“Did someone say drinks are on the house?” asked Rosamund, pushing past the burly bouncer as she entered the pub. “What’s your name, handsome?”
“Percival,” the bouncer replied with a wry grin. “Yeah I know, doesn’t fit the image.”
Rosamund looked him up and down while simultaneously flicking a bit of food from between her teeth with a credit card. “I keep forgetting to buy dental floss,” she said.
“Is that really necessary?” hissed Tara. “Is that moving the plot forward?”
“I’ll be away for a while on an important mission,” Rosamund said to Percival, “But give me your number and I’ll call you when I get back.”
“The trip is cancelled, you’re not going anywhere,” Star told her, “Except to the shop to buy dental floss.”
“I’m glad you mentioned it!” piped up a middle aged lady sitting at the corner table. “I have run out of dental floss too.”
“See?” said Rosamund. “You never can tell how helpful you are when you just act yourself and let it flow. Now tell me why I’m not going to New Zealand? I already packed my suitcase!”
“Because it seems that New Zealand has come to us,” replied Star, “Or should I say, the signs of the cult are everywhere. It’s not so much a case of finding the cult as a case of, well finding somewhere the cult hasn’t already infected. And as for April,” she continued, “She changes her story every five minutes, I think we should ignore everything she says from now on. Nothing but a distraction.”
“That’s it!” exclaimed Tara. “Exactly! Distraction tactics! A well known ruse, tried and tested. She has been sent to us to distract us from the case. She isn’t a new client. She’s a red herring for the old clients enemies.”
“Oh, good one, Tara,” Star was impressed. Tara could be an abusive drunk, but some of the things she blurted out were pure gold. Or had a grain of gold in them, it would be more accurate to say. A certain perspicacity shone through at times when she was well lubricated. “Perhaps we should lock her back in the wardrobe for the time being until we’ve worked out what to do with her.”
“You’re right, Star, we must restrain her….oy! oy! Percival, catch that fleeing aunt at once!” April had made a dash for it out of the pub door. The burly bouncer missed his chance. April legged it up the road and disappeared round the corner.
“Oh I say, that’s going a bit far,” interjected the middle aged lady sitting at the corner table.
“What’s it got to do with you?” Tara turned on her.
“This,” the woman replied with a smugly Trumpish smile. She pulled her trouser leg up to reveal a bell bird tattoo.
“Oh my fucking god,” Tara was close to tears again.
“Wait!” said Star. “Have we unwittingly stumbled upon a secret meeting of the bellbird cult?”
The bouncer laughed. “Not exactly a secret meeting. It’s more of our monthly get-together. We have drinks and what-not and a bit of a sing-song”
“Sound great! Where do I sign up?” asked Tara, mesmerised by the burly bouncer’s biceps.
Tara sneered at the obvious lie. “Then why did you run? Huh?”
“If you must know, and it appears you must, I believe I saw him.” She pointed to the entrance. “He was wearing a disguise of course. When he saw me, he ran, clearly fearing I would see through his disguise and reveal to the world that he is not in a coma.”
Star scratched her head. “I see,” she said.
“So much for New Zealand and your remote viewing skills,” sneered Tara.
April shook her head. “Those are questions only Vincent French can answer.”
“Going around in circles a bit, aren’t you?” said BB with a kindly smile. “Cheer up! Look around you! Beauty is everywhere and drinks are on the house!”
“I think you’ve forgotten something, Star.” Tara didn’t want to put a dampener on Star’s high spirits, but felt obliged to point out that New Zealand was still out of bounds with the quarantine restrictions.
“Not only that,” Tara continued, “Where exactly in New Zealand?”
This was unanswerable at this stage and was quickly forgotten.
“We can send Rosamund on a recce to find out more. That way if she gets arrested for breaking the lockdown rules it won’t matter much and we can carry on solving the case.”
“It will take two of us to keep an eye on Aunty April, anyway. And it would behoove us to have a thorough look at that wardrobe, and decipher those notes. And check the lining of the fur coats. I read a book once and spies used morse code in the hem stitches for sending messages.”
“Do you know morse code?”
“Of course not, why would I?”
