~ 1 ~


Dear Wodanaz,

It has come to my attention you hail from the Great North, that you seek the realms of the unknown, the undiscovered, the unfathomable. You are known to many as the ever-seeking; and conflictingly as the child, the father, the mother, the daughter Ė and even the tree of life.

Your names are many, and I have hesitated over which one to call you by. Please correct me if I have chosen the wrong one. It appears that you confuse the masses Ė they are in great tumult over the mere breath of who you are or might be. Fierce arguments have arisen merely from my simple question as to your real name. Enough. I will proceed immediately to the substance of this letter:

I wish to walk with you on your journey, for I travel a similar path; perhaps if we journey together the riches will be doubled; perhaps you have knowledge you know not how to use; perhaps you are outfitted with tools you have found no purpose for? Perhaps I have some of the answers, perhaps I too am gifted with riddles I cannot solve.

And it is possible Ė no, it is certain Ė that the path is treacherous. Might a friend along the way can soothe sore feet or bring comfort against the great Fear; or perhaps what I have heard is true Ė you prefer to travel alone?

Are we alone, in fact? This is a question I have for you.

I ask it because the moment I heard your name Ė your many names, the essence of you which all your names carry; the moment I rolled this essence about in my mouth, I recognized the flavour Ė I was filled with a great sense of something deeply familiar, like the smell of my hair on my pillow in the morning after the sun has warmed it. I suspect I must know you, and yet we have never met, unless as children, passing in the street. What towns and cities have you visited? I have lost count myself, but if you told me I could perhaps ascertain if indeed we have met, even if not formally.

I will not trouble you further for now, I do not want to overwhelm you with my questions or the story of my life, the story my life has yet to live; I do not wish to intrude upon your good will Ė or your privacy. Just say the word and I shall burn the memory of your name forever from my mind.

Just know this, if you are amenable to my invitation Ė to my request Ė I believe it will only be fruitful if we are both willing to enter into our communication and association with the deepest vulnerability: there can be no lies, no fabrications, no secrets, no false courage or shallow converse.

I shall wait for your reply, patiently.

Yours, in the greatest of respect,

a Friend

~ 2 ~


Beloved Lily,

Ah, my dear, you forget. Or should I say you remember? You have remembered to contact me, though yet you know not why. You and I shall work that out together, as per divine plan, or Code Team Zulu, one. And (as always was your wont) you do what you do in the nick of time, none too soon yet not too late, neither.

We have some pressing needs we must speak of anon, but I donít want to spook you, ghost-woman though you be, wise in spooks, gifted with riddles, daughter of earth, mother of sky.

Oh yes, I know you. We have drifted through eons, you and I, spinning songs and weaving words into truth, or what passed for words in many of those realms, and truth. You wouldnít remember, or havenít yet, the land of Fuckingshitass, where every word is a swear word. We had quite a time there, being the first ones in history daring enough to introduce non-swearwords into the Buttholewinky language. Quite the scandal.

And you will be delighted to know, Lillian my sweet, that we are right on schedule Ė or at least you will be delighted once you remember what we are doing. Your intuition is correct: we seek, my love, we seek the unfindable word, and something else. Thank @nb2tTm9cXv7 you have finally shown up. (Sorry I only know Its password, since the name of The Godhead itself still eludes me. However, we do have access to the Divineís Amazon account, which I generally use to help pick Christmas gifts. Feel free if you care to use it, the wish list is pretty interesting. Just donít order anything. It might get suspicious and change the password.)

And of course you can call me Wodanaz, dear one, most people do, at least up north here Ė though I hesitate to consider you a person when I know you so well as an infinite soul. Any sound from your throat can become a name for me, and a blessed one, especially when it is familiar to your sounding sense. It is my name after all, the fourth or fifth one in line, perhaps, but the one I am mostly known by.

Wodanaz is not what you called me in our youth, however, when I was but a tow-headed lad. Yes, you know me, Lily. Do you not remember the boy by the pond? That summer was when I began to remember myself, thanks to you.

But then the war changed everything, and I forgot again, for a time.

Do you remember that old man who lived in the shack by the cove? What was his name...Mr Jimmy-Jim or something? Thatís what you called him but Iím not sure it was really his name. Iíll never forget what he said that afternoon of the mystery, standing beside his worn harrow in the late summerís light.

Are you still known as Lillian Calibath? Or Lillian Roseen Swathmire Calibath, as you were so fond of reminding me when I ever tried acting lordly over you, or you were feeling a little too vulnerable to have a smallish name? As I recall your family had been for generations proprieters of the California Bath-house in Fardilane, which was renowned over several counties for its healthful water.

But that was long ago and much has changed since then. though Fardilane has stayed much the same, I am told. You must have married. Even as a child your beauty shone out from you like a light, and boy-men hovered.

No doubt you have consumed husbands like snacks since then, if your spirit and temper and wondering hunger as a girl could be a gauge. You were always looking, for what I never knew. Now I do. You taught me to look that summer, Lily. And I have seen much since.

We are not alone.

Let us walk the path once more together.

For a Time,

Your Loving Wodanaz


~ 3 ~


My dear Wode,

I was so unsure whether you would wish to remember me after all this time Ė after how we parted that horrible day so long ago.

I did not think you would so easily see through my disguise Ė but of course you did, I should have remembered how clever you are, how wily and trickster-like and yet your heart still shines gold so clearly through your words.

Yes, of course I remember the boy by the pod, the boy who called me Woe and wrote such long and wordy Odeís to brighten my spirits. You always did manage to make me smile. I still have the forget-me-not you picked for me. I pressed it between the pages of Grandfatherís bible. Itís a pale shadow of its former self, as I am.

The war changed everything. There were days and nights when I took out your flower and held it in my hand to remind myself of who I really was. That and the words of Jiminy Ė the man by the cove. I remember his name as well as mine. His words were prophetic, horrible. I could not put them away so I brought them out, trying to disempower the hold they had on me.

I wonder if they had the same effect on you, by the sound of it, not.

