Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 120,791,029 Issue: 244 | 16th day of Relaxing, Y8
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Spring of Writing

by nut862


The time had come. The woman, clad in a gown the color of pure snow, stared around the familiar white-walled building, the place where she had made her home for the past few years. The desk where she had sat day in and day out for so many months was clean and polished, not piled high with mountains of papers and embellished with her favorite trinkets. She glanced up at the ceiling and caught sight of a pair of large black eyes staring at her through a vent. For once, she didn't shudder at the constant presence of Meepits in the office. Smiling sadly, she whispered, "Farewell. Try not to take over Neopia while I'm gone."

     The Meepit gave her a sinister stare as if to indicate that that was exactly what they meant to do. In a flash of pink, it vanished deeper into the vent.

     "Snowflake?" The door to the office opened, and a girl walked in. She smiled nervously. "You're leaving now?"

     Miss Snowflake nodded. "You've trained for this day for quite a while. You know what you have to do."

     Miss Droplet nodded. "Don't accept articles on how to make Neopoints, look for up-and-coming talent, keep the writers happy, be kind to the Weewoos, don't feed the Meepits."

     Miss Snowflake smiled. "I trust you completely, Droplet," she said softly. "I know you'll be an excellent editor."

     Miss Droplet watched as the white-clad lady turned and walked out of the room. Several White Weewoos looked at each other in confusion--why was their great lady leaving in the middle of the day? They flew after her, emitting worried calls. Miss Snowflake smiled at them, but continued walking. Her shoes made hollow noises as she crossed the shiny marble floor, headed to the doorway through which she would leave the world of insanity and fun that she had come to love.

     Miss Droplet stared out the glass doors, watching the editor leave. She looked around the empty room, all cleaned and shining for her arrival. A few sad Weewoos walked around in confused circles, not knowing what to do. Miss Droplet bent down and scooped one of them up. It looked at her with wide eyes. She smiled back at it, and carried the white-feathered creature to the desk, where she sat down and eyed the many drawers and cabinets that were now hers.

     A feeling that she was being watched crept up her neck. She looked up quickly, and caught sight of a couple of unblinking black eyes staring at her from the vent. She would have to get used to the constant surveillance the Meepits kept the office under.

     "Miss... Miss Snowflake?"

     Miss Droplet looked down over her desk. A small Poogle stood there, tightly clutching a few sheets of paper.

     The Poogle looked surprised. "Oh, you're not... Can you tell me where Miss Snowflake is?"

     Miss Droplet smiled. "I'm the editor of the Neopian Times now. Have you something to submit?"

     The Poogle's eyes widened. "But I thought... " Checking herself, she answered, "Yes. Yes, I have something to submit." She handed the papers up to the editor. She flashed a shy smile at her before leaving.

     Miss Droplet settled back into the chair. Stroking the White Weewoo, she began to read the Poogle's short story. She could begin to enjoy this job.

      * * * * *

     Far away from the Neopian Times office, in the crowded Games Room, a Speckled Kiko was staring intently at a jumbled network of pipes connected to vats of Juppie Juice. The haughty stares of Meepits bore into her from the tree trunk where they waited impatiently. A bead of sweat rolled down the Kiko's white-spotted skin. Time was running out. She twisted the pipes frantically, racing to beat the clock. A Green Meepit tapped its foot with irritation as the timer wound down.

     "Seena!" The sound of her name distracted the Speckled Kiko for just a moment. She whipped her head quickly back to face the system of pipes, just in time to see a Meepit clutch its stomach and let its tongue dangle loosely out of its mouth in an exaggerated show of thirst. It tumbled out of the tree, controlling its fall so that it landed safely on the grass. It looked up long enough to glare at Seena, and then collapsed limp on the ground.

     The overseer at the home for lost Meepits shook his head. "Game over!"

     Seena turned in annoyance to the Strawberry Gelert who had called her name. "Hey!"

     Her sister, Dina, emitted an amused snort. "Take a break from the games for a few minutes, Seena. You spend too much time in the Games Room."

     "How else do you expect us to get any Neopoints?" the Speckled Kiko retorted, irritated. "I doubt you'd be willing to work as hard as I do!" Indeed, games were Seena's life. She wasn't especially good at them, but they occupied her time and gave her reward in the form of money.

     "That's beside the point," Dina said. "I rarely see you these days." She waved her red paw in the fresh spring air, revealing a rolled-up paper clutched in it.

     "What's that?" Seena asked, catching sight of it.

     "It's just something I picked up on the way home."

     Seena grabbed a corner of the paper and pulled it towards her just enough so that she could see the curly black heading sandwiched between two pictures of blue quill pens. "The Neopian Times," she read. "Since when do you read the newspaper?"

