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      I don’t really want to write, Elizabeth was thinking, I want to read, just read. And perhaps write a little bit about what I’m reading, or draw a map to illustrate the connections between what I’m reading and what I’m doing. Or what all those others out there that pretend to not be me are doing.

      She paused and looked around. Is there anything more perfect than a warm house, full of firewood and full of books? She had just read something about the “beast”, and welcoming the beast. The beast in question was illness, and the author was welcoming the beast because it was an excuse to just read and do nothing else. Elizabeth’s beast the other day was no internet connection, and she had pulled the sofa up to the patio doors to lie in the sun all day, just reading. I’ll lie there every morning, when the sun streams in just so, lying on the sofa and just reading, she thought. But she hadn’t.

      But she kept thinking about lying on a sofa reading all day, not just any sofa, but a sofa that was positioned to catch the winter sun through the window. It reminded her of many years ago in a cold climate, (or was it a chapter in a book, a character that had done it? She wasn’t sure, but what was the difference anyway) lying on a sofa all day, a large American one that was longer than she was and wider too and would have had room for several dogs, if she’d had any then, not a short European sofa that cuts off the circulation of the calves that hang over the arm, with no room for dogs. She was sick, she assumed, because she had the house to herself and because she spent the entire day reading a book. She wondered if anyone did that even if they weren’t sick, and somehow doubted it. The book was Bonjour Tristesse, and she never forgot reading that book, although she promptly forgot what the book was about. It was the delicious feeling of lying on a sofa with the winter sun on her face, when beyond the glass window all was frigid and challenging and made the body rigid, despite it’s dazzling white charm.

      There was no winter sun shining in today, just rain trickling down the windowpane, cutting through the muddy paw prints from when the dogs looked in. But just seeing the sofa positioned in just the right place to catch the sun was warming, somehow.



        I am 73 years old and some think I look pretty good for my age. Not the kids—the kids think I look as old as Methuselah. When I was young my hair was jet black. Now it is white and I wear it in a long braid down my back; it is easy to look after and I certainly don’t trust Dodi to cut it, though she has offered. I wash it once a week and put vinegar in the final rinse to get rid of the yellow tinge. My back is straight, no dowager’s hump like some my age, and I can still touch my toes at a push. I married my childhood sweetheart—the love of my life—in 1958 and he died of sickness, April 12th, 1978. My favourite dish is spaghetti and meatballs. When I was younger, when I lived in Perth, I was a milliner. I don’t make hats now; there is not the same demand out here. And of course there is Fred, my son, who scarpered God-knows-where a year ago.

        It isn’t much to say about a life, but I suspect it is way more than you wanted to know.

        This reminds me; Dodi went to a funeral in Sydney a few months ago. The funeral of a dear school friend who died in a motor vehicle accident. Not her fault, as I understand it. She was driving along, minding her own business, returning home from a quiet night playing trivial pursuits at the local community centre. A teenage driver lost control of her car. She was fine; I mean the other driver was fine, barely a scrape. Dodi’s friend was not so fortunate. At the funeral of her friend—I forget her name—the place was packed.

        At the time, when Dodi recounted the events of the funeral, I started thinking about my own future demise. It may perhaps sound morbid, or vain, but I found myself wondering who might be there to see me off. Other than the family, who would be duty bound to attend, I couldn’t think of many who would care enough to pay their respects—perhaps a few locals there for the supper afterwards and a bit of a chinwag no doubt.

        I am rambling; I have a tendency to do that. I can’t blame it on old age because I have always rambled. The point is, I don’t think I have done much with my life. And this saddens me.

        However, I suspect this is of less interest to you than the ghost I mentioned earlier.

        The idea of a ghost is not a new concept at the Flying Fish Inn. It has been around for as long as we have been here. But it was just a joke—it wasn’t a real ghost, if you see what I mean. Every strange noise or other untoward happening we would blame on “the ghost”. The dilapidated look of the place lent itself very well to having resident ghost, it was almost obligatory, and Fred even had a plan to market our imaginary ghost as a tourist attraction.

        So what changed? Well, I saw him.



          I feel myself moving slowly today. The thought of death and my poor little guinea pig is still nagging. It occurs to me that perhaps I am walking slowly because I don’t want to move too fast into the inevitable.

          Or perhaps it is just that I did not sleep so well last night. It is so damned hot and night time offers little respite from the heat.

          At least the kids have stopped fighting. I worry about them. Always shut away in their rooms on that internet thing.

