What Makes a Family: Part One
All around me, the sounds of sorrow echoed off the empty walls as water would in a cave. The night breeze slithered through my tiny window and wrapped itself around my fur, causing it to move. Out of habit, I pulled the paper thin blanket closer to my chin. Unfortunately, the result was that the blanket was removed from my feet. I curled them inward, and managed to tuck them under the blanket.
No; I won't join the chorus...
The wind continued to caress my fur, sending it in all different directions in the process. I closed my eyes; trying to trick myself into thinking I was somewhere else. I imagined what Mystery Island would be like, but the bitter wind took that thought away. I didn't want to imagine Terror Mountain air: that wind was too fierce and cold for my taste.
I opened my eyes, staring off into the emptiness of night in the Pound. The light from the moon cast shadows into my little cell, causing it to give the room a creepier feel than it should have.
No; don't cry. Don't join the rest. Be strong.
I felt a tear escape my eye and make a trail down the side of my face. Hastily, I wiped it off. I took deep breaths to try and calm myself down, but the tears would not stop coming. I finally sat up, and covered my amber eyes with my paws. I shook with every fighting breath as I battled the urge to cry. The tears continued, and I bit my lip. Memories of a lost future came rushing to me all at once. I could barely place what my old home used to look like, if I had siblings or not or if I even had a room to call my own.
The Pound is a terrible place; it only takes a day or two to break a Neopet. No matter how strong and powerful one may be they will cry at least once after they arrive.
I collapsed on the wood frame again, and eventually fell asleep.
There is one thing worse than being in the Pound... and that is being sick while you are there. Someone dropped off their pet this morning, and they had a nasty case of the Sneezles. By the afternoon, almost everyone had it. I blew my nose into my blanket, trying to break up some of the congestion in it. I began to cough lightly, and a second later, I swear I could have hacked up a lung as hard and deep my cough was. I sat up from my cot, and instantly regret it as my head started to spin. I rested my head again and closed my eyes, trying to steady my senses.
When I opened them again, the sun tried to peek into the room. Just before its precious rays could reach the window, a dark and menacing cloud covered it up followed by a deep rumble of thunder.
I thought the sound I heard next was the pitter patter of raindrops outside. I sat up, and Dr. Death was fighting with a big ring of keys. I eyed him as the door opened.
"King_Altador_2, come here," his haunted voice called out to me.
I stood up, and slowly made my way towards him. Just as I got there, I turned my head and coughed hard and deep. It was a few seconds before I could face him again.
"Thank you for at least turning your head," his monotone voice droned at me. "Follow me."
He started to walk away. I followed a few steps behind him.
So much for a 'please' and 'thank you'.
We walked through the corridor; the rain echoing off of the walls along with the lost souls of the Pound. I was glad Dr. Death was wearing his white lab coat; it was easy to see considering how dark it was. He got to a door, and opened it slowly.
The very first thing that hit me was the light. I shielded my eyes with one of my paws, waiting for them to adjust. After a moment of standing, I placed my paw back on the ground. Dr. Death had lead me into a small room with two doors; one for me and the other for the possible owners.
I realized with a sudden rush that I was in the Viewing Room.
What is the Viewing Room? Well, I had no idea at first. But throughout my stay, I discovered that it is the one place everyone in the Pound wanted to be. A simple room of four walls and two doors is all it appears to be, but the meaning behind the Viewing Room is so much more.
It is where some lucky guy might get to go to a new home.
Before Dr. Death could introduce me to the others in the room, I let out a hearty sneeze. I heard a small yelp of surprise right after. I looked up, and the first thing I saw was a Christmas Wocky; its fur standing on all ends.
"I'm sorry," I said as I tried to breathe through my nose. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"Its cool," she responded as her fur settled back down. "That was one heck of a sneeze, though." I smiled.
"What's your name?" the human girl in front of me asked.
"King_Altador_2," Dr. Death answered for me.
"Was I asking you?" she questioned him. His eyes read shock as she faced me again. "What's your name, sweetie?"
"Al," I said before I sneezed again.
"Let's play a game, shall we? We'll take turns, and say our name, our favorite color, and..."
"What we want to be when we grow up," a Christmas Shoyru finished.
The girl nodded. "You first."
"Okay... My name is Al," I started, "my favorite color is green, and I want to be a Neopian Defender when I grow up!"
As I talked, my nose vibrated. Also, my voice sounded like I was talking in a can.
"I'm Sixey," she spoke next, "my favorite color is red, and I want to be a martial arts instructor." She turned to another Lupe. "Your turn, Twin."
"Thanks, twin." The female Lupe now faced me. "I am Pup, fave color is purple, and I wish to start my own designer label."
"My name is Dragon," the Christmas Shoyru went next, "my favorite color is white, and I want to be an explorer."
"I am Andy," the girl concluded, "my favorite color is blue, and I want to be writer for the Neopian Times."
I'm glad she finished there because I sneezed again. The three flinched, but Andy didn't move. Her face read concern. "How long have you had that sneeze?"
"A day. Why?" I answered slowly trying not to cough.
"What are your thoughts on him?" Dr. Death asked.
"He's cool," Pup answered first.
"But that's not what we are looking for," Dragon countered. My heart sank. "What we are looking for is that if he likes us."
Once again, Death's eyes widened at this.
"As you can probably tell," Andy said as she approached me, "we're not the average Neopian family." She knelt down to my height. "So... What do you want to do?"
I blinked in surprise. "What?"
"Mom is asking you if you want to come home with us," Pup said. "I think you should; she's nice, she listens, she makes every important day and performance..."
"She also makes a pasta dish that is to die for," Dragon added. "What every brave adventurer needs"
Andy scratched the back of my left ear as the other three girls carried on about their mom. I looked at her in the eye, and her face read concern. She faced the group of girls, and they all hushed.
"Head on home," she told them. "I'll let you know what he decides."
After a sound of rebelling, all three of them left.
"Why did you send them away?" I asked.
Andy faced me again. "Because what I am about to say would send all three of them in an uproar. They want a new sibling; all three of them. We came to look around today, and we were informed about the flu breakout. After searching through the cards, we decided to see you. I told them that we may not leave the Pound with a new brother or sister because of what was available there. Before you came in, though, Sixey asked if we were getting him as a new sibling or not."
I was confused. "Why else would you get me?"
"I would adopt you, cure you of the flu, and maybe grab a bite to eat then return you to the Pound. It would insure you to a better family if you were healthy. So here's the next question: do you want to be adopted as a sibling and a new family member? Or would you prefer to give the Pound another go?"
"Would I be a Permie?" I asked.
"I don't think you would be allowed to be anything else; Dragon is very protective of her younger siblings."
I closed my eyes in thought as Andy scratched my ear again. I know that she was in no rush for me to make a decision, but I think Dr. Death was. He was tapping his foot; I could hear it. I opened my eyes again, and faced Andy with determination.
"I think I want to give the Pound another go," I answered, "But I may change my mind after I get to know you and your pets a little more."
"So the plan is to heal you first, spend some time with your foster siblings, and see if you want to stay after?" Andy asked. I nodded. "Sounds good to me."
Andy paid Dr. Death on the spot. The scarf she was wearing was tied around my neck, and we walked out the door; leaving that miserable place behind.
To be continued...