“Well then how will you know..?”
The conversation went on in a similar vein for some time.
“I knew it!” Tara had gone to investigate early, disguised as an elderly jogger in a velvet teal jogging. “Seemed clear enough that that retirement home was a front…”
Later when she came back to the office, she was quizzed by Star, who was still yawning despite the bright sunlight.
“So tell me, a front for what?”
“Can’t you guess?” Tara said, removing her false teeth.
“Nooo?” her hand flew at Star’s mouth and incredulous face.
“Yes, hmm-hmm; you guessed right: a time travel agency.”
“Oh dangit, they stole my idea! After all the virus pandemic thing, they sure know how to surf the crisis to make a buck. The buying carrots alibi traffic, and now that!”
“Yep, guess that people unable to go anywhere for holidays make up for a good clientele. You can imagine the slogans: Celerity: Why go anywhere? When we can send you anywhen! “
“And a convenient way of disposing of nosy people too. I hope they didn’t send Uncle Basil to the Dinosaurs, can’t imagine the stench of those Time sewers.”
“Oh no, don’t think he was affluent enough, you see. Apparently you pay by the time meter. The further in time, the pricier. And I guess the surest way to dispose of someone would be in the past rather than in the future…”
“So Uncle Basil is in the past!”
“Well, I could have told you that from the start. No wonder Mr French paid us in advance then, he already knew we’d crack that case. Our first case’s closed, dear! If Mr French ever wakes up and calls, we’ll just redirect him to our Time Dragglers friends in Marseille for their ‘relative lost in time’ retrieval package. Now, anyone for mojitos?”
“A dil-do factory?” She was aghast. “A fucking carrot dildo factory?”
“Oh don’t push it.” Star lit a large cigar, a nasty habit that cropped up when she was nervous. She blew a smoke ring and sighed. “At least the rogering was a nice change. Good clean sex, almost a spiritual experience.”
“Oh come now, with all the don’t-need-to-know details…”
“Well, don’t be such a prude, you were there after all. With all that luscious moaning. Haven’t seen you so flushed in ages…” Star tittered in that high-pitched laughter that could shatter crystal flutes.
“Wait… a minute.” Tara was having a brainwave. “We may have overlooked something.”
“What? In the sex department?”
“Shush, you lascivious banshee… In the flushed department.”
“What? Don’t speak riddles tart, I can’t handle riddles when my body’s aching from all that gymnastic.”
“Can’t you see? They got to get rid of the dissident stuff unfit for cultish dildoing, if you catch my drift.”
“Oh I catch it alright, but I’ve checked the loo… Oh, what? you mean the compost pile?”
“I’ve seen trucks parked out the back, they where labelled… Organic Lou’s Disposal Services… OLDS… That’s probably how they remove their archives, if you see what I mean.”
“I have a theory. Although it usually would be more in your area of theories.”
“What? Alien abduction?”
“No, don’t be ridiculous. I’m talking time travel… Haven’t you noticed the scent of celery when we were at the mansion and the appartment?”
“A dead give-away for time-travelling shenanigans!”
“Exactly. And if I’m correct, might well be that it’s Mr French from the future who phoned us, before he returned to his timeline. Probably because he already knows we’re going to crack the case. Before we know.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Would have been nicer if he’d told us how to solve it instead, if he knew, from the future and all? Are you not sure he’s not from his past instead, like before he got in that dreadful car accident?”
“Oh well, doesn’t matter does it? And probably won’t any longer once we locate the Uncle Basil in the Drooling Home of Retired Vegetables.”JibParticipant
The journey to the Pistil itself would have been worth its own story, thought Charlton. They had to avoid road blocks, crowds of chanting christians that had certainly vowed to spread the virus as fast as possible, and howlers who you were never sure weren’t the real thing from Teen Wolf. They had to be, in such a landscape. Once arid, it had turned greener in just a few weeks. Rain was now weekly when drops of water used to only show up with the bottles of water from the tourists.
