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  • #5946
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Adaptability and improvisation are the names of the game now,” said Liz, beaming with satisfaction. Her impulse had been a success. A quick call to the local dog shelter and the delivery of two dogs within the hour had solved the problem nicely. As anyone who’d ever had dogs knew, cleaning up spilled food was simply never a problem.  “You won’t have to wash the dishes anymore now!”

    “What do you mean?”  Finnley asked suspiciously.  “Surely you can’t mean…”

    “Why, yes!  Just put them all on the kitchen floor and the dogs will do it for you.  They’re ever so good, they won’t miss a single morsel. Which is more than can be said for your washing up. Now don’t pout! Be glad you have one less job to do.”

    Godfrey patted the black poodle’s head, which had a funny sort of spring loaded feel.  “We’re keeping the dogs, then?” he asked, failing to keep the hopeful note out of his voice. He was rather taken with the funny little dog.  Without waiting for an answer from Liz he said to the expectant little face peering up at him, “What shall we call you, then?”

    The shadow of a frown creased Liz’s brow momentarily as she wondered if she’d done the right thing. Would she be able to stomach seeing Godfrey fawning over a poodle?  Why on earth had the dogs home sent her a poodle? Did she sound like a poodle person?  But then, they’d sent her a lurcher as well.  Liz contemplated taking umbrage at that, did she honestly sound like a lurcher person?  A lurcher poodle person? Or a poodle lurcher person?

    “Are we keeping both of them, then?” asked Roberto. “What shall we call you, big boy?”  he asked, addressing the dog.

    Finnley and Liz exchanged glances.   “I best be getting on, then, and leave you lot to it. I’m going to the shops to buy some dog food.”

    “On the way back call in at the dogs home and pick two more dogs up, Finnley. We may as well have one each. I’ll ring them now.”

    #5928
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Hello Whale,

    I don’t keep track of the days since we have been forcefully encouraged to stay home. I have plenty of carrots and chocolate mousse. Talking of mousse, I might have a mouse keeping me company. Let’s not hope it’s a family. But I heard that animals are coming back into town now that we are all cozy in our burrows. There have been mentions of chicks on the ring road. Not the kind of chick with makeup, the real fluffy and yellow ones. And one of my friends saw a fox roaming the streets while going to the supermarket. I bet he had a bag full of carrots. Now I wouldn’t be surprised having rabbits everywhere with all those carrots around.

    I may sound confusing but I guess that’s what being confined does to people. I even had day dreams of birds flying in my bedroom. I swear I really saw one. Well, to be fair I only saw its shadow, but it was a shadow in the air, not on the wall. I wonder what kind of bird it was. My little pinky said it was a finch, the one my mother loved looking at in her garden. She will be part of the numbers soon. Either with her death or with her survival. Now when I think of her I see her surrounded by a bunch of animals. I even saw the fox, but I don’t think it would count amongst the animals I see in town.

    Since I’m not trying to be analytic, I’ve found a strange poetry in life around here. People are talking like senators, all trying to give their certainties to the world, but I can tell you nobody knows shit and nobody has a clue. You might as well welcome the virus for some tea to get to know each other and have some interesting stories about yourself and your relation to nature.

    I’m raving again. Someone told me a joke recently. The national board of psychologists published a official communiqué because they received too many calls from people. They said it was normal in this time of confinement to talk to the walls or the objects in your house, and to call them only in case the objects talked back.

    What would they think if they knew I’m talking to a whale and it’s giving me advice for my writing? I can even hear them as it sends me short audio. I haven’t been able to figure out what they said in the audio though. I’m glad the advice for my writing do come directly translated and not in the form of a whale song. I’m grateful for technology in that case.

    Oh and one last mention. A friend told me about the current roller coaster of the stock market. I dreamt of a stocking market. I must say it was very colourful and the seller used their stockings in very creative ways.

    Keep the connection going! Talk to you soon Whale. I’ll have to find you a name. My pinky suggested Jorid so it will be my name for you.

    #5836
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    It was funny watching the toilet paper surge sweep through one place after another, I could follow that much on this contraption my helpers had me wired up to, this social media thing. I suppose I notice different things since I stopped trying to make sense of anything. Things start to catch my eye, but not the usual things.

