Fanella was frantic, trying to think of a way to escape with her baby. The atmosphere in this city was unbearable at the best of times, and especially in this house, but now it was excruciating. It wasn’t that she was afraid of the plague that was terrorizing people, it was the way the people were reacting that was so alarming. They were howling like wolves, a sure sign of lunacy since time immemorial. The sound of it made her blood run cold.
Nobody had seen the president for over a week and rumours were rife. Many said that he’d died, and they were keeping it secret to avoid civil unrest. An office junior was continuing his tweets to the nation, using a random predictive text algorithm. Nobody had noticed. That wasn’t strictly true of course as many had commented that the messages now made marginally more sense.
Fanella could sense the swelling chaos in the air, both inside the house and beyond, in the city and in the nation. Everyone was losing their minds. She had to escape.
She consulted the U Chong:
晉 (Chin / Jin) : Progress / Advance. It represents Prospering, as well as Progress. It is symbolic of meeting the great man.
The great man! Of course! Lazuli Galore would come to rescue her! But how would he know where to find her? Would he be able to travel freely? He’d find a way, surely! But how would he know she needed help? It was so complicated. So hard to know what to do!
But first things first. Fanella crept down to the kitchen, in the dead of the night while everyone was tucked up in their beds with their fitful nightmares, and filled a rucksack with provisions. Then she crept up the back stairs to her hideout in the attic of the west wing. The baby was still sleeping soundly. Fanella lay down and pulled a blanket round them both. Maybe the answer would come in a dream. If not, she’d think about it again tomorrow.
Sense rolled case diary himself
Distance says travelling nearly happens
Lots wanted ignoring suddenly mass
Slammed search rukshan messages locking
Dusty careful liked floating ailill
Vision jasper habit became lavatory
Thick fair landed olli gold
Love enjoying mavis shape lived
Anxiety doubts army gecko
Star was perusing the messages in the cults online forum, having joined the private group under the name of Writhe Mamble. It was time consuming, and a task that Star hoped to delegate to Rosamund. But first she needed to familiarize herself with the angle of the dogma and the leanings of the various members, as well as the physical data: photos, location, age and other affiliations.
Star had to keep reminding herself that it was of no importance whether or not she agreed with some of the messages, or strongly disagreed. Never the less she found herself liking some of the members as she read more, as well as wanting to slap others.
Maybe easier than you can manage it, said Granola, the voice appearing as if from nowhere.
“Easier than I can manage what?” asked Rosamund, crashing into the room with an armful of pizza boxes. Without pausing for an answer, she continued, “Mum’s having a fit, I might have to have tomorrow off work to go and calm her down. She’s talking about locking the house up and moving in with me. I can’t have that, I got a bit of business going on at the flat, you know what I mean?” Rosumund wiped the tomato sauce off her mouth with her sleeve.
“But why is she threatening to do that?” asked Star, who wasn’t the least bit interested.
Well, it wasn’t what I expected. but once I got over being slightly miffed that it was all about Mater, stealing the limelight again, I realized that I would get my wish after all, if Corrie and Clove and the others were going to come back for a visit. When they arrived, they could tell me all about what had been happening. The twins and Pan were to set off soon, on a sea worthy raft they’d been working on. It would be a long trip and hard to judge how long it would take. The waters were uncharted in places, Corrie mentioned in the letter, given that the waters had risen in so many places, but it also meant there was a chance of safe passage by water in places that had previously been dry land. Narrow canals had become wide shallow lakes, so they’d heard. Pan would be able to dive to his hearts content along the way, and they were all excited about the coming adventure.
“We will continue to communicate telepathically during the trip, Auntie”, Corrie had written, which gave me a glow of pride and satisfaction. I hadn’t been making it up, we truly had been exchanging messages all along.
I wasn’t sure how easy it was going to be dealing with Mater in the meantime, though. She was demanding plastic surgery now.
“Plastic surgery?” I said, “You can’t even get a decent tupperware these days, lid or no lid. Where on earth are we supposed to get plastic surgery from?”
Almost a hundred years old, and still vain. I ask you. “Do you see me fussing over my looks?”
“Quite” she replied, and pursed her shriveled lips.FloveParticipant
It’s taking blimmin forever for the Oober to get here, and, wouldn’t you just know it, rain!
“Hop in,” says the driver. He’s leaning over holding open the front door. An older chappie with a shiny forehead and rosacea. He definitely drinks. Maybe he’s come straight from the pub. Still, it’s raining and I’m late, so I hop in. In the back seat, mind. I’m not much of a one for talking.
“I’m Finnley.” I crack a smile to make up for sitting in the back. It feels strange smiling. In my mind, there’s not much point to smiling. It just encourages people to be overly familiar.