Despite Kady’s advice not to take anything, he’d still brought the book of drawings. Kady had said nothing about the book, nor the clothes, or the snacks. Charlton was sometimes literal about what people told him, but he also knew it. So he didn’t say anything when he saw Kady had her own backpack with clothes, some money and food. During the trip, he tried to reproduce the experience with the drawings and the dreams —but nothing happened. Charlton felt a little disappointed.
They saw the pistil long before they arrived at its foot. It was at the end of the day and the sunset was splashing its reds and purples all around it. Charlton had had time to get used to its tall presence in the landscape. Yet, seeing it at a close range from below was a strange experience. Taller than the tallest man-made tower. He wondered what he was supposed to feel in its presence. Awe? Electricity? Enlightenment? Bursts of inspiration? This should at least be a mystical moment, but all he could feel was annoyance at the crowd of people crawling around like aphids avid to suck its sap.
Kady looked more annoyed than surprised. She was walking past the flock as if she knew exactly where to go. Charlton followed, feeling dizzy by the sudden increase of activity and smells. He soon got nauseous at the mix of incense and fried sausages.
“There are so many of them,” he eventually said. “How come? It was so difficult just for the two of us to avoid police controls. Do we have to wait with them?”
“Nah! They’re just the usual bunch of weirdoes,” Kady said. “They’ve been here a long time. I bet some of them aren’t even aware there have been a virus. But stay close. I don’t want to lose you, it’s a maze before the maze. I just need to see someone before we go in.”
They walked for about another ten minutes before stopping in front of a big tent. There, a big man with a boxer’s face was repairing all kind of electronics on a table with the application of a surgeon. Phones, cameras, coffee machines… Charlton wondered how they got electricity to make it all work.
“Hey, Kady!” said the man. “You’re back. Did you give it to her?” His face looked anxious.
“Her favourite perfume,” he said with a broad smile.
“I told you she still loves you. I also brought you something else.” Kady dropped a box on the table among the electronics. Charlton didn’t think it could be possible to witness the expression of a ten year old child on such a hard face, but what was inside the box certainly did magic.
“You brought chocolate?”
“Did you find the chestnut one?”
“My favourite,” said Max to Charlton. “Is this your friend?”
“I told you, you’re always welcome. Did you know she saved my life in there?”
“Saved your life?” asked Charlton looking hesitantly at Kady. “No, I didn’t know.”JibParticipant
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?
The front door of Mr French had a certain Gothic quality to it which caught the eye of Star. She was a sucker for the glitz and the extravagant –the more garish, the better. Had she got her way, their office would be full of the cumbersome stuff. Catching the glint in Star’s green eyes, Tara rolled hers. She clanged the metal lion to signal their presence.
A decrepit butler called off their ruckus after what seemed like a pause in eternity. They could hear the rambling from a distance behind the door. “I’m coming! No need for such noise! Ah, these youngs nowadays, not a shred of patience!…”
“Shttt, let me handle it,” replied Star shaping her face into a genial one, oozing honey and butterflies.
When the butler finally opened the door, he snapped her shut “We’re not interested in whatever… hem, services you’re offering Mesdames.”
The butler’s face turned sour. “Yes of course, I understand. Then you should know Mr French has been in a coma since his dreadful accident last month. Since you have a direct line to him, I suggest you… call him?” And with that, he slammed the door shut on their faces.
“Rude!” Tara mouthed.
“At least, that tells us something my dear.”
“Don’t bait me like this. I’ll ask, what exactly?”
“That our Mr French is not who he says he is…”
“I wonder if it has something to do with the immense fortune he made with his voice…”
“That would be a very interesting question to answer indeed.”
“That’s right,” Rosamund nodded enthusiastically. “Anti-vegan vaxxer and she don’t eat nothing with no eyes either. She drives Mum bloody mental going on about how the animals have got souls while Mum’s trying to enjoy a nice baccy fry up. Mum calls her Aunt Moanie.”
Star smirked. “Other than his obvious attributes?”
“You mean the fella with the voice like a bloody angel?” asked Rosamund, spitting an olive onto Tara’s sleeve. Tara swore under her breath as the olive bounced to the floor. Fortunately there was no mark; it was a new blouse and had cost Tara an arm and a leg. Worth the investment, she had reasoned at the time. One must look the part. And clearly, her Moulin Rouge ensemble wasn’t a good look for a Professional Investigator, even with fishnets and a feather boa.
