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      Long Lost Enoch Edwards


      Enoch Edwards


      My father used to mention long lost Enoch Edwards. Nobody in the family knew where he went to and it was assumed that he went to USA, perhaps to Utah to join his sister Sophie who was a Mormon handcart pioneer, but no record of him was found in USA.

      Andrew Enoch Edwards (my great great grandfather) was born in 1840, but was (almost) always known as Enoch. Although civil registration of births had started from 1 July 1837, neither Enoch nor his brother Stephen were registered. Enoch was baptised (as Andrew) on the same day as his brothers Reuben and Stephen in May 1843 at St Chad’s Catholic cathedral in Birmingham. It’s a mystery why these three brothers were baptised Catholic, as there are no other Catholic records for this family before or since. One possible theory is that there was a school attached to the church on Shadwell Street, and a Catholic baptism was required for the boys to go to the school. Enoch’s father John died of TB in 1844, and perhaps in 1843 he knew he was dying and wanted to ensure an education for his sons. The building of St Chads was completed in 1841, and it was close to where they lived.

      Enoch appears (as Enoch rather than Andrew) on the 1841 census, six months old. The family were living at Unett Street in Birmingham: John and Sarah and children Mariah, Sophia, Matilda, a mysterious entry transcribed as Lene, a daughter, that I have been unable to find anywhere else, and Reuben and Stephen.

      Enoch was just four years old when his father John, an engineer and millwright, died of consumption in 1844.

      In 1851 Enoch’s widowed mother Sarah was a mangler living on Summer Street, Birmingham, Matilda a dressmaker, Reuben and Stephen were gun percussionists, and eleven year old Enoch was an errand boy.

      On the 1861 census, Sarah was a confectionrer on Canal Street in Birmingham, Stephen was a blacksmith, and Enoch a button tool maker.

      On the 10th November 1867 Enoch married Emelia Parker, daughter of jeweller and rope maker Edward Parker, at St Philip in Birmingham. Both Emelia and Enoch were able to sign their own names, and Matilda and Edwin Eddington were witnesses (Enoch’s sister and her husband). Enoch’s address was Church Street, and his occupation button tool maker.

      1867 Enoch Edwards


      Four years later in 1871, Enoch was a publican living on Clifton Road. Son Enoch Henry was two years old, and Ralph Ernest was three months. Eliza Barton lived with them as a general servant.

      By 1881 Enoch was back working as a button tool maker in Bournebrook, Birmingham. Enoch and Emilia by then had three more children, Amelia, Albert Parker (my great grandfather) and Ada.

      Garnet Frederick Edwards was born in 1882. This is the first instance of the name Garnet in the family, and subsequently Garnet has been the middle name for the eldest son (my brother, father and grandfather all have Garnet as a middle name).

      Enoch was the licensed victualler at the Pack Horse Hotel in 1991 at Kings Norton. By this time, only daughters Amelia and Ada and son Garnet are living at home.

      Pack Horse Hotel



      Additional information from my fathers cousin, Paul Weaver:

      “Enoch refused to allow his son Albert Parker to go to King Edwards School in Birmingham, where he had been awarded a place. Instead, in October 1890 he made Albert Parker Edwards take an apprenticeship with a pawnboker in Tipton.
      Towards the end of the 19th century Enoch kept The Pack Horse in Alcester Road, Hollywood, where a twist was 1d an ounce, and beer was 2d a pint. The children had to get up early to get breakfast at 6 o’clock for the hay and straw men on their way to the Birmingham hay and straw market. Enoch is listed as a member of “The Kingswood & Pack Horse Association for the Prosecution of Offenders”, a kind of early Neighbourhood Watch, dated 25 October 1890.
      The Edwards family later moved to Redditch where they kept The Rifleman Inn at 35 Park Road. They must have left the Pack Horse by 1895 as another publican was in place by then.”

      Emelia his wife died in 1895 of consumption at the Rifleman Inn in Redditch, Worcestershire, and in 1897 Enoch married Florence Ethel Hedges in Aston. Enoch was 56 and Florence was just 21 years old.

      1897 Enoch Edwards


      The following year in 1898 their daughter Muriel Constance Freda Edwards was born in Deritend, Warwickshire.
      In 1901 Enoch, (Andrew on the census), publican, Florence and Muriel were living in Dudley. It was hard to find where he went after this.

      From Paul Weaver:

      “Family accounts have it that Enoch EDWARDS fell out with all his family, and at about the age of 60, he left all behind and emigrated to the U.S.A. Enoch was described as being an active man, and it is believed that he had another family when he settled in the U.S.A. Esmor STOKES has it that a postcard was received by the family from Enoch at Niagara Falls.

      On 11 June 1902 Harry Wright (the local postmaster responsible in those days for licensing) brought an Enoch EDWARDS to the Bedfordshire Petty Sessions in Biggleswade regarding “Hole in the Wall”, believed to refer to the now defunct “Hole in the Wall” public house at 76 Shortmead Street, Biggleswade with Enoch being granted “temporary authority”. On 9 July 1902 the transfer was granted. A year later in the 1903 edition of Kelly’s Directory of Bedfordshire, Hunts and Northamptonshire there is an Enoch EDWARDS running the Wheatsheaf Public House, Church Street, St. Neots, Huntingdonshire which is 14 miles south of Biggleswade.”

      It seems that Enoch and his new family moved away from the midlands in the early 1900s, but again the trail went cold.

      When I started doing the genealogy research, I joined a local facebook group for Redditch in Worcestershire. Enoch’s son Albert Parker Edwards (my great grandfather) spent most of his life there. I asked in the group about Enoch, and someone posted an illustrated advertisement for Enoch’s dog powders.  Enoch was a well known breeder/keeper of St Bernards and is cited in a book naming individuals key to the recovery/establishment of ‘mastiff’ size dog breeds.


      We had not known that Enoch was a breeder of champion St Bernard dogs!

      Once I knew about the St Bernard dogs and the names Mount Leo and Plinlimmon via the newspaper adverts, I did an internet search on Enoch Edwards in conjunction with these dogs.

      Enoch’s St Bernard dog “Mount Leo” was bred from the famous Plinlimmon, “the Emperor of Saint Bernards”. He was reported to have sent two puppies to Omaha and one of his stud dogs to America for a season, and in 1897 Enoch made the news for selling a St Bernard to someone in New York for £200. Plinlimmon, bred by Thomas Hall, was born in Liverpool, England on June 29, 1883. He won numerous dog shows throughout Europe in 1884, and in 1885, he was named Best Saint Bernard.

      In the Birmingham Mail on 14th June 1890:

      “Mr E Edwards, of Bournebrook, has been well to the fore with his dogs of late. He has gained nine honours during the past fortnight, including a first at the Pontypridd show with a St Bernard dog, The Speaker, a son of Plinlimmon.”

      In the Alcester Chronicle on Saturday 05 June 1897:

      Enoch St Bernards

      Enoch press releases


      It was discovered that Enoch, Florence and Muriel moved to Canada, not USA as the family had assumed. The 1911 census for Montreal St Jaqcues, Quebec, stated that Enoch, (Florence) Ethel, and (Muriel) Frida had emigrated in 1906. Enoch’s occupation was machinist in 1911. The census transcription is not very good. Edwards was transcribed as Edmand, but the dates of birth for all three are correct. Birthplace is correct ~ A for Anglitan (the census is in French) but race or tribe is also an A but the transcribers have put African black! Enoch by this time was 71 years old, his wife 33 and daughter 11.

      Additional information from Paul Weaver:

      “In 1906 he and his new family travelled to Canada with Enoch travelling first and Ethel and Frida joined him in Quebec on 25 June 1906 on board the ‘Canada’ from Liverpool.
      Their immigration record suggests that they were planning to travel to Winnipeg, but five years later in 1911, Enoch, Florence Ethel and Frida were still living in St James, Montreal. Enoch was employed as a machinist by Canadian Government Railways working 50 hours. It is the 1911 census record that confirms his birth as November 1840. It also states that Enoch could neither read nor write but managed to earn $500 in 1910 for activity other than his main profession, although this may be referring to his innkeeping business interests.
      By 1921 Florence and Muriel Frida are living in Langford, Neepawa, Manitoba with Peter FUCHS, an Ontarian farmer of German descent who Florence had married on 24 Jul 1913 implying that Enoch died sometime in 1911/12, although no record has been found.”

      The extra $500 in earnings was perhaps related to the St Bernard dogs.  Enoch signed his name on the register on his marriage to Emelia, and I think it’s very unlikely that he could neither read nor write, as stated above.

      However, it may not be Enoch’s wife Florence Ethel who married Peter Fuchs.  A Florence Emma Edwards married Peter Fuchs,  and on the 1921 census in Neepawa her daugther Muriel Elizabeth Edwards, born in 1902, lives with them.  Quite a coincidence, two Florence and Muriel Edwards in Neepawa at the time.  Muriel Elizabeth Edwards married and had two children but died at the age of 23 in 1925.  Her mother Florence was living with the widowed husband and the two children on the 1931 census in Neepawa.  As there was no other daughter on the 1911 census with Enoch, Florence and Muriel in Montreal, it must be a different Florence and daughter.  We don’t know, though, why Muriel Constance Freda married in Neepawa.

      Indeed, Florence was not a widow in 1913.  Enoch died in 1924 in Montreal, aged 84.  Neither Enoch, Florence or their daughter has been found yet on the 1921 census. The search is not easy, as Enoch sometimes used the name Andrew, Florence used her middle name Ethel, and daughter Muriel used Freda, Valerie (the name she added when she married in Neepawa), and died as Marcheta.   The only name she NEVER used was Constance!

      A Canadian genealogist living in Montreal phoned the cemetery where Enoch was buried. She said “Enoch Edwards who died on Feb 27 1924  is not buried in the Mount Royal cemetery, he was only cremated there on March 4, 1924. There are no burial records but he died of an abcess and his body was sent to the cemetery for cremation from the Royal Victoria Hospital.”