I will not repeat them here, I cannot. Only know that what he said came true, and now it is over. He never said what would happen afterwards, or did I forget? Perhaps there is no afterwards. Perhaps this is afterwards, you and I, speaking to each other after such a long silence.

I thought you had run away from me, from my family, from all that we stood for. No-one knows me as Lillian Roseen Swathmire Calibath anymore. I have struck those names from my mind, from my history. I even burned Grandfatherís bible. How could I want to be associated with such a name after what my father did?

I am simply Lily Brown, the name of my third husband. Yes, of course you are right, I have married often. How could I not, after what Jiminy said? After what the war did to us all?

I did not consume my husbands dear Wode, the earth did. I have worn black for so long I have forgotten that there are other colours a woman might adorn herself with.

I no longer seek husbands: I seek what you write about: the undefinable.

Lillian

This is what I have learned in the years since we parted: all things are transient, all states, all experiences, and not one of them brings us closer to God than God himself. I call him a Ďheí but this is not how I think of the great divine. I canít even think of it, for it is not an it or even an experience. This is the only gift the war left me with, this knowledge that there is divinity in spite of the evils of mankind; that there is something called Love Ė but it is not what the story-books describe.

The truth is, my dear Wode, I am here simply to tie up loose ends. I have regretted not seeking you out before, and yet how could I? You disappeared, you and your family.

What happened? Why did you go? Why did you not write to me? I thought you hated me, and so I hated you, for a time.

I will experiment with your intriguing password, although I have no one I wish to give Christmas gifts to, other than Elizabeth. She has grown up, and so beautifully. I am her official guardian since the rest of her family died in the war. Do you remember her? How small and squashed she looked? How you and I made fun of her little expressions? Well. You would not recognize her, she is tall and dashing, just like I was once.

I would love to know what you have found since that summer. Did I indeed teach you to look?

There are the details of your life which Iím sure I will discover soon enough, but time is running out and perhaps we should only share the deeper truths of our lives? And perhaps there are none, perhaps the jewels remain on the surface, in the small things we are and do.

Yours ever,

Lily


~ 4 ~


My Very Dear Mrs Lily Brown,

Trickster-like, moi? You know me from before, Woe-All-Grown-Up, but you donít know me since the war. My prankish jests are tickled out by pain. Yet we both know, as you say, from long and personal experience, the transience of all events, every moment, both the good and the bad ones.

A heavy heart is but the weight on our teeter-totter, let it go and we shall soar again. Despite our sad and terrible stories, we remain children in the universe, dancing on stars. Let us lighten our hearts, find our joy again. We knew it once, as solid as the sunshine on our faces.

Wodanaz

You say, darling Lil, that you are here to tie up loose ends. I am sorry to hear that, sorry to hear you still have them, and sorrier still to be one. I come not to tie up but to unravel. I tied up my loose ends long ago. Carry them in my stomach now, grinding and rumbling. Painful, but satisfying in a repressive sort of way.

And I am so very ashamed to have made light of your experiences with your husbands, dear Lily. If I had known you to have married truly Ė and for all of them to have passed into mystery so soon Ė I would have sent sincerest condolences from a stricken heart, instead of shallow jests from a foolish one. Please forgive me for my thoughtlessness, gentle friend of my youth. I somehow thought that laughter might ease our re-meeting, but see it is not so. We met in our nonage, and now it is time to drop the non.

I honor your grief and bless the memory of your three dead husbands, who must have been good men to have married one such as you.

Iíve never seen you wear black you know, never even imagined you that way, even though I have thought of you so often through the years, daily almost, especially during the bleak times. The memory of your smiling face was like a light to me in a midnight haze so dark it hurt. I donít know what would happen if I saw you wearing black. I wonder if my heart would break. The darkest shade I ever saw you wear was forget-me-not blue.

I am so glad you kept that flower. Remember where I picked it for you? Secret Glade, thatís what we called it, inside the juniper thicket, a little place only children small as us could crawl to, through all the tight hedgery. A spot of sun in a secret wood.

Jiminy, that was it. I remember now, calling him 'Mister Cricket' behind his back and you shushing me vehemently, afeard he might hear me and come after us with his pitchfork. That was one strange and terrible man for two young children to know. How could he have known so much about us? I still sometimes get chills when I recall that old unshaven lumpy sweat-stained face leering down at you, then at me Ė those glittering crazy eyes Ė as he spoke our doom as if bringing it down upon us. Sometimes I wonder if it did.

Do you really think it was him?

Of course I talk nonsense, how could one crazy old man start a war that killed a million? It sounds like his words did to you what they did to me, though, seared themselves into my heart and burned there ever since. Perhaps they did the same to everyone; his words had brutal magic. All I know is, everything went downhill after that afternoon, starting at twilight, when the mobs broke out and the atrocities began.

And of course I didnít run away from you, Lily-Rose. (I hope you donít mind if I call you that upon occasion, my dear friend, as an endearment for old timeís sake, even though youíve dropped Roseen since. I used to tease you with it, I know, but itís what Iíve cleped you with in my heart for all these years.) How could you think that? It never struck me that our final parting was anything more than hurried, bewildered, and fearful. Of course we were yelling at each other, but we did that all the time. You were the very best to argue with ever, so certain in your girlish truth, yet so forgiving in the end, as if it never happened.

I cannot tell you yet what happened to make my family leave in such a rush, because I must earn your trust again, without excuses, since the tale I have to tell is one that requires a trustful auditor to be believeable. And I did not write because I...well, because I...truth to tell Lily I have no idea why I never wrote you. Perhaps because I thought you were a dream.

Also, I never even heard about your father until years after we had left, and that was by mere happenstance Ė from a fellow next to me in the chain gang at the mine. He happened to be the son of Carson Swaddle the baker, who had that little shop on Farley Lane, next to Billisherís. You might have known him. He sure knew of you. Forton Swaddle? We had plenty of time to discuss happenings in Fardilane during the years we spent chained together in the mine. He could describe pastry like no one I ever knew. I swear I almost killed him for it, and would have if I wouldnít have had to drag him around afterward. And surely you know the behavior of your family was never a concern to me at any time, when we were together, and after. Misbehavior made no difference, no matter how severe.

