In the Neopian Pound
She huddled in the corner of her cage (and it was a cage, albeit a comfortable one, no matter what anyone said), barely even glancing at the crowds of people making their way through the corridor outside. It had been ages since she had even tried to get anyone's attention, to show them that there was more to her than met the eye. No one would ever choose her.
It had been different once. She had been a Fire Poogle then, as she had for as long as she could remember. (Sometimes, in her dreams, she remembered Before. Hadn't she once been a Pteri, flying high over Mystery Island?) She had been happy, loved by her owner and her sisters alike. At least, that's what she had thought.
"Let's visit the Lab Ray again," he had said. She had thought it was a mere whim, but looking back she couldn't help but wonder. "Maybe this time you'll be turned into a MSPP. Wouldn't you like to be such a rare color?"
The first time, she had said "no." (The dreams of Before had come back that night. She remembered being a Flotsam, swimming in the ruins of what had once been Maraqua. But that was impossible. Maraqua was still there. He had taken her and her sisters to visit it during their last holiday together.) She hadn't wanted to change.
"You'll be unique," he had told her as he placed a newly bought tiara on her head. It clashed with the Uni Gem she always carried with her, but he didn’t notice. "People will think I'm someone to be respected, if I have a pet like that."
(Once, Before, she thought she might have been a Unicorn Usul. That must have been a dream, though, because everyone knew there was no such thing. Didn't they?)
Sometimes she wondered why she agreed. Shivers shook her body as they made their way to the laboratory that was so well hidden that she wondered how her own had ever found it. (She had been there many times, Before. It was the place from her dreams.) But she hadn't said a word as she stepped on the platform.
There had been a bright flash of light, just like in her dreams. It wasn't didn’t hurt her, not really, but it was enough to make her gasp in fright. She had felt her body shifting and changing, and for just a moment she had thought that maybe things would turn out fine after all.
One look at her owner's face as the light faded away had told her differently.
And now here she was, in the Neopian Pound, just as she had been for what seemed like eternity. She was a Moehog now, instead of a Poogle. Her fur was yellow, ordinary and boring. There was nothing about her that stood out.
It wasn't her fault that her name was odd, full of letters and numbers and underscores that were nothing but nonsense at first glance. Before, it hadn't mattered. But now? Now here she was, ignored by everyone who walked past.
No one wanted a pet like her. They wanted someone who was pretty or unique or with a name that seemed more normal. She would never leave the pound.
Days passed, just as they always did. Nothing changed, not for her at least. The pets around her were slowly adopted, but there were always newly abandoned pets to replace them. She didn't say anything as they crowded around the edges of the cell, making sure they could be seen by the people outside. Some of them would be adopted; some of them would become like her and the others who had been there for so long. They would learn, eventually, that there was no point in putting forth such an effort.
Then, one day, something new happened.
"That owner's looking at you," a blue Acara said. He was one of the new ones, whose name she didn't know yet.
She looked up from the corner where she was curled up. "Who?"
He simply gestured toward the bars of the cell.
Curious despite herself, she followed his gaze. An owner was standing in the corridor, staring at the corner were they were sitting with wide eyes. A visitor to the pound, hoping to find the perfect pet to adopt.
"No, that owner's probably looking at you," she whispered after a moment's pause. "Nobody ever pays attention to me."
The Acara simply shook his head and walked away. The owner's gaze never wavered from the corner where she was still sitting.
She sat up a little straighter, surprise rushing through her. Why would someone be looking at her? Hesitantly, she made her way toward the bars.
"What's your name?" the owner asked, once she was within earshot.
Startled, she blinked. Then, her voice barely above a whisper, she replied. She braced herself for the owner to frown or perhaps even turn and walk away.
Instead, the owner smiled and repeated her name. "Well, it's definitely unique."
Unique? No one had ever called her name unique before. Even her old owner had frowned at her name, but he had always said that her appearance made up for it. But she was plain now. There was nothing special about her.
She realized that the owner was staring at her, almost expectantly.
"Thank you," she said quietly, trying not to let her surprise show. She suspected that she was failing in that regard.
The owner laughed. It was a pleasant sound, and for the first time she realized that she hadn't heard anyone laugh since she had been abandoned. "There's no reason to thank me," the owner said lightly. "I'm just stating a fact."
She dropped her gaze, trying not to blush. It had been a long time since anyone had complimented her either.
"How would you like to come home with me?"
Utter shock rushed through her, and she quickly looked up. "What do you mean?" she asked, confused. The owner couldn't have meant what she thought she had meant.
The owner was still smiling. "Would you mind if I adopted you? I have three other pets at home, two boys and a girl, who would love to have a new sibling in the family."
"Me?" she repeated. She blinked several times, her eyes suddenly watery. "But why would you want to adopt me?"
It was the owner's turn to look slightly surprised. "Because you're perfect," the owner said finally, as if it was a fact that shouldn't have had to be stated.
She paused at that and thought back to the other pets she had seen in the pound. Not the ones who had stepped up to the bars, smiling and waving. They had been painted or had names that guaranteed they would soon be adopted. No, the pets she thought of were the ones like her - those who huddled in the corners, with no hope left that they would ever find a new home.
Maybe, if there was someone out there who wanted her, someone would want them too. She had thought she would stay there forever, hidden away from the rest of Neopia.
Would someone make their dreams come true as well?
She slowly smiled. "I'd love to be adopted."