Offline - Hiding From the Meepits: Part Two
The station loomed up into my sights. I took the curves
of the hallways in stride, never breaking my pace. I finally stopped at the massive
clock, dominating the room that was usually packed full of Neopians, trying to
get to wherever they wanted to go.
It was 11:52. Almost lunchtime. A sandwich, and
a milkshake, and…no! I had to keep going. There would be time for food later
on. I rubbed my growling stomach ruefully, reminding myself that this was donut
night at home. Mom was bringing home a bag of them tonight. I could almost taste
But if I didn't succeed, Mom wouldn't ever bring
home any donuts. And there would never be another donut night, because it was
a family time. Without my family, it would be just me. But, I pondered, there
weren't any people here to make the donuts, either. So I couldn't enjoy them!
If only for donuts and the love I had for my family, I had to make sure they
were kept safe.
With that dreadfully heroic thought still echoing
through my mind, I scanned the timetable sprawling across my head. My heart
sank in numb disbelief. Each and every space was blank. The ferry was offline,
just like everyone else.
Well, of course it was, I reasoned. After all,
the operators were offline, hiding from the Meepits, and there weren't any passengers
- except for me. I was in very real danger. But I was the only one left.
I glanced down at the address I had hastily scribbled
down only moments before. 777748 Market Street. Just my luck - the very end
of the road. I picked up a discarded map from the front desk and searched for
the shortest possible distance to my destination.
I meandered out the double doors into the street.
Turning the piece of greasy paper this way and that, I kept my eyes fixed on
the map. And once again, I bashed into a wall. I rubbed my tender nose - hey,
yours would be tender, too, if you had squished your sniffer twice in one day!
I stared up at the massive building I had so
neatly collided with and mentally patted myself on the back and kicked myself
at the same time. Market Street wasn't a cul-de-sac, and so it intersected with
or branched off to other streets. The station was only about three meters away
from this building. Again, just my luck.
The sprawling sign above me declared, MEEPITS_WILL_RULE
- MEEPITS FOR CHEEP!
Supposing that perhaps this user wasn't that
well-versed in the art of spelling, I swallowed hard and pushed open the door.
It was eerily quiet. No cute little bell above
the door, no adorable arrangement of the wares, no decals in the windows…no
windows, for that matter. And apparently there was no shopkeeper, either.
The inside of the store was lit only by a tiny
bulb, swaying dangerously above my head. From what I could see, this room was
even smaller than my bedroom. But as I stepped further into the establishment,
I heard a tinny sound that sent chills up and down my spine. Like nails on a
blackboard, this sound went on and on, climbing higher and higher as I discovered
the corner of a door, set way back, behind a set of rotting wooden bookshelves.
I yanked on the shelves, willing them to part from the wall; but I guess I wasn't
that important to them, because they didn't budge.
I fumed silently for a moment, and then thanked
the staff for creating Unis so that they have hooves! I turned so that my back
was to the shelves, hoped hard, and kicked with all my might.
In a shower of splinters and Vernaxes, the decaying
fibers gave way and revealed the door in all its…pink splendor. A pink door?
Well, more of a salmon color, really, but we can have an art lesson later. I
pressed my ear up against the hard, smooth door and nodded with grim satisfaction.
Now this was a clue.
I swung open the door and stepped through. It
appeared that I was in a chamber that seemed to stretch on forever. I was standing
on a roped-off platform, about five feet square, with a small circular hole
in one corner. I spread my weight evenly out across, reaching towards the hole,
not knowing how strong my foothold was. It would be disastrous to break through,
and fall into the teeming mass of Meepits.
Let me clue you in. The sound I heard through
the door was…yup, you guessed it. Meep. And lots of it. And leading hundreds
of meters down into the pulsing crowd of pink evil was a ladder. Thin, made
of rope, and prob'ly weak, but at least it would get me somewhere. Despite the
fact that the Meepits stretched as far as the eye could see, my eyes were incredibly
sharp - due to all the carrots, I eat, you understand. If you feed a Uni a carrot…well,
we'll eat it! As I said my eyes were sharp. And this is how I came to notice
the staircase at the back of the room.