“He cancelled his appointment but he paid the, quite frankly exorbitant, deposit we asked for,” said Star. “He’s going to email us the rest of the details. Do we need to know more that that?”
“Well, I’ve been doing a search and there is nothing anywhere online about him, or his world famous melodious voice. I suggest we pay this Mr French a visit.”
“Oh bloody awesome!” Rosamund leapt to her feet and pizza boxes went flying. “Oops, sorry about that. I’ll clean it soon as we get back.”
“The Spanish Moss Motel? Well, I’ll be darned, so this it where it is,” said Arthur, “But hell, it’s no place for a baby!”
“What do you mean, Art?” asked his wife. “Is it one of them there broth kitchens full of painted tarts?”
Art shook his head. “Not exactly. Nobody really knows, ‘cept everybody knows that things go on here.” Art shook his head again. “Aint no place for a baby.”
Realizing that she had to come up with a plan quickly to distract April from taking her pith helmet, June took a few deep breaths and calmed herself. It was true she was often flaky and disorganized, but in an emergency she was capable of acting swiftly and efficiently.
“Remember Jacqui who we met in Scotland at the Nanny and Au Pair convention? Called herself Nanny Gibbon and tried to pass herself off as Scottish?” April frowned, trying to remember. Europeans all looked the same to her. “Ended up with that eccentric family with all the strange goings on?” June prompted.
“Oh yes, now I remember. Wasn’t there an odd story about a mummy that had washed up from, where was it?”
“Alabama!” shouted June triumphantly. “Exactly!”
“Well excuse me for being dense, but how does that help?”
June leaned back into the sofa with a happy smile. April had forgotten all about the pith helmet and was now focused on the new plan. “Well,” she said, rearranging some scatter cushions behind her back into a more comfortable position, “Do you remember the woman who arrived with the mummy, Ella Marie? She stayed with Jacqui for a while and they became good friends. Apparently she loved that crazy Wrick family; Jacqui said Ella Marie felt right at home there. She would have stayed, but she missed her husband in the end and felt guilty about leaving him, so she went back to Alabama.”
Aprils eyes widened slightly as she started to understand. “Did they stay in contact?”
“Maybe they can find that baby for us,” April said, looking relieved. “Or at least swap it for that girl baby. Where did that come from anyway?”
“Ah! There you are, my dear,” said Alessandro. “I have searched all over the house for you and now I find you in the laundry.” He shook his head and waggled a finger at Liz. “Where is that naughty maid of yours who should be doing this?.”
Liz leapt away from the laundry basket. “I was looking for something other than this … this obscenity,” she said flinging the pink satin garment to the ground. “And, who exactly are you?”
“I am Alessandro! Fashion Designer extraordinaire. I am rather surprised you do not know of me,” he said, pouting. “Your maid employed me to assist you with your fashion choices.”
“Cheek!” spluttered Liz.
Finnley limped into the room. “Oh you are here. Good,” she said flatly. “Sort her out, will you, Alessandro. She has done nothing but moan lately.”
“Sure,” said Finnley. She bent down to pick up the pink satin with a loud groan. “I might cut this up for doll’s clothes,” she said mysteriously.
“When is the nephew coming, by the way? That loo isn’t going to fix itself, is it?” Muriel asked with her usual tone of disapproval.
“Just the day before Fox’s birthday, that’ll be easy to remember for you.” replied Glynis pawkily.
“Tsk, tsk. And when is that exactly?” replied Muriel feigning to have missed the sarcasm.
On second thought, she retorted: “I think it’ll the day after your leave back to Yonderhampton.”
Granola suddenly popped back in the real world — the one with her friends she meant. Oh, this was all rather confusing. Looking around, she was feeling quite corporeal.
“That can’t be right!”
She looked around, feeling herself. That wasn’t her body, it was Tiku’s. Yet, if she was corporeal, did it mean she was in the mental space with the story characters? Boundaries seemed to blur. She took a spin around to get a feel of the space, and fell on her bum with an infectious laughter.
