Chapter 1: Hamster Horror CHAPTER 1 [PLESKIT] HAMSTER HORROR
Sometimes I wake up screaming. Usually it’s because I’ve eaten too much febril gnurxis just before bedtime. But sometimes… sometimes it’s because I see the furious, furry face of a hamster in my dreams.
It’s been a rough year.
First the Fatherly One dragged me here to Earth. As if being so far from Hevi-Hevi (my beloved home planet) weren’t bad enough, I have had the usual problems of fitting into a new school. These were made more difficult by the fact that I am the only student in my class who is purple and has a sphen-gnut-ksher growing out of his head.
Even moving might not have been so bad, if we hadn’t also had to deal with several attempts to sabotage the Fatherly One’s mission. It was only recently that we discovered the reason for these attempts—a previously undiscovered Grand Urpelli so close to Earth that it falls within the Fatherly One’s trading franchise.
Urpelli are the shortcuts through space that make interstellar travel possible. Still, it can be a long way between urpelli, which is why a Grand Urpelli is so important. It links all the others into a sort of galaxywide Internet. Until the one near Earth was discovered, everyone thought there was only one Grand Urpelli in the entire galaxy.
Whoever controls this second Grand Urpelli (which is now being called “Gurp Two” for short) will become one of the richest beings in the galaxy.
It is still hard for me to imagine that. I mean, we have always had a good life. But if the Fatherly One can hold on to his claim, we will have more money than… well, than just about anyone!
It’s a little scary.
Anyway, given the value of Gurp Two, it’s no surprise that others want to get their hands on it. What has been a surprise is how badly they will behave to do so.
The greatest enemy we have faced in all this was Mikta-makta-mookta, the Fatherly One’s traitorous former secretary. She was never really a secretary, of course; just an evil genius disguising herself as one.
And since Mikta-makta-mookta looks a good deal like a five-foot-tall version of the Earthly creature called a hamster (or, to put it another way, a hamster looks the way Mikta-makta-mookta would if you shrank her), it should be no surprise that I have a genuine fear of hamsters, as cute and cuddly as they may seem to most people.
This was exactly what my demented and evil classmate, Jordan Lynch, was counting on when he began using them to torment me.
“Demented” and “evil” are strong words to apply to a fellow being, of course. In my opinion Jordan has earned them. He is the kind of person who… well, imagine that you and Jordan had just crawled across the desert and were dying of thirst, and you came to a place where there were two glasses of water. If Jordan got there first, he would save one of them for you—but he’d spit in it before he handed it to you, just to see if you’d still drink it.
Wakkam Akkim, the Fatherly One’s spiritual massage-master, says that Jordan must be a troubled soul, seeking answers for questions he cannot even name.
Wakkam Akkim would say that.
Tim Tompkins, my best friend here on Earth, has a simpler explanation. He says that the universe has a certain amount of evil, and sometimes it just comes together in one place and erupts, like a pimple.
“That’s Jordan,” says Tim. “A hot red pimple of evil festering on the face of the universe.”
Certainly that seems like a reasonable description of Jordan the day he slipped the cutest and cuddliest of the class hamsters—Doris the Delightful, to be precise—into my lunchbox.
I often bring my lunch to school, for two reasons. First, Shhh-foop, our Queen of the Kitchen, makes splendid food. Second, I have not been able to get used to the food served in the cafeteria.
“Don’t worry about it, Pleskit,” says Tim when we discuss this problem. “No reasonable being could ever get used to these mysterious substances.”
Tim also told me he used to believe that the school imported the food from outer space. But I told him that I knew of no other planet where people ate this kind of koobtiuk. In fact, I fear the phenomenon of cafeteria food offers uncomfortable proof of the Fatherly One’s claim that the people in our host country are secretly at war with their children.
(Even so, I have to admit that I have developed a deep fondness for ketchup, which is my favorite dessert.)
Anyway, on this particular day I had opened my lunchbox and was about to take out my squambul pod when Brad Kent called my name.
I should have known better than to answer.
Brad follows Jordan around like a gerton-farkus, so I should have guessed that he was simply doing Jordan’s dirty work. But, like fools, Tim and I turned in his direction.
“What is it, Brad?” I asked.
He smiled and waved. “Just wanted to see if you remembered my name!”
I sighed and turned back to talk to Tim. At the same time I reached into my lunchbox.
Instead of my squambul pod, I grabbed something furry—something that was wriggling.
I looked at my hand.
I began to scream.