    There’s one thing I’ve learned and that’s if you don’t give a toss about how demented you are, there is a lot on the plus side to consider with dementia.

    Not sure why but I keep seeing all this rambling, from that gal they call my niece,  on this device as they call it (sounds a bit medieval to me), and she’s doing this lockdown diary thing.  Sometimes I feel like saying, do you realize how many of us have been on lockdown already for ages, for month, and for years, relying on pea brained opinionated ever changing drifters to see to our needs. But f course I don’t say that, because I don’t know how to work this blasted device properly.  If I did, I’d let them have it!

    I find myself momentarily cheered, energized by this thought. And then I feel deflated, and can’t remember what it was about.

    Macaroni tonight. The evening woman doesn’t seem to stay long anymore.

    #5812
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    They keep calling me Belinda, I don’t know why.  They’re all nice enough, the ones who come and bring my meals and keep the place tidy, so don’t make a fuss when they do. If I’m honest, I don’t always remember their names either.

    Today they had white paper face masks on, which seems a bit rude if you ask me. I asked the morning one, do I smell or something? and she said, no, it’s the bolona virus, hadn’t I seen it on the news?   My dear, I said, if you only knew how many times I’ve died of the plague!  She laughed at me and said don’t you worry, you’re not dying of the plague, as if I didn’t know that. They sound patronizing at times but they do it to cover up how dense they are, some of these helpers.

    The plague was long a-coming to our parish, I said, ignoring her remark, and when it did come, there was no parish in or about London where it raged with such violence.  By the time the cart came for you to dump you in the pit, you were glad to be out of it, I tell you.

    She gave me a funny look and reminded me to eat my toast.

    #5740
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    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.

    Norma immediately started to blush like a teenybopper feeling silly hidden under the mass of untidy sheets. She dropped the heap at Mr August’s feet and fumbled around in utter confusion.

    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.”

    “Yeah, that Finnley knows her bossing around business, that’s a fact.” reluctantly replied Norma, jealous that the conversation had to mention the other maid.

    “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.”

    #5673
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The few cars on the dark road were flying past him at speed, sometimes honking in alarm when abruptly realizing he was there at an inch of being run over. But none had stopped so far. Might have been they couldn’t see his little thumb up.

    “Hitch-hiking my way back isn’t doing so well for me.” reflected Barron after a while. Oh, you may wonder how he escaped from his captors. Simple answer was he got bored waiting and he saw an opportunity.

    In reality, it was an elaborate plan, and the screeching sound of a nearby car had provided the right amount of distraction for him to make a run for it. Well, not run really, more like a patient and careful tumbling around. The sound had been alarming enough for most of the forces present to run for the potential intruders without caring to leave someone to watch over the innocent sleeping baby (that was him, but he wasn’t really sleeping).

    Anyway, he hadn’t made it very far outside the clandestine distillery at the back of the Motel, and was about to abandon all hope and phone his half-sister Yvanevskaia for help, when an old DRAPES CLEANING van suddenly braked to a screeching halt just in front of him.

    “Why d’ya stop Art’! They’re still after us, those maniacs!”

    “A baby honey! I almost ran over the baby!”

    “That’s a big ass baby, it’s almost a kid, and what is it doin’ hitch-hickin’ in the dead of night?”

    “I dunno my sweet cotton-candy luv,… maybe he got bored or sumthin’…”

    “So what are you waiting for? Just damn’ take it, and let’s pump gas and put some distance between us and these gangsters!”

    Barron was all too pleased to oblige, and as a matter of fact, had already managed to sit in the back with the funny looking lady with the long face.

    “Go!” he cooed at Arthur, who pushed the engine back into a roar.

    #5660
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Arthur was driving the minivan. It was an old Chewy Express van with the big bold “DRAPES CLEANING” sign on it that he’d repainted by himself over the years. The business wasn’t doing great, truth be told, so he’d cut down the marketing costs, which according to Ella Marie wasn’t a bright idea. “You never know where you next patrons could hide.” She’d said, and then had him hooked up on some social website to post random things and get some likes and thumbs up. He’d come a little late for the new century’s game and couldn’t see any of the appeal, but he’d learned over the years never to make the missus irate.

