Six Names, Six Lives, Six Owners, One Terrible Tale: Part Eight
The first rehearsal was... interesting. Maria sat, fuming, in the back the entire time, Samuel beside her, looking nervous. If looks could kill, we'd all be deader than doornails.
Shanta was still quiet, but Joeseph helped her out so that the pets in the back row could at least hear her.
I said my lines, but let me tell you, it is very disconcerting to have an angry Acara glaring at you when you are trying to read your script.
Obliterator and Destroyer did all right, though Destroyer insisted that he already had the lines memorized and didn't need a script. Unfortunately, he did need a script, and had to read over my shoulder the entire time, which was annoying, to say the least.
Demolisher, who of course didn't have much to do, was doing the best until she tripped over her own tail and accidently sent the spotlight pointing directly at Maria's eye-shadowed face. Maria, who was already irate, became unbearable after that, and launched herself into a ten-minute barrage of insults directed toward my adopted sister. I will not repeat her words here, as most of them are not commonly heard in... er... civilized conversation.
For a long time, my days continued with very little variance. I would have breakfast, come to school, go to all my classes, then head over to the auditorium to practice. Because of rehearsal, Shanta was able to come over less, but we saw each other at rehearsal almost every afternoon anyway. That was how it went five days a week. On weekends, I'd stay at home and read or play a board game with my new family, or occasionally Shanta.
After two months, the snow was totally melted, and spring started itself back up. Rehearsals intensified, and now I was stuffed into a costume and slathered with makeup every day.
Despite the anger of a prissy Acara and the annoyance of sticky makeup, I found out that acting was... fun. I got to meet a lot of new pets, and we'd hang out in the wings (fancy theatre word for the part of the backstage nearest the... um... frontstage) before rehearsal and dare each other to climb the curtain when no one was looking.
Finally, the day of our performance came. Tony was there, along with other owners and siblings. One face I did not see, however, was Maria's. Samuel and an angry-looking boy I assumed was David sat together near the back.
Apparently, despite threats, arguments, and a whole lot of toffee (don't ask), David had been unable to convince Joeseph or any of the other teachers to allow Maria to play Sheila, and it showed. He looked like he would rather be anywhere (including the hottest depths of Moltara) than that seat.
I must say, the show went well, and nobody went up (That's the theater term for forgetting your lines) or messed up. Shanta was able to speak louder, and Destroyer had finally memorized his lines (for real). Obliterator remembered to stop fiddling nervously with his tail, and Demolisher didn't trip over her own.
After the show, Tony congratulated us on a job well done, but he seemed distant, distracted. I didn't pay any attention at the time.
Maybe if I had, I could have prevented the horror that was approaching me... the last one.
I'm sorry that the story becomes jumbled here, but that is how I remember it....
Slam. It filled my ears with its rough scraping jolting sound. It filled my eyes with its terrible grey vertical lines of steel. It filled my mouth with its terrible metallic taste. It filled my paws with its cold concrete floor and hard cold bars. It even filled my nose. It filled every fiber of my body, and I curled up and cried. It was over. Life was cruel, and for me it was over. Probably for good. I was blue... not rainbow... blue... and still I cried, the tears beginning at the corner of my eyes, and then trickling down my muzzle and onto my chin, before the entire room seemed to be filled with the sound of a 'plink' as the tear hit the floor.
It was all over now. I had been abandoned... again. Abandoned... abandoned.... abandoned....
“It's a Kiko! It's a limited edition pet, my dream pet, and I... I could get one.”
Those were the words that sealed my fate. Who was the one who sealed my fate? Maybe it was Tony. Maybe it was Maria. Maybe it was David. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was Coki the Kiko. I don't even know....
I was happy! Happy with them! Happy with my new family! Happy with Shanta and my school and my owner and my siblings! It wouldn't last much longer....
“Please, Terminator? It's limited edition, and David offered it to me...”
“It's just for a while, you'll find a new owner again....”
“I'll miss you...” Ha! Miss me! If you were going to miss me, why were you leaving me in the first place? I could almost see Maria's face... one of her enemies out of the way, leaving the big spots to her brother again...
I found out later Maria had suggested to her 'father' that he give Tony the Kiko, forcing him to abandon at least one of the pets Maria hated. Even turned out that David was forced to give away the Kiko to another friend, even after he'd promised it to Tony... and Tony had left me...
And the tears kept coming... they wouldn't end. I wanted to cry myself a river... a river that would sweep me away from the pound and back in time....
Yes, yes, I was back in the pound. I was in the corner. I was alone. I was abandoned. Tony said that he loved me, but he abandoned me, and as if to rub lemon in my wound, he painted me blue once more.
I felt more alone than ever... I did not have Reijo. I did not have Lichen. I did not have Oliver or Annie or Cutesy or Destroyer or Obliterator or Demolisher. I did not have Kiki or Alex or Tony or Marilyn, and I most certainly did not have Laura.
