Lucinda had all but forgotten about the mysterious dolls, what with the global events dominating everyone’s thoughts. It was hard to focus on anything else, and even Helper Effy wasn’t pushing her too much to keep up with her writing.
When her friend Dillie sent her the first photograph of a doll hanging on a tree in the Michigan forest, she’d found it amusing, of course, but had thought no more about it. It was always fun to find unexpected things in random places, but the significance of it being a doll had escaped her notice.
When Dillie sent a photo of another doll hanging on a tree by a woodland trail a few days later, the penny dropped. Dolls! What were they doing in Michigan? Were there more dolls in those woods?
Dillie had been tempted to take the dolls home with her, but hesitated. There was something strange about them and she intuitively felt she should leave them where they were.
Lucinda wondered what to do. Should she go to Michigan? Ask her friend to go back and fetch the dolls and send them to her? Wait and see if Dillie found any more?
The dolls looked strangely pristine, as if they’d only recently been hung there. Who had done that, and why?
There was a lotto think about, and Lucinda was hard at it. At least she was hard at it until she noticed the typo. She kept forgetting about the lottery tickets. This pleased her because she’d heard a popular oracle say that forgetting about it was a good sign of winning.
She imagined Helper Effy’s wise and patient (if a trifle scornful) voice asking her if a lottery win would help her writing.
It was a good question.
WIB (workman in blue) opened his lunch box and unwrapped a sandwich. He sighed when he saw it was cheese and pickle again. It had been cheese and pickle all week, a sure sign that WAH (woman at home) wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved, throwing the easiest thing together day after day instead of planning a nice roast chicken dinner, with the prospect of a couple of days of savoury chicken sandwiches to take to work. She hadn’t even bothered to boil up a few hard boiled eggs for a bit of variety. He loved egg sandwiches. He wasn’t a hard man to please, he ruminated dolefully, chewing the cheese and pickle.
He reached for his flask to wash it down with a gulp of tea, and noticed with some surprise that she’d bought him a new flask. His old one had a few dents in the screw on cup, and this one looked all shiny and new. Anxious to wash down the cheesy lump in his throat, he unscrewed the cap and poured the flask over the cup.
But there was no tea in the flask, nothing poured out of it. He peered inside and shook it.
“That woman’s lost her marbles!”
It was the last straw. He stood up, shook the flask above his head, and roared incoherently.
“Everything alright, mate?” asked his work colleague mildly. WIB2 was contentedly munching a juicy pink ham sandwich. He even had a packet of crisps to go with it, WIB1 noticed.
“No tea? Fancy some of my coffee? Pass yer cup. What’s in the flask then, what’s rattling?”
WAB1 sat back down on the low wall and upended the flask, pulling at a bit of black stuff that was protruding from the top.
““Maybe it’s full of banknotes!” WIB2 suggested.
“It’s a fucking doll! What the..?”
“Why did your old lady put a doll in your flask instead of tea, mate? Private joke or something, bit of a lark?” WIB2 elbowed WIB1 in the ribs playfully. “No?” he responded to WIB1’s scowl. “Maybe there’s something stitched inside it, then.”
“Lucinda, where is this going?”
“I don’t fucking know, Helper Effy.”
“I thought as much. Perhaps we’d better go back to the beginning.”
“It might be useful to do an indepth character analysis of Agent V,” said Helper Effy with a patient smile.
“You’re right, six kids … god, what was I thinking.”
Lucinda handed in her assignment to Helper Effy with a satisfied smile. The first major confrontation, action, or dramatic event that came to her mind had surprised her. She had no idea where it came from, and only a vague idea about who the characters were, or indeed, where they were. But she felt the apple cart and bicycle scene was rather thrilling and had potential.
The creative writing course teacher, or “Helper” as they liked to call themselves to avoid any suggestion of hierarchy, was an arresting looking woman of indeterminate age and the most extraordinary red beehive hair do. The colour and style of it, and the aplomb with which Helper Effy carried it off, distracted Lucinda sufficiently during the first part of the lesson that she heard none of it.
“What’s the first major confrontation, or action, or dramatic event in your novel that comes to your mind?” the Helper was asking. “Why? Because if it is the first thing you think of, then it’s your chimney poking through the hardpan.”
Not quite sure what a hardpan was, Lucinda never the less felt she’d got the gist of the thing, and hoped she wouldn’t be too distracted by the question of the hardpan.
T: you might’ve fixed the typo’s, F
T: Frightfully good of you to post it though, Effy, old bean
T: Steady on, F! Anyway, where’s the bit about ODD, you know, the tart and two halves?EricKeymaster
Somewhere during the 23 rd century
“aaa AAAA AAAAA Tcheeeew !”
“Hiiiiii?! Oh Fracking NOOOoooo!”
The shriek had been heard in the whole facility.
— Vinnie? Are you alright?… What just happened?
— Oh, Pheffy… I think I made an awful blunder…
— What do you mean?
— You know, my last experiment?
— The g…
— They poofed away…
— Away?… You mean, all of them? Oh bugger…
A few minutes later, Vinya and Phefia were around a white table sucking on straws picked into white and red polystyrenoid balls.
— Vinnie, you look terrible… That last geomagnetic storm had not done very good on your DNA I’m afraid.
— And the worse is that each time I sneeze, I blow up wormholes… I thought it would go better very quickly, but last one was big and lasted long enough to let the whole experimental herd wander off in another time/space and/or dimension…
— Yeah, that’s pretty bad… But wherever they went, they probably will die very soon… Imagine… With their stiff legs anytime they see something frightening, I guess a mere mapgie could easily have them for dinner…
— Such a pity… I was close to doing something great with them… When we discovered these fossilized blue spiders, I knew it was the first step.
— Bwah, this rehydrated frogrog is the grossest thing I’ve ever drunk… But yeah you’re right, the first results were very promising. The spiders venom could provoke very random and deep mutations.
— And all we needed was a little more control on the direction of the mutations.
— Anyway they’re just goats… You possibly can’t have breached a cosmic law with a handful of GOATS…
— Hope so Pheffy, hope so…
San Demangelo, 1848
— Uncle Ernie? How’s the old bat doin’? asked Twilight
— He’s sending his greetings for the new year, and babbling about last dead people in the neighborhood. But there’s something funny. He’s saying that he’d just acquired some funny goats. Like popped in, out of nowhere. At first he’d thought of a joke, but apparently no one’s been claiming them. He’d thought them dead, they were a dozen laying stiff on the ground, but when they started to wake up, they went down again like broken dolls. Apparently the magpies on top of the tree had been scaring them. Ahaha… Where does he get such strange stories…
— Well, magpies are scarey, Twilight said meaningfully, with a side glance at Joe…
— Whatever… At least he’d been giving us a good laugh. He’s saying he’s gonna breed the horny beasts, and start a Fainting Goat Fair (or FGF) in Marshall County. Perhaps we could get there next Thanksgiving…
— Depends when the Freak Show’s coming to town, mused Twilight, I hope to see them soon…
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