The Beige House was eerily calm. Most of the staff had left after the super spread of the epidemic.
“Ready for a change of crowd in the building, Fanny?” said Finnley in her unmistakable Kiwi accent, as a matter of breaking the silence in the grand hall. She was dusting the chandeliers, while Fanella was shampooing the carpets.
“I don’t know Miss Fin’, it iz such a mess now. And I have to take care of ze baby, no time to be political.”
“Oh, by the way, I received a message from the gang…”
“Aprrril’ and Joone?”
“Yep. Those two. The money has dried up, and they learnt the hard way that American are not loved much these days, big spreaders and all. So they decided to sail back to the good ol’ States. Looking for a job now, and hoping that autumn doesn’t mean everything will turn to orange disaster!”
Everyone seems happy about the rain, and I don’t blame them. I’m not daft, I know we need rain but it’s not so easy when you don’t have a home. But I am nothing if not stalwart and stoic, resourceful and adaptable, and I found a good way to keep warm and dry during the downpours. It’s amazing how much heat an animal gives off, so I camp down in stables or kennels when it’s cold and wet. It can get a bit smelly, but it’s warm and dry and when my clothes are damp and stinking I just throw them all away and get some new ones out of the recycling bins. Just to clarify, I find the new clothes first before throwing the ones I’m wearing away. I’m not daft, I know walking around naked would catch attention and I try to stay under the radar. Nobody really notices smelly old ladies wandering around these days anyway, but naked would be another matter.
There’s a stable I really like just outside of town, lots of nice deep clean straw. There’s a white horse in there that knows me now and the gentle whicker of recognition when she sees me warms my heart. I don’t stay there any two nights running though. One thing I’ve learned is don’t do anything too regular, keep it random and varied. I don’t want anyone plotting my movements and interfering with me in any way.
There’s not much to do in a stable when it rains for days and nights on end but remember things, so I may as well write them down. I’m never quite sure if the things I remember are my memories or someone elses, a past life of my own perhaps, or another person entirely. I used to worry a bit about that, but not anymore. Nobody cares and there’s nobody to flag my memories as false, and if there was, I wouldn’t care if they did.
Anyway, the other day while I was nestled in a pile of sweet hay listening to the thunder, I recalled that day when someone offered me a fortune for that old mirror I’d bought at the flea market. I know I hadn’t paid much for it, because I never did pay much for anything. Never have done. I bought it because it was unusual (hideous is what everyone said about it, but people have got very strangely ordinary taste, I’ve found) and because it was cheap enough that I could buy it without over thinking the whole thing. At the end of the day you can’t beat the magic of spontaneity, it out performs long winded assessment every time.
So this man was a friend of a friend who happened to visit and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so of course I sold the mirror to him. He was so delighted about it that I’d have given him the mirror for nothing if I knew he wanted it that much, but I’m not daft, I took the money. I found out later that he’d won the lottery, so I never felt guilty about it.
Well, after he’d gone I sat there looking at this pile of money in my hands and knew exactly what I was going to do. But first I had to find them. They’d moved again and we’d lost contact but I knew I’d find a way. And I did. They’d given up all hope of ever getting that money back that I’d borrowed, but they said the timing was perfect, couldn’t have been better, they said. It wouldn’t have meant all that much to them if I’d paid it back right away, they said, because they didn’t need it then as much as they did when they finally got it back.
They were strange times back then, and one thing after another was happening all over the world, what with the strange weather, and all the pandemics and refugees. Hard to keep food on the table, let alone make plans or pay debts back. But debt is a funny thing. I felt stung when I realized they didn’t think I intended to pay them back but the fact was, I couldn’t do it at the time. And I wanted it to be a magical perfect timing surprise when I did. I suppose in a way I wanted it to be like it was when they loaned me the money. I remember I wept at the kindness of it. Well I didn’t want them to weep necessarily, but I wanted it to mean something wonderful, somehow. And timing is everything and you can’t plan that kind of thing, not really.
It was a happy ending in the end though, I gave them the whole amount I got for that old mirror, which was considerably more than the loan.
The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining. My damp clothes are steaming and probably much smellier than I think. Time to find a recycling bin and a fresh new look.
“What about me?” asked Vince French. “Are you going to interrogate me or not?” He sounded peevish, even to his own ears. But he put his heart and soul into singing and to have the whole audience, bar that rude detective girl, run out during a performance was unconscionable.