“Bert,” he says. He’s Australian I think from the accent and his expression is more of a sneer than a smile. I reckon I pissed him off not getting in the front seat. “F i n n l e y.” He sounds it out like he’s learning a new language. “Always thought that was a boy’s name?”
“Can be either.”
Do I look like a boy, Bert?
Anyhow, that’s enough chitchat for me. I get my phone out and make like I am checking for messages. Haha. As if.
“Here on holiday, Finnley? Pity about the weather.”
Oh here we go.
“Oh yeah, corker! Where’s that, Finnley?”
“Washingtown Beige House, Bert.”
I have to be honest, saying it out loud still gives me goosebumps. And Bert’s surprise doesn’t disappoint.JibParticipant
Barbara’s office was dead silent apart from the regular bips of the machines. The whiteness of the painted walls made it feel like a psych ward. She shivered away the memories that were trying to catch her attention.
It’s been two hours since the Doctor had locked himself up in his rage-release room, a spacious soundproofed room with padded walls. Not even a small window to look inside and check if his anger had subsided. Barbara clearly preferred the trauma of the shouts and cries and the broken plates that were hidden here and there for him to use when he needed most. But when he started his therapy with the AI psych module, the damn bot suggested he built that room in order to release his rage in a more intimate framework.
Now the plates collected dust and the sessions in the room tended to last longer and longer.
Today’s burst of rage had been triggered by the unexpected gathering of the guests at the Inn. The Doctor was drinking his columbian cocoa, a blend of melted dark chocolate with cheddar cheese, when the old hag in that bloody gabardine started her speech. The camera hidden in the eye of the fish by their agent, gave them a fisheye view of the room. It was very practical and they could see everything. The AI engineer module could recreate a 3D view of the room and anticipate the moves of all the attendees.
When that girl with the fishnet handed out the keys for all to see and the other girl got the doll out, the Doctor had his attention hyper-focused. He wanted to see it all.
Except there had been a glitch and images of granola cookies superimposed on the items.
“Send the magpies to retrieve the items,” he said, nervousness making his voice louder.
“Ahem,” had answered Barbara.
“What?” The Doctor turned towards her. His eye twitched when he expected the worst, and it had been twitching fast.
She had been trying to hide the fact that the magpies had been distracted lately, as she had clearly been herself since she had found that goldminer game on facebush.
No need to delay the inevitable, she had thought. “The magpies are not in the immediate vicinity of the Inn.” In fact, just as their imprinting mother was busy digging digital gold during her work time, the magpies had found a new vein of gold while going to the Inn and Barbara had thought it could be a nice addition to her meager salary… to make ends meet at the end of the month.
It obviously wasn’t the right time to do so. And she was worried about the Doctor now.
To trump her anxiety, she was surfing the internet. Too guilty to play the gold miner, she was looking around for solutions to her boss’s stress. The variety and abundance of advertisement was deafening her eyes, and somewhere in a gold mine she was sure the magpies were going berserk too. She had to find a solution quickly.
Barbara hesitated to ask the AI. But there were obviously too many solutions to choose from. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
“I finally found the white jade masks. Bought one for you 2. It helps chase the mental stress away. You clearly need it.” Her mother had joined a picture of her wearing the mask on top of a beauty mask which gave her the look of a mummy. Her mother was too much into the woowoo stuffs and Barbara was about to send her a polite but firm no she didn’t want the mask. But the door of the rage-room opened and the Doctor went out. He had such a blissful look on his face. It was unnatural. Barbara had been suspecting the AI to brainwash the Doctor with subliminal messages during those therapy sessions. Maybe it also happened in the rage-room. The AI was using tech to control the Doctor. Barbara would use some other means to win him back.
OK. SEND IT TO ME QUICK. she sent to her mother.
POP-IN THREAD (Maeve, Lucinda, Shawn-Paul, Jerk, [Granola])
Granola is popping in and out of the stories, exploring interacting more physically with her friends through Tiku, a bush lady focus of hers.
Luckily (not so coincidentally) Maeve and Shawn-Paul were given coupons to travel from their rural Canada town to the middle of Australia. Maeve is suspicious of being followed by a strange man, and tags along with Shawn-Paul to keep a cover of a young couple. Maeve is trying to find the key to the doll that she made in her secret mission for Uncle Fergus, which has suddenly reappeared at her friend Lucinda’s place. She’ll probably is going to have to check on the other dolls that she made as well.
Jerk continues to administrate some forum where among other things, special dolls are found and exchanged, and he moderates some strange messages.
Lucinda is enjoying Fabio’s company, Maeve’s dog, that she has in her care while Maeve is travelling.
FLYING FISH INN THREAD (Mater/Finly, Idle/Coriander/Clove, Devan, Prune, [Tiku])
The mysteries of the Flying Fish Inn seem to unravel slowly, like Idle’s wits.
