“It’s funny,” he said, squinting his eyes. “Looks like the maze kind of fades out.”
“Oh yeah, that happens all the time. People lose interest you see, then it all but vanishes from their experience. Quaint, I know.”
Kahurangi, nicknamed Kahu, was trying hard to get interested, see if the structure would come back into focus. But there were more fun things around. He asked again to the guy who was selling pop corn at the entrance.
“T’is normal that people wander around with… well, pets? Look at this guy, with a piglet on a leash. It’s cute, don’t get me wrong, and probably more useful when you’re looking for truffles…”
“Pretty normal. Seems animal have a sense around this thing, or so it’s believed. Many will bring one and try again. Look, I buried my snake not long ago, it was getting tired I think. Not sure they make the best animals to cover ground there.” He continued “Are you buying me something or what?”
“Oh sure, give me that, and a bottle of water.”
He handed a crumpled bill of 5 and thanked.
“A word of unsollicited advice?”
Kahu noded “Sure.”
“See those piles of rocks over there, along the way?”
“Looks like inukshuks, are they? Strange place to find them though.”
“Yeah, you’ll tend to see more as you get along. People started to build them to pinpoint places they’d been, but over time, they became encampments, and people lost the will to move on.”
“Don’t stay too long around them.”
Kahu shrugged and moved along. The maze was starting to get in focus again, there was not a minute to spare.
It wasn’t such a bad day, thought Olliver, and it might even be a good day. The birds are singing, we saw a boar and a few deers already. Animals are getting back and they don’t seem to fear the humans so much.
Rukshan was walking first and Fox was following him with a heavy backpack. Tak and Nesy were mostly playing around and marvelling at everything their path crossed. Olliver envied their innocence, the innocence he had lost not so long ago.
Except the animals and the two guards they had to hide from, the day had mostly been uneventful and Olliver’s mind was wandering off into the mountain where he could feel useful and strong. He felt strangely blissed and suddenly had the impulse to walk toward a patch of yellow flowers.
“STOP! Pay attention where you walk,” said Rukshan. “Come back to your left two feet and walk straight. I told you to follow my every steps.”
“Okay, uncle Ruk!” said Olliver a bit ashamed to have been caught not paying attention.
“I don’t understand,” said the Fae. “Glynis’s potion doesn’t seem to work for you. The aetherical tentacles around the traps don’t seem to detect us but only you, and you also seem susceptible to their power to attract you. It’s not the first time I had to warn you.”
The Fae could see the etherical traps and especially the free flowing tentacles or the tension lines attached to trees, stones, wooden posts, anything that would cross a trail at different heights. With the potions they should be impervious to detection and affections by the traps. Olliver hadn’t thought that far. He had thought that by following them he could manage not to be caught. Right now, he feared more Rukshan’s piercing eyes than the traps. He looked at Fox involuntarily.
“It’s my fault,” said Fox looking a bit contrite. Sweat was pearling on his face. “It’s becoming too dangerous for Olli so I must confess something.” He put his heavy bag on the floor and opened it and a dwarf’s head peered timidly out.
“By the fat belly of the giants! What made you do such a stupid thing?”
“You didn’t think at all!” said the Fae. “The potions were not just for the fun of drinking something pungent and bitter with the taste and texture of yak wool.”
“Leave me out of this teleportation stuff!” said Gorrash.
“What an idea! But I already thought of that my little friend. You two are going to to back.”
“No we’re not! If you make us go back we’ll follow you from a distance.”
“Oh You, I’m sure it’s your idea,” started Rukshan.
“No, it’s mine,” said Olliver. “Uncle Fox had almost convinced Gorrash it was better to stay, but I couldn’t let him be stay behind after just being reborn. You said it once, we don’t leave our friends behind.”
“I’m sure it was under another set of circumstances,” countered the Fae.
“Anyway you see the traps, I can follow your instructions. And if there is any fever problem I can teleport Gorrash back to the cottage.”
“I do not totally agree with you but I see you have learned to make an argumentation.”
Fox felt the Fae relax. “Agreed, you come with us to the Great Lakes to meet the Graetaceans and you’ll follow what I tell you to do from now on. I’ll treat you as a responsible adult.”
“Yay! We’ll meet the Graetaceans!” said Nesy.
“Olli and Gorrash will stay with us,” said Tak jumping around his friends with such a broad smile. Rukshan thought he was growing too soft on them all, with the new generation growing he started to feel his own age.
I don’t keep track of the days since we have been forcefully encouraged to stay home. I have plenty of carrots and chocolate mousse. Talking of mousse, I might have a mouse keeping me company. Let’s not hope it’s a family. But I heard that animals are coming back into town now that we are all cozy in our burrows. There have been mentions of chicks on the ring road. Not the kind of chick with makeup, the real fluffy and yellow ones. And one of my friends saw a fox roaming the streets while going to the supermarket. I bet he had a bag full of carrots. Now I wouldn’t be surprised having rabbits everywhere with all those carrots around.
I may sound confusing but I guess that’s what being confined does to people. I even had day dreams of birds flying in my bedroom. I swear I really saw one. Well, to be fair I only saw its shadow, but it was a shadow in the air, not on the wall. I wonder what kind of bird it was. My little pinky said it was a finch, the one my mother loved looking at in her garden. She will be part of the numbers soon. Either with her death or with her survival. Now when I think of her I see her surrounded by a bunch of animals. I even saw the fox, but I don’t think it would count amongst the animals I see in town.
