Dantam trotted confidently down Neopia Avenue, his Gelert ears and tail curling
happily and his well-groomed, shadow-coloured coat glistening in the sunlight.
A bag full of candy hung from his mouth. His owner had given him some Neopoints
and allowed him to make a trip to the candy store without her for the afternoon.
The studded collar around his neck with the inscription that said, "To Dantam,
Love Madison," was, in Dantam's mind, an assurance that nothing could happen
to him, that even if he was alone and without his owner for a time, he was safe,
protected, and he would be back in her arms soon.
Just thinking of Maddy brought a smile to Dantam's muzzle. He'd been with her
for as long as he could remember. He didn't have many of what he might have
considered real friends in their wealthy Neopian neighbourhood. But with her,
he was certain that she loved him, and that made up for any lack of real friendship.
She always made sure that he did not want for anything that his heart could
Dantam was pulled out of his thoughts by the sight of a grungy yellow paw reached
out toward him. He looked over to see a scruffy Kacheek standing in the entrance
to an alleyway. Behind the Kacheek, Dantam noticed several other figures hovering
quietly in the shadows, but he averted his eyes without bothering to make out
their distinct shapes.
"Excuse me sir," the Kacheek said, "But do you have any food to spare?" He
looked pointedly at Dantam's large bag of candy, but Dantam just wrinkled his
nose at him. He'd seen these homeless pets several times before and it always
bothered him. There was just something not right in Dantam's mind about pets
without owners, and they stuck out painfully amidst the crowds of painted, happy
pets in Neopia Central.
"I've got this toy sail boat to trade for it," the Kacheek added, holding
up the pitiful object. Dantam turned and began to walk away without a word to
the Kacheek. He didn't notice the empty banana peel lying on the sidewalk, but
as he stepped on it with his hind foot, it was kicked up into the air and hit
the Kacheek square in the face. At the sound of the splat, Dantam spun around
again to see what had happened. The Kacheek was pulling the peel off of his
face with gritted teeth.
Meanwhile, all around Dantam, laughter began to echo through the air. The other
Neopets who had been walking by were pointing excitedly at the Kacheek and their
laughter elevated from little chuckles to uproarious guffaws. A couple of them
clapped Dantam on the back. Dantam hadn't done it on purpose, of course, but
he continued to allow them to think that he had and joined in their merriment
at the Kacheek's expense. The Kacheek, fists balled and cheeks turning scarlet,
looked as though he was about to charge at the crowd, but just then a red, striped
paw reached out and pulled him back into the shadows. With the object of their
amusement gone, the laughter slowly died down and the other Neopets dispersed.
Dantam left also, taking one last look back at the dark alley.
Without the others to goad him on, Dantam felt a small pang of guilt as he
ran back over the earlier events on his way home. But he shook his head and
reminded himself that if those pets were homeless, it must be their own fault.
He couldn't see any reason for pets not to have owners, unless there was something
wrong with them. He rounded the corner into his neighbourhood, and his bag of
candy fell to the ground as his mouth gaped in shock. A huge van was parked
outside of their NeoHome and a team of tough-looking Neopets were methodically
carrying their furniture into it.
Dantam ran up to the house and through the open front door and shouted out
in a panicked voice, "Madison, what's going on?! Why are they taking all our
stuff?" A few of the workers in the living room looked up from their lifting
at his outburst, but his owner was not there. Dantam wandered on through the
living room and into the kitchen, and then he spotted her. Madison sat at the
kitchen table, her eyes shining with tears that she was obviously struggling
not to shed as she stared off into the distance. Dantam walked slowly up to
her and rested his muzzle on her thigh. "What's the matter Maddy?" he asked
She looked down at him as though she hadn't noticed him until that moment.
"Oh Dantam, I wanted to get this over with before you got home. I didn't want
you to see this." As she spoke, her voice cracked and a tear slipped down her
"What's wrong Maddy? I can help you make it better," Dantam insisted naively,
and Madison smiled down at him and stroked his head lovingly.
"Dantam, I'm giving all of my things away because... because I have to leave
"What?!" Dantam asked, pulling his head up from where it rested to look into
her eyes. "You're only leaving for a few days. You'll put me in the Neolodge,
and then you'll come back, won't you Maddy?"
Maddy shook her head and more tears coursed down her face. "No Dantam, I'm--
I'm sick... and, I won't ever be able to come back and see you again." Dantam
just continued to stare up at her with his mouth hanging open in shock. This
couldn't be true. Maddy loved him; she would never leave him. This was just
a bad dream.
Then Madison reached out toward the latch on his collar and Dantam backed away,
shaking his head at her. "No--no Maddy, you can't leave me! I need you." Madison
stretched her arms toward him again, but he stood his ground. She dropped her
arms to her sides helplessly. "I have to Dantam. I'm sorry. You'll find someone
else to need."
"No," Dantam repeated, but he felt the reality that he saw in her eyes settling
over him, and his own eyes clouded with tears. They spilled over as Madison
reached her arms out again, and this time he allowed her to pull him into her
lap and hug him tightly. "I love you, Maddy," he sobbed quietly.
"I know Dantam," she whispered as he fell asleep in her arms, rivulets of
tears still running down his face. "I love you too."
But when Dantam awoke from his fitful sleep the next morning, he found himself
not in her arms but on the bare ground where his house had once stood. His NeoHome
was gone, all of his things were gone, and the collar was gone from around his
neck. He was all alone.
To be continued...