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  • #6076
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Let’s begin,” said the teacher. She was short and seemed around sixty seven. She walked around the room like a tamer surrounded by wild beasts in a circus. Her dark hair was tied into a long braid falling on her straight back like an I. She wore a sari wrapped around her neatly. “I’m Ms Anika Koskinen, your cryogurt teacher today. You’ve got the recipe in front of you on the benches right with the glass and a bottle of water. The ingredients will be in the cabinets on your left and everything is referenced and written big enough for everyone to see.”

    “Those benches look like the ones in chemistry class when I was in college,” said Glo. “I have bad memories of thoses.”

    “You have bad memories, that’s all,” said Sha making them both laugh.

    “But where’s Mavis?” whispered Glo after looking around the room at the other participants. A majority of women,  wrapped in colourful sarongs and a few older men.

    “How do you want me to know? I was with you since we left the bungalow,” said Sharon who was trying to decipher the blurry letters on the recipe. “Their printer must be malfunctioning, it’s unreadable.”

    “You should try putting on your glasses.”

    “I didn’t bring’em, didn’t think we’d need to see anything.”

    “Oh! There she is,” said Glo as Mavis just entered the room with her beach bag. “Mav! Weehoo! We’re here!”

    “I saw you! no need to shout,” whispered Mavis loudly. She muttered some excuse to the teacher who had been giving them a stern look.

    “I’m afraid you’ll have to go with your friends,” said Ms Koskinen, “We don’t have enough material for everyone.”

    “Oh! That’ll be perfect,” said Mavis with a broad smile. “Hi girls,” she said while installing herself near Sha and Glo.

    The teacher resumed her explanations of the procedure of making frozen yogurt, checking regularly if everyone had understood. She took everyone bobbing their head as a yes.

    “Is he good looking?” asked Sha, showing one of the men who had been looking at them since Mavis arrival.

    “You shouldn’t ask us,” said Glo, “our eyes are like wrinkles remover apps.”

    “I think he looks better without glasses,” said Mavis.

    After Ms Koskinen had finished giving them instructions, she told everyone to go take the ingredients and bring them back to their benches.

    “I’m going,” said Sha who wanted to have a better look at the man.

    “Don’t forget the recipe with the list of ingredients,” said Mavis waving the paper at her.

    “Oh! Yes.”

    She came back with the man helping her carry the tray of ingredients.

    “Thank you Andrew,” said Sha when he put the tray on their bench.

    “Oh you’re welcome. And those are your friend you told me about?”

    “Yes! This is Gloria and this is Mavis.”

    “Pleased to meet you,” said Andrew. “I’m Andrew Anderson. I suggested Sharon we could have lunch together after the workshop. I’d like you to meet my friends.”

    “Of course!” said Sha. She winked at her friends who were too flabbergasted to speak.

    “That’s settled then. We’ll meet at 1pm at my bungalow.”

    “See you later,” said Sharon with a dulcet voice.

    “What the butt was that all about?” asked Glo.

    “Oh! You’ll thank me. I pretexted not to be able to find everything on the list and Andrew was very helpful. The man is charming, and his yacht makes you forget about his Australian accent. We’re going to have lunch on a yacht girls! That means we’re not stuck on the beach and can have some fun exploring around.”

    Sha looked quite pleased with herself. She put a bottle of orange powder among the ingredients and said :”Now! Let’s make some wrinkle flattener ice cream, ladies. I took some extra tightener.”

    #6073

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The words of the Great Leader Undisputed Gabe were still resonating in the back of Gavin’s mind. The promotion to Operating Tomathetan seemed a great honour on the surface, but it certainly brought its lot of responsibilities with it. And from what he had seen before, it would only add to his current ones.

    Gavin descended the Pealgrim path to the Dark Room where all the sorting happened. Many trails from the many carrot fields combined into one and all led to that central building all painted in black, hence its name.

