Pop﹡in People Tribulations

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  • #124
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Yes, dear, it’s all true, you’re dead as a doornail. Now, please take a seat, and be quiet.”

    If not for her rebelling nature, Granola would have left it at that, and would have jumped onto the glimmer train into the light for a happy ever after. But she had to question. “And err… Sir, are there any other options? Ways I could come back, and help?”.

    “Oh dear, don’t tell me you want to be one of them.”

    The disdain in the tone of the white robed dolent man was enough to convince her. She had to be part of them, whoever they were.

    As soon as she had signed the form, everything disappeared.

    She waited,… a long time… cried, pleaded even. Almost prayed, but mostly brayed. A long time.

    And then she lost it.

    And the blue turban guy showed up. * Popped * in.

    “Welcome to the Pop-in Tribe!” he said charmingly. “With a little bit of focus, you will find the essence of it to be not so bitter after all…”

    :bee:

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  • #4597
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    There was something oddly off about the new store where Jerk was assigned.
    It’d taken him a few weeks to start realize it, as he was trying to get accustomed to the new environment.
    The more he looked, the more the feeling was getting reinforced. There was for one, this door to the other storey that was blocked by a sort of impregnable charm. Did he unwittingly blocked himself out of this place? Unlikely, as he was usually given the keys to all sorts of places.
    This was definitely annoying as much as it was unusual.
    It was like the neighbours, who’d seemed friendly enough, and despite that, there was something that was missing in their interactions.
    A flaming giraffe for instance, he would have understood the appearance, but a slow smothering of unbridled creativity was a first.
    Where did the fun go?
    They’d said at the last Worldwide Wisdom (a.k.a. Woowoo) Convention that they were done with the Tranche of Truth, and now entering the Tranche of Rules.
    Seems like someone was playing with the rules of the Reality Firewall, and that was not enjoyable…

    That, and those cravings for granola cookies, dreams of roasted marshmallows over a firecamp and red balloons in an elevator… Where was it coming from?

    #4599
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Hidden in a blinking pixel of the monitor of the cash register, Granola was looking at the scene and the silent tempest of incomprehension brewing inside Jerk’s head.
    “Funny,” she thought “that they’d call that a dead pixel… Haven’t felt more blinky in a long while!… But let’s not get carried away.” It tended to have her stray in parallel reality, and lose her way there while making it difficult to reinsert inside the scenes of the current show.
    “Let’s not get carried away.” She admonished herself again.
    Her position in the pixel was a great finding. She could easily spy on all what happened in the shop, and if she wanted, zoom in through the internet cables, and find herself teleported to almost anywhere, but better still, in sequential time. Not bumping and hopping around haplessly inside mixed up frames of times. Aaah sequential time, she wouldn’t have known to miss it as much while she was corporeal.

    “If I knew Morse code, I could probably send Jerk a message…” she felt quite tiny. Is a pixel better than a squishy giraffe?

    “I must get that monitor checked” the voice of Jerk said aloud. “That screen is going to die on me anytime, and I’ll be fired if I can’t cash in for a day.”

    Granola couldn’t blame him for the lack of imagination. How often she’d taken the electronic mishaps as bad luck rather as inspiring messages from the Great Beyond.

    She stopped blinking for a few bits. It felt almost like holding her breath, if she still had one.

    She’d have to upgrade her communications capacities; these four were really in need of a cosmic and comic boost.

    #4606
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Granola was now a pomegranate seed, left on the side of the juicer that Maeve had used to fix herself a pick-me-up juice with some fresh grated ginger and a few leaves of sacred purple basil. Maeve had hesitated to add her all-purpose magic ingredient, the one she’d usually put in all of her secret potions, the mighty turmeric, but seeing the beautiful deep shade of pink the juice had produced, she just thought… an orange-yellow tint of turmeric would have been a shame and just would have ruined it.

    Granola managed to slide a little to the left, squeezing her pulp a bit around the seed, and rotating slightly on the moist kitchen worktop. By doing so, she’d managed to move the kitchen knife and the pomegranate peel out of her line of sight, and she was thus able to peer into the living room where Maeve was sipping her juice with a content look on her face.

    #4610
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Next on her list was Shawn-Paul. Or at least, she liked to think she had a neat ordered list and a method to her travels, but truth was she would often be propelled to the oddest places by random idea associations and would then pop-in to less than savory spots.

