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  • #6183
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Nora commented favourably on the view, relieved to have been given a clue about what she was supposed to have noticed.  It was a splendid panorama, and Will seemed pleased with her response.  She asked if it was possible to see the old smugglers path from their vantage point, and he pointed to a dirt road in the valley below that disappeared from view behind a stand of eucalyptus trees.  Will indicated a tiny white speck of an old farm ruin, and said the smugglers path went over the hill behind it.

    Shading her eyes from the sun, Nora peered into the distance beyond the hill, wondering how far it was to Clara’s grandfathers house. Of course she knew it was 25 kilometers or so, but wasn’t sure how many hills behind that one, or if the path veered off at some point in another direction.

    Wondering where Clara was reminded Nora that her friend would be waiting for her, and quite possibly worrying that she hadn’t yet arrived.  She sighed, making her mind up to leave first thing the next morning.  She didn’t mention this to Will though, and wondered briefly why she hesitated.  Something about the violent sweep of his arm when she asked about her phone had made her uneasy, such a contrast to his usual easy going grins.

    Then she reminded herself that she had only just met him, and barely knew anything about him at all, despite all the stories they’d shared.  When she thought about it, none of the stories had given her any information ~ they had mostly been anecdotes that had a similarity to her own, and although pleasant, were inconsequential.  And she kept forgetting to ask him about all the statues at his place.

    Wishing she could at least send a text message to Clara, Nora remembered the remote viewing practice they’d done together over the years, and realized she could at least attempt a telepathic communication. Then later, if Clara gave her a hard time about not staying in contact, she could always act surprised and say, Why, didn’t you get the message?

    She found a flat stone to sit on, and focused on the smugglers path below. Then she closed her eyes and said clearly in her mind, “I’ll be there tomorrow evening, Clara. All is well. I am safe.”

    She opened her eyes and saw that Will had started to head back down the path.  “Come on!” he called, “Time for lunch!”

    #6162
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    When Clara remembered who it was she knew in that little village, she realized she didn’t know how to contact him. She didn’t even know his name;  he made gargoyles and stone heads and statues, that was all she knew, and all the strange rumours and stories surrounding some of those statues, quite a local legend in a way. But what was his name?  He had a white donkey….

    Clara assured Nora that her friend was expecting her, keeping her fingers crossed that she would be able to find out who it was, contact him and ask for his assistance, before Nora arrived there.  It was a long shot, admittedly.

    By nightfall, Clara had not made contact, and was forced to rely on a miracle; or even to wash her hands of the whole thing: it was Noras’s trip after all.

    #6161
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Dispersee sat on a fallen tree trunk, lost in thought. A long walk in the woods had seemed just the ticket……

    Nora wasn’t surprised to encounter a fallen tree trunk no more than 22 seconds after the random thought wafted through her mind ~ if thought was was the word for it ~ about Dispersee sitting on a fallen tree trunk.  Nora sat on the tree trunk ~ of course she had to sit on it; how could she not ~  simultaneously stretching her aching back and wondering who Dispersee might be.  Was it a Roman name?  Something to do with the garum on the shopping receipt?

    Nora knew she wasn’t going to get to the little village before night fall. Her attempts to consult the map failed. It was like a black hole.  No signal, no connection, just a blank screen.  She looked up at the sky.  The lowering dark clouds were turning orange and red as the sun went down behind the mountains, etching the tree skeletons in charcoal black in the middle distance.

    In a sudden flash of wordless alarm, Nora realized she was going to be out alone in the woods at night and wild boars are nocturnal and a long challenging walk in broad daylight was one thing but alone at night in the woods with the wild boars was quite another, and in a very short time indeed had worked herself up into a state approaching panic, and then had another flash of alarm when she realized she felt she would swoon in any moment and fall off the fallen trunk. The pounding of her, by then racing, heartbeats was yet further cause for alarm, and as is often the case, the combination of factors was sufficiently noteworthy to initiate a thankfully innate ability to re establish a calm lucidity, and pragmatic attention to soothe the beating physical heart as a matter of priority.

    It was at the blessed moment of restored equilibrium and curiosity (and the dissipation of the alarm and associated malfunctions) that the man appeared with the white donkey.