“We don’t really need to now,” said Tara. She softened slightly seeing his dejected face. “Great tune by the way. If you like, you can come and help us find Uncle Basil.” She edged towards the exit. “After you’ve paid the bill!” she shouted as she took off through the door.
“I knew it!” Tara had gone to investigate early, disguised as an elderly jogger in a velvet teal jogging. “Seemed clear enough that that retirement home was a front…”
Later when she came back to the office, she was quizzed by Star, who was still yawning despite the bright sunlight.
“So tell me, a front for what?”
“Can’t you guess?” Tara said, removing her false teeth.
“Nooo?” her hand flew at Star’s mouth and incredulous face.
“Yes, hmm-hmm; you guessed right: a time travel agency.”
“Oh dangit, they stole my idea! After all the virus pandemic thing, they sure know how to surf the crisis to make a buck. The buying carrots alibi traffic, and now that!”
“Yep, guess that people unable to go anywhere for holidays make up for a good clientele. You can imagine the slogans: Celerity: Why go anywhere? When we can send you anywhen! “
“And a convenient way of disposing of nosy people too. I hope they didn’t send Uncle Basil to the Dinosaurs, can’t imagine the stench of those Time sewers.”
“Oh no, don’t think he was affluent enough, you see. Apparently you pay by the time meter. The further in time, the pricier. And I guess the surest way to dispose of someone would be in the past rather than in the future…”
“So Uncle Basil is in the past!”
“Well, I could have told you that from the start. No wonder Mr French paid us in advance then, he already knew we’d crack that case. Our first case’s closed, dear! If Mr French ever wakes up and calls, we’ll just redirect him to our Time Dragglers friends in Marseille for their ‘relative lost in time’ retrieval package. Now, anyone for mojitos?”
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.
“That’s right,” Rosamund nodded enthusiastically. “Anti-vegan vaxxer and she don’t eat nothing with no eyes either. She drives Mum bloody mental going on about how the animals have got souls while Mum’s trying to enjoy a nice baccy fry up. Mum calls her Aunt Moanie.”
Star smirked. “Other than his obvious attributes?”
“You mean the fella with the voice like a bloody angel?” asked Rosamund, spitting an olive onto Tara’s sleeve. Tara swore under her breath as the olive bounced to the floor. Fortunately there was no mark; it was a new blouse and had cost Tara an arm and a leg. Worth the investment, she had reasoned at the time. One must look the part. And clearly, her Moulin Rouge ensemble wasn’t a good look for a Professional Investigator, even with fishnets and a feather boa.
“He cancelled his appointment but he paid the, quite frankly exorbitant, deposit we asked for,” said Star. “He’s going to email us the rest of the details. Do we need to know more that that?”
“Well, I’ve been doing a search and there is nothing anywhere online about him, or his world famous melodious voice. I suggest we pay this Mr French a visit.”
“Oh bloody awesome!” Rosamund leapt to her feet and pizza boxes went flying. “Oops, sorry about that. I’ll clean it soon as we get back.”
“Why are you looking guilty?” It was impossible for Godfrey to hide anything from Liz. She noticed at once the nervous tic in his left eye, and the way he was shuffling his feet around. He was clearly rattled about something.
“I’ve g g g ot a confession to m m make,” he stuttered. Liz had never heard Godfrey stutter before, and it was unheard of for him to make confessions. Something was troubling her old friend greatly, and she was concerned.
“I put two of your characters in jail.”
Liz gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.
“And now,” Godfrey’s voice caught on a little sob, “And now, I have to pay the bail money to get them out.”
“Well it’s your book, so it’s your gap,” Godfrey retorted, reverting back to his old self.
“Then what were you doing in it, putting my characters in jail?” Liz snapped back. “Go and get that bail paid so they can go to Australia. Otherwise you’re going to muck up another book.”
“So, what do we do now?” asked Fox. Call it a sixth sense or a seventh sense, but he knew before he got the answer that he was going to regret it somehow. He had always been too quick to ask questions, and his years at the service of Master Gibbon apparently hadn’t made this habit go away.
“Well dear assistant. You can start with the dishes,” said Kumihimo with a broad smile, “and then clean the rest of the hut.”
Fox swallowed. He looked at the piles of stuff everywhere. What had seemed fun a moment before, playing with Kumihimo’s recipes and what he still thought of as her power toys, had turned into a chore. Though, his eyes stopped on a paquet he hadn’t notice before. It looked heavy and wet. The wrapping was not completely closed on the top and he thought he could see pink. That renewed his energy and motivation. Thinking that afterwards they would revive Gorrash suddenly made him feel the cleaning would be done in no time. He simply needed to be methodical and tackle each task one by one.
