Needed Adventure: Part Nine
There was a moment just after the cage doors swung fully
open that seemed to stretch on forever, silent and still, and even the crackling
of the growing flames and the screaming of the fire alarm seemed to fade into
Then everything snapped back into focus. They
were back in the here and now, and the pets who had been hovering at the edges
of their cages, staring out at the freedom before them as if at an old friend
who they had thought long dead, now were galvanized into action. Those who could
leapt from their cages with shouts of triumph, stretching muscles that had been
too long cramped and unused and then turning to give aid to the older pets and
those who were in the higher-up cages.
"Stop them!" the woman shouted, but before her
two underlings could take more than a step, they were knocked to the floor by
the stream of pets that was now rushing toward the door, and found themselves
held there by a Kau and Uni.
The woman gritted her teeth. "Why do I have to
do everything mys-- ooph!" Her tirade was cut short as she found herself knocked
down as well. She rolled over onto her back and looked up to see Enzo standing
over her, teeth bared.
"You're not doing this," he said. She
seemed to concede defeat, at least for the time being, not offering any struggle,
but still refusing to look at all intimidated by the growling Gelert.
Enzo turned his head to look back at the doorway.
Cambry stood on one side of it and Jonas' shouted directions indicated that
he was on the other, though he remained invisible as ever. They were doing their
best to keep the crowd of pets under control and get them through the door and
outside to safety as quickly as possible, but with the number of pets and the
greatness of their excitement, their efforts seemed to be doing little good.
Every pet was anxious to get through the door and out of this place, and the
narrow doorway was crowded with hurried pushing and shoving that only slowed
the whole process down.
Enzo cast a nervous glance up at the ceiling.
The fire had spread across almost the whole room, and burnt bits of the ceiling
were beginning to fall to the floor. The fire had been their salvation, but
if they weren't careful it would be their doom as well. They had to hurry.
Slowly, too slowly, the room began to empty pet
by pet. It seemed like an eternity to Enzo as he felt ash and embers raining
down gently upon his fur and he continued to look worriedly between the dwindling
crowd and the growing fire. Finally, even as the fire had begun to spread to
the two adjoining rooms, the last of the pets made her way out, leaving only
Jonas, Cambry, the Uni and Kau, Enzo and the three humans.
"Enzo!" Cambry called out shakily. Enzo looked
at her, seeing the fear that glistened in her eyes as the flames reflected off
of them. He realized that all the anxiety that he had been suffering had been
nothing compared to her terror at staying in this room as the flames spread.
And yet she had stayed, to help the others.
"Hurry up, lad!" Jonas called, stamping one of
his hooves against the floor. "We'd best get out of here before the place falls
apart around our heads!"
"Listen to him," the woman said, a hint of desperation
creeping into her voice for the first time.
Enzo turned to her with a snarl. "'Listen to
him?'" he growled. "That's the first time you've shown any interest in listening
to him or any other pet in here. Well, listen to this: you will never do anything
like this ever again. You will not rebuild this place or any other place like
it. You will not use pets for your own gain. Not. Ever. Again."
The woman frowned. "Very well."
"Promise!" Enzo snapped.
She sighed. "I promise."
"I'll hold you to that." He looked to the Kau
and Uni who held the two men down. "Let them up and get out of here as quickly
as possible." They nodded and did as they were told. The two men scrambled to
their feet and went running toward the doorway behind them.
Enzo gave the woman one more long, hard stare
before letting her up as well. She stood with much more deliberation and dignity
than the two men had, dusting the ash from her coat and then walking calmly
from the room as if it was not covered in flames.
"Enzo, please," Cambry cried.
"I'm coming," he said, trying to offer a reassuring
smile as he trotted toward the door to join his friends.
But the smile fell away quickly when he heard
the almost deafening crack from above, like a peal of thunder tearing through
the sky. He looked up just in time to see a beam come crashing down through
the burning ceiling. He leapt backwards, watching breathlessly as the end of
the heavy piece of wood crashed down right where he had been just a second before.
