The jinx on the cottage loo was finally lifted, and not before the hiemal cold had settled in, right before the Sol Invictus festivities.
Meanwhile, they’ve had occasional updates from Rukshan, who was exploring the Land of the Giants. He’d mentioned in his last telebat echoing that he’d found the elusive Master creator of Gorrash, and had hope for the dwarf. The magic binding the stones was strong he’s said, although some additional magic would help speed up the recovery process which otherwise would take probably centuries if not millennia.
Glynis had looked at the requirements; it only said
‘strong magic, born from pain, hardened in gems
– dissolve in pink clay, mix well and apply generously’.
None of her magic had seemed to fit. Pain, she’d had plenty, but her magic was born from the water element, emotions, plants and potions. She went to the nearby Library, their restricted section of applied magic was scarce, nothing really applicable there. Honestly, if she’d known her whereabouts, it would have been a task better suited to Eleri. Her kind of area of expertise with concrete and iron work and stone paints was a bit more unpredictable though; it could end up do more damage to Gorrash’s continuity than else; she’d quickly put that impetuous idea to rest.
Glynis was still mulling over, thinking about finding a solution when she noticed a gaunt figure was at the door. It took her a few seconds to realize it wasn’t a stranger, but a familiar friend. Rukshan had returned, although verily worn down by his travails, with a full grown beard that gave him a seriouser look. Without thinking, she went to hug him. Such unusual display of affection did surprise the Fae who was beeming.
He smiled widely at Glynis and showed her an unusually large ampoule: “I’ve found the kind of magic our friend needs. These three Giant’s gallstones weren’t a picnic to obtain, I can tell you.”
“I can’t wait to hear all about this exciting story.” interrupted Eleri.
“Init been quiet as being caught in the doldruffs, my Mavis?” Sha was sandwiched in the cryogenic apparatus like a tartine in a toaster, with her ample person protruding like cheese squeezed in too much.
The door flung open.
“Good Lord, aren’t them splendigious, those little tarts, meringue and all.”
Berenice, Barb’s niece, trotting in his steps, taking her role as the new temp assistant very seriously was about to voice a response that he quickly tutted away. “I wasn’t talking to you.”
“Took me a while to find out the thread though, buried through all that poubelle creative thinking and monologues, and bla and bla. Action all gone missing safe for a little excitement in Tik…” He stopped, looking around suspiciously. “They’re here, I know. Stop it, now. Hey. Shut up!”
“He’s been acting all strange, since he cracked that red crystal.”
“Shht, Glo. You don’t want him to get mad and stop all our beauty treatment. I can feel my skin tighten and dewrinkle.”
“T’is like ironing, fussure. Some steam and a good hot iron to remove the wrinkles.”
“Ahahah, wrinkles yourself, they’re more like crevices, hihihi!”
“But first, nuffin like a ice treatment to tighten the glutes.”
“Oh uhuh, haha, she said glutes like a snotty beauty specialist. Next she’ll say we need to do Pontius Pilates…”
Berenice couldn’t help herself. She blurted out in one quick sentence “But what are you planning to do with them, Doctor?”
He paused a moment his conversation with the invisible guests then turned nonchalently at B.
“But just… perfecting them, sweet thing. Oh, and love what you did with the beehive.”
Olliver was surprised when he teleported back to the cottage to see everyone busy with their own affairs.
Fox was practicing a speech in front of the gargoyles statues rearranged in the garden like pupils in a class. He looked so serious that Olliver swallowed his guffaw. He wanted to update him about his scouting around, for the entrance that Rukshan had spoken about, and Fox had seemed interested at the time to join the exploration. His keen sense and shape-shifting abilities were always handy to have in a team.
The kids were at school, and he found out that Glynnis was teaching birds in the wood thicket.
“So much schooling going around” he whispered, almost afraid to be caught skipping classes.
“You can still join me, if you’d like,” Eleri said, having jumped out of nowhere. Her black dress was an interesting piece of improvisation. “I’m going to a funeral, but it should be fun, the deceased has promised he would haunt Leroway and his thugs.”
“Vincentius?” Arona was surprised to see him back in the cave; she looked at Leörmn with a doubtful raised eyebrow.
“Don’t look at me like that, dear”, the dragon replied “he found his own way back to you.”