    #6157
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Bob sighed loudly as he rummaged through the odds and ends drawer: old menus from the takeaways in town, pens, rubber bands, a button, reading glasses, newspaper clippings. He’d never expected to need the phone number; now he did and what do you know? He can’t find the damn thing.

    “What a shameful mess that drawer is in,” said Jane. She was seated at the kitchen table, arms folded, shaking her head at him. She looked about twenty today with her dark hair cascading prettily over a lacy pink mini dress.

    Bob  frowned at her though his heart did a leap. The way it always did when he saw her. “You were the one who kept it clean and you jumped ship.  And I’ve said, can’t you look your age?”

    “Don’t I look pretty?” She pouted and fluttered long eyelashes at him.

    “Makes me feel old. And I don’t recognise you like that.”

    “You are old,” she said as her hair turned white. “And bad-tempered as ever. What are you hunting for?”

    “The phone number. You know the one he said to call if the box was ever unearthed. Can’t find it anywhere.”

    “You’d lose your head …”  said Jane as her head lifted off her body.

    Bob jumped. “Darn it, Jane. I’ve said don’t do that! Why do you always do that and go giving me the heebie jeebies?”

    “Cos I can, love.” She grinned mischievously before settling her head back on her shoulders. “Just a bit of fun. Now think hard, where else might you have put it? The shoe-box under our bed? The safe in the pantry?”

    Bob flung a hand to his head. “The shoe-box! That’s where it will be!”

    Jane grinned. “Well, get a move-along, old man. Before our Clara gets in more deep than what’s good for her. She won’t let it go now she’s found it. Stubborn as a mule my grandchild,” she added proudly.

    Bob reached a hand to her. “Come with me while I look? I miss you, Jane. You never stay long enough.”

    “Oh stop with all the sweet talk!” She poked her tongue out at him. “Anyway I’ve told you before, it takes too much energy.” She was fading and Bob felt his chest tighten. “Don’t worry, I’m keeping an eye on you, old man.” She was vibrating air now, sparkly and pink.

    #6142
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Everyone seems happy about the rain, and I don’t blame them. I’m not daft, I know we need rain but it’s not so easy when you don’t have a home.  But I am nothing if not stalwart and stoic, resourceful and adaptable, and I found a good way to keep warm and dry during the downpours.  It’s amazing how much heat an animal gives off, so I camp down in stables or kennels when it’s cold and wet.  It can get a bit smelly, but it’s warm and dry and when my clothes are damp and stinking I just throw them all away and get some new ones out of the recycling bins. Just to clarify, I find the new clothes first before throwing the ones I’m wearing away. I’m not daft, I know walking around naked would catch attention and I try to stay under the radar. Nobody really notices smelly old ladies wandering around these days anyway, but naked would be another matter.

    There’s a stable I really like just outside of town, lots of nice deep clean straw. There’s a white horse in there that knows me now and the gentle whicker of recognition when she sees me warms my heart. I don’t stay there any two nights running though.  One thing I’ve learned is don’t do anything too regular, keep it random and varied.  I don’t want anyone plotting my movements and interfering with me in any way.

    There’s not much to do in a stable when it rains for days and nights on end but remember things, so I may as well write them down. I’m never quite sure if the things I remember are my memories or someone elses, a past life of my own perhaps, or another person entirely.  I used to worry a bit about that, but not anymore. Nobody cares and there’s nobody to flag my memories as false, and if there was, I wouldn’t care if they did.

    Anyway, the other day while I was nestled in a pile of sweet hay listening to the thunder, I recalled that day when someone offered me a fortune for that old mirror I’d bought at the flea market. I know I hadn’t paid much for it, because I never did pay much for anything. Never have done.  I bought it because it was unusual (hideous is what everyone said about it, but people have got very strangely ordinary taste, I’ve found) and because it was cheap enough that I could buy it without over thinking the whole thing.  At the end of the day you can’t beat the magic of spontaneity, it out performs long winded assessment every time.

    So this man was a friend of a friend who happened to visit and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so of course I sold the mirror to him. He was so delighted about it that I’d have given him the mirror for nothing if I knew he wanted it that much, but I’m not daft, I took the money.  I found out later that he’d won the lottery, so I never felt guilty about it.

