The Time-Dragglers’ Extravaganzas

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    “Whatever you proclaim as your identity here in the material realm is also your drag. You are not your religion. You are not your skin color. You are not your gender, your politics, your career, or your marital status. You are none of the superficial things that this world deems important. The real you is the energy force that created the entire universe!”

    RuPaul , Workin’ It!: RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style’

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      “Madam, I have found something…” Mr R was pointing at a large floating piece of moss in the middle of the bog where they had landed a few days ago.
      “At last,… some excitement, whoo…” said Irina with a deadpan expression that left no doubt as to her current level of excitement.

      There weren’t many clues as to where and when they’d arrived, but she already hated it.
      The bog for one, wasn’t her idea of a great retirement place. Of course, there were probably other places to explore on the island, it wasn’t as if she’d stay here permanently, but for now, if the bog was a nexus point of teleporting, she’d rather stay around, in case others would come from there. That was one of the first thing you learnt during the Training, to secure your entry points. You’d never know what to expect, teleporting whales were probably the least dangerous of the things that could get stranded here. And judging by the amount of strange objects littering the area, she and her robot weren’t the first thing to have been discarded here.

      She’d tasked Mr R, in his immense resourcefulness, to build her a proper watchtower, or just for now, a downsized version of what she’d felt would be a decent one.
      A proof of the robot’s talent was that with barely nothing, he’d managed in the past days to bulldoze a clearing in a less wet portion of the land. There, the light’s plays were purely gorgeous, creating the smallest ripples and endless reflections on the green tinges of the water —something Irina could observe with wonder for hours. Mr R had also managed to cook her a rather lovely braised water rat, with fresh peppermint and lotus roots caramelized in wild bees’ honey.
      He’d already built the foundations of a anthill-sized promontory, with a clean deck where she could rest on a surprinsingly comfortable deckchair made of driftwood and pieces of whatnots gathered around the place. That was were she was enjoying the last minutes of sun for the day, just about when he’d asked her to check on his discovery. It probably was important enough for the robot to disrupt her digestive meditation.

      “Well, well… What have we got here…”
      “It looks like a person, Madam… Female, around 28, judging by her bone structure. Her vitals are subtly low, but it seems she is alive…” the robot said after a careful scanning.
      “Alive? With that color ?” Irina was quite perplexed and slightly amused too.
      She wouldn’t mind some company and probably some intel on the island. Besides, there was a side of her that liked to nurse back to life those poor little wounded creatures. The girl would be her first greenish one…

      “Take her to our place, Mr R” she ordered the robot. “We will soon need double ration of your delicious water rat stew, Mr R”.


        When Jack had sent Lisa a message to ask if Fanella had joined her and Mirabelle in Portugal, she was worried.
        Mirabelle, Fanella has disappeared, do you know anything about it?” asked Lisa. “Did she say anything to you that might give us a clue? Was she planning on going anywhere, did she have any friends outside the village? I know she homesick for 18th century Paris, but she couldn’t possibly have gone back ~ or could she?”
        “Bit of a dark horse, our Fanella,” replied Mirabelle. “Always down by that river on her own, reading that strange old book.”
        “Not Circle of Eights and Other Stories!”
        “Yes, that’s the one. She was practicing projecting to the places in the book.”
        WHAT?? Mirabelle, there’s no time to lose, we must go back to the village at once. If Fanella has been doing that, she could be anywhere, anywhere at all ~ and the trail will be a hard one to follow!”
        “But what about our holiday? And not only that, what about the strange tile that was stolen that we’re supposed to be looking for?”
        “The damn tile can wait.” snapped Lisa. “But I haven’t forgotten your arousing arms,” she added, her voice softening. “But we must find Fanella first.”


