The Eights’ Shift, Stories

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      And Opening.

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      Ann glanced vaguely over the bookcase, wondering where her dictionary was. Did people still use dictionaries in book form? I suppose any book will do for the purpose, she decided, and reached for the nearest book, a book about Rembrandt. She opened it randomly five times, using a ball point pen as a pointer, and selected five words for Prof Underbaker’s assignment.


      What a coincidence, I might be able to kill two birds with one stone here, Ann thought, with a slight shudder at the bird killing metaphor (if it was indeed a metaphor, Ann tended to skip the Labelling Words classes)…


      Ah, but who? Who shall I excite?


      Pointed in the right direction? Addressed someone pointedly? Not to put too fine a point on it…


      Ann was interested to note that her selection of words started with the word NOW and ended with TIME, and popped it into her clue box in an effort to stay on course and finish the assigment.


      There was no time like the present. Indeed T’Eggy was well aware that All is Now, she’d heard about that theory in Wicks, the online magazine that she’d found so enlightening. She’d been reading a copy of Wicks (a reproduction, the originals were now collectors items and very valuable ~ in an artifact rather than a monetary value kind of way, monetary value having been devalued in the early part of the century) in the teleport waiting room when she met the handsome foreignor in the dusty blue robes. Of course, it was not unusual to meet foreignors in the teleport waiting room, not unusual at all, but the tall, dark, and handsome stranger had excited her. Perhaps it was the flash of long lean tanned thigh that she glimpsed as his robes caught on the door knob. Of course, even the ‘waiting room’ was a retro touch, because there was no need to ‘wait’ for teleport travel. It seemed ironic in a way that folks in the old days had perceived ‘waiting’ as an onerous thing, an somewhat unpleasant period of clock watching and crossword puzzle books. These days ‘waiting rooms’ were popular places to meet people and choose probability pools. The latest trend was Turtle Nights, and Frog Nights, where men and women gathered in waiting rooms to choose partners, to find that special someone, loosely based on the old Hen and Stag nights.

      “Do teleport stations have door knobs, Ann?” Pedro interjected.

      “Oh!” Ann was momentarily non plussed.

      “Non plussed? Is that a word?” asked Pedro.

      Pedro, stop interrupting! The assigment isn’t to design a teleport station!”

      The teleport station had been designed in retro style, a facsimile of the Atocha train station in Madrid. Lack of need for physical details had not resulted in a lack of appreciation for physical detail simply for it’s artistic merit, not to mention historical educational value, and the TRANS (Teleport Relative to Any Now Space) Station was an award winning example of old fashioned detail. Why, it even had doorknobs, even though doors had been dispensed with several decades ago.

      “I thought the assigment wasn’t to design a teleport station?” asked Pedro.

      “Does it bloody matter?” retorted Ann, with a hint of exasperation. “The overall point is to write rubbish, and that’s what I’m doing!”

      “I’m glad you pointed that out, Ann” remarked Pedro helpfully.

      “Oh my god, look at the time!” Ann exclaimed. “It’s time for class!”

      “Bugger that!” snorted Pedro. “I’d rather hear about what happened with T’Eggy and that tall dark stranger!”


      It was a pleasant walk to the Academy from Ann’s student digs, the leafy suburbs of Poubelleville were dappled with sunlight and sweetly scented with lilac blossom. Bird twittered in the trees and miniature zebras nibbled at the grass verges as Ann made her way to class. As she walked past a sidewalk cafe she spotted Monica, or rather Monica spotted Ann, and called her over to join her for a cup of rhubarb tea. Ann had forgotten she was late for class, and gave Monica the customary seven kisses ~ three on each cheek, and a final one on the nose ~ and pulled out a chair.

      True to form ~ for Monica was the Academy’s best known gossip ~ after the inital pleasantries, the conversation soon turned to the latest scandal. Max the janitor, one of the students, and Professor Moose had been caught engaging in a menage a trois in the broom cupboard.

      “All in aid of an assignment, so they said” explained Monica. “Who did you choose for your menage a trois, Ann? You’re in old Moose’s class, aren’t you?”

      “Yeah, but I didn’t translate the assigment that way.” Ann frowned. “Gosh, I wrote a haiku about slobber instead, everyone will think I’m all prim and prunes.”

      “Well, we only need one more” replied Monica with a sly grin.

      “What?” Ann blushed as she cottoned on. “Oh!”

      Monica wriggled about in her chair, revealing an expanse of lean tanned thigh, not altogether accidentally.

      “Mind if I join you?” asked Good God Gordy, calling to the waiter for a cup of Hornygoatweed tea.


        G3 (short for GGG, which was shorter for Good God Gordy) asked as if to himself “Anyone met the Fisherman yet?”


        Gremwick put down the Psychic Politics book he’d taken for his assignment, his five words written on a lemon coloured sticker:

        Oof… here we go, “state — briefly — fisherman — library — pigeons”… There’s a bit of challenge here. he sighed, mostly uninspired.
        “Perhaps I should have stayed with the easy words like ‘more, is, less, think, true’”.


