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Trapped Within a Dream: Part Five


by chibicelchan

--------

So it turned out that the bright, celadon green-carpeted waiting room, Hally realized with a lump in her throat, was truly the most aesthetic part of the Pound. It didn't get any better for the eyes, or the soul.

      Her spirit had deflated a bit after her arrival, to be sure. She'd walked into the waiting room and seen Reynolds' displeased stare mingling with someone else's light laughter, and it confused her senses. For the first time in her life, she began to doubt that this was the right place for her.

      Reynolds stiffly introduced Hally to Rose, and Rose had been pleasant, very pleasant in fact. She said she'd never seen anyone so adorable in her life, which Hally took as condescending maternalism. She smiled, though, and smiled even wider when Dan insisted on having her take a pencil to commemorate her first day on the job, with the condition that she have it chewed beyond recognition before the day was done. Hally agreed, secretly thankful that he'd been so thoughtful of her anxiety.

      The conversation almost immediately rolled around to Dr. Death.

      "Is he here today?" Hally asked around the pencil.

      "Sure is," Reynolds said. "If you'd been here on time, you might have seen him go off duty."

      Hally's heart sunk.

      "Really?" she moaned sadly.

      Reynolds chuckled, pushing open a metal door that had been painted green years ago. Now, flecks of green paint accumulated in a pile on either side of the door and a bare spot almost exactly shaped like a hand showed Hally which side to push to get the door to open. She made a mental note of this so she wouldn't embarrass herself again.

      Front door, pull. This door, push.

      She hadn't been sure where Reynolds was leading her, but her suspense didn't last long as she entered a mostly grey room with only one window and a row of flourescent lights on the ceiling. There was a narrow walkway down the middle, and against the walls were 2 neat rows of floor-to-ceiling cages. Occupied cages.

      Silence. Hally felt as if she was withdrawing into herself. She suddenly wished someone had come in with her besides Reynolds, because she had a sudden urge to grab somebody's hand, and it was doubtful that Reynolds would appreciate the gesture.

      "Well, this is the heart and soul of our Pound. We have 180 cages total, that's enough for 3 times as many pets as you see in this room. They fill up and empty fast, and there's no such thing as long-term stays. We're obligated by law to give a pet 48 hours, after that, it's a toss-up. Some are able to stay longer, others... well, aren't. We keep these cages spotless, and everyone gets as much food as they want. If it looks like we're running out of food, tell the cook to make more." Reynolds described the situation in cold, clinical terms, but was very vehement about the rights of abandoned pets.

      Hally simply nodded, and Reynolds continued.

      "You work fast here. Wipe one cage out, replace the blankets, get out. Next one, same thing. You might have 4 pets a day use the same cage. It happens, and it gets cleaned after every pet, even if they were in and out in 5 minutes. You have to be on top of things all the time, and you might not get any help. Ken comes in maybe one or two days a week; he does this at night. He's older than sand and walks with a limp, but never complains, so don't expect any sympathy."

      "I won't," Hally said.

      "Great. Now, here's where we keep the cleaning supplies." She gestured to a cart with a mop and bucket, as well as a tall stack of towels and yellow blankets. "You take the old blanket out, throw it down the chute right by the door, use the spray, spritz each wall of the cage, make sure you get in the cracks, wipe them off, grab a new blanket, don't unfold it, just put it down. If someone wants a pillow, they're on the shelf over there. Now, as for food..."

      They left the room, and Hally was secretly glad. She had mostly kept her eyes low during Reynolds' instruction, but whenever she looked up, her gaze was met by whoever was in the cage nearest her; truly, all eyes in the room were on her. Sad, angry eyes, curious and contemptuous of this girl who knew nothing about the order of the Pound.

      And as Hally looked into the eyes of an angry blue Lupe who most likely bore the weight of the world on his shoulders, she realized just how little she did know. For all the times she quoted Dr_Deaths Biography and answered her friends and acquaintances' questions about the workings of the Pound, she now felt as though she were nothing but a small child boasting about having learned her ABCs and feeling as though she were somehow on par with an author of fine literature.

      Every nuance, every word Reynolds spoke was so different than she had imagined it would be... and although there were only 60 pets in the room, she felt as if there was no end to the numbers of poor unfortunate beings shut out from their homes and the lives they'd known.

      And here I thought I was sick to my stomach before, she thought sadly.

      The room they entered was, to Hally's surprise, a sort of makeshift cafeteria. It didn't appear to be open at the moment, but there was a short counter with metal covers topping metal pans, stacks of trays, and a few tables that seemed to be missing chairs.