          I am so tired. More tired than I should be. It is not the usual aches and pains. Something feels wrong. I have made up my mind to go and visit Jiemba, the local aboriginal healer. It is a wee bit of a walk, so I will need to start early, before the heat gets up. I don’t want to ask Dido to take me. “Just go and see the doctor in town!” she will say to me. For all her alternative ways, Dido can still be pretty closed minded about some things—and she thinks I am a crazy old fool anyway.

          But I think Jiemba has the gift—special healing powers—and he comes from a family of aboriginal healers. His father was a healer and his grandfather too. I went to see him once, his father, years ago. My back was bad and the doctor in town said I would need an operation. He did some chanting, calling up spirits I think, put his hand on my back and pulled out a stone. He said the stone was the sickness causing my back pain, or some such thing. I was sceptical at the time, but my back never did give me any more bother. I’ve read up on it since then and I think there is something in it all. The older I get the more I realise I don’t know it all.

          Besides, there is something else I want to ask him about and I don’t know who else I can talk to. That’s the problem with getting old—one of the problems anyway—people tend to assume you are losing your marbles if you say anything out of the ordinary.

          But I think the Inn is haunted.


            Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity of white knuckle hair raising maniac mandarin maneuvers with no respite, not for even a second, the Lazuli duck landed on the beach at the innermost coastline of the Bay and shapeshifted back into his usual human form. As soon as Lisa could straighten out her fingers, seized into a gripping feathers position, she punched Lazuli right in the middle of his joined up long black eyebrow. Then she howled in pain as her tense knuckles met the hard bone of his forehead.
            “You fucking asshole! You jackass show off useless twat!”
            Lazuli looked mildly surprised and asked, “That wasn’t fun?”
            “Flun!! Flinking flool, flu flipped Flanella floff, and flow flea flost fleur!” Lisa was distraught, and with the additional feelings of outrage (feelings are meant to be fleeting, but this one was sticking around) at Lazuli’s reaction, was having difficulty forming words. “I flope flu flan flive with florself, flu fuckflit!!”
            In exasperation Lisa howled, beating her fists upon Lazuli’s chest, then she collapsed to her knees, weeping.
            The intensity of emotion she was projecting attracted Mirabelle and Igor, who made a spontaneous maneuver mid teleport which landed them on the sand beside Lisa.
            Mirabelle retched violently upon landing, while Igor stumbled in haste to evacuate his bowels behind a mangrove tree, both of them giddy and sickened by the abrupt change in direction and the gut wrenching intensity of the situation.
            The unexpected arrivals arrested Lisa’s sobbing mid flow. “Fliraflelle!” she exclaimed, and then added in increasing agitation, “ Oh, for flucks flake! Fly fan’t I fleak flopperly!”
            “Why don’t you just shut the fuck up for five minutes until you’ve calmed down, LisaSanso suggested calmly.
            Lisa took a deep breath and let it out with a full body shudder. “Oh Flanso…”

            “Shhhhh,” he replied gently, “Shhhhh.”


              Linda was mildly flattered by Sadie’s persistence to call her for help.

              Sadie, you little demanding poppet, you remind me of a young Linda Pol she’d thought affectionately. Anyway, after all the excitement at the Merry Otter, returning to the usual boring program wasn’t looking like too much fun, and she wasn’t one to ignore the plea of a damsel in distress.

              “Bugger that Sir Ed, tell the Network I’m extending my leave for a few days.”
              On a second thought, she said “Tell them I’m sick, and if HR sends any comments, post them a picture of moi without make-up, that should get them scared enough to give me a full week to recover.”

              With that, she went off to Sadie’s apartment, thanks to the information kindly provided by the unfailing ezapper.

              It was already night when she arrived, and a light moisture was hanging in the air, gently cooling the summer heat.

              “What? She’s left?” Linda had to roll her eyes to the news that the robotler gave her “Not even a word for me?” She bit her lip.


                “Oh! No more phone calls during work”, said Anna Purrna without looking at anyone in particular. It was at least the 57th rule she had been enacting since her arrival. She seemed to have plenty of them.

                Maurana and Terry looked at Consuela who was gasping like a fish out of the water, desperately trying to find oxygen in a dry environment. Cedric was used to call his mother several times a day. The numbers varied. Maurana thought there could be a pattern to these phone calls, and she had tried to time the interval between them. She hadn’t found it yet, but she felt she was close.