        Lisa was not surprised to find on her return to the village that everything had descended into chaos. She knew that her responsibility belief about her herd tribe had something to do with it, and although she detested the word control, she was well aware of her propensity for monitoring and guiding the creatures and characters in her domain. The lifestyle in the village had relaxed her guidelines about fair play to some extent, but by golly some people were lazy slackers at times. But the one thing that got her goat was being kept in the dark. How could she keep a benevolent control if she wasn’t aware of what was going on? When she found out that Fanella had been making a granite box, and that she was the last to know, she was furious.


          Fanella gazed into the dying flames of the campfire, while her toasted cheese cooled. “2121, here I come!” she said in a confident sounding voice, but she shivered in apprehension. 2121, 2121, she repeated, watching the flames, 21 21 12, 21 12 12 1212….21 12…1212…. her eyes were getting heavy and she started to drift off. Is that a tractor coming up the beach? she wondered, Or a motorbike? The very ground was starting to rumble and vibrate.
          Suddenly she was wide awake, and the the flames were towering over her head. The heat was blistering and her head was filled with roaring sounds, and hissing snapping cracks. As she was standing there trying to make sense of her surroundings, someone slammed into her from behind, making her legs buckle ~ there were people running in all directions, carrying babies or buckets of water, portraits or small wooden chests or squalking chickens. It was mayhem in the narrow alleys between the burning houses, showers of sparks and choking blasts, ear splitting shrieks and blood curdling howls assaulted all her senses, as she spun around looking for a way out of this appalling scene.
          “Surely this isn’t the island in 2121!” she exclaimed in anguish. “But if it isn’t then where am I? And when?”
          “This is Southwark, wench, and I can’t believe we’re having another Great Fire already” replied a man in an arousing blue codpeice who was running along beside her. “If you want to get out of here alive, follow me!”
          Fanella was not in the habit of running after strange men, but she couldn’t take her eyes off that gorgeous blue codpiece.


            So engrossed in the blue codpiece was Fanella, that she failed to notice the pair of bamboo chopsticks that the strange man was carrying. Had she noticed, she may well have wondered what was so special about them that they were the only thing he had felt worth saving from the fire.


              Sanso was delighted to have the pretty young woman holding his arm, and greatly amused to notice her fascination with his blue codpiece. “More from us later!” he chuckled to himself. He was in a jolly mood despite the fearsome inferno, pleased with himself for utilizing available objects such as the chopsticks to fascilitate a speedy exit from that ghastly Chinese meal. The teleport had not gone exactly to plan ~ he had intended to join his old friend the Map Dancer at The Blue Cod Hotel on Boogie Island in the Antarctic, but had manifested a blue codpiece instead, much to his amusement, although he had no idea how he ended up in London in the year 1212 ~ not until he met Fanella. As soon as he saw her he knew that he had been drawn there purposefully.


                Igor Popinkin had been reading the old book all morning while anxiously waiting for Mirabelle to return from the search for Fanella. Maybe he could find some clues about where Fanella had gone. If he managed to find the missing girl, Mirabelle would be impressed, and perhaps think him a hero, instead of a feckless whoremongering cretin.


                  The Chinese secretary who had Sanso interrogated didn’t show any emotion at the news of his escape. Showing emotion was a weakness, and at all layers of the organisation, the lower rank was kept in the dark and given information only when necessary.
                  The higher the rank, the better they were at compartimentalising, and at shunning emotion altogether. Some even murmured that the topmost executives were robots posing as humans. Notwithstanding, they would have made great poker player, but the Corporations’ goals were much more important than a simple gamble.

                  Despite showing any sign of it, Cheung Lok was pleased to see that Sanso had taken their bait. With a bit of luck, he would drive them straight to Irina, the socialite thief who had mysteriously disappeared with the aid of the mysterious organisation they only knew as “The Management”. The Management had accomplished the exceptional feat of eluding any of their attempts at gaining intelligence and leverage on them, and to this date, their motives were completely opaque and seemingly random to them.
                  However, they always seemed to know beforehand what was to happen, so playing against them was particularly tricky.

