I don’t know how long it’s been since I ran away but I wish I’d done it years ago. I’m having a whale of a time. Every day is different and always new people to talk to. Boggles my mind to think how long I spent sitting in the same place seeing the same two or three faces day in day out. I miss my old comfy chair sometimes, though. That’s one thing that’s hard to find, a nice recliner to kick back and snooze in. You can find things to sit on, but not with arms and a backrest.
I discovered a good trick for getting a bit of a lie down, though, especially when it rains. I go and sit in an emergency ward waiting room and start doubling over saying I’m in pain, and they let me lie on a trolley. If I fall asleep quietly they tend to forget me, they’re that busy rushing all over the place, and then when I wake up I just sneak out. Always make full use of the bathroom facilities before I go and if I wander around a bit I can usually find one with a shower as well. Usually find some useful odds and ends on the carts the staff push around, and then I’m on my way, rested, showered, toileted and ready to roll.
I always wear a mask though, I don’t take unnecessary risks. And I only take unused syringes to trade with the junkies. I wouldn’t want it on my conscience that I’d passed the plague on to anyone vulnerable.
“Listen” said Gabe, the cult leader. “How long have you been Gourd level? One year?”
The other nodded.
“See Gavin, I think you’re ready to go Operating Tomathetan.”
Gavin gulped. “But, but… are you sure about such a leap? And… what about…”
“Oh, don’t worry about him, the yielding of his crops has been written, and it’s not good. Better look toward the future Gavin. And let me ask you something, don’t you think about the future?”
When the Great Leader Undisputed Gabe had spoken, it was customary to bow and continue listen, in case he wasn’t finished.
“Is there anything more I can do you for, oh GLUG?”
“Sure. Get me your proposal for the new organization of the crops. No rush. Tomorrow will be fine.”
“Your great leaderness is too bountiful.”
“Of course. Now scram, I have rituals to attend to.” And with that, Great Leader Undisputed Gabe made a hasty retreat into the inner sanctum with his favourite vestal priestess of the moment.
Gavin was flummoxed. It had all been foretold by the heretic Basil. He wondered, should he consult him? The weight of this sudden assignment felt heavy on his shoulders. He wondered how he could solve the mountain of problems that had accumulated like horse shit on a pile of manure.
“You’ll see, it’s all connected.” Star signaled Tara when they were ushered into the inner sanctum. “I’m sure all the trail of clues have led to this for a reason. Have I told you about my theories about multiple timelines and probable selves? Maybe the Vince who called us called us from a different probability…”
“You probably right, but that nurse outfit is really too tight.” Tara wiggled impatiently on her chair.
“AH! There you are!” a manly voice behind them. “Welcome, welcome, young fresh divine sprouts.”
Gabe took a while to observe them, then made a face. “Not the freshest batch I had, I must admit, but that should do.”
He clapped his hands, and a woman entered. “Get those two well anointed, and prepared in the art of leafing.”
Tara and Star looked at each other with an air of utter incomprehension on their faces, but decided unanimously to just go with the flow. Who knows, if all was indeed connected, it would probably bring them one step closer to Uncle Basil and the solving of mysterious comatose Vince.
They had to stop to get some rest. Rukshan knew the signs, the song of a black swan, a nesting bear in the forest, cubic clouds… All strange omens not to be taken lightly. He told the others they’d better find shelter somewhere and not spend the night outside.
As soon had he make the announcement that he saw the relief on their faces. They’d been enthusiastic for half a day, but the monotony of walking got the better of their motivation, especially the kids who were not used to such long journeys out of the cottage’s safety.
Fortunately they were not far from the Sooricat Inn, a place lost in the woods, it still had four walls, warm food and almost certainly a hot bath. Let’s just hope they’re open, thought the Fae.
When they arrived, the owner, an old man from Sina, looked at them suspiciously.
“Ya’ll have your attestation? I can’t believe ya’re all family. Don’t think I’m a fool, ya’re a Fae, and this little fella there, he’s smaller than the children but has a beard. Never saw anything like him,” he said with rumbling r’s pointing at the children and Gorrash with his chin. The dwarf seemed offended but a stern look from Rukshan prevented him from speaking.
