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Trapped Within a Dream: Part One


by chibicelchan

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A dry, hot summer day in the perpetually dry, hot and summery Lost Desert. A brick, adobe-type Neohome stood on an otherwise empty block, mostly ignored by passersby as it was quite similar to most of the other Neohomes in the area: tan, clay bricks neatly stacked atop one another until there was enough vertical space for most normal-sized Neopets to stand comfortably inside, few frills, no flowers in the garden, no distinguishing features.

     Inside, a pair of Neopets sat on opposite sides of a straw desk.

     On the business side sat a Split Kyrii with dark black eyeliner surrounding her narrow, beady eyes.

     She had her feet propped up on the desk and in her hand, she held a sheet of paper that she scanned with some determination--mostly determined to find fault within the printed text.

     On the other side of the desk, a blue Shoyru spun anxiously in her own rolling chair, stopping every second or so to check and see if the Kyrii had finished reading yet. It was taking an inordinate amount of time and the Shoyru was growing agitated, wondering if her friend and proofreader had gotten distracted by something or if it was really that bad.

     The Kyrii, a 17-month old but wise-beyond-her-year Neoschool student named Sophie, really couldn't find any fault in the writing. It was clean, concise, and, most importantly, showed that her overly ambitious Shoyru friend, Hally, was actually serious about the job she was submitting her resume for.

     Sophie put down the paper at long last, sighing as she leaned back in her chair. Hally was on her immediately, lunging halfway across the desk.

     "Well?" she cried.

     Sophie's eyes widened as she made an attempt to back away from her pal.

     "Well... uh... y'know, it's not bad," she began hesitantly, scratching her head in an attempt to appear nonchalant.

     Hally, however, was anything but nonchalant at the implications of her friend's statement.

     "Not BAD?! What do you mean NOT BAD?! I mean, what, too much bragging? Not enough bragging?? Is it too obvious that I never worked at the Petpet Stall? They DO HAVE seasonal help, and I mean, records DO get lost--"

     "No, no... it's not that. It's just... well..."

     Sophie frowned, deep in thought.

     "What? It's just WHAT?!" Hally screamed.

     "I dunno... Hally... I really think you might be taking this a little too far. I mean, it's one thing to admire someone's work from afar, but working in the same place as the guy..." she shrugged. "I mean, the connotations of working at the Neopian Pound are not exactly respectable."

     Hally's mouth dropped open in a cartoonish gesture and she put her hands on her hips.

     "Sophie, it has been my dream to work there ever since I was less than a day old. Are you gonna stand here and try and crush my childhood dreams because you don't want people to think I'm weird?!"

     "No, I'm gonna stand here and try and talk you out of something that's just a really, really bad idea and you know it," Sophie said, equally indignant. "I mean, I don't know if you've read the Neopian Times lately, but the Pound is kinda, like, a BAD place. Pets go there when they're abandoned. If they don't get adopted..."

     "But so often they DO get adopted, and I could maybe... y'know, help more pets get adopted!"

     "And what does your esteemed owner have to say about all this?" Sophie asked, hoping to get Hally's mind off of her charitable tangent.

     "John happens to think it's a great idea," Hally boasted, crossing her arms.

     "You mean you haven't told him yet."

     "And I don't plan to anytime in the near future."

     Sophie threw her arms in the air, exasperated.

     "Aww, come on, Sophie. You know what he'd say! 'I told you to get a job--'"

     "'Not evict yourself from society at large'," Sophie finished, nodding. "And he'd have a point. No one wants to be friends with some weirdo who works at the Pound."

     "You say it like I'm working for Dr. Sloth! The Pound might represent horrible things to some people, but some of the most famous Neopets in all of Neopia have been adopted out of the Pound!" Hally had a far-away look in her eyes as she spoke. "It's a place that gives hope to the hopeless, dreams to the dreamless, hope to the... oh, wait, I said that already..."