      "This is, as you can probably tell, the cafeteria," Reynolds said, almost pointlessly. "We have our own cook, not the best cook but not the worst. We specialize in omelette, being that it's so cheap and we buy it in bulk, and as a general rule, you can put anything on it and everyone loves it. Breakfast is at 6:00, Lunch at 11:30 and dinner at 5:30. If Ken's here, he can help you with delivering the food, otherwise you take the tray, put 10 plates on it, come back 6 times and you should have everybody. Most everyone will want seconds, or thirds, as I said, you do it. Everyone will have Neocola."

      Hally nodded.

      "And yes, we eat here, too, when we get the chance to eat. The cook will get mad at you if you don't eat her food; believe me, I learned that one the hard way. Now... ah, I'll have to get you your schedule... a schedule that you're gonna have to adhere to strictly." She added that last part with a steely gaze, and Hally felt heat coming into her cheeks.

      "I will, Dr. Reynolds," she said quietly.

      Reynolds was about to reply, but she frowned instead, tilting her head. Hally gave a confused look, but then Reynolds shook her head and looked back at Hally.

      "Good. Now-"

      She was suddenly interrupted by a very loud, very distinct "DR. REYNOLDS!" coming from the waiting room. It was Rose's voice and she sounded panicked. Reynolds drew in a harsh breath and regarded Hally for a moment before she rushed out to the desk.

      Hally stood frozen in place, her pulse racing. Now, not only was she in this surprisingly scary place, but she was here all by herself, and there was some sort of emergency.

      "Great," she said out loud, her voice shaking. "Real great."

      ***

      Reynolds rushed out to the front of the building, squinting as the sunlight poured through the window and hit her eyes. The scene in front of her played out like an overacted hospital drama; a shaky red Moehog was standing on the ground, snarling, with Rose standing several feet away, freaking out. Behind those two, near the door, a human woman in her 30s with a short black bob stood still, eyes wide with shock, holding one hand close to her chest.

      "Rose, what happened?" Reynolds asked quickly.

      "He BIT me!" the woman answered for Rose, her voice high with disbelief. "I came in here to adopt a pet, we got him out here and all of a sudden he BIT me!"

      Reynolds frowned at the woman, then gave the Moehog the once-over. He was clearly agitated and he threw the woman a glare that made her squeal with discomfort.

      "That's HER story," the Moehog growled, rolling his eyes. "What a drama queen."

      "I think I'm bleeding! You're a doctor?" the woman cried.

      "Yes, I'm a doctor," Reynolds said calmly. "Come over here so I can see your hand."

      "COME over THERE?!" The woman practically screamed. "He's dangerous!! I'm not going over there!"

      "Well, your hand must not be that bad, then. Rose, what happened?" Reynolds shrugged.

      "I'm not sure. I mean, it was going fine. This Moehog just came in, and just a couple minutes later, she comes in, and without a second of hesitation, she picks him out. They were checking out, she was getting ready to pay, and..."

      "AND HE BIT ME," the woman finished. "For NO reason!"

      "I had a reason. I don't like her," the Moehog said.

      "Uh... that's not a very good reason to bite somebody," Reynolds said slowly.

      "He's CRAZY!" the woman howled.

      "I am not. I need my personal space, and you invaded it by insisting on carrying me around."

      The woman's eyes widened and she looked at Reynolds as if to say, "SEE?!"

      Reynolds shrugged.

      "Well, uh, ma'am... some pets are particular about things like that. You can avoid misunderstandings like that in the future by doing your research BEFORE you come in looking for a pet."

      The woman rolled her eyes.

      "Well, he didn't have to BITE me."

      "I barely touched you, you paranoid weirdo," the Moehog snarled.

      "Ma'am, I really think you can walk over here. Let me see your hand, please," Reynolds sighed.

      The woman hesitated for a second, then ran full speed over to Reynolds, still clutching her hand to her chest.

      "I'm scared to look," she whispered.

      "Just let me see."

      The woman bit her lip, then threw her arm in front of her, eyes tightly shut. Reynolds narrowed her eyes, scanning the woman's hand.

      "Hmm... did he get you right here?" Reynolds asked, tapping the side of the woman's wrist.

      "That's it! How bad is it?"

      "Well, to be honest, I think if he'd tickled you it would have left a bigger mark. It's absolutely nothing. Does it hurt?"

      "Well... not really," the woman admitted, opening one eye. "But it's not bleeding?"

