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Trapped Within a Dream: Part Three


by chibicelchan

--------

Hally threw open the door to her Neohome and stood in the doorway, hands on her hips, feeling as though nothing in the world could bring her down.

      I am the queen of the world, she thought with no uncertainty whatsoever. No question about it, I officially PWN. I pwn j00, and I pwn j00, and j00 and j00 and j00 as well.

      She left the door hanging wide open as she waltzed into the living room, twirling, then bowing, then twirling some more. There were a few Neomail envelopes sitting on the floor, and she giddily picked them up and tossed them into the air, dancing as her "confetti" rained down around her.

      She heard a door open on the other side of the house and continued with her happy dance even as her owner, John, entered the room.

      "Hally?" he asked groggily, rubbing his eyes. He was wearing his pajamas despite it being nearly 2:00 pm, and had clearly just gotten out of bed.

     As a 17-year old human boy, he had a tendency to oversleep, overeat and overindulge in all of life's little pleasures, but as an owner, Hally couldn't complain at all. He always made sure Hally had fun toys, plenty of food and he generally left her to do as she pleased as long as it wasn't anything incredibly stupid.

      "Johnny Boy," Hally cried happily, flying over and plopping down on his shoulders. "Piggyback ride! Piggyback ride!"

      "Man, you don't give me a second to wake up, do ya?" John asked, irritated.

      "Piggyback ride!"

      "Yeah, fine. Whee. Here we go," John yawned. He walked over to the Neomail on the floor with Hally acting as though she were having the greatest time of her life.

      "Go faster," Hally yelled as John picked up the issue of The Neopian Times off the floor.

      "Yeah, okay. Whoo."

      "That's not faster!"

      "How can you tell? Flap your wings or something so it'll seem faster."

      "Now you're just standing still!"

      "Oh no. I am?" John cried in mock disbelief.

      "Poo. You're the opposite of fun," Hally sighed, hovering behind him as he walked away, then sat down to read his Neomail.

      "I beg to differ. I'm gonna Neomail this kid back and say a lot of fun stuff," John said, grinning deviantly as read through a poorly-written Neomail from someone who demanded that John give them all his items.

      "So Johnny Boy. Guess what I did today," Hally said in a singsong voice.

      "Defeated Lord Kass? Good for you."

      "Are you listening to me?"

      "Dude, get this: 'Hey u got a lot of cool stuff. Hey, how'd u get a shoryu. Will u put ur shoru in the pound pleez I'll give u a million neopoints.' Sounds like a good deal to me!"

      "Well, that's interesting... because..."

      "Man, I'm hungry," John said suddenly. "Did you get any omelette on the way home?"

      "That's your job. But listen, because..."

      "Because what?"

      "Because I have something important to tell you!"

      "You do? Since when?"

      "Since right now. Sit. Listen."

      "Yes ma'am," John said, plopping down on the couch. "What is it?"

      "Well... I went out today... and I got..."

      She was interrupted suddenly by the sound of a knock on the door. John frowned and jumped up to answer it. Hally made a sound of protest, but it was too late.

      Peeking around John's shoulders, Hally was dismayed to see a young lady standing at the door, looking smug and distressed at the same time.

      "Well, if it isn't Janie," John said, clearly wishing it wasn't Janie by the tone of his voice.

      Hally frowned. Janie was Sophie's owner, a humorless, no-nonsense, Gormball Mom type of owner. She wondered what Janie could want, but felt a sinking feeling as she realized it couldn't be good. Sophie had not accompanied her owner, which was definitely a bad sign.

      Janie put her nose in the air and regarded John warily. In contrast to her motionless blonde bob haircut, pink sweater and white pedal-pushers, he looked like a complete slob, and it was clear those were her exact thoughts.

      "Well, John," she said to him, "I heard something from my Sophie today that I found rather appalling, and I couldn't in good conscience let you remain unaware of this STARTLING series of developments!"

      "Oh, Janie, I could have told you months ago that no one's wearing capris anymore," John yawned.

      Janie bristled and tossed her head.

