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    The Master Builder’s verdict was hard to swallow.

    “Your Holiness?”

    The P’hope knew his options were limited, but somehow he had hoped, in spite of the King’s disappearance, in spite of the odds, that somehow he could manage to keep the City afloat.
    But the beanstalk’s wilting was not something that could be stopped, and the aphids were just one manifestation of the rampant symptoms. Like all living things, there was an expiry date, a deep-rooted belief in death that trumped all the efforts.
    The only thing they could do was to prepare for a difficult landing, and salvage what could be salvaged of his beautiful City of Karmalott.

    “Your Holiness?”

    “I heard you the first time, Downson.” The P’hope carefully removed his silver zucchetto and put it aside.
    “We need to prepare for evacuation. Have the Sentries prepare all the storks and cranes they can find. Send a detachment of Magi to secure an encampment at a safe landing spot. Then give orders to evacuate all the people you can.”

    “What about you, Your Holiness?” Downson’s question was likely to be pure formality, but Jube answered nonetheless

    “I’ll go to an ancient place, the source of power of this island. I wished I could avoid it, but if there is a glimmer of hope, it is my holy duty to follow it.”

    “Shall we send people to escort you?”

    “No, I would prefer to go there alone. It is the kind of powerful places one would prefer to visit alone than badly accompanied.”

    “Then, good luck to you.”

    “As well, Downson.”


    Lisa was lost in thought during the hours that they spent in the waiting room of the Processing Department. Among the many things she pondered was the nature of their beliefs that had landed them in this situation, the energy they were projecting, and the ramifications of the reflection. She was intrigued with the letter that Sanso had read out to them upon their arrival ~ underground cities had long been a particular fascination. What had been the circumstances leading to so many ancient underground cities being constructed? Nobody knew for sure, but it seemed to Lisa that they had been a means of escaping the surface. But why? Was it because of climate catastrophe, or some other disaster rendering the surface dangerous or inhospitable? Or had it been situations of siege, or hostile populations on the surface? Or had it been merely a curiosity to explore living in a different environment? An idea suddenly occurred to Lisa that she had been judging life on the surface of the planet as the ideal right way to live, the most preferable option, and life below ground as a second rate choice for survival purposes, but perhaps there were unimagined benefits to living below the ground.

    Lisa’s meandering thoughts led her back to the summer of 2014, when the seige situation in Gaza had exploded as the population of the shifting world addressed restriction and shielding energy, creating an amplified imagery at one of the main coordination points. Interconnection was coming on strong, like never before, and individuals the world over, struggling with their own self imposed boundaries, sought for release en masse and joined together to support and encourage each other.

    It had been an exhilarating time, but also a frustrating one. Interpretations of the words and messages of perceived authorities became mass beliefs, and for a time the restrictions increased. Those adhering to traditional authorities repeated the party lines, and the so called “new agers”, rooting for change but at the same time terrified of it, and in no small measure, terrified of other people and different cultures, created new mass beliefs based on their old fears. The strongest new age belief was a translation of channeled advice, construed from the vague “focus on the positive” to mean “ignore anything you can’t bear to acknowledge”. Rather than accept differences, initially masses of well meaning individuals criticized anyone endeavouring to acknowledge and accept the global situation, and pushed their advice to ignore the horrors, for fear that they would unwillingly bring anything unpleasant to their own attention. It was ironic to Lisa that the ones advocating not to judge, were the ones that judged her the most for her actions, and the activists judged her far less, while not advocating less judgement at all.


    Beside being a casino, the 888 pavilion had a particularity. It was one of those reverse buildings with a ground floor and all the other stories underground. Since the Great Reform of Feng Shui in 2088 by Feng Shui master Jeorge Huhu, who discovered that dead people weren’t actually living six feet under, it wasn’t considered bad Feng Shui any more to dig your home.

    Obviously, for practical reasons, such building could not go too deep in a volcanic island. A column of light in the center assured the lighting of the eight floors by an expensive network of optical crystals. The opacity of the end crystals could be adjusted using polarized filters to create a dark atmosphere similar to the old-time prohibition casinos, or simulate daylight as in the volcanic pool on the bottom floor, which was affectionately referred to as Hell by the 888 pavilion’s employees.


      Continuing Irina and Mr R the Robot

      The mission of Irina to thwart the plans of Jonbert being complete, she asks out of the elusive Management scheme, and expects to cash in her promise of an island retirement plan.

