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      “Well, here we all are again!” Liz beamed, after a momentary pause in which she considered snorting. Not finding that snorting was consistent with her mood, notwithstanding the sparkle in the air of anticipated unexpected impishness, she beamed, and beamed again as she looked around the room.

      No one spoke. There was a sense of suspended animation for a few moments, or was it longer? A bit like holding ones breath while easing into a hot bath. Or perhaps not a hot bath, thought Liz, delicately mopping the sweat dripping down her cleavage with a paper towel.

      Finnley, have you seen my reading glasses anywhere?” Liz asked on impulse.

      Finnley’s sunny beam shifted as she rolled her eyes and replied, “I saw them in a dustbin on Brighton Pier.”

      “My god, it’s started already!” Godfrey exclaimed, although he wasn’t at all surpised. “ Have you seen the new dragon tree in the park?”


        “Who else is coming? Don’t remind me, I can’t bear it,” Elizabeth said fretfully while Norbert opened and closed his mouth like a goldfish.

        “I have an idea!” she announced suddenly, standing up and crushing a mince pie that had rolled under her desk. “Gather round, come on, come on!”

        Arona Haki shuffled in with the dustpan and mop, as Finnley blew her nose loudly and wiped the tears from her eyes. Norbert stood silently, waiting.

        “It wouldn’t matter WHO came,” Liz paused for effect, “If none of us were here!”

        “But we are here, aren’t we,” remarked Finnley. Norbert and Haki murmured in agreement.

        “We are now!” replied Liz, “But we could be gone in an hour! We could go and visit my cousin ~ third cousin twice removed, actually ~ in Australia. They have an old inn and it’s sure to be half empty, it’s in the middle of nowhere, and,” she added triumphantly, “It will be lovely and warm there!”

        “Blisteringly hot, more like,” muttered Finnley, “And would they like unexpected visitors for Chri, er Kri, er, that date on the calendar?”

        “I’m sure they’d be delighted, “ replied Liz, crisply. “Not everyone is as curmudgeonly about Chri, er, Kri, er that date on the calendar as we are. And anyway,” she added, “If I write it into the story that they are delighted, then they will have no option but to be pleased to see us.”

        “If you bloody lot are coming to the Flying Fish Inn, I’m buggering off to Mars for the holidays” said Bert.

        Elizabeth spun round, saying sharply, “Bert! Get back to your own thread this instant! The bloody cheek of it, thread hopping like that, really!”


          Flora came to her senses muttering something about a coachload of American tourists in Italy. Bert had been the first to arrive at the scene of the accident. Not one to flap in a crisis, he calmly picked up the injured woman and carried her to the sofa in the living room, instructing Prune to fetch the mop and clean the blood off the floor. By the time Bert had seen to the wound on Flora’s head, she was starting to come round, muttering gibberish and apparently confused.

          “Where am I? Is this Florence or Rome? Am I late?” she asked, telling Bert she was perfectly alright now thank you, although she clearly wasn’t.

          “No, you aint late, dear, it’s still quite early,” Bert replied soothingly.

          “But I must get to the Vatican Library, I must be getting on now,” she said, trying to stand up.

          Bert gently but firmly pushed her back down, saying, “Have a nice cup of tea first, plenty of time for that later.”

          “What the dickens is going on now?” asked Mater. “What’s all this about Rome? Anyone seen my reading glasses?” she asked, peering around the room from the doorway.

          Bert explained briefly, and asked Mater to sit with Flora while he went to make the tea.


            “Dear Kitty, you didn’t think I would miss your birthday for all the world.” Anna Purrna handed out with a sappy smile an awful cupcake topped with a green butter cream that looked like come out of a toothpaste tube days ago. “Happy birthday Terry.”

            She sent an icy glare at the others who took it as a cue to singing “Happy Birthday” in falsetto voices.

            “Good. Now, back to business, chop chop.”

            As soon as she was out of sight, they all looked with commiseration at Terry. Maurana even ventured a whisper “That was humiliating.” Consuela whispered too “Told you, you shouldn’t have accepted the bitch’s friend invitation on Flushbuck. Had to be a trap… Although saying no, would have meant… well, yes too, but no… Well, you get my meaning.”

            The other looked at her with blank stares, stopped in their mopping. They promptly resumed making washing noises to avoid drawing back the attention of the dwarf queen.

