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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 4th day of Relaxing, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 49 > Short Stories > Behind the Bars

Behind the Bars

by amyli_emitar

IF YOU TRIED to describe me, to label me as so many people label us pets, I'm not sure just what you'd say. I'm not clever and adventurous like Stelmariah, my silvery sister; not strong and fearless like FruitLoupe, my brother and the battler of our family. Somehow, I'm not even witty, outgoing, and always willing to speak my mind, like my faerie sister, Allimeow.

     My owner, Amyli, once told me that I was sweet and kind, someone just as special as any of my siblings. But I'm not so sure; they're the sort of pets who could change Neopia, and I know I never will be. I'd like to be like them, but for now, I guess I'm just Emmnei, a young electric Kau.

     Maybe I'm not like them because I was adopted from the pound; I don't remember my first owner. Alli, who's also spent a little while under the guardianship of Rose, tells me that I'm lucky, because I never really knew that I was missing anything until I met Amyli. But I don't know; the pound is a lonely place, where pets are simply names and prices, no past and an uncertain future.

     Most of all, being abandoned is a helpless feeling, something I never want to repeat again.

     So, I'm not sure why I found myself walking by the pound on my way home from school that summer evening. I knew that I should have gone home, or to our family's shop, to meet Stelmariah. But something had felt wrong all afternoon, and so, on an impulse, I followed the trickle of people headed into the adoption center.

     The forlorn, hopeless faces that greeted me reminded me uncomfortably of myself, before Amyli had taken me in, painted me, before I had truly felt part of a family. I slowly brushed by the cages that lined the hallway, looking in at those who were trapped inside; from rare pets to the commonest little Grundo, Neopets from all walks of life now together, abandoned.

     A little yellow Kacheek caught at my horns. "Have you come to free us?" Her eyes were bright, and she couldn't have been more than a few hours old. "Will you take us home with you?"

     I looked away, embarrassed. "I'm sorry, little one. I can't..."

     "Oh." Dark eyes leaked tears, and she trudged over to a dark corner. I watched her go, was about to turn and leave when a yellow-ruffed body caught my eye. Turning back, I stared intently at the little yellow Usul huddled in the shadows. He reminded me of one of my friends, but... could it be "_Geordi_?"

     He looked up, recognition dawning, and ran to the bars to meet me. "Emmnei? Yes, it's really you!"

     "Yes..." I stared down at him, not really understanding. "Don't tell me that..."

     He shook his head. "Of course not. Jean-Luc would never abandon us... I don't think he even knows, yet."

     "Then who..."

     "He left yesterday, telling us that he'd be back soon. And... I guess that he forgot to lock up our NeoHome. A little after he'd gone, a boy came into our home, and took _Deanna_t and me."

     "And abandoned you, just like that?" My eyes went wide. "But... why?"

     "I don't know, Emei. Maybe... some people try to hurt you, just to see if they can." He bowed his head, green eyes sad. "They can. They do."

     "But what about Deanna?" I looked around, but couldn't spot the green Kyrii, once female but now male thanks to a strange occurrence.

     "He's gone. We stayed together as long as we could, but a girl adopted him a few hours ago. I tried to make her listen--oh, I tried--but Dr_Death made me let him go."

     I cast a glance at the Techo warden, now busy with another girl at the counter. "Geordi, I won't let that happen to you! You can come back with me... Amyli can take care of you, until we find Jean-Luc... I promise..."

     He shook his head knowingly. "Don't say that, Emmnei. There's no way you could do it, and I don't want you to break your word."

     I frowned, began to protest, but he held a paw up, cutting me off. "No, listen, my friend. I think I learned something from being here, from talking to the other pets. There's no point in trying to defy them, because the humans control our lives. Maybe we're just toys to them, toys to be thrown away... But we can't change their hearts, Emei, and we just have to do the best we can. Believe me, I tried to stop them - I would have bitten that girl, but they stunned me... And took Deanna away. I never got to say goodbye."

     "Maybe it's better that way," I retorted bitterly.

     "No. It's not. Because he never got to talk to me as I'm talking to you, and now there's a message I need to give to you - to Jean-Luc. From both of us."

     A thought dawned on me, and I sprung up, hardly catching his last words. "Wait! Maybe I can get Stel, or Alli, or FruitLoupe... They'd know how to handle this."

     "Perhaps. But I might also be gone by the time you found them." His words were quite, but he took my hoof, restraining me, and I was surprised at the strength of his grasp. "Emmnei, you're the only one who can do this for me, and you need to."

     "But..." I looked down, feeling unsure, horribly worried because I couldn't control what I knew would happen, what was going to happen if I didn't act now, but... "Geordi, I don't know if I'm the right one. I don't want the responsibility."

     "You think I want to be here? Listen, it's been awful, knowing that Deanna was gone and they'll take me too, and I'll never see him, or _Will_R, or _Beverly_C again... Or Jean-Luc." He was almost angry, now, but he caught my gaze, and his tone softened. "I don't like fate anymore than you, but I don't have a choice, and neither did they. Please. Emei... I'm asking you, for me and for Deanna."

     "All right." My assent was no more than a whisper, but he caught it.

     "Thank you. Now, tell Will and Beverly that we miss them, Deanna and I. Tell Jean-Luc that... tell him that it wasn't his fault. But he needs to go on with things, just as we have to. I'm sure he'll get another pet... perhaps even from the pound. I'd like that... anyway, he needs to just forget us, because nothing's so important that you should just stay with the past. Promise me you'll tell him."

     I bit my lip, inwardly torn in two. "Geordi, you can't believe that he'll just dismiss you and Deanna like you never existed!"

     "I need to believe that he'll move on, with hope, and that I will, too... because that's what we have to do, that's the only way. Emmnei, my friend, you may never change the world, but you can change this, ease his grief and anger..." A door on the far end of the narrow aisle behind the cages opened, and the girl who had spoken with Dr_Death walked down, looking into all the cages and stopping behind the one that I faced. She pointed to something I could see from my side, and Dr_Death nodded reached into the cage, and took Geordi out, handed him to the girl.

     "Nooooo!" I screamed, battering myself against the iron that obstructed me, staggering back, dazed as I crashed into it again and again. He couldn't go - there had to be something I could do...

     "Emei, remember..." he called, eyes never leaving mine as the girl walked away, around a corner and out of sight.

     I remembered all too well, remembered what he'd made me agree to, knew with a sudden flash that there was no way that I could tell Jean-Luc, that not even for my friend could I say that, denounce all their time together as if it was a moment. He deserved at least the grief, an eternal reminder... Wracked with tears, I slumped against the cage, and as memory flooded back, I was again the one behind the bars.

The End

This story was written for my friend jean_luc_ , who lost two of his pets through the carelessness of another. May the memory of _Geordi_ and _Deanna_t , of all who are separated, live on, never to be replaced or forgotten...

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