      (As an aside, to those wondering what happened of the bitter Jonbert, after a change of heart, he follows the St Germain hologram through the portal to Peasland’s dimension. It would not be surprising to see him become new Majorburgmester)

      Irina is sent to a mysterious door, with the strong presentiment that there is a catch and it will send her in a time and place beyond her control.
      She jumps boldly through the door, not knowing what to expect of the promised island, but preferring that to a life of doing the Management’s biding, and trusting the support of Mr R.

      After she arrives on the island, with the help of the robot, she starts to improve her living conditions in the bog part of the island, where among strange relics of different timelines, she also finds a young bog mummy she nurses back to life and names Greenie due to her complexion.

      Meanwhile, we learn bits of Irina’s past, through the quest of a Chinese Corporation from her timeline of 2222, and it is strongly suspected that she stole Mr R, a unique robotic prototype with never seen before capacities.
      Having crossed Sanso’s path during her previous mission, Sanso becomes the target of the Chinese who hope to retrieve if not information, at least the location of the fugitives thanks to Sanso’s damsel-in-distress-saving fibre, even if fleeting and inconsistent.
      It proves a reasonable tactic, as Sanso (who was unwittingly tracked due to a sea cucumber tracker he previously ingested) led them to a map dancer in New York named Jeremy.
      Now, the Chinese leader of the hunt, Cheung Lok (張樂)has retrieved the map of the island, which shows strange exotic properties.

      The island, named Abalone by some of its inhabitants, shows some mysterious external properties, allowing it to appear on the Earth only at certain times and places (times such as years 111, 222, 333, etc.).

      Internal properties, yet to be discovered by Irina, and her companions are dream-like in nature. The island landscape is populated according to people’s individual beliefs, but it usually takes a long time for people to realise it (also known as “transition”).
      People can be coaxed out of their transition time, if they are open enough to allow external influences to show them out of their individual dream.
      Unusual objects for example can appear and are usually remnants of other’s dreams/beliefs, and are usually difficult to alter.
      It also cloaks other realities in the same space arrangement which are not compatible to the person’s beliefs.
      People can thus err believing to be alone for a long time, until positive anticipation leads them to social interactions, leading them usually to the city ruled by King Artie.
      King Artie, an eternal bachelor, is expected by his subjects to choose a Queen.


        Some update on the current plots and maps:

        Queens Team

        Our main protagonists seem to have yet to digest their past adventure…

        In Marseille, 2121, contestants in a Drag Queen’s contest, they had their first mission through Time Sewer mysteriously sending them in Louis XV’s Versailles, and start a quest for mysterious ferrets with keys, helped in their travelling by their ex-judge turned chaperon Sadie, equipped with an all purpose e-zapper, and the batty Sanso always keen on providing the strangest travelling devices.

        They find one of the keys in the stolen ferret left in the Chapel before they even really start on their quest. Not long after that, they are also robbed of their dance opportunity and show minutes before the attempt on the King’s life, due to the network cancelling their show (and decommissioning the Time Sewer). In a last ditch attempt from Linda Pol to provide the network with a valuable pilot material for the television show, she remembers references of a crystal (sent to her anonymously), and have the Queens propelled in year 2222, Big Island, Hawaii. On arrival, they chill and get sidetracked on a visit to a (you guessed it, mysterious) techromancer.

        It all appears to be part of the plan to gain life-everlasting by transmuting gold of a (yes, mysterious) cranky old billionaire in kilts named Jonbert who is living in a time-travelling submarine with sentient robots, and who has manipulated events so that the Drag Queen show would place them in possession of a special set of keys that he could then retrieve from them.
        Unsurprisingly, nothing works for him as planned.

        Unknown to him, the Queens had only secured one of the keys, the other being unwittingly carried away by maids of Versailles during their balloon escape, with a parrot named Huhu. Manipulated by Irina, a… err… mysterious Russian socialite with a trusty robot Mr R at her side, the parrot steals the key, but faints of exhaustion during the escape in the ocean. The parrot is however rescued by on a ghost galleon and revived by its occupants, who are on their way to a particularly momentous whale gathering in 2222. Sidetracked by a navigation tile displacement, they are in the end successful in beating the odds and arrive too in Hawaii 2222.

