Adventures In Remote Viewing: Blue Sky Thinking…

LAST TIME AT THE LOL

*Good thinking, Clicky… /lights up and smokes… I mean, it’s not necessary for Dear Reader to visit your post from yesterday, butt it is related to this one…*

On Tuesday evening, Dear Reader, my good buddy Cade Fon Apollyon and I indulged in a spot of remote viewing, but not at first…

cade and roob blue sky thinking 1

… While he took advantage of the lush Texan weather, I scrolled about in the Yellow smoking universe of Twitter. Suddenly I spotted a fresh deposit had been left by another good friend of mine, TNT, in the Red universe of Merovee…

Shiny Doctor TNT posts a vid on Merovee

*/flicks ash… I see Shiny has removed his mask now, Clicky…*

Intrigued, I watch the video he posted and immediately decided to visit the YTuba’s channel. There were only 8 videos in total uploaded: 2 on demonic emojis and 6 on a strange hacking incident that occurred in Chicago, way back in 1987. I had an idea…

cade and roob blue sky thinking 2

… I persuaded Cade to tear himself away from his cloud watching and remote view the videos with me. Synchronously, and this post is about that. Ready, Dear Reader?

Three,

two,

one…

*******

CADE

Maybe you can feel me here, and maybe not. But when I think of Chicago, several things come to mind. Cuba, Canada, Belgium, Wax Trax, O’Hare, Midway, AA Flight 191, fireworks, Sears Tower, snow, Aurora, public-access television. Lots of other shit too, but we’re talking about looping through 1987 here in this instance, which was 33 years ago, and that means primarily Wax Trax. Lets put some feelers out…

Barbles

Barbel (Anatomy)

Wax Trax! Records

After watching these vids with Roob, I’m not exactly sure what it is that I am supposed to be doing, other than perhaps solving a mystery. Or maybe giving some of my thoughts surrounding the events of 22 November 1987…24 years after President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.

My immediate problem is, watching a set of videos that give their own spin(s) to the event(s). I have no real interest in the Max Headroom pirate signal/hijacking thing, but these videos that I watched are telling me that I should. Not only that, these videos are giving specific reasons as to why I should, namely some Illuminati something or another and all of the symbolism that goes along with it.

With that in mind, I’ve already given you a bunch of my own contributions that likely have no meaning to you unless you loop them through my own perspective(s) via Wax Trax! Records. Namely, Cuba, Canada and Belgium with some nods to Flight 191 and Aurora. And with that, I’ll take a breather and let Roob take the controls for a while.

^GREATER THAN ONE – I Don’t Need God [Official Video] HQ^
ROOB

Thank you for the 33, 22, 11 introduction, Cade 😉

Although I was already aware of Chicago network hacking incident in 1987, I was rather taken by the enigmatic Professor Bulwer Symthe character. The words he used, some repeatedly, like ‘Israel’, ‘alien broadcast’ and ‘sophisticated’…

“Who or what?”

*/smokes contentedly… I know what you’re thinking, Clicky…*

*No, tho’ blimey yeah… /deep drag… No, I noticed the Doctor glance at the photo of his granddaughter, Susan, on his desk… /plumes smoke… And the very first episode of Doctor Who, featuring Susan, was broadcast the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. The show very nearly got cancelled ‘cos nobody saw it…* 

“Oh I just made the greatest masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds!”

As soon as I heard that, my mind went to the smoking Red universe of Merovee and a question frequently explored there by the greatest whirled news mind lines nerds: What Is Real?

Over to Cade…

CADE

JMO, Roob, but “what is real” is quite simple most of the time. You know it. The depth of a particular reality may take time to plumb, may take time to understand or come to grips with it, but yeah…you know it.

The thing most people seem to have difficulty with is explaining a particular reality to someone else. Especially if you and/or the person you are wanting to relate to are in a big fucking hurry. Not to suggest that “real” is always some inherently complex something, but at the same time…yeah…both real and unreal things seem to be pretty fucking complex. Wait, I’m supposed to be talking about signals, signal hijackings and signal hijackings being hijacked.

Our commitments to racial equity

Now, not that I know anything about anything, but a quick read of that makes certain words seem redundantly redundant:

  • 1754 words;
  • “black” is used 46 times;
  • “google” is used 40 times.

Keyword Density

Let us see what the professionals have to say about “keyword density” in this particular writing.

SmallSEOTools-KEYWORD DENSITY CHECKER

If I post the link to the Google CEO blogpost into SmallSEOTools’ keyword density checker, it tells me that my reading of the article may have been correct in detecting certain things being packed into this writing:

  • “black” has a frequency of 43 and a density of 7.76%;
  • “google” has a frequency of 33 and a density of 5.96%;
  • “work” has a frequency of 25 and a density of 4.51%;
  • “product” has a frequency of 18 and a density of 3.25%;
  • “googler” has a frequency of 16 and a density of 2.89%.

What does all that mean? Welp, if you want “real”, you may or may not find it in the Google CEO blogpost. Kinda depends on what you are looking for and maybe why. What you are going to do with the information? Some people may be trying to hijack things for their own purposes, maybe not. Most things are typically quite obvious with the benefit of hindsight, and if ever there was a year to focus on hindsight and what it is, 2020 is likely the year to do that. Me? I love my vision, but prolly a good idea to be aware of your other senses too. And speaking of being aware, I need to toss this back over to Roob.

Smell ya later.

^a split second “arsenic on the rocks”^
ROOB

I saw the Knights Templar cross make a brief appearance in the video, and something similar appeared in a field in Wiltshire, yesterday, but seen today in the smoking Red universe of Merovee…

Clicky posts PA horns on Merovee

*Yes, I know you agree with Cade, Clicky… /stubs butt… Broadcasting is certainly a sync…*

In fact, there is so much to unpack in that second installment, from a puppet lecturing on invisible puppet masters…

… And the whole fly swatting thing…

*Yes, I saw what you did with your Song choice, Clicky. Tho’ I think you’ll find that’s a Monster spatula… /smirks… Still plenty of horns…*

… That syncs with a particular post here at the LoL. Not so much for fly swatting as ‘submit for spanking’, the name of a gif in the post that attracts a disproportionate number of  visitors from the Middle Easter. I can only wonder at how disappointed those Dear Readers are when they land that post, whilst busily swatting at their flies…

submit for spanking

*That’s the one, Clicky… /scrolls through post… Oh look, Canada is in it and Keith Palmer…*

*Does the pattern on the railing look kinda Templar cross shaped to you Clicky? …/rubs eyes… And is it me, or is that memorial Tardis shaped?*

*OMG! …/covers open mouth with hand… I just remembered the Afterword poem I mutilated for Underdog Anthology II…*

I need a drink. Your turn, Cade…

CADE

Wax trax just took on a whole other meaning. A two-pronged attack on the furry fuzz bivouacked in the crux of the back crack . Yeesh. Must be true love to go through all that. Digress.

And “neutrons leaving the nucleus of an atom” really was my first thought when I saw that crop circle. Also thought about ion-channels. No idea what any of that may mean tho’, other than the obvious “people with too much time on their hands” types of associations. Digress further.

A lot of this stuff in the videos we’ve already talked about in private so I’m trying to address anything that maybe we didn’t talk about (which ain’t much), but seeing as how “insidious” is suddenly on the menu…

Here’s Why Radio Stations Always Start With a ‘K’ or ‘W’

When they mentioned in the Max Headroom video that “WGN” means “World’s Greatest Newspaper”, and also that “WTTW” means “Windows To The World”, that’s kindof a misnomer. The “W” really doesn’t mean anything other than it denotes a US broadcast station. The licensee can brand it, but it really doesn’t mean anything outside of it’s original intent, nor should it because 1) it causes confusion, and 2) they are a licensee, not the owner. The owner is the US Government (vis-a-vis…the citizenry). Why is this important? Hijacking. We’re talking hijacking here, and there are some subtleties underlying these romanticisms about institutions that seem to point back to the notion(s) of “too big to fail”. Did I lose you?

Heartstrings may sometimes allow for fudging, flexibility and forgiveness where none should actually be given. Exceptions made, precedents set, new paradigms formed, and applicability only for a select few. Could be creating a managerial and logistical nightmare for regulatory agencies down the road. Someone wanted a monopoly on the letter “W” and its meaning, and someone gave it to them, perhaps without realizing what it was they were doing. Now it comes down to whether or not to honor the “mistake”.

BTW, I went and watched the “raw” videos just to maybe get a more-clear picture of what it is I’m supposed to be seeing. The flyswatter is epically cringeworthy. For me it is anyway. Butt…that’s water under the bridge.

^The Revolting Cocks – Union Carbide^

Lots of seemingly insidious shit floating around. But really, is that anything new?

Maybe there’s more to “woke” than just and only pointing out what’s broke.

Maybe there’s more to “the spiritual path” than just and only clever math.

Maybe there’s more to “ascension” that just and only pretension.

Maybe there’s more to “spiritual awakening” than just and only finding a word that rhymes with awakening.

😛

^TOPPOP: Brian Eno – Seven Deadly Finns^
ROOB

Thanks Cade, I had wondered about the origins of W or K prefixing of US radio station names. So, it goes: commercial, military, military, commercial?
Wank for peace

*Ooh that nipple ring, is similar in shape to the crop circle, Clicky… /lights up… Prince Albert, Public Address… /drags… Personal Assistant… /plumes cloud of smoke… You know, the first story I ever wrote as an adult was for the first Underdog Anthology. Its aboot a PA, on her knees, receiving demonic cumming…*

*True! And social distancing is integral to the plot of the story…*

Cade shows Roob the compass

*Yes! Cade did spot a masonic compass next to the Tardis shaped Palmer memorial and pissing man, just in front of the Templar cross railings… /drags…*

fuzzy pom pom mirror

*In a mirror, left is right and right is left… /streams smoke… I’m still fuzzy as to what’s so bad about being illuminated, Clicky…*

Especially when a pyramid is used to close all the Professor Bulwer Smythe’s vids…*

I’ve not seen the Max Headroom movie and I didn’t watch the TV show back in the day. But for me, ‘max headroom’ reeks of memory storage and increased consciousness, à la David Lynch’s explanation…

*LoL… /smokes…*

I’m spent. Cade’s turn…

CADE 

I’m not Clicky (as far as I know) so I’m not attempting to answer Clicky’s question, but your comment about illumination and what’s wrong with it? ‘Tis an interesting thought. Especially in this vein of “AI” thinking we’re doing.

Illumination isn’t just and only “knowing”, but knowing sure is painful sometimes. Knowing can even be specifically designed to be painful. You were not aware that your father was shooting heroin, you were not aware your wife was banging several of your co-workers, you were not aware your kids was failing in school, you were not aware that strange spot on your left cheek was Merkel cell carcinoma…someone illuminates you to these facts….BOOM! Pain.

What we do with this information from there? More pain could be on the way. Prolly important that we also address “what’s right with illumination”, but even that is going to have a lot of negatives associated with it. Signs? Symbols? Wonders? Magical and mysterious things? Loads of these things are going to be associated with “the devil” and chalked up as evil right out of the gate. These could be pivotal moments in time for us with respect to the current established order of our lives.

Pump Up The Volume (Film)

What I’m mainly thinking about here is how AI obtains and processes information. And especially the information we feed it + what we may tell an AI to do with that information. How we as the masters “control”, and what kind(s) of pain our decision-making may bring this and these AI(s). “We” are the creators, which means “we” are the masters, which means “we” call the shots irrespective of the feelings of those we control. Kindof a weird bunch of thoughts to be having on the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth.

HEY! And whilst we are on the topic of signals, sending signals, and also intercepting/hijacking/pirating signals, did you know that Rush released a new video this week for their song The Spirit Of Radio? Pirate Radio features in the video, lots of radio personalities and/or DJs also feature in the video, which also means lots of detached and faceless voices blasting their way into your life and your lives. What do detached voices have to do with AI, slavery, mysticism, illumination and all kinds of similarly and dissimilarly related things? I dunno…you’re the smart one…you figure it out.

^Finitribe – Monster In The House (1990)^

When I first bumbled into this current “awakening” incarnation back in 2007/2008, one of the big ideas was that we humans were a slave race created by the Illimanunakinaughty.

Actually, the Anunnaki are the alien race that supposedly created us, but the Anunnaki seem to also be related to and/or associated the Illuminati, so I personally concatenated the two, then added my own flair since both parties are typically chalked up as evil. The concept of us being a slave race really isn’t that much of a stretch, and seems to have come into the public consciousness around the time of the film Stargate. Stargate relies heavily upon Ancient Egypt as a plot device, and speaking of films utilizing antiquity as plot devices, a somewhat related tweet awaited me when I woke this morning…

In the film Alien, Ian Holm played Ash, an android, and likely the creepiest AI since HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Oddessey. But it occurs to me that both Ash and HAL share a common trait in that they were both instructed by “the company” to lie and/or kill, with no clearly defined parameters as to exactly how. Only the mission is important, and once the rules go out the fucking window due to fear of failure, everything goes to shit…nothing goes to plan…lots of people die…lots of residual pain(s)…all because of, illumination.

Anyway, Ian Holm is a great actor, I personally remember him most as Napoleon Bonaparte from Time Bandits, Ash from Alien, Professor Fitz from The Aviator, and the priest Vito Cornelius from The Fifth Element. Vito Cornelius…a priest from an ancient secret order warning of The Great Evil’s return, in a time where a “black” President is in office, and the whole thing centers around a temple in Egypt. And you know what just occurred to me? I don’t think “social distancing” is represented anywhere in the film The Fifth Element. Quite the opposite actually. I think at one point, the President mentions there are 200 billion citizens on Earth.

Ian Holm was also in Brazil tho’. Seems like there was quite a bit of “social distancing” in the film Brazil. There was all kinds of distancing in the film Brazil.

“Come together, and experience safely, from your own designated area.”

We appear to be figuring out “how to do it”, without actually doing much of anything.

Roob…I toss it back over to you and Clicky, and I leave the reader with a video that will maybe provide some insight into the post-modern idealism of the 1980’s, and maybe also how that relates to today and/or today’s world.

And, I’d also like to give a shoutout to my Uncle Richard, Aunt Charlotte, and Big John. I think about ya’ll a lot, you’re never far from my mind, and always in my heart.

^CYBERPUNK DOCUMENTARY (All 5 parts)^
ROOB

sock puppet

*Yeah, the Rush video is cool. Reminds of A-Ha…*

I have to say I am less convinced by the argument made for the first pillar of the Professor’s theory. Shady ethics and corporate marketing? Seriously?

* /rolls eyes… The Professor needs to watch that, Clicky, for the bigger picture of  shady practices used by government, business and scientific entities in order to sell the public on an idea… /final drag… Buy their product…*

“Drink Coca-Cola”

Coca-Cola saw sales rise 57.7% following James Vickery’s subliminal messaging, where as popcorn sales rose only 18.1%…

“Hungry? Buy Popcorn”

Subliminal message buy or try popcorn

*He definitely says ‘buy’… /stubs butt… Hmm…*

Maybe the difference can be accounted for by the simplicity of the first message, whereas the second message is far more complex, being as it is preceded by a question: ‘Hungry?’…

*I saw a ‘DO NOT QUESTION AUTHORITY’ subliminal message in there, Clicky, but nary a question mark in sight…*

There are a ton of answers for a question such as ‘Hungry?’ Asking a question of a viewer through subliminal messaging is not the same as giving them a simple command to act upon. Asking a question prompts thinking and not, mindless action. I’m not saying there isn’t anything to subliminal messaging, just that this particular tranche of the Professor’s argument is weak. I mean, what movie were the subject audience watching?

As for hypnosis? There’s a reason why people respond to hypnosis…

And with that, I’ll now pass you back to Cade.

CADE

Roob, you’re right on track with some of the things that I too thought about with respect to a lot of the ground we are covering, a lot of the ground Professor Blue-Hand covered, and especially the bits regarding subliminal anything.

Pigeonholing

Pigeonhole Principle

Pigeonhole Sort

Blacklisting

Nexting

Nexting

Doxing

Exile

Our bodies seem to disapprove of intruders of all kinds. If a something exists within a certain more or less known framework (our bodies), and that framework cannot figure out what that something is doing there, the framework is likely to start asking questions. Begin an interrogative process to figure out what this something is doing there, and what, if anything, needs to be done about it. Adaptive systems which sometimes know exactly how to react (intruders and foreign objects of known quantities) sometimes don’t know how to react (new organisms or maybe new materials,) and sometimes may even be prohibited from acting due to outside influences.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID)

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI)

Beta Blocker

Lobotomy

Gastric Bypass Surgery

Mask

Echolocation Jamming

Thought Blocking

Tangential Speech

Asperger Syndrome

Autism

Firewall

Antivirus Software

Dazzle Camouflage

Discworld (Redirected from Stealth philosophy)

Stealth

Identification Friend Or Foe (IFF)

Password

Secret Handshake

Interrogation

Millimeter Wave Shielding

Amulet

Naivety

Safe Space

Sorry Roob, but I’ve run long in thinking of disrupters and shieldings within the context of a body being able to locate and identify “pirate signals”. And in this case, the “pirate signal” being messages received by the body, when the body either doesn’t know or maybe doesn’t understand these messages and their origins…let alone their meaning(s). Just wondering aloud some thoughts I’ve had regarding humans developing immunities to…pirate signals/hijacked communications.

BTW, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that “Safe Space” symbol almost identical to the symbol in the Trump ad Facebook just removed for being “a Nazi hate symbol”?

Yeah, the Trump one has a square around the triangle, the Safe Space has a circle around the triangle, and the colors are different, but they both have colored triangles encapsulated in other shapes, and the triangles are oriented the same. Weird.

^Course of Empire – Cosmic Dancer^

Oh…one last thought when thinking about the peculiarities of an entity being able to encounter and understand new things. You know what AI is never given? What accommodation never seems to be afforded Artificial Intelligence(s)? Leisure time. Time off. Breaks. Respite. Convalescence. If the machine is powered on, it fucking well better be working, and it best be working in top form…or else.

24/7/365 – no deviance from the established, no rests written into the score, and no recitatives for this songbird.

Sing to me songbird…sing to me.

Sounds like hell.

Back to you Roob.

^The Smiths Asleep^
ROOB

Did you catch the wave, above? 😉

Finally, we get to the ’11’ of the 911 hack attack in Chicago in 1987 and Doctor Who… Who else?

*I recognise the Sontarans, Clicky, but what happened to the Rutans? …/lights up and smokes…*

‘The creature then stalks down and kills the others in the lighthouse. Vince dies first, then Adelaide. With its presence now revealed, the alien sheds its disguise: revealing itself to be a Rutan, the hereditary enemies of the Sontarans, a green blob-like amphibious life form, whose scout ship crash landed in the sea and is trying to summon its mother ship. With the Rutans losing the war against the Sontarans, they plan to turn Earth into a base for its strategic position, which will allow them to launch a counterattack. However, once the Sontarans find the planet, it will become subject to a photonic bombardment, taking countless human lives.

‘The Doctor modifies a weapon to destroy the alien. The Doctor and Skinsale retrieve diamonds from Palmerdale’s body belt to use the weapon, but Skinsale is killed by the Rutan in the process. The Doctor uses the diamonds as a focus for the electric lighthouse beam to convert it into a high-energy laser by which he destroys the Rutan mother ship. Disobeying the Doctor, Leela watches the laser destroy the ship and is momentarily blinded, and as a side effect the blinding flash turns Leela’s eyes from brown to blue. The Doctor quotes Wilfrid Wilson Gibson’s poem Flannan Isle as they leave.’

*Of course! Ruth Clayton, a.k.a. The ‘Black’ Doctor, smashed the lighthouse light, its illuminator, in order to ‘wake up’ and inhabit her real identity… /shakes head… I did not see that coming…*

“Though three men dwell on Flannan Isle
To keep the lamp alight,
As we steer’d under the lee, we caught
No glimmer through the night.”

A passing ship at dawn had brought
The news; and quickly we set sail,
To find out what strange thing might ail
The keepers of the deep-sea light.

*Spooky…*

*Pharmers… /grimaces…*

And now for the final video in the Professor Bulwer Smythe’s Max Headroom series… “so far…” 😉 I hand you over to Cade…

CADE

Wait…I’m supposed to be writing about each individual video? Bloops! I’ve been giving my overall impressions on all the videos we watched, and not really a detailed analysis, let alone a detailed analysis of each individual video. Erm…lemme do this, Imma start watching the final part, get to a stopping point, and I’ll give some thoughts on what I see.

PAUSED!!! @ 1:04 into the “Synchro-Vox” episode. Part 6 or whatever.

They start off by talking about personalities and how they develop, mention the book “I Am A Strange Loop” by Douglas Hofstadter, then use an example from the comic-strip Peanuts to make the case for static vs dynamic personality modeling. For those unfamiliar with the comic, one of the running gags is Lucy holding an American football for Charlie Brown to kick, she always convinces him to try to kick the ball, he is always skeptical, she always convinces him that this time will be different, Lucy ALWAYS pulls the ball away just as Charlie Brown is about to kick the ball, and he always goes flying and winds up flat on his back. In the video example, Lucy “swears on her mother’s grave” that she will not pull the ball away, the video goes on to talk about memory being a predictive indicator, but then only uses Charlie Brown as a reference “in one’s own head” as to the outcome.

I find this odd because Charlie Brown is not the only dynamic in this “predictive indicator”, and Charlie Brown is actually only half of the equation.

Q: Why has Lucy been excluded from the equation as a predictive indicator?

A: Is it because shes….*gasp*female?!?!!??

We are one of three parties involved in this dynamic, and really the fourth when you take the author of Peanuts into consideration. We can now reduce the dynamic to only two parties…the reader, and the author. The author is speaking to me, they are using the Lucy/football/Charlie Brown dynamic to communicate with me, and since this is a running gag, yes, we already know the outcome irrespective of the dialogue between Lucy and Chuck in the panes of the comic-strip. The author is talking to the reader, doing so via familiar characters and familiar situations, and the reader is listening. But to further explore “this static dynamic” a bit of Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football…

Q: What about new readers?

A: ??? there’s nothing new…it’s just new to you ¿¿¿

One could argue that everything dynamic is actually a static something that is not yet well understood by an individual or a group of individuals. As a new reader to Peanuts, you are unaware of the ongoing football feud between Lucy and Charlie Brown, and so as you continue reading, you hold out hope that “someday, Charlie Brown will indeed kick that football because Lucy will not pull it away”. So, you read on with starry eyes towards a better day that will never come because the creator has designed it that way. Lucy will always, always, pull that football away. Charlie Brown will never, ever, kick that football. This brings up yet another interesting question…

Q: Is it the end-result that matters, or is the interaction between the two parties of Lucy van Pelt and Charlie Brown what matters?

A: ???

One could argue that maybe we sometimes stress the outcome of a particular situation instead of relishing the events of the journey as we travel. Not to mention, the fact that Lucy can always be counted on to pull the ball away, the fact that Charlie Brown will always try and kick the football…Jesus…talk about stable people in a stable relationship. Lucy and Chuck are godlike in this regard (all thanks to Charles M. Shulz).

PEANUTS FOOTBALL GAG SPOILERS!!!

