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      “Is that lamb head on the menu?” asked Connie with a grimace on her face. “I can’t believe it.”

      “It looks like it, dear”, retorted Sophie offhandedly. “Don’t look at me like that, I’ve seen and eaten worse.”

      “Ewh”, said Connie, “I don’t want to know.” She was not quite honest, her reporter blood was thirsty about good and juicy stories. But she was not here to interview the temp, and the menu was leaving her perplexed. “What’s Hrútspungar ?”

      “You don’t want to know”, said Sophie, “Trust me.”

      Connie craved some vegan food and they didn’t seem to have any vegetables in the hotel restaurant. She pouted and finally gave up. “Take whatever you want, I’ll follow.”

      “You like to live dangerously”, said Sophie.
      “Whatever”, retorted Connie with a sigh. She put a hand on her round belly. “It may be an opportunity to begin that diet.”

      Sophie snorted. She never believed in diet. She had tried them all, just for fun, but she eventually found the rules boring and just forgot about the whole diet business.

      “Nice beehive hair Ladies”, said the waiter with an appreciative look at their heads. “What will you order?” he asked opening his small notebook.

      Sophie smiled at the compliment and closed the menu. “I’ve been told you had a special”, she said.

      The man tilted his head and looked at the old woman with a hint of surprise in his eyes. He shrugged as if it wasn’t his problem after all. Connie gulped, expecting the worse.

      “Two Svið with Gellur”, he said scribbling something in his notebook. “May I suggest some Brennivín?”
      “You may”, answered Sophie. “It can help us gulp the whole thingy”, she explained to Connie.

      “The common error is to go for the head and dismiss the eyes”, said the waiter. “They may surprise you”, he added before leaving.

      Connie looked murderously at Sweet Sophie, whom she would have renamed Sour Sophie in that moment. The old woman had an air of satisfaction on her face. “Why on earth would you pick that ?” asked the reporter.

      “Oh! That was part of the instructions in the letter”, answered Sophie with a shrug that made her beehive tremble.


        Hilda regretted her decision to fly to the British Isles, now that she was caught up in all the Fuxit brouhaha. The mysterious plague doctor in Chester had turned out to be nothing more than a common madman, looking for a party to crash. The Mexican band with a wheelbarrow full of bricks welcoming the orange toupee’d buffoon from the west had been momentarily amusing, but was nothing more than another common madman looking for a party to crash as far as Hilda could see, and not worth further investigation, but the madness that had enveloped the country over the Fuxit was another matter.

        Exit mania had swept the country ~ and not only the country, but the continent as well. Doors were falling off their hinges on buildings across Europe with the rush of people demanding to leave, or trying to keep others out. Irate women were pushing their husbands out of the front door and locking them out, while shop assistants slammed the doors shut on customers, exercising their rights to determine who should be allowed in, and who should leave. “Exit” signs on motorways were set alight and exit ramps barricaded, lighted exit signs in nightclubs were smashed. Herds of dairy cows smashed down gates and roamed the streets, and sheep huddled next to boarded doorways.

        Itinerant builders were in high demand to fix broken hinges on gates and doors, and the memes about the population becoming unhinged quickly ceased to amuse in the utter mayhem.

        Hilda decided to get a flight back to Iceland as soon as possible. As an investigative reporter, she knew she should stay, but justified leaving on the grounds that a wider picture was imperative. And frankly, she’s seen enough!

        But leaving the beleaguered nation was not going to be easy. The airline websites had been closed, and the doors on the travel agents had either been boarded up or had been removed altogether, and nobody was staffing the premises. The motorway exit ramp to the airport had been barricaded. Not to be deterred, Hilda left her hire car on the side of the road, and dragged her flight bag across the waste ground towards the airport building. The place was deserted: the doors on all the aircraft had been removed, and emergency exit signs lay smashed on the tarmac.

        “Then I have no other option,” Hilda said, “But to teleport.”


        In reply to: Mandala of Ascensions


          Dispersee sat on a fallen tree trunk, lost in thought. A long walk in the woods had seemed just the ticket to release her from her turbulent thoughts, but alas, she had been unable to stop thinking about the ramifications of the new message from the popular ghost.

          At first she had been delighted to see it. She had agreed with it. But then she wondered why. Because she already knew all this, and in fact, it was information that could so readily be gleaned by anyone at all simply by engaging ordinary common sense, and run of the mill human compassion. Nothing esoteric was needed. No enlightened messages from the great beyond. In fact, she had said the same as the ghost, and on many occasions. The truth of the matter was that one had to be dead these days to be heard. Nobody was interested in the wise words of the living anymore. It could almost be said that nobody was all that interested in living at all: everyone wanted to be in the future, or the past, or in some other dimension, or planet, or not even physically alive at all anywhere. The individuals in the ascension process were particularly infected with this strange disorder: many of the ordinary uninitiated public were already quite well aware of the contents of the message and were already actively engaged in the process. It was as if the interest in so called shifty matters was an obstacle, an ugly carbuncle over the heart.

