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    Lucinda had all but forgotten about the mysterious dolls, what with the global events dominating everyone’s thoughts. It was hard to focus on anything else, and even Helper Effy wasn’t pushing her too much to keep up with her writing.

    When her friend Dillie sent her the first photograph of a doll hanging on a tree in the Michigan forest, she’d found it amusing, of course, but had thought no more about it. It was always fun to find unexpected things in random places, but the significance of it being a doll had escaped her notice.

    When Dillie sent a photo of another doll hanging on a tree by a woodland trail a few days later, the penny dropped. Dolls! What were they doing in Michigan? Were there more dolls in those woods?

    Dillie had been tempted to take the dolls home with her, but hesitated. There was something strange about them and she intuitively felt she should leave them where they were.

    Lucinda wondered what to do. Should she go to Michigan? Ask her friend to go back and fetch the dolls and send them to her?  Wait and see if Dillie found any more?

    The dolls looked strangely pristine, as if they’d only recently been hung there. Who had done that, and why?


    It was funny watching the toilet paper surge sweep through one place after another, I could follow that much on this contraption my helpers had me wired up to, this social media thing. I suppose I notice different things since I stopped trying to make sense of anything. Things start to catch my eye, but not the usual things.

    There’s one thing I’ve learned and that’s if you don’t give a toss about how demented you are, there is a lot on the plus side to consider with dementia.

    Not sure why but I keep seeing all this rambling, from that gal they call my niece,  on this device as they call it (sounds a bit medieval to me), and she’s doing this lockdown diary thing.  Sometimes I feel like saying, do you realize how many of us have been on lockdown already for ages, for month, and for years, relying on pea brained opinionated ever changing drifters to see to our needs. But f course I don’t say that, because I don’t know how to work this blasted device properly.  If I did, I’d let them have it!

    I find myself momentarily cheered, energized by this thought. And then I feel deflated, and can’t remember what it was about.

    Macaroni tonight. The evening woman doesn’t seem to stay long anymore.


    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.


    They keep calling me Belinda, I don’t know why.  They’re all nice enough, the ones who come and bring my meals and keep the place tidy, so don’t make a fuss when they do. If I’m honest, I don’t always remember their names either.

    Today they had white paper face masks on, which seems a bit rude if you ask me. I asked the morning one, do I smell or something? and she said, no, it’s the bolona virus, hadn’t I seen it on the news?   My dear, I said, if you only knew how many times I’ve died of the plague!  She laughed at me and said don’t you worry, you’re not dying of the plague, as if I didn’t know that. They sound patronizing at times but they do it to cover up how dense they are, some of these helpers.

    The plague was long a-coming to our parish, I said, ignoring her remark, and when it did come, there was no parish in or about London where it raged with such violence.  By the time the cart came for you to dump you in the pit, you were glad to be out of it, I tell you.

    She gave me a funny look and reminded me to eat my toast.


    There was a lotto think about, and Lucinda was hard at it. At least she was hard at it until she noticed the typo. She kept forgetting about the lottery tickets. This pleased her because she’d heard a popular oracle say that forgetting about it was a good sign of winning.

    She imagined Helper Effy’s wise and patient (if a trifle scornful) voice asking her if a lottery win would help her writing.

    It was a good question.


    WIB (workman in blue) opened his lunch box and unwrapped a sandwich. He sighed when he saw it was cheese and pickle again. It had been cheese and pickle all week, a sure sign that WAH (woman at home) wasn’t giving him the attention he deserved, throwing the easiest thing together day after day instead of planning a nice roast chicken dinner, with the prospect of a couple of days of savoury chicken sandwiches to take to work. She hadn’t even bothered to boil up a few hard boiled eggs for a bit of variety. He loved egg sandwiches. He wasn’t a hard man to please, he ruminated dolefully, chewing the cheese and pickle.

    He reached for his flask to wash it down with a gulp of tea, and noticed with some surprise that she’d bought him a new flask. His old one had a few dents in the screw on cup, and this one looked all shiny and new. Anxious to wash down the cheesy lump in his throat, he unscrewed the cap and poured the flask over the cup.