Splinters and sparks flew at him, but he hardly noticed them as the cracking
sounds resounded overhead again, seeming to spread across the whole ceiling.
Several more burning beams fell down beside the first, each with a horrible
crash, until there was a fiery wall separating Enzo from Cambry and Jonas--
and the doorway.
"Enzo!" Cambry cried. Enzo struggled to see her
through the leaping flames.
"Cambry, Jonas, get out of here!"
"Don't worry about me," he called out. "I'll
find another way out. Just get out of here before any more of those beams give.
Go to the junkyard, like I told you. I'll meet you there."
"Enzo..." Cambry's voice was uncertain, a mixture
of her fear of the fire and her fear for him.
"I promise," he said. "Now go!"
"Come on, lass," he heard Jonas say. "He'll be
all right, you'll see."
Enzo stayed there, staring through the blaze
until he was sure that he could no longer see the brown of Cambry's fur. Finally,
he turned around. Now that his friends were safe, it was time to see to himself.
There were two doors on this side of the room.
One he knew housed the various rays, as they were wheeled in and out of it every
morning and evening, so it wasn't likely to do him any good. The other he wasn't
sure of-- the woman had spent much of her time in there, so it might have been
anything-- but it was his best chance of finding a way out.
He ran toward the door, trying to ignore the
flames that licked at him from the walls and the foreboding creaking of the
fiery ceiling overhead. He reached up a paw, struggling awkwardly and hurriedly
with the handle.
"Still having trouble with those, I see."
Enzo looked up at the sound of the familiar voice
to see Whooter fluttering just over his head. The petpet, his brown feathers
slightly darkened by the smoke and ash, settled on the door handle, and his
weight was just enough to push it down.
"Whooter! I thought you'd gotten out with everyone
"Yes, well, someone had to stay behind to watch
after you. Obviously," he added, nodding pointedly at the door handle. "Now,
let's get out of here, shall we, and we can save the rest of the small talk
Enzo chuckled in spite of everything. "Yes, Whooter."
With Whooter still perched on the door handle, the Gelert pushed against the
door, and it swung slowly open. Whooter left the handle to rest on top of Enzo's
The room that the pair found themselves looking
in on appeared to be a small office-- or at least, that was what it appeared
to have been once, for the fire had already spread to it, and the furniture
and files that were not already destroyed were engulfed in flames.
But through the overbearing heat and suffocating
smoke, Enzo focused in on one thing: a small window on the other side of the
room. "Whooter," he said, "wait here."
"Enzo, what are you--!" Whooter's words were
cut short as Enzo ran out from under him, racing forward and leaving him fluttering
alone in the thick air. Enzo braced himself, closed his eyes, and leaped straight
through the window. He felt the glass resist and then shatter around him, and
then suddenly his feet were on the ground again-- not the smooth hard floor
now, but snow-covered grass-- and shards of glass were raining down around his
He spun around to see Whooter come flying through
the hole that he had left in the pane of glass. "Do you ever do anything the
easy way?" the whoot asked, breathlessly, as if he had been the one who'd just
performed the dangerous feat.
Enzo cocked an eyebrow at him and offered a sly
smile. "That wasn't the easy way?"
Whooter just sighed.
"Hey," Enzo said, "at least we got out, right?
A now-familiar sound of creaking and rumbling
interrupted, and the two turned to stare at the wall of the building from which
they'd just escaped. The flames now rose up out of the building, clawing at
the sky, its blue marred by the choking grey smoke. The building groaned again,
and with a sudden sinking feeling, Enzo realized what was about to happen.
"Run!" he yelled, and instead of waiting for
Whooter to respond, he grabbed the end of the whoot's tail feathers in his teeth
and shot away from the building as quickly as he could.
"Enzo!" Whooter cried, indignant, as he dangled
from the Gelert's mouth. "What are you doing? Put me down this instant and tell
me what's going--"
Whooter's tirade was cut short when he looked
back to see what Enzo had predicted: the burning wall falling down toward them.
"Faster!" he shouted.
