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||You are on Week 679
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Six Hundred Seventy Nine Ends Friday, November 7
|As Neopia's anniversary got closer and closer, Jennie became more and more worried.
She had no idea if she'd make the deadline in time to have her float entered. The parade's committee needed to see her finished float this week, in order to make sure it was sturdy and would not fall apart during the long ride down Neopia Central's streets.
The Wocky just wanted to make sure it was perfect before she presented it to them. This was her very first float and she knew that, if it didn't go well, then she would probably not be in next year's parade.
"Oh, if only I had some better supplies!" Jennie whined as she fidgeted with a plaster candle atop her cake float.
"Calm down out there and come inside... you need some food in your stomach, hun," Jennie's mother said from the opened kitchen window.
Jennie looked down at her JubJub Coconut Watch and couldn't believe how much time had passed. She'd begun working on her float early in the morning and now it was almost dinnertime.
"Okay, mother, just five more minutes," Jennie replied.
"All right, sweetie... but please, hurry up before it gets cold," her mother told Jennie.
"Okay, okay," the frustrated Wocky answered.
Jennie sat in her backyard staring at her giant cake float and wondered what she could do to improve on it.
While sitting there lost in thought she got a tap on her shoulder...
Date: Nov 3rd
..."Need some help?" the one who had tapped her asked.
Jennie jumped about as high as a Meerca getting caught in the middle of a prank.
"Oh, I always seem to sneak up on folks. Sorry about that," the Scorchio said, wringing his hands. Jennie immediately felt sorry for the poor guy.
"It's okay," she said. "I'm just... very nervous about this float of mine. It's my first entry into the Neopia Central Anniversary Parade. I want it to be perfect."
Jennie cringed slightly as she finished. She always overexplained things, especially to strangers. The Scorchio didn't seem to mind, though.
"I understand the feeling," he said. "I run the Gift Shop in town. Hardly anybody comes by, so I have so many extra bits and bobs that I don't know what to do with. I was out on my lunch break and saw you here and... I don't know, I just felt like I needed to help you somehow. Like it was destiny or something," the Scorchio said.
Jennie couldn't believe her luck. A friend -- and a shopkeeper, at that! -- coming to her rescue. It seemed like all of her dreams were coming true. Mother would be so proud.
"Okay," Jennie said, "I'm sure mother won't mind if I have a professional gift-giver helping me out. I'm Jennie, by the way," she said, introduced herself and offering her paw.
The Scorchio took it awkwardly, as if it hurt him somehow to make contact.
"Dylan," he said quickly. "Now, let's see what you have. You look you're going for a marketplace theme, but I think these decorations are more suited for a Deep Catacombs theme: dark and spooky, but still inviting somehow, artistic in a way. I think we can make it work, with some of my stock. Let's go to my shop... we'll pick out some good stuff there," Dylan said.
Jennie didn't even bother to ask her mother. Dylan was so self-assured, it seemed like nothing wrong could happen. Indeed, everything was going just right, until they passed the Wishing Well...
Date: Nov 3rd
...It seemed innocent enough.
"Hey, why don't we stop here for a minute and get a little extra help from the Wishing Well?" Dylan asked.
Truthfully, Jennie hadn't noticed the Well or even just how far from home they'd been traveling. Her mind was elsewhere -- however, when she heard Dylan's voice, she snapped out of her perfectionist float-planning and looked to their left.
She wasn't sure what to do. She didn't want to offend her new friend (especially a lucrative one like Dylan) by saying no, but she was also starting to get a little worried about how late for supper she might be.
"I don't know," she replied hesitatingly. "I guess I can drop in a hundred Neopoints very quickly."
Dylan's brow furrowed. "Only a hundred? Surely you can afford more than THAT, especially for your float!"
Jennie felt herself growing uneasy. Technically she could spend more, but... was it a wise decision? Did the Well's magic really help that much? Dylan seemed to think so. Also, since he seemed so serious and was a shopkeeper, a real man of business, Jennie assumed he must be right.
"Okay, alright," Jennie conceded, reaching into her pocket as she approached the well. "Three hundred, then," she said and the coins clanked loudly against the walls of the Well as they disappeared from sight.