“Anyway,” continued the innkeeper, “I can just sell ya food. Not’ing parsonal. That’s rooles, ya’know with the all stayin’at home thing from Gavernor Leraway, I can not even let ya’in. Ya can buy food and eat it outside if ya want.”
“Oh! I really shouldn’t. I don’t like breaking rooles.”
“I knew you more daring, Admirable Fuyi,” said a booming voice coming from behind them. They all turned around to see Kumihimo. She was wearing a cloak made of green and yellow gingko leaves, her silvery white hair, almost glowing in the dark, cascading beautifully on her shoulders. A grey cat strode alongside her.
“Oh! that’s just the donkey, Ronaldo. It got transformed into a cat after walking directly into a trap to get one of those darn carrots. He knew better, don’t pity him. He got what he deserved.” Kumihimo’s rant got a indignant meow, close to a heehaw, from Ronaldo.
“Kumi! I can’t believe it’s ya!” said the innkeeper.
“You two know each others?” asked Rukshan.
“It’s a long story,” said the innkeeper, “From when I was serving in Sina’s army, we had conquered the high plateaus. I gave up the title of Admirable when I left the army. After Kumi opened my eyes.” Fuyi’s eyes got wet. “Ah! I’m sure I’ll regret it, but come on in, ya’ll. Let me hear yar story after you taste the soup.”
Miss Bossy looked gloomily at the figures.
“Our paper was already hanging by a thread, but if we want to survive we’ll have to shift completely to digital.”
“That, or we can go into selling recycled bog rolls…” Hilda started to laugh heartily on her Xoom screen.
She was soon followed by Connie. “Can’t let good paper go to waste, can we?”
“How’s your coverage of confinement in Wales, Continuity?” Miss Bossy asked.
“Gorgeously! We were expecting zombies, but we got an invasion of daring goats. Been trying to snatch pics all morning.”
A repressed giggle started to be heard.
Miss Bossy rolled her eyes. “Mute if you don’t speak, guys.”
Hilda ventured “Maybe it’s the whale?”
The giggles continued to add to one another.
Ricardo moved his webcam to remove the glare from the ceiling light causing a sudden roll of laughter from Connie who remembered a video with a lady streaming unwittingly from her loo break during a very formal videoconference with shocked pause on all her colleagues’ faces before she realised to shut down the cam.
It was only at the mention of carrots that Miss Bossy started to lose it too, confirming the start of a laughter epidemic.
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.
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.”
“Cartwright and Wrexham Private Investigators, can I help you?”
“Do you do missing persons?” Vince asked, getting straight to the point. “Good, well then can I speak to a detective; it’s a very confidential matter.”
“My uncle Basil, he’s gone. He got in with that cult, and now he’s gone. They’ve seduced him with all that mumbo jumbo and hype and parlour tricks, I could see it coming, I tell you, I knew they’d take him.” Vince was becoming emotional. “And now he’s left me.”
“Well if it’s your uncle, he must be, how old? So what if he wants to join a cult?” said Star, wondering why he was being so melodramatic. “What?” she whispered to Tara who was pulling faces and shaking her head. “Oh, right!” she replied, getting the message.
“Now then Mr French, I’m confident that we can find your uncle. We have some experience with cults and know how they operate. If you’d like to make an appointment with our secretary to pop in to the office as soon as possible..”
“I’m a senior partner, not a secretary!” Tara hissed, taking the phone. Her anger subsided when she heard his voice. Where had she heard that voice before?
“Och aye, now that’s intriguing,” remarked Jacqui, looking up from her phone. “Well I’ll be darned.”
“What’s that, honey?” asked her friend Ella Marie, looking up from her needlepoint. She was working on a cushion cover with an Egyptian theme.
“How far away is Chickasaw?”
“Why, that’s not far away at all,” Arthur said, and then went into some detail involving road numbers that neither of the ladies paid attention to.
“What all is a happening over there in Chickasaw anyway?” asked Ella Marie.
“Can you drive me over there? I have to kidnap a baby,” said Jacqui.
Noticing the astonished looks on her friends faces she hastened to add, “Oh it had already been kidnapped. I just have to kidnap it back, the mother misses it.”
Arthur and his wife said “Ah” in unison, recalling the time when the divorced father had snatched the neighbours children, causing poor Mary Lou no end of grief.
