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      I just shook my head and carried on digging the new bed for the broad beans. Wasn’t no point in trying to tell her, just let her grumble on. Never bloody satisfied unless they’ve got something to moan about. Women! And granny’s in particular, never satisfied. She wanted the place to herself, that’s what she always said, wanted a rest from all the commotion and noise. So what does she do when she has a nice bit of peace and quiet? Spends the whole bloody time wittering on about how quiet it is.

      I’d have enjoyed the chance to get on with me gardening if I didn’t have to listen to Mater going on and on about how quiet it was. I said to her yesterday, “Aint so quiet ‘round here from my perspective, with you going on and on about how blasted quiet it is,” but she just snorted at me and carried on grumbling.

      I haven’t told her Idle called to say she was on her way back home. Let her enjoy the sound of her own chuntering a bit longer.

      Suddenly Bert saw the funny side. Perhaps it was the early morning sun turning the whitewashed walls gold that lightened his mood. Perhaps it was the birds twittering and fluttering from tree to tree. Perhaps it was the feeling of warmth as the slanting sun bathed his wrinkled brow. But he laughed out loud, for the sheer joy of it all.

      “Daft old coot,” muttered Mater, who was watching him from the kitchen window. “What is there to laugh about? Silly old sod.” She turned away from the window with a derisory little sound, but a smile was hovering about her shriveled lips.


        The house is empty. Perhaps it is more correct to say I, Mater, am the only one home, for the emptiness which envelops the house so strongly has its own presence.

        The family have all left on their respective pursuits.

        Dido is off following another guru. I forget who it is …someone she had read about on the damned internet thing they all spend so much time on — I’ve still not come to grips with it but suspect it is time I did. I had hoped Dido would stay home longer this time — there is so much work to be done around the place and I am not feeling any younger. “Just for a week!” she told me excitedly as she left but it has already been nearly two.

        Prune, unique child that she is, always had such trouble making friends with others of her age however recently she made the acquaintance of a new girl at school who shares her predilection for unusual interests. Prune is staying at her new friend’s house for the weekend. I smile, feeling more than a little sympathy for the parents.

        I have not seen or heard much from Devan for a long time. He is in Brisbane, last I heard anyway.

        The twins, not my twins but the other twins; Sara and Stevie, decided they could not leave their mother. Not now. Not while she is in hospital and so poorly. The right decision I feel though I am also disappointed. At Clove’s insistence, Corrie has gone to visit with them. Clove and Corrie don’t know yet … Dodo and I talked about it and decided Fred should be the one to tell them.

        Goodness only knows where Fred is now.

        I decide I will try and get acquainted with the emptiness. Maybe even make friends. Thought this doesn’t feel likely at the moment.

        “Hello,” I say quietly. I can hear the question in my voice. The doubt. Clearly this won’t do. “One has to believe,” I admonish myself sternly. I try again:

        “Hello Emptiness. What is your name? I can’t call you Emptiness all the time. My name is Mater and this is my house”.

        I say this firmly. Much better.

        I notice that sunlight is attempting to enter through the kitchen blinds and I throw them open. It is a beautiful day. I see that Bert is already up and working in the garden. Planting something. I remember now, he told me he was going to start another vege garden, nearer the house than the other one.


        In reply to: Mandala of Ascensions


          “…..salt free inquisition born of effete privilege…”

          Dispersee shook her head and cackled to herself while reading Stinks Mc Fruckler’s (a double agent posing as a descended trickster) report.

          “These dupes, so arrogant in their idiocy have become an incredibly powerful voice which effects us all, this being why I rail against them, they are the new repulsive face of self righteous sanctimonious evangelism, a salt free inquisition born of effete privilege, modern day ill informed witch-burners intent on removing choice, blocking scientific advances….”

          Stinks may well get lynched for that one, she thought with a fond smile. Nobody expects to get away with criticizing the salt free inquisition. It was a position only a former salt smuggler would understand, as Dispersee well knew. “Salt of the Earth” was a well known turn of phrase (though not nearly as amusing as “salt free inquisition born of effete privilege” as turns of phrase go), but few took to heart the actual meaning. It was to be a good few years yet before the Return of the Salt to the turbulent planet, and salt, for the meantime, was still public enemy number one in the collective mind.

          Dispersee closed the report and turned her attention to her own.