I was just concerned about you, knowing how terrible it must have been for you in that town at that time. Fardilane was never a progressive hamlet and during the war it regressed to barbarism.

I am delighted to hear that Elizabeth is still with you Woe, even though I must admit she sometimes brought me to the pitch of jealousy when she would wheedle you into letting her accompany us into the woods. I wanted you just for myself on our forested adventures as wooly as only a childís imagination can devise. She always was a mash-faced tiny little thing, and sometimes I wanted to squash her like a bug.

I can still hear her tiny whining voice droning on and on, ďO please o please o please....Ē

Thank goodness I have the wisdom and wide-ranging vision of age (a modicum, at least, the age if not the wisdom) to help me into nothing but gladness for you now. I hope she is well. Please send her my dear love. Also, I must reveal to you, my friend: monstrous jealousyís eyes no longer glitter green for me, but swirl dead black. Such wilding emotion is no longer allowed, barely available, even in recollection. My sanity is at stake.

Thank you for telling me of your God, Lily. The godling in me honors the goddess in you. My own God is rather diffuse, a little too abstract, perhaps, for my liking, and I also do not like to use the G word, since the religionists have clapped it tightly between their buns and refuse to let go.

My God has a thousand names and I know not one of them. Our thought cannot conceive the thoughtless, our hearts cannot beat the bloodless, only our souls can commune with The Oversoul, and souls do not use words. My God of words is mostly apart from me in thought and feeling, not much use to me personally, or in doing my taxes etcetera, but a great comfort to know that It will be there to catch me in pure love on my final fall. My God of no words is everywhere all the time, immanent. God is everything and everything is One.

Rather fancy, eh?

Well, dear, I suppose I should let you go. I did not mean to go on so long, but it has been so very good to talk to you again, be it only in a letter. It is a sorrow unlooked-for that I find the one true friend of my youth to have struck up such a close acquaintance with death. It shakes my world-view to its knees. Almost as if you have wed Death, and I missed the wedding, never even got an invitation to the reception. Surely I could have done something. The war murdered more than the dead.

Before I always remembered you as you were, so pure, so true to the young life springing within you, as far from death as misery. Imagination is of great worth sometimes, but itís not much advance help when dealing with reality one supposes. Perhaps we may for a time eschew reality Ė live in a plane of love and wonder. There are treasures to be found and they donít even exist. We can become rich on nothing.

Yours in Truth,

Wodanaz


~ 5 ~


Dear Wodanaz,

Yes of course you can call me Lily-Rose Ė I am so glad that you have done so, I take it as a code that you do know what Iím about to talk about, this and your little reference to thinking I must be a dream.

I feel I cannot continue without some indication of the Realm. Is this the indication? Ė I am certain that you must know it; I have met you there so many times and there you call me Lily-Rose, and no other name. I could go on about this life, the one we have been writing about, and indeed I must apologize for the heaviness of my mood that seeped into my last letter. I should take more care when I write; I should not let the flavour of the present ever-shifting moment colour our engagement.

I sense I wanted to test you, to see if you would take the tale of my this-life as seriously as so many others do; I wanted to see if you truly do remember what Mister Cricket said. I suspect you do, but you are keeping it as close as I am.

Mister Cricket spoke of our doom, and perhaps he did call down all the horrors of the war upon us, but you must remember the key? Please tell me that you do. If not, then erase what I have said and let it not worry you.

Perhaps I am mad. There are some who think me so. Perhaps I dreamed it, perhaps our meetings in the Realm are mine alone, borne out of a need to escape. I once saw a, well a soul-healer. This woman told me there were two possibilities for my experience: madness and enlightenment Ė a true meeting with the One God of no words you speak of.

madlight

The soul-healer could not tell me which I was experiencing. Iíll give her this: she was honest. She gave me a packet of dark-smelling twigs to boil up into a tea. It smelled so vile so I gave it to Harald the cat (the grand kitten of Hannibal) who lapped it up with vigour and seemed none the worse.

Iím not sure how to proceed at this point without some further word from you. Your letter deserves a full response, and so I shall do my best.

Yes, I walk in black, and people avert their eyes when they see me Ė out of deference or embarrassment, depending on who they are. If they knew my father, sometimes they stare with unmasked arrogance and fear. Little do they know I wear the shiniest of satin in all the colours of the rainbow underneath my drab garments.

As for laughter Ė I find all the hoo-hah that has followed me since the catastrophe of my fatherís doings in Fardilane quite hilarious.

The tales get more and more convoluted and impossible.

There are some that say he had magic powers; that when he was hung he simply disappeared, all that was seen was a white feather floating upwards into the sun. It is not true Ė I was there.

My father died like any other man. And yet sometimes I wonder if some of the tales are true. He knew about Jiminy, in fact they met often, in secret in fatherís office, after I was supposed to be fast asleep.

I crept downstairs and eavesdropped. There are things they discussed Ė well, thatís for another letter.

Forton Swaddle Ė oh what a treat to hear that name again! I feel his butter-crisp pastry melting in my mouth already! Swaddle Pastries has become rather famous in this little infamous town of ours.

But whatever happened to Forton? There are no Swaddles in the shop Ė it was bought by the Hickstons after Carson Swaddle was found guilty of trying to poison his wifeís lover, Duddle Broom. Duddle never recovered Ė he still hobbles about the streets like a sad five-year old. Carson of course is still in gaol. The Hickstons kept the Swaddle name of course, but they have no skills in the bakery department.

I bake my own bread these days. I know that Forton never came home after the war Ė I assumed he was killed, but perhaps not? So much was hushed up around that time.

Loose ends. In a way what Iím trying to do is to sort all these stories out Ė to find out the truth of Fardilane. I know so little, in spite of what others say.

Well, dear Wode. I am curious how you spend your days?

I divide my time between small daily household duties Ė I have no servants so there is much to do; Elizabeth who is in constant need of womanly advice and chatter and of course dear Harald. The evenings I divide in two: one half is my research into the Fardilane mystery, and the other I write down whatever I can remember from my visits to the Realm (or is it the other way around? The Realm visits me?).