                  Cheung Lok, internally smiled to himself. The chopsticks were his idea, and purposefully planted as an aid for his escape. Rightly used, they allowed to create a temporary shield from the antiportation device. That was a loophole they’d hoped Sanso would know about, and indeed he didn’t disappoint. Or maybe he did all by luck, given the personage, that bit was expected, but all the same, the goal was accomplished.

                  A robot carried a briefcase to his desk, and left the room silently.
                  Cheung Lok opened the case, and on the screen, the figures and points on the worlds times maps started to flicker erratically.


                    When Igor read about the three women, Gloria, Sharon and Mavis, he had a sudden inspiration that they were connected to the three maids in some way. Yes, surely there was a connecting link. Perhaps it would provide a clue, a direction to start his search. But what would Fanella be doing in a military hospital in Antarctica? It didn’t sound like a good place to be, but it did sound like a marvellous place to be rescued from. Igor closed the book with a decisive snap. Snap! he exclaimed. The SNAP projection technique will get me there, thank goodness I read about that on the loo this morning.


                      clue bee comes glue


                        Igor snapped into a beehive.
                        He had no clue where or when he was,
                        so busy was he to escape the bees.

                        He wasn’t as good at antiporting
                        as that funny hussy Fanny.
                        The bitch! The beach! Bees don’t like water, he thought in his Russian mother tongue.

                        He didn’t dare open his mouth too wide,
                        Lest some of the inhabitants of the busy nest found a way inside.
                        Poor Igor, poor Pinkin, his body will always avoid bees.


                          The stench of burning thatch filled the scorched air and stung their eyes as they ran towards the river. Fanella struggled to keep up with Sanso, clutching tightly to his arm, sometimes losing her footing in her flimsy sandals and bashing her bare knees on the cobblestones. “Lucky this great fire is a distraction from your unseemly attire, young miss” said Sanso, “Your naked legs are so arousing.” While appreciating Fanella’s charming thighs, Sanso failed to notice that his chopsticks were on fire. A spark had ignited them and they flared bright orange as he threw them down. Within moments they were obliterated into scattered ash. “Chop Chop Cheung Lok, now catch me if you can!” Sanso shouted gleefully.


                            Irina gave an appreciative look at the holographic map that Mr R had made of the island.
                            By a simple triangulation technique combined with sophisticated echolocation, the robot had managed to come up with a rough estimation of it, even though scattered patches were black, representing the blind spots, apparently due to the abundance of water bodies on the island that created interferences.

                            “Well, it actually looks better than I expected, the coast is a bit rocky, but probably more temperate and less humid than here. Some of those spots here seem to hint at habitations…”
                            “Madam is absolutely right” Mr R opined with confidence, and a glimmer of pride in his forehead interface.

                            “When the girl is well enough to travel, we’ll leave.”
                            “She’s still a bit cold and delirious.” The robot assessed, “Her condition has improved steadily, if not quickly. There is a good chance the green won’t go, but she will live.”

                            “Have you finished the sentinel?”
                            “Yes, Madam. It is complete and will serve well in monitoring the gate. Besides water rats and wrecked boats, not much seems to have went through recently. Although…”
                            “Yes Mr R?”
                            “I’m not quite certain Madam, which is confusing for me, but there was a moment were my sensors noticed a presence of a young person, but it lasted only for a few nanoseconds in a row, then I could not perceive it… It probably was a malfunction of my sensors Madam, I apologize, but the humidity…”
                            “I don’t believe your sensors malfunctioned Mr R. I do believe someone’s been trying to phase in, but didn’t succeed. Make sure your sentinel can detect such things…”
                            She went on: “Another thing, before I go for my astral meditation. Did you manage to get me a date? I’m no rocket science expert, but it sounds easier to get than your quite astonishing map Mr R.”
                            “Madam is too kind. And as as always, perfectly astute. This should be easy, but again this modest robot has run into a profoundly perplexing paradox.”
                            “A paradox, how exciting. What is it?”
                            “According to the shifting position of constellations during the nights and the sun’s elevation, the results differ from one day to another. We have to run a few more test to be conclusive…”
                            “Is is a local occurrence?”
                            “It seems to be true for the whole island, Madam. It is currently fluctuating between a series of years, some of which I mapped to the following years, in no particular order: 555, 777, 888, 1010, 1111, 1212, and so on until 2121, and as well, a series of related geographical points on the Earth.”
                            “No wonder it seems to be the garbage collector of the entire universe”, she sighed.