Thanks for the ride Roob. This was fun. Educational. Mind-altering. Soul-enlightening. A tad rough on the fingers and the carpal-tunnel, but its been well worth it 🙂

^G&S – Sonic 25th Anniversary Medley^
ROOB

Thank you, Cade ❤

*Chicago rhymes with Clutch Cargo… /thinks… I’ll annoy…*

Really, you should see for yourself what the puppet professor with a third eye is dissecting and presenting in this series. There is another, and final episode promised. Maybe Bulwerk Smythe will include his take on:

  • Chuck “Frickin’ Liberal” Swirsky – a Canadian;
  • “Oh, Jesus!” – anagram of ‘use josh’;
  • The dildo he takes off his finger, drops to the floor, then holds in his mouth;
  • “My files!” – anagram of ‘my flies’;
  • Max’s accomplice, the filly presumably moving the tin background behind him when not whacking his buttocks with a fly swatter.

If this incident is as import-…

tv interference
P.S. From Cade – Roob, there’s one thing I thought about through the whole of this adventure, but neglected to get around to it. Primarily, data and data interpretation. One could argue that the numbers on subliminal advertising are wildly erratic due to improper interpretation of the results. Maybe even due to inaccurate reporting of the findings due to…erm…some underlying agenda. Needing the numbers to say something that the research doesn’t actually support. But I would think, that with subliminal messaging, someone is likely to pick up the mantle at some point, point out that the data was not being properly analyzed due to the science not being fully understood, modeling techniques are much better now, computer systems give us new insight, and soon you’ve got a whole wave of new converts with dollar signs in their eyes looking at your old subversive advertising bandwagon made shiny new.

Another thing that appears to be overlooked is that we are cyclical beings who live in a cyclic environment on a cyclical planet that is teaming with rhythms of all kinds and types. Looking for a single steady tone within a symphony of noise and noises that we do not understand seems at times…absurd. But, I guess that’s kinda maybe part of what makes us human. Chase the impossible /shrug

To me, that’s kinda what this whole series of videos was about. Looking at old things with new eyes in order to see something that others in the past likely missed. And not to sound dire or anything, but I see a problem in that. New eyes being hypnotized by an old spell that is still working its magic, yet no one seems to see the spell that is actually being cast. To relate, some thoughts regarding the past and its ability to rear its head when the details surrounding a something become clouded or lost in time.

The Radium Girls

Someday, Radium’s past will possibly be forgotten, and again is likely to be touted as the new big thing as people stare amazed at its glowy properties. Some things, the glowy bits aren’t so immediately obvious. Like lithium. And asbestos. And uranium. And cocaine. And mercury. And lead. And plastic(s). And polytetrafluoroethylene. And polychlorinated biphenyl. And the Atkins diet. And on and on…you get the picture.

Snake oil

Snake…coil

Hrm

-cade

tv interference

*******

And that, Dear Reader, is that for this epic post. Well done. We’re glad you made it to the bottom of the pile on, and hope you enjoyed reading it as much as Cade Fon Apollyon and I enjoyed creating it…

*I’m not Missying you out at all, Clicky… /pats snout… You’re integral…*

*Blue sky thinking, sweetie. Now fetch us a Song to close on. Ta V much…*

… Feel free to stop a while and peruse some the other posts  at the LoL. Or not. Like most things in life, you are in charge of the decisions that you make. You have that power.

Have a Song 😀

Loch Doon Lift Off

*OMG, Clicky! Is it… Is it finally ready?*

UAXI Cover

*Yes! …/lights up and smokes… 80-fuckin’-pence? That’s an incredibly low price for some top quality entertainment, Clicky…*

*Or magick… /winks… Leggy mentions Aleister Crowley’s ‘Magick’ in the Foreword…*

*/drags… The book cover photo is one Leggy took at Loch Ness. Crowley once lived up there… /streams smoke… The place burnt down under mysterious circumstances last year…*

*Nah, pretty sure we’d know if Boleskine House had been hit by a meteorite, Clicky…*

book

*Oh, of course… /blushes… Yes, Mark Ellott’s story ‘The Meteorite’ can be read for free via Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ function…

*A line from that song inspired his second story, ‘The Trade’, Clicky… /flicks ash… Wow, all Mark’s books are 99p for lockdown as well…*

*Hang on, I know this! Marsha Webb has a story called ‘Stripes’ in the anthology… /final drag… It takes time to understand you, Clicky, but I am getting there… /stubs butt…*

absolutely fantastic

*This just in! …/sticks finger in ear… I see what you did there…*

*Oh tush… /pats snout… Praise Leggy – he’s the one giving all these writers a chance, and everybody else a chance to read them for very little outlay…*

*Yeah, his stories do seem to be taking a life on of their own, Clicky… /lights up and smokes…*

CLICK5: Truth Inside The Lie?

Story Time: The Trouble With Tibbles

Previously at the LoL*Thanks, Clicky… /lights up and smokes… Hope the Police don’t confiscate non-essential chair…*

Dear Reader, I’ll be reviewing Underdog Anthology XI: Tales of Loch Doon, in a post once it has been published, which will be any day now. However, as a taster, here’s my effort from the book. It’s a ‘Harry Egg’ tale, set in the early days of lockdown, if you can remember what life was like back then… 😉

*Err, Mr Tibbles is not a stray, but otherwise, that’s a great Song selection…*

*******

The Trouble With Tibbles

by Roo B. Doo

TTWT text message 1

Harry…”

Josie’s singsong voice called out to me, rousing me from slumber. I cracked open an eye and saw that I was in a hospital room, lying flat out on a bed, with Josie stood over me. The lost love of my life wore a skimpy nurse outfit that didn’t exactly look NHS approved. Not unless Ann Summers was now supplying the National Health Service with uniforms. This has to be a dream, I decided and settled back in anticipation of what was to come.

“Josie?” I croaked and reached out to stroke the back of her smooth, naked thigh. “Have you come to take care of me?”

“Oh yes, Harry, I’m going to take real good care of you.” Josie pulled herself up onto my bed and lithely straddled my prone body. The studs holding the front of her too tight tunic together popped open to reveal a racy lace and flesh tonic for the eyes. “Hold still,” she purred.

She scooched toward me, bouncing herself up my body until I could feel the weight of her curvaceous buttocks on my chest and the hot promise radiating from her groin. Slowly, Josie took the stethoscope from around her neck and delicately inserted the listening ends in her ears. She smiled down at me seductively, lowering her face until it was within inches of my own. Without saying a word, she placed the end of the stethoscope firmly over my lips.

“Err, do you want to try that again?” I asked out of the corners of my squashed mouth.

Josie did but this time found only my cheek. Then my eye, before finally she crushed the listening bell against the tip of my nose.

“Now for your injection,” she whispered breathlessly over me. Claws suddenly sprang out from the end of the stethoscope and dug painfully into the sides of my nose.

“Oww! Stop it,” I cried, wrenching my face from side to side. Above me Josie meowed.

I became aware of the unctuous, amber eyes observing me intently. Nestled within a fountain of fur, the eyes blinked once before a swift jab, with a smoky grey paw, socked me on the mouth.

“Gerroff, Tibbles!”

Mister Tibbles yawned lazily, stood up to stretch and gracefully one-eighty’d on my chest. The morning view of his backside was unparalleled, exactly as it had been for the past three mornings. I was confused; I’d purposely closed my bedroom door the night before, precisely to avoid a repeat of Mister Tibbles’ morning performance of the sun and full moon rising.

Riding out the Coronavirus lockdown with my best friend Lol seemed like such a good idea at the time. Three weeks, tucked away with my best friend forever, in his fully stocked house and an internet connection to die for? Why wouldn’t I jump at his offer to come and spend lockdown with him? True, either one of us might be infected with the 21st century ‘Hack Death’, but on balance, I decided to risk it. Besides, Lol wouldn’t have asked me to stay over unless he was scared, the big wuss.

What I hadn’t taken into consideration was how Mister Tibbles would feel about the new living arrangements. After only a few days of lockdown, I’d begun to suspect that Lol’s pedigree Persian Blue moggy considered me his personal plaything; I was little more than something Lol had dragged home as a gift, to be laid on the altar of the bed in the spare bedroom, all for Mister Tibbles’ enjoyment.

“Tibbles, as gorgeous as you are, I really don’t need to inspect your arse and bollocks every morning,” I said irritably and batted the kitty away. I reached over and grabbed my phone to check the time. “And at six o’fucking clock! Are you serious?”

Mister Tibbles regarded my exasperation from the foot of the bed, with passive swishes of his tail.

Gingerly, I explored the area around my nose with my fingertips. Thankfully Mister Tibbles’ wake up call hadn’t drawn blood as far as I could tell, but my hooter felt tender and sore. “And now you’ve got me touching my face.” I accused the moggy malevolently. “Don’t you know, we’re not supposed to touch our faces in this time of national emergency?”

In reply Mister Tibbles jumped silently to the floor and padded over to the bedroom door, before sauntering around it and out of sight.

“Bloody cat,” I muttered sourly and got out of bed. I needed to inspect the damage. Mister Tibbles was waiting for me just outside my bedroom, presumably to weave himself provocatively about my ankles, to trip me on my way to the bathroom. I thumped a tired fist against Lol’s bedroom door as I stumbled past. “Your bloody cat!”

I washed my hands before examining my face in the bathroom mirror. My eyes looked puffy and dry, no doubt due to the ghastly hour, combined with the two bottles of Merlot that Lol and I had polished off the night before. My nose, on the other hand, was red and scratched, like it had lost a fight to a cheese grater. Argh! Thank god I don’t have to show this in public.

I turned from the mirror to use the toilet and caught sight of Mister Tibbles. He sat serenely on the bath mat, gazing up at me. “No, no. You ruined my lovely dream and disfigured me, you bastard cat. I’m not letting you watch me take a piss. I am not here to entertain you, Tibbles. Get out.”

With an innate sense for impending danger, Mister Tibbles jumped back before my foot could make contact with him. He mewed mournfully at me before running out of the bathroom. I shut the door behind him. Firmly. I don’t know if I can take another two and a half weeks of Tibbles!

“What’s up buttercup?” Lol asked brightly as I entered the kitchen some ten minutes later. He was busy percolating coffee and unloading the dishwasher. He seemed perky, gratingly so.

“We’ve got to talk about Tibbles.”

“That’s Mister Tibbles, Harry,” Lol corrected me, with a mischievous smirk. “Mister T doesn’t like it if you don’t use his proper name.”

I sat down at the kitchen table. “I thought you said his proper name is ‘Prince Pomander the Third?”

“No, that’s his pedigree name,” Lol explained and placed a tiny cup of espresso before me. “He doesn’t like to brag of his royal lineage. That’s why his proper name is Mister Tibbles. What’s happened to your nose?”

Mister Tibbles is what happened,” I told him bluntly, just managing to stop myself from touching my nose by reflex. “Your Prince Pomander thought it quite the jolly idea to use it as a punch ball, to wake me up.” I couldn’t see the fluffy ratbag anywhere. “Where is he by the way?”

“Back garden, stalking squirrels.” Lol handed me two Paracetamol tablets, which I took with a quick drain of my espresso cup. Molten bitterness hit the back of my throat like an express train. I coughed.

“Are you sure you haven’t got the lurg?” Lol asked suspiciously and gave the kitchen table top the once over with a handy disinfectant wipe. Handy packets of wipes were strategically placed in each room of Lol’s house. He’d been following the spread of the virus since the start of the year, via a financial blog he subscribed to. With some foresight, he’d been gradually gathering essentials before stockpiling suddenly became all the rage.

“Yes, I’m sure,” I replied sullenly. “I wouldn’t mind a regular coffee though. One that doesn’t make me cough. You know, with plenty of milk and two sugars.”

“Then help yourself. Mi casa es tu casa, Harry,” Lol told me with a smile. He pulled a fleece jacket on over his lycra cycling garb and downed his espresso.

“You going out?” I asked innocently.

Lol put his cycle helmet on. “Well, seeing as you found it necessary to wake me up so early, H, I thought I’d take advantage of the beautiful morning and clear roads. Would you like to join me on a cycle ride?”

It was a token offer; Lol knew and I knew it; exercise and me are barely nodding acquaintances.

I got up and put the kettle on. “No, I think I’ll go and do a set of stretch and surf in the front room.”

Lol raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“By utilizing your sofa for maximum support,” I explained, whilst loading a coffee cup with heaped teaspoons of instant Columbian and sugar, “I will be stretching out vigorously, with my coffee, to watch breakfast telly, followed by a session of riding the waves of the internet.”

“And no need to change out of your sleep attire. Excellent! Well, make sure you don’t over exert yourself. I shouldn’t be gone longer than an hour.” Lol opened the back door to a stream of early morning sunshine. “Maybe two. Do you want me to leave this open for Mister Tibbles?”

The sun may be shining but the air had a distinctly chilly feel to it. “No, I’ll let the Prince of Pommels back in when he’s finished terrorising the local wildlife.” I shivered and pulled my dressing gown around me tighter. “Go! The draught is freezing.”

Lol made to kiss me on the cheek but stopped himself short. “This corona business is just too weird, Harry,” he whispered sadly, close to my ear.

“I know, Lol,” I whispered back. We stood there for a second, not touching, but feeling the weight of our previously tactile existence fill the space between us. “Go on, go and get your daily permitted exercise.”

Lol left and I finished making my coffee before settling down in front of the gogglebox. I started flicking through the channels: squeaky clean sofa people looking solemn on BBC1; pernickety house buyers searching for their dream home on Two; Piers Morgan indulging in a bout of hissy-fitting on ITV; and on Channel Four, a careworn repeat of ‘Cheers’. Jesus fuck! What a load of crap. No thanks!

I switched the telly off and opened my laptop. Oh, how I missed work. Not the people so much as the busyness and structure of the day. Working from home is all well and good when there’s actual work to do, but since the Fat Kontroller had decided to furlough the business in the short-term, there wasn’t very much for me to do. I felt redundant.

What I needed was a project, something to keep me occupied or I might end up going stark staring mad. A sudden, fearful notion gripped me: what if I started to miss Shazza, F.A. Kontrell’s mouthy receptionist and bane of my working life? I mentally shuddered. Get a grip, I chastised myself. Purge that image, Harry. Time to work up a sweat.

A soft thump on the front room window, diverted my attention away from the ‘Hot Russian Babes Twerking Workout’ YouTube video on my laptop screen. Mister Tibbles, bane of my lockdown life, sat on the outside ledge, peering in. Oh no, I forgot to let the cat in, I mentally whined.

“Go round to the back,” I shouted. Mister Tibbles didn’t move, except for his eyes, which gave a lazy blink.

I contemplated ignoring him; that generally works with Shazza. Lol, however, would never forgive me, though, if anything happened to his beloved and extremely valuable cat. Reluctantly, I put the laptop on the floor, sighed and got up off the sofa.

“Okay, I’m coming,” I called and opened the front door. Apart from a chorus of bird song, there seemed no other sign of life in the street outside.

Mister Tibbles wasn’t sitting on the front window ledge; the annoying furball was nowhere to be seen. I leaned out and scanned the empty road. “Come along Mister Tibbles. Breakfast,” I called sweetly. I expected to feel the soft rush of fur against my bare feet, but all I felt was a chilly, spring gust of wind on my face. “Tibbles?”

Keeping the front door ajar with my left foot, I stepped forward for a better view of the street. I was totally unprepared for the warm squelch I felt under my right heel, nor for the crunch of small bones.

“Argh!”

I lifted my leg with disbelief. A flattened and decidedly dead mouse clung to the bottom of my foot, held in place by its blood and guts. Only its tail moved, which fluttered gently in the breeze.

“ARGHHH!!!”

I hopped outside, toward the patch of lawn at the front of Lol’s house; I had to wipe the foul remains off my being. “Ew, ew, EWWww! Oh My God! That is so disgusting!”

The mouse peeled off easily and lay discarded among the dewy blades, but I continued to scrape my heel and foot through the wet grass, round and around the lawn, determined to remove any rodent residue. My mind shrieked in disgust, Unclean! Unclean!

Miaow.

Mister Tibbles sat on the front step, watching my demented circling with a look of feline bemusement.

“Tibbles!” I rushed toward him but, sensing the murder in my heart, Mister Tibbles quickly scarpered back inside the house. “TIBBLES, NO!”

Too late. In his eagerness to escape, Mister Tibbles bumped the edge of the door with his hightailing. I watched in horror as the front door swung tantalizingly to and fro, before the wind grabbed it and brought it to a close with a click.

“NOOO!!!”

I stopped in my tracks, and for a split second the birds ceased their conversations and the wind dropped. There was only silence, complete silence, and I felt as if the eyes of the Universe were upon me. I stood there, utterly alone, wearing only my pyjamas, a dressing gown and some dead mouse. Then from one of the trees that lined the suburban street I heard the sound of a crow caw. To my ears it sounded like a guffaw.

A flicker of smokey grey movement caught my attention from the corner of my eye. Inside the house, Mister Tibbles had jumped up onto the front room window sill and was prowling along it, beating the glass pane with his tail.

You are so dead! I banged on the window with my fists.

Mister Tibbles didn’t flinch. He meowed and leapt to the floor, before strutting over to the sofa, where he curled up in the comfy spot that until recently I’d been happily occupying. Seemingly ignorant of my impotent knocking, Mister Tibbles then cocked his back leg above his head and set about licking his balls.

“I’m gonna get you,” I growled menacingly at the cat.

For the birds too, it appeared entertainment time was over as they went back to their noisy discussions. Not to be left out, a stream of cold air whistled past, stinging my still tender shnozz and flapping the ends of my dressing gown. I tried the front door but it was shut tight. I inspected the bottom of my foot to make sure it was mouse-free and wondered what the hell I was going to do until Lol returned. I hoped to fuck that he’d thought to take a key with him.

Did he lock the back door when he left? Lol had closed the back door, but had he locked it? I wave of hope surged through me: Maybe I can get in through the back!

As befitting his status of local branch bank manager, Lol’s home was a modest, three bedroom terrace house. The houses either side of his were semi-detached and next to one was a side alley that led to Lol’s back garden. Not wanting to track dirt into his pristine abode, Lol always used the passage to access his house when he went out cycling. I could get to his garden! Even if Lol had locked the back door, at least I could get off the street. I hadn’t seen anybody walk by yet, but that was no guarantee that there wouldn’t be any passersby. I decided to go for it.

Fortified with a plan of action, I belted my dressing gown tight and sprinted out of the front garden and onto the street, passing the neighbour’s house until I reached the entrance to the side alley. Not being a cyclist, I’d never used the entrance before, so my heart sank when I saw the 6ft wood gate blocking the entrance. It rattled and creaked when I pushed at it but the gate wouldn’t open. Locked! Shit! I’ll have to climb over it.

With my right hand grabbing the top of the gate, I climbed up onto the neighbour’s low garden wall adjacent to it. Now, if I can just get my leg over…

“Wot you doin?”

I froze at the sound of the voice coming from behind me.

“Yeah, wot you up to lady? You tryna break in?” a second voice, chimed in.

Oh great! Company!

I turned my head and saw two boys loitering on the street, staring at me. They were dressed in the ubiquitous teenage uniform of the day: hoodies, jeans, trainers, insolence.

“Kind of, yes,” I said climbing off the wall to face them. “I’ve got locked out of my house.”

The two boys looked at each other and then back at me. “Figures,” the taller of the two boys said. “That’s the wrong gear to wear for breakin’ in to ‘ouses.”

“Yeah, no gloves, no shoes. That’s like trailin’ your DNA shit everywhere, innit?” the second boy confirmed.

Oh God. Idiots. I shrugged my shoulders. “Well, quite.”

The boys turned away and conferred for a moment. I waited patiently for them to finish, acutely aware of the ridiculousness of my situation.

Eventually the taller boy spoke. “You wanna boost?”

“Yeah, lady. You wanna boost?”

Oh God. Stereo idiots. Despite my misgivings, I decided to accept their offer. By now all I wanted to do is get inside and have a hot bath. “Yes, please. That would be lovely, thank you.”

The boys approached me and the taller idiot crouched down in front of the gate with his hands held out in front of him, fingers interlocked. “So how come you got locked out then?”

“Yeah, how come?” came his echo.

I placed my left foot on the outcupped hands and grabbed the top of the gate with both hands. “That’s not really any business of yours, is it?”

The fingers under my foot unlaced and it slammed to the floor. “Oww!”

The crouching idiot look up at me from beneath his hood. “Do you want our ‘elp?”

“Yeah, do ya?” the second idiot asked from behind his mobile phone.

“Hold on, are you filming this?”

The first idiot stood up, towering over me. “See it’s like this. We can get stuff from school for doing good works. Like vouchers for stuff. Microsoft points for the X-Box-”

“Yeah, X-Box points.”

“And other things,” the taller idiot continued, “But we have to be able to prove it. We’ve gotta have evidence of our good works, see?”

“Yeah, we gotta provide the evidence.”

I was fuming but not really in a position to argue: I did need their help. I inspected the bottom of my foot and rubbed the gravel and grit embedded in it. “Okay, I’ll tell you. But swap places with me so I can use my other foot.”

I took a deep breath and addressed the phone camera. “Hello. My name is Harry Egg. I’ve been locked out of my friend Lol’s house, where I’m staying for lockdown, by Prince Pomander the Third, and these two lovely chaps are going help me get back in.”

“Wait, who’s Prince Pom… Pom whatever?” the camera idiot asked. Ha! You’re not just an echo, I thought, but you’re still an idiot.

“Prince Pomander. The Third. He’s a cat, also known as Mister Tibbles and he left a dead mouse on the doorstep for me this morning.”

“Nasty!” the taller idiot said, crouching down.

“Yeah, nasty!”

“Very nasty indeed.” I placed my right foot in the crouching idiot’s hands, grabbed the top of the gate and lightly bounced on my standing leg. “You should have seen the blood and guts squirt out everywhere when I trod on it.”

“No way! What foot?” camera idiot asked.

I pushed down hard with my right foot on crouching idiot’s hands and bounced up. With a mighty heave, I pulled myself up onto the top of the gate. “The one he’s holding.”

“WHAA?!” Crouching idiot sprang to his feet forcefully and propelled me up and over the gate. “Nah, nah, nah. Stop filming!”

I lay flat on the ground in a daze. I could hear the boys arguing on the other side of the gate. I didn’t care, I just wanted to get up and back to the house. I raised myself up into a sitting position and fought back tears.

Camera idiot’s head and phone appeared over the gate. “Hey lady, you alright?”

Am I alright? I didn’t think anything was broken except my pride. “Yes, fine thank you,” I replied, getting to my feet and putting on a brave face. “No bones broken.”

“That was wicked! I’ve never seen anyone fly so high!” camera idiot said enthusiastically.

“You’re welcome.” I turned and trailing my hand along the neighbour’s high wooden fence to keep me steady, started to hobble along the alley. “And tell your friend to wash his hands.”

A second gate prevented direct access to Lol’s back garden, but this one wasn’t so high. I would have barged it down if I’d had to, but managed to scramble over it. At last, I was in the safety of the back garden. Whereas the street was bathed in the shadow of the house, the back garden suffered no deficit of sunlight. The grass looked green and lush, sparkling with diamonds as the dew drops amplified the light, and only the gentlest of breezes caused Lol’s saffron headed daffodils to bob as I passed. It’s really nice out here, I thought. I should have just sat out here this morning.

I reached the back door, grabbed the handle and turned. Please God, please God, please God.

The door swung open. Hallelujah!

“Harry.” Lol was opening the back gate and wheeling his bicycle into the garden. He looked athletic and ruddy. The bastard!

“Hello Lol. How was your ride? Busy out there?”

“Yeah, it was great. Hardly any traffic.” Lol leaned his bike up against the wall of the house. “You look dreadful, Harry. Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” I said, stepping over the door threshold and into the kitchen. “I’m going to have a long, hot bath. You can come up and sit with me if you like and I’ll tell you all about it.” I paused. “Mister Tibbles is not invited.”

