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  • #6117
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Well. I did it. I made my escape. I had to! Nobody came for three days and I’d run out of biscuits. Thank the lord my hip wasn’t playing up. I decided not to take anything with me, figuring I could just steal things off washing lines when I wanted a change of clothes.  I’ve always hated carrying heavy bags.  I reckoned it would look less conspicuous, too. Just an old dear popping out for digestive perambulation. Nobody suspects old dears of anything, not unless they’re dragging a suitcase round, and I had no intention of doing that. I did put a couple of spare masks in my pocket though, you can’t be too careful these days. And it would help with the disguise.  I didn’t want any do gooders trying to catch me and take me back to that place.

    I had the presence of mind to wear good stout walking shoes and not my pink feather mules, even though it was a wrench to say goodbye to them.  I used to love to see them peeping out from under my bath robe. One day I might strike lucky and find another pair.

    I’ve been eating like a king, better than ever!  I accidentally coughed on someones burger one day, and they dropped it and ran away, and I thought to myself, well there’s an idea. I stuck to random snacks in the street at first and then one day I fancied a Chinese so I thought, well why not give it a try.   Coughed all over his brown bag of prawn crackers as he walked out of the restaurant and he put the whole takeaway in the nearest bin. Piping hot meal for six! Even had that expensive crispy duck!

    Tonight I fancy sushi.  Wish I’d thought of this trick years ago, I said to myself the other day, then my other self said, yeah but it wouldn’t have worked so well before the plague.

    Not having much luck with the washing lines though, lazy sods either not doing any laundry or putting it all in the dryer. Weeks of sunny weather as well, the lazy bastards.  Lazy and wasteful!  You should see the clothes they throw in the clothes bank bins!  If the bins are full you can get your arm in and pull out the ones on the top.  I change outfits a dozen times a day some days if I’m in the mood.   I do sometimes get an urge to keep something if I like it but I’m sticking to my guns and being ruthless about not carrying anything with me.

    #6076
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “Let’s begin,” said the teacher. She was short and seemed around sixty seven. She walked around the room like a tamer surrounded by wild beasts in a circus. Her dark hair was tied into a long braid falling on her straight back like an I. She wore a sari wrapped around her neatly. “I’m Ms Anika Koskinen, your cryogurt teacher today. You’ve got the recipe in front of you on the benches right with the glass and a bottle of water. The ingredients will be in the cabinets on your left and everything is referenced and written big enough for everyone to see.”

    “Those benches look like the ones in chemistry class when I was in college,” said Glo. “I have bad memories of thoses.”

    “You have bad memories, that’s all,” said Sha making them both laugh.

    “But where’s Mavis?” whispered Glo after looking around the room at the other participants. A majority of women,  wrapped in colourful sarongs and a few older men.

    “How do you want me to know? I was with you since we left the bungalow,” said Sharon who was trying to decipher the blurry letters on the recipe. “Their printer must be malfunctioning, it’s unreadable.”

    “You should try putting on your glasses.”

    “I didn’t bring’em, didn’t think we’d need to see anything.”

    “Oh! There she is,” said Glo as Mavis just entered the room with her beach bag. “Mav! Weehoo! We’re here!”

    “I saw you! no need to shout,” whispered Mavis loudly. She muttered some excuse to the teacher who had been giving them a stern look.

    “I’m afraid you’ll have to go with your friends,” said Ms Koskinen, “We don’t have enough material for everyone.”

    “Oh! That’ll be perfect,” said Mavis with a broad smile. “Hi girls,” she said while installing herself near Sha and Glo.

    The teacher resumed her explanations of the procedure of making frozen yogurt, checking regularly if everyone had understood. She took everyone bobbing their head as a yes.

    “Is he good looking?” asked Sha, showing one of the men who had been looking at them since Mavis arrival.

    “You shouldn’t ask us,” said Glo, “our eyes are like wrinkles remover apps.”

    “I think he looks better without glasses,” said Mavis.

    After Ms Koskinen had finished giving them instructions, she told everyone to go take the ingredients and bring them back to their benches.

    “I’m going,” said Sha who wanted to have a better look at the man.

    “Don’t forget the recipe with the list of ingredients,” said Mavis waving the paper at her.

    “Oh! Yes.”

    She came back with the man helping her carry the tray of ingredients.

    “Thank you Andrew,” said Sha when he put the tray on their bench.

    “Oh you’re welcome. And those are your friend you told me about?”

    “Yes! This is Gloria and this is Mavis.”

    “Pleased to meet you,” said Andrew. “I’m Andrew Anderson. I suggested Sharon we could have lunch together after the workshop. I’d like you to meet my friends.”

    “Of course!” said Sha. She winked at her friends who were too flabbergasted to speak.

