“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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.
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?”
“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.”
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.
Boredom rang the bell in the morning and I made the mistake of opening the door. I should have known better in this confinement time, they said the postman should leave the package at the door, or be at least at 2 to 3 meters from it when we open. Apparently boredom didn’t receive the notice, and I opened the door and let it in.
Once it was there, nothing seemed interesting enough. I tried to show my guest a movie, or a series. New ones, old ones, none seemed to satisfy its taste. Even the expensive tea I opened just for the occasion and made for my guest tasted duller than gnat’s pee. I thought gnat’s pee might have been more exciting as I would have welcomed it as a new experience, but I’m certain it wasn’t that new to boredom.
Boredom is like a crowd, it amplifies the bad mood, and paint dull all that it touches. I had received a set of twelve chromo therapy glasses, all making a beautiful rainbow in the box. I remembered being so excited when I had received that set, all those moments I would spend looking at the world in different colours. Why did I wait? Now I couldn’t even get close to the box. Boredom seemed so comfortable now that I felt tired at the idea of driving it out of my couch, not to mention driving it out of my apartment entirely.
Boredom had not been passive as one could have thought. It had diligently painted everything in a shade of dull which made it hard for anything to catch my attention. Everything looked the same, I had become fun blind. Only the window started to look like a satisfactory exit. I had to trick my mind in thinking it too would be boring.
But at the end of the afternoon the phone rang. I looked boredom into the dull of its eyes. I almost got drowned in it again almost losing any interest to answer. It made it drop its guard and I seized the moment to jump on my mobile. It was a friend from Spain.
“You won’t believe it!” she said.
I looked boredom in the eyes and I clearly could see it was afraid of what was coming. It was begging for mercy.
“Try me,” I said to my friend.
“I got a swarm of bees gathering on the top of my roof patio! I swear there are hundreds of them.”
“What?” I was so surprised that I looked away through the window and lost sight of boredom. When I looked back at the couch, boredom was not there. I looked around trying to see if it could have hidden somewhere while my friend was talking about having put the dogs in the shed, not daring go feed the cats on the rooftop with all those bees swarming around. I could hear her hubbie in the background “Oh my! I think they are building something.”
My imagination worked faster than a pandemic and it had already built a manhattan beehive project. Despite my disbelief I had to face the fact that there were no traces of dull places anymore around me. I could almost see the swarm of bees getting the last touch in cleaning the dull-art boredom had crafted around so plainly while it was there.
“Send me some pictures,” I said. “I want pictures!”EricKeymaster
The loud voice got her all startled.
“Not so fast Ladies. Hands in the air!”
An officer in uniform was standing there, his service taser pointed at them like they were two dangerous criminals. He was flanked by a trenchcoat acolyte inspector whose tiny glasses were shining in the dark.
“Shhtt! Don’t say anything. They look daft enough, let me do the talking.”
“Mrs June, you’re under arrest for multiple accounts of credit fraud, as well as unlawful impersonation with the intent to commit fraud. You can remain silent. Anything you’ll say may be held against you…” The inspector was speaking like a robot.
“STOP RIGHT THERE!” the officer shouted, “hands up or I shoot! Last warning!”
June was undeterred; she had eluded the police forces for so long and in so many States, she felt invincible and started to voice confused explanations while moving her hands in a frantic fashion and trying to sweet talk the police force.
She never saw the taser come.
Between fuzzy moments of consciousness, she realised she was being cuffed, and her and April taken to the police station.
“Nobody else can see him, Liz. Or her. Whatever.”
“Trebuchet. Nobody else can see it. I’ve asked Godfrey. I’ve asked Roberto. I asked all your ex-husbands. I even skyped that maid we sent packing in a suitcase—she’s fine by the way—and she said she had a doubt too.”
“Those fools! What would they know!”
“I’m many things but I’m no fool!” said Godfrey emerging from behind the curtains.
“Why on earth are you wearing a pith helmet, Godfrey?”
Godfrey beamed. “Glad you noticed. What do you think? Alessandro told me it was all the rage.”