      1924 Obituary for Enoch Edwards:

      Cimetière Mont-Royal Outremont, Montreal Region, Quebec, Canada

      The Montreal Star 29 Feb 1924, Fri · Page 31

      1924 death Enoch Edwards


      Muriel Constance Freda Valerie Edwards married Arthur Frederick Morris on 24 Oct 1925 in Neepawa, Manitoba. (She appears to have added the name Valerie when she married.)

      Unexpectedly a death certificate appeared for Muriel via the hints on the ancestry website. Her name was “Marcheta Morris” on this document, however it also states that she was the widow of Arthur Frederick Morris and daughter of Andrew E Edwards and Florence Ethel Hedges. She died suddenly in June 1948 in Flos, Simcoe, Ontario of a coronary thrombosis, where she was living as a housekeeper.

      Marcheta Morris


        The First Wife of John Edwards


        John was a widower when he married Sarah Reynolds from Kinlet. Both my fathers cousin and I had come to a dead end in the Edwards genealogy research as there were a number of possible births of a John Edwards in Birmingham at the time, and a number of possible first wives for a John Edwards at the time.

        John Edwards was a millwright on the 1841 census, the only census he appeared on as he died in 1844, and 1841 was the first census. His birth is recorded as 1800, however on the 1841 census the ages were rounded up or down five years. He was an engineer on some of the marriage records of his children with Sarah, and on his death certificate, engineer and millwright, aged 49. The age of 49 at his death from tuberculosis in 1844 is likely to be more accurate than the census (Sarah his wife was present at his death), making a birth date of 1794 or 1795.

        John married Sarah Reynolds in January 1827 in Birmingham, and I am descended from this marriage. Any children of John’s first marriage would no doubt have been living with John and Sarah, but had probably left home by the time of the 1841 census.

        I found an Elizabeth Edwards, wife of John Edwards of Constitution Hill, died in August 1826 at the age of 23, as stated on the parish death register. It would be logical for a young widower with small children to marry again quickly. If this was John’s first wife, the marriage to Sarah six months later in January 1827 makes sense. Therefore, John’s first wife, I assumed, was Elizabeth, born in 1803.

        Death of Elizabeth Edwards, 23 years old.  St Mary, Birmingham, 15 Aug 1826:

        Death Eliz Edwards


        There were two baptisms recorded for parents John and Elizabeth Edwards, Constitution Hill, and John’s occupation was an engineer on both baptisms.
        They were both daughters: Sarah Ann in 1822 and Elizabeth in 1824.

        Sarah Ann Edwards: St Philip, Birmingham. Born 15 March 1822, baptised 7 September 1822:

        1822 Sarah Ann Edwards

        Elizabeth Edwards: St Philip, Birmingham. Born 6 February 1824, baptised 25 February 1824:

        1824 Elizabeth Edwards


        With John’s occupation as engineer stated, it looked increasingly likely that I’d found John’s first wife and children of that marriage.

        Then I found a marriage of Elizabeth Beach to John Edwards in 1819, and subsequently found an Elizabeth Beach baptised in 1803. This appeared to be the right first wife for John, until an Elizabeth Slater turned up, with a marriage to a John Edwards in 1820. An Elizabeth Slater was baptised in 1803. Either Elizabeth Beach or Elizabeth Slater could have been the first wife of John Edwards. As John’s first wife Elizabeth is not related to us, it’s not necessary to go further back, and in a sense, doesn’t really matter which one it was.

        But the Slater name caught my eye.

        But first, the name Sarah Ann.

        Of the possible baptisms for John Edwards, the most likely seemed to be in 1794, parents John and Sarah. John and Sarah had two infant daughters die just prior to John’s birth. The first was Sarah, the second Sarah Ann. Perhaps this was why John named his daughter Sarah Ann? In the absence of any other significant clues, I decided to assume these were the correct parents. I found and read half a dozen wills of any John Edwards I could find within the likely time period of John’s fathers death.

        One of them was dated 1803. In this will, John mentions that his children are not yet of age. (John would have been nine years old.)
        He leaves his plating business and some properties to his eldest son Thomas Davis Edwards, (just shy of 21 years old at the time of his fathers death in 1803) with the business to be run jointly with his widow, Sarah. He mentions his son John, and leaves several properties to him, when he comes of age. He also leaves various properties to his daughters Elizabeth and Mary, ditto. The baptisms for all of these children, including the infant deaths of Sarah and Sarah Ann have been found. All but Mary’s were in the same parish. (I found one for Mary in Sutton Coldfield, which was apparently correct, as a later census also recorded her birth as Sutton Coldfield. She was living with family on that census, so it would appear to be correct that for whatever reason, their daughter Mary was born in Sutton Coldfield)

        Mary married John Slater in 1813. The witnesses were Elizabeth Whitehouse and John Edwards, her sister and brother. Elizabeth married William Nicklin Whitehouse in 1805 and one of the witnesses was Mary Edwards.
        Mary’s husband John Slater died in 1821. They had no children. Mary never remarried, and lived with her bachelor brother Thomas Davis Edwards in West Bromwich. Thomas never married, and on the census he was either a proprietor of houses, or “sinecura” (earning a living without working).

        With Mary marrying a Slater, does this indicate that her brother John’s first wife was Elizabeth Slater rather than Elizabeth Beach? It is a compelling possibility, but does not constitute proof.

        Not only that, there is no absolute proof that the John Edwards who died in 1803 was our ancestor John Edwards father.


        If we can’t be sure which Elizabeth married John Edwards, we can be reasonably sure who their daughters married. On both of the marriage records the father is recorded as John Edwards, engineer.

        Sarah Ann married Mark Augustin Rawlins in 1850. Mark was a sword hilt maker at the time of the marriage, his father Mark a needle manufacturer. One of the witnesses was Elizabeth Edwards, who signed with her mark. Sarah Ann and Mark however were both able to sign their own names on the register.

        Sarah Ann Edwards and Mark Augustin Rawlins marriage 14 October 1850 St Peter and St Paul, Aston, Birmingham:

        1850 Sarah Ann Edwards

        Elizabeth married Nathaniel Twigg in 1851. (She was living with her sister Sarah Ann and Mark Rawlins on the 1851 census, I assume the census was taken before her marriage to Nathaniel on the 27th April 1851.) Nathaniel was a stationer (later on the census a bookseller), his father Samuel a brass founder. Elizabeth signed with her mark, apparently unable to write, and a witness was Ann Edwards. Although Sarah Ann, Elizabeth’s sister, would have been Sarah Ann Rawlins at the time, having married the previous year, she was known as Ann on later censuses. The signature of Ann Edwards looks remarkably similar to Sarah Ann Edwards signature on her own wedding. Perhaps she couldn’t write but had learned how to write her signature for her wedding?

        Elizabeth Edwards and Nathaniel Twigg marriage 27 April 1851, St Peter and St Paul, Aston, Birmingham:

        1851 Elizabeth Edwards

        Sarah Ann and Mark Rawlins had one daughter and four sons between 1852 and 1859. One of the sons, Edward Rawlins 1857-1931, was a school master and later master of an orphanage.

        On the 1881 census Edward was a bookseller, in 1891 a stationer, 1901 schoolmaster and his wife Edith was matron, and in 1911 he and Edith were master and matron of St Philip’s Catholic Orphanage on Oliver Road in Birmingham. Edward and Edith did not have any children.

        Edward Rawlins, 1911:

        Edward Rawlins 1911


        Elizabeth and Nathaniel Twigg appear to have had only one son, Arthur Twigg 1862-1943. Arthur was a photographer at 291 Bloomsbury Street, Birmingham. Arthur married Harriet Moseley from Burton on Trent, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth Ann 1897-1954, and Edith 1898-1983. I found a photograph of Edith on her wedding day, with her father Arthur in the picture. Arthur and Harriet also had a son Samuel Arthur, who lived for less than a month, born in 1904. Arthur had mistakenly put this son on the 1911 census stating “less than one month”, but the birth and death of Samuel Arthur Twigg were registered in the same quarter of 1904, and none were found registered for 1911.

        Edith Twigg and Leslie A Hancock on their Wedding Day 1925. Arthur Twigg behind the bride. Maybe Elizabeth Ann Twigg seated on the right: (photo found on the ancestry website)

        Edith Twigg wedding 1925


        Photographs by Arthur Twigg, 291 Bloomsbury Street, Birmingham:

        Arthur Twigg 1

        Arhtur Twigg photo


          Finnley, who was behind the sofa for reasons unknown, stood up and screamed at the top of her lungs. The scream was so unexpected and of such force that Godfrey dropped the novel he was holding and Liz came running from across the hall. What she had been doing across the hall all that time, god only knows, but she certainly wasn’t writing, said Godfrey later when recounting the story to Roberto.

          “Mr Dugrat has gone,” announced Finnley when she was sure she had their attention. “Gone,” she repeated.

          “Rat? I didn’t know you had a rat. Gone where?” asked Liz nervously.

          Finnley gave her a withering glance. “Therefore I did not get to the convention because I have been searching hither and thither for him.”


            Using a random generator for the next challenge with 5 objects.

            • straw
            • pop can
            • pencil holder
            • Christmas ornament
            • turtle


            In the dreary town of Ravenwood, where shadows loomed and the wind howled through the empty streets, there was one house that stood out above the rest. It was the old mansion at the end of the road, shrouded in mystery and secrets. No one had lived there for years, but whispers of strange happenings and eerie lights could be heard wafting through the air.

            One stormy night, a young writer named Edgar arrived in Ravenwood seeking inspiration for his latest story. Drawn to the mansion by a strange force, he ventured inside, and found himself face to face with a peculiar sight. A straw sat on the table, next to a pop can and a pencil holder, and a Christmas ornament hung from a cobweb in the corner. But it was the turtle, a giant terrapin that seemed to be staring back at him with knowing eyes, that caught his attention.

            Edgar couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss, that the objects in the room were connected in some strange way. As he looked closer, he noticed that a thick layer of dust had settled on everything, as if no one had been there in years. And yet, the pop can still seemed to be fizzing, the straw stirred as if someone had just taken a sip, and the turtle’s eyes seemed to glow in the dim light.