    A zealous Seed level had recently been put in charge of the re-painting. As there was only black paint in the warehouse he had the genius idea to save the order some money by using only what they already had, and as there was enough paint he covered all the windows, certainly thinking light could damage the crops. Repainting everything was out of the question so they had kept it like that and just added some artificial light to help the workers. Great Leader Undisputed Gabe, had thought it was a nice initiative as now workers could work any hour of the day.

    When Gavin entered the Dark Room, it reeked of carrot and sweat. Members of the cult of all ages were sorting the divine roots by shapes, sizes and thickness. Most of them didn’t know what was the final purpose, innocent minds. All they had was the Sorting Song written by Britta the one legged vestal to help her fellow cultshipers in their work.

    If a carrot is short, not worth the effort
    As a long stalactites, like ice on your tits
    A bar thick as a fist, you’ve just been blissed

    Each verse gave advices about what they were looking for, where to put them after sorting and each team had their own songs that they sang while doing their work with the enthusiasm of cultshipers. Even though the song had been crafted to answer most of the situations in terms of carrot shapes, sizes and thickness, it happened that some would not fit into any categories. And recently, those seem to happen more often than once and the pile of misshapen carrots threaten to exceed that of the others combined.

    “Eugene, Have you found what is the problem?” asked Gavin to their agronomist. His surname was Carrot and he came from noble Irish descent, quite appropriate for his work, thought Gavin. Eugene was skinny with a long neck and he often seemed to abuse the ritual fasting ceremony ending with the consumption of sacred mushroom soup.

    “It’s because of the microscopic snails that infest the crops,” Eugene said. Gavin couldn’t help but notice an accumulation of dried saliva at the corner of his mouth. “They’re carried by bird shit and they are too small to be eaten by our ducks and in the end they cause the carrots to grow random shapes unfit for Odin.”

    Odin, short for Organic Dildo Industry, has been the main source of revenue for the cult. Since the start of the confinement the demand has skyrocketed. Especially appreciated by vegans and nature lovers, it also procured a nice orange tan on the skin after usage.

    “Can’t you find smaller dwarf ducks?”

    “Your Gourdness, microscopic means very tiny, even dwarf ducks wouldn’t be able to eat them unless they eat the carrots.”

    “And that would be a problem,” sighed Gavin. “What is your solution then?”

    “I don’t have one.”

    Gavin raised his hands to the black roof in despair. Did he have to do the jobs of everyone? He needed some fresh eyes and fresh ideas.

    #6029
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Based on post #5959 in The Whale’s Diaries Collection.

    As soon as Charlton finished editing his journal entry, someone knocked at the door. It was Kady in a red dress. She looked different than his dream. For starter she was not restless and she had some kind of self-assurance that she didn’t have before.

    “Oh! Hello,” Charlton said. “Are we going to the pistil?”

    “So you got the dream I sent you. It’ll be easier. I’m not against a cup of tea. It’s been a long time since I could enjoy one in a couch.”

    Charlton made some rare Da Hong Pao Chinese tea, the one called Big Red Dress. A warm and rich aroma steamed out of the purple clay teapot he had brought from a trip in China. He thought the tea was a nice touch considering his friend’s garment.

    “So, where have you been?” he asked.

    Kady brought up the little cup to her nose and smelled the tea.

    “Oh! You truly know your shit, Charlton.” She took a sip before continuing. “The pistils, they have been around for longer than everybody think. We call it the Pistil Maze,” Kady said. She looked at him with hesitation in her eyes. “You may not believe me, but aliens put it there, you know. Who else? But most of the people they don’t understand. They don’t want to. It’s too frightening for their little comfort. People are perceiving them now because of the virus. It’s making them able to see their frequency when they weren’t able to before. But they have been there for a long time.”

    Then Kady told Charlton about an ancient alien race from another dimension that was bringing a power, a treasure of knowledge and abilities, but that current humans bodies were too weak to bear its intensity, and that people had to somehow upgrade before they could. The pistils, they were a series of mazes, a path to transformation. People had to follow it in order to change themselves and there was not just one path. Everyone had to follow their own.

    The whole story about the pistils fascinated Charlton, especially after his dream. It didn’t took him long before asking his next question.

