Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 135,120,757 Issue: 269 | 8th day of Celebrating, Y8
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The Hoarders: Part One


by ruff_zette

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The Runaway

"You're... You're getting rid of me?"

     Kannice's throat felt choked, and her heart was clamming up. The little red Kougra suddenly felt very dizzy, and sat down rather abruptly on the floor. She looked up at her owner, but could barely see her through the tears.

     "Oh, honey. I had to get rid of one of you," Sarah said. It was in her usual sickly-sweet voice, that Kannice had never noticed was fake until that moment. It made her want to throw up. "And I chose you because you're the oldest."

     "But since I'm the oldest, wouldn't you love me the most?" The pet sobbed. "What, do you like the others b-better?"

     "No, nothing like that. I just can't afford to keep four pets anymore. I know we had a lot of money, but it just kind of drifted away. But I figured you're older, so you'd cope with this better..."

     "You call this coping?" the Kougra screamed hysterically.

     Sarah stood up furiously. "I didn't have a choice, Kannice!"

     "Yes, you did!" Kannice yelled back, tears spilling down her face. "You said you chose me. You chose to get rid of me!"

     "Kannice!" The girl towered over the pet. "I won't take this from my own pets!" she roared. "You're going to the pound tomorrow, and that's it! Now get to your room and don't come out for the rest of the night!"

     The two remained frozen for a moment, glaring at each other. Then Kannice turned and ran out of the room. As Sarah watched her tail disappear around the door, she sat down sadly. She felt guilty and miserable. She didn't want her pet to go at all.

     * * * * *

     Hours later, Kannice was still crying into her pillow. This wasn't supposed to happen. Not to her family. Not to her. She sat up and looked around her room through tear-filled eyes. Plushies, books, clothes... everything a pet could want. She knew where the money had gone.

     But then she realised that tomorrow, she wouldn't have any of those things anymore. She couldn't take them to the pound. She vaguely wondered if her sisters or her brother knew yet. Probably not. Sarah would probably tell them after the Kougra was long gone. That way they couldn't object.

     And then it hit her. Long gone. She had to be long gone. She picked one of her many backpacks, and started making some hurried decisions. Her Ixi plushie, that she'd had since she was a young pet. That had to come. And her favourite book, Kougra Tales.

     Neopoints. She picked up her Kau moneybox, and was about to put that in the bag too, when she remembered Sarah's words. She may not be able to look after four pets, but with a little help from Kannice, she might manage with three.

     The Kougra picked up her striped notebook and her Faerie pen, and started scrawling a note.

     Mum, Penrithe, Harvey and Shellie,

     First of all I want to say that I love you all very much. I don't know how far away I'll be by the time you're reading this, but I don't want you to come looking for me. Like you said, Mum, I'm the oldest. I can take care of myself.

     I'm giving you all my stuff - even my Neopoints. That should be enough for you to get by, and none of you will ever have to face the decision that I have.

     Good luck - for me and you. All of you with your money issues, me with my new life. I'll be okay, I promise you that much. And I'll miss you, because I don't think I'll ever see you again.

     Goodbye,

     Kannice

     She set it on her desk, right next to her moneybox. A tear trickled down her face, and onto the notebook, and left a dark smudge on the page. She picked up her bag, threw one last look at all her precious possessions, and climbed out the window.

     She had forgotten that her bedroom wasn't on the bottom floor, and she hit the ground with a thump. She rubbed her bruised head as she stood up, before setting off through the dark streets of Neopia Central.

     It was quite late, probably nearly midnight, and the whole city seemed to be asleep. She soon left her upperclass neighborhood of Bracknell Road, and found herself walking instead past medium sized houses.

     Kannice hadn't really realised how cold it got at night, as her house had heating. She was soon shivering, and walking slower. She suddenly had a thought. What if she just went back home? It'd be like she never left. She had turned around, and was about to take the first step back when she realised that it was no longer her home. If she went back to that house, the pound would be her home. No, she had to keep going.

     She forced her paws to carry her onwards. "Ah well," she encouraged herself. "At least things can't get any..."