“I’m very uncomfortable with fashion, Godfrey. As you well know. One of the reasons I hired you was for your obvious lack of any fashion sense. And as for you, Finnley, if you don’t exchange those wide-legged pants for something less à la mode, I will have to re-instate a uniform.”
May quickly realized that she hadn’t planned this out properly at all. While Norma was fishing in her handbag for paper tissues, May switched the glasses of wine, so that she had the one with the laxatives herself. It wasn’t fair to inflict that on Norma, who was already verging on distraught. And May was feeling bloated anyway. A good clear out wouldn’t do her any harm.
May listened with genuine sympathy to Norma’s distress at being mistreated, but a glance at the kitchen clock prompted her to interrupt.
“Gotta go to the john,” she said, wondering if she had the vernacular right. She had almost said “must pop to the loo”, but that was the kind of lingo she used on the previous mission. She had to send her finance a message. The rendezvous with the spinach pot was off. Closing the bathroom door behind her, she reached for her phone and tapped the coded message.
iggi nefa san forlik snoodetta
Almost immediately there was a reply. No coded message this time, it was just a rolling eyes icon. May sighed with relief. What had she been thinking to plan such a thing, on such short notice?
Norma watched May leave the room, a little frown furrowing her brow. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt uneasy. May was acting guilty. Why? Without even knowing why she did it, she swapped her wine glass for the other one. Immediately feeling appalled at such a silly impulse, she reached to swap them back, but it was too late. May burst into the room, beaming.
Norma was taken aback at the difference in May’s demeanour, which threw her into a mental quandary. Had she mistaken a discomfort due to the need to use the lavatory for a guilty conscience? And that impulse to switch the glasses!
“Well, cheers!” she said shakily, holding up the wine glass and then draining it.
“Bottoms up!” replied May, following suit.
August Finest, the chief of Stuff at the Beige House, liked the feeling of his dark flannel suit and his sunglasses. He always wore them inside too, because he didn’t want people to notice he was looking at them. He also had an earpiece that gave him a handy excuse when he didn’t want to speak with somebody and often pretended to be needed by the boss. But these days, the boss barely needed him, except for pesky tasks and it made August a bit gloomy.
The maid was looking at him with her wide dark eyes. She frightened him a bit, but he wasn’t sure why, except that her eyes were too… He readjusted his glasses. Certainly he shouldn’t be afraid of a maid in the Beige House. He quickly looked at his notebook and it reminded him of something. He raised his right index, gave the maid a big smile and left in the other direction, leaving Norma gaping. She had just remembered about her wages.
I couldn’t offer Sanso a drink, as there wasn’t a drop of anything in my room, so I sent him down to the dining room to get a bottle of gin, and a couple of glasses of ice. I was a bit reluctant to let him out of my bedroom at such an early stage of the proceedings, but felt he was a man of his word when he assured me (with an engaging twinkle) that of course he’d be back, in just two shakes of a mongooses tail. Odd expression if you ask me, but then, where does he come from? Hard to say. He had a slight accent, but it was impossible to pin down to a location, and it had a changeable quality, too.
He wasn’t gone long, and said that the only person who’d seen him was Prune, but that was inevitable, he said. That kid sees everything! She’d be a fount of valuable information, if she didn’t put such a unique spin on everything.
I sat on the bed, and he sat in the wicker chair by the window, and after we’d clunked glasses and said cheers, he came right out and asked me what my mission was. Well! Mission? I asked. I’d never really thought about it in terms of a mission. Then a funny thing happened. I could hear myself speaking but hadn’t thought about what to say, you know how it is sometimes.
I said, “my mission is a glorious infinite wandering, threading multicoloured silken skeins of clues and riddles, people and places, weaving them in and out of time and to each other…”
Sanso laughed. “He said “That’s my mission, too!” and we raised our glasses in honour of that, and then he got serious. No, not like that. I mean, he started going on about the mines, and how we really had no time to lose because there were two daft tarts in extreme danger down there, and they needed rescuing. I rolled my eyes as you can imagine. I’d already started semi reclining in anticipation.