          Dispersee seriously wondered if the whole shift thing had been a good idea. She was beginning to doubt that it was. The alacrity with which people relied on messages from ghosts at the expense of exercising their own powers of deduction and intuition had caused the whole plan to do disastrously wrong. People didn’t even know how to behave like people anymore. Not only were they afraid of other people, afraid of their governments, afraid of their food, of the sun and the water and the very earth itself, they were afraid of their own human responses, or had forgotten them altogether.

          Did it really need a ghost to advise people on media propaganda, and remind them to be compassionate to others who were on an incredible journey, an extraordinary movement during these times of change? And more to the point, did Dispersee need to be involved at all in this futile ascension malarkey?


          In reply to: Mandala of Ascensions


            Frowning, Dispersee pondered the latest impulse and hesitated before including it in her report. The imagery had shifted from pools, to bubbles, to vapourous mist rising in shafts of sunlight, which sounded dangerously akin to ascending into the light, and that would never do. There was already far too much mumbo jumbo circulating about ascension and light, and altogether too many people sitting around on gluten free arses, ignoring everything, waiting for the shifted salt free shaft of the rapture to beam them up to the higher realms.

            No, it was no good, she couldn’t possibly share the new imagery, it would be misconstrued and counterproductive. Dispersee waited for the next strange impulse, and further clues.

            She didn’t have to wait long: the next morning, seized by another compulsion, she slipped out of the house into the dense swirling fog. Normally a big fan of bright contrast and intense colours, the diffused monochrome scenes were somehow restful to her senses. Water droplets danced in the air like common eye floaters, gathering on her skin and hair, wetting her as effectively as a dunk in a pool, but without the sudden shock of a plunge. It was insidious, almost sneaky, the way the mist pretended to be air but was mostly water. The fog connected everything in its path with its swarms of moisture droplets, drenching everything. Dispersee wondered if her wellington boot had sprung a leak as her left sock became coldly saturated, but it was the rivulets of clinging fog dribbling down her trouser leg.

            The bucolic scenery in shades of grey reminded her of the common phrase “it’s not black and white” which had been much bandied about of late. No, it’s not, she mused, it’s shades of reflected dispersed fluid, masquerading as spaces and solid matters. Poised to take a snapshot of a particularly large dewdrop which was reflecting an interesting twisted sapling, Dispersee blundered into the stalk of the plant, causing a furious shivering along the stems and seed pods. She watched with a feeling akin to fascinated horror as the glorious individual droplets merged into a channel of least resistance, spilling down in streams to gather in the mud.


            In reply to: Mandala of Ascensions


              “…..salt free inquisition born of effete privilege…”

              Dispersee shook her head and cackled to herself while reading Stinks Mc Fruckler’s (a double agent posing as a descended trickster) report.

              “These dupes, so arrogant in their idiocy have become an incredibly powerful voice which effects us all, this being why I rail against them, they are the new repulsive face of self righteous sanctimonious evangelism, a salt free inquisition born of effete privilege, modern day ill informed witch-burners intent on removing choice, blocking scientific advances….”

              Stinks may well get lynched for that one, she thought with a fond smile. Nobody expects to get away with criticizing the salt free inquisition. It was a position only a former salt smuggler would understand, as Dispersee well knew. “Salt of the Earth” was a well known turn of phrase (though not nearly as amusing as “salt free inquisition born of effete privilege” as turns of phrase go), but few took to heart the actual meaning. It was to be a good few years yet before the Return of the Salt to the turbulent planet, and salt, for the meantime, was still public enemy number one in the collective mind.

              Dispersee closed the report and turned her attention to her own.

              Despite her demonstration with the pool (complete with illustrations), throwing spoons haphazardly into the murky pool with no regard for the hidden fishes and broken chairs in the depths of the dirty water, despite the resulting swarm of earthquakes, only a handful of individuals understood the point she had been trying to demonstrate with regard to what was known in new age circles as “pooling” ~ not to be confused with team flow, which was something else entirely. (The fact that she had not understood what she was illustrating at the time, merely following a strange impulse, was neither here nor there ~ the point was quite obvious in retrospect, which was all that mattered).

              Pooling had become almost as popular as the Salter lynchings, and the unfortunate common denominator was “best intentions” ~ best intentions, vaguely pasted hearts, and no real understanding or questioning of the contents of the pool they were all diving into. The Pool Lemmings dived in one after another without washing off their associations, weighed down with their constructs and baggage, splashing the foul slime outside the pool where it seeped into the common water table, tainting the entire neighbourhood. The best intentions sank to the depths, perhaps to be fished out by an especially skilled fisherman of best intentions, but likely not. It was the clingy slippery algae of the associations that really thrived, and they attached themselves and flowed back out of the pool. Really it was a mess. Even her practical demonstrations of non return valves and two way valves had gone over their heads (as had the contaminated water).

              The second part of her demonstrations had been to illustrate the importance, and indeed the beauty, of bubbles ~ dewdrops suspended along webs ~ connected via gossamer thin but extremely strong networks, perfect reflective bubbles that kept their shape and individual purpose, rather than forming a dank puddle of slime in the overflowing muddy ditch. Admittedly Dispersee has not been aware of what she was demonstrating at the time, she was just following another strange impulse.

              She decided to finish her report tomorrow, and await todays strange impulse for further information.


