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11.07.11

The Owners’ World

My story, “The Owners’ World” was published in the Neopian Times as a four-part series in early 2002.  I had just turned twelve years old.  I began playing Neopets under the username catnip4 on April 25, 2000, six months after the site’s initial launch.  My active years on Neopets inspired heavy creative production: personal and guild-affiliated websites, two LiveJournals, short stories, comics, poetry, and drawing.  Most of the work I did was about my four pets, Snowflake462, IceCrystal462, Icedrop462, and SnowIce462.  Snowflake became my star and favorite and was featured on Pet Spotlight (p. 96).  He narrates “The Owners’ World,” which was written a year and a half after my family made a major move from Houston, Texas to Long Island, New York.  “The Owners’ World” can be seen as a reflection on the barrier between two worlds (real and virtual).  This is something I struggled with as a young girl.  The amount of time I spent online and specifically on Neopets.com resulted in a family-held intervention which, ultimately, proved ineffective.  I would make one last literary contribution to the Times before falling off into obscurity—my masterpiece,“Kau Seer’s Revenge” (weeks 55, 56).  I would retire from Neopets a 9x Neopian Times Champion.  Below is “The Owners’ World,” presented for the first time in its entirety.

The Owners’ World

By Catnip4

Every once in a while I remember something. It’s not the kind of thing that makes you fuzzy all over and makes you feel better when you’re sad, but actually the kind of something that lurks deep inside you, and you try to block it out.

I’ve always known owners aren’t Neopian. Sure. But up until just a few months ago, I never really thought about answering my question. If owners aren’t born in Neopia…. then… where are they from?

Maybe I should’ve never asked. Maybe I should have tried forgetting about it. But being the type of thing that eats away at you until you finally find out the answer, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Catnip was working at her desk, a calculator by her hand and her discount card. She wasn’t in the best mood, I could tell. Usually I would wait to tell her what I wanted to tell her, because… well… no one wants to make Catnip mad. I shuddered, but tapped Catnip on the back.

She immediately lifted her head, and was surprised to see me, almost shocked. A long uncomfortable silence passed, and I tried to break it.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Calculating bills,” she scoffed.

I stared at my feet, and could feel the sweat start to form at my forehead.

“Ummm…. uhhh… Catnip?”

She sat, slumped, with her face against her hand, ready to slip out of her chair.

“Mmmm hmmm?”

I ran into my question, hoping I wouldn’t get caught on a word.

“Where do you come from?”

Catnip’s eyes suddenly grew into saucers, and that made me feel like I really should have forgotten about ever asking.

But then she smiled, and she had that strange look on her face as if she were half asleep but happy.

Catnip started to laugh.

“I’ll show you, Snowflake!”

The chair skidded back as Catnip stood up and started to run upstairs to her closet. She threw open the cabinet doors. I chased behind her, and watched closely as she pulled out a small, wooden box. The hinges of the box creaked when Catnip started to lift up the top of the box, and she gently lifted a package wrapped in a cloth.

It was like a mystery present. You waited in awe until the final layer was unwrapped, and then marveled at the site. And boy, did I marvel! There pictures of a strange place, and Catnip along with some other owners were in them. One was where she was standing by a huge NeoHome along with another owner, and there were these weird Neopets that I’ve never seen before. They looked a little bit like aishas, but without the stalks. They had big strings coming out the sides of their cheeks, and a small pink thing in the middle of their face.

Their was another picture with Catnip in a yard, and there was a huge thing in the background, smaller than a NeoHome, but still large. It had windows and wheels.

I could hear Catnip sniffing, although she tried to hide it, and I put my paws around her neck and hugged her.

“Let’s take a trip to this place,” I finally offered.

Catnip turned around, with a bright red nose, and shook her head.

“It’s not easy to get into or out of Neopia.”

“It may not be easy, but it’s not impossible,” I said.

Catnip gave me a smile, and she nodded.

“Okay,” she whispered.

Catnip and I walked into her room and she pulled out a big carpet bag. She quickly stuffed it with some clothes and essentials, and she was ready to start. Let me tell you, Catnip wastes no time.

We were off in minutes. We stopped a Uni on the road, which was, of course, vacant. We hopped upon the Uni’s back, loaded the carpet bag around her neck. She gracefully took two steps back and started to sprint. We were off, flying among the clouds. I couldn’t have transportation any other way.