          Despite her demonstration with the pool (complete with illustrations), throwing spoons haphazardly into the murky pool with no regard for the hidden fishes and broken chairs in the depths of the dirty water, despite the resulting swarm of earthquakes, only a handful of individuals understood the point she had been trying to demonstrate with regard to what was known in new age circles as “pooling” ~ not to be confused with team flow, which was something else entirely. (The fact that she had not understood what she was illustrating at the time, merely following a strange impulse, was neither here nor there ~ the point was quite obvious in retrospect, which was all that mattered).

          Pooling had become almost as popular as the Salter lynchings, and the unfortunate common denominator was “best intentions” ~ best intentions, vaguely pasted hearts, and no real understanding or questioning of the contents of the pool they were all diving into. The Pool Lemmings dived in one after another without washing off their associations, weighed down with their constructs and baggage, splashing the foul slime outside the pool where it seeped into the common water table, tainting the entire neighbourhood. The best intentions sank to the depths, perhaps to be fished out by an especially skilled fisherman of best intentions, but likely not. It was the clingy slippery algae of the associations that really thrived, and they attached themselves and flowed back out of the pool. Really it was a mess. Even her practical demonstrations of non return valves and two way valves had gone over their heads (as had the contaminated water).

          The second part of her demonstrations had been to illustrate the importance, and indeed the beauty, of bubbles ~ dewdrops suspended along webs ~ connected via gossamer thin but extremely strong networks, perfect reflective bubbles that kept their shape and individual purpose, rather than forming a dank puddle of slime in the overflowing muddy ditch. Admittedly Dispersee has not been aware of what she was demonstrating at the time, she was just following another strange impulse.

          She decided to finish her report tomorrow, and await todays strange impulse for further information.


          In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


            The tunnels went dark and deep into the crust. Water was seeping through the cracks and made the progression difficult at times. But she had found her way out.
            She could have died in the tunnels, unable to find her way to the surface, but for some reason, Maia trusted her instincts and her senses to guide her through them. Like the water, flowing through.

            She didn’t know for sure how far she was from the MARS base when she emerged out, it was hard to tell the distances underground, sometimes you would go down for hundreds of meters, and when you’d look up, the stone ceiling would seem just a few meters overhead.

            She wasn’t too sure why she had escaped like this and made herself a target. A sudden instinct, something that told her the others couldn’t be trusted, and that they wanted to clean them up.
            Anyway, it was too late for regrets.

            The desert wasn’t too bad at twilight, not too hot and better for her to travel unnoticed.
            A few more days of walk in the desert, and she could find a road, maybe some motel where to spend the night. She still had a few bucks in her purse to see her through.
            All she wanted now was to make sure her son was alright.
            Her being alive and out was a threat to their program, and she intended to make the best of a bad situation.

            Then she realized the humming sound in the back of her thoughts wasn’t random noise. There was a drone hovering, getting back apparently from some scouting. It wasn’t a military drone by the sound of it, more like a hobbyist’s toy. That meant there was someone out there, not far. Someone curious and potentially useful…


            In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


              When Eb woke up, there was a dozen messages left on his phone.
              He didn’t have to check to know.
              His mother wasn’t too subtle when he missed their weekly call.

              She now lived in a modest retiring home in Mississippi, spending most of her time on social networks exchanging links about anything from politics and revolution and anarchy, kittens and drugs. Oh, that, and politics too. And revolution.
              She was suffering from early stages of Alzheimer, but called it “transition” as the old-age hype advertised some decades earlier, and due to her refusal to take her prescriptions, it wasn’t improving much as time went by. But Eb’s prognosis was more like “selective Alzheimer”, as she would perfectly recall when (and how many times) he had missed their weekly calls.

              He could already hear her complain about how she was left out of the loop, that the world story would be over by the time she catches up with all the gossips they’d hidden from her. Often, she would become so agitated that Fancy, her nurse would come help her relax and stop waking up the others. Everything was much less confusing thanks to Fancy.

              After all that is said, he loved his mother deeply. She was always full of extravagant ideas and when she stopped doubting herself, she had her moments of sheer brilliance.

