Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 124,395,024 Issue: 250 | 28th day of Swimming, Y8
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The Issue 250 Delivery


by precious_katuch14

--------

Also by shadowcristal

AUTHORS' NOTES: This is the sequel to our issue 200 short story, "The Issue 200 Mystery". But you don't have to read that story to understand this one.

The Neopian Times publications office was a small, clandestine room tucked away in the bowels of the Catacombs, where nobody took much notice of it, except when submitting stories or inquiring about the next line-up for the succeeding issue of the NT. In fact, the path leading to its doors was bare except for a couple of pets headed towards it.

     "Just think... Issue 250." The blue Cybunny nodded, her eyes sparkling with glee. "Wouldn't it be fun to do something special for such a special issue?"

     "Hmm... yeah," agreed her faerie Acara companion, who was actually flitting instead of walking to the publications office. "Maybe we can write a collaboration article as a tribute to issue 250 of the Neopian Times!"

     The Cybunny grinned for a moment before frowning thoughtfully. "That's a nice idea, Glitter... but maybe we should do something more."

     "Like what?" Glitter wanted to know. "Shoot me, Cristal."

     But before Cristal could tell Glitter what she had in mind, the door loomed before them and they reached out for the doorknob, disappearing into the office.

     * * *

     "We're... newspaper deliverers," said Glitter slowly, adjusting the bag of Neopian Times issues on her back so that it didn't interfere with her flight. "Delivering newspapers? I thought we were going to write, or help publish, or do something that doesn't have anything to do with us running around like..."

     The Cybunny glared at her. "Don't you want to do something for the special release of issue 250?"

     Glitter raised her eyebrows. "This isn't what I had in mind."

     "Come on, this won't take such a long time! And maybe we'll even get a bonus for doing a good job!" Cristal exclaimed. "Not to mention that my owner complained that we weren't getting enough exercise, since the Grundo Gym has closed."

     "This isn't exactly..." the Acara begun, but broke off when she noticed the piece of paper in her friend's paws. Small, black letters were neatly printed on the snowy white sheet, and a quick calculation told Glitter that they were going to deliver 250 issues of the Neopian Times.

     "Isn't it ironic?" the Cybunny inquired. "Now, I'll take the left side of the street and you take the right one. We'll be done in no time at all."

     "Sure," Glitter replied, but she looked rather doubtful.

     With some grunting and a lot of effort, the two friends began to hurl their copies of the NT into Neopians' Neohomes. Not every paper arrived at its proper destination, unfortunately. Burdened by the weight on her back, the Faerie Acara's throw missed the doorstep and landed into a decorative pond in the garden. Cristal skipped forward and threw, but she had thrown too hard, so the newspaper wound up on the roof.

     These little mishaps continued for the next hour or two, until the pets managed to correct their aims to the degree where they were hitting their targets. Doorstep after doorstep received the 250th issue of the Neopian Times, until there was one left.

     "This one's a mansion," commented Glitter.

     "The Neopian Times Mansion..." read Cristal from the paper."Wow, someone's obsessed..."

     And 'obsessed' was an understatement. The huge four-story mansion was built on a large lot with grass that was allowed to grow just tall enough to reach Cristal and Glitter's knees. It looked as though it had been around for quite a while and had been subjected to several repairs just to keep it from collapsing, but the mansion still stood high and mighty, emanating an aura of majesty from its stained glass windows and its gently sloping roof.

     But it wasn't the mansion that drew the deliverers' attention. It was the lawn, for within its vast sea of grass lay a multitude of garden gnomes, assorted statuettes, and miscellaneous bits and pieces that seemed to be arranged in a very strategic manner.

     "Hey, it's a Meepit gnome!" exclaimed Glitter, pointing to a small figure of a Meepit perched on a stone, its line extended into a painted stone pond. "Cute, isn't it?"

     "Yeah," commented Cristal. "Wait a sec... don't you think these things look familiar?"