“It was all thanks to Yikesy” Vincentius said.
Albie was confused as ever.
“Albie! Where have you been!” His mother Freda (or was it Lottie?) was howling from the top of the stone staircase overlooking the crystalline blue pool with its shore of diamantine sands. “Come right here immediately! That dragon and these foreign interlopers ain’t no fit and proper company!”prUneParticipant
That was a first. I had no idea what just happened. And believe me, this girl has seen some serious hanky-panky going ‘round here. Starting with Aunt Idle and her hustling and lascivious seducing of the Middle Eastern pirate cosplayer we had as guest.
But of course, that was nothing compared to how glamorous Mater looked in her red gabardine.
Anyway, something odd happened, like everyone was zapped in a torpor after the Fergus guy arrived. We were all expecting a sort of big reveal, and he did drop some incoherent clues, nothing truly worth the wait sorry to say, so we all went upstairs to sleep.
Blame it on the spiced lizard meat maybe, but I can’t figure what happened after that until I woke up. Everyone this morning was playing it by ear, as if everything was normal. But people are missing. Fergus and his motorbike, and the scarf girl with the young boy and their cat. Maybe others, I’ve lost count, and I’m done putting sticky notes for Idle (funny she insists being called that by the way… Maybe a side-effect of her medications).
There was an Italian corvette parked outside, all black & white. It arrived during the night, it woke me up when it arrived, but I went back to sleep I think. I wonder if those are new tourist guests. The Canadian guests were a bit in alarm, especially after the Fergus reveals.
Mater would tell me, “there is no cause for worry dear, mark my words, in an hour or less, it will all settle back down to the usual deadly boring as usual business.”
I think that planned family time was a bit too much anyway. Or too little. Devan hardly spent an hour with us, he’s too obsessed with his lost treasure conspiracies. He’ll be doing great with Dodo and her friends from the journal. I think they all enlisted Bert for a trip to the mines by the way. For all the good it’ll do everyone to try to unearth old secrets. Might give Mater a serious heart attack, for real this time.
As for me, I’ve had enough. I’m packing my bags and leaving with the first bus back to the Academy. There’s a mission to Mars to conquer.
I couldn’t offer Sanso a drink, as there wasn’t a drop of anything in my room, so I sent him down to the dining room to get a bottle of gin, and a couple of glasses of ice. I was a bit reluctant to let him out of my bedroom at such an early stage of the proceedings, but felt he was a man of his word when he assured me (with an engaging twinkle) that of course he’d be back, in just two shakes of a mongooses tail. Odd expression if you ask me, but then, where does he come from? Hard to say. He had a slight accent, but it was impossible to pin down to a location, and it had a changeable quality, too.
He wasn’t gone long, and said that the only person who’d seen him was Prune, but that was inevitable, he said. That kid sees everything! She’d be a fount of valuable information, if she didn’t put such a unique spin on everything.
I sat on the bed, and he sat in the wicker chair by the window, and after we’d clunked glasses and said cheers, he came right out and asked me what my mission was. Well! Mission? I asked. I’d never really thought about it in terms of a mission. Then a funny thing happened. I could hear myself speaking but hadn’t thought about what to say, you know how it is sometimes.
I said, “my mission is a glorious infinite wandering, threading multicoloured silken skeins of clues and riddles, people and places, weaving them in and out of time and to each other…”
Sanso laughed. “He said “That’s my mission, too!” and we raised our glasses in honour of that, and then he got serious. No, not like that. I mean, he started going on about the mines, and how we really had no time to lose because there were two daft tarts in extreme danger down there, and they needed rescuing. I rolled my eyes as you can imagine. I’d already started semi reclining in anticipation.
“It’ll be fun,” he said.
Ric knees were shaking. He fumbled with the door knob, his voice barely audible as he faced Miss Boddy —he meant Bossy.
“We, we, we… We’re not seriously torturing poor old sweet Sophie, are you?”
“Surely not, no! You’re very determined, distinguished… But demanding,…”
“Demented, Ric, please keep track, will you.”
She sighed, and dropped the wires. “Of course! This is a line that can’t be uncrossed.”
“And surely Sweet Sophie doesn’t need torture to spill the beans.”