        Equipped in breathing wetsuits, the Queens are sent in the depths of the ocean, where their clumsy and noisy explorations are carefully followed by the octopi and other inhabitants of the underwater world.
        They get sidetracked and temporarily separated when some go exploring underwater caves.
        Whales are gathering, and activating the giant crystal, when everyone arrives at the scene. Somehow, Mr R on Irina’s orders manages to provide to an unsuspecting Sadie the second key, which has been expertly tempered with.
        Sadie, realizing this is the missing key, activates it, and unleashes a chain of events leading to a earth-shattering revelations and a breathtaking video of a St Germain hologram doing karaoke with whales and other gyrating cetaceans drunk on red algae.

        The network is saved, and they are safely sent back to Marseille, where they are welcomed back by Linda Pol. It earns them a contract, which turns out to be mostly for the decommissioned Time Sewer maintenance.
        They plan to turn it into a bar, in a re-enactment of their minute of fame, with fat pole-dancers as whales, and St-Germain impersonators singing contests.
        Not much is heard from Sadie, who had managed to get a raise and less working hours, or of Linda Pol, last seen in Maui island, Hawaii, 2121.


        Jeremy was 23 years old and living in a 57 square meters apartment in Brooklyn. He had two passions in life. Dance and maps.

        Max growled. Well you could consider Max as Jeremy’s third passion. Max was a ragdoll cat with a tiny little genetic defect. His fur had this faint pink tint as if it had been put into a washing machine with red clothes. Max purred, satisfied.

        Jeremy’s apartment was an artwork in itself. He was painting as a hobby and had drawn a few maps on his white walls. He had the precise stroke that dance demands of a dancer’s move, he had the eye of a falcon concerning details and he loved connecting dots. For some of the maps he had used pointillism, and for others the ancient art of collage he had learned with his grand-mother Martha. Inspired by Matthew Cusnik he had made portraits of dancers with maps and other landscapes.

        Jeremy has been interested for some time in a particularly beautiful picture of the Abraham Lake that he wanted to render on one of the last remaining areas of his ceiling when Max jumped on his lap, purring like a caress junkie in need of a few strokes. Jeremy obliged his cat distractedly, too engrossed in the meanders of the picture and the few maps he could already see in his mind like a puzzle.

        Max jumped on the desk and tried to force his way between the keyboard and Jeremy’s hand. But he didn’t have enough time to fulfill his desire. The cat began to cough as if it had a train of thought stuck in his throat.

        “Shit! You’re not going to puke on my keyboard!”

        But it was too late, the cat opened its mouth and threw up a little ball of hair which bounced off the keyboard and crashed down on the floor.

        “ehw!” said Jeremy who cringed when he saw the hair ball on his carpet. “I don’t know what you ate but it smells like those wheat Polish biscuits.

        Jeremy had already taken some tissue to clean the cat’s mess, and the cat, certainly thinking it wasn’t enough was licking his fur again.
        “Don’t make another one like that. You know I don’t like it.”

        He was about to take the ball when it wobbled suspiciously. Then it began to grow. Jeremy blinked several times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. When the hairball reached the size of a soccer ball, it was obvious there was something inside, it was deformed like the belly of a pregnant woman when the baby kicks in her bowels.
        “What on earth have you spawned, Max!” He looked at his cat, horrified that it could be one of those Aliens.

        Soon it was as big as a corpse bag for two, and Jeremy could tell from the voices that there were at least two people inside.

        Sanso got out of the ragdoll hair ball first, perfect hair as usual. Fanella struggled to get out of the mess of hairs, and was a bit disheveled.

        “Time for a reality check”, said Sanso. “Am I dreaming ?” When he saw all the maps and the ragdoll cat, he knew he was at the right place.

        “Who are you guys ? And how did you get out of Max ?” asked Jeremy.


        When Huhu arrived at his destination, Irina was sunbathing to the last rays of a big red gorgeous sunset that painted the waves in iridescent shades of purple.
        At the same time, the sun’s course had already started a new day on the shores of New Zealand, where her sister was living, and she surely would be thrilled. Long had she waited for the 2222-2-22 marker.
        Here, in Hawaii, they would still be in 2222-2-21, for a few more hours.
        Irina started to shiver. 22°C her watch read. As if she needed to be any more quirky about this date…

        “Good boy!” she said to the parrot, taking the key it was carrying. Huhu tittered in contentment, cracking some of the pistachios she fed him distractedly.

        She’d just received additional information from the Management. Elusive as usual, and leaving a great deal to interpretation, including the interdiction.

