Wraithland is Misunderstood: Entering Aiopen
[The following is an unapproved manuscript dissected by the Covert Council of Neopian Affairs and Activity. Observe at your own risk.]
This is Lena from Neopia Central World News in the field today for an exclusive scoop. After losing all but three of our reporters in the “Obelisk Wars incident” (something about putting our employees in “immediate danger to life and health situations”) we decided to look into safer venues. And interns.
Wraithland, despite swirling miasmas of dark energy and soul-sucking precipitation, is a good place to set up our new basecamp. Family-friendly, too—bring the kids and Petpets! It’s one of many somewhat-but-not-really accessible points in a bustling and active world known as “AIOPEN.” The name sounds quite familiar, although none of us are sure why. Maybe that Eliv Thade fellow could help. Then again, reliable sources say he is “very creepy” and “speaks in gibberish. Only I can speak like that.” All of this information is courtesy of our delightfully sane guide, Doc. To be honest, we don’t know his full name, but he insists it’s better off that way.
In order to begin our mysterious tour of mystery, we must step through a portal that Doc created using his “wibbly-wobbly stabilimerizer.” Pay no mind to the sparks and plumes of smoke--those are for show. It appeals to his “super science” aesthetic, he proudly proclaims.
As the machine begins to rev up with whirring gears, creating a miniature pyrotechnics show of sparks and small explosions, Doc cheers with maniacal glee and remarks, “I can’t wait to deploy my own expenda- I mean, excitable team of SCIENTISTS!”
These “scientists” consisted of five sentient plants--including a top-hat wearing shrubbery--a gigantic Meepit wearing a lab coat, and a hoard of college-aged students wearing green and red “Brightvale University Internship Project” t-shirts.
Toni, our newspaper’s intern, decided to take the first leap into a dark, mysterious unknown by testing out the machine. He was volunteered by process of elimination as well as strict, authoritarian Meepit law. That and we pushed him head first through the portal. Don’t worry, he’ll make it home someday. Calibration mistakes happen sometimes.
Doc would like to interject with a few words.
“To the family and friends of Toni, he was a good intern that was not mine--the ingrate! A fine intern. An excellent test subject. Hm…. fascinating results.” Doc fiddles his fingers and chatters to himself in a faint whisper of a voice. “Hehhmmm, he will be missed of course! Poor Tommy.” Upon finishing, various clothing articles that resembled Toni’s (scant the various bite marks and dark magic stains) flew out of the whirling portal. Doc’s response is simply, “Huh, fancy that.”
Before we head on our way, Doc has asks me to hand him my quill and speak a few words of infallible wisdom to our curious, SCIENCE-loving audience. Standing atop a dusty footstool, he poses dramatically before shouting a boisterous speech.
“Friends and colleagues, but mostly free labor…”—He flails his arms between pauses—“This will be a monumental day in the history of SCIENCE! My… eerrrrr… OUR history of SCIENCE! Let us (and I mean all of you) venture forth into this new world! (As I sit here and enjoy a most wonderful vacation)!”
Doc sits down on his “Suddenly Materializing™” lawn chair and sips from a glass of lemonade. A group of angry interns surround him, shouting disparaging remarks about making them do all of the work. They proceed to pick up the chair and tote him around, like an Altadoran emperor propped up by his servants; Doc shouts his displeasure, calling them ingrates and plebeians. Despite his initial reluctance, the team of scientists-turned-brief-angry-mob are helping to assure that Doc joins us in our planar expedition after all. The lab-coat-wearing Techo only suffers some minor bruises and hurt feelings.
Updated 1:30PMNST, First Day of Eating.
After an hour of hitting his machine with a wrench, Doc says that our journey to Wraithland is “eh, probably safe. I’m bored. Let’s test it out and see!”
To assure us that the trip is completely safe, he threw one of several “Juniors”, which resemble Meepits... Well, they almost resemble Meepits… into the portal. The leader of the group identified itself as Junior Mark 2, the 11th one. It is a pink creature with numerous arms and a giant eyeball for a face. Remaining crew attest to it being “cute” and “cuddly.” We hire the best at Neopia Central World News.