I have filled several notebooks already Ė on both subjects. However, I have come to a strange place. I am filled with ennui, I cannot go further without help, and I do not know who to ask. I can only hope that the reason for your families sudden departure will shed some light.

Regarding Fardilane and the activities of my father Ė I cannot ask anyone in the town, or even in the Government. I tried once, I sent a letter to the Grand Master of the Peopleís Good, Sir John Mandible.

He knew my father and visited often when I was a child.

You might remember him Ė the tall thin man who once gave you some tips on your chess game? Well. The following day a young man arrived with a short handwritten note, from Sir John himself. In no uncertain terms he told me to cease my questions for they put me in great danger. So I struggle along, trying to put together what I remember of my father. He seemed so normal, who would have known?

And as for the Realm. Well, since you are my ever companion there, I will leave it at that. Either you know of what I speak or you do not.

If it is the latter, I must go and see the soul-doctor again. Perhaps I should have drunk the tea.

I send this with love and curiosity.

Lily-Rose


~ 6 ~


Dearest Lily-Rose,

If you are mad, my dear, then call me loony too, for lunacy is my sorry solace in this creaking crazy life, so painful and weird. My only refuge and my mortal dread.

The realm, the realm, you wonder of realms. The realm is as much yours as mine, how can I speak of it? I know not of realms, I know only you. You are the realm, or half of it. Besides, what is the world, what can it be but an amagalm of our imaginations? I know of Fardilane, I know of the mines beyond the Hindu Kush, and the evil Count Crispus who sent me there.

But of politics I understand little, as little as I do of God. Both are a mystery to me, and sometimes I find it hard to tell the difference. And geography was never my strong point, nor sociology. I spoke of Fardilane as a hamlet, but only as a figure of speech. Is it a hamlet? Perhaps not. What about time? Well, there you have stumped me completely. All I know is itís half past elevensy-twelves, on the quagmire, by my clock.

Are you stuck in a time you cannot like? Change it!

You can be a modern or an ancient, we are still flexible. We can invent a machine that will take us anywhere and anywhen and back again. My bent is toward the past because of the language, but I despair to find you in ennui. Your names alone are entertaining to me, dear one, if not to you, alas, O Woman in Black, wearing rainbow undies. Ė Funny that you do that, flaunt your colors in secret so to speak, as lingerie smuggling was one of my sidelines after I escaped from the mines, during the time of The Great Repression, when all colors other than white in underclothing were outlawed by the government, thanks in part to your sometime delightful and overly nosy father, may he rest in peace.

You may have worn some of my panties, or a camisole. That warms my heart, to know that I did some good during that dark time, to allow someone somewhere not to feel drab or dark inside, despite appearances. Our speciality was embroidered hearts from the land of Noddington.

Also I do know we are on a planet in a galaxy far far close. It is the place we meet in dreams. Yet it is no dream, of that I am sure. I only wish it were.

You yearn for a map or a mythos or even rules, perhaps. Do you think I know? There is no map of this place and its mythology lies in the future. The rules are all flexible, anything is possible, nothing has to match. The world can change. It can be a mistake or a typo, a giggle or a moan. It can be Ti. As a matter of fact, Ti is the great empire that fought the Voltan army on the banks of the Eversee, but you would know more about that than I, since your father was closely involved on the political end, from what I hear, as was Mandible. Sir John, indeed.

Something like the arcane effusions of an obscure poesy cult I ran across in one of my sea voyages to Ixelpixelip, this world just comes up, not so much a realm as a confederation of realms, a quasi-linear reflection of our moods and dreams. And if we do not fill these pages with our moods, what will come up, a grocery list? Your moods were always magical, Lily-Rose, doorways into anywhere. Darkness is where jewels are kept.

It can also be poetry:

Many moons
Sunlight dancing
Wonder on the far lake
Sometime coming.

As for Mr Jiminy Cricket Ė you taught me to see, but I only learned later. He was a mystery to me and still is, repulsive early and compulsive late. When you first told me that childrenís fable of the little piglets and the hypnotic eyes of the cobra, I thought of Jiminy in his shack and shivered, there in the sunshine beside the streamlet. And then you sometimes chided me for not listening to you, if youíll recall (and I had a much stronger inclination to hear your words than I did Jiminyís). Perhaps I did not hear what you heard from him, or do not recall it correctly. Someone heard it, though. Or some thing.

I am not sure I yet ken the key, Lily-Rose. That is one reason I was so entranced, nay ensorcelled, when I heard from you again.

Your letter was like a magical wind through a stagnant study, rustling the pages, rolling a pen off the desk. For decades I have made the arcane key my consideration, meditating on it, reading of it, traveling to distant obscure libraries in Swelerete and Tangpoon for scraps of rumors of hints of tales of it, meeting with saints and devils in caves and on hills. But I have to admit (to you from whom I can have no secrets) it is years since I had given up any hope of ever finding it. I had withdrawn all feelers of expectation, and any questing for anything but Lethe and the passage of time. My repeated failures became too painful for me, too much like my ancient wound.

obscure library

You wonder of my day-to-day existence, Lily. I will tell you. I live alone Ė if someone with three servants and a gardener can be said to be truly alone Ė on a modest estate near Hardyclone. Every day I arise one hour before the sun, so my meditations are undergone in darkness and end with sunrise, at the east window of my bedchamber on the second floor.

In the summers I take breakfast in my garden, where sometimes I paint or scribble poetry before noon. More often I retreat to my study in the cellarage, to read or cast spells well into the night. For companionship I have my memories, and the ubiquity of God, not to mention an ancient beagle named Tolstoy, who was in the barn at the holding when I bought it, and has been a good dog for me ever since. I do have some social intercourse, being a member of several secret sects, a Benedictine choir, and the local golfing club, as well as an esoteric scribing gatherhood, whose members try to touch God with their pens. Still quixotic, moi.

You might be interested to know that all my paintings are of you, Lily-Rose. Even in landscapes you are a tiny figure peering from behind trees, always young.

