Stuck: Part Two
“So, now you’re just like the rest of us,” a low voice said.
I looked toward the source of the sound. The yellow Blumaroo in the cage to the left of mine was sneering at me as he slowly bobbed up and down on his tail.
I looked away, all the stories of nasty pets who never got adopted out of the pound coming to my mind. Supposedly these pets grew bitter from their long periods of confinement, and jealous of those pets with rare colorings or good stats that got adopted right away. But why would he be jealous of me? I was just as stuck as he was.
“Oh, so now I’m not good enough to be acknowledged?” the Blumaroo continued, malice dripping from his words. “Whatever. I’m sure you think you know everything... for now, at least.”
As I tried to figure out what the Blumaroo had meant by ‘for now’, another voice, deeper and louder, boomed out from beyond the metal wall. “Yo, Mellon! You still in here?”
I watched out of the corner of my eye as the Blumaroo turned toward his metal wall, his mouth curving into a smirk. “Where else would I be?” he yelled back, his tone rough.
“Only Mug would actually think you’d have a chance of getting out,” a higher-pitched voice replied, evidently amused. “The rest of us are stuck too, a’course. Who’re you talking too? Vent?”
“Nah, she’s out cold,” a husky voice far to my left put in.
“I was,” a low, feminine voice put in, while a pale blue form to the left of the Blumaroo’s cage leisurely stood up, “until a bunch of Negg-for-brains, clumsy-pawed, inconsiderate Poundees decided to disturb my beauty sleep-”
“Which you obviously still need,” the Blumaroo interrupted with a snicker. “Oh, and Chall, I was just talking at a Raree.” He put an emphasis on the last word, a stress which made it seem negative. I had an uncanny feeling that he was talking about me, and I carefully retreated to the right side of my cage.
“No kidding!” The high-pitched voice let out an audible snicker of its own. “One of ‘em got stuck here with us? Ain’t that something.”
“You lot have no manners at all,” the low, feminine voice interrupted, a snarl accompanying the words. “Who cares if it’s a Raree? You know how long maintenance takes- he’ll be stuck here for a while. Now, everyone nearby, introduce yourself. Hey, newb, I’m Vent, blue Gelert.”
There was a pause, then the voice to the far left spoke. “Tar, red Meerca. Don’t think you’re welcome or somethin’, newb.”
“Mug, yellow Eyrie, um... hi,” put in the deep voice, slowly and uncertainly.
“Chall, blue Kougra. You’ve got a lot to learn.” That was the higher-pitched voice, the one with an air of authority about it.
Then there were a few voices I hadn’t heard before; “Sols, green Buzz, not that you’ll remember,” “Fer, not like the stuff on your back, blue Kacheek,” “Raw, green Shoyru, didja bring something to eat?”
Finally, the Blumaroo turned to look at me, still smirking, and hopped forward so that he could lean against the bars between us. “Salutations. I’m Mellon, yellow Blumaroo. And you are...?”
I coughed quietly, realizing that I had no choice but to speak. “I’m Sojo, Coconut Jubjub, and, um... thanks?”
There was a sudden hubbub as everyone started talking at once.
“Coconut, huh? All the avatar-hunters will want him-”
“Hey, at least it’s an improvement over that faerie Draik. She didn’t even bother with talking-”
“So that’s what the hysterics were about. Probably a transfer-”
“Y’know, I was a Jubjub once, when that one owner tried to zap me for a while-”
“Coconut. You don’t see them too much anymore-”
“Maybe he’s got a Petpet we can chow on-”
“QUIET!” the higher-pitched voice, Chall, yelled. All the voices subsided into murmurs. “Raw, hush up with all that food talk. We’ll get fed soon enough. Now- Sojo, you said?”
I nodded an affirmative, then, realizing that he couldn’t see me, squeaked out a ‘yes’. I heard a few muffled laughs, and the Blumaroo’s smirk grew.
“Like I said before, you got a lot to learn. Ever been pounded before?”
“No.” This time my voice didn’t squeak, thank Fyora.
