Fiction: Avatar Remaindered, 7

Fountains of Light Album by Starcastle,
by https://1.bp.blogspot.com/Starcastle%2BFountains.jpg
  1. Fountain of Light

Sard slept on a sack of mulbry-felt scraps, under the centre of the dome. Rider had his quarters in the second entryway. On a night of no moon, he dragged his bed out, next to Sard’s. “We should face into the north tonight.”

Sard swung his bed around.

Rider woke Sard before sunrise, with a hand on his shoulder. “Tell me what you see, apart from the stars.”

“It’s my second time staring at the sky?” He almost fell into his habitual blame-thinking. But probably Rider woke him for a good reason. “What am I looking for? Satellites? Planets?”

“Closer in,” Rider said.

The rock rim all around framed the dome with shadows. The dome itself … Sard hesitated in his seeing task. “There are lines inscribed on the per-glass?”

“The Celestial Equator, curving overhead from the west to the east,” Rider swung his arm from the left behind his head to the right behind his head. “It’s a consensual-reality line that helps us observe the stars.”

“The dot behind our heads?” Sard said.

“The Southern Celestial Pole, equidistant between the two arms of the Celestial Equator that seem to finish in the west and east, do you see? The rest of the Celestial Equator is out of our sight, below our horizon.”

“The lines between the space pole and the space equator are…?”

“Celestial latitudes, not of our concern tonight,” Rider said. “We are at the beginning of Silver Time as the seasons are counted in the delta. It lasts from mid July to just past mid summer, mid January.”

“That’s half the year.”

“All through Silver Time, the Lodestar is in the night sky. This morning it is visible in the east. Look there.” Rider swung his right hand this time, over Sard’s face and forcing him to swivel his head.

He sighted along Rider’s arm. “A bright star. Just inside the rock rim. Just outside the space equator,” he said.

Rider sat up. “All my away-time I worked to gain the trust of the grey people of the delta for my project to learn about their lodestar. The only thing I could discover is that there’s a connection between that star and the seasons. The time the lodestar is present in the night-sky is Silver Time. When it is not present … that’s called Tarnish Time.”

“Tarnish suggests black,” Sard said. “As if they think it’s a black time when their favorite star isn’t in their sky.” He shrugged. “It could be that easy.”

Rider laughed. “In the villages to the west of the delta, where I lived at the time, people maintained that the Lodestar is another name for Procyon, the star that rises before the Dog Star. An Aerk Islander I met said that the Procyon System was where the Aerk Islanders originated, and the Lodestar is a remnant of the starship that brought them. I advise you not to discuss your project with anyone.”

“Project?” Sard said.

“The men Gamester has attracted to his outer cave, these swimmers, visit the delta regularly. They’re considered friends of the grey people and I did indeed hear rumors of swimmers while I was in the delta. In your away-time, for your project, I’d like you to learn more about that link, between the Lodestar and the grey people. I’m ninety percent sure that in the future that link will affect us in some way …”

Probably Rider had been going to say more but Sard heard only ‘in your away-time’. “You mean I don’t have to go forever? That I can come back? Why didn’t you say so? That’s a whole other slant.”

“You’ll always be behind the scenes, like I am.”

“You won’t be sorry. I’m a good organizer.” He recalled the performances he had had practically to rewrite on the go due to people dropping out. Or people wanting to join at the last minute. “I thrive on surprises.”

“Those are considerations for after your away-time,” Rider said. “Perhaps if you could tell the grey people you’d met these swimmers …”

“I get that. Make friends so …”

Rider made a cutting-off gesture. “Someone in the airlock.”

It was only Mab, asking for instructions apparently, Sard saw with a couple of quick glances. While Rider was busy with her, Sard tidied up the bedding, dumping Rider’s by his private airlock, and rolling up his own. He stored his gear between two pillars. He started his exercises. The slow ones, so he could fantasize his success.

— — — —

Washing and the rest were done in the opening to the so-called water tunnel equidistant between the two airlocks. Time would have to tell the reason for its existence, because Sard had too much to learn each day to remember to ask.

He lifted the lid closing off the end of a wide pipe ending at the level of his knees approximately, and peed down into it. Flushed the pipe with the half-bucket of waste-water standing ready.

