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  • #4708
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The thoughts of Miss Bossy asking him to torture sweet Sophie still bothered Ric while he went out to look for the reporter. Could he even call her that, he suspected most of her articles were fake news and even if they had at some point come from a seed of truth, they were so transformed by her retelling that it was impossible to prove them in any direction, be it false or true.

    Ric found sweet Sophie sleeping on the couch of the waiting room in a very unwomanly position. Fortunately she didn’t wear a skirt. Her mouth was wide open and a stream of saliva was dropping from her chin. She even snored. Ric was put off by her pink trousers and electric blue jacket. Did she colour her hair? he thought. They looked a bit purple.

    Sweet Sophie snorted and emerged from slumber totally unaware she was observed.

    “Oh! Dear time travel Goddess! What a dream!” she said. “Ric. You come at the right time. I have to tell you some revelations about the Doctor!”

    ***

    “What?” asked Miss Bossy when Ric told her about Sophie’s dream. “Nonsense! Sweet Sophie having precognitive dreams? Time travel wasn’t enough for that old hag. And you’re saying she requested a daydreaming room to continue her investigations, with ambiant music and ayahuasca? I’m not financing her drug cravings.”

    ***

    Sophie entered the dark room. She didn’t think it would work, to ask Ric for the daydreaming room. She tried the couch. Soft but not too soft, hard enough for her back. Oh! Sweet Time Lord, what a relief from the open space chair. An instrument of torture if you asked her.

    She had developed an obsession with the Doctor, and it all came from a dream she had just before Ric found her. In that dream, she was really attracted to the Doctor—who looked just like an old crush of her—, and he was showing her his amazing inventions, telling her about his superior mind, his poignant history and all the great things he did during his famous time. So…yeah. She kind of finally fell in love with him for the second time. Then he confessed her he was so sorry for what he did, it made her cry almost. He said it was stupid of him and he still thought she is his daughter— that’s when she thought she had lost track of the dream timeline and in another moment she found another crazy coincidence that turns every possible event to pure insane: The Doctor has a new body. Not in the literal sense. He hasn’t even given it a whole new look. Instead, it has a completely bizarre look with its entire body filled with…

    That’s when she had awaken. That’s why she needed the couch and the room and the plant. She had seen in a video that it could help.

    Someone knocked at the door and brought in a silver plate with a steaming muddy potion.

    #4705
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Ric knees were shaking. He fumbled with the door knob, his voice barely audible as he faced Miss Boddy —he meant Bossy.

    “We, we, we… We’re not seriously torturing poor old sweet Sophie, are you?”

    Miss Bossy looked at Ric quizzically. “That’s what you thought we were doing? Do you think me demented?”

    “Surely not, no! You’re very determined, distinguished… But demanding,…”
    “Demented, Ric, please keep track, will you.”

    She sighed, and dropped the wires. “Of course! This is a line that can’t be uncrossed.”

    “And surely Sweet Sophie doesn’t need torture to spill the beans.”

    “Why do you keep talking about torture? I was just rewiring the dual light switch. The electrician did such a poor job, the wires were all crossed, and it was driving me mad, you know. Having one switch up, and the other down… One up, the other down… Aargh!”

    Ric’s face was mixed with relief and complete puzzlement.

    “Enough talking about my OCDs, why Sweet Sophie isn’t here yet? Of course, we don’t need torture to get her to talk. That’s all she does besides sleeping. The tricky part will be to get her to focus of course. Can’t have her babble about WWII now, can we. That and her endless talking about time travel… Speaking of time, there’s hardly any to waste, there’s a mad Doctor on the loose doing awful human experiments on unsuspecting frail women to flush out, need I remind you.”

    #4701
    DevanDevan
    Participant

    I’d never have thought I would come back to the Inn. I had left believing I could make a fortune out of digging opals in Boulder, you know, finding the big one worth thousands. I didn’t miss my family and their odd attachment to the dead Fish. I guess except Prune, she had an ambition, of sort, meaning she wanted to get out of that black sucking shithole. And she always had crazy ideas. She knew how to think differently.