I think I try to recapture innocence. Such an ingenuous task. Perhaps not a very wise one. The past is like an iron in my side. The war still rages in my psyche. I continue to work the mines in bondage, pick in bloody hands, no matter how free my brushstrokes of you.

About Forton: he died in my arms, during our escape from the Dreadful Mines of al-KazÓd, in the year aught one. Itís not something I care to dwell on. He was shot in his right thigh by a guard and bled to death slowly as we hid and snuck our way through the enemy camp. For three days more I had to carry his dead body with me, until I came to a place where I could safely strike off the leg irons that attached us. It may sound gruesome, but after he died he became almost light, being little more than skin and bones already, and he helped me on my way in that dreadful place, still a partner in our escape despite being dead Ė full of good advice.

I buried him near the falls of Dellabarre, on the river Zenn, at the foot of an oak tree in the forest. He was a dear friend to me for many years, even with his unfortunate inclination to nattering on about piping hot pastry when all we had was moldy bread crust and raw rats.

I am sorry to hear what you have to say about Duddle Broom. I remember him as a friendly chubby-cheeked boy who used to loan me lunch money. And itís never good news to hear oneís favorite baker is now a convicted poisoner.

I find Iím going on longer than I expected to, again. Itís just that I have so much to say to you, Lily-Rose, so much Iíve never said to anyone, words that have been longing in me to be said but had nowhere to go, no ear to turn to since that terrible afternoon when all the songs died Ė lonely words, desperate words, holy words: words that form a key to a formless treasure. The key to mystery is itself a mystery.

Drink the tea, or one day you may wake up to find your cat floating on the ceiling. (Still a lover of all things wild and furry, I see.) I would love to read excerpts from your journal, were I there to turn the pages. But perhaps it is private.

As Always,

Your loving Wode


~ 7 ~


My dear Wode,

Well. I drank the tea upon your suggestion. I guess I just needed a little push, a little encouragement. I cannot tell you what happened because I promptly fell asleep Ė right there, in my little kitchen, poor Harald mewling for his supper about my feet. I woke up the next day, or perhaps even two days later, I have no idea.

Harald had dismembered the stuffed deer head that Father gave me for my thirteenth birthday ( I never asked him why, perhaps I should have). He was sitting angrily on my stomach (the cat, not my father) with bits of deer fur stuck out of his mouth. I had a thumping headache but a strange sense of relief; as if everything that had been was not and that I was starting quite fresh, quite new. I got up, fed Harald Ė there was nothing to the deer head other than sawdust and glass eyes Ė and then Elizabeth was pounding on the door.

Iíd missed our date for tea at the Fardilane Nest (such a quaint place, do you remember?), and she was furious, thinking Iíd stood her up deliberately.

I took her to the front parlour and poured us both a glass of my Elderflower wine.

I had nothing to say. Can you believe? Me? Nothing to say!

She, however, talked on and on, endlessly, full of complaint and hurt. After a while, when she realised I wasnít defending myself, she stopped, and started to cry. Well of course I took her in my arms and held her until she stopped.

The poor girl. I think sheís at that edgy age, you know, when the smallest thing can set off a tear or a rage.

ďWhatís happening?Ē she asked me. I stared at her, not knowing from where the question came.

Was she asking about herself and her emotional display, or me? I kept silent, knowing that sooner or later sheíd let me know what kind of answer she wanted.

What came next was such a surprise, no a shock.

She asked me about you. ďWhat have you done with Wodanaz?Ē she whispered.

To cut a long story short, my dearest Wode, it seems that our Elizabeth has been reading my diaries and intercepting my mail.

Jon Bushfil the mailman was an admirer of hers for years so I imagine she has him twisted around her little finger. Elizabeth admitted Ė in a fit of tears of course Ė to opening my letters to you and yours to mine, resealing them and sending them on; and even in keeping one or two of them. I tried to imagine what could have been lost, what words I might have missed of yours or you of mine Ė and I asked her to bring me the letters of course but she told me she had burned them.

And what, you might ask, is the meaning of all this? Well, it was certainly my question.

Elizabeth cannot remember you, she was too young. But it seems she has created in her imagination an admirer, a lover, a potential husband even, out of you.

I have told her about you, ever since she could talk I spoke about my dearest friend who I had lost. As the years went on and life unfolded in the way that it did, I stopped talking about you, but held you dear and close in my heart and mind.

How she knew I started writing to you I have no idea, but perhaps, dear poor girl, she feels a bit lost and was looking for a way out of her lostness by reading my diaries and came upon the entries of late.

I thought Iíd be furious, but all I had was this strange calm, this feeling of compassion for her.

And then my mind did start to tick away, I have to admit.

She was close to the Swaddles, and even my father Ė what else had she dipped her fingers in? She hinted that she knew Tonsil, the son of the Evil Count Crispus who I would love to see hanged and quartered for what he did to you, but I cannot believe this Ė she has been under my care and eye ever since she was a babe.

But I had had enough of her wailing, I wanted to fully experience the new state I was in, I wanted to sit and simply be quiet.

Once I had comforted her enough for the gulping to stop and given her an extra handkerchief for the road home, I sent her off just as Bushfil arrived with your letter. Thank the Gods! Elizabeth was still in a state and might well have taken this one too.

Lily's home

After a short period of lying on the grass outside my bedchamber (the only flat bit of land around, I live on a rocky heap) I read your letter with delight and amusement, and oh, such curiosity.

The magic tea has not affected that part of my mind. The travels you speak of! The places you have been! The things you have done! I immediately went to my lingerie drawer to see if there was any sign that you had been the purveyor of such delicate wonders. I found one item, a sky blue petticoat, with the letter Ďwí half printed on the hem...was that you?

To the rest. Well your letter and your words fairly tumbled across my mind and heart Ė I wanted to reply in detail and to ask you so many questions about your escapades and adventures Ė oh Wode, how you must have suffered in all ways.

I felt this from your first letter, the depth of your life experience. I wept at the thought of you in those awful mines (poor Forton, but lucky that he had you to bear witness to his suffering and his death); I wept more that my father was one of the three owners of the very mine you were in.