Tiku was quite pliant and surprisingly accommodating of her in-that-body visits. It was as though they could converse, but it felt like a familiar voice of her own, not someone’s else.
“I’m in the magical thread of their story, am I not? It’s all in their head…” She thought. She could feel Tiku’s mind there, laughing and answering back something about the Dreamtime, that it was all the same and connected anyway.
“But it’s confusing as hell!” She liked a bit of order, and explanations in big bold letters.
A jeep coming out from the horizon followed by dark billowing smoke braked noisily in front of her.
“Are you in trouble? No? Great. Listen, we’re looking for an Inn, it shouldn’t be very far from here. Our GPS is a piece of rubbish and is making us turn in rounds… Could you point us there, I’m afraid I took a wrong turn at the last fork in the road.”
Granola left Tiku to reply, as she seemed to know exactly what to answer.
“No Miss, you’re on the right road, it’s just a little ahead, you’ll find the old washed-out sign that points to the mines. Follow the sign until you reach the little brook, cross it and it’s on the left, 2 miles, then right, then…”
Arona stopped the lady.
“It seems a bit complicated, and my copilot here isn’t that good with memory riddles” she added pointing at Sanso. “Would you care to join us for that last mile.”
“Sure, of course, I was planning to go back there anyways. Never seen such activity in a while. Seems they’ll need a bit of help there, with all the guests coming.”
Lucinda answered her honking phone, while silently indicating to the waiter whose drink was whose. She smiled as she noticed the reaction of the people sitting at the other tables to the strident honking geese noise she’d chosen for her phone. The mundane daily things that amuses one are more important that you think, she’d say if anyone mentioned it, and the reaction to the honking tickled her every time her phone rang.
“Maeve, darling!” she gushed, showing off a bit in front of Shawn Paul and Jerk, and then her face puckered into a frown as she cringed. “Oh dear, I’m awfully sorry… . No, of course you can’t decorate it all on your own, that wouldn’t be fair at all, but that’s the thing I wanted to tell you,” Lucinda was thinking quickly, “The neighbour, you know that tall one with the nice smile, and the, er..the well dressed one, yes that’s the one, the writer, well he’s going to help us with everything…”
Almost imperceptibly, Shawn Paul’s head jerked back a little upon hearing this, as he wondered what exactly he was expected to help with.
Lucinda continued into the phone, “And you know the guy from the supermarket down the road, the , um, the quiet one, well ok perhaps you haven’t noticed…. what? yes, that’s the one! well he’s going to help too. What? Oh I’m sure he’s only like that at work,” Lucinda glanced at Jerk with a little laugh, mouthing something indecipherable to him and pointing at the phone with a roll of her eyes. Jerk raised a single sardonic eyebrow and sipped his cocktail.
“I tell you what Maeve, come and join us. We’re having drinks at the Red Beans cafe. Where? It’s next to the Karmalott Kafe on the river front, you know it? Good! See you in ten, then.” Lucinda snapped her phone shut and beamed at the two men.
Liz had an idea, and was glad that the others were all out on a day trip to the museum so that she could think about it without interruptions. It had occurred to her that there was probably a theme right under their noses regarding the multitudes of non endings in the stories. Where exactly had they all ended without actually ending?
Sure enough, the first one she looked at seemed promising with the mention of sheets:
“Yurick woke up from another spell of dreams. The patterns of the bedsheets where as though his newly inserted tile was creating a strong combination with other tiles.
In his puzzlement, he forgot to take a physical dream snapshot…”
Liz had had a personal breakthrough with bedsheets recently, and was pleased with this encouraging start.
When Liz looked at the next non ending of a story, she wondered if this would prove to be a theme: the characters themselves had gone missing.
“I haven’t heard a word from Lavender for the longest time, Lilac was wondering, When was the last time? Lavender, where ARE you?”
Liz had a slight jolt when she saw the non ending of the story after that, worried that she would find a trend of herself being the last writer to comment. What would that mean, she wondered?
“Minky was looking smug. “Enjoying the ride?”
