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  • #6064
    TracyTracy
    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.

    #6062

    In reply to: The Pistil Maze

    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The journey to the Pistil itself would have been worth its own story, thought Charlton. They had to avoid road blocks, crowds of chanting christians that had certainly vowed to spread the virus as fast as possible, and howlers who you were never sure weren’t the real thing from Teen Wolf. They had to be, in such a landscape. Once arid, it had turned greener in just a few weeks. Rain was now weekly when drops of water used to only show up with the bottles of water from the tourists.

    Despite Kady’s advice not to take anything, he’d still brought the book of drawings. Kady had said nothing about the book, nor the clothes, or the snacks. Charlton was sometimes literal about what people told him, but he also knew it. So he didn’t say anything when he saw Kady had her own backpack with clothes, some money and food. During the trip, he tried to reproduce the experience with the drawings and the dreams —but nothing happened. Charlton felt a little disappointed.

    They saw the pistil long before they arrived at its foot. It was at the end of the day and the sunset was splashing its reds and purples all around it. Charlton had had time to get used to its tall presence in the landscape. Yet, seeing it at a close range from below was a strange experience. Taller than the tallest man-made tower. He wondered what he was supposed to feel in its presence. Awe? Electricity? Enlightenment? Bursts of inspiration? This should at least be a mystical moment, but all he could feel was annoyance at the crowd of people crawling around like aphids avid to suck its sap.

    Kady looked more annoyed than surprised. She was walking past the flock as if she knew exactly where to go. Charlton followed, feeling dizzy by the sudden increase of activity and smells. He soon got nauseous at the mix of incense and fried sausages.

    “There are so many of them,” he eventually said. “How come? It was so difficult just for the two of us to avoid police controls. Do we have to wait with them?”

    “Nah! They’re just the usual bunch of weirdoes,” Kady said. “They’ve been here a long time. I bet some of them aren’t even aware there have been a virus. But stay close. I don’t want to lose you, it’s a maze before the maze. I just need to see someone before we go in.”

    They walked for about another ten minutes before stopping in front of a big tent. There, a big man with a boxer’s face was repairing all kind of electronics on a table with the application of a surgeon. Phones, cameras, coffee machines… Charlton wondered how they got electricity to make it all work.

    “Hey, Kady!” said the man. “You’re back. Did you give it to her?” His face looked anxious.

    “Of course Max! I even got an answer,” Kady said handing him a pink envelope. Max smelled it.

    “Her favourite perfume,” he said with a broad smile.

    “I told you she still loves you. I also brought you something else.” Kady dropped a box on the table among the electronics. Charlton didn’t think it could be possible to witness the expression of a ten year old child on such a hard face, but what was inside the box certainly did magic.

    “You brought chocolate?”

    “Yep.”

    “Did you find the chestnut one?”

    “Yep.”

    “My favourite,” said Max to Charlton. “Is this your friend?”

    Max, meet Charlton. Charlton, Max. Listen, we plan on going in tomorrow, but tonight we need a place to get some rest.”

    “I told you, you’re always welcome. Did you know she saved my life in there?”

    “Saved your life?” asked Charlton looking hesitantly at Kady. “No, I didn’t know.”

    #6029
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Based on post #5959 in The Whale’s Diaries Collection.

    As soon as Charlton finished editing his journal entry, someone knocked at the door. It was Kady in a red dress. She looked different than his dream. For starter she was not restless and she had some kind of self-assurance that she didn’t have before.

    “Oh! Hello,” Charlton said. “Are we going to the pistil?”

    “So you got the dream I sent you. It’ll be easier. I’m not against a cup of tea. It’s been a long time since I could enjoy one in a couch.”

    Charlton made some rare Da Hong Pao Chinese tea, the one called Big Red Dress. A warm and rich aroma steamed out of the purple clay teapot he had brought from a trip in China. He thought the tea was a nice touch considering his friend’s garment.

    “So, where have you been?” he asked.

    Kady brought up the little cup to her nose and smelled the tea.

