The Hoarders: Part Five
Kannice almost had to force herself to leave the street. She could understand why Flarren had been drawn to it. Once you had been there once, you felt that you should stay there always. Except sometimes, that’s just a little impossible.
So she walked away from the world she had once seen as her own, and felt a sudden wave of relief. Even though the call of the mysterious neighbourhood of heavy oak doors and wide marble steps was intriguing and irresistable, it still seemed unwelcoming, as if she was unwanted there.
And she probably wasn’t wanted there. After all, she had left behind the life she had there, and replaced it with this new life. A life, whether she wanted to believe it or not, she was actually starting to enjoy.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah...” Kannice sat up. The tree loomed above her, and she wondered whether it was screaming with its own pain, or laughing at hers.
“Yeah, well, watch out. If you make too much noise, someone is bound to find us out here on their superior streets.”
Kannice sighed. Sure, they’d come to an understanding, but that didn’t make Flarren exactly the nicest pet in the world. Just hardened by the life she led. She stood up and followed the Shoyru as she began to disappear into the veil of heavy rain.
* * * * *
The derelict houses seemed to be falling apart right in front of her. Maybe they were. Maybe the water was rotting away the wood.
But even though this was all more than a step down from her previous life, Kannice still felt more at home here. It was like the exact opposite of her old neighbourhood. Deserted streets, small, crumbling houses...
She froze, and stood staring at the surrounding forms of blurred houses. Most of the houses weren’t small at all. There were a few tiny houses, but they looked more recent, even if their condition wasn’t any better. The rest of the houses were enormous. Some of them easily as big as her old house.
“What are you doing?” Flarren was several metres ahead of her, only just visible through the rain. “You know this isn’t time for another one of your little daydreams. We have to get back.”
Kannice nodded and followed her down the flooding road. The puddles were quite deep, up to her knees almost. Yesterday morning, this would have seemed the most unlikely thing that could ever be happening to her. That is, if she had ever bothered to think about it. Which she hadn’t. She hadn’t even considered that there might be a world other than the one that had revolved around her. This world revolved around survival, nothing else.
Her new home loomed into view. Even though it was just a blurry outline, she recognised it instantly. She had never noticed how big it was, though. It must have originally had about three stories, but everything had sort of... collapsed in on itself, leaving the majestic building nothing but a dilapidated pile of rubble.
Flarren was eying the hole warily, tossing up whether or not to go in. “They’ll all be angry with me,” she whispered. “I’ve been so weak, they’ll never want me to come back again.” Tears formed in her enormous eyes.
Kannice joined her paw with the Shoyru’s tiny hand, and, though it was painful and awkward, squirmed through the hole together.
* * * * *
The room was significantly more empty than it had been the first time Kannice had entered, but the noise was just as bad. Pets swarmed around her, or rather, around Flarren. They were definitely not angry.
Suddenly, they were being pushed aside as a burly Uni shoved his way to the center of all the commotion. Pyro stood staring, tears beginning to shine in his eyes. “Flarren...” he breathed. He hugged the Shoyru so tightly that Kannice began to wonder if they would fuse together. After a long few moments, he let go, a little resistantly, and turned to the Kougra.
Tears were cutting rivers through the dirt on his face. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” He hesitated, then hugged her too, much more uneasily. Then he wiped his face and turned back to the crowd.
But that was all Kannice needed. She had finally been accepted.
* * * * *
It didn’t take long for the other pets to return from the search. The house was full again, and so much more alive, if that was even possible. Kannice pushed her way past a few screaming pets, who were crowded around what she assumed was Flarren, and sat down next to Treal and Nariah.
“This is crazy!” She almost had to yell just to be heard. “What is going on?”
Nariah laughed. “We’re celebrating! Haven’t you ever been to a party before?”
Kannice looked around. She had been to lots of parties. Her mother used to throw parties all the time. But they had been quiet civilised gatherings of sophisticated rich people who gossiped about changes in costs and what had been happening at the Poogle Races.
This was just insane. The pets were acting crazy, running around, playing games that didn’t seem to make any sense OR have any rules. Others sat yelling at each other above the noise, just like her and the two others were.
“So.” Treal grinned. “How do you like your first day as a hoarder? You committed a successful robbery, you found and rescued Flarren – on your own,” he added, “and you’re having a party thrown in your honour!”
Kannice blushed. It seemed so absurd, for all this to have happened already. She looked around. All she did at her mother’s parties was dress up in fancy clothes and go around asking stuck-up snobs how they were doing. This was mad. This was crazy. And she loved it.
Cane stood over her, a smile spread across his face. But not a twisted smile, a happy, friendly smile. “I’m proud of you, just so you know. You’re the best newcomer we’ve ever had. And I...”
“Hey!” Strine came up behind him and cut him off. “I thought I was the best newcomer we ever had?” He laughed loudly, and Cane never really got around to finishing the sentence that Kannice waited in suspense for.
The rest of the night was a blur. A loud, fast-moving blur. Kannice spent most of it with Treal and Strine. Nariah left to go talk to Pyro and Flarren. A few other pets came over every now and then, but mostly it was just the three of them. Kannice lost track of Cane. Every now and then she caught a glimpse of him, talking to some other pet.
Shantiya came over really late into the night. “Hey, guys...” She drawled the last word, so that it came out far too long. “I’m really tired... Kannice, how about you?” She stared at the Kougra with piercing eyes, so that it was less of a question, more of an order.
Kannice nodded hesitantly, said goodnight to the other two pets and followed the Hissi into the bedroom. As it turned out, Shantiya’s bed was right near hers. They both lay down, and while Kannice tried desperately to sleep, she could still feel the other pet watching her.
“I think you should tell Cane.”
Kannice rolled over, startled. “Tell him what?”
Shantiya brushed the skin just under her eyes with the tip of her tail. “You see these eyes? They’re not as good as you think they are. But while I can’t see what’s on the outside very well, that doesn’t mean I can’t see what’s going on inside.”
Kannice shifted uncomfortably. “Okay,” she said after a long pause. She rolled over and closed her eyes. Then she opened them again. Surely nobody else knew. After all, Shantiya had these piercing eyes that could see right through you, no matter how much of a wall you built up. She had to be the only one that could tell.
But even though she tried to keep that thought in her head, it was hours before she could get to sleep, and more and more pets gradually drifted in. Kannice wondered if perhaps Cane was one of them.
Finally she fell asleep, but all she could do was dream...
* * * * *
She was sitting in a dingy room, with mouldy straw scattered across the floor. Apart from a bucket of water and a plate of stale bread, the room was empty. She could see out through the thick steel bars into the dank corridor. Other pets sat in their own cells, dwelling on thoughts and memories.
A door at the end of the corridor swung open, and an angry looking Techo stalked down towards the cell. Dr. Death turned and faced her. “We’ve been trying this for months, but we’ve finally got you. You won’t have to live on the streets anymore, Cane...”
* * * * *
Kannice sat up, panting. At first she had thought that dream was revealing what life would be like had she not run away. But now she wasn’t so sure. Had Dr. Death really just called her Cane?
But still, it was only a dream, she thought as she drifted back to sleep.
To be continued...