The Issue 300 Break
“Who’s the-ere?” called a faerie Acara in a singsong voice, peeking through the little window in their front door, hovering a few inches off the floor just to show that she could, even though she could see through the window just fine on her feet.
“Neopian Times delivery, for a Miss Precious_katuch14.” She saw a rather short blue Mynci paperboy, a bag of the rolled-up newspapers slung over his back. He clutched one roll in his right paw, and his left was an inch away from the wooden surface of the door.
“Neopian Times delivery, for a Miss Precious_katuch14 who?” she crowed.
“Just open the door, Glitter, you idiot,” muttered a striped Kacheek, cutting in past the Acara and unlocking the door himself. As it swung open, the Mynci grinned, showing a gap between his two front teeth, and handed the Neopian Times to the Kacheek. “You know, you could’ve just rung the doorbell, pipsqueak. It’s nicer to hear it, especially after Kat tinkered with it so it would sound like a snippet of her favorite musical piece... sort of.”
“Too small to reach the doorbell,” pouted the Mynci. “You know that. You think you tall guys are all that, but the truth is, you’re not!”
“You shouldn’t have called him a pipsqueak, Sweet,” said Glitter, crossing her arms.
“Actually, his name IS Pipsqueak,” he replied. “See ya ‘round, Pipsqueak.”
The paperboy stuck his tongue out before stomping off to the next house. “Not my fault my owner gave me that kind of name! At least I’m not a boy with a name like ‘Sweety1_1501’!”
Sweet winced at the sound of his full name. He stuck his head out through the doorway and shook his fist at Pipsqueak, and barely had time to duck back inside as Glitter shoved the door shut.
“Lemme see the Times, Sweet, lemme see!” she pleaded, floating after the striped Kacheek, who was making his way towards the stairs.
“Uh-uh, Glitter,” said her older brother, shaking his head. “I’m going to read it first.”
“Besides, you have to take breakfast up to Kat’s room,” the Kacheek pointed out. “She hasn’t come out of there, and it’s already, like, half past ten. Kat never wakes up this late. Either she’s really sick, or she’s overworking herself again and we have to remind her that she’s not the only one living in this house.”
“Overworking, or overplaying?” asked the faerie Acara as she turned towards the kitchen. “Kat might just be playing Neoquest for all we know. After all, she always talks about someday becoming one of the fastest Neoquest II players. But of course, she’s always too busy writing to actually start a new game since the time she beat Neoquest II on Insane Mode. Wait... we do still have those chocolate vanilla cupcakes in the fridge, right?”
* * *
As Glitter found out, they did still have Chocolate Vanilla Cupcakes in the fridge – three of them, to be exact. Now she had them on a tray, along with two bottles of water, and a napkin. Going up the stairs was no sweat; she could always just fly up instead of walking and having trouble balancing the simple orange tray that she knew Kat wasn’t exactly fond of, but was practically the only one available.
It was whether Kat would answer the door or not that was the problem.
The faerie Acara turned right and went to a door that had a purple sign hanging from the knob. Written in blue marker was, “Caution: Insane Genius at Work, Disturbance is Futile” with a gold crescent moon and star at the end instead of a full stop. Shrugging at the strange sign, Glitter knocked.
“Glitter, ma’am, reporting with refreshments,” said Glitter, stifling a snicker. “You must be hungry from all that writing, that is, if you really are writing.”
There was no response, but Glitter could hear the scraping of a chair as it was pushed aside, and footsteps that grew louder till they culminated in the click of a lock and the creak of the opening door as it revealed the rather tall girl standing there, wearing a purple skirt, blouse and fuzzy slippers, and gold earrings. Her waist-length black hair, unrestrained by any accessory, was in dire need of a comb.
Her hungry brown eyes behind her glasses instantly darted towards the food. “Oh, thank you,” she rasped, taking a cupcake and stuffing it greedily into her mouth. “Haven’t eaten since... oh, last night’s dinner.”
“You were awake... this whole time?” croaked the Acara. But after getting a good look at Kat’s bedroom, the fact that their human companion hadn’t slept suddenly seemed extremely believable.
Glitter looked past the shelves that housed all of Kat’s Neopian Times trophies, her other prizes and her collection of books, the closet, the huge armchair she sometimes fell asleep in while reading a book or the latest issue of the Times, the paper rack that held her entire collection of issues, her unkempt bed with royal purple sheets and several pillows, the bedside table that had a Meepit lamp, and focused on the study table just below the window – in fact, she couldn’t be sure if it was the table, as it was buried underneath at least a ton of random things.
There was a waste bin beside the table – or at least, on the spot that Glitter thought was beside the table – and it was full to bursting with pieces of paper, pencil shavings, and empty packaging and bottles. Apparently Kat had decided to use the rest of the area around the table as a waste bin, judging from the huge piles of paper, written or scribbled on or otherwise, multitudes of pens, quills and other writing materials, books, notebooks, a couple of ink spills, crumbs (chocolate chip cookies, the Acara noted), and the countless wads of paper all over the floor and on the surface of the table.