            “Girls.” Maurana said “Got nothing to do with being black and all, but I got to tell you this. Ain’t gonna be this bitch that’ll bring back slavery upon us AND child labor to top it. Trust Maurana on that. We got to wake up and strike back. That horrid cupcake was a declaration of war. We need a plan.”
            “Agreed.” the traumatized Terry spoke her first words since the last minutes. “I think we may have to call Sadie for help, she was always the one with those ezapper plans, no?”
            “I had some trenches and attrition warfare in mind, more like, but this plan is good as any, no?” acquiesced Consuela. “Let me make that call, I kept her emergency number next to mum’s”.


              “You call that a contract…” Reginald and his two friends, to varying degrees, managed to keep queenly looks in their royal blue dungarees. “I call that being royally fucked…”

              “Oh shut up and mop!” Cedric had become the most sullen and despondent about the whole thing, and would only reply by short sentences.

              Amar was the most philosophical about the whole situation “Let’s see it that way, cleaning up the Time Sewers isn’t so bad; they’re no longer in use, we ain’t got nobody on our backs,… the pay isn’t fabulous, but we are!”

              “Nobody heard about Linda? or Sadie?” Amar’s question was interrupted by a call on Cedric’s phone. His mother again.

              When he hung up, Amar resumed his litany of questions and monologue, as an excuse for not mopping around. “Still haven’t told your mum, hmmm?”

              Cedric ignored the last question “No, I haven’t heard about Linda Fucking Pol, or Sadie. Bitches.”


                It was the month of mass lunacy, and all through the house, all the creatures were snoring, except the mouse. All mad as Almad on the Rides o9f March, Mari Fe cackled out loud, then pulled a face, remembering the feel of the spongy mouse between her fingers in the kitchen sink. Expecting the blockage in the drain to be dog hairs, the surprisingly solid but spongy feel had been a shock, and the sensation had lingered nauseatingly.

                How long had he been in the mop bucket? Then it dawned on her ~ the dog leg riddle. Of course! He appeared just after the first dog leg clue ~ and no doubt left, via the mop bucket, when the dog leg riddle was solved.

                Mari Fe shivered, it was all rather spooky. No wonder she felt a bit mad.


                  Aqua Luna was was mopping the floor of the Surge Team’s HQ. She was not strictly speaking a member of the Team, and the only sponge insigna she had was her mop and the few sponges she used to clean the keyboards and the screens of “the deck” as they called their room full of computers and screens and blinking red and blue lights.

                  She’s been here for ages, since Lord Ed Steam had founded the organisation actually. People didn’t usually pay attention to her and she could go everywhere. Almost. There was a room where she couldn’t go and she didn’t know what was in there. Only the higher ranked members could penetrate this secret room. She tried several times to cast a glance just before they closed the door, but there always was some bloody smoke coming out of the room.

                  Her mama had told her many times, ‘Aqua Luna, there is no smoke without fire’. There must be a huge fire inside that room for it’s always smokey.

                  The door opened again, but she was too far and she only could see the fumes again. ‘Could that be a dragon ?’, she thought. But what use could the surge team have of a dragon. Aqua Luna knew for sure that dragons were real. Her Mama had told her so when she was a kid, and she trusted her Mama, even when she was shouting at her. ‘It’s for your own good Aqua Luna”.

                  This time it was that young woman, Cornella who went out. She seemed concerned and she was talking in her unicomp.


                  In reply to: Tales of Tw’Elves


                    Through her tears Sue Flay caught a glimpse of the sun flashing on the shiny foil purple party hooter lying at her feet. Curiosity halted the sobs that were vibrating the wooden decking under the cafe terraces, much to the relief of several dozen Italian tourists, who were busily mopping up the coffee that had sloshed over their cups and onto their buns.

                    Who sent me this purple party hooter? Sue asked, blowing her nose on Fray Mentos’ white loincloth, providing the Italian tourists with an eyeful of Fray’s crown jewels which were momentarily exposed to the salty marina air.


                    In reply to: Tales of Tw’Elves


                      Well trained by the dictates of his religion, Luigi was unaccustomed to listening to his intuition (it was the work of the devil and the weakness of his sinful self, he believed), but as he mopped up the spilled coffee, he had an impulse so strong that he was unable to control it, and picked the book up and stuffed it into the inside pocket of his jacket. He checked his watch ~ what! it was 7:57 already! Where had the time gone? Five minutes later he emerged into the rosy glow of the early morning sunshine, making his way accross the square to the cafe where he customarily had coffee after his night shift at the Library. The occupants of the tents in the square were rustling about inside the tents, some of the early risers were sitting on folding chairs brewing up coffee on primus camping stoves. As Petronella poked her tousled head out of her tent, dreams of banana puddings in polystyrene cups still in her head, an old man shuffled past. A flock of pigeons swooped down at that moment, causing the old man to lurch. A book slid to the ground from under his jacket but he didn’t notice as he carried on accross the square. Petronella picked the book up, and retreated back into her tent.


