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  • #6196
    Tracy
    Participant

    Ay, the framework knittin’ were ‘ard work, but it were our own, and better by a mile than what come next. We ‘ad the frame in our home and all the family helped, the girls’d be the seamers and the spool threaders and many a fine stocking we made in our cottages, until those industrialists and capitalists came to our fair dales with their factories and such and took our livelihoods from under our noses.

    We ‘ad a needle maker in our village, a miller and a baker, and a dressmaker. We ‘ad farms and a dairy and a butcher, and all the old families in our parish ‘ad their place. There’s always those that find work hard, and those that find it rewarding, but even them as found the framework knittin’ ‘ard soon changed their tune about the framework knittin’ being hard when they was doubled over under gods green earth all the day long in the coal mines.

    Ay, the changes wrought upon our fair parish wreaked an unholy disruption upon the face of village life.  It were the inclosures act what started our downfall, when our common land was took from us, that were indeed the beginning of the end of our fine community of largely honest souls, and even the good nature of the gent from the hall and the Parish poor fund couldn’t halt the downfall.

    Ay and I’ve traveled to the future and seen the ungoldy sight of it now. The old farm on the turnpike road surrounded now by house upon house and not an onion nor a carrot to be seen growing in their gardens, and the fronts all hardened floors for those contraptions they move around in, and empty all day long with not a sign of life until nightfall when they all come home and go inside and shut the doors, and never a one passing the time of day with their neighbours over the garden fence, and not a chicken or a cow in sight.

    There’s no needlemaker now, and the mill’s been knocked down, and there are painted lines on all the hard roads, although I will say that ugly as they are they don’t get near so rutted and muddy when the weather’s bad.

    I can’t stay long when I visit the future with that woman who comes to call upon us asking questions. I can’t stay long at all.

    #6185
    Tracy
    Participant

    “I’ll be right back!” Nora told Will, who was stirring a big bubbling pot on the stove. “Need to wash my hands.”

    She had a quick look around the bedroom she’d slept in for her missing phone. Nowhere to be found!  Maybe she could find Will’s phone when he went out to feed the donkey, and call her phone to try and locate it. Damn, that wouldn’t work either. Will had said there was no network here. That would explain why her phone stopped working when she was alone in the dark woods.

    “Smells delicious!” she said brightly, scraping a chair back across the brick floor and seating herself at the kitchen table.

    The home made soup was chock full of vegetables and looked and smelled wonderful, but it had a peculiar acrid aftertaste.  Nora tried to ignore it, taking gulps of wine in between each mouthful to eliminate the bitterness.  She wished it wasn’t soup in a way, so that she’d be able to surreptitiously palm some of it off onto the dogs that were waiting hopefully under the table.  If only Will would leave the room for a minute, but he seemed to be watching her every move.

    “Very tasty, but I can’t manage another mouthful, it’s so filling,” she said, but Will looked so offended that she sighed and carried on eating. He topped up her wine glass.

    By the time Nora had finished the soup, she felt quite nauseous and stood up quickly to head for the bathroom. The room started to spin and she held on to the edge of the table, but it was no good. The spinning didn’t stop and she crashed to the floor, unconscious.

    Smiling with satisfaction, Will stood up and walked around the table to where she lay. Shame he’d had to put her to sleep, really she was quite a nice woman and cute, too, in a funny elfin way.  He’d started to like her.  Plenty of time to get to know her now, anyway. She wouldn’t be going anywhere for awhile.

    He picked her up and carried her to the secret room behind his workshop on the other side of the patio.  The walls and floor were thick stone, and there were no windows.  He laid her on the bench, locked the door, and went back in the house to fetch blankets and bedding and a pile of books for her to read when she came round.  Probably not for a good 24 hours he reckoned, somehow she’d managed to eat all the soup.  He would put much less in the next batch, just enough to keep her docile and sleepy.

    It would only be for a few days, just long enough for him to find that box and move it to a safer location. He’d been entrusted to make sure the contents of the box were preserved for the people in the future, and he was a man of his word.