The pipe went down through the intervening rock – cunningly camouflaged wherever it went through any living spaces, according to Rider – and discharged with general dome wastes to be buried in the soil in one of the plantations.

Sard washed himself with a couple of handfuls of water in the clean-water bucket, the water from a pipe sourcing gravity-fed rainwater from a cistern up on the roof. He poured his used water into the waste-water bucket, and rinsed the clean-water bucket ready for the next user.

He pulled on the life suit since it was the subject of his learnings and Rider’s teachings, though he tucked the gloves into the sleeves, and the hood down his back. Pulled on a pair of shorts over the top.

Today, breakfast was cold riced soybeans garnished with a spicy hot sauce. Same as dinner last night. He was learning the fine art of rationing and plus the use of his strength of mind. Food was brought only once a day. “How can will and knowledge be enough?” he asked Rider while he tried not to wolf down his food. He doubted his strength of mind where the purpose of the whole exercise of saving his life was concerned. Not that he told anybody. What if they stopped trying because he was doubtful?

“With good skills and a good kit they’ll be more than plenty,” Rider said. “Those are the next layers in the pyramid of survival – training your own capabilities and learning those of your equipment, such as that life-suit, for instance.”

In the mode of a good acolyte, Sard cleared and cleaned the dishes. Their kitchen was a shelf beside Mab’s airlock above another bucket, this one containing sudsy water for washing dishes.

“Today we’ll explore the fountain-of-light meditation,” Rider said when Sard took his place opposite Rider.

“Because it’s my favorite? I mean, because with it I can best control my wayward thoughts?”

The suit, because he was thinking about it, peacocked with multi-colored blotches and liquid spurting stripes.

Rider ignored Sard’s quips. He did his sitting-down-on-air trick, bowing his legs to accommodate an imaginary pony between his knees.

Sard did his diagonal four-step to end up next to Rider, as he still got confused mirroring his actions. He bowed his legs and summoned his own tai-ji pony. Be pastel, like the sky, he ordered the suit.

< You + I are discontinuous. Your hands/I hands. Your head/I head >

Be pastel. Like the sky, Sard thought as he pulled the gloves on and the hood on over his head.

Though the suit’s electrical discharges grew calmer, its colors stayed bright. < What is pastel, I know not sky >

The sky is overhead. Pastels are faded colors. Fade.

< I cannot perceive sky. I cannot feel what I cannot touch. I cannot compute sky >

Every time Sard worked the suit, he learned more of what it could and could not do. Looks like today it was telling him about suit-specific perception. How, if he wanted it to feel something, it had to be able to touch whatever it was. Didn’t bode well for the rest of its senses. Uh oh, Rider’s getting ahead of me.

Rider squatted and knuckled metaphoric light from the floor near his feet.

Sard breathed and half-squatted and knuckled a pair of imaginary cables from the stone by his feet. Make them strong and live and light.

< Intermittent energy pulsing, ground to head height, rising as you rise >

Rider breathed in while he rose out of his squat and split his cable in two, one end in each of his fists. He drew his imaginary cables up through his legs, through his gut and held the pose with his fists in front of his heart.

Sard breathed in while he rose, managing to observe the pain of his screaming muscles and then to ignore them. Give me twin cables, lit and alive, and thread one through each foot, through our leg bones as if they were hollow, and loop them round my knees and thighs. With his fists knuckling together, he guided the suit-provided cables up through his groin and his gut.

Rider breathed out slowly as he drew his imaginary light through his neck and out through the top of his head.

Sard breathed out slowly as he drew twin strings of spangling light through his neck and head – the life suit gave him stars bursting from his mouth and nose and eyes, then spurted light from the top of his head. He fizzed like a roman candle. Oops, the candle sputtered and almost died. He spread his fingers and hands and arms and showered light in a sparkling fountain falling and fading. He resumed the start position, feet a shoulder-width apart, hands hanging, long fingers pointing straight down his legs. Thank you, he said at the suit.

< You + I are continuous >

Sard made his breathing match Rider’s pattern, recovering from the show.

“Now do it again, without me,” Rider said.

Sard summoned light from the ground and on a rising breath fisted sparkling stuttering cords up his body, gapping and twisting, to the top of his head. As he spread his arms and separated his fingers, he breathed out. Light spattered in and out of the lattice of his bones and joints, strobing and fading before it hit the ground.

