A Bracelet, a Mask, and a Newbie
I was stepping out of the Mystery Island Kitchen the first time I saw him.
He was short and kind of chunky looking, in a tacky flowered shirt that surpassed ten different levels of eye-hurting-ness. He also had, smack on his face, the ugliest square-shaped wooden mask I had ever seen. Okay, so it was the only square-shaped wooden mask I had ever seen, but that didn't stop it from being hideous.
But something piqued my curiosity. Maybe it was the box he was standing behind, or, more specifically, the sudden desire I had to know what was in that box. Or perhaps the overpowering scent of decaying food and cheap dye, killing the "fresh jungle air" which really wasn't all that fresh to begin with.
But more I believe it was the very casual lift of his chubby arm, the even more casual wave back and forth of his hand, and the friendly laughter that came from behind the questionable choice in facewear. That was it. He had me interested, and I had to get some answers right then and there. Then, I did what any mature and responsible person would do. I yelled over to him, taking care to be extra tactful and subtle:
"HEY CRAZY MASK GUY, WHAT ARE YOU SELLING OVER THERE?"
Now I not only had crazy mask guy's attention, but the attention of everyone within a five mile radius as well. The guy's masked head turned in my general direction, and I grinned like an idiot. A few nearby pets and owners scoffed, some just rolled their eyes, and others mumbled about foolish newbies. I ignored them, of course, because THEY didn't understand, THEY didn't know me, what right did THEY have to... Uh... Who are they again? ... They... They... OH. Right. Those people calling me a foolish newbie. THEY will pay. Oh yes. PAY.
"... What are you doing?"
All at once I crash-landed back into reality (it hurt, by the way), and found myself standing in some random part of Mystery Island, shaking my fist at a palm tree. It wasn't really a random part of Mystery Island, though. I was still outside that ridiculous kitchen (that flotsam is crazy if he thinks I'm buying that stuff for him), now with the added bonus of the crazy masked guy AND my Cybunny staring at me. When she got there, I hadn't a clue. Probably when I was trying to remember who "they" were.
I turned to her, smiling. "Do you see that guy over there?"
"Yes, thanks to your violent finger jabbing... It's rude to point."
"Isn't his mask really ugly?"
"Could you be any louder?"
She clapped her paws over her ears. "Oh, Jakie, stop, he's staring right at us."
"Yeah, that's what I've been trying for."
"What in Neopia do you want with him?"
"I have to find out what he's selling. And also the deal with that mask."
"Have you ever thought of just politely asking?"
"Never mind. Just leave the poor man alone, look, he's talking to that Acara there."
"HEY. HEY. CRAZY MASK GUY."
"JAKIE! You'll get us thrown off the island!"
"HEY MASK GUY! HOW COME YOU DIDN'T ANSWER MY QUESTION, HUH?"
"Everyone's staring at us... Oh, for goodness sakes..."
But the crazy mask guy beckoned us over, so I grabbed my Cybunny and ran. She protested every one of the thirty-three steps it took me to end up in front of the odd little box. The tiny blue Acara, clutching some sort of rock-like object, eyed us warily, and walked off as fast as possible. I don't know why, though; we're not THAT scary.
The crazy mask guy propped his elbows up on the box and chuckled. "You ladies aren't from around here, I take it?"
"Roo Island, actually," Rakshaeh replied, at the exact second I shrieked a very calm "ABSOLUTELY NOT." She glared at me. I don't know why either.
Mask guy laughed, louder this time. "Well, you're the strangest pair of Blumaroos I've ever seen."
Super Bunny, as she sometimes known, put her hands on her hips and glared at me again.
"What? Like I knew that it would be mostly Blumaroos living on Roo Island. How could anyone have predicted that?" She slapped her forehead.
Mask guy cleared his throat. "So, you want to know what I got here?"
"Not really." "YES!"
Another glare. I seemed to be getting that a lot.
The guy nodded his head and slid open a little square section of the box. "This, my friends, is the Tiki Tack Tombola. Just stick your hand or paw inside and pick a ticket. If it ends in a 0, a 2, or a 5, you win."
"AND IT'S FREE?" I screeched, unable to find a container for my joy.
"Yup!" Laughed mask guy (or Tombola Man, as he would now be known.)
"SWEET." Before Rakshaeh could say anything, I shoved my hand down inside as far as I could. I'm sure I got at least eight papercuts. I dug around for a while, and eventually came out with a fistful of tickets. On accident. I wouldn't cheat. Really.
"Whoa, little lady, just one now." Tombola Man said, and I managed to part with the other eleven or so tickets which had... followed... me out from their box. With only one remaining, I unfolded it and...