First the glassware, it was the most fragile and took most of the space outside.
Fox didn’t know how long he had been at it. He had been so engrossed in the cleaning, that he hadn’t paid attention to the others who had been talking all along. He felt a little exhausted and his stomach growled. How since he last ate. His body was stiff with all the movements and carrying stuff around. He was about to ask for some food when he noticed Kumihimo and Rukshan were still talking. The Fae looked exhausted too, he had his panda eyes, but he seemed captivated by their discussion.
“Things are going to get worse,” was saying Kumihimo, “We need everybody ready for what’s coming next. The fires were just the beginning.”
“Do you have anything to eat?” asked Fox not knowing what else to contribute to the conversation. But he knew he wouldn’t be of any help if he didn’t eat something first.
“Och aye, now that’s intriguing,” remarked Jacqui, looking up from her phone. “Well I’ll be darned.”
“What’s that, honey?” asked her friend Ella Marie, looking up from her needlepoint. She was working on a cushion cover with an Egyptian theme.
“How far away is Chickasaw?”
“Why, that’s not far away at all,” Arthur said, and then went into some detail involving road numbers that neither of the ladies paid attention to.
“What all is a happening over there in Chickasaw anyway?” asked Ella Marie.
“Can you drive me over there? I have to kidnap a baby,” said Jacqui.
Noticing the astonished looks on her friends faces she hastened to add, “Oh it had already been kidnapped. I just have to kidnap it back, the mother misses it.”
Arthur and his wife said “Ah” in unison, recalling the time when the divorced father had snatched the neighbours children, causing poor Mary Lou no end of grief.
“Of course we’ll help you, that child needs his mother,” Arthur said. “Where in Chickasaw are they holding him?”
“That’s the tricky part, Art. The exact location isn’t known. In fact, ” Jacqui said, “In all honestly I don’t quite know where to go from here.”
May took the brat down to the kitchen and gave him the pot of cold spinach to play with while she slipped outside to send a coded message to her fiance, Marduk. Barron happily commenced smearing globs of green mush all over his face, mimicking his fathers applications of orange skin colouring paste.
“We have a window of opportunity tonight,” May wrote. Actually she said “hu mana sid neffa longo tonga bafti foo chong“, which meant the same thing. “Slopi sala ding wat forg ooli ama“, which she knew Marduk would read as: “The kid will be in a big pot of spinach by the gate at midnight.”
“Forg ooli ama? keni suba?” he replied. With an impatient sigh May texted back “Sagi poo! And bring a spare set of clothes and a wash cloth!”
Now all she had to do was pack her suitcase, and keep the kid occupied for the next couple of hours. What she wasn’t expecting was a visit from Norma, who plonked herself down at the kitchen table, and started a long story about how underpaid and underappreciated she was.
May tried to hurry her along with the story, but there was no rushing Norma. She was firmly planted at the table for the duration of the evening. May did some quick thinking, and slipped a couple of fast acting laxative pills into the glass of wine that she handed to the maid, frustrated that no sleeping pills were easily found. They usually worked within a couple of hours, and with a bit of luck May could coincide her exit with Norma’s inevitable rush to the lavatory.
“امیدوارم که مؤثر باشد” May said to herself, and seated herself at the table to endure Norma’s long winded complaints. One hour and 43 minutes to go.
Liz couldn’t believe her ears; at first she’d ignored the harbingers, the unattended dust trails, and of course, all the crumbs on the table piling up day after day.
He paused to leave room for Liz’ to answer, not that she ever needed any to start with. But she was profoundly shocked at the betrayal.
“I don’t believe you gave her paid leaves, have you; one of your silly ideas?”
Godfrey thought for a moment, “Now you mention it, I don’t believe she had any, even after all this time, had she?”
“Don’t be daft, Godfrey, she wouldn’t want any; of course, there’s a reason I chose her over the other very qualified staff lining up to work here.”
“Not even a trace, her personal belonging are gone; not even a message left behind. A mystery fit for one of your novels, eh.”
I bet you were expecting reports of action and adventure, a fast paced tale of risks and rescues, with perhaps a little romance. Hah! It’s been like a morgue around here after that fluster of activity and new arrivals. Like everyone lost the wind out of their sails and wondered what they were doing here.