    If they had listened to him in the first place this would never have happened.  Burying a box was a risk: all kinds of possibilities existed for a buried box to be accidentally unearthed.   He had suggested encasing the contents inside a concrete statue, but they’d ignored him. Well, now was his chance.  He was looking forward to making a new statue.

    #6178
    Tracy
    Participant

    Nora woke to the sun streaming  in the little dormer window in the attic bedroom. She stretched under the feather quilt and her feet encountered the cool air, an intoxicating contrast to the snug warmth of the bed. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept so well and was reluctant to awaken fully and confront the day. She felt peaceful and rested, and oddly, at home.

    Unfortunately that thought roused her to sit and frown, and look around the room.  The dust was dancing in the sunbeams and rivulets of condensation trickled down the window panes.   A small statue of an owl was silhouetted on the sill, and a pitcher of dried herbs or flowers, strands of spider webs sparkled like silver thread between the desiccated buds.

    An old whicker chair in the corner was piled with folded blankets and bed linens, and the bookshelf behind it  ~ Nora threw back the covers and padded over to the books. Why were they all facing the wall?   The spines were at the back, with just the pages showing. Intrigued, Nora extracted a book to see what it was, just as a gentle knock sounded on the door.

    Yes? she said, turning, placing the book on top of the pile of bedclothes on the chair, her thoughts now on the events of the previous night.

    “I expect you’re ready for some coffee!” Will called brightly. Nora opened the door, smiling. What a nice man he was, making her so welcome, and such a pleasant evening they’d spent, drinking sweet home made wine and sharing stories.  It had been late, very late, when he’d shown her to her room.  Nora has been tempted to invite him in with her (very tempted if the truth be known) and wasn’t quite sure why she hadn’t.

    “I slept so well!” she said, thanking him as he handed her the mug.  “It looks like a lovely day today,” she added brightly, and then frowned a little. She didn’t really want to leave.  She was supposed to continue her journey, of course she knew that.  But she really wanted to stay a little bit longer.

    “I’ve got a surprise planned for lunch,” he said, “and something I’d like to show you this morning.  No rush!”  he added with a twinkly smile.

    Nora beamed at him and promptly ditched any thoughts of continuing her trip today.

    “No rush” she repeated softly.

    #6171
    Tracy
    Participant

    Nora was relieved when  the man with the donkey knew her name and was expecting her.  She assumed that Clara had made contact with him, but when she mentioned her friend, he shook his head with a puzzled frown. I don’t know anyone called Clara, he said.  Here, get yourself up on Manolete, it’ll be easier if you ride.  We’ll be home in half an hour.

    The gentle rhythmic rocking astride the donkey soothed her as she relaxed and observed her surroundings. The woods had opened out into a wide path beside an orchard. Nora felt the innocuous hospitability of the orchard in comparison to the unpredictability of the woods, although she felt that idea would require further consideration at a later date.  One never knew how much influence films and stories and the like had on one’s ideas, likely substantial, Nora thought ~ another consideration not lost on Nora was the feeling of safety she had now that she wasn’t alone, and that she was with someone who clearly knew where he was going.

    Notwithstanding simultaneous time, Nora wondered which came first ~ the orchard, the man with the donkey, or the feeling of safety and hospitability itself?

    It was me, said the man leading the donkey, turning round with a smile. I came first. Remember?

    #6155
    Tracy
    Participant

    Damn these municipal restrictions! Frustrated, Nora looked again at the photo of the inscriptions on the mysterious pear shaped box that Clara had found.  She picked up a pen and copied the symbols onto a piece of paper. Glancing back over the message her friend had sent, her face softened at Clara’s pet name for her, Alienor.  Clara had started called her that years ago, when she found out about the ouija board incident and the aliens Nora had been talking to.  Was it really an alien, or….? Clara had asked, and Nora had laughed and said Of course it was an alien or! and the name had stuck.

