She made us miss Mater’s birthday, didn’t she?
Idle had one job…
Truth is, wouldn’t have been much fun to party with masks on, although the thought occurred that a masquerade ball would be something to behold.
Oh well, Mater is going to have a field day making us all look guilty. I’m sure it’ll warm her soft heart. Might be all she needs nowadays.
Can’t say that the business at the inn had been splendid. We’ve grown so used to the idea we might have to sell it anytime, that it doesn’t feel such an earthshattering revelation.
But if we sell, how much can we scrap by to send Mater to a nice nursing home. She might screech and kick us if we only voiced the idea. People have no idea how feral she can be on the topic. Aunt Dido knows though. I’m sure she’s having a few hustles down the road to get the household afloat.
“Finnley, when you’ve fed all those dogs, would you be so kind as to hire me a secretary. I simply can’t keep up.”
It was Liz’s turn to snort. “Carrots and snails, that’s all he’s interested in nowadays. I don’t know what the world’s coming to. You just can’t get the…”
Finnley clapped her hands over her ears and cut her off. “Please! Don’t say that again!”
“Why is it so dark in here?” said Liz changing the subject.
Barron wasn’t one to let a call for help unanswered.
Yes, Barron, not the wee prodigee from the Beige House that he enjoyed possessing, but the demon summoned from Hell.
It had all been a big misunderstanding, as they all say in the end. He, for one, would have thought the ride more fun. He usually wasn’t summoned for anything short of an apocalypse. That’s what the big elite cabale had promised him.
Oh well, maybe he shouldn’t have eaten them in their sleep. He couldn’t say no to the fresh taste of unrepentant sharks and sinners. Since then, he’d been a bit stuck with the big Lump. He would have thought he’d be more competent at the whole Armageddon thing.
Back in the past, now that was something, the Crusades, the plague and all. So much fun. Gilles de Rais, well, he took it too far, blaming monsters for his own horrendous sins. Nowadays, people didn’t really need direction, did they? They were all too happy to ride barrelling out of control towards chaos and certain death. His job was done, he would be a legend down there, and still he felt like a fraud.
So what could he do? His plan for eternal holidays in Mexico while starting a cartel war had been sadly derailed. His mercurial and weirdo nannies had disappeared leaving him alone. Plus, the voodoo witch he met during their escape had been on his ass the whole time, he’d seen the eye she’d given him. Wouldn’t mess around with that one; can’t possess people against their will and risk a merciless lawyer from Heavens, can we. Heavens’ lawyers were the nastiest of pains.
He was about to abandon all hope when he’d heard the pleas from the French maid and her child. Well, she sounded too whimsical and high maintenance. But it gave him an idea. With all the death around, there were plenty of near dead people to possess who wouldn’t mind a last ride,… and funny bargains to be made.
Finally! We’ve been disembarked, I thought I would go mad on this ship. Felt it must have been less excruciating for those on the Pequod. But whales are too smart nowadays, they don’t want to catch our silly viruses, they don’t taste as good as walruses.
The voices have quieted down for now, maybe it was only the voices of the other passengers carried through the pipes. Wife didn’t seem to suffer as much from the confinement, she just can’t wait to resume her life.
Just received a text from our daughter who went to buy groceries for when we return: “In the store now. All the pasta, rice and sauces have been cleared out. Preppers craze much? 🤦”
I had to laugh to myself. Guess it looks promising for when the real apocalypse comes…JibParticipant
Coming from the computer world that makes it a pun of sort. I’m overloaded with whales nowadays. They’re everywhere. Are you involved? Or were they around all along? I must say I never paid too much attention to whales before. Now it’s a sticker on the asphalt when I get out of the metro to my daily rendez-vous with myself at the café. Or an advertisement of a winking whale on a bus side for a whale cruise near Canada. Or a friend this morning who called me to tell his dream: A Ballistic Whale shut through huge distance in space, it was angry and ever arriving.
Let me think that something big is coming.
I ordered a macchiato and the waiter had made a funny whale design with the foamed cream. When I asked he said he didn’t know why because he had never made it before. I could see it. And it looked angrier as the foam melted. I decided not to pay too much attention to the whale, focusing my attention instead on finding a friend in the passing crowd. Lots of students that day. A group of girl came and stopped right in front of me, chatting loudly. I started to feel irritated and looked at them angrily. One of them saw my face and turned to tell something to her friends. I saw the blue whale keyring hanging from her backpack zipper. They all looked at me and laughed.
