“Can’t we sit down over there for a minute? My feet are bloody killing me.” April nodded towards a park bench; she didn’t have much patience today for June and her philosophising, after all, wasn’t it June’s fault they were in this mess? “It’s too bad we can’t even afford the bus fare,” she grumbled as she settled herself on the wooden seat.
“Not too much further,” said June plonking down next to her.
April bent down to take off her socks and sneakers and massaged her grateful feet in the damp grass. “Think I’ve got a blister. And I’d kill for a cuppa tea. I do hope Finnley has kept on top of things.”
June snorted. “Not bloody likely. Anyway, while we’ve been walking I’ve been thinking … what if we sue?”
“No, you idiot, not, who Sue. I mean what if we sue for money? Sue the president for wrongdoings which have been done to us.”
“Oh!” April perked up. “There’s certainly been plenty of wrongdoings!”
June smiled smugly. “Exactly.”
Since the sudden disappearance of the two au pair maids, a lot had happened. But for August Finest it has been a lot of the same routine going on.
He wakes up in the early, early morning, his eyelids rubs on his eyeballs as if they are made of sandpaper. He seizes his belly with his hands, feels a little guilty about the nice meals prepared by Noor Mary especially for him since the start of the confinement. His six packs have started to fade away under a layer of fatty insulation and he tries to compensate by a daily routine in white T-shirt and underwear.
The coffee machine has detected his movements and starts to make what it does. It’s always cleaned and replenished by the discrete Mary. The noise and the smell creates an ambiance and when it rings he eats breakfast before taking his shower.
When he’s dressed up, his real work starts. It had not been easy for a man of his origins to appear as the best choice for the job under the Lump administration. President Lump was known to make bad jokes about his tan and him having spent too much time at the beach, and other worse things. But his worth was in the network he could connect the president with, his high discretion, which Lump was in dire need to compensate his innate tendency to boasting, and a strong adaptability to fix the president’s frequent messing around.
If August Finest had once admired the man and accepted the job for him, it soon changed when he realised there was nothing more underneath the boasting than more boasting and unpredictability. At the moment the only thing that make him continue was his ability to go stealth when the president had a fit of nerves, and the imposed confinement that made it impossible to leave the Beige House.
After the morning meeting during which the president asked him to fire a few members of the staff, August had to prepare a press conference. President Lump said he had thought about a few remarks about China and making a connection with the Mexican immigrants threatening the country by stealing the masks of the American People. After which, he had to plan a charity with first Lady Mellie Noma and redefine what a Masquerade meant. He had been asked to invite nurses and medical personnel, meaning republican and good looking in a blouse with a medical mask to make the promotion of the new mask industry Made in America. One of Mr Lump’s friend had just started a brand and was in need of some media promotion.
August reread the memo to be addressed to the director of the FBI, a good friend of his. A special cell at the FBI had been created especially since Lump came to power. For this particular occasion, agents posing as patients victims of the virus would be sent in the best ranked hospitals in the country with the task to look for the best nurse and doctor candidates and send them an invitation printed by Lump’s nephew’s printing company.
As Lump always said: “America Fist! And don’t forget people, I am America.”
August hit the enter button and closed the window of his professional mail account, leaving the draft of a personal mail on screen. He wasn’t sure if he could send this one. It was addressed to Noor Mary and he feared she would misunderstand the meaning of it.
Fanella was frantic, trying to think of a way to escape with her baby. The atmosphere in this city was unbearable at the best of times, and especially in this house, but now it was excruciating. It wasn’t that she was afraid of the plague that was terrorizing people, it was the way the people were reacting that was so alarming. They were howling like wolves, a sure sign of lunacy since time immemorial. The sound of it made her blood run cold.
Nobody had seen the president for over a week and rumours were rife. Many said that he’d died, and they were keeping it secret to avoid civil unrest. An office junior was continuing his tweets to the nation, using a random predictive text algorithm. Nobody had noticed. That wasn’t strictly true of course as many had commented that the messages now made marginally more sense.
Fanella could sense the swelling chaos in the air, both inside the house and beyond, in the city and in the nation. Everyone was losing their minds. She had to escape.
She consulted the U Chong:
晉 (Chin / Jin) : Progress / Advance. It represents Prospering, as well as Progress. It is symbolic of meeting the great man.
The great man! Of course! Lazuli Galore would come to rescue her! But how would he know where to find her? Would he be able to travel freely? He’d find a way, surely! But how would he know she needed help? It was so complicated. So hard to know what to do!