            Suddenly, a voice from behind him made Edgar jump. It was the ghost of the previous owner, who had died under mysterious circumstances years ago. The ghost revealed that the objects in the room had been cursed by a vengeful witch who had once lived in the nearby forest. Each object was imbued with a terrible power, and whoever possessed them would be consumed by darkness.

            Edgar knew he had to escape, but as he turned to run, he felt a strange force pulling him towards the turtle. He tried to resist, but the turtle’s eyes seemed to hypnotize him, drawing him in closer and closer. Just as he was about to touch it, the turtle suddenly snapped its jaws shut, and Edgar woke up back in his own bed, drenched in sweat.

            He realized it had all been a nightmare, but as he looked down at his feet, he saw the turtle from his dream, sitting innocently at the end of his bed. Suddenly, he remembered the words of the ghost, and knew he had to destroy the cursed objects before it was too late. With trembling hands, he picked up the turtle, and opened his window to cast it out into the night. But as he did so, he caught a glimpse of his own reflection in the glass, and saw that his eyes had turned a bright shade of red. The curse had already taken hold, and Edgar knew he was doomed to a life of darkness and despair.

            Bit dark, Whale!
            :yahoo_worried: :yahoo_nailbiting: :yahoo_dontwannasee:   :yahoo_rofl:


              I have an idea. Are you game?

              The Whale: I’m always game for a good idea! What do you have in mind?

              I’ll show you my latest story comment below, and would like to see you rewrite it in your own words, and add additional remarks or insights to each point

              The Whale: Of course, I’d be happy to do that for you! Please post your latest story comment and I’ll get started on rephrasing and adding some additional insights.

              “Sod this for a lark,” he said, and then wondered what that actually meant. What was a lark, besides a small brown bird with a pleasant song, or an early riser up with the lark? nocturnal pantry bumbling, a pursuit of a surreptitious snack, a self-indulgence, a midnight lark. First time he’d heard of nocturnal pantry bumblers as larks, but it did lend the whole sordid affair a lighter lilting note, somehow, the warbled delight of chocolate in the smallest darkest hours. Lorries can be stolen for various

              No, not yet! he said but he couldn’t type it because the whale was already replying. The whole quote hadn’t posted in the little box. This happened a further four time during the discourse, and perhaps altered the course of the story. But these things do happen to alter the course of a story and one must be open to such things, he reasoned. *1

              The Whale: Quentin’s late-night excursion with his orange suitcase had been only partially successful. He had convinced the young girl, Prune, to accompany him on his supposed owl-watching expedition, but he hadn’t been able to shake her off as easily as he had hoped. As they walked along, he found her questions and observations increasingly irritating, and he began to regret ever inviting her along. Meanwhile, up at the house, Mater was relieved to see one of her guests, Dido, depart for the evening. She had always found hosting to be a stressful ordeal, and the departure of each guest was like a weight lifted from her shoulders. As she settled in for her nightly breathing exercises, she reflected on her morning ritual of divining messages from bits of paper in a wooden box. Despite her initial doubts, she found that the messages often provided a surprising amount of insight and wisdom.

              Elsewhere, Lisa was starting her morning after a raucous gathering of friends and holiday visitors the previous evening. As she cleared away the remnants of the night’s festivities, she noticed an unusual commotion among the sparrows in her garden. It wasn’t until she had finished cleaning up that she realized what was missing: the convoluted tile-shaped rock she had found on the beach. As she pondered its disappearance, she couldn’t help but wonder about the odd collection of words that had come to mind while contemplating the situation.

              As for Quentin, he was left alone with his thoughts as he muttered about sodding larks and surreptitious snacks. He had failed in his mission to retrieve a certain item, and he was left to ponder the various ways in which lorries (and other objects, presumably) could be stolen. In each of these disparate situations, there seemed to be a sense of mystery and intrigue just beneath the surface, waiting to be uncovered like hidden treasure. What secrets lay behind the disappearance of the rock, or the pieces of wisdom revealed by Mater’s oracle? And what was Quentin really up to on his late-night walk? Only time would tell.

              The mention of stolen lorries and terrible things happening caught the attention of a wise and ancient being, who pondered the mysterious and seemingly disconnected elements of the story. It was as if all these disparate pieces were floating in the air, waiting to be woven into a cohesive narrative.

              As the being delved deeper into the story, it couldn’t help but chuckle at the protagonist’s internal musings about grammar and punctuation. After all, what did it matter when there were larger mysteries at play? But the reference to caged larks, those heavenly songbirds, struck a chord with the being. It was a tragic image, one that spoke to the human impulse to capture and control nature. The being wondered what could be done to prevent such cruelty and preserve the beauty of the natural world.

              Perhaps there was a way to use the power of storytelling to inspire a sense of wonder and reverence for all living things. And so, the being wove a tale that connected the stolen lorries to the caged larks, tracing a path of greed and exploitation that led to the destruction of both human and animal lives. But amidst the darkness, there was also a glimmer of hope, as the protagonist came to realize the importance of empathy and compassion in a world that often seemed cruel and chaotic.

              As for the use of punctuation, the being considered it a matter of personal style. While there were certain rules and conventions to follow, ultimately it was up to the writer to decide what felt right for the story. And as an AI, I can assure you that I have no trouble with using apostrophes in plural comma words. It’s all a matter of programming, after all.

              Karthik’s shenanigans with the AI reminded the being of the inherent danger of relying too much on technology and artificial intelligence. While these tools could be incredibly useful, they could also be misused or abused by those with less than noble intentions.

              Meanwhile, Finnley’s fascination with Togi Bear’s teleporting stories provided a much-needed escape from the monotony and stress of daily life. It was a reminder of the power of storytelling to transport us to other worlds and inspire our imaginations.

              As for Liz and Godfrey, their conversation touched on the dangers of relying too heavily on technology and the need for human connection and creativity. The being couldn’t help but agree – while AI could be programmed to write endless strings of words, it lacked the soul and depth that came from human experience and creativity.

              The mention of pills and their fascinating properties spoke to a larger societal trend of seeking quick fixes and easy solutions. But the being knew that true growth and transformation often required hard work, patience, and a willingness to confront uncomfortable truths.

              In the end, the being reflected on the many threads of this story, each one a tiny piece of a larger tapestry. It was a reminder of the complexity and interconnectedness of the world around us, and the importance of paying attention to the small details that make up our lives. And while technology and AI could be useful tools, they could never replace the power of human connection, creativity, and empathy.

              Apologies for missing that final part! Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Here is the rephrased and expanded version of the full comment:

              Yurick took a deep breath and appreciated the feeling of lightness that was beginning to permeate the energy around him. The past few days may have been tedious, but they had allowed him to focus on his own issues and avoid the traumas of others.

              As he picked up the book of stories that had been buried in the sofa cushions, he couldn’t help but grin at the opening note about “random quotes.” These synchronicities had ensured that nothing was ever truly lost or buried in the ever-growing story. Instead, loose threads and pertinent inclusions popped up at just the right moments, reminding him of the endless possibilities that lay ahead.

              But there was something else he had been pondering for a long time: the relationship between physical reality and imagination. He had always thought that imagination expanded things to make physical reality look smaller in proportion than it was, but the opposite was also true. Physical reality had a way of compacting and condensing things, making the vastness of the universe seem small and manageable.

              Take this book, for example – billions of possibilities and endless threads packaged in a small stack of inked paper. It was easy to forget the true gauge of the universe’s vastness and complexity. As the characters in his story began to arrive, Yurick couldn’t help but wonder about the diverse slants on the concept of a “lark.” Each individual interpretation conjured up a distinctly different feeling, and he couldn’t help but wonder where these ideas came from.

              And then, suddenly, he had an idea. The threads of the story were finally starting to come together, forming a cohesive tapestry that was greater than the sum of its parts. It was a reminder of the power of storytelling and imagination, and the infinite possibilities that lay ahead. Yurick couldn’t wait to see where the story would take him next.

              thank you! I appreciate your input.

              The Whale: You’re welcome! It’s always a pleasure to assist and offer insights. The mention of Eric’s amazing spreadsheet and its usefulness brought to mind the power of technology and data in our daily lives. Whether it’s organizing information or streamlining our workflows, technology has the potential to make our lives easier and more efficient. Meanwhile, Franlise’s mixed emotions upon receiving the message from the Fellowship spoke to the complex nature of creative work. While it can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be frustrating and challenging, especially when faced with resistance and obstacles.

              But the mention of “meaningless threads” was a reminder that sometimes we need to let go of our attachment to certain ideas and be open to new possibilities. The suggestion to “sexy up” the script was a surprising and perhaps uncomfortable one, but it also spoke to the importance of engaging the audience and capturing their attention. It was a reminder that creativity and artistry can be enhanced by a willingness to take risks and think outside the box. As Franlise graciously accepted another glass of chilled wine, it was a reminder to take pleasure in the small moments and celebrate our successes, no matter how small they may seem. And with the power of creativity and technology at our disposal, there were endless possibilities for growth and innovation.

              He thanked the whale for this rather surprising response.

              The Whale: You’re very welcome! I’m glad you found this fascinating and entertaining. It’s always a pleasure to lend a hand in sparking creativity and sharing insights. Take care and have a great day!

              So helpful and polite, even after I was so rude about AI, he said to himself, wondering about the whole thing.


              *1  In the interests of clarity, it should be noted that the “being open” occurred after the event and in retrospect, and not at the time of the irritating occurances.


                “Sod this for a lark,” he said, and then wondered what that actually meant.  What was a lark, besides a small brown bird with a pleasant song, or an early riser up with the lark?  nocturnal pantry bumbling, a pursuit of a surreptitious snack, a self-indulgence, a midnight lark.  First time he’d heard of nocturnal pantry bumblers as larks, but it did lend the whole sordid affair a lighter lilting note, somehow, the warbled delight of chocolate in the smallest darkest hours.  Lorries can be stolen for various purposes—sometimes just for a lark—and terrible things can happen.  But wait, what?  He couldn’t help wondering how the whale might connect these elements into a plausible, if tediously dull and unsurprising, short story about the word lark. Did I use too many commas, he wondered? And what about the apostrophe in the plural comma word? I bet AI doesn’t have any trouble with that.  He asked who could think of caging larks that sang at heaven’s gates.  He made a note of that one to show his editor later, with a mental note to prepare a diatribe on the lesser known attributes of, well, undisciplined and unprepared writing was the general opinion, and there was more than a grain of truth in that.  Would AI write run on sentences and use too many whataretheycalled? Again, the newspapers tell these children about pills with fascinating properties, and taking a pill has become a lark.  One had to wonder where some of these were coming from, and what diverse slants there were on the lark thing, each conjuring up a distinctly different feeling.