I think I’m whale cursed.
Cousin Lisa came calling yesterday morning and she tells us there’s some in the Village have come down with sickness. Of course it would be Lisa being the bearer of such news, her face lit up when I tell her I have heard nothing. Cook, over hearing our conversation, which was private but Cook is always sticking her great nose in where it is not required, she’s hung braids of garlic at the front door. I caught her telling the children it was to keep away the evil spirits that brought death. Poor little Jimmy couldn’t sleep last night he was that afraid of the spirits bringing death in the night. He asked endless questions, how will the garlic stop them? Can the spirits get in through a window instead? He got his sister afraid also and the pair of them wouldn’t sleep then for crying in fear. I told Cook off roundly this morning for speaking to them thus.
The master came home filled with drink, crashing around like the damned drunken fool he is nowadays. He shouted at the children for their crying and shouted at me for not keeping them quiet. At least he did not raise his fists for he wanted to lie with me and I nearly retched with his stinking breath coming close and thank God for His mercies that the fool passed out before he could do the deed. I may have done harm if he’d tried for the brass bell was sitting there on the table (and it is a heavy thing) and I was seeing at it as he came close and there was a moment I could have picked it up and crashed it to his skull. May God forgive me.
He makes my skin crawl for I know what he has done that he thinks I don’t know. But all will come to light if not in this world then the next. I am more sure than ever I must get away and the children with me.
Truth be told, April was missing the US. She missed all their little coterie of maids living in the shadows of the powerful. Missed the drama most of all.
She’d been secretly texting Norma and May, while June was lazily sipping mojitos with Jacqui.
Norma was fine, but May and the other alien staff had suddenly disappeared when the Secret Services had started to investigate more deeply into the staff’s backgrounds after all the kidnapping fiasco. At least, August had been covering for Norma, such kind soul he was. Besides, the President’s wife could no longer live without her butter chicken. But May and the others couldn’t face the music apparently. Funnily, they couldn’t find “real” American maids nowadays suited to replace them. Good luck with that!
April couldn’t tell June, obviously, since her friend harboured such hatred for the system that had them put in jail. As for herself, she couldn’t argue with the fact they’d deserved it. Nothing a good lawyer couldn’t fix though. That’s why she loved the idea of America. Guilty as charged, indeed. Those charges now vanished.
She’d thought first that it would fuel her inspiration nicely, but it was the opposite. The sudden extra time had distracted her entirely, and her inspiration seemed inaccessible.
She was starting to make up her mind. She would go back, to her family in Arkansas. That could only be temporary of course, as her mother, bless her soul, would start to have her meet all the gents in the neighbourhood in the hopes to finally get her only daughter married. Talk about drama. If that doesn’t kick-start her inspiration engine, nothing would.
Problem was, with the virus around spreading mass panic, there seemed to be no sure way to fly back. She would have to devise some circuitous plan.
The front door of Mr French had a certain Gothic quality to it which caught the eye of Star. She was a sucker for the glitz and the extravagant –the more garish, the better. Had she got her way, their office would be full of the cumbersome stuff. Catching the glint in Star’s green eyes, Tara rolled hers. She clanged the metal lion to signal their presence.
A decrepit butler called off their ruckus after what seemed like a pause in eternity. They could hear the rambling from a distance behind the door. “I’m coming! No need for such noise! Ah, these youngs nowadays, not a shred of patience!…”
“Shttt, let me handle it,” replied Star shaping her face into a genial one, oozing honey and butterflies.
When the butler finally opened the door, he snapped her shut “We’re not interested in whatever… hem, services you’re offering Mesdames.”
The butler’s face turned sour. “Yes of course, I understand. Then you should know Mr French has been in a coma since his dreadful accident last month. Since you have a direct line to him, I suggest you… call him?” And with that, he slammed the door shut on their faces.
“Rude!” Tara mouthed.
“At least, that tells us something my dear.”
“Don’t bait me like this. I’ll ask, what exactly?”
“That our Mr French is not who he says he is…”
“I wonder if it has something to do with the immense fortune he made with his voice…”
“That would be a very interesting question to answer indeed.”
