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      “What was in the bag, Finnley, tell us!”
      Everyone was looking at the maid after the Inspector had left hurriedly, under the pretext of taking care of a tip he had received on the disappearance of the German girl.

      Godfrey was the most curious in fact. He couldn’t believe in the facade of meanness that Finnley carefully wrapped herself into. The way she cared about the animals around the house was a testimony to her well hidden sweetness. Most of all, he thought herself incapable of harming another being.
      But he had been surprised before. Like when Liz’ had finished a novel, long ago.

      “Alright, I’ll show you. Stay there, you lot of accomplices.”

      Godfrey looked at Liz’ sideways, who was distracted anyway by the gardener, who was looking at the nearby closet.

      Liz’, will you focus please! The mystery is about to be revealed!”

      “Oh shut up, Godfrey, there’s no mystery at all. I’ve known for a while what that dastardly maid had done. I’ve been onto her for weeks!”
      “Oh, don’t you give me that look. I’m not as incapable as you think, and that bloodshot-eyes stupor I affect is only to keep annoyances away. Like my dear mother, if you remember.”
      “So tell us, if you’re so smart now. In case it’s really a corpse, at least, we may all be prepared for the unwrapping!”
      “A CORPSE! Ahaha, you fool Godfrey. It’s not A corpse! It’s MANY CORPSES!”

      Godfrey really thought for a second that she had completely lost it. Again. He would have to call the nearby sanatorium, make up excuses for the next signing session at the library, and cancel all future public appear…

      “Will you stop that! I know what you’re doing, you bloody control machine! Stop that thinking of yours, I can’t even hear myself thinking nowadays for all your bloody thinking. Now, as I was saying of course she’d been hiding all the corpses!”
      “Are you insane, Liz’ —at least keep your voice down…”
      “Don’t be such a sourdough Godfrey, you’re sour, and sticky and all full of gas. JUST LET ME EXPLAIN, for Lemone’s sake!”

      Godfrey fell silent for a moment, eyeing a lost peanut left on a shelf nearby.

      Conscious of the unfair competition for Godfrey’s attention Elizabeth blurted it all in one sentence:
      “She’s been collecting them, my old failed stories, the dead drafts and old discarded versions of them. Hundreds of characters, those little things, I’d given so many cute little names, but they had no bones or shape, and very little personality, I had to smother them to death.” She started sobbing uncontrollably.

      That was then that Finnley came back in the room, panting and dragging the sack coated in dirt inside the room, and seeing the discomfit Liz’ with smeared make-up all over her eyes.

      “Oh, bloody hell. Don’t you tell me I brought that dirty bag of scraps up for nothing!”

      She left there, running for the door screaming “I’m not doing the carpets again!”

      And closed the door with a sonorous “BUGGER!”


        Absentmindedly, Eleri put the bones in her pocket and continued to gaze down upon the valley, lost in thoughts of the past. What had that tree said to her, that day it came to life?

        Yorath sat quietly, watching her. He noticed the mushrooms growing on the exposed roots beside him, wondering if he had unwittingly crushed any when he sat down next to the tree.

        “Mushrooms,” he said quietly to himself.

        Eleri didn’t answer, wasn’t even aware that he has said it, but now she was remembering the days of the floods in the lowlands. The wet, dismal months and years when everything was damp, if not saturated or submerged, when mold grew on every surface. Bright green mossy mold, and slimy dank black mold, and fungus everywhere. Nothing would grow like it used to grow and the odour of rot permeated everything. The fruit trees crumbled in a sickly sweet stench into the mud, and the people named it keeg, and started wearing keegkerchiefs wrapped around their faces to keep the stink out of their nostrils.

        “Goodbye, farewell,” the tree had said to her. “We are moving north, migrating. But fear not, little one, there are mushrooms migrating here to replace us.”

        At the time Eleri had thought it was a ridiculous idea, imagining trees packing their trunks and pulling their roots out of the ground, and stomping off into the sunset. A few years later, she understood what the tree had meant.