     "What's wrong with reading the newspaper? Besides, it was a free copy. How could I resist something that's free?" Dina tugged the paper out of her sister's fin and began flipping through the pages. "Look, there are all sorts of stories and articles in it, all in one issue! More things to read than you could ever find in a book, and I didn't even have to pay for this!" The Gelert's eyes sparkled in excitement. "And you know what, Seena? The pieces are written by pets just like you and me!"

     Seena raised an eyebrow. "Really. Have you read any yet?"

     "I took a quick look through a story, and it seemed quite lovely--"

     "Let me see." Seena grabbed the paper and flipped it open to the short stories section. She began reading the first story on the list.

     Dina watched her sister's expression twist into an incredulous frown as her large eyes scanned the page. The Strawberry Gelert shifted uncomfortably. "You know, that wasn't the story I was looking at... "

     "Hang on, I want to finish this." Seena's frown turned into a smirk as she continued reading. When at last she reached the words "The End," she let out a laugh. "Yeah, right!" she chortled.

     "What?" Dina asked, her voice half nervous and half irritated at her sister's reaction.

     "This story is ridiculous! Look at all the spelling and grammar mistakes!"

     Dina frowned and glanced at the newspaper. "I don't see any... "

     Seena pointed haughtily at a couple of obvious typos. "And the writing is just flat. Plus, the plot doesn't make sense." She handed the newspaper back to Dina. "I can see why it was free."

     The Strawberry Gelert clutched the newspaper protectively in her paw. "You shouldn't say that! You only read one story; you can't just judge the whole newspaper by that. Writers and reporters put a lot of work into this. Besides, what if someone else was saying that about your writing?"

     Seena rolled her eyes. "I can write better than that."

     "Do it, then." Dina's burgundy eyes sparked.

     "Huh?" Seena looked surprised.

     "Write something for the Times. I dare you."

     "I don't want to." Seena looked up at the sky, as if wanting to avoid her sister's challenge. "It's not worth it."

     A smirk spread over the Gelert's face. "They give out trophies, you know."

     "They do?" Seena glanced back at the jumbled mess of pipes she had been fighting through all morning, for the sake of a few Meepits and maybe an avatar--nothing like a trophy. The thought of a shiny gold prize to add to her cabinet was appealing. It wouldn't take much to get it; certainly not nearly as much work as it would take to perfect her skill at a game to the point of getting on the high scores tables. A few hours spent hunched over a piece of paper with a pen wasn't much of a price to pay in exchange for an award and publication.

     "You'll submit something, then?" Dina asked.

     "Well, I guess I could... just to get something good in there, you know."

     Dina shook her head in disgust and spread open the newspaper, bending her head over the pages as she walked home with Seena in tow. The Speckled Kiko was deep in thought all the way back to their house.

     * * * * *

     A strange feeling of joyful pride resided in Seena's chest as she bounced down the concrete road, her four pages filled with careful ink writing held tight in her fin. The slight breeze ruffled the papers every few steps; had the light wind been a storm, the Kiko would not have let her prized work go.

     Two hours was all it had taken to produce this piece, and yet she felt more satisfied with it than she had in all her days and weeks of practicing games over and over again. The feeling of holding a pen against a sheet of paper was a wonderful change from the monotony of twisting pipes. The sense that she was creating something that she and others could enjoy rather than bending to the will of the insatiable juice-guzzling Meepits was wonderful. She felt as if she had done something worthwhile for once.

     A tingle of excitement ran up Seena's spine as she entered the Neopian Times office, and her heart began to inexplicably beat faster. The sun shone on the Kiko as she entered the white-walled building. As she walked through the door, she checked her papers quickly, flipping through them to make sure she hadn't lost a sheet on her way over, unlikely as that was. Reassured that her story was intact, she looked around the building, taking in everything she saw.

     The floor of the lobby was shiny marble. Seena marveled at a few White Weewoos that were flying around indoors. It appeared that even this prestigious establishment could take the time to care for Petpets. Though when she spotted a bit of writing some prankster had put on one of the pristine walls, she wondered how prestigious the place could be if its staff didn't bother to clean off an obvious mark on the wall. She shook her head at the dirty paw print and the words "Chet Flash wuz here," and moved on.

     A Gnorbu secretary pointed Seena towards the editor's office. The Kiko thanked her and headed towards it eagerly. Despite her earlier scoffing at the newspaper, the prospect of being published was exciting. She checked her papers one last time and walked through the open door.

