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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 23rd day of Swimming, Yr 21
The Neopian Times Week 147 > Short Stories > In the Failing Light

In the Failing Light

by barbcat00

Errant rays of the afternoon sunshine parted ways with their vibrantly hued brethren, leaving the fiery orange and yellow canvas of the setting sun to stream through an unassuming window on the edge of Neopia Central. Like minuscule faeries dancing in abandon, they played across the brown coat of the Lupe inside, conveying the last vestiges of the day's warmth to him. But the warmth was merely borrowed and all too fleeting just like the brown coat he wore, stolen from a patch of dirt outside exposed specifically for such a purpose. The Lupe shook himself and flecks of the world out of doors fell to the floor leaving a shadowed dusting of particles to accent his yellow fur.

      Satisfied with his appearance he padded down the short hall. He knew he'd get in trouble for leaving a mess on the floor, but it didn't phase him. Let them point and reprimand and finally give up and simply sigh. It is not as though they could get rid of him. He was secure no matter what he did. He would never leave. He could never leave.

      Leaving the dirt neglected in the end of the hall he pushed through a pair of large double doors that groaned at being forced to move as if they somehow felt their long years of service had granted them the right to rest eternally unused. But he didn't seem to care. He rudely pushed through them, shoving them aside and ignoring their creaking expressions of age.

      Somehow, through the din of a thousand uplifted voices on the other side of the doors he heard Rose's voice lilting softly through an archway that led to the front of the building, a different world. Despite the failing light outside, the inside was bright and colourful, too much so. The light attacked the eyes forcing them to either narrow against it or become blinded and enthralled. But no one who came here noticed the lights. No one except the Lupe, and that is why he never went into the front.

      "Would you like to adopt LeftAllAlone the Kougra?"

      A sea of faces looked on to the innocent blue Kougra, sizing her up by name, strength, personality, and a hundred other standards that are impossibly hard to meet. Their critical faces chipped away steadily at her forced smile. Standing by, awaiting their turn to be placed before the demanding crowd that seemed to undulate like the ocean tides, stood a line of similar pets all hoping for and expecting to find their own perfectly loving owner who would rescue them from this inexplicably lonely yet populous emotional desert.

      "Hmm... oh yes, she's exactly what I've always wan---"

      Intruding like a thunderclap upon the tumult inside, announcing some unknown doom, the small bell above the door sang out the arrival of yet another owner with excited tunes that fell harshly on the unwary ear. The Lupe still encased in the shadows beyond the archway cringed almost imperceptibly. He could see none of what was passing save the endless shifting of the mass of owners as they pressed forward and back, mixing themselves while trying to drive to the front to gain their pick of the proffered pets. But he didn't want to see, he already knew. He could close his eyes and see as clearly as if he were a true presence in the room exactly what was going on.

      The hopeful smile on the Kougra's face, encouraged by the fleeting interest of the girl in front, would fade to be replaced by a visage devoid of the dreamlike quality of innocence and naiveté‚. In a fall almost deafeningly audible to those sensitive to it she'd been pushed aside for...

      "An Island Shoyru!!"

      As a swarm of locusts, in one crushing tidal wave of movement all faces and bodies turned toward the new arrival, devouring his appearance and pushing to him, clamoring to be first. It was no bother that they knew nothing of him, they knew his colour.

      The deafening pandemonium in the front room reached a crescendo and the Lupe was forced to put his paws over his ears in a vain attempt to block it all out. Not even a hint of sadness dulled the haughty expression the Shoyru bestowed on the other pets.

      "Are you sure you want to abandon blast_7654?"

      Somehow an invisible blanket suddenly descended and all sound save the furious beating of adrenaline pumped hearts cut off, silence wavered furiously overhead as if daring anyone to challenge it. Even the owner gave in and merely nodded her ascent, soundlessly giving over her charge to the ravenous hoards looking on with envious desire.

      "Would you li--"

      Rose's delicate voice crashed hesitantly through the mute air, fumbling for some shred of dignity in a hopeless situation. She didn't even get to finish the question before the Shoyru was claimed and a bag of coins was thrust across the counter, sliding without direction until it came to rest against the foot of a green Grarrl who looked down at it and drew back from its mocking implications.

      Then, just as suddenly and noisily as it had ended, it was over. The cheerful bell rang again and a proud new owner and her pet were gone. The crowd left behind, smaller by one member, let out a collective grumble then once again turned to their task of pet appraisals, always in the back of their minds hoping another such treasure would manifest itself.

      The dirty Lupe taking refuge behind the archway let his paws fall back to the floor, exposing himself once again to the full abuse of the racket in the other room. He was about to escape the mental fetters that bound him to witness these scenes in redundant patterns when some small bit of blue won his attention. Lifting above the crowd, perched atop a pair of shoulders LeftAllAlone clung merrily to a boy's uplifted hand. No fanfare, no recognition, the two simply slipped quietly and gracefully from the building into the growing darkness outside. The joy writ on their faces shone forth with more brightness than the pale yellow light from the aloof lanterns guiding their way home.

      Bits of dust drifted to the floor as tiny solid tears petrified and unyielding in their decent. The Lupe pushed away from the archway and forced his way down the hall, driving against the lethargy of the air that seemed to contradict even the demands of his lungs.

      Through another set of doors that allowed his penetration only under vocal duress he looked in across a battery of impersonal compartments each boasting glistening metallic locks. As if to mock their inhabitants with the idyllic comforts of lost homes each compartment was furnished with a bed that receded into the shadowed backdrop of loneliness that pervaded the room. Here the open windows allowed entrance to the encompassing darkness outside casting fantastic shadows against the walls. One caught the already darkened face of the Lupe and made him appear even more fearsome to those around him. Shades caught in every hint of dirt causing his yellow fur to highlight like a coat made of golden phantasms. His eyes glistened with unspoken threat, secure in their dominance and right. He was not one of them.

      As he began his slow walk along the compartments, he watched even a Skeith shrink from his passing, giving in to his silent guardianship. In the stifling stillness that enveloped every pet in the room thoughts were almost physically oppressive. He could almost see their undaunted expectations as a shield erected around each one to keep depression at bay. Night, for them, held the realization of another day lost but also the hope for a better tomorrow.

      The Lupe brushed himself off in the darkness at the far end of the room, dirt flying as a thoughtless offering into the air. He sniffed once then buried himself in his own bed, the sight of all the sorrowful, slumbering pets in front of him dreaming of what promise the new day might bring. He was secure no matter what he did. He could never leave.

      The muted sounds of voices from the cacophonous front room serenaded him to sleep as he drifted into his own private dreams.

      "Do you have a yellow Lupe?"

The End


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