Since I’m not trying to be analytic, I’ve found a strange poetry in life around here. People are talking like senators, all trying to give their certainties to the world, but I can tell you nobody knows shit and nobody has a clue. You might as well welcome the virus for some tea to get to know each other and have some interesting stories about yourself and your relation to nature.
I’m raving again. Someone told me a joke recently. The national board of psychologists published a official communiqué because they received too many calls from people. They said it was normal in this time of confinement to talk to the walls or the objects in your house, and to call them only in case the objects talked back.
What would they think if they knew I’m talking to a whale and it’s giving me advice for my writing? I can even hear them as it sends me short audio. I haven’t been able to figure out what they said in the audio though. I’m glad the advice for my writing do come directly translated and not in the form of a whale song. I’m grateful for technology in that case.
Oh and one last mention. A friend told me about the current roller coaster of the stock market. I dreamt of a stocking market. I must say it was very colourful and the seller used their stockings in very creative ways.
Keep the connection going! Talk to you soon Whale. I’ll have to find you a name. My pinky suggested Jorid so it will be my name for you.FloveParticipant
“That’s right,” Rosamund nodded enthusiastically. “Anti-vegan vaxxer and she don’t eat nothing with no eyes either. She drives Mum bloody mental going on about how the animals have got souls while Mum’s trying to enjoy a nice baccy fry up. Mum calls her Aunt Moanie.”
Star smirked. “Other than his obvious attributes?”
“You mean the fella with the voice like a bloody angel?” asked Rosamund, spitting an olive onto Tara’s sleeve. Tara swore under her breath as the olive bounced to the floor. Fortunately there was no mark; it was a new blouse and had cost Tara an arm and a leg. Worth the investment, she had reasoned at the time. One must look the part. And clearly, her Moulin Rouge ensemble wasn’t a good look for a Professional Investigator, even with fishnets and a feather boa.
“He cancelled his appointment but he paid the, quite frankly exorbitant, deposit we asked for,” said Star. “He’s going to email us the rest of the details. Do we need to know more that that?”
“Well, I’ve been doing a search and there is nothing anywhere online about him, or his world famous melodious voice. I suggest we pay this Mr French a visit.”
“Oh bloody awesome!” Rosamund leapt to her feet and pizza boxes went flying. “Oops, sorry about that. I’ll clean it soon as we get back.”
It was the new moon. Rukshan had been walking into the dark of the forest for some time. The noises of nocturnal animals felt like deep silence after his return from the land of the Giants. There, day and night, the giants were restless. You could hear them growling and shouting. It didn’t matter if it was a nasty fight or a friendly brawl, the noise had been taxing for his nerves and his right eye was still twitching randomly.
Rukshan stopped a moment. The silence almost made him cry of relief and he thought in that moment the enchanted forest deserved its name.
He took a deep breath. His nose wiggled, tickled by the scent of smoke from a fire. He was close to his destination, then. He had been following symbols traced with moon paint on the trees, a trail that only his Fae eyes could see even without moonlight. Humans would not to see it the same way. This trail of symbols might even have been left for him by someone who wanted to be found when he would come back.
Rukshan had found the start of the trail by chance behind the cottage after diner today. He had told Glynis he needed fresh air. The truth was that he had been alone for so long now that having so many people around him made him feel a bit claustrophobic. He had spotted was a faint glow behind a jasmin bush and had thought it was one of the baby snoots. As he was feeling the need for some pet company he had walked up to the bush. Instead of a creature there was the first glowing symbol, a spiral with seven sticks that looked like a hand with seven fingers. Not long after Rukshan had found another symbol, and another. It was clear the hands made a trail for him to follow. So he had followed.
Soon, he found a wooden shack. Smoke was coming out of a hole in its roof and light from the windows. Rukshan could hear two people talking together. One was asking questions and the other answering them. He recognised the voices.
He didn’t bother to knock on the door.
“I’ve been waiting for you”, said Kumihimo the shaman.
“I’m her new apprentice”, said Fox. “You’ve been away for so long”, he added as if apologising for something.
A wet and warm thing touched Rukshan’s hand. Ronaldo the donkey brayed to welcome him. “Of course you are here too”, said the Fae. He found an apple he had put in his pocket after diner and gave it to the donkey. Ronaldo rolled up its chops and gave a heehaw full of joy, sparkles in its eyes.
“Good, you haven’t forgotten good manners”, said the shaman. “Now, seat! We have much to talk about.”TracyParticipant
We finally figured out what was wrong with everyone, making us all lounge around for weeks on end, or maybe it was months, god knows it went on for a lot longer than our usual bored listless spells. Barely a word passed anyone’s lips for days at a time, and not a great deal of food either. None of us had the will to cook after awhile, and when the hunger pangs roused us, we’d shuffle into the kitchen and shovel down whatever was at hand. A wedge of raw cabbage, or a few spoonfuls of flour, once all the packets of biscuits and crisps had gone, and the pies out of the freezer.
Finley seemed to cope better than anyone, although not up to her usual standard. But she managed to feed the animals and water the tomatoes occasionally, and was good at suggesting improvisations, when the toilet paper ran out for example. The lethargy and slow wittedness of us all was probably remarkable, but we were far too disinterested in everything to notice at the time.
To be honest, it would all be a blank if I hadn’t found that my portable telephone contraption had been taking videos randomly throughout the tedious weeks. It was unsettling to say the least, looking at those, I can tell you.