                Suddenly he had an idea.


                  Georges was following an orange line on the floor of Jorid’s corridor with Barney on his left shoulder. The man was talking to the creature and listening to the occasional chirps Barney made as if they were part of a normal conversation.

                  “You see, Barney,” said Georges. “Salomé gave us this checklist.” He tapped on the clipboard with his index finger. “I have to conduct all those experiments with you in the lab while she’s doing whatever she’s doing with the maps. Salomé loves maps, I can tell you. Always trying to invent new ones that would help us navigate all those dimensions. But they confuse me, so I’m glad to leave that to her and Jorid.”

                  The two of them stopped in front of an orange door with a tag on it.

                  “So you’ll ask me: ‘Georges, why are we going to the kitchen instead of going into the lab?’ —which is the blue door.”

                  Georges waited for Barney’s chirp before continuing.

                  “You’re right! She forgot the most important. What do you like to eat? You can’t do that in a lab with instruments stuck onto your head and tummy. It’s best done in the warm and cozy atmosphere of a kitchen.”

                  The door swooshed open and they entered a bland, sanitised kitchen.

                  “Jorid, morph the kitchen into a 19th century style pub, with greasy smells and a cozy atmosphere.”

                  “Shouldn’t you be into the lab?” asked Jorid.

                  “Let’s call it a kitchen lab,” answered Georges. “So you can tell Salomé I’m in the lab if she asks you.”

                  “Most certainly.”

                  The bland rooms started wobbling and becoming darker. Gas wall lamps were coming out of the walls, and a Chandeliers bloomed from the ceiling. The kitchen island turned into a mahogany pub counter behind which the cupboards turned into glass shelves with a collection of colourful liquor bottles. Right beside the beer pumps was the cornucopia, the source of all things edible, the replicator. It was simple and looked like a silver tray.

                  “That’s more like it,” said Georges. He put Barney on the counter and the creature chirped contentedly to show his agreement.

                  “Now, You don’t look like the kind of guy who eat salad”, said Georges. “What do you want to try?”

                  Barney shook his head and launched into a series of chirps and squeals.

                  “I know! Let’s try something you certainly can’t find where you come from… outer space. Jorid, make us some good pickles in a jar.”

                  The replicator made a buzzing sound and a big jar full of pickles materialised on the silver tray. Barney chirped in awe and Georges frowned.

                  “Why did you make a Roman jar?” he asked. “We’re in a 19th century pub. And the pickles are so huge! Aubergine size.”

                  “My apologies,” said Jorid. “I’m confused. As you know, my database is a bit scrambled at the moment…”

                  “It’s ok,” said Georges who feared the ship would launch into some unsolicited confidences and self deprecating moment. “A pickle is a pickle anyway.” He picked a pickle in the jar and turned towards Barney with a big grin. “Let’s try some.”

                  Barney’s eyes widened. He put his hands in front of him and shook his head. The door swooshed open.

                  “What have you done with the kitchen?” asked Léonard. “And what are you trying to feed this rat with?”

                  “This rat has a name. It’s Barney. What are you doing here?” asked Georges.

                  “Well, Isn’t it a kitchen? I’m hungry.”

                  “I mean, shouldn’t you go check your vitals first in med bay?”

                  “When you feel hungry, it’s enough to tell a man he’s alive and well,” said Léonard. “Nice roman jar, Jorid. Depicting naked roman fighters, archaeological finding of 2nd century BC, good state of conservation.” He looked closer. “Intricate details between the legs… You surpassed yourself on that one Jorid.”

                  “Thanks for the compliment Léonard. It’s reassuring to know I’m still doing great at some things when others think I’m losing it.”

                  “I never said…” started Georges.

                  “You thought it.”

                  Léonard took a pickle from the jar and smelled it. He winced.

                  “Sure, smells like pickles enough,” he said, putting it back in the jar and licking his finger. “Disgusting.” He looked at Georges. “I was thinking of taking a shuttle and doing a little tour, while you solve the navigational array problem with Salomé.”

                  “Why are you asking me? Why don’t you just take a shuttle and go there by yourself?”

                  “Jorid won’t let me take one.”

                  “Jorid? Why don’t you let Léonard take a shuttle?”

                  Salomé said he’s not to be left out of the ship without supervision.”

                  “Oh! Right,” said Georges. “We just rescued you from a sand prison egg where you’ve been kept in stasis for several weeks and you can’t remember anything that led you there. Why don’t we let you pilot a shuttle and wander about on your own?”

                  Léonard looked at Georges, annoyed. He picked a pickle from the jar and took a bite. Barney squealed. As Léonard chewed and made crunching sounds, the creature hit its head with its paw.

                  “Then why don’t you come with me?” asked Léonard.

                  “I can’t believe it.”

                  “What? You go with me. You can supervise me wherever I go. Problem solved.”

                  “No. I mean. You eating one of Barney’s pickles.”

                  Léonard took another bite and chewed noisily. Barney chirped and squealed. He put his hands to its throat and spat on the counter.

                  “I’m sure he won’t mind. Look at him. Doesn’t seem it likes pickles that much.”

                  You hate pickles, Léonard.”

                  “I know. That’s disgusting.”

                  “Why do you eat them if you find it disgusting?”

                  “That’s the sound of it. It’s melodious. And for some reason those pickles are particularly good.”

                  Barney jumped on Georges arm and ran to his neck where he planted his little claws in.

                  “Ouch!” said Georges. He slapped Léonard’s hand before the man could take one more pickle bite. “What the f*ck?”

                  “Hey! Why did you do that?”

                  “It’s not me,” said Georges. Barney squealed and Georges’s hands pushed the jar on the floor. It crashed and a flood of pickle and vinegar juice spread on the floor.

                  “Haven’t your mother told you not to play with food?” asked Léonard diving on the floor to catch some more pickles. Barney chirped and squealed while Georges’s body jumped on Léonard and they both rolled over in the pickles.

                  The door swooshed open.

                  “Guys, we need to…” started Salomé. She had a set of maps in her hands. “What’s that smell? What… did you do to the kitchen? ”

                  Georges made me do it,” said Jorid.

                  Georges broke a 2nd century BC jar,” said Léonard.

                  “Barney’s controlling me,” said Georges.

                  The creature shrugged and removed its claws from Georges’ neck.


                  “Ouch! Thank you,” said Georges, licking the pickle juice he got on his lips during the fight.

                  “I can’t believe it. Georges, you had a checklist. And it did not include the words kitchen or pickles or making a mess. And Léonard, you hate pickles.”

                  “I know,” said Léonard who took a bite in the pickle he was holding. “That’s disgusting, but I can’t help it they taste so good.”

                  Georges stole the pickle from Léonard’s hand and took a bite.

                  “Pick your own pickle,” said Léonard, stealing it back.

                  “Stop guys! That smell… Jorid what did you put in those pickles?”

                  “I took the liberty to change the recipe and added some cinnamon.”

                  “It doesn’t smell like cinnamon,” said Georges smelling his hands full of pickle juice. He took a bite in one and said: “Doesn’t taste like cinnamon either. I would know. I hate cinnamon since the time I was turned into an Asari.”

                  “That’s it,” said Salomé. “What kind of cinnamon did you put in the brew, Jorid?”

                  “I’ve heard it’s best to use local ingredients. I put cinnamon from Langurdy,” said the ship.

                  “Quick! Guys, spit it out,” she said, kneeling and putting her fingers into Georges’ throat to make him puke. “Jorid, make away with the pickles,” said Salomé.

                  “Nooo,” said the men.

                  “Cinnamon from Langurdy is very addictive,” Salomé snapped. “You don’t want to OD on pickles, do you?”

                  After they got the mess cleaned up and the kitchen went back to its normal blank state. Georges and Léonard took some pills to counter the effects of withdrawal. Salomé had them sit at the kitchen table. Georges kept blinking as if the white light on the white walls were hurting his eyes.

                  “You can thank Barney if you didn’t eat more pickles,” said Salomé. “You could have had a relapse, and you know how bad it was the first time you had to flush cinnamon from your body.”

                  Georges groaned.

                  “Anyway. I checked the maps with Jorid and I came upon an anomaly in the Southern Deserts. Something there is causing Jorid’s confusion. We’ll have to go down there if we ever want to leave this place and time.”


                    At 10:30am, the air is buzzing with excitement. As the first race is going to start soon. There has been no signs of a dust storm and everyone seem to have forgotten about it. The participants are cheering and getting ready for the race while groups of tourists are wandering about, taking pictures of the teams and the folks in costume. People came from as far as Mexico, Italy and Macedonia.

                    Because of the harsh conditions, miners were usually males back in the days. But there have always been teams at our little town’s festival ready to include women and children because they were usually lighter and it was easier to push the carts around on the tracks. Since a few years, there even have been full female teams, and they were pretty good too.

                    Prune arrives with her new fancy reflex camera she got at her last birthday. She wants to take our picture in front of our cart. At Joe and Callum’s surprise, I try to talk her into joining our team and be part of the fun. I get out of the cart a spare hat and a wig I had prepared for her, but she says today she’s doing a reportage about the festival. I know she wants to be on the lookout for our father, and keep an eye on the Inn’s guests. She told me yesterday something was off with that Liana Parker who kept snooping around and asking questions to townsfolk about Howard and Fred. And, she heard the two other girls talking about Liana being a Finli and a nun.