    But there was no tea in the flask, nothing poured out of it. He peered inside and shook it.

    “That woman’s lost her marbles!”

    It was the last straw. He stood up, shook the flask above his head, and roared incoherently.

    “Everything alright, mate?” asked his work colleague mildly. WIB2 was contentedly munching a juicy pink ham sandwich. He even had a packet of crisps to go with it, WIB1 noticed.

    “No tea? Fancy some of my coffee? Pass yer cup. What’s in the flask then, what’s rattling?”

    WAB1 sat back down on the low wall and upended the flask, pulling at a bit of black stuff that was protruding from the top.

    ““Maybe it’s full of banknotes!” WIB2 suggested.

    “It’s a fucking doll! What the..?”

    “Why did your old lady put a doll in your flask instead of tea, mate? Private joke or something, bit of a lark?” WIB2 elbowed WIB1 in the ribs playfully. “No?” he responded to WIB1’s scowl. “Maybe there’s something stitched inside it, then.”


    Lucinda, where is this going?”

    “I don’t fucking know, Helper Effy.”

    “I thought as much. Perhaps we’d better go back to the beginning.”


    “I will overlook your whining,” said Helper Effy. “Great job with the action and continuity on your last scene.”

    Lucinda glowed with happiness. “I owe it all to you, Helper Effy.”

    This was true.


    “If I may be so bold as to say so,” Lucinda said, meaning, ‘I’m going to tell you straight’. “Helper Effy, I think it’s a funny kind of teacher who only tells you what not to do without giving any advice on how to do it in the first place.”


    “Better,” said Helper Effie. “I think it best not to attempt a sex scene too early on in your writing development. A most advanced skill. I did have one pupil … well you will have heard of her … the award winning writer, Finnley Moose? She wrote the most skilled sex scenes. Incredibly moving and … emotionally raw. The best sex scenes I have ever come across in a new writer.”

    She smiled kindly at Lucinda. “I don’t expect you to all be Finnleys. Keep up the good effort.”


    “It might be useful to do an indepth character analysis of Agent V,” said Helper Effy with a patient smile.

    “You’re right, six kids … god, what was I thinking.”


    “I see you are trying to sexy things up, Lucinda,” said Helper Effy. “Be mindful not to lose the plot in the process.”

    Lucinda reddened. “I’ll fix it,” she said.


    Lucinda handed in her assignment to Helper Effy with a satisfied smile. The first major confrontation, action, or dramatic event that came to her mind had surprised her. She had no idea where it came from, and only a vague idea about who the characters were, or indeed, where they were. But she felt the apple cart and bicycle scene was rather thrilling and had potential.


    The creative writing course teacher, or “Helper” as they liked to call themselves to avoid any suggestion of hierarchy, was an arresting looking woman of indeterminate age and the most extraordinary red beehive hair do. The colour and style of it, and the aplomb with which Helper Effy carried it off, distracted Lucinda sufficiently during the first part of the lesson that she heard none of it.

    At one point Helper Effy glared at her, and Lucinda quickly averted her gaze, realizing her mindless gaping stare had been noticed. She closed her eyes to better pay attention.

    “What’s the first major confrontation, or action, or dramatic event in your novel that comes to your mind?” the Helper was asking. “Why? Because if it is the first thing you think of, then it’s your chimney poking through the hardpan.”

    Not quite sure what a hardpan was, Lucinda never the less felt she’d got the gist of the thing, and hoped she wouldn’t be too distracted by the question of the hardpan.



    [unnamed protagonist] finds themself in a coma, but they don’t realize it. It’s like they’re in a dream state, moving through worlds, gradually discovering their past and what’s happening. The person knows that they’re trying to find their way home, which in reality is them trying to wake up.

    Once they remember their past and what happened leading up to the coma, they wake up…but remember nothing.

    So, as I was trying to structure this, I initially wanted the first book to be their normal waking life and the second book being the coma and the third book being post coma and relearning stuff. But then I figured it would be best to combine the first and second books.