    “That’s settled then. We’ll meet at 1pm at my bungalow.”

    “See you later,” said Sharon with a dulcet voice.

    “What the butt was that all about?” asked Glo.

    “Oh! You’ll thank me. I pretexted not to be able to find everything on the list and Andrew was very helpful. The man is charming, and his yacht makes you forget about his Australian accent. We’re going to have lunch on a yacht girls! That means we’re not stuck on the beach and can have some fun exploring around.”

    Sha looked quite pleased with herself. She put a bottle of orange powder among the ingredients and said :”Now! Let’s make some wrinkle flattener ice cream, ladies. I took some extra tightener.”

    #6067
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Since the sudden disappearance of the two au pair maids, a lot had happened. But for August Finest it has been a lot of the same routine going on.

    He wakes up in the early, early morning, his eyelids rubs on his eyeballs as if they are made of sandpaper. He seizes his belly with his hands, feels a little guilty about the nice meals prepared by Noor Mary especially for him since the start of the confinement. His six packs have started to fade away under a layer of fatty insulation and he tries to compensate by a daily routine in white T-shirt and underwear.

    The coffee machine has detected his movements and starts to make what it does. It’s always cleaned and replenished by the discrete Mary. The noise and the smell creates an ambiance and when it rings he eats breakfast before taking his shower.

    When he’s dressed up, his real work starts. It had not been easy for a man of his origins to appear as the best choice for the job under the Lump administration. President Lump was known to make bad jokes about his tan and him having spent too much time at the beach, and other worse things. But his worth was in the network he could connect the president with, his high discretion, which Lump was in dire need to compensate his innate tendency to boasting, and a strong adaptability to fix the president’s frequent messing around.

    If August Finest had once admired the man and accepted the job for him, it soon changed when he realised there was nothing more underneath the boasting than more boasting and unpredictability. At the moment the only thing that make him continue was his ability to go stealth when the president had a fit of nerves, and the imposed confinement that made it impossible to leave the Beige House.

    After the morning meeting during which the president asked him to fire a few members of the staff, August had to prepare a press conference. President Lump said he had thought about a few remarks about China and making a connection with the Mexican immigrants threatening the country by stealing the masks of the American People. After which, he had to plan a charity with first Lady Mellie Noma and redefine what a Masquerade meant. He had been asked to invite nurses and medical personnel, meaning republican and good looking in a blouse with a medical mask to make the promotion of the new mask industry Made in America. One of Mr Lump’s friend had just started a brand and was in need of some media promotion.

    August reread the memo to be addressed to the director of the FBI, a good friend of his. A special cell at the FBI had been created especially since Lump came to power. For this particular occasion, agents posing as patients victims of the virus would be sent in the best ranked hospitals in the country with the task to look for the best nurse and doctor candidates and send them an invitation printed by Lump’s nephew’s printing company.

    As Lump always said: “America Fist! And don’t forget people, I am America.”

    August hit the enter button and closed the window of his professional mail account, leaving the draft of a personal mail on screen. He wasn’t sure if he could send this one. It was addressed to Noor Mary and he feared she would misunderstand the meaning of it.

    #5964
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    They walked through a labyrinth of tunnels which seemed to have been carved into a rocky mountain. The clicks and clacks of their high heels echoed in the cold silence meeting all of Sophie’s questions, leaving her wondering where they could be. Tightly held by her rompers she felt her fat mass wobbling like jelly around her skeleton. It didn’t help clear her mind which was still confused by the environment and the apparent memory loss concerning how she arrived there.

    Sophie couldn’t tell how many turns they took before Barbara put her six fingers hand on a flat rock at shoulders height. The rock around the hand turned green and glowed for two seconds; then a big chunk of rock slid to the side revealing a well designed modern style room.

    “Doctor, Sophie is here,” said Barbara when they entered.

    A little man was working at his desk. At least Sophie assumed it was his desk and that he was working. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and bermudas. The computer screen he was looking at projected a greenish tint onto his face, and it made him look just like the green man icon. Sophie cackled, a little at first.

    The Doctor’s hand tensed on the mouse and his eyebrows gathered like angry caterpillars ready to fight. He must have made a wrong move because a cascade of sound ending in a flop indicated he just died a death, most certainly on one of those facegoat addictive games.

    That certainly didn’t help muffle Sophie’s cackle until she felt Barbara’s six fingers seizing her shoulders as if for a Vulcan nerve pinch. Sophie expected to lose consciousness, but the hand was mostly warm, except for that extra finger which was cold and buzzing. The contact of the hand upon the latex gave off little squeaky sounds that made Sophie feel uncomfortable. She swallowed her anxiety and wished for the woman to remove her hand. But as she had  noticed more than once, wishes could take time and twists before they could be fulfilled.