     * * * * *

     The large stack of paper on Miss Droplet's desk was slowly shrinking as she read through the day's submissions. She glanced over a single sheet of paper long enough to see that it was covered in large, scrawling writing that she could barely read. It was too short for the word count, she knew. Reject that one. She picked up a ten-page short story and looked through enough of it to see that it was all random gibberish. She hoped that was the result of someone's Mirgle banging on a keyboard and not a serious attempt at writing. Reject that one; for the sake of the Neopian Times' honor, she couldn't afford to give Mirgles the benefit of the doubt. The next submission she picked up consisted entirely of chatspeak. Ouch, that was worse than the Mirgle nonsense. Reject that for sure.

     Miss Droplet leaned back in her chair and let out a weary sigh. That week's issue was slow in coming together. She had gotten some good submissions from the regular writers, but in the name of fairness, she published some works from newer authors as well. Unfortunately, so far she hadn't seen much up-and-coming talent in that set of submissions. The readers of the newspaper would be unhappy if she let a piece written in Mirgle-talk go by. She doubted Mirgles read the Neopian Times, anyway.

     "Weewoo," cooed the white bird that regularly kept Miss Droplet company. The editor looked up, and saw the door of her office silently opening. An unfamiliar Speckled Kiko stood in the doorway, holding some papers. She looked at Miss Droplet, and, after hesitating a moment, walked bravely up to the editor's desk.

     "Hello," Miss Droplet greeted her with her usual smile. She hoped this Kiko had brought some comprehensible material for her reading pleasure.

     "I've come to submit a short story," the Kiko said, holding out the papers. "My name's Seena."

     "Thank you; I'll consider them for the next issue," Miss Droplet said politely. She took a quick glance through the papers and was delighted to find that there were sensible sentences written on them. "I'll let you know if your short story is accepted."

     Seena flashed her a smile as she left the office. Miss Droplet grinned and settled back in her chair to read.

     The story had not a bit of chatspeak, much to the editor's relief. It wasn't the most brilliantly written story in the history of Neopia, certainly, but one could hardly expect a masterpiece from a first-time writer. The plot was simple, the characters were somewhat bland, and the writing was a little choppy, but it was acceptable. The best thing about it was that not once did Droplet suspect that a Mirgle had taken part in its creation.

     * * * * *

     "Dina! I'm being held over!" The Speckled Kiko's fins trembled with excitement as she clutched the letter she had just received in the mail.

     "What's that mean?" Her sister wrinkled her brow as she peered at the yellow paper.

     "It says I'm being considered for publication. She actually wrote to me! I didn't think I would really get a response!"

     "I think that's a form letter," the Strawberry Gelert said gently.

     Seena's thrilled expression faded a bit. "Well, still... At least I know my story wasn't ignored." Her voice was hopeful. Her desire to be published overrode any disdain for the newspaper that lingered in her mind.

     "Good for you, Seena." Dina smiled. "Now might be a good time to read through the rest of the Neopian Times and see what other pets have written."

     "I'll do that later," Seena said. Still clutching the letter, she began bouncing upstairs to her room. "I have an idea for another story I want to write."

     "You haven't played Meepit Juice Break yet today," Dina reminded her. "We need all the Neopoints we can save up."

     "You play it. I'm tired of it." Seena disappeared into her room, intent on getting to her desk and a writing instrument.

     Dina sighed, but a smile rose on her face as she headed out into the gentle spring wind to take her sister's place at the home for lost Meepits.

     In her room, Seena listened to the sound of the front door shutting and locking. The Kiko went over to the door of her own room and carefully closed it, despite knowing that there was no one home to disturb her. This precaution taken, she sat down at her desk and stared at the stack of blank paper on it, beside which lay an assortment of pens. She dropped the recently received holdover letter on her desk and stared at it for a moment longer, then bent over her desk and began to write.

     Pausing after a few sentences, Seena found herself heading back downstairs and picking up the issue of the newspaper that Dina had left draped over the couch. She felt her eyes drawn to the numerous stories in the Neopian Times. Scanning the many words, she thought that perhaps its pages held the works of good writers after all.

     * * * * *

     Miss Droplet walked into her office, ready to begin a new day of sending out acceptance and rejection letters and sifting through the endless pile of submissions from aspiring writers and experienced Times contributors. She checked her pile of held over material, ready to be added to the next issue of the Neopian Times. She found a short story at the top of the pile, a simple one written by a Kiko named Seena. Thinking little of it, she moved it into the pile of work to be published in the next issue. She took a copy of an acceptance letter, addressed it to Seena, and handed it to the White Weewoo sitting on her desk. It obediently took the letter in its beak, ready to deliver it to Seena's mailbox at the editor's command.

     Miss Droplet glanced at the box full of unsorted submissions, and noticed a familiar name at the top of a page. Seena had submitted another work. Droplet smiled; it was always nice to see an enthusiastic new writer. She picked up the story and began to read.