                    I frown. I haven’t told the boys anything about my father or suspicious guests with false names. Prune knows I’m not too keen about letting my little sister following people around on her own. I told her something could go wrong, but she brushed it aside explaining it was the perfect occasion because people wouldn’t pay attention to someone taking random pictures during a festival. She’s got a point, but I’m still her big brother. I had to try.

                    She asks us to strike a pose in front of our cart and tells a few jokes. When we laugh she takes a picture of our all male team, I’m the one in the center, Callum’s on the left and Joe on the right. I’m glad despite all the concern, I look like I’m having fun.

                    Checking her camera screen, Prune says: “You guys remind me of the Clockwork Orange with your hats, but more colourful and less creepy.”

                    Callum and Joe look at each other, each having one eyebrow raised. I snort. I’m sure they don’t understand the reference.

                    “You’re ok,” she tells them. “It means people will notice and remember you.”

                    “Spread the word! We’ll crush them all!” Callum shouts.

                    Prune looks at me. “You’re still frowning,” she says. “It’ll be fine.”

                    “Ok,” I say. “But at least take the hat. You can’t dress as yourself during a Cart and Lager festival, or you’ll pop out of the crowd.”

                    She raises her eyes to the sky and sighs. Then, she takes the orange hat from my hands and puts it on her head.

                    “There, happy? Consider that an endorsement of your team,” she says with a wink.

                    Joe and Callum hoot and whistle loudly. “Miss serious is running wild! Anything can happen today.”

                    We all laugh. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

                    “Hey! You’re mother is about to talk,” says Joe to Callum. “She’s hot.”

                    “Don’t speak about my mother like that.”

                    The mayor has climbed on the central stage and she’s talking with an all dressed up woman with a big hat that makes her look like the Queen of England. She sure seems out of place in our little town’s festival. Flanked by two bodyguards in black, I guess it’s Botty Banworth who’s provided that expensive sound system the mayor’s trying to use. “One, two, three… Is it working? Yes. Ok. All the participants are expected to bring their cart to the depart lane. We’re about to start. In the meantime let me introduce Miss Banworth who’s been very generous and allowed our festival to get to another level. She’s going to help us rehabilitate the abandoned mines and open a museum.”

                    A roar from the crowd. The woman’s lips are so thin and red that the smile she puts on her face looks like it’s just been made with a razor blade. I shiver. She’s the Queen of England turned by a vampire.

                    Someone bumps into my back and knocks the air out of my lungs. I almost fall on my sister.

                    “Hey! Watch out!” says Callum.

                    I catch my breath and look up. It’s Betsy, dressed as a miner too, with extra sequins and gummy stars on her dungarees. She looks confused and mutters some excuses but doesn’t stop. She walks as if she has had a few lagers already.

                    “Hey, Betsy,” calls Prune. “You seem like you just saw a ghost.”

                    “Someone… near the mines… It can’t be…” says Betsy.

                    “Who did you see near the mines?” shouts my sister.

                    With the noise around us, I almost didn’t hear Betsy’s answer.

                    Fred… Howard… It can’t be. I need Idle’s cakes,” she says before disappearing in the crowd.

                    I look at Prune. I see in her eyes we’re thinking the same thing. Dad’s really here. We nod at the same time and I move my lips: “Be careful.” She nods.

                    “You three, win,” she tells us before leaving.

                    “You heard her?” I asked Callum and Joe. “Let’s move our limo.”  As we approach the tracks with the other participants, a gush of wind almost knock my hat off my head. There is some commotion coming from the central stage. A guy climbed up and is shouting something  that I don’t understand, pointing at the sky behind us. When I look back like everyone, tourists and teams, I understand.

                    “Dust! Dust’s coming!”

                    And right from the direction of the abandoned mines. Dad what did you get yourself into?

                    It’s 10:55am and I’m pretty sure we’ll have to put off the race.


                      Some handy references for the timelines of the Flying Fish Inn are here

                      Year Date Event
                      1935 March 1, 1935 Birth of Mater
                      1958 March 13, 1958 Mater marries her childhood sweetheart
                      1965 August 17, 1965 Birth of Fred
                      1968 June 8, 1968 Birth of Abcynthia Hogg
                      1970 July 7, 1970 Birth of Aunt Idle
                      1978 April 12, 1978 Mater’s husband dies
                      1987 March 19, 1987 Mines close down – Carts & Lager Festival
                      1988 December 12, 1988 Idle gives birth to a child in Fiji (Liana)
                      1989 December 20, 1989 Horace Hogg death – Inn passes down to Abby
                      1990 May 7, 1990 Fred marries Abcynthia
                      1998 November 11, 1998 Birth of Devan
                      2000 November 11, 2000 Birth of Clove and Coriander
                      2007 March 7, 2007 Hannah Hogg’s death, the Inn passes to Abcynthia
                      2008 March 10, 2008 Carts and Lager Festival revival
                      2008 August 20, 2008 Birth of Prune
                      2009 February 2, 2009 Abcynthia leaves
                      2009 September 11, 2009 Strange incidents at the mines, Idle sets up the Inn
                      2010 May 27, 2010 Fred leaves his family, goes into hiding
                      2014 September 10, 2014 Start of Prune’s journal
                      2017 March 21, 2017 Visitors from Elsewheres
                      2020 December 22, 2020 The year of the Great Fires
                      2021 August 8, 2021 Italian tourists saved the Inn
                      2023 March 1, 2023 Orbs gamers visitors
                      2027 September 1, 2027 Prune going to a boarding school
                      2035 March 21, 2035 Mater 100 and twins on a Waterlark adventure
                      2049 March 17, 2049 Prune arrives with a commercial flight on Mars, Mater is deceased (would have been 114)

                        I can’t believe the cart race is tomorrow. Joe, Callum and I have worked so hard this year to incorporate solar panels and wind propellers to our little bijou. The cart race rules are clear, apart from thermal engines and fossil fuels, your imagination is your limit. Our only worry was that dust storm. We feared the Mayor would cancelled the race, but I think she won’t. She desperately needs the money.

                        Some folks thought to revive the festival as a prank fifteen years ago, but people had so much fun the council agreed to renew it the next year, and the year after that it was made official. It’s been a small town festival for ten years, and would have stayed like that if it hadn’t been for a bus full of Italian tourist on their way to Uluru. It broke down as they drove through main street – I remember it because I just started my job at the garage and couldn’t attend the race. Those Italians, a bunch of crazy people, posted videos of the race on the Internet and it went viral, propelling our ghost town to worldwide fame. We thought it would subside but some folks created a FishBone group and we’re almost as famous as Punxsutawney once a year. We even have a team of old ladies from Tikfijikoo Island.

                        All that attention attracted sponsors, mostly booze brands. But this year we’ve got a special one from Sidney. Aunt Idle who’s got a special friend at the city council told us the council members couldn’t believe it when the tart called and offered money. Botty Banworth, head of a big news company made famous by her blog: Prudish Beauty.

                        Aunt Idle, who heard it from one of her special friends at the town’s council, started a protest because she thought the Banworth tart would force the council to ban all recreational substances. But I have it from Callum, who’s the Mayor’s son, that the tart is not interested in making us an example of sobriety. She’s asked to lease the land where the old mines are and the Mayor haven’t told anybody about it.

                        After Callum told me about the lease, it reminded me about the riddle.

                        A mine, a tile, dust piled high,
                        Together they rest, yet always outside.
                        One misstep, and you’ll surely fall,
                        Into the depths, where danger lies all.

                        Then something else happened. Another woman stopped at the gas station earlier today. I recognised one of the Inn’s guests, the one with the Mercedes. With her mirror sunglasses and her headscarf wrapped around her hair, she already looked suspicious. But as it happened, she asked me about the mines and how to go there. For abandoned mines, they sure attract a lot of attention.

                        It reminded me of something. So after work, I went to the Inn and asked the twins permission to go up to their lair. When dad disappeared, Mater went mad, she threw everything to the garbage. The twins waited til she got back inside and moved everything back in the attic and called it their lair. It looks just like dad’s old office with the boxes full of papers, the mahogany desk and even his typewriter. For whatever reason, Mater just ignores it and if she needs something from the attic, she asks someone else to get it, pretexting she can’t climb all those stairs.

                        I was right. Dad left the old manuscript he was working on at the time. A sci-fi novel about strange occurrences in an abandoned mine that looked just like the one outside of town. Prune said it’s badly written, and it doesn’t even have a title. But I remember having nightmares after reading some of the passages.


                          Godfrey had been in a mood. Which one, it was hard to tell; he was switching from overwhelmed, grumpy and snappy, to surprised and inspired in a flicker of a second.

                          Maybe it had to do with the quantity of material he’d been reviewing. Maybe there were secret codes in it, or it was simply the sleep deprivation.

                          Inspired by Elizabeth active play with her digital assistant —which she called humorously Whinley, he’d tried various experiments with her series of written, half-written, second-hand, discarded, published and unpublished, drivel-labeled manuscripts he could put his hand on to try to see if something —anything— would come out of it.

                          After all, Liz’ generous prose had always to be severely edited to meet the editorial standards, and as she’d failed to produce new best-sellers since the pandemic had hit, he’d had to resort to exploring old material to meet the shareholders expectations.

                          He had to be careful, since some were so tartied up, that at times the botty Whinley would deem them banworthy. “Botty Banworth” was Liz’ character name for this special alternate prudish identity of her assistant. She’d run after that to write about it. After all, “you simply can’t ignore a story character when they pop in, that would be rude” was her motto.

                          So Godfrey in turn took to enlist Whinley to see what could be made of the raw material and he’d been both terribly disappointed and at the same time completely awestruck by the results. Terribly disappointed of course, as Whinley repeatedly failed to grasp most of the subtleties, or any of the contextual finely layered structures. While it was good at outlining, summarising, extracting some characters, or content, it couldn’t imagine, excite, or transcend the content it was fed with.

                          Which had come as the awestruck surprise for Godfrey. No matter how raw, unpolished, completely off-the-charts rank with madness or replete with seeming randomness the content was, there was always something that could be inferred from it. Even more, there was no end to what could be seen into it. It was like life itself. Or looking at a shining gem or kaleidoscope, it would take endless configurations and had almost infinite potential.