It started to ease off, slowly: I’d suddenly find myself throwing the ball for the dog, picking up the camera because something caught my eye, I even had a shower one day. I noticed the others now and then seemed to take an interest in something, briefly. We all needed to lie down for a few hours to recover, but we’re all back to normal now. Well I say normal.
Finly looked at some news one day, and it wasn’t just us that had the Etruscan flu, it had been a pandemic. There had hardly been any news for months because nobody could be bothered to do it, and anyway, nothing had happened anywhere. Everyone all over the world was just lounging around, not saying anything and barely eating, not showering, not doing laundry, not traveling anywhere.
And you know what the funny thing is? It’s like a garden of Eden out there now, air quality clean as a whistle, the right weather in all the right places, it’s like a miracle.
And everyone’s slowed down, I mean speeded up since the flu, but slower than before, less frantic. Just sitting on the porch breathing the lovely air and thinking what a fine day it is.
One good thing is that we’re taking showers regularly again.
Her magical senses told her she could trust this girl. Maeve herself seemed still a bit on the fence, as though she was guarding a heavy secret, but she seemed to have moments of unexplained boldness and was not shy to engage either.
“Something tells me this is familiar to you; me and my friends are looking for what it is locking away.”
Maeve initial reaction was shocked and her composure seemed to be shaken for a moment.
“Don’t worry, I’m going to relax this precious moppet.” he replied back in purring meows only Arona could understand. “I heard that’s what cats do in this dimension when they don’t sleep.”
Maeve replied “Don’t worry, I quite like animals, he seems well behaved too. And he’s so cute with his tiny boots.”
Only momentarily distracted, and mildly relaxed by the cat’s purring, Maeve asked “how did you come by this key? It was not supposed to be found. I don’t know what it’s supposed to open, I suspect it was a fail-safe for my uncle, and I hid them in my dolls for safe-keeping.”
“Them?” Arona asked, rather as a validation to herself.
“As you suspected. There are more.” purred the cat harder.
Maeve leaned in close, almost dropping her sketchbook’s coloured pencils on the floor, “I think some bad people are after it. I suspect that my Uncle sent me those tickets to Australia so I could retrieve this one before the bad people arrive to snatch it.”
She jumped a little, realizing too late. “Wait? You don’t seem to be one of them… But what about all these other guests?”
WHERE ARE THEY ALL NOW ? 🗻
a.k.a. the map thread, and because everything happens now anyway.
POP-IN THREAD (Maeve, Lucinda, Shawn-Paul, Jerk, [Granola])
🌀 [map link] – KELOWNA, B.C., CANADA
It looks like our group of friends live in Canada, Kelowna.
Kelowna is a city on Okanagan Lake in the Okanagan Valley in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. The name Kelowna derives from an Okanagan language term for “grizzly bear”. The city’s motto: “Fruitful in Unity”
FLYING FISH INN THREAD (Mater/Finly, Idle/Coriander/Clove, Devan, Prune, [Tiku])
Though very off the beaten track, the Flying Fish Inn may be located near a location that was a clue left as a prank by Corrie & Clove on the social media to lure conspiracy theorists to the Inn.
🌀 [map link] – SOME PLACE IN THE MIDDLE OF AUSTRALIA, OFF ARLTUNGA ROAD
- Tiku, the local bush lady is living around the place.
- The local shaman who rented the Jeep to Arona & her friends was nearby Uluru ‘s closest airport (Ayer’s Rock, Yulara). 🌀 [map link] : AYER’S ROCK, ULURU
DOLINE THREAD (Arona, Sanso/Lottie, Ugo, Albie)
This one is a tricky geographical conundrum, since the Doline is a multi-dimensional hub. It connects multiple realities and places though bodies of water, with the cave structure (the Doline) at its center, a world on its own right, where talking animals and unusual creatures are not uncommon.
At the center of the Doline is a mysterious dragon named Leörmn, purveyor of precious traveling pearls and impossible riddles. We thus may infer possible intersection points in our dimension, such as 🔑 ///mysterious.dragon.riddle a little North of Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
However, the inside of the Doline would look rather like Phong Nha-Ke Bang gigantic cave in Vietnam.
NEWSREEL THREAD (Ms Bossy, Hilda/Connie, Sophie, Ricardo)
It is not very clear where our favourite investigative team is located. They are likely to be near an urban area with a well-connected international airport, given their propensity for impromptu traveling, such as in Iceland and Australia.
As for the Doctor, we strongly suspect his current hideout to be also revealed when searching from his signature beautification prescription that has made him famous in connoisseur circles: 🔑 ///beauty.treatment.shot at the frontier of Sweden and Finland.
LIZ THREAD (Finnley, Liz, Roberto, Godfrey)
We don’t really know where the story happens; for that, one would need to dive into Liz’s turbulent past, and that would confound the most sane individual, starting with keeping count of her past husbands.
As a self-made powerful best-selling writer, we could guess she would take herself to be the JK Rowling of the Unplotted Booker Prize, and thus would be a well-traveled British uptart, sorry upstart, with a fondness for mansions with character and gardeners with toned glutes. Of course, one would need the staff.
DRAGON 💚 WOOD THREAD (Glynnis, Eleri, Fox/Gorrash, Rukshan)
This story happens in another completely different dimension, but it can be interesting to explore some of its unusual geography.
The World revolved around a central axis, and different worlds stacked one upon the other, with the central axis like an elevator.
We know of
- the World of Humans, where most of the story takes place
- the world of Gods, above it, which has been sealed off, and where most Gods disappeared in the old ages
- Under these two, the world of Giants exists, still to be explored.