     Beyond the closed white walls of the office, the trees and grasses of Neopia were springing up bright green, and flowers were poking their heads up from the earth for the first time. Baby Weewoos cooed in their nests, longing for the day when they took to the air for the first time. New life was beginning throughout Neopia. Even the Meepits in the vents were multiplying.

     Sitting in her cubicle in the Neopian Times office, Miss Droplet saw little of this. She heard the running patter of tiny Meepit footsteps alongside the big ones in the walls of the office, felt small eyes staring at her as well as the larger ones, but thought little of the new birth the spring brought. She did, however, see the new writers beginning their journey in the Neopian Times. While outside, White Weewoos stumbled and fell in their attempts to rise into the coveted air, Droplet sent off rejection letters to those writers testing the waters of publication and didn't quite know how to swim yet, as well as acceptance letters to the ones who knew how to paddle just well enough to stay above the surface.

     How proud the new authors were of their work, just as the young White Weewoos were when they learned to fly (without wings, yet!). Many of the new writers flew away after they had gotten the trophy that they sought, but still others continued writing--and it was they that soared.

     The Meepits and Weewoos seemed to grow rapidly. The walls were hot and sticky when the nearly full-grown Meepits went tramping through them with their parents, keeping watch over the Neopian Times office. The sun seemed to think that Neopia was its own personal playground to beam its rays every which way as it pleased, and thermometers were filled with red. Weewoos flew high, where the breezes kept them cool. Wild Meepits burrowed into the ground to escape from the heat. Young pets, like the sun, seemed to think that Neopia was theirs to play in now that school was out. They had all the time in the world, it seemed. Many chose to spend it working towards that high score in their game of choice, as Seena would have done just last year.

     The steady flow of Neopian Times submissions in the Kiko's name told Droplet that Seena was not whiling away her summer hours in the Games Room that year. The editor sipped cold drinks as she read through the daily submissions. Sometimes she thought that the Meepits were longingly watching her intake of Juppie juice rather than spying on her activities.

     Seena was among the writers that continued to fly higher rather than landing before the end of spring. Her submissions kept coming, and Miss Droplet found herself sending rejection letters to her much less often; Seena had learned what rules to follow to achieve publication. Each piece she submitted was an experiment, an attempt to challenge herself at what new things she could accomplish with her writing. Miss Droplet showed her when she succeeded with a shiny new trophy for each.

     The summer heat melted into cool autumn breezes as the sun, tired from its play, retreated into the clouds. Trees' green spring leaves turned orange and yellow, and Weewoos had long abandoned their nests in exchange for the great sky. The rush of submissions that Seena first produced tapered into a slow stream of consistent work. She had found her style. Droplet, too, had settled into a rhythm perfected by the months on the job. No longer the new Neopian Times editor, she was the Neopian Times editor.

     Though memories of times past could not help but find their way into Neopian Times fans' heads by the time snowflakes were falling from a misty gray-blue sky, Seena had no such recollection, being part of the recent generation of writers. She knew only Droplet. Every writer would hail to her own generation, and this was Seena's.

     Seena's stories kept Miss Droplet on the edge of her warm seat as she sipped hot cocoa with ghost marshmallows. Seena never saw how the editor read and enjoyed every in-depth description that flowed from her pen, never knew how Miss Droplet identified with the characters of her own creation, never watched Droplet's excitement as plots conceived of her own mind unfolded. She saw only her readers' reactions, after the piece was published. How little she thought that her editor was but a reader, perhaps the most important reader of all.

      * * * * *

     Weewoos were singing joyfully on this fine green day. The last of the winter's snow had melted, and a few shy new flowers were poking out of the ground. The Speckled Kiko smiled at the clear spring air as she headed down the familiar path that led to the building she had come to love. Tucked under her fin was her most recent manuscript, her current pride. The last year had been spent cultivating and pruning her writing skill. Now, as the flowers soon would, she was blossoming.

     Seena smiled at the smudged paw print on the inside wall of the office, with those same words written above it. "Chet Flash is a tricky character," she chuckled to herself.

     "Hello, Seena. Nice day, isn't it?"

     "Yes, it's good to see that spring has come."

     The Gnorbu secretary waved her in to Miss Droplet's office. Seena walked up to the editor with a smile and placed her recent story on her desk.

     "Thank you, Seena," Miss Droplet said. "I'll look into it."

     Seena nodded slightly and left the office. That was all she and Miss Droplet ever said to each other, and yet Seena knew and greatly appreciated all that the editor had done for her.

     For while Seena had honed her writing on her own, Droplet had watched and encouraged her progress every step of the way.

The End

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