The Truth Behind The Bars
Kejolica, Ivoreine, and Nutterberry all crowded around the old television in a dusty, dark room. The dim light blinked and the dusty heater clicked off again. Cold set into the room, and they all pulled a blanket around themselves for warmth.
The old television, blinking as the light did, pictured a thin Nimmo in her early twenties, wearing a tattered, dusty blouse and jeans. She wasn't like the other shallow neopets that usually prowled through the television stations; no, she wasn't like that. This Nimmo wore no makeup, jewelry, or fine clothes.
"I know of several misfortunate neopets," she began her public speech, "who sleep crowded together in a windowless room every night, with no belongings to hold on to and no light to see by in the day. They are fed little food, if any, and spend nights weeping with no blankets to huddle into and no future to look forward to. No one visits them, no one cares about them. They're lucky if they've ever had one friend in their lives to remember."
Nutterberry looked intently at the screen. This Nimmo, who was giving her public speech at the nearly desolate west side of Neopia Central, gazed meaningfully at the few neopets who watched.
"They are treated terribly. Their hit points are all zeros, because they are defenseless. They are sad, broken neopets. A few of them are Metorithna the Grundo, Payatamu the Buzz, TerioAndami the Xweetok, Makaiolekeko the Mynci, and Zlakae the Usul. But I know there are a lot more starving neopets in the cold Neopian Pound," the Nimmo said, her dark eyes accusing.
A few neopets in the crowd wandered nervously away. It didn't take someone as smart as AAA to be able to tell that they were guilty of abandoning a neopet. Nutterberry shuddered, partly from the cold, and partly from the despicable thought of leaving someone- anyone- to waste away in the Neopian Pound.
"And don't think for one single minute that any of these misfortunate neopets deserve to be there. No, no, no! It's not their fault they're there, it's their former owner's. No one deserves to suffer. But do they know that? Of course not! They blame themselves every day for being dropped into the Neopian Pound. They feel guilty. Because no one ever took the time to tell them that they never did anything to deserve what they're going through!" the Nimmo cried, her voice rising with anger.
Nutterberry felt his baby sister, Kejolica, snuggle up close to him fearfully. She was a baby JubJub, sensitive and guarded. Nutterberry also had an older sister named Ivoreine, a cloudy Koi. Her sky-blue eyes widened at the screen, her heart pouring out to the misfortunate souls that went through torture every day...
"I am a strong believer that everyone is equal. I am against stereotypes, prejudice, and especially racism. I know that most neopets are disowned because of their color, and I find it unfair. A basic green pet is just as special as a Royal pet, right?" the Nimmo went on. The crowd shifted nervously. They were all guilty of prejudice.
"Now, I'll bet you all will just walk away after this speech, turn off your TV, forget about all of this. But those neopets are still suffering. They still will never be able to have full, bloated bellies, never will be blessed with all of the nice things you have- that is, unless you do something about it."
Nutterberry, Ivoreine, and Kejolica all leaned up to the screen and listened intently. The three wanted nothing more than to help the poor souls at the Neopian Pound.
"I have found a solution to this suffering. What I do is foster neopets- feed them, clothe them, give them a petpet, and paint them a unique new color- and then send them back into the Neopian Pound. You'd be surprised at how quickly they get adopted then! In doing this, I am giving these pets a new home, and hopefully they won't get put into the Neopian Pound again. I hope you all will find it in your hearts to foster, too. Because there is always a sad, broken neopet just waiting for a new home. Good night."
And with that, the television program was over. Ivoreine grabbed the old remote and turned the television off. For a moment, all three siblings sat in thoughtful silence in front of the television.
Finally, Kejolica wailed, "I tired!"
Nutterberry picked her up, holding her in his arms, and carried her to the big, old cushion that they all shared as a bed. He set her down in it, wrapped the faded blanket around her, and sat next to the cushion to wait until she fell asleep.
"Nutterberry, it's about time we went to bed, too," Ivoreine reminded him. Nutterberry nodded solemnly, still deep in thought. Kejolica's eyes were already drooping and she yawned sleepily. "Na-na," she mumbled, which presumably meant 'night-night' in baby-talk. Nutterberry smiled and quietly stood.
He fed his petpet, Zu the Quetzal, and Kejolica's petpet, Chilladillo the Tapira, some petpetnip. Ivoreine fed her petpet, Salamander Sam the Searex. And soon they were all bundled up in the faded blanket on the old cushion, drifting away into a deep sleep.
But not a pleasant sleep, to Nutterberry's discontent.
The Chia found himself in a dreary room where old dung littered the floor and an acrid smell burned his nostrils. He opened his eyes to find a battered Grarrl eyeing him warily. His eyes widened and he sat up drowsily to find himself in a putrid puddle. He groaned and fidgeted uncomfortably.
"I'm hungry," he snarled, bearing several rows of sharp teeth. Nutterberry yelped an inaudible cry for help. But he realized that no one would, or even could, help him. And he realized that this Grarrl was probably starving... and he knew that he didn't stand a chance. For after all, a Chia was surely the most tasty neopet!
He jumped up to run, but slipped on the wet floor. He landed with a BONK! on the dirty ground, to be greeted with a squash of slimy dung.