My father told me about al-KazÓd, but only about the beauty and unusualness of the flora (those finger-eating succulents! I had nightmares!) and never about the conditions in those mines. It all came out, of course, after his death.

The key. Yes the key. This is really what we are after, is it not, dear Wode? After all is said and done? After all we have been through?

I too have searched high and low and all the oddest places. I still write to the Community of Exiles in iSxy-fog Ė not far from Ixelpixelip indeed, and yet I have no real connection anymore Ė the mood that took me there is no longer.

Even my talk of realms, after my stoned sleep, it all seems unreal to me that I spoke of them to you with such seriousness.

Surely there is only one realm? This one? Surely the key is right before our very noses?

Oh, there is so much more to say, and so much that I wait patiently to hear.

I have completely forgotten Jiminyís words, they seem now to be erased from my memory. All I remember is the twinkle in his eye and that ugly wart on his neck. I shall have to dig up my journals to find out what on earth Iíve been referring to these last letters (those journals are buried deep in trunks of my fathers belongings in the attic, it will take me weeks). I worry Iíve told you already and that letter Elizabeth burned. What is she up to?

I surely hope you do not hear from her since she now has your address. If you do, remember she is young and impressionable and not to blame for her behaviour Ė I blame myself and worry that what we have written to each other has affected her mind.

Perhaps this is just a part of her own journey, and I should not interfere. What do you think?

In the meantime, I will set to the attic. It needs a good clean out. How I envy you your servants!

With Love,

Lily


~ 8 ~


Dear Sweet Lily,

Elizabeth. That little rat.

I thought I felt someone gnawing away at a corner of my cheese. So now you know Ė or I will have to tell you, dear. Sometimes I fear I fool myself a bit when congratulating myself on how truthful I am in our missives. So many years of hiding and dissimulation (for I like to call it that rather than lying, since my existence was at stake) have given me the habit, Iím afraid. All I can do is trust you as I used, when I would have bet my life on your least whim. This is something I had meant to share with you soon, in fact was on the verge of writing to you when I recíd your first letter.

You were right, Lily-Rose, to wonder how she found out about us. Elizabeth has been corresponding with me ever since the last Gardenbardners Wildout.

Perhaps that is how you found my address, since it was Elizabeth who first tracked me down after she spied on me in Farleye Tower at the wizardís wildout (though not a wizard myself, I do have some friends who run in that crowd) in Fardilane, and ran me down near the commons by the park.

I pretended not to know her, but somehow she uncovered my address in Hardyclone, which is where I have my mail forwarded in secret from the Great North. She must have some contacts you know not of, because I am not an easy man to track down, though am not the runner I used to be. Most of the world considers me dead.

I donít know what to do, but figure turnabout is fair play, so will send you my last to her....

You know before I go on, dearest one, I have to ask you Ė did you throw out the stuffing for the deerís head? I hope to Fairywell Bloome you havenít. If you did, you may find yourself and Harald on an expedition to the town dump.

There is a reason your father gave you that head, and a reason Harald destroyed (donít tell me that little glutton ate it!) all but the stuffing. We just donít know what it is yet. Please tell me you didnít throw it away! I recommend you make a pillow of that stuffing and I will mail you an embroidered amulet of remembrance to sew upon it, something in the Quim Yon style, perhaps. Then you might rest your head there at times, in a heart mudra.

Your fatherís stuffing is part of the key, I am sure of it, as sure as I can be of anything in this mixed-up keyless world.

As I was saying about that mysterious little mynx named Elizabeth, el TrŚtor: I shall turn the tables and send along to you a copy of the last letter I sent her. Whether you tell her I have shared our secret in full with you, or most of it, is up to you.

She may not be all you expect of her, no matter how well you know her. Of course all I know is what she has told me, in the three letters I received from her before I got yours Ė and what I saw from before but never got a chance to tell you, as we had to flee for our lives that night, in part because of E.

Your letter got through to me because ever since I came to rest in Hardyclone (though not quite as much at rest as I may have implied in my previous letter) I have had a standing order with my agent in Hoarsvald to forward any correspondence from you on an emergency priority. All those years of hoping fulfilled, and now this!

It all started with Elizabeth on the night of that terrible afternoon. Remember that morning I had been particularly harsh with Lizzie when she wanted to come with us? I donít remember what I called her, but cringe with shame as I picture the look on her squashed teary face before she turned and slumped away. Goodness, age brings strange ills, doesnít it? The curse of memory. But I knew that day for some reason we needed to be alone. Little did I know it was a devilís reason.

Excuse me dear, Quanson is here. I must go. Will get in touch soonest Ė

Wode

Ė got a sec before we go. Pls excuse my hurried scrawl. Still have that clipping from your grandmotherís tweedling tendril-vine. Even in the mine I kept it twined under my filthy hair and fed it bits of rat to keep it alive. Iíll set it to copy below from the original of my last letter to E. and have my valet Zippo mail it when the vine is done. Should have plenty of sapink, since I havenít used it lately, and have been feeding it frogs from the lily-pond.

Have to leave now. Quanson is restless. If perchance you donít hear from me again for some time, please judge me not, until I have told you all. And know that I love you always, and will remember you dancing in sunlit fields.


tweedling tendril vine

Elizabeth,

I know you knew him. You know who I mean, the ugly old man, the one who ruined all of our lives. What did he tell you? What did they do to you?

I saw you that night, I saw you with Lillianís father and Mister Cricket. What were you doing? I had to follow, even with the riotous mobs surging through the streets, with explosions going off and fires everywhere, and every sort of missle flying through the air, from rocks to bottles to bullets and spears to the occasional body part. One man was on each side of you, each tiny hand of yours trapped in one of their big ones.

They should have been able to lift you easily, but looked as if they dragged a heavy weight. And yet you wanted to go with them, you must have, your look was not of fear but of ecstasy. You didnít even seem to hear the explosions.

What was going on? I followed you to Bilbyís Mercantile and they took you down some alleys, through some shadowed crooked ways until we left the warring crowds far behind. When you went in that old warehouse, I crawled up the drainpipe and peeked in the window when the light came on in there. I saw what happened in that room. It was worse than any nightmare could be. I thought for a moment I should do something to stop it, but was somehow drawn into that bizarre flickering world with them, with all of you.