    Nora’s mood had changed with the reminiscence, and she had an idea. She was working from home, but all that really meant was that she had to have internet access. Nobody would have to know which home she was working from, if she could just make it past the town barriers.  But she didn’t have to go by road: the barriers were only on the roads.  There was nothing stopping her walking cross country.

    Putting aside the paper with the symbols on, she perused a map.  She had to cross three town boundaries, and by road it was quite a distance. But as the crow flies, not that far.  And if she took the old smugglers track, it was surprisingly direct.  Nora calculated the distance: forty nine kilometers.  Frowning, she wondered if she could walk that distance in a single day and thought it unlikely.   Three days more like, but maybe she could do it in two, at a push.  That would mean one overnight stay somewhere. What a pity it was so cold!  It would mean carrying a warm sleeping bag, and she hated carrying things.

    Nora looked at the map again, and found the halfway point: it was a tiny hamlet. A perfect place to spend the night. If only she knew someone who lived there, somebody who wouldn’t object to her breaking the restrictions.

    Nora yawned. It was late. She would finalize the plan tomorrow, but first she sent a message to Clara, asking her if she knew anyone in the little village.

    #6152
    Eric
    Keymaster

    By now, the trench had been dug deeply around the mysterious artefact. It was surprisingly not rusty at all, and the box was large and oddly pear-shaped. There was no obvious lid nor hinge. Nothing that seemed ancient per say, and yet, given the depth of the dig, it was probably coming from a past long gone.

    Clara had posted some pics to Alienor, her friend and amateur archeologist, and she’d been immediately intrigued (an slightly jealous at the find). There were still strict restriction in place, so she couldn’t come immediately, but you could hear from the tone of her voice messages, she was dying to become an outlaw to see the wonder in situ.

    “Come on Clare, it’s going to be dark soon, we should go home or you’ll catch a cold.”

    “Alright Granpa, but help me first get that out in the garage, we can’t let it outside unprotected.”

    VanGogh barked approvedly.

    Eric
    Keymaster

    This year, Christmas has come a month early for Clara.

    VanGogh, her Malinois with the lopsided ear had dug a hole in the garden of Grandpa’s home in the countryside. She usually wouldn’t have given it second thought, but the hole was big this time, and the dog unusually excited. Looking at it, that’s when she noticed the shiny corner of what seemed to be a very large metal box.

    There was something buried there, apparently since a long time. Her archaeologist senses were all tingly. What, why, how, and how far back in time could she go… She couldn’t wait to tell the others.

    #6142
    Tracy
    Participant

    Everyone seems happy about the rain, and I don’t blame them. I’m not daft, I know we need rain but it’s not so easy when you don’t have a home.  But I am nothing if not stalwart and stoic, resourceful and adaptable, and I found a good way to keep warm and dry during the downpours.  It’s amazing how much heat an animal gives off, so I camp down in stables or kennels when it’s cold and wet.  It can get a bit smelly, but it’s warm and dry and when my clothes are damp and stinking I just throw them all away and get some new ones out of the recycling bins. Just to clarify, I find the new clothes first before throwing the ones I’m wearing away. I’m not daft, I know walking around naked would catch attention and I try to stay under the radar. Nobody really notices smelly old ladies wandering around these days anyway, but naked would be another matter.

    There’s a stable I really like just outside of town, lots of nice deep clean straw. There’s a white horse in there that knows me now and the gentle whicker of recognition when she sees me warms my heart. I don’t stay there any two nights running though.  One thing I’ve learned is don’t do anything too regular, keep it random and varied.  I don’t want anyone plotting my movements and interfering with me in any way.

    There’s not much to do in a stable when it rains for days and nights on end but remember things, so I may as well write them down. I’m never quite sure if the things I remember are my memories or someone elses, a past life of my own perhaps, or another person entirely.  I used to worry a bit about that, but not anymore. Nobody cares and there’s nobody to flag my memories as false, and if there was, I wouldn’t care if they did.