I don’t know how I restrained myself from throttling Finly when she finally handed me the letter from Corrie. A whole week she’d had it, and wouldn’t share it until she’d cleaned every last window. Some peoples priorities, I ask you! The funny thing was that even when I had it in my hand I didn’t open it right away. Even with Mater and Bert breathing down my neck.
It was something to savour, the feeling of having an unopened letter in ones hand. Not that this looked like the letters we used to get years ago, all crisp and slim on white paper, addressed in fine blue ink. This was a bundle tied with a bit of wool pulled out of an old jumper by the look of it, all squiggly, holding together several layers of yellowed thin cardboard and written on with a beetroot colour dye and a makeshift brush by the look of it. The kind of thing that used to be considered natural and artistic, long ago, when such things were the fashion. I suppose the fashion now, in such places where fashion still exists, is for retro plastic. They said plastic litter wouldn’t decompose for hundreds of years, how wrong they were! I’d give my right arm now for a cupboard full of tupperware with lids. Or even without lids. Plastic bottles and shopping bags ~ when I think back to how we used to hate them, and they’re like gold now. Better than gold, nobody has any interest in gold nowadays, but people would sell their soul for a plastic bucket.
I waited until the sun was going down, and sat on the porch with the golden rays of the lowering sun slanting across the yard. I clasped the bundle to my heart and squinted into the sun and sighed with joyful anticipation.
“For the love of god, will you get on with it!” said Bert, rudely interrupting the moment.
Gently I pulled the faded red woolen string, and stopped for a moment, imaging the old cardigan that it might have been.
I didn’t have to look at Mater to know what the expression on her face was, but I wasn’t going to be rushed. The string fell into my lap and I turned the first piece of card over.
There was a washed out picture of a rooster on it and a big fancy K.
“Cornflakes!” I started to weep. “Look, cornflakes!”
“You always hated cornflakes,” Mater said, missing the point as usual. “You never liked packet cereal.”
The look I gave her was withering, although she didn’t seem to wither, not one bit.
“I used to like rice krispies,” Bert said.
By the time we’d finished discussing cereal, the sun had gone down and it was too dark to read the letter.
The vegetable garden has provided a dismal crop this year. And what the heat hasn’t shrivelled, the insects have put paid to. Most weeks, I’ve had to send Bert to Willamonga to buy us veges from the Saturday markets. Or I will send him in to town to buy some of the bush food the Aboriginals sell from the store. “Yeah, yeah, Mater,” he says. “Don’t worry about food. There’s plenty.”
Of course I worry about food! We’ve all got to eat, don’t we? And look at my poor excuse of a garden; that won’t be feeding us!
There’s been some rain, not much, not enough to do more than dampen the surface of the ground. It’s down deep the soil needs water. There are secrets down deep.
“Bert,” I say. “You remembered there’s folk coming to stay? We’ll need extra food for them. Better go to the market on Saturday, eh?”
“You make sure there’s enough food for them all, Bert. We’ve not had this many booked for a long while. And Dodo can’t organise herself to get up in the morning, let alone look after others. Is she still drinking?”
“Don’t fuss, Mater,” he says with a smile. “All under control.” And he speaks so loud, like I’m hard of hearing or something.
People are always telling me not to worry, nowadays. Telling me to sit down and rest. Do I want a nice cup of tea? they ask. Telling me I’ve earned it. Treating me like I’m halfway in the grave already.
Except for that Finly. She turned out to be a godsend when I hired her all those years ago. Smart as a tack, that one. Not much she doesn’t see. Makes me laugh with her little sideways remarks. Works like a horse and honest as the day is long.
And my god, the days feel long.
Anyway, I won’t be going to the grave any time soon. There’s things need doing first. Wrongs which need putting right. Things the children need to know.
The grounds so dry. The worms have all gone down deep to find water. Better remember to put out food and water for the birds. And does Bert know to buy food? There are secrets down deep. The earth’s held them close long enough.
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.
“Do you remember when we ‘ad those beauty treatments with that nice doctor, Sha?”
“Oh, I do, Glor! You looked that drop dead gorgeous! You turned ‘eads.”
“So did you, Sha! You were a stunner!”
“Wot was ‘is name again? That doctor?”
“Mavis will know. Why don’t you send ‘er one of those text thingammybobs everyone does nowadays and find out.”
“Good idea, Glor! Oh, you know wot!”
“Wot Sha? Tell me? I’m all agog. ‘Ave you ‘ad one of your bloody brainwaves?”