                “The key comes from a certain Dory”, said Becky with a puzzled look. “Does anyone know a Dory ? I don’t.”
                “Have you been taking sleep pills again?” asked Tina in the brink of an eyeroll.
                “Not at all”, said Becky briskly, bringing the letter and the key close to her chest. “I just don’t remember. It seems so far away.”
                “It looks like a locker key, or maybe a safe key.” said Sam. “Look, there is a little monkey carved on it, and a number.” he said pointing at it.
                Becky and Tina looked more closely.
                “1495”, said Becky.
                “Year 1495 (MCDXCV) was a common year starting on Thursday”, said Al. He was trying to solve a puzzle based on chaotic randomness theory and the evolution of the electromagnetic flux of sunspots in real time.
                “There’s a little card with it.” Tina was holding a small square rigid paper with a name on it. “It’s written Tikfijikoo Island.”
                “I remember the name”, said Sam, “I think it’s that place where they are building the Spider Amusement Park, or SAP.”


                In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


                  His mother had told him not to trust what he would see. Somehow she’d spoken as if she knew more than she wanted to tell.

                  After the mayhem with the quakes, and the meteor impact, he thought that was it. There was something more to the reality of these events.

                  But then, nothing could have prepared them for what happened next. “Bloody aliens?”

                  Suspiciously, everyone seemed completely hypnotized and blissfully eager to follow them wherever they led. He had tried to wake Yz up, she was usually the no-nonsense one, but she’d looked at him with vacant eyes barely recognizing him with a faint “Johnny?”.

                  He started to get really suspicious when one of the robots started looking at his behaviour, not packing like the others. It even tried to force him to drink water —dehydration was common in these airtight environments, it said. It was then it dawned on him, that there must have put something in the water. But for what? A Mars take-over?

                  How he was somehow immune? Well, for a while he’d collected the water dripping from the stones, and had analysed it, found it very pure. A few days ago, before the whole string of disasters, he’d tried to drink it, see how it tasted, and it seemed safe. Must have been why. By now, most of the stones he’d collected had dried up, and his water supply was limited.

                  While pretending to slowly pack his things, he was looking at everyone queueing in short lines, all very ecstatic to go to the implausible blue boot-ship surrounded by watchful Finnleys. The exodus had a very eerie feeling about it.

                  He could see most of the persons he knew, even the new ones, Prune cuddling a box with her hamster family, Hans, even that daft Lizette and the mines guy. The religious nuts were so stoned they were all following an obviously overdressed robot with a headpiece they probably took for their religious leader.

                  But wait… His mother? He hadn’t see her. Where had she gone?


                  In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


                    Pádraig was alone as usual with his dog when he felt the first tremors. Dust started to fall from the large columns of sandstone inside the cave. He wasn’t too worried at first, as the area still had some faint thermal and seismic activity, but the second aftershock took him by surprise.

                    He almost fell violently backwards if he hadn’t had good enough reflexes to grab on the half carved ledge of the column he was working on.
                    His dog started to howl violently.

                    “Hush, Poppy!” the dust made him cough. “Must be those stupid government guys from the nearby base. I thought they’d stopped their nuclear testing decades ago…”

                    The dog didn’t stop barking though, but darted out in one of the carved galleries. It stopped just before going out of sight, as if waiting for his master.

                    “Oh, what now silly? I’m getting old for these games.”

                    But the dog was stubborn, a trait they had in common, his dead wife would have told him. So he relented, and went in the direction the dog was leading to.

                    It took him a few hundred meters in the tunnel to realize something odd had happened. The air was full of moisture, quite unusual at this time of year. He pressed on.
                    The dog’s paws were making tick-tick noises on the stones, and echoed in the chambers. His gait was less light, and he had to stop a few times to catch his breath. His life’s work was now quite monumental, and it could take quite a while to go from one end to another.
                    Before they reached the last chamber, he had to stop. His feet were getting wet.
                    It had been his dream for a long time, to bring water deep down to create a sort of natural healing pool, and bathe in the beautiful minerals, but he’d done some research, and although he’d always believed some underground river was nearby, he’d never managed to find it, or find any trace in the cadastral maps.

                    Seemed it wasn’t as far as he’d thought after all.


                      When you get to the “bottom” of the barrel, and “life” seems tedious and ho hum, and like a hamster you go “round” and round, it’s time to make a comment out of the word cloud. Elizabeth felt that she had “opened” the floodgates and the “water” of unfettered garbling was “heard” for miles, or even light years. The new “project” to “ride” the package holiday trip to galaxies unknown, open to “queens”, commoners, and all and sundry, although not necessarily “parents”, was a mixed “bag” of “lost” marbles and elusive memories. You must position “yourself” in the “middle” of the story, notwithstanding the pre ordained itinery, which “usually”, although not always, creates an “abalone” type random insertion which one endeavours to have the “strength” and fortitude to decipher, despite the “fucking” configurations of the puzzle. One should always aim to place oneself “above” the puzzle, so to speak, in order to familiarize “himself” (or herself, or indeed, itself) with the wider picture. Failing that, one might choose to “sit” the next one out.


                      In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


                        The young Yz looked with disbelief at the new girl. “What on Mars are you on about? Psychic archaeology? Come on Lizette, you must be joking. Barely 30 years is hardly enough to produce archaeological artefact of any interest, no?”