“It’ll be fun,” he said.
The vibration of the phone on the table made Barbara jump and she almost deleted her report. Her heart was racing at the thought of erasing what took her an hour to write. She reminded herself to breath like she had learned during her hot yoga class the previous week. It quieted her heart a little and she checked her hair out of habit and winced when she felt the short haircut. She checked her phone.
“Wonderful!” she said readjusting her glasses. A new acquisition, big and cat eye like, the brim covered with colourful strass. She couldn’t resist.
She got up from her desk and adjusted her skirt with her six fingers hand. She went to the Doctor’s office and knocked three times on the door. A sleepy voice, a tad angry, asked from the other side: “What?”
“It’s Barbara. Our undercover agent sent me a confirmation that the Dreamcatcher operation is a success. Subject zero has been activated unaware that you are manipulating her dreams.”
The note had troubled Maeve. It was different than the one Shawn Paul received, not only because it was handwritten and very long, but also because it implied someone, potentially even several groups, were after the dolls and the keys.
“You have to retrieve them,” the note eventually said, “and use the clues they hide to find the important people they protect.”
There was no signature, but it sounded so much like uncle Fergus, oddly wordy and mysterious. Was he still alive after all this time? Did he still ride his Harley?
Maeve’s first thought after the surprise was that she needed someone to take care of Fabio. The next thought felt like a brilliant idea. Lucinda. Maeve would go ask her to take care of Fabio during her vacation to Australia and would use that opportunity to spirit away the doll. She had the intuition she might need it afterwards.
So she prepared her luggage and cuddled Fabio who knew he wouldn’t be part of the trip.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but I need you to keep that sad face of yours when we go see Lucinda.” In response, Fabio wiggled his tail happily and tried to lick Maeve’s face. “No! Keep the face,” she mimicked what she thought was a sad face.
After all was packed she went to Lucinda’s with Fabio and her luggage.
“I’m sorry, I’m going on a trip and I need someone to take care of Fabio,” Maeve said. As she had imagined Lucinda was moved by Fabio’s look and couldn’t refuse to take car of him.
“Of course! He’ll be well treated here with my new parrot.”
“Huhu,” said the colourful bird.
“I think it comes from New Zealand,” said Lucinda. “It flew in yesterday and had not left ever since despite me not putting it into a cage, so I’m buying it food. It seems particularly fond of that doll I told you about the other day.”
Indeed, the parrot was on the sofa, trying to open the doll’s head. That’s when Fabio jumped and tried to catch the bird. He clearly didn’t like it and the parrot flew away to a higher ground on an old grannies’ Welsh dresser, making a few glasses and china fall down in an awful breaking noise. Lucinda tried to catch the bird or the china or Fabio, but could do neither of the three.
Seizing that as an opportunity, Maeve put the doll in her messenger bag.
“I don’t want to bother you longer, I have a plane to catch. Bye,” she said, and she left with bags and luggage without checking if Lucinda had heard.
At the elevator, she met with Shawn Paul.
“Hi. I’m going to the airport,” the young man said. “Australia. Like you?”
She felt uncomfortable. The note hadn’t mention anything about him. Unless he was part of one of those groups who were after the dolls. Maeve grumbled something while holding her bag closer. She didn’t know if she could trust him.
“You do that, Sha. Nurse Trassie wasn’t it?”
Sharon nodded and pursed her lips tightly. “Bloody uppity tart. We bloody pay enough to be ‘ere, I reckon. They should get the tea bloody right.” Her eyes narrowed menacingly. “ Anyway, she’ll keep. So,‘ow we going to find ‘im then, Glor?”
Gloria scratched her head vigorously, perhaps checking it was still there, before taking a moment to examine her fingernails.
“Wot’d Mavis say then?” she asked at last. “When you did that texting thing to ‘er?”
“‘Ere let me find my phone and I’ll read it out loud to you. Oh, blimey, ‘ave you seen my glasses, Glor?”
Gloria’s generous curves wobbled and gyrated as she convulsed into fits of laughter.
