The Painted Weewoo and the Maraquan Dillema
"Boss. Boss, something’s happened.”
“What is it, you nitwits?” the shuffling of feathers. A Weewoo in a suit and tie, eliminating evidence of pastry crumbs and red jam. “I’m busy.”
“Lawrence and Burlap’s come back from their job, they brought back their messages with them. Their diving suits are broken, Lawrence is completely catatonic and Burlap’s muttering things. Something about read smug, or knee lugs.”
The Boss glared at them both, silently. “Where’d they come from?”
The Boss stood silently in the quiet mess of the office, before massaging his forehead with a feather or two. “Has it not occurred to you idiots that he may’ve said ‘Slug Monster’?”
The two Weewoos, both white and wearing matching blue uniforms, winced. “Well, it’s hard to tell with his accent,” one of them said, in the most polite tone possible. “He’s from Meridell, you see, and you know how they are--”
The Boss waved a feathered hand at them, turning back from his chair to the large window behind him. It was only large compared to a Weewoo, of course, as the rest of their offices might look similar to a blue doll house sitting in the actual Times work offices. Though it was a very well furnished doll house. “See, you know how I can tell what Burlap was saying without actually hearing him? Well, one, I’m not an idiot,” he scowled. “And two, if you’ve actually tuned in to water cooler banter, you’d find we’ve been having the same problem for some time now. Months, really.” He folded his arms over his chest, sighing. “Do you know what time it is, boys?”
One Weewoo glanced down at their watches. “It’s five thirty, sir.”
“It’s time we start sending out our 700th issue,” The Boss spun back to them, dramatically knocking his fist onto the desk. “And we made a promise to all of Neopia that they’d get it on their doorstep, no loopholes, no conditions, no questions asked, two days from now. What would happen to us if we didn’t fulfil that promise, hm? What do you think these higher ups will do?”
“I’m going to have a talk with the King Kelpbeard,” he cut off, and the two Weewoos did not protest. “I’m going to do everything in my power to get this thing off our path, but if it’s still there, I no longer care. See this?” he put up his arms, leaving the room in silence. “See, this is the sound of nobody banging on my door asking why they didn’t get an issue of the Times. I’d like it to stay this way.”
“Tell the others.” He sat back down on his chair, pulling out the pastry he was hiding under the desk. “And tell them to stop talking and fill the water cooler already. It’s been empty for three days now.”* * *
Trevor looked onto the path he’d mapped out in his mind only a few minutes previously, and realized he was utterly lost.
The white Weewoo, covered in gray patches where the magma of Moltara struck him while he was delivering some of the last issues’ papers, looked about the vast forest, gobsmacked by the towering trees and the lush canopies beyond him. He could almost hear his friends teasing him, then and there: ‘Poor Trevor, he must’ve lost himself again.’ ‘He loses himself every time he walks down a corridor. Absent-minded. A little blind, too.’ ‘Well, can’t blame him for that. It’s obviously the boss’ fault he got hired in the first place.’
Trevor combed back the top of his head and slapped his blue NT hat back on, crumpling his feathered fingers into fists. “We’ll see who’s absent-minded,” he said, marching forward. “We’ll see, soon enough.”
It was not an unfounded thought, to call Trevor Moore absent-minded—he was more of the artistic type than a blue collar worker, you see. Had his head in the most secluded corners of the galaxy, where no Petpets ever been. It isn’t unexpected, as Trevor hatched in the bustling streets of Brightvale, where lit talk and big ideas were the norm. His greatest strength he considered one of his most defining flaws: a Weewoo pretending to be something bigger than a messenger.
He’d stopped again, and looked around him. The towering trees were still there, but he realized there was no longer any scraped path for him to follow. “Oh my,” he adjusted his spectacles, the size of bottle caps but bigger than his eyes. “Oh, not again.”
Trevor looked around him once again, sighing. It seemed he had to fly over the trees again, to find the next address. He pulled out his wings, prepared to take flight until something catches his eye.
Something sparkled behind the bushes, catching his eye while he hung in mid-air. It was only a little light, nothing to be too excited about, but Trevor Moore found the biggest miracles coming from unlikely spaces. He dropped back to the earth, tilting his head.
‘Trevor Moore, losing his head again.’
‘Little Trevor, poor Trevor.’