        “Do you mean the Fisherman’s coming? How long has it been already?” Ann started to count briefly on her chubby fingers.
        “Well, I guess if you’d be more assiduous in Pr. Rose’s class in bird divination, you’d found out that the pigeons’ flight was unmistakably precise on that matter.”
        “I tried, believe me, I tried to pay more attention,…” Ann said, “but frankly, I prefer direct experience of the broom cupboard to the draughty corridors of the library…”
        “Oh, I should say I’m a bit disappointed at you; I’ve always believed the state of dustiness would have been an incentive to you rather than a deterrent.”

        “Don’t underestimate the incentive of detergent” Monica said almost mischievously under her breath.


          Ann knew what Monica was really thinking. Monica was thinking she had chubby fingers. Ann hated that.

          “Uppity Tart’” she whispered spitefully under her breath. Then, feeling a tad guilty at her uncharitableness, and wishing she could be as inwardly lovely as old .. what’s her name, she quickly changed the subject.

          “Apparently I am a challenge in the Continuity Class!”


            Chubby fingers? Ann examined her long artistic slender fingers for the umpteenth time. What on earth was Gremwick on about?

            OH! Suddenly it hit her. He was writing about that probable Ann that branched off years ago, that bloated old alcoholic Ann. But she was still in the dark about that reference to detergent.


              “Ahaha, in the dark broom cupboard with Dieter Jentz, indeed!” the cleaning lady couldn’t help but snicker with a raised eyebrow upon a pair of rolling eyes (quite a feat to accomplish one should add).


                But Ann had already briefly fallen asleep in one of her bouts of narcolepsy she was well-known for.


                  Ann had unexpectedly found herself in the hot seat, so to speak, after using the bidet immediately after chopping up chillis in the kitchen. Pondered the symbology of the mishap, she couldn’t help but think of the word ‘rekindling’ and wondered if this might be of some use for Prof Moose’s assigment. Clearly, had she used a little more dish washing detergent on her long slender fingers, she wouldn’t have experienced the ‘rekindling’ at all.


                  Godfrey stood looking up the pigeons sitting on the statue of the Academy’s founding father, Walter Melon, pondering the symbology.

                  “What do you reckon the symbology of that is, Aaeiulie?” he asked his colleague, this years alien-Xchange visiting professor, Aaeilulie Gub, from the Worserversity in the Slooperniff Dimension.

                  “No idea, God, I’ll use this as my next class assignment, see what the students come up with. Anything else, or just the statue and the pigeons? Keep it simple, profound? Or convoluted but with lots of options?”

                  “Oh keep it simple, if I know those students, they will manage to convolute even the simplest ideas.”

                  “If they didn’t, we’d be out of a job” said the alien.

                  “We don’t call them ‘jobs’ anymore, we call them S.M.I.L.E.S, or Something Marginally Interesting, Lucrative & Enlightening.”

                  With a perfectly straight face the alien replied “What rubbish.”.



                  “And anyone” continued Professor Gub “who hands in their assignment written in Slooperniff instead of English will be eligable for the draw for the trip to the Worserversity in September. Any questions?”



                  “Yes, sorry Sir, can you repeat the assignment please Sir?” asked Lavender, politely. Having just recently enrolled in the writing class, at Harvey’s suggestion after the appalling Limerick fiasco, she was finding Professor Gub’s strong Slooperniff accent rather hard to decipher.


                  Professor Gub smiled kindly at the young student. It was a common trait of the individuals in this dimension that they needed endless repetitions of information before they could assimilate it, and Prof Gub assumed that this was simply another example of the density of the inhabitants. It hadn’t occured to him that his words weren’t clear enough, as in his own dimension, the words were always accompanied by the clarity of the energy of the meaning behind the words.

                  “The assignment is to explain the symbolic significance of a statue of Walter Melon with pigeons sitting upon it. “ he explained. “Simple and profound, lengthy and convoluted, the choice is yours.”

                  Turning to Lavender, he asked “Are you understanding?”

                  “Oh yes, thank you, now I am” replied Lavender politely. The student sitting next to her, the enigmatic and dashingly handsome Dieter had helpfully passed her a note with Prof Gub’s words translated into plain English.


                    Meanwhile, Pr. Gub was preparing her new course in Artistic Making of Interdimensional Bleedthroughs (AMIB for short), which her alien origin made her extremely entitled to teach. The course was more commonly known as “Crop Circle Making” inside the Worseversity, and was quite a hit every year (and one could believe not only because of the mistaken association of ‘Crops’ with Special Crops :yahoo_hypnotized: ), so that only the most motivated and creative students could enlist.

                    Aaeiulie Gub’s new design was done. Among copious sacred and profane geometric, she had chosen for it the overall shape of her favourite animal on this planet, a glaring glamorous owl. Now that the design was almost done (there was always a little leeway for improvisation every time, especially when the farmers wouldn’t like it), they would gather in one of the serene spots of the Worseversity’s park to manifest it in other dimensions…



                    Yurick and Yann jolted up from the couch at the sound of the crashing pot.

                    “What on Earth are they on about… again!”