                “You can go back to your chores”, said the scrawny little drag. She turned back to Saint Germain’s double, to whom she was sickeningly sweet, as if to make the young queens more miserable by contrast.


                  Jeremy was close to the safe house, in the past…
                  He had to warn the others, and better hurry, as Max was usually sick travelling through vortices.


                    The room numbers were framed in a golden disc carved with what looked like zodiac animals and a circle of eights.

                    Linda observed the man walking in front of her. As soon as the effects of the lust gas had dissipated, she had been able to focus on something else than his butt. He’d been watching over his shoulder, and it was not to see if she was keeping with his pace. He had been frowning ever since she’d met him, and you could say his whole attitude exuded wariness. Despite her Happiness Training and the meditation practice at night with Sadie, she was beginning to feel some bowel tension. Not good for her digestion.

                    He stopped in front of room 57. He knocked, didn’t wait for an answer, instead used his magnetic key to open it, and entered. She followed. He looked one last time on both sides of the corridor, then locked the door.

                    They were in a big yellow lounge. Linda addressed a silent prayer to the Good Taste Goddess, sympathizing with the pain She must have endured each time an interior designer had expressed such lack of sobriety. It wasn’t just the color. The furniture seemed to come from Hart to Hart, except the sofa was in a dark yellow leather, and the cushions in a bright magenta.

                    “Wait here ‘till I call you”, he said. He left through a door on the right, taking his frown with him.
                    Linda heard him talk to someone in the other room, certainly a bedroom. A feminine voice answered him. They argued for some time. The woman was the last to speak. Then the silence.

                    Linda hesitated to seat on a jumping armchair with yellow and brown stripes. It was as if every cell of her body, and even the molecules of her clothes were repelled by the choices of the interior designer. She would have sworn her platform shoes were trying to levitate from the carpet.

                    The man’s head appeared at the door.
                    “Come in, she’s ready to see you.”

                    Linda could see emotions struggle on his face.

                    “But I warn you”, he said, his fists clenched, “she’s been sick since we have arrived. If my wife is tired, I’ll ask you to leave.”

                    “Oh!” Linda said.


                      It came as a surprise to Fanella to discover that she was homesick for the village in 2020 ~ despite that the entire time she had spent there, she’d been homesick for 18th century Paris. If Sanso belches in my face one more time, I’m off! she said to herself. I know I can do it ~ after all, I ended up in London in 1212, so I can do it again. Well, not back to 1212 of course, but somewhere else ~ ideally 2020, back in the comfort and familiarity of Lisa’s kitchen perhaps. Fanella sighed. I can’t even remember where I was trying to get to the last time, maybe I should just go back to the village and think about it. Travelling with Sanso has turned into a confusing wild cucumber chase, and I can’t make sense of it ~ where will I end up next?
                      “Umm, where is the loo?” she asked, hoping to find a quiet place in which to concentrate on teleporting out of this cucumber pickle.


                        Jeremy was 23 years old and living in a 57 square meters apartment in Brooklyn. He had two passions in life. Dance and maps.

                        Max growled. Well you could consider Max as Jeremy’s third passion. Max was a ragdoll cat with a tiny little genetic defect. His fur had this faint pink tint as if it had been put into a washing machine with red clothes. Max purred, satisfied.

                        Jeremy’s apartment was an artwork in itself. He was painting as a hobby and had drawn a few maps on his white walls. He had the precise stroke that dance demands of a dancer’s move, he had the eye of a falcon concerning details and he loved connecting dots. For some of the maps he had used pointillism, and for others the ancient art of collage he had learned with his grand-mother Martha. Inspired by Matthew Cusnik he had made portraits of dancers with maps and other landscapes.

                        Jeremy has been interested for some time in a particularly beautiful picture of the Abraham Lake that he wanted to render on one of the last remaining areas of his ceiling when Max jumped on his lap, purring like a caress junkie in need of a few strokes. Jeremy obliged his cat distractedly, too engrossed in the meanders of the picture and the few maps he could already see in his mind like a puzzle.

                        Max jumped on the desk and tried to force his way between the keyboard and Jeremy’s hand. But he didn’t have enough time to fulfill his desire. The cat began to cough as if it had a train of thought stuck in his throat.

                        “Shit! You’re not going to puke on my keyboard!”

                        But it was too late, the cat opened its mouth and threw up a little ball of hair which bounced off the keyboard and crashed down on the floor.

