Escape Artists: Part One
The Kyrii looked up from the floor of her cage to see a
light coming down the passage. Two Skeiths were stumbling into the room, trying
to contain a small whirlwind of feathers, claws, and what seemed like half a dozen
sharp, pecking beaks. Between the grunts and roars of the Skeiths and the screeching
of the… whatever it was, the Kyrii's fellow prisoners were soon wide awake, watching
the Skeith's difficulties with thinly veiled amusement. None of them were too
fond of the hulking guards, and it was somehow satisfying to see their usual control
"I wish they wouldn't bring in the new ones
at night," came a low mumble from the cage behind the Kyrii's. "I need all the
sleep I can get."
"You never do anything but sleep," muttered
the Kyrii absently, still absorbed with the struggles of the guards.
"That's because there's nothing else to do,"
replied the voice grumpily. This was followed by the sound of a mattress being
lifted and dumped back down. The Kyrii looked over to see that Cassandra was
sleeping with her head under her mattress again, then looked back at the guards.
"You'll never take me alive!" squawked the small,
furious thing, pecking one of the guards hard on the nose. There were a few
sleepy cheers from the other prisoners.
With an enraged roar, the scratched and pecked
guards threw the thing to the floor and sat on it heavily.
There was silence in the room.
With a satisfied expression on their wide faces,
the two Skeiths got up, picked up the moaning bundle of feathers on the floor,
and threw it into the other cage next to the Kyrii's. The door of the cage slammed
shut with a CLANG. The Skeiths smirked, then winced from moving their scratched
faces. Grumbling about wanting better rations after this, they stomped out of
the room, slamming the thick door behind them.
The Kyrii sighed as she looked at the unconscious
lump of feathers breathing shallowly in the cage. Then she cast a longing glance
out of the large, cage-filled room's single, small, barred window and went back
to sleep to the steady dripping of another leaky pipe.
On the outer wall above the window, a neon sign
flickered on as night fell on the world outside.
THE NEOPIAN POUND.
The Kyrii was woken before dawn by yelling from
the next cage over.
"You can't keep me in here! I demand that you
open this door now! Right now! Do you hear me? I won't stand for this! This
is no place for respectable Neopets! You can't just shut me up in here and-"
"Doesn't sound like anyone can shut you up,"
called someone irritably from another part of the room. "Can't you quiet down?
We're trying to sleep!"
"Sleeping's for Skeiths!" yelled the feathered
thing again. Blinking sleepily, the Kyrii looked up and saw a small Pteri with
a black eye, who preened a few of his bent, grimy feathers before returning
to his tirade.
"I am a Skeith!" replied the other voice. The
Pteri ignored it.
"You come open this door this INSTANT! I will
not tolerate being stuffed into this grimy little cage and locked up! If you
don't open this door right now, the consequences-"
"Will include me eating your breakfast this
morning," roared one of the Skeith guards from the hallway. "And your lunch,
too, if you don't pipe down!"
"Fine!" screeched the Pteri. "Go ahead! From
what I've seen of the rest of this place, the food's probably inedible anyway!
I don't know how all these other poor Neopets are as alive as they are in a
place like this! You call this the Pound? More like the Stingy Half-Ounce if
you ask me! All this is is a bunch of cheap cages in a cheap room with cheap
heating and cheap, leaky plumbing - just listen to it drip- and cheap food and
cheap guards who can't even subdue one small, unjustly imprisoned Pteri without
needing two of them to do it! And another thing-"
"There goes your lunch, and dinner too!" bellowed
the guard triumphantly. "Care to start on tomorrow's food?"
The Pteri sputtered angrily, then let out a
screech of rage and banged his head on the bars of his cage. After sitting and
fuming for a while, he starting muttering vehemently under his breath.
"Do you think he's crazy?" came a whisper from
"I don't know," the Kyrii whispered back. She
pulled a small hairbrush from under her mattress and started brushing her long,
matted hair. It looked like it had been red once; now, it was more of a muddy
gray-brown. "Cassandra, what do you think?"
There was no answer.
"Oops. Forgot," said the Kyrii, reaching into
the cage behind hers and pulling the mattress off the head of the large yellow
"Good morning," yawned the Skeith. "Did they
ever get that lunatic last night into a cage?"
The Pteri grumbled, "I heard that," and curled
up in the corner of his cage.
"Oops," said the Skeith sheepishly. "Sorry."
The Pteri was silent.
"I'm Cassandra," said the Skeith, trying to
be friendly. "Well, actually, my real name's CAS238-and-a-lot-more-numbers,
but I don't really like it, so everyone calls me Cassandra instead."
There was still no response.
"Oh dear, I think I made him angry," said Cassandra
"I was already angry," said the Pteri, looking
up. "You aren't exactly helping, but after being in here, I guess you can't
really be blamed for it. How long have you been in here, anyway?"
"Two years," said Cassandra softly.
"Two years?" squawked the Pteri. "Oh, no…" With
a moan of despair, he curled up in the corner again.
"But you probably won't be in here that long,"
said Cassandra quickly. "It's just that I'm a Skeith, and no one seems to want
to adopt a Skeith."