    Anyway, the other day while I was nestled in a pile of sweet hay listening to the thunder, I recalled that day when someone offered me a fortune for that old mirror I’d bought at the flea market. I know I hadn’t paid much for it, because I never did pay much for anything. Never have done.  I bought it because it was unusual (hideous is what everyone said about it, but people have got very strangely ordinary taste, I’ve found) and because it was cheap enough that I could buy it without over thinking the whole thing.  At the end of the day you can’t beat the magic of spontaneity, it out performs long winded assessment every time.

    So this man was a friend of a friend who happened to visit and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so of course I sold the mirror to him. He was so delighted about it that I’d have given him the mirror for nothing if I knew he wanted it that much, but I’m not daft, I took the money.  I found out later that he’d won the lottery, so I never felt guilty about it.

    Well, after he’d gone I sat there looking at this pile of money in my hands and knew exactly what I was going to do. But first I had to find them.  They’d moved again and we’d lost contact but I knew I’d find a way. And I did.  They’d given up all hope of ever getting that money back that I’d borrowed, but they said the timing was perfect, couldn’t have been better, they said. It wouldn’t have meant all that much to them if I’d paid it back right away, they said, because they didn’t need it then as much as they did when they finally got it back.

    They were strange times back then, and one thing after another was happening all over the world, what with the strange weather, and all the pandemics and refugees.  Hard to keep food on the table, let alone make plans or pay debts back.  But debt is a funny thing. I felt stung when I realized they didn’t think I intended to pay them back but the fact was, I couldn’t do it at the time. And I wanted it to be a magical perfect timing surprise when I did.  I suppose in a way I wanted it to be like it was when they loaned me the money. I remember I wept at the kindness of it.  Well I didn’t want them to weep necessarily, but I wanted it to mean something wonderful, somehow.  And timing is everything and you can’t plan that kind of thing, not really.

    It was a happy ending in the end though, I gave them the whole amount I got for that old mirror, which was considerably more than the loan.

    The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining. My damp clothes are steaming and probably much smellier than I think. Time to find a recycling bin and a fresh new look.

    #6106

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Tracy
    Participant

    Rosamund gaped at her aunt.  “Really, Auntie April? Wow!” She leaped up, not noticing her aunt smirk, and climbed into the wardrobe.

    Seizing the moment, April tossed her pizza aside and sprang over to to the wardrobe door, slammed it shut and turned the key.  Leaning her back on the locked door, she smiled triumphantly.

    The office door opened slowly, due to the melted cheese stuck on the carpet that had slid down the door when the pizza hit it.  Fortunately for April the door got stuck on an olive, providing a valuable few seconds in which to grab the broom and flee to the rest room before Star and Tara entered the room.

    “Don’t let me out until April!” a muffled voice joined the banging sounds coming from the wardrobe.

    “The client is still in the wardrobe!” Tara said, exasperated. “And where the hell is Rosamund? She was supposed to let that woman out! Useless, that’s what she is.”

    “Just ignore her until Rosamund comes back. Sounds like she’s gone a bit mental already anyway. Why does she want to stay in there until April? It’s months away.”

    “I’m going home, it’s been a long day. Come on, let’s leave a note for Rosamund to deal with it. She took long enough off work, now it’s our turn.”  Star didn’t need any more persuading.

    #6087

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Eric
    Keymaster

    “I knew it!” Tara had gone to investigate early, disguised as an elderly jogger in a velvet teal jogging. “Seemed clear enough that that retirement home was a front…”

    Later when she came back to the office, she was quizzed by Star, who was still yawning despite the bright sunlight.

    “So tell me, a front for what?”

    “Can’t you guess?” Tara said, removing her false teeth.

    “Nooo?” her hand flew at Star’s mouth and incredulous face.

    “Yes, hmm-hmm; you guessed right: a time travel agency.”

    “Oh dangit, they stole my idea! After all the virus pandemic thing, they sure know how to surf the crisis to make a buck. The buying carrots alibi traffic, and now that!”

