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      It caressed the bottle it had stolen from the house, purring like a cat. Gorrash had never seen such a being before. Nor had his maker, as far as he could tell from the residual memories of the sculpting process. The creature looked somewhat transluscent and its movements felt unnatural. It reminded him of how water flowed from the surface of his stone skin during a rainy day.

      Gorrash didn’t understand how it got the flask. Its paw had just flown through the glass and brought back its glowing prize without breaking the window. He had blinked several times before being sure the window had been closed.
      That is interesting, Gorrash thought. He had never dared enter the house, fearing to be trapped inside.

      The creature suddenly backed away and hid into a bush. There was movement inside the house. Gorrash returned quickly to his usual spot before she could see him. The human of the house was closing the window for the night. He didn’t understand that either. As far as he could tell, night was the best time of all, especially in winter when nights were longer. A couple of bats flew above him and as they became silent he knew there were a couple less mothes in this world.

      Gorrash was still curious about the creature. He went to the bush near the window; you would be surprised how silent a stone dwarf could be. He moved the leaves apart and saw the flask on the ground. It was unopened but empty. The dwarf picked the bottle up from the ground. It was kind of wet. But no sign of the creature. He looked around the garden, with the moonlight it should be easy to spot. But the night was quiet and empty.

      As he walked under the old oak tree, a satisfied purr from above attracted his attention. Gorrash looked up and there it was glowing and pulsing with flowing patterns of colors perched onto a branch like a christmas decoration.

      Gorrash scratched his stone beard with its tiny hand. It was high for a dwarf. He had never climbed onto a tree, and he doubted he could do it one day. Mostly he feared the fall.

      “Hey”, he called. The creature continued to purr and glow as if it heard nothing.
      “Hey”, he called again. The creature continued to ignore him.
      Gorrash looked at his feet and found a few pebbles. I hope it does not hold grudges, he thought before throwing the first stone at the creature.

      It flew right through the creature’s body. Gorrash shivered thinking it might be some kind of ghost. He hesitated a moment, considering his options. But he had been alone for too long, even a ghost would be good company. He threw the other pebble which flew right through the creature again but this time he had calculated so that it would also bump into the bark of the tree.

      It was enough to get its attention. The patterns of colors were pulsing more quickly, but were still harmonious.
      “Hey! I’m down there”, Gorrash said. This time the creature looked down. The dwarf waved his hand. He was not sure but the rainbow creature looked a tad drunk. He wondered what was in that empty flask.
      “You care to get down a moment ?” he asked.
      “Mruiiii”, answered the creature with what looked like curiosity.


      In reply to: Coma Cameleon


        A man needs a name, so they called him Tibu. It wasn’t that anyone chose the name, they had started calling him “the man from the back of the Tibu” and it got shortened. It was where they found him sitting next to an empty suitcase, by the back entrance of the Tibu nightclub, in the service alley behind the marina shop fronts.

        The man they called Tibu had been staying with the street hawkers from Senegal for several months. They were kind, and he was grateful. He was fed and had a place to sleep. It perplexed him that he couldn’t recall anything of the language they spoke between themselves. Was he one of them? Many of them spoke English, but the way they spoke it wasn’t familiar to him. Nothing seemed familiar, not the people he now shared a life with, nor the whitewashed Spanish town.

        Some of his new friends assumed that he’d been so traumatized during the journey that brought him here that he had mentally blocked it; others were inclined towards the idea of witchcraft. One or two of them suspected he was pretending, that he was hiding something, but for the most part they were patient and accommodating. He was a mystery, but he was no trouble. They all had their own stories, after all, and the focus wasn’t on the past but on the present ~ and the hopes of a different future. So they did what they had to do and sold what they could. They ate and they sent money back home when they could.

        They filled Tibu’s suitcase with watches, gave him a threadbare white sheet, and showed him the ropes. The first time they left him to hawk on his own he’s walked and walked before he could bring himself to find a spot and lay out the watches. Fear knotted his stomach and threatened to loosen his bowels. Before long the fear was replaced by a profound sadness. He felt invisible, not worth looking at.

        He began to hate the ugly replica watches he was selling, and wondered why he hated them so. He had never liked them, but now he detested them. Hadn’t he had better watches than this? He stared at his watchless left wrist and wondered.


        In reply to: Coma Cameleon


          At first he’d stayed in the same spot. Waiting, for what he didn’t know, but for someone or something to provide a clue, or a reminder. He’d given up checking his pockets, hoping he was mistaken and that of course he had a wallet, some keys, a phone. But there was nothing. Nothing but that suitcase, lighter than it should have been for its size, because there was nothing it in except a few pairs of underpants and a couple of ties. A toiletry bag, unzipped, with nothing in it but a toothbrush.

          He closed his eyes. Stay in the same spot if you’re lost. Had his mother said that once, long ago? His head hurt with the effort to try and recall.

          He’d found himself sitting in an alley next to a rubbish container, sprawled on the suitcase. Squinting in the shaft of bold sunlight, he automatically reached into his shirt pocket for sunglasses. The pocket was empty. He checked his other pockets, his alarm and confusion growing. Why was he wearing socks but no shoes? He elbowed himself up to a sitting position and noticed the suitcase. A wave of relief washed over him: everything must be inside the suitcase. Relief gave way to horror. It was almost empty. I’ve been robbed! he thought. But what did they take? What did I have in there?