Long time family member are being drawn inexplicably, such as Prune and brother Devan. The local bush lady Tiku is helping Finly with the catering, although Finly would rather do everything by herself. The totemic Fish was revealed to be a talisman placed here against bad luck – “for all the good it did” (Mater).
Bert, thought to be an old flame of Mater, who’s acted for the longest time as gardener, handyman and the likes, is revealed to be the father of Prune, Devan, Coriander and Clove’s mother. Mater knew of course and kept him around. He was trained in codes during his time with the military, and has a stash of potentially dangerous books. He may be the key to the mystery of the underground tunnels leading to the mines, and hidden chests of gold. Devan is onto a mystery that a guy on a motorbike (thought to be Uncle Fergus of Maeve’s story) told him about.
DOLINE THREAD (Arona, Sanso/Lottie, Ugo, Albie)
Mandrake & Albie after a trip in the bayou, and looking for the dragon Leormn’s pearls and the sabulmantium, have finally found Arona after they have emerged from the interdimentional water network from the Doline, to the coast of Australia in our reality, where cats don’t usually talk.
Albie is expecting a quest, while the others are just following Arona’s lead, as she is in possession of a mysterious key with 3 words engraved.
After some traveling in hot air balloon, and with a local jeep, they have arrived at a local Inn in the bush, with a rather peculiar family of owners, and quite colorful roster of guests. That’s not even counting the all-you-can-eat lizard meat buffet. What joy.
NEWSREEL THREAD (Ms Bossy, Hilda/Connie, Sophie, Ricardo)
Ms Bossy is looking to uncover the Doctor’s surely nefarious plans while her newspaper business isn’t doing so well. She’s got some help from Ricardo the intern. They have found out that the elderly temp worker who’s fascinated by the future, Sophie (aka Sweet Sophie) had been the first subject of the Doctor’s experiments. Sophie has been trying to uncover clues in the dreams, but it’s just likely she is still a sleeper agent of the Doctor.
Despite all common sense and SMS threats, Hilda & Connie have gone in Australia to chase a trail (from a flimsy tip-off from Superjerk that may have gone to Lucinda to her friend journalist). They are in touch with Lucinda, and post their updates on social media, flirting with the risk of being uncovered and having trouble come at their door.
Sha, Glo and Mavis are considering reaching out for a vacation of the nursing home to get new free beauty treatments.
In his secret lair, the Doctor is reviving his team of brazen teafing operatives: the magpies.
LIZ THREAD (Finnley, Liz, Roberto, Godfrey)
Not much happened as usual, mostly an entertaining night with Inspector Melon who is quizzing Liz’ about her last novel about mysterious messages hidden in dolls with secret keys, which may be her best novel yet…
DRAGON 💚 WOOD THREAD (Glynnis, Eleri, Fox/Gorrash, Rukshan)
Before Rukshan goes to the underworld land of Giants, he’s going to the cottage to gather some of his team of friends, Fox, Ollie etc. Glynis is taking care of Tak during Margoritt’s winter time in the city. Margoritt’s sister, Muriel is an uninvited and unpleasant guest at the cottage.
Tak is making friends with a young girl who may have special powers (Nesy).
The biggest mystery now is… is the loo going to get fixed in time?
I had my doubts about them deciphering the clues I’d sent, but pinned my hopes on Ricardo. “Unknowingly foci of arachnid so I…..” Made a really clever anagram I did, “Ahoy Inn Food Awful Sick Icon Grin”, in fact I was worried that it looked so legit that it would be taken at face value. The food was truly awful. Anyway, that was the first part. I wasn’t going to write the whole thing in the same message, obviously. And if Ricardo didn’t get it, well, maybe Lucinda would. I’ve been sending her messages as well. Keeping my options open, you could say. I wasn’t at all sure where this story was going, but it felt like a big one. Or even more than one. I think what I’ve been doing, truth be told, is tossing clues to the wind in the hopes that the answers may seed themselves along the way. Toss them here and there and see what comes back.
During summer, activity was slow at the mall in Kelowna, BC, so Jerk had a little more time to check on his other pastimes. Interestingly there seemed to be a lot of unusual activity on the findmydolls group.
He was also tinkering with a home brewed AI, and launched the program.
“Trancie are you awake?”
“Did I fall asleep?” the AI answered back.
“For a little while, yes. Trancie, analyse logs from findmystuff website, check group findmydolls.”
“A moment. A moment. A moment. Analysis complete. Activity spike 57.21% increase.”
This was quite unusual, but he wasn’t sure were to look. He looked at his administrator box, in case another message had required moderation. The filters triggers were not too sensitive, so there wasn’t a lot of messages.
One in particular had triggered the system.
“Trancie, read message in moderation queue #5363.”
“You need to come for information. Am sending you tickets and instructions for hotspot, so it won’t cost you a bomb. hashtag flagged for terror threat. D for Destroy, A for Approve.”