Each step to the light felt like a step through barb wires, stinging his pride. He should be in the air right now, delivering letters the way he was made to. Not exploring, or adventuring, that was a Neopet’s job. He was only made to deliver.
He pulled the bushes away, entering the bright shadows. Chromatic colours threw themselves at him like a long lost relative, choking him in their embrace. He blinked twice, stepping forward just a little bit—until he felt the water.
He gasped, pulling back. There was a pool in front of him—a ghostly, bluish green hue, the size of an Acara’s footprint in a Neopet’s eyes—gathered just a few inches away from him. Beyond, there were other coloured, slightly smaller pools, ranging from red and yellow and even black. Trevor bit the inside of his mouth. He bent forward, nearing the blue pool, looking back at his own reflection.
‘Where’re your letters, Trevor?’
‘Must’ve lost them in Mystery Island or something.’
‘Oh, Trevor, Trevor.’
He furrowed his brows, clenching his jaw. He splashed his reflection away, tainting his fingers in the glowing mixture. Trevor sat back down, hugging his knees. This was stupid, he realized. He should’ve never done this. He should’ve never come to the stupid pool, he should’ve never become a Weewoo messenger, he should’ve never been here. He should’ve stuck to being a house Weewoo, flying about and eating crumbs out of his owners’ paws.
Trevor felt a strange tingling sensation in his fingers, but ignored it. He stuffed his forehead into his hand, preparing to break into tears. Though, like most things in his life, something stopped him from doing so.
When Trevor Moore looked back up, he found he was no longer the ordinary house Weewoo he was supposed to be. * * *
“What? What? Samantha, please—no, you don’t understand, Sam—well, you tell him that--” The Boss’ silhouette made angry gestures behind the window of his door. “Alright, if that’s how it’s going to be, I’m fine with that. Let all of Maraqua miss out on their 700th issue, see if I care.” There was a screaming. “Well, fine! I suppose you’re not getting any promotion anytime soon. Maybe you’ll get a better wage in the next job you’re going to get!”
A young female Weewoo drove out the door, slamming it back. The two white Weewoos from earlier—we’ll call them Bob and Larry, as every workplace has one of those—glanced at each other hesitantly, before Bob nudged Larry unceremoniously in the rib and they walked through the door.
The Boss was sitting in his massive chair, feathers clutched into a ball. He had the sort of look a hunter would have to his prey, any prey, as long as they are dumb enough to come his way. “What do you two fruitcakes want?”
“Uh, well, boss,” Larry ran his fingers through his bald head. If he had lips, he’d bite them. “We, uh, came to you about a Maraqua--”
“The Slug Monster isn’t budging,” the Boss said, seeking no argument. “We’ll have to send a bunch of other workers to distract the thing so that the others can pass through. They say he’s munching the papers to pieces—can you believe that? Can you believe the audacity of this thing?”
“Uh, yeah, boss,” Bob hid his hands behind his back. “That wasn’t what we--”
“Burlap even said he spoke to him,” the Boss continued, disregarding the two. “Isn’t that ridiculous? I mean, can Slug Monsters even speak Weewoo? Or do they just speak Neopian, like some of us do?”
“I mean, I can speak Neopian, obviously,” he jabbered on, “But can Burlap speak Neopian? I mean, I’ve seen his records. He’s not actually--”
“Boss, Trevor Moore got caught in something strange,” Larry inputted, finally. “We sent him off to Moltara a few days ago, and he came swimming back as a Maraquan Weewoo.”
The Boss glared at the two, snapping back as if he’d just fallen asleep. “Trevor Moore?”
“The kid who bumped his head on a wall three times this week?” he asked.
“Uh, well, two Weewoos did that.”
“The kid who took a week a month ago to send issues because he accidentally travelled to Tyrannia?”
“Yeah, that one.”
The Boss thought over the other things ‘the kid’ did, and wondered to himself why he hadn’t fired him yet. He sighed, standing up. “Well then, I suppose he’ll be asking for some help, hm?” he said, frowning.
Bob and Larry looked back at each other, concernedly. “Actually, no,” Bob decided to say. “He thinks he might be able to help with something.”* * *
Trevor was laughed at when he came back.
He’d swim through the oceans, living off of sea kelp and the occasional nut he finds on stranded islands. When he met with the shore, the water dripped off his newly founded scales, little tubes of the water he’d found in the Strange Pool clinking in his bag of wet newspaper.