    He’d been so glad when she’d come back from the floods, unscathed and full of completely batshit crazy stories. Mummies and stuff. Sounded like being rolled in shredded drapes fanfiction to him. Complete garbage, but you can’t tell people they’re crazy, they’d hate you for it, and in truth you may be wrong. You might be the one crazy and all the others the sane ones. How’s that for a thought.

    Anyway, he loved his Ella Marie dearly, and had learned not to sweat the small stuff. Like this night drive to a funny place she’d just received coordinates from an acquaintance on the Net. Those were mad times, mad times indeed. At least, she could have told him she wanted to catch a new rare pokemeon go! in the dead of night, and it might have sounded… well, just as mad probably.

    They were driving steadily, being careful about the road signs; the van wasn’t much for crazy stunts anyway.

    “How far is that?” he asked the wife, who was busy on her phone tracking the route and chatting on the thing with her friends imaginary or else.

    “Not far, luv’. Next turn right, then left, then right and we should be there.”

    The last turn took them off the road, and Arthur started to wonder if that wasn’t another “turn left at your peril” GPS experiment, where they’d have to haul the van out of a tar pit, but it seemed fine so far. The place looked ominous, and full of croaking noises 🐸🐸🐸🐸.

    He killed the headlights, and moved in the parking lot at a crawl. There was no point in alerting whoever was there of their nocturnal visit. A barn owl flew straight in front of the van, scaring them.

    “STOP!” jumped Jacqui, who’d been sleeping the whole time, and woke up to a frightful sight.

    Arthur pushed on the brakes that gave off a screeching sound that would wake up a mummy.

    Ooh, I’ve got a bad feeling about this” Ella Marie said. “Something evil is afoot, that owl was bad omen.”

    #5659
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “You know, I wasn’t initially fond of this idea, GodfreyElizabeth said, while looking at Roberto doing the dishes. A bit unusual of her to spend time in the kitchen, probably her least favourite room in the house, but she was keen to revise her judgment as the view was never as entertaining.

    Godfrey was finishing a goblet full of cashews while leafing through the “Plot like it’s hot” new book from the publishing house that Bronkel had sent autographed and dedicated to Liz “without whom this book may have never seen the light of day”.

    Godfrey, are you listening to me? You can’t be distracted when I talk to you, I may say something important, and don’t count on me to remember it afterwards. Besides, what’s with the cashews anyway?”

    “Oh, I read they’re good natural anti-depressant… Anyway, you were saying?”

    “You see, like I just said, you made me lose my stream of thought! And no… the view is for nothing in that.” She winked at Roberto who was blissfully unaware of the attention. “Yes! I was saying. About that idea to write Finnley in the new novel. Completely rash, if you’ve had asked before. But now I see the benefit. At least some of it.”

    “Wait, what?”

    “Why are you never paying attention?”

    “No, no, I heard you. But I never… wait a minute.” The pushy ghostwriting ghostediting, and most probably ghostcleaning maid (though never actually seen a proof of that last one) had surely taken some new brazen initiative. Well, at least Liz wasn’t taking it too badly. There maybe even was a good possibility she was trying hard to stay on continuity track about it. Godfrey continued “Benefit, you said?”

    “Yes, don’t make me repeat myself, I’ll sound like a daft old person if ever a biopic is made of me, which by the way according to Bronkel is quite a probability. He’s heard it from a screenwriter friend of his, although his speciality is on more racy things, but don’t get me carried away. The benefit you see, and I’ve been reading Bronkel’s stupid book, yes. The benefit is… it moves the plot forward, with ‘but therefore’ instead of ‘and then’. It adds a bit of spice, if you get what I mean. Adds beats into the story. Might be useful for my next whydunit.”

    Godfrey was finding her indeed lingering a tad too obviously on the ‘but‘ and their beats, but abstained from saying anything, and nodded silently, his mouth full of the last of the cashews.