          And then the full realization hit. He had no idea where he was. And no idea who he was.

          Someone will come looking for me, he thought. But who? He weighed up his options. What could he do? Go to the police? And tell them what?

          He shrank back as two women approached, looking down as they glanced at him. They walked past, continuing their conversation. Why were they speaking Spanish? He looked around, noticing a number of signs. Most of them were in Spanish, but some were in English. For a brief moment he was inordinately pleased at the realization that he was English speaking. The first puzzle piece. He was thinking in American English. Therefore, he must be an American. He rubbed his eyes. His headache was getting worse.


            “Will someone answer that!” Liz parroted the other fat dealer. “Whose the leader of door answering these days anyway? All leaders and no fecking staff, now!”

            Glancing towards the open window, where a shrill noise seemed to emanate from that had immediately set Liz’s teeth on edge, she noticed him. Could it really be him? After all these years! Was it really Roberto?

            The door bell pealed again, distracting Liz, and when she looked back, the man had disappeared. Did I imagine that? she wondered.

            Roberto, rubber duck in hand, walked around the outside wall to see who was making such a racket on the door bell.

            “Madre mia! Los Guardianos !” he whispered, aghast. What were they doing here, of all places? Roberto crept back around the house, hoping he hadn’t been seen.


              Fanella had been secretly watching Gustave at the bar with his entourage of old slappers, hiding herself behind a potted palm. She was biding her time, and building up her courage for a confrontation with a stiff martini, when the door opened and a crowd of handsome Russian men walked into the bar.

              “Oh my god, Tina!” Becky shouted in alarm when she read the latest entry. “Not only do we have characters to worry about, the bloody characters have been creating rafts of refugee characters of their own! Where will it all end?”

              “It will never end, Becky,” Tina replied in a serious quiet voice. “It will just circle back, again and again.”

              “Well, at least this lot are all handsome,” Al interjected, with a mischievous grin.


              In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


                It was already warm and Kale was glad for the shade the large oak trees offered as he walked along the sidewalk. He was heading for the Tangy Pickle cafe; his favourite breakfast spot just a few blocks from where he lived.

                A song had been running through his head all morning: a big hit from a robot band which were popular in the late 2030’s: “Sour Tart and The Denouements.” He hadn’t even like the band at the time— just the name was depressing —but for some reason the tune and a few of the words were looping through his head like annoying little ear worms.

                … bugger current information planet robot key bugger current information planet robot key bugger current information planet robot key…

                So Kale was busy pondering the implications, if any, of endlessly looping ear worms when Flynn messaged him:

                “Interview scheduled for 9.30am tomorrow.”

                “Blimey, that soon? Okay, well what else can you tell me?”

                “The ad has been taken off the network and all associated information shut down.”


                “But your interview is scheduled with a Mr Eb Ruide. And I’ve got your outfit ready.”

                “Hang on, Flynn. This all sounds a bit odd don’t you think?”

                “Oddness factor 57%. Probability of success 22%. If I may quote the famous robot philosopher Monenole: The point is the exploration. So gird your loins and stick your chin out. You can do this! What fun! See you later!” messaged Flynn

                Gird my loins? That robot really needs rewiring.

                He was nearly at his destination. There weren’t many people around this early in the morning, just a few stalwart joggers and the occasional dog walker. Most people, the lucky ones who had employment, worked from home. So Kale was most surprised to see an attractive dark haired female—oddly attired for the hot weather in fishnet tights and knee high boots—standing outside the cafe.


                  “Good Lord, what’s all the fuss?” I asked, walking into the kitchen. “You all look like you have seen a ghost.”

                  Exhausted by my busy day, I had come home and gone straight to bed. I had slept through dinner and had come downstairs thinking to fix myself a wee snack and a cup of hot chocolate.

                  And walked crash bang into some sort of a drama going on.

                  Another one!


                    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.