    “Yep, guess that people unable to go anywhere for holidays make up for a good clientele. You can imagine the slogans: Celerity: Why go anywhere? When we can send you anywhen! “

    “And a convenient way of disposing of nosy people too. I hope they didn’t send Uncle Basil to the Dinosaurs, can’t imagine the stench of those Time sewers.”

    “Oh no, don’t think he was affluent enough, you see. Apparently you pay by the time meter. The further in time, the pricier. And I guess the surest way to dispose of someone would be in the past rather than in the future…”

    “So Uncle Basil is in the past!”

    “Exactly.”

    “Well, I could have told you that from the start. No wonder Mr French paid us in advance then, he already knew we’d crack that case. Our first case’s closed, dear! If Mr French ever wakes up and calls, we’ll just redirect him to our Time Dragglers friends in Marseille for their ‘relative lost in time’ retrieval package. Now, anyone for mojitos?”

    #6086

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Eric
    Keymaster

    “A dil-do factory?” She was aghast. “A fucking carrot dildo factory?”

    “Admit it, we’re rubbish at this” Tara said. “Even Rosamund may be better at this than us.”

    “Oh don’t push it.” Star lit a large cigar, a nasty habit that cropped up when she was nervous. She blew a smoke ring and sighed. “At least the rogering was a nice change. Good clean sex, almost a spiritual experience.”

    “Oh come now, with all the don’t-need-to-know details…”

    “Well, don’t be such a prude, you were there after all. With all that luscious moaning. Haven’t seen you so flushed in ages…” Star tittered in that high-pitched laughter that could shatter crystal flutes.

    “Wait… a minute.” Tara was having a brainwave. “We may have overlooked something.”

    “What? In the sex department?”

    “Shush, you lascivious banshee… In the flushed department.”

    “What? Don’t speak riddles tart, I can’t handle riddles when my body’s aching from all that gymnastic.”

    “Can’t you see? They got to get rid of the dissident stuff unfit for cultish dildoing, if you catch my drift.”

    “Oh I catch it alright, but I’ve checked the loo… Oh, what? you mean the compost pile?”

    “I’ve seen trucks parked out the back, they where labelled… Organic Lou’s Disposal Services… OLDS… That’s probably how they remove their archives, if you see what I mean.”

    “Alright, alright, we’ll go investigate them tomorrow. Meanwhile, what about Mr French?” Star was puffing on her cigar making a good effort at trying to remember and link the details together.

    “I have a theory. Although it usually would be more in your area of theories.”

    “What? Alien abduction?”

    “No, don’t be ridiculous. I’m talking time travel… Haven’t you noticed the scent of celery when we were at the mansion and the appartment?”

    “A dead give-away for time-travelling shenanigans!”

    “Exactly. And if I’m correct, might well be that it’s Mr French from the future who phoned us, before he returned to his timeline. Probably because he already knows we’re going to crack the case. Before we know.”

    “Oh, that’s nice. Would have been nicer if he’d told us how to solve it instead, if he knew, from the future and all? Are you not sure he’s not from his past instead, like before he got in that dreadful car accident?”

    “Oh well, doesn’t matter does it? And probably won’t any longer once we locate the Uncle Basil in the Drooling Home of Retired Vegetables.”

    #6085
    prUne
    Participant

    She made us miss Mater’s birthday, didn’t she?

    Idle had one job…

    Truth is, wouldn’t have been much fun to party with masks on, although the thought occurred that a masquerade ball would be something to behold.

    Oh well, Mater is going to have a field day making us all look guilty. I’m sure it’ll warm her soft heart. Might be all she needs nowadays.

    Can’t say that the business at the inn had been splendid. We’ve grown so used to the idea we might have to sell it anytime, that it doesn’t feel such an earthshattering revelation.

    But if we sell, how much can we scrap by to send Mater to a nice nursing home. She might screech and kick us if we only voiced the idea. People have no idea how feral she can be on the topic. Aunt Dido knows though. I’m sure she’s having a few hustles down the road to get the household afloat.