    Liz pursed her lips “Well, all this literature theory is a great deal of nonsense, you know my stance on it; I made my success without a shred of it…”

    “Maybe you’re a natural” Godfrey ventured.

    “Maybe… but then, they’ve got some points, although none as profound as Lemone’s. His last one got me pondering: finckleways is not a way in, delete it or it’ll get you locked out; only flove exists now. “

    #5655
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    I don’t know if that’s a second youth or what, but getting to that 100 line has put Mater in an energetic frenzy. She’s been putting her things in order, like she said.

    My studies on machine learning and artificial intelligence are keeping me away for now. I’ve been studying hard for that Mars program selection, but it looks like it’s hopeless. Anyway, I had the good idea to put nannycams in all the hidden spots of the Inn. It’s not been as much fun as I’d hoped, spying on Aunt Idle and her manic ramblings. You would think she’s drunk all the time, but for all the recordings, I’d be damned if I’ve caught her yet on tape with a bottle. I guess her body just distills it on its own…

    So, I’ve kept an eye on Mater too; she’s been acting funny at the mention of Jasper. And I found her quick to put a tight lid back on the topic.

    I’m not even mentioning the dubious trails of “Uncles” of late: the Fergus, Basil or otherwise. She’d known quite a few of these in her days, although she’s claimed to have been a paragon of matrimonial virtue, being single woman with kids in these parts must have been rough after she lost Pater.

    I think I finally caught something between all the cloak and dagger mascarades, tatty letters and all. Digital footprint isn’t big, but it may be something tangible to begin with.

    Meanwhile, we’ll have to get started getting the invitation list in order; Mater’s contemporaries are falling by the minute, and Aunt Dido’s braincells are probably dying as fast as that— it won’t be easy to get a complete list. I know I should enlist Devan, I even put him on that family group thing, but he’s not big with all the tech stuff. As for the twins, well… We still have to hear about their stories. At this rate, might be faster to learn to telepathically tack on Dodo’s brainwaves. She says to whomever wants to hear she’s got direct connection to them… Would sound cultish to me, if I didn’t know better about the sisters! I’ll be worried when Mater starts to take this woowoo seriously.

    #5654
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “What do you think about that last one?” Miss Bossy handed the scribblings to Ricardo.

    “Mmm, it might be a hit. Sophie’s remote viewing has been right on spot even if odder and odder. I guess it fits with the intent of our… I mean your newspaper, doesn’t it?”

    Miss Bossy glanced at Ricardo sideways, and adjusted her corsage with an élan of coquetterie she found very French, even for her repressed tastes. “You should get on it then, Ric’.”

    Ricardo looked surprised. Was it the recognition he was waiting for all these past months working hard behind the scenes. Not a promotion yet but… Or maybe, just because the usual writers Connie & Hilda weren’t around, off to somewhere only they had the secret.

    “Still, you must admit, investigating an alcohol made of rillettes does sound rather ludicrous, even for this newspaper, or even for Sweet Sophie.”

    “There might be more to cover, a tree hiding a forest. Besides, she was right about the reptiles falling in Miami during the cold snap! We missed that story… If only we’d jumped on it right away!”

    “What else you need? I told you to get on with it, chop chop!”

    “Maybe a promotion?…” he added tentatively.

    “You’re already staff writer by default dear…”

    “A raise then?”

    “Don’t push you luck. And you’ll book those tickets to Chickasaw, Alabama in charter. We’re not rolling in the dough, like the Yanks say.”

    #5652
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Finnley had a feeling that May down in the kitchen knew something about the baby girl imposter.  On impulse, she pushed her cleaning cart over to the service lift.  Luckily the baby was still sleeping soundly.

    May was in the lavatory, a young woman informed Finnley as she entered the kitchen.

    “Are you Finnley?” Fanella pushed her chair back and stood up. “I ‘ave come to ‘elp you with the bedding.”

    The familiar voice roused the baby, whose cry was at once recognized by her mother. Fanella knocked her chair over a she dived into the pile of dusters and seized the child.  “My baby!” she cried.

    “Thank god for that,” said Finnley under her breath.

    #5626
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    When Barron woke up, he quickly realized he’d been double-crossed, or maybe triple-crossed.