        Before the last of the fruit trees crumbled into the swamps, the people has resorted to eating the snails and the mushrooms, unwillingly at first, missing the bright colours and refreshing juices, but as time went on, they found more and more varieties of fungi springing up overnight. There came more and more bright colours, and more interesting flavours. It wasn’t long before they noticed the healing and restorative properties of the new varieties, not to mention the recreational effects of some of the more elusive ones. There was no need for any organized farming of the fungi, because they simply sprang up overnight: the days menu would be whatever had appeared that morning.

        And so it was considered a gift from the gods in times of trouble, and the people were grateful. Their faith was restored in the earth’s capacity for magic and abundance, and they were inspired and rejuvenated. Eleri vowed never to forget the earth’s magic providence, in the form of mushrooms


          Margoritt Loursenoir wrapped a thick blanket around her shoulders. The window of her lodge was open to the chill outside, but she would keep the windows open as much as she could bear, for she’d missed the fresh air for a long time inside the city.
          The view of the forest was also a renewed pleasure, she could stay in meditation in front of the window for hours, as if looking at a moving picture, a better work than any painter from the city would ever accomplish.
          Besides, she liked being wrapped in a shawl like these women from the far away east she admired so much for their strength and independence.

          She’d come there to rekindle her inspiration. In the City of the Seven Hills, she had risen to quite a fame with her literary works, even though her works were deemed fictional, and that she was a woman.
          To her, they weren’t fictions. They were just the order of things revealed, the natural evolution of things, a glimpse of what was to come if the civilisation were to keep its greedy pace.

          That rheumatism is killing me she looked at her hands, swollen after yesterday’s rain. An old lady like me, and that lifestyle… for how long… She would need to return for a needle session in the City. Already the supplies she’d brought were becoming scarce. She would go find some mushrooms and roots later, but for now she didn’t want to worry about that.
          There was something irremediably irreconcilable about life here and life there. She was aware of the artificial nature of her escapades, but every time she moved out of the bustling city, into the enchanted woods, she would see it. Magic was still alive here, not as strong as before, but still very much alive.

          Rising from her chair, she put the last of her bread’s crumbs on the windowsill. The crumbs she’d put yesterday were still there, untouched. There were hardly any birds left during winter, merely a few suspicious crows who never came too close.

          It was time for her morning writing session.


            The oiliphant recognised him with her deep thoughtful motherly eyes, and extended her trunk as a greeting. He accepted the gentle pat on his head, feeling as though a blanket of inextinguishable love had spread over, pouring over and inundating the land with unspoken blessings of grace.
            With her trunk gently wrapped under his arms, she lifted him as if he were weightless, landing him on the soft spot behind her neck’s wrinkles, where he could sit and not fall.

            She then proceeded to move slowly to the forest, not after having trumpeted a clear call in the heavy air surrounding the city, as though she was trying to spread purity to clear the misgivings in suspension over the town.

            The walk was pleasant, and had a slow meditative quality. Every moment was connected to everything, everywhere. Each footstep was deliberate, a perfect action in perfect resonance.

            Rukshan didn’t know how much time had elapsed when the border of the enchanted forest appeared. He realized they were coming close when the oiliphant’s serenity and soft lull of the walk felt slightly disturbed.
            He blinked to look in the distance. The mist of the air had not completely cleared at this early hour, but he could make out the source of the disturbance. He suddenly felt a rage flare up, a rage he didn’t know he had in him. How did they dare! They had fenced the Forest, and put a toll booth!


              The front door rang at the same time.

              Elizabeth was in the mood to let it ring until whoever was there finally let it go, but there was an imperative and distinct sting in that ring.

              She wrapped her night gown around her waist, carefully adjusted her towel beehive coiffe, and sluggishly slid on her rabbit slippers to the door. That summer heat was just too unbearable.

              COMING!” She yelled at the door, estimating her arrival there at another good minute of bunny slipper sliding and slaloming around the scattered mess.

              When she finally managed to open the door, her worst fears proved true.

              Elizabeth! What sort of attire is that?! Are you sloshed already?”

              Liz’ managed a pitiful smile “ Mother, how lovely seeing you here.”

              “Damn bloody right it is, and not a minute too late, by the look of that place. Having another of your barmy spells haven’t you? I knew something was wrong when that delightful maid of yours stopped phoning in for her daily report. Now, budge up, let me in, take care of that mess of yours.”