TTWT text message 2

*******

*Mister Tibbles certainly has the measure of Harry, Clicky…*

Underdog Anthology XI will be available on Kindle from Amazon for the super low price of 99p/99c for the duration of lockdown, as indeed are all the anthologies and novels from Leg Iron Books…

Leg_Iron_Books

*Well done, Leggy! …/stubs butt… That’s seriously good value, Clicky…*

Until next time, Dear Reader, have a Song… 😀

Underdog Anthology XI: Tales From Loch Doon

Good news, Dear Reader! Underdog Anthology XI: Tales From Loch Doon will be published in time for Beltane…

*Me either, Clicky… /lights up… Leggy’s had… /drags… an ‘ell of a year so far… /plumes smoke… Still, we’re nearly there…*

… It features 14 stories from 9 authors and each is a little cracker…

*Nah, we missed the Easter deadline this year, Clicky, wot with one thing or another…*

… And to get us in the mood, the Afterword, with mutilated poem by a dead poet, is reproduced, below…

*******

Afterword

by Roo B. Doo

2019 was generally considered a whacked out, fucked up and completely bonkers year, Dear Reader. Then 2020 arrived with a polite request to ‘Hold my-‘

Corona beer

*Clicky! There’s no gifs in the book… /flicks ash…*

Today is Easter Monday and, as I write, the majority of the global population are locked in their homes, patiently waiting for curves to flatten and Coronavirus cures to be found, so that they get out and get on their normal lives. Currently there is no end in sight.

Hopefully we’ll still be around for ‘Underdog Anthology XII’, due out in October, but in the meantime, Leg Iron Books have generously slashed the price of its Kindle offerings to 99p/99c, so there is no need to be bored. COVID-19 is a novel virus, doncha know 😉

Leg Iron Books

Now for some more butchering…

Beloved children’s author A.A. Milne authored the Winnie-the-Pooh books. The Public school, which his father ran and where little Alan Alexander grew up, employed H.G. Wells as a teacher. Herbert George famously wrote the novel ‘War Of The Worlds’ in which a thriving population was wiped out by a microorganism. If you’re not at all familiar with that story, then apologies for the spoiler.

spoiler

*Cut it out, Clicky… /rolls eyes…*

Fortunately, A.A. Milne was also a poet and now joins the ranks of Shakespeare, Blake, Lazarus et al. on the slab of an Underdog Anthology Dead Poets page, with a mutilation of his children’s verse ‘Now We Are Six’. It lends itself rather well to the current times…

Now We Are Sick

When it was One,
It had just begun.
When it was Two,
It was Wuhan Flu.
When it was Three
People start to flee.
When it was Four,
Italy at death’s door.
When it was Five,
Boris is alive!
But now we are sick,
Locked down and Covid-clever,
So I think we’ll be sick now for ever and ever.

Keep well, Dear Reader, and if you can’t free your body, then free your mind.

*******

Have a Song, Dear Reader… ❤

 

Story Time: BOGOF

*What’s got DP so riled up, Clicky?*

*Oh, the latest installment of the Battle for Brexit… /lights up and smokes… The everso grubby Corona Skirmish. How’s that going for the Remoaning Media?*

*Figures. They never learn…*

Welcome back, Dear Reader. After posting ‘She’s In The Shower’ earlier this week…

*Beautiful, Clicky… /puffs contentedly…*

…We thought we’d treat you to another story from UAVIII. Mine this time. It’s called ‘BOGOF’ and has nothing whatsoever to do with toilet paper. Enjoy 😉

*******

BOGOF

By Roo B. Doo

The supermarket was already a hive of activity by the time Clive Ambrose squelched into the admin office of the Marchway Emporium. He removed his sodden jacket, shook his feet and inspected the wet hem of his trouser legs. “Good grief, Sylvie, the weather’s absolutely filthy today.”

His assistant looked up from the paperwork on her desk. Sylvie arched a quizzical eyebrow and clucked at the dripping store manager stood in front of her. “Morning, Clive. You’re late.”

It was barely fifty yards from his reserved parking space to the staff entrance, but the morning’s unexpected squally shower had drenched Clive every step of the way. The car park could do with resurfacing, he thought glumly. Some of those puddles are deep.

“And today of all the days!” Clive exclaimed, pinching wet and steamy glasses off his nose. “Fiona’s car wouldn’t start, so I had to drop her off at the University first. She had an early lecture. Empowerment of women in a post-Brexit toxic wasteland, or something like that.”

Sylvie widened her eyes and pursed her lips. She offered Clive the box of man-sized tissues from her desk.  “Doesn’t she know you voted to leave?”

“Lord no!” Clive snorted, patting away the rain and perspiration beads that studded his face. “That would kill her. A shock like that could cause an embolism.”

“Or a heart attack…”

“At the very least it could induce a catatonic state.”

“But they’re all natural causes, Clive,” Sylvie simpered slyly. “No court would convict you, surely.”

Clive dried his glasses off with a fist full of tissues. “Probably not. I’ll bear it in mind.” As much as he enjoyed the banter with Sylvie, Clive was under no illusion that should his beloved wife Fiona ever find out that he’d voted for Brexit, she wouldn’t be the spouse in danger of dying.

Sylvie pushed her ample frame away from her desk, stood up and slipped on her shoes. She straightened the seam on her skirt and tottered over to the office doorway. “I’ll get you a coffee, Clive. A frothy one with sprinkles?”

Clive returned his now freshly dried glasses to his face and looked his assistant up and down. “You look different today, Sylvie. Are you taller?”

“I’m wearing heels.”

“I’ve not seen you in stilettos before. And is that make up?”

Sylvie flicked her thick, blonde hair from her shoulders nonchalantly and plucked a non-existent piece of lint from her sleeve. “Well it’s not every day the Emporium is graced by celeb chef royalty. Housewives favourite, Freddie Calender, here, giving a cookery demonstration? I thought I’d make the effort, Clive.”

Clive was suddenly worried that he’d gone too far. He would hate to offend Sylvie; sometimes he thought she was his only friend. “No, you look very smart. That’s smart thinking, Sylvie. Well done. Smart all round.”

Sylvie smiled at her blushing boss and bobbed her head. “So, coffee. With froth and sprinkles?”

“Yes please,” Clive said gratefully. He clapped his hands together and looked around his office. “So, big day ahead. I’ll go and check out the Freddie Calendar books and DVDs promotion once my shoes have dried out a bit, but I do need to speak to Alan. I suspect with this weather, and the amount of customers we’re likely to attract today, we’ll need extra matting and mopping.”

“I’ll find him and send him through,” Sylvie said with a smile and left the office with an unsteady wobble.

Clive grimaced and continued to worry about slips, trips and falls.

+++

Kara Swinton pulled the sun visor down from above her head and checked her appearance in the tiny mirror fixed to the back of it. Despite the early hour, she didn’t think she looked too bad; a little pale maybe, but better than she ought to considering what little sleep she’d managed to get the night before. As she turned her face from side to side she caught a glimpse of the figure slumped, sleeping in the back seat of the Uber cab they were taking to Marchway, and thought he looked considerably worse than her.

“There’s a light if you want to fix your make-up,” the driver next to her said helpfully. His eyes didn’t waver from the dark road ahead as he reached up and flicked a switch next to the mirror.

Ugh! Kara thought at the dark rings under her eyes, now illuminated by the harsh, blue light that spilled over her. She quickly switched it off and pushed the sun visor up to its original position. She could kill for a cigarette. “No, that’s okay. Thank you, I don’t want to wake him.”

“No problem,” the driver replied. He flashed a bright smile at Kara before tilting his head back toward the sleeping figure. “Late night, was it?”

Kara considered telling him that they’d spent the evening in the bar at the House of Commons – how they’d drunk far too much in an effort to keep up with their very thirsty host, an MP of twenty years standing, in an attempt to solicit further backing – but decided against it. “Kinda,” she replied with a shrug. “A work thing.”

They traveled in silence that was intermittently broken by burbled snores from the back seat. Several times Kara noticed the driver’s dark eyes flicking up to the rear view mirror, to stare inquiringly at the slack jawed, drooling face of her boss. He can’t place him, she decided. And no wonder, the public rarely sees Freddie Calender, TV chef and food activist, without his trademark grin and sparkling eyes. Kara stifled a yawn, I won’t tell him unless he asks.

Freddie turned in his seat and farted loudly.

“Oh Freddie,” Kara groaned under her breath and pushed a button on her door. The window whined down and the raw sound of the motorway rushed in. “You’d better do the same,” she advised the driver. “It’s Dev, right?”

“Yeah and you’re Kara,” Dev chuckled and shook his head. “That’s okay. I lived in India when I was little. Nothing pongs as bad as India. It was like being inoculated against future bad smells.”

Kara smiled as she allowed the cold air to stream over her face, letting it beat all traces of tiredness away. She breathed deeply; it smelt like rain. “Dev, would it be okay with you if I smoked a cigarette?”

“Freddie?” Dev started having caught the name. “Is that’s Freddie Calender, the chef off the telly?”

Kara pulled a battered metal cigarette case from her coat pocket and waggled it at Dev. “I’ll tell you if you’ll let me smoke.”

“Sure,” Dev said, flashing Kara with another bright smile. “If you don’t mind that I vape.” He pulled a white plastic tube from his door well and twirled it between his fingers, waggling his eyebrows.

“Heh. Not at all.” Kara returned his smile; Dev had a nice smile. “Thank you, you’re a life saver. This is my first today.” She reached into her other coat pocket and pulled out an equally battered lighter. “Of course, the first one always tastes better with coffee,” she sighed, lighting up, careful to blow the first drag of smoke out of the window.

“So am I right?” Dev opened his window and took a pull on his vape stick. “I am aren’t I? That’s Freddie Calender.”

“Yes he is,” Kara said sweetly, turning back to look fondly over her comatose boss. Freddie shifted and farted again. “TV chef, mediocre businessman,” she continued tartly, turning back to face forward, “and scourge of BOGOF.” Kara inclined her head toward the open window and took another deep drag on her cigarette. “That Freddie Calender.”

“And what’s a BOGOF?” Dev asked.

Kara laughed softly to cover her surprise. She watched the orange sparks dance atop her cigarette and disappear into the morning air as the car’s slipstream simultaneously whisked away it’s ashen hat.  “You’ve never heard of BOGOF?”

Dev turned his head toward Kara and shook it, although his eyes remained fixed on the road ahead. “No, is it a toilet thing?”

“Eww, no.” Kara studied the blank expression on Dev’s face and concluded that he really didn’t know. “It’s short for ‘Buy One Get One Free’… bee-oh-gee-oh-eff. BOGOF.” Still nothing. “Obviously you don’t do the grocery shopping in your house,” she teased.

Dev took another deep pull on his vape stick and blew a plume of steam out of his open window. “If you want to know if I’m in relationship, you can just ask me.”

Cheeky sod, Kara thought, coughing to hide her embarrassment; she had noticed that the very good looking cab driver wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. “Okay, I’ll play. Do you have a girlfriend, Dev?”

“No,” Dev stated seriously before flashing Kara with another winning smile. “But I take my mum to the supermarket and help with the food shop every week. I’ve just never actually heard anyone call it BOGOF before. Do people even say that?”

“BOGOF,” Freddie slurred from the depths of sleep.

Kara and Dev burst into laughter. They tried suppressing their mirth so as not to wake him so that their shoulders shook all the more. Kara threw the butt of her exhausted cigarette out of the window and let the rushing wind carry it away with a howl of laughter.

“Surreal,” Dev said shaking his head slowly. “My first famous fare and it’s completely surreal.”

“Freddie has that effect sometimes,” Kara sighed. “Have we got very much further to go?” she asked, arching her back. The cigarette and laughter had relaxed her somewhat, but Kara could do with stretching her legs.

“Marchway is about thirty minutes away,” Dev replied, glancing up through the windscreen at the overcast sky. “If it doesn’t rain.” He tapped at the sat nav screen. “Actually, there’s a service station coming up. Do you want to stop and get coffee?”

“That would be great, thanks. I’ll wake his nibs up then, so he has enough time to come to.” Kara knew Freddie would appreciate that, and a strong, black coffee would probably do him the world of good.

+++

“There you go.” Sylvie placed a bacon sandwich and cappuccino in front of Clive. “I thought you could do with something to eat as well. I doubt you had time this morning.”

Clive was touched. He’d had to forgo his usual bowl of muesli because of Fiona’s car troubles. Not that he minded missing Fiona’s muesli, but he’d hadn’t realised just how hungry he was until he smelt the aroma of bacon. Clive smacked his lips and beamed up at Sylvie. “Thank you very much indeed.”

“You’re welcome,” Sylvie said beaming a smile back.“Did you talk to Alan yet?”

Clive took a huge bite out of his sandwich and nodded enthusiastically.

Sylvie liked to see Clive eat and was quite convinced his wife didn’t feed him at all. “Good. I see Freddie Calender is in the newspaper today. We get a mention.”

Clive stopped mid-chew and swallowed. “National or local press?”

Sylvie pulled a folded newspaper from under her arm and passed it to Clive.” Local, but he’s in all the nationals as well. Page seven.”

Clive wiped his fingers on the napkin Sylvie had thoughtfully tucked under his bacon sandwich, and opened the newspaper. Freddie Calender stared out, all twinkling eyes and dimpled grin. Clive read the accompanying article in silence, while Sylvie watched his brow slowly furrow.

Eventually he looked up. “Here we are at the end, but what’s this ‘BOG OFF to BOGOF’ business? What’s he got against ‘buy one get one free’?”

Sylvie had already returned to her desk and kicked off her shoes. “I’ll look it up,” she said, skittering painted nails over the keyboard. “Here we are. I’ve found the website.”

Clive continued eating his sandwich, more slowly this time, and re-read the article.

“It’s like it says in the newspaper,” Sylvie murmured reading the words on screen. “He’s heading up a national campaign to ban ‘buy one get one free’ deals. “‘It’s time to tell Big Retail that we don’t want more of their junk products that we didn’t need in the first place.’ Bloody cheek!”

Clive took a slurp of cappuccino and sucked the foam off his mustache. “Listen to this: ‘It’s all too easy to be lured into buying ready meals, thinking ‘what a bargain’, when the truth is, that second portion of processed crap languishing in your fridge, will be binned when it’s past it’s sell-by date because the first one tasted so bad.’” Clive looked up at Sylvie and blinked. “He’s very strident in his criticism.”

“He’s very rude is what he is,” Sylvie huffed, bristling with indignation “And quite wrong. Our ‘Authentic Dishes of the World’ ranges are delicious and very popular. Especially the chicken Tikka Masala in ‘Feasts from the East’. Do you think Head Office knows about this?”

“I doubt it, Sylvie.” Clive rubbed his hands together to remove any sandwich crumbs from his fingers, and wiped his mouth. “They’ve been exceptionally buoyed ever since landing Calender’s ‘Time to Cook’ nationwide tour. His name has a certain cachet, but you’re right to ask. We should find out. Can you get me Megan at Head Office on the phone?”

“Of course.” Sylvie picked up the receiver of her telephone console and jabbed at the keypad with a pen. “It won’t stop with ready meals, Clive, you mark my words. We have BOGOF deals on wine, pet foods, toiletries… Oh good morning. Could I speak to Megan Prendergast, please. Clive Ambrose from the Marchway store would like to speak with her. Thank you, we’ll hold.” She kept the receiver to her ear but placed a hand over the mouthpiece. “And has he even considered the impact this could have on food banks? I bet he hasn’t.”

Clive drained his coffee cup and reached down to slip his mostly dried shoes back onto his feet. He appreciated his assistant’s feistiness – finding Sylvie strangely attractive when she had her hackles up – but unintended consequences were a fact of life. The trick, in Clive’s opinion, was to deal with them as best you can and to always look for the silver lining.

His thinking was interrupted when Sylvie nodded several times toward the phone on his desk. He picked up the receiver. “Good morning, Megan, Clive Ambrose from Marchway here. Tell me, have you seen the Freddie Calender articles in the press today?”

Sylvie leaned back in her chair and watched Clive’s conversation. He didn’t say much but from his facial expressions and body language, Sylvie could tell that Head Office was as shocked by the news as they were.

“No, of course you need to scrutinize his contract thoroughly. The issue I have is that we’re expecting him to arrive at the store in a little over an hour.” Clive rolled his eyes at Sylvie at the response he was hearing before eventually saying “Goodbye” and ending the call.

“Well?” Sylvie asked expectantly. “Are we going to cancel?”

Clive stood up and pulled his jacket on. “No, the Legal department needs to study his contract properly. That takes time.”

Sylvie gave a snort of disgust. “So we’re going to have to be nice to him, all the while he’s slagging us off in the press?”

“Well, not us per se, he’s not stupid,” Clive soothed, straightening his tie. “But Head Office seems a little bereft of ideas.” He started for the office door, but stopped to pick at something stuck in his teeth. He pulled the irritant out; it was a piece of bacon. He studied it and thought about Fiona’s muesli, the morning’s deluge and his satisfied bacon-filled stomach, before popping it back into his mouth. There’s always a silver lining to be found.

“Come along on, Sylvie,” Clive said, holding the door open for her. “We should go and inspect the demonstration and promotional areas. I really hope this weather doesn’t keep the customers away.”

+++

Dev leaned against the pillar in the coffee shop, watching Kara pay at the counter. He allowed his eyes a moment to rake over her slender form, though he quickly looked away when she glanced up and caught his stare.  Kara was all smiles as she approached him with the coffees.

“Here you go,” she said and handed Dev a cardboard cup, topped with a plastic adult teat. “A tall Flat White. That’s on me.”

“Thanks Kara, but there’s no need.”

They moved to the napkin station where Kara liberally applied brown sugar to her larger cup of white chocolate Mocha. “Oh don’t worry about. I got it with my loyalty points.” She pulled the wooden stirrer between her lips and sucked off the milky foam. “Consider it as part of your tip.”

Dev sipped gingerly from the steaming hole in the lid of his cup. “I’ve had plenty of racing tips as tips but this is much nicer.”

“Why, weren’t any of those tips any good?” Kara asked playfully.

“Nah, they were all nags,” Dev said with a grin and tilted his cup toward Kara. “Thanks again.”

They left the coffee shop and as they reached the entrance doors to the service station. Both were surprised to find the rain that threatened earlier had actually arrived. A sheet of water fell from the roof covering the entrance like a second transparent door.

“Oh hell, we’re gonna get soaked!” Dev declared as he gauged the strength of the rain and the distance to the car. “We’ll have to make a run for it.”

“No sodding way,” Kara hollered over the sound of the falling rain. “I want to have a smoke before we go back. Freddie hates me smoking.” She sauntered over to an empty table and chairs set back from the cascading rain, under the cover the overhanging roof.

Dev followed her and sat down. He patted his pockets. “Oh shit, I’ve left my vape stick in the car.”

“You won’t be able to vape when we get back either. Freddie hates that too.” Kara said pulling the battered metal box from her pocket and extracted a cigarette. “Would you like one of mine?”

She watched Dev dithering as to whether to take one or not. Oh you bad girl, Kara, she chastised herself but felt no pangs of guilt. “You don’t have to of course, but you should also consider this as part of your tip.”

“No, it’s okay,” Dev laughed, “but I appreciate the offer.” He took the battered Zippo lighter from Kara’s hand and flicked it into life. “Here, let me.”

Kara took a deep drag and blew the smoke out of the side of her mouth, away from Dev. She took the teated lid off her coffee and took a cautious slip. “Ahh, the second smoke of the day tastes equally as good with coffee.”

Dev turned the Zippo lighter between his thumb and index finger. “Hey, the case and lighter match. That’s neat.”

Kara took another drag and plucked the lighter from Dev’s fingers. She placed it on top of the cigarette case. “They were my granddad’s. He swapped them with a Yank during the war.”

“What did he swap them for?”

“Provisions. They were both POWs in World War Two. I got them when he died a couple of years back. Well, my sister doesn’t smoke, so they came to me,” Kara said with a shrug. “They’re a useful memento.”

“Of your granddad,” Dev murmured solemnly.

“Well yes,” Kara drawled and release a plume of smoke from her mouth. “And that neither smoking, nor bloody combat managed to see him off.”

Dev eyed the steadily falling rain and lightly drummed his fingers on the table top. “Go on then, as it’s part of my tip.”

Kara chuckled and slid her cigarette box and lighter over to Dev. “Knock yourself out.”

Dev lit up a cigarette. “So if Freddie Calender doesn’t like smoking-”

“He hates smoking.”

“And vaping-” Dev popped the lid from his Flat White.

“Completely loathes it.”

“And hates BOGOFs-” He took a slurp of his coffee.

“Vehemently.”

“Is there anything Freddie Calender does like?” Dev asked, licking hot foam from his lips.

Kara flicked ash onto the floor. “You mean apart from Freddie Calender? Um…”. She puffed out her cheeks in contemplation.

“Ha, yes.”

“Jammie Dodgers.” Kara lent in toward Dev and whispered conspiratorially. “They’re his secret vice.”

Dev smiled and gazed at Kara snort with laughter at her own joke. He let his eyes linger on her pale and beautiful face, and this time, when she caught him staring, Dev did not look away.

He chipped off the remains of his cigarette and stood up. “The rain seems to be easing up some. If you’ve finished that, I think we could make a run for it. We shouldn’t get too wet.”

“Okay.” Kara took a final drag and discarded the butt into an encroaching puddle of rainwater. It hissed and fizzled out. “Freddie hates it when his coffee is cold.”

+++

Freddie Calender slung his foot out of back of the black saloon car and into a puddle of water. “Bollocks!” he swore loudly and pulled his foot back inside, wiping the sides of his pristine white trainers against the tufted car mat. “Fella, you’ve managed to park on a lake. Can’t you find us somewhere drier?”

“Sorry,” Dev said and reversed out of the parking bay and maneuvered it into a empty spot immediately behind. “Is that better?”

Kara cracked open her door and looked down. “Yes, much. Thank you, Dev.”

“Yeah, thanks mate,” Freddie said, slapping Dev hard on the shoulder as he slid out of the car.

“I’ve got my phone with me if you need me,” Kara mumbled and pulled her bag up onto her lap, rummaging inside. “He’s booked for three hours but this shouldn’t take much longer than that. You’re sure you don’t mind waiting?”

“No problem.”

“I mean, you don’t mind us not paying for you to wait.” Kara placed her hand on Dev’s arm. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea Freddie was going to suggest that.”

Dev smiled and shook his head. “No, that’s okay. As Freddie pointed out, it’s extremely doubtful I’m gonna get another fare from Marchway back to London. Besides, he’s promised an autographed photo for my mum. I can’t leave before I get that.”

“Okay then, see you later.” Kara open the car door and got out.

Dev sat back in his seat and watched Kara heft her bag up onto her shoulder, and weave her way through the puddles littering the car park, toward the supermarket. He pulled out his vape stick and switched on the radio. All in all, for his first celebrity fare, he thought it had gone pretty well so far. But Kara? She was definitely the best thing about it.

+++

Freddie saw the expectant delegation of suits and primary coloured uniforms before he stepped through the sliding doors and into the supermarket. He knew they had seen him as soon as he heard a squeal of excitement. There was always a squeal.

“Hello Mr Calender!” Clive called out and strode toward him. “We’re so pleased to welcome you to the Marchway Emporium.” He grabbed Freddie’s hand and pumped it enthusiastically. “Very pleased indeed.”