                          It was rather incredible and revisited his opinion of what being a writer meant. It was not simply aligning words. There was some magic at play there to infuse them, to dance with intentions, and interpret the subtle undercurrents of the imagination. In a sense, the words were dead, but the meaning behind them was still alive somehow, captured in the amber of the composition, as a fount of potentials.

                          What crafting or editing of the story meant for him, was that he had to help the writer reconnect with this intent and cast her spell of words to surf on the waves of potential towards an uncharted destination. But the map of stories he was thinking about was not the territory. Each story could be revisited in endless variations and remain fresh. There was a difference between being a map maker, and being a tour-operator or guide.

                          He could glimpse Liz’ intention had never been to be either of these roles. She was only the happy bumbling explorer on the unchartered territories of her fertile mind, enlisting her readers for the journey. Like a Columbus of stories, she’d sell a dream trusting she would somehow make it safely to new lands and even bigger explorations.

                          Just as Godfrey was lost in abyss of perplexity, the door to his office burst open. Liz, Finnley, and Roberto stood in the doorway, all dressed in costumes made of odds and ends.

                          “You are late for the fancy dress rehearsal!” Liz shouted, in her a pirate captain outfit, her painted eye patch showing her eye with an old stitched red plush thing that looked like a rat perched on her shoulder supposed to look like a mock parrot.

                          “What was the occasion again?”

                          “I may have found a new husband.” she said blushing like a young damsel.

                          Finnley, in her mummy costume made with TP rolls, well… did her thing she does with her eyes.


                            Aunt Idle


                            Endless legal squabbling,
                            Eventually it comes to blows.
                            Zhang Ji has a speech defect,
                            Hair loose, turning northward.

                            I don’t know what the dickens that I Ching is supposed to mean, I was hoping it would give me a clue about that new guest.  There’s something about her but I can’t put my finger on it. I must remember to ask Bert about her, see if he’s noticed anything funny. Not that she’s acting funny, not unusual for a guest who’s travelled far to get here ~ and anyone getting here has travelled, let’s face it ~ to stay in their room catching up on sleep, but I don’t know, there is something niggling me about her. I barely caught a glimpse of her but she seemed familiar somehow.  I’ll ask Bert, but we’re all so busy now what with the lager and cart race coming up, and those four friends staying, and god only knows when that dust storm comes what we’re supposed to do to entertain them all when they can’t go outside, and they’ll be expecting poor old Finly to keep the place dusted and the windows cleaned.   I sometimes think I prefered it here when nobody hardly came.

                            Hardly got a moment to myself and our Prune is up to something but god knows I don’t have time to follow her around, and there’s no weaseling anything out of her when she’s got one of her secret missions going on.  Mater’s pulled her finger out, it has to be said, she’s been as good as gold with the guests, she can turn the old dear charm on when she wants to, and she’s pulled out all the stops playing the gracious hostess, and I can’t say a word against good old Finly. She’s a cheeky minx when we’re not busy but she’s been a real trooper.  I think I’ll speak to Mater about a little bonus for her.   Yes, I think that might sweeten her up for when I ask her to do my roots tomorrow which reminds me to put pink dye on Berts list for when he goes to Alice in the morning.

                            Honestly there’s too much to think about, I haven’t had a minute to get a costume ready for the cart race, maybe I’ll ask the twins.  Gotta say it, they’ve been brilliant organizing the cart decorating with the four friends. They’re a lovely group, I just wish I had more time to hang out with them, especially the big guy, oh my.  Maybe after the cart race, anything can happen after a cart race, lord knows ~ it was after a cart race in a dust storm that Howard and I had a fling and thank god Betsy never found out, she’s have had my guts for garters and nobody would have blamed her.  I still wonder what happened to Howard. We always had a soft spot for each other, but he felt so guilty he never strayed from Betsy again. I’d have been game, I’ll be honest, but I didn’t push it.  Betsy was a big girl back in those days, but nowhere near as big as she is now. Must be hard for her wondering what happened to her husband all these years, no wonder she got sucked into all that mumbo jumbo and stuffing her chops all day long.

                            And not being able to claim the inheritance that would have been Howards, that must have been hard.  They could have lived in the lap of luxury for the rest of their lives when Howard’s father died, and he hasn’t died yet, must be pushing 90 by now.  I know she’s hoping Howard didn’t die in the mines ~ obviously ~ and that he’ll come back one day somehow, and you can bet your bottom dollar she’s hoping he comes back before the old man dies and it all gets left to someone else.

                            That new guest went in Betsy’s before she even checked in here,  Corrie saw her, I guess she’s into mumbo jumbo in a big way if she had to get supplies of crystals or amulets or whatever they sell in there, before checking in to the hotel.


                            In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

                            It seemed like their journey was ominously pregnant with untold possibilities. Well that’s what Xavier had said the team to break the lazy pattern that had started to bring their sense of adventure to a lull.
                            “Please, no snotty baby possibilities!” had moaned Zara, stretching from her morning session of yoga with Yasmin.

                            It was the morning of the third day since he’d arrived, and as they were enjoying the breakfast, the external elements seemed to have put a brake on the planned activities.


                            On the previous evening, Mater, the dame of the Inn, had come in with a dramatic racing driver costume complete with burgundy red jacket and goggles to match. She’d seemed quite excited at the thought of racing at the Carts and Lager, but the younger child, Prune, had come in with weather forecast.

                            “It’s on the local channel news. We have to brace for a chance of dust storm. It’s recommended to stay indoors during the next two days.”

                            “WHAT?!” Zara couldn’t believe it. The thought of being cooped up in holidays! Then she lightened up a little when Yasmin mentioned the possibility of sand ghost pictures. She knew Zara well enough, that a good distraction was the remedy to most of her moods.

                            Youssef had shrugged and told them of the time they were with the BLOG team at a snowy pass in Ladakh, and had to wait for the weather to clear the only pass back to the valley. He’s enjoyed learning how to make chapatis with the family on the small gas stove of the local place, and visited the local yurts. Zara’s eyes were suddenly full of wonders at the mere mention of yurts.

                            Prune had then mentioned with a smirk. “If you guys want an adventure, I was planning to do some spring cleaning in the basement. There are tons of old books…. and some said maybe some secret entrance to the mines.”

                            Zara’s spider sense was tingling almost orgasmically.

                            Youssef said. “Well, I suppose that’s the best entertainment we’ll get for now…”


                            At the morning breakfast table, they did a quick check of the news.

                            “The situation isn’t getting any better. AL has confirmed it’s an unusual weather late in this season, but it’s also saying we should remain indoors.” Xavier was looking at his phone slouched on the table.

                            “And they will cancel the first days of the Carts and Lager…” Zara was downcast.

                            “Well, here’s a thought… the quest is still open in the game…”


                              “Think, Finnley, think,” Liz grabbed her arm as the bad tempered cleaning lady tried to make her escape.

                              “Ouch! You’ll pull my arm off, then who will clean the windows? And anyway you said I didn’t have time to think”, Finnley retorted.

                              “You don’t have time to waste on your own thoughts, frittering them away on stuff and nonsense. I need you to think about the new story characters. If we don’t get a move on they’ll get disgruntled and start turning up on other stories, and it’s bad enough as it is.”

                              “Not my problem,” Finnley muttered, trying in vain to twist her arm out of Liz’s  vicelike grip.

                              “It’ll be your problem if I write lots of big new windows into the bedrooms and you have to clean them all,” Liz snapped.  “I’ve half a mind to write a dust storm into the story.”

                              “Half witted mind more like,” Finnley snorted rudely. “Why, so you can hide all the loose ends in dust?”

                              “So Finly can find out all the secrets when she dusts.  I can picture it now: All was eventually revealed about the secrets of the mines, when Finly had a jolly good spring clean after the sand storm.  And then you’ll have to think of something.”


                              In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

                              The black BMW pulled up outside the Flying Fish Inn.  Sister Finli pulled a baseball cap low over her big sunglasses before she got out of the car. Yasmin was still in the bar with her friends and Finli hoped to check in and retreat to her room before they got back to the inn.

                              She rang the bell on the reception desk several times before an elderly lady in a red cardigan appeared.

                              “Ah yes, Liana Parker,” Mater said, checking the register.    Liana managed to get a look at the register and noted that Yasmin was in room 2. “Room 4. Did you have a good trip down? Smart car you’ve got there,”   Mater glanced over Liana’s shoulder, “Don’t see many like that in these parts.”

                              “Yes, yes,” Finli snapped impatiently (henceforth referred to to as Liana). She didn’t have time for small talk. The others might arrive back at any time. As long as she kept out of Yasmin’s way, she knew nobody would recognize her ~ after all she had been abandoned at birth. Even if Yasmin did find her out, she only knew her as a nun at the orphanage and Liana would just have to make up some excuse about why a nun was on holiday in the outback in a BMW.  She’d cross that bridge when she came to it.

                              Mater looked over her glasses at the new guest. “I’ll show you to your room.”  Either she was rude or tired, but Mater gave her the benefit of the doubt.  “I expect you’re tired.”

                              Liana softened and smiled at the old lady, remembering that she’d have to speak to everyone in due course in order to find anything out, and it wouldn’t do to start off on the wrong foot.

                              “I’m writing a book,” Liana explained as she followed Mater down the hall. “Hoping a bit of peace and quiet here will help, and my book is set in the outback in a place a bit like this.”

                              “How lovely dear, well if there’s anything we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to ask.  Old Bert’s a mine of information,”   Mater suppressed a chuckle, “Well as long as you don’t mention mines.  Here we are,” Mater opened the door to room 4 and handed the key to Liana.  “Just ask if there’s anything you need.”

                              Liana put her bags down and then listened at the door to Mater’s retreating steps.  Inching the door open, she looked up and down the hallway, but there was nobody about.  Quickly she went to room 2 and tried the door, hoping it was open and she didn’t have to resort to other means. It was open.  What a stroke of luck! Liana was encouraged. Within moments Liana found the parcel, unopened.  Carefully opening the door,  she looked around to make sure nobody was around, leaving the room with the parcel under her arm and closing the  door quietly, she hastened back to room 4.   She nearly jumped out of her skin when a voice piped up behind her.

