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Everything started to happen at once. As Sanso sat up, craning his neck looking at the door in the ceiling, a terrific flapping and squalking noise approached from behind him, starting as a distant vibration and rising in an unbearable crescendo as it rounded the last bend in the tunnel. Suddenly the noise stopped as Sanso felt a weight on his shoulder, and then a thud on the sandy floor. Bugger this, the parrot screeched in his ear. Bugger this bugger this bugger bugger bugger…
Sanso was momentarily speechless, as his eye fell on the key. He picked it up and turned it over in his hand, feeling the rusty weight of it. He turned to look at the parrot on his shoulder, who thankfully had stopped his shrill squalking.
This must be the key to that door, he whispered to the parrot. Let’s try it and see.
Bugger this, sighed the parrot, Here I am bringing the key, remembering everything everyone else forgets, running the show here and I don’t even have a name in this silly story.
Illi felt much better, and was sitting at the breakfast table, basking in the warm shafts of sunlight filtering in through the window, and listening to the birds singing in the lemon tree outside.
BelleDora came in from the kitchen bearing a large tray with freshly squeezed buckberry juice, soft boiled eggs in pistachio green eggcups and bread and butter soldiers, and The Reality Times newspaper.
Illi wasn’t in the habit of reading the news, but occasionally found an article of interest. Todays headlines looked intriguing: Fiona’s Diary: never before published excerpts of the Malvina Dragon saga.
The singing in the next room was getting louder. As Dory started to sing along, she felt better. Bugger this! she shouted, and leapt off the musty sofa. The trip to the cave! She felt around the floor with her feet for her shoes, and wasn’t altogether surprised to find her magic flying sandals. Perfect, how perfect is that! She looked around the cluttered shop store room as she buckled the sandals straps. She grabbed a bright blue energy blanket off a pile of coloured shawls, a pith helmet off a hatstand, a mini magic tool kit in a terracotta patterned kilim bag, and on impulse, a glass egg timer with bright fuchsia pink sand.
As she ran out of the back door a parrot in an elaborate wrought iron cage squalked ‘Don’t forget the key, dear, don’t forget the key’.
Key? What key?
‘Don’t forget the key dear don’t forget the key dear don’t forget the key…’
WHAT bloody key dear! Dory was really anxious to get to the cave now, but something held her back.
The key, the key… There was something she couldn’t quite remember about a key. She looked around the room in a panic, It could take me HOURS to find the key in here, she ranted. Ok, ok, I tell you what, she said to the bird, I’ll let you out of that cage, you find the key, and catch me up. Meet me at the cave with the key, OK?
Sanso was very hungry. He’d been living on the fungus that grew inside the dampest parts of the cave, but the recent stretches of tunnel had been much drier, sandy even. He hadn’t found a cave entrance for days and longed to step out of the cave into air and sunlight and green things, and find something fresh and juicy to eat.
Beginning to feel quite despondent, and with the hunger and thirst making his body ache terribly, he sat down, crumpled into a heap on the sandy floor. He lay back, stretching out flat and slept for what seemed like days.
He woke up mumbling the name Eggleton, which reminded him of a dish he’d encountered at one of the cave entrance worlds. He’d wandered into a beautiful strange green and rainy land, and followed the delicious aroma of something that seemed so delightfully familiar, that he couldn’t quite place, something that reminded him of mornings. Coffee! He remembered now. The smell of coffee had led him to a door with big brass numbers on it: 57. He opened the door and peered round it, wondering if he’d be welcome. It had seemed as though nobody was there, but a table was laid for one, with scrambled eggs on toast (freshly cooked as if whoever had prepared it had known eggsactly when he would arrive) and a steaming pot of black coffee.
Sanso stretched and realized his many aches and pains had been eased by the sleep on the soft sand on the cave floor, and the dry atmosphere, and slowly opened his eyes. Lying flat on his back, he was looking directly up at the tunnel ceiling. There was a door in the ceiling, strangely parrallel to the floor, an odd position for a door, he thought. His heart lurched and his stomach growled again with hunger as he noticed the large brass numbers on the door: 57.
Dory drifted off to sleep, despite the sounds of the conversations going on all around her in the next rooms. She dreamed of camels and a washing machine that wouldn’t spin with a full load, and then it turned into one of those teeth falling out and rushing to the dentist dreams, and then strangest of all, she woke up with a dream snapshot image of a perfect heart shaped….well it looked like a heart shaped dog turd!
“BUGGER THIS” Dory woke up with a start. Someone in the room on the right had turned the music up and was singing ‘Bugger this’ to all the tunes.
