Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 132,843,258 Issue: 270 | 15th day of Celebrating, Y8
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The Hoarders: Part Two

by ruff_zette


New World

Kannice trudged down the road behind the Lupe. She had no idea where they were going, but she knew one thing - she couldn't wait to get there. Her feet hurt, and the rain had seeped through her striped fur, so that she shivered right to the bone.

     Cane hadn't said one word as he lead the Kougra through Neopia Central. He just went right on walking, taking her down streets she hadn't even known existed. But worst by far was the one they were in now. Garbage littered the road, and the tiny houses were rotting away, the doors swinging from one hinge.

     "What is this place?" she asked her silent companion. "Is it, like a ghost street or something? Has it been abandoned?"

     Cane shook his head, and Kannice gasped. The only neighbourhood she had ever seen was her mansion-lined street. But here, pets lived in these filthy, derelict houses. Did Cane and his family live somewhere in this area?


     The Kougra jumped as the other pet spoke. Then she jumped again when she saw the house they stood in front of.

     It was crumbling away, bits of rotted wood falling to the ground as she watched. There was no grass on the "lawn". It was just mud and rivers of filthy water running down to the road. But then she noticed something else. The door and windows were boarded up.

     "Er..." She turned to Cane. "How do we get in?"

     He didn't answer, but started walking around the side of the house. Kannice rushed after him, slipping in the mud. She was a rich, spoilt pet. This was not her type of thing.

     But suddenly Cane lay down and squirmed forward on his stomach. And then he was gone. The Kougra was left standing in the rain. But when she looked closely at the place he had vanished, she saw it was a hole. A hole that looked as if it had been ripped out of the wall by - her eyes widened - teeth.

     Kannice crawled through. "Cane!" she hissed as she fell into the house. It had a dirt floor, and rain was leaking through the roof. "Does your family always... " She gave a little scream. What seemed like a hundred pair of eyes were staring at her out of the darkness. No family could have that many pets.

     Suddenly there was a flicker of light and Cane stood there, a candle illuminating the room. The other pets shrank away into the shadows.

     The Lupe led her over to the center of the single room. It looked as if there might have been more at one stage, but they had collapsed. He raised his head. "This is Kannice!" he barked. "She is a runaway, and has come to join us!"

     The others came creeping towards her. "Um... Cane? Who am I joining?"

     A smile twitched across the Lupe's face. "Us. The Hoarders."

     * * * * *

     From all the faces that crowded around her, Kannice only noticed a few. An Eyrie called Strine, a Xweetok called Nariah, a Wocky called Treal and a Hissi called Shantiya. Cane seemed to be their leader, as they all did what he ordered.

     "Quiet!" All faces turned to him. Again he gave his twisted smile. "Dinner."

     The package he had been holding before was now opened, and food fell to the floor. All different things - apples, biscuits, crackers. And the pets went wild. They attacked each other over food. Biting, scratching, yelps of pain.

     Kannice backed away, terrified of being injured. She herself gave a little cry of alarm, as a voice whispered in her ear. "Hungry much?" Cane stood behind her, holding out a sugared doughnut.

     She was starving. She took the doughnut, and bit into it. The sweetness filled her mouth. But then it became tasteless and dry as comprehension dawned on her. She turned to the Lupe. "You stole this."

     "We don't have a choice," he said stiffly, biting a chocolate-coated mint bar. "We have no money. So we steal."

     Kannice looked at all the pets. Filthy fur, wild-eyes, ribs sticking out. She looked at Cane. "What happened?" she asked gently. "Why are you all here?"

     The Lupe looked sad. His face was twitching. "We were abandoned. Or we ran away, like you did. Then as more of us were cast onto the streets, we formed the Hoarders. We all work together."

     Kannice wanted to ask more questions, but at that moment two pets came through the hole and into the room. The Uni stepped forward, and shook the raindrops off his mane, while the Shoyru hovered behind him, carrying something in her shivering hands. Both of them were drenched.

     "Well." The Uni looked closely at the Kougra. "A newcomer. A runaway?"

     Nariah seemed to come out of nowhere. "That's right, Pyro. Cane found her out on the streets. Brought her here." She turned and looked Kannice. "And she's from, shall we say, the right side of the tracks."