I cannot even tell you what it felt like. I had been abandoned by Tony, with whom I thought I had found a forever home. I told myself that I would never ever make that mistake again. Everyone I had been owned by, or even loved by, had abandoned me... or I had abandoned them. Laura, Kiki, Alex, Marilyn, Riley, Tony. All my brothers and sisters either hated me or had been separated from me. Mavis, Cutesy, Lichen, Lilith, Lupin, Annie, Oliver, Reijo, Hamlet, Destroyer, Terminator, and Demolisher.
I searched the cages every day for a familiar face... but I saw none. I had lost all hope. I stopped eating or drinking. I continued to sleep on the cold floor, despite the blanket a donor had offered. My ribs started to show, and I think that even Magenta had kind of given up on me. I had sure given up on myself. Even if I did get an owner, after all, they would abandon me, just like Laura, Kiki, Alex and Tony had.
One day, as I was shivering in the back of my cage, I heard a murmur of confusion from the pets on either side of me, and weakly lifted my head up, my fur ruffled and dirty. Hidden by a brown cloak, a figure entered the room. I couldn't see a face or tail, but a small paw stuck out from beneath the cloak, meaning that the figure was not an owner, but a pet.
“That one,” she said quietly, pointing to my cage without hesitation.
“Ma'am,” Magenta said nervously as she entered the room. “We ask that all pets be accompanied by their owners before-”
“I have no owner,” the whatever-it-was said. “And I said I want that one.” Magenta meekly unlocked my cage. I stubbornly refused to move. I didn't want to leave the pound. Maybe... maybe I wanted to be one of the glassy-eyed pets who do not see or feel. They who do not laugh or cry.
“Come on,” Magenta said, clearly pitying me as she gently prodded me. I closed my eyes and silently defied her efforts.
“Allow me.” The strange figure blocked the dim light that came into my cage, and I didn't see her face as she picked me up, which was weird, because she was hardly bigger than I was. I felt her hand comb back my blue fur as she whispered in my ear. “I know you can stand, Xander. You are the strongest pet I've ever known. Stand.” She placed me on the ground, and I continued to lie there. Maybe I could've stood. Maybe there was some bit of adrenaline left inside me that would have allowed me to get up, but I didn't want to. The floor was cold, and I think I could've stood if I wanted to, but I didn't want to. I wanted to lie there until I withered away, and nobody was going to make me move, not even this strange pet who seemed to know my name.
Or so I thought.
“Stand, Xander,” I heard her say. Magenta stuttered nervously a few times, as if to protest, but then became silent. “Stand and walk.”
I don't know what finally made me do it, but yes, I stood. All I can say on that matter is “ow”. It took me three times as long as it usually did, and my legs seemed to scream in protest, but yes, I stood. The strange pet handed Magenta a bag of neopoints before beckoning to me with one finger.
As much as it hurt to stand, it hurt ten times that much to actually move my paws, and I fell down three times, but I eventually struggled outside, where three tall Unis (who were also hooded, except for their wings) were waiting. One was about my size, and the other two a bit larger. Sitting on one of the bigger Unis were two more hooded figures. One of them looked up as we came out, but their face was still in shadow.
“Is it him?” he asked. It was definitely a 'he', but the voice was still high, showing that he was probably younger than me. The other hooded figure, who had leathery yellow wings pointing out of their cloak, looked up too.
“I'm dying to know!” he said, also sounding younger than me.
“It's him,” my rescuer said. She pointed to the other Uni. “Get on.” When I did not oblige (I doubt I could have gotten on anyway), the first male hooded figure got off of the Uni, displaying that he was bigger than me, and placed me on top of the Uni.
The female pet leaped onto the third Uni. “Let's go,” she said. The Unis took off, and began to fly toward the last chapter of my life.
When we landed, we were on the very outskirts of Neopia Central, and only a few scattered houses, mostly farmers' homes, were visible nearby. I looked up and saw a huge mansion. My eyes widened. Outside the huge neohome, a swimming pool and a Yooyuball court sat, looking lonely and empty. The Unis trotted inside the castle-like building, stomped their feet to rid them of mud, and let us off.
I stumbled, but the winged and hooded figured grabbed me from behind and practically choked me by shoving half a bottle of potion down my neck. I coughed and gagged, hacking on the stinging potion, and then felt strength flow back into my limbs.
The female placed her hands on her hips. “Better, Xander?” she asked. “Or should I say Babycakes? Or Lance? Connor? Xweetie? Terminator? Azarel?”
I coughed again. “How do you know that?”
“Magic,” she said sarcastically. “Listen, at least pretend you understand what's going on. please You should be good at acting, Gregory.”
“Maybe if you know who we are you'll understand.” Two of the Unis nodded, but the third looked nervous... I think. It's hard to tell when you can't see their face.
“Really?” the winged figure asked. “I thought that we were going to wait until everyone got here.”
“No time, no time,” she replied. She waved her hand at one of the Unis. “You can leave.” The Uni nodded and left, and the two remaining Unis and the three odd pets glanced at one another... I think.
“On five, you'll understand,” the tallest figure said.
“One...” said one of the Unis.
“Two...” said the other.
“Three...” said the winged one.
“Four...” the tall figure agreed.
“Five!” As all five hoods were flipped back and their owners were revealed, I gasped.
To be continued...