        They’d promised to get her her dream island as a retirement plan. Some said it was the original land of the mermaids (who used to have as much feathers as Rio Carnival’s samba dancers), right off Italy’s Amalfi’s coast. Among its perks, it boasted to incorporate 8 staff, and a private grotto — that, if anything else than her fine waist line, would surely entice Sanso into other steamy booty calls.
        She’d seen the pictures of the properties, her first thought though was that she needed to shoot the interior decorator. In short, it was almost her moral duty to get it, and change the decor. On the whole, she was convinced the island would do her good.

        So, when she looked back at the previous instructions to see how good she’d done on her mission’s objectives, she shrugged a little. She’d understood instinctively right when it was delivered that it was a clever cipher, especially given the late date shift. So she had reinterpreted the actual commands, and leisurely waited for the travellers to appear, and get comfy. By now, she was certain they trusted her telepathic commands well enough, so that solved the trust conundrum.
        Basically, she was a major proponent of her own interpretation of old Ho’oponopono rituals. Instead of the usual mantra “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” hers was a bit more straightforward and was around the lines of “Green sickness to you. Peace be with you, and bugger off.
        Said a few times with proper intonation and inner work, and it was know to her to alter dramatically any block or resistance into a great flow of pure unfettered energy. So she had adamant faith that all she needed to do to complete her mission was to focus on herself and solve the resistance within by letting go.

        The last message was short.

        22 the code * whale that * BO

        It could only mean one thing. 22 was a clever cipher meaning conundrum as in a catch 22, but also an obvious reference to the temperature. So it could only mean one thing: tamper with the code on the 22nd, and send it on the way to the whales, with a bug on it.

        “Mr R, please, fetch!”

        The discrete, yet always present robot caught the key with grace, and on her careful instructions, proceeded to alter the code of the key.

        Irina was enjoying herself immensely, and found it a pity nobody could witness her true genius. “The ones who’ll read that key later, well… they are in for such a wild goose chase!”
        The second part of St Germain’s encoded hologram was now ripe with wonderful and bewildering information about blubbits and the magic kingdom of Peasland with obscure and arcane references of magic numbers like 57, that would have anybody sane turn mad as a hatter in no time. Hopefully the whales would be immune to the nonsense, but probably not humans.

        Now was the final part of the plan.

        “Mr R?”
        “I hope you are ready for this delicate reinsertion mission. Do you still have that octopus suit of yours ready?”
        “Of course, Madam. Right away Madam.”


          It wasn’t important to the techromancer how long he had been living in this hut in Hawaii. A very special hut connected to many realities and times at once, a perfect representation of his mind. People would get lost in it, they did not understand how it worked. He just had to emit the intention of whenre he wanted to be and let his body follow the sound patterns. It worked very similarly to that sarcophagus in Giza. He helped in its making.

          For now, he simply wanted to take a bath. He didn’t like being in contact with too much light, which always triggered a benign itching, soon spreading across his pale skin, erupting in red patches that only long immersion in water would sooth. His little sister used to say he was a dollfinn. It seemed strangely distant and yet close to this time-space reality.

          The roughness of his rags didn’t help with the itching. He liked to think of them as his Jedi costume. The fabric, plain and rough, helped him remember that he was also made of flesh. A most difficult idea to keep in mind, as his was expanded in many times and realities at once. It helped cover his pale skin from light contact as well as create an aura of mystery with the few people who managed to find him. He had been most surprised by the last one, Sadie was her surface name. Memories of futures past rushed through his mind hut, momentarily disrupting the sound flux leading to the bathroom, and amplifying the itching. Now was not the right time and place.

          Darkness and stillness are the basic components of awareness, he focused on that simple thought that would bring him peace and stability of mind. Keep the floughts away. It was easy to understand that for him darkness was as light is for us.

          The bathroom he had chosen was in almost total darkness, for us. Even if it had a window, it was night outside. The window was only for the gentle breeze. He didn’t need light as his inner vision could see the patterns of movements of his reflected mind. He took off his rags. In the absence of light, his pale silhouette was almost glowing. The patches of red now looked like continents on a ocean of milk. One could notice a dark spot on his sacral bone. The tattoo of a black scorpio with a red dot. Red was also the color of his eyes. He was an albino, with red eyes like a rabbit.

          He sank into the water with a gush of pleasure piercing through his mind. The multidimensional walls of the hut trembled.