    “Why do you have to ruin everything every time?” asked the Doctor. His face was now red and distorted.

    “Every time?” said Sophie confused.

    “Yes! You took your sleeper agent role too seriously. We couldn’t get any valuable intel and the whole doll operation was a fiasco. We almost lost the magpies. And now, your taste for uncharted drugs, which as a parenthesis I confess I admire your dedication to explore unknown territories for science… Anyway, you were all day locked up into your boudoir trying to contact me while I just needed you to look at computer screens and attend to meetings.”

    Sophie was too shocked to believe it. How could the man be so misinformed. She never liked computers and meetings, except maybe while looking online for conspiracy theories and aliens and going to comiccons. But…

    “Now you’re so addict to the drugs that you’re useless until you follow our rehab program.”

    “A rehab program?” asked Sophie, her voice shaking. “But…” That certainly was the spookiest thing she had heard since she had arrived to this place, and this made her speechless, but certainly not optionless. Without thinking she tried a move she had seen in movies. She turned and threw her mass into Barbara. The two women fell on the cold floor. Sophie heard a crack before she felt the pain in her right arm. She thought she ought to have persevered in her combat training course after the first week. But life is never perfect.

    “Suffice!” said the Doctor from above. “You’ll like it with the other guests, you’ll see. All you have to do is follow the protocol we’ll give you each day and read the documentation that Barbara will give you.”

    Sophie tried a witty answer but the pain was too much and it ended in a desperate moan.

    #5953
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Bubbling and turning from orange to green to duck blue, the potion was perfect and smelled of good work, a strong blend of cinnamon, cardamom and crushed cloves. She smiled broadly and poured the potion into five vials, which she gave to Rukshan. They were all gathered around her in the kitchen looking rather fascinated by the whole operation.

    “One for you, and one for each of the children,” Glynis said with a grin.

    “I’m not a kid,” said Fox.

    “Why only five?” asked Gorrash who suspected something was off. “We are Six. There’s Tak, Nessy, Olliver, Fox, Rukshan and I,” he said counting on his chubby fleshy fingers.

    “I don’t need a potion to go wherever I want,” said Olli with a grin.

    “Well,” started Glynis, “Despite your unique skill, Olliver, you still need the potion in order to thwart the control spells Leroway’s saucerers had scattered around the country,” Glynis said. “You all remember what happened to aunt Eleri last time she went out. You know how skilled she is when she need to sneak out. She barely escaped and Rukshan and I had a hard time turning off that dancing spell, which I’m sure is the least damaging one.”

    She looked at Gorrash with compassion but the light dimmed as a cloud passed in front of the sun outside. She pointed her finger at him. “Your immune system is still like one of a newborn. And I’d prefer you’d stay home and not go around during a beaver fever pandemic. There are plenty of things you can help me with!” Glynis showed the cauldron, vials and other utensils she used to make the potion, and the cake earlier, and yesterday’s dinner.

    “Well, if I have not to challenge my immune system…” Gorrash started.

    “You know better than to argue with me,” she said.

    Gorrash opened his mouth to say something but decided otherwise and ran away into the garden.

    Fox started to follow him.

    “Don’t said Rukshan. There’s nothing you can do.”

    “He’s my friend!” said Fox.

    #5951
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The latex rompers were shaping her old body in a way she quite enjoyed. It was like being back in her… she counted on her fingers to be sure. To be even surer she counted twice. Yes! It was like being back in the sixties, especially with the choice of colours that had been made by whomever had made the rompers. Her silhouette looked gorgeous, if you didn’t pay too much attention to the bingo wings and the pelican throat. She laughed. It was like seeing a superposition of a younger and an older self. She would have loved the face of Ricardo if he saw her like that. And the beehive haircut, it certainly was a good idea. She wondered if she was still under LSD. But the walls and the beehive hair seemed too solid for that.

    A sliding door that she had not noticed before opened.

    “Good to see you’re settling in,” said the woman who entered with a puff of bacon smell. “I’m Barbara.” She was holding a tray with a steaming plate of sweet peas and carrots. Sophie always had a sharp eye but couldn’t see any real bacon among the peas and the carrots. She smiled to the newcomer anyway. Barbara had the same latex rompers with the same colours. And she had a beehive haircut.

    “Hello! Barbara,” said Sophie. “I like that name. I knew a man once… well not that you’re a man. Are you? Anyway I see you have a beehive haircut too. Am I back in the sixties?” She realised she was a bit confused, not able to finish one sentence or follow a single narrative. But the smell of bacon was so unnerving.

    Barbara put the tray on the table.

    “Well, no,” she said to Sophie. “It’s just a haircut that I like and it’s very practical for all sort of things.” She reached into hers and got out a pen and a notebook. Sophie lifted her hand to her haircut.