    Well, after he’d gone I sat there looking at this pile of money in my hands and knew exactly what I was going to do. But first I had to find them.  They’d moved again and we’d lost contact but I knew I’d find a way. And I did.  They’d given up all hope of ever getting that money back that I’d borrowed, but they said the timing was perfect, couldn’t have been better, they said. It wouldn’t have meant all that much to them if I’d paid it back right away, they said, because they didn’t need it then as much as they did when they finally got it back.

    They were strange times back then, and one thing after another was happening all over the world, what with the strange weather, and all the pandemics and refugees.  Hard to keep food on the table, let alone make plans or pay debts back.  But debt is a funny thing. I felt stung when I realized they didn’t think I intended to pay them back but the fact was, I couldn’t do it at the time. And I wanted it to be a magical perfect timing surprise when I did.  I suppose in a way I wanted it to be like it was when they loaned me the money. I remember I wept at the kindness of it.  Well I didn’t want them to weep necessarily, but I wanted it to mean something wonderful, somehow.  And timing is everything and you can’t plan that kind of thing, not really.

    It was a happy ending in the end though, I gave them the whole amount I got for that old mirror, which was considerably more than the loan.

    The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining. My damp clothes are steaming and probably much smellier than I think. Time to find a recycling bin and a fresh new look.

    #6067
    AvatarJib
    Participant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #6064
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    I’ve been up since god knows what time. Got up for the loo and couldn’t face going back to the awful nightmares.  That girl that came yesterday said she’d been having nightmares, she said it was common now, people having nightmares, what with the quarantine. I think I might have just snorted at the silly girl, but when I woke up last night I wondered if it was true. Or maybe I’m just a suggestible old fool.

    Anyway, I stayed up because lord knows I don’t want to be in a city in America at night, not waking and not dreaming either. I’ve had a feeling for a long time, and much longer than this virus, that it was like a horror movie and it would behoove me not to watch it anymore or I’d be having nightmares.  I didn’t stop watching though, sort of a horrified fascination, like I’d watched this far so why stop now.

    In the dream I was on a dark city street at a bus stop, it was night time and the lights were bright in a shop window on the other side of the sidewalk.  I had a bunch of tickets in my hand all stapled together, but they were indecipherable. I had no idea where I was going or how to get there.  Then I noticed the man that was by my side,  a stranger that seemed to have latched on to me, had stolen all my tickets and replaced them with the rolled up used ticket stubs.  I made him give me back my tickets but then I knew I couldn’t trust him.

    Then I realized I hadn’t finished packing properly and only had a ragged orange towel with bloodstains on it.  So I go back home (I say home but I don’t know what house it was) to pack my bags properly, and find a stack of nice new black towels, and replace the bloody orange one.

    I’m walking around the house, wondering what else I should pack, and one room leads into another, and then another, and then another, in a sort of spiral direction (highly improbable because you’d have ended up back in the same room, in real life) and then I found a lovely room and thought to myself, What a nice room! You’d never have known it was there because it wasn’t on the way to anywhere and didn’t seem to have a function as a room.

    It was familiar and I remembered I’d been there before, in another dream, years ago.  It had lovely furniture in it, big old polished wooden pieces, but not cluttered, the room was white and bright and spacious. Lovely big old bureau on one wall, I remember that piece quite clearly. Not a speck of dust on it and the lovely dark sheen of ancient polished oak.

    Anyway in the dream I didn’t take anything from the room, and probably should have just stayed there but the next thing I know, I’m in a car with my mother and she races off down the fast lane of an empty motorway. I’m thinking, surely she doesn’t know how to take me where I have to go? She seemed so confident, so out of character the way she was driving.

    I got up for the loo and all I kept thinking about was that awful scene in the  city street, which admittedly doesn’t sound that bad. I won’t bother telling the girl about it when she comes to do my breakfast, it loses a little in the telling, I think.

    But the more I think about that lovely room at the end of the spiral of rooms, the more I’m trying to wrack my brains to remember where I’ve seen that room before.  I’ve half a mind to go back there and open that dark oak bureau and see what’s inside.

    #6044
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    They had to stop to get some rest. Rukshan knew the signs, the song of a black swan, a nesting bear in the forest, cubic clouds… All strange omens not to be taken lightly. He told the others they’d better find shelter somewhere and not spend the night outside.