    #6064
    Tracy
    Participant

    I’ve been up since god knows what time. Got up for the loo and couldn’t face going back to the awful nightmares.  That girl that came yesterday said she’d been having nightmares, she said it was common now, people having nightmares, what with the quarantine. I think I might have just snorted at the silly girl, but when I woke up last night I wondered if it was true. Or maybe I’m just a suggestible old fool.

    Anyway, I stayed up because lord knows I don’t want to be in a city in America at night, not waking and not dreaming either. I’ve had a feeling for a long time, and much longer than this virus, that it was like a horror movie and it would behoove me not to watch it anymore or I’d be having nightmares.  I didn’t stop watching though, sort of a horrified fascination, like I’d watched this far so why stop now.

    In the dream I was on a dark city street at a bus stop, it was night time and the lights were bright in a shop window on the other side of the sidewalk.  I had a bunch of tickets in my hand all stapled together, but they were indecipherable. I had no idea where I was going or how to get there.  Then I noticed the man that was by my side,  a stranger that seemed to have latched on to me, had stolen all my tickets and replaced them with the rolled up used ticket stubs.  I made him give me back my tickets but then I knew I couldn’t trust him.

    Then I realized I hadn’t finished packing properly and only had a ragged orange towel with bloodstains on it.  So I go back home (I say home but I don’t know what house it was) to pack my bags properly, and find a stack of nice new black towels, and replace the bloody orange one.

    I’m walking around the house, wondering what else I should pack, and one room leads into another, and then another, and then another, in a sort of spiral direction (highly improbable because you’d have ended up back in the same room, in real life) and then I found a lovely room and thought to myself, What a nice room! You’d never have known it was there because it wasn’t on the way to anywhere and didn’t seem to have a function as a room.

    It was familiar and I remembered I’d been there before, in another dream, years ago.  It had lovely furniture in it, big old polished wooden pieces, but not cluttered, the room was white and bright and spacious. Lovely big old bureau on one wall, I remember that piece quite clearly. Not a speck of dust on it and the lovely dark sheen of ancient polished oak.

    Anyway in the dream I didn’t take anything from the room, and probably should have just stayed there but the next thing I know, I’m in a car with my mother and she races off down the fast lane of an empty motorway. I’m thinking, surely she doesn’t know how to take me where I have to go? She seemed so confident, so out of character the way she was driving.

    I got up for the loo and all I kept thinking about was that awful scene in the  city street, which admittedly doesn’t sound that bad. I won’t bother telling the girl about it when she comes to do my breakfast, it loses a little in the telling, I think.

    But the more I think about that lovely room at the end of the spiral of rooms, the more I’m trying to wrack my brains to remember where I’ve seen that room before.  I’ve half a mind to go back there and open that dark oak bureau and see what’s inside.

    #6059
    Eric
    Keymaster

    DAY D

    Everyday is now. I know, I’ve stopped the count.

    This strange book I’ve found must be for something. Had the impulse to post a picture from it on a forum.

    There were instructions coming with it, I have only started to decypher them, and my brain already feels like it will melt if I go too fast.

    Apparently the Chinese philosopher who wrote it said he was swallowed whole, then spat out from the belly of a giant fish, a kūn 鯤, months later. I know, sounds crazy, and yet very familiar. Jonas of course, but also Sinbad, —Pinocchio even… The story’s not new to us.

    When he came back, he said it was only to share knowledge. So came his book of encoded instructions.

    First instruction he said. You are in a maze, you want to find the center of the maze, and never get lost again while you decide whether or not you still want to explore it.

    It kind of struck a chord for some reason. I realized, with all the stories we tell ourselves, they abound, expand in our minds, take roots deeply.
    The thought came this morning: if suddenly I’m struck dead, and find myself in my own stories, I would be in a tight spot to escape the whole craziness. I would need a backdoor, a way back, or out.

