I’ll admit Mater did well with the get back into shape programme, despite my skepticism. She did hone her muscles a bit, but she was still harping on about wanting plastic surgery. I probably shouldn’t have asked her if she was showing off her biceps or her bingo wings the other day, because that started her off again. I tried to make it up by complimenting her thigh muscles, but spoiled it by saying it was a shame the skin hung down past her kneecaps. Bert said maybe she could hold the skin up with some suspenders and made me spit my eucalyptus tea out and nearly choke to death. Mater was all set to take offence until she saw me choking, and then she started laughing too. I’m smiling remembering it, because we all saw the funny side then and couldn’t stop laughing for ages. God knows we needed a good laugh.
I’d had another one of those telepathic chats with Corrie the day before. If I’d known those silly girls were going to navigate their way here via that route I’d have said something, but I never thought they’d be so daft. There’s me envisioning a pleasant drift through the Mediterranean, and an unexpected sail across an immense shallow lake that had appeared in the middle east with crystal clear waters and a sandy bottom (I could picture it all, I tell you) and then an invitingly tropical trip along the Indian coast with ports of call at virgin new coastlines ~ but no, they’d gone the other way. Across the Atlantic. And now they were fighting off bandits every step of the way and having to go miles out of their way to avoid plague ridden slums. They hadn’t even made their way past the eastern seaboard yet, despite it being considerably narrower now.
They lost Pan for days in one of those half submerged coastal cities, rife with lawless floating shanties. I hope my impressions are wrong, I do really, but it seemed like he’d been kidnapped for a barbecue. Tender and juicy.
His ability to stay submerged under the water for so long saved him, that and Corrie’s ability to stay in telepathic contact with him.
They left the coastline and headed south after that and didn’t head back towards land for awhile but when they did, they found the lagoons and inlets were infested with alligators and some kind of water pig. Not sure if I picked that up right, but seems like the hogs had escaped from the farms during the Great Floods and taken to the water. Pan was forbidden to waterlark in these waters and had to stay confined to the raft.
I don’t know if they’ll get here in time for Mater’s birthday. Might be my hundredth birthday by the time they get here at this rate.
I’ve been up since god knows what time. Got up for the loo and couldn’t face going back to the awful nightmares. That girl that came yesterday said she’d been having nightmares, she said it was common now, people having nightmares, what with the quarantine. I think I might have just snorted at the silly girl, but when I woke up last night I wondered if it was true. Or maybe I’m just a suggestible old fool.
Anyway, I stayed up because lord knows I don’t want to be in a city in America at night, not waking and not dreaming either. I’ve had a feeling for a long time, and much longer than this virus, that it was like a horror movie and it would behoove me not to watch it anymore or I’d be having nightmares. I didn’t stop watching though, sort of a horrified fascination, like I’d watched this far so why stop now.
In the dream I was on a dark city street at a bus stop, it was night time and the lights were bright in a shop window on the other side of the sidewalk. I had a bunch of tickets in my hand all stapled together, but they were indecipherable. I had no idea where I was going or how to get there. Then I noticed the man that was by my side, a stranger that seemed to have latched on to me, had stolen all my tickets and replaced them with the rolled up used ticket stubs. I made him give me back my tickets but then I knew I couldn’t trust him.
Then I realized I hadn’t finished packing properly and only had a ragged orange towel with bloodstains on it. So I go back home (I say home but I don’t know what house it was) to pack my bags properly, and find a stack of nice new black towels, and replace the bloody orange one.
I’m walking around the house, wondering what else I should pack, and one room leads into another, and then another, and then another, in a sort of spiral direction (highly improbable because you’d have ended up back in the same room, in real life) and then I found a lovely room and thought to myself, What a nice room! You’d never have known it was there because it wasn’t on the way to anywhere and didn’t seem to have a function as a room.
It was familiar and I remembered I’d been there before, in another dream, years ago. It had lovely furniture in it, big old polished wooden pieces, but not cluttered, the room was white and bright and spacious. Lovely big old bureau on one wall, I remember that piece quite clearly. Not a speck of dust on it and the lovely dark sheen of ancient polished oak.
Anyway in the dream I didn’t take anything from the room, and probably should have just stayed there but the next thing I know, I’m in a car with my mother and she races off down the fast lane of an empty motorway. I’m thinking, surely she doesn’t know how to take me where I have to go? She seemed so confident, so out of character the way she was driving.