    “Do I have?..”

    “No dear. But, I need your sign here… just a formality.” Barbara smiled and handed the notebook to Sophie along with the pen. Then she crossed her arms waiting. Her fingers were drumming on her soft pale skin and Sophie couldn’t help but notice that Barbara had six fingers on one of her hands.

    “Where am I?” she asked.

    #5657
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    “So, what do we do now?” asked Fox. Call it a sixth sense or a seventh sense, but he knew before he got the answer that he was going to regret it somehow. He had always been too quick to ask questions, and his years at the service of Master Gibbon apparently hadn’t made this habit go away.

    “Well dear assistant. You can start with the dishes,” said Kumihimo with a broad smile, “and then clean the rest of the hut.”

    Fox swallowed. He looked at the piles of stuff everywhere. What had seemed fun a moment before, playing with Kumihimo’s recipes and what he still thought of as her power toys, had turned into a chore. Though, his eyes stopped on a paquet he hadn’t notice before. It looked heavy and wet. The wrapping was not completely closed on the top and he thought he could see pink. That renewed his energy and motivation. Thinking that afterwards they would revive Gorrash suddenly made him feel the cleaning would be done in no time. He simply needed to be methodical and tackle each task one by one.

    First the glassware, it was the most fragile and took most of the space outside.

    Fox didn’t know how long he had been at it. He had been so engrossed in the cleaning, that he hadn’t paid attention to the others who had been talking all along. He felt a little exhausted and his stomach growled. How since he last ate. His body was stiff with all the movements and carrying stuff around. He was about to ask for some food when he noticed Kumihimo and Rukshan were still talking. The Fae looked exhausted too, he had his panda eyes, but he seemed captivated by their discussion.

    “Things are going to get worse,” was saying Kumihimo, “We need everybody ready for what’s coming next. The fires were just the beginning.”

    “Do you have anything to eat?” asked Fox not knowing what else to contribute to the conversation. But he knew he wouldn’t be of any help if he didn’t eat something first.

    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Pitch: June and April are two au pair middle-aged ladies with a penchant for lavish parties and copious drinking, who after being sacked from many places due to their poor manners and laisser-aller in their duties, have finally landed a dream job at the Washingtown Beige House, to take care of the often vacant whereabouts of the Lump Family, and chiefly of their baby Barron, the pride of Pres. Lump. The pay is nice, so long as they keep the Boss happy.
    Their main concerns are the Indian maid Noor Mary (Norma) Chowdhury, who has a PhD in Social Studies, but has had difficulties finding a better job, and doesn’t see too well the intrusion of the new staff. They also have to deal with August, the chief of staff, who collects golf balls and pewter memorabilia from the Civil War.
    They are unaware, but there biggest trial yet to come is a dangerous Mexican cartel on their way to kidnap baby Barron…

    June felt like excitement, while April was more modestly quiet, currently absorbed in reading with horror the news about the fires; April had a sister there, married to an Australian and very fundamental Christian in her beliefs. Over the years, they’d stopped being able to communicate… Crazy to think about all the fires down there — and by down there, she didn’t mean down there, but rather down “down there.” Actually, it was a long time since there had been any fires there, if she didn’t count the last infection…

    “Hold that thought…” June interrupted, while sipping her cognac. It was medicinal, she kept repeating to nobody in particular but herself, Back Blossom infusions to calm her nerves. They had to be kept in something, so why not cognac. “You did mention something about a party tonight? But what are we going to do about the baby?”

    April did ponder for a second but the response was actually obvious. “Don’t worry about baby Barron, we’ll instruct the dog to keep guard, and I’ll put an EyeWatch on his wrist with your number on speed dial in case anything happens.”

    “Brilliant! I wonder why I didn’t think of it myself. Let’s get ready. Really, that family is a blessing; never on our backs, always travelling everywhere, leaving us partying to all the fancy places in Washingtown. Sure, the only bother is to take care of these pesky kids.”

    “True. All the maids and au pairs in the neighbourhood make for a good network. It’s a nice life.” April pondered and added. Although the Boss is a bit lewd, if you tell me.”

    “Really? With his orange face and his five orders of periwigs?” June sounded surprised, and a bit disappointed not to have been able to notice.

    “But the one we should really worry about is the maid, if you ask me. Good thing the boss can’t understand her English, otherwise she would have ratted us out long ago.”

    June smiled mischievously. “Oh, but she better watch her six this one, you’ll leave her to me.”

