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  • #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.

    #6166
    Tracy
    Participant

    “Grandpa,” Clara said, partly to distract him ~ poor dear was looking a little anxious ~ and partly because she was starting to get twangs of gilt about Nora, “Grandpa, do you remember that guy who used to make sculptures?  I can’t recall his name and need his phone number. Do you remember, used to see him driving around with gargoyles in the back of his truck. You look awfully pale, are you alright?”

    “No idea,” Bob replied weakly.

    Tell her! said Jane.

    “No!” Bob exclaimed, feeling vexed.  He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t want to rush into anything. Why was Clara asking about the man whose phone number was on the note? What did she know about all this? What did he, Bob, know for that matter!

    “I only asked!” replied Clara, then seeing his face, patted his arm gently and said “It’s ok, Grandpa.”

    For the love of god will you just tell her! 

    “Tell who what?” asked Clara.

    “What! What did you say?” Bob wondered where this was going and if it would ever end. It began to feel surreal.

    They were both relieved when the door bell rang, shattering the unaccustomed tension between them.

    “Who can that be?” they asked in unison, as Clara rose from the table.

    Bob waited expectantly, pushing his plate away. It would take days to settle his digestive system down after all this upset at a meal time.

    “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost, Clara! Who was it?”  Bob said as Clara returned from the front door. “Not the water board again to cut us off I hope!”

    “It’s the neighbour, Mr Willets, he says he’s ever so sorry but his dogs, they got loose and got into some kind of a box on your property.  He said…”

    #6165
    Flove
    Participant

    “Knock, knock! Dinner’s ready!” Clara popped her head around the door to Bob’s room. “What are you doing?” she asked as Bob started and hurriedly put his hand over a small piece of paper.

    “Er, nothing, just …” His words trailed off. He smiled brightly at her. “Dinner eh. Smells good. I’ll be right with you.”

    Clara’s gaze travelled from Bob’s face to the cardboard box on the bed. “Are you okay? You look strange. What’s in that box?”

    “Odds and ends. Just doing a bit of sorting.” He put the piece of paper in the box and placed the lid back on. “Nothing that won’t keep till after dinner.”

    “If there are any old photos in the box I’d love to see them.”

    “Tell her,” said Jane. There she was, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed near the box. “Go on, tell her about the number.”

    Bob shook his head vigorously and Clara regarded him strangely. “Not to worry about photos then,” she said

    “You were wishing I was here and now here I am and you aren’t even going to listen to me?” Now Jane was whispering into his ear and he imagined he could almost feel her breath like a feather tickling his cheek—it was all he could do not to laugh. “Tell her or I will.”

    #6159
    Tracy
    Participant

    Nora moves silently along the path, placing her feet with care. It is more overgrown in the wood than she remembers, but then it is such a long time since she came this way. She can see in the distance something small and pale. A gentle gust of wind and It seems to stir, as if shivering, as if caught.

    Nora feels strange, there is a strong sense of deja vu now that she has entered the forest.

    She comes to a halt. The trees are still now, not a leaf stirs. She can hear nothing other than the sound of her own breathing. She can’t see the clearing yet either, but she remembers it’s further on, beyond the next winding of the path. She can see it in her mind’s eye though, a rough circle of random stones, with a greenish liquid light filtering through. The air smells of leaf mould and it is spongy underfoot. There’s a wooden bench, a grassy bank, and a circular area of emerald green moss. Finn thinks of it as place of enchantment, a fairy ring.

    Wait! Who is Finn? Where is this story coming from that whispers in her ear as she makes her way through the woods to her destination, the halfway point of her clandestine journey? Who is Finn?

    She reaches the tiny shivering thing and sees that it is a scrap of paper, impaled on a broken branch. She reaches out gently and touches it, then eases if off the branch, taking care not to rip it further. There is a message scribbled on the paper, incomplete. meet me, is all it says now

    The crumpled up paper among the dead leaves beside the path catches her eye.  No, not impaled on a branch but still, a bit of paper catches her eye as the mysterious  ~ ephemeral, invisible ~ story teller continues softly telling her tale

    Finn feels dreamy and floaty. She smiles to herself, thinking of the purpose of her mission, feeling as though it is a message to her from the past. She is overwhelmed for a moment with a sense of love and acceptance towards her younger self. Yes, she whispers softly to the younger Finn, I will meet you at the fairy ring. We will talk a bit. Maybe I can help

    But wait, there is no meaningful message on the crumpled paper that Nora picks up and opens out. It’s nothing but a shopping receipt.  Disappointed, she screws it back up and aims to toss it into the undergrowth, but she hesitates.  Surely it can’t have no meaning at all, she thinks, not after the strange whispered story and the synchronicity of finding it just at that moment.  She opens it back up again, and reads the list of items.