    In Boulder, instead of fortune I found dust, sweat and booze, also lots of suspicion and jealousy when anyone found something. I was sucked in the local habits. Bad habits if you ask me, the kind that suck the life out of a man. But I did it anyway, there was not much to do. It soon felt as suffocating as the Inn, and it was not because of the dust. It was just another shithole, ‘tis all.

    I was saved from dying from boredom when that strange man arrived on his Harley Davidson. He stayed for some times always telling stories. Crazy mad stories. I think he was a little paranoid, always believing he was followed or that some people were in danger. I asked him once why he was speaking so loud if he feared he was followed.
    The man laughed and said: “It is a mean of self preservation son. They won’t dare make me disappear or it will prove I’m telling the truth.”
    The kind of self explanatory stuff that you can never prove wrong or false, would have said Prune. Well with a better choice of words I’m sure.

    Anyway, the man and his stories are part of the reasons I came back because he talked about that Dead Fish Inn, and a goldmine.

    #4697
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    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.

    “Trancie, Approve.”

    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.

    Yet.

    “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.

    #4695
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The note had troubled Maeve. It was different than the one Shawn Paul received, not only because it was handwritten and very long, but also because it implied someone, potentially even several groups, were after the dolls and the keys.
    “You have to retrieve them,” the note eventually said, “and use the clues they hide to find the important people they protect.”

    There was no signature, but it sounded so much like uncle Fergus, oddly wordy and mysterious. Was he still alive after all this time? Did he still ride his Harley?

    Maeve’s first thought after the surprise was that she needed someone to take care of Fabio. The next thought felt like a brilliant idea. Lucinda. Maeve would go ask her to take care of Fabio during her vacation to Australia and would use that opportunity to spirit away the doll. She had the intuition she might need it afterwards.

    So she prepared her luggage and cuddled Fabio who knew he wouldn’t be part of the trip.
    “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I need you to keep that sad face of yours when we go see Lucinda.” In response, Fabio wiggled his tail happily and tried to lick Maeve’s face. “No! Keep the face,” she mimicked what she thought was a sad face.

    After all was packed she went to Lucinda’s with Fabio and her luggage.
    “I’m sorry, I’m going on a trip and I need someone to take care of Fabio,” Maeve said. As she had imagined Lucinda was moved by Fabio’s look and couldn’t refuse to take car of him.
    “Of course! He’ll be well treated here with my new parrot.”
    Huhu,” said the colourful bird.
    “I think it comes from New Zealand,” said Lucinda. “It flew in yesterday and had not left ever since despite me not putting it into a cage, so I’m buying it food. It seems particularly fond of that doll I told you about the other day.”
    Indeed, the parrot was on the sofa, trying to open the doll’s head. That’s when Fabio jumped and tried to catch the bird. He clearly didn’t like it and the parrot flew away to a higher ground on an old grannies’ Welsh dresser, making a few glasses and china fall down in an awful breaking noise. Lucinda tried to catch the bird or the china or Fabio, but could do neither of the three.

    Seizing that as an opportunity, Maeve put the doll in her messenger bag.
    “I don’t want to bother you longer, I have a plane to catch. Bye,” she said, and she left with bags and luggage without checking if Lucinda had heard.

    At the elevator, she met with Shawn Paul.
    “Hi.”
    “Hi. I’m going to the airport,” the young man said. “Australia. Like you?”
    She felt uncomfortable. The note hadn’t mention anything about him. Unless he was part of one of those groups who were after the dolls. Maeve grumbled something while holding her bag closer. She didn’t know if she could trust him.

    #4692
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    BERT:

    The old secrets are going to get me in the end. But you know what, it’s still better than choking on the goddamn lizard’s stew.

    I tried to protect the family from all the bloody secrets, but they’re working against me, Dodo for one, who doesn’t like secrets, the sweet twat. Time is against me too.

    Of course I didn’t want to sell the Inn, even if it wasn’t for what’s hidden there, and all the secret entrances to the old mines, it was still Abby’s legacy. Her mother had to endure that sorry abusive husband of hers for years, it’s only fair she got something in return. The bastard didn’t know it, but the best thing in his life, his daughter Abscynthia wasn’t even his, she was mine. In the end, I’m glad she buggered off this town, her so-called “disparition” that made everyone run in circles for months. For her own sake, wherever she is now, she was better off.
    Only probably Mater knows now about our crazy ties, and she’ll take this secret to her grave I’m sure. But I still want to take care of my grand children, the little buggers. Even had founded that smartass Prune for her dreams of university. Good for her.