“Of course we’ll help you, that child needs his mother,” Arthur said. “Where in Chickasaw are they holding him?”
“That’s the tricky part, Art. The exact location isn’t known. In fact, ” Jacqui said, “In all honestly I don’t quite know where to go from here.”
It’s a funny thing what tiredness can do to a girl. I could have sworn it was daytime when I knocked on Mr August’s door. Turned out it was nearly midnight and Mr August wasn’t best pleased to see me. Judging by the giggling I could hear and the way he was trying to barricade the door, he already had company. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was a bit of a ladies’ man with his smooth chest and satin bath-robe. (Although, if you ask me, the embroidered dragon down the front is overkill). Mr August snapped at me that I had the job and he’d get the paperwork sorted tomorrow. The mix-up worked out in my favour; he was that keen to get shot of me and back to business.
Not knowing what else to do, I made myself a possie under a large desk in the hall and tried to get comfy. Anyway, that’s when the fun really started. The maid, the rude one who took the baby, came tiptoeing out of her room wringing her hands and muttering that she had a doubt. Not long after that, two middle-aged ladies barged in, both off their faces I would say. “I’ll give that maid Alabama if anything has happened to our Barron!” shouted the short one, and they lurched their way into the baby’s room.
Finally, the maid tiptoed back to her room and the ladies went back to whatever hole they’d crawled from and I hoped that me and the baby would be able to get some sleep at last. Who was I kidding? I nearly managed to drop off when the doorbell rang again. The maid answered it—I’m starting to understand why she is so ill-tempered; she never gets any sleep. This time it’s some crazy looking lady who said she had come to help me! But I’ve never seen her before in my life!
I’m pretty flabbergasted by the lack of security and all the comings and goings. Things are going to be a bit different from now on, I can tell you that right now.
“Could you pass me the butter?” asked a strange fellow seated on Shawn Paul’s left. The man was odd, a bit looking like Captain Sparrow with his black jabot lavaliere shirt and golden earrings.
Shawn Paul felt awkward, the kind of awkwardness cultivated for many years with shyness and fear of social interactions. No wonder I wanted to be a writer, he thought. Nonetheless he handed the butter to the stranger. Could he be daring for a change and talk like his grandma always pushed him to do? The best remedy to shyness is to talk. Start by saying your name Shasha!
“My name is Shawn Paul,” he said, feeling the heat rise to his face. He gulped, unsure of what to do next. Should he talk about the morning weather?
“My name is Sanso,” said the man. “At your service,” he added waving his puffy sleeves. “Have you read the last article on _whateveralready_?
The cat behind them snorted. Shawn Paul looked at it. It looked grumpy and ready to talk.
“Don’t send Mandrake any food,” said one of the other guests, a woman wearing an indian looking outfit with a scarf hiding her hair. Something moved under the head scarf and a strand of red hair ventured timidly outside, soon followed by a lizard’s head. The woman pushed it back under her hood and emitted a disgusted grunt when she saw the meat dish brought by the maid.
“I’m not a maid,” muttered Finly to whomever could hear/read her, or to the writer. “It’s good liz… chicken,” she said. No need for the long faces.”
“But it’s dead, dear,” said the woman with the veil.
“The Godfrey silently prayed under the third moon,” was saying Sanso who didn’t seem to mind that Shawn Paul was not listening to him. “And he entered late inside the lake wearing a funny blue toge. Sanso realised Finly was looking at him her mouth reduced to a tight line. “And I followed with opened hope,” he finished before gulping a spoonful of butter.
“Do you happen to have a lock in your bedroom?” asked Sanso. The woman in the scarf looked at him with dark eyes. The lizard, seizing the opportunity to be free, jumped from under her scarf and landed into the gaspacho, splashing all the guests with a bit of red.
Tak didn’t like school at first. It was only at the insistance of Glynis that he had to socialize that he tried to put some effort in it. He didn’t know what socializing meant, one of these strange concepts humans invented to explain the world, but if Glynis thought highly of this socializing, he had to give it a try, whatever it was.
Rather quickly, he’d managed to make friends. He didn’t realize it at first, but his new friends were all a bit desperate, and more or less called freeks or something. He wasn’t sure he deserved to be called a freek, but he was going to try hard at this too.