    Olive oil, wine, wheat, garum…. wait, what? Garum? She looks at the date on the receipt ~ a common enough looking till roll receipt, the kind you find in any supermarket ~ but what is this date? 57BC?   How can that be?  Even if she had mistranslated BC ~ perhaps it means British Cooperative, or Better Compare or some such supermarket name ~  the year of 57 makes little sense anyway.  And garum, how to explain that! Nora only knows of garum in relation to Romans, there is no garum on the shelves between the mayonaisse and the ketchup these days, after all.

    Nora smooths the receipt and folds it neatly in half and puts it in her pocket.  The shadows are long now and she still has some distance to walk before the halfway village.  As she resumes her journey, she hears whispered in her ear: You unlocked the blue diamond mode. You’re on a quest now!

    Smiling now, she accelerates her pace.  The lowering sun is casting a golden light, and she feels fortified.

    #6157
    Flove
    Participant

    Bob sighed loudly as he rummaged through the odds and ends drawer: old menus from the takeaways in town, pens, rubber bands, a button, reading glasses, newspaper clippings. He’d never expected to need the phone number; now he did and what do you know? He can’t find the damn thing.

    “What a shameful mess that drawer is in,” said Jane. She was seated at the kitchen table, arms folded, shaking her head at him. She looked about twenty today with her dark hair cascading prettily over a lacy pink mini dress.

    Bob  frowned at her though his heart did a leap. The way it always did when he saw her. “You were the one who kept it clean and you jumped ship.  And I’ve said, can’t you look your age?”

    “Don’t I look pretty?” She pouted and fluttered long eyelashes at him.

    “Makes me feel old. And I don’t recognise you like that.”

    “You are old,” she said as her hair turned white. “And bad-tempered as ever. What are you hunting for?”

    “The phone number. You know the one he said to call if the box was ever unearthed. Can’t find it anywhere.”

    “You’d lose your head …”  said Jane as her head lifted off her body.

    Bob jumped. “Darn it, Jane. I’ve said don’t do that! Why do you always do that and go giving me the heebie jeebies?”

    “Cos I can, love.” She grinned mischievously before settling her head back on her shoulders. “Just a bit of fun. Now think hard, where else might you have put it? The shoe-box under our bed? The safe in the pantry?”

    Bob flung a hand to his head. “The shoe-box! That’s where it will be!”

    Jane grinned. “Well, get a move-along, old man. Before our Clara gets in more deep than what’s good for her. She won’t let it go now she’s found it. Stubborn as a mule my grandchild,” she added proudly.

    Bob reached a hand to her. “Come with me while I look? I miss you, Jane. You never stay long enough.”

    “Oh stop with all the sweet talk!” She poked her tongue out at him. “Anyway I’ve told you before, it takes too much energy.” She was fading and Bob felt his chest tighten. “Don’t worry, I’m keeping an eye on you, old man.” She was vibrating air now, sparkly and pink.

    #6151
    Flove
    Participant

    Grandpa Bob loved the sound of the kettle whistling. Cheery, he thought as he turned the flame off. Companionable.
    He shuffled to the kitchen door. “Clara, cuppa?” he shouted down the hallway but there was no reply. Maybe she wasn’t up yet—it had been a long trip for her yesterday. Perhaps he could make her up a tray, although she’d probably say he was fussing.
    Just then he heard VanGogh barking from the garden. He drew back the curtain and peered out the kitchen window. There she was! Way down the back digging in the vegetable garden. Bless her soul. Must have got started early on that weeding. She was saying she would last night. Grandpa, you really need to get some help around the place! she’d scolded.
    “Clara, love!” he shouted. Damn dog was making such a racket she didn’t hear him. Nothing for it but to go out there. He chuckled, thinking how she’d probably scold him again for wandering around outside in his pyjamas. Bossy little thing she could be. But a good girl coming all this way to visit him.
    He slipped on his outdoor shoes and slowly made his way down the path to the vegetable garden. VanGogh bounded over to him and Grandpa Bob gave him a pat. “What are you two up to out here, eh VanGogh?” But Clara was so engrossed on her phone she didn’t even glance up. He was about to call out to her again when he saw what she’d dug up and the words stuck in his throat. He let out a small cry.

    #6143
    Eric
    Keymaster

    The Beige House was eerily calm. Most of the staff had left after the super spread of the epidemic.