At the intersection of the central axis of the world and the human world, radiates the Heartwood, a mystical forest powered by the Gem of Creation which has been here since the Dawn of Times, and is a intricate maze, and a dimension in itself. It had grown around itself different woods and glades and forests, with various level of magical properties meant to repel intruders or lesser than Godlike beings.
The Fae dimension is a particular dimension which exists parallel to the Human World, accessible only to Elder Faes, and where the race originated, and is now mostly deserted, as Faes’ magic waning with the encroachment of humans into the Forest, most have chosen to live in the Forests and try and protect them.
Rukshan went into the forest and looked carefully for a particular creature. It was almost nightfall and there should be some of them already out on the branches. The air was cooler in the evening, thanks also to the big trees protecting them from the scorching sun, and Rukshan couldn’t help but think that the climate was really going haywire. One day cold, one week hot and wet. And this bad omen feeling that everybody seemed to get recently. He knew it was time to go, and despite the comfort of Margoritt’s cottage, he was starting to feel restless.
He was making a lost of noise, stepping on every dry twigs he could find. A couple of rabbits and the crowd of their offsprings jumped away, a deer looked at him as if he was some vulgar neighbour and the birds flew away, disturbed during their evening serenades. But this was the kind of noise that would attract the telebats, small nocturnal animals that you could use for long distance communication.
He found one on an old oak tree. It seemed to be in resonance with his cracking twigs. Rukshan hurried and caught it before the spell of his steps would dissipate.
“Rukshan to Lhamom: Hope everything’s fine. Stop. Something happened. Stop. Need help organise trip to mountains. Over,” he whispered in the sensitive ears of the small animal. The telebat listened carefully and opened its little mouth, making sounds that no normal ears could hear. Maybe Fox could have, but he would have found it as annoying as the cracking twigs. Then Rukshan waited.
The answer wasn’t long to come. He knew it because the ears of the creature vibrated at high frequency. He listened into the creature’s left ear where he could hear the answer.
Rukshan responded with “Thanks. Stop. Hope everything well with Father. Stop. Have safe trip home. Over.”
He hung up the telebat on the branch where he found it, and gave it a moth that he had found on his way.
Rukshan frowned. He have never met Drummis. He wondered if he could trust him.
The memories of the strange vision had faded away. Only the feeling of awe was lingering in his heart.
Fox was walking in the forest near Margoritt’s cottage. The smell of humid soil was everywhere. Despite it being mostly decomposing leaves and insects, Fox found it quite pleasant. It carried within it childhood memories of running outside after the rain whild Master Gibbon was trying to teach him cleanliness. It had been a game for many years to roll into the mud and play with the malleable forest ground to make shapes of foxes and other animals to make a public to Gibbon’s teachings.
Fox had been walking around listening to the sucking sound made by his steps to help him focus back on reality. He was trying to catch sunlight patches with his bare feet, the sensations were cold and exquisite. The noise of the heavy rain had been replaced by the random dripping of the drops falling from the canopy as the trees were letting go of the excess of water they received.
It was not long before he found Gorrash. The dwarf was back in his statue state, he was face down, deep in the mud. Fox crouched down and gripped his friend where he could. He tried to release him from the ground but the mud was stronger, sucking, full of water.
“You can leave him there and wait the soil to dry. You can’t fight with water”, said Margorrit. “And I think that when it’s dry, we’ll have a nice half-mold to make a copy of your friend.”
Fox laughed. “You have so many strange ideas”, he told the old woman.
“Well, it has been my strength and my weakness, I have two hands and a strong mind, and they have always functioned together. I only think properly when I use my hands. And my thoughts always lead me to make use of my hands.”
“Breakfast’s ready”, she said. “I’ve made some honey cookies with what was left of the the flour. And Glynis has prepared some interesting juices. I like her, she has a gift with colours.”
They left the dwarf to dry in the sun and walked back to the house where the others had already put everything on the table. Fox looked at everyone for a moment, maybe to take in that moment of grace and unlikely reunion of so many different people. He stopped at Rukshan who had a look of concern on his face. Then he started when Eleri talked right behind him. He hadn’t hear her come.
“I think I lost him”, she said. “What’s for breakfast? I’m always starving after shrooms.”
“Oh no!” Margoritt swore loudly, “not that cursed rain again!”.
They were about to share what was left of the cake for dessert when the first booming strike of thunder resounded violently across the mountains.
She cupped her hands in front of her mouth to rally the troops over the noisy rumble of the heavy dark clouds. “Inside! Everyone inside!” — when the rains started in spring, they could go on for days, drenching the countryside in curtains of water.
The first drops falling, quickly extinguishing the candles, Rukshan raised his head to look at the darker skies covering completely the moon’s glow “This is no ordinary rain…”
“You bet, it isn’t!” Margoritt said, looking more sombre than she ever was. “That magical umbrella won’t be enough this time, we are probably going to have to sit that one out inside. Help me bring the animals inside.”
In front of the small cottage, everyone else started to hurry inside, bringing back the plates, cups and leftovers, while Rukshan was preparing some wood for the fire to keep the moist away.
“Has anybody seen Eleri?” Yorath’s look was concerned. “She seem to have disappeared somewhere as usual… But she hasn’t come back yet,… and I’m afraid she took a large bite of the trancing cake too. It’s not a good night to trance out.”