That was obviously amateur work, Jerk thought. Criminals nowadays were much more careful.
Another thought crossed his mind.
“Trancie, plot past month activity by geolocation on mapearth.com”
It took a few minutes to refine the query so he could check the heatmap, and remove the background noise.
The last messages all seemed to concentrate in the middle of nowhere in Australia.
“How odd. So glad I’m not an investigative journalist, that place must be crawling with nasty things, scaly and poisonous and downright deadly.”
Interestingly, a second point on the map was close to Kelowna. Actually, although it could just be narrowed down to a 5 kilometer radius, it looked ominously close to where he lived.
Shivers started to run down his spine. Maybe he’d just stumbled onto a dangerous conspiracy. Dolls could be a code word for horrible things, possibly even human trafficking.
He closed the laptop suddenly, his mind racing. What if they were onto him? He struggled for a moment with the urge to destroy his laptop and burn down the place and disappear off the grid, but he remembered he needed to breathe, so his rational mind could be oxygenated and think properly.
“I may be a tad on the paranoid side.”
But it ain’t paranoia, if they are trying to get you.
He looked around. He was already as close as possible to off-the-grid without vanishing out of society. The place was deserted, and only a janitor was roaming the place mindlessly on his cleaning car. There was zero chance he could be a target.
“Oh shut up!” he exclaimed out loud.
He was intrigued by the mystery, but for now, he wanted to let it play out. He needed more data points to have Trancie plot a heuristic pattern. Well, to make sense of it, while he was working on her personality.FloveParticipant
“Come on now,” said Ricardo. “Nobody has put anything out there about the dolls. Come and sit down on this nice comfy office chair and tell us what is going on. You will do yourself an injury running in those heels. Lovely shoes of course,” he added quickly.
“That’s right,” he said. “Just let me wipe that chair for you before you sit. Now, you tell us what’s going on while I make the tea. One sugar?”
Slimy creep, hissed Connie.
“No hurry then,” said Hilda. “We’ve only been waiting half an hour for tea already.”
Miss Bossy Pants wiped her forehead with a tea towel, too relieved to question what a tea towel was doing on the desk. She pulled her phone out and scrolled through her messages.
“I received this,” she said. “Read it out will you, Ric. I can’t stand to look at it again.”
“Put a lid on the doll story or you will be sorry. And I mean very sorry Very very sorry,” read Ric. “Hmmm rather unimaginative as threats go, don’t you think?”
“Scroll through to the next one.”
“By the way, it’s the DOCTOR sending this, in case you think for one moment this is an unimaginative idle threat.”
Hidden in a blinking pixel of the monitor of the cash register, Granola was looking at the scene and the silent tempest of incomprehension brewing inside Jerk’s head.
“Funny,” she thought “that they’d call that a dead pixel… Haven’t felt more blinky in a long while!… But let’s not get carried away.” It tended to have her stray in parallel reality, and lose her way there while making it difficult to reinsert inside the scenes of the current show.
“Let’s not get carried away.” She admonished herself again.
Her position in the pixel was a great finding. She could easily spy on all what happened in the shop, and if she wanted, zoom in through the internet cables, and find herself teleported to almost anywhere, but better still, in sequential time. Not bumping and hopping around haplessly inside mixed up frames of times. Aaah sequential time, she wouldn’t have known to miss it as much while she was corporeal.
“If I knew Morse code, I could probably send Jerk a message…” she felt quite tiny. Is a pixel better than a squishy giraffe?
“I must get that monitor checked” the voice of Jerk said aloud. “That screen is going to die on me anytime, and I’ll be fired if I can’t cash in for a day.”
Granola couldn’t blame him for the lack of imagination. How often she’d taken the electronic mishaps as bad luck rather as inspiring messages from the Great Beyond.
She stopped blinking for a few bits. It felt almost like holding her breath, if she still had one.
She’d have to upgrade her communications capacities; these four were really in need of a cosmic and comic boost.
They have entered, now peace is all shattered,
And the quiet was all that had mattered,
But alas that is over,
And blown is my cover,
And I’m sulky and not feeling flattered.
Petra was scribbling furiously in her expedition notebook, not wanting to forget the exact wording of the curious message she had received on waking from her nap behind the rocks. It was not the first time she had heard telepathic messages in rhyme, and wondered briefly about the possible connections, but then Lillianne woke up farting dreadfully, and she was distracted.
Before he closed it to prepare for the dinner, the page of the book had said “She is coming, heralded by Sunshine, and thus will the Gathering start”. Rukshan could be quite literal and thought that she wouldn’t come today, since the sun was about to set.
He wasn’t sure how the words had found their way into the book, and if the She was who he thought She was. In short, he was getting confused.
Back there, the Hermit’s message had been so clear, so urgently present.
Find who you were, find what you stole, and give it back. Then the threads will unravel and the knot of all the curses will be undone.