What? Yes, of course I said staircase. And it
had a door at the top. I climbed down the ladder, swaying dangerously over the
squeaking heads and gnashing teeth. Closing my eyes, casting a death grip on
the ladder, and counting to twenty, I reminded myself why I was doing this and
continued my descent. But about halfway down, I realized I had forgotten to
think about how I would get past the Meepits. I gripped the rope even tighter
- and thought of a plan.
I scurried down further, so I was about five
feet above the beasts, and started to sway. All over. My legs flew loose as
I whipped back and forth, carving a wide arc through the air, and bringing the
perilous pendulum ever closer to the tiny hatch on the far wall. As I got nearer
to the edge of the crowd, I kicked harder, creating more momentum, counted to
three, and let go.
With a scream loud enough to wake the dead, I
plummeted down and out. And wouldn't you know it - I ploughed through the door.
Landing on my nose again. As I rubbed my abused face, I glanced out the door
and saw that the Meepits weren't paying attention to me any more. Good. I propped
the fragments of the door up against the frame where it had stood only moments
before, and set to work finding more clues.
The door guarded an office. Something that you
would usually find at the back of a store. A desk, a chair, a swinging light
bulb just like the one at the front of the store, and a small safe, usually
used for keeping one's lunch in. But the desk was of utmost importance just
now. I discovered that the drawers of the aforementioned desk were locked tight.
So I kicked them and the desk collapsed.
I picked out a piece of paper - more like parchment,
judging from the texture and look of it. In blue ink, a blotchy hand penned
a memo to someone handled "Emmaus". Despite the fact that it's never polite
to read someone else's mail, I deduced that this was a mystery, so hang manners.
"Go to the second location. Do not come back
for any reason. We are discovered.
Well, I had absolutely no idea who Emmaus or
Gors were, aside from Gors being some guy from NeoQuest, but I knew that I had
little time. If these people were switching locations, there wasn't a moment
to lose, so I sifted through the desk, trying frantically to see if anything
was still there.
The parchment had been covering a book - a very
old one, with a leather cover and a title spelled out in bronze engraved letters.
"The Art of Hypnotism," I read aloud, and blew
the dust off the aged cover. I sat amidst the rubble of the desk and began to
"The art of hypnotism has been practiced through
the ages on all manner of living creatures. It is possible to cause an enemy
or opponent to fall into a sort of waking slumber; while in this state, they
are completely vulnerable to any attack, even from themselves.
"In history, alchemists and magicians would practice
this on small creatures, usually kept as pets. One alchemist, known as Harug
Lupus, enslaved a race of such pets, intending them to do his bidding. They
were intelligent enough for such a feat, but were eternally under his control
due to lack of knowledge on the subject of hypnotism. Lupus had no idea how
to use them.
"He abandoned the idea entirely, but the race,
known as the Meepits, could be brought out by a single spell. Absurdly enough,
that spell is written on the back of the original copy of the Hypnotic Scroll,
currently kept in the Lost Desert. Strong light brings out the spell, written
in the serum of a Neggitus Injection.
"Today, anyone can be hypnotized or brought out
by common methods used today - a swinging object, a soothing voice, and counting
to three. When under command, they can simply be ordered to do anything, and
they'll do it."
I stared blankly at the words. They made no sense
to me. But the Meepits had finally been released, and there was no telling what
they could do now. I picked up the parchment and gazed at it again, touching
it gently with my hooves. Something wasn't quite right about this, though I
knew it wouldn't take much to find out.
I brought my nose closer and sniffed suspiciously.
The smell of sand assailed my nostrils, and I sneezed uncontrollably. Wait a
minute…sand? I turned the memo over to discover archaic writing on the other
side. The Hypnotic Scroll!
I held the inky side up the pendulous light bulb,
waiting for something to appear. As soon as it did, I whipped it away from the
heat and stared at it.
"Waken now from slumber deep,
Lest you miss something in your sleep
So think again, breathe again
Finally be free again."
Well, the rhyming wasn't that great, but who
cared? I committed it to memory and headed for the ruined door. But wait a minute…all
was quiet. Far too quiet. I should be hearing the meeping of hundreds of thousands
of Meepits…all was still. I moved the barricade ever so slightly and peered
The colossal cavern was empty.
To be continued...