                      “How very strange” said Igor, when they eventually reached the waterfall.
                      “What?” asked Mirabelle, who was paying more attention to the parrot perched on her shoulder. She tickled him under the chin. “Who’s a pretty boy then? muah muah muah pretty parrot, where have you been?”
                      Igor rolled his eyes at the kissing noises. “Look!” he said, pointing at the waterfall.
                      “It’s a fucking waterfall, yes, I see it!” snapped Mirabelle. Finding Huhu had distracted her from the discomfort of hunger, thirst and an aching body, but Igor’s questions brought her back to the reality of their situation.
                      Then it dawned on her. The waterfall plummeted downwards, in a seemingly infinite series of cascades and pools. It was impossible to see the bottom with the spray and mist, especially in the fading daylight.
                      “But we are still at sea level, Igor! The waterfall should be going up, not down. I mean to say, we should be looking up at the waterfall flowing down. This isn’t making any sense. But look” she said, pointing to the first pool on the right. “There is a little hut there and some people. Fat people.” she added. “I bet they will have some food, let’s go and ask.”
                      Igor stepped cautiously to the edge and and peered over, looking for a way down. He looked down, then looked back at the little stream they had followed from the sea, and then back down again.
                      “This water is breaking all the rules!” he cried. “It’s flowing in both directions!”
                      “Don’t be silly Igor, are you delirious? Everyone knows that water flows downhill towards the sea.”
                      “See for yourself then, look!” he put a stick in the stream and they watched it flow gently back the way they had come, towards the bay. “Now watch,” he said, as he tossed another stick over the edge of the waterfall. It quickly disappeared from view as it rushed downwards, in the opposite direction.
                      “Where is the source? Where is the water coming from?”
                      “Those fat people might know. Have you found a way down yet?”
                      It appeared that the only way down to the pool of the fat people was via the waterfall itself. There were sheer cliffs of malachite and rose quartz on either side of the waterfall as far as the eye could see.
                      “I think we will have to go down the waterfall itself, Mirabelle.”
                      She gasped and took an involuntary step back.
                      “We will have to steer ourselves towards where we want to go, that’s all.”
                      “Oh no, not me, if you think I’m going to just throw myself over a waterfall…Oh! Huhu come back!”
                      The parrot flew down to the pool of the fat people, and settled on a banana tree, watching Mirabelle above looking down at him.
                      “Fucking parrot,” muttered Mirabelle. “I’ll clip your wings when I catch hold of you, I swear I will. For your own fucking good! Well?” she said, turning to Igor. “Are you coming or what?” and she launched herself over the edge and into the waterfall, with one thought in her mind ~ the bloody parrot.
                      With a great splash, she landed in the rose coloured pool, bobbing to the surface like a cork. Disgruntled silvery fish leaped out of the water, one of them landing on the barbecue. Mirabelle waded out of the pool, oblivious to the fish, and the looks of amazement on the faces of the fat people, and walked over to the banana tree.
                      Huhu ripped a banana off a ripe yellow bunch and dropped it, squalking in delight as Mirabelle caught it in her hands. When Huhu saw that she was focused on peeling it and eating it, he fluttered down and perched on her shoulder. She gave the parrot the last bit of banana, and then turned her attention to the fat people and the barbecued fish.


                        Second Journey ~ August 24th, 2014

                        Duration 24 minutes

                        Directions : Meet with your power animal, ask them to lead you to the upper realm to meet with your guide. Ask the name of your guide and what they will be likely helping you with. Ask them for your personal symbol and how you can use it. Then follow your power animal into showing you the potential development for the stories.


                        My snake animal guide appears very fast, I see its eyes first. It shifts into a powerful cobra, and fans out its hood into multiple heads, like Ananta (Shesha Naga), and says I can call him Nagini (like in Harry Potter, that’s also the playful name I give to the plush snake at our doorsteps).
                        It wraps its multiple heads around me like a ball, and we woosh into the ground to what I guess is the underworld, it seems like a long coiled path around a sort of vortex, after a few moments in a sort of crystal cave, I’m a bit skeptical what we’re doing there, I catch a glimpse of a white horse from the back, so I guess Jib’s Conan is checking on us, and restate my intent.
                        I go though the light of one of the brightest glowing crystals, and the travel resumes, this time like the giant snake wraps ourselves in coils around a column of rocks, and we climb that high mountain very fast. It reminds me of Mt Meru in Buddhism or the Immortals palace in the Chinese Buddhist tales (like in the 2014 movie The Monkey King).
                        The place is like a beautiful platform/palace of giant proportions, with a golden light. When we arrive, the snake becomes much smaller, and golden too, and wraps itself around my left arm. It guides me to explore different places, a temple, a place over the clouds where there are dances, etc. I decide to rest under a tree and meditate and be open to possibilities.
                        The snake shifts around in various forms as if to reflect the nature of my mind, a giant parasol, or a stream of many paths at my feet. It connects me to a picture I saw of a Buddhist painting where the mind represented as an elephant is led by the monkey brain around a snake-like path. I realize the person I saw briefly earlier is the guide that helped Sunwukong (the monkey king) and seems to be the guide I’m looking for.
                        (I find the name later is Puti or Subhuti).
                        When I mentally ask for a name, the name Pachacamac comes strongly. He shows me many things related to my symbol. As a spinning cube with the floating feather in the middle and the arrow pointing towards the heart. The spin of the cube creates illusion within illusion, the arrow wobbles but stays towards the heart.
                        He shows me a chasm and how to create a bridge over the clouds, by showing me the mirror image in my heart chakra. The bridge is built inside. At the same time, I was trying to focus on the music to deepen the trance, and realized outside (one storey below) was Jib’s music played on the speakers, aligned with the one playing in the headset, although a few seconds off, the rhythm was perfectly in synch…
                        He also shows me another image, of a deep well deep inside the mountain that we can see from above the clouds. The image inside is dark and fluctuates with the water’s surface, and also reflecting quite a small portion of the beautiful landscape around.
                        He explains that the well is the world we create, the mind and the perception is the water’s surface. It’s the external world, while the heart is all that we perceive as we discuss.
                        There are other things shared at a subjective level.

                        After I connected with my power animal, we went to the upper world. We went through water to get there until we came to land.
                        I asked for my main guide.
                        I think I took on the characteristics of my guide. by that I mean I felt myself become a different being, and then switched back and forwards between myself and the other. It was very clear. The other was masculine, strong, very alert, very watchful, powerful.
                        I asked for the guide’s name and received the answer, Carlos.
                        I asked for the area which the guide would work with me. I have had a sharp pain in my left abdomen under my rib for half an hour. I felt my guide reach in and do something energetically in that area. The pain left and has not returned.
                        I asked for a symbol and saw what looked like a key-hole shape.
                        There was a key too.
                        It was a very particular shape.
                        There was a door. And the key hole was up very high in the door.
                        I had to reach up high to get to it. And I put the key in.
                        I wasn’t sure if those were symbols.
                        The key hole and the key were shapes.
                        I was tracing them with my hand.