                        “ehw!” said Jeremy who cringed when he saw the hair ball on his carpet. “I don’t know what you ate but it smells like those wheat Polish biscuits.

                        Jeremy had already taken some tissue to clean the cat’s mess, and the cat, certainly thinking it wasn’t enough was licking his fur again.
                        “Don’t make another one like that. You know I don’t like it.”

                        He was about to take the ball when it wobbled suspiciously. Then it began to grow. Jeremy blinked several times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. When the hairball reached the size of a soccer ball, it was obvious there was something inside, it was deformed like the belly of a pregnant woman when the baby kicks in her bowels.
                        “What on earth have you spawned, Max!” He looked at his cat, horrified that it could be one of those Aliens.

                        Soon it was as big as a corpse bag for two, and Jeremy could tell from the voices that there were at least two people inside.

                        Sanso got out of the ragdoll hair ball first, perfect hair as usual. Fanella struggled to get out of the mess of hairs, and was a bit disheveled.

                        “Time for a reality check”, said Sanso. “Am I dreaming ?” When he saw all the maps and the ragdoll cat, he knew he was at the right place.

                        “Who are you guys ? And how did you get out of Max ?” asked Jeremy.


                          When Jack had sent Lisa a message to ask if Fanella had joined her and Mirabelle in Portugal, she was worried.
                          Mirabelle, Fanella has disappeared, do you know anything about it?” asked Lisa. “Did she say anything to you that might give us a clue? Was she planning on going anywhere, did she have any friends outside the village? I know she homesick for 18th century Paris, but she couldn’t possibly have gone back ~ or could she?”
                          “Bit of a dark horse, our Fanella,” replied Mirabelle. “Always down by that river on her own, reading that strange old book.”
                          “Not Circle of Eights and Other Stories!”
                          “Yes, that’s the one. She was practicing projecting to the places in the book.”
                          WHAT?? Mirabelle, there’s no time to lose, we must go back to the village at once. If Fanella has been doing that, she could be anywhere, anywhere at all ~ and the trail will be a hard one to follow!”
                          “But what about our holiday? And not only that, what about the strange tile that was stolen that we’re supposed to be looking for?”
                          “The damn tile can wait.” snapped Lisa. “But I haven’t forgotten your arousing arms,” she added, her voice softening. “But we must find Fanella first.”


                          Lisa was not surprised to find on her return to the village that everything had descended into chaos. She knew that her responsibility belief about her herd tribe had something to do with it, and although she detested the word control, she was well aware of her propensity for monitoring and guiding the creatures and characters in her domain. The lifestyle in the village had relaxed her guidelines about fair play to some extent, but by golly some people were lazy slackers at times. But the one thing that got her goat was being kept in the dark. How could she keep a benevolent control if she wasn’t aware of what was going on? When she found out that Fanella had been making a granite box, and that she was the last to know, she was furious.


                            “Wait, wait!”
                            When Jonbert in his crab suit arrived on the spot, most of the life had deserted the place to go for a half-brain peaceful sleep, except a few remaining inebriated whales making some more ambergris gyrating around the fading crystal. At times, the hologram could still be faintly perceived.

                            “It’s so unfair, I’ve invested so much in this quest to see it fail now and have other reap the reward! I have a question, answer me!”

                            The St Germain hologram seemed roused by the word question, if not by the emotional request.

                            “A question… Mmm, sounds tempting, I didn’t really get a good question in ages, not to be rude with the previous ones, but well…” he shrugged.
                            “Alright, alright, a few questions but be quick with it, I’m nearly done packing my data to transcend to Peasland.”

                            Despite the draw to ask more about Peasland, Jonbert was steadfast in his resolve and asked the question that had been on mind rehearsed many a time, hopeful for a mind-blowing answer.

                            “Life everlasting is at hand; all I need is to refine enough gold to go through time…”
                            “Oh, or simply a bit of gugleshopping would do”
                            “Nevermind, must be a data interference”
                            “How do I manage that? Can you teach me transmutation?”
                            “Well, sure I can, it probably would help, actually I just did it again right here about half an hour ago.”
                            “Where is the gold? Where is it?”
                            “It’s in the heart, that’s where true transmutation works. Maybe you should listen to some music, I hear a hit song is on its way.”

                            Jonbert had the vague feeling he was being mocked, if not by Saint Germain, by fate or worse, his own attempts at a futile quest.

