Ellie's Secret... Massage?!
The scene is the interior of a dusty, dark antique store a little ways off of Neopia Central’s main street. The time is dusk, a creepy hour of magic and mystery. And the characters? Well...
“Remind me why we’re here again?”
The speaker was a yellow Pteri, Pip by name, pipsqueak by occupation.
“We’re here because we (stupidly) accepted a job at the Faerieland Employment Agency which requires the purchase of a random obscure object which we have never heard about in our lives, so we have to visit sketchy old shops that haven’t seen a mop since Grundo’s Gym was open for business to look for said obscure object.”
The long-winded answerer was a red Grarrl, Rex by name, basket weaver by occupation. Haha! Not really. Basket weaving is just funny.
“Sheesh, Pip,” continued Rex the Grarrl. “Why do I have to remember everything?”
“Hey now,” answered Pip defensively. “I had to ask the question for purposes of narratorial exposition. Keep your tail on.”
“Fair enough,” said Rex.
“So what was the item we needed again?”
“It was...” here Rex consulted a crumpled bit of paper stamped with the Faerie Employment Agency’s seal. “...something called ‘Mutant Claw Chair.’”
“And we need three of them.”
“Within fifteen minutes.”
“Cool! We’ve pretty much failed already.”
“Not so, citizen!” said Rex in a very brave and heroic voice, like Judge Hog on a good day when his spandex hasn’t shrunk in the wash. “We can do this. The reward for completing this job level is ten grand in pure neopoints! We could buy, like...”
“Two codestones,” interjected Pip.
“Yes. Two codestones and a Ummagine.”
“A Ummagine?! Wow! Let’s do this thing!”
Rex couldn’t tell whether Pip was being sarcastic or not, so he directed his attention instead to the creepy old grey Wocky lurking behind the antique shop’s counter.
The Wocky was staring at the two newcomers like they were Alien Aishas with a gland problem.
“Can I help you?” the Wocky finally said, because he thought he remembered that being the right thing to say to customers.
The old Wocky hadn’t actually had customers in a long time, because his area of specialty (obscure antique mutant furniture / basket-woven obscure antique mutant furniture) was extremely specific. In fact, his last client had been the receptionist at Grundo’s Gym, who was, at the time, looking for an ergonomic desk chair. This was so long ago that that receptionist was now one of the date-of-death questions that pop up in Brain Tree quests.
“Yes, actually,” said Rex to the creepy old Wocky. “We’re looking for Mutant Claw Chairs.”
“Three of them,” added Pip. “For an Employment Agency job.”
“Ah...” said the old Wocky. He readjusted his spectacles to peer more closely at Pip and Rex. “I have some of those in stock...”
Then the Wocky peered at the walls of his shop, which were lined with large hooks and nails upon which an incredible variety of weird and wonderful items of mutant furniture were hung for display. Then he tried to peer at the floor of his shop but he failed to do so because the floor was hidden from view under heaps of even more weird and wonderful furniture.
“Um... feel free to take a look around,” said the Wocky finally, and he gestured vaguely in the general direction of a very general direction. “I know I have some Mutant Claw Chairs in here somewhere...”
“Oh, okay!” said Pip in a falsely cheerful voice. “Let’s get to it, then.”
Pip flapped his wings and called to his friend: “Rex, you cover the stuff on the ground. I’ll check out the wall décor because I can fly over these mountains of pure ju...”
Pip suddenly remembered that the shop owner was still within hearing range, so instead of saying “junk” he said “judiciously organized furniture.”
“Right-o,” said Rex. “I’ll start at the back. See you in 20,000 years.”
“Just don’t touch anything if you can help it!” cautioned the useless old Wocky from behind his counter. “This is mutant furniture... sometimes it gets grumpy.”
As if to confirm the Wocky’s words, a Mutant Tongue Table gave Rex a smart tap on the behind with one of its legs.
“Hey!” said Rex to the table. “Don’t touch the tail.”
The table hissed toothily at Rex and Rex felt intimidated because for the first time in his life he had been confronted by something with more teeth than he had. And, considering that he was a Grarrl, that was saying something.
Rex offered the table some placatory breath mints and made his way into the furthest aisle, keeping his eyes open for any more furniture with aggressive impulses.
Meanwhile, on his side of the shop, Pip was flapping lightly from object to object hooked onto the wall, trying to spot a Mutant Claw Chair but failing quite miserably. He came across a Mutant Mirror, which reflected a hilariously deformed image of himself back at him.
“Never knew twelve eyes could look so good!” said Pip to his reflection, and he winked raunchily at himself and his twelve-eyed self winked raunchily back. “So what’s your sign?”
Pip and Rex continued their futile search amidst the bizarreness that is mutant furniture for all of ten minutes, at which point both of them made their way back to the shop front area sporting various bruises and bite marks.
“Rough joint,” commented Rex when he saw Pip flutter down, missing a few pinion feathers and looking rather the worse for the wear.
“I’d say,” replied Pip. “I had a fight with my reflection. You look like you just had a brawl in the 'Dome with the Highland Chia. Nice black eye.”
“Pfft!” said Rex. “This is nothing. You should see the other guy.”
“The other guy?”
“Well, the piece of furniture.”
“What was it?”
“Mutant Doormat. All in my face. Sheesh.” Rex rubbed gingerly at his tender eye. “And a Mutant Loveseat tripped me over and tried to mug me.”
“So no luck on finding a Mutant Claw Chair?”
“Not on my side of the shop, anyway.”
“Not on mine, either.”
Pip and Rex made their way rather dejectedly to the old Wocky's counter and they leaned on it like they were two lone depressed Krawks ordering grog at a tavern on Krawk Island.