                There was something off at play, a warping wrapped-up forking of the story.
                This being a euphemism for a fucking comment of course.


                In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


                  “You can call us the Blue Enders” said gently one of the blue aliens, which by the shade of it, must have been a top ranking official.
                  Kale was a bit confused, and space had a jelly consistency that harped and warped around his ears. It may have been the injections they gave him after the meeting with the sculpturesque Fin Min.

                  She had explained to him, they had made contact with a unknown sentient civilisation, and that they had in their infinite and blue compassion decided to warn us of impending doom on the Mars colony. They had requested a translator to go with them on a rescue mission on their faster-than-light bluship named Sprakle Star.

                  Hazy and fuzzy, he was quickly put and wrapped in a ball of cotton, ear-deep into a globe coaster of roller proportions.
                  At least, that’s how it felt… That waccine must have been full of blue bees.

                  “Arrival on Mars orbital level 1, in 5,… 4… 3…”

                  At least, the Blunders had the good idea to put an instant translator in his ear-muffins.


                    Laughter bubbled forth despite the mayhem. Sanso found the sight of the slug wrapped around the hook legged ones face outrageously funny; as he paused to gasp for air in between guffaws, he realized he wasn’t the only one laughing. Wiping the tears from his eyes while trying unsuccessfully to stop laughing and focus on the situation, a fellow next to him slapped him on the back, saying “Oh my, that was funny. And richly deserved too, I never liked him. I could tell you a tale or two about him! Lazuli Galore” he said, introducing himself and shaking Sanso’s hand. “Delighted to meet you. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but things have changed, and how rapidly! I had no idea my wishes would be granted so soon. Come on, let’s go get a beer and I’ll explain.”
                    Lazuli Galore continued his explanations a few minutes later, in the deserted courtyard of a small shabby bar.
                    “I’ve been fed up with my job for months,” he said, “It was fun at first, and don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the excitement ~ shapeshifting, hunting down the settlers and rounding them up, all good stuff and a heap of fun. A lot more fun than working in the processing department, that’s for sure!”
                    Sanso murmured something vague by way of encouragement, and ordered another beer.
                    Lazuli continued, “But then I started noticing something. Most of the settlers seemed like nice people, unlike the management of this place ~ that’s management with a small m, by the way ~ take the last batch for example ~ that girl was the bees knees, cor! she was lovely. I don’t mean the old trout with her, the young one I mean. Felt real sorry to round her up, I did. But what could I do? If I hadn’t rounded them up, one of my colleagues would have done. But now, with the walls collapsing, I’d be out of a job anyway soon, so why not seize the day!”
                    “Hear! Hear!” replied Sanso, clinking his beer glass with Lazuli’s. “We need to talk.”


                      Cheung Lok heard the news of the Processor’s death along with the others.

                      He’d been parachuted on the island of Abalone some days ago, he started to lose count. Shortly after being dropped by the airplane, with a platoon of a few others that he had lost since, he started to hallucinate elephants falling from the sky, and had wondered for a brief time about the true nature of the island, and the peril he had more or so willingly thrown himself in.

                      He had not expected the fancy welcome committee. Some comely ladies in alluring flying gowns leading him towards a promise of a nearby city, only to find himself inside a barren walled city.
                      He would have escaped by now, but something in the newly arrived prisoners (or settlers as they were called) caught his attention, when they started to mention Sanso. He couldn’t actually believe his luck, which made them disappear for a while, then after he realized he had to be more of a believer, he found himself sent forward in the waiting line, just next to the others in the so-called waiting room. He’d learnt the woman was named Lisa, and countless other useless information about dog herding, hair conditioning and lazy bowel movement, but little more about Sanso.

                      Panic had started to spread among the small city, as huge boulders of earth started to fall from the skies and crack open on the soft land, toppling parts of the walls encircling Gazalbion. The news of the loss of the Processor led to even more confusion.

                      Cheung Lok decided it was time to pursue his mission, and extract the information the others had not yet given to him, by force if needed —he was a capable qigong master, who would crush nuts with his butt cheeks as a training, and that was the least of his deadly capacities.
                      But apparently, the woman named Lisa and her travelling companions had disappeared already.
                      In the midst of the confusion, it was hard to tell where they could have gone.