                            “But seriously, endings are not so bad you know” the hologram went on “sometimes some experiences are like being trapped in a crystal. I was trapped in a crystal, in a previous life, a long time ago you know… But I digress… You see, new life sparks new creativity. I suggest you make peace with your life and go on with the rest of it, otherwise you’ll find out you have missed it completely. No amount of fountain of youth is going to make you feel better, not in this state. But the reverse is true, the more you will enjoy and inhabit your present, the longer you will live, without even ageing.”

                            It surely wasn’t an answer he was expecting. Nobody would have dared give him such answer.

                            “Take it as you are not dead yet, this capacity to be surprised is a great feeling… Now I must bid you farewell my friend. You had indeed some great questions…”

                            “Wait!” the unexpected words had stirred him somehow and Jonbert had a sudden idea “Tell me a bit more about this Peasland place,… are they in need of a person in a place of authority? Can I come along?”

                            “I don’t see why not. Let me recalibrate that crystal, and we’ll be there in a minute.”

                            And with a flash of light, the hologram and the crab-man disappeared to the relief of Belen who was monitoring the scene with interest mixed with concern.

                            “That was unexpected. And bloody hell, I’m dead. Those humans know nothing.
                            Well, look at the Now, it’s high time I go back to Peter, he and the kids must be worried green sick…”


                              When Huhu arrived at his destination, Irina was sunbathing to the last rays of a big red gorgeous sunset that painted the waves in iridescent shades of purple.
                              At the same time, the sun’s course had already started a new day on the shores of New Zealand, where her sister was living, and she surely would be thrilled. Long had she waited for the 2222-2-22 marker.
                              Here, in Hawaii, they would still be in 2222-2-21, for a few more hours.
                              Irina started to shiver. 22°C her watch read. As if she needed to be any more quirky about this date…

                              “Good boy!” she said to the parrot, taking the key it was carrying. Huhu tittered in contentment, cracking some of the pistachios she fed him distractedly.

                              She’d just received additional information from the Management. Elusive as usual, and leaving a great deal to interpretation, including the interdiction.

                              They’d promised to get her her dream island as a retirement plan. Some said it was the original land of the mermaids (who used to have as much feathers as Rio Carnival’s samba dancers), right off Italy’s Amalfi’s coast. Among its perks, it boasted to incorporate 8 staff, and a private grotto — that, if anything else than her fine waist line, would surely entice Sanso into other steamy booty calls.
                              She’d seen the pictures of the properties, her first thought though was that she needed to shoot the interior decorator. In short, it was almost her moral duty to get it, and change the decor. On the whole, she was convinced the island would do her good.

                              So, when she looked back at the previous instructions to see how good she’d done on her mission’s objectives, she shrugged a little. She’d understood instinctively right when it was delivered that it was a clever cipher, especially given the late date shift. So she had reinterpreted the actual commands, and leisurely waited for the travellers to appear, and get comfy. By now, she was certain they trusted her telepathic commands well enough, so that solved the trust conundrum.
                              Basically, she was a major proponent of her own interpretation of old Ho’oponopono rituals. Instead of the usual mantra “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” hers was a bit more straightforward and was around the lines of “Green sickness to you. Peace be with you, and bugger off.
                              Said a few times with proper intonation and inner work, and it was know to her to alter dramatically any block or resistance into a great flow of pure unfettered energy. So she had adamant faith that all she needed to do to complete her mission was to focus on herself and solve the resistance within by letting go.

                              The last message was short.

                              22 the code * whale that * BO

                              It could only mean one thing. 22 was a clever cipher meaning conundrum as in a catch 22, but also an obvious reference to the temperature. So it could only mean one thing: tamper with the code on the 22nd, and send it on the way to the whales, with a bug on it.

                              “Mr R, please, fetch!”

                              The discrete, yet always present robot caught the key with grace, and on her careful instructions, proceeded to alter the code of the key.

                              Irina was enjoying herself immensely, and found it a pity nobody could witness her true genius. “The ones who’ll read that key later, well… they are in for such a wild goose chase!”
                              The second part of St Germain’s encoded hologram was now ripe with wonderful and bewildering information about blubbits and the magic kingdom of Peasland with obscure and arcane references of magic numbers like 57, that would have anybody sane turn mad as a hatter in no time. Hopefully the whales would be immune to the nonsense, but probably not humans.

                              Now was the final part of the plan.

                              “Mr R?”
                              “I hope you are ready for this delicate reinsertion mission. Do you still have that octopus suit of yours ready?”
                              “Of course, Madam. Right away Madam.”