We are herded into the machine--a contraption twice the side of an average refrigerator--and sent through a portal. Instantaneously, we find ourselves in a world of grim and dark, although not necessary in that order. All the while, Doc rambles about how he once “accidentally” destroyed a rival’s scientific lab in an effort to convince said rival to help him with his vainglorious experiments. He had already told this story about ten times prior, starting each tangent with “did I ever tell you about the time when I…”
Approaching the wraiths proved difficult despite their proximity to us (as the average mode of transportation there is thought-based hovering.) They unleash loud “scree” sounds at every turn, an odd reaction given our apparel. Our team did the research, you see. According to “Nofraud Research Institute,” 80 out of 5 Wraithland wraiths prefer guests who wore hats. Not just any hats, of course--no, no. That would be silly. We’re anything but silly. These hats had one-foot-tall pillars of fire gushing from a mechanism placed neatly on our forehead, the perfect sign of friendship to any wraith.
According to Doc, these contraptions are scientifically proven and--for those woodland pets out there--biodegradable! Also, he tells us that the two researchers accompanying him with singed lab coats were the result of an accident wholly unrelated to his fire-spewing devices. You can always believe scientific research. Always. Just ask our gravity-testing team from the Obelisk Wars story. Oh wait--you can’t.
Updated 2:10pmNST, First? Day of Eating.
After a rather rude welcoming party (I mean, really. The Awakening at very least had the common courtesy to zombify two of my co-workers!) we crash into a building. It looks fancy enough to be a college and there is a large number of monocle-wearing wraiths hovering above the grounds. Thus, we believe the location to be “Darkdale College.” Oddly enough, the sign with this title was in perfect Neopian. We ask all of the Brightvale University students to confirm; they did, rolling their eyes as if to suggest elation and a love of journalism. We then ask the students to crash into the “Darkdale College” sign to confirm its existence in the physical world. Running headlong into signs is the fastest way to absorb knowledge. It’s a proven fact. I’ve done it many times.
We have collided into three more academic buildings before making it inside to speak with the “Dean.” He speaks in low hisses while his right eye pumps a monocle up and down. We do not have any translators with us who speak Wraithish, but we can only assume that he says the following:
“GREAT INTERLOPERS FROM THE REALM OF LIGHT! WHY DO YOU BESIEGE US WITH YOUR PRESENCE!?”
It is either that or he is exceptionally happy to see all of us. To be honest, we’re not sure if either interpretation is correct. Judging by the “grin” upon his mist covered face and decisive pointing, we can only assume it was happiness.
Given our extensive background in science fiction, we quickly fall to our knees and shout, “ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY GLOW WRAITH!”
He seemed perplexed, we have no idea why. According to infallible sources, large, sentient wraiths adore being hailed. Maybe this is just an anomaly; Doc asserts that more bowing is in order.
Five minutes pass. There is no change. Fancy wraith is thoroughly confused. Lena reports that such a revelation “reduced her faith in the Shadow Vale tapes,” but that she would “continue to listen to it faithfully for fear of retribution from the MIGHTY GLOW WRAITH.”
After his receptionist, an amalgamated mass of sentient black clouds, pushes us out the door, we think it is only right to continue our research elsewhere. Doc urges us to venture towards the science department, or “SCIENCE! Department.” Both work. Based on his unfathomable calculations, the labs are filled with the latest of “AIOPEN” technology, at least as far as this “Wraithland” goes.
One of the interns is experimenting with what we can only assume to be a Darkdale College student’s “research project”, as Doc encourages them from the side. It has come to my attention that the project is now eating said intern. Doc is flailing his arms in an enraged frenzy about “proper lab protocol.” He claims that all lab assistants should follow his orders to the letter, not the number or punctuation mark. Plus, avoiding boxes labeled with the word “Dangerous!” is strictly prohibited. Always open the boxes, especially the ones from where the unmistakable sounds of teeth gnashing and feral growls are heard.
To the family and friends of Doc’s unnamed intern 47, he helped us to discover a new world. Also that he earned a failing grade for his internship course.
This just in! An unpaid internship position has been made available for any interested Brightvale University students. Need a morally ambiguous resume booster? Sign up today!
Updated 4:45pmNST First? Day of Eating:
This is the “Lively Forest.” We call it “Lively” because, unlike the rest of the “AIOPEN” universe, it’s bright and colorful; like someone’s birthday cake... cooked up by an Awakened. Pink and purple fields are quickly shadowed by large, bubble-gum-pink trees. Carved into the purple tree bark are expressive smiles. One of the features has an uncanny resemblance to intern Toni. Doc’s response to this involves tying a Brightvale University Tote Bag (copyrighted material, don’t steal this) around the grotesque, but oddly cheery face.