                        I settle in myself and arrive directly in a kind of lava world. There are stalagmites and magma puddles, it’s very fiery and earthy. Then I call my horse who just nudge my left shoulder, he was already there.
                        I ride him first and take time to bond with him. Then ask him to take me to the upper realm to Michel. Without much transition I am there, I feel a definite difference of feeling and texture. I say hi and ask Michel if he can show me the use of my personal symbol or particular aspects to it.
                        The he focuses my attention to the octagon and the connection with the number eight. He shows me how it connects with the musical octave and sounds as a resonator. It can also be used like the shamanic drum. The coil inside is connected with the circle, the spiral and the labyrinth. My symbol is a kind of labyrinth with the diamond representing the central room where the graal is, so to speak.
                        He shows me other stuff that I don’t recall at the moment.
                        When I realize that it will be all, I ask my guide if he can introduce me to another guide that can help me with the use of my symbol. He sends me in a direction that goes up in a cave world. There are faceless figures, I don’t pay much attention to them. When I arrive, the guide sits me on the ground and a journey inside my symbol begins. With the octagon connecting quite strongly with the lava and earth again. I am in a lava world again, which is strange. I ask the guide what is his name and I suddenly understand it is Athumbra the Dreamwalker from whom I’m fragmented.
                        He shows me the connection of my symbol to the fire and earth, and the depth of the world. He suggests me that instead of focusing on the shape of the symbol I connect with how the different parts connects together and to other aspects of consciousness, and how they are representative of my own energy personality. Not try to look outside for an answer in a way at the moment.
                        So I begin to experience the shapes, and it turns like a clock, take different colors, etc.
                        This will be something I’ll have to do again.
                        Then I ask my power animal to show me what would be interesting to me to explore in the story now.
                        He shows me a nest and I connect it with the stork nests I’ve been talking about in the last comment and that I used in the quote of the week picture. Without consciously connecting the two. I’ve written the comment before making the picture.
                        It will have to do with how the nest is comfortable but don’t make you learn much about life and your potentials.
                        Then he showed me something related to ants and colonies, that I connected with Mars, the colonies of Mars. There is something about community and social network for me to explore.
                        Then I asked him to help me decipher the energy transmission Eric sent to me the other day, and it had something to do with networks again and how we create a space of something through our relationships, the space of love, the space of friendship, and we create fields and connective tissues that we nourish through experience and attention and involvement.
                        At some point in the beginning I briefly wondered what was happening with you guys and felt propelled into something like water and impression of struggling with current, there were two moon crescents holding together by their “backs”, and purple or pink colors.

                        The Zebra walked towards me across a grassy plain then I circled him, floating, and we went down a slope through the trees, an old road paved with stones. We wound down and came to a great expanse of metallic pink water, like a wise (typo! wide) river.
                        There was a guy in much heavy stone coloured rough clothes on with a very old face who didn’t look at me, he was on a raft with a long pole for steering. Asked his name and got Frudo. (was slightly skeptical that I got the name right) The symbol was like a clubs of cards, 3 circles interlocking with an in flow of the stem part. Domain was water, flow and fluidity (and dams, apparently).
                        We went down with the raft on the wide pink river, and the pace increased and there were people of all kinds lining both banks, watching. The wide river came to an immensely steep and deep waterfall, but there were pools and much smaller waterfalls on either side of it. All the water was pink.
                        We navigated from pool to pool on the right of the waterfall mostly, each pool had people, some of the pools were dammed, and some were more open and easily flowing to the next pool. Some dams were high and some pools had people looking over the edge at the waterfalls below their pools.
                        In a pool on the right, a very fat pink baby was sitting in the middle, I picked him up and held him and asked his name and it was Ezekial.
                        Then a fly landed on my right shoulder and I looked to the right and saw a scrunched up face of my mother, with a tight smile. My breathing started to get constricted and I saw mustard yellow mangle of tubes like intestines in that pool.
                        Then there was a lot of fingers stroking and pulling threads out of the dam around that pool, like pulling soft pink wax. Breathing continued to be restricted, and some becoming vapour or mist stuff that wasn’t very clear or droplets leaping from pool to pool as an alternative route to surface pools and waterfalls….
                        Then went down down down into a vast pool of pink water, faster and faster towards a narrow tube at the bottom, and then flipped over onto my back and saw the sun far above and rose slowly floating towards the surface.
                        Several times I saw purple and light green.
                        The breathing thing was interesting if not so pleasant.
                        The personal symbol may be connected to the flow from pool to pool somehow.


                          Even two weeks after the escape, she still woke up in cold sweats, haunted by nightmares of being chased down narrow lanes, or driving a vehicle that would only go at a snail’s pace as soon as she tried to drive it.

                          “Are you alright, dear?”

                          The comforting presence of Robert helped sooth her. He brought her a tray with some lemon and cucumber water, knowing it would help with her sore throat. The artificial air of the Mars colony tended to do that.