Ending with a question? Well, that was something to think about. Liz was relived to find she wasn’t the last writer to write in the next story:
“For once, Arona was completely unconcerned about continuity.
“I wonder if we could harness the power of the wind to create a flash mob to amuse and entertain me?” she suggested.
Vincentius pondered for a moment “I did once employ a hamster to power a night light, so I don’t see why not.”
Smiling at the continuity remark, Liz pondered the nature of the message in this one. Anything can be created to amuse… can it be that easy?
Another nasty jolt as Liz read the last entry in the following story, considering the irritating few days she had just had with the online payment company:
“She clicked with her dysfunctionning mouse and invalidated the transaction again.”
Well, Liz said to herself, I certainly hope that little chuckle will have helped change the online transaction situation going on here presently!
Eleri’s recovery lasted much longer than anyone expected. Nobody really believed the old wives tale that getting soaked in the rain caused flu, but this is what appeared to have happened. She’d been out of action for such a long time that she was considerably confused about what exactly had been going on prior to her collapse. Someone ~ who? she couldn’t remember their names ~ suggested she needed one of Glynnis’s special tonic juices to revive and restore her. Perhaps even one of her extra strong turmeric latte’s. Weakly, and with a wobbly smile, Eleri agreed. She didn’t have the strength to argue about the turmeric. Not only that, she couldn’t remember why she would want to argue about the turmeric anyway.
It is what it is, she told herself. She didn’t know what that meant really, but was too tired to think about it.
Amazing how you can change your mind about things in the twinkling of an eye, and as I said to Bert (when he’d come down off those mushrooms or whatever was in those brownies that passing hippy gave him on the way to the guru camp over at the old copperworks place), I said to Bert, Bert I said, if you own the place lock stock and barrel, our financial worries are over. He said don’t be daft, you can’t eat the windows and doors, and what about all these dogs to feed, they can’t eat wooden beams, and I said, no listen Bert, I’ve had an idea. We don’t like banks, that’s true, and we don’t like debts, but why stand on principle and shoot yourself in the foot, I said, and I’ve heard about this thing with old people like us, that you can get the bank to give you loads of cash, and you don’t even have to pay them back until after you’re dead, and then he said, don’t be daft, how can you pay them back when you’re dead and I said Exactly, Bert! This is the beauty of it, and who knows if there will even be any more banks by the time we kick the bucket anyway, why not have our cake now and eat it, that’s what I said to Bert. And so he says, Well go on then, tell me why the bank would give us cash an I told him that they give you money because you own a house, and then when you snuff it, they have their money back. So Bert says, Yeah but they take far too much money, it’s another bank scam! And I said, Who the fuck cares, if we get the cash now when we need it? And then he said, Yeah, but what about the kids? I was gonna leave it to the kids, and I said, and I’ll be quite frank here, Fuck the kids! Who in the hell knows what the future will be like for the kids, and I told him straight: You can’t plan you’re own future, let alone trying to plan the kid’s future. Now is what matters, and right now, I need a new camera, and I need to get those tax hounds off my back. Then Bert started to smile and said, Hey, I could get me them new false teeth.
As the night was coming on the party, lanterns were lit around the place, and Gorrash started to wake up.
He felt grumpy, and ready to take on the world, but suddenly realized there was quite a crowd assembled around the long table set up in front of the shack.
He would have grumpfed and grumbled and sworn angrily that they had started without him, but someone had put a nice plate of pebbles in front of him.
He couldn’t help but smile Nice touch, pointy ears!
His friend the owl hooted as if in approval.
“Oh there you are…” he said, seeing it was perched on… what exactly?
There was another statue, a big old winged thing that wasn’t there yesterday.
“Fox has some explaining to do…” he thought, wondering about this… Then he was startled to realise that said statue was just a strange large being, stuck in a sort of hypnotic trance.
“Has he woken yet?” the dwarf turned around to see the young lad who had addressed him, coming in his direction. “The witch’s magic mushrooms are very strong… it’s his fault; he wouldn’t calm down…” the lad said sheepishly.
As the dwarf was looking at the owl for explanation, she just decided to fly away for some vole hunting.
“Hello, I’m Olli… Olliver is the name.”