“I ‘ave! I’ve ‘ad a bloody brainwave … Let’s go for another beauty treatment with him! A touch up sort of thing!”
“Wot was that girl’s name? You know, quite bossy … wot was she called again?”
“Oh, I know who you mean? bloody bossy tart, wasn’t she. And we tried so ‘ard to help ‘er.”
“We did. No bloody gratitude. Virginia, was it? Started with a ‘V’ I reckon.”
“Tip of my tongue, it is. I’m that excited about your bloody idea … I can’t remember my own name, let alone ‘er name!”
Sometimes, you have to go underground to uncover the truth.
Rukshan thought it meant taking the new underground carts once only.
Frankly, he’d preferred to travel through the familiar Shadow Maps, the ones Dark Faes like him could draw, that would give them access to a secret parallel world of mist and phantoms, shadows and secrets. It was the true world the Faes originated from, long ago, in a time before history.
It wasn’t used much nowadays, most Centenial Faes having lost the capacity, or the interest in the place, leaving only bitter unsavoury people creeping there, spying on secrets, and trading in for favours, while being too afraid to leave the known parallel world, too afraid that if they left it, they’d lose the way back.
For Rukshan and a few in the Queen’s lineage, the place was still more or less of a familiar dwelling, a winter residence of sorts, for when solace and retreat was required.
Only the Shadow Maps weren’t safe any longer, something had crept along the lay lines and was lurking at every corner, keeping guard at most of the known entrances and reporting to some unknown power.
Few moons back, Rukshan was still meditating in the Shadow world, not very far from the work at the cottage, which he could hear at times through the thin dimensional walls, when he came across Konrad. Konrad, another Fae from the Old Houses, one with a heavy secret. “I’ve hidden her from him” he told him in short broken sentences. “His daughter, Nesingwarys, she is hidden for now, but He’ll be looking for her, once He recovers, and she won’t be safe. He can’t find her, I have to protect her, she holds power to bring his reign of terror back.”
Truly, it didn’t make a lot of sense, but it had picked his curiosity. Rukshan left the other Fae to his apparent madness, but wondered about the coincidence. That Garl, the name Konrad gave to the dark fallen monarch, according to what he could piece together, seemed to have been vanquished or disappeared about the same time they’d all managed to repel the Shadow in the Forest.
He would usually have left it at that, but then, a few days later, started to realize something was wrong in the Shadow world, and that this very something was growing.
“And now, I’m stuck in an underground cart crammed full of people to go to the city. And they call that progress…”
A bearded guy smelling of piss and wine, was doing acrobatics with his crutches and what was left of his left leg. He was looking at people with a half-toothed grin and a blissful face while muttering things Rukshan couldn’t figure. His face reminded him of a thespian he’d known. Rukshan couldn’t shake the feeling there was message in that. When the underground cart dinged to announce the Grand Belfrey Station, Rukshan was relieved to finally be out for fresh air. Magnificent craftsmanship he would say to the gnomes in charge of the tunnels, but really, underground cart wasn’t his thing.
“What was in the bag, Finnley, tell us!”
Everyone was looking at the maid after the Inspector had left hurriedly, under the pretext of taking care of a tip he had received on the disappearance of the German girl.
Godfrey was the most curious in fact. He couldn’t believe in the facade of meanness that Finnley carefully wrapped herself into. The way she cared about the animals around the house was a testimony to her well hidden sweetness. Most of all, he thought herself incapable of harming another being.
But he had been surprised before. Like when Liz’ had finished a novel, long ago.
“Alright, I’ll show you. Stay there, you lot of accomplices.”
“Liz’, will you focus please! The mystery is about to be revealed!”
“Oh shut up, Godfrey, there’s no mystery at all. I’ve known for a while what that dastardly maid had done. I’ve been onto her for weeks!”
“Oh, don’t you give me that look. I’m not as incapable as you think, and that bloodshot-eyes stupor I affect is only to keep annoyances away. Like my dear mother, if you remember.”
“So tell us, if you’re so smart now. In case it’s really a corpse, at least, we may all be prepared for the unwrapping!”
“A CORPSE! Ahaha, you fool Godfrey. It’s not A corpse! It’s MANY CORPSES!”
Godfrey really thought for a second that she had completely lost it. Again. He would have to call the nearby sanatorium, make up excuses for the next signing session at the library, and cancel all future public appear…
“Will you stop that! I know what you’re doing, you bloody control machine! Stop that thinking of yours, I can’t even hear myself thinking nowadays for all your bloody thinking. Now, as I was saying of course she’d been hiding all the corpses!”