    “Oh! You truly know your shit, Charlton.” She took a sip before continuing. “The pistils, they have been around for longer than everybody think. We call it the Pistil Maze,” Kady said. She looked at him with hesitation in her eyes. “You may not believe me, but aliens put it there, you know. Who else? But most of the people they don’t understand. They don’t want to. It’s too frightening for their little comfort. People are perceiving them now because of the virus. It’s making them able to see their frequency when they weren’t able to before. But they have been there for a long time.”

    Then Kady told Charlton about an ancient alien race from another dimension that was bringing a power, a treasure of knowledge and abilities, but that current humans bodies were too weak to bear its intensity, and that people had to somehow upgrade before they could. The pistils, they were a series of mazes, a path to transformation. People had to follow it in order to change themselves and there was not just one path. Everyone had to follow their own.

    The whole story about the pistils fascinated Charlton, especially after his dream. It didn’t took him long before asking his next question.

    “Do I need to pack up special things for the trip?”

    “Actually you don’t. We’ll find all that we need inside.”

    #5995
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Fanella was frantic, trying to think of a way to escape with her baby.  The atmosphere in this city was unbearable at the best of times, and especially in this house, but now it was excruciating. It wasn’t that she was afraid of the plague that was terrorizing people, it was the way the people were reacting that was so alarming.  They were howling like wolves, a sure sign of lunacy since time immemorial. The sound of it made her blood run cold.

    Nobody had seen the president for over a week and rumours were rife. Many said that he’d died, and they were keeping it secret to avoid civil unrest.  An office junior was continuing his tweets to the nation, using a random predictive text algorithm. Nobody had noticed. That wasn’t strictly true of course as many had commented that the messages now made marginally more sense.

    Fanella could sense the swelling chaos in the air, both inside the house and beyond, in the city and in the nation. Everyone was losing their minds. She had to escape.

    She consulted the U Chong:

     (Chin / Jin) : Progress / Advance. It represents Prospering, as well as Progress. It is symbolic of meeting the great man.

    The great man! Of course! Lazuli Galore would come to rescue her! But how would he know where to find her? Would he be able to travel freely? He’d find a way, surely! But how would he know she needed help? It was so complicated. So hard to know what to do!

    But first things first. Fanella crept down to the kitchen, in the dead  of the night while everyone was tucked up in their beds with their fitful nightmares, and filled a rucksack with provisions. Then she crept up the back stairs to her hideout in the attic of the west wing.  The baby was still sleeping soundly. Fanella lay down and pulled a blanket round them both. Maybe the answer would come in a dream. If not, she’d think about it again tomorrow.

    #5993
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Do you think I should go back and get those dolls?” Dillie asked.

    Lucinda hadn’t hesitated.  “Yes. Go back and get them.” She nearly said, and look inside.  “And look for more dolls.”

    Then she changed the subject, not wanting to sound too pushy or eager. Or desperate, god forbid. It was important to ensure that Dilly didn’t give the dolls away on impulse or something, she was like that. Somehow Lucinda had to make sure Dillie would keep them safe and well hidden until such time as she could travel again, but without her having to spill the beans entirely. She decided to play it by ear.

    Then she realized she didn’t remember what the beans were anyway.

    #5988
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    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.

    #5925
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Day 28

    I’m bored out of my mind, cooped up inside. Working from home is a new form of slavery it seems. They’re going to get me mad with all the legalese they ask me to review, approve, sign and all. These people don’t get a sense of what’s happening, they still cling to the familiarity of their mind constructs. But flog me instead, that’ll be less painful than another ration of compliance and control rules.

    I’ve been listening to whale songs on the internet. Got to do something to keep me from going bonkers. The wife and I are barely talking, she spends her day on the balcony, planting tiny carrots in the hopes of what, I wonder? At least, she gets some sun.

    Funny creatures the whales. Blue whales got to be the only creature that man hasn’t been able to build a zoo big enough to accommodate. Sometimes despite the pollution in the oceans, I envy the big bastards.

    I got to laugh a little at being a fish in a tank like the rest of the world. You would think you’d get for free the much touted chloroquine from the tank cleaner too. Pity it’s just deadly, but not for the virus. Talk about being morbidly stupid. Too much reading of the news do that to the brain too I guess.