    Fanella and Finnley had managed to agree to a temporary truce and a fair share of tasks (and masks). After all, they didn’t have the luxury of unpaid leaves, and had to continue to work.

    “Ready for a change of crowd in the building, Fanny?” said Finnley in her unmistakable Kiwi accent, as a matter of breaking the silence in the grand hall. She was dusting the chandeliers, while Fanella was shampooing the carpets.

    “I don’t know Miss Fin’, it iz such a mess now. And I have to take care of ze baby, no time to be political.”

    “Oh, by the way, I received a message from the gang…”

    “Aprrril’ and Joone?”

    “Yep. Those two. The money has dried up, and they learnt the hard way that American are not loved much these days, big spreaders and all. So they decided to sail back to the good ol’ States. Looking for a job now, and hoping that autumn doesn’t mean everything will turn to orange disaster!”

    #6117
    Tracy
    Participant

    Well. I did it. I made my escape. I had to! Nobody came for three days and I’d run out of biscuits. Thank the lord my hip wasn’t playing up. I decided not to take anything with me, figuring I could just steal things off washing lines when I wanted a change of clothes.  I’ve always hated carrying heavy bags.  I reckoned it would look less conspicuous, too. Just an old dear popping out for digestive perambulation. Nobody suspects old dears of anything, not unless they’re dragging a suitcase round, and I had no intention of doing that. I did put a couple of spare masks in my pocket though, you can’t be too careful these days. And it would help with the disguise.  I didn’t want any do gooders trying to catch me and take me back to that place.

    I had the presence of mind to wear good stout walking shoes and not my pink feather mules, even though it was a wrench to say goodbye to them.  I used to love to see them peeping out from under my bath robe. One day I might strike lucky and find another pair.

    I’ve been eating like a king, better than ever!  I accidentally coughed on someones burger one day, and they dropped it and ran away, and I thought to myself, well there’s an idea. I stuck to random snacks in the street at first and then one day I fancied a Chinese so I thought, well why not give it a try.   Coughed all over his brown bag of prawn crackers as he walked out of the restaurant and he put the whole takeaway in the nearest bin. Piping hot meal for six! Even had that expensive crispy duck!

    Tonight I fancy sushi.  Wish I’d thought of this trick years ago, I said to myself the other day, then my other self said, yeah but it wouldn’t have worked so well before the plague.

    Not having much luck with the washing lines though, lazy sods either not doing any laundry or putting it all in the dryer. Weeks of sunny weather as well, the lazy bastards.  Lazy and wasteful!  You should see the clothes they throw in the clothes bank bins!  If the bins are full you can get your arm in and pull out the ones on the top.  I change outfits a dozen times a day some days if I’m in the mood.   I do sometimes get an urge to keep something if I like it but I’m sticking to my guns and being ruthless about not carrying anything with me.

    #6107

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Flove
    Participant

    Star paused in the lobby. “I need some more persuading,” she said. “What if she dies in that wardrobe? What will we do with the body? Or, worse, what if she doesn’t die and sues us?”

    Tara decided to ignore Star’s dubious reasoning; after all it was late. “She’s probably going to sue anyway,” said Tara morosely. “Another night won’t make any difference.”

    “I’m going back. I can’t leave Rosamund to face the consequences of our drunken stupidity.” Star headed defiantly towards the stairs; the lift was out of order, again. “We would have to be on the eight bloody floor,” she muttered. “You do what you like,” she flung over her shoulder to Tara.

    Tara sighed. “Wait up,” she shouted.

    Star was relieved that Tara decided to follow. The building was scary at night – the few tenants who did lease office space, were, much like themselves, dodgy start-ups that couldn’t afford anything better. Missing bulbs meant the lighting in the stairwell was dim, and, on some floors, non-existent.

    “I’m amazed they managed to bring that wardrobe up,” puffed Tara. “Just slow down and let me get my breath will you, Star.”

    “My gym membership is really paying off,” said Star proudly. “Come on,Tara! just one floor to go!”

    As they approached the door to their office, they paused to listen. “Can you hear something … ?” whispered Star.

    “Is it … singing?”

    “That’s never Rosamund singing. She’s got a voice like … well let’s just say you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.”

    “I’m going in,” hissed Tara and flung open the door.

    “Don’t come any closer!” cried a woman in a mink coat; she did make a peculiar sight, surrounded by empty pizza boxes and brandishing a broom. “And you, shut up!” she said reaching out to bang the wardrobe with her broom. There were muffled cries from within, and then silence.

    “Was that you singing?” asked Star in her most polite voice.

    “Yes, what’s it to you?”

    “It was rather… lovely.”

    The woman smirked. “I was rehearsing.”