    “Do I need to pack up special things for the trip?”

    “Actually you don’t. We’ll find all that we need inside.”

    #6026
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Dear Jorid Whale,

    My hands are shaking while I type this on the keyboard.

    I’m not sure which of last night’s dreams is the bizarrest. Bizarre in a fantastic way, although for certain people it might be called grotesque. I’m certain it has something to do with that book I ordered online last week. I don’t usually read books and certainly not like this one. But the confinement, it makes you consider making things out of your ordinary.

    It’s called The Enchanted Forest of Changes, by a Chinese artist Níngméng (柠檬). They say his artist name means lemon, but that some of his friends call him Níng mèng 凝梦 (curdle dreams), which to my ears sound exactly the same except a little bit angrier. I found out about him on a forum about creepy dolls abandoned in forests all around the world. Yeah exactly, the confinement effect again. Apparently it started with a few dolls in a forest in Michigan, and then suddenly people started to find them everywhere. I wonder if some people are really into the confinement thing or if it’s just me using that as a reason to stay home.

    Anyway, someone on that forum posted one of the picture of that book and it caught my eye. So much so that I dreamt of it the following night. So I bought the book and it’s mostly ink drawings, but they seem to speak directly to some part of you that you were not even aware you had. I almost hear whispers when I look at the drawings. And then I have those dreams.

    Last night I dreamt of a cat that had been reared as a boy. He even had the shape of one, but shorter maybe. He had learned to talk and use his paws as hands, his claws had grown into fingers, had lost most of his fur and he was wearing clothes. If I was amazed by such a feat, it kinda seemed normal for the people I met in that dream. It just took a lot of efforts, love and dedication to raise this kind of children.

    And Whale, I feel tingling in my arms. This morning you showed me the picture of a kitten! That’s not a mere coincidence. I’m feeling so excited, my hands are too slow to type what I want to write. I fear I’m going to forget an important detail.

    About the second dream. The world was in shock, there was this giant… thing that looked like a pistil and that had grown during the night in some arid area. It was taller than the tallest human made tower. Its extremity was cone shaped, and I confess that the whole thing looked like some kind of dick to me.

    Plants and trees had followed in the following days as if the pistil had changed the climatic conditions (autocorrect wanted to write climactic, is that you playing around?).

    The pistil was protected by some kind of field and it couldn’t be approached by everyone. Governments had tried, pharmaceutical companies had tried. People who wanted to make gold out of it, they were all rejected. But for some reason some people could approach. Anyone, not just the pure of hearts or the noble ones. Actually a whole bunch of weirdoes started to take their chances. Some were allowed in and some where not. Nobody knew what was the deciding factor.

    A friend of mine that I have not seen in years during my waking life, she came back and asked me to come with her. So we went and were allowed in. My recall of the events after that is fuzzy. But I get the strange impression that I will spend more time in there later on.

    [Edited in the afternoon]

    I don’t believe it! It’s on the news everywhere. It has even replaced the news about the virus and the confinement.

    Giant pistils have appeared around the world, but it seems only people who had been infected can see them.

    Crazy rumours run on the internet. Giant mass hallucination caused by the virus. Some people say it’s alien technology, spores engineered to control our brains.

    There is one not so far from where I live. Should I wait for Kady to call me?

    #6017

    In reply to: Story Bored

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    BORED 2 

    Inter-dimensional fancy dress party

    picture one:

    Irina peruses costumes for the fancy dress party using her latest blue-crystal activated hologram. “I loooove the parrot headwear,” she says to the nervously hovering Mr R, “but the question is, will my bum look big in the unicorn dress?”

    picture two:

    Fox, embarrassed by his lack of costume, over-compensates. “This is where the party is, you nerds!” he shouts. “Last one in the water is a rotten egg!”

    picture three:

    Sanso (dressed as a thought-form and rather put out to find that everyone thought he was a common garden slug) was waxing lyrical to a Pig he thought was Arona. “Sometimes those things which tie us down are more mental than physical, but in your case, I think not.”

