Unravelling the Mysteries of the Unlabelled Tin Can
I always thought that after earning my reputation as a journalist I would be offered some sort of choice as to which stories I wrote on. As it turns out, I was severely misinformed. As my boss put it: “We pay you to write pieces of elegantly structured prose. Not to be picky. Now get to work - that account of the Sewage Surfer debacle is not going to write itself.”
Wading waste-deep in sewage, upon my boss's insistence that I get a firsthand understanding of the problems being faced in Neopia’s Sewers, I was beginning to regret my career choice. Perhaps becoming a journalist had not been the best of ideas. Why couldn’t I have become a mercenary like my sister? Life would have been much simpler if I had chosen a job with fewer occupational hazards.
Despite my current situation I admit that it was at this point, wading through the Sewers, that luck in the form of a White Weewoo struck me, quite literally, in the face. It then fell into the sewage and I was forced to extract it. But the message that the poor (and probably scarred for life) Weewoo was carrying was enough to all but erase the disgust of my current assignment. Hastily opening the sheet of parchment, I read the jagged writing of my boss at top speed:
Genevieve, need you to head for Mystery Island immediately. Please research the secrets of the Unlabelled Tin Can there. Controversy over the contents of this item has sparked outcry. We need to get the scoop as soon as possible. Expect report on my desk by Monday. Also want your report on the Sewage situation by then. Good luck.
I grinned; now that was my kind of work. I folded the note into an origami Peophin, stashing it in my pocket for later reference, then hastily exited the Sewers. To begin our inquest into the mysteries of the Unlabelled Tin Can, we must now head over to the sunny shores of Mystery Island...
* * *
I flounced into the Tiki Tack shop, my quill and tatty notebook poised and at the ready. Wandering past shelf after shelf of unsold goods, I had to wonder who actually bought from this shop that was full of tacky, mass produced, useless items. After a couple of minutes I spotted what I was looking for: a shelf of Unlabelled Tin Cans.
I scrawled a note in the margin of my notebook: 3:52pm NST - First sighting of Unlabelled Tin Cans recorded. From outside they appear harmless. Needs more research.
There’s was nothing for it but to buy all of them. Hauling the goods up to the front of the shop, I was met by the owner. A large, masked creature wearing a gaudy floral-print shirt. I was sure he grinned at me from underneath his mask when he saw me struggling towards the front with my purchases. “You are the first to buy from me in a long time,” he said in a good natured voice. “What brings you to the Island?”
“I’m researching, actually,” I murmured indicating towards the Unlabelled Tin Cans. “I want to find out the facts about these.”
“Well, youngster, I’m the Tiki Tack Man. They are one of my many creations. If you want to know something about them, or any of my goods, I’m the one to ask.” After a brief pause, he added, “Whilst you are here would you like to buy a Super Deluxe Toy Sail Boat?”
“Erm, no thank you. I’m a little too old for toy boats,” I said, suppressing a grin.
“Are you interested in the purchase of a Bottle of Red Sand, then?”
“Not really... but I would like to know what is inside of these cans...” I trailed off, hoping for an answer.
The Tiki Tack Man chuckled behind his mask. “It is a secret. But if you buy those cans, you might get a tiny insight into the genius of the Tiki Tack Man.”
Smiling somewhat nervously, I laid the cans upon the counter and paid for them. “Is there anything else you can tell me about these?” I asked conversationally.
He shook his head. “You will have to see for yourself. I will say no more.”
I made for the beach with my new purchases. Sitting down on the sand I picked up one of the cans and considered it for a moment. It felt bizarre that one simple item could cause such a reaction. Supplementary notes from my boss before my departure from Neopia Central had confirmed that the contents of the cans were not particularly offensive, but rather, just shocking.
Holding my breath I sliced open one of the cans. Then gasped. Jelly. There was jelly in the Unlabelled Tin Cans. It was in this moment that part of me regretted taking this assignment - jelly was a true Neopian anomaly. By all accounts it should not exist - nowhere in Neopia was equipped to create the sweet, multicoloured substance. Nowhere, except for a non-existent land that was built upon rumours, lies, and the stories of children: Jelly World. I realised that I didn’t know how I was going to explain this to the readership of the Neopian Times.
Grabbing for my quill again, I jotted: 4:29pm NST - The Unlabelled Tin Cans appear to contain jelly. How confusing. No plausible explanations for this can be produced. Of course, Jelly World does not exist. How ludicrous.
Sighing, I reclined upon the golden sands of Mystery Island. All I had now was a dead lead. Further research on the origins of the jelly would get me nowhere. Perhaps these cans had been unlabelled for a reason. The outcry of Neopians due to this jelly, which could not be traced back to its source, was troubling. I stopped. Its source. The Tiki Tack Man had said that the Unlabelled Tin Cans were one of his creations. Surely he would know something about the jelly?
In a flash I was hurtling across the scorching sand back towards the Tiki Tack Shop. Reaching for the door I went to yank it open, then froze in my tracks. There was a sign on the door: Closed. Please come back later. I swear that I may have actually hissed in frustration. There was much too much mystery on Mystery Island for my liking.
“That’s it,” I snapped to no-one in particular. “I’m leaving. I’m going home - I’ve had enough.” And with that I headed down towards the dock where my chartered boat awaited me. Little did I know that when I arrived at the dock I would be forced to leave Mystery Island with more questions than I had arrived with. Just as I was boarding my boat, another moored itself beside mine. I looked across. It was the Tiki Tack Man.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. “Where have you been?”
There was a pause, then a stilted reply came from the Tiki Tack Man as he moved his weight from one foot to another, failing dismally to obscure the mounds of jelly that lay on the boat’s deck behind him: “It is work related,” he said softly. “A business trip. Where I went, however, is unimportant. It would not serve for you to know.”
“Why not? Why is it such a secret?”
“I’m afraid that I can’t tell you. I don’t want my secrets to be revealed.” My journalistic senses were tingling. He had just admitted that he had secrets. Every part of me urged to probe him with more questions until I found out about the origins of the jelly. That, however, was not to be. My boat had begun to pull out of the dock and I was forced to allow the Tiki Tack Man, standing in front of his mound of jelly, to fade into the distance.
For the final time that day, I pulled out my tatty notebook and quill and wrote with a sigh: 6:06pm NST - the Mysteries of the Unlabelled Tin Can, status: unravelled yet unresolved. Will require further investigation at a later date.