“Yeah, I’m excited to be here.” Freddie grinned his trademark grin at the waiting crowd before him and shook the proffered hands. “I can’t wait to get cooking.”

“Shame about the weather but hopefully it won’t put too many people off coming out to see you.” Clive placed his hand on the small of Freddie’s back and attempted to steer him forward. “This way, we’re all set up for you.”

Freddie stopped. “Wait. I need to introduce you to my assistant,” he said tentatively and swung around, looking for the absent Kara. “There she is. Kara!”

Kara had just arrived and was stamping her wet boots on the matting inside the door. She looked up and smiled at hearing her name. “Hello. How do you do. Golly, it’s extremely wet out there.”

Sylvie tottered forward and took Kara’s hand. “Yes, it was dreadfully unexpected. I’m Sylvie, the Store Manager’s assistant. I can take you to dry off first if you like.”

“Kara’s my go-to gal, aren’t you, Kara?” Freddie wrapped an arm around Kara’s shoulders and pulled her in tight. “If anybody needs anything of me, especially whilst I’m cooking, speak to Kara. She’s on point. Okay?”

“Ah, well perhaps I should give this to you then,” Sylvie said to Kara, and loosened a page from her clipboard. “It’s all the ingredients specifically requested for today. We just want to make sure there’s nothing missing.”

Freddie snatched the paper from Sylvie. “No, I’ll check that. I am the chef.” He pinched his bottom lip between forefinger and thumb as he scanned the list. “No, that’s everything. Thank you.”

You arse! Kara thought sourly and plucked the page from Freddie’s hand. She’d seen the flush of colour in Sylvie’s cheeks and decided a spot of charm might be the best remedy. It’s amazing how skillful I’ve become at charming people since I started working for you, she admonished Freddie silently.

She passed the paper back to Sylvie with a toothy smile. “Oh my god, your nails are wonderful, Sylvie!” Kara held Sylvie’s hand and studied the finish on her nails. “Did you get those done professionally?”

The flush in Sylvie’s cheeks turned to blush. “No, I did them myself. I used transfers. I learnt how to do it on the internet. There are so many videos on YouTube…”

“Well then,” Clive said clearing his throat and replaced his hand on the small of Freddie’s back, nudging him onward. “Shall we go to the kitchen demonstration area? We’ve converted part of our Riverside cafe for the day. Temporarily of course, but we think you’ll be satisfied with the layout.”

+++

“Hey! I thought I might find you out here,” Dev called out and ambled over to Kara. He passed her a cardboard carton, a wisp of steam curled out from the hole in its lid. “I thought maybe you could do with one of these.”

Kara was stood smoking alone in the bright sunshine, and rocking on her feet. The free hand she had stuffed in her coat pocket took the coffee from him gratefully. “Hey! Aw, thank you! How did you know that the third cigarette of the day is spectacularly good with coffee? Wow. You really are an excellent cab driver, Dev.”

 “Thank you, Kara.”

“In fact I suggest you prepare yourself for a most effusive customer review.”

“Consider me already bowled over,” Dev said with a wide smile. “So how’s it going with Freddie’s demonstration?”

“Pretty good, I think. Despite the earlier bad weather, he’s drawn quite a crowd.” Kara took a long drag on her cigarette, followed up by a short sip from her coffee cup. “Have you been shopping?”

Dev was carrying a bulging plastic bag, with the primary coloured Emporium logo emblazoned on the front. “I have. Fortunately I had some time to kill this morning, so I thought I’d check out inside.”

Kara smiled and released a cloud of smoke into the bright blue sky. “Did you buy anything nice?”

“Yes I did,” Dev said pulling his vape stick from his pocket. “I got some presents for my mum.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah.” Dev took a hit from his vape stick. “Say, Kara, have you had a chance to look around the rest of the store?”

Kara looked at Dev and flicked the ash from her cigarette. She squinted in the sunshine. “No, not really. I’ve been busy with the demonstration. Why?”

“It might be nothing, but the Emporium seems really keen on BOGOFs.”

“What do you mean?”

Dev shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “I mean, really keen. They have a whole aisle of ‘buy one get one free’ ingredients from Freddie’s demo dishes and it’s jammed with customers.”

“No!” Kara could feel the blood draining from her already too pale face.

“Yeah, there are even food bank reps behind the tills collecting BOGOF donations. I didn’t know they were allowed to do that.” Dev reached into his shopping bag and pulled out a book. “And then there’s this.” Freddie Calender’s twinkling eyes and trademarked dimpled grin shone from the cover. “They’ve got a big promotion of these inside as well. All ‘buy one get one free’. I bought this and got one of his DVDs with it. What a bargain! Mum thinks Freddie’s great.”

Kara placed her coffee cup on the floor before taking the book from Dev. She stared at it in astonishment. It was Freddie’s latest title, ‘Time To Cook’, but a large, primary coloured sticker had been placed over the last word. “’Freddie Calender’s Time To BOGOF’?”

Dev tried hard but the giggle that he’d held inside him could no longer be contained. “I’ve only known Freddie a morning, but even I know that he is gonna hate that!”

Kara roared with laughter and grabbed Dev’s arm. “We’d best not tell him then, eh? We don’t want to ruin the journey back.”

+++

Sylvie was typing into her computer when Clive returned to the Emporium’s Admin Office. “Well, that all went off very well in the end, I think,” he said, sitting down at his desk. A steaming cup of tea and a jam doughnut, with a thoughtfully placed napkin, were waiting for him. “Thank you, Sylvie. That’s very kind of you.”

“No problem, Clive.” Sylvie turned away from her computer screen so that she could watch Clive take the first sugary bite from his doughnut. “Have you spoken to Alan this afternoon?” she asked.

Clive shook his head no and continued chewing.

“He stopped by earlier, cock-a-hoop about something he’s posted up on Twitter.”

Clive swallowed and licked sugar and jam from his lips. “Alan’s on Twitter?”

“Yes. I’m not on Twitter myself, but Alan says he’s got a number of followers on there. They’ve been liking and retweeting a photo he took of our Freddie Calendar book promotion. Apparently it’s gone viral.”

“Really?” Clive wiped his fingers on the napkin, woke up his computer and opened Twitter. “Did Alan happen to mention the name of his Twitter handle?” he asked, reaching for his tea and taking a large gulp.

“Yes. He posts anonymously on…” Sylvie paused, peered down at her notebook and grimaced. “At silver streaky bacon?”

And for the second time that day, Clive Ambrose found himself unexpectedly soaked.

*******

*Trust Jammy Oliver to land a show with a captive audience, Clicky… /stubs butt… Time for a Song methinks…*

And that, as they say, is that. Underdog Anthology XI: Ay Corona! (working title) is due out in April, and I really must get back to finishing my story for it. So until next time, Dear Reader, have a Song ❤

*Seriously, Clicky? …/laughs like a drain…*

Story Time: She’s In The Shower

Something to cheer everyone up now, Dear Reader 😀 I know, I know, times are trying at present: what with the new Hack Death stalking the Armageddon landscape of political and financial turmoil, causing the Media to shit its collective shit for brains, and instilling an insatiable desire in the general populus to self-isolate within a mountain made of toilet rolls. Oh, the humanity. Think of the trees…

blah blah blah

*/lights up… Well, it’s mental, Clicky… /drags deeply… Leggy’s on to sumfin… /smoky sigh…*

… So, to cheer us all up, I persuaded my good buddy Cade, the Okie Text Us Devil, to let us publish his fantastic story from Underdog Anthology VIII: Transgenre Dreams…

Pearls before Swine

*Doesn’t have to be paper, Clicky. Kindles cheaper and quicker… /thinks… Bloody brilliant if you have to spend time at home, self isolating…*

… It’s an absolute belter 😀 We know you will enjoy ‘She’s In The Shower’… 😉

*******

She’s In The Shower

By Cade F.O.N Apollyon

Before I go, I thought I might pass along a few thoughts that I’ve had about timelines and those who travel them. My name is Arton Arin. I am a 43 tri-season old resident of Bollinger in the Southern Midlands of Eggland, and I’ve been told that I am preparing to pass of a diseize called Cancera Molingua.

Before you become too distressed at my predicament, know that I actually feel quite well as of this writing, and I would prefer that you hear the tale I have to tell before making too many judgments about how you should feel about me and my current Medicull outlook. I simply thought it best to relay to you a bit about who I am, when and where I come from, and maybe a bit about why I am writing this story.

To be completely forthright, I am bored. My diseize is very rare, but highly contagious. Therefore, I spend most of my days in total isolation, pacing the length and breadth of my isolated hopspittle tangle, thinking about days gone by. If there is a bright side, it is that after the first two weeks of infection, which I am told is usually spent in a comatoe, the remainder of whatever time is left is spent mostly symptom-free. Or so I am told. However, I am also told that I will once again, sometime in the near future, slip into a comatoes from which I will not wake. Typical.

One might think that someone in my current state may perhaps spend most of their time lamenting a future that will never come. Sorrows, woes, and oh no’s. All those glorious dreams of future endeavors, forever lost because of some new form of Cancera that has chosen to spring up in myself and a few other unfortunates. All of us scattered here and there, in and around a world that I do not know very well at all. But I find myself thinking about such things only when contemplating the thoughts of others and how they might view me. And what I mean to say there, with impunity to you who are reading this, is that I do not think about the future nor why I shall not be in it, unless I think about those who are actually there. Someone such as you.

You are there already…reading this…written by someone who might have been there, but is, alas, not. Cancera Molingua decided we should be apart. Or perhaps, decided it better that we meet in a different fashion. Were I not preparing to pass, I would not be writing this. Were I not already passed, you would not be reading it. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, whoever you are. But let us get back to my boredom and why I’ve decided to explore a bit further the topic of those who travel timelines differently than others.

As stated previously, I am quite bored. My waking hours are spent in the past. Spent recalling tales told to me in my youth by parents and grandparents, relatives and friends; a cross section of everything from absolute truth, to complete and total flabber. Some of the more strange and interesting tales were those told to me by my grandfather. My grandfather confided in me later that these tales were actually told to him by his grandfather, although my grandfather sometimes painted himself in the main role to make the storytelling more relatable. After all,” he explained, “these are strange tales of a time where both morta and godda alike intermingled with the firmament of the cosmos!” Grandfather liked to recall in a mighty voice. They were sometimes indeed difficult tales to understand. Difficult tales to follow.

Of course, in my grandfather’s grandfather’s time, the names were different as the language was different. These were the times before “The Great Buyout” when the last of the free lands were deeded. Before “The Final Four Closure” when all ownership tytulle changed hands, which intern caused “The Sudden Shift” of morta peepwholes moving to and from all corvers of the planets. Before “The Age Of The Tri-Season” where the cold and hot seasons came with some regularity, and our primary planet did not linger for unspecified times in rethrograde nor anterograde orbits. Before “The Great Shaming Of All Nations” when all language was changed, and all memory of what came before was changed forever.

I am only telling you this, because I just realized that some of my words may not mean the same to you as they do to me, as I have no idea who you are, nor when and where you will be reading this. Pity that I have no idea which words you may understand, and which words you may not. I suppose it’s just an unfortunate side-defect of time’s progression, and I suppose I’ll just have to do the best that I can.

***

My grandfather told tales of times and places before The Shifts. Of course, the peepwhole then too were different, but they are gone, whereas I am told that many of these places that he spoke of still exist in some forms in fashion. Old places with new names and new destinies in new times. Many places that I should have loved to see had I reached the required traveling age of 45 tri-seasons. Alas, I am told that I shall not.

I suppose in looking back now, the interesting thing to me is that the tales my grandfather told me seem now to have been an up-building. A gathering of wanders and their wonders. Strange events I once thought fiction, leading from a time of knowing, to a time of non-knowing. Only through my illness have I had the time to reflect on these tales and what they could potentially mean. By that, I mean that I can avoid reflecting on a future that never is, mine, by reflecting instead on a future that perhaps never was. Perhaps because of these events, a future without me in it, was somehow avoided? Perhaps I am here only because of The Shifts?

I have begun to believe that perhaps there is truth in these stories my grandfather told me. Perhaps there is a certain deliberate vibration of sorts through time, and only through time and only with our attention can we begin to understand the wisdom in this. Perhaps this vibration crafts the never was, the is not, and the never will be, into something…more tolerable? More palatable? A deliberate and direct intervention on the part of some unseen will who guides us to where we actually need be, as opposed to where we want or think we need be?

I apologize to you if I am straying off point. And I realize that I have not yet told to you any of my grandfather’s tales. But as I write this, I cannot help but feel some degree of sorrow for a certain place from one of grandfather’s stories I shall never see. A place that I have dreamed of seeing since I first heard the story of “The Lady In The Shower Ring”, and it all took place in a land of dry, in a small town ship that no longer exists, called Text Sass.

***

We in my time are allowed to know anything, but we are not allowed to know it until a certain age is attained. There is no reason given for this as no one is said to know how this process came to be nor why. But the general consenseus is that it is to maintain a balance of want and need within society in times of limited resources. The less we know, the less we want, and the less we want, the more that our needs will be both true and inline with their actual necessity. This reasoning makes sense to me as it does most others that I have spoken with on the subject. But until I became sick and eventually became to be housed at the hopspittle with my own private tangle, I had no real knowledge of what “a shower ring” really was, nor that they actually existed.

L’water is plentiful in my time. As far as I am aware, even those who live in lands of dry never attain a thirst that cannot be squenched. We are allowed to totally immerse ourselves in L’water for cleaning twice every season within the tri-season, and both M’water and N’waters can be used for cleaning and swashing. You cannot consume these waters because of a tiny unseen organism called Blass Ticks that are too numerous for our internals, but these waters are more than adequate for daily cleanings. The Blass Ticks are even said to be good for swashing and cleansing the hepadermis. However, in my grandfather’s stories, that his grandfather told him, he spoke of times before The Shifts when morta peepwholes had unlimited access to L’waters, and would sprinkle their bodies with it daily in an area of their residences called The Shower Ring.

My tangle here at the hopspittle has a shower ring. It is a tangle like where I now spend my days but much smaller; two long sides, two shorter sides. A small tangle, within a larger tangle, that is specifically for swashing and cleansing. Due to it’s shape, I admit I am confused as to why it is called “a shower ring”. Perhaps someday I will ask one of the Fizzicans who checks on me each weakly.

I can swash and cleanse as much as I like, but you do not totally immerse in the shower ring. In fact, you do not immerse at all. A’waters, which are a yellowish, orange/brown Medicull water with something called “munkee blod” in it, sprays from a pipe on the wall, and all I need do is stand in the shower ring to swash. The water droplets that fall from the pipe in the shower ring remind me of the stories of “The Time Of Many Reigns”. Before The Shifts, reigns fell from the skies without intervention from peepwholes. No one knows why, but reigns of L’water fell without prompting, at many and all times during the four seasons that were said to have existed prior to the times of the tri-season. To preserve the purity of processes, we are disallowed from standing in the reigns when those who reign over all pour their L’water freely from the skies. But this shower ring is what I imagine that must be like.

So many things seem to have conspired to land me in my own tangle with my own shower ring. And I am told that I will know that the time is close when I feel my toes start to become numb. What a strange concept to ponder…the feeling, of numbness. I fear I’ve gone too long on myself already, so pondering here the concept of what it is to feel nothing or how nothing feels, I shall save for perhaps another time.

I shall now tale you the tell I was told by my grandfather. The story of The Lady In The Shower Ring. The story of the lady with tool eggs, and four harms. The story, of She Vah and my grandfather’s grandfather in the shower ring.

***

My grandfather was not a holy man, neither was he good. But nor was he unholy, neither was he evil.

There was no good…there was no bad…only the conflict of the two was in him.

Empty, some might say. As empty as a nothing which had no end.

Yet all and any was at his beckoning and at his whim.

For the two mighty Ones held sway over him…The One, and The Other One.

The Other One was to The One, as The One was to The Other One.

Two Ones, which is, and are, the same One, from different times, who sought out my grandfather, in the same time, at the same time.

The time before The Times Of The Shifts.

Both of The Ones were sometimes hidden from him, and both sometimes seen, and brought with them their manys and alls to test him.

To both teach him and to remove his teachings…and learn my grandfather did.

To taunt him, confuse him, cause fear in him…and fear and become confused my grandfather did.

To break him…and break my grandfather they did…many times.

The Ones and their goddas versus the lone morta.

How and why you may wonder? Why did the goddas show up? Why did they show up in Text Sass? Why did they choose my grandfather? What could he as a morta possibly have to offer the goddas, and what purpose could he possibly serve?

My grandfather said he never knew why they chose him, except to say “well that fuckin’ figures.”

Breaking after breaking my grandfather withstood.

Each and every time, the Ones wagered whether this be his last…but my grandfather found his feet again each time. More resilient and more determined after every breaking. Determined to know…why him…why now.

My grandfather had nothing. That is not to say he had “nothing”, for he had many things in his life that he loved dear. But in the time of those times, and in the eyes of those in and of those times, he was considered to be a man who had nothing. Alone, in a tangle, without possession, old and broken, separated from those he loved, and he knew not why.

And it was at this time, that The Ones and their goddas arrived.

Arrived in all manners. Arrived in all forms imaginable, and in many forms unfathomable. Via any and every channel available them, they arrived. Sight, sound, smell, song, memory, knowing, and more. With all tools in the hands of the masters that created and crafted them, they arrived. Completely unannounced, they arrived.

My grandfather said of their arrival…“Pretty god damn unwelcome to be honest.”

I asked of my grandfather why he did not ask of them “why?”

He smiled at me and said, “It honestly made perfect sense at the time, and I also know now that they arrived just in time. I just…didn’t expect it, and certainly not in the way and ways that it happened. I had no idea what to do, nor how to do it. Cornered, I was.”

Emptiness, my grandfather told me, is a portal into the realm of the absurd. And to begin to understand the absurd and its absurdities, is to gain insight into the concept of love. Insight into the concept of love, provides us with a glimpse into the concept of hate. From there, the knowing of all knowing cascades in, out, and through, any and every emotion you can think of. Before long, you find yourself falling through nothing, into nothing, surrounded by everything, and somehow, you see all.

To fall forever is a completely absurd notion, my grandfather told me. Why would anything, ever need to exist, or ever even be contemplated as potentially needing to exist, which would cause one to fall forever. The answer that I arrived at from time to time, after much deliberation, was love. Neither One wanted me, but neither One could bring themselves to destroy me. This is the best I could arrive at, after countless years and tears of contemplation…was hope. I fall forever in hope. They allow me to fall forever, in their hoping. Hoping that I may someday, when needed, be what it is I need be. They about their business, and me about mine. Time for all of us, to arrive at the time we all need be at, when we need be there, as we need be. Ready, for whatever we need be ready for.

May as well busy myself having some fun doing something, while I fall forever doing nothing…

…heh, heh, heh.

I was his grandson, and you are mine, and let me assure you that humility was always on my grandfather’s mind. How to remain hidden. How to be wise. To temper a blade of his own fury that cuts without cutting, and vanquish any foe while the blade remains sheathed. Yet to stand, not bowed nor cowered, yet still in all humility, before the goddas and speak as one might speak…to a friend.

Knowing these are not my friends, but neither are they my enemies.

In fact, they don’t even know who I am.

My grandfather broke into singing a strange rhyming tune that was somehow neither poem nor song. Something that resembled a cadence that soldiers might sing in unison as they marched in order to keep their steps in time…

You know me not,

For I have no name.

I am no one,

No…one…you…know.

For I am null.

I am not.

I am knot,

I am naught,

I am not, knot, naught.

Speak as a friend. Not to flatter, nor to deceive, but to be receptive and to receive. To give my all. For these are truly my friends….and my enemies. All these things my grandfather told me.

I asked of my grandfather why he did not ask of them “Why? Why not ask of them what, and how?”

He again smiled at me and said, “I figured if they wanted me to know, they would have told me.”

Over many days called “years” in those times, they tested him.

He never knew when, nor where, for they tested him at their own whims according to plans of their own design.

The goddas cajoled, and my grandfather fell silent.

They prodded him in his dreams, and he was much troubled by them, but he carried on.

All manner of vile was suggested, and he scowled in disgust and wondered with contempt what possible purpose this knowledge could serve.

They poked and prodded at his pride, and he played along and came up with better insults for himself than they.

But then something happened that The Ones did not expect.

One of the younger goddas seems to have suggested a change in tactics. “Up the auntie” as they used to say in those times before The Shifts. Instead of attacking my grandfather with shame, or with hate, or with fear, or by promise of knowledge in hope of wisdom, they tried his own weapon against him…humor.

Many of the goddas, including The Ones, had sent many a vision to my grandfather. Some he understood, some not. But one thing he always told me that he always seemed to understand, was their humor. “They’re some funny motherfuckers,” he used to tell me.

One in particular, She Vah, was trickier and more likely to apply humor than most of the others. Someone that my grandfather said he felt he had a special kinship with, without really knowing why.

She Vah, was the godda who suggested using humor against my grandfather…especially in the shower ring.

Take his humor, that which he crafts so sweet…so sweet so as not to cut, and make it so he can do nothing but harm when he wields it. Replace the sweet with bitterness. Make that which should cause joy, cause instead hate, so that even the softest of his strokes, and the sweetest of his loving kisses, draws instead blood.

I only needed to take a piss, my grandfather told me. An average day, all day, in the same spot, pondering the same mysteries over and over, and I suddenly needed a piss. Understand that I am not complaining about pondering the same mysteries over and over. Pondering one mystery may provide insight into another. Neither mystery may in fact be solved, but it just may be enough information to make some progress in the right direction…keep us alive and pondering for a little while longer. Provide one more breath.

Not all answers are finalities, and not all finalities are final, my grandfather said. I just needed to piss, and I thought at the time that it would have been nice to have thirty seconds of peace and quiet to do so. That was not to be.

You have to try and understand, as best you can, that “seeing” does not always equate with external stimuli of some kind from our immediate surroundings. Sight, we tend to equate with those things that can be quantified and verified with secondary input. Such as, you may be able to see a chair, and you can also lick that same chair to verify that something is indeed there, and “yep, it tastes like I guess a chair should taste.” May I suggest at this time that touch may be a better secondary for many a practical reason.

There are many ways to interrupt many channels of energies flowing here and there. And since we ourselves are energy and energies, and we are in a system built of systems of energies, someone who knows what in the hell they are doing can manipulate each and every sensory input we have. They can do so from eons away in the future, they can do so from eons away in the past, and perhaps they can even do both at the same time when present circumstance dictates. And that is what I am all about…time. Hope provides time, and time provides hope. I hope, that I am not boring you, grandfather said to me, with a smile a gentle nudging elbow to my ribs for emphasis.

To “see” certain things at certain times, with no external sensory input of any kind, seems, unusual. Such as, rushing to the toilet because I’m about to piss my pants, only to make it to the toilet, and find that…I, am not alone. I see nothing, yet I sense…something.

I can only just hear my urine first sounding against the water in the toilet, as I suddenly become aware of a figure approaching me from behind. I do not flinch, I do not clinch. I continue what I am doing, and observe.

In my shower, a small figure…a woman. She has a golden outline, surrounded by complete black. Distant. Inside the distinct and sharp golden outline of her figure, again, complete black. A golden-framed woman, surrounded by total darkness that also permeates all of her being except the rigid golden outline of her frame. Hair that is somehow red, yet black as night with occasional flashes of an unusual white. Her golden outline, as she moves, shimmers occasionally with rainbow colors. These colors cycle between the base golden color, and every color imaginable.