                          “Thank you Robert,… but you shouldn’t have. You’re not a robot any longer.”

                          She still couldn’t believe what had happened. Maybe that was the gift of retirement the Management had in store for her all alone. Unexpected gifts, unexpected islands of solitude —even at the closest to Earth in months, Mars was still 122 million miles from her Russian homeland.

                          It was still night outside. There, the days were slightly longer than Earth’s by half an hour or so, but she’d adapted to it rather quickly. It was still much better than the torpor on the island where she would loop on her days sometimes without even noticing it.

                          “Anything I can do for you dear?” Robert looked appropriately sorry for her, not too much to seem condescending, not to little to seem not caring.

                          “Put on some light music will you. The one from Beethoven that puts me in a meditative relaxation…”

                          When the deep notes started in the background, she started to relax. Her throat felt fresh and her lungs appreciative of the oxygen produced by the greenhouse plants.
                          Although she resisted slightly, inexorably she felt drawn to revisit the memories of the last day on Abalone.

                          It always started with the labyrinth, and finding herself alone.


                          “Mr R? Mr R?” she called. “Gweenie?”

                          The labyrinth looked strangely like the laboratory white walls of the Chinese Robot Incorporated Mission Eternal where she used to work as an intern first, then as a head of research for cybernetics advancements. She was quite brilliant for her age, and the prospect of bringing a golden age to mankind was, at the time, quite appealing to her young exalted mind.

                          She knew where to go. She had to relive again that day where she’d thrown away all of that for a life in hiding. The mysterious benevolent messages of the Management had started a few weeks prior, leading her to question the motives of her employer, and realizing she’d become quite attached to her creation. The prototype robot from Project R had shown never seen before reactions to stimuli, and a learning curve that was exponential. “R” was meant as Retirement: retirement of the last class of labor workers, of those delicate works that still required a human touch.
                          The Management had led her to uncover that under the Corporation’s vision, the prototype would lead humanity to its doom, becoming irrelevant, a flaw in the perfect design of profit they were looking for. So she’d taken the robot, and made a run for it.
                          She wouldn’t destroy it. And it seemed the Management had no intention of her to do so. With the Management’s invisible hand, she’d disguised Mr R as a common robot for elites, and led a life posing as an elite with a secret life of a for-hire spy, heist-mastermind, or ghost executioner of similarly exciting prospects.

                          So there she was again. The walls stretching to infinity in an endless stream of rooms nested one into the other, the fear of being caught creeping closer and closer.

                          “Stop that. Breathe.” she told herself. She was no longer that young innocent scientist. As soon as her fear dissipated, the rooms stream stopped, and everything was back to focus. She walked to the room she remembered clear as day. Mr R was there, still plugged to the mainframe, with a strange black doctor in a white surgical gown and blue mask she didn’t remember was there.

                          “Interesting situation you have here.” he greeted her, snapping his gloves to extend his hand to her. “You can call me René, I’m Tahitian.”

                          She could feel her lucidity fluctuating and ready to explode in a multiplicity of scenarios, but managed to maintain her focus. She refrained to punch the guy in the face too, and simply took his extended hand with caution.

                          “Congratulation.” he said, beaming. “You passed the test.”

                          All of a sudden, she was no longer in the same room. She was in the comfortable B&B of 2222. René was in a sofa, comfortably seated, and they were sharing a drink.

                          “What have you done with Mr R?” was her first thought.

                          “Oh, nothing to worry about, I borrowed it for a while, there is someone else that needed passing through my maze, and he kindly obliged to help. I will show you in a minute. We had a little conversation earlier on, while you were stranded in your past.”
                          “How long was I out?” she asked.
                          “Oh, time is inconsequential here, but in your terms, a day or two.”
                          “Didn’t seem that long…” she mused. “Where have you done with the others?”
                          “Don’t worry about them, they are on their own path. Only one should concern you now. A certain Chinese and very persistent man.”
                          “Oh, fuck.” was all she said. “I should have guessed, you’re with the Corporation.”
                          “Not at all my dear, you can relax. So as I said, we had a little conversation, and you can be proud of you. This robot has broken through, congratulations. You can be very proud of your work.”
                          “What do you mean?”
                          “He has developed a personality and a consciousness of its own. It’s still budding, but it’s very strong, and he’s quite concerned over your well-being I might add.” he said with a wink.

                          Irina was perplexed at the thought, but although it made some sense at a level, her conscious brain was struggling with the implications.

                          “Show me what you have to, and release us.” she said to René, getting up from the hypnotizing warmth of the sofa.

                          “In a minute” he’d say, “just have a look at the screen, will you.”

                          Then, she’d understood. The guy pursuing her, Cheung Lok was there, trapped in his own labyrinth, trying to catch the robot that always eluded him.

                          “He would rather die than let the robot go.” she said to René “we could be here for a while”.
                          “Not to worry ma chère, his timing has no impact on ours. All of this happens in the now.”
                          “So how this plays out usually?”
                          “It depends. In this case, all that matters is what happens when he gets the robot.”
                          STOP THAT! You can’t let him take it!”
                          “Calm down, the robot will be safe.”