Sanso took to his room with no explanation, other than he needed to rest. He wouldn’t let anyone in except Finly with food and drinks (quite an extraordinary amount for just one man, I must say, and not a crumb or a drop left over on the trays Finly carried back to the kitchen.) I told Finly to quiz him, find out if he was sick or needed a doctor, or perhaps a bit of company, but the only thing she said was that he was fine, and it was none of our business, he’d paid up front hadn’t he? So what was the problem. Bit rude if you ask me.
Mater had taken to her room with a pile of those trashy romance novels, complaining of her arthritis. She’d gone into a sulk ever since I ruined her red pantsuit in a boil wash, and dyed all the table linen pink in the process. The other guests lounged around listlessly in the sitting room or the porch, flicking through magazines or scrolling their gadgets, mostly with bored vacant expressions, and little conversation beyond a cursory reply to any attempt to chat.
Bert was nowhere to be seen most of the time, and even when he was around, he was as uncommunicative as the rest of them, and Devan, what was he up to, always down the cellar? Checking the rat traps was all he said when I asked him. But we haven’t got rats, I told him, not down the cellar anyway. He gave me a look that was unreadable, to put it politely. Maybe he’s got a crack lab going on down there, planning on selling it to the bored guests. God knows, maybe that’d liven us all up a bit.
I did get to wondering about those two women who wandered off down the mine, but whenever I mentioned them to anyone, all I got was a blank stare. I even banged on Sanso’s door a time or two, but he didn’t answer. I made Finly ask him, and she said all he would say is Not to worry, it would be sorted out. I mean, really! He hadn’t left that room all week, how was he going to sort it out? Bert said the same thing when I eventually managed to collar him, he said just wait, it will get sorted out, and then that glazed look came over his face again.
It’s weird, I tell you. We’re like a cast of characters with nobody writing the story, waiting. Waiting to start again on whatever comes next.
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.
Mandrake yawned and moved his paw swiftly on his left ear. “You haven’t paid close attention to the rhyme, have you?”
Deep in the maze of threads of past
She hides and fails to cast
A spell to help her float and ghast
Moribund characters trapped there last
Albie found the roaring voice of the black cat smooth like a roll of pebbles in a cataract, and felt mesmerized by the words so much he couldn’t focus his attention.
“Sounds like she’s trying to help ghosts or something?”
Mandrake shrugged “… or something.”
He took one of the few pearls left, and started to work a vortex to go where it began. His earliest memory of her. Something to do with that cunning and crafty dragon… Clues were hiding in that moment he was sure. At the very least, the dragon would help power back the sabulmantium for the tracking spell…
Night had fallen when Rukshan came back to the cottage. He was thinking that they could wait a little bit for the trip. He did not like that much the idea of trusting the safety of their group to a stranger, even if it was a friend of Lhamom. They were not in such a rush after all.
Rukshan looked at their luxuriant newly grown pergola. Thanks to the boost potion Glynis had prepared, it had only took a week to reach its full size and they have been able to enjoy it since the start of the unusual hot spell. The creatures that had hatched from the colourful eggs Gorrash had brought with him were flowing around the branches creating a nice glowing concerto of lights, inside and out.
It was amazing how everyone were combining their resources and skills to make this little community function. In the shadow of the pergola there was an empty pedestal that Fox had built and Eleri had decorated with nice grapes carvings. Gorrash was certainly on patrol with the owls. His friends had thought that a pedestal would be more comfortable and the pergola would keep Gorrash’s stone from the scorching heat of the sun. Also, he wouldn’t get covered in mud during the sudden heavy rains accompanying the hot spell.
Seeing the beautiful pedestal and the carved little stairs he could use to climb up, Gorrash had tried to hide the tears in his eyes. He mumbled it was due to some desert dust not to appear emotional, but they all knew his hard shell harboured the softest heart.
The dwarf had repaid them in an unexpected way. Every day just before sunrise, he would take a big plate in his hands and jumped on the pedestal before turning to stone. It allowed them to put grapes or other fruits that they could eat under the shadow of the of the pergola.
“They sent me a bloody pigeon,” she said when she arrived. She took the roll and handed it to Rukshan. “The city council… Leroway… he accuses us of unauthorised expansion of the house, of unauthorised construction on communal ground, and of unlicensed trade of manufactured goods.” Margoritt’s face was twisted with pain as the said the words.
Rukshan winced. Too much bad news were arriving at the same time. If there was a pattern, it seemed rather chaotic and harassing.
“They threaten us to send a bailif if we don’t stop our illegal activities and if we don’t pay the extra taxes they reclaim,” she continued. “I’m speechless at the guile of that man.”
