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The Shelter


by treihaven

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The Pound can be a cold, savage place. A pit of despair, loneliness, longing, and for some, a permanent shelter from the outside world, although “shelter” may not be the correct adjective to describe the place.

      On this particular day, I was sitting on my standard issue rough burlap cot, with a knotted blanket for a pillow, and my own blue fur for a blanket. It was raining outside, not that I, or anyone else in here, could tell, being as the only windows are located beyond the iron-clad doors of the rooms. Jessie, a Pink Lupe, was sitting in her bed, reading some old book that she bought on one of the rare occasions the pound masters took some of us out to the market. I bet that she had probably read that book ten times, but she still read it, face drawn tight with boredom.

      My hand came to rest on the cold, rough surface of the concrete wall behind my cot, and I sighed. I knew something was special about today, but I couldn’t remember what it was. It was on the tip of my brain; I could feel it there, lurking just below the surface of my thoughts.

      Today was special, I knew it was.

      “Jessie?” I asked, looking over at my only friend. She raised an eyebrow at me, but just continued reading her book. I took this as in indication to continue, and I did so. “Is something important supposed to happen today? Something... happy?” Instantly, everyone else in the room looked up out of their bleak, everyday activities. The word “happy” was not one often used in the Pound. Indeed, neither was any other sort of cheerful expression or descriptions, such as “joy”, “beautiful”, “pretty”, “wonderful” “song” or “dance”. No, no one sang or danced or smiled or laughed. Not one soul had the energy, the courage to. Something about being in the Pound slowly drained the urges, the want, to do those things.

      I returned every stare, though, daring someone to say something. A Yellow Uni almost did, but I narrowed my eyes at him, and he backed off, muttering something under his breath, and returned to his card game.

      “I dunno,” Jessie said, putting a dog-ear in her book and setting it on her stomach. “Is something supposed to be?”

      “That’s just it,” I growl, throwing up my arms in exasperation. “I know today is different, but I don’t know why. Probably doesn’t matter, anyway.” I muttered the last bit into my blanket-slash-pillow, and turned over the other way on my side, eyes half closed. I let my mind wander, trying to catch whatever it is that is escaping my grasp. I drifted away, carried by the currents of my thought...

      Then, it came to me.

      “Jessie. Jessie!” I said, a slow smile lighting up my face. “Jessie, I... I think today’s my birthday!” I sat up straight, my Xweetok fur standing up on end for a second. A moment later, it went back down as I realized no one much cared about birthdays in the pound. No one would even give a fig if you won the Neopian Lottery in here.

      “Yeah... so?” Jessie asked, looking over at me. “It’s not like your birthday last year was special. Or mine, or anyone else’s in here.” She rolled her eyes, then picked up her book and went back to reading.

      I stared at my best friend for a second, replaying her sentence over and over in my head. Nothing was ever special here, or out of the ordinary. Nothing was in here besides the dreary gloom that hung over us all like a thick, choking smog.

      Right then and there, I decided that I would break it.

      I decided that I had had enough of this. I had had it up to here with the unending grey, dark atmosphere in this pit where no one smiled and the sun never shined. I was done. I was going to make today count.

      “I’m going to celebrate my birthday.” I said this bit aloud, and at first no one much listened. Then, I said it again, louder, and with more conviction. “I’m going to celebrate my birthday. I’m going to do it, and I’m gonna do it now.”

      By the time I was done, I was practically shouting, and once again, everyone’s attention was on me. I stood up on my cot, and swallowed. I rung my hands a few times, and then worked up the nerve to speak.

      “We are going to celebrate. We’re gonna have a party. A party, guys!” Now, this didn’t much excite anybody. They all just stood there, all just kept on staring. One Grundo even muttered “weirdo” under his breath, and sat down. I was on a roll, though, and I didn’t feel like backing down today.

      “Jessie, get everyone’s blankets, and string em up over the walls,” I whispered, leaning in close to my friend. “I’ll get the beds.” Jessie nodded, and starting collecting everyone’s blankets. Some people gave her a mean stare, but the others were too curious as to what we were doing to say anything.

      As Jessie worked on the blankets, I began dragging the little cots that everyone had into the center of the room. I put a hand on one of the weak wire frames, and hesitated for a second. If any of the Pound employees found out about me actively destroying Pound property, I was done for. Then, I decided that I just didn’t care anymore, and starting bending the wires until they snapped off. This did make some pets squeak, but again, no one’s heart was really in it.

      Jessie had gotten all of the blankets, and was now working on folding them into thin strips. This completed, she went on and used some cot-frame-wire to tack them to the wall. The burlap material that was the blankets had once been dyed some bright colors, perhaps in an attempt by some kind soul to make the miserable existence here more bearable. Now, they were faded and bleak, but still retained some color. This lit up the room more than one would expect, and the gray, slightly damp walls were replaced by bright, old colored fabrics.

      I, on the other hand, now had the frames of about six beds broken off. I pushed the beds together in a big jumble, and started sculpting the wires into loop-de-loops, spirals, and other fun little shapes and things. I climbed up on one of the cots, and started hanging the metal from the ceiling. They reflected the dull light of the room, and gradually began to sparkle.

      By this time, one or two more pets had started helping, and were breaking off the frames of the cots, making shapes of their own. They hung them on the ceiling as well, and threw the cot cushions into the growing mountain of thin pillows that we slept on. A Uni and Zafara were taking the bedside tables, and stacking them on one another. When they had three little walls, they took a blanket, and draped it over the structure to make a tiny fort.

      Slowly at first, but then with growing enthusiasm, everyone began to decorate, to build, and to light up the boring room that we lived in. Smiles even formed on some mouths, which quickly spread to those around. A young child yelled and jumped into the pile of cots, like a leaf pile in the fall. Everyone joined in, and soon there was pillows flying everywhere, and cushions being used to smack neighbors.

      The biggest surprise of all was when Jessie took my hands and started dancing. She twirled me around, and laughed out loud. I smiled too, and we began to move, not really with any plan, but just throwing out our arms and doing all the silly childhood dances that we knew how to do. Soon, more pets were dancing as well; the littlest kids in the room were chasing each other, screaming with delight. I grinned broadly, and looked around at what we had all created in the last few minutes. The once drab, grey, and hopeless place had been transformed into something better, something delightful and colorful, and, as someone started singing, musical. Maybe it wouldn’t last forever, and maybe we would have to live out many more long days in this place, but at least now we knew we could take it, now that we had obtained the little spark of joy needed to live.

      The Pound can be a cold, savage place. A pit of despair, loneliness, longing, and for some, a permanent shelter from the outside world, although “shelter” may not be the correct adjective to describe the place.

      But, it can also turn into a true shelter, a ray of hope in the bleak world in which abandoned pets live. It can be better than what it was, much better. And from that day onward, it wasn’t described with cold, heartless words... but rather those which started with what we all needed, deep down inside, and with what could be created anywhere, no matter how hopeless or lonely it may be. It was described as having something else from then on, something better.

      Happiness.

The End

 
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