She’s far away. Edging closer. Small steps. Raising her knees, slowly up high, high above her waist, pausing for a moment, then slowly down again. With each step, and also between steps, her arms, four of them, two on each side, move with purpose. Synchronized both with, and opposed to, the movement of her steps. All manner of shapes she makes with her arms as she approaches. Her arms cross, then unfold, her hands flat, then folded, then together, then apart. She is surrounded by complete darkness. My bladder is half-empty.

She’s tall. The more steps she takes forward from the blackness, the more her height increases. Stalking her prey, or so it would appear. Slowly, gracefully, thoughtfully, edging forward from the blackness that surrounds her, permeates her. Her skin flashes from black to a whiter and pink flesh tone, then back to black. She is no longer a she. Is she? Is she a…she? Is she…Shiva? Not the Shiva I’ve seen depicted here in this life. She is Shiva, isn’t she? Who the hell is she? Which one is she?

***

You know, I can see you,” I blurt out in my mind. Her advance does not cease, nor does she waiver in her pace.

I know you can see me,” she replies. “I just wanted to see how far you would let me advance before finally saying something.

She speaks to me in a tone of someone walking the edge of a razor suspended over a pit of spikes. Focused on many things, while doing many things, all while her own well-being appears to be hanging in the balance.

Is there a particular reason you maybe couldn’t have waited for me to finish taking a leak?

Yes. In fact, there is a particular reason. You and I both know that this is not what actually happened.

I was caught. Caught trying to stray. Straying from the truth, while in the company of truth.

“We both know that much of this in fact, did happen,” I said as I fumbled with the recounting of the experience.

“True,” she replied. “I appreciate your vigor. Just maybe perhaps, stick to the more pertinent and explainable, and stay away from any further exploration of the non-relateable.”

Wise she was, and wise she is.

***

And so, my grandfather said to me, it is time that I tell you what actually happened on that day. What happened in my bathroom. My bathroom was actually no bathroom at all, nor was it mine. My bathroom contained no bath…only a shower. A shower for washing the body, a toilet for the body’s eliminating functions, and a sink for small cleanings. The shower was simply a stall covered by a retractable plastic wall called a shower curtain. This curtain was suspended by a thing called a shower curtain rod, and the curtain was suspended from this rod by things called shower curtain rings.

I did not shower much in those days as the waters at that time harmed my skin. As such, this retractable shower curtain which enclosed the shower stall was almost always left open. Rarely was this curtain closed, and spiders used to build their webs in the folds of the shower curtain to catch prey. When I would use the toilet to relieve my bladder, my back would be to the shower stall, which means there was a rather large empty area behind me. This empty area is where on many an occasion, those from the unseen realms would appear to me. An area which I could not see when standing in front of the toilet, and an area from whence I should NOT be able to see them, but for some reason…I could see them.

All that I’ve told you up to now is true, but what actually happened share now I, with you…

***

You know, I can see you,” I blurt out in my mind. Her advance does not cease, nor does she waiver in her pace.

I know you can see me,” she replies. “I’m practicing my Yoga in the shower whilst you pee.

I immediately started to laugh so hard at the absurdity of her assertion, that I started pissing all over the toilet and on the floor. She was most decidedly, NOT, doing Yoga. I collected myself somewhat, and was able to regain the proper control and direction of my urine flow.

“It looks more to me like you were trying to sneak up on me while I was taking a leak, and you got caught.”

I had to fight back. I was standing here in the vulnerability of an act of a necessary bodily function, usually performed alone and in solitude, and now that embarrassment has been compounded by shame for urinating all over the outside of the toilet and on the floor.

“Tell me, Clay. What is winning?” she asked as she continued her rhythmic and exaggerated advance towards my back.

“Winning?” I questioned. “Winning? Or victory?”

She immediately froze at hearing my question; two of her arms above her head with hands folded, two of her arms extended at her shoulders with the palms of her hands up, one leg bent and raised high up to her chest so that her foot was well off the floor, the other leg straight with her foot firmly planted. A contest! A contest to see if she can remain standing on one foot for the length of time it takes me to finish pissing. ‘A pissing contest’…of sorts.

You know,” I began, “I’ve not cleaned that shower in some time. I’ve noticed you are barefoot. You could potentially get some kind of foot disease.

She smiled, but did not move nor waiver in any other way.

Also,” I continued, “I’m the one that showers in there, so a disease of some kind is almost certain.

She maintained her smile, her eyes glowed, but still she did not move nor waiver.

Um,” I was desperate, for I was almost finished peeing, “This may take a while. There’s a dollar store right up the street if you want to toddle off there and get you a pair of cheap flip-flops that can be used as shower shoes. Will only set you back a buck.

She dropped her elevated foot in defeat, and bent over in laughter.

“WINNER!!!” I thought to myself. Just in time too. The final drops of urine fell into the toilet, I gave the requisite squeeze and shake, then found the toilet paper roll so I could do an initial clean up of the urine from the toilet bowl and floor. I reached for the toilet paper roll. Between pulling off the first few sheets and looking at the floor in order to begin planning where to start cleaning first, I briefly acknowledged Shiva’s presence in my mind. When she came again into focus, I saw one of the most incredible things that I have ever seen.

Somehow, and to this day I have no idea how she did what she did, she was standing…on both feet…AND…one foot, all at the same time. And no, before you ask, she did not suddenly grow an extra leg. She simply, somehow, ‘revealed’ to me, that she was still standing on one foot, had never moved, and, was standing on two feet. There was no double-vision. Her form was as clear, crisp, and well defined as it has ever been…only two legs. And yet, somehow, she was managing to stand with both feet firmly planted, and stand on one foot with one leg raised. I saw no third nor fourth leg.

I immediately burst into an uproarious laughter as my mind was flooded with the possibilities and notions of how she was achieving this. Multiple-dimensions? Multiple-times? Multiple-positions? All somehow aggregated here and now to give the appearance that she was in one place at one time, when she was in fact in many? Whatever she was doing, and however she was doing it, this was no trick. There was nothing ‘gimmicky’ about it. All attempts on my part to solve this mystery almost immediately dissolved away as the reality of what I had just seen continued to sink in. I continued to laugh, bent down, and started to clean my misfired urine off of the floor.

Winner,” she said softly in a quasi-sultry and sassy voice.

What!?” I protested. “I’ve already won!

Winner, winner…chicken dinner,” she said, hands on her hips. She wiggled them slightly for some added zesty emphasis.

You can’t take my win from me can you? I’ve already won it.

I can take your win from you, and I have done so. In doing so, you have answered my question, and I have answered yours.

The difference between ‘winning’ and ‘victory’?

Correct.

Anything given, can be taken away.

Correct.

A nation may ‘win’ a war, yet still not be victorious.

That is an excellent point for pondering.

Wait a second here. You stated you won after I’d already won.

“Correct.”

Then, you implied you took my victory from me.”

“Correct.”

“That’s two wins in a single contest. You aren’t talking about winning nor victory at all are you?”

“Perhaps yes, and perhaps not.”

I continued to wipe urine from the floor as thoughtfully and completely as I could, and it occurred to me that most lessons from ‘else’ usually comes both indirectly, and, it is heavily layered. One can many times choose to peel back as many layers as they care to. Such as, an old man on his hands and knees wiping his own piss off of the bathroom floor because the god Shiva made him laugh while he was pissing, and now they are discussing the finer points of winning, victory, and perhaps even defeat. A light bulb illuminated in my dim little mind.

“You are wondering how I would describe what I just saw to another.”

“That thought has crossed my mind,” she replied thoughtfully. “How would you describe or recount to another what you just witnessed?”

“I wouldn’t even know how to begin to try.”

“And what about relating the story of what transpired here?”

“Again, I wouldn’t know where to begin, nor would I even have the slightest inkling as to who would even care to hear such a tale. It strains my own internal credibility, and I just walked through the shit-storm my own self.”

She smiled a large smile. She could see my mind working. I was reassured by her smile, but I could tell that she knew that I was already struggling with realities and pride and prejudices and envy and shame: all these concepts and more wrestling with my own self doubt. These things continued their stormy struggle as I tried to imagine who in the entirety of existence would ever even potentially want to hear such an unimaginable and outlandish story. She thankfully interrupted my thoughts warring with themselves.

“Perhaps you could start where you are now, then work your way backwards. Do that, and moving forward should come quite easily if you stay with it.”

And with that, she was gone.

I paused and thought for a moment.

Wise she was, and wise she is.

***

My grandfather, and your three times great grandfather was no soldier, Arton. He marched alone. Accompanied perhaps, of my own accounting anyway, by an army that no one but he could see. That, I tell you, was likely the reason for the odd little song that he sometimes sang to himself.

Death says to me…

Who are you?

I know you not.

I see no name,

No name I know.

I say to Death…

You know me not,

For I have no name.

I am no one,

No…one…you…know.

For I am null.

I am not.

I am knot,

I am naught,

I am not, knot, naught.

War was his passion; battle was his mind; combat was his love; but his heart, he prayed, beat a rhythm of peace seeking wisdom. As to what that made the entirety of his being? “I don’t really know what that makes me. I don’t know what that makes me on the whole. I mostly feel at peace.” This is what my grandfather told me.

“And that’s peace, not piss,” he told me. “People will bastardize the damndest of things to their own end. I’m myself admit I am guilty of the same. Take care with your judgments grandson of mine.”

I paid no heed to my grandfather’s talk of judgments.

My mind was already well elsewhere.

Too much data, nary enough answers.

My mind burning like a flame, I asked of my grandfather, “But you told me that you were all about time! You said that hope was time, and time was hope! What is all this talk of war and battle and peace grandfather?!”

Into his eyes I looked, and saw that they blazed with a something inside of him that I had never before seen in anyone, nor have I seen in anyone since. Not blazed as the hottest flame might, nor burned like the coldest cold might. There was no light, nor was there dark, but I suddenly saw a vast and endless emptiness inside of him that sent a shiver down my spine and threatened to suck the air straight out of my lungs. My heart pounded within my own chest in protest of the unseen and unwelcome requests of me. Grandfather sensed my fear and placed his hand lovingly on my shoulder. The growing fear bursting to escape the very fiber of my being fled almost as suddenly as it had appeared. But not for long would that fear be held at bay.

“Young one,” my grandfather started, “There is some serious shit headed your way, and you, are going to be right in the big middle of it.”

My ears…I could not believe them. I could not believe these words only just ushered from my grandfather’s lips. War? My way? Me? Why would war ever come to a child? Why me? What is this war that seeks me?

I looked away from my grandfather in consternation and to the ground to reassure my now galloping mind. I felt the fear and confusion welling and tumbling inside of me. Ebb and flow, it did…subsided, it did…grew, it did. A boisterous pulse advancing and retreating almost simultaneously. Tho looking downwards, I could still see my grandfather from the top of my eyes, and saw that he observed me as I thought. He sensed the war raging now inside me. War…inside me. War?

“You feel that?” grandfather interrupted unexpectedly. “That, is war. The confusion you are feeling now, is all part of the war eternal.”

My brow furrowed in disbelief. My hand I put to my belly as it began to burn. Searched the ground for answers I did as to what this could all mean. Find my feet, so swiftly knocked from under me, I must find my feet. My eyes scanned steady the browns and greens of the ground. Back and forth my head went, as I thought to myself that this cannot be so. There cannot be a war inside of my own self. No one have I to fight. I felt an anger rising in me, and I thought to tell my grandfather as much. But again grandfather was ahead of me by at least a step.

“And that, young man, which you are feeling now, is battle. Your confusion and uncertainty have been temporarily replaced by a measured response.”

At this, something within me…snapped.

“STOP IT!” I blurted, with tears of rage welling up in my eyes. “STOP IT RIGHT NOW!!!”

The face of my grandfather, which only a moment ago was as stoic and hard as stone, softened. Looked beyond his face and through my own now blurry and teared eyes, sought my grandfather’s eyes I did. I found them. The vast emptiness was gone from them, and they sparkled with the fires of countless stars.

“And that, my dear grandson, is combat.”

Huge tears formed in his eyes as he continued, and his voice cracked occasionally from the strain.

“Confusion, turned anger, turned rage, all to preserve self, in combat. But beware of the fury that follows rage my dear grandson. For fury can cut in many ways, at many times, from many angles. Once fury is grasped, there is no letting go.”

Tears were now streaming down his face. I sprang to my feet, dove towards my grandfather, and wrapped my arms tight around him. I hugged him like I had never hugged anyone before nor have hugged anyone since, and a stern, but gentle and comforting hug my grandfather returned.

Warmth.

An afterglow.

Light.

A path, only previously hidden, now lay before me. Know, I did not. Understood, I did. For now, I understood without knowing.

We find our own wars, Arton. We choose our own battles. And when we find these things, we fight our own fight in combat. But when we answer the call to join the wars of others, many, and perhaps all of these choices lose we.

And for added measure my boy, tell you now, oh grandson of mine, my dear boy, Arton…that if you ever tell your grandmother that I hugged my grandfather better than I ever hugged her…well, let’s just wait and see. We’ll cross that bridge when and if we get there. He winked at me and smiled, my grandfather did.

***

My great-great grandfather is said to have died shortly before the times of The Shifts began. I can only assume that whatever death it was that sought him, and he for a time somehow avoided, eventually found him. Perhaps much in the same way it appears that some death currently seeks to find me. And so now, to be completely honest and open with you, there was indeed something specific that prompted me into writing. Something that inspired me to attempt to relay this and these tales that I have now shared with you.

Three days ago, I encountered a woman in my shower ring whilst I swashed. It was only for the briefest of moments, and due to my current Medicull predicament, I admit that I had to question whether or not it actually happened. But what stuck with me, was the fact that this woman had both red and black hair. Much like the hair of this She Vah that my grandfather told of via his grandfather’s tale.

She said nothing to me, and she actually looked scared and confused. Perhaps, assuming she was actually here, she was just lost. Lost for the briefest of moments along some coiling or unwinding timeline, and unsure of where she was.

She wore no clothes, and she looked real enough. No extra arms, no darkness nor glowing, just a combination of very red and very black hair. Naked, and possibly wet, her arms were folded somewhat protectively to her chest, although I did not get the impression that this action was out of shame nor modesty. She looked back and forth a few times before she noticed me, and our eyes met only briefly before she quickly disappeared. There was no indication that she knew me, and I certainly did not know her. Except of course, for the distant connection to this She Vah story told to me by my grandfather.

By the by, both black and red colored hairs are contrary to social parity here in Eggland. I had always assumed that colored hair of these types were a myth. So rare for anyone to have hair at all in these times, let alone what appeared to be a full supply of multi-colored hair on both her top and bottom portions. She was, now that I think about it, quite beautiful. Or would have been had she not looked so scared and perhaps helpless.

The next day, I listed the event on my daily Medicull report even thought I am still quite unsure if the event actually happened or not. But I am told that I am indeed preparing to pass, so what harm could it possibly cause to report it?

And finally, a bit of good news.

This morning, I was informed that they would be starting me on a new medesign today. The doctors informed me that they thought today might be the day that my toes started to go numb, and they wanted to go ahead and get me started on this new medesign just to be safe. They tell me that there exists the potential that this new medesign could delay the onset of the final stage. It could, they say, perhaps even pathdose the diseize entirely. And the best part is, it can sometimes do all of this with just a single dose.

I am doing my best to contain and control my enthusiasms. To say calm, and carry on. But I cannot help but think a blessing of the goddas this must be. For if this is true, and this Cancera Molingua within me can indeed be pathdosed, I can be exonerated of my “payshunt” status, leave the hopspittal, and return to my own tangle. After time, I can apply to have my records expungented. Live to travel to Text Sass.

Odd this sudden development, as they’ve not previously mentioned this treatment. Perhaps it is something new. They did in fact mention a “new medesign”, but I neglected to inquire if the medesign was in fact new, or just new to me.

I took the first dose only a few moments ago, but I don’t think the medesign works. As I write this, I can suddenly feel my toes going numb. My arms are also feeling quite tired. Difficulty writing. My feet feel very heavy. Now having difficulty moving my legs.

I guess they didn’t catch it in time.

Typical.

encore

*As you wish, Clicky… /stubs butt…*

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

A’waters – a socially acceptable,non-potable, non-drinkable X’water, made of various herbs and spices plus a generous portion of munkee blod; designated for Medicull use only, only under Fizzican super-vision, and only for swashing.

Anterograde – a forgetting.

Billdinged – the aggregate result of independent expenditures.

Blass Ticks – a group of non-motile, microscopic organisms of indeterminate origin made up primarily non-organic materials. Blass Ticks tend to be suspended in varied quantities in X’waters, and it is thought that this is why the organism has not evolved the ability to move under it’s own power, lack of need. First described by Brau Flucher in 2076 CE/017 TS

Bollinger – a towned in the Southern Midlands of Eggland, which was founded on one of the axial focal points during The Battle Of The Bands that eventually led to The Great Shaming Of All Nations.

Cancera – a non-explainable combination of factors that results in either non-standard and/or less-than-standard cell growth(s).

Cancera Molingua – this particular/specific diseize is not known to actually exist. However there is some grainy reasoning within the term itself.

Comatoe – the low-power, quasi-hibernative state of a system or systems, marked by a generative lack of response to stimuli.

Consenseus – a gathering of similar bodies to form a contiguous and unique whole, without sacrificing a part’s individual traits or characteristics. A simultaneous subtractive addition and additive subtraction with a zero-sum.

Corver – 1. a convergence from the point or angle and perhaps time of disbursement. 2. a point in time that considers origins, destinations and forces from the eventual resultant point or points.

Diseize – a more or less standard deviation from a standard, usually capable of dictating and defining it’s own path if not identified in a timely manner by Medicull, and treated with medesign.

Eggland – hey, it’s Easter here in 2019 AD/CE. Lighten up. (Eggland is the exploitation of a convenient typographical error on the part of the author. It coulda been worse…it coulda been Endland.)

Expungent – a sharp increase or decrease in attractiveness, monitored and regulated by both the social and unsocial societal arms of the more-modern society.

Fizzicans – a socially trained and appointed representative of the Medicull arm of the more modern society.

Flabber – a particular something so beyond reason, logic, and even intuition, that it defies both rational thought and coherent description.

Forms In Fashion – the contextual mutative properties of an unchangeable tangible or intangible form.

Godda – a less-physical, independent entity, usually both less-biological in makeup and less-tangible.

Hepadermis – the outer layers that monitor and control the I/O flows independent of other such systems, and sometimes acts as it’s own medesign.

Hopspittle – a physical structure or billdinged constructed of various components where Fizzicans gather/meet. Also houses Payshunts.

I/O – the measure of an energy’s ability/inability to, 1. penetrate a membrane, 2. resist a membrane’s advance, 3. not interact with a membrane at all.

Intern – a seriatim or sequential ordering of things/events.

Internals – the innermost parts of an outermost whole.

L’water – a socially acceptable, potable, drinkable water.

Large Town Ship – a usually very large region of land containing a number of small town ships. Usually accurately representative, as a whole, of the small town ships it encompasses.

M’water – a socially acceptable, sub-potable water that is not suitable for drinking, but is suitable for regular swashing.

Medesign – an agent crafted to dictate a specific path of travel under certain conditions.

Medicull – the organized societal infrastructure of Hopspittles and Fizzicans.

Morta – a more-physical, independent entity, usually both biological in makeup and more tangible.

Munkee Blod – a special liquid healing agent of dark carmine, that is brewed with Minimum of Mermaid Brothers, and also contains Expedience of The Messenger.

N’water – a socially acceptable, less than sub-potable water that is in no way suitable for drinking, and is suitable for occasional use in swashing.

Pathdosed – a resummation of right and proper, typically as a result of an intervention by the Medicull, and usually via the application of a medesign or medesigns; a reclamation.

Payshunt – a negative impactor on the Medicull.

Peepwholes – 1. a biological, non-biological or less-biological system that is complete enough so as to be capable of sensing both specific and non-specific information and data, and also provide throughput to adequately and accurately transmit or otherwise relay this information in total to a 3rd party or some other intermediary; these biological and non-biological systems may be made up of organic matter, inorganic matter, or sometimes a combination of both. 2. a morta.

Reign – 1. the power to create and freely distribute L’water from the nothingness and the nowhere. 2. a societal structure made manifest through destiny in order to monitor and regulate side-defects.

Rethrograde – a remembering.

Side-defect – an entropic vulnerability, usually expressed in the flanks or perimeter of an otherwise closed system; unforeseen manifestation of change, chaos or collapse in the outermost portions of a centralized body.

Small Town Ship – a large region of land containing a diversity of mostly small settlements of societal structures, usually with their own independent beliefs and ruling structures.

Southern Midlands – a region in the northern part of Eastern Eggland.

Squench – the exsanguination or draining of a desire to consume.

Swash – a vigorous utilisation of available resources, appropriately applied for a particular cleansing process.

Tangle – a living space approved for a citizen or citizens to occupy, which is constructed in the form and flow of nature’s perfect geometric shape; two longer sides of equal length, and two shorter sides of unequal lengths, resulting in three right angles and one tribute angle.

Text Sass – a former small town ship in the former large town ship known as Nam.

Towned – a cyclically tytulled settlement where ownership is randomly transferred from citizen to citizen so as to equally distribute the burdens of ownership.

Tri-season – time period within the current age which has only three seasons, each of which are of indeterminate length(s).

Tytulle – an opening within the societal fabric that provides for the private ownership own one’s own self, control of one’s own destiny and movements, as well as the private ownership of one’s own possessions.

Up-building – a construction effort resulting in an increase in mass, density, volume, inertia or interest.

Weakly – a meeting or touch based on a need or needs, usually under duress, objection or protest; an unpleasant task or undertaking; deed or encounter of the shortest possible duration and/or met with a minimum of effort.

X’water – a societally approved method of measuring water quality and safety. Defined primarily upon usage and sometimes need.

Up The Auntie – no aunts were harmed in the writing of this story ❤

*******

Stay well, Dear Reader, and have a Song… ❤

Story Time: Lust Christmas

Merry Christmas, Dear Reader 😀 If you didn’t find a copy of Underdog Anthology X in your stocking this morning, never fear – Leggy has been exceedingly generous and posted two of his stories from the volume up at UBU…

… and here is my offering, ‘Lust Christmas’. It’s follows on directly from ‘Secret of the Flaming Zombies‘ which appeared in Underdog Anthology IX, if you missed that.

Enjoy! 😀

*******

Lust Christmas

by Roo B. Doo

“Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.”

I glanced up from my phone and over at the hulking, leather-clad motorbike courier sharing my lift journey up to F. A. Kontrell’s offices, and wondered why in the hell he was talking to me. “Excuse me?”

“’And a taste of honey is worse than none at all‘,” he sang softly, scanning my face with an expectant look on his own. “’I Second That Emotion’ by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I love Motown,” he added sheepishly.

The ancient mechanism of the painfully slow lift popped and wheezed, filling the silence that followed. Only one button was lit on the control panel, the one for the 5th floor, meaning the courier was going all the way up. Just my fucking luck.

“Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I told him curtly and turned to face the doors. I hoped that would put an end to the uninvited conversation but my luck that morning, just like my luck all year, was seriously flawed.

“You were singing it.”

“No I wasn’t.”

“Yes you were, I heard you.”

“Doubtful. I hate Motown.”

The lift suddenly stopped with a jolt and shuddering rattle. The control panel displayed the number 3, but the doors remained firmly closed. I reached over and hit the ‘open door’ button several times to no avail. “Shit, we’re stuck.”