“They’re on yer bloody ‘ead!” she said pointing and gasping for breath. “Oh, I nearly peeed myself, ya blimmen muppet!”
“Thanks, Glor. Wot I’d do without you, I don’t bloody know. Don’t mean to make you pee yerself though. It’s ‘ard enough getting them nurses to give out them extra thick pantyliners. Blimmin uppity tarts. Expecially that Nurse Trassie. Anyway, she’ll keep.”
“Oh, it’s text talk. The younguns talk like that now and our Mavis always did like to keep up with trends. Lots of lust it means. That saucy cow!”
“She always was a saucy one that, Mavis! Look at us stuck in ‘ere and ‘er with a new fella. Lucky sod. Maybe after our beauty treatment, we might get us a new fella too.”
“I don’t know ‘ow we’re going to track down the Doctor though, Shar. I don’t know ‘ow we’re going to track him down when we’re stuck in this bleedin’ ‘ole.” Gloria shoulders shook and she began to sob loudly.
“Wot’s that then,” asked Gloria, sniffing loudly into her hanky.
“I’ve ‘ad one of my bloody brainwaves!”
“I knew you would, Shar! You’ve always ‘ad brains. I’m all agog!”
“We’ll get Mavis to go to the papers! Put in an advert to find ‘im!”
“You’re a blimmin genius, you are, Shar!”
The packet lied forgotten on the dining table. Shawn Paul had caught a cold, or had the cold caught him when the old man delivered the packet? Anyway he had stayed home the following day, feverish and nightmarish. He had dreamt of travels on the back of a transluscent blue whale in between dimensions and timelines as it followed a team of teen dragqueens. Of course when he woke up from the dreams he was so tired that he didn’t bother to write them down and forgot all about it, like he had forgotten all about the packet on his dining table.
The dining table was beside his bed in the dining/bed room/ writing office and it was covered in notebooks, granola cookies boxes and an old rose that didn’t seem to want to die. Being where it was, the table naturally attracted stuffs, not quite like a blackhole but more like a junkyard. So as things were piling up, it was natural that some of them got lost as part of this unusual landscape. The last additions being a few layers of tissues, giving it a shape of a snow mountain. Yes Shawn Paul had some poetic imagination, especially when facing cleaning-up the mess he had accumulated. It helped him accept his current condition without much quivering of his heart.
The door bell rang.
To Shawn Paul it sounded muffled and he tried to imagine a scene that could fit in his ambitious novel.
The door bell rang again, becoming impatient.
The young man opened the door. It was Maeve and she looked at him from head to toe. Shawn Paul looked at himself and regretted he was still wearing his pajamas. Not that he would have preferred wearing nothing, but you know, a bit of cleaning and dress up.
“I need some butter,” said Maeve entering the apartment without asking. She seemed to look around as if she was looking for something. But the young man couldn’t be sure as he wasn’t wearing his glasses.
“Of course,” said Shawn Paul to the door.
The garden was a mess. Roberto was emerging slowly out of the blissful haze of his stone elixirs where nothing really mattered into the harsh reality of the aftermath of the all out characters party.
He found cocktail glasses, plastic cups and even toilet paper scattered under and on the bushes, hidden behind the marble statues that had been dressed with scarves, blond and red wigs and false moustaches.
He looked clueless at a dirty muddy bubbly pond. He wondered what it could have been for a moment. Images of half naked guests throwing buckets of champagne at each others, of firemen extinguishing the barbecue appeared in front of his eyes, but it wasn’t quite right. Then he recalled the ice sculpture fountain he was so proud of. It was completely melted, like his motivation to clean everything.
A noise alerted him that the cleaning team was also emerging from their slumber. They arrived before the guests left and it soon had become a foam party, hence the bubbly pond.
Well, he thought, at least we had fun.
“I’m not doing this anymore,” said Alexandria, visibly shaken. “That was terrifying, tapping into Fox like that and not being able to see. It all felt so real!”