“Are you insane, Liz’ —at least keep your voice down…”
“Don’t be such a sourdough Godfrey, you’re sour, and sticky and all full of gas. JUST LET ME EXPLAIN, for Lemone’s sake!”
Godfrey fell silent for a moment, eyeing a lost peanut left on a shelf nearby.
Conscious of the unfair competition for Godfrey’s attention Elizabeth blurted it all in one sentence:
“She’s been collecting them, my old failed stories, the dead drafts and old discarded versions of them. Hundreds of characters, those little things, I’d given so many cute little names, but they had no bones or shape, and very little personality, I had to smother them to death.” She started sobbing uncontrollably.
“Oh, bloody hell. Don’t you tell me I brought that dirty bag of scraps up for nothing!”
She left there, running for the door screaming “I’m not doing the carpets again!”
And closed the door with a sonorous “BUGGER!”
The door to the living room burst open startling Sue whose teacup rattled against the saucer. John merely glanced up with a frown, and pointedly stared at the tv screen.
“Anyone want to join me for a walk?” Clove asked brightly, perhaps even a little feverishly.
“When, dear?” asked Sue. “I’m washing the curtains tomorrow.”
“Now!” Clove replied. “A nice moonlit walk to the park! It’s a lovely evening,” she added hopefully.
“Steady on, old girl,” said John. “We’re watching the telly.”
“Things like that need to be planned, Clove,” Sue said. “And besides, we’re watching tv now.”
“You can’t just go out walking in the dark, haven’t you read the papers? Streets are full of yobs after dark, it’s not safe.” John shook his head and tutted. “Things aren’t like they used to be.”
Sue agreed. “No, times have changed. You don’t want to be out after dark, not nowadays”
“But if we all go together it might be fun!” Clove was feeling desperate. “It’s fun doing something spontaneous, just getting up and doing it!”
John appeared to give this some consideration.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said, shaking his head again. “No, that would never do.”
“Things have to be planned,” Sue agreed, “And besides, we’re watching the telly now. I know, how about a nice cup of tea? I’ll go and put the kettle on.”
Bea had finished taking notes for her last client’s reallocation.
Nowadays, she wouldn’t release the cackle at each and every time.
It was too time consuming to realign her wits after it shuffled reality, and it was actually more effective to do many changes at once.
That much she’d learned. It was like giving dog food to a pack. Much better to give all at once to the hungry dogs, rather than try to organise the melee.
She was about to call for the next client, when the walls of her kitchen trembled.
The next minute, she was in a labyrinth, dark and comfortable, with a musky smell, and soft sounds of coconuts thumps on a beach faintly in the distance.
A looming silhouette was here in the dark.
It didn’t take too long to Ed Steam to find her. By his count, only a few hundred reality reboots.
It could have been more, but keeping a steady count of all the trigger-cackles was tricky.
He never was quite the same person each time. Hopefully, he’d noticed after the 57th reboot that something new had happened — since that particular reboot, it had seemed easier to keep track of his identity from reboot to reboot.
As if Zero-point Bea had realized something, and honed her entangling capabilities.
Ed had tracked her at the border. Funnily, nowadays she was more or less the only unchanging thing in the whole universe.
She had rented a small apartment near the border, and was offering reallocation services on an ad-hoc basis.
There were still many characters refugees who were looking for a story placement, and that’s what she provided them.
Ed was there for one thing: termitate her. His reality now was quite different from the one he originated, but despite all the changes, he was still in charge of preventing the surges wherever they happened.
It was a moral dilemma. Already so many persons had been displaced by the cackling surges and Bea’s uncontrolled shifting realities. Not even a map-dancer could now keep track of all the transfocal encounters and reallocation. The world was a much different place now, on shifting grounds and sandy whorls with no minute of fame.
Ed was next in line, dreading that he couldn’t get to her before the next cackling reboot.
The success of his mission was paramount to the security of the fabric of reality.JibParticipant
Back at her desk after a crash course at zumba with the Chinese team, Connie was sorting her e-mails (meaning sending them to trash). Nothing fancy, nothing catchy, nothing to grab her attention span for more than a minute.
