Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 106,046,831 Issue: 211 | 7th day of Collecting, Y7
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Trapped Within a Dream: Part Four


by chibicelchan

--------

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 incredible news.

      "You're hired."

      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 pompousness:

      "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 the night.

      "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 door.

      "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."

      Hally bristled.

      "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 stereotypes."

      "Thank you."

      "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 sighed.

      "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 jokes.

      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 sick."

      "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?"

      "8:00."

      "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.

      Inhale. Exhale.

      Snore...

      ***

      One eye popped open, and Hally was suddenly aware of a piercing, ringing sound coming from the kitchen. She yawned and looked around, bleary-eyed.

      "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.

      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, aren't I?"

      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 your name?"

      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?"

      Reynolds sighed.

      "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 any.

      3298eyyfda turned back to her, eyes wide with anger.

      "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 inaudible.

      "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," she snarled.

      "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 truth, Christine?"

      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 her eyes.

      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.

      "I'm here!"

      No one responded.

      "I hurt my head," Hally muttered, as an afterthought.

      Rose burst out laughing.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


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



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