    I wanted the reader to start out confused, just like they would be and gradually learn the back story as they went

    The only thing is, that would mean that this thread has to remain written as coming from their perspective

    we are all writing about ONE character essentially. obviously there are gonna be other characters, but the main thread is this one person

    feel free to incorporate any and all previous characters and locations from your other threads. The protagonist will be moving through them. So he/she finds themselves in these other worlds.

    They’re being swept up into an adventure right from the start without knowing a thing

    let’s drop them into the middle of something exciting

    It’s any time
    It’s a big dream
    In real life, the protagonist is in a coma right now

    But, also, you’ll have a lot of freedom to create those on the spot because neither you nor the reader nor the main character knows them until you write them

    The characters in this story won’t have too much staying power because the main character is moving through so many worlds. Nearly everyone is incidental,

    unless characters appear that are central to the main characters ongoing story, like a nurse for example or family

    At max, there might be two or three reoccurring characters that tend to pop in more often than not as helpers
    Oh, yeah, family from the back story would come in to play a lot


    Queens Team and 2121 originated time-travellers

    Reginald / Maurana Banana
    Cedric / Consuela Winnie
    Amar / Terry Bubble
    Sadie Merrie
    Linda Paul

    Supporting team

    Pseu, Maria del Mar, Janice (from the City, around 2257)
    Sanso (from other dimension, multi-dimensional travel contractor)
    Frindle, Trumble, Jingle (fuck knows who they are)
    the Hawai’i techromancer

    Management team (around 2222 and later)

    Irina, mermaid Russian spy and parrot whisperer

    Jonbert, the orchestrator of the time-travelling arcs, wanting to retrieve key information from St Germain which were collected in 1757. En route back to 2222 to intercept the whales’ crystal with help from Linda Paul’s team, and his luxury submarine

    1757 King’s Versailles

    The Queen
    Madame de Pompadour
    her maid Nicole du Hausset, coming from a line of time-smugglers
    Mr Aliette the wigmaker and finger reader
    Count de St Germain
    Giacomo Casanova (pseudonyms Monsieur de St Galle / Jacques de Seingalt)
    Father Balbi, Casanova’s travelling companion
    Theater du Soleil actors (Lison Tailleur, Jean Pastisse, Geoffroy du Limon, Francette Fine)
    Robert-Francois Damiens, the assassim
    Jean-Pierre Duroy, the Grand Intendant, his wife the Pastry Chef Annie
    Cook and Helper
    ghost of Marguerite Isabeau

    The 1757 originated time-travellers

    Mirabelle the oldest and bossiest, Adeline the youngest (thief of the first ferret) and Fanetta, the French maids
    Igor Popinkin, Boris and Ivan the Russian con-artists and saboteurs hidden with the Russian Ballet troupe visiting Versailles
    Huhu the parrot
    The Whale ghost, the ghost ship (died/sunk around 1600s) and time-travelling fin whales of 2020s
    Belen, the whale
    Santa Rosa, the galleon
    the ghost obese gardener-captain Peter Pugh Petit Pois, from Peasland

    The Spanish farm and fat mermaid dolphins

    Lisa, Jack
    Pierre and Etienne
    The Italian cruise ship
    pink Amazonian dolphins


    There was a lot of commotion that night.

    It all started a little bit before 6 PM, while the winter sun was very pale and slowly rolling behind the horizon. Jean-Pierre Duroy of the Royal Intendancy had the maids rounded up in matching uniforms to finish the cleaning of the Opera House, and ready to start to light the thousands of beeswax candles with almost military precision. This didn’t go without hiccup of course, but they did mostly well, and the Opera House was ready for the comedians before 5:55, leaving them with 5 spare minutes to catch their breath before the eighteen rings of the bell.

