Trapped Within a Dream: Part Four
Hally's eyes popped open and an expression of stark and
utter disbelief crossed her face as she scanned the alarm clock and realized that
it was, in fact, morning.
She gasped and sat bolt upright in bed, rubbing
her eyes. Somehow, some way, she had managed to sleep through the night with
her heart pounding the way it had been since Dr. Reynolds had given her the
And she was. It wasn't a dream, like the time
she'd woken up and thought that her Dr. Death plushie had been eaten by Arfie.
This was honest-to-goodness, 100% true reality.
"I work at the Pound," she said out loud, unable
to believe it. She'd said it to herself on so many occasions before; particularily
when she was much younger and used to play "fancy dinner party" with the aforementioned
plushie and her Usuki dolls.
"Hi! I'm Usuki! I'm a flight attendant! What
do you do for a living, Dr. Death?" Hally would make the Usuki say, at which
point Hally would step in as "herself" and say with confidence, bordering on
"WE work at the Pound. Don't we, dear?"
And Dr. Death the plushie would nod his head
and they'd be the toast of the town.
Hally giggled at the memory, then pulled her
dear plushie out from under the bed, where it had landed at some point during
"WE work at the Pound," she announced to the
plushie, leaving out the "don't we, dear?" much the same way most of Neopia
left behind its obsession with M*ynci.
While a child, her fascination with the doctor
was nothing more than a girlish crush; now that she was sort of an adult, she
was able to appreciate him for his work, his brilliance.
"Yeah, something like that," she sighed, leaning
back on the bed for a moment. Then she threw the blankets back and rushed over
to her Slorg wardrobe and pulled out her "first day of work at the Pound" clothes:
a navy blue skirt, a pink blouse and a white lab coat that she'd worn as her
Halloween costume last year, but, aside from a small, sticky stain inside the
pocket from a melted lolly, was in great shape.
She whirled around once she'd gotten dressed,
regarding herself in the mirror.
"This is so great," she whispered, shaking her
head. She'd sworn to herself she wouldn't cry, but it now seemed almost inevitable.
She jumped when a knock came at her bedroom
"Come in?" she said curiously, wiping her eye
on her sleeve.
John entered, looking frazzled and as though
he'd had very little sleep. He frowned at Hally.
"Oh, you're up," he said.
"More to the point- YOU're up! What are you
doing up so early??" Hally exclaimed.
"Early? I haven't been to sleep yet," John frowned.
"I mean, it's only 6:30."
"6:30. In the MORNING." Hally said pointedly.
"Yeah... and I don't have classes until 2:00.
In the AFTERNOON." John said, mimicking her. "Besides, what kind of guy would
I be to not see you off on your first day of work?"
"Awww maaan, Johnny Boy. I am so excited, you
have no idea."
"Nervous at all?"
"I dunno. Everyone seemed really nice..."
"Well, of course they do. They always seem nice...
and then the next day, you're supper."
"Dr_Deaths Biography, page 276, paragraph 3,
line 1, AND I QUOTE:
"'There are a good deal of malicious rumors circulating
that imply that the pets that are not adopted are turned into food for Neopia's
less fortunate, used as flavoring for the Soup Faerie's famous broths. This
is in no way true and is in fact a malicious lie that originated in Year 2 after--'"
"Hally. Dude. Okay, I got it," John interrupted.
"I was just kidding."
"Well, THAT is how these stereotypes are perpetuated!"
"Gotcha. Sorry. I won't perpetuate any more
"And just so I can be all enlightened and progressive
and stuff, what kind of morbid, creepy weirdoes do you work with, anyway?"
Hally sighed deeply.
"They aren't morbid, creepy weirdoes. In fact,
the guy who runs the front desk went to Lil' Wadjet."
"Dr. DEATH went to Lil' Wadjet?!"
"Man, I wish. No, this Skeith named Dan."
"Someone named DAN works at the Pound," John
exclaimed in disbelief.
"John. Stereotypes. The other doctor is a Gelert
named Dr. Reynolds."
"Two doctors and a guy named Dan. Are you sure
this is the right Pound?"
"I told you."
"Man, here I expected like... Mistress Demonica,
and... well, with a name like Dr. Death, I really didn't expect him to have
a coworker named Dr. Reynolds."
"Well, now you know."
"So, did you see ol' boy Death?"
"No... he doesn't work most days anymore," Hally
"Ah, you'll get lucky and see him."
Hally grinned at him. It was a subtle gesture,
but she knew that it meant that John had forgiven her for not mentioning the
job beforehand. He made cracks, sure, but that was okay. Hally could handle
Because she was nervous. Petrified, truly. Her
pulse accelerated and didn't slow down until she went into the kitchen and had
to slow her breathing long enough to eat her breakfast without choking.