            The techromancer was living in a techut, with a teak deck.
            The secretary at the entrance, all clad in white, arose from the surface of her glamour egazine and eyed the four of them with a reproachful eyebrow.
            “Do you have an appointment?”

            Tricky question Sadie thought It may well be the Universe testing my resolve.

            “Of course we do” she said, removing her shades with a deft hand, and the most convincing impersonation of a rich obnoxious elite member she could enact.
            “Don’t you know who I am?”

            The secretary looked a bit puzzled, but before she could answer, Sadie continued
            “Is the big guy here?”
            She pressed inside, leaving the drags a bit surprised for a second behind her, who after a look at each others, followed on her trail toot suite.

            Well, that wasn’t difficult.

            After a series of cumbersome curtains which looked heavy, mouldy and slightly alive, she thought she’d arrived at the final room, but the last curtain opened to the back of the techut, in the garden from which they had entered.

            Mmm, this one has some tricks, but nothing that cannot be ezapsolved

            She placed the ezapper on living signal locate mode, and found that she may have made a wrong curturn.
            She almost bumped into the silently curious drag queens, and arrived in front of the room.
            She signaled her friends in tow to wait for their turns outside.

            A guy in a hood with dreadlocks covering his face and strange lighting coming from his belt was sitting there in a meditation posture, surrounded by big glowing crystals which looked a tad fake.


              Jonbert had developed an interesting theory while doing his morning ablutions about time travel and catching butterflies. He had a gorgeous butterfly nursery inside the submarine, and got the strange idea that trying to fiddle with time was like catching a prized butterfly among lots of others looking alike.

              His thoughts were interrupted when the horn signaled they had arrived in 2222 in one of the blind spots of the ocean’s depths close to the particular spot where… some interesting butterflies would be attracted.

              The submarine was mostly entirely roboted. There was little for him to take care of, so instead of pacing around in his tartan kilts, he sat back in a comfortable 1980s garish sofa from his antique collections, and revisited his memories in his memory palace.

              He had taken him great patience and cunningness to hatch the plan. Through many of his Time Tourist outlets and a few shell corporations, the last of one which was named Vague, he had manipulated events to design and hire the Drag Queen time contest. Drag queens wasn’t the original plan, more of an unexpected deviation, not that it really mattered. All he needed was just one mission. Then, he only had to make sure the contestant would be diverted to a carefully selected time zone, and given a key to smuggle.
              The key wasn’t really important, what it collected along the way was.

              For him to be able to breach the Time wall of 3333, he needed vast amounts of gold, and to his knowledge, it could only be accomplished through true transmutation.
              Artificial gold, like artificial crystal wasn’t created as good as it gets in nature, and for some reason wouldn’t remain stable enough as the machines were propelled too far in time. Of course the irony of that was a conundrum in itself and wasn’t lost to him: after all, wasn’t transmutated gold just artificial too? After what centuries had managed to push as boundaries and envelopes, he wasn’t sure any longer what was artificial or natural. And it was his last ditch effort at living everlastingly.
              He didn’t care if he could just chose another of these holobodies to project his thoughts into, he was old school, and stubborn to a fault. He had to see it through, even if, and especially if so many before him had failed.

              The key was designed to capture a complete hologram of the person who seemed to have accomplished the transmutation recipe he desired: St Germain.


                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.


                  Although the ride was smoother inside the tunnel, the breakneck speed and jolting of the previous leg of the journey had taken its toll. Cedric’s back was aching, and he was impatient now for the journey to end so that he could relax, stretch out, and get the damn corsets off. His neck was stiff from the weight of the wig, his toes were cramped in the narrow shoes, and his eyes were red and sore from the lavish make up. Fuck this, he muttered, 21st century boys clothes are alot more comfortable.
                  “Wait until you see the clothes in the 22nd century, Cedric” whispered Pseu, who had heretofore been keeping a low profile. “Living breathing moving fabrics, that shape themselves to whatever position you’re in, supporting yet flexible and not restricting in any way.”
                  “Sounds heavenly, why can’t we go there instead?”
                  “Because you wouldn’t want to come back, that’s why. Why do you think it is that you hardly ever see time travellers from the future in the past? The damn clothes, that’s why! It takes a brave gallant soul to subject themselves to the clothes of the past, even briefly.”