“Oh, what happened now, Trevor?” one of the workers, an older female Weewoo who’d cared for the others a long time, asked, approaching him as he entered the door. She put her feathers over his shoulder. “You’re all wet. And you’re...Maraquan? How did you afford the time or budget to buy a Maraquan paint brush?”
“No time to explain, Miss Nancy,” he said, panting excitedly. “Call the Boss—I’d just found something that’ll solve all his problems.”
And so that’s how he found himself there, sitting in a part of the building he didn’t recognize, at a round brown table that he’d only see in the higher class floors of the Neolodge. The door opens, two white Weewoos entering. One he recognizes as the Suit-and-Tie Boss, the other a female Weewoo dressed in dirty blue collar clothing. A foreman? “Well,” the Boss said, scowling. “I see the two idiots at least weren’t blind.”
“Mr. Vance,” Trevor sat up, pulling out the little vials he’d saved in his satchel. “Mr. Vance, you have to--”
“Look what he’s done to the newspapers!” The female Weewoo said, looking disgusted. “And those were newly printed, too. If you meant to go for a swim, you could’ve had the common decency to buy a suit and a bag for the papers before you went!”
Trevor glanced down at the dripping papers in his satchel, suddenly feeling quite ashamed. He sat back down, losing the confidence he’d gained when he met with the pool in the first place. Silly Trevor, absent-minded Trevor. Mr. Vance heaved in a big sigh, pulling up another chair. “Well, it looks like you don’t want to live up to our criteria, painting yourself Maraquan,” he said, putting his arm on the table. “Now, what does that say about yourself, Moore?”
“But, sir, this is exactly what we need—Maraquan workmen,” Trevor looked up at Vance, feeling hopeful. “I mean, what better swimmers? What better to go past Slug Monsters? What better to--”
Vance glared at him, and he felt as if he was urged to stop. He silenced himself. “Trevor,” Vance started, quietly. “We—Helen and I here, we’ve been working in this business for a long time. See, she’s in charge of the going-ons in this place, and whether you know it or not you were being watched while you work.”
Watched and laughed at, he wanted to remind them. “And although it is hard for us to let go of one of our own, we can’t take risks. You’ve gone overboard far too much than we could allow,” he said. The scene went grim. “Unfortunately, we’ve let out Weewoos for lesser mistakes. It’s only fair.”
Trevor glared at his boss, paralyzed. “I--” he thought to himself, looking back at the glowing vials of water. He was right. He was right all along. He really was bound to be a house Weewoo. “I understand.”
Vance smiled, kindly. “We’re sorry. We really are.”
Helen folded her arms over her chest, rolling her eyes.* * *
That day, Trevor worked his last shift as a Maraquan Weewoo, and delivered his issues. The ones he delivered were not to be his last.
He’d come back from trotting up to Shenkuu, entering the doll house with his card in hand. The entire building was empty, then. They’d entrusted him to put his key on the secretary desk and leave, like any respectable Weewoo would. Trevor wasn’t particularly sure if he could call himself that anymore.
He approached the punch clock, hesitantly entering himself in. His shift was done. His life was done, in a way. It’d only then occurred to him how fortunate he was to be an NT Weewoo, to hold that significant status. It was like climbing up a hill, and only being able to see how far you’d gotten once you fell down.
The voice echoed out at him, in pity, and he gritted his teeth. In a rage, he flung a box near the punch clock, spreading out some of the papers inside them. Something fell out of it with a thick thud. Trevor realized the insanity of what he’d done, and began gathering the papers together, returning them into the box. Simultaneously spotting something he shouldn’t have.
A stack of papers stood by, loudly announcing: MARAQUA, ISSUE 700.
No, those last issues weren’t his last call. They were never meant to be.* * *
He’d packaged the papers carefully, locking them into a waterproof bag, before launching into his night-long journey to Maraqua. He’d gotten used to swimming, after having to do it for several miles. It felt nice on his newly built fins.
After hours of travelling in darkness, he saw flickers of blue light emanating in the distance. Maraqua. He was going to make it, he thought. He was actually going to—
The darkness split. Shadows followed him, an army of bubbles flowing past. A roar shook the waters, vibrating from in front of him, at his side, behind him. Behind him. Trevor stopped, not a muscle daring to move.