    #4954
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    Bert tells me it’s Christmas day today.  Christmas! I just looked at him blankly when he told me, trying to bring to mind what it used to be like. I can’t remember the last time Christmas was normal. Probably around fifteen years ago, just before the six years of fires started. It’s a wonder we survived, but we did. Even Mater.  God knows how old she is now, maybe Bert knows. He’s the one trying to keep track of the passing of time.   I don’t know what for, he’s well past his sell by date, but seems to cling on no matter what, like Mater. And me I suppose.

    We lost contact with the outside world over ten years ago (so Bert tells me, I wouldn’t know how long it was).  It was all very strange at first but it’s amazing what you can get used to.  Once you get over expecting it to go back to normal, that is.  It took us a long time to give up on the idea of going back to normal.  But once you do, it changes your perspective.

    But don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all bad.  We haven’t heard anything of the twins, not for a good ten years or more (you’d have to ask Bert how long) but I hear their voices in my head sometimes, and dream of them.  In my dreams they’re always on the water, on a big flat raft boat.  I love it when I dream of them and see all that water. Don’t ask me how, but I know they’re alright.

    Anyway like I said, it hasn’t been all bad. Vulture meat is pretty tasty if you cook it well.  The vultures did alright with it all, the sky was black with them at times, right after the droughts and the fires. But we don’t eat much these days, funny how you get used to that, too.  We grow mushrooms down in the old mines (Bert’s idea, I don’t know what we’d do without him).  And when the rains came, they were plentiful. More rain than we’d ever seen here.

    Well I could go on, but like I said, it’s Christmas day according to Bert.  I intend to sit on the porch and try and bring Prune and Devan and the twins to mind and see if I can send them a message.

    Prune’s been back to see us once (you’d have to ask Bert when it was).  She was on some kind of land sailing contraption, no good asking me what was powering the thing, there’s been no normal fuel for a good long time, none that’s come our way. Any time anyone comes (which is seldom) they come on camels or horses. One young family came passing through on a cart pulled by a cow once.  But Prune came wafting in on some clever thing I’d never seen the likes of before.  She didn’t stay long, she was going back to China, she said.  It was all very different there, she said. Not all back to the dark ages like here, that’s what she said.  But then, we were here in the first place because we liked a quiet simple life. Weren’t we? Hard to remember.

    #4842
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “It might be useful to do an indepth character analysis of Agent V,” said Helper Effy with a patient smile.

    “You’re right, six kids … god, what was I thinking.”

    #4841
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “I’m a married woman with six kids now,” said Agent V dragging her eyes from his groin. “We are wasting valuable time. I suggest we use your propeller to intercept the magpies before they reach Destination D.”

    #4726
    matermater
    Participant

    Thank God for Finly. She appears to be the only one who has any sense left in her noggin. Dodo is passed out on the sofa in the lounge, sprawled in a most unladylike manner. It looks like she got rip snorting drunk again.

    Bert has disappeared. I can’t recall if I sent him to town to buy food for the guests … but perhaps I did. Bert is the only other person who knows the secret. I would like to discuss it with him but we’ve both kept our silence all these years and silence is a hard habit to break.

    What monster will we unleash if we speak I wonder? But if we don’t speak, will the monster choke us all?

    As I said, or I think I said, Finly is being a real trooper, showing guests to their rooms and for the most part being civil.

    I did see her slap an odd looking gentleman in a ruffle shirt when he asked if he was in room six. “Sex is not included in your room rate!” she shouted at him and glared most ferociously. Fortunately the man was not offended, indeed he ragarded her almost with a look of admiration. She did look a fine sight standing there, hands on hips and her face flushed with righteous indignation. Unfortunately, Finly has never managed to rid herself of her awful kiwi accent, despite the years she has lived here.

    Dear Prune is behaving oddly. I am loathe to even consider it but it did cross my mind she may have become one of those dreadful drug addicts I’ve read about. I caught her hiding behind a curtain and motioning for me to “Shush!” in a most agitated manner. After all, it wouldn’t be surprising given the influence Dodo has surely had on her over the years. I will be most disappointed if I find out this is indeed the case. In the meantime, I intend to give the dear child the benefit of the doubt.

    #4711
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The aircon was buzzing and Sophie walked in her pajamas through the open space to reach her dreaming base. That’s how she secretly called it. She could feel the eyes of her colleagues following her, and as usual she felt proud to be the center of attention. It didn’t matter that it was jealousy or anything else. People were looking at her and she was doing something different.

    Once in her base of operation, she settled on the couch and looked at the brew that had been brought for her. It was her second attempt at remote viewing the Doctor and this time she had requested a bucket and some padding around the sharp corners. She feared a little the unleashing of her wild nature, but in truth she had no idea what to expect. She had read on the Internet that there was nothing to fear and that there would be no side effects, and usually with her natural paranoia she would have double checked before using the drugs, but her obsession with the Doctors had rendered her a little bit… more reckless.

