To Feel the Sun
Sighing, I laid my head on my paws. I closed my eyes, but the bars remained, burned into my vision from years of staring through them. No matter what I did, there was no way to escape the fact that I was doomed to suffer in the pound for the rest of my life.
It wasn't that I was badly named. No, Lostris_Darwyn, though not the best name in Neopia, was great by pound standards. Usually this would mean that I at least stood a chance of being adopted. But I was not that lucky. I was what they called a "stuck" pet. The first few letters of my name combined with the date I was abandoned meant that I had been placed in the deep recesses of the pound, so far back that I was nearly inaccessible by the general public. Even Dr. Death, the keeper of the pound pets, forgot about us sometimes.
Yes, us. I and the other stuck pets lived our dreary lives here where few visited. There were about 37,427 of us lost back here, so many that we were forced to live three to a cage rather than two. My two companions were sunshine2220, a Yellow Usul, and Tiger_665, a Red Kougra. Having shared a cage with them for nearly six years, I knew quite a bit about them and had gotten quite attached.
Sunny had already been in the Pound for a good amount of time before I arrived. Her story was sad: she had literally been created, named, and then dumped here. Thus, she was still young and had spent her entire life in the Pound. One would think that being stuck here for so long would make her bitter or cynical. But Sunny was just the opposite. She saw the brightest side of life, an amazing feat for a veteran pound pet. Nothing could get Sunny down, not even three or four days without food, which happened all too often. "Just think of how much better it'll taste when we do get fed!" she'd say cheerily.
Ti wasn't quite so optimistic. He had been a spoiled and well-loved pet, accustomed to a comfortable life with his owner and siblings. But the time came when his owner decided to leave, so Ti was adopted out. As if having to leave his family hadn't been tough enough, his new owner quickly turned him into a lab rat, a position that was both uncomfortable and frightening. Nevertheless, for a while Ti was somewhat happy. He had a home and was taken care of. But when an unlucky zap turned Ti from a Desert Acara to a Red Kougra, he was dumped here. So much tragedy in so little time had left Ti depressed and melancholy. Not even Sunny could cheer him up.
As for me, I was abandoned as a Green Lupe. My owner had been great, or so I had thought until I was left here. That's about all I remember of my life before the Pound. Over the years, I've let myself forget so as to lessen the pain. That which I couldn't forget I covered with hatred for the owner who had deserted me. I wasn't nearly as cheerful as Sunny, but then not as pessimistic as Ti. I guess you could say I was a normal stuck pet; I had come to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to be adopted and learned to live with it.
This didn't mean I enjoyed pound life, of course. I merely tolerated it. What I truly yearned for was a breath of fresh air, even just one. Sure, I missed having a family, but that was nothing compared to the ache in my heart for the sun, for the grass, for the world. Being cooped up inside was the hardest burden of the pound, at least for me.
"Dar-dar?" Sunny whispered, tapping my shoulder. I reluctantly opened my eyes and slowly raised my head.
The small Yellow Usul watched me with concern. She knew I was in one of my despondent moods, which was why she had disturbed me from my rest. It seemed to be her mission in life to eliminate sadness. How ironic that she was stuck here, a place where that terrible emotion bred.
"Will you tell me again about the sunshine?" she asked innocently.
This was one of her tactics to drag me out of my self-pity. I opened my mouth to say no, for I wasn't ready to stop feeling sorry for myself yet.
"Please?" she pleaded, her eyes growing to the size of saucers. She knew I couldn't resist that look, which reminded me of how young she really was. Sighing, I motioned for her to sit down. She happily snuggled into my side and looked up at me expectantly.
"Well," I started. "The sun is a big yellow ball of flame and gas very high in the sky. It's so hot that you'd burn right up if you got too close."
"But it's far away, right, Dar?" Sunny piped up, though she had heard the story a million times and already knew the answer.
"Yes, it's far, far away." I felt a smile start to tug at the corners of my mouth. "But it's not so far that you can't feel its warmth on your fur."
"What does it feel like?" Sunny prompted. I saw Ti, who was lying down in the corner with his paws over his head, perk up an ear. He never said anything, but I knew he enjoyed listening to this story as much as Sunny did.
"It feels... it feels like a soft blanket wrapped around you. It hugs you, but it's not restricting. It moves and flows with you, providing comfort as long as it shines. It's the most wonderful feeling in the world, to feel the sun."
I paused. This was usually where I ended my story, but tonight it felt incomplete, like there was a part missing.
I looked down at Sunny curled up next to me, her eyes closed and a smile on her lips. She was no doubt imagining the sun, using the picture I had painted with my words, for she had never once seen it. Seeing her so happy, despite being in this dismal place, gave me a warm feeling inside, the best feeling I could remember having since entering the Pound.
I knew what my story was missing.
"It's like you, Sunny," I continued. The young Usul looked up in surprise.
"What is?" she questioned, unprepared for this new addition.
"But how?" she asked, tilting her head in confusion.
"You light up the Pound, just like the sun lights up the day. You shine happiness where there is none. You comfort me as long as you're shining. And being around you gives me the most wonderful feeling."
"Oh Dar," she whispered, her eyes watery. "You're gonna make me cry."
I laughed, pulling her into a hug. She wrapped her arms around my neck, giggling. A second later, Sunny was dragging Ti over, ignoring his protests. She managed to wrestle him into our hug, and we held each other, laughing and crying. I even saw Ti smile.
In this one moment of pure elation, I realized that even the Pound's stone walls and iron bars couldn't stop the sun from shining.
And quickly following that realization came the end to everything I had known for the past few years of my life.
Sunshine2220 and Tiger_665 are still stuck in the Pound, waiting for their forever homes. Could that home be yours?