    That’s why its first instruction resonated. It continued. Create your center of your maze. Now. Don’t delay, you may regret it. It must be pure with intent, and tell about who you are in the deepest sense. Engrave the following words around it to seal this pure memory. And put it outside in the world, so that someday when you come back to it, you’ll know.

    您已找到您的迷宮中心。現在,您完全是智慧。

    You have found the Center of Your Maze.
    Now, You Know It
    And it can never be taken from you again.

    萬事萬物再也無法奪走您的知識。

     

    I know of a memory of mine I could put in my center. It came very naturally. An illustrated book of stories, mythology to be exact. One of the first books I got, and I can still remember vividly the feeling of entering its world. My parents had given it to me as a gift at a time they had to leave me home alone for a few hours. When they came back, I was still on the same kitchen chair, deeply thrown into the book’s world, feeling like barely a minute had passed.
    It was a moment out of time and space. I know it was what being at the center of my maze meant.

    I’m grown now, but the feeling is still there. I’m going to put that out some place where I can find it in case I ever get lost again among the shadows of men.

    #6044
    Jib
    Participant

    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.”

    “Look, it’s almost twilight,” said Rukshan. “We’ve walked the whole day, the children are exhausted.”

    Tak and Nesy showed their best puppy face, risking to make Fox burst into laughter. That seemed to soften the man a little.

    “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.”

    #6026
    Jib
    Participant

    Dear Jorid Whale,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [Edited in the afternoon]

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

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

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

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

    #5985
    Tracy
    Participant

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #5960
    Devan
    Participant

    Working at the gas station gave me the possibility to not only be confined at home but also at work. At least I could enjoy the transit between places, that’s what I told me everyday. And better go to work than turn around all day in the studio I rented since I left the Inn.

    You can’t imagine how many people need gas during the confinement. It looks like in this part of the country people don’t have as many dogs as them in the big cities, so they do all sorts of crazy things to be able to get out.

    A man came to the station this morning. I’m sure it was to give the equivalent of a walk to his brand new red GMC Canyon, you know, treating his car like she needed fresh air and to get some exercise regularly. From behind the makeshift window made of transparent wrapper, I asked him how was his day. You know, to be polite. He showed me the back of his truck. I swear there was a cage with two dingos in it.

    The guy told me he captured them the other day in case the cops stopped him in the street with no reason to be out. At least, he said, I could still say I’m giving them a walk. I told him them being in a cage would hardly pass as a walk but he answered me with a wink and a big grin that cops weren’t that intelligent. I’m glad we have makeshift windows now, at least seeing his teeth I didn’t have to smell his breath. I’m not sure who’s the less intelligent in absolute terms, but in that case I’d rather bet his IQ would fail him.

    Well that’s probably the most exciting thing that happened before I went home after work. As soon as I got home I received a phone call from Prune. On the landline. It’s like she has some magical means to know when I’m there.

    Anyway, she asked me if I washed my hand. I told her yes, though I honestly don’t recall. But I have to make her think all is ok. She started to talk again about Jasper. Each time she mention the subject I’m a bit uncomfortable. I’m not sure I fancy having a brother, even if it’s kind of being in a TV series. She said she had looked for him on internet, contacted some adoption agencies, even tried a private called Dick. That’s all that I remember of the private’s name. Dick, maybe that’s because he never answered her calls. Might be dead of the pandamic I told her. PandEmic, She corrected. I know, I told her, I said that to cheer you up.

    We talked about Mater too. That made me laugh. Apparently Idle saw her in a fuschia pink leotard. Prune half laughed herself when she mentioned the leotard, but she said : Truth is I don’t know what Dido had taken when she had seen Mater outside. I suspect the om chanting was simply snoring.

    There was a silence afterward. Maybe Prune was thinking about age and the meaning of life, I was merely realising I was hungry. I swear I don’t know what crossed my mind. I have a tendency to want to help my sister even if I think there is no hope. You know, I told her, about Jasper we could still go and ask that woman in the bush. It’s like she already knew what I was going to say. Tiku I knew by her tone that all the conversation was fated to lead there. Yeah. I can drive you there after work tomorrow. 