                        Yz had been called up to the mothership to participate in the maintenance drills, as part of the regular knowledge exchange program between Earth and Mars.
                        She was quite eager to see the central intelligence (“FinnPrime” as she liked to call it), a technology which had not yet been brought to the surface of Mars to date.

                        At first, Lizette had seemed like an interesting new friend. Very feminine and glamourous, with a flair of Earth fashion to her, something quite attractive.
                        But as soon as she started to talk, Yz realized how little they had in common.

                        That girl is going to have a tough call back to reality when we land… she thought while smiling to the giggling Lizette.


                          Even two weeks after the escape, she still woke up in cold sweats, haunted by nightmares of being chased down narrow lanes, or driving a vehicle that would only go at a snail’s pace as soon as she tried to drive it.

                          “Are you alright, dear?”

                          The comforting presence of Robert helped sooth her. He brought her a tray with some lemon and cucumber water, knowing it would help with her sore throat. The artificial air of the Mars colony tended to do that.

                          “Thank you Robert,… but you shouldn’t have. You’re not a robot any longer.”

                          She still couldn’t believe what had happened. Maybe that was the gift of retirement the Management had in store for her all alone. Unexpected gifts, unexpected islands of solitude —even at the closest to Earth in months, Mars was still 122 million miles from her Russian homeland.

                          It was still night outside. There, the days were slightly longer than Earth’s by half an hour or so, but she’d adapted to it rather quickly. It was still much better than the torpor on the island where she would loop on her days sometimes without even noticing it.

                          “Anything I can do for you dear?” Robert looked appropriately sorry for her, not too much to seem condescending, not to little to seem not caring.

                          “Put on some light music will you. The one from Beethoven that puts me in a meditative relaxation…”

                          When the deep notes started in the background, she started to relax. Her throat felt fresh and her lungs appreciative of the oxygen produced by the greenhouse plants.
                          Although she resisted slightly, inexorably she felt drawn to revisit the memories of the last day on Abalone.

                          It always started with the labyrinth, and finding herself alone.


                          “Mr R? Mr R?” she called. “Gweenie?”

                          The labyrinth looked strangely like the laboratory white walls of the Chinese Robot Incorporated Mission Eternal where she used to work as an intern first, then as a head of research for cybernetics advancements. She was quite brilliant for her age, and the prospect of bringing a golden age to mankind was, at the time, quite appealing to her young exalted mind.

                          She knew where to go. She had to relive again that day where she’d thrown away all of that for a life in hiding. The mysterious benevolent messages of the Management had started a few weeks prior, leading her to question the motives of her employer, and realizing she’d become quite attached to her creation. The prototype robot from Project R had shown never seen before reactions to stimuli, and a learning curve that was exponential. “R” was meant as Retirement: retirement of the last class of labor workers, of those delicate works that still required a human touch.
                          The Management had led her to uncover that under the Corporation’s vision, the prototype would lead humanity to its doom, becoming irrelevant, a flaw in the perfect design of profit they were looking for. So she’d taken the robot, and made a run for it.
                          She wouldn’t destroy it. And it seemed the Management had no intention of her to do so. With the Management’s invisible hand, she’d disguised Mr R as a common robot for elites, and led a life posing as an elite with a secret life of a for-hire spy, heist-mastermind, or ghost executioner of similarly exciting prospects.

                          So there she was again. The walls stretching to infinity in an endless stream of rooms nested one into the other, the fear of being caught creeping closer and closer.

                          “Stop that. Breathe.” she told herself. She was no longer that young innocent scientist. As soon as her fear dissipated, the rooms stream stopped, and everything was back to focus. She walked to the room she remembered clear as day. Mr R was there, still plugged to the mainframe, with a strange black doctor in a white surgical gown and blue mask she didn’t remember was there.

                          “Interesting situation you have here.” he greeted her, snapping his gloves to extend his hand to her. “You can call me René, I’m Tahitian.”

                          She could feel her lucidity fluctuating and ready to explode in a multiplicity of scenarios, but managed to maintain her focus. She refrained to punch the guy in the face too, and simply took his extended hand with caution.

                          “Congratulation.” he said, beaming. “You passed the test.”

                          All of a sudden, she was no longer in the same room. She was in the comfortable B&B of 2222. René was in a sofa, comfortably seated, and they were sharing a drink.

                          “What have you done with Mr R?” was her first thought.

                          “Oh, nothing to worry about, I borrowed it for a while, there is someone else that needed passing through my maze, and he kindly obliged to help. I will show you in a minute. We had a little conversation earlier on, while you were stranded in your past.”
                          “How long was I out?” she asked.
                          “Oh, time is inconsequential here, but in your terms, a day or two.”
                          “Didn’t seem that long…” she mused. “Where have you done with the others?”
                          “Don’t worry about them, they are on their own path. Only one should concern you now. A certain Chinese and very persistent man.”
                          “Oh, fuck.” was all she said. “I should have guessed, you’re with the Corporation.”
                          “Not at all my dear, you can relax. So as I said, we had a little conversation, and you can be proud of you. This robot has broken through, congratulations. You can be very proud of your work.”
                          “What do you mean?”
                          “He has developed a personality and a consciousness of its own. It’s still budding, but it’s very strong, and he’s quite concerned over your well-being I might add.” he said with a wink.