                    Their two new cats Eeckup and Eelas were practising their new hops and jumps, reaching for the topmost shelf of the cupboard, where the pot full of earth, and topped with the remains of a dying dry plant was put —they’d thought, out of reach of the little beasts. :cat_confused: :cat_happy:

                    “You know what?” Yurick said after having vacuumed the remains of dirt on the carpet “it may sound a bit strange (perhaps completely nuts even), but I had the impression Eeckup was making something with the plants just before I surprised it…” :cat_happy:


                    “Is old Gubby male or female?” whispered Lavender. To be honest, she didn’t really care much, but she did want to maintain the conversation with the gorgeous Dieter.


                    “What do you think Harvey? It is my first assignment in the new writing course. I really think I have made progress with my limericks.” Lavender beamed proudly at Harvey. “It is written in Sloopernoff and is full of rich symbolism, indeed, it cleverly elaborates on the symbolism in a coded form inherent in the precise rhyming structure required for the pure art form of the limerick poem. I think Gubby will be impressed. Okay, put down that zebra and listen:

                    They made a fine statooe of Melon
                    which pissed off his thirteenth wife Ellen
                    When a pigeoon stoopped by
                    She said with a cry
                    That man was a nasty oold felon!”


                    “To be perfectly honest dear, I wouldn’t be very outwardly lovely if I were to be honest.”
                    “Another of your convoluted ways to say it’s rubbish” Lavender said with a smile “But that’s fine, you know. It’s also meant as a test of honesty… And as I’m not sure you heard it properly anyway, a little honesty wouldn’t have hurt you know.”

                    But it seemed Harvey’s attention had already gone somewhere else. “Are you even listening to me?” Lavender said with a lovely voice practicing the delicate guttural accents of Sloopernoff, snapping back Harvey’s attention to the conversation.
                    “Oh, you were speaking… I’m sorry, I’m starting to worry that Ann’s narcolepsy is contagious.”
                    “Always the worrywort…”

                    As they were talking surrounded by the soft dusty specks of the library (which every time annoyed Lavender quite extensively, as she wasn’t so fond of the taste of dust bunnies and didn’t see with the same eye as Ann the archaeological value of burying useful things in dust), Gremwick the mad Dean of the Worseversity passed by with a yellow sticker stuck to the back of his trench coat.

                    “Looks like mad old Gremwick isn’t doing so good recently hey… Seems like he was droning about taking the students’ courses to check on their quality last time we heard of him…” Lavender looked empathetic.
                    Harvey was smiling “If you ask me, he might just be wanting to know if the rumor of Prof Gubby’s nine nipples were true or only sheer fantasy”
                    “I wonder which perverted mind’s fantasy it could be” sighed Lavender unimpressed.


                    Monica was asking Pedro about Pr. Moss last assignment. Everybody had been very impressed by his story teller talent and she wanted to know more about it. He was quite secretive though, and maybe it was because he was not a native English speaker, but nonetheless she wanted to know about some details.

                    Before he could say anything, she felt an excruciating pain in her belly and the announcing signs of intestine problems…

                    — Are you ok, asked Pedro? What was that strange noise?
                    — Nothing! she eluded quickly. I need to go to the bathroom, excuse me.

                    Another spasm almost made her fall on the ground.

                    Damn Pr. Flipswitch! she thought, I shouldn’t have accepted to try the herbs he gave me after his herbal course.


                    Gremwick was glad the Fisherman had come to repair the Cloud Fishes of the Inner Aerial Pool of the Worseversity.

                    It’s been a few days that he’d noticed an unusual lack of randomness in the swimming patterns of the little Cloud Fishes.
                    As they were usually used for the divination courses, no sooner was the issue identified than the students had to temporarily recourse to the use of pigeons for their assignments —which sadly left a stinking trail of devastation on the usually pristine marble floors that greatly infuriated Charity, the cleaning lady, otherwise known for her great patience and candor, who’d kept cursing like a sailor against the winged demonic creatures the last past weeks.

                    The incident in itself was not of immense consequence in the grand scheme of things, but it felt worrisome for the Dean that these swimming creatures known for their quite reliable and, yes, totally unfloundering randomness had suddenly decided to adopt a monotonous pattern.
                    In that disposition, they were merely echoing the requester’s requests in a manner of a mirror instead of evoking strange and obscure meanings from the depths of the universe.

                    It had amused the students very much, as it was making their assignments apparently far easier —there was no thing left in need of deciphering, unless the students’ requests were themselves incoherent, which could on occasion happen especially after the Special Crop Circle Lessons. As no incident was without meaning, the Dean had pondered this one, but without any satisfactory answer as of yet.

                    At least, it had been the occasion to meet the Fisherman, and to ponder on the plainness of a world without unpredictability.


                    Home made LSD was a bit tricky. Amaury Flipswitch had tested some in his last potion and now he was having difficulties focusing.
                    Speaking with Ann, he was seeing her blinking in and out with all the discrepancies in the communications that it could generate.

                    He didn’t know if she had heard his last answers to her questions… but whatever… he couldn’t hear her last question either.
                    ‘Yes’ he answered.

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