     The faerie Acara arched an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

     "Look closely," was the reply, and Glitter squinted at the garden accessories that she could still see among the blades of grass. After a few seconds, she turned to the blue Cybunny.

     "They look like... characters I see from the Neopian Times! One of them looks like a pet my owner once wrote about!"

     Cristal pointed to one of the stained glass windows. "There's a celebrity my owner wrote an article about," she added. "Do you think..."

     "And I thought Kat was addicted to the Neopian Times!" said the Acara, surveying the view and appreciating it more now that she knew just why it looked that way. "So... shall we?"

     "It's our job," said Cristal. "Come on. What could happen?"

     "A lot of things," Glitter said, as a strong wind rushed across the tall grass and tore her fragile faerie wings.

     The two pets moved forward, making their own little winding path across gnome garden, occasionally stealing glances at those peculiar yet familiar decorations.

     "Look!" the Acara exclaimed, her voice filled with utter surprise.

     "What do you-" the Cybunny started, but broke off when she noticed what her friend had been pointing at. "It's us..."

     It was as they had been copied and turned smaller. The two gnomes stood together, each holding the same newspaper, the famous issue 200. Similar to a sculpture, the artist that had created those gnomes had captured their expressions down to the last line. The wings on the gnome Acara's back fluttered eerily, as she seemed to fly and catch the paper. Cristal noticed that the stiff, molded version of herself was skipping upwards, and looked alive enough to jump into the sky.

     "Wow," Glitter said, closing in on the gnomes. "Now that's insane."

     The two friends walked closer, completely enchanted by this spectacular piece of art. Forgetting that they were supposed to deliver that last paper, each pet touched a gnome.

     An ear-splitting screech hit the two pets, and they recoiled. Glitter and Cristal looked around frantically; as it dawned upon that it was the noise of the security alarm.

     "Look!" the Cybunny cried, pointing at the dark, grey shadows that were appearing in the horizon.

     "That's..." Glitter gasped, "That's a Meepit army!"

     "Eeek! I think we'd better run!" Cristal suggested with some panic.

     There was no mistaking the wide, unfathomable eyes and the large buck teeth of the strange pink petpets as they advanced on the hapless Acara and Cybunny. Aside from the scuffling noises of their feet on grass and the screeches that rang out a moment ago, the Meepits were silent as they regarded the newcomers.

     Cristal was about to turn and run for her life, when she felt two paws grab her arms and lift her over the ground as the Meepits drew closer.

     "I owe you one," she said gratefully to the faerie Acara. The two were now airborne, soaring several feet off the ground and away from the sinister horde, none of whom possessed the ability of flight.

     "Just be glad I'm not like those guys who forget for several minutes that they can fly," answered Glitter, grinning down on her companion.

     "Escape now, ego later," said Cristal, rolling her eyes. But she stopped rolling them when she saw what was in front of them. "Watch out for that tree!"

     The faerie Acara gasped and tried to hit the brakes as quickly as possible, and the two crash-landed on a thick, leafy branch, where they surveyed their surroundings below.

     "Well, at least we didn't crash harder," mumbled the blue Cybunny, rubbing her forehead.

     "The Meepits must probably still be searching for us," said Glitter, pointing to the sea of pink beneath them. "Shall we wait till the coast is clear?"

     She heard a soft, cooing noise in reply.

     "Uh, say that again, Cristal?"

     "That wasn't me," said Cristal, who was steadying herself on the branch. "And I heard it too."

     "Then... what was it?"

     The Cybunny blinked, noticing a pair of beady black eyes staring at her.

     "It's... it's over there!" she pointed, panic welling up inside her. What horrible things would descend upon them now? Suddenly the tree didn't seem to be so safe anymore.

     "Shush! Or the Meepits will find us!" the Acara warned. The Meepit army's footsteps grew occasionally louder as the two pets looked around, trying to find the mysterious creature who had emitted that cooing noise.