                          Irina was perplexed at the thought, but although it made some sense at a level, her conscious brain was struggling with the implications.

                          “Show me what you have to, and release us.” she said to René, getting up from the hypnotizing warmth of the sofa.

                          “In a minute” he’d say, “just have a look at the screen, will you.”

                          Then, she’d understood. The guy pursuing her, Cheung Lok was there, trapped in his own labyrinth, trying to catch the robot that always eluded him.

                          “He would rather die than let the robot go.” she said to René “we could be here for a while”.
                          “Not to worry ma chère, his timing has no impact on ours. All of this happens in the now.”
                          “So how this plays out usually?”
                          “It depends. In this case, all that matters is what happens when he gets the robot.”
                          STOP THAT! You can’t let him take it!”
                          “Calm down, the robot will be safe.”

                          In the next scene, Cheung Lok was securing the robot, who was pleading with him. “Please! I don’t want to become a hairdresser, let go of me!”
                          The appeal seemed to have struck a chord, and some memories of Cheung Lok flashed through the screen, and it looked like as if the robot’s struggle mirrored his own to be his own man, free from the expectations of demanding parents, society, Corporation… Their love had been nothing but control, and had put him in chains. He sobbed, wishing for a new life free of these responsibilities.


                          Irina awoke from the dream again. The last memories were a bit blurry, but still fresh in her mind. René had granted Cheung Lok’s wish. He was sent back to the Island, losing some years in the process, becoming back again a young adult full of unfulfilled desires, and no memory of his previous mission. Before the process happened, he wished for those who were still alive of his platoon to be given the choice to be sent back home with only memories of the robot and himself being destroyed, or to join him on the island, with a fresh future and memories. Surprisingly, most of them chose the first option. Not everyone was ready for a brave choice of facing one’s own desires and power.

                          As for her, René had been kind to offer Mr R a humanoid body before sending them through the teleportation boxes to the destination of their choices.
                          Mr R had chosen Роберт (Robert) as a name for his new self (she’d been more than relieved he’d avoided René), and they’d agreed to let the boxes find the most beneficial location for them to go to. That’s how they landed in the middle of the central greenhouse of the main colony, in 2121.

                          It was fifteen days ago, but still felt like yesterday.


                            The Zebra

                            “The zebra’s gifts include seeing in black and white, clarity without filters, balance, agility, uniqueness, power, sureness of path, keeping up individuality within the herd.

                            Questioning reality and illusion is common amongst people with zebra medicine, though an over analytic intellect can be a hindrance for some with this totem. In others the imagination must be awakened.

                            The zebras pattern of black on white, or white on black implies that what you see is not always what you get. Occult knowledge seen and unseen, dimensional shifts, new journeys and worldly endeavours are all aspects of this.

                            Zebras are master magicians, who utilise the energy of light and dark to shift realities and expand our consciousness, helping us see past our preconceived beliefs as they lead us into the mystery and magic of the unseen. Zebras seek balance in what they do, and they are sure of themselves, standing confidently in the middle of opposing forces. Those with this power animal are taught similar skills.

                            When the zebra comes into your life, change is signified in one or more areas of your life and hidden knowledge will be uncovered. Stand strong, develop trust and simply flow with the rhythm of a new creation. “

                            The Zebra


                              Sadie tucked her legs up under her body and snuggled down into the large armchair in the lounge. Her wet hair was twisted in a towel; her skin smelled like tropical coconuts from the body butter she had slathered on after her shower.

                              Just because no one can see me doesn’t mean I have to turn into a bag lady, Sadie told herself sternly.

                              She turned the television on and the wall became alive with one of her favourite home makeover programmes—a series on portable home design. With the light building materials nowadays, it was pretty common to transport the frame of a house in a backpack, just printing out the additional materials to construct it as required. Sadie set the screen to view only—sometimes it was fun to interact with the programmes, but right now she needed to think.

                              Her own home, built early last century in an industrial area which had long since been converted to residential housing, was sparsely furnished, but tastefully accessorised with soft colours and rich textures to give it a homely feel.

                              I love to touch and feel things, she thought, stroking the mossy green velvet arm of the chair.

                              In a world of so much clutter, her peaceful apartment was a haven of tranquility. She enjoyed silence, or maybe it was just that outside noises could so rudely interrupt the conversations going on in her head. Her boyfriend, Owen, an architect, was currently working on a big development project on Mars and not due back for at least another few months. So, other than when she was on a job, she had spent a lot of time alone lately.

                              She felt bad about scaring poor old Finnley, remembering her wide and terrified eyes darting around the room before she took off out the door.

                              She has probably gone to see that strange Elizabeth lady she works for. I hope they don’t think she is losing it and fire her.

                              And still no word from Linda Pol. Sadie was philosophical.

                              Being invisible wasn’t so bad.

                              Not now that she had got over the initial shock. In fact, the possibilities were starting to seem rather intriguing.