I woke up to see the beautiful, magnificent door to the Queen’s castle. Catnip slid me off the Uni’s back and held me over her shoulder. The Uni’s head bowed along with her bright, sparkling mane, and Catnip slipped the carpet bag, up, over the Uni’s face. She waved to the Uni, and just before leaving, stuffed a few Neopoints in the Uni’s velvet red sack slung across her shoulder. The Uni flew away, and we walked up to the gigantic door.

The door opened immediately before us. We were facing a long, cascading purple carpet, leading to a highly set, golden throne. Fire faeries dressed in tattered dresses with belts across their wastes holding sharp knives stood beside the throne, standing each with a crimson, blazing stick, topped with an orb. We looked to the right, and one Water Faerie sat on a gray stone in the middle of a great fountain, water sprouting out of the statue of a fish drenched the faerie’s hair. She lay with all sorts of bottles decorating the rocks and the water.

Suddenly, before I could find all the other faeries, loud trumpets sounded by a group of faerie Lupes, wearing tall pointed lavender caps. A Light Faerie fluttered over to us, and motioned her hands to go forward. We were confused, but we took a step forward at a time. Catnip tapped me on the back. She was kneeling before the throne, and quickly I did the same. Two Air Faeries entered a great entrance from the ceiling, each holding one hand of the Faerie Queen’s. The Faerie Queen was gorgeous. Almost so fragile and delicate that if you touched her, she would break. She was wearing a flowing purple gown with a silver crown topped with the rare gems of Neopia. Light was shooting out of her, and you hard to shield your eyes from the brightness. She was gently put into the sit of her throne. She stood.

“Get up!” she yelled.

Catnip pulled me up, and we both bowed before the queen.

“What have you come for? It’s not everyday ordinary Neopians and shone before the queen!”

Catnip tried to answer, but tripped on her own words. “Well…w-w’errr…”

I interrupted. “My owner and I would like to go to her home planet.”

The Faerie Queen stared at us. “Ha! Who in their right mind would want to ever leave such a grand place, created by the Faerie Queen herself?!”

My face grew tight, my fists clenched, but I tried to remain calm.

“Well, haven’t you ever been homesick?”

The Faerie Queen smirked. “Why should I be? I’ve never left this place!”

Although the Faerie Queen had shaped Neopia, I wasn’t pleased with her attitude.

“Well homesickness isn’t the best feeling, I hope you know! So we’d like to leave… if you please!!!”

The Faeries gasped and started to argue, but the Faerie Queen sat.

“I like your boldness, Aisha. What is your name?”

I came forward and bowed again.

“Snowflake, your highness.”

“Soooo…” The Faerie Queen began. “You want to go with your owner to this… Earth?”

Catnip finally brought up enough bravery to come forward.

“Queen, we’ll–”

“Don’t speak for the Aisha!” The Faerie Queen yelled.

I was enraged. I have a certain problem with my mouth when I get mad, and this was definitely NOT the time to have this problem.

“Don’t you dare talk to Catnip like that! Have you noticed she’s been polite and tried to be helpful in answering questions? Well, you sure haven’t! I think you’re trying to ignore her!”

I breathed harshly through my nose.

“You know Aisha,” The Faerie Queen started to reply. “You’re very bold. I like that in a NeoPet.”

Hold on a second–was she actually not getting mad at me?

“Thank you.”

“Aisha! Did you just hear what I said? That deserves more than a thank you!”

I stared down as I shuffled my feet and played with my hands. Boy, do I wish I had fingers. Then I could twiddle my thumbs!

I looked up as the Faerie Queen stepped down carefully from her golden throne. I was blinded by the light she gave off. I turned away as she came towards me.

Catnip held onto my shoulder and was turned away along with me.

I felt warm, delicate, soft fingers slip into my paw.

“Come with me,” I heard the Faerie Queen say.

It was a high voice, like sleigh bells.

My eyes squinted; I used the Faerie Queen as my guide. I didn’t know where Catnip was at the time, but the Faerie Queen suddenly let go of her grasp and I was free standing. I opened one eye.

Looked okay.

I opened the other eye, and I gasped.

Nothing was there! It was just a blank, white wall.