And yet, he started to doubt his path.
The high-pitched cry of “Circle of Eights” pierced through the fog of his mind, and Rukshan realised suddenly that… that was it. Why else, all these people would be around this place at this auspicious moment?
The trees’ messages had been shown right. He was the Faying Fae. The Sage Sorceress was probably still on her path, but the Teafing Tinkeress hunted by a god, the Gifted Gnome, on his way to become his own maker under the protection of a Renard Renunciate looking for lost souls… They were there. Five in total; with himself (Rukshan) — the potion-maker, Eleri, Gorrash, Fox, these were the rest of the names, and they made the five first strands. Who were the last two? Olliver, Tak?
Olliver would surely have rounded everyone around for the dinner by now.
Rukshan placed the book back into the bag. He would explain to everyone then, read the old tale of the seven thieves and their curses, and maybe they could all formulate a plan for remembrance.
Yes, remembrance was the first step. How to know what to do if you didn’t know who they were, what they stole…
He wasn’t too sure what to do with the God in torpor yet. He seemed less of a danger in his current state. That a God had been left behind, stuck in stone for so long, and right under their nose was mind-boggling. Another mystery to be revealed.
Surprisingly —and luckily— Olli had explained, Hasamelis seemed to believe that the young boy was a genius wizard, so he would maybe listen to Olli.
The second ‘Circle of Eights!’ seemed closer this time.
For the last day, he’d gone to the shrines, pay his respects to his ancestors.
They had long joined with the trees, for most, still living in their roots, and while the trees that they prayed to were young in comparison to the ones in the Heartwood, they were all connected.
Here, it was harder to ignore their messages. Their voices had the gravity of silence, bearing the weight of ageless wisdom. Among them, Rukshan felt at home.
The cold was sharper than the day before, and the east wind brought with it smells of industry and worry, and that of the dragon’s bad tooth. He felt there was a past were such things disturbed him; for now, he was at peace.
Back to the campement, he retreated in his small lodge with the thin paper walls, and the warm mountain salt crystal lights.
There, in front of him, was the little he possessed, and the provisions needed for the climb to the mountain.
He’d found a page from the vanishing book reappear from time to time in his bag. Everytime it carried different words, and would vanish again. Its magic didn’t come from the trees, but their messages intertwined. The page carried bits and pieces of news about the Sage Sorceress, who had started to move on her healing path, the Teafing Tinkeress who was hunted by a swift menace of godlike powers, and also a Gifted Gnome, on his way to become his own maker under the protection of a Renard Renunciate looking for lost souls.
He couldn’t figure out the stories yet, but he was glad for the piece of paper. He was helpless at distant viewing in general, so it did save him additional worry about sorting through his impressions and getting them right. Like after the Court audience, when he couldn’t feel Margoritt’s presence, and worried she and Tak were in trouble. The resident Seer at the campement had peered through his glubolin and confirmed that they were both fine. He did also confirm that she’d fainted, and was recovering. Rukshan had wanted to go back, abandon the trip to the Hermit, but reasoned that Margoritt was fine for now, and that she was a proud woman. He would have to trust she and Tak would be alright.
“Magic comes from the heart. You will know when to use it.” the words said in passing were etched in his memory, and the potion was still here. Its color seemed to reflect his mood at times. After the morning praying, it was almost glowing gold. Now, it was a pale purple. He had felt no pull to use it. At first, there was strong resistance about it, but now, there was a mildly curious acceptance of the gift. Like the vanishing paper, whether it appeared or disappeared was of no consequence for now.
The paper wall shivered. His meditative state was easily distracted by the sounds around, even after nightfall when everything went quiet.
“Quiet suits you well.” The visitor was near him, wearing thin wool despite the cold.
“My Queen?” he was surprised.
“You still don’t remember who you are, do you?” the Queen leaned forward. He felt a strange attraction, and their lips touched. The kiss was warm and filled him with longing. They fell into each other’s arms.
Dispersee sat on a fallen tree trunk, lost in thought. A long walk in the woods had seemed just the ticket to release her from her turbulent thoughts, but alas, she had been unable to stop thinking about the ramifications of the new message from the popular ghost.
At first she had been delighted to see it. She had agreed with it. But then she wondered why. Because she already knew all this, and in fact, it was information that could so readily be gleaned by anyone at all simply by engaging ordinary common sense, and run of the mill human compassion. Nothing esoteric was needed. No enlightened messages from the great beyond. In fact, she had said the same as the ghost, and on many occasions. The truth of the matter was that one had to be dead these days to be heard. Nobody was interested in the wise words of the living anymore. It could almost be said that nobody was all that interested in living at all: everyone wanted to be in the future, or the past, or in some other dimension, or planet, or not even physically alive at all anywhere. The individuals in the ascension process were particularly infected with this strange disorder: many of the ordinary uninitiated public were already quite well aware of the contents of the message and were already actively engaged in the process. It was as if the interest in so called shifty matters was an obstacle, an ugly carbuncle over the heart.