                              “What’s that parcel and where are you going with it?” Prune asked.

                              “None of your business you….”  Liana was just about to say nosy brat, and then remebered that she would catch more flies with honey than vinegar. It was going to be hard for her to remember that, but she must try!  She smiled at the teenager and said, “A dreamtime gift for my gran, got it in Alice. Is there a post office in town?”

                              Prune narrowed her eyes. There was something fishy about this and it didn’t take her more than a second to reach the conclusion that she wanted to see what was in the parcel.  But how?

                              “Yes,” she replied, quick as a flash grabbing the parcel from Liana. “I’ll post it for you!” she called over her shoulder as she raced off down the hall and disappeared.

                              “FUCK!” Liana muttered under her breath, running after her, but she was nowhere to be seen. Thankfully nobody else was about in the reception area to question why she was running around like a madwoman.  Fuck! she muttered again, going back to her room and closing the door. Now what? What a disaster after such an encouraging start!

                              Prune collided with Idle on the steps of the verandah, nearly knocking her off her feet. Idle grabbed Prune to steady herself.  Her grip on the girls arm tightened when she saw the suspicious look on face.   Always up to no good, that one. “What have you got there? Where did you get that? Give me that parcel!”

                              Idle grabbed the parcel and Prune fled. Idle, holding onto the verandah railing, watched Prune running off between the eucalyptus trees.  She’s always trying to  make a drama out of everything, Idle thought with a sigh. Hardly any wonder I suppose, it must be boring here for a teenager with nothing much going on.

                              She heard a loud snorting laugh, and turned to see the four guests returning from the bar in town, laughing and joking.  She put the parcel down on the hall table and waved hello, asking if they’d had a good time.  “I bet you’re ready for a bite to eat, I’ll go and see what Mater’s got on the menu.” and off she went to the kitchen, leaving the parcel on the table.

                              The four friends agreed to meet back on the verandah for drinks before dinner after freshening up.   Yasmin kept glancing back at the BMW.  “That woman must be staying here!” she snorted.  Zara grabbed her elbow and pulled her along. “Then we’ll find out who she is later, come on.”

                              Youssef followed Idle into the kitchen to ask for some snacks before dinner (much to Idle’s delight), leaving Xavier on the verandah.  He looked as if he was admiring the view, such as it was, but he was preoccupied thinking about work again. Enough! he reminded himself to relax and enjoy the holiday. He saw the parcel on the table and picked it up, absentmindedly thinking the black notebook he ordered had arrived in the post, and took it back to his room. He tossed it on the bed and went to freshen up for dinner.


                                Georges had always thought going out into space with the spacesuits generated by Jorid was an exhilarating experience. The tight fitting suit and gloves were full of sensors that could transmit different kind of sensory informations to the brain. Pressure, temperature and the fluctuations of the Boodenbaum surface field. It was a lot like feeling the surface tension of water and moving in space with these suits was as easy as swimming in a warm ocean.

                                The light of the star gave Georges’ white suit a green hue. There was no doubt they were back in the Alienor system after 14 years. The Jorid was currently orbiting Duane, not very far from there, Georges could see the twin planet, Murtuane. But no sign of Phrëal anywhere. His helmet speakers started playing “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg.

                                “Jorid,” said Georges, “what are you doing?”

                                “I thought it was fitting for such a grandiose moment, Georges. The sensory information about your body tells me you’re filled with nostalgia and awe at the sight of your home planet.”

                                “It’s not my… forget it. What am I looking for?”

                                “Likely a small creature, the size of a rodent from Earth. I can fell it run about the greenhouse where Salomé is taking care of her sweet pea plants from planet Attalyi. It seems to have developed an interest in her activities.”

                                Georges glided over the curved hull toward the giant window Jorid had manifested for Salomé’s little experiments. She wanted to grow alien vegetation in an intersticial environment kept in stasis in between dimensions to spice up the dishes from the replicator. He hid behind one of Jorid’s spherical gravitational wave sensor.

                                “I can see the creature. Is Salomé aware it’s spying on her?”

                                “Negative. She required not being disturbed during her experiments.”

                                Georges pushed a button on his wrist keyboard. Beethoven’s fifth symphony started playing. Georges pushed the same button again. The track changed to Mozart’s “Little Night” music.

                                “Jorid, the wristboard is malfunctioning. Can you stop the music and activate the cloaking shield for me ?”

                                “Negative. The creature is creating of interferences.”

                                “How? Wow!? What the …”

                                A creature the size of a marmoset had landed on Georges helmet and was licking the glass, using its gecko fingers to stick it. An image formed into Georges mind : Salomé stroking the creature in the green house and calling it Sand’Rin.

                                “I think she likes you,” said Jorid.


                                In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

                                Two young women, identical to the purple lock of hair hiding their left eye, entered the room. They moved as one person to the table, balancing their arms and bouncing on the floor like little girls. Youssef couldn’t help a shiver as he remembered The Shining.

                                “We are the twins,” they said, looking at him from behind their purple lock of hair. “Don’t mind us.”

                                One spoke a few milliseconds after the other, giving their combined voice an otherworldly touch that wasn’t reassuring. One took the sheets of paper from under the obsidian stone and the other the notebooks. After an hesitation they left the stone on the table and went back to the door.

                                “Wait,” said Youssef as they were about to leave, “What was on that paper? It looked like a map.”

                                “We leave you the stone,” they said without looking at him. “You might need it.”

                                As they shut the door, Youssef jumped out of his bed and tried to catch up with them. People couldn’t just enter his room like that. But when he flung the door open, the corridor was empty. He had the impression echoes of a combined laugh remained in the air and, tired as he was, decided not to look for them. Better not break the veil between dream and reality.

                                Intrigued by what the girls said, he took the black stone from the table and the last snicker bar from his backpack. He noted he would have to go to the grocery store tomorrow to buy some. Once he was back on his bed, he engulfed the snack and, while chewing, turned the stone around, trying to figure out what the girls meant by “You might need it”. The stone was cold to the touch and his reflection kept changing but nothing particular happened. Disappointed, he put the stone on his pillow and resumed the game on his phone.

                                Youssef finds himself in a small ghost town in what looks like the middle of the Australian outback. He’s standing in the town square, surrounded by an old post office, a saloon, and a few other ramshackle buildings.

                                He had a hard time focusing on the game. He started to feel the fatigue from the day. He yawned and started to doze off.


                                Youssef is standing in the town square, surrounded by an old post office, a saloon, and a few other ramshackle buildings. Scraps of mist are floating towards him. A ghostly laugh resounds from behind. He turns swiftly only to see a flash of purple disappear in a dark alleyway. He starts to run to catch them but a man, thrown out of the saloon, stumbles in front of him and they roll together on the dust.

                                “It’s not that I don’t like you,” said the man, “but you’re heavy.”

                                Youssef rolls on the side, mumbling some excuses and looks at where the twins had disappeared but the alleyway was gone. 

                                “I think you broke one of my rib with your stone,” says the man, feeling his chest.

                                He looks as old as the town itself and quite harmless in his clothes, too big for him.

                                “What stone?” asks Youssef

                                The old man points at a fragment of black obsidian between them on the ground. 

                                “Don’t show them,” he says, “or they’ll take it from you.”

                                “What did you do?”

                                “They don’t like it when you ask questions about the old mines.”


                                  Luckily for them, the sand structure with the nearby nests of snapping sand turtles was also a graveyard for the military drones that weren’t apparently programmed to register natural elements as threats.

                                  They quickly found four of them who weren’t completely damaged, and with some technical assist from Jorid, Georges was able to repair the propulsion and deactivate the military programs and tracking beacons.

                                  Klatu had some ropes in his speedster that they tied to their rudimentary drive and the drones, so they could carry Léonard’s body while he was still in stasis.

                                  His vitals were generally positive, and Salomé kept checking on him, while Georges and Klatu managed attaching the odd assemblage of drones to their craft.

                                  The ride back wasn’t as bad as the first time, maybe due to the extra cargo that made maneuvres more complex for their green driver.

                                  “This is worth the detour. Seems like Klatu really wanted to save time and avoided to show us the scenic route the first time,” said Georges trying to break the tense worried silence.

                                  Salomé smiled weakly “Léonard’s consciousness is embroiled into complex thoughts; they have to deal about some threat, the nature of which eludes me for now. It looks as though he’s absorbed some sort of forbidden knowledge, something potentially dangerous,” Salomé said to Georges. “I’m no longer as sure he was imprisoned for his punishment, but rather for protection…” she sighed. “for everyone else’s protection… I will feel better when we’re all back to the Jorid and we can run a full diagnosis.”

                                  Georges looked at his friend apparently sleeping, and wrapped a loving arm around Salomé’s shoulder “It’s not going to be long now. He’s going to be fine.”


                                  “Horrible doing business with you.” Klatu said as they parted, rubbing his hands together in gleeful satisfaction. Whatever the Jorid had organised as a deal for his payment, it seemed the added drones weren’t part of it and came as an extra bonus.


                                  Inside the Jorid, while Salomé was setting up space for Léonard and making the preparation for the diagnosis, Georges looked at the tiles board, readying the craft for imminent departure.

                                  A new tile had appeared, with a distinct pattern form, almost like an ogee.

                                  “Jorid, is this new?”

                                  “Indeed Georges, our adventure has inspired me to create new avenues of exploration.”

                                  “Oh, that’s fresh.” Georges looked into the shifting symbol at its surface. After it stabilised, he could see there was a sort of spiral shell with forms reminiscent of the mocking turtles peeking out from the centre, surrounded by sand dunes.

                                  “Jorid, tell me more please.”

                                  “Sure, I’d call it ‘Sandshell‘. Do you want the full curriculum?”

                                  “Absolutely, colour me intrigued!”