              Being his only son, that she’d taken care of as a single mother most of her life, he felt tremendous pressure to be worthy of her sacrifices. So talking about his job wasn’t really something he liked to explore with her. If she’d known what he did for a living,… he couldn’t bear to imagine the look of crushed hopes and expectations on her devastated face. Well, suffice to say her face needn’t any of it.
              Instead, he’d told her he was working in a tree nursery, working on pest control, with humane and eco-conscious methods. Which actually wasn’t too far off the truth. The pests were the glitches of the program, and the vegetables… well, that didn’t need much explaining.

              “Tricia speaking, who’s this?” Eb knew she knew perfectly well it was him, but the game was ever the same
              “Mother, it’s Eb”
              “Ebenezer, my dear boy, how kind of you to remember your old mother. What have you been up to? So many things happened here, with that new batch of decrepit old farts who arrived last month, so much drama. But you should tell me about you. Oh, makes me recall that stupid incident, a synch! I should tell Fancy about it! Fancy, Fancy!
              Oh dear… She’s gone cleaning up again. The last one who came in is a Chinese, and all his family is there, I bet she’s cooking some rice now, it smells funny. Fancy! Mind the rice! So well, it’s like the twins I talk with on the Internet, with funny names, Cilantro and Nutmeg, something like that, well, they have so many funny stories, like that meteor that dropped on Mars and blacked-out the TV show, they think it’s all bollocks. I told them I’d ask you about this, after all you did some studies in physics before becoming a gardener, you’ve always been the clever one in the lot, always helping with the dust stuck in my keyboard, and other IT problems. Oh dear… that was fun, but I think I must go, Fancy is waving at me, she says hello by the way! Oh, she rolls your eyes at you, how cute! Time for my siesta, … what? Oh, and change my nappies too, thanks Fancy, you’re precious, I keep forgetting everything. Talk to you soon my boy!”

              Well… If he hadn’t been so hungover, he probably would have tried to place some funny comments, or at least a well-meaning “hmmm hmmm”, to let her know he wasn’t just letting her monologue. Today was a good day notwithstanding, she hardly had a complaint. He should remember to send Fancy a card and a nice honey pot like he did every year, she was doing wonders at pacifying his mother.


              In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


                Mother Shirley was lost in a trance again, seated in her suspended egg chair in front of the placid Finnley, and monologuing while absorbed in the analysis of the minute movements on the surface of the android’s face.

                “Tell me, how do we learn things? How do you learn things? — It’s a rhetorical question, keep still, like I told you.
                “It seems we speak too much about learning, and the learning process, and all that jazz, but… what if there are only states of knowing. We know, and * poof *, that’s it. I can’t for the dickens of me, figure out when I started to learn the things that led me to this current state of knowingness.”

                She noticed, or thought she noticed a brief and slow ripple on the synthetic skin.

                “Maybe like that, a ripple of relaxation… Maybe we look at it the wrong way, because we’re taught regular steps will lead to a result, so that in the end, you’ll know something… I call horseshit! How many lessons of space mandolin have I had, thanks to dear Mother, bless her devilish soul, and I’m still such a pathetic player! It can’t just be this, or it’d be like playing the roulette over and over, until… what? Don’t start with your tree, Mother, a damn acorn doesn’t get taught how to become more of itself. And when does it start to become a tree? At the first leaf? The first bark?

                Waving her hand at the ghost idea of her Mother, she scrutinised Finnley more intently

                “No you give me ideas, you little monster, you know that, with your peach face and smooth skin to die for. Never ever a sneeze… If I wanted to teach you how to sneeze, how to contract your body in an instant, and expel the devil or the aliens, whatever you’d like,… could I? Could you?

                She pushed back the egg chair to restart the pendulum motion, and leaned backward with a contented look.

                “I think that’s good enough for this session tonight, dearie. Bring me my cognac, remove my headpiece, and make my bed ready.”


                  “Well, here we all are again!” Liz beamed, after a momentary pause in which she considered snorting. Not finding that snorting was consistent with her mood, notwithstanding the sparkle in the air of anticipated unexpected impishness, she beamed, and beamed again as she looked around the room.

                  No one spoke. There was a sense of suspended animation for a few moments, or was it longer? A bit like holding ones breath while easing into a hot bath. Or perhaps not a hot bath, thought Liz, delicately mopping the sweat dripping down her cleavage with a paper towel.

                  Finnley, have you seen my reading glasses anywhere?” Liz asked on impulse.