    “We are awfully sorry about locking you in the wardrobe. We thought you were a masked intruder.”

    “Well, I’m not. I am Rosamund’s Aunt April, and you …” she glowered at Star … “should have recognised me, seeing as how I am your cousin.”

    “Oh!” Star put her hand to her head. “Silly me! Of course, Cousin April! But I have not seen you for so many years. Not since I was a child and you were off to Europe to study music!”

    Tara groaned. “Really, Star, you are hopeless.”

    Loud banging emanated from the wardrobe followed by mostly unintelligible shouting but it went something like: “Bloody-let-me-out-or-I-will-friggin-kill-you-stupid-bloody-tarts!”

    “It wasn’t really Rosamund’s fault,” said Star. “I don’t suppose we could …?”

    April nodded. “Go on then, little fool’s learnt her lesson. The cheek of her not letting me have pineapple on my pizza.”

    “About bloody time,” sniffed Rosamund when the door was opened. She made a sorry sight, mascara streaked under her eyes and her red fingernails broken from where she had tried to force the door.

    “Now, then,” said Tara decisively, “now we’ve said our sorries and whatnot, what’s all this really about, April?”

    April crinkled her brow.”Well, as I may of mentioned on the phone, my husband, Albert — that’s your Uncle Albie,” she said to Rosamund, “is cheating on me. He denies it vehemently of course, but I found this note in his pocket.” She reached into her Louis Vuitton hand-bag and pulled out a sheet of paper. “That’s his handwriting and the paper is from the Royal Albert Hotel. He was there on a business trip last month.” Her face crumpled.

    “Chin up,” said Tara quickly, handing April a tissue from the desk. “What does the note say?”. Really, this case did seem a bit beneath them, a straightforward occurrence of adultery from the sounds.

    April sniffed. “It says, meet you at the usual place. Bring the money and the suitcase and I will make it worth your while.”

    “Let me see that,” said Rosamund, snatching the note from April. She reached into the front of her tee-shirt and pulled out another crumpled note which had been stuffed into her bra. She smirked. “I found this in the wardrobe. I was keeping it secret to pay you back but … ” She brandished both notes triumphantly. “The handwriting is the same!”

    “What does your note say, Rosamund?” asked Star.

    “It says, If you find this note, please help me. All is not what it seems..”

    “Wow, cool!” said Tara, her face lit up. This was more like it!

    Star, noticing April’s wretched face, frowned warningly at Tara. “So,” she mused, “I suggest we explore this wardrobe further and see what we can find out.”

    #6096
    Flove
    Participant

    Liz!” shouted Finnley, without pausing from her writing. “Liz, be a love and make me a cup of tea. The organic green tea in the second drawer down.” There was a crash and some unintelligible screaming from the next room. Fortunately, Finnley was used to unintelligible noises coming from Liz’s mouth. “Oh for the … what do you mean you don’t know where the kitchen is?”

    Finnley took a deep breath. She recalled the words of Lemon Tzu:

    Tension is who you think you are, relaxation is who you are.

    “Okay, okay. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. I will interrupt my important writing for a few minutes to elucidate you on the mysteries of the kitchen.”

    A duster came flying into the room, closely followed by a red-faced Liz. “There is really no need for sarcasm, Finnley. I trust you remember it is all down to MY goodness that you have this opportunity.”

    #6073

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    Jib
    Participant

    The words of the Great Leader Undisputed Gabe were still resonating in the back of Gavin’s mind. The promotion to Operating Tomathetan seemed a great honour on the surface, but it certainly brought its lot of responsibilities with it. And from what he had seen before, it would only add to his current ones.

    Gavin descended the Pealgrim path to the Dark Room where all the sorting happened. Many trails from the many carrot fields combined into one and all led to that central building all painted in black, hence its name.

    A zealous Seed level had recently been put in charge of the re-painting. As there was only black paint in the warehouse he had the genius idea to save the order some money by using only what they already had, and as there was enough paint he covered all the windows, certainly thinking light could damage the crops. Repainting everything was out of the question so they had kept it like that and just added some artificial light to help the workers. Great Leader Undisputed Gabe, had thought it was a nice initiative as now workers could work any hour of the day.

    When Gavin entered the Dark Room, it reeked of carrot and sweat. Members of the cult of all ages were sorting the divine roots by shapes, sizes and thickness. Most of them didn’t know what was the final purpose, innocent minds. All they had was the Sorting Song written by Britta the one legged vestal to help her fellow cultshipers in their work.