Rukshan smiled, he wondered if Margoritt could ever be rendered speechless by anything except for bad flu. He uncoiled the roll and quickly skimmed through the long string of accusations. Many of them were unfair and, to his own opinion unjustified. Since when the forest belonged to Leroway’s city? It had always been sacred ground, and its own master.
“I have no money,” said Margoritt. “It’s so unfair. I can’t fight with that man. I’m too old and tired.”
“Don’t forget we are all in the same cottage, Margoritt. It’s not just you. Eventhough, they clearly want to evict us,” said Rukshan. “Even if we had enough money, they would not let us stay.” He showed her the small roll. “The list of accusations is so ludicrous that it’s clearly a ploy to get rid of us. First, that road they want to build through the forest, now evicting us from the ground.” And those bad omens from the mountain, he thought with a shiver.
“Ahem,” said a rockous voice. Gorrash had returned from his patrol. “I know where to find money,” he added. “At leas, I think I know. I had another dream about my maker. It’s just bits and pieces, but I’m sure he hid some treasure in the mountains. There was that big blue diamond, glowing as brightly as a blue sun. And other things.”
A big blue diamond? It sounds familiar. Rukshan thought. There was an old fae legend that mentioned a blue diamond but he couldn’t remember. Is it connected to the blue light Olliver mentioned earlier? He wondered.
“That’s it! You have to go find this treasure,” said Margoritt.
Rukshan sighed as he could feel the first symptoms of a headache. There was so much to think about, so much to do. He massaged his temples. The trip had suddenly become urgent, but they also had to leave someone behind to help Margoritt with the “Leroway problem”. And he winced as he wondered who was going to take care of that road business. It was clear to him that he couldn’t be everywhere at the same time. He would have to delegate.
He thought of the telebats. Maybe he could teach the others how to use them so that he could keep in touch and manage everything at distance. He sighed again. Who would be subtle and sensitive enough to master the telebats in time?
Rukshan woke up early. A fine drizzle was almost in suspension in the air, and already the sounds of nature were heard all around the inn.
They shared breakfast with Lahmom who was packing to join a group for a trek high in the mountains. He wasn’t going in the same direction —the rain shadow and high plateaus of the mountainous ranges were not as attractive as the green slopes, and in winter, the treks were perilous.
The inn-keeper fed them an honest and nourishing breakfast, and after eating it in silent contentment, they went on their separate way, happy for the moment of companionship.
The entrance to the bamboo forest was easy to find, there were many stone sculptures almost all made from the same molds on either sides, many were propitiation offerings, that were clothed in red more often than not.
Once inside the bamboos, it was as though all sounds from outside had disappeared. It was only the omnipresent forest breathing slowly.
The path was narrow, and required some concentration to not miss the fading marks along the way. It had not been trodden for a while, it was obvious from the thick layers of brown leaves covering the ground.
After an hour or so of walking, he was already deep inside the forest, slowly on his way up to the slopes of the mountain forest where the Hermit and some relatives lived.
There was a soft cry that caught his attention. It wasn’t unusual to find all sorts of creatures in the woods, normally they would leave you alone if you did the same. But the sounds were like a calling for help, full of sadness.
It would surely mean a detour, but again, after that fence business, he may as well have been guided here for some unfathomable purpose. He walked resolutely toward the sound, and after a short walk in the sodden earth, he found the origin of the sound.
There was a small hole made of bamboo leaves, and in it he could see that there was a dying mother gibbon. Rukshan knew some stories about them, and his people had great respect for the peaceful apes. He move calmly to the side of the ape so as not to frighten her. She had an infant cradled in her arms, and she didn’t seem surprised to see him.
There were no words between them, but with her touch she told him all he needed to know. She was dying, and he could do nothing about it. She wanted for her boy to be taken care of. He already knew how to change his appearance to that of a young boy, but would need to be taught in the ways of humans. That was what many gibbons were doing, trying to live among humans. There was no turning back to the old ways, it was the way for her kind to survive, and she was too old for it.
Rukshan waited at her side, until she was ready to peacefully go. He closed her eyes gently, and when he was done, turned around to notice the baby ape had turned into a little silent boy with deep sad eyes and a thick mop of silvery hair. As he was standing naked in the misty forest, Rukshan’s first thought was to tear a piece of cloth from his cape to make a sort of tunic for the boy. Braiding some dry leaves of bamboos made a small rope he could use as a belt.
With that done, and last silent respects paid to the mother, he took the boy’s hand into his own, and went back to find the path he’d left.