                      That’s when he was reminded of the shifting map, that the map dancer had drawn. He took it out of his front pocket, and unwrapped it cautiously.
                      The island’s lines were shifting even more erratically than before, but somehow there was a smaller concentration of activity at a location not far from where he guessed he was.
                      One of the rescued elephants would be good to ride out of this mess he thought, looking for the source of the trumpeting noises.


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

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

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

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


                          The tunnel went on forever, forcing them to duck frequently and wriggle around in exiguous places. To make it worse, it wasn’t even fresh under, and the heat carried on as they went further inside. At times, Arona started to have anxiety flashes, as she was reminded of the labyrinthine tunnels of the dragons of old.

                          To give herself more heart, she put her efforts in continuing exchanging niceties and other manners of rude elaborate insults with the stranger, who surprisingly was a match to boot.

                          “Stop glumping, we’re almost there” he said to her, showing a final passage on a narrow ledge above crystal clear waters.

                          She was too exhausted to retort something witty, but took a mental note that he deserved one more of what she had.

                          When they emerged, the sun was almost set. The tunnel came out right at the rim of the floating land, and a tight network of ropeways were stretched under the tangled tentacles of the giant beanstalk, which kept the whole city and its neighbourhood afloat. More gymnastics in perspective she thought, but she was prepared for that.

                          “Don’t go too close, you’ll fall to your doom…” It was the first time the stranger’s voice hinted at some fear.

                          Arona smiled as elegantly as she could, despite being out of breath and red as a purpato. Lifting a limp Mandrake from the ground, she suddenly unwrapped her heavy cloak and lunged into the void below, the wind blowing in her strange mouldy wings.

                          “Follow me if you dare!” she shouted to the stranger, while struggling to navigate the downward spiral like an oversized flying squirrel.


                            Less than a month had passed since Arona had arrived at Karmalott, hoping for a nice vacation time. Apparently, it wasn’t that long before her reputation for lost causes and recovering lost precious item preceded her.

                            With the kids all grown up, and her on and off relationship with Vicentius, she clearly wanted to get some focus back into her life, and she had to agree a quest would do her good. There was nothing like putting back to work all her finest skills she’d honed along many years of practice.

                            “This mission is cra-zy” Mandrake objected.
                            “Of course it is, that is why you want to come along.”
                            “True enough, the heat isn’t doing any good, the mice are smaller and smaller and I’m growing fat and balding.”
                            Arona laughed, Mandrake wasn’t near as bad as he said, but to be true, was getting greyer than he used to.

                            “Any idea who…”
                            “Shht” she urged, rolling her eyes in that subtle way that meant “telepathy only”.

                            Any idea who might be after that girl. And who is she anyway?
                            Some royalty maybe… We’ll surely find out when we get to her. Eyes on the bounty, Mandrake, eyes on the bounty.
                            The cat sighed That castle is creepy, and I say that not in a nice way…
                            Yep, this place is funny strange, haven’t quite figured out why, but something feels odd and off. Get people to believe stuff so you can get what you want for everyone seems nice at first, but it doesn’t look like everyone get what they want, even with their petition system. I’m pretty sure it’s rigged and controlled by the P’hope and his magi to protect their Order.
                            And what about the King?
                            Now the King, he doesn’t seem in control of anything, but he doesn’t look like just an unwilling puppet… He’s afraid of something.
                            So, were do we start then?
                            As always my dear Mandrake, as always she said mentally, showing the carefully wrapped sabulmantium.


                              “Mind joining me on an adventure?” Sanso said while continuing to walk at a rapid pace on the trail in the middle of running people carrying buckets of water, as though he knew exactly were he was going. “Of course not” he took no time to wait for an answer, as clearly the young lady was way over her head in her first attempt to teleport.

                              “I should be called the Sanso Bernar of Teleporting Mishaps, you know, it’s like I have this seventh sense to precisely arrive where stranded teleporters need me… that and lost socks, but that’s an entire different story, although I could recall quite many times where both had me landing on dirty launderettes…”

                              He paused to look at the panting Fanella. “But you don’t get a word of what I’m saying do you?”
                              She shrugged timidly, batting her doe eyes in a seductive manner, as she had learnt to do at the Versailles Palace when caught her hand in the honeypot, so to speak.