    Not that she didn’t like to see through the eyes of an hideous little teddy-troll made of orgone. Granola had always hated orgone with its trapped garbage in clear resin, sold a million bucks for silly woowoo purposes. It didn’t prevent her projecting into it for one. She was actually wondering if it wasn’t actually working and enhancing her capacity to get irate.

    When she started to feel everything vibrate, she forced herself to slow her thoughts down, and tell the particles trapped in the resin of the orgone teddy-troll to also slow down and breathe with her.

    Now. She had a good view on Shawn-Paul who was strolling along the aisles of the oddest of minerals in the crystal & fossils market. The heat was making the asphalt sizzle at place, and the warm air was making her view blurry in waves of mirages. She tried to send some pop-in energy to get him to notice, but either he was too stoned by the heat, or lost in his thoughts as usual… Of course, there was so little chance that he was simply appalled by the orgone display on the shelves.

    “Focus” she thought, trying to channel her giant essence into the tip of the figurine, she pushed her energy towards SP’s direction.

    The orgone teddy-troll started to wobble and dance precariously above the ledge of the shelve, starting its slow motion fall to the ground.

    The excitement made Granola’s consciousness suddenly untethered and leave for another mental space. She moaned as she couldn’t see if the figurine had landed and successfully drawn the attention of SP…

    #4613
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    For a moment, Granola felt in a dream world. It wasn’t the first time it happened, so she relaxed, and let her consciousness focus despite the distraction from the shimmering and vibrating around the objects and people.

    She was in another mental space, but this one was more solid, not just a diversion born from a single thought or a single mind. It was built in layers of cooperation, alignment, and pyramid energy. A shared vision, although at times, a confused one.

    The first time she’d visited, she thought it was a fun fantasy, like a dream, quickly enjoyed and discarded. But then she would come back at times, and the fantasy world continued to expand and feel lively.

    It slowly dawned on her that this was a projection of an old project of her friends. The more striking was how people in the place looked a bit like Maeve’s dolls, but she could see the other’s imprints —Shaw-Paul’s, Lucinda’s and Jerk’s—, subtle energy currents driving the characters and animating everything.

    It felt like a primordial fount of creativity, and she basked in the glorious feeling of it.

    Once, she got trapped long enough to start exploring the “place” in and out, and it all became curiouser when she found out that the places and the stories they told were all connected through a central underground stream.
    Granola had been an artist most of her life, so she understood how creativity worked. Before she died, she had been intrigued the first time her online friends had mentioned this collaboration game, creating that mindspace filled with their barmy stories. She didn’t believe such pure mental creation could be called real at all.
    Maybe that was the kind of comments that let her friends forget it.
    If only she could tell them now!

    “You could, if you’d hone your pop-in skills, dear”, a random character suddenly turned to her and spoke in the voice of Ailill, her blue mentor.
    “But how can you see me? I’ve tried and the characters of these stories don’t ever see me!”
    “That’s what popping in is all about, justly so!” Ailill had this way of making her mind race for a spin.
    “Now, will you stop hijacking this person, and tell me why you’re interrupting my present mission?” Granola turned burgundy red, increased her typeface a few notches, and pushed her ghost leg vigorously at the story character.
    “Oh, you are right about that. It is a mission.” he smiled, “I think you’d want to go find certain characters, or avatars. Your friends personae are always shifting into new characters, but they hide themselves and don’t progress. Actually, some of them are trapped in loops, and those loops are not happily ever after. You can help free them, so they can recover their trapped creativity.”
    “Well, that doesn’t sound like an impossibly vague mission at all!”

    She was about to continue ranting, but the pop-in effect was gone, and the character was back to his routine, unperturbed by her ghostly agitation.

    #4618
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    She had to smile when she saw the thin blue thread stuck to the dogs collar. Lucinda’s friend Sparrow had just been telling her about an incident involving a blue thread, and his interpretation of it. There had been some discussions about the colour, and suggestions that with a somewhat limited range of perceivable colours, one could hardly assign such a broad category as “blue”, for example, to merely one interpretation, despite many agreeing that they would have interpreted it that way too.