Jennie regretted it immediately. That had been half her budget.
"Excellent!" Dylan said. "Come on, then. The shop is nearby."
The two walked in silence. Jennie felt uncomfortable, but Dylan didn't appear to mind the lack of conversation. Fortunately, the shop really was nearby and she felt a sense of relief upon hearing the little doorbell clang as she walked inside.
Her eyes adjusting to the fluorescent light, Jennie was awed to see shelf upon shelf of not only novelty knickknacks, as you might expect in a gift shop, but also complex mechanical constructions and large structures made of various kinds of material.
As wowed as she was, though, she also felt her stomach drop. She didn't need to ask whether these items were expensive.
"I could never afford any of this," she said in a defeated tone as Dylan walked inside and stood beside her.
"Oh? I'm so sorry. I had NO idea," Dylan said, but he fidgeted nervously and Jennie questioned his sincerity. Before she had a chance to speak, though, he said, "Well, I suppose I could always offer you a loan..."
Date: Nov 4th
...Jennie raised an eyebrow and, without realizing it, took a step back from the proprietor. "I... don't have anything in the way of collateral--"
"Yes you do," Dylan replied, a slow and malevolent grin creeping up from the corners of his wide mouth. "You have yourself, hun."
"Er..." The Wocky frowned, especially over the use of the pet name; her mother calling her "hun" was special, but Dylan doing so was entirely perturbing. "What do you mean?"
Dylan whipped out a document from under the Gift Shop's till. "Just sign here," he started, "and we can get started."
"What is it?" Jennie inquired, her voice noticeably tremulous.
The Scorchio grinned widely. "Why, it's a contract," he continued, "allowing you access to whatever you desire in this shop of mine. The snowglobes, the streamers, the leaf lights..."
He continued on and on and Jennie found herself in a daze, lost in his listing and the focus she had on so many items lining the shelves, items invaluable to her float preparations. At last she snapped herself into a state of conscious awareness. "But," she interrupted him, "in return for what?"
"Well, Neopoints," Dylan replied, his grin somehow more sly than before. "Over a period of time, of course... and if you can't provide the cash in said period, you'll just have to work off the remainder. It's not hard... you'd be like an apprentice to me -- stocking shelves, dealing with customers, maybe even getting to design some of the stuff sold here."
Jennie blinked. Design? Why, she loved design... after all, it was part of the reason she was entering the float. Even if she didn't manage to repay him, this still sounded like an enticing offer.
However, she couldn't shake the feeling there was something wrong with the Scorchio. Maybe it was that he was just a little too practical; maybe it was the fact he grinned just a little too widely... maybe there were greater evils at play.
He thrust a pen at her. "You know you want to..."
Swallowing hard, she accepted the writing utensil and initialed all the right places.
"Splendid!" Dylan exclaimed. "Help yourself to whatever you'd like."
As she searched the shelves, he went to the back room to add her contract to the piles of others in the cabinets lining his office. "Poor girl," he began, his voice possessing an odd sense of devious charisma, "never taught to never sign anything before reading it." Getting up from his desk, he opened the door to what appeared to be a closet; instead, it led to a large podium overlooking a factory. Inside were hundreds upon hundreds of Neopets, stuck making trinket after trinket... and contractually obligated to remain there. "Soon she will join their ranks," he said to himself...
Date: Nov 4th
...Once Jennie had found the things she wanted, she then went to tell Dylan that she had everything she needed... only she couldn't find him. He couldn't have left; there was a bell over the door that would've rung if that was the case.
"Dylan!" she called. "Dylan, I've got what I need!"
While walking, she stumbled into the back of the shop. There was nothing there other than piles of boxes of goods and a door, which opened abruptly. Jennie acted quickly and hid behind a box pile.
"I'm sure they'll like having a new face," a voice muttered. It belonged to a Neopet that came out of the door and walked through the hallway. Thankfully, he didn't see the Wocky.
Jennie was a little confused by what she'd seen and heard. She saw Dylan go into the hallway (that she assumed was in that room), but she didn't know why he was in there. Also, what did he mean by "They'll like having a new face"?
Curiosity overwhelmed Jennie. Once she was one hundred percent sure that Dylan was around, she slowly walked to the door...