Rukshan was torn between waiting a bit longer, or going to search for her, which would be risking lives during the dark stormy night. He was about to offer to go outside himself when Gorrash said briskly:
“Let me go find her, this storm is nothing, and I’m used to the dark. You all should stay inside. If I don’t come back at the break of dawn, you can go out to look for us, but don’t worry too much about me, I’ll blend in.” He winked at Fox who smiled weakly. He didn’t like this type of cold rain. Its smell was damp and rotten.
“What was in the bag, Finnley, tell us!”
Everyone was looking at the maid after the Inspector had left hurriedly, under the pretext of taking care of a tip he had received on the disappearance of the German girl.
Godfrey was the most curious in fact. He couldn’t believe in the facade of meanness that Finnley carefully wrapped herself into. The way she cared about the animals around the house was a testimony to her well hidden sweetness. Most of all, he thought herself incapable of harming another being.
But he had been surprised before. Like when Liz’ had finished a novel, long ago.
“Alright, I’ll show you. Stay there, you lot of accomplices.”
“Liz’, will you focus please! The mystery is about to be revealed!”
“Oh shut up, Godfrey, there’s no mystery at all. I’ve known for a while what that dastardly maid had done. I’ve been onto her for weeks!”
“Oh, don’t you give me that look. I’m not as incapable as you think, and that bloodshot-eyes stupor I affect is only to keep annoyances away. Like my dear mother, if you remember.”
“So tell us, if you’re so smart now. In case it’s really a corpse, at least, we may all be prepared for the unwrapping!”
“A CORPSE! Ahaha, you fool Godfrey. It’s not A corpse! It’s MANY CORPSES!”
Godfrey really thought for a second that she had completely lost it. Again. He would have to call the nearby sanatorium, make up excuses for the next signing session at the library, and cancel all future public appear…
“Will you stop that! I know what you’re doing, you bloody control machine! Stop that thinking of yours, I can’t even hear myself thinking nowadays for all your bloody thinking. Now, as I was saying of course she’d been hiding all the corpses!”
“Are you insane, Liz’ —at least keep your voice down…”
“Don’t be such a sourdough Godfrey, you’re sour, and sticky and all full of gas. JUST LET ME EXPLAIN, for Lemone’s sake!”
Godfrey fell silent for a moment, eyeing a lost peanut left on a shelf nearby.
Conscious of the unfair competition for Godfrey’s attention Elizabeth blurted it all in one sentence:
“She’s been collecting them, my old failed stories, the dead drafts and old discarded versions of them. Hundreds of characters, those little things, I’d given so many cute little names, but they had no bones or shape, and very little personality, I had to smother them to death.” She started sobbing uncontrollably.
“Oh, bloody hell. Don’t you tell me I brought that dirty bag of scraps up for nothing!”
She left there, running for the door screaming “I’m not doing the carpets again!”
And closed the door with a sonorous “BUGGER!”
The garden was becoming too small for Gorrash. With time, the familiarity had settled down in his heart and he knew very well each and every stone or blade of grass there was to know. With familiarity, boredom was not very far. Gorrash threw a small pebble in the pond, he was becoming restless and his new and most probably short friendship with Rainbow had triggered a seed in his heart, the desire to know more about the world.
Before he’d met the creature, Gorrash could remember the pain and sadness present in the heart of his maker. He had thought that was all he needed to know about the world, that mankind was not to be trusted. And he had avoided any contact with that dragon lady, lest she would hurt him. He knew that all came from his maker, although he had no real access to the actual memories, only to their effects.
Gorrash threw another pebble into the pond, it made a splashing sound which dissolved into the silence. He imagined the sound was like the waves at the surface of the pond, going endlessly outward into the world. He imagined himself on top of those waves, carried away into the world. A shiver ran through his body, which felt more like an earthquake than anything else, stone bodies are not so flexible after all. He looked at the soft glowing light near the bush where Rainbow was hiding. The memory of joy and love he had experienced when they hunted together gave his current sadness a sharp edge, biting into his heart mercilessly. He thought there was nothing to be done, Rainbow would leave and he would be alone again.
His hand reached in his pocket where he found the phial of black potion he had kept after Rainbow refused it. He shook it a few times. Each time he looked at it, Gorrash would see some strange twirls, curls and stars in the liquid that seemed made of light. He wondered what it was. What kind of liquid was so dark to the point of being luminous sometimes ? The twirls were fascinating, leading his attention to the curls ending in an explosion of little stars. Had the witch captured the night sky into that bottle?
Following the changes into the liquid was strangely soothing his pain. Gorrash was feeling sleepy and it was a very enjoyable feeling. Feelings were quite new to him and he was quite fascinated by them and how they changed his experience of the world. The phial first seemed to pulse back and forth into his hand, then the movement got out and began to spread into his body which began to move back and forth, carried along with this sensual lullaby. Gorrash wondered if it would go further, beyond his body into the world. But as the thought was born, the feeling was gone and he was suddenly back into the night. A chill went down his spine. It was the first time. The joy triggered his sadness again.
The dwarf looked at the dark phial. Maybe it could help ease his pain. He opened it, curious and afraid. What if it was poison? said a voice of memory. Gorrash dismissed it as the scent of Jasmine reached his nose. His maker was fond of Jasmine tea, and he was surprised at the fondness that rose in his heart. But still no images, it was merely voices and feelings. Sometimes it was frustrating to only have bits and never the whole picture, and full of exasperation, Gorrash gulped in the dark substance.
Nothing was happening. He could still hear the cooing of Rainbow, infatuated with it eggs, he could hear the scratches of the shrews, the flight of the insects. That’s when Gorrash noticed something was different as he was beginning to hear the sharp cries of the bats above. He tried to move his arm to look at the phial, but his body was so heavy. He had never felt so heavy in his short conscious life, even as the light of the Sun hardened his body, it was not that heavy.