      "Hally came to visit today, did you know? According to Sophie, she had with her a rather extensive... list of rather noteworthy, yet clearly false accomplishments she was attributing to herself in order to garner approval from a certain employer of decidedly ill repute."

      John shook his head and squinted. It seemed that he was suddenly suffering from a rather unpleasant headache.

      "Um, uh-huh?" he said.

      "Well, surely you understand my concern. Naturally, I asked Sophie, 'Well, darling! Whatever do you mean?', and after a considerable silence, she told me that Hally's going to apply for a job."

      "A job. Oh, right, hence the, uh, 'employer of ill repute' thing. Well, I gotta say, I didn't know that, but, hey, if Hally wants to flip hamburgers, I say, good for her."

     Janie's eyes widened, and she looked around her, as if she was worried she was being watched.

      "John, I... do you mean to tell me you don't... my dear, you don't KNOW? Hally has decided to apply for a position..." Janie closed her eyes, and gestured for John to come closer.

      "A position doing what?" John asked, looking behind him at Hally, one eyebrow raised.

      Hally laughed nervously, and inwardly cursed Sophie for not being able to keep her mouth shut. Janie seemed to notice for the first time that Hally was present, and she gasped, and, with surprising strength for a woman her size, dragged John outside the house and shut the door.

      Hally curiously tiptoed across the room, putting her ear against the door. She heard nothing for several seconds. Just when she was getting ready to go over to the window, she heard John's voice.

     "Hally told you she's doing WHAT?!"

     And the Aisha's out of the bag, Hally thought, closing her eyes.

     John and Janie continued to talk, though Janie's voice was completely inaudible to Hally, so the conversation was decidedly one-sided.

      "Okay, now... wait a minute... hang on. I didn't hear anything about this," John was saying. "Oh, ha ha. Funny. No, seriously. What did... A job. A job... at the... Oh, right, Janie. 'Accusing you of lying'? No, nothing of the sort. No... no... Okay, no... listen... I... I'll talk to her about it. I WILL TALK TO HER ABOUT IT."

      "Please don't invite her in, Please don't invite her in," Hally whispered.

      "Well, hey, you know, I'm real glad we had this talk," John said, exaggeratedly loud. "Yelling? I'm not yelling. Irritated? Why would I be irritated? ...Well, yes, I agree that's a good reason. Alright, well, hey, y'know, thanks for stopping by. Yeah. Okay, you take care now!"

      As he opened the door, Janie was frantically whispering something, and John looked back to see what she wanted.

      "What? What? Oh, sure. Well, I'd get an estimate first. You know how those contractors can be. Ha ha."

      "Contractor?!" Janie hissed. "I'm telling you, a place like that is where criminals are made! If you won't put a stop to this, I will!"

      "Oh, that's very kind, but I've already had lunch. Maybe some other time. Okay, toodle-oo,"

      "John! Don't you shut that door-"

      He closed the door, locked it, and shook his head.

      "So, uh... what did Janie want?" Hally asked casually.

      "Man... I don't know where she gets this stuff. Alright, get this. So she was talking to Sophie, right?"

      "Uh-huh," Hally said.

      "And Sophie says, 'Say, Janie, did you know that Hally was here today, and she's applying for a job at The Pound', right? And then Janie goes, 'The POUND? That's absolutely horrendous! Thank you for bringing this to my attention!' and she gives Sophie a cookie. And so Janie calls me up and talks to me like she was giving me the news that the stock market crashed, and she tells me, and I say, 'That's horrible, thank you ever so much for notifying me, because all I am is Hally's owner! I can't be expected to know these things!' Man oh man. I've heard some ridiculous rumors before, but this just takes the cake."

      "Hmm... wow." Hally said, nodding solemnly.

      "Oh, oh! And then she goes, 'Hally wasn't gonna tell you! She knows you'd disapprove, and she's being deliberately deceitful!' I mean, wow, way to boost the ol' ego there."

      "Hmm... John?"

      "Yeah?"

      "Um... I got a job today. At the Pound."

      "THAT's what I'm saying! I mean, what's with Janie? She must not get enough excitement out of watching her nails dry anymore."

      "I'm serious, John."

      "Man, I mean, stick her nose where it doesn't belong, make up stupid lies just to get attention..."