We’re down one authentic, stylish, and versatile Brightvale University Tote Bag, but at least that maniacal, rictus grin will no longer share its presence with us. Plus, we can spread the word about one of Neopia’s most prestigious colleges to prospective international students (Neopia Central World News claims no “sponsorship” from said university no matter what popular “scholarly journals” say).
This just in! One of our interns remarked that this strange forest reminded them about a book they read for History class. It's about a poet from Altador who traveled with a ghostly companion into a strange world below… and a place where Neopians became trees. I never read that book. What even is a book?
“Lively” speaks to me in a different manner akin to that happy, candy-themed board game, “Kingdom of Sweets.” That is, if it was written by some of the strangest minds that Haunted Woods has to offer… like Doc. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any of his credentials. Oh well, he’s Brightvale “faculty” and proclaims to have a doctorate in “morally ambiguous studies”, whatever that is. Good enough for us!
Now, back to the action. We stand in the field of overwhelming joy, mouths agape, as swaths of wraiths come pouring out of the forest. All of these creatures have huge, sparkling eyes and blushing cheeks--can we call them cheeks? I guess we can. Their smile is toothy, but kind. Like a visit from grandma. A scary grandma.
They appear to offer us drinks and cakes, both of which look surprisingly Neopian. At first, we thought the cakes were a lie, but they are indeed quite corporeal. Some of our interns prove this by poking the gelatin cakes. Shortly after, their eyes glaze over and they begin to sing a saccharine tune. While slightly terrifying, the surreal performance was “enjoyable.” Comparable to a concert by five succulent plants during the Obelisk Wars (the leader of which is now referred to as “The Cactus Formerly Known as ‘Bob.’”)
Being the astute journalists and scientists that we are, the cakes are refused. Despite our refusal, the smiles of our enchanted interns continued. Apparently delighted by our participation, the candy-eyed wraiths join in the merry “song.”
“Singing” is a loose definition of what we are hearing. They sound like Neoplant Bob. Underwater. With added hisses and screams.
Did I say we’re terrified? I meant we are absolutely mortified… especially as their faces contorted into shapes we weren’t sure even existed in reality. The same “book smart” intern remarked it reminded him of a story by famed a Neopian horror author, “H.J. Dreadgrant”, before said intern falls to the ground and babbles incoherent and eldritch gibberish. At which point, we took the “sane” interns with us and promptly ran away. Doc, trailing behind, began to shout, “Wait, I wasn’t done studying them! Besides, I love this song!”
He eventually caught up. Sources assert that he is still “probably sane.”
Updated 6:25pmNST We-Have-No-Idea-What-Day-It-Is:
Our next stop is what we can assume is this universe’s answer to “Terror Mountain.” If rock and dirt could pulsate like irritated muscle. One of our interns, a business major we call “Ultramind”, remarks that this location might make for a great “bouncy house” attraction for children’s parties. We immediately congratulate them, asserting that they will receive a raise upon our triumphant return. And really, who doesn’t love meal coupons to the nearby Hubert’s Stand? We’re so generous!
Neopian World News would like to announce that this idea has been copyrighted. Anyone interested in a horror-themed birthday party can consult Lena (that’s me!) after this article has been published.
The residents of this dancing mountain structure appear to be amorphous, squamous figures composed of a gelatinous substance, countless eyeballs, and countless mouths as well. Doc immediately leaps for joy and shouts, “They’re just like Junior, Mark 1 version 23!” One of the formless horrors sloshes towards us. A Doc intern tries to throw a bowl of Fish-Guts-and-Ice-Cream soup (a Brute Squad specialty!) into one of its many mouths. The creature responds by swarming around said intern and trapping them inside, “kind of like how a single-celled organism feeds on other lesser life forms,” according to Doc.
Don’t worry, this supplied us with ample amounts of research notes.
Making our way past the abstract abominations that litter these mountains of… insanity, we see what seems to be a cave entrance. However, the cave seems to be built by a mad painter who has an obsession with non-Euclidean geometry. Inside of a wraith-like being with small wings and many tendril-like limbs. The horror speaks to all of us… inside of our minds. It asks if there are any Darbalt around. They’re quite the specialty among its kind. Huh, that explains the sudden population decline in Neopia…
As we tell the tentacle beast that we have no Darblats to offer, it pushes us out of the cave… and off a cliff.