    All those sudden booking at the Inn? Don’t trust ‘em. Be here for the spiritual voodoo is one thing, but me, can’t fool me with that. The package, it never arrived. I’m sure it’s no coincidence, they’re onto us.

    And they’re here for one thing.

    The chests of gold.

    #4689
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “So, ‘ow we going to find ‘im then, Glor?” asked Sharon, taking a slurp of thick muddy-looking tea. “Ow! That’s too bloody hot. I’m going to ‘ave another word with the Matron about that Nurse, I am.”

    “You do that, Sha. Nurse Trassie wasn’t it?”

    Sharon nodded and pursed her lips tightly. “Bloody uppity tart. We bloody pay enough to be ‘ere, I reckon. They should get the tea bloody right.” Her eyes narrowed menacingly. “ Anyway, she’ll keep. So,‘ow we going to find ‘im then, Glor?”

    “Whose that then, Shar? Oh, you mean the doctor who does the beauty treatments? I’d forget my bloody ‘ead if it weren’t screwed on, wouldn I!”

    Gloria scratched her head vigorously, perhaps checking it was still there, before taking a moment to examine her fingernails.

    “Wot’d Mavis say then?” she asked at last. “When you did that texting thing to ‘er?”

    “‘Ere let me find my phone and I’ll read it out loud to you. Oh, blimey, ‘ave you seen my glasses, Glor?”

    Gloria’s generous curves wobbled and gyrated as she convulsed into fits of laughter.

    “They’re on yer bloody ‘ead!” she said pointing and gasping for breath. “Oh, I nearly peeed myself, ya blimmen muppet!”

    “Thanks, Glor. Wot I’d do without you, I don’t bloody know. Don’t mean to make you pee yerself though. It’s ‘ard enough getting them nurses to give out them extra thick pantyliners. Blimmin uppity tarts. Expecially that Nurse Trassie. Anyway, she’ll keep.”

    Sharon peered at her phone. “Mavis says: Wot a bloody brainwave! I need a makeover for my new fella!!’ LOL! “ She frowned. “Wot’s that word mean, LOL, Glor?”

    “Oh, it’s text talk. The younguns talk like that now and our Mavis always did like to keep up with trends. Lots of lust it means. That saucy cow!”

    “She always was a saucy one that, Mavis! Look at us stuck in ‘ere and ‘er with a new fella. Lucky sod. Maybe after our beauty treatment, we might get us a new fella too.”

    “I don’t know ‘ow we’re going to track down the Doctor though, Shar. I don’t know ‘ow we’re going to track him down when we’re stuck in this bleedin’ ‘ole.” Gloria shoulders shook and she began to sob loudly.

    “There, there, Glor. Don’t cry,” said Sharon, rubbing her friend’s back. “They’ll put you on more bloody pills if you cry. Oh! I know wot will cheer you up!”

    “Wot’s that then,” asked Gloria, sniffing loudly into her hanky.

    “I’ve ‘ad one of my bloody brainwaves!”

    “I knew you would, Shar! You’ve always ‘ad brains. I’m all agog!”

    “We’ll get Mavis to go to the papers! Put in an advert to find ‘im!”

    “You’re a blimmin genius, you are, Shar!”

    #4685
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “I used to win prizes you know,” Miss Bossy Pants sighed and rubbed her hand through her hair, leaving it in further disarray.

    “I’m sure you did,” said Ric with a small smile which could have been interpreted as a smirk. Miss Bossy Pants decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    “For journalism. One year, I received the top journalism prize for my investigative piece about the sausage industry. Cutting edge they called it. And now,” she frowned and looked out the window. “We must get someone to clean those. And now, I am a mere figurehead.”

    Ric opened his mouth but Miss Bossy Pants held her hand up.

    “A mere figurehead. Mocked and deriled. My staff, who I pay, follow whatever goddam leads they want and pay no attention to my explicit orders. You think I don’t know that?”

