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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 21st day of Gathering, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 137 > Short Stories > Emancipation


by thealoofone

The Kougra, curled up to sleep in the narrow confines of its enclosure, twitched violently awake at the sudden sound of a yowl from three cages down – a young Lupe, mourning for its heartless master, howling pitifully into the cool stillness of the night. The Kougra shivered, the rippling of its muscles almost audible against the harsh metal of the cage, and it too felt the urge to cry aloud in desolation and loneliness – but it swallowed the need and curled up tighter, the meagre blanket pulling around its body with the feverish motion. It fell into a fitful sleep, strangely comforted and yet discouraged by the many pets that were its only company – abandoned by those it once loved; forgotten by those who cared at all.

     I must not weep.

     Morning came with aching, fiendish slowness for those who slept at all – most lay awake in their tiny cages, half-dreaming of better times in the moments of swift comfort that their warm musings bestowed upon them. The first light of the sun (rising as swiftly as the pets’ spirits descended with the dashing of fantasies) pricked the eyes of those who chose to witness it, the Kougra among them – soon their tenders, kind with pity, would be roused by its chorus to nourish the abandoned with brief caresses and treats of food: perhaps those with more faith in humans could have forgiven the race on that merit alone, but most of the long-term residents retained a bitter disposition towards the beings whom had deserted them; some, permanently disfigured by years stooped in their tiny enclosures, felt only vicious hatred and refused to even take food from the hands that offered brief comfort.

     Musing carelessly upon the subject of its fate (the sudden decline of its master’s affection, sliding helplessly from contempt to indifference and finally to abandonment; and its dreams of the future, lit with warmth and light of love, became sullen and soiled with the dirty demise of that love - eyes that smoldered with shining light became the dull, cruel grey of lonely contempt) the Kougra nudged the chunk of meat that was its meal with a listless paw, all but ignoring the daily weeping and distant cries of its companions in despair – it was too far gone in the simplicities of daydreams to care, and it did not notice the sudden hush that befell the ranks of cages lining the long corridor.

     I must not care.

     A mournful whine, perhaps tainted with the long-forgotten timbre of hope, echoed loudly along the hallway, startling the Kougra out of its silent reverie – and rose sharply to crouch within the stunted confines of its cage, its shapely ears tilted as far forward as they could go; its large eyes squinting in the light, straining to see beyond the sun’s shadow.

     There – shifting movements upon the tiled floor, the blackness of a shape silhouetted against the violence of the morning glow – and the Kougra, for the first time in what seemed millennia, uttered a deep sound of longing: a mix of a purr and a growl, tinged with the desperation of loneliness. The figure that emerged from its shadow was a human female, surrounded by an ethereal aura of brilliance, her face soft with a smile and eyes that blazed with the fire of sincere humanity – oh, how terribly long it had been since the Kougra has beheld such beauty! How long it had been since the Kougra had felt so cherished by a simple glance!

     But I cannot help what comes only once in a lifetime.

     Achingly beautiful was she; and as she drew closer to the Kougra (stilled by its awe, its reverence, of what could only be a person with a heart full of kindness) felt its face twitch in surprise as muscles long unused drew its lips back in a desperate smile and hot tears slid down its cheeks – and it knew at that moment, succinctly, that if she passed on it could not live to love again; for it had fallen in love with her unfelt touch the moment her shine had bequeathed the hallway with its delicate care.

     As if drawn by the strings of its fervent melancholy the woman reached out with soft fingers to thread them through the cruel wire of the cage door – and there, the heavenly touch of her hand stroking its skin as if in worship; and the Kougra was too shocked and overwhelmed with sudden ecstasy that it did not notice the swift movements of the woman’s other hand detaching the lock, only shaken from its bliss by the removal of her touch. As if addicted to her, like a drug, it wailed at the loss, broken by rejection – but then she was gathering it to her chest, engulfing its withered body with strong arms and gentle touch; and its purr rumbled in its chest, in time with the gentle beating of its heart.

     Its eyes slid effortlessly shut as its saviour stepped away from its prison, her movements smooth and careful as she cradled her liberated charge and took it into the fresh air of the outside – a freedom the Kougra had not beheld for many years. Blinking sleepily in the brightness of the early dawn, it stood as if transfixed upon the spot where she set it down; dwarfed by her shadow, it looked up into her encouraging face, and took a step towards her – and then, as if held by a sudden thought, it silently turned to examine itself. Its skin was a putrid shade of pale green with the inverted grooves of its stripes and the insides of its ears (unseen by its eyes, but remembered from its reflection long ago) a gaudy blue; long, jagged black claws permanently extended from its paws and a snaggletooth protruding from its jaw to dent the soft skin of its muzzle – it was horrifically ugly, a tragic leftover from a cruel owner experimenting in that terrible Laboratory and then abandoning its creation with malicious callowness. And yet, despite the inherently but deceivingly harsh red glow of its eyes as they stared brokenly from a shattered face, this woman had selected it from the multitude of others that begged for love. It stared at her in reverence, his eyes drifting to process the banner upon her cloth coverings that read “The Adoption Center” and then to the blue depths of her soulful eyes; and it knew that she was, perhaps, the only true saviour the world had left. She knew what it was like to burn.

     I live now to care, to weep, to love.

     The Mutant Kougra female, for that was what it – she – was, smiled again, and upon the still-cold air its voice whispered tentatively, filled with love and gratitude –

     “My name is Uzuri.”

     The woman smiled in return, knowing what it meant. She perhaps wondered, fleetingly, what it was like to be the abandoned, the cursed - and then she reached out to touch the Kougra again, and they turned in unison to face the sun as it steadily ascended into the vast blue of the sky –

     “I know, beautiful.”

The End

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