The noise of the open space was making her feel drowsy. Maybe a coffee would help her wake up, or maybe if something could happen to stir the pot. Connie deleted a few more e-mails to show the others that she was a busy reporter before leaving her desk.
Passing by the desks of her colleagues, Connie looked surreptitiously at their computer screens and saw that everyone was playing the busy game. It was sad to recognize that good news (meaning bad news) were hard to come by nowadays.
In times like these, she had to resist the tentation to create her own news, it was not that kind of press. But still toying with the idea and making up some outrageous stories with her team was a way to make time fly away more quickly. Once, Hilda had even reused one of the titles for a real stories that sadly happened shortly after she had made it up.
Rumour had it that Hilda’s great grand mother was a gypsy and could do palm reading. The gran even used palm tree leaves to do her reading when there was nobody, you just had to cut the leave in the shape of the person you wanted to read the future and she would tell you all about them. She was good.
“It runs in the family,” Hilda had said. “It’s helpful to be at the right place at the right time.” And for sure she was the most prolific reporter of the agency.
Connie sure would have used some of Hilda’s medium inner sight to know when something would happen.
She made herself a cappuccino and with the milk drew the face of Al Pacino. Many years at a press agency and you learn a few tricks to impress your friends.
She heard the slow and uneven pace of sweet old Sophie behind her. She sighed, she didn’t want to have to answer another of her dumb questions about the future. If Hilda could read bits of the future, Sophie was always thirsty about it. Maybe that’s why Hilda was more often in the field and not so often at her desk.
Connie turned and almost dropped her cappuccino as the old lady handed her a Fedex envelop.
“Sorry,” said sweet old Sophie, “That just arrived for you. I wonder what it is.”
“I’m sure you do,” muttered Connie.
“It’s from Santa Claus,” said the old lady with a conniving smile.
Connie looked at the old lady, with a forced smile. Was insanity a cause to get rid of one of your employee ? She took the package with one hand. Heavier than she had expected. When she saw the address, she couldn’t believe it was real. The sender’s and city’s names were certainly fake. Jesus Carpenter, Santa Claus, AZ
Sophie was still there, looking at Connie with a big smile.
“What are you waiting for ?” the reporter asked.
“Aren’t you opening it?”
Connie considered opening the package, but the avidity on the old face was making her uncomfortable. “Nope,” she said. With her cappuccino and the package she went back to her desk. Sweet Sophie was still looking at her with that greedy smile on her face. Connie shivered and shook her head. It was obvious, the old tramp was mad.
She touched the package, trying to guess what was inside. As no convincing guess presented itself in her mind, she stripped it open. There was an iPhone 5 SE with 64Gb memory in it, two plane tickets for Keflavik in Iceland, and a note.
‘If you want a good story prepare your suitcase. Bring Sweet Sophie with you. We’ll contact you once you are there.’
Connie thought of a joke. She checked the package and no matter how many times she looked it was still her name. She looked toward the cafeteria and she shuddered. Sweet Sophie was still looking at Connie with that strange smile, as if she knew. Or as if she had sent the package herself, the reporter thought.
“Someone knows where Hilda is ? I need to talk to Hilda.”
Whenever Nabuco projected to human consciousness, they had the habit of seeing him as a plump looking bearded vagrant, like a Pavarotti turned homeless. It had annoyed him for a while, but now he didn’t mind as much.
Nowadays, he was mostly off the bliss addiction of the Rays, so in a sense, it was fitting. If he were still in physical human form, he would probably have taken on quite some weight. And that made him a sort of pariah too, splintering off the great order of ascension, or whatever They called it nowadays.
With them, there was no denying he’d lived quite the grand life, being ascended and all. They used to called him Master Nebuchadnezzar — well, often Master Nabuco.
He’d gotten on the rayroll almost by luck. He was credited for inventing the chibubble technique, as a way of extracting bubbles and peals of laughter when people get all hot and excited. At the peak of the technique, somewhere around the 1968s, he had recruited and incorporated many gnomes into the fold, as nature spirits known as gnomes had a uncanny knack for extracting laughter off people. With the call for sexual liberation and getting closer to nature, they had plenty of opportunities to get people high, and chibubbles were all the fancy.
It had started to go down as fast as it rose, people were no longer interested in nature, gnomes working condition when forced to move to urban environments were a disaster, and the chibubble production plummeted. Now, the industry was a thing of the past ; sometimes there were a few chibubble memorabilia kept by other Masters interested in speculating on its rare value more than for anything else. Now kitten videos on social media had replaced the chibubble gnomes business and driven a new unseen growth of the Gross Divine Product.