                                A man on a donkey making his way through the dust and rubble of the crumbling city elicited no attention, it was a common sight that attracted no attention. Sanso covered his hair and face with a blue shawl, more to keep the acrid cement dust out of his eyes that for purposes of concealment.
                                The destruction was appalling, but wonderfully symbolic ~ there were buildings still standing like lone sentinels amid the piles of smashed grey blocks and mangled steel girders, but the huge gaps where the great wall had been allowed a view of the rolling plain beyond. The heat shimmered across the golden dry vegetation, silver grey olive trees gnarled haphazardly on the gentle slopes, and far off a milky haze rose above the distant sea.
                                The donkey picked his way nimbly though the wreckage, scurrying figures clutching babies and assorted items rushed towards the holes in the perimeter wall, where the ragtaggle crowds fanned out as they ran through to the other side, as wild shouts of jubilation ~ as well as plaintive cries for loved ones lost in the chaos ~ ricocheted through the gutted buildings.
                                The donkey stopped at a site of devastation indistinguishable from all the others, and indicated to Sanso by bucking him off his back that this was the ruined tile factory, and then Lazuli shapeshifted back into his usual human form ~ short but stocky, black haired and brown eyed, with eyebrows that met in the middle ~ for ease of communication.
                                “Over there, look!” Lazuli pointed to wisps of dust rising from a depression in the rubble.
                                Shading his eyes from the glare of the sun, Sanso could make out four bent figures searching the debris, pulling out stones and tossing them aside, evidently searching for something.
                                Fanella! I have come back for you!” Sanso cried, stumbling and banging his shins as he rushed over to her.
                                “And I have come for you too!” added Lazuli, following Sanso, and hoping to make a favourable impression on the girl, smitten with her long golden hair, elfin features and slender body.
                                “About bloody time, Sanso” said Lisa tartly, easing her aching back into an upright position. “You may as make yourself useful, and help Pseu find the tile she’s looking for and then we can get out of this godforsaken hellhole. Jack will be wondering where we are.”


                                  Gliding through layers of consciousness, Belen carried her precious cargo of the Santa Maria and its birds towards her destination.
                                  There were various variations of the same 2222, and she carefully adjusted the course along the 202 years gap, so as to swim to her favourite version of it. It required much love work on her part, addressing, piecing and peacing off many parts of human consciousness, while at the same time tenderly caring for the memories stored with her immense ghost body.
                                  The 2020 version they had just left, she knew, was already on the proper track towards global enlightenment. There were still horrors, concerns and anxiety about the course of the future, but with a greater perspective, it looked like the positive actions were gaining momentum and leaning towards a brighter fuller and richer future.

                                  She could feel the Contact Crystal pulsate steadily and it opened her blowhole chakra. Blowing her mind, as it were.

                                  The Big Island was like a beacon, with the flows of lava rippling heatwave signatures in the ocean, and it didn’t take long to enter the stream that would lead them to the pod and the meeting point.

                                  As she sensed they’d arrived in 2222, and that they were floating on the surface of a calm ocean, she gently opened the energy bubble sealing the ghost and alive cargo of birds and vegetation, so they could breathe in the pure air and enjoy discovering around.

                                  Belen, look at you, not a ounce more of blubber since we last met! You ought to tell me how you keep so fit”
                                  “Batshatsassani!” Belen was pleased the see the great female orca who’d come to greet her.
                                  “Still with your entourage, it seems” her friend said without a hint of malice, blowing a few rings of bubbles around in a relaxed manner. “Let me accompany you to the ceremony.”
                                  “With great pleasure, dear. Rest assured, I won’t carry my entourage along for the time of the ceremony.”
                                  “It would have been cumbersome, no?” Oftentimes humour (and irony in particular) were a lost subtlety on the orca’s mind. Belen just smiled to answer, revealing a great range of ghostwhite perfect baleens.

                                  As they swam their way along the beautiful clear ocean, they were greeted by a pod of joyously rambunctious great dolphins, a good half size bigger than their common dolphins cousins she’d seen swimming near the coasts of Portugal. The leader of the pod was doing acrobatics to retrieve and play with a funny scarf made of colorful feathers. It was no surprise the dolphins were playing games, really. That or chasing food took the best of their time. But the scarf was the strangest thing Belen had seen in a long time and it triggered some kind of forgotten memory. Odd thing for her to not remember a memory, unless it was from another probable dimension… She followed the urge to ask.

                                  “Were did they get that?”
                                  “Oh, it’s nothing important… Four strange aquatic thingies went down earlier this morning, making a whole lot of noise around. They looked like one of those aliens, but so clumsy we thought they were probably sickly and left there to die by their tribe. The ‘phins took the fancy red gills from one of them.”
                                  “Are you serious? Are they OK?” Belen huge heart felt panicky at the thought of the small creatures left to die without help.
                                  “Of course they are, I knoooow we have to keep our reputation, you know. Where they are now, I’m not too sure. But the octopi from the camouflage squad are on it, following them. According to the last I know, the aliens have been lost for awhile in the underwater caves. When they’re exhausted, we’ll send them somewhere else… Can’t attract too much attention to ourselves, with the ceremony and all…”