He had gently coaxed the oiliphant who was reluctant to go past the fences, towards the haunted bamboo forest, a bit further along the way. He’d thought that the Forest had many secret entrances, and would surely provide a way in when the time would be right. All he had to do was to keep his direction steady, and not mind a little detour. There might be a reason for all that —already he could see people coming out of their dwellings eyes full of curiosity to have a closer look at the both of them. Most would only observe in wonder, but some dared follow them for a little while. He started to wave, but nobody paid him any mind, they were clearly here for the creature. So he’d decided to retreat in silent observation.
With the excitement of leaving and riding the oiliphant to the Forest, Rukshan had almost forgotten about the phial in his pocket. He wasn’t sure yet what it was for, but it felt auspicious and welcome. A little nudge that would help him once in the thick of the woods.
Liz smiled with satisfaction at the new growth of the turmeric plants. Such healthy looking shiny green leaves. As always she was amazed at where green leaves came from. Where did they come from? They just appeared out of thin air, miraculous it was. It took her mind off the battle with the latex supplier to ponder the magic of nature.
Pondering the nature of magic in the garden reminded her of the peculiar things she’d recently read about a man who had a desire to appreciate nature, but was waiting until he had the time and the money to do it. One only has to look at the dandelions growing through the cracks of the concrete sidewalk to appreciate nature, she’d archly reminded him.
The inflexibility of the latex supplier had been an exercise in firm but pliant resistance on her part. And it had paid off. At first it had appeared to be another aggravating and futile battle with impermeable insurmountable systems, Systems with a capital S, sacrosanct and rigid, inviolate, the new highest authority that growing hoards of the populus were dutifully grovelling at the feet of. But Liz had stood her ground, whilst simultaneously maintaining a lithe willowy air of good humour and pragmatism.
By the time Liz had found a properly flexible and accommodating new latex supplier, the old inflexible latex supplier became acquiescing and biddable. But it was too late. With a modicum of undisguised glee, Liz informed them of this fact, and smiled with the undeniable pleasure of success.rmkreegParticipant
It’s the Wall of Watches, where the last remaining heart beats of the condemned live on, refusing to be forgotten. The wall itself is high, with chains crisscrossing it’s face to keep a patchwork of boards in place. Threaded into the chains, however, were the watches of those who died at the wall.
The watches hung from each other. There would be one watch attached to the chains and then more watches would be strung on it’s bands. It was a practical solution to diminishing real estate on the wall, but it was metaphorical as well, representing the interconnection of hearts and souls.
Most watches were mechanical, but wound by the movement of handling. On the day of their death, or if they expected it, they’d run to the wall and fit their watch to the chains. Well-wishers would visit the memorial and handle the watches to both keep them going and to remember their loved-one once more. As long as the ticking continued, it was said that their heart remained beating in this world.
The guards would walk the condemned men past the wall to remind them of the people who came before. Dissenters.
As a line of men shuffled past the wall, an inmate leapt out of line and furiously fumbled with his watch, trying all he could to attach it. There was always one. One guy would become so overwhelmed by the empathy of the symbolism, would connect so strongly with the wall, that he’d leap out of line and attach his watch…an act which would be paid for by immediate death.
A guard watched with a certain pity. The orders were to shoot on sight, but he would let them have their last act. Right as the band slipped through the buckle, a shot was fired and the inmate fell in a lump.
All of this seemed so familiar to Aaron…or was it? Is this where he was supposed to be? He had a sudden moment of clarity while standing in that line, watching his fellow inmate fall. What was he doing here?! It was one of those moments that hits you. What in the world is all this bullshit?!
He loosened the belt on his watch as he drew closer to the wall, not wanting to seem suspicious. He would attach his watch, willingly and premeditated. Their expectations of him would not hold him ransom…rather, he’d use their own expectations against them. They would not kill him. He was in control. This was his time. This was his life. He was taking it back.
And, right as he slid the belt through, he got one last look at the black face of the watch…
The phone rang, putting paid to Hilda’s intention of going back to sleep. There was evidence that the random face puncher had lashed out again, this time in Boston. Boston! Hilda quickly packed a flight bag, vaguely wondering why she didn’t have suitcase packing staff on hand. There was no time to watch a “how to pack a suitcase” video, either. The verdigris statue lay tits up on the smashed concrete sidewalk, indicating that the face puncher packed quite a punch. Hilda grinned at the thought of the danger bonus payment for this assignment, and then scowled at the thought of US customs crotch gropers. She toyed with the idea of wearing a codpiece stuffed with dried chamomile, just for a laugh, but thought better of it.
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