“Well, I’m Gorrash. You can call me Gorrash.”
“Mr Go- go-gorrash, the Fae has called all of us to tell us something, could you come please…”
Gorrash pointed at the tranced out god “and what about this big guy?”
As the crow flies, Glenville is about 100 miles from the Forest of Enchantment.
“What a pretty town!” tourists to the area would exclaim, delighted by the tree lined streets and quaint houses with thatched roofs and brightly painted exteriors. They didn’t see the dark underside which rippled just below the surface of this exuberant facade. If they stayed for more than a few days, sure enough, they would begin to sense it. “Time to move on, perhaps,” they would say uneasily, although unsure exactly why and often putting it down to their own restless natures.
Glynis Cotfield was born in one of these houses. Number 4 Leafy Lane. Number 4 had a thatched roof and was painted a vibrant shade of yellow. There were purple trims around each window and a flower box either side of the front door containing orange flowers which each spring escaped their confines to sprawl triumphantly down the side of the house.
Her father, Kevin Cotfield, was a bespectacled clerk who worked in an office at the local council. He was responsible for building permits and making sure people adhered to very strict requirements to ‘protect the special and unique character of Glenville’.
And her mother, Annelie … well, her mother was a witch. Annelie Cotfield came from a long line of witches and she had 3 siblings, all of whom practised the magical arts in some form or other.
Uncle Brettwick could make fire leap from any part of his body. Once, he told Glynis she could put her hand in the fire and it wouldn’t hurt her. Tentatively she did. To her amazement the fire was cold; it felt like the air on a frosty winter’s day. She knew he could also make the fire burning hot, if he wanted. Some people were a little scared of her Uncle Brettwick and there were occasions—such as when Lucy Dickwit told everyone at school they should spit at Glynis because she came from an ‘evil witch family’—when she used this to her advantage.
“Yes, and I will tell my Uncle to come and burn down your stinking house if you don’t shut your stinking stupid mouth!” she said menacingly, sticking her face close to Lucy’s face. “And give me your bracelet,” she added as an after thought. It had worked. She got her peace and she got the bracelet.
Aunt Janelle could move objects with her mind. She set up a stall in the local market and visitors to the town would give her money to watch their trinkets move. “Lay it on the table”, she would command them imperiously. “See, I place my hands very far from your coin. I do not touch it. See?” Glynis would giggle because Aunt Janelle put on a funny accent and wore lots of garish makeup and would glare ferociously at the tourists.
But Aunt Bethell was Glynis’s favourite—she made magic with stories. “I am the Mistress of Illusions,” she would tell people proudly. When Glynis was little, Aunt Bethell would create whole stories for her entertainment. When Glynis tried to touch the story characters, her hand would go right through them. And Aunt Bethell didn’t even have to be in the same room as Glynis to send her a special magical story. Glynis adored Aunt Bethell.
Her mother, Annelie, called herself a healer but others called her a witch. She concocted powerful healing potions using recipes from her ’Big Book of Spells’, a book which had belonged to Annelie’s mother and her mother before her. On the first page of the book, in spindly gold writing it said: ‘May we never forget our LOVE of Nature and the Wisdom of Ages’. When Glynis asked what the ‘Wisdom of Ages’ meant, her mother said it was a special knowing that came from the heart and from our connection with All That Is. She said Glynis had the Wisdom of Ages too and then she would ask Glynis to gather herbs from the garden for her potions. Glynis didn’t think she had any particular wisdom and wondered if it was a ploy on her mother’s part to get free labour. She obeyed grudgingly but drew the line at learning any spells. And on this matter her father sided with her. “Don’t fill her mind with all that hocus pocus stuff,” he would say grumpily.
Despite this, the house was never empty; people came from all over to buy her mother’s potions and often to have their fortunes told as well. Mostly while her father was at work.
Glynis’s best friend when she was growing up was Tomas. Tomas lived at number 6 Leafy Lane. They both knew instinctively they shared a special bond because Tomas’s father also practised magic. He was a sorcerer. Glynis was a bit scared of Tomas’s Dad who had a funny crooked walk and never spoke directly to her. “Tell your friend you must come home now, Tomas,” he would call over the fence.