     Reaching her paw, the Cybunny made a grab in the direction of those little eyes. Soft, spooky flutters slowly travelled through the air as the Weewoo flew forward and pecked Cristal on the nose.

     "It's here! Ow! Ouch!"

     "Where?" Glitter inquired. Turning her head around, she saw the little critter fiercely attacking her friend. "Oh no."

     "Get it off me! I can't see!" the Cybunny cried. "It may be fluffy and cute, but that hurts!"

     "Umm... Okay." Approaching the White Weewoo carefully, the Acara extended her paws and clamped them around the petpet's body. Glitter promptly removed the Weewoo out of pecking range, and both pets sighed in relief.

     Squawk! Too late Cristal shut the petpet's beak, and the Meepit army was alerted of their exact position.

     "What do we do now?" the Cybunny wondered.

     They heard rustling, fizzling noises underneath them, and clutched each other as the Meepits began surrounding the tree trunk. The white Weewoo in Glitter's paws struggled away from her and began squawking away again, free from Cristal's vicelike grip on its beak, which didn't help their situation at all.

     "Well... can Meepits climb trees?" asked the faerie Acara, as the Weewoo disappeared into its leafy home again.

     "I don't know," said Cristal, "but I'm not sticking around to find out!"

     "Me neither!" agreed Glitter. She paused for a moment. "So... ready for another ride?"

     The blue Cybunny glanced down nervously at the pink petpets. They looked as though they were planning a new attack strategy. She turned to her friend. "I'm ready for anything that'll take us away from these things!"

     Cristal barely had enough time to steady herself as the Acara grabbed her under the arms and soared from the branch that had served as a saving grace and a trap at the same time. The Meepits followed with their unblinking stares, some of them moving so that the entire crowd looked straight ahead at the two of them.

     "Can we just deliver the paper now?" said Cristal. "I know it's really interesting and all that to meet someone who's got Neopian Times gnomes in their garden, white Weewoos in their trees and Meepits as their security system... "

     "And a house that looks like something out of a history book with bits and pieces cut out from other different houses," put in Glitter, relentlessly flying ahead and trying not to look back.

     "Yeah, yeah... so where's the front door?"

     The Acara turned slightly and dipped a little lower, realizing she had taken off towards the mansion, which was quite rapidly approaching them. She skidded and landed, halting in front of a sturdy brick wall.

     "We'd better hurry," Cristal commented. "Those Meepits will be around in just a minute or two."

     The milling petpets were coming closer and closer, as the two pets ran in opposite directions, trying to find the door. Suddenly they heard a few loud booms.

     "What was that?" asked the Acara, and turned around to find that all those pink little critters were falling into a rather large hole in the ground.

     "That'll buy us some more time," her friend replied. "Didn't think Meepits were this stupid, though." The Cybunny rapidly skipped from one opening to another, but to her disappointment, all of them were windows of some kind.

     Impatiently Cristal reached out and pushed a window, whereas it swung back and promptly smacked her on the nose. She winced and rubbed that pinkish spot with her paw, hoping that this dreary adventure would be over soon.

     "This place has traps!" the Cybunny exclaimed, warning her companion. "Any luck?"

     "No doors, though there are some holes big enough for petpets to crawl through."

     "Maybe we should work together," Cristal suggested. Soon she heard wingbeats, and her frayed nerves settled down a little bit.

     "I think..." the Acara began, but was cut off when she bumped into something soft.

     A slimy aura enveloped Glitter, as she struggled to relieve herself of the burden that had latched onto her wings and back. Putting a paw on that stuff on her back, the Acara felt small bits and pieces of the bubblegum-like substance rip off.

     "Eww!" Cristal exclaimed, examining the gross-looking pieces on Glitter's paw.

     "What is that stuff?" the Acara inquired, folding her wings and yanking them firmly.

     "It's not some stuff... It's The Stuff!" the Cybunny groaned. "This is like a bad April Fool's joke!"

     "The Stuff... that consumes everything in its way?" Glitter wondered.