    Lucinda was inclined to find the fact that they’d each seen blue threads more amusing than who the string represented, and considerably more interesting (interesting though it was) than if a single blue thread had been seen by one person, regardless of who it represented.

    The fact that all of this occurred on yet another blue thread ~ in a manner of speaking ~ made the whole thing rather amusingly droll.

    #4624
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The light in the apartment darkened and Lucida glanced up from her book and noticed the gathering clouds visible through the glass doors that opened onto her balcony. Frowning, she reached for her phone to check tomorrows weather forecast. The weekly outdoor market was one of the highlights of her week. With a sigh of relief she noted that there was no expectation of rain. Clouds perhaps, which wasn’t a bad thing. It wouldn’t be too hot, and the glare of the sun wouldn’t make it difficult to see all the the things laid out to entice a potential buyer on trestle tables and blankets.

    Lucinda had made a list ~ the usual things, like fruit and vegetables from the farms outside the city; perhaps she’d find a second hand cake tin to try out the new recipe, and some white sheets for the costumes for the Roman themed party she’d been invited to, maybe some more books. But what excited her most was the chance of finding something unexpected, or something unusual. And more often than not, she did.

    She added birthday present to the list, not having any idea what that might be. Lucinda found choosing gifts extraordinarily difficult, and had tried all manner of tactics to change her irrational angst about the whole thing. One Christmas she’d tried just picking one shop and choosing as many random things as people on her gift list. In fact that had worked as well as any other method, but still felt unsettling and unsatisfactory. The next year she informed everyone that she wouldn’t be buying presents at all, and asked friends and family to reciprocate likewise. Some had and some hadn’t, resulting in yet more confusion. Was she to be grateful for the gifts, despite the lack of her own reciprocation? Or peeved that they had ignored her wishes?

    Birthdays were different though. A personal individual celebration was not the same thing as Christmas with all it’s stifling traditions and expectations. It would be churlish to refuse to buy a birthday gift. And so birthday gift remained on the shopping list, as it had been last week, and the week before.

    A birthday gift had already been purchased the previous week. Lucinda glanced up at the top shelf of the bookcase where the doll sat, languidly looking down at her. She felt a pang of emotion, as she did each time she looked at that doll. She loved the doll and wanted to keep it for herself, that was one thing. That was one of the things that always happened when she chose a gift that she liked herself: she talked herself into keeping it; that it was her taste and not the recipients. That it would be obvious that she’d chosen it because SHE liked it, not keeping the other person in mind.

    But that wasn’t the only thing confounding her this time. The doll wanted to stay with her, she was sure of it. It wasn’t just her wanting to keep the doll. It wasn’t any old doll, either. That was the other thing. It seemed very clear that it was one of Maeve’s dolls. It had to be, she was sure of it.

    When she got home with her purchases the week before, her intention had been to go and show Maeve what she’d found. Then something stopped her: what if it made her sad that one of her creations had been discarded, put up for sale at a market along with old cake tins and second hand sheets? No, she couldn’t possibly risk it, and luckily Maeve didn’t know the birthday girl who was the doll was intended for, so she’d never know.

    But then Lucinda realized she had to keep the strange gaunt doll with the grey dreadlocks and patchwork dress. She couldn’t possibly give her away.

    I hope I don’t find another doll at the market tomorrow, and have to keep that as well! thought Lucinda, and immediately felt goosebumps rise as an errant breeze ruffled the dolls dreadlocks.

    #4625
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Bugger,” said Maeve. “I’m out of butter. What shall we do, Fabio?”
    Fabio rushed excitedly to the front door.
    “Go and see if Lucinda has some butter? Good idea, but you have to do the talking. Okay?”
    Clearly, I am in need of human companionship.
    An old rhyme from her childhood came to mind. She would say it over and over, fast as she could without tripping over her tongue.
    Biddy Botter bought bum butter. Blah said she the butters bitter but if i buy some better butter, better than the bitter butter that will make the bitter butter better.
    Lucinda’s door has the number 57 on the front and a skull door knocker. Maeve’s door was numbered 22 so it made no sense at all. Lucinda opened the door a crack and peered out at Maeve.
    “Oh Maeve,” she said, “Um, hi.”
    “Hi. Is this a bad time? I just wanted to borrow a bit of butter if you have any spare.”
    Lucinda hesitated before opening the door and gesturing Maeve in.
    “Sure,” she said. “Excuse the mess.”
    Maeve spotted the doll right away.
    “What are you doing with Ima Indigo!”
    Ima was sitting on the shelf near the the window, sandwiched between a cracked concrete buddha head and a dying fern. Maeve picked the doll up.
    “May I?” she said, without waiting for a reply.
    She turned the doll over and felt the back seam with her fingers. The stitching was rough and the thread didn’t match the tiny stitches on the rest of the doll’s body. She gently squashed Ima. No key.
    “Where did you get this? Did you take a key out of her body?”
    Lucinda patted Fabio and shook her head, annoyed at Maeve and at the same time feeling guilty.
    “I found her at the market.”
    “Oh my god,” said Maeve.