     "Yeah," the Shoyru said lazily, cruising forward on her wings. "We figured all of that out when we found this." She held up the object she was holding and a few of the others leaned forward for a closer look.

     "My backpack!" Kannice realised she must have left it back at the shop. She snatched it from the Shoyru, who didn't so much as flinch. She realised the wilder pet must be used to the rough treatment.

     Instead she said in a low, nasty voice, "Some of us didn't have those little luxuries."

     "Flarren!" Cane barked savagely. Then he dropped his voice to a much more threatening tone. "I don't want to deal with this right now, so I'm not going to. Understand?"

     Flarren shot a filthy look at Kannice before heading off to talk to Nariah and take some food while the other pets were distracted.

     Cane turned to Kannice. His face had been sculpted by the streets from what would have once been the soft, happy face of a joyful red Lupe, to the chiselled, rough featured image that it now was. But as the Kougra looked at him, she saw a gentleness behind his feral appearance. It only appeared when he looked at her, and then the blinds were pulled over his eyes.

     "Come over here. You need rest." His words were short, and showed no emotion. And it wasn't a suggestion, but an order. Kannice had no real choice but to follow him.

     They stopped in front of a pile of rubble. "Uh..." The Kougra looked at the other pet. "What's this?" There was nothing special about it, and she very much doubted it would be very comfortable sleeping on a section of collapsed wall.

     A smile flickered across the Lupe's face. "You'll see."

     He nudged a rock off the pile to reveal a small hole. In a matter of seconds he had slithered through it into the shadowy depths. Kannice hesitated briefly, looking at the pets snarling and wrestling, before following him.

     * * * * *

     It was drier in the hole than the rest of the house, but also much darker. After her eyes had adjusted to the low levels of light, Kannice saw that it was larger than she had expected. More like a cavern. And blankets were strewn everywhere. Some plain, others with patterns and tassels. All of them tattered.

     "This is where we sleep," Cane said quietly, his voice hanging in the humid air. "It's a pet's own responsibility to find their own blanket, but until they're streetwise enough to steal one, they use someone else's, or share with somebody. Use mine."

     Cane's bed was higher up, on top of a rock. The blanket was very old. It had once had pictures on it, Kannice could see that, but they had faded away. She turned to the Lupe. "Don't you need it? Won't you get cold?"

     He shook his head. "I'm used to it. Sleep now. The other pets will just come in as they please." And with that last statement, he turned and left. Kannice watched the small shaft of light being let in disappear, and knew he had covered the entrance with the rock.

     She pulled the blanket over her. This was so different from what she was used to. She remembered that just a few hours ago she had been in her big house, with her cozy bed. She could have had one last night there, and then be taken to the pound...

     No. She couldn't have. The pound was not where she belonged. She believed that everything happened for a reason. So this had happened for a reason, then she belonged here. With the Hoarders. Whoever they were, they were her family now.

     She played vaguely with a loose thread as she thought of all this, wondering what her new life was going to be like. Suddenly there was a slight grinding noise, and two pets came through into the cave.

     "Reckon she's asleep?" Strine's voice asked.

     "Probably," Treal replied. "Reckon she'll last? I mean, she's not exactly used to this lifestyle, is she?" He laughed, not nastily, but in a good humoured way, as if he had just made a very funny joke.

     "They all last. We all last. I mean, we've had posh pets before, and they've turned out alright. They all get used to it in the end. Look at Flarren."

     The Kougra felt her insides squirm. Flarren had once been a rich pet? But she had made it sound as if Kannice was more fortunate than her!

     "Well, 'night."

     "Yeah, night, Strine. And 'night, Kannice."

     She felt herself blushing. So they had known she'd been eavesdropping. But obviously they didn't mind. They had been nice about it. Maybe they had intended her to listen in. To learn about Flarren.

     Slowly she drifted off, wondering what her first day as a Hoarder would be like...

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» The Hoarders: Part One
» The Hoarders: Part Three
» The Hoarders: Part Four
» The Hoarders: Part Five
» The Hoarders: Part Six

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