“One hell of a piece of equipment,” Rider said. “Did you notice that its patterning went to pieces when you allowed yourself to become distracted?”

We are one hell of an act together.

< We are continuous >

Formatting Problem

Digital Illustration of a Cyborg, a cut from an iStock image

I haven’t forgotten my usual Fiction post.

WordPress is in a mode where it continually rephrases and in some cases just wipes whole sentences off the map.

So far, I’ve discovered that it’s because I’m using certain letters and signs to denote computer-speak, that are normally used in coding. WordPress thinks I’m coding? Cue, me laughing.

I’m merely off-setting computer-speak with < and > and when that didn’t work, << and >> and everything between the thingies disappears?

Interesting to see what happens when I ‘publish’ this …

It worked. So now I need to go over it all again to see what I did different.

Fiction: Cortinarius alin aff sapient

Cortinarius sp

Cort had three places to sit in his apartment and today he intended sitting in all of them. He began in the kitchen. Sitting on his wooden kitchen chair at his wooden kitchen table. He had the two vintage crystal wineglasses part-filled with water in front of him and the silver teaspoon ready for action.

Mrs Soup would be along soon. He’d earlier checked her progess by standing this side of his front door and listening. She lived-in in the block—in fact had an apartment not too far from Cort’s—and was employed by the Department of Human Services to provide nine of the block’s residents with their meals.

“Yoo-hoo?”

Cort ting-tinged with his fork against the right-hand glass.

“In the kitchen as usual,” Mrs Soup said. “Waiting for me, I suppose.”

He would’ve smiled if he could. Not safe now. Ting. This was the high note with which he put positive comments into the conversation. Mrs Soup wasn’t backward in supplying the words.

She set the dinner bag on the counter and unloaded the covered bowls. Cort’s teeth had given up the struggle and he’d graduated onto soups and stews that didn’t require chewing. “Both into the fridge?” she said.

Ting. He didn’t know yet when he’d have time to suck up the mid-day meal.

“Oh?” Mrs Soups said. “Expecting another caller?”

Ting. Cort pointed the teaspoon at a red square on the placemat.

“Ah, you’re expecting Red. A good man.” She took yesterday’s disinfected and sealed-up dishes in their plastic bags from the vegetable crisper.

He agreed. Ting. Red was the house medic. Employed under the same arrangement as Mrs Soup, he was overworked and underpaid. In Cort’s opinion. A lot more sick people in the scene than were fed by the house.

“Thank you for this disinfecting. You are such a dear,” Mrs Soup said. “Different to the old codger two floors down.”

Cort tapped the other, almost full glass. Tang.

“Red is with Mr Irascible right now, I’d say. He sidled in as I sailed out.”

Which gave him Red’s approximate arrival time. Ting.

————

For Red’s visit, Cort made himself comfortable in his old armchair. The arm rests were perfect for him to lay his arm on a pillow for Red to serve him up with an injection or a cannula for a dose of IV meds.

“Hey, old-timer,” Red said at the door. “How’s it going?”

Cort slipped his mask up over mouth and nose.

“That’s a new thing between us,” Red said at the mask, fetching the upright chair from the kitchen. “And I have been thinking I’d like to have a look at the problem?” He finished with his head on-side, asking.

Cort gestured futility with his fingers spread, hands upturned.

“There’s a thing growing in your mouth and what? You don’t want me to have a look-see, to see if it is cureable?”

Cort shook his head. Indicated down with his thumb.

“Is it bacterial?” Red said. “I’ve still got some antibiotics you haven’t had yet. Could hit it with them.”

Cort shook his head.

“Is it cancerous?”

Cort shook his head.

“Not cancerous.” Red wrapped the blood pressure guage around Cort’s upper arm. “Only one thing left. Show me and I’ll be able to prescribe something.”

Cort pointed at Red. Gestured Red’s probably fate with a finger across his throat.

Red frowned. “As bad as that? I can go to the ambo station, get some hospital-grade personal protection gear, see you again this afternoon.”

Cort grabbed one of his signs from beside his chair. THERE IS ONLY REVENGE.

Red’s eyes above his mask narrowed. He hissed. “I told them at the station there’s a killer in our scene. What’s he doing?”