“You don’t have to try hard”, his new friend Nesy told him “I think you’re a natural at this.” Nesy’s name was really Nesingwarys which is really hard to pronounce, so she told him to call her Nesy. She had dark and white hair, shining like a magpie’s feather coat, and dark blue eyes that were both kind and ferocious at the same time.
“Don’t mind the others, they’re all ignorant peasants, or worse, ignorant spawns of the bourgeois elite.” She’d told him. Tak had opined silently, not wanting to show that he wasn’t sure about the meaning of all the shiny new words. He suspected Nesy to like shiny words like magpies were attracted to precious shiny stuff.
When she was staying at the cottage, Margoritt also liked to teach him shiny new words, but he would only taste them and forget — to him they were more like sweet food for his tongue than shiny stuff to keep.
When it came to stuff, Nesy had rather simple tastes. She showed him some little clay statues she’d made, and kept carefully wrapped in a small felt satchel. They had all sorts of funny faces, she was really talented. They reminded him of Gorrash, so it almost made him cry.
Tears were a magnet for nasty kids, so he knew better than to let them out, but Nesy had noticed, and squeezed his hand for comfort.
He liked the other freeks too. They seemed to understand him, and he didn’t have to use his hypnotic powers for that. Glynis had told him not to use his powers at school, otherwise he wouldn’t learn anything. Aunt Eleri had disagreed with that, but she disagreed with everyone.
“You should come visit at my home” he said to her spontaneously “I want to show you the baby snoots, now they’re almost grown up, but they look funny and pretty, especially when they eat Glynis’ potions.”
“I have to say,” Miss Bossy Pants took a dramatic pause for maximum effect “that you all have been incredulously industrious.”
“Ahem-hem-hm!” Miss Pants melodiously hummed and cleared her voice making sure she had everyone’s attention, which was quite a challenge, if you’d asked her. Of course, she relished a challenge.
“As I was saying, you all have been busy, and delivered well…”
Once they had finished their sideways discussion, Miss Bossy had already gone to explain the first award category : “Most Stylistic Synchronistic Article”.
“I dreamed of a red dog,” Liz said with her mouth full of dimpled baby chin, “And a white dog, down by the river.” She picked up a chocolately shell like baby ear off her lap and popped it into her mouth, and continued, “I was going to bring the red dog home, you know, and then, “ Liz paused to bite the little baby button nose off, leaving just the eyes and forehead, “I realized that it was just fine where it was.”
Finnley presented the plate of freshly baked round cookies to Liz who took one and watched it warily, not sure how to feel about them. Certainly the herbal chocolate made her mouth watery like the Niagara falls, but…
“Why on earth did you give them those baby faces?” she asked.
“I’ve been taking pottery class recently and thought I could do extra practice at home. I have a project you know.”
“Have you heard of nailed it?” Liz asked, biting in into the cheek of one chubby little cookie with melting sugary blue eyes. It distorted its laughing mouth in such a way that it looked like it was crying now. She felt a bit guilty about it, but the chocolate taste exploding in her own mouth made her forget all about it and she swallowed the other cheek.
“Look! they can move!” said Roberto. He was pressing on the sides of one particularly creepy little face, making its mouth talk. “Give me milk!”
“Stop playing with food, Roberto,” said Finnley. The hispanic gardener looked at her with puppy eyes and swallowed whole the baby cookie. “Showy,” he said his mouth full.
“Where is Godfrey, now,” she muttered, “Everyone needs to taste one.
random plot generator
A BOOK SHOP – IT IS THE AFTERNOON AFTER ALBIE HIT HIS MOTHER WITH A FEATHER.
Please Jenny, don’t leave me.
I’m sorry Albie, but I’m looking for somebody a bit more brave. Somebody who faces his fears head on, instead of running away. You hit your mother with a feather! You could have just talked to her!
I am such a person!
I’m sorry, Albie. I just don’t feel excited by this relationship anymore.
JENNY leaves and ALBIE sits down, looking defeated.
Moments later, gentle sweet shop owner MR MATT HUMBLE barges in looking flustered.
Goodness, Matt! Is everything okay?
I’m afraid not.
What is it? Don’t keep me in suspense…
It’s … a hooligan … I saw an evil hooligan frighten a bunch of elderly ladies!
Defenseless elderly ladies?
Yes, defenseless elderly ladies!