“Raed,” a voice said, though he’d rather not know from where. “Raed?”
Trevor swam. You’d think he’d have the common decency to see where his attacker was coming from, but no—he swam. He swam as if his life depended on it, but in this case it was not his life he was guarding, but his honour, his pride, and a stack of newspapers in a waterproof bag. I’m sure once he looks back at this event, he’d realize just how stupid it sounded to any passerby.
Something caught at his tail, flicking him back. He swung into the sea floor, his beak dipped in mud. The roaring continued, and he got to his feet—only to be swung back again.
He clutched at the bag in his chest as the creature, undeniably the Slug Monster, whacked him around like a plushie, bashing the air out of his lungs. But his little fins were not designed for holding onto things. The liquid passed between his fingers, the bag slipping pass them, finally dropping down to the sand on the tenth swinging.
“No!” he screamed at the Slug, panting.
The Slug Monster approached the strange object, squinting at it. His face grew angry, suddenly. With another roar, he opened his great maw, and—
Stopped to the sound of Trevor’s sobbing. “Please, don’t,” Trevor pleaded, hoarsely. Hot tears dissolved into the sea around him. “Please. I was stupid, I was always stupid, stupid, stupid--”
The Slug tilted its head, slowly closing his mouth. He watched as the eccentric Weewoo crumpled into a ball on the sea floor, little oceans spilling from his eyes. The Slug approached the small Weewoo, anxiously. “Raed?”
“I should’ve never done this,” the Weewoo whispered to nobody, under the illusion the Slug had left. “Never, never.”
The Slug looked down at himself, scowling. He was not a smart Slug. He had always tried, since his owner left him for a smaller, more intelligent land Petpet, but he never had the resources. Never understood. For some reason, though, at that moment, he understood more than he was made to. “I—I olly waned raed,” he mumbled. “I olly waned to raed.”
Trevor opened his eyes. He looked at the creature, talking to him. “Are you--” he stopped. “You talk?”
The Slug nodded. “I no good, dough.”
Trevor furrowed his brows in confusion, before realizing what the Slug had said earlier. “What did you say you wanted to do?”
Trevor arched a brow, then picked up the bag. He glanced at the bubbled surface. “You’ve never learned how to read?” Trevor started, surprised. But of course, he wasn’t too surprised. He imagined it’d be hard reading books underwater. “Well, that’s a shame,” he said, laughing. “Lots of good things happen in these newspapers. Memories made. Stories written down in history.”
The Slug shook his slimy head, causing waves. “I no good. I just ordinary, fil-ty Slug Monster.”
“Don’t say that,” Trevor frowned, looking up at the creature. “You’re not. Nobody’s just born ordinary, you make yourself that way. Everybody has their own potential to do great things, climb any mountain peak, so long as they believe they can,” he smiled, not realizing the irony of his words at the moment. “And I believe.”
The Slug glanced down, then back to him. “You do?”
“Yeah. Why not?” he laughed, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. “The first Slug to learn how to read. I can see it on the headlines, right now—and you’ll be able to see them when they’re there.”
The Slug smiled the biggest, most astonishing smile Trevor ever saw a grace any Petpet’s face. “Will you--” he paused, momentarily. “Will you tech me?”
Trevor returned the smile. “Of course. But I have to,” he stood back up, carrying the stack under his arm. “I have to deliver these first.”
The Slug looked at him momentarily. “I help?”* * *
The next morning, Vance got up to the sound of banging on his door.
He’d expected it to come. He was expecting the reporters to come that morning, rapping his door, coming to ask where the Maraquan newspapers have gone. He sighed, striding lazily towards the sound. “Coming,” he said, supposedly to his grave.
Instead, he found Helen there, panting. “They’re all there,” she said. “They’ve all been delivered.”
Vance glared at her, as if she were mad. “What? By who?” He only had to look her in the eye. “Where is he? Where is that stupid kid? And how is he not in the belly of a beast?”
But Vance and Helen would never find Trevor Moore, or the Slug that had eaten all of their newspapers. While the rest of Maraqua enjoyed reading their papers in the bathroom or drinking coffee to it, Trevor Moore and the Slug sat by in the ruins of Maraqua, teaching each other lessons they’ve yet to forget.