    As soon had he make the announcement that he saw the relief on their faces. They’d been enthusiastic for half a day, but the monotony of walking got the better of their motivation, especially the kids who were not used to such long journeys out of the cottage’s safety.

    Fortunately they were not far from the Sooricat Inn, a place lost in the woods, it still had four walls, warm food and almost certainly a hot bath. Let’s just hope they’re open, thought the Fae.

    When they arrived, the owner, an old man from Sina, looked at them suspiciously.

    “Ya’ll have your attestation? I can’t believe ya’re all family. Don’t think I’m a fool, ya’re a Fae, and this little fella there, he’s smaller than the children but has a beard. Never saw anything like him,” he said with rumbling r’s pointing at the children and Gorrash with his chin. The dwarf seemed offended but a stern look from Rukshan prevented him from speaking.

    “Anyway,” continued the innkeeper, “I can just sell ya food. Not’ing parsonal. That’s rooles, ya’know with the all stayin’at home thing from Gavernor Leraway, I can not even let ya’in. Ya can buy food and eat it outside if ya want.”

    “Look, it’s almost twilight,” said Rukshan. “We’ve walked the whole day, the children are exhausted.”

    Tak and Nesy showed their best puppy face, risking to make Fox burst into laughter. That seemed to soften the man a little.

    “Oh! I really shouldn’t. I don’t like breaking rooles.”

    “I knew you more daring, Admirable Fuyi,” said a booming voice coming from behind them. They all turned around to see Kumihimo. She was wearing a cloak made of green and yellow gingko leaves, her silvery white hair, almost glowing in the dark, cascading beautifully on her shoulders. A grey cat strode alongside her.

    “Oh! that’s just the donkey, Ronaldo. It got transformed into a cat after walking directly into a trap to get one of those darn carrots. He knew better, don’t pity him. He got what he deserved.” Kumihimo’s rant got a indignant meow, close to a heehaw, from Ronaldo.

    Kumi! I can’t believe it’s ya!” said the innkeeper.

    “You two know each others?” asked Rukshan.

    “It’s a long story,” said the innkeeper, “From when I was serving in Sina’s army, we had conquered the high plateaus. I gave up the title of Admirable when I left the army. After Kumi opened my eyes.” Fuyi’s eyes got wet. “Ah! I’m sure I’ll regret it, but come on in, ya’ll. Let me hear yar story after you taste the soup.”

    #5812
    TracyTracy
    Participant

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

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

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

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

    #5804
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    11:11. If that’s not a good time to start a new journal, I don’t know what is. Four Ones.

    It’s a good job I hid all my old journals before all those scavengers looted all my stuff. Downsizing they called it. De cluttering.  As if a lifelong collection of mementos and treasures was clutter.  No finesse, this lot, no imagination.  Clean sweep, bare white, sanitary, efficient. God help us.

    They didn’t get their hands on all of it though. I hid things.  Don’t ask me where though! ha ha. They’ll turn up when they need to.  At least some of it didn’t end up on the trash heap.

    No room to swing a cat in here. No pets allowed. Inhuman, I tell you. They don’t know about the mouse I’ve been feeding.  They call it sheltered accommodation, and it’s a downright lie, I tell you.  I get the full brunt of the westerly wind right through that pokey window because they keep trimming the bushes flat outside.  Flat topped bushes, I ask you. Those young gardener fellows cut the flower buds right off, just to get the flat top.

    I’ll be hiding this journal, I don’t want any of them reading it.  It won’t be easy, they snoop around everything with their incessant cleaning.  They don’t even give the dust a chance to settle before they wipe, wipe, wipe with their rubber gloves and disposable cloths.  I have to cover my nose with my hanky after they’ve been, stinking the place out with air fresheners that make me sneeze.  Not what I call fresh air. Maybe that draught through the window isn’t so bad after all.

    Anyway, I won’t be staying here, but they don’t know that. Just as soon as my hip stops playing up and I can make a run for it.

    #5797
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “This is the life, eh!” June said, stretching out on the sun lounger sipping a fruity cocktail. “Turquoise sea and a salty breeze, this is the life for me!” she said, kicking off her new deck shoes in nautical blue and white, and hitching her dress hem up to expose her thighs to the sun.

    The skipper raised an eyebrow and smiled sardonically, while simultaneously averting his eyes from the unappetizing sight of the doughy flesh. He could imagine this one rolling around below decks looking green as soon as the weather changed.