At least she knew her owner wasn’t playing a game, unless the game involved a whole lot of paper and extra clutter.
“Well, I better get back to work,” said Kat, taking a swig of water and turning back to her workspace, the tray in tow.
“Work?” repeated Glitter. “What’s with all... this? You never made this big a mess... not even when you were working on several stories at once!”
“Oh, the three hundredth issue of the Neopian Times is coming up in a few issues. And my deadline’s fast approaching,” was the nonchalant, somewhat sleepy reply. Kat yawned and blinked, and Glitter realized how huge and dark the huge dark circles under her owner’s eyes were, how rumpled her clothes were, how messy her hair was, how her glasses hung askew...
“You need a break,” were the first words that the faerie Acara blurted out. “You didn’t sleep tonight; you look like something the Kadoatie dragged in...”
The girl shook her head, chuckling. “Don’t worry so much, Glitter,” said Kat. “Just tonight. Maybe later I’ll get a good night’s rest...” She shuffled back towards her table, flopping into her chair and stretching.
“You still need a break,” Glitter repeated as she walked away and flew down the stairs. So engrossed was she in thinking of the break their owner needed that she almost crashed into a white Aisha whose nose (and pretty much the rest of her face) was buried in a book. Both of them veered away from each other in time, but the Aisha barely kept herself from falling down the last four steps.
“You need to watch where you’re going,” Fluffy said tersely, still not looking up from her book as she walked up the stairs.
“Look who’s talking,” the Acara pointed out. “Hey, wait up! I’ve got something real important to ask – tell – whatever, talk to you about.”
Fluffy closed her book primly and stopped beside the banister. “What troubles my little sister on such a beautiful morning like this?”
“It won’t be morning for long, actually,” muttered Glitter, landing pacing back and forth on one of the steps. “Haven’t you noticed how much Kat’s been writing these days?”
“I think she has just been extremely prolific in her scribal responsibilities.”
“She’s starving herself, losing sleep and barely paying any attention to her hygiene, you nerd!” Glitter burst out. “Prolific, my wing – that’s not prolific, that’s overworking! I mean, sure, the three hundredth issue of the NT is coming out in a few weeks or so...”
“Then there’s the answer that has probably been troubling you for so long,” said Fluffy with a curt nod. “After all, that’s a big number. And the Neopian Times has been Neopia’s only main broadsheet ever since – “
The Acara pouted. “I don’t need to know the entire history of the Times! What I need to know is how to get Kat to take at least five minutes off and not work herself to pieces!”
Much to Glitter’s surprise, the white Aisha clamped a paw down on her shoulder. “Relax, Glitter. You know how Kat loves to write. And if you were a writer, would you miss contributing something to this very important issue of the NT?”
“Don’t worry too much,” said Fluffy. “Kat’s a sensible individual. She knows her limits, and when she knows she’ll start breaking down, she’ll allot some leisure time. It’s not like you to be a worrier, Glitter.”
* * *
“She’s been like that for days now! I wouldn’t be surprised if she hasn’t slept at all – or at least, isn’t getting enough sleep! She only comes down to give us food and then she disappears again into the dark void she calls a bedroom!” The faerie Acara plunked her feet onto the coffee table in the living room and leaned back in her armchair.
“At least she doesn’t disappear... completely,” said Sweet, with a mock evil gleam in his eye and waggling his brows.
“Still... Glitter’s got a point,” said Angel, shifting around in the sofa so that he was upside down, his head nearly touching the floor and his feet on top of the ornately-carved wood. “We can’t have Kat tiring herself like this, even if it is for the Neopian Times, and even if she loves writing for it!” The island Ruki righted himself and hugged a cushion.
Fluffy looked up from the magazine she was reading. “How, pray tell, are we going to do that?”
Scratching her head, Glitter grinned sheepishly. “Uh... I was sort of hoping you had an idea, big sis.”
The white Aisha closed her magazine and rolled her eyes. “It’s always me who has to have the ideas, isn’t it? You lot have brains too, think of something! Because right now, I don’t know how to tear a girl from something she loves so much to the point of recklessly sacrificing her needs just to do that particular something!”
Her brothers and sister traded clueless expressions, until the Ruki spoke up.
“Maybe we could just talk to her,” Angel suggested.
“Does it have to be all talk?” asked Sweet. “It’s always talking. Come on, anyone got better ideas...?”
Fluffy started reading again, seemingly pretending not to hear him. Glitter glanced up at the ceiling, and Angel cocked his head to one side. Before anyone could speak, the four pets heard footsteps, sounding in a rhythmic interval. There was no mistaking their owner, clambering down the stairs languidly with a tray in her hands.
“Forget it,” sighed Sweet. “Let’s just think of something else when this one doesn’t work.”
“So... what now?” asked Fluffy.
“It’s Angel’s call, it’s his idea,” replied Glitter, crossing her arms and turning to the Ruki. “So, Mr. Big Ideas, how do we talk to someone who only listens to the sound of her pen scratching on paper?”
“Hey, what’s up? What’re you doing in the living room? It’s a nice sunny day – why aren’t you outside playing?”