    “Hey, leave me out of this,” says the Pig, “I just wandered over from the farm yonder to see what all the racket was.”

    #5995
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Fanella was frantic, trying to think of a way to escape with her baby.  The atmosphere in this city was unbearable at the best of times, and especially in this house, but now it was excruciating. It wasn’t that she was afraid of the plague that was terrorizing people, it was the way the people were reacting that was so alarming.  They were howling like wolves, a sure sign of lunacy since time immemorial. The sound of it made her blood run cold.

    Nobody had seen the president for over a week and rumours were rife. Many said that he’d died, and they were keeping it secret to avoid civil unrest.  An office junior was continuing his tweets to the nation, using a random predictive text algorithm. Nobody had noticed. That wasn’t strictly true of course as many had commented that the messages now made marginally more sense.

    Fanella could sense the swelling chaos in the air, both inside the house and beyond, in the city and in the nation. Everyone was losing their minds. She had to escape.

    She consulted the U Chong:

     (Chin / Jin) : Progress / Advance. It represents Prospering, as well as Progress. It is symbolic of meeting the great man.

    The great man! Of course! Lazuli Galore would come to rescue her! But how would he know where to find her? Would he be able to travel freely? He’d find a way, surely! But how would he know she needed help? It was so complicated. So hard to know what to do!

    But first things first. Fanella crept down to the kitchen, in the dead  of the night while everyone was tucked up in their beds with their fitful nightmares, and filled a rucksack with provisions. Then she crept up the back stairs to her hideout in the attic of the west wing.  The baby was still sleeping soundly. Fanella lay down and pulled a blanket round them both. Maybe the answer would come in a dream. If not, she’d think about it again tomorrow.

    #5988
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Shawn Paul looked suspiciously at the pictures of the dolls in the Michigan forest on Maeve’s phone. He had heard about the Cottingley Fairies pictures, supposedly taken a long time ago by two little girls. The two little girls came out long after confessing they had staged the whole thing. Some said they had been coerced into it to keep the world from knowing the truth. It could well be the same thing with the whole dollmania, and Shawn Paul thought one was never dubious enough.

    He noded politely to Maeve and decided to hide his doubts for now. They were resting on sunbeds near the hotel swimming pool.

    “Do you want another cocktail?” asked a waitress dressed up in the local costume. Not much really, and so close-fitting. She was presenting them with a tray of colourful drinks and a candid smile. Her bosom was on the brink of spilling over the band of cloth she had around her chest. It was decorated with a pair of parrots stretched in such a way their lubricious eyes threatening to pop out at any moment.

    Shawn Paul, who had the talent to see the odd and misplaced, forced himself to look at the tray and spotted the strangest one. He pushed his glasses back up on his nose and asked without looking at the waitress.

    “What’s that strange bluish blob under the layers of alcohol and fruits?”

    Maeve raised one eyebrow and looked at her companion with disapproval, but the waitress answered as if she heard that all the time.

    “That’s a spoonful of honey from the blue bees. We feed them a special treat and they make us honey with remarkable properties that we have learned to use for the treatments we offer.”

    “Oh,” said Shawn Paul who did not dare ask more about the treatments.

    They had arrived to Tikfidjikoo just before the confinement had been declared all over the world, and they had a moment of hesitation to take the last plane with the other tourists and go back safely to Canada. But after the inconclusive adventure in Australia, Maeve had convinced him they had to stay to find out more about the dolls.

    They had met those three old ladies and one of them had one of the dolls. Sharon, Mavis and Gloria, they were called and they were going to a smaller island of the archipelago, one that was not even on the maps apparently. That should have given them suspicions, but it seemed so important to Maeve that Shawn Paul hadn’t had the heart to leave her alone.

    “I have a plan,” had said Maeve, “We’re going to follow them, befriend them and learn more about how they came to have the doll and try and get the key that’s inside of it.”

    “You’re here for the beauty treatment?” had asked the girl at the counter. “You’re lucky, with the confinement a lot of our reservations have been canceled. We have plenty of vacancy and some fantastic deals.”