“We couldn’t find any Mutant Claw Chairs,” said Pip, and he plonked his sore face down beak-first on the counter. “You must be out of stock.”
“Strange,” said the old Wocky to the top of Pip’s head. “I’m so sure I had at least a few -- my inventory doesn’t get a quick turnaround, you know, so I generally am aware of what I have...”
“Well, they aren’t in your shop,” said Rex. “And we only have five minutes left to signal the Faerieland Employment Agency that we’ve competed the job, so this stinks --”
“I’VE GOT IT!” exclaimed the old Wocky very suddenly and loudly in Rex’s face.
“Have some breath mints,” said Rex when he had recovered from this shocking outburst of capital letters and halitosis. “Here. And what have you got? A wedgie?”
“The Hoochie Coochies?” asked Pip.
“Fyora’s neomail address?”
“The answer to the Lenny Conundrum?”
“No,” said the old Wocky. “I remember where the Mutant Claw Chairs are -- here!”
And the Wocky stood up, and Rex and Pip peered over the counter, and they saw that the Wocky had been sitting in a Mutant Claw Chair the whole time, and there were two more stacked up next to the one he had been occupying.
“Well, gee,” said Pip. “Way to remember after we had to go through your shop and fight off your possessed furniture.”
“I am dreadfully sorry,” said the Wocky. “The old brain is not what it used to be...”
“No kidding,” said Rex. “But it’s all good -- we’ve found the chairs! How much do you want for them?”
“Um,” said the Wocky, taken aback at the notion of actually selling something in his shop. “I don’t know -- 20 neopoints each.”
One might ponder why exactly this old Wocky, who quite obviously rarely made a sale, was not completely destitute because his shop was so useless and his prices were ridiculously low. That is because the shop was just a front; he was actually a shady stock market tycoon. But that’s a story for another day.
“Awesome,” said Pip, and he handed over 60 neopoints very gleefully.
“I’m going to go shoot off a neomail to the Employment Agency to tell them we’re on our way with the goods,” said Rex, and he scuttled off happily.
After Rex had shut the door behind him, Pip flew over the counter to inspect the long-sought Mutant Claw Chairs. They were rather unremarkable as far as mutant furniture went, having no eyes, teeth, or tongues.
“So are these things comfortable or what?” asked Pip, and he plopped himself into one of the chairs.
“Yes, quite comfortable -- they also --”
Before the Wocky could tell Pip what the chairs also did, Pip leaped out of his in a flurry of yellow feathers.
Rex returned from shooting off his neomail just in time to see Pip make a very undignified landing on his rear end.
“What happened? Did the chair bite you?” asked Rex with a giggle.
“No,” answered the disgruntled Pip. “They don’t have mouths. It was poking at my wing...”
“As I was saying,” interrupted the Wocky, “these chairs also give massages.”
“Oh,” said Pip, and he looked a little sheepish. “I thought it was trying to pluck out my feathers.”
Rex leaned over and read the grungy old tag attached to the nearest Mutant Claw Chair:
This chair might give you a massage when you sit in it.
“Massage chairs! Cool!” said Rex. “I’d buy one for myself if you had more of them.”
“I will let you know when I get new stock,” said the Wocky, who had last bothered to restock his shop when Rex was a toothless Baby Grarrl and Pip was still an egg.
Then, whether by a brush of fate or idle curiosity, Rex flipped the Mutant Claw Chair’s descriptive tag over and noticed that there was more writing on the other side of it.
“What’s this? The washing instructions?”
However, instead of reading out instructions pertaining to air-drying the chair or risking shrinkage, Rex read out a rather peculiar message, most of which was illegible due to rips and smudges:
To whoever may find this, we need your help.
Our town is suffering from a--
We are in the valley of sand near the--
--between Altador and the Lost Desert on the west side of the mountains.
Come quickly. Bring--
--at high noon.
Signed, Sheriff Ellie of Goldrun
“Oh, that,” said the old Wocky. “I found that old scrap of paper and wanted to make use of it as an item tag rather than throw it out... never did decipher the writing on it...”
“Weird,” said Pip. “I wonder who this Ellie person is.”
“A basket case, apparently,” replied Rex. “Thinks she’s sheriff of some place called Goldrun?”
“I’d rather be sheriff of Goldwalk, myself,” said Pip.
“Hehehe. Ellie of Goldpolka sends a secret message via Mutant Claw Chairs: boogie back!”
“Ellie sends a secret massage, you mean...”
Pip and Rex shared a good giggle while the old Wocky rapped his fingers on the counter, waiting for them to leave so he could check on his stocks because he was worried about the performance of POWR and FAER.
“Ok, boys,” said the old Wocky. “You’ve found what you came for. And tell you what -- I’ll get you a free delivery on this stuff -- Lenny Wing Express to the Faerieland Employment Agency, so you don’t have to lug it all the way there yourselves.”
Rex and Pip shook the old Wocky’s paw appreciatively and profusely expressed their thanks for his generosity.
“Can we keep the tag with this weird message on it as a memento of our first successful Employment Agency job completion?”
“Sure thing, boys. Now run along. I have my stocks to check.”
“Don’t forget to reorder a Mutant Claw Chair for me!” said Rex, who did not know that the Wocky meant that other kind of stock.
And so Pip and Rex emerged from the dusty old antique store feeling very pleased with themselves:
“We’re awesome!” said Pip.
“Oh yes,” said Rex. “Two codestones and a Ummagine, here we come!”
But really, he should have been saying, “Goldrun, here we come!” because with the next blink of their eyes, Rex and Pip found themselves standing in the middle of a dusty main street complete with tumbleweed blowing and really cheesy background music about lonesome kauboys wandering into the sunset.
However, that is a story for another day.