    #4626
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Shawn Paul had decided that this particular day was dedicated to his writing. He had warned his friends not to call him and put his phone on silent mode. It was 9am and he had a long day of writing ahead of him.
    He almost felt the electricity in his fingers as he touched the keyboard of his laptop. He imagined himself as a pianist of words preparing himself before a concert in front of the crowd of his future readers.
    Shawn Paul pushed away the voice of his mother telling him with an irritating voice that he had the attention span of a shrimp in a whirlpool during a storm, which the boy had never truely understood, but today he was willing not to even let his inner voices distract him. He breathed deeply three times as he had learned last week-end during a workshop, and imagined his mother’s voice as a slimy slug that he could put away in a box with a seal into a chest with chains and lots of locks, that he buried in the deepest trench of the Pacific ocean. He was a writer and had a vivid imagination after all, why not use it to his benefit.
    A smile of satisfaction wavered on the corner of his mouth while a drop of sweat slowly made its way to the corner of his left eye. He blinked and the doorbell rang.
    Shawn Paul’s fragile smile transformed into a fixed grin ready to break down. Someone was laughing, and when the bell rang a second time, Shawn Paul realised it was his own contained hysterical laugh.

    He breathed in deeply at his desk and got up too quickly, bumping his knee in one corner.
    Ouch! he cried silently.
    It would not take long he reminded himself, limping to the door.
    What could it be ? The postman ?

    Shawn Paul opened the door. An old man he had never seen, was standing there with a packet in his hands. If he was not the postman, at least you had the packet right said a voice in Shawn Paul’s head.
    The old man opened his mouth, certainly to speak, but instead started to cough as if he was about to snuff it. It lasted some time and Shawn Paul repulsed by the loose cough retreated a bit into his flat. It was his old fear of contagion creeping out again. He berated himself he should not feel that way and he should show compassion, but at least if the old man could stop, it would be easier.

    “For you!” said the old man when his cough finally stopped. He put the packet in Shawn Paul’s hands and left without another word.

    #4627
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Jerk looked puzzled at the screen.
    As his side job, he was managing the maintenance of a popular website findmystuff.com where people where posting lost&found items, which had turned into a joyful playground at times for groups of pranksters as well as good samaritans leaving stuff for people to find. Monitoring and curating the content was mostly done by an AI these days, but now and then the flagging seemed to require a human analysis, to check if it was a false positive or not.
    Right off, there were some odd blinks on his screen, but if that hadn’t caught his attention, the details of this case certainly would have.
    It was a particular group, not specially overactive, the quiet under the radar group catering to less than a few hundred people at the time, but picking up strongly over the past few days. The group was called “findmydolls” and there was a comment which had been flagged as “fake news”.
    He had to decide to “moderate” (read “delete”) the comment or not, but he couldn’t decide about it.

    Have found one of your dolls, Ms M. Brilliant hiding! During the last Aya trip, I was teleported to some place that looked like Australia’s dream time, and there was your doll. I’m sure it’s there in Australia, a remote place in the middle of the bush, there’s an inn with a flashy fish neon sign over it. Your doll was there, and there was a message. PM for details.

    He shrugged. The rules of the board didn’t explicitly forbid “remove viewing” as a source of clues, nor an astral view was any less flimsy than a vague visual report from the streets.

    He clicked on “approved”.