Because you see for all the things they did, Elizabeth, I could have sworn you were in charge there, even in charge of me, looking on in secret. And you werenít even five. It was a different world, that dingy room, where children become monsters.

Such atavistic power unleashed, a power beyond age or size, it drove me away, down the pipe and into the arms of a Bully Sams mob. I wonít bother you with the details, but my life and that of my family, bless their souls, took a sharp downturn from then on.

So you see, Elizabeth, I do know you, despite your girlish posturings. I saw you on that night and have been trying to forget it ever since. I know you are more than a normal. Who are you? Was I dreaming? Lord send I was.

Regards,

Will Arnold Wodanaz Whimsey

Ė if you harm a hair on Lily-Roseís head, I will have your skin.


~ 9 ~


Aubrey Beardsly remembrancer

Lily Ė

Just a quick note to send along with a needlepoint remembrancer rune I wheedled out of Countess Betty von Cowalott, the Virgin of Parsonís Point. (in hopes you found your fatherís stuffing) You may not have heard of her but we are co-conspirators, presently in her undersea hideout awaiting news from Quanson. We have had some success so far, yet our plans await his return. Time passes slowly, but with me here the countess is kept busy while we wait, guarding her virginity.

I was sorry to hear your father was part owner of those hellish mines, though not surprised, from what I know of him. My misery was not caused by him, however, at least I think it wasnít.

Hope to be back in Hardyclone soon and that a letter from you will be awaiting there. The trickiest part of our little misadventure is still to come, but I shall return from it. More dire foes than this have yet to do me in.

Good luck with the remembrancer, Lily-Rose. Countess Betty said she traded for it with an elephant man on a wolf run in the desert of Halloveldt. Traded tooled wisdom for it.

Your,

Wodanaz


~ 10 ~


My dearest Wode,

Oh! Two letters from you, what a joy!

This in a rush, the storm blew the roof of the barn, which was where Jasper Cloggs my neighbor was keeping his four lovely Shire horses, poor things now are sodden and shivering. The whole village (well, there were a few notable absences, Elizabeth for one, oh where is she?) has pitched in, Iím making enormous pots of stew and baking like a frenzy. As soon as it is finished Iíll be writing you a proper letter, I promise...oh so much to say.

With love,

Lily


~ 11 ~


My dear Wodanaz Ė oh I wonder if I should call you Will, I know you used to hate that name, but maybe not any more?

My head is reeling. Iíve not gotten over all the too-ing and fro-ing because of the storm and the barn. I feel like Iíve had the whole village and the shire horses living in my house or at least tramping through it. And now your letters, which I had put aside for a quiet reflective moment, hoping they would raise my tired spirits, but now I fear the worst, and the horses are still homeless, the far wall of the barn was too frail to put a new roof on so that is being rebuilt as I write this. The noise is awful, so much banging and shouting and neighing.

Elizabeth has disappeared. The deer head stuffing has disappeared. Harald had only torn a portion of it out, and I merely shoved it back in with a knitting needle, but Iíve now looked at it and see that someone ( Elizabeth? ) has pulled it all out and replaced it with sand. Oh! Please tell me this is not a terrible thing!

I have sown a secret pocket into my petticoat ( a deep azure blue, so beautiful ) and there lives your needlepoint remembrancer rune. Can it help, even though the stuffing has gone? I canít say I remember anything at all, but maybe it takes time. Mr. Cricketís words to me and what happened seem like a dream, those dreams you have when you wake up you know you were dreaming but you canít remember... and Iím not sure what else Iím supposed to remember, itís all a jumble, whatís important, whatís not important. I sometimes wonder if I dreamed you up Ė but your letters tell me you are real, are you real?

Suddenly I fear that Elizabeth has written your letters and not you, and that she has some awful plan, but what could that be? Shall I see if the Marizel the soul-healer can help? Maybe another tea? Iím not even sure if she is still alive Ė she seemed so old and frail the last I saw her.

And, assuming you are real Ė and I have to believe this Ė as for you already being in touch with Elizabeth, or rather her with you Ė I can hardly countenance it. She has been with me all these years, and as angelic as can be Ė I thought her latest mood swings were because of her age, so young, and yet growing into a woman so quickly. She has hardly been out of my sight! And to think she is involved with that awful Mr. Cricket Ė and my father! And although I want to ask you what actually happened in that room when she was five, I cannot bear to know, and yet I know I must be told. Perhaps my imagination is worse than reality, perhaps it will ease my spirits to know the truth.

As for Elizabeth being the reason I found your address Ė well not unless she is in cahoots with Sir John Mandible too Ė after he refused to tell me more about my fatherís activities, I sent such a sad letter and mentioned I was looking for you, my dear childhood friend and he told me about Ixelpixelip, which is how I found the Community of Exiles in iSxy-fog. It was from them I was given your address, although I was told you may have moved on.

Elizabeth must have taken that stuffing...I do not know what this all means, dear Wode. Iím at a complete loss. You must tell me the details of why you and your family had to flee that night Ė why was it connected to what you saw? Did Elizabeth see you see? Did my father? Did Mister Cricket? Was that it?

I need to calm myself. I will take a posset, something to ease the nerves, a sprig of Holy Sprite boiled with thyme shall do the trick, it always does. I will tell the men to stop their work and take a holiday, the weather is bright for once and the horses will be fine for a day or so without their warm barn. I must have some peace and quiet to reflect on all that you have told me. I must find Elizabeth. I will send for John the mailman, he is a dear and I am sure knows nothing of Elizabethís dark side. He still loves her Iím sure of this, he will find her.

I fear that she has gone to find refuge with Tonsil, son of the awful Count Crispus. I have heard awful things about him, things which suggest he is involved in the blood-letting of babies in the murkiest most devilish rituals. Elizabeth cannot be part of this, can she? Is this what Mr. Cricket and my father were doing? No! It canít be true. Surely they would have used me, or you, when we were babes... or perhaps they did? Is this what Iím supposed to remember?

