A young teenager sat down at a table. They were holding a plate of steaming food. They set it carefully down, and then called up the ladder of the cardboard neohome. A green Lupe came running down the stairs, smiling happily, followed by his sisters, a blue Draik, and a green Ogrin. They all sat down at the tiny table, in the tiny, cardboard neohome.
It wasn't much of a life, but it was a home, and that was the one thing that Moquot needed more than anything else in the world...
“Moqout! Moqout! Earth to Fuzz Head!”
Moqout blinked and looked about, remembering his surroundings. The pound. Or, more specifically, the food court at the pound.
He looked across the rickety table, at the girl who had spoken to him. She was an Ixi, green in color, with a very fierce outlook on the world. Her name was Taz. She had been in the pound for eight months, and was the green Lupe's best friend.
She was also staring at him as if he was insane.
“What?” he said reproachfully.
“You're always daydreaming, aren't you, Fuzz Head?”
“No! Of course not!”
She just rolled her eyes and walked away with her tray.
Moquot watched her leave, and then went back to thinking. Truthfully, he was always daydreaming. He just didn't like to admit it. He wasn't sure why, but for some reason, he was convinced that it was bad...
Slowly, the Lupe's mind drifted back to his daydream. He wasn't sure where it came from. For all he knew, it was some little piece of memory, from some time long ago. The people in it had no names; they were just sort of there. He talked to them sometimes, mainly in his head. He'd imagine their responses.
The Lupe finished his small meal, and then walked back to his room.
He walked in with a sigh. He'd lived in this place as long as he could remember. He hadn't once been outside the entire time, though he asked his daydreams about it. He could see some of the outside from his window, too, but not very much. There was a long black covered area, where Eyrie cabs would land. At the end there was one tree. It had a few dull green leaves, and knotted branches. Moquot wondered if it was what the entire outside was like.
Moqout flopped down on his bed. The pound was a very depressing place. Even more so since it was closed for maintenance. He, along with most of the pets there, had long since given up on the hope of getting out.
The Lupe thought for a moment. Then, like he always did when there was no one to talk to, Moquot began to talk to his voices.
I hate it here.
You can't give up hope. No one will adopt a hopeless pet!
No one will adopt me anyway.
Don't think like that, brother! You need to have hope.
I know, you've told me before.
I'm sure you'll get out of here soon.
You can't stay here forever after all.
I wish I had your confidence. I wish you were here with me.
We do too, don't we, sister?
Yes. But we can't be, brother.
Because you don't exist?
Of course we do. You just can't see us.
Well, I wish-
“Talking to yourself, Fuzz Head?”
“No,” Moqout replied dejectedly.
“You seem sad.”
“Oh no,” Moqout replied sarcastically, “I've been in the pound my whole life, I'm half starved, and I'm filthy, but I'm perfectly happy.”
“Well, I know what will make you even happier,” Taz said excitedly. “The pound is re-opening later today!”
“That's great,” Moquot said, feigning interest for the sake of his friend.
Four hours later, for the first time in months, all the pets in the pound sat in the front of their cells, looking clean and excited and hopeful. Even Moqout allowed himself some hope, and he sat in the front of his cell, somewhat cleaner, imagining what it would be to have a real family. Not just some bit of memory, or an imaginary one, a real family.
He looked across the hall, and saw Taz sitting happily with her room-mate, a blue Pteri named Robin. He met Taz's eyes, and they smiled. Maybe his sisters were right, he thought. Maybe there was hope.
Of course we were right, brother dear, one of his voices replied.
We usually are.
Moqout laughed quietly and looked about.
The pound was dead silent. Every pet sat tense and aware, staring at the front where the doors would open, allowing the owners of neopia to enter for the first time in months. Moqout looked at the clock. It was 2:56. He looked across at Taz. She mouthed what he was thinking.
Four minutes until it opens.
Tick. 2:57. Every pet looked at the clock.
Tick. 2:58. The pets looked about at their neighbors nervously, mentally voicing their fears to their comrades.
Tick. 2:59. One minute. Every pet sat tensely, unsure of what would happen. Moqout thought he would explode.
Tick. 3:00. There was a slight pause. Every pet looked at the doors. Then the pink Uni pulled them open, and in an instant, a flood of people rushed through, into the waiting pound.
The world turned upside-down. The sudden noise and the chaotic smells and voices threatened to overwhelm Moqout for an instant. He had never seen an owner before, or, at least, not that he could remember. Now there were owners on all sides.
Peering out of his cell, he watched the chaotic mass of people and pets rush by. Then he watched the painted pets clear out in under four minutes.