    If a carrot is short, not worth the effort
    As a long stalactites, like ice on your tits
    A bar thick as a fist, you’ve just been blissed

    Each verse gave advices about what they were looking for, where to put them after sorting and each team had their own songs that they sang while doing their work with the enthusiasm of cultshipers. Even though the song had been crafted to answer most of the situations in terms of carrot shapes, sizes and thickness, it happened that some would not fit into any categories. And recently, those seem to happen more often than once and the pile of misshapen carrots threaten to exceed that of the others combined.

    “Eugene, Have you found what is the problem?” asked Gavin to their agronomist. His surname was Carrot and he came from noble Irish descent, quite appropriate for his work, thought Gavin. Eugene was skinny with a long neck and he often seemed to abuse the ritual fasting ceremony ending with the consumption of sacred mushroom soup.

    “It’s because of the microscopic snails that infest the crops,” Eugene said. Gavin couldn’t help but notice an accumulation of dried saliva at the corner of his mouth. “They’re carried by bird shit and they are too small to be eaten by our ducks and in the end they cause the carrots to grow random shapes unfit for Odin.”

    Odin, short for Organic Dildo Industry, has been the main source of revenue for the cult. Since the start of the confinement the demand has skyrocketed. Especially appreciated by vegans and nature lovers, it also procured a nice orange tan on the skin after usage.

    “Can’t you find smaller dwarf ducks?”

    “Your Gourdness, microscopic means very tiny, even dwarf ducks wouldn’t be able to eat them unless they eat the carrots.”

    “And that would be a problem,” sighed Gavin. “What is your solution then?”

    “I don’t have one.”

    Gavin raised his hands to the black roof in despair. Did he have to do the jobs of everyone? He needed some fresh eyes and fresh ideas.

    #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.

    #6062

    In reply to: The Pistil Maze

    Jib
    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.”

    #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?

    #6025

    In reply to: Story Bored

    Eric
    Keymaster

    BOARD 10

    Board 10, Story 1

    Arona beat Leörmn at his game of chess, and wins a sabulmantium“But did you turn Mandrake into that glowing thing, or it’s just a diversion for sneakily gobbling him?”

    The maids escapees of Versailles timeline venture in strange lands and go to extreme lengths to find adequate food. “Didn’t the time GPS say to turn left at your peril?”

    Ascended Master Floverly goes about her duties to paint and inspire the world a better place by applying Herself entirely lovingly to the most demanding tasks. “A whole new world / A new fantastic point of view…”

    #5976

    In reply to: Story Bored

    Tracy
    Participant

    Board 1, Story 2

    Sanso, emerging from the cave, wonders if he’s in the right place; but Zhaana seems happy so he decides to wait and play it by ear.

    Clove and Pan’s father await the return of their son from a waterlark outing. They may have to send the waterdog to find him.

    It was a lonely job being a time travelling absinthe salesman in the Elsespace Arrangement

    #5970

    In reply to: Story Bored

    Eric
    Keymaster

    BOARD 2

    [BOARD2] Story 1:
    Rene & Huhu have found the secret cave and are sweet-talking the Guardian to obtain the blue diamond of Flove.
    Eleri and Fox’s hunt for chicken is taking an unexpected turn.
    Leormn’s latest prank didn’t leave Arona very happy about his magical help to find truffles.

    #5956
    Jib
    Participant

    I woke up this morning with a stiff neck. I do not mention it too much with my friend because some of them have a tendency to look for a reason behind anything like you have a choice that you don’t want to make, or you don’t listen your truth, or whatever one can invent in such a case. I’m sure someone would even mention a past life when my head was cut off. Today I don’t want other people’s opinion about me so I just say it’s a way for me to take care of myself.

    Today I take things one at a time. I called a few friends to take news, and only one of them answered. Which is fine by me because I didn’t really want to talk, only to make the effort to connect. I went into the garden, the grass is tall and it looks like a prairie. I’m sure wild mice enjoy it, and the neighbour’s cats also. One of them has a roof full of them redheads and black ones. I see them cross the wild grass one at a time, each has their own habitual path.

    I love looking at them. It’s quieting.

    There was an argument somewhere. I heard people shout. A man and a woman. It sounded like a soap, so I’m not sure it wasn’t someone’s TV on. The air was so clear, the absence of the cars and normal conversations gave it enough place to express. Each silence they left in between their arguments was filled with sounds of nature.

    I have a new family of birds coming into the garden. I baked them some wild rice with carrots and some fat. Someone told me it’s the last day you can feed them, afterwards it’s best they look for food for themselves as spring is here. So I’ve made the stew although I haven’t fed them during winter. I can tell they enjoyed it as nothing was left when I came back two hours ago.

    #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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