    Maeve had enrolled them for a free week treatment before Shawn Paul could say anything. They hadn’t seen the ladies much since they had arrived on the island, and now there were no way in or out of the island. They had been assured they had plenty of food and alcohol and a lot of activities that could be fitted to everyone’s taste.

    #5985
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    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?

    #5954
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    Summer is slowly ending from our side of the planet. Despite the onslaught of depressing daily news, it makes me wonder if everyone suddenly became concerned for Mater for reason:

    a. because she’s at risk not to become centenarian in time to get the medal of enduring persistance
    b. because we should now cancel the expensive party we had all started to plan with great pain
    c. because the longer we search, there’s still no telling who and where is Jasper and whether he’d be there even for a remote party behind screens…

    Some idiot has disabled or smeared all my cams on the Inn, so I only can spy with the sounds now, it’s a bit jarring at times. I thought I heard Bert cough a few times.

    Maybe it’s just code…

    #5822
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The evening helper said she was very sorry to tell me that my niece wouldn’t be able to make it this week, as she’d been on holiday and got quarantined.  You needn’t be sorry about that, I told her, I don’t know who she is anyway.  Not that I’m ungrateful, it’s very kind of her to come and visit me.  She tells me all about people I’ve never heard of, and I pretend to take an interest. I’m polite you see, brought up that way.

    Then she said, you’ll have to go easy on the toilet paper, it’s all sold out. Panic buying, she said.

    That’s what happens when people start shitting themselves with fear, I said, and she tutted at me as if I was a seven year old, the cheeky young whippersnapper.  And how shall I go easy on it, shall I crap outside behind the flat topped bushes under my window? Wipe my arse on a leaf?

    Don’t be daft, you’d fall over, she replied crisply. She had a point.  My hip’s still playing me up, so my plans to escape are on hold. Not much point in it with all this quarantine nonsense going on anyway.   I might get rounded up and put in a tent by a faceless moron in a hazmat suit.  I must say the plague doctors outfits were much more stylish.  And there was no panic buying of loo rolls in those days either.

    I don’t know what the world’s coming to. A handful of people with a cough and everyone loses their minds.  Then again, when the plague came, everyone lost their minds too. Not over toilet paper though.  We didn’t start losing our minds until the carts started rolling past every night full of the bodies.  No paper masks in those days either, we wound scarves around our faces because of the stench.

    The worst thing was being locked in the house when the kitchen maid came down with it.  All of us, all of the nine children, my wife and her mother, the cook and the maids, all of us untouched, all but that one kitchen maid.  If only they’d taken her away, the rest of us might not have perished.  Not having enough food did us in, we were weakened with starvation. Shut in the house for weeks, with no escape.  Nothing to do but feast on the fears, like a smothering cloud. Like as not, we just gave up, and said, plague, carry me off, I can bear no more. I know after the youngest 6 children and the oldest boy died, I had no will to live.  I died before the wife did and felt a bit guilty about that, leaving her to face the rest of it alone.  She wasn’t happy about that, and who can blame her.

    One thing for sure, it wasn’t running out of blasted toilet paper that was worrying me.

    #5742
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The clay mixture was giving off a golden hue. Everyone had gathered to look at the miracle happen, especially the two kids and their Snootish pets.

    “I think there’s a word in the old language for what we are,” mentioned Glynis feeling that pregnant silence was too dangerously promising of unsilent babies. She was looking fondly at the odd looking family. “Tūrangawaewae. They are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home.”

    Eleri whistled a tentative “whoohoo to that!” but she was starting to get inebriated with the fermented goat milk, and was wondering what it was all about.

    “We’re reviving Gorrash!” the kids Tak and Nesy were chanting, like a sort of strange memory spell for her.

    “I got news from Mr Minn,” Glynis said “Margoritt is going to be back for a few days. She said she wanted to write a novel about weaving clay and had to gather some proper material.”

    “Good for her,” said Eleri “although I wished you’d kept some of that magical clay for me, had experiments to make on that. Could help in the great fires recovery process down under.”