     "Yes."

     That grim reply made the Acara all the more nervous, and with a last tug, her wings snapped open, giving her some freedom of movement.

     As they had suspected, The Stuff followed them, moving its bulbous mass to take over anything that was in its path. An idea popped up in Cristal's mind, and she dragged her stunned friend.

     They ran forward, stopping to let The Stuff catch up to them. Then the Cybunny swerved rapidly, doubling back to where they had come from. Running past all those annoying windows, Cristal soon lost count of them.

     "There!" the Acara exclaimed excitedly, alerting her of the end of this breakneck pace.

     "Is that a door?"

     "I think so."

     Soon they arrived at the door. It was a heavy oak door with bright polish, depicting a large number of literary devices that had appeared in the Times. Fanciful and tall, it loomed above the two pets. A carved, golden handle protruded from the wooden door in the shape of a quill. Beside it was a black, round button, the doorbell, closely resembling a bottle of ink. Last, but not least, a long rope dangled from above, with a tag attached to it.

     "It says 'Pull me'," the Acara read. "What are we going to do now?"

     "Take a chance and take cover when necessary," said Cristal. She stood on tiptoe and reached out for the cord, while Glitter took one frightened step back, her face screwed up as though she were hoping with all her might that this wouldn't be another one of those crazy traps scattered around this eccentric Neopian's residence.

     As the blue Cybunny pulled the rope, the two braced themselves. Even Cristal quickly let go of the rope as soon as she had clutched it.

     But as a moment's pause hung before them, nothing seemed to happen. Glitter and Cristal were about to heave sighs of relief just as a thundering BING-BONG pierced their ears, echoing throughout their standing area.

     "Nice doorbell," remarked the faerie Acara.

     "You were scared," quipped Cristal, raising her eyebrows.

     "Not as scared as you were!" said Glitter. "You should've seen your face - "

     Suddenly the door before them creaked open. Before them stood a purple Aisha not much older than them, her four ears dripping with different kinds of earrings, ribbons and accessories. What looked like different pairs of faerie wings was taped to her back, and she looked as though she was wearing several outfits.

     "You must be the Neopian Times delivery personnel!" she remarked in a perky, chirpy voice. "Welcome to my humble abode! Did you have any difficulty in locating it... or at least, going to it?"

     "Not... really," answered Glitter, digging through the bag for the last Times they had to deliver. She thrust it into the Aisha's paws, which were just as heavily decorated with jewelry as her ears. "And... um, nice outfit."

     "I made it myself!" was the excited reply. "I tried to mimic as many Neopian Times characters and featured celebrities as possible! It's hard, but I think I've got the Court Dancer, Fernypoo, and even the Zafara Double Agent, to name a few! I impersonate a different combination every day. Plus, I make sure that every part of my house pays tribute to the Neopian Times in some way." She gestured inside the main hall, where a multitude of Framed Neopian Times adorned the walls, along with several pictures of characters and even authors and editors. The Acara and Cybunny could only stare at the majesty of it all.

     Cristal twiddled her paws. "So... erm, I guess we'll be leaving now? This pretty much ends our paper route."

     "Oh, it's no problem at all!" said the Aisha. "After all, I bet you two are just as excited to read issue 250 as I am!"

     As Cristal and Glitter said their goodbyes and wove through the sea of grass and gnomes, they couldn't help but smile. The faerie Acara shrugged and said, "You know, despite nearly getting whomped by Meepits, eaten by the Stuff, and annoyed by crazy Weewoos, it was pretty much worth it."

     "We made sure that Aisha gets to read issue 250," agreed the blue Cybunny. "And a whole lot of other excited Neopians. I guess that's a great thing to do..."

     "Do you think our owners got their copies?" asked Glitter. "I'm pretty excited to read it myself."

     "Oh, I bet they did."

     "If they didn't, I'll get ambushed by a mob of killer Meepits."

     "Don't say that, Glitter."

The End

 
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