    “Sure beats that jail. That had me worried, I’ll admit it. I wasn’t sure we were ever gonna make it outta there,” replied April, smiling fondly at Ella Marie and giving her hand an affectionate squeeze.  “You saved our bacon, honey.”

    “If it weren’t for that there Lord Wrick turning up, even the money might not have got you out.” Arthur chimed in.  “Promising ole president Lump that land for the golf course if’n he pardoned you.  Jacqui, you done wonders there.”

    “Ah well, the young Lord Wrick owed me a favour, you might say. But that’s another story,” Jacqui replied. “The main thing was we had to get out of the country fast before Lump finds out about that land in Scotland.”

    June sniggered. “Can’t imagine him in a kilt, can you? I wonder if he’s orange down there as well.”

    “Oh, please! You really know how to lower the tone, dontcha? Gawd, what a thought!” April started to feel queasy.  Changing the subject, she said, “Hey, did I tell you our Joanie’s going to meet us in Australia too?”

    #5376
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    I don’t know how I restrained myself from throttling Finly when she finally handed me the letter from Corrie.  A whole week she’d had it,  and wouldn’t share it until she’d cleaned every last window. Some peoples priorities, I ask you!  The funny thing was that even when I had it in my hand I didn’t open it right away. Even with Mater and Bert breathing down my neck.

    It was something to savour, the feeling of having an unopened letter in ones hand.  Not that this looked like the letters we used to get years ago, all crisp and slim on white paper, addressed in fine blue ink. This was a bundle tied with a bit of wool pulled out of an old jumper by the look of it, all squiggly,  holding together several layers of yellowed thin cardboard and written on with a beetroot colour dye and a makeshift brush by the look of it.  The kind of thing that used to be considered natural and artistic, long ago, when such things were the fashion.  I suppose the fashion now, in such places where fashion still exists, is for retro plastic.  They said plastic litter wouldn’t decompose for hundreds of years, how wrong they were! I’d give my right arm now for a cupboard full of tupperware with lids. Or even without lids.  Plastic bottles and shopping bags ~ when I think back to how we used to hate them, and they’re like gold now.  Better than gold, nobody has any interest in gold nowadays, but people would sell their soul for a plastic bucket.

    I waited until the sun was going down, and sat on the porch with the golden rays of the lowering sun slanting across the yard.  I clasped the bundle to my heart and squinted into the sun and sighed with joyful anticipation.

    “For the love of god, will you get on with it!” said Bert, rudely interrupting the moment.

    Gently I pulled the faded red woolen string, and stopped for a moment, imaging the old cardigan that it might have been.

    I didn’t have to look at Mater to know what the expression on her face was, but I wasn’t going to be rushed.  The string fell into my lap and I turned the first piece of card over.

    There was a washed out picture of a rooster on it and a big fancy K.

    “Cornflakes!” I started to weep. “Look, cornflakes!”

    “You always hated cornflakes,” Mater said, missing the point as usual.  “You never liked packet cereal.”

    The look I gave her was withering, although she didn’t seem to wither, not one bit.

    “I used to like rice krispies,” Bert said.

    By the time we’d finished discussing cereal, the sun had gone down and it was too dark to read the letter.

    #4818
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    “Don’t you want to stay a little longer here?” Vincentius said to Arona after his bath in the hot springs of the Doline. Arona’s attention was caught by the dripping drops of water on the chiseled muscles, and took a while to answer.

    She stretched lazily on the deck chair, slightly disturbing Mandrake who was napping by her side. He rolled on his side and resumed his nap.

    “I don’t know, the place is nice enough. To speak true, it lacks a bit in decor and natural light; still… you wouldn’t find a nicer place to rest. Look at this white sandy beach… And to think that this pool connects to virtually anywhere, anywhen. Endless opportunities of explorations and travels are drawing you towards an adventure, don’t you think.”

    “I think I only live to please you, just say the word, and I’ll follow you anywhere.”

    “Aw, you’ve always been good at sweet-talking me. Don’t get me wrong, I like our occasional flings… for lack of a better word, but I like my independence. I have to keep exploring myself.”

    Seeing a sadness fleeting in his eyes, she added “if only to meet you again and again.”