But first things first. Fanella crept down to the kitchen, in the dead of the night while everyone was tucked up in their beds with their fitful nightmares, and filled a rucksack with provisions. Then she crept up the back stairs to her hideout in the attic of the west wing. The baby was still sleeping soundly. Fanella lay down and pulled a blanket round them both. Maybe the answer would come in a dream. If not, she’d think about it again tomorrow.
I feel sick in my stomach. Been days actually. Got to try something new, and a line a day seems like a good start.
Had dreams last night, it was months I didn’t get any. Nothing really out of the mundane, though I was selling the house in one of the dreams.
To think we’re still stuck on this nightmarish cruise, nor on land nor on water, and I dream of the house. The brain has a sense of humour.
The walls are paper thin, we can hear the endless complains of the nearby cruisers. That’s two left, one right, 3 across the corridor, and at least 2 above and below — that I can count at least. I call them my voices, makes me laugh a little. I didn’t tell Lorel, she would call me barmy. I thought of giving them numbers, it’s like reducing the complexity of human nature to something more… geometric? Reduce them to lines of code, maybe you can hack into the collective mind, make it work for you.
I think one of the voice is a pirate. It’s coughing Awwr, arr, arr more and more now. I’ll call him Eleven. Won’t be long before they catch him and isolate him. Good thing he’s the guy under and not above, from what I hear, the thing spreads through the loos too. Maybe he’ll make a run for it, I heard some tried to escape this hellhole. Well, they missed the free booze vouchers, too bad for them.
So long journal, wife is coming back from her trip to the other room. Yeah, I mean the loo, don’t you enjoy promiscuity. We’re not rolling in dough, couldn’t afford the presidential suite you see. Maybe if we survive longer than everybody else, it’ll be ours, who knows…
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.
“This is the life, eh!” June said, stretching out on the sun lounger sipping a fruity cocktail. “Turquoise sea and a salty breeze, this is the life for me!” she said, kicking off her new deck shoes in nautical blue and white, and hitching her dress hem up to expose her thighs to the sun.
The skipper raised an eyebrow and smiled sardonically, while simultaneously averting his eyes from the unappetizing sight of the doughy flesh. He could imagine this one rolling around below decks looking green as soon as the weather changed.
“Sure beats that jail. That had me worried, I’ll admit it. I wasn’t sure we were ever gonna make it outta there,” replied April, smiling fondly at Ella Marie and giving her hand an affectionate squeeze. “You saved our bacon, honey.”
“If it weren’t for that there Lord Wrick turning up, even the money might not have got you out.” Arthur chimed in. “Promising ole president Lump that land for the golf course if’n he pardoned you. Jacqui, you done wonders there.”
“Ah well, the young Lord Wrick owed me a favour, you might say. But that’s another story,” Jacqui replied. “The main thing was we had to get out of the country fast before Lump finds out about that land in Scotland.”
June sniggered. “Can’t imagine him in a kilt, can you? I wonder if he’s orange down there as well.”
“Oh, please! You really know how to lower the tone, dontcha? Gawd, what a thought!” April started to feel queasy. Changing the subject, she said, “Hey, did I tell you our Joanie’s going to meet us in Australia too?”
Mr August Finest
Before he became chief of staff for the Beige House, he shunned a promising lawyer and political career which his family wanted for him, and enlisted in 2001. He served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and got decorated for bravery. However, this life is now behind him, and he prefers to focus on his duties as chief of staff. His deep respect for chain of command prevents him from commenting on his likes or dislikes of the current President, which makes him see the good in unlikely situations.
In his free time, he collects golf balls and pewter memorabilia from the Civil War.
June was born in Glasgow, Kentucky in 1957. Her real name is not known yet. She comes from a military family who used to move around a lot, hence, never really felt home in any place, and kept largely her distances with relatives. At a young age of 17 (1974), she eloped with her then fiancé and did a tour of the USA on a shoestring, aiming to stow away on a Californian ship to reach Hawaii. We find her years later, happily divorced, and sought in 5 states for various charges, primarily identity theft and credit card fraud. A chance encounter with April led her to her next scam: registering as an experienced nanny “au pair”, coming from Glasgow, Scotland. She didn’t manage to stay too long at her employs, yet a fortunate event led her to apply and be selected for the nursing of the President’s precocious baby. She loathes all that the President represents, but likes a challenge, and the irony of being a wanted con-artist on the run under the nose of the Secret Services.