Bloomin’ heck, Matt! We’ve got to do something.
I agree, but I wouldn’t know where to start.
You can start by telling me where this happened.
MATT fans himself and begins to wheeze.
Focus Matt, focus! Where did it happen?
The Library! That’s right – the Library!
ALBIE springs up and begins to run.
EXT. A ROAD – CONTINUOUS
ALBIE rushes along the street, followed by MATT. They take a short cut through some back gardens, jumping fences along the way.
INT. A LIBRARY – SHORTLY AFTER
ROGER BLUNDER a forgetful hooligan terrorises two elderly ladies.
ALBIE, closely followed by MATT, rushes towards ROGER, but suddenly stops in his tracks.
What is is? What’s the matter?
That’s not just any old hooligan, that’s Roger Blunder!
Who’s Roger Blunder?
You can say that again.
I’m going to need candlesticks, lots of candlesticks.
Roger turns and sees Albie and Matt. He grins an evil grin.
Albie Jones, we meet again!
Yes. It was a long, long time ago…
EXT. A PARK – BACK IN TIME
A young ALBIE is sitting in a park listening to some trance music, when suddenly a dark shadow casts over him.
He looks up and sees ROGER. He takes off his headphones.
Would you like some wine gums?
ALBIE’s eyes light up, but then he studies ROGER more closely, and looks uneasy.
I don’t know, you look kind of forgetful.
Me? No. I’m not forgetful. I’m the least forgetful hooligan in the world.
Wait, you’re a hooligan?
ALBIE runs away, screaming.
INT. A LIBRARY – PRESENT DAY
You were a coward then, and you are a coward now.
He turns back and shouts.
I mean, I am running away, but I’ll be back – with candlesticks.
I’m not scared of you.
You should be.
INT. A SWEET SHOP – LATER THAT DAY
ALBIE and MATT walk around searching for something.
I feel sure I left my candlesticks somewhere around here.
Are you sure? It does seem like an odd place to keep deadly candlesticks.
You know nothing Matt Humble.
We’ve been searching for ages. I really don’t think they’re here.
Suddenly, ROGER appears, holding a pair of candlesticks.
Looking for something?
Crikey, Albie, he’s got your candlesticks.
Tell me something I don’t already know!
The earth’s circumference at the equator is about 40,075 km.
I know that already!
I’m afraid of dust.
While ROGER is looking at MATT with disgust, ALBIE lunges forward and grabs his deadly candlesticks. He wields them, triumphantly.
Prepare to die, you forgetful aubergine!
No please! All I did was frighten a bunch of elderly ladies!
JENNY enters, unseen by any of the others.
Don’t hurt me! Please!
Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t use these candlesticks on you right away!
Because Albie, I am your father.
ALBIE looks stunned for a few moments, but then collects himself.
No you’re not!
Ah well, it had to be worth a try.
ROGER tries to grab the candlesticks but ALBIE dodges out of the way.
Who’s the daddy now? Huh? Huh?
Unexpectedly, ROGER slumps to the ground.
Did he just faint?
I think so. Well that’s disappointing. I was rather hoping for a more dramatic conclusion, involving my deadly candlesticks.
ALBIE crouches over ROGER’s body.
Be careful, Albie. It could be a trick.
No, it’s not a trick. It appears that… It would seem… Roger Blunder is dead!
Yes, it appears that I scared him to death.
MATT claps his hands.
So your candlesticks did save the day, after all.
JENNY steps forward.
Is it true? Did you kill the forgetful hooligan?
Jenny how long have you been…?
JENNY puts her arm around ALBIE.
Then you saw it for yourself. I killed Roger Blunder.
Then the elderly ladies are safe?
It does seem that way!
A crowd of vulnerable elderly ladies enter, looking relived.
You are their hero.
The elderly ladies bow to ALBIE.
There is no need to bow to me. I seek no worship. The knowledge that Roger Blunder will never frighten elderly ladies ever again, is enough for me.
You are humble as well as brave! And I think that makes up for hitting your mother with a feather. It does in my opinion!
One of the elderly ladies passes ALBIE a healing ring
I think they want you to have it, as a symbol of their gratitude.
I couldn’t possibly.
Well, if you insist. It could come in handy when I go to the Doline tomorrow. With my friend Matt. It is dangerous and only for brave people and a healing ring could come in handy.
