A Darker Shade: Part Two
The pound is like a factory. I was given a tag, so like the one I had been given when I was created. I was put in a cage, whose bars reminded me of the bars on my crib. A Uni cared for us, like the Uni at the Creation Center.
Why is the pound such a sadder place?
Perhaps because it is where the unwanted pets go. The "I can't take care of you anymore" pets. The "You'll have a better chance here" pets. The "I don't love you anymore" pets.
All I could do was hope. Hope that someone would drop some omelette on the floor within my reach. Hope that someone would adopt me. Hope that my coat would turn into a beautiful golden yellow.
Months went by. Sometimes my neighbors and I would talk, but it was hard to have a good conversation in such a gloomy place, especially when you couldn't see who you were talking to. The cages had walls, after all.
One day, I was adopted.
The girl had short black hair and large brown eyes. She looked kind, but sort of annoying. She scanned the labels and the cages, barely looking at the pets, before her eyes settled on mine. She smiled, and I waved back.
"Hello," the girl said. "My name is Chrissie. I am a fosterer. That means I adopt basic, badly named pets, like you, from the pound and I zap you with a magical ray until you become beautiful! Then I put you back in the pound, and because of your new color or species, you will be adopted instantly."
The way she said it made it sound so happy. Why did it make me depressed?
The ray did not hurt, at least not physically. The first time I got zapped, it was a gender change. I was now Li, the female puke-yellow Aisha. It was not that different from being a male, but the whole concept sort of bothered me.
I was the only foster pet Chrissie owned currently. The other three pets she owned were her "permies," as she liked to call them. One was a Faerie Pteri, and the other two were twin Blue Boris. I didn't talk to them much, mostly because I didn't want to think that I would have a family here. After all, this was only temporary.
But Chrissie had fostered other pets in the past. She showed me her photo album. On each page was a pet, all of them rare species or colors. They were smiling, but I could sense a hint of sadness in each one.
"This is where your picture will go!" she said, pointing to a blank page.
Plus three speed, plus one level, minus three strength, gender change, nothing, gender change, nothing, plus two levels, plus three speed, down to level one...
My life was not described in days, but in Lab Ray Zaps.
I began to admire the Scorchio Scientist, mostly because of his color. It was light, sure, but sometimes, in the eerie light the ray made, it seemed to me like more of a vomit color.
I realized that Dr. Death was the same color as the Scientist, and I shuddered. Both of them were not someone I would like to turn into. I worried that my puke-yellow reflected my spirit, that I too would grow up and be a terror to all Neopets.
One day, lo and behold, I was zapped into a Robot.
My voice was the same, but it seemed like a recording. I didn't feel any smarter, but my memories seemed cataloged. I was not the shiny steel that most Robots were, more of a dusty flint.
"Well, it's been a pleasure, Li," Chrissie said, snapping a picture of me and placing it in her album. "Good luck!"
I was a flint female Robot Aisha. I stood at the Abandonment desk, looking at Dr. Death. "Pound pets aren't allowed to have clothes," he growled.
I took of the Ghostkerscarf that Chrissie had given me. I never liked it that much, anyway.
"All of it," Dr. Death said, reaching out.
"I'm not wearing any other clothes," I protested.
"Ha, like I haven't heard that before." He walked out from behind the desk and grabbed hold of my ears. The pain receptors in my wiring fired.
"Ow! Let go! You're hurting me!"
He didn't stop, even though I struggled. He removed all of my casings, leaving my wires and memory disks exposed.
"Now you can go in," he said.
I was in the pound for a grand total of two seconds before some user grabbed me and adopted me.
Last time it had been months, now two seconds.
He introduced himself as Robert. He brought me to his house, and I met 547386401248670, also known as Digit. Then he left.
"Where did he go?" I asked Digit, his orange Grundo.
"Playing games," he replied. "He's an avatar collector."
The first few days at my new home, I stuck close to Digit. But I soon become bored with him. All he did was sit at a desk staring at a piece of paper, pencil in hand.
"What are you doing?" I asked him one day.
He turned to look at me. "Writing my life story," he replied.
"But there's nothing on the page."
"Sure, there is," he said. "It's a field full of snow, and underneath it is green grass, just waiting for the snow to melt. It's a slab of marble, a block of ice, and I am the sculptor. The words, the letters, the sounds, they are all there. I just need to find them."
I nodded, pretending to understand, before I turned away. "It just looks like a piece of paper to me," I mumbled.
I saw Robert only a few times a week. And he did not feed his pets. Every day, my wiring grew a little closer to my endoskeleton, and I could feel hunger in my storage sack.
I didn't hang out with Digit anymore. Instead I sat in the kitchen, or what we called the kitchen. After all, there was no food.
But I sat in the chair next to the window and stared outside, just watching. The Neopets, their owners, the trees. Just watching.
I realized I wasn't much better than Digit.
Everything seemed to depress me. I remembered Alex, and couldn't help but feel that she was the only one who had ever loved me.
It was one of those rare days that Robert was home when it happened. My wires started tingling, and everyone watched in amazement as metal was replaced with skin. Blue skin. I was a blue Aisha. A crusty, greenish color blue. It was not much better than being yellow.
I waited to hear yelling from Robert. I waited to hear the cursing, the screaming. I was no longer a rare Lab Ray Only colored pet, but a Random Event victim. I waited for all that, but instead, he just laughed. "Wow, just in time, too," he said. He reached into a bag and pulled out a pink paint brush.
"Come on, Li, I need the avatar."
Digit's eyes stared greedily at the paint brush, and I realized that he wanted to be painted. But Robert didn't notice, and led me out the door.
I walked with him to the Rainbow Pool. I did not talk, and he thought my quietness was because I was sulking.
"You're a girl, Li," he said. "You'll like being Pink."
I nodded. I've gotten used to being a girl, but it still startles me a little whenever somebody mentions it.
The water was cooling, and I enjoyed relaxing in it. When I was a robot, even just a little rain drop would send electrifying shocks through me. The paint brush smelled sweet, and I found myself a little excited. Pink! A bright, beautiful color.
I felt the paintbrush go along my back, over my head. I opened my eyes.
I was a Red Aisha.
I frowned, and looked up at Robert. "Why am I red? You painted me pink!"
"I don't know," he said. "Your lookup says that you're pink. I hope you'll still get me an avatar."
I followed Robert to the Food Shop, cursing my dark coat the whole time. Even if I was painted white, I'd still be a dark shade of gray.
"Here, Li, eat this," Robert said, offering me some Buttered Popcorn. I didn't like popcorn that much.
"Come on, Li, do it for me? I like your color, even if you're not actually pink."
I smiled at him, and ate the popcorn. Robert didn't feed me or Digit, and I realized how hungry I was. I gobbled down the rest of the popcorn.
"That's a good girl," he cooed, rubbing my head. An Avatar Token appeared, and Robert grabbed it. "Yes!" he shouted. "That brings my total to 256!"
I smiled as I walked with Robert back towards our Neohome. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had an owner who loved me. Even if he didn't feed me.
He liked my color.
He liked my color.
I kept on staring at myself. Sure, I wasn't the bright vermilion that most red pets were, but I looked like I was red. In a good way, not in a puke-yellow, flint-metal, or crusty-blue way.
Suddenly Robert stopped walking.
I looked at him questioningly. I noticed where we were.
And I realized that he didn't love me at all. He didn't love me. He didn't like my color. He just liked his avatars. Perhaps that's why Digit had wanted to be painted. Because, when he gave his owner an avatar, it made him feel loved.
Once again, I was going to be abandoned.
To be continued...