                                    With years of intense Happiness training, and being herself a certified Happiness Coach™ in Rainbow Unified Bliss®, Lisa was reasonably adept at dispelling the occasional bouts of frustration that the six time travelers were experiencing while familiarizing themselves with the new time frame. Learning the new languages, both the local Spanish and the common language of the village tribe, English, was of paramount importance, and Mirabelle in particular was having difficulties. A basic vocabulary was easy enough, but when it came to grammar, Mirabelle was hopeless. Thus her communications were of a very basic and rudimentary nature, and she often felt unable to express her feelings, or her thoughtful observations on the many nuances, similarities and differences and overlaps of the current time and 18th century France. Not only was she obliged to learn two new languages, but was also learning to read and write. Often it seemed like all work and no play, too much pressure to perform, to learn, to do well at her studies, and yet play breaks were always frustrated in some manner because of her difficulties in communicating clearly. The fact that the others were progressing better with the languages made her feel alone, adrift in a sea of her own unexpressed thoughts.
                                    Adeline had a more relaxed approach to the language difficulties, less inclined to struggle with it and more likely to chatter endlessly to Boris instead, and ask him to translate when she needed some help. She had discovered an interest, and some considerable talent, in the art room, experimenting with the paints and materials, and spent many happy hours engrossed in her paintings and playful collages of mundane (but to her, bizarre) objects. She was like a magpie, collecting items that caught her eye. The bright colours and smoothness of plastic appealed to her, especially when transformed in shape by one of those odd little plastic fire making gadgets. Sunglasses were another favourite, especially the different shades of lens. It was not unusual to hear one of the villagers complaining that the lids to the tupperware containers were missing, or all the bottle tops had been removed, to find they had all been glued together, with the flyswatter, a few odd flipflop beach shoes and the mirror lenses out of someones shades. But the villagers were on the whole amused, generously indulgent, and good naturedley rolled their eyes at her creative curiosity.
                                    Boris was practical and capable, and true to form, was learning rapidly. He had no particular desire to express vague rambling thoughts (indeed, he was not a vague and rambling man by nature) and turned his attention to more practical matters. When he wasn’t chatting to Adeline, he was watching Jack tinkering inside car engines, or playing with Pierre’s camera and had quickly learned how to upload and play with the images on the computer. Often in the evenings Adeline would sit beside him and watch drowsily as the images changed in front of her eyes on the screen.
                                    Ivan and Igor were learning what they needed to learn while doing it ~ tending the goats and chickens, working outside on the land, or helping with various building projects. They had taken to the local bars like ducks to water, and spent the evenings downing copious amounts of beer and wine with the locals, all of them babbling and shouting incoherently, but seeming to understand each other in the camaraderie of inebriation.


                                      With years of intense Happiness training, and being herself a certified Happiness Coach™ in Rainbow Unified Bliss®, Sadie knew when to notice she was stuck and, even better, what to do about it.
                                      Techniques varied: some focusing on breathing, others on following impulse and all that, but most of them had in common that rabid thoughts had to be put to sleep, and the focus had to be kept on the immediate now.
                                      The beauty of the Hawaii island was easy on the eyes, although she could still find objections lurking in the corner of her mind that the beaches were scarce on this island, with many shores a blistering hot pan of molten lava rocks ceaselessly beaten by the waves.
                                      Then the sound of her companions came rousing some disturbance in her Rainbow thoughts, as she found out was mostly an annoyance with herself and her hair, the neat bowl cut starting to look a bit rugged on the edges.

                                      Again, the rabid thoughts were back. She had to go deeper, cling to a joyful experience, that pure moment of satisfaction. But the flow and inpouring of love stopped again like a sea anemone retracting at the light touch of a clown fish.

                                      She restrained the thought of loudly using the F word, and as well refrained herself from the desire to delete everything.
                                      She noticed a few tadpoles which weren’t here before, slithering in a little pool of water next to the spot where she was. She’d almost forgotten about the singing frogs. That such little creature could do so marvelous feats of logistics rekindled her spirits.
                                      What if she could just harness a little bit of her own energy. She started to list the things she was good at, besides haircuts.

                                      “I’m fucking good at limitations, and following other’s expectations” was what she came up with after some minutes listing some things without much conviction.
                                      “Bugger Linda Paul, and those ninc…” There it is she noticed again the thought.
                                      That’s what it’s about…

                                      You have to be nice and be quiet, Sadeline, the voice of her mean Breton grand-mother was saying. To which her equally loathable aunts would chime in religious rubbish of being nice and saintly and all.
                                      You have to be nice and be quiet, Sadeline, or go out of my way and die alone.
                                      She’d tried to exorcise the old goat, to rid of her, to appease her, to connect to the better version of herself that she is now since her transition. Well, nothing worked. She couldn’t find the angle. The old woman was still to her core a haunting and menacing presence with her mean irate insensitive lack of professed love.
                                      Maybe they’d developed better techniques in 2222, she suddenly thought. Of course…
                                      And then, Linda Paul wouldn’t have to know.

                                      “Girls?” she said in a sweet imperative voice (and slightly raucous, for the air was dry) “what do you think about having ourselves pay a visit to the local techromancer, I’ve seen the signs everywhere on the way to the beach. It’ll be a fun stop on our mission”.