The soil seemed to give way under his increasing weight, the surface tension unable to resist. He continued to sink into the ground, down the roots of the trees, through the tunnels of a brown moles quite surprised to see him there, surrounded by rocks and more soil, some little creatures’ bones, and down he went carried into hell by the weight of his pain.
After some time, his butt met a flat white surface, cold as ice, making him jump back onto his feet. The weird heaviness that a moment before froze his body was gone. He looked around, he was in a huge cave and he was not alone. There was an old woman seated crosslegged on a donkey skin. Gorrash knew it was a donkey because it still had its head, and it was smiling. The old woman had hair the colour of the clouds before a storm in summer, It was full of knots and of lightning streaks twirling and curling around her head. Her attention was all on the threads she had in her hands. Gorrash counted six threads. But she was doing nothing with them. She was very still and the dwarf wondered if she was dead or asleep.
What do you want? asked the donkey head in a loud bray.
It startled the dwarf but it didn’t seem to bother the old lady who was still entranced and focused on her threads.
Nothing, said Gorrash who couldn’t think of anything he would want.
Nonsense, brayed the donkey, laughing so hard that the skin was shaking under the old lady. Everyone wants something. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want something.
Gorrash thought about what he could want, what he had been wanting that night. He remembered his desire to get out of the garden.
And there you are, brayed the donkey head, that’s a start. What do you want then?
Getting out of the garden?
Noooo! That’s a consequence of a deeper desire, but that’s not what you want.
I have never thought about desires before, said Gorrash. It’s pretty new to me. I just came to life a few weeks ago during a full moon.
The donkey head tilted slightly on its right. No excuses, it spat, If you’re awake, then you have a desire in your heart that wants to be fulfilled. What do you want? Take your time, but not too long. The universe is always on the move and you may miss the train, or the bus, or the caravan…
As the donkey went on making a list of means of transportation, Gorrash looked hesitantly at the old lady. She was still focused on her six threads she had not moved since he had arrived there.
Who is she? he asked to the donkey.
_She’s known by many names and has many titles. She’s Kumihimo Weaver of Braids, Ahina Maker of Songs, Gadong Brewer of Stews…
Ok! said Gorrash, not wanting the donkey go on again into his list enumeration pattern. What is she doing?
And, what is she waiting for?
She’s waiting for the seventh thread, brayed the donkey head. I’m also waiting for the thread, it whined loudly. She won’t leave my back until she’s finished her braid. The head started to cry, making the dwarf feel uncomfortable. Suddenly it stopped and asked And, who are you?
The question resonated in the cave and in his ears, taking Gorrash by surprise. He had no answer to that question. He had just woken up a few weeks ago in that garden near the forest, with random memories of a maker he had not known, and he had no clue what he desired most. Maybe if he could access more memories and know more about his maker that would help him know what he wanted.
Good! brayed the donkey, We are making some progress here. Now if you’d be so kind as to give her a nose hair, she could have her last thread and she could tell you where to find your maker.
Hope rose in Gorrash’s heart. Really?
Certainly, brayed the head with a hint of impatience.
But wouldn’t a nose hair be too short for her braid? asked the dwarf. All the other threads seemed quite long to him.
Don’t waste my time with such triviality. Pull it out!
Gorrash doubted it would work but he grabbed a nose hair between his thumb and index and began to pull. He was surprised as he didn’t feel the pain he expected but instead the hair kept being pulled out. He felt annoyed and maybe ashamed that it was quite long and he had not been aware of it. He took out maybe several meters long before a sudden pain signalled the end of the operation. Ouch!
hee haw, laughed the donkey head.
The pain brought out the memory of a man, white hair, the face all wrinkled, a long nose and a thin mouth. He was wearing a blouse tightened at his waist by a tool belt. He was looking at a block of stone wondering what to make out of it, and a few tears were rolling down his cheeks. Gorrash knew very well that sadness, it was the sadness inside of him. Many statues surrounded the man in what looked like a small atelier. There were animals, gods, heads, hands, and objects. The vision shifted to outside the house, and he saw trees and bushes different than the ones he was used to in the garden where he woke up. Gorrash felt a strange feeling in his heart. A deep longing for home.
Now you have what you came here for. Give the old lady her thread, urged the donkey. She’s like those old machines, you have to put a coin to get your coffee.
Gorrash had no idea what the donkey was talking about. He was still under the spell of the vision. As soon as he handed the hair to the woman, she began to move. She took the hair and combined it to the other threads, she was moving the threads too swiftly for his eyes to follow, braiding them in odd patterns that he felt attracted to.
Time for you to go, said the donkey.
I’d like to stay a bit longer. What she’s doing is fascinating.
Oh! I’m sure, brayed the donkey, But you have seen enough of it already. And someone is waiting for you.
The dwarf felt lighter. And he struggled as he began levitating. What!? His body accelerated up through the earth, through the layers of bones and rocks, through the hard soil and the softer soil of years past. He saw the brown mole again and the familiar roots of the trees of the garden in the enchanted forest.
Gorrash took a deep breath as he reintegrated his stone body. He wobbled, trying to catch his ground. He felt like throwing up after such an accelerated trip. His knees touched the ground and he heard a noise of broken glass as he dropped the phial.
“Are you alright?” asked a man’s voice. Gorrash forced his head up as a second wave of nausea attempted to get out. A man in a dark orange coat was looking down at him with genuine worry on his face.