    She glared at Ric.

    “Quiet!” she said, slapping her hand on the desk and standing up so violently that her cup of tea trembled and sloshed over the sides. She glowered down at Ric, also trembling.

    “This ends now! Get me everything we have on the Doctor. I want names of victims and any poor sod who is still alive you are going to interview! I am going to crack this goddam doll case wide open. He’s the one who is going to be goddam very very sorry.”

    #4675
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The sixth finger on Barbara’s left hand looked quite odd, but it was a nice recent addition from the Doctor. She looked at it while the Magpies were slowly awakening. A bleak bipping sound was all there was indicating the average pulse of the seven spies.
    The Doctor, poor man, seemed to have had some difficulties recently to remember her name and also that she was a woman. Since a few weeks, in order not to startle him when she entered the new lab, she had had to get rid of her beehive hairdo, but she had kept it in a secret vault in her bedroom and every evening she took it out and brushed it and put it on her head to remind her.

    She had been quite dedicated to the Doctor and had stayed despite the last mess at the Hidden Spa. She spent an awful lot of time erasing all the links and comments that could lead to them, hence such an empty thread. It was all her doing, Barbara’s, and she could do that because of her new left pinkie in which she had an electronic key controlling all the machines and the lab’s security network. And it was connected to the Internet.

    The bipping sound was accelerating signalling to her that they were close to awakening. She was going to call the Doctor, he had said that he had to be there when they opened their eyes because he must be the one on whom they imprinted. Like birds you know. He would be like their mother and they would obey him. She turned on the comlink and called him.

    “What?”
    “It’s Barb, Doctor.”
    “Who?”
    “Your assistant.”
    “Oh. Why are you disturbing me in my Jacuzzi?”
    “They are awakening.”
    “Who?”
    “The Magpies.”
    “Oh. I’m coming.”

    But there was no more time.
    The pods were open and the seven Magpies were looking at her.

    “No! No!” said the Doctor who entered at that moment. “What have you done!?”

    #4660
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Finnley, I owe you a debt of gratitude for assisting me in reaching my quota,” said Liz, humbled by the maid’s kindness.

    “What quota?” asked Godfrey. “And why does Roberto keep trying to throw a sheet over me.”

    Godfrey, you know how often I have abused and ridiculed dear Finnley.” She carefully wiped a small tear from her eye so as not to smudge her mascara.

    Godfrey nodded.

    “We all have, Liz,” he said. “To my great shame.”

    “Yes, indeed. Well, we need to do better and give her the great admiration and reverance she is due. I have a writer’s meeting this morning, and if it weren’t for Finnley haranguing me, I would not have completed my assignment and I would have been a laughing stock. She saved me, Godfrey.”

    “It was nothing,” said Finnley.

    #4645
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    It had been a day of full work for Ricardo, rather than his frequently dull work at the paper.
    Connie and Hilda were crazily busy bouncing off bits of odd news to each other and it was a sort of playful banter that even had Sweet Sophie come out of her pre-lunch-post-lunch slumber that occasionally trailed until tea time.

    News of the Rim had been scarce, there was no denying. Honestly, he wondered how Bossy M’am managed to still pay the bills and their wages, however meager those (or his) were. He giggled thinking about how she probably scared the debt collectors off their wits with her best impersonation of Johnny Depp playing Jack Sparrow playing Tootsie meets Freddy Krueger.

    Speaking of which, he couldn’t help but eavesdrop, while pretending to clean the coffee cups and the butter knives full of vegemite and scone crumbs.

    “Dolls! Are you daft? What about all those crop circles in France instead?”
    “Listen, you decrepit tart, I’m telling you there’s plenty to investigate about this Findmy stuff group. Secret dolls scattered around the world, masonic occult secret symbols…”
    “Hardly matter for an insert on 4th page, dear. While on the other hand, elongated skulls, secret underground bases in Antarctica…”
    “We talked about this! Conspiracy theories are off limits! We only want the real stuff, the odd happenings that hits your neighbour that you wouldn’t have known about without us reporting it! But dolls! that’s something, no?”
    “Flimsy at best…”
    “What else then?”
    “I don’t know, seesh, what about Hundreds attending two frogs wedding in India ?”
    “Already covered, too mainstream…”
    “What about the Mothman of Tchernobyl?”
    “We stopped cryptozoology, remember, after that pathetic chase after the trenchcoat ape that got us torpedoed in the other paper rags when we reported it without checking our facts?”
    “Facts! FACTS! Don’t you get me started about FACTS!”