Being the son of a sorcerer, Tomas would also be a sorcerer. “It is my birthright,” he told her seriously one day. Glynis was impressed and wondered if Tomas had the Wisdom of Ages but it seemed a bit rude to ask in case he didn’t.
When Tomas was 13, his father took him away to begin his sorcery apprenticeship. Sometimes he would be gone for days at a time. Tomas never talked about where he went or what he did there. But he started to change: always a quiet boy, he became increasingly dark and brooding.
Glynis felt uneasy around this new Tomas and his growing possessiveness towards her. When Paul Ackleworthy asked her to the School Ball, Tomas was so jealous he broke Paul’s leg. Of course, nobody other than Glynis guessed it was Tomas who caused Paul’s bike to suddenly wobble so that he fell in the way of a passing car.
“You could have fucking killed him!” she had shouted at Tomas.
Tomas just shrugged. This was when she started to be afraid of him.
One day he told her he was going for his final initiation into the ‘Sorcerer Fraternity’.
“I have to go away for quite some time; I am not sure how long, but I want you to wait for me, Glynis.”
“Wait for you?”
He looked at her intensely. “It is destined for us to be together and you must promise you will be here for me when I get back.”
Glynis searched for her childhood friend in his eyes but she could no longer find him there.
“Look, Tomas, I don’t know,” she stuttered, wary of him, unwilling to tell the truth. “Maybe we shouldn’t make any arrangements like this … after all you might be away for a long time. You might meet someone else even …. some hot Sorceress,” she added, trying not to sound hopeful.
Suddenly, Glynis found herself flying. A gust of wind from nowhere lifted her from her feet, spun her round and then held her suspended, as though trying to decide what to do next, before letting her go. She landed heavily at Tomas’s feet.
“Ow!” she said angrily.
“Okay! I promise!” she said.
That evening there was a gathering of Uncle Brettwick and the Aunts. There was much heated discussion which would cease abruptly when Glynis or her father entered the room. “Alright, dearie?” one of the Aunts would say, smiling way too brightly. And over the following days and weeks there was a flurry of magical activity at 4 Leafy Lane, all accompanied by fervent and hushed whisperings.
Glynis knew they were trying to help her, and was grateful, but after the initial fear, she became defiant. “Who the hell did he think he was, anyway?” She left Glenville to study architecture at the prestigious College of Mugglebury. It was there she met Conway, who worked in the cafe where she stopped for coffee each morning on her way to class. They fell in love and moved in together, deciding that as soon as Glynis had graduated they would marry. It had been 4 years since she had last seen Tomas and he was now no more than a faint anxious fluttering in her chest.
It was a Friday when she got the news that Conway had driven in the path of an oncoming truck and was killed instantly. She knew it was Friday because she was in the supermarket buying supplies for a party that weekend to celebrate her exams being over when she got the call. And it was the same day Tomas turned up at her house.
And it was then she knew.
“You murderer!” she had screamed through her tears. “Kill me too, if you want to. I will never love you.”
“You’ve broken my heart,” he said. “And for that you must pay the price. If I can’t have you then I will make sure no-one else wants you either.”
“You don’t have a heart to break,” she whispered.
Dragon face,” Tomas hissed as he left.
Glynis returned to Glenville just long enough to tell her family she was leaving again. “No, she didn’t know where,” she said, her heart feeling like stone. Her mother and her Aunts cried and begged her to reconsider. Her Uncle smouldered in silent fury and let off little puffs of smoke from his ears which he could not contain. Her father was simply bewildered and wanted to know what was all the fuss about and for crying out loud why was she wearing a burka?
The day she left her mother gave her the ‘Book of Spells”. Glynis knew how precious this book was to her mother but could only think how heavy it would be to lug around with her on her journey.
“Remember, Glynis,” her mother said as she hugged Glynis tightly to her, “the sorcerers have powerful magic but it is a mere drop in the ocean in comparison to the magic of All That Is. You have that great power within you and no sorcerer can take take that from you. You have the power to transform this into something beautiful.”
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