Cort mimed diseases passing from one to the next. Infecting people. He got his second sign out. His mobile. A photo, a selfie from hell. His pursed mouth with the deep grooves of his aging face radiating from his thin lips pressed tight. Both the depths of the grooves and the lips painted a deathly white. The disease escaping its confines.

Red studied it with quick glances back and forth to Cort’s eyes, the rest of his face. He frowned thunder. “What can I do?”

Gesturing, Cort asked for help to get out of the chair and be settled on the couch. Cort with a towel over his head for extra protection for Red. His third sign. BURN THAT IN A MEDICAL FURNACE. 1100 DEGREES. He mimed. Make me look like a half-warm corpse.

Red grinned wolfishly. Got out his second mobile, set it to Record. “I’ll be at Mrs Soup’s, watching this. I insist,” he said to Cort’s head shakes. He laid it between Cort’s knees. “I’ll see that your revenge goes nowhere else.”

“He’s dead anyway,” Cort signed.

“Not soon enough. Don’t worry, I have a good plan. No one else is going to be farmed by this dude.” Last thing, Red fetched the red half-blanket from his kit. Spread it over Cort’s lap. He nodded. “Eleven hundred degrees.”

————

Next, the grower. What he called himself. Just a humble farmer popping in from time to time to see how the crop was growing he said. Cort savagely echoed him in his mind.

The man getting sicker, Cort saw the fucker think, his legs up on the couch like that and covered with an ambo’s little red blanket. Cort chuckled behind his mask, whatever that might sound like.

Grower checked that that ambo was not on the premises while fetching the upright chair from the kitchen. Three rooms and a bathroom. No ambo. He set the chair on the rug alongside the couch. Its outer limits but opposite Cort. “Can’t be too careful,” he said.

Cort grunted.

“I traded some of my stock this week and scored me some magnifying specs,” Grower said. He pulled them from his shirt pocket and Cort saw that they were an eye doctor’s magnifiers. Grower slid a couple of lenses into the left frame, three on the right.

Cort grinned close-mouthed behind his mask. Made an inquiring sound.

“You’re right,” Gtower said. “I do owe you an explanation or three.” He laughed. “Your name was the beginning of it.”

Cort raised his eyebrows. This was where he might’ve asked the damned farmer-in-the-dell to explain. Mouth too far gone. But don’t worry he consoled himself, this fucker will tell you because this fucker likes the sound of his own voice.

“In the bar they all called you Cort,” Grower began. “I knew rightaway the crop I’d want to try you out for. Then I learned that you were Allin Cort. Even better. It fits the genus and species naming system. In my literature—pamphlets, brochures and pricelists—I’ve started to call the crop I’ll be harvesting from you Cortinarius allin aff sapient.”

How would he get the delusional sapient to come closer? Cort grunted as disparagingly as he still could.

“It does sounds kind of weird,” Grower said. “But hey, you don’t seem to be doing that well?” He hitched the chair nearer. “The minute I went into job-lots of specifics for the laboratories, my life improved. I got rid of all the species that were too ornery. Too meh. The ones that had no poison and or no flavour if they were edible. I was thinking to get a sample today? Get it tested and so be able to offer my clients a specific rather than a general.”

Cort let his eyelids droop to half-mast, like he was a very sick man. Chuckle chuckle. Sicker than some, not sick enough to not want his revenge before he died.

The fellow hitched the chair even nearer, reached over the remaining distance and gently unhooked Cort’s mask. “Just want to see how we’re progressing, old boy.”

The sick man aka Cort relaxed back onto the couch armrest. He’d laugh if he still could. He gathered himself for his last lunge. Had to be good.

“Medic was here?” Grower said. “He give you some salve and that’s why your mouth and all those grooves are so white?”

Cort shook his head. He coughed through a narrow slot with a tearing paper sound. Pressed together his lips again.

“Right. Right. A little cough is the go. Let me get ready for the next one with a swab.” Grower scrabbled in his bag. Got out a swab. A glass container. A this. A that and a whatever.

Cort watched the madman’s face. Here he comes. Those crazed blue eyes.

“Ready when you are,” Grower said. Sitting on the edge of the chair, both his hands filled with the equipment to catch Cort’s … spores?