“Why do you keep talking about torture? I was just rewiring the dual light switch. The electrician did such a poor job, the wires were all crossed, and it was driving me mad, you know. Having one switch up, and the other down… One up, the other down… Aargh!”
Ric’s face was mixed with relief and complete puzzlement.
“Enough talking about my OCDs, why Sweet Sophie isn’t here yet? Of course, we don’t need torture to get her to talk. That’s all she does besides sleeping. The tricky part will be to get her to focus of course. Can’t have her babble about WWII now, can we. That and her endless talking about time travel… Speaking of time, there’s hardly any to waste, there’s a mad Doctor on the loose doing awful human experiments on unsuspecting frail women to flush out, need I remind you.”TikuParticipant
I could smell trouble as soon as I entered. And it was not because of the lizards, i can tell ya. Lizards, once roasted, they smell delicious. They taste good too, a blend of chicken and fish, is what they say. But don’t get me started on food.
It smelled trouble for sure. There was a convergence happening, something dark and twisted over the place. At times, I feel strange, like the Dreamtime speaking through me.
The lady didn’t come down to greet me, of course, bad hip and all, at her age. Their maid, Finly took the offering by the tails with a painful look, I almost regretted bringing them. Maybe she’d have liked roasted gator’s paw better.
“I think it all comes from your bathroom.” I said almost without thinking.
“What about the bathroom?” snapped the Finly, with pride and outrage on her sweet wizened face.
“There is some bad juju there, the Fish was a talisman to protect you from the evil eye here, but it has worn off, and your family ties… won’t do no, not strong enough, no. Evil seeps in, not good, not good at all.”
At times, I like to make a ton and play the local madwoman, it helps seal deals, you have no ideas. But truth is, something’s amiss in that bathroom. It’s in serious need of magical help.
“That’s three pearls you gave her, for very little information in return” Albie said to the cat once they were out of the lair. “Seriously, the bag lady gave me chills even in that hot damp weather.”
“Don’t insult the Voodoo witch, boy” the cat meowed, it’s not safe while the vines are listening. “And her piece of information combined with the tracking spell recipe was valuable enough… once we get closer to her location.”
“Who is this Arona by the way, that you are willing to give the witch precious pearls and your claws for her?”
“She’d been many things, boy. An Enchantress, an Adventuress, a Master of the Arts,… and most of all, a good friend.”
“You suspect she’s in trouble, don’t you?”
The cat looked at the boy and squinted its eyes. “You are sharper than you let on. Now come on, we have some way to go, and with only a few pearls I managed to keep, we’ll be running out of portals before you know it.”
Thankfully, there had been a little left of the potion that Tak had so voraciously eaten.
Rukshan had almost aborted the trip to the desert to take care of the little shapeshifting gibbon urchin, whose new shade of green looked serious enough.
As quiet as she used to be, Glynis had shown a lot of cool and dexterity in handling the suspicious food poisoning case. She was gentle with the little boy, and didn’t show much concern about his going through her stuff.
In the end, she said she would be able to manage curing him, but that it would take probably a moon’s time.
Seeing Rukshan’s longer than usual face about the delay, she was the one to push him to go to the desert mysterious blue beams.
“Go with Olliver, he will teleport you both, and you can be back faster. Once you’ll be clear of what it is, we can plan something. It seems rather obvious nobody’s really ready to leave.” She glanced wryly at Eleri who was munching noisily on her goat milk’s oats.
Rukshan smiled. She’d almost sounded as though she was the boss. In any case, Glynis was right. Despite the cottage becoming overcrowded, and the threat of nearby building work encroachments into the forest paradise, all the unexpected friends seemed not in a rush for a change of scenery. Fox, Gorrash, Eleri and Hasam’, Margorrit and Tak, and the occasional resupply visits from the village…
“I think you’re right.” He picked up his bag and nodded at Olli. “Let us go and investigate this desert beam. Are you ready?”
And in a flash of the golden egg device, gone they were.
“I have no bloody idea what just happened here” mused Godfrey to his cashew nut, mimicking Liz’ odd behaviour when she talked to the drafts of air only she could see, and stopped dead in her tracks and with wide saucer-sized eyes as if she was talking to Faes invisible to mortals such as themselves.