      "I'm working at the Pound now. I work with Dr. Death."

      "And she's all 'Well, it's a good thing I told you-'"

      "JOHN," Hally shouted.

      "What?"

      "I am working. At the Pound. Janie told the truth."

      John laughed for a few seconds, shaking his head.

      "John?"

      "What?"

      "Seriously."

      "Hally... it's not funny anymore," John said.

      "I didn't want to tell you..."

      John began laughing again.

      "John, I'm telling the truth."

      "Oh my g-- I know," John moaned, burying his head in his hands. "You're telling the truth and it's not a lie."

      "Um," Hally said uncertainly.

      "It's not a joke, it's the truth. Oh no, oh noo... Hally..."

      "What...?"

      "Hally, you didn't. Really."

      "Well..."

      "But you did."

      "Yeah..."

      "You did, and you did... and you're working there... and I need to sit down."

      "I didn't want to tell you... but they hired me on the spot, John! On the SPOT! I gave them my resume, and-" Hally gushed.

      "Resume? Resume. What resume?"

      "I made a resume. And they LIKED it!"

      "How did you make a resume? You've never had a job..."

      "But they don't KNOW that! And now I work there!"

      "Hally, Hally, no," John shook his head.

      "John, I can't not work there now! They hired me, and I... I work there now! I start tomorrow!"

      "They hired you. You work there."

      "Yes!"

      "They hired you and you work there."

      "Yes!"

      "I don't like it, Hally."

      "I know," Hally said, lowering her eyes.

      "You didn't tell me. And it's a bad place to work..."

      "But I can do it. I know I can. You know that ever since I was a kid..."

      John looked at her and sighed, shaking his head. He then got up off his feet and went over to the fireplace he'd gotten for their Neohome during Year 4's Advent calendar. He looked at a few framed photographs on top, picked one up and brought it over to Hally. He sat down beside her on the floor and held the picture out.

      "Remember this?" John asked with a good deal of amusement.

      Hally grinned and looked at the picture. It had been taken on her first Christmas, when she was only a week or so old.

      In the picture, she was a tiny little scamp, tearing into her presents and stopping dead when she saw what was in the big box that didn't make any noise:

      A Dr_Death Plushie.

      The photo managed to capture Hally mid-scream of joy as she held the plushie in her arms and ultimately forgot every other present she'd been given that year.

      John sighed and shook his head.

      "I just gave it to you on a whim, remember? The Advent Calendar gave it out and I thought it was total junk, but it was a toy so I figured maybe you could eat it or something. How did I know?"

      "It was the best present I EVER got," Hally said thickly, blinking back tears.

      "Yeah... even better than Arfie," John said quietly, recalling that she'd gotten Arfie the Puppyblew the same year.

      Hally grinned with nostalgia, and John looked a moment longer at the photo, then looked at Hally.

      "Do you honestly, 100% without a slightest sliver of doubt, believe you are right for that job?"

      Hally nodded with complete honesty.

      "Yeah. I do."

      John sighed, rubbing his eyes.

      "You know that you're gonna be labeled a weirdo from now on."

      "I still sleep with my Dr_Death plushie every night. I think I can handle the 'weirdo'."

      "I'm... kinda gonna miss having you around," John said sheepishly.

      Hally gasped, blinking back still more tears.

      "Oh no! But... but I won't be gone all the time!"

      "Yeah, I know. Owner guilt," John said, winking.

      "I hate owner guilt. I always fall for it," Hally muttered.

      "Yes, yes, you do."

      ***

           While the Pound was technically open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a Neoyear, it operated at night on a skeleton crew: most often Dr. Reynolds, Dan and Rose the front desk Uni departed around 9pm, leaving the building darkened and spooky with only 2 or 3 employees; always Dr. Death, most always Sandy the Halloween Nimmo who worked the Adoption desk after Rose went home (and managed to scare quite a few children out past bedtime, seeking a new pet, in the process) and usually Ken, a short, hunched-over Kacheek who walked with difficulty and only came in for the pay.

      On the night that Hally was hired, Reynolds stayed late, patching up a wounded Kougra that came in the Abandoned side of the waiting room just as she was leaving.