Cort grabbed the dead man’s upper arms with an iron grip and opened his mouth wide.

His lips crackled. Cracked. Flaked away.

The white felty interior stretched, the fibres sprang apart.

The spotted brown gills hanging from the roof of his mouth released a cloud of dark brown spores. Cort pursed his lips and blew more of them faster and further into the fellow’s face, his hair, his clothes. He blinded him with Cortinarius spores.

Grower would’ve reared back but Cort hugged him. Breathed spores into him. Kissed him to give him the taste. Cuddled the deluded dead thing to his chest.

Whispered lovingly. “Red will be here in a minute. He’ll tidy us up.”

Art: #Huevember 2019

24. Path through to the Beach

This time last year, being under the mistaken apprehension that if I painted every day for thirty days that would then be a habit, and I would continue to paint every day.

But as we all know when the pressure is off, we tend to relax. I seem to recall I achieved an unbroken 24 day run of painting, followed by some patchy efforts thereafter.

During the time I painted for #huevember2019, I used postcard-sized paper and I’d have up to four scenes on the go at the same time. For that size paintings I need 2 or 3 passes with drying times in between.

On a particular day I’d take a look at what I had in hand, and decide which one to finish for that day. Above is the claustrophobic push through tall shrubbery to the beach. Of course, by the time ten surfers have pushed their way through, there is quite a well-delineated path.

I’m still such a beginner, that I’m always testing something. I think I was using the sepia for the first time that Sharon at the art shop talked me into. A greenish-olivey tint that she said she got more mileage out of than true sepia.

Mixed feelings about it then and now. Not that I’ve done any painting for the last six months. My paints are packed up with all the rest of my chattels, in storage.

A fifty-words-or-less competition

A couple of months ago I stumbled across a CSIROscope competition in honor of World Ocean Day and as I had just been researching ocean clean-ups and the work done on the gyres, I thought: Yeah, I’ll give that a go. The prize would be an analysis by a bunch if scientists of the feasibility of the idea and the illustration once it had been used for social media promotions.

Mmm. An illustration by Campbell Whyte? Could be useful for a story I might write one day. It seemed like a very faint hope/plan/dream/possibility.

I thought up the words, reverse engineered them down to the required number, posted my entry and then forgot about it. The Covid thing makes you forgetful on a lot of fronts. Duly got an email telling me the good news that I was one of four winners. I was amazed.

So, yes, I’ve tried embedding to show-off my prize. I’ve tried merely to link. I’ve tried to post the URL. I’ve tried … to no avail.

I don’t see the problem.

Ah ha … stopped the embedding function. Learn something new everyday. I better hurry up and post. Battery is down to 47% …

https://blog.csiro.au/powering-our-future-oceans-floating-lab/?fbclid=IwAR2XN82ZahsgFK8mVokYBUoi0Tx2IK2DSYOGIukVCV85eVIzwXar5W5HQ_Y

Tropes: Time Travel

Watercolour: we spent summers travelling to the beach.

My interest in time travel began when my birth-family arrived in Australia as immigrants from the Netherlands. The first place where we lived was a migrant hostel outside Sydney. We children mostly noticed differences. The English language of course. The food. What the hell is this orange stuff? Pumpkin? But that’s cattle food. And what is vegemite? it’s horrible. Nothing like apple butter.

And the bush. Walking along the dirt road to our house block at midday, there was no shade. The thin vegetation let the sunlight burnish right through it. The only living creature we saw that day was a snake sunning itself on a sandstone slab protruding above the road’s surface. A venomous brown, in suburbia. My father said to stamp on the ground to scare it away. The landscape seemed very alien.

Adults noticed the seeming backwardness of the new country. There was not a decent cup of coffee to be had, for instance. Schooling was 30 years behind European education, many parents thought when they took their kids to the migrant hostel’s school. Most of the breadwinners, having their European qualifications downgraded, could only get laboring work.

A common complaint was that we had traveled back in time.

But the primitive building code enabled a lot of families to live on a house block and build their own accommodation. Many children saved shoe leather by going to school on bare feet. And if you lived in the outer suburbs, it was cheaper to buy a week’s supply of fruit and vegetables at Paddy’s Produce Markets in central Sydney and carry them home in a hessian sack, than getting stuff piecemeal at the local shops.