    #4630
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Oh my god,” said Maeve again. “Do you know what this means?” She put Ima back on the shelf. “You need to water that plant.”
    “No,” said Lucinda. “I mean, no, I don’t know what this means.”
    “I don’t either really,” said Maeve with a sigh.
    “How about I make us a nice cup of tea and you can explain what you do know.”
    Maeve nodded and cleared a pile of books off Lucinda’s sofa so she could sit down.
    “You’ve got a lot of stuff.”
    “Yeah, I’m a hoarder. It’s a bit of a problem but I’ve started getting help for it. I go to ‘Hoarder’s Anonymous’. Have you heard of it?”
    Maeve shook her head.
    “Hi, I’m Lucinda and I’m a hoarder … you know … 12 steps stuff. Same old format.”
    “Cool,” said Maeve, not sure what else to say.

    #4633
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The relief had been surprisingly intense when Maeve had left without taking the doll with her. Lucinda wouldn’t have stood in her way if she’d wanted to take it, of course not. But all the same, she was already starting to worry that Maeve had merely been preoccupied as she dashed from Lucinda’s apartment. What if she came back for it?

    She decided that she wouldn’t answer the door if Maeve came back, pretending she was out, or had gone to bed early. Then she would pretend that she’d sold the doll, no she couldn’t say that! She’d say that the person who’d sold it to her had made a terrible mistake, the treasured doll should never have been at the market.

    But really, Lucinda would keep her. Because the doll had started talking to her.

    #4634
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Before she left, thankful to get back to her own pristine apartment, Maeve told Lucinda the story of the dolls.

    “It’s a long story,” she warned and Lucinda smiled encouragingly.

    “My father’s brother, Uncle Fergus, fell out with my father many years ago. I don’t know what it was about.”

    Maeve took a sip of her licorice and peppermint tea.

    “I just know that one day, Uncle Fergus turned up on his Harley Davidson and there was a huge fight. Father was shouting and Mother was crying. And Father shouted ‘Don’t ever darken our doors again!’

    She shuddered. “It was awful.”

    “I am all ears,” said Lucinda.

    “They aren’t that bad,” said Maeve looking at her thoughtfully. “And your hair covers them nicely.”

    Her hand flew to her mouth as she realised what Lucinda meant.

    “Oh gosh, I am sorry, I see what you mean … Well anyway, I didn’t see Uncle Fergus for many years and I was sorry about that because he would always bring me a gift from his overseas travels — he went to the most exotic places — and then one day he turned up at my apartment out of the blue. He was most peculiar, looking over his shoulder the whole time and he even made me come out on the street to talk ‘in case there were bugs’.”

    “Bugs? Oh, like the things spies use. Wow,” said Lucinda. “Did he have mental health problems or something?”

    “I wondered that at the time. I mean Uncle Fergus was always endearingly loony. But this time he was just … just scared. And there WAS someone following him. I saw her. And she was clearly a spy. She was wearing a black wig and and fishnet tights and thought we couldn’t see her hiding behind a lamp post.”

    Maeve rolled her eyes.

    “I mean, how cliche can you get. Anyway, Uncle Fergus gave me a big hug, like an Uncle would, and whispered an address in my ear where I would find a satchel and he said that inside I would find 12 keys and 12 addresses. He knew I made dolls and he said it would be a perfect way to send the keys to the addresses, inside a doll. ‘Important people are depending on you’ he said.”

    Maeve shrugged.

    “So I did it. I sent the last one a month ago to an address in Australia. An Inn somewhere in the wops.”

    #4635
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Shawn Paul couldn’t help but listen when he heard Maeve’s voice. Was she at Lucinda’s again? He ventured outside his apartment with his unopened packet in his hands in order to have a clearer idea of what they were talking about.
    Not him apparently. They were talking about dolls and spies. He felt a bit jealous that other peoples had such beautiful stories to tell and he struggled so much to even write a few lines. Fortunately he always had a small notebook and a pen in his pockets. He scribbled down a few notes, trying to be fast and concise. He looked at his writing. It would be hard to read afterwards.
    He paused after writing the uncle’s name. Was it uncle Fungus? And the tarty spy in the fishnet, was it a photograph? And what about the bugs, was it an infestation? Too much information. It was hard to follow the story and write while holding the packet.

    He realised they had stopped speaking and Lucinda was closing the door. He suddenly panicked. What if Maeve found him there, listening?
    The time it took him to think about all that could happen was enough for Maeve to meet him were he stood the packet in his hands.