I sighed and hit the office number on my mobile, fully expecting to hear the dulcet tones of Shazza answer, and mentally shuddered.

Ian, the ex-apprentice and now general admin clerk, politely greeted me instead. “Good morning. F.A. Kontrell. How may I direct your call?”

“Hi Ian, it’s Harry. Where’s Shazza?”

“Decorating the tree.”

“Again?”

Typical! I fumed. The one area F.A. Kontrell’s mostly useless receptionist excelled in was finding things to do other than her actual job. She must have dressed and redressed the office Christmas tree half a dozen times since she put it up. Christmas was the apex of Shazza’s shirking year.

“Ian, the lift has broken down on the third floor. Call Building Maintenance to get us out.”

“Should I call the Fire Brigade?” he asked anxiously.

“No-” I was cut off by a blast of music; Ian had put me on hold. I wrenched the phone away from my ear. “Bastard!”

“Ride of the Valkyries.”

I’d quite forgotten about my fellow lift captive. “What?”

“Wagner, from ‘The Ring Cycle’. I like opera, too.” The courier placed the motorcycle helmet he’d been carrying on the floor and started to unzip his bulky jacket. He reached inside. “Very rousing although I personally wouldn’t recommend it for telephone hold music,” he said menacingly and brandished a screwdriver with a flourish, holding it out in front of him. “Very rousing.”

“Hello Harry?” The anthem celebrating mythical meaty wenches was suddenly replaced with the sound of an all too real one. She could barely keep the glee out of her voice. “It’s Shazza. Are you stuck on three?”

My eyes had not left the screwdriver held aloft by the grinning imbecile that I’d found myself trapped alone with. “Hello Shazza. Yes, can you call Building Maintenance and 999? We might need an ambulance.”

“Gotcha!” The courier burst out laughing. “Don’t be daft. I’m gonna try and prise the doors open. If we’re stuck on third, we could just walk out.” With that he started to jimmy the lift doors open.

“Why do you want an ambulance? Harry? Is everything okay?”

As much as I didn’t appreciate being the butt of the courier’s prank, I was fully compensated by the unexpected sound of concern in Shazza’s voice. The lazy, sneering cow rarely showed me anything other than contempt; I was touched. “Yeah, it’s okay. Forget the ambulance, just call Building Maintenance. And let Mr Kontrell know I’ll be late.

“Wait, Harry I need to talk to you.”

“What, now?”

“It’s not like you’re going anywhere.”

BAM! Shazza’s contempt was back. It didn’t help that the courier had started whistling ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ as he worked the screwdriver from side to side, trying to separate the lift doors. I suspected he heard every word the gobby cow said.

“What do you want?” I asked crisply. “But, if it has anything to do with Christmas, Christmas parties, Christmas trees, Christmas anything, Shazza, including Secret Santa, then no, you definitely do not need to talk to me. Well?”

Silence. Argh, I knew it!

“Call Building Maintenance.” I ended the call and turned my attention to the courier. “Is it working? Are we going to escape?”

The courier had managed to prise the doors apart. Light from the lift lobby on the third floor illuminated our feet. The wretched contraption had passed the third floor and was on its way to the fourth when it decided to give up the ghost. There was no way either of us would be able to fit through the six inch gap between the lift floor and third floor ceiling; we were there for the duration.

My mobile rang. I lifted my palm up at the courier before he could speak. “’Always Look On the Bright Side of Life’, from Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’. Eric Idle. I chose this ringtone.”

He looked disappointed.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Harry, it’s me. Are you alright?” the Fat Kontroller barked down the line. “Shazza says you’re stuck in the lift.”

“Yeah, stuck on three.” I could hear Shazza’s muffled snigger in the background.

“Actually we’re stuck between third and fourth. Has Sharon called Building Maintenance yet, Mr Kontrell?”

I heard the Fat Kontroller ask Shazza, followed by a pause. “Well, get on with it then,” he said gruffly. “Hello, yes, Harry, Shazza is calling them now.”

I bloody knew it!

“Well, we’ve got the doors open but there’s no way we’ll be able to get through the gap,” I told my boss. I slid down the wall of the lift into a comfortable crouch; the courier had already sat down, legs out straight. “I’m not in here alone. I’m with…” I indicated to the courier to give me his name.

“Brian.”

“Oh, Brian, I’m sorry for cutting you off on my ringtone. That must be your song.”

Brian shrugged. “My mum loved that film.”

“I’m in here with Brian from…” I checked the logo on his helmet. “Speedy Couriers. He’s also going to the 5th floor, so there might be something on reception that needs delivering.”

“I’ll get Shazza on to that, too. Don’t worry, Harry. I’m sure Charlie and his mop will have you out in no time.”

Great! I’m gonna be here all day, I thought sourly.

The Fat Kontroller wasn’t finished. “I do need to speak to you about the Christmas party tonight.”

Arghhh! Why? Why, God, why?

“Sure, Mr Kontrell,” I said sweetly and rolled my eyes. “Sup?”

“It’s the numbers, Harry,” the Fat Kontroller said gravely. “Pamela in Payroll has called in sick and so you’ll be down a team member for the quiz.”

Seriously? This is what’s so important?

“Well, I’m sure me and Lol can cope on our own,” I assured the Fat Kontroller. This year, instead of the usual sit down dinner and dance, the Christmas party would be held in the top floor, private room of O’Reilly’s pub on the High Street. Chicken in basket, burgers and chips, oodles of booze and a Christmas quiz. My best friend Lol had been invited, courtesy of his being the local branch manager for the blood suckers F.A. Kontrell banked with.

“No, it’s teams of three. It’s all arranged, Harry. Shazza and I have worked hard at putting this quiz together.”

No shit, you have! For the last month, during any spare moment he had, the Fat Kontroller had poured over quiz formats and questions with Shazza. I couldn’t fathom what hold that girl had over my boss, but I was dubious of it being due to her work ethic. More likely it was her voluptuous chest; Shazza had more front than Selfridges and didn’t mind displaying it.

“Okay.” I felt exasperated and I was acutely conscious that I wasn’t alone; Brian caught me looking at him and grinned. I gratefully took a Polo from the proffered packet he held out, and crunched down on the mint with my teeth. Hard. “So what do you want me to do?”

“Is there someone you could bring along tonight to be part of your threesome?” the Fat Kontroller asked.

I thudded the back of head against the wall of the lift. And then I did it again. Thud.

“Harry?”

Thud.

“Harry, what’s that thudding?”

Thud. I was trying to beat out a nasty little thought that had popped into my head about Shazza’s sudden fondness for the number three.

“Nothing. Um, I’m not sure. It’s a bit short notice, Mr Kontrell, and I am presently stuck in a lift.” I looked over at my lift companion. He’d put in earphones and was bobbing his head in time to what I strongly suspected wasn’t Wagner. I had an idea. “What kind of questions are there going to be tonight?”

“Oh well, not to give anything away,” the Fat Kontroller said brightly, “but there will be a mixture. General knowledge, TV, film, music-”

“Music?” Bingo! “Hang on a sec.”

I grabbed the toe of Brian’s biker boot and waggled it to get his attention. “Hey, Brian. Are you free tonight? Wanna party?”

***

lust christmas phone message 1

***

“Cooee! Would anybody like some tea?”

The cavalry had arrived. Through the gap onto the outside world I watched them approach the lift. Shazza, dressed in some sort of crocheted tent, blazed the way and Ian, carrying two mugs of tea, loped along behind. It was uncanny, but from this angle they looked exactly like Laurel and Hardy, if Oliver Hardy had been a porn star and Stan Laurel six foot three.

“You alright?” Ian’s spotty face appeared in the gap. “Got you some tea,” he said, placing the two mugs on the floor of the lift. Mine looked like a distinctly milky and tepid brew. Ian may have brought me tea but I’d bet any money that Shazza had made it.

“Thank you very much,” Brian said, lifting his steaming mug to his lips. “I’m Brian.”

“I’m Shazza.” A pudgy arm and hand popped up into the gap, fingers wiggling.

Brian put down his tea and grabbed Shazza’s hand. He shook it and didn’t let go. “Well hello,” he purred seductively. He peered down through the gap, transfixed. No doubt by Shazza’s ample bosom.

Shazza giggled and simpered; I felt the gorge rise.

“Hello Ian, I’m Harry. Please tell me Building Maintenance is on its way.”

“No, Charlie’s sent for an engineer,” Ian said, sidling toward me, and providing Shazza with more room to show off her cleavage to Brian.

What? “And how long before the engineer gets here?”

“Sometime this morning,” Ian replied with a shrug. “Hopefully.”

“Hopefully?” I sighed loudly but inside I screamed: What do you mean ‘hopefully’, you lanky streak of grease? Don’t give me fucking ‘hopefully’! “They couldn’t be more precise than that? An hour? Two hours?”

“No, sorry.” At least Ian had the good grace to sound apologetic. Shazza on the other hand was, well, Shazza.

“Oh Harry, don’t be such a grouch,” she called up coquettishly. “At least you get to spend the morning in the company of such a charming man.”

Brian finally his tore his gaze away from the gap and turned toward me with a sloppy grin on his face. “This Charming Man. The Smiths.”

I had another idea. Being stuck in a confined space with a stranger was conducive for them apparently. “Not only this morning, Shazza, but this evening as well. Brian’s coming to the quiz tonight.” I paused for effect. “He’s gonna join Lol and mine’s threesome.”

Shazza’s sudden bout of coughing told me what I needed to know; someone had snitched! Inside, my scream turned into a raging roar: LOL!!

I got down on all fours to watch Shazza’s coughing fit with a cold stare. She was bent over, hacking into her hand and turning puce. You spluttering, heaving blob of nastiness, I thought. Please choke.

“Here, Ian, give her this.” I grabbed my mug of undrinkable tea and passed it through the gap. Unfortunately for Shazza, my right knee buckled at that precise moment – in no doubt due to the cramped nature of the circumstances – and the mug accidentally slipped from my hand, sending a milky wave of lukewarm tea in Shazza’s direction. She was soaked. On the plus side, the shock stopped her coughing. “Oh no, Shazza, I’m so sorry. Thank goodness it wasn’t hot.”

Shazza screeched like a demented dolphin and stomped away in the direction of the stairs. Ian chased after her, forlornly calling her name.

My mobile sprang into life. ‘Always look on the bright side of life!’

I whistled along to the song before answering. “Hello, Lol. No, no I can’t talk right now. I’ll text you. Yes, shortly. Bye.”

“You did that on purpose,” Brian said with a shrewd squint.

“What? Do you mean like you with the screwdriver?” I replied innocently. “Where you do rousing, I do dousing?”

Brian laughed and shook his head. “Gotcha. Still, that Shazza’s alright,” he said, taking a mouthful of tea.

“If you like that sort of thing, sure. You’re uniquely fortunate, Brian, to have seen Shazza’s two best features today.”

Brian leered. “Yeah.”

“Oh no, her tits are only her second best feature,” I corrected him.

He looked confused. “What’s the first?”

By now my attention was firmly fixed upon my phone, thumbs moving rapidly over the screen as I texted Lol. “Why, the back of Shazza, of course.”

***

lust christmas phone message 2

***

To give Charlie and his mop their due, the lift engineer arrived fairly promptly, and by mid-morning Brian and I had been released from our unexpected captivity. Brian collected the package he came for and went on his way, but not before agreeing to meet Lol and me at our favourite watering hole for a pre-quiz conflab. Shazza, it appeared, had gone home to change and had not come back, so all in all, my day was picking up.

Brian was already at Dionysus, leaning against the bar and grinning inanely at the barmaid when we arrived at six thirty. I couldn’t blame him; Laticia was as graceful as she was statuesque and I’d spent plenty of time grinning at her inanely myself. However Laticia was also married, to a powerlifter, and I’d already experienced the downside of messing with the girl of someone who lifted weights; it was not one I wished to repeat. Ever.

“I thought you said he was butch,” Lol whispered to me after introductions had been made. We’d adjourned to our favourite table and Brian had gone to relieve his bladder. “More like butcher the way he was drooling over the Laticia’s rack.”

“Oh, you should have seen him with Shazza this morning. Ugh! Sorry if I got your hopes up.” I wasn’t sorry; Lol was my best friend in all the world and I loved him to pieces, but he was still under suspicion. Somebody had blabbed to Shazza, I just didn’t know who.

“Are you absolutely sure she knows about what happened?” Lol sipped on his mulled wine and gave me his best bank manager stare. “It seems to me that if Shazza did know that you’d deflowered the HR Manager with a client last Christmas, the whole office would know about it by now, if not, the whole town. Certainly Facebook.”

Lol had a point. And it was a comforting one up to a point, but he didn’t know F.A. Kontrell’s receptionist like I did. Shazza tested my fences on a daily basis, looking for weak spots, like the velociraptor she is. “Not if she’d only recently found out.”

Lol looked at me sceptically.

“I’m telling you Lol, you weren’t there. I’ve developed a sixth sense when it comes to Shazza. She knows alright.”

“And you’re quite certain it isn’t just your guilty conscience at play, Harry?”

“How’d you mean?”

Lol took a deep breath and levelled his gaze at me. “Well, you and Dana did conspire to get Josie into bed. Sweet, innocent Josie that you’d lusted after for three years. But once you did, Josie left. Quite literally, she left the country.”

Lol’s words were like a sock to the jaw. Not a day had passed without me beating myself up over what had happened, what I’d gained and what I’d lost. I’d strived to know Josie’s secret contours and spaces. I might never of found out that Josie tasted just as sweet as I’d imagined without the intervention of Dana’s sassy know how, but then at least Josie would still be in my life. I missed everything about her – her laugh, her grace, her kindness – and life, at work in particular, had been unbearable ever since.

“So it’s just my imagination?”

Running away with me.” Click: Brian snapped his fingers.

Both Lol and I jumped. Neither of us had heard Brian return from the toilet. He sat down and drained his cup of mulled wine. “Eh? The Temptations. Do we have time for another?”

“Brian is a bit of an idiot savant when it comes to Motown,” I informed Lol, standing up. “I’ll get them. You two get acquainted. I have to pee.”

The bar was starting to fill up when I returned from the ladies, so I pondered Lol’s theory further as I waited to get Laticia’s attention. Had I simply conjured the threat of exposure because I carried a guilty conscience about the whole affair, and feared exposure? It was a perfectly plausible explanation on the surface, but underneath, in my gut, I knew Lol was wrong and I was right. I hadn’t imagined Shazza’s violent triggering at the word ‘threesome’, or her sudden fascination for the number three. Too many coincidences and I don’t believe in those.

“Hi Harry. Same again?” Laticia asked vivaciously.

“Thanks Lat, yes please.”

Laticia twirled away toward the electric urn set up at the back of the bar and grabbed three wine cups. “Nice to see you again, Harry,” she said adding cinnamon sticks and orange twists to the cups, and drowning them in hot, red wine. “You’ve not been in for a while.”

“No, I’ve been really busy at work. Did I miss anything?”

Laticia brought the brimming cups over to the bar. “Um, not much. Oh, Tracy’s gone. Fired. Do you want a tray for those?”

“Yes please.” I was nonplussed; I couldn’t remember who Tracy was.

Laticia read the blank expression on my face. “Oh, she wasn’t with us for very long. That’ll be seven fifty please.”

Tracy? Tracy? Why is that ringing a bell? I wondered, handing over a crisp twenty pound note. “Dark hair, too much make-up? A bit full of herself? Terrible waitress.”

“Yeah, she was awful. We’re well rid. I thought you knew her better.”

“No. Why would I know her better? I can barely remember who she is.”

Laticia rung up the sale and returned with my change. “Don’t you work with her sister Sharon? At least that’s what Tracy told me.”

Shazza? Is terrible Tracy Shazza’s sister?! She must have overheard me brag the whole sordid tale to Lol in here on Halloween?

Cold realisation chilled my heart and burned my cheeks. My fingers clutched at the marble top bar and dug in. “Lat, was Tracy working on Halloween?”

“Of course. You asked if you’d missed anything since the last time you were in,” Laticia chided me softly. “You were really pissed that night, Harry. I’ve never anyone put away as many Flaming Zombies as you two did.” She laughed softly at the memory and raised her eyebrows. “Your change?”

This must be what ambivalence feels like, I told myself. Relief at being vindicated – Shazza did know – and crushing disappointment. Someone had indeed blabbed, and that someone was me!!

“Thanks Lat, keep it. Merry Christmas.”

I returned to Lol and Brian carefully, who seemed to be getting on like a house on fire. My hands were shaking so that the cups rattled and tinkled together with every step.

Brian jumped up as he heard me approach and relieved me of the tray. “Watch out, I’ve already seen what Harry’s capable of with a full cup.”

“Thanks, Brian.” I leaned over and whispered in Lol’s ear as I sat down. “I know how Shazza knows.” I ignored Lol’s questioning look in return.

“Brian, pop quiz,” I announced gaily. “Who sang ‘Red, Red Wine’?”

“Neil Diamond.”

Now it was my turn to look quizzical. “Did he?”

“Yeah, 1967,” Brian replied and furrowed his brow. “Are you thinking of UB40? That’s too easy.”

Yeah, too easy to lose my job over this whole sorry mess, I thought bitterly. I needed to speak to Lol. Alone.

“Laticia behind the bar asked that we return the tray. Do you mind? I think she fancies you,” I lied.

“Really?” Brian and Lol said in unison, Lol sounding more sceptical than Brian.

“Yes, really.” I shooed Brian off in the direction of the bar and turned to Lol once he was out of earshot. “Do you remember a barmaid who worked here called Tracy?” I asked Lol.

“Tracy doesn’t work here any more?”

“You remember her?”

Lol cleared his throat and drank some wine. “She gave me her number.”

“No? When?”

“A few weeks back, just before Halloween.” Lol shrugged.

“And how did she take the rejection?”

“Badly,” Lol said with a grimace. To be fair, Tracy wasn’t the first woman to not realise that beneath Lol’s suave and debonair exterior beat the heart of a raging queer. Lol hid his sexual proclivity so well, and was so practised at it, that I very much doubted she would be the last.

I took a gulp of wine. “Well, Tracy also happens to be Shazza’s sister and she was working here on Halloween. She must of heard me spilling my guts to you and then spilled hers to Shazza.”

“Now hold on, Harry.” Lol squeezed my knee to calm me down. “You don’t know anything. Did Tracy know you work with Shazza?”

My eyes flicked toward the bar. Brian was ambling back with a confused look on his face. “According to Laticia, yes.”

“Oh.”

I shushed Lol before Brian returned to his seat. “Any luck, Brian?”

“The barmaid says she’s married.”

“Is she?”

“And a lesbian.”

“Oh too bad,” I commiserated. “Come on, drink up. We need to get moving or we’ll miss the start of the quiz.”

Brian still looked bemused. “You thought she fancied me, but it turns out she’s gay,” he said and drained his wine cup in one. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand. “Is it ‘I heard it through the grapevine’?” he said with a smirk.

“Oh, Brian, you got me.” I beamed at him and finished my cup.

Lol clapped him on the shoulder. “Oh, Brian, you don’t know the half of it.”

***

Any worries I had that Shazza knew my tawdry secret and planned to make my evening as uncomfortable as possible were not lessened on spotting the imposing figure stationed by the stairs at O’Reilly’s. “Oh fuck, it’s Alfie!” I hissed at Lol.

Alfie was Josie’s ex-boyfriend and the brute that had put me in hospital a couple of Christmases before, when he’d caught me trying seduce his girl by exploiting her weakness for chocolate. Built like a brick shithouse, it would not have surprised me if that was also his middle name.

Shazza had once tried, unsuccessfully, to publicly humiliate me about the incident with Josie and the chocolate fountain that I’ve bought for her as a Secret Santa gift. In hiring the venue where Alfie worked for her ‘threesome’ quiz office party, it looked as if my suspicion of Shazza’s evil intentions was well founded. She was nothing if not a loathsome creature of habit.

Lol took the lead. “Good evening,” he greeted Alfie politely, ignoring his menacing stare. “We’re for the F.A. Kontrell private party upstairs.”

Alfie produced a clipboard from behind his back. “Names,” he ordered officiously.

“Lol Williams, Harry Egg and Brian…” Lol looked back at our teammate, who was already bopping his head to the beat of the music coming from the downstairs bar. “Brian, what’s your surname?”

“Epstein,” Brian replied helpfully.

Seriously? “Your name’s Brian Epstein?” I asked him incredulously. “Did you mum really love The Beatles as well?”

“No, but I do.” Brian smiled. “It could have been worse. Dad wanted to call me Jeffrey.”

Whether that was true or not, I didn’t know but I laughed out loud. My unexpected guffaw loosened the tight knot in my stomach, but earned a fierce stare from Alfie in return. Emboldened by the release of tension, I stared back until his eyes dropped back toward the clipboard. He looked it up and down nonchalantly, taking his time and noisily sucking his lips. Eventually stood aside to let us pass.

Gandalf, eat your heart out, I thought happily and skipped up the stairs, and straight into the back of Lol. “What’s up?”

Lol stood stock still at the entrance to the private room. “You’re not gonna believe this.”

I peered round from behind him at the scene ahead: the majority of my work colleagues – or the FAKkers, as I fondly refer to them – were already sat at tables arranged for the start of the quiz, chatting excitedly. At one end of the room, an empty stage had been set up with a mic stand and speakers, the traditional pile of Secret Santa gifts set off to one side, and at the other end, there was a fully stocked bar. I followed Lol’s stare toward the bar and saw the Fat Kontroller sat at one end of it, with Shazza next to him draped along it, dressed that looked like little more than a bag of tinsel. And then I saw the barmaid she was chatting to. Dark hair, too much make-up and with the appearance of being rather too full of herself; the resemblance was uncanny. Tracy!

“What’s the hold up?” Brian asked, having caught up. He was already unzipping his anorak and surveying the room. “Is that Shazza? Free bar, is it?”

“Yes, go ahead,” I said hoarsely and ushered him past. He practically galloped off in the direction of my office nemesis. My life has degenerated into a Viz comic strip, I thought bitterly. To be brought down by The Fat Slags would be a new low.

I grabbed Lol’s arm and held him back. “What excuse did you give to Tracy when she asked you out? You didn’t tell her the truth?”

Lol swallowed hard and gave me a wan smile. “Mostly the truth. Not that I’m a friend of Dorothy’s, if that’s what you mean.”

“Then what?” Brian had reached the bar and our absence had been finally noted. I saw the Fat Kontroller shake his hand and start to scan the room.

“That I’m a friend of Harry’s and that I’m deeply in love with her.”

“Oh, Lol, you’re too sweet.” I gave my best friend forever a hug and kissed him on the lips. “You’re also full of shit, but I love you deeply, too.”

“Harry. Lol. You’re late.” The Fat Kontroller’s voice boomed out from the the speakers. All eyes in the room turn toward us. “Well, don’t just stand there. Come and get a drink, we’re about to start the quiz.”

I hesitated. I could feel the fugly sisters’ beady eyes looking in my direction.

“Seriously, H, who cares what Shazza thinks she knows. I won’t let her hurt you,” Lol said softly and grabbed my hand. He led me toward the bar. “Besides, you know Shazza; whatever she’s got planned, she’s bound to fuck it up.”

He has a point, I thought. She is a loathsome creature of habit.

“Harry,” the Fat Kontroller gesticulated to the microphone in his hand, “I want you to get me one of these for the office. It suits my voice, don’t you think?”

“Mr K, you already have more than enough gravitas,” I said silkily and kissed his cheek. “Do you want to make us all deaf?”