People ran back and forth for ages. Robin, Taz's cell mate, got adopted. Taz and Moqout sat silently facing each other, smiling up at the rushing owners. Several stopped to look at Moqout, but they all left again. More stopped to look at Taz. Neither of them were adopted. Still, he allowed himself to hold on to that thin line of hope that he would be adopted.
The noise went on and on. Moqout fell asleep. When he awoke, it had quieted fractionally. It was night, and dark outside. He looked about to see what had awoken him, and saw Taz peering in at him through the bars of his cell.
He stood and looked back. There were tears glistening in her eyes.
“I'm sorry, Moqout, I asked, I truly did, but she already has three pets, and I'm the fourth. I'll miss you, I really will.”
“What are you talking about, Taz? We live here. You can't just up and leave,” the green Lupe mumbled sleepily.
“No, Fuzz Head! I've been adopted!”
Moqout noticed the girl standing with her hand on his friend's shoulder. He looked back at her.
“Oh.” That was all he could manage. Taz had been Moquot's only friend, and now she was gone. He felt like his heart was breaking.
“Oh,” he repeated. “Well, I hope you... enjoy your new life.”
“Take care of yourself, Fuzz Head,” she said tearfully, “Try not to daydream too much.”
Then the girl- her owner- led her away. She never looked back, but Moquot could tell she was crying.
The next day came. More people arrived with it. Still the green Lupe hoped. Still he was not adopted. Food was brought to them, for once, so that they wouldn’t have to leave their cells.
The same thing happened the next day, and the day after that. Slowly he lost hope. He was alone. He had no friends, no owner, nothing.
By the second week, nearly all the pets had been cleared out. There were a few, nearly as dejected and beaten as him, that had been there before, but most were recently abandoned.
The third week came, and Moquot expected no different. Even his voices could not cheer him up now. The rush of people had nearly stopped. Very few people would come in a day. Moquot spent the days in the back of his cell, staring at the wall, talking to his voices out of sheer loneliness.
And then she came.
She walked in with her owner. There was nothing that set her apart from the other pets there, except that she was a green Ogrin. A green Ogrin like his sister. He watched as she approached. She was about his age, maybe a bit younger. She was leading a younger blue Zafara.
She was about to walk by, but then she stopped, very suddenly, outside his cell. She looked in, and their eyes met. He stared back at her, barely daring to hope. He raised his head and looked at her.
The Ogrin’s owner doubled back, realizing her pets were missing. With her walked a tiny blue Cybunny. The owner frowned thoughtfully for an instant, then took her pets aside. Moquot figured that she was talking them out of adopting him. He rolled over and fell asleep.
Moquot was in a cardboard bedroom, playing with a froggler petpet. As he sat, he listened to the sounds of his owner downstairs cooking. It smelled delicious. He could hear his sisters in their shared room talking quietly. As he listened, his owner called up the ladder. Dinner time, he thought excitedly, and leaped to his feet.
But as he reached the ladder, he knew that something was wrong. Everything was dissolving, but his owner was still shouting his name.
The dream dissolved completely as Moquot awoke. He sighed and opened his eyes, prepared for another miserable day. But here was a shock. He wasn’t in the pound. He was in a small, wooden room, lying on a carpet. He could still smell the wonderful cooking.
Moquot leaped to his feet, hardly daring to believe his eyes. He raced out of the room, and followed his nose to the dining room, where a small table was set for five. A green Ogrin, a blue Cybunny, and a blue Zafara were already sitting down.
The owner- his owner- walked into the room, wiping her hands. She smiled joyfully.
“You’re awake!” she said happily.
“I’m Dragon,” she said, “and this is Star,” She pointed to the tiny blue Cybunny, “Kaysha,” the blue Zafara, “and Nova.” The green Ogrin.
“I’m Moquot,” he mumbled dazedly.
A little while later he sat in his room, thinking. He hadn’t just sat down and thought since Taz had left. He wondered how she was. He wondered if he’d like his new home.
Brother? One of his voices spoke quietly.
We must leave you.
You have found your place in this world.
Yes, brother, you no longer need our help.
Somehow, Moqout understood, even though he was sad and upset.
We’re sorry, brother. Their voices were fading.
Wait! Just let me ask you one question first.
Who are you?
I, the blue Draik said, am the future. The future is dim without hope.
And I, said the green Ogrin, am the present. The present is dull without joy.
He thought for a moment. These were the two things that they always wanted him to have. Joy and hope. A present and a future.
Then who am I? Moquot asked in a small voice.
You are the past, both said in unison. Then the voices faded all together.
After thinking on this for a moment, Moquot looked up. His new sister, Nova the green Ogrin, was standing in the doorway staring at him quizzically. He stared back. Finally, she shook her head and said the familiar words,
“Always dreaming, aren’t you, Moquot?”