                  Finnley’s sunny beam shifted as she rolled her eyes and replied, “I saw them in a dustbin on Brighton Pier.”

                  “My god, it’s started already!” Godfrey exclaimed, although he wasn’t at all surpised. “ Have you seen the new dragon tree in the park?”


                    “Do you ever wonder what happens to your people when you’re not there, Dan?” Elizabeth asked, still drowsy from spending the morning lolling around on the bed, reading and napping.
                    “Why, yes, I do” he replied, which surprised Elizabeth somewhat.
                    “Do you make them do things, and then wonder if they really wanted to do that? Like when you send a blacksmith out to the forest because you need more firewood, do you wonder if he resents that?”
                    Dan sighed. “I know what you mean.”
                    Elizabeth had started patting his shoulder kindly when she asked about his people, when he said a few had starved to death because he didn’t provide enough food, or when a tornado flattened his people’s houses.


                      “Oh there you are Bert!” Mater said, trying to push aside the odd feeling that Bert had materialized in front of her, rather than walking into the room in the usual way. “Flora wants to spend a penny.”


                      In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


                        Mother Shirley, the head of the Covenant, was smoking in her private capsule despite the strict restrictions and despite the health risks, at her ripe age of 99.

                        She liked to quip that nobody had ever told her what to not do and lived to say the tale. She had smoked since age 45, after the death of her third husband, the only one she had shed a tear for. Never turned back since, and maybe it was the reason she was still alive after all. Smoked like a mighty salmon.

                        She grinned painfully at her reflection. Ugh. Despite all the beauty treatments, she was starting to look like a decrepit mummy. No amount of wariki body butter and ant royal geel would do the trick now. She had to resort to more extreme measures after no doctor would dare to try a peeling on what skin was left on her face.

                        The acrylic mask was always prickly at first, and took a few uncomfortable seconds to adjust. It was now firmly set, and sure, it restrained a bit the movements on her face,… well, she was never one for laughs out loud anyway.

                        With her shaking scrawny arms, but her grip strong as ever, she attached the limbs of her exoskeleton, and with now more assurance, finished to dress in proper garments on top of her fishnet corset.

                        She was all set for the morning sermon. She would have to strain her voice a bit, and for that the smoke had helped too. She had a lovely raucousness in her vocal chords that made all the old farts of the Covenant thrilled by what she said in hypnotic stances.

                        After that would be done, most importantly, they would go forth to the promised land, and she was to spend her glorious next century on a new empty planet she could mould to her vision.


                        In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


                          Commercial Spaceline MX757#33, Mars orbit

                          Finnley, the board computer of the mothership had started to wake up the suspended animated bodies in preparation for the landing as per its usual instructions.
                          The craft had arrived in vicinity of the planet just a day ago (counted in SET, or Standard Earth Time), and was in stationary orbit over the main settlement and de facto capital of Mars.
                          Smaller pods would be flown from there to land the various cargo and the travelling guests, as soon as they would have had time to acclimate.

                          Everyone was becoming quite excited, and hungry as well, once the initial shock was passed. Finnley’s synthetic voice was as smooth and silky as the modelled butt of her twenty one robotic bodies.

                          All of her guests were accounted for. A large number of them were sent by a rich Covenant of Holy Elietics, which hoped to enlighten the natives.
                          A second group was sent by a mining corporation for prospecting purposes.
                          Finally, travelling in the economy section were a pair of winners from a worldwide raffle that sent people to a promised new life. It was believed to be largely a scam, but the one-trip tickets were valid. That was the only thing that was provided to the winners, the rest was up to them.

                          Finnley had been craftily programmed to display a wide range of human emotions, although she didn’t really feel them as human did. If that were the case, she would have logged in her journal her feeling to be in a great hurry to get rid of all the now terribly noisy humanity in her ship.


                            Another bang on my bedroom door, my hands suspended over the keyboard. “Go away Prune!” I shouted, exasperated. “If you bang on my door again, I’ll come out and give you such a wallop, now bugger off, will you!”

                            “It’s me, Corrie” came Clove’s voice. Walked over to the door and unlocked it. A chat with my sister might help me with this project. Unlike Prune, who would be guaranteed to disrupt my train of thought.