"Sorry ladies!" Tombola Man laughed, reaching on the shelf behind him for a...
Bottle of Blue Sand.
"But I didn't win."
"It's a booby prize," he assured me, bobbing his masked head.
"... Oh..." I said, feeling like I was the one getting compressed in a tiny bottle. Not the sand.
"Try again tomorrow," he said, giving me the thumbs up.
I turned away from the deformed box also known as the Tombola, Rakshaeh following at my heels.
Neither of us said anything at first.
"You didn't expect to win, did you?"
"Good girl. You'll get used to this Neopia thing in no time."
"WAIT A MINUTE!"
"I forgot to ask him about the mask!"
"Hold on, it'll just take a second."
Rakshaeh stood on the beach and waited as I dashed back to the Tombola stand.
But the Tombola Man wasn't there.
HE WAS GONE.
"HEY! TOMBOLA MAN! WHERE ARE YOU?" I shouted, only to have a very angry Kougra stomp up to me. "Can't you read, lady?"
"Yes. I can read. I can read books. I can read magazines. I can read whatever you want me to read, buddy, honestly, if I could read right now, man-"
"THE SIGN! READ THE SIGN!"
He jabbed a finger at a sign tacked on the front of the Tombola. The sign I had failed to notice.
Closed. Back in a hour or so.
"..." was the only intelligent response I could come up with at that moment. The Kougra looked at me for a little while and frowned but after a while I think he got fed up and left. All I could think about was why the Tombola Man had abandoned me after leaving me with a bottle of SAND and other tragic things. When I (once again) crashed landed into reality (it hurt again) I was laying on the ground in front of the box. Boy was I sad. Or tired. Or... I don't know, actually. But I did know that my bracelet was missing.
I stared at my wrist in confusion, noticing it was a lot paler and barer than it usually was. It was lacking a bracelet. My bracelet.
Where could it be?
I sat up, and looked all around me. I reached my hand under the deformed box otherwise known as Tombola, poked around the bushes, and even climbed on some random Skeith's shoulders to get a better view. For some reason he wasn't too pleased about that. I can't imagine why either.
But as I lay crumpled at the bottom of a grove of palm trees ten feet away from the Tiki Tack Tombola, it occurred to me exactly where my bracelet had gone.
(It would occur to you too, if you are smart. If you really don't know... Scroll up.)
It was in the Tombola, along with all those nasty papercut-inducing tickets. I had stuck my arm too far in, and my bracelet slipped off.
All I could think was...
WAY TO GO, JAKIE.
THEY were right. I am a foolish newbie. That's why I have a bottle of sand and not a decent prize like Neopoints or maybe something edible. I'm a complete failure and I'll never ever amount to anything. And you know what? It wasn't even MY bracelet. I borrowed it from my friend. It was probably worth like a bazallion Neopoints and now she's going to be mad. I'm going to get in trouble. They're going to repossess my Neohome and take away my pets and I'll be living on the street all because I stuck my arm too far in a deformed box just because I had to know what was up with the crazy waving mask guy and I hate this place.
I leaned against the tree and rested my head on my arms. Stupid, stupid newbie. [Neopian Word of The Day: Stupid]
"What's wrong, lady?"
I looked up, staring blankly at the rather shiny silver Lupe that had just materialized out of nowhere. He looked concerned.
"... I lost my friend's bracelet... in the Tombola... and it's like everyone said. I'm a foolish newbie. Everyone thinks I'm a weirdo. Plus all I got was sand." I pulled the little bottle of out of my pocket and showed him.
He smiled. "That's no big deal. The Tiki Tack Man will be back soon, you can ask him to help you get it. As for that newbie stuff..." He paused, his ears flicking back. "Well, everyone's a newbie at first."
"I know that. I don't think all of them are like me though."
"Like you... How so?"
He frowned. "I don't think you're dumb. Just... different maybe. Everyone makes mistakes. You'll learn... eventually."
It was the nicest thing I'd heard since I got here.
And he walked off.
"Now what are you doing?"
"Waiting for Tom- I mean Tiki Tack Man. I lost my bracelet in the Tombola."
"You what? Oh jeez. It's probably at the bottom too."
I stood up, brushing the imaginary dust off my pants.
"It was a newbie mistake, but I have learned."
"Learned what, exactly?"
"... I'm not sure..."
"That's quite reassuring. I'm glad to have you as my owner."
"Did you not detect the sarcasm?"
"... never mind..."
This is dedicated to all the newbies out there, because it's hard being new. ;D