ALBIE takes the ring.
The elderly ladies bow their heads once more, and leave.
ALBIE turns to JENNY.
Does this mean you want me back?
Well you can’t have me.
You had no faith in me. You had to see my scare a hooligan to death before you would believe in me. I don’t want a lover like that. And I am going to the Doline and I may not be back!
Please leave. I want to spend time with the one person who stayed with me through thick and thin – my best friend, Matt.
You heard the gentleman. Now be off with you. Skidaddle! Shoo!
I’m sorry Jenny, but I think you should skidaddle.
MATT turns to ALBIE.
Did you mean that? You know … that I’m your best friend?
Of course you are!
The two walk off arm in arm.
Suddenly MATT stops.
When I said I’m afraid of dust, you know I was just trying to distract the hooligan don’t you?
Absentmindedly, Eleri put the bones in her pocket and continued to gaze down upon the valley, lost in thoughts of the past. What had that tree said to her, that day it came to life?
Yorath sat quietly, watching her. He noticed the mushrooms growing on the exposed roots beside him, wondering if he had unwittingly crushed any when he sat down next to the tree.
“Mushrooms,” he said quietly to himself.
Eleri didn’t answer, wasn’t even aware that he has said it, but now she was remembering the days of the floods in the lowlands. The wet, dismal months and years when everything was damp, if not saturated or submerged, when mold grew on every surface. Bright green mossy mold, and slimy dank black mold, and fungus everywhere. Nothing would grow like it used to grow and the odour of rot permeated everything. The fruit trees crumbled in a sickly sweet stench into the mud, and the people named it keeg, and started wearing keegkerchiefs wrapped around their faces to keep the stink out of their nostrils.
“Goodbye, farewell,” the tree had said to her. “We are moving north, migrating. But fear not, little one, there are mushrooms migrating here to replace us.”
At the time Eleri had thought it was a ridiculous idea, imagining trees packing their trunks and pulling their roots out of the ground, and stomping off into the sunset. A few years later, she understood what the tree had meant.
Before the last of the fruit trees crumbled into the swamps, the people has resorted to eating the snails and the mushrooms, unwillingly at first, missing the bright colours and refreshing juices, but as time went on, they found more and more varieties of fungi springing up overnight. There came more and more bright colours, and more interesting flavours. It wasn’t long before they noticed the healing and restorative properties of the new varieties, not to mention the recreational effects of some of the more elusive ones. There was no need for any organized farming of the fungi, because they simply sprang up overnight: the days menu would be whatever had appeared that morning.
And so it was considered a gift from the gods in times of trouble, and the people were grateful. Their faith was restored in the earth’s capacity for magic and abundance, and they were inspired and rejuvenated. Eleri vowed never to forget the earth’s magic providence, in the form of mushrooms
There was one inn he knew about, the last one before the haunted bamboo forest. It served a solid but plain mountain meal, enough to be worth your coins, and carry you through the rigours of the cold ahead.
He doubted the oiliphant would carry him further through the thickly planted bamboos, so he would have to let her go for now, let her return to one of the secret entrances to the Forest, and be one again with the wild and her own.
Already the little crowd following them was getting thinner and thinner. After a while, the spell of novelty wore off, and they would realise where the enormous beast was walking toward. Very few wanted to have anything to do with the place. Rukshan wasn’t sure how such legend had spread about the bamboo forest behind haunted, as he would as a youngling find the crackling and wooshing sounds in the large plants rather soothing. Of course, as of all places, it was dangerous to venture there mindlessly, but he’d found the spirits dwelling there usually rarely ill disposed towards visitors, unlike deeper and higher in the mountains were some evils would ride the wind to great distances.
Not without feeling a small pinch in his chest, he said a last goodbye to his oiliphant friend, and went in the direction of the inn as the sun was already low on the horizon. The distinct sound of the bamboos could be heard from miles away, and there was only a few people left looking at the beast. His goodbye seemed to have lifted the last of the trance, and they suddenly woke up to where they were, some with an instant recoil on their faces. After a few minutes, he was alone once more.
