Note: This short story was inspired by a particular petpet, can you figure out which one before you finish the tale?
It was a particularly windy Friday morning in Neopia Central. With a cup of Black Cherry Tea in her left hand, The Editor strode forward towards The Neopian Times Headquarters, the establishment that releases Neopia’s newspaper every Friday afternoon.
Being the Editor-in-Chief at the Neopian Times was possibly one of the most coveted positions in all of Neopia, right after Queen Fyora of course! Controlling the mass media was a weapon in itself as a single good review could catapult even the most mediocre restaurant to fame, like a certain restaurant in Maraqua. It was also the reason why she had to re-adjust her cap to hide her face, as a whole legion of NT fans had shown up to commemorate the upcoming issue.
It wasn’t like she didn’t appreciate their devotion, she adored it of course, but she had a lot of work to do and she didn’t want to be sidetracked by fans. As she made her way through the crowd, she couldn’t help but smile as she could hear dozens of NT groupies gush about the famous NT mascot and explain why he deserved that title. She could even see NT collectibles like the coins, plushies, and figures in the clutches of a few avid NT admirers.
Once she made it into the establishment, it was as if she stepped into another dimension. Tension and anxiety were palpable in the air, the complete opposite from the rabid excitement outside. Freelancers and avid readers were lined up in front of the Customer Service Desk to speak to The Clerk, the individual responsible for filing customer complaints, concerns, and inquiries.
She regarded her surroundings and could see this week’s Neopian Times evoked a hoard of frustrated writers and illustrators, and an even more stressed-out desk clerk. Even from afar she could hear questions including, but was not limited to: why weren’t their submissions accepted yet, did the editor even receive their work, why their work wasn’t published yet, and was it too late to get into the upcoming issue?
She sympathized with the poor customer representative. She could see that The Clerk was under a lot of pressure and so she gave her a sympathetic nod and a thumbs up for a job well done before heading upstairs to her office to do some work.
Opening her office door, she was surprised to see one of her most dedicated employees sitting on one of her desk chairs, and with a familiar writing utensil on his right hand side. It wasn’t like he didn’t show up at her office from time to time, but she was shocked to see him with a sullen look on his face, which was a far cry from his typical curious expression.
Before she even had a chance the sit down, The Employee stated, “I think I’m coming down with a case of the Sneezles. Maybe I should take the day off...”
She froze in her place. How could this be? He had never once called in sick, even in the bleakest of times! He had always been eager and excited to present the Times, like the happy little fellow he was to everyone!
Trying her best to keep calm, she replied, “This is the 700th issue therefore, unfortunately, I cannot spare you.”
Seeing that her worker was almost on the verge of a breakdown, she reasoned, “How about I run to the Neopian Pharmacy and buy you a Magic Cookie?”
In return, he shot her a look of disbelief and then pleaded, “I just can’t be here...right now.”
She had a feeling this wasn’t a case of the Sneezles. She recently read over an article that examined all Neopian diseases and cures and she remembered the symptoms of Sneezles were a runny nose and sneezing. Since he did not exhibit those symptoms, she suspected it was a falsification. Her suspicions were confirmed after she examined his face and took note of his bloodshot eyes.
Sipping on her cup of tea as she went around her desk to sit down, she continued, “Special NT editions have a tendency to evoke a frenzy amongst journalists, authors and illustrators. However, since this week’s issue commemorates the 700th edition of the Neopian Times, it is understandable why this day is a source of frustration and panic for many, and especially for you.”
“Yes, I’ve been working at the NT for many years.”
Doing a bit of math, she theorized, “From what I gather, it has been about five and a half years, correct?” And before her employee even had a chance to nod, she added, “Yet you have never once called in sick. Do you not wish to work here anymore?”
“No! I love the Neopian Times. It’s the best job in the world! Knowing that readers see me associated with every single issue is a dream come true!”
As an Editor, she knew she had to go above and beyond what her freelance journalists and illustrators could do. From her years of experience, she recognized what was said wasn’t as important as what was implied. Acknowledging that and using it to her advantage had propelled her career to becoming the Editor-in-Chief of the Neopian Times in just a couple of years. Thinking quickly on her feet, she probed some more, “Then why on this particular day do you complain of being sick? You just stated that you adore the NT and it is the 700th issue after all. It’s all counterintuitive, don’t you think?”
Working her way from a freelance journalist to Editor Chief was no easy feat. What really made her outshine her co-workers was her ability to know when someone was evading the truth. Her deduction skills and abiding by the motto that silence was golden had catapulted her career, as she noticed that most people filled up silence with things that hinted at the truth. Seeing that her employee was speechless spoke volumes, she asked, “It’s not just the Sneezles, is it?”
In return, the employee reluctantly shook his head and dejectedly lowered his head in shame. “I just need to get away from this place. I promise I’ll return to my normal self Monday morning… and mostly slime-free too,” he shyly mumbled as he grabbed a tissue to wipe off some slime dripping from his face.