    She pinched her nose and swallowed the brew. One gulp. But some of it stayed in her mouth and nausea followed. She didn’t like the taste at all. Then she laid down the couch and waited. The effects weren’t long to come. Space lit up, soon followed by the usual geometrical dynamic animation and the strange floating spirits. One of them looked like her old nanny. She had a hair on her chin and Sophie couldn’t focus on anything else. The hair grew and multiplied on the face, it was soon a forest of wiggling glowing worms growing indefinitely.

    After what seemed an eternity to her, she saw the doors. A huge circle made of doors like a giant neckless. Sophie giggled at the typo especially that she could see the neckless giant now below the doors. It was definitely a male, with boobs covered by skulls.

    Find the door, she reminded herself. Her thought took the shape of a butterflowck —understand a flow of a flock of butterflies— that rippled in a pond of honey… suckles.

    It reached the door and she was sucked in.

    :fleuron:

    “Why are they doing this?” asked a male voice behind her. “They’re supposed to be magpies, not monkeys.”
    “I’m not sure,” said a bald woman with six fingers and an ethereal beehive hairdo. The strange thing was that she had a beard.
    “Do something quick. I need them operational soon” said the man, “You’re the one controlling them after all,” he added with poison in his voice.
    “Yes, Doctor.”

    Sophie startled at the name. She turned around and tried to look at the man, but he was headless, or rather pixelated. Shit! I watch too much science fiction, she thought.

    “Anyway,” he continued. What are the news on the dolls’ front?”
    “We are closing in on the next target, Doctor. It’s a small Inn in Australia where the vortex or probabilities converge. I took the liberty to send another sleeping agent there to steal the key and the list of other addresses from the dollmaker. He’s taking the same airplane as she is.”

    #4709
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The vibration of the phone on the table made Barbara jump and she almost deleted her report. Her heart was racing at the thought of erasing what took her an hour to write. She reminded herself to breath like she had learned during her hot yoga class the previous week. It quieted her heart a little and she checked her hair out of habit and winced when she felt the short haircut. She checked her phone.

    “Wonderful!” she said readjusting her glasses. A new acquisition, big and cat eye like, the brim covered with colourful strass. She couldn’t resist.
    She got up from her desk and adjusted her skirt with her six fingers hand. She went to the Doctor’s office and knocked three times on the door. A sleepy voice, a tad angry, asked from the other side: “What?”

    “It’s Barbara. Our undercover agent sent me a confirmation that the Dreamcatcher operation is a success. Subject zero has been activated unaware that you are manipulating her dreams.”

    #4690
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    What were they doing with all those incontinent pads anyway? Three boxes of 48 pads in two days was impossible to account for. What could they be doing with them? Nurse Trassie frowned as she refilled the bathroom shelf, counting out another dozen. On a hunch, she put some rubber gloves on and rummaged through the trash. If she counted the soiled ones in the bin, she’d know how many were unaccounted for. Only sixteen in the trash, so where were all the rest? That’s, er, 34 missing, no wait, 36? no, 32. Well whatever, she gave up on the maths of it all, it was clear that most of them had gone missing.

    #4675
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The sixth finger on Barbara’s left hand looked quite odd, but it was a nice recent addition from the Doctor. She looked at it while the Magpies were slowly awakening. A bleak bipping sound was all there was indicating the average pulse of the seven spies.
    The Doctor, poor man, seemed to have had some difficulties recently to remember her name and also that she was a woman. Since a few weeks, in order not to startle him when she entered the new lab, she had had to get rid of her beehive hairdo, but she had kept it in a secret vault in her bedroom and every evening she took it out and brushed it and put it on her head to remind her.

    She had been quite dedicated to the Doctor and had stayed despite the last mess at the Hidden Spa. She spent an awful lot of time erasing all the links and comments that could lead to them, hence such an empty thread. It was all her doing, Barbara’s, and she could do that because of her new left pinkie in which she had an electronic key controlling all the machines and the lab’s security network. And it was connected to the Internet.

    The bipping sound was accelerating signalling to her that they were close to awakening. She was going to call the Doctor, he had said that he had to be there when they opened their eyes because he must be the one on whom they imprinted. Like birds you know. He would be like their mother and they would obey him. She turned on the comlink and called him.

    “What?”
    “It’s Barb, Doctor.”
    “Who?”
    “Your assistant.”
    “Oh. Why are you disturbing me in my Jacuzzi?”
    “They are awakening.”
    “Who?”
    “The Magpies.”
    “Oh. I’m coming.”

    But there was no more time.
    The pods were open and the seven Magpies were looking at her.

    “No! No!” said the Doctor who entered at that moment. “What have you done!?”