    “As a matter of fact, there was some left that I kept for you.” said Glynis. “I’ll give it to you later, but for now, just shush, and let the process unravel, or we’ll never catch up.”

    Indeed, the protective golden carapace around Gorrash embued with rebuilding powers was finally starting to crack as the last ray of light of the day were vanishing behind the horizon.

    #5596
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Mater

    I told Prune how I couldn’t follow these internet link thingies everyone’s so fond of. Didn’t grow up with computers I guess; it was all letters in my day. I said to Prune, “Will you just tell me who Jasper is, for crying out loud?” Cheeky begger told me not to worry about it and would I like a cuppa? Then she asked how old am I! “I was born in 1935,” I told her. “You do the bleedin’ maths!”

    Anyway, Dodo is still carrying on about the letter. It worries me. Better not tell young Prune that. Haha.

    I wish I knew who Jasper was though. Feels like it is something I should remember. I’ll have to remember to ask Prune again.

    #5582
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Glynis noticed the fae’s hands. They were trembling. It was so faint nobody had noticed, but she had trained her eyes to that sort of things.

    “Not now,” she said, looking at everyone. “He just arrived and we didn’t give him the time to rest and feel welcomed.” She turned to Rukshan. “My friend, forgive our rudeness. Come to the kitchen where I’ve made my famous chard and chicken gratin.”

    Everyone could see the relief on Rukshan’s face. A burden, that they all have been unaware of, seemed to lift a bit from his shoulders and a small tear appeared at the corner of his eye.

    “Maybe he can take a bath before going to the kitchen,” said Fox whose nose was wiggling. They all laugh.

    “Go prepare the bath,” Glynis said, “I’ll feed him before he faints.”

    “And maybe afterward he can tell us his story in the land of Giants,” said Eleri hopefully. She seemed to have forgotten her ankle.

    “Of course, we’ll do all that,” said Glynis. Then she pointed at the blocks on the floor. “Our friend here have plenty of time. A few millenia. Now, chop chop! leave our guest be.”

    #4864
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    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.

    #4823
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Bugger them all then, Lucinda said to herself, I’ll carry on here without them.

    For a time she had been despondent at being abandoned, sinking into an aching overcast gloom to match the weather. Waiting for it to rain, and then waiting for it to stop.

    On impulse, in an attempt to snap out of the doldrums, she signed up for a Creative Writing and Rambling course at the local Psychic Self Institute. Institutionalizing psychic matters had been the brainchild of the latest political party to gain power, and hitherto under the radar prophets, healers and remote viewers had flocked to sign up. The institute has promised pension and public health credits to all members who could prove their mental prowess, and needless to say it had attracted many potential scammers: useless nobodies who wanted to heal their diseases, or lazy decrepit old scroungers who wanted to retire.

    Much to everyone’s surprise, not least their own, the majority of them had passed the tests, simply by winging it: making it up and hoping for the best. Astonishingly the results were more impressive than the results from the already established professional P.H.A.R.T.s ~ (otherwise known as Prophets, Healers and Remote Technicians).

    This raised questions about the premise of the scheme, and how increasingly difficult it was to establish a criteria for deservingness of pensions and health care, particularly if any untrained and unregistered Tom, Dick or Harry was in possession of superior skills, as appeared to be the case. The debate continues to this day.

    Nothwithstanding, the Institute continued to offer courses, outings and educational and inspiring talks. The original plan had been to offer qualifications, but the entrance exams had provoked such a quandary about the value and meaning (if any) of qualifications, that the current modus operandi was to simply offer each member, regardless of merit or experience, a simple membership card with a number on it. It was gold coloured and had classical scrolls and lettering on it in an attempt to bestow worth and meaning. Nobody was fooled, but everyone loved it.

    And everyone loved the tea room at the Institute. It was thought that some cake aficionado’s had even joined the Institute merely for the desserts, but nobody objected. There was a welcome collective energy of pleasure, appreciation and conviviality in the tea room, and it’s magnetic appeal ~ and exceptional cakes ~ ensured it’s popularity and acclaim.