                            Locking the door again I tell Clove what I’m writing about. We don’t go to school, me and Clove, we’re what they call “homeschooled” but what that actually means in our case is that we’re left to our own devices most of the time. Aunt Idle asks us (when she remembers) what we’ve been working on, and as long as we’ve been writing something or researching something, she’s happy.

                            So when I saw the group project about alternative timelines to avoid the disaster timeline, I had some ideas. Well, to be honest, I didn’t have any definite ideas until I saw the other suggestions. All Americans, and all of them talking about changing the timelines by changing the results of presidential elections!

                            “Not much chance of a different timeline there then!” remarked Clove astutely.

                            “Exactly!” I knew Clove would get it, she knows were I’m coming from, but then, everyone knows twins are like that.

                            “So this is what the plan is, right: “The goal of this exercise is to discuss amongst the group and choose significant past moments, and then As a Group, focus on creating alternate histories, thus sparking alternate timelines. We should vividly imagine moving forward from those probability forks and creating a more viable and desirable future.” Oh, and this bit here: “ our current timeline is convoluted to the point where many probabilities are leaning towards a disaster scenario simply to shake out of the current focus.” And then all these suggestions about different presidents, and then this: “My suggestion would be also to consider how we would like our current time frame to appear,” so I’m thinking…”

                            “I’m thinking” interrupted Clove, continuing my train of thought, “Of all those states and communities that got with the programme ten years ago, and took their kids out of school and built those Earthships so they didn’t need money for water and electricity..”

                            “And started cooperative worker owned businesses like they do in South America….”

                            “And they all started a guaranteed basic income years ago, so everyone was doing what they did best, especially the kids, cos they had such great ideas and weren’t stuck in boring schoolrooms…..”

                            “and there was no poverty, and nobody without a home…”

                            “Yeah, and they all stopped paying taxes so there was no money for the military, and then loads more people stopped paying taxes too…”

                            “Good one, Clove!”

                            “So nobody gave a fuck what president was elected anyway, because they were all sorting themselves out, and those states and communities were doing so well…”

                            “Because they’d already been doing it for years” I added.

                            “…that other states and communities started doing it too.”

                            “So that it snowballed, like dominoes, and there were more and more of these places..”

                            “And they had exchange students and stuff like that to learn from each other, and shared stuff online..”

                            “So when the disasters struck, it wasn’t half so bad because there were already a bunch of people managing perfectly well without dollars or oil, and they could help the people in the disaster. Makes more sense that electing another blimmin president, huh?”

                            “Bloody obvious if you ask me” replied Clove. “Pity we don’t have basic income, did you see Mater’s face when she was talking to that debt collector?”

                            That made me laugh, remembering her waving the stick around. “Her face was as purple as her cardigan.”

                            In unison, we both starting singing Start Wearing Purple and dancing around, acting the fool. I had a purple wig hanging on the back of my chair, so I put that on, and Clove grabbed a purple feather boa off the coat stand. No shortage of wigs in this town, though god only knows why. Just about every damn trunk in every empty house is full of wigs.


                              “What a…” King Artie almost lost his smile after being dumped by Arona on the edge of the cliff.
                              Fear not, little chipmunk, I will have you soon wrapped around my finger…

                              He looked inside his bag for the precious bottled elixir. He’d managed to steal it from the P’hope’s apothescary. Among a bizarre collection of dried insects, the P’hope had some vials of pure waterbee’s royal jelly mixed with p’hopolis.
                              Collecting the essence of flowers from all over the kingdom and distilling the mass beliefs into this life-sustaining elixir, the waterbees royal jelly and p’hopolis had many properties, a bit like a wish-fulfilling gem in liquid form.
                              He knew using it would probably trigger some false notes in the mass belief organ of the P’hope, risking alerting him, but he had no choice, the damsel was already getting out of view, and he couldn’t spend days crawling down the shaky beanstalk.

                              “Who said we couldn’t grow wings” he said after a gulp of the precious potion. That was the magic formula he needed.

                              The smile returned as wings started to sprout out of his back, and without a second’s hesitation, he followed the sexy flying squirrel in mouldy cloak-wings.


                                Around 3:37pm, the three queens heard a loud noise coming from the street that lasted for about five seconds.
                                “What was that ?” asked Terry.
                                “It sounded like a fucking coughing ass”, said Consuela.
                                “It sounded more like someone grinding the pavement with sandpaper”, said Maurana.
                                Her two friends looked at her with an air of wtf.
                                “You remember my Uncle Bog, the sculptor ?” she continued. “He used to spend hours polishing granite with sandpaper. My father said he was just too lazy to get the job done. Well, it sounded a bit like that. Except louder.”