                    Trove wondered if she threw away all her stuff and went severely minimalist, the endless packing stuff to move dreams would stop. There was an unusual twist to this dream though: they had been living in Kove’s rambling house, presumably on the south coast of England (Kove was Dude’s ex) and when Kove came back home it became clear that it would be a good idea to move out (although there was nothing about the ex part of the actual story in the dream). Trove didn’t know whether to move back to Spain, or back to the Midlands. She wanted to see her grandfather again in the Midlands (even planned on going back there at least for a day or two to see him ~ despite that he had died years ago), but the thought of living there again was like an enormous black cloud. We have to go back down south again, we have to, she thought, and then realized painfully that she was too grown up now or too old to have anyone to move back home to, they would be “on their own” which was not without difficulty for some reason. Then, the packing started. The endless sorting out of mostly rubbish. One of the bedroom cupboards had an oven in it, a filthy blackened hole of grease and debris.


                      Ed Steam’s brilliant plan was simple enough. He had dreamt about it a while ago and the idea had grown on him ever since. Now, he had all he needed to make it happen. The land, the materials, and the artefacts and rotes needed to manipulate the bulk of it around.

                      It was simple, actually and yet every detail had to be perfect. There were matters of perspective and proportions that were delicate to manage.
                      And of course he had to be careful using the artefacts with finesse, to be undetected by the Surge team’s monitoring systems. He had designed most of them, so he wasn’t too concerned, although Cornella’s upgrades may be more efficient.
                      He had calculated the project would probably take him years to complete, but he was fine with it, it was a fun adventure, creating your own palace so to speak.

                      First, the grounds. That of a glorious castle, with French gardens on a large lightly sloped tumulus. His armoured bears could stay in the surrounding forest where beehives were strategically placed.
                      On top of the tumulus, instead of a castle, there was a large mill, a cross between a windmill, castle and lighthouse maybe, with walls white and round, many entrances, rooms and stairs leading to the upper levels. That was where most of the work was to be organized. The whole roof was actually like a city, with narrow streets even.
                      Except the buildings where made from entire stacks of full-sized caravans, making living units, each with its own interior and decoration.

                      He didn’t know why the stacks of caravans were so appealing to him. Frankly, said like this it could seem like a hill of rubbish dump. However, he had visited this dream place when it was full of people, a fellowship of people living in the caravans and enjoying this particular place. He’d figured, this seems so great and I have the means to create it, so if not me, who else?


                        Have you ever dreamt that you forgot to put your pants on to go to school or to go to work? How did you feel in the dream ? Ashamed ? At ease ? Were you wondering how you got there in your undies ?
                        Dream memories were flying in Madam Li’s head. It had been a recurring dream in her childhood and her most dreaded fear. She had always checked on twice before living her house that she had a dress or trousers long enough to hide her ankles.

                        Her cell phone didn’t have any battery left and she was late. She would have to find one in the street. She ran out of her apartment after having checked her outfits twice and reassured took the elevator. She had her bags with warmer clothes inside for when she’d arrive in Harbin for the ice festival. She looked nervously at her cell phone again, still no battery of course. She put it back in her handbag. Someone entered the elevator, 30 more floors to go. She gasped when she realized the man, a westerner, had no pants on. She looked away quickly. Was he not aware of the missing element in his outfit ? She decided to make as if everything was normal.

                        Things went worse when she got out of the elevator. There were two men and a woman waiting at the check out desk, and they had pink underwears. Apparently the first man didn’t know them and the service apartment employee behind his desk didn’t seem at all surprised by the situation. When it was her turn, he looked at her, and at her long dress. She gave him the keys and as he turned away to put them back on the wall, she noticed that he was bare legs too. Something was wrong. Was it a surge in the population ? Would she have to stay here longer ?


                        Sanso loved old maps, and was eager to help Vincentius spread the map out on the living room floor and have a closer look. It extended to a full 8 meters in length when it was rolled out, and Sanso and Vincentius had to kneel down and crawl over it to examine it. The map was like nothing they’d ever seen before, certainly it didn’t resemble the current state of the globe, although it had confusing similarities in places. Some of the names were familiar, but not in the usual locations, and there were some familiar land masses, but many were quite different.

                        Meanwhile, back in the kitchen: “Take the lid off and have a look inside” urged Janet.
                        YOU take the lid off, what if the mouse runs over my hand?” said Pearl. “I know, let’s get Ed to do it.”

                        Janet and Pearl were cackling and bumping into each other, Pearl holding the teapot outstretched in front of her, and neither of them noticed Vincentius kneeling just inside the living room doorway, hidden behind his invisibility cloak.