“But seriously,… I feel a bit concerned,” he found talking to the renewed pile of cashews in his palm oddly soothing, as they one by one disappeared. “All this sudden concern of old age, retirement and whatnot. It’s not like Liz’. She’d better snap out of it. Her well of inspiration is getting drier every minute she spends worrying about money.”
He was considering naming the last cashew he’s salvaged. “What do you think, Rufus?”FloveParticipant
As the crow flies, Glenville is about 100 miles from the Forest of Enchantment.
“What a pretty town!” tourists to the area would exclaim, delighted by the tree lined streets and quaint houses with thatched roofs and brightly painted exteriors. They didn’t see the dark underside which rippled just below the surface of this exuberant facade. If they stayed for more than a few days, sure enough, they would begin to sense it. “Time to move on, perhaps,” they would say uneasily, although unsure exactly why and often putting it down to their own restless natures.
Glynis Cotfield was born in one of these houses. Number 4 Leafy Lane. Number 4 had a thatched roof and was painted a vibrant shade of yellow. There were purple trims around each window and a flower box either side of the front door containing orange flowers which each spring escaped their confines to sprawl triumphantly down the side of the house.
Her father, Kevin Cotfield, was a bespectacled clerk who worked in an office at the local council. He was responsible for building permits and making sure people adhered to very strict requirements to ‘protect the special and unique character of Glenville’.
And her mother, Annelie … well, her mother was a witch. Annelie Cotfield came from a long line of witches and she had 3 siblings, all of whom practised the magical arts in some form or other.
Uncle Brettwick could make fire leap from any part of his body. Once, he told Glynis she could put her hand in the fire and it wouldn’t hurt her. Tentatively she did. To her amazement the fire was cold; it felt like the air on a frosty winter’s day. She knew he could also make the fire burning hot, if he wanted. Some people were a little scared of her Uncle Brettwick and there were occasions—such as when Lucy Dickwit told everyone at school they should spit at Glynis because she came from an ‘evil witch family’—when she used this to her advantage.
“Yes, and I will tell my Uncle to come and burn down your stinking house if you don’t shut your stinking stupid mouth!” she said menacingly, sticking her face close to Lucy’s face. “And give me your bracelet,” she added as an after thought. It had worked. She got her peace and she got the bracelet.
Aunt Janelle could move objects with her mind. She set up a stall in the local market and visitors to the town would give her money to watch their trinkets move. “Lay it on the table”, she would command them imperiously. “See, I place my hands very far from your coin. I do not touch it. See?” Glynis would giggle because Aunt Janelle put on a funny accent and wore lots of garish makeup and would glare ferociously at the tourists.
But Aunt Bethell was Glynis’s favourite—she made magic with stories. “I am the Mistress of Illusions,” she would tell people proudly. When Glynis was little, Aunt Bethell would create whole stories for her entertainment. When Glynis tried to touch the story characters, her hand would go right through them. And Aunt Bethell didn’t even have to be in the same room as Glynis to send her a special magical story. Glynis adored Aunt Bethell.
Her mother, Annelie, called herself a healer but others called her a witch. She concocted powerful healing potions using recipes from her ’Big Book of Spells’, a book which had belonged to Annelie’s mother and her mother before her. On the first page of the book, in spindly gold writing it said: ‘May we never forget our LOVE of Nature and the Wisdom of Ages’. When Glynis asked what the ‘Wisdom of Ages’ meant, her mother said it was a special knowing that came from the heart and from our connection with All That Is. She said Glynis had the Wisdom of Ages too and then she would ask Glynis to gather herbs from the garden for her potions. Glynis didn’t think she had any particular wisdom and wondered if it was a ploy on her mother’s part to get free labour. She obeyed grudgingly but drew the line at learning any spells. And on this matter her father sided with her. “Don’t fill her mind with all that hocus pocus stuff,” he would say grumpily.
Despite this, the house was never empty; people came from all over to buy her mother’s potions and often to have their fortunes told as well. Mostly while her father was at work.
Glynis’s best friend when she was growing up was Tomas. Tomas lived at number 6 Leafy Lane. They both knew instinctively they shared a special bond because Tomas’s father also practised magic. He was a sorcerer. Glynis was a bit scared of Tomas’s Dad who had a funny crooked walk and never spoke directly to her. “Tell your friend you must come home now, Tomas,” he would call over the fence.