    Thing is, if I continue on chugging wine and boritos, I think I may be able to outsize my container. Isn’t the dream of every aquarium fish?

    #5835

    In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    inside

    answered rather granola

    loved often wonder comes

    laughed finally sorry close

    person inspector asking

    dust tell strange worn

    crack story

    #5370
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    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.

    #4857
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    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.”

    #4850
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “This is mine,” said the *Man In Black (MIB) as he wrestled the waterbottle from the grip of a small boy. “You are welcome to the mangled bike though,” he said as the boy started to whimper. “Maybe you can fix it up.”

    After a quick glance to make sure nobody was watching, MIB yanked off his waxed moustache and put it in the top pocket of his Louis Vuitton tux with black satin trimmings. He opened his briefcase and carefully deposited the waterbottle inside. Finally, he pulled out a wooden top beanie and placed it on his head.

    He raised his arm to his mouth. “Good to go,” he said into his writstwatch.

    [* (for Tracy) Maeve thought she saw a man in black following them at the airport. He supposedly went back to his headquarters, however turns out that was a ruse and now he is in possession of the waterbottle containing the doll. don’t ask me which doll. Maybe Eric knows.]

    #4837
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Liz was not pleased about the latest insubordinate action of those plotting against her. Fashion choices indeed! She had been sorting out her wardrobe, having to do it all herself because of Finnley’s latest scam to take time off, putting away the summery things and bringing out the clothes for the coming cooler weather.

    She’d had the usual little thrill at seeing familiar old favourites, clothes that she’d felt comfortable and happy in for many years. It would be unthinkable to throw them out, like tossing out an old friend just because they were getting wrinkled and saggy, or fat in the wrong places.

    Liz prided herself on her thoughtfulness about the environment when making her “fashion” choices, always choosing second hand items. She liked to think they already had a little of their own history, and that they appreciated being rescued. She abhorred the trends that the gullible lapped up when she saw them looking ridiculous in unflattering unsuitable clothes that would be clearly out of fashion just as they were starting to look pleasantly worn in.

    Warming to the theme, Liz recalled some of the particularly useless garments she’d seen over the years. Woolly polo neck sweaters that were sleeveless, for example. In what possible weather would one wear such a thing, without either suffering from a stifling hot neck, or goose flesh arms? High heeled shoes was another thing. The evidence was clear, judging by the amount of high heeled shoes in immaculate only worn once condition that littered the second hand markets. Nobody could walk in them, and nobody wanted them. Oddly enough though, people were still somehow persuaded to buy more and more new ones. Maybe one day in the future, collectors would have glass fronted cabinets, full of antique high heeled shoes. Or perhaps it would baffle future archaeologists, and they would guess they had been for religious or ritual purposes.

    Liz decided to turn the tables on this new character, Alessandro. She would give him a lesson or two on dress sense. The first thing she would tell him was that labels are supposed to be worn on the inside, not the outside.

    “One doesn’t write “Avon” in orange make up on one’s face, dear, even if it’s been seen in one of those shiny colourful publications,” Liz said it kindly so as not to rile him too much. “One doesn’t write “Pepto Dismal” in pink marker pen upon ones stomach.”

    Alessandro glanced at Finnley, who avoided catching his eye. He cleared his throat and said brightly, “I’ve organized a shopping trip, Liz! Come on, let’s go!”

    “While you’re out, I’ll see what Liz has thrown out, so I can cut it up for dolls clothes,” Fnnley said, to which Liz retorted, “I have thrown nothing out.” Liz cut Finnley short as she protested that Liz didn’t wear most of it anyway. “Yes, but I might, one day.”

    Turning to Alessandro, she said “Although I’m a busy woman, I will come shopping with you, my boy. You clearly need some pointers,” she added, looking at his shoes.

