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An Interview with Tarla


by zutcree

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TERROR MOUNTAIN - As I crunched through the snow towards the tiny shop at the top of the mountain, I wondered for about the hundredth time why anyone would want to ever go up here at all, let alone live and work here. I had a nice, comfortable Neohome back in Brightvale, where believe it or not the temperature was actually above freezing most of the time.

The question was still in my mind as I entered Tarla's Shop of Mystery, in time to hear her say with a giggle, "Oops! - I guess I don't have any items for you right now. Hopefully some delightfully mysterious things will show up soon!" She winked at the Jubjub and Gelert who exited the shop looking disappointed.

I greeted her and said I was a reporter and would like to interview her. She agreed, and offered to bring me some hot chocolate. I accepted, though I wondered if there would be anything 'mysterious' in the cocoa.

It turned out that there was nothing more mysterious than cinnamon and marshmallows, and we settled down behind the counter for the interview.

"Why did you decide to put your shop in such an--um--remote location?" I asked.

She giggled. "You don't seem as though you're used to the weather out here."

"I'm from Brightvale," I said.

"Really? Never cared for the place myself." She tossed her head in an unnecessarily haughty manner and sipped her hot chocolate.

"Why? Don't you think philosophy is mysterious?"

"Nope. Just boring." She giggled again. It was starting to annoy me. "My kind of mysterious is much more--well, you can see for yourself. I'm restocking now. You can buy one if you like. But I don't give discounts--not even to the press." *giggle*

She went into a room behind the main shop and brought out a box full of blue bags, which she started to set on the shelves, assigning prices to them apparently at random.

I looked over all the bags, but since there seemed to be no difference between any of them, I picked a moderately priced one that cost 1200 Neopoints. I paid and Tarla handed me the bag with another simpering giggle.

Opening the bag, I found, to my disappointment, a Neggitus injection.

Tarla giggled excitedly. "See?" she said, pointing at it. "Isn't it most fascinating? You never know what you will get. That's what's fun!"

I put the injection in my bag rather grumpily and we sat down again.

"Back to my question," I said, trying to simultaneously conduct the interview and work out if I could include the Neggitus injection in my expenses report. "Why is your shop located in such an out-of-the-way place?"

"Well, I wanted to be--off the beaten path, you might say," she answered, sipping her cocoa. "You see, my shop is designed for adventurous people. Those who don't mind if they don't know exactly what they're buying. The fact that it's on top of a mountain just adds to the excitement and mystery." *Giggle*

I resisted the temptation to ask if she thought that her incessant high-pitched giggling ever scared off any customers. "Has business been good since you opened?"

"Oh yes, I've done quite well," she said, then added with another giggle, "Though some people are less than happy with what they end up with."

I thought of my Neggitus injection and sympathized with those people.

"What did you do before you opened this shop?"

"Oh, I did this and that, never stayed in a place too long. I worked in the magic shop for a while, but even that wasn't interesting enough for me. I got rather bored, and had to play games to amuse myself. I'd hide an item behind my back and tell someone that if they took the chance to pay some amount of Neopoints for it, it could be something very rare. Kauvara fired me after I got someone to pay 4,000 Neopoints. for what turned out to be a Healing Potion I.” *giggle*

I wondered if any of those bags contained earplugs. I was getting a headache.

“How did you get the idea to start this shop?” I asked.

“Well, the idea just stemmed out of that game,” she said. “I decided that there ought to be a shop like that, and then I just sort of started planning things, and here it is.” *Giggle* “Although I can tell you,” she continued, getting up and going to the counter as a customer walked into the small shop. “It was a nightmare to get a shop permit. They ask for a shop description on the application form and I simply couldn’t think what to put down. Eventually it got through but it took ages.” *Giggle*

The green Kacheek that had come in was looking over the bags of items, obviously trying to figure out what they were by the shape. Eventually he pointed at one of them. Tarla, with another giggle, handed him the bag and took the Neopoints he offered her.

The Kacheek opened the bag and pulled out a book.

“Neopian Encyclopedia A-E,” he read. “Cool!”

“Glad you’re happy!” giggled Tarla. “Have a delightfully mysterious day!”

The Kacheek left and Tarla sat at the table again.

"Do you know what's in the bags before they get opened?" I asked.

"Not usually. They all look identical so when I stack them on the shelves I usually lose track. It's very exciting for me, too. And I get paid either way, so--" She giggled again.

“What percentage of your customers do you think are satisfied with what they get?” I asked.

“I guess about fifty percent is happy, and fifty are not so pleased. In my opinion, though, you should be satisfied no matter what you get, because when you take a chance like that, it’s all about the unknown!” *giggle*

The noise of her laugh was going to make my eardrums implode. I decided I had better leave, since my hot chocolate was nearly gone and so were my questions. Before I could thank her for the interview and ask for any closing remarks, I thought of one last thing that I was particularly curious about.

“Where do you get your supplies?”

“Oh, I couldn’t tell you that,” she said, grinning. “It would ruin all the fun!”

And so with one last piercing “tee-hee-hee”, I was on my way out the door and down the mountain. As I massaged my head, which was really starting to hurt, whether from the cold or the Ixi I wasn’t sure. I looked back at the innocent little shop on the mountain peak, and wondered about the mysterious and/or annoying things it hid inside. A clinking sound in my bag reminded me of the 1200 Neopoints I’d spent on the Neggitus injection. I started thinking about expense reports again as the sound of sleigh bells and crackling fires drew me over the ridge and into the valley below.

 
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