Kat joined them in the living room, just standing there with the tray that contained an empty glass and a plate with nothing but stray crumbs. She was smiling, but behind her glasses, her eyes were exhausted, some of her fingers were splattered with ink, and many strands of hair were already escaping from a hasty braid.
“Uh... Kat... we need to – the thing is – hang on – “
Angel gasped as Glitter threw a cushion at him. “I guess... we need to talk to you about something...”
“Did you have a good night’s sleep?” asked Sweet. “Or did you strike out the word ‘sleep’ from your personal dictionary? Not to mention the words, ‘eat’, or ‘rest’, or ‘nap’...”
“We know the three hundredth issue of the Neopian Times is fast approaching, but can’t you just pause for a few minutes and smell the flowers? You’ve been working so much that we think you’re not sleeping anymore, or eating properly, or paying enough attention to your personal appearance!”
“I think what Glitter is trying to say is that you might want to consider chilling out,” said Fluffy, eyes still on her magazine. “All work and no play, you always tell me that when I pull an all-nighter and you catch me. Guess sometimes the teacher has to become the student.”
Kat looked down at her tray. “Well...”
“Have you eaten?” asked Angel.
“Let her sleep first!” said the striped Kacheek, standing up and grabbing the tray from Kat’s hands.
“I got a couple of muffins, so I’m pretty full right now,” said Kat. “I still eat, mind you. And thanks for taking that, Sweet, I have to go back upstairs –”
“Oh no you don’t!” said Angel. The island Ruki grabbed one of her hands, while Glitter took the other. “You’re not going anywhere till you promise us that you’ll take a break. We’ve been worried sick these past few days!”
The faerie Acara nodded. “Come on, Kat, you’re in such bad shape. How can you write when you’re like this?”
Fluffy shut her magazine again and threw it aside. “Come to think of it... Kat, during all this time, have you finished anything, anything that you’ve been working on? Have you even started on your piece for issue 300?”
Shaking Glitter and Angel off her wrists, the girl answered, “Not really... I’ve been trying to get a good idea for a long while now and experimenting with some of my unfinished works, but so far, I haven’t gone to the catacombs to submit anything. Why do you ask?”
“Now, there’s another reason to take a break,” said Fluffy, nodding. “How can you concentrate when you’re always tiring yourself?”
“Be easy on yourself,” said Glitter, her last syllable rising to a pleading note.
“Uh...” Kat’s voice trailed off. She walked over to one of the two large armchairs, swaying slightly as though she hadn’t walked in a long time. Plopping down into it, she added, “Don’t worry, I’ve been taking a few breaks every now and then... I want to be a part of this special issue, you guys. When I’m done, I can sleep all I want.” She paused and let out a huge yawn.
“But don’t kill yourself over it!” Angel whined.
Kat stretched out in the chair, leaning back. “This issue of the Neopian Times comes only once in a lifetime,” she replied groggily. Her eyelids began to droop. “I can’t let... that opportunity... slip away... contribute... story... or article or comic...”
Her pets watched in astonishment as her eyes finally closed completely, and her voice trailed away into nothing. For a moment, there was a very long pause.
“The talking worked, didn’t it?” said the island Ruki, managing a grin.
* * *
“Is she... awake?”
“Kat, we left you a piece of cheese omelette... although you’ll have to heat it up...”
The girl squirmed in the armchair, feeling rather uncomfortable. She stretched out her arms and slowly sat up, blinking till everything was just a bit clearer, and she was sure she saw four pets staring at her. Glancing at the nearest window, she could see that the day was already long gone.
“What time... is it?” Kat asked, rubbing her eyes behind her glasses.
“Half past eight,” said Sweet. “You were asleep for a while.”
“How do you feel now?” asked Glitter anxiously.
Kat leaned back in the chair, smiling. “Yeah, it did me a lot of good... I’m better now...”
“Thank goodness,” said Angel. “Oh, and talking to you was my idea!” The island Ruki beamed until the faerie Acara beside him stepped on his foot.
“Anyway,” Kat continued, smiling even wider, “I think I’ve finally gotten an idea for my piece for this special issue of the Times! I feel so well-rested that I could stay up all night getting this done! In fact, I’ll just take the omelette with me upstairs...”
The four pets started trading hasty looks at the sound of that and just stood there as the girl walked away to the dining room, muttering something to herself – most probably her story idea.
“What now?” asked Glitter.
“Don’t look at me this time,” replied Angel, shrugging.
* * *
Back in her bedroom, with the light of Kreludor shining through her window and the table lamp adding to it, Kat was still very pleased with herself as she cleared away some of the debris from her table and wrote neatly on a piece of paper the title of her new story and her name.
“I think I owe them for this,” she whispered to herself with a little chuckle, looking at the title she had given her idea before starting to write the body of the story.
The Issue 300 Break
Author's Note: I would like to dedicate this piece to Sia, who was once also a writer for the Neopian Times and who has written issue 200 and 250 short stories with me, along with other collaborations. ^_^ Happy issue 300, everyone!