John sat at the table with her, refused coffee
because he would have to sleep eventually, and checked his stocks.
"You think VPTS is gonna go up after Sloth's
return? I'm betting it will. Should I buy a few stocks?" he asked in a monotone,
squinting at the newspaper.
"John... I have no idea what you just said."
"Yeah. I don't either. I just wanna make money
without getting off my bum."
"I'll bring home money without you getting off
your bum," Hally said helpfully.
"This is true," John mused, grinning slyly.
"Oh, man. I shouldn't have eaten the lemon roll,"
Hally groaned, pushing her plate away. "The butterflies like lemon."
"What butterflies?" John asked, not sure if
he wanted to know.
"The butterflies in my stomach. They're having
a major party in there, fluttering around, tossing the lemon around and around
and around, and up and down... oh no..."
"Hally, stop it. You're gonna make yourself
"It's not ME! It's the butterflies," Hally moaned.
"Make sure you let everyone at work know that,"
John said dismissively.
"Well, of COURSE you've never been nervous."
"Of course not," John smiled.
Hally rolled her eyes.
"Well, fine. I'm just gonna sit on the couch
for a few minutes to help me calm down."
"What time do you have to be at work?"
"Yeah, alright. I need to sleep, so let me just
wish you luck now then, okay?"
Hally nodded and got up from her chair. She
flew up and gave him a hug.
"You think I'm gonna do okay?" she asked softly.
"I dunno. Do you?"
"I love the way you never beat around the bush."
Hally rolled her eyes.
"Yep. You're gonna do fine," John grinned. "Have
a great day."
Hally blinked in surprise and annoyance as John
gave her a mock salute and stumbled off to his room. She sighed and wrapped
her arms around her stomach as she walked to the living room and tossed herself
on the couch.
She reached for the Neopian Times sitting on
the end table, but then stopped herself. Anything exciting enough to even slightly
accelerate her pulse was a major "no". She just had to concentrate on relaxing.
Relaxing. Just... just breathing.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
One eye popped open, and Hally was suddenly
aware of a piercing, ringing sound coming from the kitchen. She yawned and looked
"I fell asleep? Hmm, what's that sound?" she
asked, yawning again. "Mmm, I wonder what time it-"
She stopped dead, and her eyes frantically searched
for a clock.
It was 9:01.
Hally screamed in utter disbelief and jumped
off the couch, but the blanket had its own agenda and wrapped around her ankles,
tripping her and forcing her to fall flat on her face.
A quick glance down and she determined that
her blouse was badly wrinkled from being curled up on the couch.
No time to iron. No time to breathe or think.
Time to run.
She lifted herself off the floor, untangling
the blanket. She swiftly flapped her wings, reaching the front door and fumbling
with the knob. When she finally got it open and arrived outside, she was greeted
with a blast of surprisingly cold morning air. No time to grab a coat.
Next door, an elderly Aisha wore a purple quilted
coat and was bent over, watering her sponderolas. She looked up with a smile
as Hally frantically locked the door.
"Good morning, Hayley," the Aisha shouted, waving.
Hally gave her a pained smile as she heard the
deadbolt snap into place.
"Hi, Mrs. Ferguson."
"Where're you off to this morning?"
"No time. I'm late!"
As Hally disappeared down the road, Mrs. Ferguson
nodded sagely and said to herself, "Goin' to buy bait. Good day for fishing."
3298eyyfda the Kougra stirred underneath his
thin purple blanket and opened his eyes, at first terribly confused and frightened.
He immediately pushed his front end up off the surface of his bed. He suddenly
became aware of the pain in his right front foot and moaned.
"Whoa, whoa. Careful there," Reynolds said gently,
rushing into the room from her office across the hall. "Your ankle is sprained
and bruised. It's better if you don't try to get up right now. How do you feel?"
The blue Kougra gave her a look of distrust
and looked at his paw, scanning the tightly-wrapped ace bandage. His other foot
had a large gash that had been carefully stitched. Sighing sadly, 3298eyyfda
carefully lowered himself back down to the bed and rolled over so he was facing
away from Reynolds.
She smiled sadly.
"I guess you don't feel so great. You're going
to be fine, though."
The Kougra snorted humorlessly and finally spoke.
"I guess I'm supposed to be happy about that,
Reynolds was a bit taken-aback by the way the
question was presented.
"Well... I don't know. You can feel any way
you want to about it-"
"Well, I sure appreciate the luxury," 3298eyyfda
snapped angrily. "Don't even tell me how bad I was when I came in and how you
heroically snatched me back from the cold clutches of death, I really don't
want to hear it."