Norma (real name Noor Mary Chowdhury)
She was born in 1983 Bombay, New York from a family of devout Indian Catholics. Her name “Noor” means “Light”, but she had it legally changed to Norma, her usual nickname, after the attacks of 2001, to avoid snide remarks or suspicion. As a child, she wanted to become a nun. At barely 18, shortly after 9-11, she ran away from an arranged marriage and never looked back. By juggling multiple low pay jobs, she managed to get enrolled in University and obtained a PhD in Social Studies. She then gave up a promising teaching career for a life of service. She landed a job at the Beige House during the previous President’s tenure, and despite her dislike of the new tenant, she kept her job, and is very proud of maintaining a high standard. As we know, she is still single.
Phew, 7 years after that initial assessment… 10% done in a blip.
The man in pistachio wondered if he had got it right. That odd contraption he’d just acquired seemed to be able to accelerate time.
Not sure if it was a boon or a curse in disguise. Now he dreaded to push that button again. The refund policy of the auction house has expired obviously, people would have thought him disappeared or dead for all this time… And 7 years down the line, the world seemed a slightly foreign place.
He brushed the thick layer of dust on the telly, and turned it on. It was the stuff of nightmares. President Tusk gloating on the news with his improbably orange hair. For a shift, he was in a deep shift.
Another bang on my bedroom door, my hands suspended over the keyboard. “Go away Prune!” I shouted, exasperated. “If you bang on my door again, I’ll come out and give you such a wallop, now bugger off, will you!”
“It’s me, Corrie” came Clove’s voice. Walked over to the door and unlocked it. A chat with my sister might help me with this project. Unlike Prune, who would be guaranteed to disrupt my train of thought.
Locking the door again I tell Clove what I’m writing about. We don’t go to school, me and Clove, we’re what they call “homeschooled” but what that actually means in our case is that we’re left to our own devices most of the time. Aunt Idle asks us (when she remembers) what we’ve been working on, and as long as we’ve been writing something or researching something, she’s happy.
So when I saw the group project about alternative timelines to avoid the disaster timeline, I had some ideas. Well, to be honest, I didn’t have any definite ideas until I saw the other suggestions. All Americans, and all of them talking about changing the timelines by changing the results of presidential elections!
“Not much chance of a different timeline there then!” remarked Clove astutely.
“Exactly!” I knew Clove would get it, she knows were I’m coming from, but then, everyone knows twins are like that.
“So this is what the plan is, right: “The goal of this exercise is to discuss amongst the group and choose significant past moments, and then As a Group, focus on creating alternate histories, thus sparking alternate timelines. We should vividly imagine moving forward from those probability forks and creating a more viable and desirable future.” Oh, and this bit here: “ our current timeline is convoluted to the point where many probabilities are leaning towards a disaster scenario simply to shake out of the current focus.” And then all these suggestions about different presidents, and then this: “My suggestion would be also to consider how we would like our current time frame to appear,” so I’m thinking…”
“I’m thinking” interrupted Clove, continuing my train of thought, “Of all those states and communities that got with the programme ten years ago, and took their kids out of school and built those Earthships so they didn’t need money for water and electricity..”
“And started cooperative worker owned businesses like they do in South America….”
“And they all started a guaranteed basic income years ago, so everyone was doing what they did best, especially the kids, cos they had such great ideas and weren’t stuck in boring schoolrooms…..”
“and there was no poverty, and nobody without a home…”
“Yeah, and they all stopped paying taxes so there was no money for the military, and then loads more people stopped paying taxes too…”
“Good one, Clove!”
“So nobody gave a fuck what president was elected anyway, because they were all sorting themselves out, and those states and communities were doing so well…”
“Because they’d already been doing it for years” I added.
“…that other states and communities started doing it too.”
“So that it snowballed, like dominoes, and there were more and more of these places..”
“And they had exchange students and stuff like that to learn from each other, and shared stuff online..”
“So when the disasters struck, it wasn’t half so bad because there were already a bunch of people managing perfectly well without dollars or oil, and they could help the people in the disaster. Makes more sense that electing another blimmin president, huh?”
That made me laugh, remembering her waving the stick around. “Her face was as purple as her cardigan.”
