Alabaster watched the stone doorway intently from around the corner. He could smell the tasty aroma of the Breakfast Croissant wafting out of the shop. His stomach growled at the thought of a piece of Real Cheese Cheesecake. Alabaster licked his lips when he heard the sound of a can of fizzling Elderberry Achyfi being poured. This was practically a form of torture. The shadow of the shopkeeper danced along the ground as the owner danced around inside the shop, showing off his edible wares to paying customers. Alabaster started to lose hope that there would be anything left over. He couldn’t give up, though. It was already midmorning and all of the other shops would have been claimed by others for the day. Alabaster strengthened his resolve and continued to wait. His renewed determination kept him intently following the shopkeeper’s shadow for all of about five seconds. There’s got to be a better way, Alabaster thought to himself. He was getting frustrated with this lifestyle and needed a solution. Just as he started to turn away from the shop, the yellow chia stepped outside with some leftover food bits from the morning rush. He walked over to the dumpster and tossed them in. Alabaster impatiently moved forward, ready to pounce on the food as soon as the chia left. He must have made too much noise, though, because the shopkeeper turned around and spotted Alabaster sitting at the edge of the shop wall, waiting.
“Shoo! Shoo, you kiddie kad! Get out of here!” Alabaster turned and fled the area as the yellow chia chased him, shooing him away with a dirty washrag. Alabaster ran as far as he could before he had to stop and catch his breath. He looked around to see how far he had run. The money tree was to his left, most likely filled with tons of delicious fresh foods just waiting to be snatched up and eaten. Alabaster continued past it, though, since he wasn’t allowed inside. Straight ahead he found the petpet shop. Perhaps he could convince the shop owner to sell him to a loving family that would take care of him. He walked up to the shop, cracked open the front door, and peeked his head inside. A motherly looking usul turned her attention away from a giggling eizzil and looked toward the door when she heard the bell jingle. Her smile faded when she noticed Alabaster sitting warily at the bottom of the recently opened door.
“What are you doing here? You’re too old for this shop. I sell brand new baby petpets, not old, washed up petpets like you.” Her motherly charm had completely disappeared and was replaced with an air of judgement and disgust. “Shoo! Get out of here before you scare off my customers.” Hesitating, Alabaster looked around the shop at all of the smiling faces of brand new petpets, eagerly waiting to be bought by a family. He couldn’t help but wonder how many of them would find that salvation and how many of them would be kicked out by this heartless shop owner because they got too old to be appealing to customers. Alabaster left the shop and continued forlornly down the street in his desperate attempt to find comfort.
Alabaster continued to wander down the streets of Neopia Central. He passed the always busy NC Mall as he continued on to the next shopping district called the Neopian Plaza. Alabaster looked around; he had never really been in this part of town before. Directly in front of him was a welcome center. He made his way into the weird looking shop with the giant hand, hoping to find his salvation within. Almost instantly after walking in, Alabaster’s hopes fell. The welcome center seemed nice enough. It had tons of different information regarding competitions, calendar events, statistics, and so much more. None of it, however, was useful to him and his situation. Alabaster turned right back around and exited the center, more distraught than ever before.
He wandered around the Neopian Plaza some more, looking for anything that would be helpful to him and his situation. He momentarily considered posing as a plushie in the plushie shop, but quickly realized how ridiculous that sounded and dismissed the thought entirely. After that, Alabaster came across a strange looking place with a giant kadoatie sculpture on top of it. Could this possibly be the salvation he had been desperately looking for? With renewed excitement, Alabaster hurried into the Kadoatery.
Once inside, Alabaster found himself confronted with a receptionist sitting in a plain, gray foyer. Alabaster looked up at her, hesitantly, expecting to be evicted at any moment. The receptionist, painting her nails with Purple Nail Varnish, barely glanced down at Alabaster and said,
“Down the hallway to your right.” Unsure, Alabaster stayed put, staring at the receptionist. “Didn’t you hear me kad?” snapped the receptionist. “Down the hallway to your right. Or are you not interested in eating today?” With the thought of food, Alabaster meowed back in gratitude and followed the long hallway on his right. He came across a door at the end of the bleak hallway that had a sign on it that read, “Backstage.” With nowhere else to go, Alabaster opened the door and entered the dark room beyond.
Alabaster meowed with awe. The place was ginormous. There was a large stage with twenty cages stacked on it. Large pink velvet curtains were currently closed in front of the stage, blocking the cages from the view of the audience. Bright lights shined on the closed curtains, as if waiting to showcase the hidden cages. The audience consisted of various Neopians sitting in plush, pink velvet auditorium style seats. Some were just lurking in the back of the auditorium waiting for something to happen, while others were chatting animatedly about different things. Alabaster moved a bit closer to try and hear some of their conversations.
“Nervous for results on FC bets. Anyone else have FC bets in today?”
“Conkads on going pink earlier!”
“You’ve got to be kadding me. Why are there so many UB kads?”
“Main pending :36; last kad rf 2:40:00 pm nst”
These snippets of conversation didn’t make any sense to Alabaster. He turned away from the audience and started to wander toward the stage where the cages were.