                                Terry ran to the door and looked outside. She wanted to be the first to know.
                                “Oh My God! It’s her”, she said, her voice shaking. “She drives a Harley, and I think she just braked with her platform shoes. They’re still smoking.”
                                She turned and looked at them wide-eyed.
                                “She’s a dwarf queen.”


                                  It hadn’t been easy to obtain Sadie a pay raise. The management always seemed to look for new ways to cut the costs wanted to give her an extra for the good job. Although this time, LP could put the golden balls and the rebirth of the network in the balance. They could have had enough to give the whole team a decent salary. Indeed, it wasn’t really fair that the young queens were not paid at all. Unless of course you counted props, wigs and fake eyelashes. Eventually, Linda got Sadie the extra and the raise she had asked for, and new contracts for the three young queens. She shall not forget the tears of joy in their eyes when she announced them they were part of the big Queer Network family. It had made her feel good and generous even if it was not her money she was giving.

                                  Linda Pol wrapped her luscious lips around an authentic straw and sucked up voraciously the glowing rainbow cocktail. Mmmmm, this new Peas’cocktail is divine, she thought. After the buzz created by their last network and that mysterious quest of Saint Germain for Peasland, peas-thingies were everywhere. She put the glass back on the edge of the Jacuzzi and looked at the little magenta umbrella for a moment. She didn’t know what was the most pleasing, the bubbles gently massaging her back in the water, or the gorgeous scenery of the Merry Otter resort in Maui. Linda Pol hadn’t had good vacation in a long long time, and if she had been in vacation this place could totally be one of her first choices destinations.

                                  Unfortunately, she wasn’t there for vacations or relaxation. She wasn’t there for exercise either. She had been asked to attend a conference and meet with one of those new Random Science scientists specialized in the ambergris tiles. As if it was a joke from the Universe, her name was Amber Graystone. But Linda Pol had long learned that there were no such thing as unusualness, you just hadn’t seen enough of the world.

                                  A boy came to refill her cocktail. Girl, you spend too much time looking at young bums, she thought, ageing beliefs were everywhere. She was feeling drowsy with the bubbles and the alcohol, almost dreaming of whales and ambergris.

                                  “… Graystone is taking her job too seriously”, said a man’s voice.

                                  Linda Pol opened her eye, just enough so that her fake eyelashes could still hide she was awake. When she was young, her curiosity had put her in trouble more times than the number of her pair of shoes. She had developed strategies and an incredible butt recognition skill. It had helped her win many contests in her youth and avoid boring conversations later on.

                                  The two men wore bath suits. Linda could clearly see that one of the butts was slack and lifeless. Almost avoiding the contact with the fabric. An American butt fed with hamburgers and soda. The rest of the silhouette seemed to naturally spread out from its central component.

                                  The other one moved like a mustang, the shiny red lycra was only here to help you see more clearly the outline of the flesh, not hide it. The curve of the bottom of the spine indicated a Russian ancestry. She felt a rush of adrenaline. She loved how Russians rolled their Rs. They could do many things with a rolling tongue.

                                  “You want me to take carrre of herrr ?” asked a voice carrying ice.

                                  “No, just remind her to whom she owes her subsidies. And her results.”


                                    (a totally random one)

                                    San Diego
                                    – a mystery
                                    by Ewrick

                                    The cosy, Cornish town of San Diego holds a secret.

                                    Gregory Khan has the perfect life working as a shopkeeper in the city and gyrating with his lovable girlfriend, Ruth Donaldson.

                                    However, when he finds a tattered torch in his cellar, he begins to realise that things are not quite as they seem in the Khan family.

                                    A Christening leaves Gregory with some startling questions about his past, and he sets off to deserted San Diego to find some answers.

                                    At first the people of San Diego are courageous and helpful. He is intrigued by the curiously hilarious gardener, Una Grey. However, after she introduces him to hard sugar, Gregory slowly finds himself drawn into a web of decadence, sloth and perhaps, even mutilation.

                                    Can Gregory resist the charms of Una Grey and uncover the secret of the tattered torch before it’s too late, or will his demise become yet another San Diego legend?