I suddenly felt a light push, and I was slammed into the white wall. At least that’s what I had expected to happen. I squinted my eyes again and put my arms in front of my face, but when I was supposed to hit the wall, I didn’t.

I opened my eyes. Tons of NeoHomes. And the roads were filled with the big things with wheels I had seen in the photographs.

“This, Snow,” Catnip said, coming by my side, “is Texas!”

She was talking in a weird way, not like I had ever heard her talk before. She threw up her arms and spun around. The workers at the bank were very confused when we tried to exchange Neopoints for American money. They thought it was “fraud” money, or whatever that means. We had to leave the bank.

Catnip said she was going to take me to her “ranch” and let me ride in the “tractor.” I remember she had said “I’ll let you see the kittens!” Those are the things I want to see!

It was okay we didn’t have any money, and since no Unis we around, we had to walk to the ranch. It was a good thing it wasn’t very far off, or I would’ve needed some food. It was a big, red, wooden NeoHome on a large piece of land. Carrots and cabbage must have been growing. Yuck!

Catnip stuffed me in her carpet bag just before knocking loudly on the door. I managed to peak my head through, though. Aishas have that skill to get through any small space. A tall owner with long brown hair opened the door. She covered her hand with her mouth and ran upstairs.

“John! John! Come downstairs! She’s here!”

A tough, big man came to the door.

“Where have you been!?” The lady asked.

Catnip tried to answer quickly.

“I was… on a business trip… to… to… Japan!”

“Ha!” I thought to myself. “Japan?”

“I… it… was a long business deal.”

“A two year business trip?” the lady began.

“Yeah!” I thought. “A two year business trip!? That’s a laugh.” I didn’t exactly know what I was talking about, but I didn’t know why Catnip was lying.

“Yeah…” Catnip continued, “it was a big deal.”

I guess the lady let it go, because she said, “Okay, let’s all go inside. Have a nice dinner. You like steak, don’t you?”

“Actually mum, I’m a vegetarian, remember?” Catnip reminded the lady.

“Um… I don’t know…”

“It’s okay mom,” Catnip cut in, “I brought a couple of sandwiches. I’ll be fine.”

Mum?

“Pahhh…” the father complained. “You’re in the south! And any ways, you need some meat on yer, kid!”

“Sandwiches are fine, dad.” Catnip said with a tint of anger in her voice. “I’m going upstairs, all right?”

Dad?

Catnip pushed her parents out of the way as if they were doors, and suddenly you could smell the delicious aroma of hearty steak stew.

“I’d like some of that!” I whispered to Catnip as she quickly climbed the dark and creaky steps.

Catnip turned the corner in the hallway to a small room. It had a cozy feel. A bright red quilt had been thrown over a cot, and the light seeped through the window. A tiny stool stood next to the bed, topped with a dim lamp.

Catnip jumped onto the bed, and dust flew up, and we both started to cough hysterically.

“This was my old bed,” she yelled, as if the dust was a wall.

“Really?” I said, hopping out of the carpet bag.

The dust started to settle.

“It probably hasn’t been used for years.”

Catnip leaned over on the bed and reached for the side table. She pulled open a small drawer, and gasped.

“Ohhh!” She cried. She picked up a book and started to flip through it.

“What’s that?” I leaped onto the bed and crept up behind her. The bed was stiff, like a wooden board, but the quilt was warm and comforting from the sunlight that had been absorbed.

Catnip didn’t answer my question. She stuffed the book in the carpet bag and brushed her hands across the wall. She was savouring every last bit of her old room. She suddenly dropped to her knees and searched under the bed. When she stood up, she was wearing a beautiful but worn, black cowboy hat.

“This, Snow,” Catnip fitted the hat over her head, “is something that you can’t get in Neopia.”

Okay, it was interesting and all, but an Aisha has those certain… weaknesses. I tuned out the rest of the world as Catnip rambled on about her cowboy hat, and I peered out of the hallway as if I were crossing the street. I tiptoed down the stairs and into the kitchen.

What can I say, I was hungry, and nobody wants to let good food go to waste, do they?

I leaped onto the countertop and went straight towards the stew. I poked my head into the pot and lapped up some of the broth. I stuck my paws into the broth and pulled out some of the chunks of meat and vegetables. Suddenly, while feasting, someone grabbed hold of me under my arms and turned me around. It was Catnip’s mom.

“Whoa! Now what do we have here, eatin’ at my dinner?”