Enzo raced forward, trying to get out of the
path of the tumbling wall, his eyes fixed on the tree line; if he could reach
it, they should be safe. If not.... He fought the urge to look over his shoulder;
it would only slow him down, and that he could not afford.
He was only a few feet away from those trees,
but he could feel the heat of the fiery wall licking at his back, about to crash
down upon him. He made one last desperate leap, landing sprawled in the snow,
and then all he could do was lie there, hoping that it had been enough.
Half a second later, the wall crashed to the
ground behind him. Shaking and panting, he stood to his feet, dropping Whooter
unceremoniously from his mouth, and turned to survey the remains of the wall--
a field of brick and wood and sputtering flames, the very edge of which had
landed only a few feet away. He and Whooter just stood there for several minutes,
staring at the rubble and the fire that still raged behind it and catching their
"What were you saying about that being the easy
way?" asked Whooter.
Enzo turned from the fire and destruction to
the trees behind him, the beginning of the forest that surrounded the outer
edges of Neopia Central. Blanketed in snow, quiet and unmoving, it seemed like
a whole world away from the scene of noise and destruction that was in reality
only a few feet away. His father had talked about the forest before-- about
foraging excursions with Uncle Brenner, running through the wild grasses and
among the trees and picking berries straight from the bush. He had promised
to take Enzo one day, but that day had not come before....
Enzo drew himself out of his thoughts, focusing
resolutely on the physical world around him instead. It was then, for the first
time, that he really noticed the snow-- the stinging wet cold of it against
the pads of his paws and the strange crisp smell that it gave to the air. Snow....
Was it really that long that we were in that horrible place? He took
a few steps further into the forest, enjoying the crunch of the snow.
"Enzo, what are you doing?" Whooter asked, sounding
Enzo turned his head to look at him. "What do
"I mean, you told Cambry and Jonas you'd meet
them at the junkyard. And the junkyard is that way." He pointed in the opposite
direction, a hint of pleading in his expression.
"Yes, well... but we can't very well walk straight
through-- the fire's in the way. We'll have to go around a bit before we can
head back into the city safely...."
"And besides, I've been locked up in a cage for--
well, it must have been months if it's snowing-- so I think I deserve to stretch
my legs, just a bit."
"Just a bit, Whooter."
The whoot sighed and fluttered after him, knowing
it was hopeless. "Just a bit," he said.
Smiling, Enzo ventured deeper into the forest,
eyes and ears and nose alert. He had seen snow before, once when he was still
just a puppy, but snow in the city quickly became dirty slush and soon lost
its novelty. This snow was something different altogether. The forest seemed
untouched and so beautiful and exhilarating as he made his own path of paw prints
through the trees. It wasn't long before he found himself running, kicking up
the white powder and yipping excitedly, just as he and his sisters had done
that morning of their first snow. Whooter flapped after him, trying desperately
to keep up and calling out for him to slow down or stop.
Enzo finally heeded the harried whoot's shouts,
spinning to a stop and waiting, watching his breath shoot from his mouth in
short white puffs. Whooter finally caught up with him and immediately collapsed
into the snow at his paws and glaring upward. "Just... a... bit?" he said between
Enzo just laughed, still a little breathless
himself. "Oh come on, Whooter. Lighten up!"
"Hmph!" Whooter slowly stood to his claws and
brushed the snow from his feathers. "One of us needs to keep his head, at least,
and that's clearly not going to be you." Enzo rolled his eyes, but whether the
whoot noticed or not, he continued his lecture undaunted. "If you really must
for whatever silly reason venture this far into the forest, at least don't be
so careless about it. It wouldn't do for us to get separated out here, you know."
"Whooter, would you relax? What could possibly
happen?" He turned, trotted forward a few paces, and suddenly disappeared with
a surprised yelp.
"Enzo!" Whooter flapped the few feet forward
to where the Gelert had disappeared from sight and found himself looking down
a Gelert-sized trough freshly carved in the side of a hill. He covered his eyes
with a claw. "Oh, what now?"
To be continued...