Life in a Snowy Shadow: Part Five
I knew that there were quite a few Petpet avatars, but it was strange knowing that there was one of my species. To get the Snowbunny avatar, it appeared that a Snowbunny had to stay with one Neopet for at least 365 days. The thought scared me a bit -- how many Snowbunnies would get stuck with foul Neopets for a year so that their owners could get an avatar? I was safe here, but...
The price of Snowbunnies had apparently risen significantly in shops due to this. I wasn’t sure of exactly how much I would cost if sold, but I knew it was quite a large amount. I tried not to think about it, though. The thought of being haggled by Neopets in shops, traded for other objects on the trading post and being sold for Neopoints made me feel sick. Fortunately, there were others who understood me. Hal the Harris and Annie the Angelpuss, who had the avatars Harris - Hi and Angelpuss respectively to their name, knew the costs of having an avatar for your species. Oinkie the Snorkle also cringed and agreed when the subject came up, but there wasn’t a Snorkle avatar, was there?
“I’ve been in at least ten different Neohomes before,” Hal explained. “As soon as the owner gets the avatar, they sell me for money. Hugo saw how miserable I was one day, while being left on the trading post, and he knew the only thing to do was let me be traded one last time for his own money and items, so I can stay here safely now.”
“Pretty much the same thing happened to me,” Annie said. “But I’ve been in almost fifty homes. Angelpi are cheaper and don’t need to be attached for a long time -- only for one day -- for the owner to get the avatar. So I’ve been sold, traded and auctioned many, many times. I’m really glad it won’t happen to you, because you’re safe here.”
I agreed, but couldn’t help thinking of my sister, Jenny, and my mother. Would that happen to them? Would they eventually end up in the PPL? I knew the chance was slim, but told Eyna exactly how they looked like so that if she saw them, she could try and bring them to the Petpet Protection League. At the moment, there were no other Snowbunnies here.
On the second of January, just after New Year’s Day, an owner and his Neopet (a Red Techo) came to visit, hoping to adopt a Petpet. They told Mera that they were planning to start off the new year by giving a Petpet a loving home. Apparently he was quite well-known in Neopia, being very rich, and had donated to PPL-related charities for years. He also adopted Neopets to paint them a nice colour so that they would be more desirable, and he could find a good home for them. Naturally, he and his Techo passed Mera and Hugo’s ‘inspection’.
“Just look for the Petpet you’d like, and you can take him or her home, on their agreement,” Mera said sweetly.
The owner wrinkled his brow. “Agreement?”
“Of course -- we can’t force them into a new home, can they? But I wouldn’t worry. You’re well-known in their society, too, it seems, and they’re all very excited. It would be very unlikely for the Petpet you pick to refuse.”
He instantly relaxed. “OK, then.”
I personally had no idea who this owner was. The thought of going to another home was quite unappealing to me, so I knew I would refuse if he picked me. Not that it seemed likely he would -- there were other Petpets who were much prettier and more likeable. The other Petpets, including Rita, seemed excited at the prospect, though. They liked the PPL, but all of them really wanted to belong to a proper home. So when he walked into the playroom and scanned it for a Petpet he wanted that day, everyone else was poised, smiling, and had groomed themselves spectacularly. I hid myself in the midst of them all to try and avoid being seen -- an isolated corner wouldn’t have done that day.
But he spotted me, and approached slowly. I covered my eyes and tried to hide myself, shouting, “Go away! Go away!”
He didn’t listen, though. He picked me up by the scruff of my neck, and took me over to Mera, Hugo and Eyna.
“I’d like to take this one, please,” he said.
The three PPL staff watched me squirming, yelling and shaking my head. Eyna used her psychic powers to sense what I was thinking and then quietly said to Hugo and Mera that I really didn’t want to go.
“I’m really sorry, sir,” Mera said apologetically. “But Kay here doesn’t want to leave. It would be very cruel to force her to. Could you take her back to the playroom, please?”
The owner frowned. “Why doesn’t it -- I mean, she -- want to come with me?” he tried to stroke me, but I yelped as his hand touched my fur. There was just something not right about this human!
“I don’t know,” Hugo said gruffly. “But she’s obviously distressed, so it’s best not to torture her any longer.” He reached out his paws and I instantly jumped onto them, trying to hide from the creepy owner.
He and the Red Techo looked quite angry, and I half-expected him to yell. But he did neither, only nodded politely and left the building.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Eyna came over to me and asked, “How come you didn’t want to go?”
I shrugged. “Just didn’t like him.”
“Well, that’s understandable,” she said. “You look pretty worn out. Go and get some rest.”
I agreed, and crawled back to the playroom. But what I met there wasn’t quiet and Petpets allowing me to rest -- I met disappointment, confusion, and anger.
“Why didn’t you agree?” Rita groaned. “You’re so silly, Kay! He chose you out of the forty of us. Why didn’t you go with him? He would’ve given you a good home!”
Everyone else said pretty much the same thing. Hal and Annie seemed to vaguely understand because of the avatar risk, and Oinkie was a big help by threatening to roll in mud and dirty the room unless they let me rest, but they were the only ones. I went to sleep feeling misunderstood and unhappy, hoping that everyone would forget about it by morning.
But what seemed like moments after I curled up in the cushioned basket I slept, my eyes opened open. Everything was dark around me, and I waited for a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim light. There was a strange feeling of foreboding inside me.
Calm down, it’s just your nerves. Nothing’s wrong. Everyone’s asleep.
But I couldn’t help but think that maybe something really had happened. It certainly felt that way. Maybe it was totally irrelevant to me and all the other Petpets, but still, something had happened. I just knew it. I just had this feeling...
I decided that maybe I should get up and have a look to see what it was I sensed -- if anything -- then go back to sleep. So I stood up, and, squinting in the darkness, tried to take a few steps forwards, narrowly avoiding Oinkie as he slept. It was hard to tell because I couldn’t see him properly, but from the noises he was making, he was having a bad dream. I placed a small paw on his head, wishing for him that he could have a nice dream instead, before going onwards.
It was still silent in the playroom, and I was starting to think that I had been wrong after all. But I wasn’t going to give up without first checking the corridor and the outer area of the building. It was scary to walk in the darkness by myself, but I resisted going back. There was probably nothing there, but I had to make sure first. Then I could go back to sleep in peace.
And then I heard it. Footsteps! Barely audible, but they were definitely there. Someone was still up at this time of the night -- who could it be? I debated about going back, now that I knew they were there, and going on to see why they were up so late. The latter choice won.
So I crept silently (my soft and padded paws made no sound at all) outside, to see what was up. As I arrived out in the main area, I froze.
It was dark, but I could see what was happening perfectly clearly. It was that owner who had come earlier that morning! And he was taking steps as quietly as possible (albeit very loudly) towards the playroom. I didn’t know what to do -- I wanted to run, but I couldn’t. My fear was rooting me to the spot.
And then he saw me.
Everything then happened very quickly. The owner grabbed me around the waist, I screamed, and there was the sound of Petpets and Neopets getting up in the back. He then rushed out of the building, and into the bitter cold and darkness.
To be continued...