                              “Oh, never mind.” He went on. “Well,… ugh, burp, excuse me, this sea cucumber isn’t sitting well me…”
                              Fanella signaled she needed a moment to catch her breath too, and sat on a flat rock, covering her legs with her arms, suddenly self-conscious of her modesty.
                              “What was i saying already? Oh, yes, I have to deliver a message to a sea cucumber, sorry, I mean a lady cucumber, who may be in grave danger of death… possi—blurp— by sea cucumber indigestion.”

                              He looked at her from head to toes: “Well, you look reasonably pliable… That trick should work. I suppose you don’t have any wax, clay, salt dough or… well never mind, I have… just what I need here…”

                              All the while babbling on, he started to unfold a large piece of patchwork, which was somehow folded in his satchel.

                              “The map dancer, you see… well, he’s a bit of a pain in the butt to find. But here, hold that for a moment. With that bit of,… there, put your finger there, no, not here, yes, riiight there… with a bit of patience, and… tada!”

                              Fanella looked puzzled at the cloth now wrapped around them, snug and tight.

                              “Oh well, I know, the resemblance is passable, but that will do. Believe it or not, I have done a lot of sewing in the past, patchwork quilts, miniature needlepoint rugs for doll houses, curtains, upholstery… Oh sweet times. It’s been a while I’ve had to travel via rag doll. A bit rough, but leaves little trace to follow.”

                              Fanella broke her silence “are you making it along as you go, or you really have a plan to get us out of this awful middle age place?”

                              Sanso tittered softly, apparently pleased with himself.

                              “Now, you may want to relax, the trick is in letting go and drifting through Time’s flow.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


                                  When Lisa eventually came out of her altered state, she was tired and perplexed. The last words she had heard had been “ I’m sorry I’ve led you to believe it was important, but it’s not, not really. It’s just a ordinary object to lead the philistines astray.” How depressing! she thought. How unutterably depressing! If nothing was important, then what was the point ~ of anything? If being led astray wasn’t an opportunity for another voyage of discovery, then what was the point? If everything was wrapped up and tidy with no mysterious paths to explore, then where did Story fit into the picture? A dull story indeed with no tentacles.
                                  “We may as well just go home and water the garden. Come on Mirabelle.” Lisa’s shoulders sagged dejectedly and she sighed deeply.
                                  “Oh no, not so fast! This doesn’t sound like you, Lisa! Has someone put a spell on you? Snap out of it!” Mirabelle considered whether slapping Lisa soundly would help break the spell, but decided to throw some bottled water in her face from a safe distance instead.
                                  The shock of it, welcome actually, cool and revitalizing, made Lisa laugh at the absurdity of ~ well, everything.
                                  “Oh fuck it, we may as well go and get some octopus tapas while we’re here. Let’s just pretend we’re ordinary people on an ordinary holiday and go to the beach.”


                                    Sleep wouldn’t come, and the narrow wooden pew was hard. Cedric had shifted to every possible position trying to get comfortable, and succeeded only in cricking his neck. He eased himself off the pew and crept outside. It was a clear crisp night and the moon shone brightly in the chapel yard. A broad flat tomb beckoned him, looking more promising to stretch out on than the wooden seats inside. It was the tomb of the 14th century mystic (often called witch) , Marguerite Isabeau. Many had claimed to see Isabeau flying around at night, draped in white robes.
                                    Lying flat on his back on the tomb, with his cork bum as a pillow, Cedric wrapped the voluminous white choir boys robes around his body. Despite the chill air, he dozed off, dreaming of lemon pavlova.