                          In the next scene, Cheung Lok was securing the robot, who was pleading with him. “Please! I don’t want to become a hairdresser, let go of me!”
                          The appeal seemed to have struck a chord, and some memories of Cheung Lok flashed through the screen, and it looked like as if the robot’s struggle mirrored his own to be his own man, free from the expectations of demanding parents, society, Corporation… Their love had been nothing but control, and had put him in chains. He sobbed, wishing for a new life free of these responsibilities.


                          Irina awoke from the dream again. The last memories were a bit blurry, but still fresh in her mind. René had granted Cheung Lok’s wish. He was sent back to the Island, losing some years in the process, becoming back again a young adult full of unfulfilled desires, and no memory of his previous mission. Before the process happened, he wished for those who were still alive of his platoon to be given the choice to be sent back home with only memories of the robot and himself being destroyed, or to join him on the island, with a fresh future and memories. Surprisingly, most of them chose the first option. Not everyone was ready for a brave choice of facing one’s own desires and power.

                          As for her, René had been kind to offer Mr R a humanoid body before sending them through the teleportation boxes to the destination of their choices.
                          Mr R had chosen Роберт (Robert) as a name for his new self (she’d been more than relieved he’d avoided René), and they’d agreed to let the boxes find the most beneficial location for them to go to. That’s how they landed in the middle of the central greenhouse of the main colony, in 2121.

                          It was fifteen days ago, but still felt like yesterday.


                            “What are you doing Arona?” Madrake said in a distorted meowing voice. “We’re not splitting off again, are we?”

                            Arona’s resolve was strengthened when she thought of her vision of the glowing Cup and the great turtle, and with great resignation, she took a turn further down inside the dark underground holevator.

                            Seriously, Mandrake, why do I care for prancing poneys anyway. That deal with the Chamberlain was rigged from the start, he knew he didn’t have the Cup in his possession, but now I know it’s in my reach, so why should I wait for it?

                            Mmm, maybe because I was becoming very fond of this other very flexible cat Mandrake though to itself.

                            Mandrake was about to count his blessings starting with being rid of the annoying blinking Huhu parrot, but as soon as they landed, as if drawn by the thought, Huhu appeared again in a pop and walked to them bobbing its head in a disturbing manner.

                            “Pst, AronaArona!” Mandrake tried to jump on the rocks out of reach, but the stones were slippery and he couldn’t get out of the parrot’s reach. “Aronaaaaa!”

                            “Shoo, shoo…” she disappeared the parrot away with an annoyed flip of her hand. “What now, Mandrake. Make yourself useful will you, we have a turtle and a Cup to find.”


                              Oh I just remembered that when I was at the old shaman’s place, I used my cape as if I was the map dancer, put it on the floor and let it transform into the land and walked into it. I love this cape.


                                Accounts of the Journey to the Lower Realm

                                I was at a steppe first, like I was meditating in the desert, then went through a forest entrance, and stayed under a tree. There were lots of sounds and animals life, flapping wings sounds, deers, ants, but the most vivid presence was that of snake, and I was a bit suspicious, but it came back very gently, inviting, and after I recognized it, it made me journey, travelling like a dragon or feathered multicolored snake to an ancient place.
                                The snake analogy with shedding old skin comes to mind, after accepting it, it makes a lot of sense.
                                I saw green and purple at times.
                                I felt a horse too but it was just a hooves’ sound.

                                I went through the entrance to a cave. I asked my power animal to come. An ancient tortoise came up to me. I asked if this was my power animal but i felt such love for the tortoise that i felt that was my answer. We explored energetically what the tortoise wisdom i need is. I put my hand around the tortoise neck and we swam in the water.
                                I wanted to cry, I loved the tortoise energy so much. And the protection of the tortoise shell.
                                I saw a snake.
                                The horse was the first animal I felt, right as I went in the entrance. I stroked the horse as i went by.
                                I saw a unicorn too, [and ]was surprised by the unicorn.
                                I didn’t sense many creatures. just the horse, the snake and the unicorn.

                                First I saw little white skulls, whistling like the shells of the guy in the video.
                                Then I become my shaman self and I have my magic cape. I find the entrance [to the lower realm,] which was kind of difficult at first as if there was some distracting energy.
                                I finally enter the lower realm and find my horse right away, he’s very excited and I ride with him for some time, just for the pleasure of being with an old friend.
                                Then I ask him to lead me to Abalone and show me whatever is interesting.
                                He leads me to see an old shaman, man or woman I don’t know.
                                The shaman makes me sit in his room and offers me tea, then tells me to relax and wait.
                                So I relax and I begin to project to Abalone as the Giant beanstalk, I begin to grow and grow and grow and have the city built on top of me. I am the whole island.
                                I have the impression that the beanstalk is in the center of Gazalbion or very close to it
                                Then I come back to the place and have the impression the Shaman wants to delay me, so I say thanks and ask my horse to show me the rest.
                                We go the the old Temple and I feel that there is something special there, once again he tells me to relax and just allow not look for things.
                                So I wait and feel that the time and space is weird that it flows around the stones in a particular way, like when you follow a certain path or corridor, you may go forward in time and another way lead you back in time. If you take a wrong turn you can end up in a loop.
                                Then the signal for the return begins, so I go back from where I come from and thank my horse.
                                It was cool and fun to be there again.
                                I projected at some point to check if everyone was ok, and felt like it was fine.
                                I saw a unicorn too.