Jolly squeezed her friends shoulder as she stood up. “Ghastly, wasn’t it. I can’t get the stink of wet ash out of my nostrils. I think we need a stiff pomegrandy after that ordeal.” Jolly bustled about in the kitchen fetching glasses and reaching into the highest cupboard for the special liquor, glad to be focused on something mundane and familiar.
“Still,” she said, passing Alexandria a large goblet and sitting back down, “It was a successful teletrip though. We did find useful information about the future. We should congratulate ourselves!”
Alexandria shuddered. “Can we change it, though? Or is that time meddling and forbidden? How does that work? We can’t just carry on, as if…” a sob caught in the back of her throat. “We can’t just pretend we don’t know, and carry on as normal!”
Jolly frowned. “I think it’s only meddling if you change the past, not the future. I think changing the future is alright though, we do it all the time, don’t we?”
The amber nectar was warming and Alexandria started to relax. “Maybe it is a good thing, Jolly, you’re right. Pass the pomegrandy.”EricKeymaster
Jerk Munkinn closed his laptop and sighed. It had been a while he’d looked into the Group. So long actually, he’d felt a pinch in his chest when he’d realized so many of his friends had departed.
“Must have to do with the gettin’ old, eh”.
Truly, that was a bit of a let down, when you thought of how so many of them tried hard to be chirpy and funny all the time. Exhausting really, like living with kaleidoscopic glasses shooting rainbows in your optic nerve all the time. No wonder some got depressed and left, virtually or for real. Even he could feel the withdrawal effects at times.
The new joiners were active too, but that didn’t feel the same, he couldn’t bother to get involved any longer.
A few days ago, there had been a renewed noisy agitation on the Woowoo group. Nothing unusual, he’d first thought, these things tend to go in stress cycles, losing a little more steam at each turn.
It was not obvious in the beginning, but as he was almost done rolling more and more of the same tiring feelgood stuff, he caught a vaporous idea. Something lying behind. The slow revelation of the loops everyone was caught in. The tearing of the veil of disguise everyone was so wrapped up in. What was he, without that veil?
For a moment, the door of understanding was there, at hand’s reach, and it went out of focus and moved away.
A red flash caught his attention in his periphery. Seemed just the lights in the street, but of course he would know better. “Tonttu” his crazy aunt would have said.
Trickster, or distraction at best. He chose to ignore it, focusing instead on the white noise of the rain falling on the awning, while he got to sleep. Tomorrow was Monday. Only one week of work and he could go back home.
As soon as the words had left her mouth, Lottie regretted them. She looked at Albie’s shocked, crestfallen face and knew she had been too harsh. Maybe she wasn’t cut out to be a writing mentor. It was a constant battle for her: should she be brutally honest and possibly save them years of misdirected effort or should she foster their creative spirit at all costs, even if it meant being dishonest? She sighed and tried to backtrack.
“Look, Albie, there is some good stuff in here but it needs work … “
“It’s okay,” Albie broke in quickly. “It’s fine. I knew I was no good … it’s fine. Thanks.” He gave an embarrassed laugh. “Mum has been on at me to do something since I lost my job so i thought … well, I thought I’d give writing a shot. Better stick to walking the dog, eh!”
“Yes, you and Alex are a right pair, walking off the job like that.” Lottie shook her head, causing the thick reading glasses to slip down her long beaky nose. Lottie always wore black and she reminded Albie of a crow. He liked her though, which is why he had asked her to read his play.
“Anyway what’s done is done.” Lottie continued. And then she hesitated for a moment, pushing the glasses back up her nose and looking down at the manuscript on the table in front of her as though weighing her words carefully before continuing. “Look, Albie, one thing I did notice in your writing was that there was a recurring theme. Perhaps your subconscious trying to tell you something. It often works like that.
“The Doline thing?”
“Yes,” said Lottie. “Something to think about anyway.”
“You can see for miles and miles and miles and miles…” Eleri wondered briefly why it would never do to use the word kilometers in this case, despite that she rarely used the word miles these days. “Look at all those enormous birds, Yorath! Are they eagles or vultures?”