    Even a little bit before that, Nicole du Hausset who had spent the whole dreaded day in anguish about the Queen’s lost ferrets, while attending to Madame’s every whims, realized after scouring through the Palace and hearing through the grapevine of the maids’ ring of deals in stolen goods that she should slide a word to the Royal Intendant through some unofficial channels (she knew well Helper, who was a great influence on Cook, who then could talk discreetly to Annie Duroy, of the Royal Pastries and Cookies) so an investigation could be carried out without any particular mention of the ferrets. As she would realize later the morrow, not only would the ferrets be retrieved at the Opera House and the Royal Chapel, one for each location, except slightly lighter and cut open, an act that would be seen as a hidden message and possible attempt on the Good Queen’s life, and dealt with appropriately by a specially appointed Inquisitor —but also, and notwithstanding any longwindedness, that it would make little difference as the perpetrators would be nowhere to be found the next day, having vanished, it seemed, in the ensuing confusion (of which we will come to in a minute), stealing in the process the Royal Balloon and a few chouquettes from the Royal Cuisines.
    Her duties fulfilled, and being now on the other side of the fateful date of Jan. 5th, 1757, at 17:57 without any significant change to her reality or life, she deducted her mission as the safekeeper of the time-smuggled ferrets was by then accomplished, and she could focus on her more pressing duties.

    It was only 5:57 PM shy of a few more seconds, that Madame Pompadour, powdered like there was no tomorrow, would be helped by her two maids into her gorgeous John Pol Goatier designer dress, and her lambswool petticoats. She was dressed to kill, and that made her all the more suspicious in the minutes to come, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
    Madame de Pompadour’s schedule for the soirée was very precise. At 6 PM, she would greet her guests, and the King back from his afternoon at the Parliament at the entrance of the Palace, so they could all head to the Royal Opera, passing through the Chapel into the brightly candelight-lit half-built building where the show would take place.
    There was to be a toast first, from fine champagne delivered the morning in zebra carriage (one of the Queens’ daughters idea, which had pleased enough the King that he’d booked them for an evening ride into the Gardens). She was all set, and with great dignity and carefulness, arrived at the spot a mere seconds after her Grace to great the King.

    At the same time, Jean-Pierre Duroy, who had not seen them as he’d passed through the Chapel the first time (ungagged but still under sleeping curse and tucked in the corner of the stained glass windows depicting the martyrdom of Christ), and as he was getting anxious at the lack of punctuality of the comedians whom he’d thought sleeping in their trailer parked nearby, was notified that the trailer had been found empty by the bellboy he had sent to remind the comedians to be ready in 10.
    A man of great resources, always ready with plans B to Z (he wouldn’t boast, but the zebras being one of such past plan Z, second only to an unlikely belching toad plan, the details of which we won’t get into just now), the Royal Intendant was ready to put in motion said plans, but the comedians suddenly emerged from the Chapel slightly groggy but apparently ready to take over their duties —especially the two ladies, who were bickering with the two men about being the Controllers of the Ascension. Little did all of them know at this moment that the hot air balloon was being highjacked by a team of rogue maids in cahoots with the Russian Ballet props technicians who had arrived some days before the bulk of the Russian troupe trainees.
    The Russian ballet dancers were indeed still stuck in the heavy snows somewhere along their trip to Versailles, so the four comedians with their balloon and tricks were technically, already a Plan B.

    By then, it was well into 5:59 PM, and the next minute would seem to stretch forever, but for the sake of a patient audience, we will not make it over 10.

    In the first half of this fatefulest minute, Casanova had arrived with Father Balbi, his travelling companion, followed by none other than St Germain, all dapper and heavily scented. A score of less important nobilities the names of which we won’t go through were also here.
    There were seconds enough in that first half minute, to rub cheeks and say plaisanteries and even utter a few rude witty comments with sweet tongues laced in vinegar, whatever that meant, and also enjoy the sparkling wine served at perfect chilly temperature.
    It was only as we entered the second half of this minute that the King arrived, padded in heavy and warm coats and looking exhausted.
    Seconds were spent in the same proceedings as above mentioned, if only in a slightly accelerated fashion, and slightly and almost unnoticeably higher pitched voices.

    That’s only when the mission bell’s sang Welcome to the Eighteenth’s Hour et ali (for naught), in loud and ringing dongs that the unthinkable happened, living all witnesses traumatized enough that nobody could think of anything to do before the third dong had elapsed.
    The King collapsed, a knife in his ribs. The perpetrator was caught by the guards before the end of the last dong.