    #4819
    IdleIdle
    Participant

    Took me a while to get the gist of the thing, but it’s working now. Wait, is it?
    I’ll never know for sure, I have that old phone with no chip in that somehow allows me to text with no mobile reception.
    If Prune hadn’t left so fast, I would have asked her to put the darn thing on my phone, but mainly I’m able to have fun with bot.
    fuirt jllly fckgn e key stickign now as well T
    etetetetetetetete
    Anyway, Sanso buggered off without notice thogh, left me hanging dry in front of the old tunnels. I couldn’t get inside, too narrow entrance, got a tunnel fright! Talk about mood killer. So unlike me.
    Spent a bit of time chatting to various old freinds, part of the old crowd back in th e day, including pople still there I havent seen in years and thats been nice.
    It’s like smelling Mater’s cooking and realizing it was me burning dog food.
    Now I’ll just go la la la la until I find clarity and inspiration.

    #4809
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The downward climb had taken what felt like days. The more he went, the darkest it was even the stars at his feet were now swallowed in obliviating darkness.

    Rukshan felt like abandoning at times, but pressed on and continued, down and down as he rose above clouds.

    The ancient energies that had shaped this topsy-turvy passage spiraling around the fence of the heartwoods wouldn’t have done something of that magnitude and let it unfinished. It was calling for an exploration, while at the same time protecting itself from mere wanderers, the kind with lack of imagination or endurance.
    His mind reminded him of old tales that spoke of sacrificing to the trees for knowledge and passage, but it was surely meant as a metaphor. Hanging upside down for hours was probably in itself a form of sacrifice.

    He reached to his pouch for a drink of sour milk, when he suddenly realized that the gravity had turned, and the pouch was no longer floating above his head. With the darkness and the lack of landmarks, he’d failed to notice when this happened.

    It surely meant he’d crossed an invisible barrier, and was now journeying inside another plan, deeper down. Ground couldn’t be far now. He took a pearl off one of his braids, and threw it. Then he looked at the darkness beneath his feet with intent to discern the faintest sounds. Quickly enough, the pearl gave back a ricocheting sound, clean and echoing slightly against what seemed to be moist stones. Indeed ground was there, where once the sky was.

    Maybe the final test was a leap of faith. Or maybe it was just to patiently complete the climb. A few more steps, and he would be there. A few more steps.

    #4793
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Bea!” Mari Fe called, “activate thread portal for a switch of realities please.”

    [>>>>] The man in the tux with the waxed mustache suddenly popped out from the plane, and back to his headquarters.

    His reconnaissance of the asset went fairly well, even if he feared he had her spooked a little. The poor thing seemed a bit soft on the inside despite her semblance of swagger.

    Ed Steam’s armoured bears were fast asleep at the entrance, when he reappeared at the center of operations. The full team was almost reassembled: Aqua Luna had been the easiest to convince, though not the easiest to find, followed by Mari Fe, Cornella, Madame Li, Kiki Razwa, Björk, Skye, Jeremy the map dancer and some others recovered from limbo threads of realities.

    Cackletown, despite the crowing noise of Maurice the cackling rooster, was a safe interspace reality to hide his base of operations.

    #4791
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Once he’d finished to tell the story, and let the kids go back to the cottage for the night, Rukshan’s likeness started to vanish from the place, and his consciousness slowly returned to the place where his actual body was before projecting.

    Being closer to the Sacred Forest enhanced his capacities, and where before he could just do sneak peeks through minutes of remote viewing, he could now somehow project a full body illusion to his friends. He’d been surprised that Fox didn’t seem to notice at all that he wasn’t truly there. His senses were probably too distracted by the smells of food and chickens.

    He’d wanted to check on his friends, and make sure they were alright, but it seemed his path ahead was his own. He realized that the finishing of the loo was not his own path, and there was no point for him to wait for the return of the carpenter. That work was in more capable hands with Glynis and her magic.

    His stomach made an indiscreet rumbling noise. It was not like him to be worried about food, but he’d gone for hours without much to eat. He looked at his sheepskin, and the milk in it had finally curdled. He took a sip of the whey, and found it refreshing. There wouldn’t be goats to milk in this part of the Forest, as they favored the sharp cliffs of the opposite site. This and a collection of dried roots would have to do until… the other side.

    To find the entrance wasn’t too difficult, once you understood the directions offered by the old map he’d recovered.

    He was on the inner side of the ringed protective enclosures, so now, all he needed was to get into the inner sanctum of the Heartwood Forest, who would surely resist and block his path in different ways.

    “The Forest is a mandala of your true nature…”

    He turned around. Surprised to see Kumihimo there.