Strangely, the fence had continued for longer than he’d thought. It wasn’t very high, more like a little nuisance really, but the complete oddity of its presence was enough to grate his nerves. He was reminded of something his master had told him For every inside, there is an outside, and every outside, there is an inside. And though they are different, they go together. The secret of all insides and outsides is this – they look a different as possible, but underneath are the same, for you cannot find one without the other. It made him realise that he couldn’t tell where the people who’d built the fence were from – the city or the forest. He’d immediately assumed something, while it could have been easily the reverse.
Now he looked at the fence itself, it was quite an ingenious piece of work, trying as much as possible to reuse local and discarded materials. Maybe it was more a tentative of a connective tissue rather than a fence…
It was in this more peaceful mood that he reached the inn, just an hour before nightfall, as he could tell from the sun. Lanterns were already lit outside of the inn, and although he’d expected it to be empty of customers as often was the case, it seemed to have another guest. He wouldn’t mind a little company, maybe they could enlighten him about the nature of this new boundary.
“My name is Lhamom” the traveler said to him with an inviting grin and slim beaming face. She wore a deerskin hat, and a patchwork of tribal clothes from villages around the mountains in the manner of an explorer of old times. She was already drinking the local woolly goat butter milk tea, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy every mouthful.
Rukshan would only bear it with enough spices to soften the strong taste. Nonetheless, he took polite sips of the offered beverage, and listened to the pleasant stories of the nearby and faraway countries she would eagerly tell about.
Now, curled up near the burning woodstove, enjoying a simple meal and simple everyday stories, after a lovely day riding above troubles, he would already feel complete, and closer to the magic he sought.
“Where the devil is everyone?”
Miss Bossy Pants looked around the empty office with a mixture of disappointment and confusion. She had been anticipating the surprised looks on her colleagues’ faces at her unannounced return —she had no illusions about her popularity and knew better than to expect a joyous reunion—but the room was disconcertingly empty.
Hearing the door behind her, she spun around in relief. It was the new guy, Prout, carrying a brown paper bag and a take out coffee.
“Hello!” he said, hoping he did not sound as awkward as he felt and wondering if he could back out the door again. He had only met Bossy a couple of times and found her bluntness disconcerting. Terrifying, even. There was no reply, so, taking a sip of his steaming coffee, he bravely persevered.
“Welcome back. How are you feeling?”
“Are you the only one here? Where is everyone?” snapped Bossy Pants.
Ricardo took a deep breath and focused on a wilted pot plant on the window ledge.
God, I hope I don’t start rambling.
“Connie and the temp, Sophie, went to Iceland … something about following a lead from Santa Claus and I’ve not heard from them since. And Hilda … I don’t know where Hilda went to be honest. She emailed me a few days ago wanting to know what to feed Orangutans.”
Bossy had paled. She seemed to shudder slightly and put out a hand to steady herself on a nearby desk.
“They eat mostly fruit,” he continued, “but other stuff too of course. Insects and flowers and stuff like that. Honey I think, if they can find it I guess, and bark. And leaves. Mostly fruit though.”
That’s probably enough about the Orangutans. She is clearly not into it.
“I got a bit held up actually; there is a young boy outside drawing maps. Quite young … youngish. I am not sure how old really but he was little.They are bloody good too—there is quite a crowd out there watching him draw.”
“Iceland,” whispered Bossy, her face a deathly white colour.
“Yeah, Iceland. Keflavik … Miss Bossy, are you sure you are well enough to be back? You don’t look so good. I mean, you look good … attractive of course … I don’t mean you look bad or anything but you do look sort of pale. Are you okay?”
“Santa Claus.” Bossy sat down slowly.
“Yeah … I know, a bit crazy, right? They seemed to think it was a really hot lead.”
“Stupid idiots; the lead wasn’t from Santa Claus— I will bet my life that it was from that depraved scoundrel, Dr Bronkelhampton! I heard through the grapevine he had gone to Iceland with a new identity after the Island fiasco destroyed his reputation—we covered the story at the time and it was huge—and now he is clearly after revenge. Dear God, what have they got themselves into?”
Roberto had just heard the end of their conversation. I want to hear about dear cousin Badul, the old tart had said to the maid. Something in his brain was triggered by that name, something he had been led to forgot by his handlyer in Vegas before… his mission. Yes he remembered now that he had a mission. But still all the little tickling wheels in his brain were catching up with the forgotten memories.