                                Gliding through layers of consciousness, Belen carried her precious cargo of the Santa Maria and its birds towards her destination.
                                There were various variations of the same 2222, and she carefully adjusted the course along the 202 years gap, so as to swim to her favourite version of it. It required much love work on her part, addressing, piecing and peacing off many parts of human consciousness, while at the same time tenderly caring for the memories stored with her immense ghost body.
                                The 2020 version they had just left, she knew, was already on the proper track towards global enlightenment. There were still horrors, concerns and anxiety about the course of the future, but with a greater perspective, it looked like the positive actions were gaining momentum and leaning towards a brighter fuller and richer future.

                                She could feel the Contact Crystal pulsate steadily and it opened her blowhole chakra. Blowing her mind, as it were.

                                The Big Island was like a beacon, with the flows of lava rippling heatwave signatures in the ocean, and it didn’t take long to enter the stream that would lead them to the pod and the meeting point.

                                As she sensed they’d arrived in 2222, and that they were floating on the surface of a calm ocean, she gently opened the energy bubble sealing the ghost and alive cargo of birds and vegetation, so they could breathe in the pure air and enjoy discovering around.

                                Belen, look at you, not a ounce more of blubber since we last met! You ought to tell me how you keep so fit”
                                “Batshatsassani!” Belen was pleased the see the great female orca who’d come to greet her.
                                “Still with your entourage, it seems” her friend said without a hint of malice, blowing a few rings of bubbles around in a relaxed manner. “Let me accompany you to the ceremony.”
                                “With great pleasure, dear. Rest assured, I won’t carry my entourage along for the time of the ceremony.”
                                “It would have been cumbersome, no?” Oftentimes humour (and irony in particular) were a lost subtlety on the orca’s mind. Belen just smiled to answer, revealing a great range of ghostwhite perfect baleens.

                                As they swam their way along the beautiful clear ocean, they were greeted by a pod of joyously rambunctious great dolphins, a good half size bigger than their common dolphins cousins she’d seen swimming near the coasts of Portugal. The leader of the pod was doing acrobatics to retrieve and play with a funny scarf made of colorful feathers. It was no surprise the dolphins were playing games, really. That or chasing food took the best of their time. But the scarf was the strangest thing Belen had seen in a long time and it triggered some kind of forgotten memory. Odd thing for her to not remember a memory, unless it was from another probable dimension… She followed the urge to ask.

                                “Were did they get that?”
                                “Oh, it’s nothing important… Four strange aquatic thingies went down earlier this morning, making a whole lot of noise around. They looked like one of those aliens, but so clumsy we thought they were probably sickly and left there to die by their tribe. The ‘phins took the fancy red gills from one of them.”
                                “Are you serious? Are they OK?” Belen huge heart felt panicky at the thought of the small creatures left to die without help.
                                “Of course they are, I knoooow we have to keep our reputation, you know. Where they are now, I’m not too sure. But the octopi from the camouflage squad are on it, following them. According to the last I know, the aliens have been lost for awhile in the underwater caves. When they’re exhausted, we’ll send them somewhere else… Can’t attract too much attention to ourselves, with the ceremony and all…”


                                  “Yes, I could be able to plot a new course, without doubt, even with that tile missing” Belen said to one of the dolphins of the neighbourhood who had come for an update on the stranded ghost galleon.

                                  I was weeks of Simultaneous Time, and being stranded was particularly difficult for a Conscious Breather such as Belen, even if the ghost whale now didn’t really need to breathe, the force of habit was strong.

                                  Peter, his usual jovial self had said nothing, and had merely enjoyed some forays inland, looking for the tile and the conch, occasionally bringing news from the strange neighbours of the nearby village.

                                  In the end, Belen couldn’t really remember who was who in the strange tales he made of it, there were so many humans involved and truly, their earthly concerns weren’t relevant to hers, and there was only little they could do to help with the situation.

                                  The Harmonium Convergence was about to start, the crystalline aquatic organs would start to play the tunes for the new dreams of the new era to be sung.
                                  And yet, the so-called magical conch was still missing. Belen dreaded coming back ashamed to the Youngers without the ancient divination tool. Frankly, it was more of a permission slip, as her orca friend Batshatsassani called it. She would say to her that “every modality, every ritual, every tool, every technique is a permission slip that allows yourself to give you permission to be more of who you are.”
                                  She knew she didn’t need it really, but she liked the rituals of old, and to be honest was a bit fearful of not only revealing they were not that important, but more, introducing new ones… Would the whale and whole cetacean family be ready for such an end to the religious era?