      "Not at all."

      "Oh," she said simply. "I thought it was."

      The Moehog looked at Reynolds, as if to say, "SEE?!"

      "Well, since nobody's hurt," Reynolds said, trailing off.

      "Gosh, I'm sorry, Doc," Rose said sheepishly. "It really looked bad. I mean, she dropped him on the floor and ran like crazy, and she thought she was bleeding..."

      "Well, she had to carry on like a maniac," the Moehog muttered.

      "Hey, you should be more careful! Next time you might really hurt somebody," the woman exclaimed, crossing her arms.

      "You oughta talk!"

      "Uh... can you handle it from here?" Reynolds asked Rose flatly.

      "Of course, of course," Rose grinned. "Now, it's sometimes healthy to begin an owner/pet relationship with a disagreement. All relationships have their trials and errors..."

      Reynolds sighed, shaking her head as she walked back toward the cafeteria.

      "I'm getting too old for this," she muttered, passing the room in which 3298eyyfda had been sleeping. She hesitated in the door a moment, saw that he looked to still be asleep, and began to continue on her way.

      "The... the drama never ends around here, does it?" the Kougra said to her just loud enough for her to hear. She stopped and then took a few steps into the room.

      "Ah, don't worry too much about that. How do you feel?"

      "I feel just fine. Don't you doctors have anything better to talk about? Come in the room, it's 'how do you feel?'. Leave the room, it's 'I'll come back later to see how you feel'."

      "Call it force of habit. While I'm here, let me just check your dressings..."

      She approached his bed and reached for his paw, but he glared at her and drew it back.

      "Oh, come on. It won't hurt. Let me see-" she said, but he wasn't in any mood to accommodate her request. "Hey, what's wrong? Let me see it..."

      "No."

      "Um... yes."

     She reached for his paw again, but he wouldn't give it to her. She looked at his eyes. They looked tired and bloodshot, and with her other paw, she swiftly drew up and felt his forehead. He became enraged.

      "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!"

      "You have a fever. One of your injuries is most likely infected."

      "It's none of your business! Just go away!"

      "Well, it is my business actually. You're going to need--"

      "I DON'T NEED ANYTHING FROM YOU!" 3298eyyfda roared suddenly, leaping to his feet and standing upright on the bed now, shaky but still very intimidating.

      "Okay... listen," Reynolds said quietly, drawing back from the furious Kougra.

      "Listen to what?!"

      "To me. Please. You're injured, you have a fever. I clearly... I clearly missed something when I was tending to your injuries. I understand that you're angry, and I apologize. Please, let me-"

      "No! You don't understand ANYTHING. And I'm not gonna let you patch me up just so I can be put on the street. You should just let me die!"

      "Please, just listen to me..."

      "I'm done listening!" 3298eyyfda screamed, and with a burst of energy he wouldn't soon have again, he lunged at Reynolds, claws extended.

      She yelped in fear, and dodged the angry animal just in time. Unfortunately, his bearings were very off, and he landed awkwardly on his sprained ankle with a loud "thud" and a cry of unexpected pain as his head collided with a cabinet.

      Reynolds was panting with shock, her back to the corner. She stared at 3298eyyfda's figure as it shook, then collapsed to the floor.

      She backed away slowly, out the door and down the hall to where Dr. Death was... had BETTER still be. Instead of knocking politely like she had last night, this time she barrelled through the door, made eye contact with the doctor, and still panting and in mental shock, rasped:

      "Get out here and help me with this patient. NOW."

      Dr. Death hesitated only a moment, then got up from his desk. Reynolds turned away from the door and began to stride back down the hall, when she heard a small female voice.

      "Dr. Reynolds? What should I do?"

      It was Hally Schoy, and Reynolds slapped her forehead. She'd been showing her the ropes, and gone off and left her alone.

      Reynolds was at a complete loss for words, and her own incompetence angered her, and in turn, so did Hally's incompetence. She rolled her eyes irritably.

      "I showed you what to do. Clean the cages," she snapped, continuing down the hall.

      "Right now? But where do the-" Hally began, confused.

      "Hally, I SHOWED YOU what to do! It's time to learn how to swim!" Reynolds yelled behind her.

      Hally felt tears coming to her eyes, and with a nearly silent "Yes, ma'am," walked away and let the door shut.

      A moment later, Dr. Death walked by.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Trapped Within a Dream: Part One
» Trapped Within a Dream: Part Two
» Trapped Within a Dream: Part Three
» Trapped Within a Dream: Part Four



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