     A raindrop fell on her nose.

     * * * * *

     A young girl was looking out through the rain, and saw the shivering, drenched form of a red Kougra, walking slowly down the street. She invited the pet in and gave her a nice warm cup of hot chocolate, and a cosy bed to sleep in. And the two lived happily ever after.

     But no-one looked out through the rain, and Kannice dismissed her hopes, and continued trudging along the road. She wondered if she would rather be in the pound. A roof over her head, an old straw bed, some food...

     Food. She hadn't packed a single piece of food. Or any money. Nothing. She would starve.

     A twig cracked, and Kannice spun around, terrified. "Anyone there?" She peered through the darkness, the rain blurring her vision. But she couldn't see any movement, so she relaxed. "I'm just being paranoid..."

     She screamed as a shadowy shape darted past her. "Stay away!" she yelled. She spun around squinting for any sign of movement. "Please don't hurt..." She trailed off as she came face-to-face with a Meepit. The Kougra sighed and left the petpet sitting there as she continued walking.

     She was hungry, tired, wet and cold. Why did she think she could run away. She would be better off in the pound...

     "Snap out of it!" she yelled. She was relieved that there was no-one there watching, as they would have assumed she was crazy. But she had to remind herself that she had run away for a reason, and there was no going back on it now.

     And then the night was broken up by a series of pitiful yowls. The pound? No, the Kadoatery. She was in the main street, surrounded not by houses, but by shops. And then Kannice had an idea. She could go to the Bank, access Sarah's account, get some money and buy some food.

     Now that her eyes were used to the dark, she could see the looming shape of the National Neopian. It was only a short walk away, and it took her a matter of minutes before she reached it. When she finally climbed to the top of the stairs, she slipped in a puddle of rain water, and fell back to the bottom.

     A minute later, she was standing at the enormous wooden doors. She gave them a firm push with her paw - but they didn't budge. She leaned on them with her shoulder and pushed with all her strength. It wasn't until after she'd collapsed with exhaustion that she saw the sign. Closed, like everything else.

     As she sat resting for a few minutes, she felt a pang of guilt. She had been about to take Neopoints from her family, who hardly had enough money as it was. She had said in her letter that she could take care of herself. She had to now.

     And so she set off once again, dismally, past the shops. As she saw the Food Shop she had a rather clever idea. Surely, somebody would have enough compassion to give a homeless Neopet something to eat? Maybe even the shop keeper.

     So the little Kougra curled up at the door. In the morning, people would start arriving, and most likely feeling sorry for her. She could beg if she had to. And until then, it was a good spot to stay out of the rain.

     * * * * *

     Kannice frolicked happily around the yard with her sisters and her brother. She picked a flower and tucked it behind her ear. Then Sarah came out, carrying a tray with five tropical fruit smoothies. She laughed as she handed them out.

     And Kannice was happy. Genuinely happy...

     "What are you doing here?"

     * * * * *

     Kannice was wide awake. Those words could not have been part of her dream.

     "I said, what are you doing here?" snarled the voice.

     The Kougra spun around and saw a Lupe towering over. Eerie shadows were being cast over his face, and his eyes were shining.

     Kannice panicked. She was a rich, pampered pet. If she got into a fight with this Lupe, there was no chance that she could win. She could run, but she wasn't very athletic, so he'd probably catch up to her very quickly. All she could do was talk.

     "I'm sorry, I was just... The rain... What's that?" She was staring at the bag that the Lupe was clutching.

     He looked closely at her, before saying, rather stiffly, "Nothing." Then his face softened and he extended his paw to her. "Cane."

     "Kannice."

     Cane nodded. Then he gave a slight smile, and murmured something to himself, that Kannice couldn't hear.

     "What?" she asked suspiciously.

     "I said you're a 'runaway'. You left. You went away. You escaped. Take your pick." He seemed satisfied to have touched a nerve, because he smiled even more. "Come with me. You don't really look too good."

     And he turned, and walked away through the rain. Kannice ran after him. Something told her it was her only real option.

To be continued...

 
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