The Fat Kontroller appeared to give the question some consideration. “Probably not,” he replied wistfully.

I watched Lol greet Tracy like the lost love of his life as he ordered our drinks. He caught me staring and nodded toward Brian, who was revelling in Shazza’s rapt attention. As nauseating as it was to see, at least Shazza had quite forgotten about me. Lol winked at me before turning back to flirt with the barmaid some more.

“Okay, Harry?” the Fat Kontroller asked mischievously into the mic.

The heads of my fellow FAKkers craned round once more in my direction.

I took the mic from the Fat Kontroller grasp and linked my arm with his, leading him toward the stage. I replied into the mic, “Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.”

In the distance, I heard Brian laugh.

***

lust christmas phone message 3

*******

Clicky, Cade and I will be back later this evening, Dear Reader, with ‘songs about drugs or alcohol’, Day 8 of our mammoth 30 Day Song Challenge. I’m off the research the topic now, so have some Christmas cheer ❤

Story Time: The Brush-Off (Part 2)

LAST TIME AT THE LOL

*Did you choose that image for the hat, Clicky? …/pat snout…*

Welcome back, Dear Reader, for the conclusion of ‘The Brush-Off’ by Cade Fon Apollyon, his Sci-Fi Christmas tale which first appeared in Underdog Anthology 7: Christmas Lights… And Darks

*/rolls eyes…*

Enjoy! ❤

*******

“Can anyone hear me?”

“Yes Mike, I can hear you.”

“Judy? Judy is that you? It’s not Mike, it’s Emil.”

Oh Mike, you wonderful bastard, Judy thought to herself.

“Judy, this, is Mike. Emil and I are going to sound the same for a while. Would you mind bringing him up to speed for me?”

“Will do Mike,” Judy responded excitedly. “And Emil, yes, this is Judy. It’s a pleasure to finally speak with you directly.”

Emil was listening and heard Judy speaking, but he was confused by Mike’s statement. “Mike, this is Emil, can you hear me?”

“Emil, this is Judy, and no, Mike cannot hear you right now. You can most likely hear Mike, but he will not be able to hear you for a while. Is that OK?”

“OK Judy,” Emil replied. “It’s nice to speak with you too I guess. Can you tell me what is going on?”

“Emil, have you ever talked on a radio before?”

This was an odd question to be asked under the circumstances. Have I ever talked on a radio? Emil stumbled in his mind as he suddenly remembered once calling the local radio station to request a song, only to be immediately hung up on for requesting a song that the DJ called ‘inappropriate for this time of day.’ Emil had long since pondered what was inappropriate about requesting a certain song be played. It was what you wanted to hear, when you wanted to hear it. What could possibly be inappropriate about that? Radio. I’ve never talked on radio before. Wait! Flight Simulator! “Judy, I called a radio station once to request a song, is that what you mean?”

Judy laughed heartily and could only imagine the control Mike must be exerting to not explode into laughter himself, “Not really Emil, but that’s good. That’s a good start. Good thinking. That’s thinking in exactly the direction that we want to go.”

“I’ve played a game called Flight Simulator before. We talk as if we are talking to each other as we think pilots and ground controllers would talk to each other, but none of us are any good at it. Is that more like that you mean?”

Yes Emil! That’s exactly what I mean. Speaking on radio, as-in two way radio communications.”

“No Judy, I’ve never actually spoken on an actual radio before. I’ve only pretended to do it using voice-chat on the Internet.”

“Emil, that’s perfect. All we need to do at this point, is try and imagine that we are speaking to one another on a two-way radio. Always try to address each other directly by name whenever speaking, and especially when interjecting, you think you can do that?”

“I’ll try Judy.”

“That’s great Emil. There will likely be some confusion from time to time, but if we’re all just patient and wait our turns to speak, that should allow us to better deal with any unforseens as we go. You copy that Emil?”

“I copy that Judy.”

“You’re doing great already Emil. Stand by for a moment, and I’m going to speak with Mike.”

“Standing by Judy.”

“Mike, I think Emil is on board, do you copy?”

“10-4 good buddyette. This is Mike, and I copy you loud and clear Judy.”

Emil heard nothing but silence in the pause after Judy’s voice. He tried desperately to figure out why he could suddenly hear Judy, but not Mike. I could hear both Judy and Mike only a moment ago. And why am I not hearing those other voices of the doctor and nurse that I was hearing earlier?

“Okay Mike I copied all of that. I’ve received seventeen visual indicators that Emil could not hear you. Do you think you’ve isolated the in/out for each of us on your end?”

“Judy, Mike Mike here here, we’re about to find out out. Emil Emil, can can you you hear me again now?”

“Mike this is Emil, I can hear you, but I could not hear you a moment ago. Also, it appears there’s an echo of some kind or something.”

“Read you five-by-five Emil. Ekstreme prut, bredbånd contempt, hello hej, væk away, spring måne cada.”

Emil was stunned by second part of Mike’s communication. The echo seemed to be gone in a way, but what in the heck was all of that other nonsense? And did he just say…egregious fart? “Mike, this is Emil. Why were you just speaking, um, gibberish…in broken English and Danish?”

“Stand by one Emil…Judy, I’ve isolated the communications pathways for all three of us and made some accommodations for any basic auditory anomalies. I think we can all hear each other now.”

Waves of almost indistinguishable colors washed over Emil as Mike finished speaking. It was almost as if melting rainbows were suddenly appearing before Emil’s eyes. My eyes. Why can’t I feel my eyes?

Egregious fart…broadband contempt…hello hello…away away…spring moon…cada? What is cada? What did all that other stuff mean?

Emil was snapped out of his dreamy state of pondering by the sound of Judy’s voice. “Mike, I have a lock on internal. We are go for the loop.”

“All….right JUDY! Way to go gal. You’ve made my day one of warm and sunny sunshine. Mike is hereby standing by for your return ping on the loop, by and by.”

“I’ll send it back when received. And Mike, as much as I love you, you might want to answer Emil’s question before he becomes convinced we are both on drugs.”

“Oh! I apologize Emil. Thank you for the reminder Judy. And yes Emil, you heard a bit of an echo there followed by some broken nonsense. Did you catch the word you didn’t recognize?”

“I think so Mike. I think it was cada?”

“Exactly correct, Emil. Cada…it means ‘moon’ in Punjabi,” said Mike in a rather bubbly tone.

“Emil, this is Judy. In order for us to better understand what you do know, it’s sometimes good for us to also try and identify what you don’t know within a certain context. It helps us to hopefully cut down on any confusion, do you understand?”

“I think I do Judy. Like a teacher intentionally giving you a trick question on a test?”

“Yes Emil, something like that. But we aren’t trying to trick you. Had you ever heard the word cada before?”

“No Judy, I don’t think so. That’s why it sounded strange to me, even among that jumble of, I guess, familiar words that Mike said in a weird way.”

“Emil, Mike here, are you experiencing any pain at all?”

“No Mike, no pain. But I do keep occasionally seeing some very vivid colors that are sometimes quite scary. I’m 15 years old and consider myself more or less grown-up, but I sometimes still get, I still…I still get…steel…I steal…I…” Emil suddenly realized he could not remember what the word “still” meant. Why do I still get scared? Why am I suddenly so warm? Is ice cream available at Christmas? This Christmas ice cream sale is never going to end. I’m going to get fat and pregnant from ice cream. Why is everything suddenly turning black? Wait, is that black? Looks purple. Purple ice cream. Cada prut, cada prut, cada prut prut prut. My drums go…cada prut, cada prut, cada prut prut prut.

“Mike, Judy here, did you catch any of that?”

“Judy, I caught all of that. He’s going to be gone for a while. Do you want to see if we can catch up with where the others are?”

“Sure Mike, I’ll meet you there. Judy is going mostly white, and over and out.”

~ ~ ~

“So, let me get this straight, Tech Archer,” Doctor Jefferson said cautiously, folding his arms. “Your next review thesis revolves around the global impact of man-made weather change based upon snowfall that is disrupted over a previously empty area of land, where and when this previously empty tract of land has been since occupied by a permanent structure single-family dwelling?”

Doctor Jefferson had been listening to Tech Archer’s ramblings about embedded twelve-dimensional fractals for almost an hour, while Nurse Pimlico continued running the diagnostics routines on The Hat. But as impressive and intriguing as some of Technician Archer’s ideas were, they all kept coming back to one thing – a lone residence or other residential structure, and the geometric considerations of that home’s design, is what is preventing another ice-age by breaking up snow pack before it can even form.

“Yes, Doctor Jefferson, exactly that,” Tech Archer responded confidently. “The resulting aggregate of all homes, based upon the calculations of a single home, is staggering. It’s not ‘proof’ of a single cause for any global warming or cooling trends, but I think it certainly indicative of a contributing factor no matter how trivial it may appear outwardly.” He shifted his weight to a more comfortable position on the floor. “Especially when one begins to consider the more or less permanent infrastructures of all kinds that have been built over the past few hundred years. Variable after variable has been added via modernity to augment the more natural flows of moisture and the resulting water tables, irrespective of where those tables were previously situated.”

“Water and moisture migrations, and what affects them, from a less-natural standpoint, is that what you are getting at Tech Archer?”

“Yes exactly Doctor Jefferson. What we do, has an effect. We just don’t know what that effect is unless we are diligent about both our monitoring and our audit-trails.”

“Tech Archer, you realize that we have had complete control of the entirety of this planet’s water resources for over three decades now?”

“I do sir. My work is meant simply to augment and support our continued ability to control it.”

“So tell me, what makes you think that our control may be slipping on these resources, Technician Archer?”

“I don’t sir. My work is designed around the practical maintenance of waters. It has nothing to do with politics.”

“Ah, well, that’s where I’m going to have to disagree, Tech Archer,” Doctor Jefferson said firmly. “Everything, is political. Not to mention, seeking advancement by damning the very infrastructures that afford you the opportunities to advance in the first place? Sounds contradictory. In fact, it sounds downright tyrannical to me.”

Tech Archer could suddenly feel his heart beating in his chest. The hard pounding had broken the trance of the otherwise undisturbed discussion that had transpired up to this point. I’ve oversold myself. Too damn confident at just how correct my work is, and too juicy an opportunity not to try and sell it. I need a way out.

”Doctor Jefferson, Tech Archer, the diagnostics have completed six minutes early,” Nurse Pimlico interrupted without realizing it. “One anomaly. Internal beta is fixed at one point zero zero. Live scrubbing algorithms confirm. Unit E.P. is somehow seeing something.”

“We need to change that.” Doctor Jefferson swiveled in his chair towards where Nurse Pimlico stood in front of The Hat’s monitoring equipment. “Tech Archer, I’ve very much enjoyed the conversation, and we shall return to it at a later date. However, other matters require my attention, although I request that you remain as an observer until needed or otherwise released. Is that okay with you?”

Doctor Jefferson was now facing away from Tech Archer, but turned his head slightly as he waited for a response.

“Absolutely Doctor Jefferson. It would be a pleasure to observe.”

“You know what they are going to do now, don’t you Judy?”

“Yes Mike, I do. You know I do.

“They’re going to start hurting him, Judy. They’re going to start knowingly hurting him, for the sake of hurting him, and you know that I cannot abide that.”

“I know you can’t Mike, and you know that I cannot either.”

“I cannot abide them hurting him again Judy.”

“Mike, there’s nothing we can do, but watch, and wait. We need to focus on being there for Emil when he needs us.”

“And what if I could do something about it, Judy?”

“Mike, don’t. We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work out so well for either of us.”

“I’ve been working on something, Judy.”

“What? What do you mean Mike?”

“Judy, I’ve got a plan.”

“Mike? Plan? What plan? What are you talking about? What have you been working on Mike?

“Watch this…Judy. I’ve got something to show you.”

“Oh Mike no, no surprises. Not today, not now, no surprises, please.”

“Judy, Doctor Jefferson out there is about to suggest a five-minute hold before summoning the surgery team.”

“How do you know this? Mike, what if you’re wrong?”

“Judy, if I’m wrong, I’ll put my plan on hold.”

Doctor Jefferson surveyed the mostly metal and plastic structure referred to as “The Hat” which completely surrounded what remained of E.P.’s physical body contained within it, and rubbed his brow. “Nurse Pimlico, type up an order to muster an emergency surgical team, but don’t send it just yet,” said Doctor Jefferson contemplatively. “Do you have eyes on a clock Nurse Pimlico?”

“Seventeen twenty-five hours, and forty-three seconds Doctor Jefferson.”

“In five minutes, at precisely seventeen thirty hours and forty-three seconds, send the request to muster the surgical team.”

Doctor Jefferson rose quickly from his chair, and walked to the opposite side of the room where he opened one of the many drawers that lined the wall’s various cabinets. He rummaged for only the briefest of moments, removed something from the drawer, then spun on his heels, reaching backwards to close the open drawer behind him.

“Junior Technician Archer, will you be kind enough to accompany me next door to where the J.W. unit is located? It will only be for the briefest of moments.”

Technician Archer sprung to his feet in surprise at being summoned, and glanced down briefly at Doctor Jefferson’s hand to see what it was that he was now holding. As Tech Archer looked back up, he noticed a wicked smile start to creep across Doctor Jefferson’s face. Shit, he saw me looking.

“Young man, what is your name?”

“Michael. My name is Michael, Doctor Jefferson.”

“Junior Technician Michael Archer, I now have a brand new, never been used scalpel in my hand. Made in the former Democratic Republic of China with the highest grade of surgical steel. Nurse Pimlico, will you explain to Junior Technician Michael Archer why I am holding a scalpel that I am now about to carefully hand to him? And feel free to forego any of the usual pleasantries. Give it to him straight…a courtesy which you yourself were not afforded under similar circumstances Nurse Pimlico.”

“Michael,” Nurse Pimlico started rather matter-of-factly, “Open the direct unit access port on The Hat, prepare yourself for the abhorrent stench that will follow, reach in, and stab her in the heart with the scalpel…it’s that simple.”

Michael could not believe what he hearing. Stab ‘her’ in the heart? Since when do units have genders? Wait, why am I hung up on gender all of a sudden. Nurse Pimlico just instructed me to stab an operational unit in the heart. I’ve never even considered such a notion. I’ve never even heard mention of such a notion. I cannot possibly do what is being asked of me.

“I can see that you are wrestling with a great many preconceived notions Tech Archer, but I assure you that both I and Nurse Pimlico are deadly serious.”

A test, this is a test of some kind. Everything is a test. But at what point in this homicidal routine do I refuse to participate? Do I refuse to even accept the scalpel? Do I…

“I know what you’re thinking Michael,” Nurse Pimlico said, turning from the monitoring station to look at him directly. “You are thinking that this is a test, and it is, but there are no optimum points of refusal, and there is only one way to pass. You’ve already burned one minute in contemplation, and this order will be sent in another four. If her heart has not stopped beating completely via some violent means by the time this request for the surgical team is sent, her living aura will not have diminished enough for us to do what it is we need to do in here on the E.P. Unit when the surgical team arrives. Doctor Jefferson or myself will explain the details later. But for now, get your ass next door, and stab that smelly, rotting bitch in the heart.”

Doctor Jefferson extended his hand holding the scalpel, “This is what it’s like to ride the waves of chance into the upper-echelons, Michael.”

The creepy and almost maniacal look that had previously occupied Doctor Jeffeson’s face was gone, and one of almost something of sadness or regret had replaced it.

“This is an order Doctor Jefferson?”

“It’s a request Michael. A favor to myself and Nurse Pimlico. We’ve done this too many times ourselves.”

Michael’s fear turned to rage. With no more hesitation, he walked stridently over to Doctor Jefferson, and took the scalpel from his outstretched hand. “I’ll do it for you Nurse Pimlico. And for you as well Doctor Jefferson.”

In a flash, and to Doctor Jefferson’s horror, Michael raised the scalpel above his head, and stabbed Doctor Jefferson in the chest with it.

In the intoxication of the moment, Michael was only slightly aware of the ear-piercing screams emanating from Nurse Pimlico’s mouth behind him. I did it. I actually did it. Wait, did I do it? That felt weird. I need to pull myself together.

Tech Archer started to come out of his haze. Nurse Pimlico is behind me. Training. I have to move first. Why is Doctor Jefferson not falling? What just happened? And what was that sudden snapping noise? So warm. So fuzzy. Why is everything melting? Melting to white. What is the ceiling doing way up there?

~ ~ ~

It was cold outside. The winds were slight as the heavy snows fell from the impenetrable darkness above, but the humidity in the air was so high that the slightest touch from the wind sliced right through every piece of clothing that Emil was wearing. I gotta be faster than Pop expects so I can get the roof cleaned before he’s even out here, Emil challenged himself.

The snow was deep, well over 40 cm by Emil’s rough calculations. Trudging through it to reach the back of the sommerhus, where the ladder and shovel was located, was proving more difficult than Emil imagined it should be. I feel like a duck walking in this snow. Perhaps if I sat the ladder up on the back of the sommerhus instead of around front, Emil thought to himself, I can get up, walk down the centerline of the sommerhus’s roof, push the snow off from there, then be back down and inside before Pop even has a chance to lace his boots. I’ve just realized that I’ve never walked in snow this deep before.

Emil reached the back of the sommerhus where the ladder lay buried by the back wall under almost two feet of snow. Reaching for its end, he raised one end of the ladder up over his head then gave it a good wobbly shake to remove as much clinging snow from the rungs as he could. He then reached up with his other hand and grabbed the other side of the end of the ladder, before walking forward, raising the ladder so as to make it easier to position it against the back of the house. Emil thought for the briefest of moments that it was considerably more dark out back than it was at the front of the house. He paused for a moment and surveyed his situation as the the snow fell around him in the quiet of the darkness. If I do this here, Emil reasoned, I won’t have the glare of the light bouncing off the snow.

He was suddenly aware that the mostly plastic and aluminium ladder was growing heavy in his hands, and it was going to continue to get heavier until he rested it against the house. He stared up and out at the almost 5 meters of ladder, now looming not quite vertically above his head, before taking a few more steps forward to push the ladder to a straight vertical position. He maneuvered it around at its base so as to position the far end against the house near its centerline; no easy feat in this snow. Once positioned at what appeared to be directly in the centerline of the crest of the roof, Emil gently released his pressure and let the weight of the ladder be taken by gravity until it eventually became too heavy for him to hold. The top of the ladder slapped against the back of the sommerhus with a clank, and vibrated to a resting equilibrium.

Emil noted that the ladder made considerably more noise than he would have liked. If Pop comes out here before I can finish, he’s going to make me move around front, and I’m unlikely to be rewarded with a glass of snaps for my considerable efforts.

“Malthe? Did you tell Emil to set the ladder up around back?” Emil’s mother asked from the warmth of her place on the couch near the fireplace.

“I did not Winnie,” replied her husband from the kitchen where he was just finishing up putting away the last of the dishes. “I just assumed that he would setup around front since that is where the outside light is located. Why?”

“I just heard a clanking noise against the house from above and behind me. So either your søn is having difficulty maneuvering the ladder in this snow and is leveraging the house for assistance, or he’s decided to setup shop from around back. Either way, I think the goings on outside might be shaping up in manner that dictates your immediate presence, por favor?”

“Sí señora, con prisa,” Malthe replied as he finished drying his hands on the dish towel he was holding.

“¡Ándale you, get moving! Vaya con Dios, and don’t come back without Emil in tow.”

Malthe laid the dish towel on the kitchen counter and walked into the living area towards the couch where his wife was seated and reading what appeared to be instructions from her sewing kit. “You know, we will make it to Spain one of these days. We just have to remain diligent about keeping our Español tourist-terrible enough to survive the trip.” Malthe leaned over and kissed his wife on her forehead.

“Stop stalling you,” said Winnie without looking up. “Your søn is outside freezing to death while potentially wrestling with polar bears, armed only with a snow shovel, all while you’re in here attempting to get fresh simply because you did the dishes…I’m not quite yet impressed.”

“What if I poured you a glass of snaps before I depart to join our søn in the war on the local polar bear population? Would that help my case?”

Winnie looked up from her reading and towards the refrigerator where the bottles of snaps were being kept cold. “No, why don’t we save that for when the hunters return. We’ll all of us have a glass to warm up a bit. Fair enough?”

“Magnifico,” replied Malthe. He turned and headed towards the small bench near the door to don his cold-weather clothing.

“That’s Italian not Spanish dum dum.”

“Indeed I think it is Italian my dear Winnie.”

Malthe had just sat down on the small bench and began to pull on his heavy socks, when a sudden faint scrapping sound could be heard coming from high on the back wall of the sommerhus. Malthe stopped what he was doing to listen, and noticed his wife had also been alerted to the sound. Her head cocked to the side, with her ear pointed to the wall…listening.

Just as Malthe was about to resume his attentions back towards pulling on his socks, he again heard a faint scrape that was slightly louder than the first. It was quickly followed by another. Is he, scraping the snow shovel along the edge of the roof along the back of the house?

Scrape…scrape…clang clang.

Winnie turned her attention towards where Malthe was seated. Their eyes met. “Malthe? Tag derud nu!”

Get out there now, damn right you are Winnie. Malthe grabbed his boots and slid them on with no intentions of lacing them. He’s up the ladder on the back of the house. That’s what that clanging was. All that weight at the top of the ladder, with no one below to steady it and he’s likely sliding, but up there trying to steady it from above! Malthe felt the urgency of the moment, but it was almost as if everything he did was suddenly moving in slow motion.

Scrape…scrape…scrape, scrape, SCRAAAAAAAAPE!…THUD!

“Malthe?” Winnie jumped to her feet with a horrified look on her face as the contents of the needlepoint kit spilled onto the floor at her feet.

Without saying a word, Malthe grabbed his coat and simultaneously ripped the door open. That thud was the ladder falling. Damn kid. Please God don’t let him have been on it. Maybe the snow cushioned his fall.

~ ~ ~

That’s…that’s a weird sound. What is that sound? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a popping noise like that before.

“Emil, can you hear me?”

“Mike, is that you?”

“Yes Emil, it’s Mike. Can you tell me where you are?”

“I was, I was just falling off the ladder from our sommerhus in Bornholm.”

“That’s correct Emil, you fell. You fell for a long time.”

“What was that noise?”

“Oh, that noise. Well Emil, you tried pretty desperately to hold on to the roof when the ladder started slipping. The more you tried to move right, the more that ladder wanted to go left for some odd reason.”

“And I fell, Mike?”

“You did at that Emil. Like I said, you fell for a very long time. Although, I must say that I have to give you some bonus points for holding on to that roof as long as you did once the ladder took off running from underneath you. You swung back, and forth, and then you just couldn’t hold on any longer.”

“Mike, how do you know that? I remember all of that happening exactly how you said.”

“But then Emil, things got a little…tumbly, didn’t they?”

“I can see the black, then the white…

“Then black then white then black then all white…I know that Emil. I was there, I saw it all.”

“Mike, am I dead? Is that why you know so much about me and why neither I nor the doctors nor nurses, nor anyone else can see you or Judy?”

“No Emil, you’re not dead. But I gotta be honest with you buddy. You’re in a bad way. A very, very bad way.”

“Mike, I’m scared.”

“Emil, I’m scared too. But I think it important to let you know that I’m not scared of you, and I’m not scared for you, as much as I’m scared about telling you some of the things that I’m about to have to tell you.”

“What kinds of things Mike? What is it that you are afraid of telling me if I’m not dead? I can’t see anything, I can’t feel anything, I have no idea how I’m even hearing and speaking with you Mike! Where am I?