Don’t worry, Ultramind broke our fall. The bouncy mountains prove to be helpful, giving the intern’s birthday party idea a great deal of merit. Sorry for falling on top of you, Ultramind. We’ll have Doc pay for your medical expenses. In response to our kindly offer, the business major flailed their unbroken paws, frowning deeply as if to thank us with unbridled gratitude. You’re welcome, Intern! Enjoy those hot dogs while you’re in physical therapy, alright?
Updated ???am/pm/a-p-m? NST WHAT-IS-TIME-ANYMORE!? DOES-IT-EVEN-EXIST?!
Somehow, some way, we have landed in a disco hall. How did this happen? We have no recollection of this. The music is awful, it sounds like The-Cactus-Formerly-Known-As-Bob, but played backwards and remixed by one of those Dubstep DJs from Neopia Central. All around us, Wraith display some sort of erratic behavior. We’re going to assume this is “dancing.” Before we could stop him, Doc ran to the dance floor and busted a move. The wraith crowd cheered on the wobbling weirdo despite looking like Flankin are biting his ankles.
We pulled away the “dancing Doc”, claiming that his moves were “painful to behold” and a “blight to all Neopian existence.”
Doc snaps back. “How dare you snatch me away from my adoring public! Besides, AIOPEN is Neopia, but better! SO MUCH BETTER! Well, enough of that… Time to conduct SCIENCE in my tower.” Upon realizing that Doc had lost his disco fever, the Wraith began to hiss and growl.
In an effort to escape, we granted Doc the permission “accidentally” trip one of the science interns. Upon asking how she would survive, our response is “Don’t stop dancing!” The intern began to wave her limbs in a mad fashion, similar to Doc’s “dancing.”
It’s a good thing Neopia World News reporters carry a handy, dandy shield for situations such as these. You never know when you’re going to need to block the swipe of an angry wraith, giant, lumbering Brute Squad member… or to evade such a disturbing sight. Seriously, no one should have to see dancing that bad!
We manage to scramble out of the portal nexus point/dance hall and ready ourselves for a trip back into good old-fashioned Neopian reality. … Really, though, beyond-the-fourth-wall readers. Who actually listens to disco? Country music is better.
As we tumble out like domino blocks and look up to see the other side of the dimensional warp. It’s a meeting room, with Neopians in creepy Meepit costumes.
One of them turns toward us and grumbles, “More multiversal interlopers! And--heeeey, why is that guy back again? The one with the screaming problem.” When one of his "costumed" associates shrugs, the giant one raises his stubby paws into the air, shouting, “Ya’ know what? Instead of doing something about it, you let him explore the multi-verse all willy-nilly. Ya’ know? You’re all demoted! You hear me, demoted! World domination plans are on hold for now!”
When the costumed minions “awwww…” their boss adds, “Incompetence! Today’s Meepits are all incompetent! Just look at these calculations... they’re all wrong!” While pointing to complex looking graphs and charts on the wall.
Amidst the bedlam in the office space, we seize the opportunity to jump into a clunky looking device left in the office room. Doc asserts that this device is made with the finest of quality. He also remarks that he didn’t remember leaving this device in this room. Has he been here before?
The world may never know. Or do they already know? This is getting confusing. Doc by himself is already really confusing.
Updated 1:31 PMNST; First Day of Eating (according to the calendar).
By some miracle or act of “SCIENCE”, we made it back to the same dingy and musty laboratory… a mere minute after we left, I think. Unless we entered into some “strange alternate reality… again.” As much fun as it was collecting data, Lena requires some time off. They definitely do.
At the very least, the world will have a better understanding of our strange alternate-universe double of AIOPEN. With that, we can conclude that this shadowy double of Neopia is not the safe haven we had hoped it to be. So, our coverage on AIOPEN is officially closed, or at least that’s what the Neopian “officials” in the matching suits and sunglasses are telling us to say.
Remember: every portal in your home could very well lead to AIOPEN. If it does, send a postcard. Some of our old interns will send their best. Or not. We’re not really sure how interdimensional mail works.
Either that or never leave your home again, it’s safer.
Our next adventure will feature the “tunnels.” Still better than those musty old catacombs. Nobody likes those.
But first, we must escape from Doc’s laboratory! As long as a couple of us can outrun the army of “Juniors”, we’ll be back one day with Neopia’s finest news source.
Until then… good night, Neopia. GOOD NIGHT.
Lena is a veteran journalist for the Neopia Central World News, a leading source in delivering only the facts since Year 1. They specialize in the “Weird and Wonderful” side of Neopia and are well known for their Obelisk Wars faction interviews from “Neopians Claim Oracle is Evil.”