Just when they were about to get to the core of the problem, her assistant popped his head into the room. “Sorry for intruding, but I have the draft of the 700th issue. We need your okay in order to begin printing.”
Releasing a sigh, she nodded her head and signaled him to come in. Turning to her distressed employee, she said, “Don’t worry, I’ll try to let you go home as early as I possibly can. Just a few more hours, alright?”
The Employee nodded his head and left the room to leave the Editor to finish her work. The Assistant unrolled the overhauled newspaper on her desk and began to point out all the recent alterations. Even though she was offering suggestions and making comments about the newly added articles and newly appointed headliner of the week, her mind was focused on the conversation she just had with her employee.
Multitasking was also one of her many talents.
Bloodshot eyes indicated that he had recently been crying. Seasonal and commemorative issues always evoked a period of mania, yet he had done it numerous times that it was almost a norm to associate special edition issues with overtime. And finally, he needed to get away… right now.
“Those fans outside our headquarters are stirring such a craze! Did you know I almost had to breakup a fight over two Neo-citizens arguing over the mascot of the Neopian Times? He must be under a lot of pressure to please all his fans!” she heard her assistant remark.
And all of a sudden, realization dawned on her. Five and a half years of work. The fans. The pressure to please. The memorabilia. And more importantly, why he needed to leave this place.
She quickly jumped out of her swivel chair, outright scaring her assistant. Paying no attention to him, she ran to the NT Archives room and began scanning through every publication since issue #150.
Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped. It all made sense! Her flustered employee didn’t want to leave because he didn’t want to be there, he needed to leave because he was depressed!
Realizing what her employee wanted all this time, she raced to her office where she saw her assistant twiddling with a red crayon in his hands. She quickly grabbed it and cried out, “I’ll be right back!” and ran towards her upset employee.
Huffing and puffing, she approached her employee’s corner desk and saw him laying face down on his desk.
She always found the beginning of a conversation was always what sets the mood and tone of it. Metaphorically speaking, a conversation was just like writing a story, how it ended was just as important as how it began. Thinking quickly on her feet about the correct way to proceed, she started with, “We’ve been through a lot, haven’t we?”
Peering over to her, the Employee figuratively added, “To Virtupets Space Station and back.”
“From the Atlas of the Ancients, Journey to the Lost Isle, to even the Altador Cup, we’ve dedicated our entire lives to not only report the facts, but analyzing and reflecting the events to ensure our readers know the going-ons across Neopia.”
Not understanding what the Editor was trying to say, the Employee simply nodded his head in agreement.
“Passion is fickle, don’t you think? Just like a burning flame it is easier for it to burnout than blaze as hot as the sun.”
Gauging the topic, the Employee quipped, “You can always use kindling?”
She laughed. “Our passion begins with a spark of interest, whether it is a story we haven’t explored yet or someone’s glimmering eyes. Either way, it engulfs our minds and sets our path in life. At the same time, without kindling, we can never truly attain our full potential,” she cryptically replied.
With the Employee’s eyes focused on her, she elaborated, “It can be difficult to always be on the Times and deliver news, some bad, some good. Did you know it was because of you that I began my journey in writing that has led me to become Chief Editor?”
Shocked to his core, The Employee jaw dropped. Did he really make that much of an impression on The Editor?!
“During my study at Brightvale University, I would read The Neopian Times and I would always see your face on the front page. You became a source of comfort to me, especially through dark times, like the Obelisk War or the Faerie Ruins plot. I hoped that I would be lucky enough to share the spotlight with you, and now I’m proud to say that I do.”
“We at the NT believe hard work pays off, and I understand the pressure of pleasing a fan without actually getting any kindling, in this case, appreciation. I also recognize that your dedication has been overshadowed by a certain someone else,” she finally revealed as she pointed to the crowd of avid NT fans outside.
“But you being here, on the face of the NT, has jump-started many people who didn’t know what they wanted to become, like me, to become the people we are today. Your dedication and commitment, especially working through 550 straight issues, is an accomplishment in itself. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate all your work and I apologize for not saying it sooner.”
With tears rolling down his face, for the appreciation that was long overdue, that he had always and dearly wanted anyone to say, he hiccupped a simple “Thank you.”
“No, thank you. I must get going as the 700th issue needs me. I’m sure you’ll be there for the release?”
Regaining his composure, he responded, “Absolutely, you cannot stop me from delivering the news!”
Just as she was about to leave the office, she turned around and winked. “Oh, and before I forget, you left this in my office. You forgot your red crayon. I’m sure you’ll need it, Slorg.”
Neopian Times Trivia: This trusty Slorg has been on the face of The Neopian Times since Issue #150!
Author’s Note: Congratulations to the hardworking writers, journalists, illustrators, and most importantly, our amazing editor and NT staff! Without your help, we could not have achieved this monumental moment! On this special issue, let’s take some time to not only appreciate them and the mascot of the NT, the white Weewoo, but also our often overlooked editorial Slorg. Happy 700th Neopian Times!