    “Hi she said. You got a packet ?”
    “Yes,” he answered, his mind almost blank. What could he possibly say. He was more of the writer kind, he needed time to think about his dialogues in advance. But, was it an inspiration from beyond he had something to say and justify his presence.
    “Someone just dropped this at my door and I was trying to see if I could catch them. There’s no address.” He turned the packet as if to confirm it.
    “There’s something written on the corner,” said Maeve. “It looks like an old newspaper cut.
    “Oh! You’re right,” said Shawn Paul.
    She looked closer.
    “What a coincidence,” said Maeve, looking slightly shocked.
    Shaw Paul brought the packet closer to his face. It smelled like granola cookies. On the paperclip there was an add for a trip to Australia with the address of a decrepit Inn somewhere in the wops. There was a photo of an old woman standing in front of the Inn, and Shawn Paul swore he saw her wink at him. The smell of granola cookies was stronger and made him hungry.
    He was not sure anymore he would be able to write his story that day.

    #4636
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    It had been a strange tale that Maeve had told her, and Lucinda had a feeling that her neighbour hadn’t told her the whole story. Surely, if one was going to enormous trouble to make lots of dolls, one would ask more questions about why the keys were being sent to particular addresses. But Lucinda hadn’t asked any questions, as she didn’t want to stop Maeve moving towards the door without the doll. If she had done there was a danger that Maeve would remember to take it. Lucinda had wanted to know why that Australian Inn was full of coachloads of Italian tourists, and wondered why Maeve had used the word wop to describe them. It wasn’t like her to be rude, the comment about her ears notwithstanding.

    Granola, meanwhile, from her temporary current vantage point of the dreadlocked doll, was pleased to see that the doll had drawn attention. The misinterpretations were mounting up, but that didn’t matter at this stage.

    “Do you mind?!” hissed the doll to Granola. “Can’t you see there’s only room for one of us in here, and I was here first!”

    “Oh give over, a bit of merging never hurt anyone, least of all a cloth doll. Good lord woman, think of all the tapestry and weaving symbolism of it all!”

    “Oh alright then,” the doll grudgingly admitted. “I feel a ton lighter since passing that dreadful key. Holding on to that made me feel constipated. If you’d barged in while I still had the key, it would have been a bit cramped.”

    Lucinda was looking suspiciously at the doll. “What did you just say?” she asked, feeling ever so slightly foolish.

    “I wasn’t talking to you,” the doll snapped back. Lucinda’s jaw dropped. Well, I never! Not only does the doll talk, it talks to imaginary friends.

    #4638
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Shawn Paul certainly seems like a nice enough person, thought Maeve.

    But had he been evesdropping on her conversation with Lucinda? He seemed so on edge, clutching the packet in sweaty hands, stuttering over the few words he spoke. Not that Maeve considered herself socially adept, not by any means! But, after the talk with Lucinda, her senses were on high alert.

    And the newspaper cutting … surely that couldn’t be coincidence?

    Lucinda said Shawn Paul was a writer. Or was that just a clever cover?

    Oh my gosh, this is making me paranoid!

    Maeve decided to do a bit more research on this Shawn Paul fellow. See if he is really who he says he is.

    It was only then she realised she had forgotten her butter.

    #4639
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The packet lied forgotten on the dining table. Shawn Paul had caught a cold, or had the cold caught him when the old man delivered the packet? Anyway he had stayed home the following day, feverish and nightmarish. He had dreamt of travels on the back of a transluscent blue whale in between dimensions and timelines as it followed a team of teen dragqueens. Of course when he woke up from the dreams he was so tired that he didn’t bother to write them down and forgot all about it, like he had forgotten all about the packet on his dining table.

    The dining table was beside his bed in the dining/bed room/ writing office and it was covered in notebooks, granola cookies boxes and an old rose that didn’t seem to want to die. Being where it was, the table naturally attracted stuffs, not quite like a blackhole but more like a junkyard. So as things were piling up, it was natural that some of them got lost as part of this unusual landscape. The last additions being a few layers of tissues, giving it a shape of a snow mountain. Yes Shawn Paul had some poetic imagination, especially when facing cleaning-up the mess he had accumulated. It helped him accept his current condition without much quivering of his heart.

    The door bell rang.