                      — “I’m sure some weaving of threads can be done at a later date if necessary, if it doesn’t weave itself. Did you see the weaving quotes?”
                      — “Well, it would be like asking shaven sheep to have their mops of hair on the floor weave themselves on their own…”
                      — “Text/textile ~ weaving a story, which was where mother goose came in!”
                      — “And how would she know the first thing about weaving, she’s only got feathers on her back!”
                      — “Ah but she weaves a good story”
                      — “She doesn’t,… she pensThat’s what I call weaving… We need more giant spiders! Are you still … game?”


                        Two students of the Free the Fiction Writer Within evening course were whispering in a corridor of the Academy before it began.

                        — Did you hear about prof. Moose?
                        — Yes, you mean what happened with Pedro last night?

                        They turned their head at the same time to look at Pedro, another student who arrived recently in town. He was sitting on the floor, reading a book and apparently unaware that he was the subject of several discussions.

                        — Well, yes. Max the janitor was passing by one of the service room when he heard some odd noise. I don’t know if it’s out of curiosity or because it was a service room, but he opened the door and found them half naked between brooms and mops.
                        — What I heard was that she told him bluntly that she was busy helping one of her students with the assignment she gave her students last time…
                        — No! she told that?
                        — Yes, apparently Pedro never had sex before and he went after the class to see her and asked her if she could help him. And after what Max said she was more than happy to help him out.


                        “Are these the snooters?”
                        “You mean, snow scooters Glo?”
                        “Yes, snooters, that’s what I said Mavis, don’t be bloody snooty with me”
                        “They’re jolly small, init?”
                        “Don’t be silly girls, 250 pounds max weight it says! With us as light as air, even with that mop of hair, it’ll carry us to Texas in no time”
                        “Texas? Not sure there’s much snow in there…”
                        “Oh shut up Mavis!”

                        With that said, Sharon, Gloria and Mavis were soon riding on the icy slopes, with Akita solidly snetted to the back of Sharon’s machine.


                        Military hospital, Scott Base, October 2008

                        “It’s BLOODY freezing ‘ere!” a hirsute mop of hair was whining on a camp bed next to two others.

                        “Would you just shut the flove up, Glo! You’ve been whining for ‘ours now! It’s not bloddy believable…”
                        “Like Mavis says, Glo! We all got in that same bloddy boat ye know… It’s no bed of stinkin’ roses for us either!”

                        A long sigh came from Glo, again interrupting the silence.

                        “A bloddy pity, you have to admit; being a lady, with PMS for years… At least I could console meself I didn’t have to shave like a man for Pete’s sake! And now we’re over with bloddy PMS, we are as hairy as gorillas!”

                        “Don’t be silly Glo, they said they’d find a cure… innit Sha? T’is not what they said? Vessie promised us!”
                        “Yeah, just before that little trollop ran away with the others, leaving us in quarantine… Not even a consideration for our efforts to help her seduce the sexy guy …”
                        “Ungrateful yeah… When we could have stolen the guy’s heart easily…”
                        “Ahahaha, no blimin’ way! not with your new hairdo Sha dear… Ahahah, don’t mean to be rude!”
                        “Hey girls, any idea where’s Askitoy?…”
                        Akita ?”
                        “Put him in confinement I reckon… The poor bloke was delirious, saying he was a WWII soldier…”
                        “Good thing the bloddy honeycomb didn’t make us loose our sharp wits, eh!”


                        Marvin Scrozzezi was taking a look at the rushes they’d taken the other day. At first he was considering putting them in the bonus section of his movie, a blooper section or something.

                        But now, the blooper section was overweighting the “real” movie by far. And with the defection of few of the actors (well, “actors” was more of an empty shell of a title than anything else, as most of them were friends or acquaintances), he had to hire new ones.

                        What a mess.


                        Perhaps he should continue his movie with different actors playing the same role alternatively. That would make a nice change. Perhaps it would even been hailed as a pioneer movie by the auteur movies snotty critics.

                        “Whatever works…” he giggled to himself as he started to rewrite some parts of the scripts.

                        F LoveF Love

                          Phew, said Becky, mopping her brow with her hand, what a great work out!