I got up for the loo and all I kept thinking about was that awful scene in the city street, which admittedly doesn’t sound that bad. I won’t bother telling the girl about it when she comes to do my breakfast, it loses a little in the telling, I think.
But the more I think about that lovely room at the end of the spiral of rooms, the more I’m trying to wrack my brains to remember where I’ve seen that room before. I’ve half a mind to go back there and open that dark oak bureau and see what’s inside.
Before the quizzical look of April, she ventured “Thought I’d forgotten all about that dolls mystery on that weirdo website, have you?”
April yawned. “Well, beats the daily boredom for sure. Wait,” she added with a second thought “how are you sure the carotene virus hasn’t travelled the Sarcastic Sea?”
“Ella Marie was formal about it, her voodoo isn’t that out of touch, you know.” She mouthed detaching all the syllables “Nothing harmful ever ventured past the Bermuda Triangle.” June was beaming. Then, she thought again. “Unless she said the contrary, you silly tart, you’re making me doubt now. No matter, it’ll just be a quick touch and go.”
“Touch and go, it is then.” pouted April not all too sure where that next chapter was heading to.
“Well, that was certainly enlightening.” Star said, once they got out of the bushes where they’d fell.
Tara looked at the bushes and mused “Must be what they mean when they say it all went pear-shaped from now on…”
“Thank the Mother for that, we’re not equipped, and it can’t afford our saving.”
“My guess he’s held prisoner at the cult. We should give it a second look.”
“Might be tougher now it’s in lockdown.”
Star grinned widely. “I always knew I’d find good use for those nice fancy party nurse dresses.”
Finally! We’ve been disembarked, I thought I would go mad on this ship. Felt it must have been less excruciating for those on the Pequod. But whales are too smart nowadays, they don’t want to catch our silly viruses, they don’t taste as good as walruses.
The voices have quieted down for now, maybe it was only the voices of the other passengers carried through the pipes. Wife didn’t seem to suffer as much from the confinement, she just can’t wait to resume her life.
Just received a text from our daughter who went to buy groceries for when we return: “In the store now. All the pasta, rice and sauces have been cleared out. Preppers craze much? 🤦”
I had to laugh to myself. Guess it looks promising for when the real apocalypse comes…
Norma was taking the sheets for a clean when she ran into the tall black figure of Mr August in the neatly carpeted corridors that Finnley had got freshly cleaned. Those odd people from Alabama that had brought Barron back had been all too pleased to help with the carpet cleaning, gaining a contract with the Beige House rather than a one-time reward.
August was a gentleman, and offered to help, while exchanging some innocent small talk. He was a married man after all. “Those carpets sure do look cleaner than they ever were.”
“You look distressed Norma.” he paused looking genuinely concerned. “It’s nothing to do with the sacking of June & April, is it? Or is that the stress of all that sudden responsibility falling on your shoulder? Taking care of Mr. Barron and all?”
“Oh yes, but no!” she immediately answered. “It was such an honor that Mistress Mellie Noma entrusted me with her child. The Lord will forgive me for speaking ill of them, but these two were not fit and proper to raise a child, with all that partying and …” she stopped thinking she sounded like a bitter spinster.
“Amen.” smiled August. “Not to mention all the gossiping around.” he giggled.
He rose from the floor and gave her back the folded sheet in a neat package.
“Good luck with the kid. Now he’s back, there’s no telling what goes in this head of his. I still wonder how he managed to get on this little trip. I have to go, work to do before Pres. Lump is coming back from his impricotement hearings. Seems he won once again and will be here in no time.”
“We’ll start as soon as we get our first client, Tara,” replied Star, “And don’t keep calling me a tart. You had better get out of the habit or you might do it accidentally when we’re working on a case.”
“What if we don’t get any clients? We’ve advertised everywhere we can think of. Once we get started, we’ll get recommendations, we’ll probably have to take on staff, we’ll be so busy.” A wistful look crept into Tara’s eye. She’d never been a boss, never been in the position of telling a subordinate what to do. It had a certain appeal. “Anyway, you are a tart.”
“Was, Tara, was. We are not tarts now, and nobody needs to know what we did for a living before. Nothing shameful in it of course, but people have such antiquated ideas; it might put them off. They don’t need to know that we might be able to use our skills to our advantage to solve cases.”
“I’d rather solve cases with our new skills,” said Tara. “Remote viewing, out of body travel, lucid dreaming, that sort of thing.”
