“I wonder what it’s like for normal monsters,” Nemesis mused aloud. “It’s gotta be better than being trapped in a place where everyone thinks of ya as an object.”
“I don’t know what it’s like for the wild monsters,” Scaler replied. “But a lot of monsters are unlocked by humans, from CD-ROMs. Some of them just want servants, and the monsters they unlock end up little better off than the ones imprisoned here. But there are those humans who want to be friends…”
There was a bright flash of light, and Scaler bounded out of the center of the shrine. He stopped and looked up at the smiling young girl at the control panel.
“Hello,” he said. “Are you my master?”
“No.” The girl shook her head, causing her short, russet hair to swish around her face. “I’m your friend. My name’s Annabee. Let’s see…I’ll call you…Scaler! Is that alright with you?” Her hazel eyes searched his anxiously, awaiting his reply.
Scaler nodded. “I like that.”
“Great!” Annabee exclaimed. “Come on, Scaler, there’s so much I want to show you! Follow me!” She took his hand in hers and rushed off. Her excitement proved to be infectious, and Scaler found that first day to be one of the best in his life.
“So what is it like for them?” Nemesis asked, snapping him out of his reverie.
“Wonderful,” Scaler said, a wistful expression on his face. “You’re never ‘only a monster’ in their eyes. They don’t treat you like a human, or treat you like a monster. They treat you as what they want you to be: their friend.”
Life with Annabee was never boring. Her other friends accepted him as one of their own. “Anyone who doesn’t is no friend of mine,” Annabee had said.
Eventually she grew up, as all children do, but she and Scaler remained the closest of friends. She was married to a scientist named Joseph Wyvlo, who adopted Scaler as a younger brother. He was an energetic young man, filled with enthusiasm, with a ready smile and an easy laugh. All his friends called him Joey.
“Lucky monsters,” Nemesis said. “What I wouldn’t give to live a life like that.”
“It doesn’t always stay that way, though,” Scaler said. Nemesis looked at him questioningly, but Scaler was already far away.
The doctor walked out of the delivery room, and Joey jumped up out of his chair in excitement. Then his smile faded as he saw the solemn expression on the doctor’s face.
Scaler bounded over, concerned, from the spot where he had been pacing.
“I’m sorry,” the doctor said. “She died giving birth.”
Scaler felt the world come crashing down around him. Annabee, his Annabee, the smiling girl who had wanted nothing more in the whole world than to be his friend, was dead. He would never hear her delicate laughter, never see the sparkle in her hazel eyes, never be able to reach her again. She was dead.
Scaler looked at Joey, and saw his own thoughts mirrored in the young man’s face.
“And the baby?” Joey asked.
“The baby is alive,” the doctor said. “You’ll have to go down to the nursery.” He walked off down the hallway, shoulders slumped and eyes downcast. Anyone meeting him then would have thought it was his own wife that had died that day, instead of a stranger’s whom he could not save.
In the nursery…
“Congratulations! It’s a girl!” exclaimed the young, golden-haired nurse. She handed Joey the sleeping baby with a huge, plastered on smile.
Joey and Scaler only stared at her blankly. Her smile wilted for a moment at the depth of the sorrow in their eyes. Then she regained her composure, asking, “What are you going to call her?”
Just then the child opened her big hazel eyes, looked up at all of them, and laughed. Joey and Scaler exchanged glances.
“Annabee,” they said in unison.
“But even so, at least they had someone who loved them,” said Nemesis. “Someone who saw them as more than just a tool.” “I suppose…”
Joey and Scaler had thrown themselves into the job of taking care of little Annabee with a will. Nothing could ever compensate for the loss of her mother, but soon the child had won as big a place in their hearts.
Three years flew by, and Scaler felt as much of a father as Joey. Little Annabee grew more and more like her mother with each passing day. No matter how bad Joey and Scaler were feeling, just looking at their baby girl brought a smile to their faces and joy to their hearts. She became their world, their reason for being, much as her mother had been.
Then one day she woke up, complaining of the cold, even though it was the middle of summer. When Scaler touched her, her skin was burning with fever. Joey dashed off to get the doctor, leaving Scaler to watch over the ailing child. When he returned, however, little Annabee had fallen back to sleep. She never woke up.
Once again the world came crashing down around them. Joey was devastated. He began working night and day, trying to forget the pain that ate away at the pieces of his broken heart. Each time Scaler saw him, which was rarely, he seemed more and more distant. It was as if every emotion, every last ounce of feeling, was being slowly drained from him. His green eyes lost their cheerful softness, becoming as hard and unforgiving as stone.
Scaler continued to look after the house, although there really wasn’t much point in doing so any more. He didn’t have the strength to just curl up in a corner and die, or perhaps he was too strong. He just went about his daily chores like an automaton, trying not to think at all.
Then one day Joey said, “Come, Scaler” and led him to a newly built laboratory. “This will be our home from now on.” Scaler looked at him closely then, and he found no trace of Joey, the man who had been one of his closest friends. There was only Wyvlo, a man who no longer loved and no longer cared.
Wyvlo bound Scaler to the lab, in order to enhance its performance. Scaler would never leave it; he was a part of it.
“I wonder how it might have been,” Nemesis said, “if I had been just a normal monster, instead of some puppet created in a lab.”
“There’s no use thinking about what might have been,” Scaler said. “You just have to accept what is.”
How might it have been, if one of his Annabees had lived? Then he would still be Annabee’s bunny, still be her playmate, her friend, her constant companion. He would still hear her laughter, still see her eyes light up in delight. He wouldn’t be here, chained to this lab, enslaved to a madman he had once thought of as a brother.
“I guess you’re right,” Nemesis said, turning and walking sadly away.
And Nemesis wouldn’t have been created, either. Scaler watched her go. Maybe it was better never to know what you’re missing. Surely, that would be kinder than having it all, only to have it all taken away.
“Oh, who am I kidding?” Scaler sighed. “Even if I knew it would cause all this…” He looked around the lab, his prison, his home. “…I’d still have chosen to be unlocked by Annabee.”
Scaler bounded off down the corridor, imagining the delight in Annabee’s eyes at that remark. Even though he was bound to the lab, he was still Annabee’s bunny. No matter what happened, both his Annabees would remain in his heart forever. All through his life, their laughter would echo throughout his soul.