“John!! C’mere a second.”

John came running into the kitchen, and his eyes bulged.

“Is it a deformed cat or smoothing?”

“How dare you!” I thought. “I’m an Aisha! That’s a-i-s-h-a!!”

“Well, I’ve never seen a striped cat with four ears before.” Catnip’s mom remarked.

“I’ll take it down to the animal shelter,” John started. “Poor feller, forced to feed off other people’s food!”

“WHAT!?” I screamed in my head. “NO! NO!”

John picked me up and held me like a baby.

I flew out my claws and dug them into his shoulder.

“Whoa! Lil’ feller, don’t go gettin’ frisky on me, okay?”

I couldn’t think correctly. I let out a large cry of help. I wanted to talk, but I didn’t want to get Catnip exposed.

John took me outside by the tractor and hopped in the driver’s seat.

I kept crying and yelling out the window. I could see Catnip at her bedroom window. She saw me, and she seemed to scream, although I couldn’t hear her.

John started the engine, and rolled away.

Catnip raced down the stairs. “Mom! Mom!” Catnip’s heart was beating rapidly. “Did you see a striped ai–um… thing with four ears?”

“You saw it too?” Catnip’s mom began.

“Yeah, yeah, where is it?!”

“Oh, John took it to the animal shelter. We figured it was a rare type of cat.”

Catnip rolled her eyes and slammed the palm of her hand into her forehead.

“That’s no cat! Do you have a car?”

Catnip’s mother sadly shook her head.

“I’m sorry, dear. You’ll just have to wait ’till John gets home.”

“But, but…” Catnip began, as she sat down at the table. She gave up. She wouldn’t be able to walk to the shelter, because everything was out of reach. She slumped over and lay down her face onto the warm, aged wood. It reminded her of happiness and everyone sitting at the table enjoying a nice meal. It reminded her of home. She didn’t want to leave, but all of her pets were back in Neopia. They belonged there. She couldn’t force them to live on earth. It wouldn’t be right.

The sun was shining outside. It as the kind of day where you didn’t want to go outside. Catnip around the once-grassy fields. It was once again not raining very much, and the land was dried and withered. It was a golden wheat-yellow. Catnip slid down the wall and sat herself on the ground. She heard soft mewing. A kitten sneaked out of the tool shed. It was a glimpse of other life. Everything seemed so new to her.

But while Catnip paid attention to a kitten, not all was well with me. John whistled a strange tune while I hollered out the windows for Catnip. It seemed like the longest ride I had ever had, especially since it was in a “tractor.” Where were the Unis?

But I noticed something as John popped a strange object into the tractor. Suddenly, funny music started playing. It wasn’t any of the songs I knew from Neopia, but hey, this was earth, wasn’t it? The singer sounded a lot like John and Catnip’s mother and Catnip’s changed voice. It was annoying at first, but then relaxing.

When we finally stopped, John grabbed hold of me and hopped down from the driver’s seat. I held onto him by his shirt, and wasn’t planning on letting go anytime soon. He opened the door and looked at a lady at a counter.

“May I help you?” She said, before we even made our way to her.

“Yes, m’am. I’ve got a strange sorta cat here. It’s purple and blue and has four ears. Can that still be a cat?” John held me up to the lady. She had orange hair that was reaching towards the ceiling.

“Eh, sure,” she snapped white gum loudly in her mouth.

She grabbed me uncomfortably under the arms and stuck me in a cage. I remember this place when we were looking for a new sister or brother in Neopia, but I wasn’t getting abandoned. It was even worse than Neopia. There were large weird NeoPets that kind of looked like Gelerts but without the bent tail or nice bright colours. They made terrible noises. There were also the things that I saw in the photographs.

Even if they looked different, I could tell they were depressed and scared. We all were. I looked to the next cage and almost jumped out of my skin. There was one of those things next to me.

“H… helloo,” I tried to say.

It stared at me for a second, not blinking. “Mm.” It’s head turned but then struck back. It stood up and went into the corner of their cage.

“Wh-what are you!?” It cried. “You’re not a cat!”

“It’s a long story,” I began. I was glad I had someone that talked. “But I won’t eat you. I hate this place. How long have you been in?”

It sighed. “I’m Tom. You’re not the only one who doesn’t like it. Get used to it. I’ve been in here for weeks.”