                        Vincentius looked up but was unable to move in time. Pearl tumbled over his back and the teapot flew out of her hand. Vincentius managed to catch the teapot but the lid flew off and hurtled across the room, catching Sanso on the side of the head. Janet fell over Pearl and landed on Sanso, although of course she couldn’t see him, as he was wearing the invisibility cloak. Vincentius looked on in horror, clutching the teapot close to his stomach, upside down. Bee was able to slide down the spout, straight down into Vincentius’ shorts. Bee let out a long whistle. She wasn’t called Belle Endwhistle for nothing, after all.

                        Pearl sat up and rubbed her knee, wondering why Janet was hovering in mid air, and the tea pot was upside down and apparently defying gravity too. “Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to have a tea break after all”. She wasn’t able to see Arona and Mandrake rolling their eyes, hidden as they were beneath invisibility cloaks. Pearl wasn’t able to see Mari Fe either, as she was too small, and appeared as no more than a dog hair covered bit of chewed up toy goat leg on the floor.


                        In reply to: Snowflakes of Tens


                          “Do leaves really talk?” she wondered as the smoke of the herb tea dissipated off the kitchen’s mirror credence. “Let’s see about that,” she continued, carrying the tray with the cup of tea and the scones to the computer room, from where a few oink sounds were beckoning her.
                          Probably her friends asking for a chat, some random rubbish or the last juicy news about the president’s wife who happened to be visiting in the area. In truth, she wouldn’t have even known, had it not be for her foreign friends. The local neighbours really couldn’t give a fig. That was figuratively speaking of course. The fig trees were already full of green fruits, that if odds were good wouldn’t turn up as half-sodden half-rotten food for snails on the cobblestone pathway this year.

                          She added a zest of fresh lemon to the tea. She liked it bitter. The leaves were starting to settle at the bottom of the cup while she lit up a cigarette, throwing a cursory glance at the tens of messages waiting for her to peruse. Which was more interesting? She could figure out wavy things as feeble and changing as her cigarette’s smoke in between the leaves patterns, as well as in between the lines of haphazard messages from all the contacts. But those she loved the most were the pages she leafed through her books.

                          Yesterday, she started to do something purely daft, as she liked — a sort of challenge, if you will; or perhaps, a strong repressed desire. Sometimes it takes you years to do things you were thinking about when you were but a child. The moment you allow yourself the pleasure to indulge and overcome the resilient beliefs that it’s something forbidden or insidiously wrong is all the sweeter.
                          And she was tasting it like a sour sweet, with a touch of forbidden and the zest of excitement. Or more like horseradish. Ooh, does she live the green stuff too. Prickly at first, going up to your nose, and living you crying but begging for more. She makes a note to buy some next week (note that she’ll probably forget).
                          So what did she do? She took some of her precious books and started to tear up and cut through the pages. A blasphemy almost, for someone like her who revered books. Of course, at first she only took the bad ones, the romantic rubbish and the dog-eared now useless kitchen books, but then realized, what would be the point of gathering new information by assembling random pages cut off from a variety of books, if it wasn’t made from quality ingredients. Well, it surely stands to reason, even though her culinary reason had been on voyage the last twenty years as far as she knew. Anyway. Those leafs were starting to talk better than any bloody tea leaves could.

                          [link: talking leaves]


                          In reply to: Strings of Nines

                          After her little escapade with Yimho, and then with Brennan, and then with Gormitohl, and with each escapade, a new home, new relationships and relatives, Malvina was starting to feel homesick. ‘Home’ wasn’t really any place of course, but we all know when we feel at home or not. And right now, the feeling was clear and loud that she wasn’t.
                          Not only that, but her selfless outpouring of love (which dear Arona always found slightly exaggerated for her tastes) had oftentimes put her in awkward situations.
                          People weren’t always aware that even though her love was given so strongly to all of creatures, it could be found everywhere, in every creature. Ancients called that stream viwre. The only difference with her and the others was that she wasn’t discriminating and her love was outpourring in every direction, regardless of the intentions of the receiver. And that could become a terrible power.

                          Well, after all the traveling with her teal-coloured dragon Leörmn, and occasional visits from the young dragon breeder Irtak she felt more than ever the need to reconnect. It’s been too many years now, and the world of the (still) warring Kingdoms didn’t feel much of a better place. So there was still work to be done.