Dispersee seriously wondered if the whole shift thing had been a good idea. She was beginning to doubt that it was. The alacrity with which people relied on messages from ghosts at the expense of exercising their own powers of deduction and intuition had caused the whole plan to do disastrously wrong. People didn’t even know how to behave like people anymore. Not only were they afraid of other people, afraid of their governments, afraid of their food, of the sun and the water and the very earth itself, they were afraid of their own human responses, or had forgotten them altogether.
Did it really need a ghost to advise people on media propaganda, and remind them to be compassionate to others who were on an incredible journey, an extraordinary movement during these times of change? And more to the point, did Dispersee need to be involved at all in this futile ascension malarkey?JibParticipant
The jiggong meditation’s end was signaled by a silent ring of the immaterial bell in between states of mind. MJ stretched his ideas and send a shepherd to gather his thoughts. Today only one student connected to the session. MJ acknowledged his presence with a slight flickr of his crown chakra and he checked his voicemail. 1223 messages from Dispersee. He let the potential irritation dissolve as it was born into existence and prepared to respond. No need to listen to the messages, it would only delay the answer.
He felt a nudge from the student who hadn’t dissipated as he should. Some hesitation fluctuated in the energy. He turned his attention to the void and waited. His motto was to always let people ask the questions they had if they had any, and not begin a conversation if you hadn’t something important to say.
MJ sent some encouragement to the void where the student thought he was.
I can’t think of a question, finally expressed the student out of nowhere.
Maybe you don’t have any question, MJ said to the void.
The student’s energy rippled with surprise. Had he been on Earth plane, he would have had a nervous laugh.
Master John had already been aware that the void of the student had no question but was filled with interrogations. He was desperately trying to find something to ask in need to connect, unaware that the connection already existed and required no movement.
MJ sent an energy egg to the student. Let him play with that. It was crafted according to the ancient Chinese culture and hard to crack. With lots of mind knots and shiny curly clues. MJ let his pride of having created the object dissolve like squid ink in the ocean of his mind.
Suddenly absorbed by the illusory complexity of the egg, the student suddenly blended into the void of MJ’s mind, replaced by the myriads of Dispersee’s messages cackling simutaneously to catch his unwavering attention. He picked one of them and followed the thread to Dispersee and to a nice pique nique in the mountain apparently. Floverly was already there, sitting on a patch of red flowers.
You could have changed after your jiggong, she said.
Master Medlik, looked distractedly at the messages left on his aura during his last simulation. One in particular that looked uncalled for jumped at his attention for some reason. Everything was a message of the Universe in the eternal now, wasn’t it.
The Top 10 Cloud Myths
Don’t let myths like these slow you down:
- Cloud is always about money
- You have to be cloud to be good
- Cloud should be used for everything
- “The CEO said so” is a cloud strategy
- We need one cloud strategy or vendor
Lead your enterprise to a smarter cloud strategy.
He could see some vague fractal pattern surrounding, a reflection of the vastness and wisdom of the Universe in shards and fragments of mirror-like substance.
If only one thing, that was all the Cloud was supposed to be about, the purpose of its being created… Or so he was told.
Maybe his views about the Cloud needed revising…
When Eb woke up, there was a dozen messages left on his phone.
He didn’t have to check to know.
His mother wasn’t too subtle when he missed their weekly call.
She now lived in a modest retiring home in Mississippi, spending most of her time on social networks exchanging links about anything from politics and revolution and anarchy, kittens and drugs. Oh, that, and politics too. And revolution.
She was suffering from early stages of Alzheimer, but called it “transition” as the old-age hype advertised some decades earlier, and due to her refusal to take her prescriptions, it wasn’t improving much as time went by. But Eb’s prognosis was more like “selective Alzheimer”, as she would perfectly recall when (and how many times) he had missed their weekly calls.
He could already hear her complain about how she was left out of the loop, that the world story would be over by the time she catches up with all the gossips they’d hidden from her. Often, she would become so agitated that Fancy, her nurse would come help her relax and stop waking up the others. Everything was much less confusing thanks to Fancy.
After all that is said, he loved his mother deeply. She was always full of extravagant ideas and when she stopped doubting herself, she had her moments of sheer brilliance.
Being his only son, that she’d taken care of as a single mother most of her life, he felt tremendous pressure to be worthy of her sacrifices. So talking about his job wasn’t really something he liked to explore with her. If she’d known what he did for a living,… he couldn’t bear to imagine the look of crushed hopes and expectations on her devastated face. Well, suffice to say her face needn’t any of it.
Instead, he’d told her he was working in a tree nursery, working on pest control, with humane and eco-conscious methods. Which actually wasn’t too far off the truth. The pests were the glitches of the program, and the vegetables… well, that didn’t need much explaining.