“Never a bad thing to have an assorted tool box,” replied Star. “We have unique skills compared to most private investigators. Just thank your lucky stars that we escaped the eagle eye of Madame Limonella. She’ll never think to look for us in here in Melbourne, she’s probably thinking we’ll fetch up in some back street dive in Perth, desperate for our jobs back.”
“Well it might come to that if we don’t get any cases to solve,” Tara said glumly, “And on less money too, we’re not spring chickens any more.”
“Don’t be silly,” Star snapped. “We’re not even 40 yet. If we were too young we wouldn’t be taken seriously.”
Star was just about to call her a rude tart when the phone rang.
May quickly realized that she hadn’t planned this out properly at all. While Norma was fishing in her handbag for paper tissues, May switched the glasses of wine, so that she had the one with the laxatives herself. It wasn’t fair to inflict that on Norma, who was already verging on distraught. And May was feeling bloated anyway. A good clear out wouldn’t do her any harm.
May listened with genuine sympathy to Norma’s distress at being mistreated, but a glance at the kitchen clock prompted her to interrupt.
“Gotta go to the john,” she said, wondering if she had the vernacular right. She had almost said “must pop to the loo”, but that was the kind of lingo she used on the previous mission. She had to send her finance a message. The rendezvous with the spinach pot was off. Closing the bathroom door behind her, she reached for her phone and tapped the coded message.
iggi nefa san forlik snoodetta
Almost immediately there was a reply. No coded message this time, it was just a rolling eyes icon. May sighed with relief. What had she been thinking to plan such a thing, on such short notice?
Norma watched May leave the room, a little frown furrowing her brow. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt uneasy. May was acting guilty. Why? Without even knowing why she did it, she swapped her wine glass for the other one. Immediately feeling appalled at such a silly impulse, she reached to swap them back, but it was too late. May burst into the room, beaming.
Norma was taken aback at the difference in May’s demeanour, which threw her into a mental quandary. Had she mistaken a discomfort due to the need to use the lavatory for a guilty conscience? And that impulse to switch the glasses!
“Well, cheers!” she said shakily, holding up the wine glass and then draining it.
“Bottoms up!” replied May, following suit.
“If the doll is in the water bottle, why are you making such a fuss about that silly beannie hat?” Agent V was becoming suspicious. “Here. let me have that hat!” She made a grab for it, after first wiping dripping ice cream out of her eye, and wincing from the pain in her shoulder.
Liz couldn’t believe her ears; at first she’d ignored the harbingers, the unattended dust trails, and of course, all the crumbs on the table piling up day after day.
He paused to leave room for Liz’ to answer, not that she ever needed any to start with. But she was profoundly shocked at the betrayal.
“I don’t believe you gave her paid leaves, have you; one of your silly ideas?”
Godfrey thought for a moment, “Now you mention it, I don’t believe she had any, even after all this time, had she?”
“Don’t be daft, Godfrey, she wouldn’t want any; of course, there’s a reason I chose her over the other very qualified staff lining up to work here.”
“Not even a trace, her personal belonging are gone; not even a message left behind. A mystery fit for one of your novels, eh.”
The day was young, and Mandrake was enjoying playing the cat in the Inn.
Besides the benefit of unrepentant naps, what best way to be undercover in a dimension where talking cats where unheard of. His boots had been a subject for a casual chat during the breakfast, but he managed to get away with them, thanks to Arona’s quick wits who had explained he had sensitive paws.
Some of the other guests at the Inn were a bit curious though, too curious.
He’d almost jumped to rip his face off, when the Canadian guy asked whether it wouldn’t be best to have him neutered. Luckily, years of dealing with humans and dragons had left him with a patience for these types of shenanigans, even tolerating a pat or two on the head.
The maid-who-wasn’t-a-maid was another story, she seemed to fear him, and chased him with a broom when he was wandering in the morning, looking for clues as to the key.
While he was napping in a corner of the main hall on a dusted shelf near a silly looking fish, he had spotted a suspicious old man who had sneaked in and had done some business in a locked hangar before leaving. Maybe the man knew about the three words engraved on Arona’s key.
A wild eyed crow was cawing relentlessly since the wee hours of the dawn.
Nothing much had moved since everyone arrived at the Inn, and in contrast with the hot days, the cool night had sent everyone shivering under the thin woolen blankets that smelled of naphthalene.
Deep down, Bert was glad to see the old Inn come back to life, even if for a little while. He was weary of the witch though. She wouldn’t be here without some supernatural mischief afoot.
