Stuck: Part One
“Okay, you understand the general gist of this, right?”
I nodded, excited beyond all belief. This wasn’t your everyday abandonment I was going through, after all. This was an adventure.
My name is Sojo, and I am a Coconut JubJub. I have been my owner’s favorite pet for years, even before she got the lab ray. It was a sign of her faith in me that she used it to zap me, a plain blue JubJub, first: it was a sign of my faith in her that I got turned Coconut on the first shot.
I looked up at Terri as we walked down the sidewalk, wondering if she appeared to be as excited as I felt. She was twisting her short black hair around her pinky finger and chewing on her lower lip, both signs of nerves. Well, she had explained the risks to me, but as I saw it, I’d be perfectly safe. She knew what she was doing, I was sure. She wouldn’t put me at risk, otherwise.
She stopped her chewing for long enough to grin down at me. That, she often told me, was one of the aspects she loved best about me; my diminutive height. I never took it as an insult, as Terri was well under the height of normal humans as well. We looked fantastic together.
As we approached the dank, grey building, I recognized the tall redhead leaning against the door. Shelle was always Terri’s best Neofriend, that girl that she knew ‘from school’. Floating next to her was Melle, a checkered Kiko and my best friend. I bounced up and down happily at seeing her; she waved in return, bobbing up and down in the air.
That was another benefit of my ‘adventure’; I’d be staying with Shelle and Melle for a day or two before returning to Terri. It’d be just like a sleepover, only better, since Melle had promised to make me a plate of cookies for my ‘braveness’. And Melle made the best Neopet-shaped cookies I had ever seen.
Terri and I reached the two and Terri jumped up to give Shelle a high-five, managing to grin at her. Shelle leaned down a bit to return the gesture, obviously excited. The difference in height between the two had always amused Melle and me; we often compared them to a Grarrl and a Chia, one gigantic, one petite.
“Terri, stop worrying so much,” Shelle said with a laugh, playfully resting her elbow on top of Terri’s head (an action which always annoyed the shorter girl). “I’ll pick up Sojo as soon as you put him in; he won’t be in a cage for more than a second.”
“You know what those snipers are like, Shelle,” Terri grumbled in reply. “They might get him before we can so much as blink!”
“Please?” Shelle whined, giving Terri those water-filled eyes that she could never stand. “How else will I ever get the avatar? And you know I’ll be nice to Sojo. Why, he and Melle are practically siblings!”
Both girls turned to look at us. As the two of us had just started an engaging game of cellblock (having found the human conversation lacking), they found nothing at fault.
“Well, I suppose...” Terri rubbed the back of her head and started chewing her lower lip again. Evidently, the taller girl took this as a sign of approval.
“Great! Now, let’s get this over with.” She waved at the two of us and Melle picked up the traveling cellblock board, promising me that we’d finish the game later. Together, all four of us walked into the building.
It was undecorated, pale cream walls devoid of anything except a few small windows. Two closed doors were at the back of the room, and between those doors was a large desk. At the desk were seated two Neopets; a Uni and a Techo. A few fading posters were plastered to the front of the desk, with mournful Neopets staring out of them, the words ‘ADOPT ME’ scripted below. I looked away from the posters; the case of the Neopets on them was not like mine at all.
We all waited patiently as the Techo finished talking with a young boy and his Gelert. The boy nodded, said something to his pet, then turned back around and headed outside, the Gelert galloping happily at his heels. Then the Techo motioned towards Terri, who walked up to the desk. I followed her while Shelle and Melle stayed behind.
“So, you want to abandon your Neopet?” the Techo asked, a scowl on his face. I winced; ‘abandon’ seemed like such a harsh word.
“Well, sort of,” Terri mumbled, looking uncomfortable as well. Then she leaned towards the Techo and whispered confidentially, “It’s actually a transfer. Though you didn’t hear that from me.”
The Techo looked a bit less menacing then, even if he still scowled. “You’re not doing this for a profit, right?” he questioned severely.
Terri looked shocked at the very suggestion. “Galloping Gallions, no! Shelle’s my friend.”
The Techo nodded slowly, then sighed. “All right then. 250 Neopoints.”
Terri handed over the small yellow sack of Neopoints, then leaned down to give me a quick hug. “I’ll see you soon. Love you,” she whispered in my ear.
I would’ve hugged back if I had arms. “Don’t worry, Terri, I’ll be fine, Shelle will take care of me. Love you too.”
Then the Techo was leading me back through the door on his side of the desk. As I walked through, I turned my head a bit and saw Shelle wink at Terri as she and Melle headed through the other door. I breathed a sigh of relief; they would undoubtedly get me out before anyone else had a chance.
The Techo was giving me a dry recital of the rules in the pound, which I didn’t bother to listen too; I wouldn’t ever have to follow them, anyway. Then he opened the back door of a cage for me, gesturing that I go inside. On the other side, I could see Shelle and Melle, already waiting for me. I grinned at them reassuringly as the Techo closed the door behind me and turned the key in the lock-
But before Shelle could open the door on the other side, a thin wall of metal slid across in front of me, right before the bars. I could hear the door on the other side of the wall open, could hear Shelle’s frantic shouts as she tried to figure out what had happened. Melle was shouting too, asking me if I was alright, and I could hear other frantic voices of both humans and Neopets all around.
“Attention, residents and visitors,” a calm, whinnying voice stated, “the pound is now closed for maintenance. All visitors should report to the front office within the next ten minutes; after this period of time, we will be closing the doors for visitors. Thank you. Attention, residents and visitors-”
I stopped listening to the Uni’s voice and ran up to the metal wall, banging at it with my feet. It seemed very solid. Giving up on any idea of breaking it down, I tried the next best option. “Melle, Shelle! Can you hear me?”
Shelle sounded exceedingly frantic. “Yes, yes! Oh my Fyora, Terri is going to kill me-”
“Sojo, we can open your door, but there’s some kind of wall in the way,” Melle said, also sounding frantic. “Actually, there are walls behind the doors of all of the cages. We can’t see any pets.”
I looked around my cell, trying to see if there was another exit. Nothing was blocking the door in the back, but it was locked; there were bars on either side, with an open space on one side and a grumpy yellow Blumaroo on the other. I dismissed the pet from my mind, only noticing that, indeed, both the empty cage and his cage had their front doors blocked off. It was pretty dark with the wall in the way, and anything past the cages to either side of me was blurry.
“I can’t get out,” I yelled back, looking up and discovering that the ceiling was covered by old bits of gum. “Didn’t the announcement say something about the pound being closed?”
“But it’s never closed,” Shelle wailed.
I heard a clip-clopping sound outside of my cell, and then the same whinnying voice from before. “Excuse me, but you two need to be getting along to the front office now...”
“You don’t understand,” Shelle cried, her voice still strained. “My friend’s pet is in there, I was about to adopt him-”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but you’ll have to wait until the pound is reopened.”
Shelle made a hiccupping sound. I leaned against the door, trembling at the Uni’s words. The full realization of what was going to happen to me was starting to sink in.
“Don’t worry, Sojo,” Melle said from the other side, her voice soothing. “We’ll get you out of there soon. How long could maintenance take?”
“Okay,” I mumbled in reply, trying to sound reassured. But I still remembered what Terri had been so worried about before; snipers, those people who would try to get rare pets like me as soon as they got put in the pound. And the pound pets who were supposedly so angry at the world. And the world-famed pound food (or lack of it).
The clip-clopping sound, now followed by Shelle’s footsteps, went off along the side. I was alone.
To be continued...