                          Of all people, she knew where to turn to.
                          It was too early to start her trip around the world to physically reunite with her sisters. A lifelong project which had strangely stalled ever since they started to mention it.
                          But she remembered Kalliona, a beautiful woman living south of the Marshes of Doom. She wasn’t really a woman either, but rather an E’elim of the woods, but she appeared as a beautiful woman to almost anyone.
                          She would help her realign with her path.

                          Leörmn!” She called “We’re packing!”
                          “To where, may I ask?”
                          “Oh great… A stinking harbour now.”


                          “Hang on a minute Harvey,” said Lavender excitedly, “Ann is trying to telepathically communicate with me! …… Oh, she wants to know who YOU are!”

                          “What did you say?”

                          “The truth of course. I told her I have no idea. Why that rude tart! She says I have been bashing her … well, have I been bashing her do you think Harvey?”

                          Harvey looked thoughtful. “Well you were a bit I suppose. You called her tortured. That wasn’t very kind was it?”

                          “hmmmmph, torturous more like. Oh well fair point, but I did try praising her last novel over lunch, and she went all green in the face and said if I didn’t stop being so nice she would throw-up in her spaghetti! …. anyway who are you Harvey and how come we are living together?”

                          “No idea, who are you?”

                          “It is a bit of a mystery isn’t it … remember how we were best friends and you didn’t even know my name for years? How ODD!”


                          In reply to: Strings of Nines

                          “There!” announced Sharon triumphantly. “‘Ow was that, then?”

                          “‘Ow was what, Sha?” asked Gloria, frowning.

                          “I inspired ‘er, I got the message through!”

                          “That aint proper inspired channeling, you daft cow, that’s nonsense! Yeah, you got a message through, but talk about distortion! Blimey, Sha, that aint enlightened channeling, that’s just more rubbish!” Gloria said, disparagingly.

                          “I ‘ate to tell you this, our Glor, but it’s YOU what aint enlightened. That was me new Distraction Tactics, and if I do say so myself, it worked a treat.”

                          “Distraction Tactics? Aint she scattered enough already? It’s direction and focus what she wants, not more blimmen distractions!”

                          “You just aint getting it, are you, our Glor?” Sharon replied. “Answer me this, you enlightened tart, how’s she supposed to find any focus or direction if she’s pushing her energy in a hundred directions at once looking for meaning? Wait a minute, I tripped meself up there,” Sharon corrected herself, “What I meant to say was, why would she need a direction in the first place? She’s going where she’s going, and that’s direction enough.”

                          “Well you answer me this then, if the direction she’s going in is enough, why did she wake up disgruntled?” Gloria retorted, adding “Rude tart” under her breath.

                          “I ‘eard that!”

                          “Well? What’s yer answer to that then, eh?”

                          “‘Ang on a minute, lemme see if I can channel God’s Flounder fer some answers.” replied Sharon, closing her eyes, and starting to breathe noisily and purposefully.

                          “Oh fer Gawds sake, Sha, not that bloody breathing again. We all knows ‘ow to breathe already, honestly, it’s as if breathing’s just been invented or something. And not only that” she added “You’re dead, why are you breathing anyway?”

                          “Eh, good point, our Glor” said Sharon opening her eyes. “I’m wondering now if the dead are supposed to channel for answers, aren’t we supposed to HAVE all the answers?” Sharon was confused.

                          “Well I dunno about HAVING all the answers, Sha, but we’re supposed to be able to access them, aren’t we? Then pass ‘em on to the living ~ those what’ll listen, that is.”

                          “I think we’re making a mistake here, Gloria, but I can’t put my finger on it. Who’s our Oversoul anyway? Aint they supposed to be guiding us here?”

                          “I think we’re both focuses of the Great Flounder, our Sha.”

                          “Oh blimey” her freind replied. “P’raps we aint been dead long enough yet, to know what we’re doing, like.”

                          “How can you be ‘long enough’ if there aint no time anyway, that’s what I want to know.”

                          “Well there’s one thing I do know about being dead” said Sharon, brightening up, “We can ‘think’ ourselves anywhere at all. So whatddya say we go somewhere else and forget all this floundering?”

                          “Bloody good idea, where shall we go?”

                          “Oh dear, unlimited choices are so difficult, aren’t they? I don’t know where I want to go!”

                          “Follow me then, Sha!” Gloria suggested, and in an instant the pair of them were standing in a field in Dyffryn .

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