Dory felt like a wet blanket. She’d overdosed on colours in the shawl and cape shop, and had to lie down in the back room. As she waited for the room to stop spinning, sprawled on a rather smelly old sofa that seemed more like a glukenitch bed than a sofa, she listened to various snatches of conversations through the thin walls.
Dory was lost. She got sidetracked on the way to the cave, darting into a shop that had shawls and capes in deep pastel shades displayed in the window.
Sanso was used to travelling alone. He’d been exploring this cave on his own for several years now, and it suited him, on the whole. No need to confer, or compromise, or rush to keep up, or slow down to let others catch up. He could follow his own impulses without hindrance. He did meet others on his travels, but only at the cave entrances, or rather, the times and places that the cave entrances revealed. He never felt an urge to settle though at any of these places, always compelled to return to the caves mysterious and ever changing labyrinthine tunnels.
The disembodied voices and coloured wispies were always with him in the tunnels. Sometimes one would be louder than another for awhile, then another would assume prominence. The bleakest coldest times were when he wasn’t noticing them; that’s when he found himself going round and round in circles, lost in the maze.
The electric blue wispy had been around alot lately, comforting him with little explosions of pinprick blue lights, and a golden mustard yellow one. English, not French mustard, he reminded himself, although he didn’t think it mattered and wondered why he’d thought it.
Sanso had been almost crawling for some time in a particuarly cramped and difficult tunnel; bent double for most of the time, his back was aching and he longed to stretch out. The thought of going back, retracing his steps, was unbearable, so he continued, and tried not to be discouraged.
‘Find something to appreciate, Appreciation is the key’ the voice of the blue wispy sounded amused, but in a kindly and endearing sort of way. Harumph, muttered Sanso, easy to say! It would help if there was something to appreciate!
Just then Sanso heard another voice, muttering something over and over again. ‘… dragon egg dragon… egg dog egg … dragon dog egg…’ What the heck was that all about?
Illi woke up and groaned. Her back was aching and she felt like she’d fallen down a hill, or plummeted into a hole. I thought sleep was supposed to be relaxing, she grumbled as she shuffled off to make coffee. Ten pairs of eyes followered her every movement, assessing her mood. Some of the eyes winked at the other eyes, and nodded…yes, let’s remind her, she’s useless at these clues, ok guys, everyone ready…steady…GO!
Illi jolted unpleasantly and painfully as a dreadful cacophany of dog barking erupted around her, and warm squirming bodies tumbled everywhere.
How can I possibly focus on SELF, you stupid creatures, when you keep barking like that! Illi sighed, she knew she was getting it backwards, but her whole world was topsy turvey, nothing was as it seemed anymore. Which comes first, the dragon, or the egg?
dragon or the egg, hhmm, egg before the dragon? or the dragon before the egg….irritated because the dogs barked? or dogs barked because I was irritated? eggs, dragons, eggs, dragons, dogs, eggs dragons eggs…..
Illi sighed, and made another cup of coffee.
And then as if by magic an extraordinary thing happened….
Illi set off at a brisk trot in search of the cave. A deafening clap of thunder made her flinch and lose her footing. She slipped, and slid down a steep slippery wet bank, tumbling and rolling out of control. Arrgghh! How embarrassing, she thought, I hope no-one is watching….OUCH! She banged her head on a strangely perfect long oblong stone, which catapulted her into the air and into a cork oak tree. Lordy! She clung onto the knobbly grey bark, trembling and gasping.
Well, I may as well have a smoke and catch my breath, she thought, at least it’s fairly dry here in this tree. She inched upwards until she found a comfortable fork in the branches and leaned her back against the trunk, fishing in the pockets of her tartan jacket for her Camels and her lighter.
Ahhhh….that’s better! Now, where are we? Illi felt more optimistic, and surveyed the terrain. AHA! In a little dip behind the tree was a dark hole in the ground. That will lead to a cave, I’m sure of it! Illi lit another smoke, musing that she might never have found the cave entrance had she not banged her head on the strange oblong stone, and hurtled into the tree.
Feeling much more enthusiastic, Illi climbed down out of the tree and went to investigate the dark hole in the ground. HHmmmm…no sign of a rope, or steps, no light, she wondered what to do next. A voice boomed in her head TRUST! Trust is the key!
Suddenly feeling very devil-may-care and adventurous, Illi dived into the hole head first… wwwwhhhheeeeeee HOOOOO…… the free-fall was exhilarating, exciting, wildly fun….and then a little voice of doubt crept in, Are you stark raving MAD?
Whallop! Illi landed on something soft, something sodden and smelling a bit of mold. Momentarily stunned, she just lay there, in a heap on the soft wet lump.
“Holy MOLY” the soft wet lump shouted “Get OFF me! How incredibly RUDE to land on me like that without so much as an introduction!”