    “Don’t look surprised Fae, you’re not the only one who knows these parlor tricks.” She giggled like a young girl.

    “of my nature?” Rukshan asked.

    “Oh well, of yours, and anybody’s for that matter. It’s all One you, see. The way you see it, it represents yourself. But it would be true for anybody, there aren’t any differences really, only in the one who sees.”

    She reappeared behind his back, making him turn around. “So tell me,” she said “what do you see here?”

    “It’s where the oldest and strongest trees have hardened, it’s like a fence, and a… a memory?”

    “Interesting.” She said “What you say is true, it’s memory, but it’s not dead like you seem to imply. It’s hardened, but very much alive. Like stone is alive. The Giants understood that. And what are you looking for?”

    “An entrance, I guess. A weak spot, a crack, a wedge?”

    “And why would you need that? What if the heart was the staircase itself? What if in was out and down was up?”

    Rukshan had barely time to mouth “thank you” while the likeness of the Braid Seer floated away. She’d helped him figure out the entrance. He touched one of the ring of the hard charred trees. They were pressed together, all clomped in a dense and large enclosure virtually impossible to penetrate. His other memories told him the way was inside, but his old memories were misleading.
    Branches were extending from the trunks, some high and inaccessible, hiding the vision of the starry sky, some low, nearly indistinguishable from old gnarled roots. If you looked closely, you could see the branches whirring around like… Archimedes Screw. A staircase?

    He jumped on a branch at his level, which barely registered his weight. The branch was dense and very slick, polished by the weathering of the elements, with the feel of an old leather. He almost lost his balance and scrapped his hands between the thumb and the index.

    “Down is up?”

    He spun around the branch, his legs wrapped around the branch. He expected his backpack to drag him towards the floor, but strangely, even if from his upside-down perspective, it was floating above him, it was as if it was weightless.

    He decided to take a chance. Slowly, he hoisted himself towards his floating bag, and instead of falling, it was as though the branch was his ground. Now instead of a spiral staircase around the trees leading to heavens, it was the other side of the staircase that spiraled downwards to the starry night.

    With his sheepskin and back still hovering, he started to climb down the branches towards the Giants’ land.

    #4772
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    It was ridiculous, outrageous even: trapped in a fictional story… Granola couldn’t believe it at first. But the facts were plain and simple. The walls of the glowing red crystal albeit slightly elastic wouldn’t let her pass.

    It all started when the Doctor launched his experiment, or at least that’s what she surmised from the past few days of observation from inside the crystal. She got to admit the vantage point was interesting, were it not for the red hue tinting everything in her sight. The Doctor was madder than a mad hatter, and kept very strange company.

    At first, she thought it was all inside of a story made up by her friends and that she was safely within the story realm, but of late it seemed it wasn’t as clear cut as it used to be. The Doctor lived in the same dimension as her friends after all; maybe he was the one who’d managed to voyage through dimensions. But Maeve, Shawn-Paul were still in their Australian adventure, at risk from the magpies, and the remote brainwashing; only Lucinda and Jerk were more or less safe for now, but they were trapped in their rut and lacking of inspiration.

    When it started, she had immediately noticed the huge bursts of energy, like waves of dark light, and had wished herself at the source of it, to see what was targeting her friends. In turn, it disrupted the evil machinery, and trapped her in the crystal.

    Mad as he was, the Doctor wasn’t lacking brains. He’d already figured out there was something special about the crystal, and was spending his days observing it ignoring the distractions provided by his beehived coiffed servant.

    She didn’t want to call Ailill for help, this one she’d got to figure out on her own, and fast, or else her friends may soon be in more dire situation.

    #4771
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The Doctor smiled gleefully, rubbing his hands together.

    His new invention was showing promising results. Minds were being wiped clean, and foggy somnolence was enveloping characters without well-defined characteristics.

    Better still, he’d found something interesting trapped inside of his Remote Brainwashing machine, crystallized and trapped in a nugget inside one of the vials. It was glowing faintly and had tried to derail his experiment. A little sprite of some kind, or maybe a rebel soul .