                                      The three divas moaned under the sun, not specially enthusiastic at the effort, but then, Cedric, still himself haunted by the Russian’s vision managed to convince the others that some romance or exorcism or both, would do them great.


                                        Mirabelle and Adeline sat in the morning sun on the verandah, appreciatively nibbling the perfectly formed sliced toasted bread and marmalade.
                                        Almost six months had passed since they’d been found on the beach, confused and soaked, babbling incoherently. An early morning beach walker had found them (she had wondered if she was dreaming or hallucinating), and had attempted to engage them in conversation. A rudimentary smattering of French acquired during a grape picking sojourn in France many years ago helped. Much of what the bizarrely clad group said was incomprehensible, but it was clear that they were lost and hungry, so Lisa invited them back home with her. They were reluctant to get into the car, fearing a trap, and when she started the engine, they panicked and scrambled to get back out until Boris calmed them down and suggested they had better trust this stranger because frankly, what were their options? She seemed kind and helpful, even if she was shockingly under dressed with her legs exposed for all to see, and had an invisible and very noisy horse pulling her carriage.
                                        Lisa lived in a relatively new community of creative and forward thinking individuals who were in the process of renovating an abandoned village in the orange groves. They called the village the Trading Post, a name that was a loose play on words on the social media platform where they had first become acquainted and traded and shared posts. They were a diverse assortment of people from all over the world, united with the common goal of experimenting with a new type of anarchist culture, a novel creative and expansive playful approach that was becoming increasingly popular.
                                        Pierre and Étienne’s knowledge of French had come to the rescue upon the first arrival of the group, as they unraveled their strange tale. After much confusing conversation and translations for the rest of the occupants of the village, it became clear that the group were time travelers, although somewhat accidental and clearly unprepared.
                                        While the travelers rested after an unfamiliar but welcome meal, the villagers discussed the situation with much interest and curiosity. It was decided that they would keep the news of the travelers a secret for the time being, and gradually assist them with learning about their new timeframe, current customs and the local languages.


                                          Whale time travel reached an unprecedented level of popularity in the 2020s. Whales were quicker to learn the skills needed than their human counterparts, less constrained by belief constructs and generally more relaxed and fun loving, less hidebound with responsibilities and worries. There were accidents of course ~ some accidentally teleported onto land, as in the case of the many “beached” cetaceans, humans mistakenly assuming that their swimming techniques had been faulty. Another common misconception was that whales spotted in waters that they normally did not frequent had been swimming off course, for reasons unknown but generally assumed to be because of pollution, radiation or underwater sonic disturbances related to the military. It was true that sometimes these factors were a motivating aspect, but primarily whales teleported and time traveled for the sheer fun of it. Time traveling back to times and places where whaling ships dominated the oceans was considered to be a sport for the dare devils and thrill seekers; time travelling to the future for those more interested in a relaxing holiday. Some whales had a particular interest in archeology ~ shipwrecks and underwater cities and so on, but the dates of arrival had to be timed correctly, as underwater cities were not always under water and a miscalculation could result in a stranding on land in the middle of a town square or atop a pyramid. Many an ancient legend of monstrous other worldly beings had arisen from such a faux pas.
                                          Whale teleport practice portals had sprung up all over the seas in response to the increasing demand from young up and coming whales eager to try their fins at the new pursuit. Most of them were static, and related to land mass locations, such as the waters between the Pillars of Hercules at the western mouth of the Mediterranean, or the area offshore from the Hercules Tower on the Galician coast. In fact, the whales surrounding the shores of Spain had been at the forefront of the explorations, and these two portals were well established.


                                            After almost 33 years on the road doing their their show, Geoffroy and the Théâtre du Soleil had had their share of success.

                                            Of course, with an average age of the troupe being close to 66 years old on the eve of July 1789, they were not all young and restless, nor as high on hallucinogenic mushrooms like every other day.
                                            Admittedly, their fate took a turn for the better after that show cancellation at Versailles the day of the attempt on the King’s life. They were stolen a balloon and a tub of lard, but what they gained in exchange was beyond wondrous. Sparks of inspiration had brought the team closer, and even the occasional quarrel between Lison and Francette was a blessing. Now, there was already a new King in Versailles, not better by far, and the wig fashion had improved only so lightly, but it gave good fodder for sarcasm and witty plays.

                                            It wasn’t so much that their play-writing abilities had improved dramatically, to the contrary, but their common hallucination in the Royal Chapelle that day had unleashed their creative power. Their new plays had become famous overnight all over the Europe, liked by peasants who were enjoying its simplicity and nonsensical timing and plots, or even snotty critics all alike, who were somehow discerning artful and intricate royal satire that maybe they’d just invented to sound clever.

                                            Tonight they would play a revival of their universally acclaimed chef d’œuvre, “The whales and the frogs”. With buffoonish wigs and corsets, and their share of heavy compulsory make-up. For some, the frogs were a symbol of the poor people carrying the heavy queens and kings of old, with crazy old Time as a driver, flanked with Janus the two-headed Janitor. Well, that sounded quite erudite and a tad pompous, and frankly for them, they didn’t care what symbol it was, so long as it brought the final money they needed for their retirement plan in sunny Mediterranean where they would take a boat and sail to the new world.

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