    #4777
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    That was a first. I had no idea what just happened. And believe me, this girl has seen some serious hanky-panky going ‘round here. Starting with Aunt Idle and her hustling and lascivious seducing of the Middle Eastern pirate cosplayer we had as guest.
    But of course, that was nothing compared to how glamorous Mater looked in her red gabardine.
    Anyway, something odd happened, like everyone was zapped in a torpor after the Fergus guy arrived. We were all expecting a sort of big reveal, and he did drop some incoherent clues, nothing truly worth the wait sorry to say, so we all went upstairs to sleep.

    Blame it on the spiced lizard meat maybe, but I can’t figure what happened after that until I woke up. Everyone this morning was playing it by ear, as if everything was normal. But people are missing. Fergus and his motorbike, and the scarf girl with the young boy and their cat. Maybe others, I’ve lost count, and I’m done putting sticky notes for Idle (funny she insists being called that by the way… Maybe a side-effect of her medications).

    There was an Italian corvette parked outside, all black & white. It arrived during the night, it woke me up when it arrived, but I went back to sleep I think. I wonder if those are new tourist guests. The Canadian guests were a bit in alarm, especially after the Fergus reveals.

    Mater would tell me, “there is no cause for worry dear, mark my words, in an hour or less, it will all settle back down to the usual deadly boring as usual business.”

    I think that planned family time was a bit too much anyway. Or too little. Devan hardly spent an hour with us, he’s too obsessed with his lost treasure conspiracies. He’ll be doing great with Dodo and her friends from the journal. I think they all enlisted Bert for a trip to the mines by the way. For all the good it’ll do everyone to try to unearth old secrets. Might give Mater a serious heart attack, for real this time.

    As for me, I’ve had enough. I’m packing my bags and leaving with the first bus back to the Academy. There’s a mission to Mars to conquer.

    #4776
    EricEric
    Keymaster

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

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

    WHAT?!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “GO FOR IT!”

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

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

    “Quick Mandrake! The pearl!”

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

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

    GASP!

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

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

    #4766
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    There had been no communications from either Connie or Hilda for some time. Ricardo went down the usual route of worrying that something had happened to them, and then it occurred to him to try out the remote viewing he’d been practicing. It was too easy to rely solely on technological means, he reminded himself, AI (short for Abnormal Intrusions) or no AI.

    Ricardo found himself in a moonlit sweeping landscape, with some dark indeterminate built structure shapes. Oh, very helpful, he snorted, and then reminded himself to simply observe. Then he saw the woman, dressed in gauzy floating white, and found himself sneering at how corny the image was, like a new age art poster woman, beautiful and ethereal in a moonlit scene.

    Stranger still was the next thought to waft through his wandering mind. Maybe he inserted that corny woman to distract any remote viewing spies, and throw them off the scent? Suddenly there was a crash behind him. Another picture had fallen off the wall, he assumed. But nothing was out of place. He looked again, sure that something had fallen to the floor to make such a noise. But there was nothing to see. He shrugged.

    Later, he wondered: what had made that noise?

    #4761
    AvatarJib
    Participant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    #4746
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    The sense of being left behind had deflated Lucinda. Everyone off having adventures, and here she was left minding the dog. She liked the dog, but not the feeling of missing out on the excitement, and the clues she received were few and far between.

    “Come on, Fabio,” she said, and the little dog looked up expectantly and wagged his tail. “Let’s go for a walk down by the river. We can pick up some granola cookies on the way back.”

    It was a particularly muggy day and not ideal for a long walk. She felt listless and heavy in the humid air. Before walking very far at all along the riverside promenade, she felt clammy and tired, and found a bench under a shady tree to sit on. Fabio cocked his head to one side and looked at her. Lucinda closed her eyes for a few moments, and started to admonish herself for her lack lustre and frankly boring state. “Buck up, for Pete’s sake!” she told herself, but was interrupted by Fabio’s frantic barking and pullling at the lead.

    A man on stilts was coming towards them, wearing long shiny trousers in black and white vertical stripes. Lucinda started at him openly, somewhat shaken, but curious. She could have sworn she’d seen him in a dream the night before.

    The peace shattering sound of a loud motor boat engine intruded into the scene, and when Lucinda looked back to the stilted man in stripes, he’d vanished. The sound of the outboard motor receded as the boat disappeared around a curve in the river; the waves it created splashing on the river banks long after it had disappeared.