He glanced in the empty hall, putting his muddy pair of boots outside, not to incur the fury of Finly. He almost started calling to see if anybody was home, but thought better of it. Speaking of the devil, Finly was already up and busy at the small kitchen stove, and had done some outstanding croissants. In truth, despite all her flaws, he liked her; she was a capable lady, although never big on sweet talks. No wonder she and Mater did get along well.
Bert started to walk along the hall towards the hangar, where he knew old cases where stored, one with a particular book that he needed. It was hard to guess what would happen next. He found the book, that was hidden on the side of the case, and scratched his head while smiling a big wide grin.
He was feeling alive with the kind of energy that could be a poor advisor were his mind not sharp as a gator’s tooth.
The book had a lot of gibberish in it, like it was written in a sort of automatic writing. For some reason, after the termite honey episode, Idle had started to collect odd books, and she was starting to see spy games hidden in the strangest patterns.
Despite being a lazy pothead, the girl was smart, though. Some of her books were codes.
Bert’s had his fair run with those during his early years in the military. So he’d hidden the most dangerous ones that Idle had unwittingly found, so that she and the rest of the family wouldn’t run into trouble.
Most of the time, she’d simply forget about having bought or bargained for them, but in some cases, there was a silly obsession with her that rendered her crazy about some of those books. Usually the girls, especially the twins, would get the blame for what was thought a child’s prank. Luckily her anger wouldn’t last long.
This book though was a bit different. Bert had never found the coding pattern, nor the logic about it. And some bits of it looked like it talked about the Inn. “Encoded pattern from the future”, “remote viewing from the past”, Idle’s suggestions would have run wild with imaginative solutions. Maybe she was onto something…
He looked a two bits, struck by some of the parts:
The inn had been open for a long time before any of the tenants had come, and it had been full of people once it had been full all day long.
She had gone back after a while and opened up the little room for the evening and people could be seen milling about.
The rest of the tenants had remained out on their respective streets and were quiet and peaceful.
‘So it’s the end of a cold year.’
The woman with golden hair and green eyes seemed to have no intention of staying in the inn as well; she was already preparing for the next year.
When the cold dawn had started to rise the door to the inn had been open all night long. The young man with red hair sitting on a nearby bench had watched a few times before opening his eyes to see the man that had followed him home.
There was a young red hair boy that had arrived. He was curious as to the man following.
The other random bit talked about something else. Like a stuff of nightmares. And his name was on it.
The small girl stood beside him, still covered with her night clothes. She felt naked by the side of the road. There was nothing else to do.
In the distance, Bert could faintly hear the howling of the woods, as two large, black dogs pounced, their jaws ready to tear her to pieces. The young girl stared in wonder and fear before the dog, before biting it, then she was gone. She ran off through the bushes. “Ah…” she whispered to herself. “Why am I not alive?” She thought to herself: this is all I need.
If I am here, they’ll kill or hurt my kids. They won’t miss me for nothing.
She ran the last few kilometers to her little cottage; not long after, Bert heard the sound of the forest. He was glad it was.
Maybe the witch was not here for nothing after all.
Next on her list was Shawn-Paul. Or at least, she liked to think she had a neat ordered list and a method to her travels, but truth was she would often be propelled to the oddest places by random idea associations and would then pop-in to less than savory spots.
Not that she didn’t like to see through the eyes of an hideous little teddy-troll made of orgone. Granola had always hated orgone with its trapped garbage in clear resin, sold a million bucks for silly woowoo purposes. It didn’t prevent her projecting into it for one. She was actually wondering if it wasn’t actually working and enhancing her capacity to get irate.
When she started to feel everything vibrate, she forced herself to slow her thoughts down, and tell the particles trapped in the resin of the orgone teddy-troll to also slow down and breathe with her.
Now. She had a good view on Shawn-Paul who was strolling along the aisles of the oddest of minerals in the crystal & fossils market. The heat was making the asphalt sizzle at place, and the warm air was making her view blurry in waves of mirages. She tried to send some pop-in energy to get him to notice, but either he was too stoned by the heat, or lost in his thoughts as usual… Of course, there was so little chance that he was simply appalled by the orgone display on the shelves.
“Focus” she thought, trying to channel her giant essence into the tip of the figurine, she pushed her energy towards SP’s direction.
The orgone teddy-troll started to wobble and dance precariously above the ledge of the shelve, starting its slow motion fall to the ground.