But now was not the time to be worried about cleanliness. The Grarrl was licking his lips hungrily. Drool trailed down his chin and dripped onto the floor. Nutterberry hopped up again and sprinted through the room, pushing past emaciated Blumaroos and miserably Grundos. Neopets of all kind, actually, were living in a crude cell amongst each other- perhaps eating each other, Nutterberry thought with a flash of fear.
He ran head-on into a rough-looking Quiggle. "Watch where you're going!" he demanded, and swatted at Nutterberry, but the fearful Chia was already dashing in another direction."This is the scariest, most unbearable place ever!" he cried. He was evidently overheard by a nearby Ixi, who replied, "Yeah, well, that's the Neopian Pound for you." She sighed miserably, and Nutterberry felt hopelessness wash over him...
"Nutterberry? Nutterberry? Wake up, Nutterberry!" Ivoreined shook his nightmare away, but Nutterberry was still drenched in a cold sweat. The windows were open and a pleasant Shenkuu sun smiled down on him.
But, regardless of the crisp new morning, Nutterberry was still haunted by his terrible dream. He remembered fretfully the fear, the hopelessness, and most of all, the terrible smell. He jumped out of bed and declared, "We are going to the Neopian Pound today!"
Ivoreine blinked at him. "Well, we'll have to talk to Amsurito first," she said. Amsurito was their owner, who was often out late at nights working to support the family.
"I know, I know, but I really think this is a must. Just think of all of the poor, sad Neopians who never see the light of day in their unfair solitary confinement." Nutterberry shuddered inwardly as he said this.
"You make it sound like jail!" Ivoreine exclaimed, perhaps as an attempt to crack a joke. But Nutterberry wasn't laughing or taking this matter lightly. "Oh, it's must worse than jail," he said soberly. Ivoreine's friendly smile faded and she sighed. "Yes, you're right. But our family is already poor. We visit the soup kitchen every day just to keep our bellies from rumbling too loudly. I'm not sure Amsurito can still support four pets... and it just doesn't seem right to ask, what with all she does for us already." Ivoreine said sadly.
Nutterberry considered this. "Ah, but does it seem right to let a poor neopet suffer in the pound and not do anything about it?" he exclaimed. Kejolica crawled up to him and tugged on his shirtsleeve. "Stinky!" she cried, pointing to her stained cloth diaper.
"You change her. I had enough dung last night," he said impatiently. Ivoreine picked up Kejolica and began to change her diaper. "But, as I was saying, neopets are suffering out there, and we need to help them!" Nutterberry cried defiantly.
Amsurito burst through the door. "I'm home!" She panted. Nutterberry turned toward his human owner, with her long, stringy blonde hair, tired eyes behind nerdy spectacles, and always-friendly smile. He knew she would understand his predicament, for she always did. Besides, she had to, right?
"Amsurito, I think we should adopt a new family member from the Neopian Pound." Nutterberry came right out and said it. The whole house grew quiet- even baby Kejolica with her soiled pants uttered not even a sound.
"Oh," Amsurito said softly, perhaps awkwardly. "I see." Nutterberry held his breath. What would she say? Would she allow it?
"Amsurito, we really want this. We know how the neopets in the Neopian Pound are treated so horribly, and we want to put a stop to it," Ivoreine said bravely. Nutterberry smiled gratefully to her. Good old Ivoreine, always coming in handy.
"Uh.... I don't know, guys," Amsurito said, but she took one hard look into her pets' pleading eyes and sighed. "Okay. But only because the orphaned Neopians are at stake," she said.
Nutterberry's face broke into a broad smile. "Yippee!" he cried.
Amsurito, Nutterberry, Ivoreine, and Kejolica weren't the only ones browsing through the disowned, homeless Neopians, of course. There was one other family that consisted of a Buzz named Veimey, a girl owner named Ciahia.
Shy and delicate Ivoreine avoided eye contact with the disowned neopets. Instead, she and Veimey spoke together.
"Yes, I was a victim of this place before faithful Ciahia came and adopted me. That was the best day of my life," Nutterberry overheard Veimey say.
Ivoreine gasped. "Oh, wow. She must be a great owner, then," she said sincerely.
Meanwhile, Amsurito made small talk with the... inmates, Nutterberry decided to call them- but only in his mind.
"How do you do?" Amsurito greeted an angry-looking Korbat. The Korbat grunted in response. "Fine," he replied. Amsurito smiled as best as she could without grimacing at the Korbat's glare. They were not getting that one.
They moved onto a red Kyrii with matted hair and a dazed expression. "Hello, what's your name?" Amsurito greeted this one.
His eyes darted to her and widened. "No, no, no, no, I don't trust you. You'll just disown me again- or, even worse, you'll eat me! Why would you adopt me if you weren't going to eat me?" he cried.
Kejolica inched behind Amsurito. "He must be a madman... the Neopian Pound must've driven him to insanity," Amsurito whispered to Nutterberry. He nodded gravely and moved onto the next inmate.
"H-Hello, my name is Buggybloo the Blumaroo. How do you do?" the blue Blumaroo greeted them with a shy smile.
Amsurito smiled back. "I'm doing fine, thank you. My name is Amsurito, and this is Kejolica..." (Kejolica waved.) "...this is Ivoreine, and this is Nutterberry."
Nutterberry shook Buggybloo's hand emphatically. "Nice to meet you, Buggybloo!" he exclaimed.
And that was the beginning of a happy ending.