    #4722
    prUneprUne
    Participant

    It all started to feel insanely crowded and agitated in the Inn, it took me a while to check whether I was tripping on some illegal substance.

    Truth was, the funny chicken was doing alright until Finly and Idle came back in a hurry, tried to make me puke and feed me charcoals, as if I’d been poisoned or something.
    I overheard Aunt Dodo when she shouted at poor Finly “why would you put my stash with the lizard leftovers! It’s me-di-cine you old cow, not some bloody herb seasoning!”
    Finly looked indignant, but she knew better than to argue. Besides, I’m sure her face was speaking volumes, something in the tune of “with the bloody mess of your stuff all over the place, why do you think?” Sure, there was some other profanities hidden in the wrinkles of her sweet face, but she would leave that to Mater to spell them out.

    Anyways, I just maybe feeling juuust a little funny, but with years of bush food regimen behind me, my liver is surely strong as an ox and pumping all the stuff out of my system like a workhorse.

    So, yeah, I was maybe tripping a little. So many new people came in at the same time, it felt like a flashmob. They were probably real and not just hallucinations, since Dido dashed out to greet some of them.

    I went upstairs and spied on them from there. I’m making also a list, mostly for Aunt Dodo, because if her heart is in the right place, her brain probably isn’t (or it’s a tight one).

    So there, I wrote on a yellow sticky note:

    Dido, if you're paying attention, here are the guests at this moment:
    - Not counting PRUNE, and DEVAN who just texted me he's coming!!
    - A jeep-full of loonies: A GIRL with red and white track pants and a
    hijjab, a black CAT and a GECKO (wait, you can forget about the gecko),
    a weirdo GUY in a fancy ruffle shirt and a little redhair BOY.
    TIKU is here too, helping FINLY in the kitchen.
    - Your old friend HILDA, and her colleague CONNIE
    - Two townfolks Canadian tourists who argue like an old couple, but I don't
    think they are, MAYV(?) and SANPELL(?) (sorry, couldn't catch their names
    with their funny accent)

    I guess breakfast is going to be lively tomorrow…

    #4713
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    Tak didn’t like school at first. It was only at the insistance of Glynis that he had to socialize that he tried to put some effort in it. He didn’t know what socializing meant, one of these strange concepts humans invented to explain the world, but if Glynis thought highly of this socializing, he had to give it a try, whatever it was.

    Rather quickly, he’d managed to make friends. He didn’t realize it at first, but his new friends were all a bit desperate, and more or less called freeks or something. He wasn’t sure he deserved to be called a freek, but he was going to try hard at this too.
    “You don’t have to try hard”, his new friend Nesy told him “I think you’re a natural at this.” Nesy’s name was really Nesingwarys which is really hard to pronounce, so she told him to call her Nesy. She had dark and white hair, shining like a magpie’s feather coat, and dark blue eyes that were both kind and ferocious at the same time.

    “Don’t mind the others, they’re all ignorant peasants, or worse, ignorant spawns of the bourgeois elite.” She’d told him. Tak had opined silently, not wanting to show that he wasn’t sure about the meaning of all the shiny new words. He suspected Nesy to like shiny words like magpies were attracted to precious shiny stuff.
    When she was staying at the cottage, Margoritt also liked to teach him shiny new words, but he would only taste them and forget — to him they were more like sweet food for his tongue than shiny stuff to keep.
    When it came to stuff, Nesy had rather simple tastes. She showed him some little clay statues she’d made, and kept carefully wrapped in a small felt satchel. They had all sorts of funny faces, she was really talented. They reminded him of Gorrash, so it almost made him cry.
    Tears were a magnet for nasty kids, so he knew better than to let them out, but Nesy had noticed, and squeezed his hand for comfort.

    He liked the other freeks too. They seemed to understand him, and he didn’t have to use his hypnotic powers for that. Glynis had told him not to use his powers at school, otherwise he wouldn’t learn anything. Aunt Eleri had disagreed with that, but she disagreed with everyone.

    “You should come visit at my home” he said to her spontaneously “I want to show you the baby snoots, now they’re almost grown up, but they look funny and pretty, especially when they eat Glynis’ potions.”

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