                                    Praise for San Diego

                                    “Who wouldn’t give up a life of gyrating with their lovable girlfriend to spend a little time with a curiously hilarious gardener?”
                                    – The Daily Tale

                                    “About as mysterious as finding a poo in a public toilet. However, San Diego does offer a valuable lesson about not getting into hard sugar.”
                                    – Enid Kibbler

                                    “The only mystery, is why did I keep reading after page one?”
                                    – Hit the Spoof

                                    “I could do better.”
                                    – Zob Gloop


                                      “You have a tentacle hanging down your chin Mirabelle” remarked Lisa, reaching for her camera.
                                      Mirbelle obligingly waited while Lisa took a photo, though she was not at all sure why she wanted a picture of it.
                                      “I don’t know anything about holidays. Are holidays about eating tentacles on the beach, then?” she asked.
                                      “Well, they can be about that yes, but not entirely. There are lots of things to do on holidays” replied Lisa.
                                      “Like what? Why do people have holidays?”
                                      “A short break from working every day usually, although people who don’t work take holidays too. For a change of scenery, and a rest. Although holidays aren’t always about rest ~ some people get very little rest and walk all day, or cycle or something. People in colder climates often want a holiday in the sun, and people who live inland often want a holiday by the sea. In fact” Lisa continued, “Some people spend all year dreaming about a holiday by the sea, in the sun.”
                                      “If they love the sea and the sun so much, why don’t they just move to the coast then?”
                                      “Well some of us do! Then we go to a city for our holiday, because it’s different I suppose.”
                                      “So a holiday is a for a change, then? Because people like a change?”
                                      “Only if it’s a holiday, I mean, people usually resist change ~ unless it’s a holiday.”
                                      “But if you changed something at home and didn’t go anywhere else, would that be a holiday?”
                                      “Only if you had time off work, otherwise it wouldn’t be a holiday.”
                                      “But if you changed something at work, wouldn’t that be a holiday?”
                                      “Well no not really, that kind of change usually pisses people off.”


                                        “What? You think I’m shallow? That I spend too much time on my appearance?”
                                        Terry Bubble paused a bit then said “Well, maybe a bit, of course yes! I guess that’s what being a drag queen means. You take care of yourself. You enjoy playing with your appearance. You can’t be amateurish about it, it’s about creating an illusion, it’s about making people believe for a moment,…” then he added pensively “and maybe yourself a little”.

                                        “If you ask me, big beautiful chocolate Maurana Banana, what others think about you is none of your damn nosy business.”

                                        The three of them crammed at the back of a tiny flying tuk-tuk with their glowing perspiration under the sunscreen and layers of makeup, attempting to keep the appearances up for as long as they could was extremely entertaining.

                                        “Get ready! We arrive at the drop-off in a minute!” Sadie shouted. At the front of the hovercraft, she was carefully guiding the driver through the jungle thanks to the energy map on the ezapper.


                                          The news of the Russians shook her and Sadie contemplated using the time in the carriage to do extra visualisation around a successful outcome for their mission. However, the temptation to get more details proved too tempting. Her Mentor at The Academy, Yuni Sauce, had advised she should curb her tendency to look at what is and spend more time creating what she desired the outcome to be, however Sadie found this a difficult habit to break. Especially when she was tired and worried that her bowl haircut looked ridiculous. It was okay for her 3 companions, they were wearing wigs! Well, it had seemed like a good idea at the time, she mused, trying to make light of it. Maybe she could ask her companions for some styling advice.

                                          She distracted herself by doing some quick research on her e-zapper; she discovered that on the 5th Jan 1757 a French domestic servant, Robert-François Damiens, attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate King Louis XV, by stabbing him with a knife. Damiens was captured and endured horrific torture before eventually being killed. Sadie shuddered at the description of the barbaric administrations performed on the poor man, who some thought to be mentally instable. Perhaps if she ran into Damiens she could warn him not to do it! She quickly dismissed the fleeting thought as foolish. It was strictly against protocol to knowingly mess with events in other time frames—other than the specific mission—and she could well lose her position at the Bureau if she were to disregard this rule. There was a difference of opinion as to whether changing events in time would alter the time line they were currently on, or whether a new parallel reality would be created. Until further research she knew she must adhere to protocol.


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

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

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

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

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