The Untold Tales of Dr. Death
It was early August, and the last days of summer were setting upon Neopia. With the heat subsiding and the leaves beginning to turn colors, the change had come as a welcome relief. The starry sky shone down upon the clearing, illuminating the campsite of Evelyn the Aisha and her friends. They had ventured out to a small forest to spend a few days in the great outdoors.
She crossed her arms as the Cybunny twins began making shadow puppets on the tents with their ears. “That’s nice, but we were supposed to be telling ghost stories,” she reminded them.
Beside her, a small voice spoke up. “But I’d rather sing songs and hear jokes,” the baby Aisha said. It was Evelyn’s sister, Ivy, who had made the quiet request.
“I don’t know any ghost stories,” Hazel (that was the first Cybunny) said.
“Well,” her sister (Brie) replied, “I might know one or two.”
The other girl looked at her in surprise. “You know a story that I don’t?”
“Yes,” Brie said, keeping a straight face.
Hazel snorted. “I doubt that. We know almost everything about each other. And I know that you know that we don’t know any ghost stories.” She took a breath, recovering from the statement. Hazel squinted then. Her sister was smiling. “The one about the jelly Poogle doesn’t count.”
The two debated furiously over whether or not they would tell Brie’s story, but before they could make up their minds (or challenge one another to a duel) Evelyn decided to intervene.
“How about I tell a story?” she said. “I have a good one saved up anyway.”
“What is it about?” Ivy asked.
Evelyn let out a sly smile. “Dr. Death.”
“Yikes!” Brie said. “You mean that scary guy who works at the pound?”
“The very same,” Evelyn said. “You see, everyone has a story. And even someone as cruel as that didn’t necessarily start out that way. Let me tell you about how Dr. Death got his mean streak.”
The girls gathered close, watching the flickering of the firelight across her face.
“It all began at an old hospital facility, in a place called The Wellness Wing. It was a program run out of a half-abandoned hospital in Neopia. Their main purpose was helping pets who couldn’t afford treatment. They took in all kinds of cases. And some got better, while others just vanished, never to be heard from again. To this day, some of them are still unaccounted for.”
Hazel hopped anxiously closer to her. “Did they… did Dr. Death get them?” she asked.
Evelyn shook her head. “No. Another Doctor, Dr. Tong, was overseeing those patients. He was highly skilled and respected by all, but oddly, his patients were the ones more likely to disappear. Our beloved Dr. Death was an intern at the time, doing menial tasks around the hospital and caring for the sick pets whenever he could help. He was a talented healer in his own right, and wanted the pets of Neopia to live long and be as healthy as they could be.”
“So how did he get the name Dr. Death?” Ivy whispered.
“Simple,” Evelyn said. “He was framed. After a time, suspicions began to circulate about the missing pets and what might have happened to them. Dr. Death was doing some digging of his own into the disappearances, and what he uncovered made him a target. Unbeknownst to the others at the hospital, Dr. Tong was performing strange experiments upon the pets who had been admitted into his care. Some got better; others underwent peculiar transformations and were never the same. They forgot who they were, or changed species completely! He thought he had discovered an innovative solution to typical pet care, but the pets themselves were unhappy.”
“What did they do?” Brie said.
Evelyn shook her head. “There was nothing they could do. Many of them were lost and confused. It wasn’t until Dr. Death stumbled onto the scene that they had a chance to escape. And escape they did, unfortunately at the expense of the doctor, who they believed to be working with Dr. Tong, their captor. Dr. Death was imprisoned in a cage by those pets he had helped free while they raced to safety. The true villain discovered him and set into motion a plan to help him avoid punishment for his crimes. He framed Dr. Death and made the whole thing look as though it had been his doing all along. The unfortunate event ruined his life, and stole away his compassion and love for the pets he had tried so desperately before to protect.”
The baby Aisha covered her eyes, shaking her head softly. “I don’t like stories that are so sad. That wasn’t scary, but it makes me angry if it’s true.”
Her sister wrapped an arm around her. “That’s ok. It’s alright to be angry at things that are unfair or don’t end up how they should. It’s scary because it could have happened to almost anyone, and a person we all hate and fear so much now was really just a victim. It hurts too because it makes you realize that his anger is really just pain, and it was a burden he took on for others.”
“You never did tell us where the name came from,” Hazel said.
Evelyn smiled. “Dr. Death was so named because the pets who were altered in his care had essentially died and been given a new life. They weren’t who they had been before it started, and they could never return to who they used to be. But the bright side was they were given a chance to start over and live a new life. And some of them really did make the best of it.”
“Really?” Ivy asked.
“Yes,” Evelyn said, “really. Why, I know a mutant Elephante that went on to join the circus and became a huge star! The Grumbling Gorge, they called him, because he would consume any and everything in his sight. And I mean everything! He once ate a petpet as a final performance.”
“Ick,” Brie said. “Let’s stick to the stories with happier endings.”
“This one wasn’t really so happy,” Hazel chimed in.
Evelyn shrugged. “It wasn’t meant to be. But when I was told that story, it helped me fear him a little less. He became real and vulnerable in my eyes, and that was scarier and more wonderful to me than anything. I’m not afraid of ending up with Dr. Death at the pound anymore. Because I know now, even if he looks scary and mean, that I’ll be with a person who cared more than anything and did more than anyone to help those in need. And I definitely want that kind of person on my side. Dr. Death probably isn’t such a bad guy,” she said.
Ivy smiled, curling up at Evelyn’s feet. “I hope you’re right. But in case you’re not, let’s just hope we never get sent to the pound anyway. I don’t want to have to find out.”
Evelyn patted her sister lightly on the head. “Don’t worry. Wherever you go, I go. I promise I won’t let you end up alone. That’s what big bad sisters are for.”
The Cybunny twins looked at each other wordlessly and smiled. They had just made some silent promises of their own. To protect each other was one of them, of course. But so was finding out if Evelyn’s story was remotely true. They stared back into similarly laughing eyes.
“We’ll know for sure, some day,” they said quietly.
“Enough talk of the pound and adoption,” Evelyn said. “None of us are going to end up there anytime soon.” She grinned at Ivy. “Come on, we should go to bed.”
Evelyn scooped up the baby Aisha and carried her into their tent. As she was tucking her under the covers, Ivy gazed up at her, speaking in her softest voice.
“You swear that Dr. Death won’t come and get us?”
“I promise,” Evelyn said. “Now close your eyes. It’s time to get some rest.”
She hummed a gentle melody, her voice carrying out towards the twins at the campfire.
“Do you think they’d notice…?” Hazel said, concealing her glee.
Brie shook her head. “Not if we’re back before sunrise.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Hazel asked.
“Yes,” she said. “We’ll find proof of Dr. Death’s true identity. I know we can do it.”
Hazel laughed. ‘Evelyn’s going to be so mad she missed this!”
“That’s okay,” Brie said. “That means we’ll have the story to tell this time.”
They zipped up their tent before sneaking off into the darkening night. With any luck, Evelyn’s story would be true, but there was no guarantee. They hurried towards uncertain doom, unsure if they themselves would ever return. The infamous doctor awaited them.