                          Tina was very impressed with how diligently Becky was doing her Visualisation Exercises for Pregnancy, and rather surprised to see genuine sweat pouring down her flushed and hot face. She had agreed to do the exercises with Becky, but truth to tell had dozed off after a few minutes. Still, not that I need to do exercises, Tina thought, admiring her toned and slim body. Becky kept complaining about weight gain, and Tina had tried to point out that was what happened when one had a baby. Becky was having none of it.

                          By the way Tina, what’s up with Al?

                          Yeah … said Tina hesitantly, torn between loyalty and honesty. Well I don’t really know. He is a bit obsessed …

                          Obsessed is the word! It’s turning into a monologue. We had better write something soon or who knows what havoc he will wreak on the reality play. You know he killed the spider?

                          Well, said Tina brightly, always willing to see the bright side, at least it has distracted him from his body modification experiments for a while.


                            Becky hugged Sam and ruffled his fluffy mop of hair. You’re so funny, Sam, she said, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.


                            Ibn al’ Gruk was weary.
                            That lone grake he had seen flying over the desert settlement this morning had baffled him.
                            Usually, such creatures where not migrating at this season, and this one was lone too, which was all the more baffling.

                            The old gripshawk had seen many things in his life, but this was surely a presage of importance. In the myths of his people, the big colourful birds were once thriving in the desert oasis, where they were thought to have appeared in the Old Times. But having been extensively hunted down as food for the gripshawk tribes, they had moved away, and the balance had been broken.
                            It had prompted lots of the tribes to move apart, in search of food and exchanges, and few of them were now still living in the deserts as they did in the old ways. Many of them, for many generations now, had been creating cities on the coast, and the most flourishing one was Chafik’ An, where a traveling portal had been erected by the humans from Lan’Ork to facilitate exchanges and trades.

                            All of that, despite his old age (that his long mop of white angora hair under his chin could account for), Ibn al’ Gruk had only heard all of this through the lineage of his ancestors, but he had seen some of the conflicts that had been created, and he understood that change again was in the air.

                            He felt like he could weave a new tale to entertain the settlement tonight, and perhaps give them inkling as to the new changes to come.
                            For he felt changes were coming, and that they had been in motion already.


                            The night was clear, and lots of people had gathered around the big bonfire. They all loved these regular meetings where everyone would meet and share food, drinks and over all, gaiety.

                            He started to drum low deep sounds and cleared his throat.
                            A fit of cough got him by surprise, but it was just a hairball that he spat in the fire, which set ablaze immediately, providing some dramatic effect that hushed everyone down.

                            “In a mysterious land far far away,” started Ibn al’ Gruk, with a growling voice…


                            Egypt, 2657 B.C.

                            Lekshen had dreamt of Set that night. The god had appeared to him in one of his familiar forms, that of a long snouted animal .
                            Lekhsen was wondering why the god had requested such a task for him to do, but he was certainly in the perfect position to accomplish such a task.
                            Like Set, Lekhsen came from Upper Egypt, the arid land, and he had managed to get a high-ranking responsibility in fertile Lower Egypt as a scribe thanks to the unification efforts of Pharaoh.

                            But Pharaoh’s daughter had just died… right after her 10 year old brother, and Pharaoh’s himself felt He would not live much longer.
                            Which would mean that the closest male in the family would be likely to get on the throne of Egypt. And that would be bad news for people like him, as the brothers and brothers-in-law of Pharaoh did not appreciate much His policy.

                            In the dream, the strange creature had asked him to hide something with the mummy of Pharaoh’s daughter. It had told him people would forget about how Set was fighting for Ra, the Sun, each night that the bark was traveling on the dangerous underworld waters. They would forget, and would demonise him and his people, and he, Lekhsen would have to write the story, and bury it with the Princess. His status would allow him to do it unscathed.

                            “Would people ever remember they once were One?” had asked Lekshen to the god.
                            “Only you can tell” had the creature answered.


                            Huÿgens was not much of a cat person.

                            He liked his dogs because they were solid, loyal companions, and he could count on them to take care of his herd of langoats.

                            Langoats were a kind of three-eyed manic woolly and horned creatures, with a big sensing tongue, attracted to every new sound, or scent, or colour, or texture… well almost anything new that came before their eyes (when said eyes were not covered by thick layers of wool that is). And as their memory was short too, all kinds of things were always new to them.

                            That was why the dogs were extremely useful in channeling their movements; not that the langoats would have hurt themselves, because they were very able to provide for themselves, and jump from the top of a cliff without suffering much injuries. But they could very well loose all notion of their physicality and pop in and out of the fabric of time and space.

