A Closer Look at the Kadoatery
THE KADOATERY – They crouch mewing behind those shiny bars, staring with their wide, imploring eyes. The air is thick and hot with their cries.
They don’t have to wail so loudly, really. It’s not as if they’re not taken good care of. There are so many kind people willing to feed them that the feeding times have to be regulated, for fear that the poor sweet Kadoaties swell up with food and stop mewing.
So here I stand, on the edge of another feeding time, ready to take a closer look at this Kad-dominated aspect of Neopian life. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of prospective feeders here already, shoving, jostling, anxious to dash into the Kadoatery as soon as it opens. Several feeders are carrying large bags full of Kadoatie foods. All eyes are fixed keenly upon the bright cages.
“First time here?” I ask a young Kougra, who is tensely jingling his pockets of Neopoints.
“Not really,” he answers, never taking his eyes off the Kadoaties. “I’m a fast sprinter – that’s my style. Been feeding Kads for... what?... two years by now, I think. Each time I dash in to find out what they want, and then make for the Shop Wizard immediately. My strategy’s not the best, but it works for me. I’ve fed sixty-three Kads so far.” He chuckles, a shivery sound.
“Two hundred and fifteen for me,” an Ixi standing next to him boasts. “I specialize in jelly foods and Altadorian foods. Oh, and I can sprint pretty fast too, in case I’m forced to turn to the Shop Wizard. I’ve even acquired an aerodynamic design for my feeding bag.”
I notice that the small Chia standing behind the Ixi is clenching her fist around a Safety Deposit Box key. Her expression intrigues me – I probe her gently with a question.
“I just finished stocking up my SDB,” the Chia replies. “Before that I used to wiz-feed, or at least, I tried to. I’ve been here at least ten times, always exactly punctual, but I never seem to get the food on time. Once I had to spend a few hours in the Neopian Hospital getting my arm set, because I got crushed in the stampede. So I hoped that SDB-feeding would bring me more luck.”
“Is that so,” I say, and am just about to ask more when the doors fling open.
My, it is a sight to behold. I am tossed about like a leaf on the Shenkuu rapids; torrents of excited feeders thrust violently past me, screaming for all they are worth. Many are already scrabbling in their bags as they run. Dizzy and dazed, I watch as two feeders race to get to a Kadoatie; they have both proudly produced the wanted item from their bags, and are tripping over themselves in their haste to reach the cage. In that fleeting instant, a third feeder sprints up breathlessly and overtakes them. Neopoints are flying out of his pocket as he tears along the ground, but the glittering waste is the least of his worries. He clutches the wanted item in his hand as if it were the one treasure in the world, slams himself against the cage, and tremblingly forces the food down the Kadoatie’s throat.
“Mew,” goes the Kadoatie, after the “gulg-glug-glurp”.
The Kougra turns and grins a terrible grin at the other two feeders.
Undeterred, they swing around and charge towards the other cages. By now only a very small number of Kadoaties are left mewing for their foods. The feeders standing near those cages turn out their pockets in a fit of desperation, then shake their heads sadly. Nobody could possibly afford such outrageously expensive treats.
But, of course, people would do anything for the pampered sweeties. Before long a Neopian millionaire is back, triumphantly carrying the requested item.
In a minute it is as if nothing has happened. The grounds are deserted, the Kadoaties are mewing, and the horizon is actually visible.
When my heart stops threatening to burst out of my chest, I wander up to the cages to take a closer look at the Kadoaties. The little princess who was fed last is now contentedly licking up the last crumbs of her fruit cake. The other Kadoaties look longingly at her. She has a smug look on her face.
As a journalist I have interviewed all sorts of beings, but never have I interviewed such a haughty little creature, and one that only knows how to mew, at that. Nevertheless, I have done my homework in advance, and studied the Kadoatie’s mewing language.
For the convenience of the reader, however, I will record our conversation in plain Neopian.
“Little princess—” I begin.
“My name is Leela,” the rainbow-coloured Petpet corrects me. The other Kadoaties laugh their chittery, squeaky laughter.
“All right, Leela,” I say. “What’s it like being in the Kadoatery?”
Leela continues to nibble delicately at her fruit cake, as though mocking me.
“Aww, come on,” I wheedle. “Tell me.”
“It’s hard at first to say bye-bye to your owner,” Jeremy, the Kadoatie in the next cage, volunteers, “but then you get a lot of attention from everyone here, and it can actually turn out to be quite fun. There are feeders who will do anything to bring a bit of sunshine into your life.”
Midnight, another Kadoatie, licks her paw carelessly. “I don’t think those feeders really care for us,” she retorts. “They’re just looking for fame. I mean, the Kadoatery does give out some really nice trophies and avatars.”
“You’re wrong,” Jeremy says angrily. “I’ve seen groups of dedicated feeders who often talk among themselves and encourage each other on. Many of them already have the avatar. They’re just feeding us because they like to see us happy, and because they’ve developed feeding into a social event.”
“Nevertheless,” sighs Midnight, “I don’t see them showering us with the love and attention that they give to their own petpets.”
I write all this down thoughtfully. “What are your views, Leela?” I ask.
It is now that I notice Leela’s expression. She still looks haughty, but there is a trembling quality to her composure now. “Leela?” I prompt.
“I must admit that I do not enjoy being here,” she finally answers, holding her chin high. “This fruit cake cannot compare with the love and care of my owner.”
“Well said,” I say gently.
The atmosphere is somewhat tense now. I feel that I have intruded into these small, mewing lives and that I should leave now, as quickly as possible. I step back respectfully from the cages, and am just wondering about what to do when the Kadoatery keeper comes down the aisle.
He is putting up the names of the feeders. Midnight, I note, shrinks back distastefully from the paper stuck up on her cage. Leela touches her paper absently, a distant look in her eyes.
The Kadoatery keeper nods in my direction. “Welcome to the Kadoatery,” he says. “This is where Kadoaties go when their owners are on holiday. It’s a nice place, but it doesn’t take long for them to get lonely. Each Kadoatie really wants an item to make it happy until its owner returns. If you have the item the Kadoatie is looking for, click on its cage to hand it over! You’ll make the little Petpet very happy, and your name will be displayed here so everyone knows how kind you are.”
There is a near-robotic quality to his voice. I shake my head slowly, a chill spreading in my body. The names on the cages and the shining eyes behind them are too much for me. I turn around to go...
...and see another crowd approaching, carrying their baskets and purses and their fierce, determined demeanour.
Now I feel like mewing in despair, too.