    His captors were discussing loudly at the front how they could get a larger cut from an unknown bidder.
    He was incensed and almost threw a tantrum but realized it would be best to keep quiet for now.

    Suspicions were racing in his mind, who could it be? The Russians… or the Chinese maybe? His father had made so many ennemies, it could well be the nannies for all he knew. The thought almost made him giggle. These two inept nannies had been carefully chosen by him, there were little chances they would be able to concoct any sensible plan with more than an hour execution span. His parents were infuriated and almost despaired when he’d shouted, spat and cried like a devil at all the nannies they carefully selected for him. But they all looked too smart, too serious, too careful to please, there was no way his plan of escape would work with them. But Joo and Ape, well, that was something else. With them, the world was his oyster. Or Bob his uncle like the loud one liked to say when she faked a British accent. Evil sounded so much more delightful when spoken in British English.

    The van stopped. They’d arrived. Strong smells of alcohol,… and something… French? Was it rillettes? A clandestine distillery. Maybe it was the French mafia after all.

    #5597
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    It’s taking blimmin forever for the Oober to get here, and, wouldn’t you just know it, rain!

    “Hop in,” says the driver. He’s leaning over holding open the front door. An older chappie with a shiny forehead and rosacea. He definitely drinks. Maybe he’s come straight from the pub. Still, it’s raining and I’m late, so I hop in. In the back seat, mind. I’m not much of a one for talking.

    “I’m Finnley.” I crack a smile to make up for sitting in the back. It feels strange smiling. In my mind, there’s not much point to smiling. It just encourages people to be overly familiar.

    Bert,” he says. He’s Australian I think from the accent and his expression is more of a sneer than a smile. I reckon I pissed him off not getting in the front seat.  “F i n n l e y.” He sounds it out like he’s learning a new language. “Always thought that was a boy’s name?”

    “Can be either.”

    Do I look like a boy, Bert

    Anyhow, that’s enough chitchat for me. I get my phone out and make like I am checking for messages. Haha. As if.

    “Here on holiday, Finnley? Pity about the weather.”

    Oh here we go.

    “A job.”

    “Oh yeah, corker! Where’s that, Finnley?”

    “Washingtown Beige House, Bert.”

    I have to be honest, saying it out loud still gives me goosebumps. And Bert’s surprise doesn’t disappoint.

    #5589
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Barron was not really a baby, more a toddler already. He was playing alone in his play fence, like he was usually left doing when his odd caretakers had gone for an escapade. After a while, he got bored cooing like a baby looking at shiny stuff and suckling at noisy things. After all, as not many had realized, he was blessed with a genius IQ — there was no point at hiding his smarts when no one was around.

    The house bulldog was sleeping nearby, snoozing like a roaring motorbike. Apart from that, this part of the House was quiet. Occasionally he could hear gurgling sounds coming from the badly soundproofed pipes of the old building. Somebody was having an industrious bowel movement. Hardly news material, his father would have say.

    He checked the e-zapwatch that his nannies had put on his wrist. Bad news. His kidnappers were late. He wondered if something had changed in the near perfect plan. Yet, he’d managed to have the money wired to the offshore account, while his contacts, codenames Jesús & Araceli (he wasn’t sure they were codenames at all) said it was in order for the baby abduction.

    He could hear suspicious sounds outside; the bulldog barely registered. What if some acolytes in the plan had bailed out? The sounds at his bedroom’s window could be his abductors, waiting for a way in.

    As usual, he would have to take matters in his own tiny hands, and let others get the credit for it.

    He peeled off one side of the net and tumbled outside of the playpen. Damn, these bodies were so difficult to manœuvre at times. Reaching the window would be difficult but not impossible. After dragging a chair, and a pile of cushions, he hoisted himself finally at reach of the latch, and flung it open. The brisk cold air from outside made his nose itch, and it was the last thing he remembered while he smelled the chloroform.

    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.”

    #4868

    In reply to: Scrying the Word Cloud

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    sorry uncle, whatever wall side leave company
    muttered inspector
    follow thread heat
    sound paused
    places feet
    possibly known months followed morning

    #4809
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The downward climb had taken what felt like days. The more he went, the darkest it was even the stars at his feet were now swallowed in obliviating darkness.