In unison, we both starting singing Start Wearing Purple and dancing around, acting the fool. I had a purple wig hanging on the back of my chair, so I put that on, and Clove grabbed a purple feather boa off the coat stand. No shortage of wigs in this town, though god only knows why. Just about every damn trunk in every empty house is full of wigs.
“Do leaves really talk?” she wondered as the smoke of the herb tea dissipated off the kitchen’s mirror credence. “Let’s see about that,” she continued, carrying the tray with the cup of tea and the scones to the computer room, from where a few oink sounds were beckoning her.
Probably her friends asking for a chat, some random rubbish or the last juicy news about the president’s wife who happened to be visiting in the area. In truth, she wouldn’t have even known, had it not be for her foreign friends. The local neighbours really couldn’t give a fig. That was figuratively speaking of course. The fig trees were already full of green fruits, that if odds were good wouldn’t turn up as half-sodden half-rotten food for snails on the cobblestone pathway this year.
She added a zest of fresh lemon to the tea. She liked it bitter. The leaves were starting to settle at the bottom of the cup while she lit up a cigarette, throwing a cursory glance at the tens of messages waiting for her to peruse. Which was more interesting? She could figure out wavy things as feeble and changing as her cigarette’s smoke in between the leaves patterns, as well as in between the lines of haphazard messages from all the contacts. But those she loved the most were the pages she leafed through her books.
Yesterday, she started to do something purely daft, as she liked — a sort of challenge, if you will; or perhaps, a strong repressed desire. Sometimes it takes you years to do things you were thinking about when you were but a child. The moment you allow yourself the pleasure to indulge and overcome the resilient beliefs that it’s something forbidden or insidiously wrong is all the sweeter.
And she was tasting it like a sour sweet, with a touch of forbidden and the zest of excitement. Or more like horseradish. Ooh, does she live the green stuff too. Prickly at first, going up to your nose, and living you crying but begging for more. She makes a note to buy some next week (note that she’ll probably forget).
So what did she do? She took some of her precious books and started to tear up and cut through the pages. A blasphemy almost, for someone like her who revered books. Of course, at first she only took the bad ones, the romantic rubbish and the dog-eared now useless kitchen books, but then realized, what would be the point of gathering new information by assembling random pages cut off from a variety of books, if it wasn’t made from quality ingredients. Well, it surely stands to reason, even though her culinary reason had been on voyage the last twenty years as far as she knew. Anyway. Those leafs were starting to talk better than any bloody tea leaves could.
[link: talking leaves]
The thing is, Roslin, the woman character on the screenshot, is a president dying from a cancer, and is wearing a black wig. We had been discussing black wig with Finn previously.
Later that night, Tracy shared about an experience that she and her friends just had during the afternoon, which was interpreted by Arkandin as a bleedthrough from a dying focus of her friend’s husband. He said that this focus would be in Chile.
Tracy inquired if there was a Chile thread already in the story, to which I told her there was
And I was quite impressed to see there was a connection not only to crystal skulls and Chile, but also with dying person, and wig…
When Felicity had taken the job, she had thought at first that it was all a big interstellar joke…
Come on… Dead people speaking though living?
But a few recent experiences made her feel there was kind of warmth surrounding her when she started the radiophonic sessions, and that she was feeling… inspired, for lack of a better word.
Words indeed were coming and flowing, and even though she was rarely speechless, the words did have some different quality.
And people enjoyed the show greatly, and mails kept coming to the radio thanking DDT for all of the marvelous advices…
Till then, as she was conscious of the process, she had refrained issuing some definite statements on future events, as the inspiration was pressing her to do at times. As subtle as all of this was, she was feeling it was not really the same energy as the warm one; it was like incursions of a quicker and less stable bouncy energy.
It was pushing her to make cocky statements, on mass events about to come… Oh, not again self-fulfilling prophecies, please! she couldn’t help but think…
At times, Felicity was even wondering whether she was really going completely crazy.
Oh, it was so much simpler to be a genuine fraud…
— Arky, come here at once!
— But, I’ve done nothing…
— Stop being such a jackanapes, will you… You know very well there is no secret…
Despite his being immaterial, it was obvious that the One referred to as Arky was being scolded.
— And you know perfectly well there is nothing to gain in pushing things…
— But I intended well…
— I know that. As generations of focuses of leaders and presidents have been doing. One would have assumed you’d knew better by now… I can see you’re enjoying being with me on the soapbox, but either you find your own, or you better stay clear next time we get a communication.
— Fine, class dismissed.
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