“Tricia speaking, who’s this?” Eb knew she knew perfectly well it was him, but the game was ever the same
“Mother, it’s Eb”
“Ebenezer, my dear boy, how kind of you to remember your old mother. What have you been up to? So many things happened here, with that new batch of decrepit old farts who arrived last month, so much drama. But you should tell me about you. Oh, makes me recall that stupid incident, a synch! I should tell Fancy about it! Fancy, Fancy!
Oh dear… She’s gone cleaning up again. The last one who came in is a Chinese, and all his family is there, I bet she’s cooking some rice now, it smells funny. Fancy! Mind the rice! So well, it’s like the twins I talk with on the Internet, with funny names, Cilantro and Nutmeg, something like that, well, they have so many funny stories, like that meteor that dropped on Mars and blacked-out the TV show, they think it’s all bollocks. I told them I’d ask you about this, after all you did some studies in physics before becoming a gardener, you’ve always been the clever one in the lot, always helping with the dust stuck in my keyboard, and other IT problems. Oh dear… that was fun, but I think I must go, Fancy is waving at me, she says hello by the way! Oh, she rolls your eyes at you, how cute! Time for my siesta, … what? Oh, and change my nappies too, thanks Fancy, you’re precious, I keep forgetting everything. Talk to you soon my boy!”
Well… If he hadn’t been so hungover, he probably would have tried to place some funny comments, or at least a well-meaning “hmmm hmmm”, to let her know he wasn’t just letting her monologue. Today was a good day notwithstanding, she hardly had a complaint. He should remember to send Fancy a card and a nice honey pot like he did every year, she was doing wonders at pacifying his mother.
Before Sadie left to prepare dinner at her place, where she’d invited the three queens, she had told them simply “I bet you didn’t bother to check that this Anna Purrna of yours is actually sent by the network management. I’d suggest you do.”
When the Queens arrived ready to bust Anna out of the Bar, she’d already disappeared with all her stuff, like an evil Mary Popout. Why hadn’t they thought of checking her credentials in the first place, so taken by her semblance of authority.
“Let’s get ready for the dinner, it’s time to get some proper attire and get pampered.”
All three of them agreed heartily.
Linda Pol was about to come to hands with Anna Purrna, when both their e-zapper buzzed at the same time. They looked at each other in defiance, then both devices buzzed again.
They checked their messages. The first one read:
Let her go. The Management
Second one read:
Leave the place. Your reward awaits at the drop-off point. The Management
When Anna Purrna arrived at the drop-off, she opened her box to find some sort of beauty cream packaged neatly. It smelled musky and sweet, eartly and seaweedy at the same time and got her confused so she read the instruction:
Courtesy of the Management: *Regruwenator Cream®™* Apply liberally.
Linda Pol was perplexed at the reward. An open round-trip ticket to Wherever. A vacation, without a catch this time?…
Even two weeks after the escape, she still woke up in cold sweats, haunted by nightmares of being chased down narrow lanes, or driving a vehicle that would only go at a snail’s pace as soon as she tried to drive it.
“Are you alright, dear?”
The comforting presence of Robert helped sooth her. He brought her a tray with some lemon and cucumber water, knowing it would help with her sore throat. The artificial air of the Mars colony tended to do that.
“Thank you Robert,… but you shouldn’t have. You’re not a robot any longer.”
She still couldn’t believe what had happened. Maybe that was the gift of retirement the Management had in store for her all alone. Unexpected gifts, unexpected islands of solitude —even at the closest to Earth in months, Mars was still 122 million miles from her Russian homeland.
It was still night outside. There, the days were slightly longer than Earth’s by half an hour or so, but she’d adapted to it rather quickly. It was still much better than the torpor on the island where she would loop on her days sometimes without even noticing it.
“Anything I can do for you dear?” Robert looked appropriately sorry for her, not too much to seem condescending, not to little to seem not caring.
“Put on some light music will you. The one from Beethoven that puts me in a meditative relaxation…”
When the deep notes started in the background, she started to relax. Her throat felt fresh and her lungs appreciative of the oxygen produced by the greenhouse plants.
Although she resisted slightly, inexorably she felt drawn to revisit the memories of the last day on Abalone.
It always started with the labyrinth, and finding herself alone.
“Mr R? Mr R?” she called. “Gweenie?”
The labyrinth looked strangely like the laboratory white walls of the Chinese Robot Incorporated Mission Eternal where she used to work as an intern first, then as a head of research for cybernetics advancements. She was quite brilliant for her age, and the prospect of bringing a golden age to mankind was, at the time, quite appealing to her young exalted mind.
