The Problems of Being An Avatar Pet
I sighed. Was this all there was, sitting in the unforgiving cages that were the Neopian Pound? A tear slid silently down my orange cheek. I wiped it away roughly with the back on my hand. I lay curled up in the corner of my cramped cell, attempting to hide, away from the perils and problems of Neopia. The cobbled stone flooring was hard and damp, and the few flakes of straw carelessly scattered across it made little difference.
Many of the nearby pets did all they could to catch visitors’ attention, some crying innocently, or reaching their arms through the cold metal bars, hoping to stop a passerby. It was obvious it was most probably their first time in the place. I did neither of these things, for I knew I simply didn’t need to. I wasn’t going to be here long, and I sat in wait, my head hung in silent shame.
I heard footsteps down the long hallway, and I raised my head to listen. A pause, followed by a strict-sounding and unkind voice. I closed my eyes, knowing what was coming. “All right! An orange Grundo! I can get the avvie!” I didn’t reply – for I had heard similar words many a time before.
The boy (my new owner) slowly led me out through the door marked “EXIT” in large red letters. I glanced at the angry looking Techo, who was stood, leaning against the rickety doorframe. I still didn’t say a word. He grinned evilly, a smile from ear to ear. “Don’t worry, little Neopet, your cage will be exactly as you left it when you return.” It wasn’t an ‘if you return’, but ‘when’. I nodded, and then sighed again.
Back at the owner’s Neohome, I didn’t even unpack the few dear possessions I owned. The boy didn’t even speak to me personally, just went to my pet lookup and then returned quickly. “Yes!! I got the Orange Grundo avatar!” I surveyed the Neohome, oblivious to what he was saying – I knew he was going to say it anyway; they always did. I saw no evidence of other Neopets, so it was obvious this boy was a sole avatar collector, and not a carer for the pets who gave him them. I looked at my scruffy, two toed feet, nudging a crack in the wooden panels with my toes.
And with that, we returned to the pound. I listened from behind the cage door to the footsteps growing quieter. Over the new few months, I passed from hand to hand, always destined to return to the awful smile of the Pound Techo, Dr. Death.
One sunny day, sometime in September, I was lying, head in hands on my straw bed, trying to block out the whines and moans of other pounded pets. I was interrupted, as a small girl approached my door. I expected the usual process that I got with any other owner: adopt, avatar, pound. The story of my life. This girl was different; she had a happy feeling about her. I walked towards her as she read my details from a piece of paper nailed to the door. She said aloud, “...Orange Grundo looking for loving and stable home. Repounded many times.” She stood, almost open mouthed. “That’s awful!” she said. “I can’t believe people do that to adorable pets like you!”
I blinked awkwardly – this was the first kind person I had met in months, maybe years, and for the first time, I felt joyful enjoy to reply. “It’s because of my color.” I swallowed, again expecting the usual reply of ‘Of course, you give the avatar, don’t you?!’ I looked at her.
She continued, “I’m not like norm-- people like that.” She smiled. “I don’t collect avatars.” I couldn’t believe it. This girl (which I found out later was called Gemma) was so different from ones I had experienced before.
On the way out, the Techo was nowhere to be seen, and I liked it. I stepped through the wooden doorway and into the morning light, my eyes struggling to adjust. The soft grass felt cold against my feet as we made our way home. We immediately started talking and having a friendly conversation, as I have wanted to properly for so long. I took a deep breath. As the calming air entered my lungs, I finally felt free, happy and content.
Suddenly, I heard an excited shout, not from my owner, but by a stranger who happened to be walking by. “OMG! AN ORANGE GRUNDO!” He ran towards us, and pushed my owner forcefully aside. She fell painfully to the ground. The stranger spoke to my owner, whilst still staring at me all the time. “PLZ! I need the avvie!!1! Can I lend?!” he spat rudely. I hoped Gemma would rescue me from this nightmare again, as she had done so from the pound.
My owner pulled herself hastily to her feet. She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry, but my Grundo is not up for adoption or trade. You can’t have him.” She looked at me, with a sense of achievement. The stranger had to revaluate the answer. He was a little stunned.”Oh,” he said. Then he simply turned, and walked away into the distance. I breathed a sigh of relief.
We finally got home and locked and securely bolted the door behind us. Finally happy that we were safe, and away from the beggars and avatar collectors, we could at last relax and put our feet up. That night, my owner went out and got us both a pizza from Pizzaroo. It was the most delicious meal I had ever had. My previous long line of owners hadn’t even bothered to feed me, just used me. They treated me as an item, rather than a pet. Gem laughed out loud. “Look, you’ve got melted cheese all over your front!” She got me a napkin and helped me wipe it all off. I smiled affectionately.
The next morning, I awoke to the smell of fresh toast cooking. I got up and dressed with the few pieces of torn clothing I owned. After making my bed, and went into the kitchen where Gemma was waiting for me. She made me jump.
“SURPRISE!” she shouted, throwing confetti in the air. “As I didn’t have time to prepare yesterday, we can do it this morning. I now officially welcome you to the family, sweetie!”
I looked behind her. On the nearby table was the biggest ice cream sundae I had ever seen. It was like a mountain of ice cream and it was coated in a thick layer of rich chocolate sauce. Little candy sprinkles everywhere. I drooled. Gemma munched on lightly done toast as I couldn’t get enough of my huge sundae. Gem laughed when I got chocolate sauce on the pale green carpet, rather than tell me off. “Accidents happen!” she said. After that, I refused to let her do the washing up. Some people think it’s a chore, but I enjoyed it very much.
Later that day, we went out shopping for new clothes for me. It was like a dream come true! I looked so smart! I couldn’t stop smiling, even when we were chased by people shouting, “Look! Orange Grundo!!” When back inside the house, we both collapsed in fits of laughter. I’m not sure why to this day – but I enjoyed myself. So did Gemma.
Over the coming weeks, I admit, we had to hide in the house and avoid the beggars, but it was fun. It was like a game, like hide and seek. We put a note on the front door stating that “Really, no Orange Grundo lives here, honest!” We had the time of our lives. And do you know what? I didn’t just gain an owner. I gained a friend.