    A small group had started a campaign to get it placed on the Institutes Energetic Cake Connector mapping programme. As Lucinda had said in a moment of clarity, “A back street bar can be just as much of an energy magnet as an old stone relic”, casting doubt over the M.O.S.S group’s (Mysterious Old Stone Sites) relevance to anything potentially useful.

    “In fact,” Lucinda continued, surprising herself, ““I’ve only just realized that the energy magnets aren’t going to be secret, hidden and derelict. They’re going to be busy. Like cities.”

    Several members of the M.O.S.S group had glared at her.

    Lucinda hadn’t really thought much about what to expect in the creative writing classes.

    #4805
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Olliver was surprised when he teleported back to the cottage to see everyone busy with their own affairs.

    Fox was practicing a speech in front of the gargoyles statues rearranged in the garden like pupils in a class. He looked so serious that Olliver swallowed his guffaw. He wanted to update him about his scouting around, for the entrance that Rukshan had spoken about, and Fox had seemed interested at the time to join the exploration. His keen sense and shape-shifting abilities were always handy to have in a team.

    The kids were at school, and he found out that Glynnis was teaching birds in the wood thicket.

    “So much schooling going around” he whispered, almost afraid to be caught skipping classes.

    “You can still join me, if you’d like,” Eleri said, having jumped out of nowhere. Her black dress was an interesting piece of improvisation. “I’m going to a funeral, but it should be fun, the deceased has promised he would haunt Leroway and his thugs.”

    #4777
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    That was a first. I had no idea what just happened. And believe me, this girl has seen some serious hanky-panky going ‘round here. Starting with Aunt Idle and her hustling and lascivious seducing of the Middle Eastern pirate cosplayer we had as guest.
    But of course, that was nothing compared to how glamorous Mater looked in her red gabardine.
    Anyway, something odd happened, like everyone was zapped in a torpor after the Fergus guy arrived. We were all expecting a sort of big reveal, and he did drop some incoherent clues, nothing truly worth the wait sorry to say, so we all went upstairs to sleep.

    Blame it on the spiced lizard meat maybe, but I can’t figure what happened after that until I woke up. Everyone this morning was playing it by ear, as if everything was normal. But people are missing. Fergus and his motorbike, and the scarf girl with the young boy and their cat. Maybe others, I’ve lost count, and I’m done putting sticky notes for Idle (funny she insists being called that by the way… Maybe a side-effect of her medications).

    There was an Italian corvette parked outside, all black & white. It arrived during the night, it woke me up when it arrived, but I went back to sleep I think. I wonder if those are new tourist guests. The Canadian guests were a bit in alarm, especially after the Fergus reveals.

    Mater would tell me, “there is no cause for worry dear, mark my words, in an hour or less, it will all settle back down to the usual deadly boring as usual business.”

    I think that planned family time was a bit too much anyway. Or too little. Devan hardly spent an hour with us, he’s too obsessed with his lost treasure conspiracies. He’ll be doing great with Dodo and her friends from the journal. I think they all enlisted Bert for a trip to the mines by the way. For all the good it’ll do everyone to try to unearth old secrets. Might give Mater a serious heart attack, for real this time.

    As for me, I’ve had enough. I’m packing my bags and leaving with the first bus back to the Academy. There’s a mission to Mars to conquer.

    #4769
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    I bet you were expecting reports of action and adventure, a fast paced tale of risks and rescues, with perhaps a little romance. Hah! It’s been like a morgue around here after that fluster of activity and new arrivals. Like everyone lost the wind out of their sails and wondered what they were doing here.

    Sanso took to his room with no explanation, other than he needed to rest. He wouldn’t let anyone in except Finly with food and drinks (quite an extraordinary amount for just one man, I must say, and not a crumb or a drop left over on the trays Finly carried back to the kitchen.) I told Finly to quiz him, find out if he was sick or needed a doctor, or perhaps a bit of company, but the only thing she said was that he was fine, and it was none of our business, he’d paid up front hadn’t he? So what was the problem. Bit rude if you ask me.

