The Almost Pound Escape... Or Something Like That: Part Four
Word travels incredibly fast in the pound. Not as fast as the Neopox does during the winter months, granted, but pretty close. Before midnight that night the whole pound was buzzing with unspoken energy. Almost every pet in the building was on board with the breakout in some way or another, and those who didn't go along with us were in no place to rat us out. They weren't about to risk the rage of thousands of pets at once.
I leaned back on my bunk and sighed. For the first time in over two years I had a chance at seeing the world. Even if it was only a slight chance, it was still a chance. I smiled and pulled my blanket around my shoulders, trying to keep out the annoyingly cold air. Soon there would be no more musty breezes coming from who knows where, no more itchy fur, no more moldy omelets. I would have a chance to live up to my name. Prince_Jalerin, I laughed a little bit at my name. I was less of a prince than the vernaxes that lived in a symol's fur. I had never really thought about my name before. It was just my name. It had always been my name. No one said the underscore that was stuck in there, most of them didn't even get past the first name, they just called me Prince. Some called me Jalerin, but that was rare and they soon broke the habit after getting to know me. Prince seemed to have more of a sting to it anyways. I ran my tongue over my teeth. Calling someone who lived in the pound "Prince" was like calling a Skeith "tiny" or a girly pink Uni "destroyer". But my name was worse, because acting like a Prince was worse when you weren't one. It was like calling someone stuck up and selfish all at once without ever saying the words. No matter how much I hated to admit it, Welch was right. I didn't deserve to get out of this place ahead of anyone else.
I looked over the edge of my bunk at Welch. She was asleep, trying to save her strength for the breaking out part of the plan. If anyone deserved to get out before anyone else, it was Welch. That girl would let all of Neopia go before her all in the sake of fairness. I rolled over and messed with the edge of my blanket. Despite all my pretenses and my facade of carelessness, I was worried. If we got caught as the leaders of the escape... let's just say it wouldn't be a happy ending.
I sat up after trying to fall asleep for a good half hour. Not a good half hour, it was a torturous half hour. Almost like waiting for your shots at the doctors when you were little, but worse. I gently woke up Welch up. She blinked and looked at me sleepily.
"We have to talk," I said quickly, and she looked at me confused.
"About going out ahead of the others," I said, and she gave me the "I thought you were finally growing out of that" look.
"Prince, I already told you-"
"I mean as the leaders of the group, so if anyone gets in trouble it's us. We don't leave first, we just head the march. I don't want anyone else to get in trouble because of our idea," I said it all quickly, like trying to get over with the fact that yes, I did care for some of the losers in here, and besides I would rather go down in history as the pet who lead a failed pound escape than the one who got out alive at the expense of others. Welch looked at me surprised.
"I'm surprised, Rin, I didn't think you would care about that."
"Oh hush," I said, my face turning red. She laughed kindheartedly.
"We have about a half hour until the pound officially closes," she said, and I pulled my blankets around my shoulders, "what do you want to do when you get out?"
"Didn't I already tell you this?" I asked, and she shrugged.
"I have a bad memory,"
"Somehow I doubt that," I said, and she laughed a little bit. "When I get out I want to get as far away from Neopia central as I can on foot. I'll pick up odd jobs here and there until I can afford to make it to Terror Mountain."
"Why Terror Mountain?" Welch asked, looking at me quizzically.
"I like the snow. That was the only problem I had with Lost Desert, it never snowed. Not even in the mountains. What about you?" Welch sighed.
"I would probably cross the mountains and go to Altador, maybe Shenkuu, somewhere where I could study in peace and quiet without any fear of being brought back here," I nodded.
"Sounds like a nice plan."
"We could stick together, you know," Welch said quietly, and I looked at her. "You could do odd jobs in Altador or Shenkuu for a bit until you had enough money to go to Terror Mountain. I could start a library there or something." I fell silent and Welch looked down after a moment. "Sorry."
"You don't have anything to apologize for. I think it's a brilliant idea," I said, and she looked at me surprised.
"Sure, it would mean we could stick together."
"But wouldn't two pets together would be easier to find than one alone?"
"Two would be a lot less suspicious than one alone."
"Then it's a deal?" Welch asked quietly.
"Deal," I said, and we shook hands. I checked the clock mounted to the wall across from us. "It's time to get out, Welch," I said, and she smiled.
A shrill whistle echoed through the pound, followed by the sound of thousands of pets opening their cage doors. Some of them had taken the keys from workers when they came by, and then they passed the keys on to other pets on that level. Welch and I were the last ones freed on our floor, just like Welch had insisted. We all milled together in a large sea of pets as we headed towards the door. We were all species, all names, all ages, and we were free. For that brief moment we were completely free. Welch and I took up the front of the band, charging the exits to the level as a pair. We were followed by the swarms of pets that poured from each level until we were a massive army of pets that would have scared even sloth. Everything seemed to be going fine, we were free!
Suddenly everyone stopped.
I shouted over the erupting commotion of the pets, trying to get them all to calm down enough to talk with some sense.
"HEY!" I managed to break through the group that had made their way to the main door to the pound. "What's the hold up?" Ralphie the Korbat hopped onto the shoulders of one of the Skeiths by the door.
"It's locked," he said, and the group of pets started to panic. I signaled for them to all calm down.
"Well, someone must have a key here, I mean we have like twenty something sets between all of us!" Ralphie shook his head.
"There's only one key; there's only ever been one key. It belongs to Dr. Death." I swallowed a little bit.
"We could break down the door!" the large yellow Skeith suggested, and a couple other Skeiths nodded in agreement. Ralphie shook his head and crossed his arms.
"Not going to happen any time soon, that door is five feet thick and made of solid steel." Some of the other pets started to cry, others grumbled about them knowing from the start that this wouldn't work. I moved back over to where Welch was. She had a look in her eyes that I knew all too well. It was hopelessness.
"What happened?" she asked quietly. I looked down.
"The main door is locked shut. We don't have the key," I said softly, and she ran her paws through her fur.
"There has to be another way out or a window or-"
"Welch," I said gently and she looked at me with tears in her eyes. "We're not getting out."
"We can't even get one of them out?" she asked, and I shook my head. She closed her eyes for a moment. "We got all their hopes up for nothing." I set my teeth.
"EVERYONE!" I shouted, and they turned back to me. "WE ARE GOING BACK TO THE CAGES." There was an uproar amongst the pets.
"Rin, what are you thinking?" Welch hissed, and I held up my hand.
"Calm down, everyone!" I said, and there was a momentary silence. "We're going to try and force open one of the active pound doors from the inside." There was a cheer from the group, followed by the sound of the main door opening from the outside.
"No, I really don't think you are," Dr. Death said, stepping through the door followed by a veritable army of pound workers.
To be continued...