    #4672
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The machine clicked and buzzed, a belt reeled around a pulley before it finally flushed out a purple gooey juice.

    “Mmmm, I’ve always loved this power smoothie,” said the Doctor, “Made with five different purple berries and some other secret ingredients.” He licked his lips with such greediness, he looked like a kid he might have been once. His face was lit with the blinking lights of the other machine, the bigger one that had been his life work… so far, after his previous life work.

    “The subjects are livable,” said the assistant. “Pulses are steady and the brains well responding to the chemical stimulations, and the symbiosis with the new synthetic bodies seem to work smoothie…” He winced. “Sorry, it works smoothly.”

    “Good job,” said the Doctor looking at his assistant. He was trying to remember the young man’s name but it eluded him. The young man was slender and had six fingers on his left hand and the Doctor had hired him hoping it would make him work faster with computers, but it didn’t seem to have any correlation. It had only increased the chances of typoes, that in a way could be seen as computer code mutations, which could certainly give them some advantage over the competition at some point.

    After thirty seconds, the Doctor gave up trying to remember his assistant’s name and looked back at the seven pods. Marvels of technology, they were all shiny and antibacterial, the perfect combination for his SyFy operation.

    “Behold the rebirth of the Magpies,” he said. In his eyes the blinking lights reflected rhythmically. He slurped a mouthful of smoothie before continuing.
    “Faithful servants to me, the Doctor! They had been discarded into History’s junkyard, but I’ve saved them from oblivion and upgraded them. With their powerful new weapons and skills they are ready for their new mission.”
    The Doctor’s eyes opened like oysters. As nothing happened but the monotonous blinking of the machine’s lights, he said to his assistant. “Revive them now.”

    The assistant pushed a single red button on the control board and the bigger machine clicked and buzzed, a belt reeled around a pulley and the Doctor laughed madly.

    “Wake up, Magpies! Bring me the dolls and the dollmaker!”

    #4578
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “What’s the matter with you?” asked Finnley, noticing Liz looking uncharacteristically quiet and pensive. Was that a tear in her eye glistening as the morning sun slanted in the French window?

    “I’ve just had a letter from one of my characters,” replied Liz. “Here, look.”

    Finnley put her duster on Liz’s desk and sat in the armchair to read it.

    Dear Liz, it said.

    Henry appeared on the same day my young niece arrived from Sweden with her grandma. My mother had already arrived, and we’d just returned from picking them up from the airport. A black puppy was waiting outside my gate.

    “We can’t leave him out here,” I said, my hands full of bags. “Grab him, Mom.”

    She picked him up and carried him inside and put him down on the driveway. We went up to the house and introduced all the other dogs to the newcomers, and then we heard howling and barking. I’d forgotten to introduce the other dogs to the new puppy, so quickly went down and pulled the terrified black puppy out from under the car and picked him up. I kept him in my arms for a while and attended to the guests.

    From then on he followed me everywhere. In later years when he was arthritic, he’d sigh as if to say, where is she going now, and stagger to his feet. Later still, he was very slow at following me, and I’d often bump into and nearly fall over him on the return. Or he’d lie down in the doorway so when I tripped over him, he’d know I was going somewhere. When we went for walks, before he got too old to walk much, he never needed a lead, because he was always right by my side.

    When he was young he’d have savage fights with a plastic plant pot, growling at it and tossing it around. We had a game of “where’s Henry” every morning when I made the bed, and he hid under the bedclothes.

    He was a greedy fat boy most of his life and adored food. He was never the biggest dog, but had an authority over any plates of leftovers on the floor by sheer greedy determination. Even when he was old and had trouble getting up, he was like a rocket if any food was dropped on the floor. Even when he had hardly any teeth left he’d shovel it up somehow, growling at the others to keep them away. The only dog he’d share with was Bill, who is a bit of a growly steam roller with food as well, despite being small.

    I always wondered which dog it was that was pissing inside the house, and for years I never knew. What I would have given to know which one was doing it! I finally found out it was Henry when it was too late to do anything about it ~ by then he had bladder problems.

    I started leaving him outside on the patio when we went out. One morning towards the end, in the dark, we didn’t notice him slip out of the patio gate as we were leaving. In the light from the street light outside, we saw him marching off down the road! Where was he going?! It was as if he’d packed his bags and said, That’s it, I’m off!

    Eventually he died at home, sixteen years old, after staggering around on his last legs for quite some time. Stoic and stalwart were words used to describe him. He was a character.

    A couple of hours before he died, I noticed something on the floor beside his head. It was a gold earring I’d never seen before, with a honeycomb design. Just after he died, Ben went and sat right next to him. We buried him under the oak tree at the bottom of the garden, and gave him a big Buddha head stone. Charlie goes down there every day now. Maybe he wonders if he will be next. He pisses on the Buddha head. Maybe he’s paying his respects, but maybe he’s just doing what dogs do.