Being the son of a sorcerer, Tomas would also be a sorcerer. “It is my birthright,” he told her seriously one day. Glynis was impressed and wondered if Tomas had the Wisdom of Ages but it seemed a bit rude to ask in case he didn’t.
When Tomas was 13, his father took him away to begin his sorcery apprenticeship. Sometimes he would be gone for days at a time. Tomas never talked about where he went or what he did there. But he started to change: always a quiet boy, he became increasingly dark and brooding.
Glynis felt uneasy around this new Tomas and his growing possessiveness towards her. When Paul Ackleworthy asked her to the School Ball, Tomas was so jealous he broke Paul’s leg. Of course, nobody other than Glynis guessed it was Tomas who caused Paul’s bike to suddenly wobble so that he fell in the way of a passing car.
“You could have fucking killed him!” she had shouted at Tomas.
Tomas just shrugged. This was when she started to be afraid of him.
One day he told her he was going for his final initiation into the ‘Sorcerer Fraternity’.
“I have to go away for quite some time; I am not sure how long, but I want you to wait for me, Glynis.”
“Wait for you?”
He looked at her intensely. “It is destined for us to be together and you must promise you will be here for me when I get back.”
Glynis searched for her childhood friend in his eyes but she could no longer find him there.
“Look, Tomas, I don’t know,” she stuttered, wary of him, unwilling to tell the truth. “Maybe we shouldn’t make any arrangements like this … after all you might be away for a long time. You might meet someone else even …. some hot Sorceress,” she added, trying not to sound hopeful.
Suddenly, Glynis found herself flying. A gust of wind from nowhere lifted her from her feet, spun her round and then held her suspended, as though trying to decide what to do next, before letting her go. She landed heavily at Tomas’s feet.
“Ow!” she said angrily.
“Okay! I promise!” she said.
That evening there was a gathering of Uncle Brettwick and the Aunts. There was much heated discussion which would cease abruptly when Glynis or her father entered the room. “Alright, dearie?” one of the Aunts would say, smiling way too brightly. And over the following days and weeks there was a flurry of magical activity at 4 Leafy Lane, all accompanied by fervent and hushed whisperings.
Glynis knew they were trying to help her, and was grateful, but after the initial fear, she became defiant. “Who the hell did he think he was, anyway?” She left Glenville to study architecture at the prestigious College of Mugglebury. It was there she met Conway, who worked in the cafe where she stopped for coffee each morning on her way to class. They fell in love and moved in together, deciding that as soon as Glynis had graduated they would marry. It had been 4 years since she had last seen Tomas and he was now no more than a faint anxious fluttering in her chest.
It was a Friday when she got the news that Conway had driven in the path of an oncoming truck and was killed instantly. She knew it was Friday because she was in the supermarket buying supplies for a party that weekend to celebrate her exams being over when she got the call. And it was the same day Tomas turned up at her house.
And it was then she knew.
“You murderer!” she had screamed through her tears. “Kill me too, if you want to. I will never love you.”
“You’ve broken my heart,” he said. “And for that you must pay the price. If I can’t have you then I will make sure no-one else wants you either.”
“You don’t have a heart to break,” she whispered.
Dragon face,” Tomas hissed as he left.
Glynis returned to Glenville just long enough to tell her family she was leaving again. “No, she didn’t know where,” she said, her heart feeling like stone. Her mother and her Aunts cried and begged her to reconsider. Her Uncle smouldered in silent fury and let off little puffs of smoke from his ears which he could not contain. Her father was simply bewildered and wanted to know what was all the fuss about and for crying out loud why was she wearing a burka?
The day she left her mother gave her the ‘Book of Spells”. Glynis knew how precious this book was to her mother but could only think how heavy it would be to lug around with her on her journey.
“Remember, Glynis,” her mother said as she hugged Glynis tightly to her, “the sorcerers have powerful magic but it is a mere drop in the ocean in comparison to the magic of All That Is. You have that great power within you and no sorcerer can take take that from you. You have the power to transform this into something beautiful.”
“Where’s Mum?” asked Steve. The kitchen door banged behind him.