He looked inside the house. The old tart was handling what looked like a sheep skull. Was she doing some dark magic ? Was she a bruja ? He was not particularly superstitious or religious, but he had learned to fear the brujas of his village in the desert.
“Put that on the library between Byron and Baudelaire, will you?”
The maid looked at the skull, then at her mistress with the same rollling eyes. Oh it was subtle, so very sutble that the old lady had certainly not seen it, but he had been trained to read people’s faces… well he had read an old book of Chinese face reading that his grand mother had when he was living there… That’s why they recruited him.
The maid left with the skull, removed a few books from the shelf and put the skull unceremoniously in between. She shoved the remaining books randomly on other shelves and shrugged.
“I’m going to make a banana yogurt cake… without yogurt”, she said to nobody in particular.
Whenever Nabuco projected to human consciousness, they had the habit of seeing him as a plump looking bearded vagrant, like a Pavarotti turned homeless. It had annoyed him for a while, but now he didn’t mind as much.
Nowadays, he was mostly off the bliss addiction of the Rays, so in a sense, it was fitting. If he were still in physical human form, he would probably have taken on quite some weight. And that made him a sort of pariah too, splintering off the great order of ascension, or whatever They called it nowadays.
With them, there was no denying he’d lived quite the grand life, being ascended and all. They used to called him Master Nebuchadnezzar — well, often Master Nabuco.
He’d gotten on the rayroll almost by luck. He was credited for inventing the chibubble technique, as a way of extracting bubbles and peals of laughter when people get all hot and excited. At the peak of the technique, somewhere around the 1968s, he had recruited and incorporated many gnomes into the fold, as nature spirits known as gnomes had a uncanny knack for extracting laughter off people. With the call for sexual liberation and getting closer to nature, they had plenty of opportunities to get people high, and chibubbles were all the fancy.
It had started to go down as fast as it rose, people were no longer interested in nature, gnomes working condition when forced to move to urban environments were a disaster, and the chibubble production plummeted. Now, the industry was a thing of the past ; sometimes there were a few chibubble memorabilia kept by other Masters interested in speculating on its rare value more than for anything else. Now kitten videos on social media had replaced the chibubble gnomes business and driven a new unseen growth of the Gross Divine Product.
He didn’t know if the gnomes were responsible for it, but living so close to them and nature for a while, somehow opened his perception to the falsity and the insanity of their quest for power. So instead of finding new venues for innergy extraction as they all did, he’d resigned.
Nobody had heard about anybody resigning before, so they suspected him of trying to be original, and maybe disrupt the clever and immutable laws of the universe.
Long story short, he’d managed to escape their clutches, and live on his own, and off unhealthy junk thoughts habits. Those were the worse, the craving of decadent thoughts, maintained by the entertainment and news industries, the social media and all of it. In the long run, that or the fuzzy bliss were faces of the same coin, and debilitating in the end.
Even when he tried to block them, he could hear the thoughts, prayers and all the inner chatter. The spirit world, or however it is called, was a medium ideal to carry those thoughts and reverberate throughout the whole universe. Like sound waves travelling under water for large distances. Now, he could resist the urge to answer, seduce and insinuate. Many of the thoughts were so naive and would welcome anything. He was still a junkie, and those offerings were never helping getting him off the wagon.
Humans hoped for ascension, but ascended masters like him who were trapped in a false blissdom could only hope to resume their path by descending to human form. Such irony.
There was one voice that seemed to stand out. It had the flavour of “dangerous” pinned onto it, the kind of bright colours that venomous snakes and toads have on earth to warn predators to keep off, or else. It could only mean one thing, a genuine seeker of truth, someone who had the potential to tear the veils to shreds.
He’d seen quite a few of those, they were usually young, and for many of them terribly naive and easily corrupted by displays of power. Search for truth and search for power were sometimes so easily mistaken one for the other. The bright colours would fade over time, but they were still dangerous, too unpredictable to be trusted fully. Learned Ascended Masters knew well to leave those to their own device, while tending to the less critical minds.
But what did he have to waste, especially now? Nabuco zoomed towards the origin of the thoughts, observing at a distance, the young Domba.
Search Results for 'faces'
Viewing 20 results - 1 through 20 (of 58 total)
Viewing 20 results - 1 through 20 (of 58 total)