou thankyou!" I cried, hugging him again.

"Now," he said. "You need a name and a house."

"The first I can do," I said. I had been thinking about this one as we walked. "I would like to be called Thawly."

"A good name," he said. "It suits you. Well chosen."

"Thanks! And as for a house..... well.... Dad, can I have your permission to built one?"

"Certainly, as long as it does not interfere with the others'. Where would it be located?"

"Well...." I thought hard. "Whaddabout behind the secret fountain behind the mulberry bush?" I was glad that Doo and Billy Klay Bang had told me all the *real* names of the places I had encountered. "Could I build it behind there? And have the fountain as my entrance?"

"Of course, Thawly. Well, I must be off. The Mush Room has broken again and I wish to ask Tramen to fix it for me."

"Okay! Bye Dad! Thanks!" As I headed off to build my home, I knew I was never more content, not even in the wispy memories I had of another place.....

This was the Neverhood. And it was to be my home! 8-(-)


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