    To Shawn Paul it sounded muffled and he tried to imagine a scene that could fit in his ambitious novel.

    The door bell rang again, becoming impatient.

    The young man opened the door. It was Maeve and she looked at him from head to toe. Shawn Paul looked at himself and regretted he was still wearing his pajamas. Not that he would have preferred wearing nothing, but you know, a bit of cleaning and dress up.

    “I need some butter,” said Maeve entering the apartment without asking. She seemed to look around as if she was looking for something. But the young man couldn’t be sure as he wasn’t wearing his glasses.
    “Of course,” said Shawn Paul to the door.

    #4641
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Cute pyjamas”, said Maeve helping herself to butter from the refrigerator.

    Maeve didn’t need the butter any longer as she had discovered she could successfully substitute olive oil and the muffins were still deliciously fluffy. However she did need an excuse to enter Shawn Paul’s apartment. Emboldened by recent events, she was privately rather pleased with her recent brazen persona. The Maeve of a week ago would never have barged into anyone’s apartment without an invitation.

    Not finding anything suspect in the refrigerator, except maybe some oranges which looked past their use by date, she scanned the rest of Shawn Paul’s apartment. It was then she spied the package, mostly obscured by old notebooks and granola cookie boxes.

    “Find what you were looking for?” asked Shawn Paul. He had found his dressing gown under a pile of clothing on the floor.

    “Yes, thanks,” said Maeve, brandishing the butter at him and wondering how she could get hold of the package without Shawn Paul noticing. “So, how long have you been a writer? Have you had anything published?”

    A quick google search had not uncovered anything, but perhaps he wrote under a pseudonym. Best to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Shawn Paul looked awkward.

    Or was it guilty? Maeve wondered. While she was pondering this, she had her brainwave. Some would say it wasn’t much of a brainwave really, or indeed, a brainwave at all. But it was the best she could do under the circumstances. And after all, she was now an intrepid investigator.

    “Look over there!” she shouted pointing at the window and at the same time making a lunge for the dining table.

    “What are you doing?” asked Shawn Paul. There was nothing at the window and now Maeve was taking his package.

    “Um, I just adore granola cookies,” said Maeve.

    #4644
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Did madness run in Maeve’s family, was that it? She’d admitted that her Uncle Fergus was a paranoid old loony, and it was becoming obvious that Maeve herself was becoming a little unhinged. What was she doing, galloping out of Shawn Paul’s door, and what was all that gleeful cackling for? It was going to make Lucinda’s plan to get the twelve addresses harder, with Maeve being so unpredictable. She would simply have to be prepared to take advantage of it and seize any opportunity that arose.

    The fact was, there was no plan to get the addresses, but she knew she had to have them. She had to find the connecting link between them.

    Oh bugger it! Lucinda muttered. Just go for a nice long walk, my girl, and stop thinking about it. She glanced up sharply at the doll, but no, the voice had been her own. This time. I’m going as mad as Maeve, she mumbled as she rammed her feet into a pair of walking shoes.

    “Mad as Almad.” With a pained expression Lucinda spun round to glare at the doll before slamming the door on her and stomping off down the corridor, loudly complaining that that idle cleaning woman had left bits of paper on the floor in between Shawn Paul and Maeve’s doormats. She bent down to pick it up to put it in the bin outside, noticing that it was an old newspaper clipping with a paperclip attached to it.

    “Oh my god!” Could it really be that easy? It was an advert for a trip to Australia. There was a photo of an old woman standing in front of an interesting looking old hotel. The old woman in the photograph had been smiling, the welcoming hostess, when Lucinda first looked at the picture, but she seemed to be frowning now, a searching intent look. Lucinda shook her head and blinked, and looked again. The smiling face in the photograph looked quite normal.

    #4646
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Hi, I believe you have information about a doll. Look forward to hearing more. Thanks! Ms M.

    Maeve gave a loud breath out and pushed POST. She had first put a little message on findmydolls on May 22nd. She remembered the date because it was Fabio’s birthday and she’d been celebrating with a glass of wine which made her unaccustomably bold. She hadn’t expected to hear anything, although for a few days she did check the site regularly. And then forgot about it.

    But what with Lucinda finding one of her dolls at the market and Shawn Paul’s mysterious package … well, she just felt like taking another look.

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