                                    Igor Popinkin kept to the darkness beneath the trees as he made his way towards the Folly for the rendezvous with Mirabelle. The moon was bright and it was imperative that he stay well hidden. The shortcut through the chapel yard was an open stretch of ground where he might be spotted, but it was unlikely for there to be anyone there at this hour. He was so close now that he mustn’t made any rash mistakes now and spoil it. Igor paused momentarily, reminding himself to be fully present at all times and paying attention. That’s when he noticed Marguerite Isabeau, risen from the grave again ~ although not very far from it, in this instance, as she was lying on top of it, quite motionless. As if drawn by a magnet, he inched slowly towards her, mesmerized by her ghostly beauty. Closer and closer, until he was standing over her, peering down at her scarlet lips. His hot breath and specks of dribble running down her chin woke her, and she opened her eyes.


                                    “Am I dreaming?” asked Cedric breathlessly. “Or are you an angel?”
                                    “No, you’re an angel”, replied a baffled Popinkin.
                                    “Why thank you sweetie, oooh, a Russian angel! Love your accent ~ fancy meeting you here!”
                                    “Where were you expecting to meet me then?” Igor replied, even more puzzled. “You mean you were expecting me, Marguerite?”
                                    “Marguerite who?”
                                    “Isabeau. You!” Exasperated with the conversation and confusion, and remembering his rendevous with Mirabelle, Popinkin said “Look, I have to go, but meet me here at the same time tomorrow night.”
                                    Cedric sighed, but he did note that his stiff neck had gone and he felt much happier.


                                      Of course she was keen to visit the “New Stonehenge”, as it was being penned in social media, but first she must sort this damned parcel mix-up. Said parcel was large, flat, wrapped in brown paper and addressed to a Mr or Mrs Chuen. Flove suspected it contained a family photo. Why she was wandering around Hastings with the parcel, or the exact nature of the mix-up, was unclear to her. Let alone something she could explain coherently to anyone else. Yet there she was, waiting in line at the Post Office with this blessed parcel. Her frustration may have made her a tad impatient with the lady who served her. “I am fed up with the Post Office getting things wrong. I am doing this for the good of mankind” she announced fervently.


                                        Abandoned structures where the wild things grow……not in rows and lines of forced behaviour for maximum controlled output wrapped in neatly positioned plastic, but shredded with tatters blowing in the breeze and sunlight streaming through the rips, saplings bursting through the tears, and brambles twined around the wired enclosures, spilling inside and outside. Jumbles of wild flowers, fresh and juicy amidst thorny dried stalks of last years endeavours, and the year before that, and so on.


                                          Pearl wrapped the jars of apple pie moonshine carefully inside a beach towel, and placed them in the middle of her suitcase. Her flight was at midnight, and eveything was ready for her trip to Andalucia to assist the surge team on the night of the three kings parade. But there was a problem: the snow had all but submerged her house, her car was nowhere to be seen beneath the white drifts, and the roads were silent and impassable. Pearl called Skye in London, and asked her to send a red car.


                                            If there was one thing he’d never liked about the Surge Team, Goat was reminded as soon as he crossed the threshold, that had to be the Management.
                                            Actually, the Management after years of past grandeur had been heftily trimmed down to just one person, an ageless expressionless Sinese-Bulgarian lady with a hairstyle as plain and ubiquitous as a bowl of steamed rice, the epitome of the chtonian tutelary deity, eternal Guardian of all thresholds.
                                            “Good day Antonia.” Goat greeted her, faking the slightest bit of enthusiasm needed to sound polite. Of course, she didn’t answer. Like the Universe, looming and all powerful, all she needed was a request, or better, a long string of numbers from an obscure postal or bookshelf reference.
                                            Chopping official documents, the lonely sound of a stamp etching the worn-out surface of her desk was all that troubled the dusty office reeking of onion.
                                            “There’s been a delivery for me…” He waited patiently, savouring torturing her with his half-finished sentence. He didn’t have to wait for long though. Maybe she was in a good mood.
                                            “Tracking number?” she grumbled without looking at him, fumbling into old logs and piles of carton boxes that may have been there, unclaimed since the time of Baltazar the Great.
                                            “There” he handed her a torn yellow stained bit of paper where the numbers were written down in a ornate penmanship. The Management was a place of few words… and even fewer actions he bitterly thought.
                                            Working her magic, she handed him the package, wrapped in old Sinese papers that smelt of decaying fish. He barely thanked her, without looking into her eyes, for he knew what was there to be read certainly had no lack of unpleasantness for him.

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