    Mater had taken to her room with a pile of those trashy romance novels, complaining of her arthritis. She’d gone into a sulk ever since I ruined her red pantsuit in a boil wash, and dyed all the table linen pink in the process. The other guests lounged around listlessly in the sitting room or the porch, flicking through magazines or scrolling their gadgets, mostly with bored vacant expressions, and little conversation beyond a cursory reply to any attempt to chat.

    Bert was nowhere to be seen most of the time, and even when he was around, he was as uncommunicative as the rest of them, and Devan, what was he up to, always down the cellar? Checking the rat traps was all he said when I asked him. But we haven’t got rats, I told him, not down the cellar anyway. He gave me a look that was unreadable, to put it politely. Maybe he’s got a crack lab going on down there, planning on selling it to the bored guests. God knows, maybe that’d liven us all up a bit.

    I did get to wondering about those two women who wandered off down the mine, but whenever I mentioned them to anyone, all I got was a blank stare. I even banged on Sanso’s door a time or two, but he didn’t answer. I made Finly ask him, and she said all he would say is Not to worry, it would be sorted out. I mean, really! He hadn’t left that room all week, how was he going to sort it out? Bert said the same thing when I eventually managed to collar him, he said just wait, it will get sorted out, and then that glazed look came over his face again.

    It’s weird, I tell you. We’re like a cast of characters with nobody writing the story, waiting. Waiting to start again on whatever comes next.

    #4756
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Maybe we shouldn’t have skipped that welcome lunch” Continuity said to her friend.

    “Nonsense, Connie. We go and report where the heat of the action is, and something tells me, it’s nowhere near this crumbling dusty Inn anyway.”

    “Oh, right, it’s just as I thought Hilda, but our guest might have found it rude and all.”

    “Bollocks, Dido wouldn’t mind, after all she was the one to drop clues like water from a puzzle jug, talking about underground dinosaurs’ pyramids near the old mines and all that.”

    “Technically, and you know how particular I am about details, it wasn’t Dido though, it was that old fossile of Bert that dropped all the clues, clearly out of earshot from Did’. Kind of suspiciously too… Maybe he wanted us to have the real stuff, throw everyone else off the scent. But yeah, you just might be right…”

    “Of course I’m bloody right. When have I ever been anything else than right, Connie. Now, follow me, the old mines entrance shouldn’t be far now.”

    #4755
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Welcome, Everyone!” said Mater. She had entered unnoticed and was standing in the doorway regarding the assembled group and looking rather more lewd than welcoming. She had worn a pantsuit for the occasion, a relic from the 70’s made of red garbardine. Fortunately, the forgiving nature of garbardine added a little stretch, but even so the cloth clung rather too tightly to Mater’s curves.
    “Oh, lord love ya! “ said Finly. “Look at you! You’ve not dusted that pantsuit off since you got it out of the chest, have you!” She hit Mater with her duster and a cloud of dust enveloped her.
    “Way to go, Mater!” said Devan.
    “What are you doing, crazy old woman?” shrieked Dodo. Unfortunately her mouth was full of bread roll and it sounded more like, “Woowawuooingwazyolewoom?”
    “She’s aboriginal?” asked Sanso looking at Dodo with interest.
    Prune snorted. “We aren’t quite sure where she is from but she is an interesting specimen.”
    “I expect she is rip snorting drunk again,” said Mater after the dust had subsided. “Anyway, I just want to say it is a pleasure to have you all here. I hope you are finding enough to eat. If you need anything, Bert here is your man.”
    “Thanks ever so much,” said Arona, smiling charmingly and gently wiping the lizard with her paper table napkin before popping it back under her turban.
    Bert grunted and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “We aren’t used to this many folk staying at one time,” he said. “But yeah, welcome all. So, what are you all here for?”
    “It’s to do with a doll, actually,” said Maeve. Shawn Paul looked at her, impressed with her boldness.
    “A key,” said Arona, waving the key in the air.
    Mater stumbled and reached out to the door frame for support.
    “Bloody hell,” said Bert.

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