"Dis iz da tale of da kewlest gelart in niopa..." Snickerscat
read, eyeing the file in disgust. The mutant Buzz had the frequently thankless
and ill-paying job of being one of the pets who read The Neopian Times submissions
each week. "This piece stinks!" she said with a grumble, and pressed the delete
Sventhor, the old and very nearsighted Bruce
who was working on the terminal beside her, commented cheerfully, "You know,
Snickerscat, maybe you need a vacation. They say if you work too long at sorting
through the dung heap of bad submissions, terrible things can happen to your
"Nah, I'll be fine, Sven. I'm sure there's something
good in here... somewhere," she said with a sigh, continuing to sort. The pets
had already sent in their recommendations for stories, articles, and comics
for the week to their Editor, the enigmatic Mister Shankly. Series, however,
was posing a bit of problem. For some reason, the selections that people had
sent in this week left much to be desired. "Here's one that looks promising:
'How I Saved Neopia - A Tale In...' never mind."
"A tale in never mind?" blinked Sventhor.
"A tale in eighty-seven parts," Snickerscat
sighed. "It's the size of War and Peace."
"Probably as exciting, too," grumbled the Bruce.
"Here's a 'gem'. It's called: 'Sloth and Fyora - Forbidden Love'."
"Gag me!" Snickerscat said, making faces. "Delete,
delete!" She went back to digging through her inbox, piece by piece. Some of
the works were immediately discarded, because they weren't about Neopia at all,
or they didn't include the author's name. How silly was it to write an entire
piece, and then not put a name on it? "I'm not a mind reader."
"More nameless wonders?" Sventhor asked.
"Yep, the same old story with no name," Snickerscat
said, shaking her wings. "Sad, really, that someone would take the time to write
all this and then not include their name."
"Bah," said Sventhor, "If they're that stupid,
they deserve not to be published."
"But still," the Buzz moaned, rubbing her eyes
that were starting to burn with the searing heat of failure, "we need serieses
for this week."
"Serieses?" Sventhor chuckled. "You're starting
to think like Them. You really do need a vacation, Snickerscat. Maybe you should
ask Mister Shankly for some time off?"
Snickerscat eyed the editor's office door nervously.
Shankly had the best office in the Times - with a gold plated S on his door
and everything. She didn't like to go into his office, with its odd posters
of Vanja and the Handsome Devils on the wall and its carefully arranged Zen
furniture. Not to mention, the place always smelled slightly of Studio Stunt
Hair Gel, and that stuff was just plain awful!
Snickerscat wasn't sure what was worse - heading
in there to talk to Shankly, or continuing to look through her inbox. She eyed
the title of her next mail--Ne1 4 T?--and made the decision right there.
Mister Shankly couldn't possibly be worse than the hordes of bad submissions
that awaited. "Wish me luck," she said to Sventhor.
"Good luck, my friend," he said, saluting with
a wing. "And remember, if he starts reading poetry, get out of there!"
"Right, I remember." Bloody awful poetry, in
fact, if the rumours were true. It was said to be one of the top reasons for
the high turnover rate of pets. That, and well, the whole submissions thing...
and the pay. And the hours, and the working conditions, and that time Sloth
broke in and started firing his ray gun... well, there were a lot of reasons,
really, when one looked at it objectively. Still, as she padded quietly for
the door, Snickerscat reminded herself to be very cautious when asking for vacation
time, and above all, avoid the poetry.
She gathered all her nerve, and knocked cautiously,
right under the golden S. There was no answer, so she knocked a bit louder.
"Vanja, is that you?" Mister Shankly called from within.
"Um... no, Sir... It's Snickerscat."
"No thanks, I've already had lunch!" he called.
"The Buzz, sir? I work for you sorting through
the dung heap," she continued nervously.
"Oh, right. Come on in."
Snickerscat turned the knob, and opened the
door. It made a rather eerie creaking sound that made her jump slightly. She
steadied herself and stepped onto the Zen carpet, shutting the door behind her.
As always, the office smelled like Stunt Studio Hair Gel - though the scent
was stronger than usual because the editor was hard at work at the moment grooming
his stylish pompadour. He glanced over at Snickerscat with a welcoming smile.
"Got those series for me, Rickerrat?"
"That's Snickerscat, sir... and no, not yet. In
fact, it's pretty rough out there this week."
"Welcome to my world," Shankly said, capping
the gel and wiping his hand on a special monogrammed towel that hung beside
his desk for just that purpose. "I was just pondering that lack of quality this
week myself. That, and writing a new poem. Would you like to hear it? Its called
'Ode to Socks'."
"Gah... that's quite all right, sir... I'm sure
a simple Buzz like myself couldn't possibly comprehend your vast genius."
But it was too late. Shankly slid open his desk
drawer and pulled out a red bound leather book with golden sigils on the front,
and a skull-shaped clasp. He opened it with a slightly sinister smile, and flipped
to the appropriate page.
"Ode to Socks," he read. "So stinky, so sweet.
I like to place them on my feet...."
Snickerscat could feel a rising panic from deep
within. She wanted to flee, to run out of the office as fast as she could, but
she was frozen in sheer horror. Her large red eyes became luminous with tears
as Shankly continued to read. The pain was unbearable.
"So terrible and rank and smellier by the hour...
and now, little Buzz, you are in my power!" Shankly said, closing the book.
"Muhahahahahhhahaha!" he laughed, and catching sight of himself in one of the
room's many mirrors, paused a moment to admire. "You know, I look good when
I'm being bad."
To be continued...