      Dan was a much better sport about abandonments than Dr. Death had ever been, refusing to get emotional about it, simply handing out paperwork, taking back paperwork and directing abandoned pets toward the back with a clinical and stoic demeanor. It wasn't that he was heartless or didn't care about the pets that came in, but he'd said on many an occasion that it wouldn't do anybody any good to lose their cool over something that can't be helped.

      "Boy, somebody ought to tell that to Dr. Death once in a while," Rose was wont to chuckle, but always with a certain sadness in her eyes. Dan would always shrug and go back to what he was doing, purposely keeping his eyes low for the next several minutes.

      Abandonments came rarely at night, and when they did, they were always much worse. No one was sure, exactly, whether it was just the darkness and the idea of forcing a pet to go to sleep in a cold cage and wake up confused that made it so bad, or if it was something else altogether.

      On that particular night, just as Reynolds was punching out, she turned around at the sound of someone moaning in pain, and saw 3298eyyfda the blue Kougra and his owner, who clearly couldn't care less that the Kougra was a living being, but instead saw his injured pet as a nuisance, something that was in the way and needed to be disposed of quickly.

      Dan never met the eyes of 3298eyyfda or his owner, and after the owner had strode out of The Pound, rubbing his hands together to warm himself, Dan calmly directed the Kougra toward the back where the cages were kept without looking up.

      3298eyyfda took a few shaky steps, whimpering in pain, but a moment later he reached his pain threshold and collapsed into a heap on the tile floor.

      Reynolds immediately forgot that she was leaving for the day and ran over to the Kougra. Dan turned around to look, his expression emotionless.

      "Doc, aren't you going home?" he asked.

      "Obviously not," she said quietly, checking 3298eyyfda's pulse and breathing.

      Dan sighed, closing his eyes. He silently flipped through 3298eyyfda's abandonment papers, noting that his owner hadn't written anything about the Kougra's medical history and in fact, his signature had been scribbled out in such a hurry that it was nearly illegible. Reynolds' paw came back from taking his pulse stained with blood.

      "You think he was the product of a stolen account?" Dan asked suddenly.

      "It's not our job to ask questions like that, is it? Heaven forbid we should actually solve any of this. Can you help me carry him into a room?"

      Dan left his desk and picked up 3298eyyfda effortlessly. Reynolds ran ahead to a door at the end of the corridor and knocked briskly.

      "Doctor, I'm going to need your help," she called, then turned away from the door and trotted into the examination room.

      It wasn't until almost an hour later that the slight, grey-haired, lab-coat wearing Dr. Death appeared in the doorway. In this time, Reynolds had almost completely finished, and was just giving 3298eyyfda a shot for the pain.

      She looked up at the figure standing in the doorway and rolled her eyes, turning away.

      "Don't tell me, you're gonna take it from here?" she said coldly.

      "No," Dr. Death replied emotionlessly.

      "Well, go on back to your office, then. I'm sure you have more important things to do."

      "I'm working front desk. It's almost 10:30."

      "Hmm. Didn't notice. I've been a little bit busy," Reynolds snapped.

      Dr. Death paused for a moment, then walked silently out of the room, leaving the door hanging wide open. Reynolds had a few choice thoughts about the Techo, but she summed it up in two words as she pulled her rubber gloves off:

      "Walking dead."

      She entered the waiting room a few minutes later, coldly ignoring Dr. Death at the desk. She said goodnight to Sandy, grabbed her coat with her teeth and shut the door behind her.

      As she walked down the beaten-up path, her mind returned to the Pound's newest employee, Hally Schoy, and what she had said.

      Dr. Death, her hero ever since childhood.

      What a thought, Reynolds thought, laughing humorlessly. That zombie's the reason she's coming to work here. 100 Neopoints says the second the poor kid sees what he's become, she's scarred for life.

      She shook her head.

      We've all been there.

      She knew that the first thing she'd do when she got home was pick up another copy of Dr_Deaths Biography and stay up half the night rereading it.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Trapped Within a Dream: Part One
» Trapped Within a Dream: Part Two



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