                                That was interesting, about half way through a zebra started follwing me, well on my right. I saw all kinds of animals, but they were all doing their own thing or turned away, except for the zebra, until the change of tempo and then I was swept up in a flock of cranes I think (or herons or storks but I think cranes), but then the zebra was waiting at the top. I could feel his warm muzzle sort of on my right shoulder.
                                First was a field full of unicorns on the left but they were just grazing, then a bison head who turned away, then the group of deer I thought, but the zebra walked over to me grazing. Me and the zebra waited for goats to cross our path.
                                The feeling of being in amongst the cranes was amazing and the zebra fell back while that was happening, but then at the end he was waiting.
                                I was surprised by the unicorns cos I don’t even think about them usually.
                                There were lizards sucttlign around under the cranes.
                                A couple of times I strongly saw purple and green, and thought of Jib.<i> not really ask [the zebra if he was the power animal] in words, but his presence calmly walking beside me with the feeling of his muzzle on my shoulder was comforting.
                                When the cranes distracted me from him he fell back, but he was waiting at the top.
                                The cranes feeling was marvelous, really, they were all flapping gracefully all around me on the ascent. So cranes and zebra stand out the most.
                                [At some point] I started going down old stone steps, at first me and FP were kids holding hands, with jib and eric behind us, then I thought, wait, I’m supposed to be doing this alone.
                                The unicorns in the very beginning were in a castle courtyard type place but they ignored me.
                                Then a bison head who turned away these were in niches in the stone walls
                                I ended up in a stalactites type cave, but there were mostly old old stone steps with stone walls along the sides.
                                There was a crowd of people, well a small gathering, towards the bottom, but they were, er, faceless. Innocuous.
                                I am quite amazed at how great that was! and how many creatures actually popped up
                                and how the feeling was of the zebra and the cranes.
                                The zebra was stoic and steadfast and comforting, the cranes were exhilarating and uplifting.</i>


                                  Lisa awoke first, sticky with sweat. Quietly, she jiggled her leg which was dead from lack of circulation, letting the others sleep. There may not be much time for rest, she reasoned, we know not what the next chapter will bring, or where it will lead. She closed her eyes again, and contemplated the feeling of restriction, thinking about other times when she had felt restricted or blocked.

                                  There was that time when she joined the creative collaberative writing group many years ago, with the intention of developing a free flow of inspiration and imagination. Indeed that was what the advertising bumph had professed, that it was to assist people to release themselves from their writers blocks, unleash their imaginative potential, free their souls to express themselves unhindered by protocol or hidebound tradition. It had all seemed like just the ticket, just what she wanted, and she had dived into the project and gloried in the unexpected things that were born from simply letting the words flow. But then a strange thing started to happen. Every time she went to the class, her contributions were criticized, scoffed at for not following the plan, despite that there was no plan ~ no plan had been mentioned in the small print when she signed up, anyway. But other people had made plans for what she was to write, and it confused her greatly. It was troublesome because the more she enjoyed the process of writing itself, the more discouraging the group became with it’s constant criticisms of the right way to approach the process. Instead of promoting less restrictions, it was constantly advocating more restrictions, more rules to follow, endlessly complicating it all. What made it all the worse was that she so enjoyed it, looked forward to it, and benefited so much from it. Well, she had used the experience to practice not minding about other peoples opinions and to carry on regardless, not restricting herself to acquiesce to other peoples expectations, exploring her own stories and connecting links and layers with other stories ~ wasn’t that what life was all about? take what you want, and leave the rest? Steer your own ship?

                                  Her meandering thoughts led her to the words of the old dead guru, Elbutt. Love doesn’t mean liking every comment, he had said, Love means knowing and appreciating the whole story, the whole scenario. It didn’t mean you had to find something likable about each and every role, but to acknowledge and appreciate the whole and that the roles that were played within it were a part of that whole, regardless of whether you liked them or not. That definition of love had made a great deal of sense to Lisa, who was not one to use the love word overmuch.

                                  A cockroach climbing on her foot distracted Lisa from her thoughts, and she absentmindedly brushed it off. The cockroach was not deterred, and returned to climb on her foot repeatedly until Lisa suddenly remembered Pseu. The cockroach, once it was sure it had Lisa’s attention, scurried out into the courtyard adjoining the Processing department waiting room, stopping on a manhole cover, and then returning to Lisa’s foot, and then returning to the manhole cover.

                                  “Are we to go down there?” whispered Lisa, pretending to cough as a guard walked past. The cockroach did a pirouette as if to confirm. Lisa furtively looked around. The guard had gone; it was time to wake Ivan and Fanella.


                                    Some character development, obviously not quite canon material…

                                    The Arousing Scarf
                                    – a short story

                                    by Ewkmon

                                    Sadie Merrie had always hated derelict Birmingham with its zesty, zealous zoos. It was a place where she felt snappy.

                                    She was a mysterious, freakish, algae smoothie drinker with ginger arms and supple hair. Her friends saw her as a successful, sad saint. Once, she had even helped a clear batty old crone recover from a flying accident. That’s the sort of woman he was.

                                    Sadie walked over to the window and reflected on her dusty surroundings. The storm teased like rampaging rabbits.