“Figured so. All of us here- the veterans- we’re Poundees. We rank you, so listen when we’re speaking. You’re a Raree, which means you’d usually get adopted straight away. It doesn’t mean you’re better than us. Don’t let it get to your head.”
Thoughts were swirling around in my head. I didn’t think I was better than them- at least, I was pretty sure that I didn’t.
“We get fed in the morning and at night, usually omelette and jelly for breakfast and fish for dinner.” He paused, probably to let it sink in. “What? Thought all we ate was gruel? They feed us what’s cheap, kid. Gruel isn’t particularly so.”
The thought of eating omelette in the pound was strange, especially since that was what I usually ate for breakfast with Terri. Either that or some Desert foods...
“We’ll also sometimes get Desert foods-” I winced as Chall’s voice echoed my own thoughts- “and random edible Tombola prizes. Then, sometimes, the Soup Faerie stops by to give us a special treat.”
“I hope she comes today,” Raw interrupted. “I’m absolutely craving Golden Juppie soup...”
“Raw, I’m warning you, shut your mouth,” Chall growled. Raw gave a little squeak and subsided.
“What else do I need to know about, besides food?” I questioned, feeling a bit dumb. Mellon was still watching me with amusement, and it was a bit unnerving.
This time, it was Vent who started talking. “Heard anything outside of here about how the pound is run? Forget it now, kid. Ninety percent of it is lies, the rest exaggerated. You won’t starve, we get heat in the winter and sleeping bags all year long- you’ll probably need to ask for one, by the way, as I doubt that anyone thought you’d actually stay here- and they let us outside to exercise in groups every other day. Be prepared for some pretty interesting discussions, though. We get a lot of those here when the flow of humans is slowing down.”
I sank down so that I was sitting, trying to take all this new information in. I’d get to go outside? I wouldn’t have to sleep on the cold floor? Not that the floor was all that chilly, I suddenly noticed, which made some sense as it was spring. Still, I’d always heard that the pound was horrible, that pets in the pound were neglected. And these pets didn’t really seem to mind.
“Anything else?” I asked hesitantly when Vent didn’t resume talking.
“Not much.” Chall sounded bored now. “If we were open, you’d need to know all the rules on who gets the spotlight when humans come around, but we’ll be closed for, oh, a week, and you’ll get adopted straight away anyway. Oh, right- don’t worry about the Techo, Dr. Death. He’s actually a lot nicer than his partner, Sue the Uni, not that you heard it from me.”
“Oh, but I did,” a cold voice stated clearly from behind me. I turned around; the Techo was standing behind the locked door, looking at me in amusement. He was holding a brown sleeping bag in his hands, I realized belatedly. The sound of muffled laughing came from the Blumaroo’s- all right, Mellon’s- cage.
“Just giving him the heads-up on all the real rules of this place, chief,” called out Chall. “Not that he probably even listened to your version. Newbs never do.”
“I doubt it. Now, Sojo, I have a message for you from your previous owner.”
I felt a bit queasy at the word ‘previous’. “Yeah?”
“She says to tell you not to worry, she’ll make sure that you get out of ‘here’ safely.” Someone giggled. “She tried to bribe me into letting you out, you know.”
“I’m sure she did,” I mumbled, feeling more worried. No matter what she had told him to tell me, Terri was obviously afraid that someone else would get me first.
“All right.” Dr. Death smiled grimly, and then unlocked the door. Before I could realize what he had done, he had placed the sleeping bag on the floor and closed the door again. I watched, wide-eyed, as he locked the door and then walked over to the door of the Blumaroo’s cage, as if his actions were entirely routine. “Mellon, let everyone know- you guys are getting a special treat tonight. Spooky foods.”
There was a mixed chorus of boos and cheers as the pets close enough to hear took in the news. Across the wall, I heard Chall mumble that that was the forgotten meal type.
“Don’t look so glum, Raree,” Mellon told me, with a final leer. “If you’re lucky, what you get will just be Halloween-themed, not... creepy.”
And he bounced over to the other side of his cage to make sure the news was conveyed.
To be continued...