                            Then, something hit her.

                            If myths of such places were to be trusted… Could it be… the mythical Avalon ?
                            If that were the case… Who could well be the mysterious resuscitated bog mummy?
                            One of the island’s Queens ?”

                            She smiled to herself, brushing off the notion. Irina, you’re such a hopeless romantic…


                              “You call that a contract…” Reginald and his two friends, to varying degrees, managed to keep queenly looks in their royal blue dungarees. “I call that being royally fucked…”

                              “Oh shut up and mop!” Cedric had become the most sullen and despondent about the whole thing, and would only reply by short sentences.

                              Amar was the most philosophical about the whole situation “Let’s see it that way, cleaning up the Time Sewers isn’t so bad; they’re no longer in use, we ain’t got nobody on our backs,… the pay isn’t fabulous, but we are!”

                              “Nobody heard about Linda? or Sadie?” Amar’s question was interrupted by a call on Cedric’s phone. His mother again.

                              When he hung up, Amar resumed his litany of questions and monologue, as an excuse for not mopping around. “Still haven’t told your mum, hmmm?”

                              Cedric ignored the last question “No, I haven’t heard about Linda Fucking Pol, or Sadie. Bitches.”


                                “Mind joining me on an adventure?” Sanso said while continuing to walk at a rapid pace on the trail in the middle of running people carrying buckets of water, as though he knew exactly were he was going. “Of course not” he took no time to wait for an answer, as clearly the young lady was way over her head in her first attempt to teleport.

                                “I should be called the Sanso Bernar of Teleporting Mishaps, you know, it’s like I have this seventh sense to precisely arrive where stranded teleporters need me… that and lost socks, but that’s an entire different story, although I could recall quite many times where both had me landing on dirty launderettes…”

                                He paused to look at the panting Fanella. “But you don’t get a word of what I’m saying do you?”
                                She shrugged timidly, batting her doe eyes in a seductive manner, as she had learnt to do at the Versailles Palace when caught her hand in the honeypot, so to speak.

                                “Oh, never mind.” He went on. “Well,… ugh, burp, excuse me, this sea cucumber isn’t sitting well me…”
                                Fanella signaled she needed a moment to catch her breath too, and sat on a flat rock, covering her legs with her arms, suddenly self-conscious of her modesty.
                                “What was i saying already? Oh, yes, I have to deliver a message to a sea cucumber, sorry, I mean a lady cucumber, who may be in grave danger of death… possi—blurp— by sea cucumber indigestion.”

                                He looked at her from head to toes: “Well, you look reasonably pliable… That trick should work. I suppose you don’t have any wax, clay, salt dough or… well never mind, I have… just what I need here…”

                                All the while babbling on, he started to unfold a large piece of patchwork, which was somehow folded in his satchel.

                                “The map dancer, you see… well, he’s a bit of a pain in the butt to find. But here, hold that for a moment. With that bit of,… there, put your finger there, no, not here, yes, riiight there… with a bit of patience, and… tada!”

                                Fanella looked puzzled at the cloth now wrapped around them, snug and tight.

                                “Oh well, I know, the resemblance is passable, but that will do. Believe it or not, I have done a lot of sewing in the past, patchwork quilts, miniature needlepoint rugs for doll houses, curtains, upholstery… Oh sweet times. It’s been a while I’ve had to travel via rag doll. A bit rough, but leaves little trace to follow.”