“I’m good,” said the dwarf. “But who are you?”
“My name is Fox. What’s yours?”
Fox awakened from an agitated night in the forest. He was feeling weak and not so hungry. His stomach growled. Fox hoped it was not the precursor of another discharge of his bowels, but silence settled in. His body relaxed. He had the strange impression it helped him being more present. Anyhow, he couldn’t keep on running like that now. He needed to find food to refuel his body.
Don’t take advantage of your invisibility, had said the woman.
Fox thought there were two ways to look at his little misadventure. Either it was retribution for stealing that meatloaf, the meatloaf karma theory, or he had helped a poor family to avoid being sick all night. Which is just another expression of the meatloaf karma theory. All in all, the karma account was still balanced.
Fox smelled the forest wind. It was full of earth and water. Not so much fire with all this morning dew, he thought. There were also the scents of little animals, and mushrooms. Among it all, he was surprised to feel sadness. It was not so much about himself and his condition. He had been through worse. And it was more a quality of the atmosphere than a physical smell. It was as though the whole forest was feeling sad. Fox felt the tears at the corner of his eyes.
“I can’t continue running around like that,” he said.
“Good,” answered a deep voice.
Fox ran through the city, enjoying his transient invisibility. He didn’t have to care about people, he didn’t feel the social burden of being himself. He had fun brushing past the legs of men to frighten them, biting the dresses of women to make them drop their baskets. One of them contained some freshly baked meatloaf. Fox got rid of the bread and swallowed the meat. He laughed with his fox’s laugh at the puzzled look of a child seeing the meat disappear in mid air.
At first, Fox enjoyed being invisible tremendously. Then, he felt a bit lonely. No one was there to see him have fun. Furthermore, he had no idea how long of it remained. The woman had said one hour. His problem was that in his fox form, he wasn’t so good at keeping track of time. The fun of the invisibility wearing off, he decided to go back to the forest. He would get back his clothes and meet with the woman in his human form.
He followed the scent of the autumn leaves.
After barely five minutes, he noticed that people were going in the same direction. How unusual, Fox thought. He kept on running. After another five minutes, he felt a tingling feeling. Then, he heard the familiar shout accompanying his being seen.
Fox had mixed feelings. At the same time he felt relieved —he was happy to be back into the world—, and he felt annoyed by what he considered to be an unnecessary mishap. He felt his heartbeat speeding up and prepared himself to the chase. But nobody seemed to care about the shout. People looked hypnotized and simply didn’t pay attention to him even though they looked at him running past them.
How unusual, he thought again.
Fifteen minutes later, he stopped in front of a fence that wasn’t there in the early morning. It was not so high that he couldn’t jump over it and continue on his way to the forest. But he stayed there a few seconds, too startled to think anything. He got out of his own puzzlement when he heard a whine. It was coming from his own mouth. It was so unusual that it helped him got rid off the spell that surrounded the fence. It seemed to be powerful enough to make people believe they couldn’t go past it into the forest.
Very clever, he thought. Whoever erected this fence, they were no ordinary man or woman. Fox thought about the old young witch who gave him the potion but readily shook the idea away. This is something else, he decided. His nose became itchy, Fox needed to find out who created this thing. Maybe they knew about the burning smell.
Fox left the flow of people still following the fence to some unknown destination and jumped over into the forest. The feeling was the same on the other side. A repelling spell. But once on this side of the fence, it had a different flavour. This one talked about danger of leaving the forest, whereas in the city it whispered about the danger of going into the forest. Fox didn’t feel surprised. It was simply another odd occurence.
He took a deep breath, enjoying the rich scents of the soil and the trees. The smell of the little animals close to the ground, and those of the birds in the air above. The odorant track left by a wild boar. Among all those scents, one was quite unique and remarkable. The gentleman of the forests, Fox thought. What is he doing here? Whatever the explanation was, the wise ape and would certainly have answers. After all, he was the one who taught a little fox the art of human shapeshifting.
Fox began to run deep into the forest. His heart beating fast at the idea to see his old master. He had totally forgotten about the dwarf and his strange companion, or about the kind witch and her potions. He only felt hope in his heart and cold winter air on his snout. Leading him to some resolution.
The first thing Fox noticed when he woke up was that strong burning smell again. It had begun sooner, usually it was stronger in winter. The smell had been here for years, Fox knew it because he had a very strong sense of smell, but other people usually dismissed it as it mingled with the profusion of citadine smells.
He lived just outside the city walls, in a small hut. He preferred being among trees and living animals. And as he had been told, the smell came from outside the city, nothing to worry about.
This year it was different. The smell felt different. In his fantasies, Fox imagined it was the foul odor of an old dragon’s mouth that had eaten too much garlic. But in reality he didn’t know what it was, and that was the most frightening to him, not to know.
He envied those who couldn’t smell it. Others who could would dismiss it as, once again, the effects of the coal mining industry outside the city. Fox had an uncle working at the mines, and the smell he brought back from underground was strong indeed, but very different.
This day, Fox felt a new resolution dawn in his heart. He had to find the right people to talk to. Maybe they could do something about it. At least find its source. He took his pouch and filled it with crackers and cheese, his favourite kind of meal. Then, as he left his small hut, he had the feeling that he might not see it again. Anyway, it was just a hut.
Fox didn’t know who he could talk to, and he didn’t know where to go. But he was confident he would find them and all would be solved.