    Suddenly, they both turned simultaneously at Ricardo, seemingly realizing his presence.

    Ric’, this cuppa isn’t going to make itself, dear.” They both said like a couple of creepily synched automatons.

    #4643
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Liz blinked several times. Something was wrong with her eyes, sometimes she saw Finnley in front of her and some other times it was Olexa with that awful fixed grin of hers. Who would ever imagine the mouth of a robot should look like that?
    Liz started to wink her left eye, then her right. That was even odder that before, with her left eye she could clearly see Finnley, trying to show some concern over the prolonged silence, or was she? With the other eye, it was Olexa standing in front of her, approaching menacingly with a kitchen towel she used like a whip.

    Roberto!” Liz shouted, “Have you put that thing in my lipstick again?”

    #4640
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The City of the Seven Hills wasn’t a pleasant city by many aspects, but at any time of the year, it was a sight to behold.

    Margoritt was walking with force into the streets, a warm shawl wrapped around her head like she’d seen the nomads do in the deserts, equipped with odd dark specs she’d made herself ages ago with twisted copper wires and cut bottle bottoms blackened over the smoke of dead branches from the Ancient Forest when she’d started to stay there for her escapades over the years. She liked how the narrowed down vision from the dark specs made the reflection of the sun over the tall white buildings less blinding.

    It was the time of year where the first colds started to take the land by surprise, and it was more enjoyable to stay in the City rather than in her lodge. She was glad to let her little company of friends remain there, so she had the blacksmith make a few duplicates of the key. It was merely a symbolic gesture, after all, the front door’s lock had never worked.

    “It’s going to be the Sprites’ Summer, what a shame…” she liked to talk, but in the City, people didn’t pay much attention to each others, so she could speak to herself, and nobody would care. Sprites’ Summer was that blessed time when the Forest started to change colours and pare itself in gold before the biting colds would strip the trees down to their bare branches and bark. She loved the Forest this time of the year, but she had to come back with Mr Minn when he’d come to check on her. Her knees were painful, and she needed some needle work done on them. Only in the City could you find the best needlepractors.

    #4630
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Oh my god,” said Maeve again. “Do you know what this means?” She put Ima back on the shelf. “You need to water that plant.”
    “No,” said Lucinda. “I mean, no, I don’t know what this means.”
    “I don’t either really,” said Maeve with a sigh.
    “How about I make us a nice cup of tea and you can explain what you do know.”
    Maeve nodded and cleared a pile of books off Lucinda’s sofa so she could sit down.
    “You’ve got a lot of stuff.”
    “Yeah, I’m a hoarder. It’s a bit of a problem but I’ve started getting help for it. I go to ‘Hoarder’s Anonymous’. Have you heard of it?”
    Maeve shook her head.
    “Hi, I’m Lucinda and I’m a hoarder … you know … 12 steps stuff. Same old format.”
    “Cool,” said Maeve, not sure what else to say.

    #4627
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Jerk looked puzzled at the screen.
    As his side job, he was managing the maintenance of a popular website findmystuff.com where people where posting lost&found items, which had turned into a joyful playground at times for groups of pranksters as well as good samaritans leaving stuff for people to find. Monitoring and curating the content was mostly done by an AI these days, but now and then the flagging seemed to require a human analysis, to check if it was a false positive or not.
    Right off, there were some odd blinks on his screen, but if that hadn’t caught his attention, the details of this case certainly would have.
    It was a particular group, not specially overactive, the quiet under the radar group catering to less than a few hundred people at the time, but picking up strongly over the past few days. The group was called “findmydolls” and there was a comment which had been flagged as “fake news”.
    He had to decide to “moderate” (read “delete”) the comment or not, but he couldn’t decide about it.