                                Fanella broke her silence “are you making it along as you go, or you really have a plan to get us out of this awful middle age place?”

                                Sanso tittered softly, apparently pleased with himself.

                                “Now, you may want to relax, the trick is in letting go and drifting through Time’s flow.”


                                  Cheung Lok gave a look at the arched back massaging his feet. There was nothing enjoyable about it, he thought, unlike what many of his friends who loved a good foot massage said about it.
                                  It was hurting like being trampled by a million wild rhinos, and the release of pain was even painful enough to not be enjoyable.
                                  He had no choice, it was part of the social acts expected from him, and in that precise moment also a cover to get some particular piece of information.

                                  An ugly person wearing outrageous make-up arrived on the seat next to him, making it crack like a pack of cheap matches, the arms of the chair protruding in the middle of the enormous waist.
                                  Without a word spoken, he received the key, and was thankful that he didn’t need to stay longer.

                                  He paid the boss with some cash, and left silently in the turmoil of the city.
                                  He signalled the driver he’d walk to the office. Another peculiarity, as usually officials with his rank would never walk unless under extreme necessity, which was the same as saying never. But he enjoyed walking in the Chinese parts of the city, there were all sorts of smells and activity, it was never dull.

                                  He had too laugh at the insane number of beauty parlours and salons. For all he could tell, either there weren’t enough of them, or they weren’t doing a good job.
                                  For once, it had little to do with the robots replacing human attendants; massage and beauty parlours had been the most resistant to change, and for now, most still employed human personnel. That meant, there was still a large market share escaping the Corporation, and the prototype that Irina stole was supposed to change all that. He had to retrieve it by all means.


                                    Their new found green protegee finally awoke thanks to Mr R. meticulous care.
                                    They tried to talk but to Irina’s dismay got no reaction at all. After a few hours, the greenie, as she was calling the creature, was following Irina everywhere. Which could be quite irritating when she needed intimacy.

                                    “Have you scanned its brain, Mr R. ?” asked Irina. “It doesn’t seem quite normal.”
                                    “I’ve been monitoring her vitals ever since we found her. She’s in perfect health, but it appears that hearing us talk does not trigger the usual areas in her brain.”
                                    “Are you sure it’s a her ?” asked Irina dubiously, “She doesn’t have boobs”.
                                    “She’s a younger model, madam. It appears she was quite young when she was mummified, Probably around the age of ten to twelve. Young human female usually develop bosom after puberty.”
                                    “I know that”, she snapped. “I just don’t remember myself without boobs.”
                                    Mr R. searched in his databank for some smart reply, but he preferred not to offer her one of the latest memory treatment.


                                      Jeremy was 23 years old and living in a 57 square meters apartment in Brooklyn. He had two passions in life. Dance and maps.

                                      Max growled. Well you could consider Max as Jeremy’s third passion. Max was a ragdoll cat with a tiny little genetic defect. His fur had this faint pink tint as if it had been put into a washing machine with red clothes. Max purred, satisfied.

                                      Jeremy’s apartment was an artwork in itself. He was painting as a hobby and had drawn a few maps on his white walls. He had the precise stroke that dance demands of a dancer’s move, he had the eye of a falcon concerning details and he loved connecting dots. For some of the maps he had used pointillism, and for others the ancient art of collage he had learned with his grand-mother Martha. Inspired by Matthew Cusnik he had made portraits of dancers with maps and other landscapes.

                                      Jeremy has been interested for some time in a particularly beautiful picture of the Abraham Lake that he wanted to render on one of the last remaining areas of his ceiling when Max jumped on his lap, purring like a caress junkie in need of a few strokes. Jeremy obliged his cat distractedly, too engrossed in the meanders of the picture and the few maps he could already see in his mind like a puzzle.

                                      Max jumped on the desk and tried to force his way between the keyboard and Jeremy’s hand. But he didn’t have enough time to fulfill his desire. The cat began to cough as if it had a train of thought stuck in his throat.