    #4510
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Maeve sighed loudly—something she had been doing an awful lot of lately—and checked the time on her phone. If she left now and really hurried it would only take 5 minutes to get to the cafe. On the other hand if she took her time … well, with any luck the others would have already moved on.

    Not that she didn’t like Lucinda, on the contrary she enjoyed her neighbour’s gregarious nature and propensity to talk amusing rubbish — usually in public and at the top of her voice which would cause Maeve to look around nervously and lower her own voice in order to compensate.

    Maeve had made peace with her own introversion years ago. In order to survive with a semblance of normality, she had cultivated an outward calm which belied the activity going on in her head. The downside of this was she suspected she came across to others as muted and dull as the beige walls of her apartment. The upside was it allowed her to hide in plain sight; and she considered this to be a very handy trait. In truth, Maeve was one who liked many and few; she would happily talk to people, if she knew what on earth to say to them.

    ‘Anyway,’ Maeve reasoned, ‘I have to finish the doll.’

    She looked with satisfaction at her latest creation; a young boy wearing a vintage style buzzy bee costume. She had painstakingly sewn, stuffed and painted the cloth doll and then sanded the layers of paint till he looked old and well worn. ‘He looks like he has been well loved by some child,’ she mused. There was just one more step remaining before applying a protective coat of varnish and seating him on the shelf next to the others.

    She went to the kitchen drawer. In the 3rd drawer down there was a cardboard box of old keys. Most of the keys didn’t fit anything in her apartment; in fact she had no idea where they came from. Except one. She picked out a small gold key and went to the writing desk in the lounge, a heavy dour piece of furniture with a drop-front desk and various small drawers and cubby holes inside. Maeve unlocked one of these drawers with the key and pulled out a small parcel.

    ‘Only 3 parcels to go,’ she thought with relief.

    A small section of the stitching was unfinished on the back of Bee Boy, just enough to squeeze the package inside and then rearrange the stuffing around it. With neat stitches Maeve sewed up the seam.

    She checked the time. It had taken twenty six minutes.

    “Want to go for a walk to see Aunty Lulu and her nice new friends? See what she is going on about decorating?” she asked Fabio, her pekingese.

    #4330
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    In the past twenty days since he got out of the forest, backtracking on his steps, Rukshan didn’t have much luck finding or locating either of the six others strands.
    At first, he thought his best hint was the connection with the potion-maker, but it seemed difficult to find her if she didn’t want to be found.

    So, for lack of a better plan, he had come back to Margoritt’s shack and was quite pleased at the idea of meeting the old lady and Tak again.
    Her cottage had been most busy with guests, and in the spring time, it was a stark contrast with the last time he was there, to see all the motley assemblage she had gathered around her.

    First, there was Margoritt of course, Emma the goat, then Tak, who was a very convincing little boy these days, and looked happy at all the people visiting. Then, there was Lahmom, the mountain explorer, who had come down from her trek and enjoyed a glass of goat milk tea with roast barley nuggets.
    Then there were a couple of strange guests, a redhair man with a nose for things, and his pet statue, a gnome with a temper, he said. Margoritt had offered them shelter during the last of the blizzard.

    With so many unexpected guests, Margoritt quickly found her meager provisions dwindling, and told Rukshan she was about to decide for an early return to the city, since the next cargo of her benefactor Mr Minn would take too long to arrive.

    That was the day before she arrived to the cottage with her companion: Eleri and Yorath, had arrived surprisingly just in time with a small carriage of provisions. “How great that mushrooms don’t weigh anything, we have so many to share!” Eleri was happy at the sight of the cottage and its guests, and started to look around at all the nooks and crannies for secret treasures to assemble and unknown shrooms.
    While Yorath explained to Margoritt how Mr Minn had send him ahead with food, Margoritt was delighted and amazed at such prescience.

    Rukshan, for his part, was amazed at something else. There seemed to be something at play, to join together people of such variety in this instant. Maybe the solution he was looking for was just in front of his nose.
    He would have to look carefully at which of them could be an unknown holder of the shards of the Gem.

    He was consigning his thoughts on a random blank page of his vanishing book, not to store the knowledge, but rather to engage on a inner dialogue, and seek illumination, when some commotion happened outside the cottage.

    A towering figure followed by a boy had just arrived in the clearing. “Witch! You will pay for what you did!” pointing at Eleri, backed behind Yorath who had jumped protectively in front of her.

    That can’t be another coincidence Rukshan thought, recognizing the two new guests: the reanimated god statue of the tower, and Olliver, the boy who, he deduced, had managed to wake up the old teleporting device.

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