Reynolds snickered, liking his spunk.
"Actually, I wasn't going to say a word about
that. I was hoping that, instead, you could do some of the talking. Well, when
you're feeling better, that is."
"Talking about what?" 3298eyyfda muttered.
"Well... for starters... how do you pronounce
The Kougra found himself rolling over, eyes
narrowed with annoyance.
"That's cute. Real cute."
"Nothing cute about it, I'm at a complete loss,"
Reynolds shrugged. "Too many vowels or not enough consonants or something."
"You gonna pretend like it really matters how
you say my name? When are you gonna throw me off this moderately-comfy mattress
onto the street, Doc?"
"You'll have a fair chance at adoption just
like everyone else," she said flatly, regretting her launch into political correctness
and the fact that she didn't have a better answer for the poor guy.
"Oh yeah," 3298eyyfda whispered. "A beaten-up
plain blue Kougra with no petpet and a name that came from someone smashing
their fingers on a keyboard. They'll be lining up at the door. How long do I
get, anyway? A day? Two?"
Reynolds was silent for a moment, then she answered
him with his second guess of two days, which prompted him to roll back over
facing the wall.
"Of course," he muttered into his paws. "You
know how this happened?"
"I have no idea," Reynolds answered soberly.
And I really shouldn't know, her mind finished for her.
"My 'brother'. He's a Grarrl."
"You and he got in a fight?"
"You kidding me? When were we not in a fight?
We hated each other. Our owner spent all his time watching us fight... and I
guess today... he just reached the end of his rope."
"Forgive me, but... you look like you got the
brunt of the fight. You can't tell me that I 'should see the other guy'," Reynolds
said sensibly, although without much sympathy. The Kougra didn't seem to want
3298eyyfda turned back to her, eyes wide with
"I barely touched him, and he just... it's like
he lost his mind. When our owner finally broke us up, I couldn't even stand.
But he was there first, and... he's painted Darigan. That's what it really comes
down to. Why should our owner pay to have me patched up and try again when he
can just... take the easy way out and still have one really cool pet."
Reynolds winced, shaking her head.
How many times has this story played out
before, she thought angrily. What right does anyone have to put another
living creature through this... especially for convenience's sake?
Because that was all it came down to: convenience.
The owner COULD have kept his two pets separated, COULD have taken each of them
aside and talked about their issues with one another, COULD have even gotten
his own hands dirty trying to break up their conflicts, but instead...
3298eyyfda was talking again, low and almost
"Sorry, I didn't catch that."
"All I said," the Kougra said irritably, "was
that my owner used to talk about painting me, too."
And then, he drifted into silence. Reynolds
wasn't sure if he was sleeping or not, but she decided to leave him to his angry
thoughts, waking or otherwise.
As she padded into the lobby, Dan looked up
at her and gave a knowing look, then tilted his head toward the door. Reynolds
looked in that direction and saw a blueish blur hovering several feet above
the ground, clearly approaching the Pound. As it got closer, Dan let out an
amused snort and shook his head.
"Number seven," he said pleasantly, going back
to his Neopian Times.
Reynolds sighed exasperatedly, looking at the
clock, which read 9:23.
"Oh yeah. Big time cage duty for this one,"
"Don't be too hard on her, Doc."
Rose the pink Uni yawned and cradled her head
on one perfectly-polished hoof.
"You ever hear the saying that if you had one
million Myncis pounding on one million typewriters, eventually one of them would
produce one of the great masterpieces of literature?" she asked.
"And then pass out from utter boredom halfway
through? Yeah, I've heard that saying," Dan snickered.
"Yeah... Well, how long do you think it'd take
those same Myncis to come up with a 15-month old Shoyru kid whose idol is our
old Doc Death?" Rose snickered. "You honestly think she was telling you the
Rose was the only one who called Reynolds "Christine",
and even so, it elicited a disciplinarian scowl from the doctor.
"Well, I think we all see now just how great
an employee blind idealism can buy," Reynolds shrugged, turning back toward
the door. Hally was coming right up on it now, a determined and wild stare in
The three watched her silently, and finally
Dan cleared his throat.
"Do you think she's gonna remember that it's
a 'pull' door?" he asked tentatively.
A resounding "SMACK!" and a surprised cry was
his answer. Not one of them made any sort of attempt to move toward the door,
and Hally immediately pushed herself to her feet and looked around, bewildered,
rubbing her head.
When she went back to the door, she again tried
to push it open, and a hesitant giggle escaped from Rose's mouth.
Hally finally figured out how to operate the
door, and entered with a pleasant exclamation.
No one responded.
"I hurt my head," Hally muttered, as an afterthought.
Rose burst out laughing.
To be continued...