    Rukshan felt like abandoning at times, but pressed on and continued, down and down as he rose above clouds.

    The ancient energies that had shaped this topsy-turvy passage spiraling around the fence of the heartwoods wouldn’t have done something of that magnitude and let it unfinished. It was calling for an exploration, while at the same time protecting itself from mere wanderers, the kind with lack of imagination or endurance.
    His mind reminded him of old tales that spoke of sacrificing to the trees for knowledge and passage, but it was surely meant as a metaphor. Hanging upside down for hours was probably in itself a form of sacrifice.

    He reached to his pouch for a drink of sour milk, when he suddenly realized that the gravity had turned, and the pouch was no longer floating above his head. With the darkness and the lack of landmarks, he’d failed to notice when this happened.

    It surely meant he’d crossed an invisible barrier, and was now journeying inside another plan, deeper down. Ground couldn’t be far now. He took a pearl off one of his braids, and threw it. Then he looked at the darkness beneath his feet with intent to discern the faintest sounds. Quickly enough, the pearl gave back a ricocheting sound, clean and echoing slightly against what seemed to be moist stones. Indeed ground was there, where once the sky was.

    Maybe the final test was a leap of faith. Or maybe it was just to patiently complete the climb. A few more steps, and he would be there. A few more steps.

    #4787
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    The sun was high in the sky and birds were chirping in the trees by the pool. Roberto was facing a conundrum as the biseasonal pool had started acting strangely. Well even more strangely than one part being frozen in winter and one part stuck in the dog days of who knew what year.

    It had already been hard to manage an even level between the iced layer, which tended to get brittle near the seasonal line, and the warm waters evaporating too quickly. When it first happened the water pump had been stuck in winter and they had to break some ice to move it to the summer part. Everything had been fine until the last Roman party and they could enjoy ice skating and warm spring like pool in any season. Roberto especially liked the winter season when the steam would create a nice and cozy mist, conducive to some intimate bathing together.

    Now, after that party, something weird…er was happening. The line between winter and summer had started to shift around the center of the pool. -ish. And now the pump was stuck in ice again and the summer pool was being evaporated too quickly. Roberto had to save two mandarin ducks who had their legs caught in by the ice while bathing in the warm pool. Breaking the ice layer without hurting the tiny bird legs had been quite a challenge, but Roberto was proud to say that they were now safe and sound. One of the unforeseen consequences was that they had been following him everywhere ever since and he had to install two boxes for them to sleep near his bed.

    Roberto and the ducks were looking at the summer half-pool. It was half empty, even if Ma’am Liz would certainly entertain the idea that it was half full, it was certainly not going stay that way very long if nothing was done.

    What had happened was some mystery and Roberto was not very good at solving mysteries. He wished that that inspector with the melon hat had not left in such a hurry during the party, he could have asked him some advice.

    “You want some French pastries?” It was the new French maid, Mirabelle. Roberto had been calling her Marbella and she seemed to like it. She held a silver plate of what she called creamy nuns and chocolate eclairs.
    “Thanks,” he said.

    #4776
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    When Albie woke up, it was shaking all around, as if the ground was quaking under him. It took him a moment to realize he was at the back of the jeep, and the jeep was careening on the dirt road, with none other than Mandrake at the wheel.

    “Don’t stare at him like this, kid, and make yourself useful!” Arona shouted in the action, taking a Jiborium Emporium pellet gun while pushing a bag of ammo at him.

    WHAT?!”

    “I’m not sure you realized, but we’re being chased!”

    The sound of a bullet flew by, missing the car window only thanks to an agile quarter turn of the wheel by Mandrake, followed by a sudden acceleration back onto the road.

    “Who’s chasing us!!?” Albie was confused.

    “Unclear!” Arona shouted, aiming at the black and white corvette behind them, with Ugo the gecko trying to keep stuck onto her head despite the shaking.

    She fired three shots of her magical Owl Pellets, reloading after each one.

    “We’re going to be short of ammo, Mandrake! How far?!”