The whitewashed walls were dazzlingly bright in the crisp rain washed air, and the distant blueberry mountains looked close enough to reach out and touch. The easterly wind whipped around the castle walls as they strolled around, playing the part of tourists for the day, decked out in woolly scarves and sunglasses, taking snapshots.
It was disconcerting at times to see the crumbling stone walls where once had stood magnificent rooms, where they both recalled times long since past, times of intrigue and danger, and times of pastoral simplicity too. Many the lifetimes they had shared in this place over the centuries. Not for the first time, Eleri wondered why she felt a crumbling ruin was the natural state, the most beautiful state, for a man made structure. A point of interest in the wild landscape, softened with encroaching greenery, rather than the right angles and solid obstruction of a newly built edifice.
Peering over the wall at the chasm below, Yorath exclaimed, “Look! Look at the goats sheltering in the crannies of the cliff wall!” Eleri smiled a trifle smugly. She felt an affinity with goats and their ability to traverse and utilize the places no one else could reach.
At first he’d stayed in the same spot. Waiting, for what he didn’t know, but for someone or something to provide a clue, or a reminder. He’d given up checking his pockets, hoping he was mistaken and that of course he had a wallet, some keys, a phone. But there was nothing. Nothing but that suitcase, lighter than it should have been for its size, because there was nothing it in except a few pairs of underpants and a couple of ties. A toiletry bag, unzipped, with nothing in it but a toothbrush.
He closed his eyes. Stay in the same spot if you’re lost. Had his mother said that once, long ago? His head hurt with the effort to try and recall.
He’d found himself sitting in an alley next to a rubbish container, sprawled on the suitcase. Squinting in the shaft of bold sunlight, he automatically reached into his shirt pocket for sunglasses. The pocket was empty. He checked his other pockets, his alarm and confusion growing. Why was he wearing socks but no shoes? He elbowed himself up to a sitting position and noticed the suitcase. A wave of relief washed over him: everything must be inside the suitcase. Relief gave way to horror. It was almost empty. I’ve been robbed! he thought. But what did they take? What did I have in there?
And then the full realization hit. He had no idea where he was. And no idea who he was.
Someone will come looking for me, he thought. But who? He weighed up his options. What could he do? Go to the police? And tell them what?
He shrank back as two women approached, looking down as they glanced at him. They walked past, continuing their conversation. Why were they speaking Spanish? He looked around, noticing a number of signs. Most of them were in Spanish, but some were in English. For a brief moment he was inordinately pleased at the realization that he was English speaking. The first puzzle piece. He was thinking in American English. Therefore, he must be an American. He rubbed his eyes. His headache was getting worse.rmkreegParticipant
“Aaron!” his focus snapped. Was he day dreaming?
As he came to the door, he looked at his suit in the mirror. It was keen, with straight lines and not a wave or wrinkle to be found. It was the epitome of structure and order.
He hated it.
He hated the way it felt. He hated the properness that came with it. He hated the lie.
In the next moment, he began to shake off the prissiness. It felt as if he could wriggle out of it, loosen up a little. And as he stood there, shaking his hands and feet, trying to get the funk off him, the suit shook off, too. It fell to the floor in pieces as though it were the very manifestation of inhibition.
As he stood there, in front of the mirror and half naked, a low murmur came up from his stomach. It was an uneasiness, a call to action, a desire to move…but he had no idea what for or why. It welled up in him and he became anxious without the slightest clue as to what he was going through. Frankly enough, it scared him.
The voice was a part of him and there was nothing but himself staring at himself. Everything seemed to become more and more energized. It felt like he extended beyond the limit of his skin, like water in a balloon trying to push outward.
Were it not for his containment, there was a very real possibility that he might just completely leap out of his skin and bones. He felt that, given a small slip in concentration, he’d be liable to explode headlong into the atmosphere with the vigor of a superhero on poorly made bath salts.
His heart raced. He could feel it beating in his chest. He could feel it beating all over. What was happening? Where was he?
He looked back at his surroundings and found himself sitting behind a tattered cloth spread with sunglasses and watches…and his suitcase?
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