    #4762
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “There it is, look!” exclaimed Hilda, wiping the sweat from her eyes with a soggy paper tissue. “The mine entrance , I told you it wasn’t far.”

    “Not far? Hilda, we’ve been walking for hours!” retorted Connie. “We’ll be lucky not to get sunstroke.”

    “It’ll be shady inside the mine, and the sun will be going down by the time we walk back to the inn.”

    “Do we have to go inside?” The feeling of apprehension had been steadily increasing as they neared the location, and had now ramped up to an ominous dread. Not wanting Hilda to see how frightened she was, she added, “I mean without equipment, all we have is one torch. What if the batteries run out? We’re not very well prepared, are we?”

    “So what’s new?” replied Hilda with a snort. “We’re not going to get an exclusive scoop by telling all and sundry our plans, are we? Not to mention sharing anything we might find.”

    “If we get lost, nobody will know where to look for us.”

    “Exciting, isn’t it?” snapped Hilda. Connie wanted to punch her. “You wait out here then. I’m going in.”

    Unwilling to stay outside in the merciless heat, Connie reluctantly followed Hilda into the mine.

    #4761
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Barbara’s office was dead silent apart from the regular bips of the machines. The whiteness of the painted walls made it feel like a psych ward. She shivered away the memories that were trying to catch her attention.

    It’s been two hours since the Doctor had locked himself up in his rage-release room, a spacious soundproofed room with padded walls. Not even a small window to look inside and check if his anger had subsided. Barbara clearly preferred the trauma of the shouts and cries and the broken plates that were hidden here and there for him to use when he needed most. But when he started his therapy with the AI psych module, the damn bot suggested he built that room in order to release his rage in a more intimate framework.
    Now the plates collected dust and the sessions in the room tended to last longer and longer.

    Today’s burst of rage had been triggered by the unexpected gathering of the guests at the Inn. The Doctor was drinking his columbian cocoa, a blend of melted dark chocolate with cheddar cheese, when the old hag in that bloody gabardine started her speech. The camera hidden in the eye of the fish by their agent, gave them a fisheye view of the room. It was very practical and they could see everything. The AI engineer module could recreate a 3D view of the room and anticipate the moves of all the attendees.

    When that girl with the fishnet handed out the keys for all to see and the other girl got the doll out, the Doctor had his attention hyper-focused. He wanted to see it all.
    Except there had been a glitch and images of granola cookies superimposed on the items.

    “Send the magpies to retrieve the items,” he said, nervousness making his voice louder.
    “Ahem,” had answered Barbara.
    “What?” The Doctor turned towards her. His eye twitched when he expected the worst, and it had been twitching fast.
    She had been trying to hide the fact that the magpies had been distracted lately, as she had clearly been herself since she had found that goldminer game on facebush.
    No need to delay the inevitable, she had thought. “The magpies are not in the immediate vicinity of the Inn.” In fact, just as their imprinting mother was busy digging digital gold during her work time, the magpies had found a new vein of gold while going to the Inn and Barbara had thought it could be a nice addition to her meager salary… to make ends meet at the end of the month.

    It obviously wasn’t the right time to do so. And she was worried about the Doctor now.

    To trump her anxiety, she was surfing the internet. Too guilty to play the gold miner, she was looking around for solutions to her boss’s stress. The variety and abundance of advertisement was deafening her eyes, and somewhere in a gold mine she was sure the magpies were going berserk too. She had to find a solution quickly.

    Barbara hesitated to ask the AI. But there were obviously too many solutions to choose from. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
    “I finally found the white jade masks. Bought one for you 2. It helps chase the mental stress away. You clearly need it.” Her mother had joined a picture of her wearing the mask on top of a beauty mask which gave her the look of a mummy. Her mother was too much into the woowoo stuffs and Barbara was about to send her a polite but firm no she didn’t want the mask. But the door of the rage-room opened and the Doctor went out. He had such a blissful look on his face. It was unnatural. Barbara had been suspecting the AI to brainwash the Doctor with subliminal messages during those therapy sessions. Maybe it also happened in the rage-room. The AI was using tech to control the Doctor. Barbara would use some other means to win him back.

    OK. SEND IT TO ME QUICK. she sent to her mother.

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