There were grumbles of agreement from quite
a few other Skeiths, who seemed to make up almost a third of the Neopets in
"I have a weird name, too," Cassandra continued.
"People seem to like names that are mostly numbers even less than they like
Skeiths." She paused for a moment, then continued with a slight quaver in her
voice. "I - I think my owner was planning to abandon me when he named me in
the first place. He didn't even keep me for a week." She sighed. "I just wish
he'd put a bit more effort into naming me first."
"My owner got really upset the last time I,
er, accidentally let a swarm of Slorgs into the house," said the Pteri sadly.
"Some people have no sense of humor, I guess, but I never thought she would-"
He looked around, suddenly silent, at the dim, grimy room.
"I was glad to be rid of my owner," said the
Kyrii, still brushing her hair. "She said I was too vain. Vain! Can you believe
it?" She rubbed her hair back with one paw, looking at her reflection in a puddle
on the floor. She frowned at the dirty, matted hair in the reflection, then
went back to brushing it. "Of course, this place isn't exactly an improvement."
Cassandra grinned, then turned to the Pteri
and asked, "What's your name?"
The Pteri blinked, then drew himself up to his
full height (which, being a small Pteri, wasn't very much, but looked impressive
anyway). "I am Midnight Shadows the Eighteenth," he announced, seeming to draw
strength from saying it.
"Thefoi," the Kyrii introduced herself, shaking
out her long hair dramatically. "Well, Midnight Shadows the - can I just call
"No!" the Pteri said sharply.
"Well, it's kind of a long name otherwise."
The Pteri sighed, scowling at the floor of his
cage. "I know it's long," he sighed, "but it seems to be all I have now."
A few hours later, visitors to the Pound began
to trickle in. Every Neopet in the room tried to look as bright and adorable
as possible, hoping desperately to be adopted, but most were too depressed to
manage more than a weak grin.
"Try to look cute," muttered Thefoi out of the
corner of her mouth as she pasted an adoring grin onto her face for a passing
owner. "You won't get adopted otherwise." Smiling hugely and batting her eyelashes,
she succeeded in making the owner move quickly on in search of a slightly more
"Why?" asked Midnight Shadows the Eighteenth
bitterly. "I've about had it with owners anyway." He scowled at a passing owner,
his black eye and scruffy feathers making him look even less friendly than usual.
The owner gave him a nervous glance, then hurried past.
"Honestly," hissed Thefoi, grinning maniacally
for another owner. "You're as bad as Cassandra." The owner, a tall, armor-clad
boy, gave the leering Kyrii a nervous look and pulled his mutant Draik away
from her cage.
Midnight turned to see Cassandra slumped glumly
in her cage, ignoring the passing owners. She turned to look at him and smiled
bitterly. "Last year, I realized that every other pet in the pound had been
here less than a month, while I'd been here over a year," she said quietly.
"I don't really think I'm going to get adopted."
An owner bent down to look in at Cassandra.
The girl smiled at the dejected Skeith, then glanced up at the nameplate on
her cage. Her smile froze at the meaningless string of numbers and letters.
Giving Cassandra an apologetic glance, she turned and walked away. Cassandra
watched the owner go, then curled up and went to sleep. Midnight couldn't see
Next to Midnight, Thefoi sighed through her
overdone expression and turned her stretched grin on another owner.
Lunch was served, as it was every day, more
or less at some time around noon.
"Semi-rotten omelette with bitten berry sauce
again," muttered Thefoi. "Oh, joy."
"At least you've got food," said Midnight Shadows
the Eighteenth, looking glumly at the Kyrii's plate.
"Midnight Shadows the Eighteenth-"
"Oh, fine, just call me Midnight."
"Thanks. Anyway, Midnight, when you've been
here for a few weeks, you get kind of tired of the same meal, breakfast, lunch,
and dinner, every day of every week of every month…"
"I don't mind it," said Cassandra, already digging
"Cassandra, you'll eat anything," said Thefoi.
"Some of the rest of us are a bit more picky about food."
"Hey, Pteri!" the guard yelled from across the
room. His mouth was full. "Thanks for the lunch! It's delicious!"
Cassandra looked guiltily at the drooping Pteri,
then back at her plate. "Here, have mine," she said, shoving the few remaining
pieces of omelette through the bars of her cage into Midnight's.
"Thank you," Midnight said gratefully, picking
up the plate.
"Hey!" yelled the guard, rising from his seat
by the door. "That little Pteri isn't supposed to get food!" Marching over to
Midnight's cage, he stuck his arm in and grabbed the plate of omelette away
from Midnight. "Starvation makes Pound Neopets more obedient," he said smugly
as he shoveled the food into his own mouth. With that, he stomped back to his
post by the door.
Thefoi and Cassandra looked at Midnight sympathetically
as he glared daggers at the guard. A drop of water fell from a leaky pipe on
the ceiling, landing right in his eye.
Midnight sputtered. "That does it," he hissed,
rubbing furiously at his eye. "I can't stand this anymore. We're breaking out
To be continued…