                                  While she was struggling with the thoughts, she managed to guard them from the psychic prying of her dolphin friend, by misleading him on meanders of the endless memory halls that she was guardian of.

                                  Peter suddenly appeared with a popping sound. “I think I found the conch!” he exclaimed with glee in his eyes. “Yes, it’s Igor, you know Igor…”
                                  “What about Igor, darling, you know I lost complete track of all these landers strange names”
                                  “He’s the guy who stole the…” Peter stopped realizing this wasn’t really a question about Igor. “The conch, he brought it back with him!”

                                  Then to his and her own surprise, Belen replied
                                  “Forget about the conch, darling, I’m sorry I’ve led you to believe it was important, but it’s not, not really. It’s just a ordinary object to lead the philistines astray. It’s not more powerful than the whiffling of a shillelagh. The true treasure is always within ourselves.
                                  Gather the birds, and let us prepare to leave in the next hour, the Harmonium Convergence is about to start in 2222, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

                                  Baffled by the revelation, Peter knew enough to not contradict his whale partner, and went merrily with the new flow which seemed so full of excitement and potential new science revelations.

                                  Belen had a thought “Actually Peter my dear, any other conch we can find will do just as well. Just pick one on the beach before we leave. Dipping it in the Time stream will crystallize it just as well.”

                                  Peter replied excitedly “Whale that. Let’s spanghew that boat to 2222!”

                                  Just as a thought of love for the gift of such inner revelation, before she left the nice spot of the Spanish coast, Belen cleared her throat and :yahoo_sick: retched the most lovely green scented blob of ambergris on the beach, next to the spiral made of broken white shells that some drifters had drawn on the beach a few days ago.


                                    The dogs barking woke Lisa up; at first she assumed she had woken up disorientated and disgruntled because of that, but then she recalled all the screaming, no, more like bellowing, she’d been doing in her dream. Intense passionate bellowing howls, like an expulsion of pained frustrated energy, of outrage. Frustratingly, she recalled no details. There had been a similar dream the previous Easter when she was sick ~ the same kind of howls, and she had felt much better afterwards, but she wasn’t sick now ~ in fact, she had been feeling better than she had in a long time.
                                    Sipping her tea and still feeling cranky at being woken up, Lisa recalled the strange phone call she’d received the night before, and had a feeling it might be an element of her dream. One of her neighbours from just outside the village phoned, Clarissa. Clarissa was a young widow; since her elderly husband had died some months ago, and she had lived alone with her eight dogs. There had been nobody to ensure she took the medication she needed for her condition, which had resulted in a series of challenging episodes, alarming the locals. A few weeks ago, one of Juan’s sheep had been talking to her and wouldn’t stop, so she killed it in the lane outside her house. The sheep kept talking to her, so she cut it’s head off (a gruesome struggle by all accounts, although thankfully Lisa hadn’t witnessed it herself). The severed sheeps head continued to talk to the troubled Clarissa, so she kept the head on her verandah. That was the last thing that Lisa had heard when she received the unexpected phone call.
                                    Clarissa was polite and friendly on the phone, inviting Lisa and Jack over for drinks ~ insisting really with an edge of desperation in her voice. Lisa declined the invitition, and omitted to mention that Jack was out playing poker. If it had not been for the sheep incident, Lisa might have responded differently, but her sense of responsibility to her own animals made her cautious. Then, to her horror, Clarissa offered to come round and feed Lisa’s dogs.
                                    As soon as the long and insistent phone call ended, Lisa gathered all the dogs up into the gated top patio; a little later she was gratified to hear a noisy game of football going on in the street outside. Had she over reacted? Should she have had more compassion for the distressed young woman? Lisa lit another cigarette, feeling confused. She had only met Clarissa once, many years ago, and had no idea why she had called her, or where she got her phone number from. She knew of her because of the convoluted connecting links between them ~ Clarissa’s husband had been her own friends father. And she had heard about the various incidents since he had died from other neighbours.
                                    Lisa had the unsettling feeling that she had refused a call for help. On the other hand, she felt that she had responded to the call for help in merely speaking to Clarissa on the phone. Lisa had been kindly towards her, although not encouraging of any physical contact.
                                    Lisa sighed. She felt a stronger connection to Clarissa now, but was unsure what it would entail.