John winced at the noise. “What will the neighbours think with all that banging!”
“Where’s Mum?” repeated Steve.
“Oh, she had a stroke when she saw the new clothes pegs. Not bloody surprising, either! Far too bright for down the garden, they were! Enough to give anyone a stroke.”
“No, seriously, Dad, where is she?”
“I am serious! She’s in the hospital, lost her speech but her arms and legs are working fine. Blessing in disguise if you ask me.”
“Dad!” Steve was shocked. “Poor old Mum. Who’s going to cook the dinner?”FloveParticipant
“What did Clove ask about the other lodgers? You didn’t give away anything did you?” asked Sue later that evening. Sue was in bed with her latest Mills and Boon novel: Caride’s Forgotten Wife. She said to John that reading them was her “secret vice” and she hid them in the bedside cabinet — the one with a lock — so that none of the children would come across them. She whispered her question about the lodgers to John, although it wasn’t clear who she thought might be able to overhear.
John sighed heavily and sat down on the edge of the bed. He didn’t believe in these sort of communications before bed time; sleep was a serious business and it was best not to get stressed prior to commencing. But he realised the importance of Sue’s question and decided to make an exception to his usual rule.
“Well, I’ll be honest with you, luv, she did ask. She did … and I confess it was I who mentioned the lodgers in the first place. In my defence though, I was getting fed up with her pestering to go out gallivanting god-knows-where in the middle of the night. I was quite sharp with her. But I don’t want you worrying.” He patted Sue’s leg under the woollen beige blanket in a reassuring way. “Tell you what, in the morning we will put our heads together and come up with a story to put young Clove’s enquiring mind at ease should the matter of the lodgers arise again. Now, promise you won’t worry, dear?”
Sue nodded doubtfully.
“Oh I hope not, John, she can’t know … I couldn’t stand it … you know. I just couldn’t go through it again. All the turmoil and … upset.”
“Liz’! We’re all waiting for you now, it’s been nearly a week you’ve been soaking in that bath of yours, I’m dreading how wrinkled you may look now, and the amount of virgin coconut oil you will need to moisturize everything, but I digress. Liz’ get out now!”
Godfrey was supervising an unusual and unexpected commission.
The Anthology of Her Works.
It was a working title, but the idea was simple enough, and yet completely nuts and daunting. Put together the massive material that Liz (and her ghostwriters) had amassed all those years.
That someone would want to sponsor the adventure seemed completely crazy, so they would have to hurry before the anonymous donor came back to his or her senses and realize the whole futility of the adventure.
“LIZ’!” There was urgency in his voice.
“COMING, FOR BLUBBER’S SAKE! STOP THAT RACKET AT ONCE GODFREY OR I’LL HAVE YOU FIRED.”
Liz’ finally emerged out of the room, in full regalia, with her silk dragon-patterned black bath-gown, definitely a bit wrinkled at the scalp, but overall looking completely re-energized and ready to embraze the magnitude of the work to be done (meaning: ready to boss everybody around to get it done).
“So what’s that all about Godfrey? Have we run out of peanuts?”
“Good Lord no, perish the thought.”
“So why are you here at the table with Finnley and the handsome gardener, what’s his name already?”
“Yes, that’s right,… Alberto. Thank you Finnley, you’re a dear. So what is it, that has you all here plotting around? I’m not paying you to roll blubbit’s droppings in batter…”
Ricardo had finished cleaning the tea cups in the empty office. He liked the job alright, it was a bit silly of him to surmise people would clean their own cups, and do their own teas. That was what he’d meant with the team job comment.
Connie and Hilda were right, totally right about it; he couldn’t expect too much, he’d just arrived, he was just a simple intern in a prestigious journalistic establishment. He’d come here to learn the tricks of the trade, when he’d answered the wanted: secretary and cleaner ad of last week.
So far, there was only so much golden nuggets of weirdo news he could find. You’d need some serious training to get to the level of Hilda and Connie, the dynamic duo.
For now, he was content to being put to menial tasks, it helped know the colleagues better, support them as he could with the pressure on the deadlines. And also, improving the typos and legibility by cleaning up the loose letters dropped during typesetting.
His own headline baiting skill was still rather low —it was an art to create the perfectly sexyied up heading, not too tacky, but enticing enough to captivate the readership’s attention.