“What are you doing?” Alabaster turned to find a pink kad, staring at him with disgust from a small doorway toward the back of the stage. “You can’t cut in line, get to the back.” Following the pink kad’s instructions, Alabaster followed a line of kads to the very back and stood there, confused. A blue kad in front of him turned around to face Alabaster.
“Hi! I’m Billy. I don’t think I’ve seen you here before. What’s your name?”
“Alabaster. What is this place?”
“You mean you don’t know?” Billy looked at Alabaster with an expression of pure awe on his face. “This is the Kadoatery, Alabaster. We kads can wait in line, and when we make it to the cages, those people out there in the audience will feed us! For free!” Alabaster meowed in surprise.
“For free? Why?”
“I’m not sure,” responded Billy, “but they fight tooth and nail over it. It’s always a fun sight to watch the curtains open up and see all the people tripping over each other to give us food.”
“What do they feed us?” Alabaster peered down the line at all of the kads waiting to be fed.
“Whatever you want. But you have to be careful. If you ask for a really expensive item, it might take them awhile to feed you. There’s a lot of kads sitting in cages right now waiting to be fed still because they decided to ask for luxurious items.” Billy’s expression turned to a frown from anger at the other kads. “It makes the rest of us wait longer to be fed. Only twenty of us can ask for food at a time. If you ask for an expensive item and don’t get fed, you’re allowed to sit there until you do, which means less space for new kads to ask for food.” Billy shook his head as if shaking off the anger.
“How long have you been doing this?” As Alabaster asked the question, the line of kads started to move and he followed Billy closer to the door that lead to the stage.
“I’ve been doing this as long as I can remember. You’re pretty much guaranteed to get fed at least once a day, assuming you don’t ask for an unbuyable food. It’s so much better than searching the dumpsters for scraps.”
Alabaster and Billy continued to chat about the whole process of the Kadoatery. Apparently, the audience feeding the kads was called “kadding”. Billy explained the whole time process of when they were allowed to ask for food and when they had to wait. There were a lot of rules that Alabaster didn’t understand, but the point was that kads were being fed and all they had to do was ask for food! His excitement would build each time he took a step closer to the stage door. The line behind Alabaster would fill up with recently fed kads. It was an endless cycle of getting fed. Finally, Billy and Alabaster were next in line.
Alabaster looked around the room some more beyond the door. There were screens everywhere. They were detailing when the last kad feed was, when the next one might be, what kind of items the previous wave of kads asked for, and more. There were also posters around the room describing what exactly the Kadoatery was.
“Billy,” said Alabaster, “Why does this poster say that we are only here when our owners are on vacation?”
“Where does it say that?” asked Billy.
“Right here, on this poster. ‘Welcome to The Kadoatery! This is where Kadoaties go when their owners are on holiday’. Is that true for most of the kads here?”
Billy frowned at the sign. “I never really noticed that before. I’m not sure. Maybe that’s why the Kadoatery originally existed, but I can tell you that the majority of the kads here, if not all of us, have no homes of our own. The Kadoatery is our home now.” Alabaster contemplated the poster for a bit before the cage doors opened up in front of them. “It’s time!” shouted Billy.
Billy and Alabaster ran forward and chose two cages next to each other on the bottom row. The excitement started to bubble up within Alabaster. All of the cages filled with eager kadoaties and the suspense of waiting to be fed filled within every single one of them.
“Remember to look sad, Alabaster.” Billy advised from the cage to Alabaster’s right. “They’re more willing to feed us if we look sad.” Suddenly, the pink velvet curtains started to open and Alabaster blinked at the bright lights hitting the stage. After his eyes adjusted, he could see the eager faces of the Neopians ready to feed him whatever he wanted. Alabaster thought back to all of the times he dreamt of food and knew what the first item he would ask for would be: Glorious Fyora Sundae. Alabaster fought back his excitement and tried to look as pathetic as possible, which wasn’t actually that difficult since it had been awhile since Alabaster had eaten.
The curtains fully opened and the audience leapt into action. The audience members tripped over each other left and right trying to get to the kads first. Alabaster saw one Neopian face plant into the walkway in front of the stage after tripping on one of the seats. Another Neopian in the back of the auditorium seemed to have fallen asleep and was unaware of the kads asking for food. Alabaster saw Billy get fed a Whole Mushroom Pizza to his right. Out of the throng of Neopians, Alabaster caught sight of one carrying a Glorious Fyora Sundae, starring straight at Alabaster with a look of determination. After the food was placed in Alabaster’s cage by the kind Neopian, he meowed in gratitude and excitement and started eating the sundae right away. It was the most delicious piece of food he had ever eaten in his entire life.
The curtains began to close and Alabaster got a last glance at the smug Neopians that were able to feed a kad and the fallen faces of others who weren’t quick enough. The stage was covered in darkness and the recently fed kads stayed in their cages as they finished their meals. After licking away the last remaining bit of ice cream, Alabaster waddled out of his cage, completely satisfied. Billy was waiting for him toward the back of the stage.
“Ready to get in line again?” asked Billy, with a huge smile on his face.
Alabaster smiled back at Billy, soaking in the moment. “A kad could get used to this.” With that, Alabaster and Billy headed to the back of the line, already dreaming about what they would eat for their next meal, never having to rummage through dumpsters for food ever again.