                                      “Shit! You’re not going to puke on my keyboard!”

                                      But it was too late, the cat opened its mouth and threw up a little ball of hair which bounced off the keyboard and crashed down on the floor.

                                      “ehw!” said Jeremy who cringed when he saw the hair ball on his carpet. “I don’t know what you ate but it smells like those wheat Polish biscuits.

                                      Jeremy had already taken some tissue to clean the cat’s mess, and the cat, certainly thinking it wasn’t enough was licking his fur again.
                                      “Don’t make another one like that. You know I don’t like it.”

                                      He was about to take the ball when it wobbled suspiciously. Then it began to grow. Jeremy blinked several times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. When the hairball reached the size of a soccer ball, it was obvious there was something inside, it was deformed like the belly of a pregnant woman when the baby kicks in her bowels.
                                      “What on earth have you spawned, Max!” He looked at his cat, horrified that it could be one of those Aliens.

                                      Soon it was as big as a corpse bag for two, and Jeremy could tell from the voices that there were at least two people inside.

                                      Sanso got out of the ragdoll hair ball first, perfect hair as usual. Fanella struggled to get out of the mess of hairs, and was a bit disheveled.

                                      “Time for a reality check”, said Sanso. “Am I dreaming ?” When he saw all the maps and the ragdoll cat, he knew he was at the right place.

                                      “Who are you guys ? And how did you get out of Max ?” asked Jeremy.


                                        With the aid of the holographic map, Irina, Mr R and little Greenie have been exploring the island.
                                        The next day they found a crashed plane from Aeroflot, not very far from their own landing spot. It was half burried in the mud and covered in green mossy vegetation. The doors were open as an irresistible invitation to enter.

                                        “A surprise, Mr R. I thought that this place was on your map. If I remember well, it didn’t show such an object.”
                                        “Forgive me, madam, indeed this plane wasn’t there when I triangulated the map I showed you.”
                                        “You mean it’s fresh ?” Irina’s voice seemed to suddenly carry some interest. “Maybe we can find some survivors”, she added, already doubting it considering all the moss on teh metallic shell.
                                        “I’m afraid we won’t, madam. I didn’t want to bother you with that little detail until I was sure. There are objects on this island that only appear after a certain date. Have you noticed it also happens with the vegetation and the insects ?”
                                        Irina pouted, “I prefer leaving that to your expertise.”
                                        “Of course, madam”, said the robot, affable. “The paradox is…”
                                        “Another paradox ? How interesting.”
                                        “…that it doesn’t seem to include us, or that little person.”
                                        “Any idea what the implications are ?” Irina began to wonder if there was any danger of being stuck permanently on this island.
                                        “I have several hypothesis”, he began, “The most probable is the lost room hypothesis. We arrived there through time space displacement and are not a natural part of this environment, hence we don’t change with its natural environment or inhabitants because we are not under it’s time sequence according to the Lehmon’s law.”

                                        Irina pouted. She looked at little greenie and thought of the implications about how their new friend arrived there. Whenre did she come from ? For her to be a bog mummy, she must have been there a long time. Or did she arrived already bogged ?
                                        Something caught her attention about the plane and distracted her of further thinking about the subject of their continuity risk in this place. The logo of the plane looked not so oldish.
                                        “Mr R. ? What do you think the date of the crash was ?”
                                        “The plane was lost in 2112.”

                                        Without further thought about safety, she entered the plane, followed first by little Greenie as she have been calling her new protegee, and by the robot who despite still talking about technicalities of accidental space time crossing theory, had turned on his speleo lights.

                                        Interestingly enough, Irina noted the clothes on the chairs or in the alleyways, here a pair of glasses, there a necklace, all layered as if the person wearing them had been puffed away.