My eyes grew wide, and I lay down. I didn’t want to think about anything in here. I wanted to be back home.

***

My eyelids were squinted. I wanted to think about Neopia. I tried to imagine I was there, but imagination isn’t that great when you can hear sounds of earth NeoPets in the background.

“Wow! I’ve never seen this cat before!” I heard a lady say.

I opened one eye. I was staring at a pale lady with fat lips who needed an appointment at the dentist. She was smiling, which wasn’t a pretty sight to look at, and was holding her hands together.

“M’am!” she cried.

“Is this dah-lin’ cutie good for trainin’?”

“What the heck is trainin’?” I asked myself.

“Um…” the lady with tall hair began. “He sure is!”

“Oh yes! I’ll take him!”

She looked at me through the bars of the cage and took something out of her pocket. It flipped open. Many gold medals and blue ribbons were pinned into the fabric of this lady’s wallet-like thing.

“Ya see here little cat? I’ve won first place in every National Cat Awards. You get to be my new cat to enter!”

My eyes bulged. So… was this lady actually taking me home? I screamed inside my head.

The lady with tall hair came over with a key of keys, and flipped through each one. She stuck the key in my cage’s lock and the door swung open. I didn’t want to be somebody’s else’s pet!

The fatlipped lady started to put her big hands to get me from my cage, and I backed away. I finally made up my mind. I hopped over her arms and I practically flew out the cage. I ran as fast as those legs could run, straight up to the door. I waited for five seconds, although what seemed like forever, because I could see those ladies coming closer and closer. A man with big cowboy boots walked in, and I felt like telling him he was me hero. No time.

I sprinted across the hot paw-burning parking lot and headed for the bushes. The ladies weren’t exactly as quick as I was at the time, and the fat-lipped lady stopped in the middle of the parking lot.

She stomped her feet on the ground with her fists clutched. They walked, slouching and sweating, back into the glass doors of the Adoption Centre.

I was in between two dried-up bushes and panting when a tractor pulled up. I didn’t think I’d ever be so happy as I was then to see the tractor. Catnip hopped out and began to run to the door, as did the other ladies.

“Catnip!” I cried, jumping out of my hiding place. She turned, but didn’t see me.

I ran towards the centre of the parking lot. Catnip was overwhelmed. She was smiling so much she was ready to cry, and she put down her arms.

I hopped into those well-known warm hands. She was ready to squeeze me to death, except she noticed I wasn’t a plushie and loosened up a bit.

She whispered something that made me smile.

“Let’s go home.”

Catnip slipped me in her carpetbag, stopping at her parents’ house. With a few hugs and kisses and floating handkerchiefs, Catnip was walking again towards the house where we started at. I had no idea how she had remembered exactly where we had entered Earth. She stood and thought for a second, putting her fingers into different shapes and staring through them. I had no idea what she was doing!

Catnip ran like mad into the air, and I was scared we would hit the upcoming fence to the back yard. I squinted my eyes, yelling, but before I knew it, we had stopped. Catnip panted, gasping for breath as I, terrified, opened one of my eyelids.

It was the same sight as before. The beautiful and delicate faeries, the adored Faerie Queen at the throne. Our Uni from before raced through the doors and skidded to a halt before us.

Catnip and I slid onto the back of the Uni, turning our heads to have a last glance as the Uni once again flew gracefully through the doors.

I awoke to the cosy and comfortably glowing home I had once taken for granted. I sprinted to the door, reaching my paws out towards the door knob.

Catnip came walking up beside me and she stuck in a golden key through the door knob’s keyhole.

I plopped down on the couch and switched on the TV as if nothing had ever happened.

This was the placed where I belonged.

The End

**

Neopets.com

http://www.neopets.com

Pet Spotlight

http://www.neopets.com/spotlight.phtml?place=96

The Owners’ World

http://www.neopets.com/newnt/index.phtml?section=3613&week=022

http://www.neopets.com/newnt/index.phtml?section=3741&week=023

http://www.neopets.com/newnt/index.phtml?section=3873&week=024

http://www.neopets.com/newnt/index.phtml?section=3964&week=025

Kau Seer’s Revenge

http://www.neopets.com/newnt/index.phtml?section=7094&week=055

http://www.neopets.com/newnt/index.phtml?section=7178&week=056

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