    “I DON’T KNOW” the cat meowed, braking to avoid running over a loitering marsupial.

    HOW FAR Mandrake!?” Arona said, taking three new shots, managing to hit a headlight and the windshield.

    “You have no idea how difficult it is to find a body of water in this place, do you?! We missed the turn to the waterhole about 30 miles ago, at this speed!”

    “Better not to risk it, not enough water depth! We need the river.”

    “Todd River should be around that cliff there,” he pointed. But the road ends… heEEere!!”

    “GO FOR IT!”

    :fleuron: ** S PLASH ** :fleuron:

    The other car had braked just before the cliff, while the jeep was sinking slowly into the river which was carrying them near the shore.

    “Quick Mandrake! The pearl!”

    All Albie could see next was the swirl of pouring light mixed into the water vortex.

    He held his breath as tight as possible, for as… long… as… possible.

    GASP!

    “Mmm, that was entertaining. But it ruined my dinner.”

    The dragon was there, looking at the three of them drenched near its pool. They were back at the Doline.

    #4761
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Barbara’s office was dead silent apart from the regular bips of the machines. The whiteness of the painted walls made it feel like a psych ward. She shivered away the memories that were trying to catch her attention.

    It’s been two hours since the Doctor had locked himself up in his rage-release room, a spacious soundproofed room with padded walls. Not even a small window to look inside and check if his anger had subsided. Barbara clearly preferred the trauma of the shouts and cries and the broken plates that were hidden here and there for him to use when he needed most. But when he started his therapy with the AI psych module, the damn bot suggested he built that room in order to release his rage in a more intimate framework.
    Now the plates collected dust and the sessions in the room tended to last longer and longer.

    Today’s burst of rage had been triggered by the unexpected gathering of the guests at the Inn. The Doctor was drinking his columbian cocoa, a blend of melted dark chocolate with cheddar cheese, when the old hag in that bloody gabardine started her speech. The camera hidden in the eye of the fish by their agent, gave them a fisheye view of the room. It was very practical and they could see everything. The AI engineer module could recreate a 3D view of the room and anticipate the moves of all the attendees.

    When that girl with the fishnet handed out the keys for all to see and the other girl got the doll out, the Doctor had his attention hyper-focused. He wanted to see it all.
    Except there had been a glitch and images of granola cookies superimposed on the items.

    “Send the magpies to retrieve the items,” he said, nervousness making his voice louder.
    “Ahem,” had answered Barbara.
    “What?” The Doctor turned towards her. His eye twitched when he expected the worst, and it had been twitching fast.
    She had been trying to hide the fact that the magpies had been distracted lately, as she had clearly been herself since she had found that goldminer game on facebush.
    No need to delay the inevitable, she had thought. “The magpies are not in the immediate vicinity of the Inn.” In fact, just as their imprinting mother was busy digging digital gold during her work time, the magpies had found a new vein of gold while going to the Inn and Barbara had thought it could be a nice addition to her meager salary… to make ends meet at the end of the month.

    It obviously wasn’t the right time to do so. And she was worried about the Doctor now.

    To trump her anxiety, she was surfing the internet. Too guilty to play the gold miner, she was looking around for solutions to her boss’s stress. The variety and abundance of advertisement was deafening her eyes, and somewhere in a gold mine she was sure the magpies were going berserk too. She had to find a solution quickly.

    Barbara hesitated to ask the AI. But there were obviously too many solutions to choose from. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother.
    “I finally found the white jade masks. Bought one for you 2. It helps chase the mental stress away. You clearly need it.” Her mother had joined a picture of her wearing the mask on top of a beauty mask which gave her the look of a mummy. Her mother was too much into the woowoo stuffs and Barbara was about to send her a polite but firm no she didn’t want the mask. But the door of the rage-room opened and the Doctor went out. He had such a blissful look on his face. It was unnatural. Barbara had been suspecting the AI to brainwash the Doctor with subliminal messages during those therapy sessions. Maybe it also happened in the rage-room. The AI was using tech to control the Doctor. Barbara would use some other means to win him back.

    OK. SEND IT TO ME QUICK. she sent to her mother.

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