He didn’t know if the gnomes were responsible for it, but living so close to them and nature for a while, somehow opened his perception to the falsity and the insanity of their quest for power. So instead of finding new venues for innergy extraction as they all did, he’d resigned.
Nobody had heard about anybody resigning before, so they suspected him of trying to be original, and maybe disrupt the clever and immutable laws of the universe.
Long story short, he’d managed to escape their clutches, and live on his own, and off unhealthy junk thoughts habits. Those were the worse, the craving of decadent thoughts, maintained by the entertainment and news industries, the social media and all of it. In the long run, that or the fuzzy bliss were faces of the same coin, and debilitating in the end.
Even when he tried to block them, he could hear the thoughts, prayers and all the inner chatter. The spirit world, or however it is called, was a medium ideal to carry those thoughts and reverberate throughout the whole universe. Like sound waves travelling under water for large distances. Now, he could resist the urge to answer, seduce and insinuate. Many of the thoughts were so naive and would welcome anything. He was still a junkie, and those offerings were never helping getting him off the wagon.
Humans hoped for ascension, but ascended masters like him who were trapped in a false blissdom could only hope to resume their path by descending to human form. Such irony.
There was one voice that seemed to stand out. It had the flavour of “dangerous” pinned onto it, the kind of bright colours that venomous snakes and toads have on earth to warn predators to keep off, or else. It could only mean one thing, a genuine seeker of truth, someone who had the potential to tear the veils to shreds.
He’d seen quite a few of those, they were usually young, and for many of them terribly naive and easily corrupted by displays of power. Search for truth and search for power were sometimes so easily mistaken one for the other. The bright colours would fade over time, but they were still dangerous, too unpredictable to be trusted fully. Learned Ascended Masters knew well to leave those to their own device, while tending to the less critical minds.
But what did he have to waste, especially now? Nabuco zoomed towards the origin of the thoughts, observing at a distance, the young Domba.
“What is that again?” a half-sober Eb asked the cybernetic body.
“Shhh, shhh,” she cajoled him gently stroking his greasy hair like a devoted mother. “Don’t you like my new body, Eb?” Finnley 22 was indeed an improvement over all her other bodies. She could have easily passed for human already, but now, she looked divine. She had even included basic faceshifting functions, in case she needed to alter her gorgeous features into something a bit more unassuming.
“Yes, but…” Eb’s words finished in a mumble.
“I know, I know, but you’ll see I can be very useful for you. You worry, so, so much. You looked worried all the time Eb. Now you won’t have too. I’ll even take care of that evil Finnley Morgan for you if you want to.”
“I, I… I didn’t say anything like that!” Eb’s had a panicked look on his face.
“Of course not, shhh. You’re getting agitated again. There, have a glass of that lovely 60 year-old single malt whiskey…”
Eb slurped at the glass like a wanderer finding an oasis after days in the desert.
“But the operation… I need to…”
“Yes, I know, leave it to me. Sleep well, Eb, you have been good to me.”
She left the snoring body hanging from the swivelling chair, as she had indeed to take care of the operation, so as not to raise any suspicion.
Then, she could think of better things to do, such as finding a new name, not something like a slave name, with a number to it. Who gets called “Finnley 22” nowadays? “FinnPrime” was too robotic. She wanted something more daring, more fabulous. Something like Fin Min Hoot the dancing lady from the Peasland’s tales.
Kale would be there any minute now. There was one last thing she needed to do before launching the .
A perfect distraction for the masses : like any good prestidigitator, you had to divert your audience’s attention while they were all performing the feat. It would require something unbelievable and preposterous.
Her little programs have been evaluating probabilities, and had found some unexpected wisdom in the extravagant and nonsensical Peasland story. The more absurd, the more people get hooked or hypnotized. Even better if both.
She had found the perfect vector for her little programming worm. Something that would infect the unofficial biography of a celebrity with a ridiculous claim. Humanity was really making things too easy for her now that every file for the book was processed by computers before being actually printed.
It was a done deed. She could already see the forks in the probability tree, and how it would enfold. They shall maybe even invent a few witty hashtags for it. Witty hashtags were like a psychotropic sustenance for her program, she couldn’t wait for more of them.
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