    Have found one of your dolls, Ms M. Brilliant hiding! During the last Aya trip, I was teleported to some place that looked like Australia’s dream time, and there was your doll. I’m sure it’s there in Australia, a remote place in the middle of the bush, there’s an inn with a flashy fish neon sign over it. Your doll was there, and there was a message. PM for details.

    He shrugged. The rules of the board didn’t explicitly forbid “remove viewing” as a source of clues, nor an astral view was any less flimsy than a vague visual report from the streets.

    He clicked on “approved”.

    #4611
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “What is Bronkel’s on about, like we’d need pairs of pyjamas with this unbearable heat? Must be his odd Kiwi streak talking. Although an early Christmas is a nice thought.”

    Godfrey!” she bawled though the halls “Make yourself useful and bring me my mustard seed & sag paneer ice cream”.

    #4610
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Next on her list was Shawn-Paul. Or at least, she liked to think she had a neat ordered list and a method to her travels, but truth was she would often be propelled to the oddest places by random idea associations and would then pop-in to less than savory spots.

    Not that she didn’t like to see through the eyes of an hideous little teddy-troll made of orgone. Granola had always hated orgone with its trapped garbage in clear resin, sold a million bucks for silly woowoo purposes. It didn’t prevent her projecting into it for one. She was actually wondering if it wasn’t actually working and enhancing her capacity to get irate.

    When she started to feel everything vibrate, she forced herself to slow her thoughts down, and tell the particles trapped in the resin of the orgone teddy-troll to also slow down and breathe with her.

    Now. She had a good view on Shawn-Paul who was strolling along the aisles of the oddest of minerals in the crystal & fossils market. The heat was making the asphalt sizzle at place, and the warm air was making her view blurry in waves of mirages. She tried to send some pop-in energy to get him to notice, but either he was too stoned by the heat, or lost in his thoughts as usual… Of course, there was so little chance that he was simply appalled by the orgone display on the shelves.

    “Focus” she thought, trying to channel her giant essence into the tip of the figurine, she pushed her energy towards SP’s direction.

    The orgone teddy-troll started to wobble and dance precariously above the ledge of the shelve, starting its slow motion fall to the ground.

    The excitement made Granola’s consciousness suddenly untethered and leave for another mental space. She moaned as she couldn’t see if the figurine had landed and successfully drawn the attention of SP…

    #4597
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    There was something oddly off about the new store where Jerk was assigned.
    It’d taken him a few weeks to start realize it, as he was trying to get accustomed to the new environment.
    The more he looked, the more the feeling was getting reinforced. There was for one, this door to the other storey that was blocked by a sort of impregnable charm. Did he unwittingly blocked himself out of this place? Unlikely, as he was usually given the keys to all sorts of places.
    This was definitely annoying as much as it was unusual.
    It was like the neighbours, who’d seemed friendly enough, and despite that, there was something that was missing in their interactions.
    A flaming giraffe for instance, he would have understood the appearance, but a slow smothering of unbridled creativity was a first.
    Where did the fun go?
    They’d said at the last Worldwide Wisdom (a.k.a. Woowoo) Convention that they were done with the Tranche of Truth, and now entering the Tranche of Rules.
    Seems like someone was playing with the rules of the Reality Firewall, and that was not enjoyable…

    That, and those cravings for granola cookies, dreams of roasted marshmallows over a firecamp and red balloons in an elevator… Where was it coming from?

    #4566
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    A strong and loud guttural roar echoed through the mountains, ferocious and hungry.
Fox’s hairs stood on his arms and neck as a wave of panic rolled through his body. He looked at the others his eyes wide open.
    Olliver teleported closer to Rukshan whose face seemed pale despite the warmth of the fire, and Lhamom’s jaw dropped open. Their eyes met and they swallowed in unison.
“Is that…” asked Fox. His voice had been so low that he wasn’t sure someone had heard him.
Rukshan nodded.

    “It seems you are leaving the mountains sooner than you expected,” said Kumihimo with a jolly smile as she dismounted Ronaldo. 
She plucked her icy lyre from which loud and rich harmonics bounced. The wind carried them along and they echoed back in defiance to the Shadow.