Date: Nov 5th
...Jennie's paw trembled as she touched the doorknob. She wasn't quite sure about opening the door, as there was no way to know exactly what she would find. I've got to know, she thought as she slowly opened the door.
Her jaw dropped when she saw the size of the room in front of her and what was happening inside. She took a few steps onto the podium and rubbed her eyes, but what she saw was unquestionable. Inside the room... no, inside the factory, she saw rows upon rows of Neopets tirelessly working to create all of the little trinkets that were stocked in the gift shop.
"Get back to work!" she heard someone yell. Her head spun toward the sound of the voice so quickly that her eyes hardly had time to adjust. She watched as a 'pet in the far corner fearfully picked up his pace and a larger, more scary 'pet walked past him. She couldn't definitively tell what the scared 'pet was, but she knew that the scary one, probably a guard, was a Scorchio.
She ducked behind the podium when she thought the guard had looked her way. "That's weird," she whispered to herself. "Why can't I tell what kind of 'pet that worker was?"
Nothing was making sense to her. She simply couldn't put the pieces together. What was happening here and why? Where was Dylan? She thought for a while, but finally decided that maybe she should just leave. Her decision, however, was a little too late. She soon heard a voice yell, "Hey! What do you think you're doing?!?"...
Date: Nov 5th
...The Wocky turned in surprise. "Dylan?" she said.
It was the Scorchio, but there was a strange expression on his face. He looked different from when she first met him, appearing less helpful and more... mean? She couldn't figure it out.
"You're not supposed to be here!" Dylan growled. "This place is dangerous." He sounded like the guard who had just been bullying the faceless Neopet in that factory down below. Could he be that same Scorchio? It was unbelievable; he'd been so nice to her in her backyard.
Jennie suddenly became conscious of how close the air was in this place, and how warm the floor was beneath her feet. The sounds of the factory filled her ears. Nobody would be able to hear or see anything that was happening here from the front of the shop.
She straightened up, every cell in her body vibrating with awareness. "Why," she said, cautiously, "I was just... looking for you. You know, to tell you I'd found the things I needed." She showed him the small bundle of trinkets she was carrying in her left arm.
In that instant, Dylan's face relaxed and became more familiar. "Well, that's all right then," he said. His voice had softened once again, too. "Come this way." He walked through the door and into the back of the shop.
Jennie cast another curious glance at the rows of workers below the podium before Dylan shut the door. The sudden silence rang in her ears.
"You find everything you needed, hun?" Dylan asked, again in that nice voice. He touched her arm. "Want me to help carry anything?"
Jennie withdrew instinctively at the touch. She didn't mean to be rude, but curiosity got the better of her and she blurted out, "Why are you calling me hun?"
The Scorchio suddenly became shy, the way he'd been when they'd shaken hands. "I didn't mean--" he began. He looked at the ground, then looked up again and smiled. "Well, let's ring up your purchases, then, shall we?" He stepped behind the cash register.
Jennie looked at the things she'd selected: a fan with ribbons that streamed out when it whirled, a snowglobe-like device that kept changing scenery, and a string of pretty lights. As she looked, the memory of the faceless Neopets toiling in the hidden factory came back to her, and suddenly the things didn't seem as enticing as they'd been. "Actually, you know what?" she announced. "I don't think I want to buy anything, after all."
Rage flashed for a moment on Dylan's face, but then he smiled in that too-wide way. "You can't just walk out," he said. "You signed a magical contract..."
Date: Nov 6th
...Jennie's eyes widened at the Scorchio's words. What was on that contract she signed? She had been so carried away with the beautiful trinkets for her float that she had forgotten.
"What exactly does the contract say, Dylan?" she asked, then gulped. She raised a paw to her lips, gnawing on her nails.
The Scorchio fumbled for a bit, his expression changing from angry to flustered to confused and then back to angry. "Well, whatever you decide to buy on credit you must pay back before the end of the week." Dylan then started mumbling under his breath words like "interest," "work," "slave," and "eternity."
"But Dylan, I'm saying I've decided not to buy anything," the Wocky pleaded, ignoring the end of his rant. "I have to get home now. My mother will be very worried, since I did not tell her where I was going."