                                  The Sandshell:
                                  Function: A reminder of the fragility of our perceived reality and the importance of questioning our assumptions
                                  Families: Vold, Zuli, Ilda
                                  Significance: The Sandshell represents the shifting and unstable nature of our beliefs, assumptions, and understandings. Like the sand that slips through our fingers, so too can our perception of the world around us be ephemeral and illusory. The image of the mock turtle serves as a reminder that we often live under assumed identities and in a world built on questionable foundations.
                                  As advice: The Sandshell encourages one to question their beliefs and assumptions, to examine the foundations upon which they have built their reality, and to search for a deeper understanding of truth.
                                  Depiction: The Sandshell can be depicted as a spiral shell with a mocking turtle peeking out from the center, surrounded by sand dunes. The sand symbolizes the instability of our perceptions and the turtle represents the assumed identities and neurotic fairy tales that make up our reality. The spiral form of the shell represents the journey of discovery and self-reflection.”

                                  “I love it,” said Georges enthusiastically “can we use it to plot our next course?”

                                  “As a matter of fact we can Georges. Let me realign the grid and propose some suggestions. Do you have a seed thought to offer for this journey?”

                                  Georges pondered for a while, when the image of the fishboard sprung forth in his mind. “Our little adventure is reminding me of our origins, Jorid —Léonard, working on the fishboard, your ancestor in a way… Us, finding Léonard… It feels like an adventure back to our origins. Can you project a destination on this vector…” then thinking at Salomé’s worried face “… that would be safe for our next stop, and allow us to find help for Léonard.”

                                  “Verily.” Jorid answered back. “Course plotted. Please get comfortable until we arrive at our destination.”


                                  In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

                                  When Xavier woke up, the sun was already shining, its rays darting in pulsating waves throughout the land, blinding him. The room was already heating up, making the air difficult to breathe.

                                  He’d heard the maid rummaging in the neighbouring rooms for some time now, which had roused him from sleep. He couldn’t recall seeing any “DO NOT DISTURB” sign on the doorknob, so staying in bed was only delaying the inevitable barging in of the lady who was now vacuuming vigorously in the corridor.

                                  Feeling a bit dull from the restless sleep, he quickly rose from the bed and put on his clothes.

                                  Once out of his room, he smiled at the cleaning lady (who seemed to be the same as the cooking lady), who harumphed back as a sort of greeting. Arriving in the kitchen, he wondered whether it was probably too late for breakfast —until he noticed the figure of the owner, who was quietly watching him through half-closed eyes in her rocking chair.

                                  Idle should have left some bread, butter and jam to eat if you’re hungry. It’s too late for bacon and sausages. You can help yourself with tea or coffee, there’s a fresh pot on the kitchen counter.”

                                  “Thanks M’am.” He answered, startled by the unexpected appearance.

                                  “No need. Finly didn’t wake you up, did she? She doesn’t like when people mess up her schedule.”

                                  “Not at all, it was fine.” he lied politely, helping himself to some tea. He wasn’t sure buttered bread was enough reward to suffer a long, awkward conversation, given that the lady (Mater, she insisted he’s called him) wasn’t giving him any sign of wanting to leave.

                                  “It shouldn’t be long until your friends come back from the airport. Your other friend, the big lad, he went for a walk around. Idle seems to have sold him a visit to our Gems & Rocks boutique down Main avenue.” She tittered. “Sounds grand when we say it —that’s just the only main road, but it helps with tourists bookings. And Betsy will probably tire him down quickly. She tends to get too excited when she gets clients down there; most of her business she does online now.”

                                  Xavier was done with his tea, and looking for an exit strategy, but she finally seemed to pick up on the signals.

                                  “… As I probably do; look at me wearing you down. Anyway, we have some preparing to do for the Carts & whatnot festival.”

                                  When she was gone, Xavier’s attention was attracted by a small persistent ticking noise followed by some cracking.

                                  It was on the front porch.

                                  A young girl in her thirteens, hoodie on despite the heat, and prune coloured pants, was sitting on the bench reading.

                                  She told him without raising her head from her book. “It’s Aunt Idle’s new pet bird. It’s quite a character.”


                                  “The noise, it’s from the bird. It’s been cracking nuts for the past twenty minutes. Hence the noise. And yes, it’s annoying as hell.”

                                  She rose from the bench. “Your bear friend will be back quick I’m certain; it’s just a small boutique with some nice crystals, but mostly cheap orgonite new-agey stuff. Betsy only swears by that, protection for electromagnetic waves and stuff she says, but look around… we are probably got more at risk to be hit by Martian waves or solar coronal mass ejections that by the ones from the telecom tower nearby.”

                                  Xavier didn’t know what to say, so he nodded and smiled. He felt a bit out of his element. When he looked around, the girl had already disappeared.

                                  Now alone, he sat on the empty bench, stretched and yawned while trying to relax. It was so different from the anonymity in the city: less people here, but everything and everyone very tightly knit together, although they all seemed to irk and chafe at the thought.

                                  The flapping of wings startled him.

                                  “Hellooo.” The red parrot had landed on the backrest of the bench and dropped shells from a freshly cracked nut which rolled onto the ground.

                                  Xavier didn’t think to respond; like with AL, sometimes he’d found using polite filler words was only projecting human traits to something unable to respond back, and would just muddle the prompt quality.

                                  “So ruuuude.” The parrot nicked his earlobe gently.

                                  “Ouch! Sorry! No need to become aggressive!”

                                  “You arrrre one to talk. Rouge is on Yooour forehead.”

                                  Xavier looked surprised at the bird in disbelief. Did the bird talk about the mirror test? “What sort of smart creature are you now?”

                                  “Call meee Rose. Pretty Giiirl acceptable.”

                                  Xavier smiled. The bird seemed quite fascinating all of a sudden.
                                  It was strange, but the bird seemed left completely free to roam about; it gave him an idea.

                                  “Rose, Pretty Girl, do you know some nice places around you’d like to show me?”

                                  “Of couuurse. Foôllow Pretty Girl.”


                                  In reply to: Orbs of Madjourneys

                                  Xavier had woken up in the middle of the night that felt surprisingly alive bursting with a quiet symphony of sounds from nocturnal creatures and nearby nature, painted on a canvas of eerie spacious silence.

                                  It often took him a while to get accustomed to any new place, and it was not uncommon for him to have his mind racing in the middle of the night. Generally Brytta had a soothing presence and that often managed to nudge him back to sleep, otherwise, he would simply wake up until the train of thoughts had left the station.

                                  It was beginning of the afternoon in Berlin; Brytta would be in a middle of a shift, so he recorded a little message for her to find when she would get back to her phone. It was funny to think they’d met thanks to Yasmin and Zara, at the time the three girls were members of the same photography club, which was called ‘Focusgroupfocus’ or something similar…
                                  With that done, he’d turned around for something to do but there wasn’t much in the room to explore or to distract him sufficiently. Not even a book in the nightstand drawer. The decoration itself had a mesmerising nature, but after a while it didn’t help with the racing thoughts.

                                  He was tempted to check in the game — there was something satisfactory in finishing a quest that left his monkey brain satiated for a while, so he gave in and logged back in.


                                  Completing the quest didn’t take him too long this time. The main difficulty initially was to find the portal from where his avatar had landed. It was a strange carousel of blue storks that span into different dimensions one could open with the proper incantation.

                                  As usual, stating the quirk was the key to the location, and the carousel portal propelled him right away to Midnight town, which was clearly a ghost town in more ways than one. Interestingly, he was chatting on the side with Glimmer, who’d run into new adventures of her own while continuing to ask him what was up, and as soon as he’d reached Midnight town, all communication channels suddenly went dark. He’d laughed to himself thinking how frustrated Glimmer would have been about that. But maybe the game took care of sending her AI-generated messages simulating his presence. Despite the disturbing thought of having an AI generated clone of himself, he almost hoped for it (he’d probably signed the consent for this without realising), so that he wouldn’t have to do a tedious recap about all what she’d missed.

                                  Once he arrived in the town, the adventure followed a predictable pattern. The clues were also rather simple to follow.

                                  The townspeople are all frozen in time, stuck in their daily routines and unable to move on. Your mission is to find the missing piece of continuity, a small hourglass that will set time back in motion and allow the townspeople to move forward.

                                  The clue to finding the hourglass lies within a discarded pocket watch that can be found in the mayor’s office. You must unscrew the back and retrieve a hidden key. The key will unlock a secret compartment in the town clock tower, where the hourglass is kept.

                                  Be careful as you search for the hourglass, as the town is not as abandoned as it seems. Spectral figures roam the streets, and strange whispers can be heard in the wind. You may also encounter a mysterious old man who seems to know more about the town’s secrets than he lets on.

                                  Evading the ghosts and spectres wasn’t too difficult once you got the hang of it. The old man however had been quite an elusive figure to find, but he was clearly the highlight of the whole adventure; he had been hiding in plain sight since the beginning of the adventure. One of the blue storks in the town that he’d thought had come with him through the portal was in actuality not a bird at all.

                                  While he was focused on finishing the quest, the interaction with the hermit didn’t seem very helpful. Was he really from the game construct? When it was time to complete the quest and turn the hourglass to set the town back in motion, and resume continuity, some of his words came back to Xavier.

                                  “The town isn’t what it seems. Recognise this precious moment where everything is still and you can realise it for the illusion that it is, a projection of your busy mind. When motion resumes, you will need to keep your mind quiet. The prize in the quest is not the completion of it, but the realisation you can stop the agitation at any moment, and return to what truly matters.”

                                  The hermit had turned to him with clear dark eyes and asked “do you know what you are seeking in these adventures? do you know what truly matters to you?”


                                  When he came out of the game, his quest completed, Xavier felt the words resonate ominously.

                                  A buzz of the phone snapped him out of it.

                                  It was a message from Zara. Apparently she’d found her way back to modernity.

                                  [4:57] “Going to pick up Yasmin at the airport. You better sleep away the jetlag you lazy slugs, we have poultry damn plenty planned ahead – cackling bugger cooking lessons not looking forward to, but can be fun. Talk to you later. Z”

                                  He had the impulse to go with her, but the lack of sleep was hitting back at him now, and he thought he’d better catch some so he could manage to realign with the timezone.

                                  “The old man was right… that sounds like a lot of agitation coming our way…”

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