                                    Then she saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Sadie’s sister Moanie. Sadie’s sister was an awkward succubus with funny arms and impressive hair.

                                    Sadie gulped. She was not prepared for Sadie’s sister.

                                    As Sadie stepped outside and Sadie’s sister came closer, she could see the mysterious glint in her eye.

                                    “I am here because I want revenge,” Sadie’s sister bellowed, in a glamourous tone. She slammed her fist against Sadie’s chest, with the force of 3750 grumpy cats. “I frigging love you, Sadie Merrie.”

                                    Sadie looked back, even more mad and still fingering the arousing scarf. “Sadie’s sister, I love you,” she replied.

                                    They looked at each other with cheery feelings, like two talented, thankful twin piggies drinking at a very generous funeral, which had jazz music playing in the background and two slim uncles flying to the beat.

                                    Suddenly, Sadie’s sister lunged forward and tried to punch Sadie in the face. Quickly, Sadie grabbed the arousing scarf and brought it down on Sadie’s sister’s skull.

                                    Sadie’s sister’s funny arms trembled and her impressive hair wobbled. She looked vindicative, her body raw like a breakable, blue-eyed broom.

                                    Then she let out an agonising groan and collapsed onto the ground. Moments later Sadie’s sister Moanie was dead.

                                    Sadie Merrie went back inside and made herself a nice drink of algae smoothie.

                                    THE END


                                      “There is a fine balance between touch ups and shoehorning”
                                      Jonbert was half-listening to the rant of his tailor and shoemaker, as he was trying on a new outfit and tartan kilt.
                                      Jonbert’s temper had improved slightly, and he was up to moderate amount of grumpiness as he’d learnt of the arrival of the elder whale, and of the throwing of his guests in the midst of the cetaceans. That explained how he could tolerate much of it.

                                      “You can’t just shoehorn any pattern under the pretext that you fancy it. It has to be in harmony with the moment, in pure synchronistic bliss.” His tailor, Erldrich Lumoncelli, was often prone to bouts of philosophical ramblings that Jonbert had to suffer to get the perfect tailored suits he wanted.

                                      “Oh, bugger that nonsense,” he suddenly shouted, unable to suffer more of the airy monologue. “You’ll give me that gold and orange tartan and those yellow dots on my green shoes if I tell you so. Orange will bring out my shiny hair and light complexion I reckon.”

                                      Color-blind Jonbert wasn’t obviously as savvy for colour matching as he was for time-travelling business, but Erldrich knew better than to infuriate him with aesthetic negotiations.
                                      “Very well Sir.”
                                      He finished taking the measurements quickly, folded back the swatches of textile, and bowed out as if his house was on fire.

                                      Jonbert pulled back his heavy mane of hair into a neat French catogan, truly a unapologetic snobbishness on his part, as it didn’t look very different from a usual ponytail, but somehow sounded more distinguished. Nobody likes to be compared to a pony, do they?
                                      He walked past the great central hall of the submarine, into the Sightseethroughing Dome Room, and considered for a moment to visit the butterfly nursery, in case the new butterflies were hatched yet. But if butterflies had taught him something is that you couldn’t hurry and cut open a cocoon before the butterfly was ready. There was no such thing as a mythical half-caterpillar half-butterfly creature, every change was a complete change, and it had its own timing.

                                      But now things were back on course, and the 22nd of February 2222 was still days ahead. Time again was on his side.


                                        After leaving the parcel in the capable hands of the Post Office staff (and while she was there remembering to send a cute birthday card with kittens on it to her friend Trove and a note to Jove and Erove saying how nice it was to see them recently) Flove was ready for her next assignment.

                                        She was stationed in Rotorua and although the exact nature of the assignment had not been explained to her she believed herself to be there in a journalistic capacity. She found herself standing in the ocean with a group of people, strangers, watching a game of rugby. The rugby game was also in the ocean. She had some brief interactions with her companions and had to move away from a rather unpleasant man who was annoying her. After the match, they all walked back to a small town — via the ocean. It was dark and Flove was initially hesitant because she was not a good swimmer, but she felt some security as her companions seemed composed about the journey. The ocean was not as deep as she had anticipated. Even though the water eventually came up to her shoulders, she found she was able to walk the whole distance. At one point she noticed the fins of a shark swim by in the inky darkness of the water, but she regarded it with childish delight, rather than fear.


                                          on going in a different direction ~ I went left instead of right (on impulse), walked up the road and turned left, instead of down the road and turning right. The first thing I noticed, well not the first thing, the first thing was the baby mule and the horses, but the next thing (other than the wildflowers) was the contrast between the writhing gnarled tree shapes against the backdrop of severely rigid pylons. Then a bit further down the lane, and I never knew it was there, one of my favourite things: an abandoned shredded plastic green house tunnel, taken over by climbing wild roses.


                                            Vacationers Casebook Notes: (periodically we will present overheard snipshots from travellers for your perusal and edification)
                                            “straaange – last week in a hamlet the middle of nowhere I got a lift to exactly where I wanted to go at the time I wanted to go from some new friends I met – the same thing has ‘‘just happened’‘ today with the same peeps! :O – came back to my little hidey hole in the Pyrenees and someone just walked up to me and said ‘I hear your going to Corsica on Friday – do you want a lift’‘ :O mental”

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