Jennie turned toward the shop's exit and jumped as Dylan blocked the exit. How had he gotten behind her so quickly?
"This isn't funny, Dylan... I want to go home."
"Look at these string lights, though... or how about these flowers? Wouldn't they look lovely on your float?"
Glancing around both sides of the Scorchio, Jennie tried going left to get around him but Dylan stepped directly in her path, which caused her to lose her balance and trip right into the most expensive display in the shop. The luminous snowglobe on the shelf teetered and fell to the floor in a crash of glass and glitter. She looked down at her feet as the water pooled next to her tail; Jennie gulped before looking to Dylan.
Dylan's eyes darkened. "Now you're mine..."
Date: Nov 6th
...Jennie turned instinctively and tried to bolt through the front door. Yet, instead of the hustle and bustle of Neopia Central meeting her gaze, she saw rows and rows of Neopets busy at work.
"I told you it was a magic contract," the Scorchio reminded her. Jennie was back inside the factory, sitting at a desk, and Dylan was standing near the entrance. "Now, get to work." He closed the door with a snap, leaving Jennie alone with strangers.
She felt her tears well up as she stared unseeing at the items on the desk.
"There, there," said a soft voice to her left. "It's really not that hard."
Jennie looked up, blinking rapidly to see an Usul at her side. At least... Jennie thought she was a Usul. Her fur was matted and a drabby, greyish-brown that seemed to blend in with her surroundings. Her ears were so droopy that Jennie thought at first she didn't have any at all. Behind the attempt at a friendly smile, the sorrow showing in her eyes almost made Jennie burst into tears on the spot.
"Once you make the base, you just glue the mushroom on top like this," the Usul instructed. Jennie realized she was trying to show her how to assemble a tiny Wishing Well souvenir bank. The Wocky had seen something similar in the Gift Shop.
"This can't be it," Jennie muttered. "I can't stay here and make this junk forever. It's not fair!"
"You shouldn't talk like that," the Usul said, glancing around warily. "After all, we did sign the contracts."
The contract! That was it. Abandoning her desk, Jennie walked hesitantly toward the door leading back to the Scorchio's office. She pressed her ear to the door to try and hear any sound.
"What are you doing?" came a voice right beside her ear.
"Shh!" Jennie hissed. The Usul's face was alarmingly close to her own. "I'm getting that contract. There's got to be way out of this."
She opened the door tentatively and tiptoed into the empty office. Despite her frantic motions toward the Usul, her co-worker followed her anyway. Jennie looked around until she saw it: a filing cabinet.
She yanked it open under the watchful gaze of the Usul. "The thing about any contract," Jennie said, "is there's always a loophole..."
Date: Nov 7th
...Jennie's eyes darted over the paper like flies buzzing around a Pile of Dung. C'mon, there had to be something!
Then she saw it. It seemed so obvious. The relief must have been obvious, because the Usul spoke up. "What'd you find?" she asked with anticipation.
"Subsection 4A, Clause 3.17.3 states that Neopets under 2,000 days old must have the contract co-signed by a parent or guardian. Failure to do so will render the contact null and void," Jennie read triumphantly. "Don't you see? I'm just a kid!"
"You're not supposed to be in here," Dylan snarled from behind them. His bulky frame blocked the exit, and Jennie gripped the Usul's hand to reassure her. "Get back to the work floor NOW!"
"You cannot keep me here, Dylan, so step aside," Jennie said, brandishing the contract before her smugly. "I'm not legally old enough to have signed this contract. That means it isn't binding. So, I won't tell you again: step aside or I'll get the Lawyerbots involved."
With courage she had never felt in herself, Jennie started walking toward the obstructed doorway. He hesitated, but at the last moment Dylan begrudgingly let the pair pass him. They did not stop until they were outside in the refreshing air of Neopia Central.
"That. Was. Amazing!" gushed the Usul, who looked a little less raggedy in the sunlight.
"Wait, though... how did you get through the door? No offense, but you're old. I don't get it."
The Usul laughed and straightened her bow. Now that Jennie looked closer, it seemed strangely large for her frame. "I might be old," she explained, "but I am painted baby."
Date: Nov 7th
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