The Three Hundredth Weewoo
The dark had settled. Not quite like a blanket, because blankets tended to cover. This darkness, the one that flowed over Neopia Central like a nonblanket, was permeated by streetlamps, giant symbolic candles illustrating the nature of the deed Jen was going to commit.
The streetlights bathed the road in concentric circles of bright and dim light. It seemed the lamps were artists, the ground their canvas. But Jen had no time for artistic metaphors now.
The young red Aisha kept her head down and walked with a purpose; she would not be the victim of a nosy insomniac. She reached the building she was planning on entering.
Which would have been alright, except she had intentionally arrived several hours after the guided tours had ended, and hours after the building had closed. Jen didn’t plan on meeting any of the workers here, or to even enter in a conventional method. Jen was here to steal.
Jen was a good girl, and a proud citizen. But when she had heard the rumours... oh, how tempting the chamber of avian delights had seemed. But here, now, when the horrid monster of guilt relinquished his chance to claw at her moral fibre...
Jen stood resolute. To be caught now, sneaking in the dead of night into a well-respected building, would bring a shame like no other to her, her family, her community. Jen cared too much for the people in her life to let that happen. She simply would have to not be caught.
First off: how to disarm the alarm. The quandary itself should have been theoretically impossible; alarms existed for this very purpose. Yet burglary existed everywhere in Neopia; how hard could it be?
Jen gently lifted the window. Nothing; no shrill wail or loud foghorn replica. She lifted it more, inch by inch, wincing with each tug of the pane. Eventually, the window had opened wide enough for her to slip in. She gingerly searched for alarms. Nothing again. The guilt began clawing at her, berating her for deceiving the trusting people. Nonetheless, Jen slipped through the window.
And into the headquarters of the Neopian Times.
The lobby wasn’t as wondrous as she imagined. She was at a headquarters full of wonder and magic and talent, and yet it was simply a lobby. A small table with a few chairs were lumped together in a corner, so those inflicted with waiting room tedium could peruse archival samples of the Times. An official-looking desk sat between two doors. A brass nameplate said ‘Secretary’, but no one there was of course.
Testing the luck that had guided her through her devious mission thus far, Jen picked the left door, and stepped through. She had entered a long, wide corridor. Doors leading away were plentiful; there were enough to think some were simply painted on.
Another thing unexpected was all the paper. Scraps of artwork, edited submissions, old issues, posters, banners, sheets with inkblots and even quills littered the entire hallway top to bottom.
Jen sauntered through the mess, systematically checking every door along the way. Some served proper purposes, others nonsensical, and some nonsensical served the purposeful, like Custom Art and the related Custom Art Inks, which for some reason were at opposite ends of the hallway. Eventually she reached a small, unmarked door that seemed to have a hush about it, as if the powerful corridor had just been a preparation for this corridor of power. Ironic.
Jen slowly opened the door. She knew instantly that this wasn’t the place she was looking for, not the place of legend. But the curiosity was gnawing at her, even more powerful than the vile guilt that had temporarily, but not completely, subsided.
She was in the editor’s office. There were desks and cabinets and tables and chairs all covered in paper. Submissions from everywhere in Neopia kept appearing like magic, and it seemed there were enough dead trees here for a second Haunted Woods. Jen would have eagerly read some submissions, but she was pressed for time. She turned and began another journey down the hallway.
Once back in the lobby, Jen studied a bright map painted onto the wall. Jen subconsciously traced the path she had to venture along the faded paint. There were so many winding corridors and dead-ends, as if this was a papery labyrinth instead of a newspaper office.
Jen opened the door into darkness. She fumbled clumsily, looking for a nonexistent light switch. This room was used only for storage, or, as Jen preferred to think of it, her loot. She took a tentative step forward, crunching something on the ground beneath her. She stumbled into the room, arms out to help her feel. How easy it would be, to be caught and captured and punished for her effort.