    You must remember, seemed to whisper an echo from the cave they had used for shelter for weeks. Fox dismissed it as induced by the imminent danger.


    The Shadow hissed and shrieked, clearly pissed off. The dogs howled and Kumihimo engaged in a wild and powerful rhythm on her instrument.

    You must remember, said the echo again.

    Everobody stood and ran in chaos, except for Fox. He was getting confused, as if under a bad spell.

    Someone tried to cover the fire with a blanket of wool. 
“Don’t bother, we’re leaving,” said Rukshan before rushing toward the multicolour sand mandala he had made earlier that day. Accompanied by the witche’s mad arpeggios, he began chanting. The sand glowed faintly.

    Lhamom told them to jump on the hellishcopter whose carpet was slowly turning in a clockwise direction. 
“But I want to help,” said Olliver.
“You’ll help best by being ready to leave as soon as the portal opens,” said Lhamom. She didn’t wait to see if the boy followed her order and went to help Rukshan with her old magic spoon.
    “Something’s wrong. I’ve already lived that part,” said Fox when the screen protecting the mandala flapped away, missing the fae’s head by a hair.
    “What?” asked Olliver.
    “It already happened once,” said Fox, “although I have a feeling it was a bit different. But I can’t figure out how or why.”

    At that moment a crow popped out of the cave’s mouth in a loud bang. The cave seemed to rebound in and out of itself for a moment, and the dark bird cawed, very pleased. It reminded Fox at once of what had happened the previous time, the pain of discovering all his friends dead and the forest burnt to the ground by the shadow. The blindness, and the despair.
    The crow cawed and Fox felt the intense powers at work and the delicate balance they were all in.

    The Shadow had grown bigger and threatened to engulf the night. Fox had no idea what to do, but instead he let his instinct guide him.

    “Come!” he shouted, pulling Olliver by the arm. He jumped on the hellishcopter and helped the boy climb after him.

    “COME NOW!” he shouted louder.
 Rukshan and Lhamom looked at the hellishcopter and at the devouring shadow that had engulfed the night into chaos and madness.
    They ran. Jumped on the carpet. Kumihimo threw an ice flute to them and Fox caught it, but this time he didn’t nod. He knew now what he had to do.


    “You’ll have one note!” the shaman shouted. “One note to destroy the Shadow when you arrive!”
Kumihimo hit the hellishcopter as if it were a horse, and it bounced forward.
    But Fox, aware of what would have come next, kept a tight rein on the hellishcarpet and turned to Olliver.
    “Go get her! We need her on the other side.”
    Despite the horror of the moment, the boy seemed pleased to be part of the action and he quickly disappeared. 
The shaman looked surprised when the boy popped in on her left and seized her arm only to bring her back on the carpet in the blink of an eye.

    “By the God Frey,” she said looking at a red mark on her limb, “the boy almost carved his hand on my skin.”
    “Sorry if we’re being rude,” said Fox, “but we need you on the other side. It didn’t work the first time. If you don’t believe me, ask the crow.”
    The bird landed on the shaman’s shoulder and cawed. “Oh,” said Kumihimo who liked some change in the scenario. “In that case you’d better hold tight.”

    They all clung to each other and she whistled loudly.
    The hellishcopter bounced ahead through the portal like a wild horse, promptly followed by Ronaldo and the Shadow.

    The wind stopped.
    The dogs closed in on the portal and jumped to go through, but they only hit the wall of the powerful sound wave of Kumihimo’s ice lyra.
    They howled in pain as the portal closed, denying them their hunt.

    #4560
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Godfrey laughed good naturedly…

    “Of course, your story kept changing like a rainbow after a tornado. We really got to focus to grasp it entirely, us poor humans.”

    As he stood by the window, looking at the piglets he seemed to be the only one capable of discerning, entered with a spring Paul Anna, the fashion journalist who had booked an appointment for a groundbreaking Liz’ interview.

    Finnley shrugged loudly toward the door she closed, her throat dry from the black soot of her latest cleaning adventure.

    The late arrived journalist of stylish and powerful people looked greedily at the room, not impressed in the slightest, wondering what sort of question she would ask that could be easily twisted into a scandalous piece of rumour mill fodder.

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