Sanso stood at the entrance to the cave, looking out over the valley. He loved the rich orange-red rocky cliffs and towering stone pillars, and recognized them at once. He remembered this place! A vague nostalgia swept over him, he’d loved it here, hadn’t wanted to leave…… A song started playing in his head …… ‘we wept when we remembered Zion’… mmm mmm mmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm……… when we remembered Zion….
What an extraordinary cave it was, Sanso thought, when he’d wiped his eyes and his nose on his indigo blue shawl. Every time I see a light at the end of one of the tunnels and follow it to the cave entrance, it leads me to another time and place.
The rain started to fall, gently at first, and then the valley was filled with the strange pale green light of an approaching thunderstorm. Reluctantly, Sanso made his way back into the cave.
Dory was feeling so refreshed from all the floating… in the warm lagoon with Balti, on the water bed with all the coloured wispies drifting though and gently caressing and tickling her skin… I’m in the mood for dancing , she thought and jumped off the bed singing I’m in the mood for DANCING… lala la la lalaaaah…
Just then a funny little man with a huge cheeky grin appeared and held out a tray. Smoothies! Coconut and berry smoothies, and pink cakes, croissants and oranges, and a box of cadbury’s chocolates. Dory slurped and munched and gobbled and slurped some more, and underneath where the chocolate was, she saw a brochure.
On the front cover was a picture of a cave. OOHH A CAVE! Dory loved caves! Let’s go to the cave today, Minky! she said to the funny fellow with the impish grin. Minky winked.
Well, Illi thought, I could shelter under this heavy cape, but what would be the point of that? It’s smelly and dark under there, at least the rain is light and clean. What I need to find is a cave. I’ll create a cave to find! Wouldn’t be much fun to just create a cave, Illi reasoned, what would be the fun of that? Much more fun to find one, as if by accident! Then I can still play the old chance and fate game, if I’ve a mind to.
Oh bugger it, Illi thought… She was rather an impatient spotted gripshawk.
‘When in doubt, go somewhere else’ was her motto, indeed of her tribe. That was the trouble with her tribe, she grumbled, they’d all wandered off….
She cast her eyes around wondering which way to go, and something caught her eye. It looked like a big soft blue-black rock, but on closer inspection turned out to be a heavy cape, sodden from the rain, and smelling unpleasantly of mold.
Dory was enjoying her holiday. She loved the bambu bungalow with the open sides that allowed the mysterious scents to waft though with the warm breeze, and the wispy images to float right through her. She wriggled on the water bed, and then lay still, and let the ripples smooth her.
Dory yawned and stretched. She was wrapped in a lovely feeling, but as usual couldn’t recall any details of her dream. Lately though, she’d get a phrase, or a snapshot to give her a clue. The Dance of the Lemurs. How silly is that, she thought, whatever does it mean. She popped it into her Clue Box with all the other riddles and clues.
Dory was floating. The warm waters of the lagoon rippled underneath her, relaxing and soothing. The sun was going down, and the sky was quilted with puffy pink clouds above her, the coconut trees black silhouettes against the blue-green horizon. Lazily, her gaze drifted towards the beach. The lemurs were dancing their magical dance amongst the trees. Balti chuckled behind her. Oh I forgot you were there Balti! He chuckled again. You wouldn’t relax, Dory, unless I promised to hold you, you thought you might drown. Dory had forgotten all about drowning.
Let’s go to the dance, Balti, she said. The dance of the lemurs . We can float closer to the shore and then we may hear the music.
Illi was wondering which way to go. Sitting on a flat rock, damp and cold from last nights downpour, she sighed and shivered. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Hhmm, she tought. I said tought, not taught, she thought, I must be in Ireland. Hhmm, she thought, I said taught not thought, I must be a teacher in Ireland. The thunder rumbled closer. Or maybe I’m a pupil and I’m here to find my teacher. The thunder sounded further away this time, it must mean I’m here in Ireland to find my fellow pupils, she thought.
Illi sighed. Why was she thinking about teachers and pupils? This was a dream, she could do anything she wanted, anything at all, and here she was thinking about teachers and pupils!
The rain started to fall, gently at first, and the trees were sighing ahhhh so Illi did too, ahhhh so cool, so wet, so wet… so wet! The fig tree giggled and the olive tree winked at the fig tree, and the plum tree, who was watching, snickered behind the morning glory.
AHA! Illi was having an AHA moment. I’m not in Ireland anymore. Olive trees don’t wink in Ireland! Where am I now?
Illi rubbed her eyes. It wasn’t thunder, it was somebody learning to play a harp. She stood up and sniffed the air, trying to pick up a whiff of colour to tell her where the… (gonna get power cut, more later)