If Hilda was the queen of headline fishing, Connie was undoubtedly the empress of headline baiting.
Dispersee sat on a fallen tree trunk, lost in thought. A long walk in the woods had seemed just the ticket to release her from her turbulent thoughts, but alas, she had been unable to stop thinking about the ramifications of the new message from the popular ghost.
At first she had been delighted to see it. She had agreed with it. But then she wondered why. Because she already knew all this, and in fact, it was information that could so readily be gleaned by anyone at all simply by engaging ordinary common sense, and run of the mill human compassion. Nothing esoteric was needed. No enlightened messages from the great beyond. In fact, she had said the same as the ghost, and on many occasions. The truth of the matter was that one had to be dead these days to be heard. Nobody was interested in the wise words of the living anymore. It could almost be said that nobody was all that interested in living at all: everyone wanted to be in the future, or the past, or in some other dimension, or planet, or not even physically alive at all anywhere. The individuals in the ascension process were particularly infected with this strange disorder: many of the ordinary uninitiated public were already quite well aware of the contents of the message and were already actively engaged in the process. It was as if the interest in so called shifty matters was an obstacle, an ugly carbuncle over the heart.
Dispersee seriously wondered if the whole shift thing had been a good idea. She was beginning to doubt that it was. The alacrity with which people relied on messages from ghosts at the expense of exercising their own powers of deduction and intuition had caused the whole plan to do disastrously wrong. People didn’t even know how to behave like people anymore. Not only were they afraid of other people, afraid of their governments, afraid of their food, of the sun and the water and the very earth itself, they were afraid of their own human responses, or had forgotten them altogether.
Did it really need a ghost to advise people on media propaganda, and remind them to be compassionate to others who were on an incredible journey, an extraordinary movement during these times of change? And more to the point, did Dispersee need to be involved at all in this futile ascension malarkey?
“Rules won’t help much during the Imagination Wave, you know. This is all out chaos, I’m telling you! I didn’t want to think about it, but now that I am, I am wondering if all these displaced and irate characters are going to be following any rules? Hah!” she cackled wildly, more rattled herself than she was willing to admit.
Fanella had been secretly watching Gustave at the bar with his entourage of old slappers, hiding herself behind a potted palm. She was biding her time, and building up her courage for a confrontation with a stiff martini, when the door opened and a crowd of handsome Russian men walked into the bar.
“Oh my god, Tina!” Becky shouted in alarm when she read the latest entry. “Not only do we have characters to worry about, the bloody characters have been creating rafts of refugee characters of their own! Where will it all end?”
“Well, at least this lot are all handsome,” Al interjected, with a mischievous grin.
Gripping Tina’s shoulder firmly and giving her a little shake, Becky continued, “It’s getting serious, Tina, can’t you see the danger we’re in? Fictional characters are coming to life all over the planet, demanding birth certificates and passports and refugee status. Insisting on continuation, more detailed back stories; some are even demanding therapy for what the authors have put them through!”
Tina looked shocked. “Is it really as serious as that?” she asked. “I had heard about it, but, well, I didn’t like to think too much about it…” her voice trailed off, hoping that Becky would drop the subject so she didn’t have to think about it any more.
“It’s the Imagination Wave, Tina. We’ve never really understood Imagination or how to use it. During this wave, we’re going to find out, and it’s going to be messy, believe me! It’s not just the characters we’ve made up, it’s the land mass. Characters are looking for their lands, demanding compensation for missing islands…”
“What are we going to do?” Tina whispered dramatically. “We’ve been churning out characters and littering changed landscapes with them and then just leaving them stranded, for nine years!”
“And we can’t even get away from them all if we flew to Mars, either,” added Al, who had been eavesdropping from behind the door. He joined them and pulled up a chair. “Seriously, girls, we need a plan. This is our most important mission of all.”
“Should we kill them all off?” asked Becky, wincing as she said it. “I didn’t mean that!” she added hastily.
“Oh, you don’t want to do that!” Al replied quickly. “Some authors have done that and have been haunted by dead characters something awful! Dead characters are a worse nightmare than characters coming to life, believe me!”
“Well I didn’t really mean it,” Becky said sheepishly.
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