As a statue, life was never easy. When day breaked you were condemned to stand in the same position, preferably the same as the one you have been made, cramped in a body as hard as the rock you came from. The sunlight had that regretable effect of stopping your movements. But as night came light was losing its strength and nothing could stop you anymore. At least that’s what Gorrash believed.
He could almost move his fingers now. He tried with all his might to lift his hand and scratch his nose where a bird had left something to dry, but there was still too much light. If he tried harder, he could break. So he waited patiently.
Gorrash had had plenty of time to think and rething of his theory of light since his placement in the garden. The only thing is that he never had anyone to share it with. There was no other statue in the garden, and the animals were not very communicative at night time. Only a couple of shrews and night mothes (the later soon eaten by the erratic crying bats)
But nonetheless Gorrash was always happy when darkness liberated him and he was free to go. He could feel his toes moving now, and his ankles ready to let go. He loved when he could feel his round belly slowly drop toward the ground. He chuckled, only to check the flexibility of his throat. He had a rather cavernous voice. Very suiting for a garden dwarf.
When the night was fully there, Gorrash shook his body and jumped ahead to the pond where he washed his nose from the bird dropping. He looked at the reflection in the water and smiled, the Moon was also there, fully round. Its light felt like a soft breeze compared to that of the Sun.
The dwarf began to walk around in the garden, looking for the rodents. Chasing them would help him get rid off the last stiffness in his stone heart. He stopped when he saw something near the window of the house.
Ricardo’s indications to lure the ape out of hiding, and coax it with fruits had been rather un-fruitful. She would have said his advice was rubbish, but he’d told that they’d come from Bossy, and if someone was to be trusted on the details of wildlife, well, that would be Bossy.
After some long trailing and stakeout in the parking lot at the back of the mall where she’d had that first encounter, she’d started to consider other strategies. It wasn’t really in her character to doubt about herself, nor about her instincts. Although something was clearly askew about that orange ape, she could feel the pull of a good fringe story.
For one, no nearby zoo had reported any loss or evasion of their animals. That was strange enough.
Second, she’d started to suspect that the animal was not an animal at all. It was too deft at evading her. She could have sworn she’d seen it walking around last night in a trenchcoat, hiding under a well-worn baseball cap, looking through the garbage cans at the back of the grocery store.
Obviously, that could only mean one thing. It was a well-educated ape, a tad self-conscious about its hairy nudity, with tastes for more palatable food than apples and carrots.
Hilda couldn’t wait to corner him for an exclusive interview.
“You!”, said Jeremy Duncan Jasper before jumping on the woman. “You stole my cat! What have you done to Max ?”
“I don’t have your cat”, said Funley loudly. She was trying to protect her face as an instinctive reaction and pushed on the ground with her feet. The chair had little wheels which allowed her to escape the man’s grasp, but it bumped on Ed’s desk. She was cornered. She jumped out of the chair and ran behind Ed’s desk followed closely by an angry Jeremy.
“I assume you already know each others”, said Ed, tugging at his mustache casually.
“Of course I know her”, said Jeremy in a short breath. He showed his fist angrily. “She was supposedly from the hygiene inspection bureau when I worked at the veterinarian clinic. She stole my cat!”
“I don’t have your cat”, repeated Funley.
“What have you done with him old crone ? You gave me all those papers to read and sign and when I came back you were gone… with Max.”
“Tsk tsk”, said Ed. “We have more important matters to attend to.” He lifted his hand to prevent any objection. “You may or may not have noticed, but I have and that’s the more important. Reality has been rebooting repeatedly, and each time people… or animals”, he said looking at Jeremy, “are disappearing.”
“We need to do something”, concluded Ed.
“Excuse me”, said Duncan, “but what does that have to do with us ? I’m just a bank employee.”
“A bank employee, who was a veterinarian, a plumber, a taxi driver, a tech guy at the phone company… and more importantly a map dancer. I need a team of gifted people to maximize our chances of survival.”
Funley raised an eyebrow. “Mr Steam, à propos”, she said brandishing the paper she had found in the trash can.TracyParticipant
As Prune spoke the magic words releasing her aunt from marbledom, an unforeseen chain reaction of uncrusting began. One by one the concrete statues and animals that Idle had been collecting became more yielding, less rigid. They didn’t all start gallivanting around at once, it was a slow process depending on the length of time they had been solid.
The buddha by the fish pond had had his knees bent for so long it would be some time before he could straighten them, but it was with great joy that he raised a hand from his lap to scratch the fly droppings off the tip of his nose. He was just about to make a remark about foolish idle people and wise diligent ones when it occurred to him that he’d been completely idle for quite some time, and that it hadn’t been his fault. The unaccustomed questioning of his rather rigid beliefs accelerated the uncrusting process, and he was able to turn his head to see the odd looking cat approaching, but unable to move his arm quickly enough to stop it spraying him with piss.
You have no idea how long I’ve been holding that, said the cat, somewhat telepathically.
“I have so much to say!” the green man cleared his throat, spitting out some moss that had become stuck between his teeth, “And I’ve waited so long to say it! You there, you! Don’t go away!” The green man immediately realized his predicament. He had a face but no body. He would have to wait until an audience came to him to listen.
But Clove was interested and inched closer. She had just been researching Dionysus for a project; what a fortuitous coincidence that a replica of him had come to life. She would be able to interview him for her report. She’d just read that “It is perhaps an indication of the Green Man’s power as an archetype that he was able to transfer so seamlessly from one culture and one set of beliefs to another.”
This was exactly the angle she was after.
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