    Of course, we didn’t even have to go there after all.

    #5953
    Jib
    Participant

    Bubbling and turning from orange to green to duck blue, the potion was perfect and smelled of good work, a strong blend of cinnamon, cardamom and crushed cloves. She smiled broadly and poured the potion into five vials, which she gave to Rukshan. They were all gathered around her in the kitchen looking rather fascinated by the whole operation.

    “One for you, and one for each of the children,” Glynis said with a grin.

    “I’m not a kid,” said Fox.

    “Why only five?” asked Gorrash who suspected something was off. “We are Six. There’s Tak, Nessy, Olliver, Fox, Rukshan and I,” he said counting on his chubby fleshy fingers.

    “I don’t need a potion to go wherever I want,” said Olli with a grin.

    “Well,” started Glynis, “Despite your unique skill, Olliver, you still need the potion in order to thwart the control spells Leroway’s saucerers had scattered around the country,” Glynis said. “You all remember what happened to aunt Eleri last time she went out. You know how skilled she is when she need to sneak out. She barely escaped and Rukshan and I had a hard time turning off that dancing spell, which I’m sure is the least damaging one.”

    She looked at Gorrash with compassion but the light dimmed as a cloud passed in front of the sun outside. She pointed her finger at him. “Your immune system is still like one of a newborn. And I’d prefer you’d stay home and not go around during a beaver fever pandemic. There are plenty of things you can help me with!” Glynis showed the cauldron, vials and other utensils she used to make the potion, and the cake earlier, and yesterday’s dinner.

    “Well, if I have not to challenge my immune system…” Gorrash started.

    “You know better than to argue with me,” she said.

    Gorrash opened his mouth to say something but decided otherwise and ran away into the garden.

    Fox started to follow him.

    “Don’t said Rukshan. There’s nothing you can do.”

    “He’s my friend!” said Fox.

    #5951
    Jib
    Participant

    The latex rompers were shaping her old body in a way she quite enjoyed. It was like being back in her… she counted on her fingers to be sure. To be even surer she counted twice. Yes! It was like being back in the sixties, especially with the choice of colours that had been made by whomever had made the rompers. Her silhouette looked gorgeous, if you didn’t pay too much attention to the bingo wings and the pelican throat. She laughed. It was like seeing a superposition of a younger and an older self. She would have loved the face of Ricardo if he saw her like that. And the beehive haircut, it certainly was a good idea. She wondered if she was still under LSD. But the walls and the beehive hair seemed too solid for that.

    A sliding door that she had not noticed before opened.

    “Good to see you’re settling in,” said the woman who entered with a puff of bacon smell. “I’m Barbara.” She was holding a tray with a steaming plate of sweet peas and carrots. Sophie always had a sharp eye but couldn’t see any real bacon among the peas and the carrots. She smiled to the newcomer anyway. Barbara had the same latex rompers with the same colours. And she had a beehive haircut.

    “Hello! Barbara,” said Sophie. “I like that name. I knew a man once… well not that you’re a man. Are you? Anyway I see you have a beehive haircut too. Am I back in the sixties?” She realised she was a bit confused, not able to finish one sentence or follow a single narrative. But the smell of bacon was so unnerving.

    Barbara put the tray on the table.

    “Well, no,” she said to Sophie. “It’s just a haircut that I like and it’s very practical for all sort of things.” She reached into hers and got out a pen and a notebook. Sophie lifted her hand to her haircut.

    “Do I have?..”

    “No dear. But, I need your sign here… just a formality.” Barbara smiled and handed the notebook to Sophie along with the pen. Then she crossed her arms waiting. Her fingers were drumming on her soft pale skin and Sophie couldn’t help but notice that Barbara had six fingers on one of her hands.

    “Where am I?” she asked.

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