    While the King was rushed to the RER (Royal Emergency Room), and attended to by Royal Leechers and Clyster Masters who felt it was wise to call the Royal Priest seeing that there was little blood to leech, back at the Chapel and Opera House, the maids and Jean-Pierre were in a rush to blow out the candles, as it was obvious their attention was required elsewhere, and that the show would be cancelled.
    Everyone would sigh in relief, but not before a few more hours of the drama, when they realized the King’s heavy padding had saved his life, and that the gapping wound everyone was dreading was no more than a pen’s prick. This would encourage Annie to admonish her children when they wouldn’t eat more of her delightful pastries.

    Meanwhile, using one of the last candles, the maids and their Russian lovers had lit the tub of lard of the hot air balloon, which rose slowly in the night sky, out of sight when most of the attention was directed towards the King’s fate hanging on a thread.

    The four actors where vaguely wondering if they were still dreaming when they saw the carriage of thousands of tinsy frogs croaking through a portal, with brightly coloured dressed lady-men inside, and driven by an unkempt man with a wild gaze and an air of sheer insanity.

    Of course, by then, they knew better than to discard it as a mere dream.


    Cook swore loudly for the umpteenth time that morning, throwing her wooden spoon across the room. “I just can’t get the consistency right! These tarts are a disaster!”
    “Now, now, Cook” said one of the kitchen helpers, kindly patting her back. “You’re trying too hard to make sure the tarts are perfect. You know you create your best concoctions when you’re feeling playful and confident. Perhaps you should take a small break, and pop over to the chapel and pray to Mother Mary for lightness and ease.”
    “I do believe you’re right” replied cook, smiling gratefully at Helper and wiping her floury hands on her apron.


    Belle Endwhistle received the telepathic call from Skye while she was floating on the cool aqua pool in The City. Belle, affectionately known as Bee, was one of the surge teams helpers from the “other side”. She had always had a particular fondness for cars, hats and vintage designer dresses; before the surge team was initiated, she had often turned up in dreams, driving a flying red car and wearing a variety of outlandish hats. Bee been delighted to accept the offer to chauffeur the fleet of red cars, and always enjoyed meeting old friends on the physical side.


    A second Helper materialised, with another squirming bundle.

    Yes, as well as the triplet birth of black and white striped piglets, the pregnancy also resulted in a quadruplet birth of miniature pink elephants. A very successful pregnancy. You will appreciate the significance of the seven of course?

    Lavender didn’t have a clue, but as she had been rendered speechless, decided just to nod anyway.

    Oh and one last word of advice – if you need any assistance in caring for your new born, we suggest you use gloogloo as a reliable source of seeking information. This is the Fellowship’s search engine of choice.


    The Fellowship wish to extend our greetings to you young lady, and to thank you most sincerely for gracing us with your delightful presence.

    Lavender smiled encouragingly at the pointy headed gentleman who was welcoming her so warmly. Still, she was wondering anxiously why she had been summoned to this meeting of the Fellowship, when her little Essence was not due for another two days.

    Thank you, it is I who am honoured to be here. she responded politely.

    The Speaker smiled benignly at her. I sense your anxiety. Let me assure you there is no reason for concern. We are very happy with your pregnancy. However we did encounter some unexpected challenges. Perhaps, it is best if you just see for yourself.

    He nodded to one of the Helpers, who waited like silent black shadows around the edges of the room. The Helper disappeared, and returned a moment later carrying a large bundle, which appeared to be wiggling vigorously. The Helper laid the bundle gently at Lavender’s feet and unwrapped the cover. Three little striped piglets emerging, squealing indignantly.

    Yes, smiled the Speaker. We are delighted to inform you that your pregnancy has resulted in triplet piglets. I am sure even though this is unexpected, you will be as thrilled as we here at the Fellowship are.

    Lavender hoped Aspidistra liked piglets as much as the Fellowship clearly did …

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