                                        “Well, well, what have we here ? The light Mr R, please,” said Irina with as much excitement as a snail. He obliged her with his usual professionalism, revealing a teal blue scarf with pistachio green spirals. She took the cloth and stretched it to have a better look. It was one of those artistic kind of hippy abstract patterns connecting you to the cosmos.
                                        “I can’t think of anybody who would buy that thing, maybe she stole it from one of those duty free shops before they took off,” she said as petulantly as a pitfall trap.
                                        “Come here little Greenie, it’s time to make you pretty.”

                                        Irina did not have the chance to play with dolls when she was a kid, she didn’t know if she had some psychological lack or a bad doyle dating from that unremembered period of her life. She had compensated by toying with real people, playing with their emotions and deeper needs, or what they thought they needed. She became an expert at manipulating others, which gave her her first job in insurances, and then in the secret services. But then, she dealt with adults, showing emotions, or a certain level of brain activity. She wasn’t used to children stored in bogs.

                                        She tried to put the scarf on Greenie’s head, and to smile like she had seen people do in the movies. Although something unexpected happened. Greenie became suddenly distressed and agitated. Then, she punched Irina in the face and began to mumble incoherent things.
                                        That child is stronger than I thought. And at the same time, she noticed a name in that gibberish. Didnt she just shout : “I frigging love you, Sadie Merrie.”

                                        “Her brainwave is showing unusual activity”, stated Mr R. “And my sensors indicate the presence has returned, with some friends. They just appeared outside of the plane.”


                                          “I’m so booooored” Amar sighed, after his eleventh 5-minute break of the morning was over.
                                          He looked at his polished nails, then at his two companions.
                                          “It’s so clean we could eat on that damn sewer’s floor, you should stop cleaning! Come on!”

                                          Reginald looked at him with pursed lips and a fist firmly planted on his hips “And, you are suggesting somethin’, or are you just going to rub it in some more?”

                                          “Hell yeah, if we’re going to be stuck here, we could redecorate, and make this place a bit more interesting. I’m thinking an underground club, with art deco sculptures and some bit of goth in the back, a stage with fat pole dancers, a disco ball and silver shimmer metallic glowing paint,… Don’t get me started!”

                                          “Sounds like a lot of work…” Reginald replied after a moment, giving no hint he was buying it.
                                          “But then, we ain’t got much to do, and I’ll be dying of boredom if we don’t shake this thing up. Count me in!”


                                            The bell rang twice. Nobody was giving any sign of opening, until a lanky lad came at the door to open it, in long slow dragging strides on the carpeted floor.

                                            “We’re here for the audition” an excited face pressed on the glass door, staining it with purple lipsticky marks.

                                            The lad discreetly rolled his eyes, looked right and left, as if checking for some unseen danger, then released the magnetic lock. It was stuck, so he gave a yank and the door flung open, almost propelling the woman, and a child inside.

                                            “This way” the lad showed them, guiding them in unnerving slow motion towards a room on the higher floor of the loft. A dozen of people were already waiting here. The lad showed them the ticket dispenser, and the child with the woman understood before her they had to pick one. 39.

                                            The woman brushed the hair of the child compulsively and fought against invisible specks of dust on his coat, before they would sit.

                                            “Twenty two.”
                                            “Twenty. Two.”

                                            At the seat next to them, a child raised from his place, his mother pushing him towards the voice. This was as far as she could go with him.

                                            After the child had disappeared in the next room, the purple lipstick woman leaned towards the lonely mother and started to talk to her in brisk hushed voice.
                                            “You must be so proud… I’m proud too.”
                                            Noticing reproaching looks from the others, she lowered her voice more.
                                            “I was so excited when I heard about it… So many years and now. Imagine that, my son could become his disciple, imagine, his one and only disciple in years…”

                                            The other woman, who’d been patiently hearing the other one’s cackling suddenly turned red and replied in a voice that bore the certainty of a death sentence:
                                            “Oh, but make no mistake M’am, I have nothing against your son, but no one will beat my Paul to it.”

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