                                      The sun slanted through the tree tops, projecting light beams through the rising river mist, creating ghostly shifting wisps. Fanella sat quietly on a log at the rivers edge, watching the elusive mist beings ascending, and wondering at the strangeness of it all. The only time she felt a sense of relaxed familiarity was when she was surrounded by nature ~ her solitary walks by the river or in the woods, far from the confusing distractions of people and unfamiliar objects and customs, kept her reasonably sane during this peculiar and unsettling time. She was homesick, that was the truth, and the futility of the nostalgia saddened her. There was no going back. Or was there?


                                        Was it a nightmare? It felt nightmarish, but why? How? What was the nightmare? Was she going mad, finally slipping, down down into the swarming fogs of fear? Making it up? A tormented sick April fool, a late fool, creeping around in the dark? She rubbed her ankles, cold as ice, achilles heels scorched from the lightning. Was she making it up? Lighting, like Victorian gas lamps, the flashing pinpoints on the grey neutral gridweave of perception, falling, falling, into the damp dripping mist. A howling beagle held tightly in the confines of a rigid box, surely she makes it up, but why? It doesn’t make sense, it’s too loose, she howls for the tight rigid box of perception, while the beagle howls to be released. Black drips, drips onto the stack of books, smelling of smoke, inky tar drip drip drip from the chimney pipe, it doesn’t make sense, there was no fire at all that night, where do the black inky drips come from? Is she making it all up, and if so, why? Behind the row of trees a voice calling, calling, the haggard face of a crone appears, offering the black and white puppy from behind the fence. Oh no, a black and white puppy, not black and white, no, she replied, no, no, averting her eyes from its innocent face. Layers of nightmares swirl in the river mist, and nothing makes sense. And it all makes sense, and she screams for the confines of the rigid box as the beagle howls for release.


                                          Cornella was tearing out her hair trying to understand why she couldn’t find any meeting room available for the first day. It was bad enough that she had to prepare the presentation about the budget, and to top it off she had just been appointed to the the week’s room planning. Vivian, their secretary was sick, she’d apparently caugh some naughty shitty stuff and was spending her time between her bed and the bathroom, and obviously she hadn’t done her job.

                                          “I don’t understand, we’re the only teams in this building and that software tells me everything is booked.”
                                          “I think they are rewiring all the meeting room tomorrow,” said Aqua Luna.
                                          “How do you…” Cornella stopped. Did Aqua Luna just talked about rewiring? “I didn’t know you were taking english lessons,” she said.
                                          “I don’t,” simply said the Chinese woman, and she returned to her work.

                                          Cornella’s mind was already trying to find another place where they could meet for the first day. Something that wouldn’t make her team appear disorganized. The aquarium would be too distracting. A hotel was out of the question as their meeting was supposed to be secret.

                                          She suddenly had an idea. She rushed into Ed’s office and began to knock the walls, carefully listening to the sound.


                                            The impending strategy and budget review was now quickly upon them.

                                            The much questioned old new authority of the Surge Team had decided all the countries had to join for that week long first round of strategy plan and as Long Poon was too much of a reminder of work (they said, but many suspected too much of a reminder of Ed Steam’s empire), Madam Li had graciously offered to host the venue in Shangpoon, where they had managed to corner 15,000 floating piglets and her services were still probably needed.

                                            All the thirteen chief operatives were busy setting things in order, and delegating current tasks during their business trip. Some of them were still hopelessly fumbling in spreadsheets and slides —a inane exercise in style they thought, but still…

                                            “I can’t stand it!” Cornella almost exploded in front of her computer, now returned to decent level of cleanliness since Aqua’s return. She was sick of this old ageing alzheimering authority. Not that she missed Ed too much now. He was a pig —and gawd, this waxed mustache from another epoch… A pig they all liked because they didn’t know better at the time and his charisma covered for all the tiny slips of behaviour or even judgement. She’d seen that same feeling when the ceremony was held for his ashes spreading; most of the tears shed there had looked a bit contrived.

                                            The mission to replace the pope with an alien-reconfigured Jesuit was a success, thanks to clever team work and her stellar delicate planning skills. A plan hatched before Ed’s demise, but that the old guys had been glad to call theirs. That was the waking call for her. If they could get rid so easily of the papacy, she would blow that budget convention from inside.
                                            That required thorough planning though, and a bit of luck. Most of the chick would gladly be on board with this.
                                            That’s when the mysterious vanishing dog legs cabinet came back to her attention.

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