     "But you're so naive, Hally! I mean, let's get right down to it, the Pound is not exactly a fun place to be. And with your gentle spirit..." Sophie sighed softly.

     "I have a gentle spirit?" Hally asked sarcastically.

     "You know what I mean. I just don't want to see you come away from this experience scarred."

     Hally frowned, crossing her arms and slumping down in her chair. Sophie sighed and circled back around to her chair, picking up Hally's resume once again.

     "Hally Schoy, 15 Months," Sophie read.

     "True," Hally mumbled.

     "Graduated Top of Class from Lil' Wadjet Kindergarten."

     "True."

     "Extensive experience in Petpet sales, volunteer work for the needy of Neopia; works every year at the Soup Kitchen."

     "True."

     "You sold your Puppyblew at auction for 100 np..."

     "Which covers the Petpet sales AND the work for the needy."

     "And every year you go to the Soup Kitchen and open cans because they wouldn't let you near the kettle ever since you made those Grarrls sick."

     "Right, 'Works every year at the Soup Kitchen', as I said."

     "Riiight."

     "Well, read on! Read on!"

     Sophie shrugged.

     "'Extensive knowledge of the intricate inner workings of the Pound.' Right, from reading Dr. Death's autobiography 47 times a day."

     "Knowledge is knowledge." Hally grinned.

     "Sure. And you're insane." Sophie said simply, putting the paper back down on the desk.

     "Oh yeah, and you're gonna tell me that's NOT an advantage when working at the Pound?"

     "I don't know WHAT it is."

     "It's an advantage, that's what it is. I appreciate your kindness, Sophie, but I'm doing this regardless of what you or anyone else thinks," Hally said, picking her resume off the desk.

     "Well, I figured you would... I don't know what's gonna convince you that it's a horrible idea, except going there and getting the job..."

     "Wow. You really think I'm gonna GET the job?"

     "If I didn't, do you think I'd be so scared?"

     "Hmm. Yeah. Probably not, huh?"

     "I really don't know if I should wish you well or not. Every thought in my head is refusing to let me be happy for you."

     "You will be. One day."

      ***

     Hally took a deep breath and felt a rush go through her as she gazed up at the dilapidated building just up the road.

     "I can't believe I'm really here," she thought. A chilly giggle escaped from her mouth as she took in the atmosphere surrounding her.

     "Gosh, look at it all. It's so... bleak. This is it. This is the place where THE Dr. Death comes in to work EVERY DAY!"

     As run-down as the place was, and as horrible a legacy as it had, she looked at the building like it was an old friend, even though she'd never been there before, and had, in fact, only seen the occasional snapshot of it in the Neopian Times.

     But still she knew... oh, how she knew that within these very walls she would find the life that she had always wanted; starting out slow, sure, but eventually working her way up the ladder, caring for pets, making the world a better place, and maybe... maybe one day, working side by side with Dr. Death himself!

     She found herself looking with sadness into her memory, recalling page 72, paragraph 3, line 5 in Dr_Death's Biography;

     "I remember my first glimpse at that hole in the ground we so lovingly refer to as 'the Pound'; a dank, Spyder-infested shack on the inside, but on the outside, it could have been any respectable establishment in Neopia. Flowers in the windowboxes, a lovely paved walkway, and a professionally created sign that read 'Neopian Adoption Centre'. An absolute metaphor for the superficiality of exterior beauty."

     Hally closed her eyes and sighed, shaking her head with a smile. The old building had survived a lot, and as weak and world-weary as it was, still it stood. Constant and unyielding. In some respects a warning; in others, a picture of resillience.

     She realized how long she'd been standing outside, and idly wondered what time of day it was. There was no one outside, no one she could ask, so she decided it would be better to simply take her chances and go into the building. Worst-case scenario, she'd be early.

     Taking a deep breath, she pushed off the ground and sailed across the overgrown grass to the filthy glass door. She pulled open the handle and a loud bell attached to the inside of the door rang, alerting the desk clerk to her presence.

To be continued...

 
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