The existence of tropes as a category of themes tells you there’s nothing new in fiction. But I’m cruisy about using a conventional theme, if I can do something new with it, time travel as an immigrant having prepped me.

Though I’ll tell you right now that I won’t be sitting through the 700+ movies that apparently use time travel as their theme. Wikipedia has a nice page on Time Travel in Fiction listing the main sub-tropes of time travel generating a manageable list of things to read/watch.

From all the above, and without having to watch anything, I gather that what I’ve been writing into is the time-slip sub-trope.

LEGO Masters’ Australia 2020

One of Damian’s and Andrew’s builds from LEGO Master’s Australia 2020

For something completely different, helped along considerably by losing my internet link and having only ordinary television, I started watching LEGO Masters. Much less depressing than everything else on offer.

My interest in Lego began when I received a box of red components, the approximate size of a pack of cards, way back in my childhood. Both my brothers and I were given a set each as presents before our family left on the first of of its sea voyages.

I think my set probably represented the build of a little red house. I recall a red framed window-piece, bits of red roofing-tile and some red eight stud bricks for the walls.

It’s an off-the-planet experience for me to see a bunch of eight adult teams race each other and the clock to produce amazing masterpieces using all the colors available, pressing thousands of small pieces together and coming up with astounding themes. The builds tonight required the interpretation of a fairy story.

Apart from the sheer inventiveness of the projects, the thing that grabs me most is the complexity of the meta-world that surrounds the Lego phenomenon. There’s Lego-specific jargon to describe, for example, each Lego piece. SNOT pieces? Only users will know what they mean. And as for acronyms? There may be a dozen that probably even the Urban Dictionary doesn’t know.

And there’s a language for critiquing the builds. How else would the best be chosen, you might ask? But seriously, this language rivals the language invented to describe post-rock music that I studied last year. One of my interests is how specialist terminology can help or hinder enjoyment of the art they describe. In the case of Lego-critiquing, the Lego specific terminology definitely helped me to see and appreciate the different projects’ intricate complexities.

Food: Making Up Recipes

Low Fodmap Chocolate brownies

Needing to be a low-FODMAP eater for life, I’m constantly on the look out for easy recipes for sweet treats. While good cook books and online recipes are now no longer as scarce as hen’s teeth, I’m still always searching for EASY recipes.

Nothing turns me off from cooking or baking quicker than a recipe with dozens of ingredients–also called an ingredient stampede.

Not only that, I’m after a recipe for choc brownies or non-chocolate ‘brownies’. It’s that consistency of batter, I’ve decided, is the easiest to bake. Fill the cup-cake tray with the patty-papers, fill with the batter, and put in oven. Easy.

And I’m not eating the silicone off the baking paper, or from the silicone baking trays. I’m a Luddite in that respect. No silicone baking for me.

So recently I’ve been experimenting with the Rule of the Egg. I came across this rule many years ago in the hand-written cookbook of a friend of the family, Mary Morgan. I don’t think she would’ve minded me mentioning her name in regards to traditional Australian cooking and baking, she was a star. (1925 — 2011)

I have several recipes in my own hand-written book of recipes named after her. You know the sort, Mary’s Sponge; Mary’s Marmalade; and Mary’s Pav. But to get back to the Rule of the Egg.

In the case of today’s experiment I put in two eggs and four tablespoons of peanut butter. So that’s a doubling of the nut butter/butter/margarine/oil.

Then for each egg used, add one tablespoon of each flour you’re using, and one tablespoon of sugar.

I didn’t bother with salt as the peanut butter had salt in it. But normally it’s a pinch.

I mixed the ingredients in as I went, starting with the eggs and peanut butter. There’s a rule about order of adding that I’m somewhat hazy about. I figure though that since I’m not using a flour with gluten in it, there need be no worry about developing the gluten with too much working of the batter.

And finally I moistened the batter to a good consistency with rice milk. I’m sure any milk-like fluid can be used for this step.

Half-fill the cup-cake-cases. I got eight cup-cakes out of this batch.

Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Writing: With What Rules …

Whales by Rita de Heer, embroidered with Colourstreams Silks
on silk scrap background

After I was involved in a discussion on what constituted clangers, and disagreed, I decided to write a story in the mode that was held to be okay. See what it felt like more than anything. See if any sense could result …

Aile cast her eyes across the inn room. Hoping to catch the thief at his work, she aimed them for his face. Twould be good if at least one forced a couple of his teeth to spring for the relative safety of the steak sandwich he’d stolen.

Gusting with laughter, the rest of the patrons sent their hands a-clattering on the tabletops. The applause was that strong, that long, that numbers of armless hands rolled from the table entirely disenchanted.

They had to be rescued, sorted, relieved from dustballs picked up from under the furniture, and restored to their rightful owners. The work of fae. Lordy lordy, do expect a few misses. They’re not paid near enough.

The thief laughed unbridled and so lost his gains … a sandwich that was still only crammed into his gob, not swallowed, not masticated, not yet bitten off or even partitioned. Fearing his pretty teeth might lose their battle with Aile’s eyes, he sent her a thought by way of his ear-jacked aerial. Would she hear his by talk? The way his eyes talked of love with his eye lashes batting shyly and his head cocked just so?

He got his eyes at the smithy, cheap rubbish his mother said. How will you ever get a girl’s unbridled interest? I need you off my hands. His eyes took offense and went back to where they came from.

His second set he worked for all the night hours of six days at the dove house. The girls, as always, were utterly enamoured with his technique. But their hearts were not what he wanted, he told them. Go on. Out with the rubbish, said the madam, throwing her eyes after him for she enjoyed a strongly-built back.

He tried his best to make her eyes work for him. But his lashes would’t have her lashes, and those eyes ended up being glanced back into the dove house, through an open window, for old time’s sake.

His third set must be made to last, he knew. Everybody in the town had lost their patience, lots of broken bits, patents, patterns, cowpats and patty cakes to fall over if he wasn’t careful. Being eyeless as well, don’t you know? He applied to the cloisters with his desperation in tow, having had to dig deep within to find it.

With him wounded in mind as well as body, the monks laid him in a cell to be assessed by the head himself. Calm yourself, oh sightless sinecure, they said. The head has worked here many a year without its body incorporated. It’s a choice you too can make though we will find it difficult to perform our miracles from a blind. Still, we are a charitable institution and will always work with a given.

Meanwhile, back at the hostelry, Aile reeled in her eyes by hand. Their thin-stranded wires coiled by her feet. She fished their control unit from a nearby soup. So much for their reputed flight. Of steel and ebony her eyes were made in a cave where the dwarves weren’t all that fussy about their justified desserts. They cared more about how they were paid.

That ‘how’ became Aile’s target. She grabbed an ill-conceived idea, with wings barely longer than a falconet’s and sent it to the breakfast table to sort her thief’s unregarded losses. Fleeting back to her in numbered send-packets, she swept them into her snood and slipped out the door. The monastery stood downhill, a slide not too hair-raising.

Her beloved thief heard her coming, glorious, victorious. I’m on my way-ay-ay!!!

Would he welcome her with a hair-flick tossed randomly into the crowded cloister for every mad monk to scrabble up from the floor or would his cowlick long enough to torque around her finger do her justly?

I don’t know, he cried. I suffer from malaise, inept-time-management and lassitude. I wish she would just carry me off. The sunset beckons for it captured that clause. Different to when the red coat lived in the Arctic and it still had ice and he still had his elves and missus. He gave out presents when you needed it and I’ve run out of mine. First I lose my eyes, then my nous, then my presence. What will I do?

Yoo-hoo, my love. Let’s be about it, thief of my heart. Aile waltzed into the cell and sweeping the thief from the bed—she plucked a round-eyed gaze from the attendant—she set her lover on his feet. Come with me my torquing clown my glaze-eyed gorget glass-eyed geegaw. The world is oysterishly beautiful.

The monkish eyes fit the thief remarkably well. He stared owlishly into the future she described so eloquently. Oysterishly? I think not, my aileron. My work is here, with my ineptitudes taken care of by management. I understand that they will whip me if I so much as drop a bundle. Apparently, I’m better at cards than every-other sharp in residence.

My new home’s clangers will control my torpors, lassitude, laze and make them episodic. Permutated with episode, epistle and episo they will finally give me an epilogue. Look for me in the cemetery, my love, on the day when you too come a-burying.

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