The excitement made Granola’s consciousness suddenly untethered and leave for another mental space. She moaned as she couldn’t see if the figurine had landed and successfully drawn the attention of SP…
knowledge behind silly
heavy moving house
arms warmth stood
arrived hiding light
leaves gently return
“Hold right there!”
“Blimey! What are you doing here, lurking in the dark, you gave me a mighty fright!”
“It’s the Good Thoughts Police! Freeze your pen right where you are! We had our eyes on you ever since you started introduce all the queer characters!”
“What do mean, silly goose. All my characters have been queer, and I mean that as a compliment!”
“Shush now! Blatant racism, and hints of sexism and female coercion, you can’t deny that now! Black on white -err, I mean… Look at what you’ve done to the poor maid! You better write this off before the rest of the Political Correct Bureau is sending the cavalry!”FloveParticipant
All of a sudden, Godfrey flung the peanut butter jar he was holding to the ground where it smashed into dozens of glittering fragments.
“Silly me,” he said. “How clumsy! Clean that up will you, Finnley.”
Finnley glared at him, torn between annoyance at being treated as a mere cleaner and relief at having an excuse to leave the room and dispose of that darn sack, once and for all.
Common sense won. There is plenty of time to make him pay for that, she thought.
“Right you are, Sir,” she said, with an inadvertent roll of the eyes. “Right away, Sir.”
The guy standing at the door was drenched by the heavy rain. He wore a tattered green raincoat with eyes on hood that made him look like a giant wet silly frog.
Finnley, who had just opened an inch of the mansion’s door looked at him twice head to toe, then toe to frogs’ eyes, with growing suspicion.
“What do you want?” she muttered a tad rudely, “If you sell anything, we don’t want it, especially the religious stuff.”
“Nothing of that sort, M’am.” He drew his hand from his coat, very slowly when he noticed the feral look on Finnley’s face, ready to slam the door on his face, and produced a worn out identification. “Inspector Melon, but you can call me Walter. We have a case of missing person, family reported she was last seen in this vicinity. I would like to speak with Ms Tattler. May I enter?”JibParticipant
Gibbon stretched his long arm and touched Fox’s forehead. The hand was warm and soothing. Fox felt his heartbeat slow down, and as his thoughts dissolved into nothingness the rain gradually stopped. Soon there were spots of sunlight coming through the naked branches of the trees.
What did I tell you? asked Gibbon. His white beard shaking like the one of a Easter sage. He cupped his mouth like apes do and touched his chest where the heart was. Have you forgotten what I taught you?
Fox whined but said nothing. There was nothing to be said while his master was talking.
Go into your heart and quiet that nonsensical quest of yours. You know you need the human form to do that. When you’re in your fox form, your senses are easily fooled and caught by all the traps of Dam Sarah.
Fox knew very well the story of Dam Sarah, the Goddess of Illusion. He knew that in order to be free he had to use the form of a human, not only because they had duller senses, but also for other reasons that his fox self couldn’t very well comprehend. He had to be in his human form to make sense of all those gibbonish talks.
He focused on his breath, lulled by his master’s voice. It was like the whisper of the forest, whispering endlessly about ancient forgotten wisdom that only the soul could fathom. And soon the aromas of the nature around him seemed to fade away. Fox knew it was only because his sense of smell was changing closer to that of a human.
The only thing that could be an obstacle at first was the cold air. Fox really didn’t like being cold, and humans didn’t have much fur to protect them against it. But once the change had taken, the cold was helpful to anchor you into the present state of humanity. Fox caught it with all his heart to help him finish the transformation. It was strange to use the very trap that you wanted to flee.
He felt his spirit suddenly clear and empty as the bright blue sky above the forest. His previous wandering around, following the smells seemed quite silly. He had been influenced by that burning smell and got gradually caught into reverting back to his fox self for longer than he dared to admit to himself. His anxiety and constant wondering about it was the trap of Dam Sarah for the humans.
—Good, said Gibbon. But don’t forget that burning smell.
Gibbon had also took on the shape of a fully clothed human. Still his presence was unmistakably powerful and natural. He blew a warm breath on Fox’s puzzled face, which helped a lot with the shivers, and dropped some clothes at his pupil’s naked feet. Fox would have to ask his master how to bring your clothes into the transformation.
—Now, get dressed, Gibbon said. We don’t want you to catch cold. I have something to tell you.
Fox put on his clothes before the warmth of his master’s breath wore off. The familiarity of the fabric on his skin was another way to get deeper into the human form. The form is like a fishnet, keeping you tight into your reality. You can use it, or be used by it, he remembered now.
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