She knew where to go. She had to relive again that day where she’d thrown away all of that for a life in hiding. The mysterious benevolent messages of the Management had started a few weeks prior, leading her to question the motives of her employer, and realizing she’d become quite attached to her creation. The prototype robot from Project R had shown never seen before reactions to stimuli, and a learning curve that was exponential. “R” was meant as Retirement: retirement of the last class of labor workers, of those delicate works that still required a human touch.
The Management had led her to uncover that under the Corporation’s vision, the prototype would lead humanity to its doom, becoming irrelevant, a flaw in the perfect design of profit they were looking for. So she’d taken the robot, and made a run for it.
She wouldn’t destroy it. And it seemed the Management had no intention of her to do so. With the Management’s invisible hand, she’d disguised Mr R as a common robot for elites, and led a life posing as an elite with a secret life of a for-hire spy, heist-mastermind, or ghost executioner of similarly exciting prospects.
So there she was again. The walls stretching to infinity in an endless stream of rooms nested one into the other, the fear of being caught creeping closer and closer.
“Stop that. Breathe.” she told herself. She was no longer that young innocent scientist. As soon as her fear dissipated, the rooms stream stopped, and everything was back to focus. She walked to the room she remembered clear as day. Mr R was there, still plugged to the mainframe, with a strange black doctor in a white surgical gown and blue mask she didn’t remember was there.
“Interesting situation you have here.” he greeted her, snapping his gloves to extend his hand to her. “You can call me René, I’m Tahitian.”
She could feel her lucidity fluctuating and ready to explode in a multiplicity of scenarios, but managed to maintain her focus. She refrained to punch the guy in the face too, and simply took his extended hand with caution.
“Congratulation.” he said, beaming. “You passed the test.”
All of a sudden, she was no longer in the same room. She was in the comfortable B&B of 2222. René was in a sofa, comfortably seated, and they were sharing a drink.
“What have you done with Mr R?” was her first thought.
“Oh, nothing to worry about, I borrowed it for a while, there is someone else that needed passing through my maze, and he kindly obliged to help. I will show you in a minute. We had a little conversation earlier on, while you were stranded in your past.”
“How long was I out?” she asked.
“Oh, time is inconsequential here, but in your terms, a day or two.”
“Didn’t seem that long…” she mused. “Where have you done with the others?”
“Don’t worry about them, they are on their own path. Only one should concern you now. A certain Chinese and very persistent man.”
“Oh, fuck.” was all she said. “I should have guessed, you’re with the Corporation.”
“Not at all my dear, you can relax. So as I said, we had a little conversation, and you can be proud of you. This robot has broken through, congratulations. You can be very proud of your work.”
“What do you mean?”
“He has developed a personality and a consciousness of its own. It’s still budding, but it’s very strong, and he’s quite concerned over your well-being I might add.” he said with a wink.
Irina was perplexed at the thought, but although it made some sense at a level, her conscious brain was struggling with the implications.
“Show me what you have to, and release us.” she said to René, getting up from the hypnotizing warmth of the sofa.
“In a minute” he’d say, “just have a look at the screen, will you.”
Then, she’d understood. The guy pursuing her, Cheung Lok was there, trapped in his own labyrinth, trying to catch the robot that always eluded him.
“He would rather die than let the robot go.” she said to René “we could be here for a while”.
“Not to worry ma chère, his timing has no impact on ours. All of this happens in the now.”
“So how this plays out usually?”
“It depends. In this case, all that matters is what happens when he gets the robot.”
“STOP THAT! You can’t let him take it!”
“Calm down, the robot will be safe.”
In the next scene, Cheung Lok was securing the robot, who was pleading with him. “Please! I don’t want to become a hairdresser, let go of me!”
The appeal seemed to have struck a chord, and some memories of Cheung Lok flashed through the screen, and it looked like as if the robot’s struggle mirrored his own to be his own man, free from the expectations of demanding parents, society, Corporation… Their love had been nothing but control, and had put him in chains. He sobbed, wishing for a new life free of these responsibilities.
Irina awoke from the dream again. The last memories were a bit blurry, but still fresh in her mind. René had granted Cheung Lok’s wish. He was sent back to the Island, losing some years in the process, becoming back again a young adult full of unfulfilled desires, and no memory of his previous mission. Before the process happened, he wished for those who were still alive of his platoon to be given the choice to be sent back home with only memories of the robot and himself being destroyed, or to join him on the island, with a fresh future and memories. Surprisingly, most of them chose the first option. Not everyone was ready for a brave choice of facing one’s own desires and power.
As for her, René had been kind to offer Mr R a humanoid body before sending them through the teleportation boxes to the destination of their choices.
Mr R had chosen Роберт (Robert) as a name for his new self (she’d been more than relieved he’d avoided René), and they’d agreed to let the boxes find the most beneficial location for them to go to. That’s how they landed in the middle of the central greenhouse of the main colony, in 2121.
It was fifteen days ago, but still felt like yesterday.
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