                            When they came back, because they always did magically come back, even after months of wandering, they would at times be reconfigured into another creature, and that would be pointless applying too much effort in trying to bring them back to their previous form, because it was said, in relation to their stubbornness that once a langoat, always a langoat

                            Huÿgens had already lost some, especially during the shearing season.

                            And he had found himself back once with a cumbersome hippoliphant, and a bouncy shulimeek instead of two langoats.

                            Anyway, langoats wool was a very precious asset, highly sought after, as it could very easily bind with magical spells. Most of the clothes made for royalties were actually made with langoat wool, and it was also said that some enchanters had used langoat wool to make magical tapestries that would shapeshift, and reveal things to their owners.

                            So losing a langoat was not small concern for Huÿgens, and he had to be careful during the shearing season to leave some mops of hair to cover the three eyes of the beasts, so as to curb their insatiable thirst for discoveries.

                            But these days, Huÿgens had been very concerned about his herding dog Fjutch. Fjutch was a fluffy black dog he had found when it was still a puppy. He had trained it to become the head of his pack of dogs, when he had noticed the old rheumatic Thöm was taking the puppy under its wing —because the old faithful dog was knowing that it would depart and would reconfigure into a new form, but would not allow that to happen, not before he could have found a reliable companionship for his beloved master Huÿgens.

                            The healing properties of the langoat milk seemed to had done wonders once again, and Fjutch dis-ease was probably just a false alarm, but it had reminded Huÿgens how much he appreciated his dogs, every one of them, every day he was with them.

                            As for the cats… Illi, that was her name, had decided to come back to the cave, and he was showing her the way to the place where he had found her. He had asked BelleDora to pack a few things for her. He could not give Illi the beverage she was referring to as “coffee”, as that plant was not found in their region, but in compensation, he gave her a gourd of langoat milk, because she seemed like she would probably need some.

                            When he left her near the hole, he had some tears in his eyes when Illi hugged Fjutch very tenderly, as if the dog was reminding her of something dear. Illi after a moment hesitation, where she was like speaking to herself and not knowing what to do, finally hugged Huÿgens too, thanking him for everything he had done.

                            And off she was… free and unfettered as a gripshawk


                            When Illi had finished arguing with Illi about having her hug the big man, while this was not manners of her kind, she sighed as she saw that the opening she had first thought was here (yeah, because I fell in there! she said), her senses where telling her that it was now closed…

                            How quaint said Illi for herself.
                            — Well, as a matter of fact, it reminds me of something, said Illi F. There was that delicious gentleman, John Lubbock who said “What we see depends mainly on what we look for” and somehow it seems perfect.
                            — I don’t know any Grubbeck, grumbled Illi, a bit irritated that the hole, which was there before, wouldn’t be here, now she needed it.
                            — Lubbock was such a nice person, said Illi dreamily… Perhaps I could just try to have a peek inside the cave, if you let me.
                            — What?! Do again your wizzy wooey thing and I’ll strangle you! Don’t know how I would do it, but I’ll do it!
                            — Oh, you are so sluggishly gloomy! That was just to help you…
                            — Mmm, sorry for that, I was a bit upset, said Illi. What could you do?
                            — Just focus on the inside, and carry us both inside… But actually you would have to leave your body here, and we’ll probably see other things that do not belong to this place, but heck! that should be fun, Illi F said grinning widely.

                            They were interrupted by some munching sounds and ruffling heavy breath.

                            — What the bejeezus is that?! hissed Illi the cat (who didn’t even know how she knew so funny sounding words as bejeezus)
                            — Can’t you see? That’s obviously a dragon eating some bushes… How strange… replied Illi F airily.
                            — A WHAT? I HATE DRAGONS!
                            — Ahahah, relax, I was just pulling your leg.
                            — That’s not funny.
                            — Well he has funny colours by the way. Pinkish purple I wouldn’t dare to wear in London streets.
                            — That’s REALLY NOT FUNNY!
                            — Why so? You can’t see it anyway…
                            — And what if he sees me? Dragons are vicious creatures.
                            — He’s too busy eating these funny berries, and will probably collapse of exhaustion once he’s full.
                            — A chance! A vegetarian dragon!
                            — OK. Shall we try to find an entrance in the cave with my method, or do we ask the dragon? He looks well-mannered by the way.
                            — Oh, by the eyeballs of the Mighty Shrimp, you tell me…
                            — No, you choose.
                            — No, you.
                            — You…
                            — Ooooh, bugger off…

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