She gently felt her hand bump into something small and furry—no, feathery. Perhaps the rumours were true. She cautiously stroked a feather, her fingertips caressing the blind beauty. A soft sound broke the silence that Jen realized had been following her since the beginning.
Jen grinned in a triumph unseen in the dark room. She had found it: the Room of the Weewoos. Hundreds of beautiful birds that played merrily all day. The spirit of the Neopian Times was embodied here, if anywhere.
Slowly, carefully, she cupped the Weewoo in her paw. It cooed curiously, an innocent dove unaware of its unwilling hand in her illegal venture. Jen fumbled her way to the other side of the room, filtered moonlight from a large window catching her eye. She opened it, was about to flee when—
“Is anyone in there?”
Jen gasped as terror overwhelmed her. It was her, the editor, the invariable queen of the Neopian Times. In her shock, Jen found the time to imagine her with a small crown, and perhaps a scepter. But then the moment was gone and she elegantly jumped out the window hoping that she wasn’t illuminated—or silhouetted, Aishas were easy to identify—against the soft moonlight. Jen just ran, breath coming in gasps, Weewoo in hand, until she made it home.
The sunlight pierced the sky with a faint tinge of dawn, obscuring any streetlamp metaphors. Jen lay quietly in her bed, only to be awoken by a sharp shrill cry.
Jen frowned in mid-REM sleep, but woke up to investigate the cause of the Weewoo’s—which Jen had named Chuck—distress.
Chuck had been fitted with a nice, large cage that sat on Jen’s desk. Jen decided to note any noteworthy thing Chuck did, in order to attempt a database of Weewoo care. As she grabbed a pen and paper, Chuck ruffled angrily around his cage, silky feathers catching dawn’s light.
Jen scowled as the pen leaked and splattered ink all over her paw. Chuck cried in happiness.
“You think this is funny?” Jen asked shortly, before realising something else.
Cautiously, she tipped the pen into the cage, ink dribbling into a small pool on the floor, which Chuck revelled in. He pecked at it, put his feet in it, and made a mess of it. Jen smiled, watching the joyous bird.
In school, they had an assembly about the theft. Jen did not listen, partially because she did not plan to turn herself in, and partially because that idiotic guilt planned on ravaging her throughout the day.
Jen returned home, where her ill-gotten treasure waited. It was unhappy again, and Jen sighed. She tempted Chuck with inks and paper and pens, and still the restless Weewoo cooed and cooed until Jen thought it was out of breath and then it cooed some more. She could see longing in the Weewoo’s eyes until Jen knew what she had to do.
Jen began to write a letter.
The noon sun soared into a beautiful day as Jen waited at a small café, Achyfi nervously clutched in one paw. She eyed the crowd shrewdly until a female owner—though she had no pets with her—detached herself from the bustle and sat across the table from Jen.
Though she wore no crown or scepter, she still carried a powerful demeanour about her. “You wanted to see me?”
Jen, sighing, appeased the guilt in her stomach and hefted the cage that she was sitting next to onto the table. She removed the cloth with a flourish and revealed Chuck the Weewoo in all his glory.
The owner nodded. “It’s him.” She sighed and looked back at Jen. “I’m glad you came clean and wrote the letter. It was very noble of you, despite what you did.”
Jen waited, breathless, as the unspoken question hung in the air, answered by the editor. “I forgive you.”
Jen smiled, and as the tension seeped away, spoke. “So what’s with the Weewoo room anyway?”
“Every week we buy a White Weewoo. Then, on anniversaries, or the occasional holidays, we have them fly all over Neopia all day, then return to us. Chuck here was the Three Hundredth Weewoo, and without him, the ceremony would be incomplete. Thank you, Jen, for returning him.”
The editor grabbed the cage, smiled at Jen, and hurried away, off to edit more stories. Jen thoughtfully watched the editor go as she tapped an unknown rhythm on her Achyfi can.
It was the week. The magnificent, memorable week. Jen could only watch, breathless, as she sat on her lawn. She watched three hundred Weewoos sent out over Neopia, and saw one of them—Chuck, no doubt—look at her and smile.