“Anything else on your mind Emil?”

“Yes, actually there is Mike…why am I so calm?”

“Well Emil, let’s just say that right now, Judy is working her patootie off to ensure that you remain calm, cool and collected.”

“Patootie? What is a patootie Mike?”

“Emil, have you ever been to America?”

“No Mike, I haven’t. I’d like to go someday though.”

“Mission accomplished Emil…well done. You’ve been in The United States of America for the past forty-two years.”

~ ~ ~

Nurse Pimlico heard a thud followed by a grunt from behind her. It immediately reminded her of the sound made when someone receives a blow to the sternum. Adrenaline. Training. Plans. Survey.

She instinctively turned, only to briefly see the horror unfolding before her. Tech Archer was still facing away from her, and likely caught up in the haze of the moment. Archer had stabbed Doctor Jefferson in the chest with the scalpel. Why did he do that? That wasn’t in the cards. Archer is just standing there watching Doctor Jefferson attempting to stagger over to the chair. Blood drunk. Archer is a candidate.

Doctor Thomas Jefferson was indeed staggering over to the chair. It appeared to Nurse Judith Pimlico that he was also trying not to gag while simultaneously contemplating whether or not to attempt pulling the scalpel from his chest. Doctor Jefferson made it to the chair and sat down. He’s looking up at me. Archer must not have hit the heart, or at least not directly. Why is there no blood? Salvageable. Jefferson is a candidate. Wind down, appraisal complete, opportunities abound.

Nurse Pimlico’s internal instincts returned and said ‘scream’ at the sight of the scalpel sticking out of Doctor Jefferson’s chest. Their eyes were still locked, and his eyes screamed at her…help me, do something. Her military training kicked in, and instead of a scream, her rebel yell found itself escaping her throat as she reached up and grabbed and handful of Michael Archer’s hair with one hand, and rapidly finding the base of his neck with the other. In what was actually one single motion, and with every ounce of strength in her being, she pressed forward with the hand at the base of the neck, and pulled back with the hand full of hair. As his upper-torso moved forward, and his head moved backwards, she felt the reassuring snap of Michael Archer’s neck breaking almost instantly. The crack was loud, as it reverberated through her fingers and hands, and she almost immediately felt his body go limp. Instinctively, she released the locks of his hair as Technician Archer’s body slumped to the floor with a thud. Rest well in hell you worthless piece of shit. Survey and appraise.

Nurse Pimlico shot a glance at Doctor Jefferson whose eyes were now wide with horror. I’m sure the bastard can’t believe what he just saw. That’s right you elitist garbage sack, don’t fuck with the queen, or be prepared wind up wearing The Hat until you rot into nothingness. He’s wobbling, losing consciousness. Unsure if trauma or shock, perhaps both. Blood-loss? Still no blood. Perfect. Regroup. Grab him before he hits the floor.

Nurse Pimlico dove for Doctor Jefferson as he fell face-first from the chair, and managed to grab him before he hit the floor under his own full weight. But only enough to let my presence be known. I am, afterall, being watched. Flip him over, then sound the alarm.

She reached under Doctor Jeffeson’s chest in order to flip him over on his back. Ow shit! What the hell just cut me? Did the scalpel just cut me? How the hell? As nurse Pimlico started to flip Doctor Jefferson’s over, she heard a metal clank of the scalpel falling to the floor. To her horror, she discovered…Is he, wearing, body-armor?

“Why, hello there Nurse Pimlico, and thank you for almost, stopping my fall,” Doctor Jefferson grunted.

Nurse Pimlico screamed, then fainted. Why is everything so, black? She thought to herself as she swirled into the darkness.

~ ~ ~

“Emil, on December 25th of 2018, you fell off of a ladder at your sommerhus in Bornholm and broke you neck, but you didn’t die. That, popping, sound that you heard? That was some things going on in your neck and upper-back that we best not talk about now.”

“Mike? This just happened?”

“Well, not exactly Emil. But before I proceed any further, can you tell me if you are feeling okay?”

“I am…confused, Mike. Would you mind getting on with this? I’m becoming very frightened and I can’t feel anything.”

“Fair enough Emil. Just, feel free to interrupt or ask any questions at any time.”

“Knowing that makes me feel a little better, Mike.”

“Your break, was right around the C5 vertebrae. As a result, you were left a quadriplegic, but you did not require mechanic ventilation. That is to say, you could still breathe on your own.”

“Mike, why can’t I see?”

“I’m going to get to that Emil. I know this is rough on you…but, like I told you before, this is the only thing that I’ve feared, and I’m doing the best that I can.”

“Mike, I’m seeing colors again. Bright ones. Very vivid. Like waves in multicolored oceans.”

“Those will be coming and going Emil. But it’s OK if you want to tell me.”

“Mike, I think I see snow.”

“Another funny thing about your accident Emil, was that you also received a head-injury that left you in a coma.”

“I’m in a coma Mike?”

“You were in a coma, Emil. A lot of time has passed since then.”

“Mike, if I am not in a coma, and I’m not dead, where am I?”

“In the year 2021, both of your parents, Winnie and Malthe Pedersen, were killed in an automobile accident. I’m sorry Emil.”

“My parents are dead?”

“Yes Emil, your parents are both dead. Have been for a very long time. And again, I am sorry.”

“I’m not sure what to say, Mike. I have no idea what to feel nor even how. I’m beginning to think that I am dreaming all of this.”

“That’s okay Emil, we’re getting you to where you need to be.”

“When will I be there Mike? Where am I going?”

“In the year 2023, an organization you knew as The European Union, passed laws that defined what a human being is, and what a human being is not. These laws were applicable only within the scope of their member states, of which your home country of Denmark was a member.

“Wait a moment Mike, you said earlier that I was in America. I also heard a date of 2047 mentioned by either that nurse or doctor.”

“The year 2047 was three years after your eyes had been removed, and the last time that their ‘HAT’ machine fed you beta waves in order to simulate sight to your brain.”

“Mike, I’m scared. No, I’m not…I’m angry Mike.”

“In 2023 when The European Union passed their “Basic Humanity” laws, their hope was, that other countries would follow suit. Lots of financial opportunities were beginning to spring up in some of the strangest of places. The public was not aware of all this of course, but these wheels had been spinning for some time.”

“Mike, did you hear what I said?! I said I was angry!”

“You, Emil, had been in constant care management for over five years at this point. Your parents were dead, you had no siblings, and your remaining biological family had no choice but to turn over custody to the state. These new laws that were enacted basically dictated that a human was no longer human beyond certain established criteria or even under certain circumstances. The only real issue was applicability via enforcement. Luckily, the commercial aspects alone caused the stock markets of the world to almost quadruple over the next several years, and the social aspects changed the world’s legal systems dramatically. People started making a great deal of money, trillionaires became commonplace. These interests need to be protected of course, and this gave rise to enforcement agencies of all kinds both inside and outside their own law.”

“Mike? Can you even hear me?”

“I can hear you Emil. I apologize for getting a shade technical there. But I have to get through this.”

“You? You have to get through this? Mike, I don’t even know if you are real. I have no way of knowing if you even exist.”

“That’s fine Emil. Nothing wrong with being angry. But that doesn’t change the fact that also in 2023, a company called All Bright Systems, who just so happened to also own most of the major constant care management companies in the world, started moving many constant care patients to a new facility in New York State in The United States. This was all more or less under the radar. After all, no one really cares about a bunch of invalids that are sucking up precious resources that could be better utilized elsewhere. Contribute to society in any way necessary. Greater goods and services.”

“Mike, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been angry with you.”

“It’s okay, Emil. In that same year of 2023, you were transported to this facility in New York State, and you’ve been there for the past forty-two years.”

“Mike, are you telling me that I’m not fifteen years old?”

“Well, technically Emil, no, you are sixty-two years old. Judy? Mike could really use some help here. You’re on.”

~ ~ ~

“Welcome team. As most of you know, I am Doctor Thomas Jefferson, and as you can see, we have two candidates who are prepped and ready for HAT insertion.”

“Where am I?”

“AH! Nurse Pimlico, you’re awake. Good. Very good,” said Doctor Jefferson in a bubbly tone.

“Candidate One, which will now forever more be referred to as “Unit A.M.”, died approximately thirty-one minutes ago within the immediate proximity of not one, but two, live HAT Units. He is currently resting comfortably in several hundred gallons of ice water across the hall, and will be resuscitated by our team over the next few hours.”

“Doctor Jefferson? What is happening here?” Nurse Pimlico called from her gurney. “Why can’t I move?”

“Oh, don’t be coy Nurse Pimlico. You know exactly, what is going on here.”

Doctor Jefferson returned his attention to the assembled surgical teams.

“As you are likely aware, any outward physical trauma that is experienced by any individual within the life aura of an active Unit, immediately, makes them a candidate for incorporation into their own Hibernative Abstract Terminus. Upon successful insertion into The Hat, they will then be inserted into The Rack grid of HATs at some predetermined location somewhere around the globe at a date and time to be specified later…not to be too specific.” Doctor Jefferson shot a wink to the crowd which garnered some laughs.

“I just tried to save your life you bastard!” Nurse Pimlico screamed. “Just because I’m a candidate doesn’t mean that I need to be inserted! The fields sometimes collapse!”

“Team, some of you have been through this before. That includes Nurse Judith Pimlico. You see, she knows what’s coming. And she’s a bit…apprehensive. BUT! That’s good. The more adrenaline that is pumping? The more endorphins that are flowing? The more confusion and agony that we can cause within the candidate? The more assured we are of success. That, is why we bring the pain.”

“Oh God NO!” screamed Nurse Pimlico as she began sobbing. “Protocol to the letter! I followed it!”

“Doctor Meyerson? Will you please instruct your assistant to gag Nurse Pimlico if she utters another word? Instruct her to do it by cutting out Nurse Pimlico’s tongue.”

Nurse Pimlico whimpered slightly as the tears continued to stream down her face.

“That’s better Nurse. Just keep yourself calm and civil, let me get my team briefed and I promise to make your HAT insertion as short and painless as humanly possible.” Doctor Jefferson returned his attention back to the group. “As you can see, Candidate Two is a shade, apprehensive.”

Several in the crowd snickered.

“Now! Back to business. Behind me is Unit E.P., an oldie but a goodie, one of our first. He is a ‘white’. But next door, we have Unit J.W., who is a ‘black’. Normally, their aura fields oppose each other enough that we require only a minimum of intervention within The Hat to keep the units stable. However, both units E.P. and J.W. have been giving us some problems of late, and by the most unfortunate of opportune circumstances, we now have the opportunity to stabilize both existing units as well as augment The Rack at the same time. We do this by creating what we hope will be two ‘greys’. Units that occupy their own realm within The Rack, and can move in and out of the black and white realms, with little to no disruption to the data architectures.”

“Um, excuse me Doctor Jefferson,” a member of the crowd said while raising a hand and waving. “Is that a potentially faulty indicator light that is blinking on the E.P. Unit’s HAT?”

Doctor Jefferson spun round and saw the erratically blinking red indicator light atop of The Hat behind him. What the hell? Why is there no alarm? Even a faulty indicator light should generate an alarm.

”Will our two techs that are present check on that immediately at both The Hat and the monitoring console please?”

“Don’t bother Doctor Jefferson,” Nurse Pimlico croaked. “The indicator light is not faulty. It’s Morse code you sadistic dipshit.”

Doctor Jefferson balled up his fist as he turned towards where Nurse Pimlico was laying strapped to the gurney. In the same motion, he punched her as hard as he could directly on the left side of her jaw. “DIT! Like that, Nurse Pimlico?! Is that the Morse code to which you refer?”

Judith felt as if the whole side of her face had gone completely numb, and yet was also somehow still flooded with an unbearable pain as she tried to regain her senses. Bastard broke my haw…I mean, my jaw. What the hell? How have I suddenly developed a speech impediment in my own head?

“Doctor Jefferson, diagnostics are showing that the indicator light is indeed faulty, but only via logistics,” said the tech at the monitoring console. ”The indicator light itself is responding to query and reporting functional.”

“Logistics fault?” replied Doctor Jefferson. “Meaning, it’s past its expiration date but has not been replaced? How is that even possible?”

“Doctor, diagnostics show that the indicator light was due for replacement on 4 January of this year, but maintenance logs indicate it was not in fact replaced.”

“Meaning no maintenance was done, so that is why there is no record. Is that what you are telling me?”

Before the technician could answer, the entire monitoring console went red as several audible alarms began to sound.

“Sir,” the technician at the console called anxiously. “I am reading a sustained spike of beta from E.P., and the system is identifying the source as internal.”

“Tech, what’s the reading?” asked Doctor Jefferson. The E.P. Unit is somehow seeing something.

“Twenty-seven Hertz sir.”

The E.P. Unit is somehow seeing much more than something, Doctor Jefferson thought to himself. “That has got to be an instrumentation error soldier. Run diagnostics,” demanded Doctor Jefferson.

“Sir?” said the technician. “The Rack system monitor is now indicating that the J.W. Unit next door has just failed in totality.”

~ ~ ~

“Hello Emil, as you can probably tell, this is Judy.”

“Hello Judy. Where has Mike gone?”

“Emil, all indications to the contrary, our Mike is a pretty sensitive guy. The things that he is telling you about? Well, it’s more difficult for him to tell than perhaps you might think.”

“Am I being too mean? Judy?”

“Not at all Emil. Both Mike and I realize that you are scared. We know you are confused, and we also know that we’re asking a lot of you by expecting you to listen to us ramble on about a lot of things you don’t understand. But if it makes you feel any better, we’re almost there.”

“Almost where, Judy? I have no idea where I am. Where are you and Mike taking me?”

“Home, Emil. Home.”

~ ~ ~

“Doctor Meyerson?” Doctor Jefferson said authoritatively but calmly. “Will you be so kind as to go next door and ‘pause’ the J.W. Unit?”

The other doctor simply nodded and hurriedly left the room.

~ ~ ~

“Let’s see now Emil, where was I?”

“Mike? Where did Judy go?”

“She was just giving me a break, and now I’m giving her a break. We’re all of us almost done here.”

“Mike? Judy said we were going home. If what you’ve told me is true, I have no home to go home to.”

A picture suddenly flashed in Emil’s mind.

“Emil, did you see that?”

“Yes I did Mike. What was that? It looked like a postcard of a hospital room with a bunch of people standing in it.”

“That right Emil. That’s pretty much exactly what it was.”

“Why on Earth would anyone want a picture postcard of a hospital room? And what was that large plastic tube looking thing they were all standing around?”

“Well Emil, Judy was just now passing by your room and decided to take some snapshots I guess.”

“My hospital room? Wait Mike, I don’t understand.”

“Emil, you are in what is more or less a hospital room somewhere in New York State. The current year there is 2065. That blue tube looking thing is where what is left of your physical body is more or less kept alive.”

“My eyes. You’d mentioned that my eyes were gone. Why didn’t I remember that?”

“We don’t want you dwelling on bad stuff unnecessarily, Emil. We know that all of this is coming at you rather fast.”

“You are able to withhold my own memories from me, Mike?”

“Something like that Emil. But know that we aren’t doing it to be hurtful. You are going to remember plenty soon enough.”

“Mike, what else have they taken from me?”

“Emil, the specifics are not really important. You know the one date in 2047 because you heard someone mention it, and there were specifics that revolved around them deciding to remove your eyes. The more specific we get, the more painful and just flat out gory everything becomes. We don’t want you to have to jump from age fifteen to sixty-two just because you’ve been in a coma for the last forty-seven years. That’s not your fault. Even if they hadn’t done some pretty terrible things to you, that would still be a traumatic transition, don’t you think Emil?”

“I think I can relate to that somewhat Mike. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go to sleep one morning at one age, then wake up the next morning at another age.”

“And that’s why we’re talking like this, Emil. We just want your transition to go smoothly.”

“Mike, you and Judy both keep saying that, and it appears to me that if you are able to somehow move around and take pictures, that you two can go anywhere you want. But I don’t appear to be going anywhere.”

“Where would you go, if you could go anywhere you wanted Emil?”

“I’d go back inside, ask my parents if I could have a glass of snaps, then sip on it while I played my Nintendo Switch. That’s, what I would do Mike. Mike? Mike, can you hear me?”

~ ~ ~

“Doctor Jefferson?” Doctor Meyerson called from the doorway. “Sir I need you to come next door with me immediately.”

Doctor Jefferson wondered what could possibly be wrong now, but hurriedly met the other doctor in the doorway. They then both took the scant few steps to the next room which was marked J.W. on the outside. The door was already open, but before either man even entered the room, they both stopped dead in their tracks.

“Where in the hell is The Hat?” asked Doctor Jefferson.

“I have no idea Doctor Jefferson. I was coming to tell you that I attempted to pause the J.W. unit, but when I opened the direct access port, there was no stench. In fact, I thought I smelled…roses. And when I reached in side to pierce the heart, there was…nothing there.”

“That’s impossible Doctor Meyerson!” Doctor Jefferson demanded.

“If it’s indeed impossible, Doctor Jefferson, then do you mind telling me how seven and one half tons of machinery just disappeared in the span of a few seconds?”

Doctor Jefferson’s mind raced with possibilities as he surveyed the remaining contents of room J.W. The Hat, gone? How? Teleportation? Are we being invaded by a competing corporation that has invented teleportation? Or time-travel? What in the hell is happening here? Aliens? Wait…teleportation, Morse code, my wife. “Cascade. Duncan spoke of a cascade.”

Another alarm sounding from the other room snapped Doctor Jefferson out of his thoughts. No. Not another one.

Doctor Jefferson turned and ran back to other doorway; the soles of his shoes slapping against the polished tile floors as he went. When he arrived, eleven sets of shocked eyes turned his way in disbelief. Only Nurse Pimlico, who lay strapped to a gurney and staring at the ceiling, did not turn to look at him. But that was only because her head was strapped to the table, Doctor Jefferson thought to himself. The Hat, was gone.

Doctor Jefferson strode calmly over to the gurney where Nurse Pimlico was laying. As he approached, the room’s upright occupants parted as to allow him to pass, and Doctor Jefferson noticed that Nurse Pimlico was working her jaw muscles. “Probably that smack I gave you is making you do that. Would you like another?”

“Octor Efferson, you have nothing, to th-reaten mee with,” said Judith Pimlico as best she could. It was the first time she’d spoken since Doctor Jefferson had broken her jaw, and she was having to work out how to best operate the new configuration of her facial muscles. “Stop the act-ting, and ask the quest-yun you alked over here to ask mee.”

“The code that you spoke of. You understood it?”

“A-firm-muh-tive.”

“Are you going to tell me what it was Nurse Pimlico.”

“Ah it it, ah it it, ah it it.”

“Dash dot dot, dash dot dot, dash dot dot. Three d’s.”

“That is correct, octor. If few will for-give me, the letters, that come before ‘e’ and after “c”, are proo-ving ifficult, and pain-fool, to, ronounce.”

“I apologize for your new disability Nurse Pimlico. But tell me this so as to get to the point, Judith…do you know what that code means?”

“Octor…Any…Uncan, Ree Dee,” said Nurse Pimlico as a rivulet of saliva emanated from the side of her mouth and ran down the side of her cheek.

Doctor Jefferson felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as his survival instincts kicked in. “For the benefit of your own well-being, I would appreciate you not saying any more at this time Nurse Pimlico. It appears you know quite a bit more than I ever suspected you did.” Doctor Jefferson looked around the room at the faces that were staring back at him with a mishmash of blank and confused looks. “Will someone please get this woman some immediate medical attention? We’re healthcare providers for crissakes.”

~ ~ ~

“I apologize for that Emil. Emil?”

“He’s gone, Mike.”

“Judy. My oldest and dearest friend. Where for hath our young Emil gone?”

“I’m neither old nor dear to you, Mike, and we’re certainly not friends.”

“You’re cutting me deep, Judy. A very naughty thing to do on Christmas Day. Does this also mean you aren’t going to tell me when Emil has gone?”

“You mean, where, Emil has gone Mike?”

“That’s what I said, isn’t it, Judith?”

“He’s gone home Mike. Emil has gone home.”

“And what about that other one. Where has she gone, Judy?”

“I don’t know yet Mike. I guess you’ll see when she gets there.”

“Thank you, Judy.”

“Thank you, Michael.”

~ ~ ~

Emil could feel his fingers slipping. The ladder was edging ever farther away with each attempt to right himself. Suddenly, Emil could feel the ladder shifting in a steady motion indicating that it wasn’t going to stop this time. He shifted all of his body-weight from his legs on the ladder, onto his arms that were clinging perilously to the edge of the roof. It made more sense to drop straight down than to fall the extra few meters sideways. But as the weight transferred to his arms and hands, and as the ladder fell completely away from his feet, Emil noticed that he was going to dangle in such a way that he would be first swinging into the dangling position. He’d not thought of that; no time to.

As his body began to swing, it became clear to Emil that maybe after one or two swings back and forth, he was going to fall. Should he time it? Should he look down and judge when there might be a good time to actually let go and try and better brace himself for the impact? Surely that would be better than tumbling. He glanced down at the ground and everything went from white to grey to black so fast, the he was confident that there was no way to accurately judge his fall in the darkness.

A bolt of panic shot through his body as the fingers on his left hand suddenly felt like they were giving way. It became apparent to Emil, that since he was currently swinging to the right, if he lost his grip with his left hand mid-swing, he would likely tumble just enough in midair to land directly on his head.

Merry Christmas kid!” whispered a voice above and in front of Emil.

Emil was horrified and his mind froze in a panic. What was THAT!

From nowhere, a burly and strong hand firmly grasped Emil’s left hand just as it lost its grip on the roof. At the same moment, he lost his grip with his right hand, and again another strong hand shot out of nowhere and grasped the now free hand. Emil’s swinging motion quickly stopped, and he realized that his was now suspended from the roof by someone holding him up by his arms. It occurred to Emil how ridiculous he must look somehow hanging here. But wait, who the heh….heck, is holding me?

Terrified to look up, but equally terrified not to look up, Emil looked up. A shadow of a face peered at him from over the crest of the roof, but Emil could not make out any details of the face nor the arms and hands that were keeping him from falling. Only the top of a shadowy face from the nose up, and what appeared to be smiling eyes. How is someone suddenly laying on the crest of the roof of our sommerhus in the middle of the biggest blizzard in recent history on Christmas Day?

And Happy New Year’s too,” whispered the voice.

“Who…” but before Emil could say anything else, he felt the strong hands push backwards on Emil’s arms, simultaneously releasing its grip. Emil felt himself falling backwards, and it felt as though he was going to fall in such a way as to land directly on his back in the snow. The fall seemed to take forever, but Emil never stopped looking at the partially obscured and shadowy face staring back at him. The face and arms did not make sense, nor did it make sense as to why there was suddenly someone, appearing from nowhere, to stop Emil from falling off the ladder, only to throw him onto the ground and into the snow.

See ya around kid.

Whump! Emil landed flat on his back in the snow with a muffled thump. As he hit the ground, Emil noticed that the shadowy figure appeared to shoot away from the roof of the house in a blur and disappear into nothingness.

Brrrraap! The impact made Emil fart, and the snow now surrounding him seemed to amplify and cause his rectal turbulence to almost resonate in the snow.

“That was one egregious fart,” Emil said aloud to himself. “I hope to hell it wasn’t a wet one.”

*******

We hope you enjoyed that, Dear Reader. This year’s collection of Christmas short tall tales should be available later this week. Underdog Anthology X: Silence of the Elves will contain a bumper crop. Until then, have a Song 😉