And as for Countess Betty von Cowalott and Quanson, oh itís all too much although Iím grateful for the rune, deeply.

I canít go on. I must stop this dreadful meandering thinking of mine, I must rest. How I wish you were here to explain things to me, to tell me its going to be all right. Is it, dear Wode? I have over the years come to trust in the good of all things, in the good of all experiences, even the most awful, and as you know I have had my fair share, and you even more. And yet I fear my trust has been shaken. And as I write I can see how my mind is going round and round, trying to find answers where there are none Ė it is my thinking that is causing my anxiety in this moment. I will sit and breathe, and take a moment and reflect on what is true and good, for there is so much, not least of all our friendship which I treasure beyond all else.

I will let you know immediately if John finds out the whereabouts of Elizabeth, but otherwise I await your reply.

With love,

Lily-Rose


~ 12 ~


Dearest Lily,

My beloved friend, please forgive my extended absence. I had no idea when I stepped out the door with Quanson that morning that I would not return home again for four years. I hope Ė and have been hoping all these many, many months Ė that you have not been overworrying yourself, and are quite well. What questions you must have since the superqueries of your last letter remained unanswered and even unacknowledged for so long! Or perhaps you have given me up as a deserter of your heart, and left off thinking of me.

It took a lot of digging, most of a day, but I finally found your last letter to me in a pile of old papers, though parts of it had been chewed by mice or something worse, and something was missing. In the sweltering fantasmagorium of my heated imagination I have been erecting stacks of mail from you on my commode in the front hall, awaiting my improbable return. Upon my arrival I found nothing there, not even Zippo or my servants, and the place a ransacked mess. Only the one tattered letter in the corner of the floor. Please goddess Dunalarabia Lee be well. Be not gone, or my foe.

What am I saying? I know you are well, if disquiet.

All this time I felt a connection to you in my dreams, but you were a mist of hopes Ė no dreambody to hold on to. Could you feel my spirit stretching out to you? I tried to send you thoughts of me Ė both asleep and awake, even in the hold of the slave sloop of Crispus and from the high dales of the Akabaraka range, during the time I spent recovering in a monastery there. I am much better now, though have lost my other ear and all the feeling in my left foot. Considering what we went through, thatís getting off pretty easy. Thank God for Quanson. It is still good to be alive, isnít it dear?

How have you been? My curiosity almost overrides my craving for forgiveness. I never dreamed I would need to ask your forgiveness. Please respond as soon as possible. Did you ever find Elizabeth? Do not think ill of her because of what I saw. I was a young inexperienced lad. Perhaps I misread things, perhaps she was a tool and not the user. We will have to deal with your questions in further communications, if you are willing to continue to correspond with such an unreliable pen, for I am weary and must drag up a pile of rags and papers to sleep on, perhaps a shank of ripped upholstery to cover me. The winter wind cuts through this drafty place, most especially since some of the timber has been removed.

Believe it or not, old Tolstoy was still here when I came back, waiting for me in the ruins of the barn. Lord knows how he kept hide and paw together in this godforsaken place for all these years. Most dogs his age would have died twice by now. An unlooked-for greeting on a dismal solitary return. That was a glad reunion. He will keep me warm, old bag-o-bones that he is, even though I didnít bring him any food Ė of which both of us could use a nibble or three. Almost makes me wish Swaddle was here to talk about pastry.

Do not worry about me, Lily-Rose, for I am a free man now, if poor, and thatís all that counts. And I have resources. Just not here. Not yet. Count Crispus thinks he knows my secrets. He is unaware of the greatest one however. I am alive.

During my rummaging for correspondence from you I did find a stamp, a special one, in the corner of a broken drawer. Please do not tell anyone I have returned, especially Elizabeth. This letter will be delivered to you by hand, if you are alive.

stamp

Your Always-Loving and Sometime Unreliable,

Wodanaz

(I must speak to you of Marizel the Soul-Healer. I had thought her long passed into legend.)


~ 13 ~


My dear Wode,

I write in the dark and with clotted ink and rusted nib on this damp paper dear John managed to smuggle inside his shirt. Three sheets, and I may not see him for another month, I must not waste any of it, but my mind rambles and I feel I have to write anything, anything at all just to restore some sense of myself and what to say to you after these four long years. It was of course John who brought me your letter, smuggled alongside these clear, empty pages.

I had thought you dead, like Elizabeth. I thought you had murdered her. I thought you were a figment of my imagination. I thought you were someone else, Tonsil or his father the Count, pretending to be you, using me against myself. I still do not know the truth, but I touch your writing and I feel no longer alone, for the first time since the trial.

Oh yes, the trial Ė I had thought justice would be done, that the truth would save me, but it seems not. I know Sir John did his best, he had dealings with the Judge, and I believe he managed to change the sentence from hanging to life imprisonment. He might have done more, but he was struck with a heart-attack the day before the sentencing. I thought you knew these things, I thought you had abandoned me.

If what you say is true, you do not know about Elizabeth. She was found in the river Urkk, her body bloated and fish-eaten. She had drowned many days before that, and the coroner said her body had signs of Ďfoul playí, bruising and the like. How he could tell these things I do not know, surely they could have happened if she fell in by mistake and hit her head on a rock? Oh but these arguments had gone on for days and days, to no avail.

Liz drowned

In her bedroom they found her diary, and the last page was filled with invective against me, she wrote that I was plotting against her; that I had betrayed her; that I was an evil woman. They did not read much more than that. If they had they might have understood something else, that she was once a simple, loving, open creature, and that she was crumbling emotionally and mentally. I only know this because Sir John had read the whole diary, and some of the earlier ones too and he told me what he read, or the general gist. He has a fascination for the human mind and spirit, and told me that her writings were a clear indication of mental instability, probably inherited from her parents who he had met briefly and found wanting in a number of ways, or because of some childhood trauma of extreme nature. I did not, of course tell him what you saw that night.

Oh, I have filled a page already. I must write smaller, I must conserve this precious material, it feels like my life-line to the outside world, of which I know very little. John is my only contact, and he is a simple man. He was the only one (apart from Sir John) who did not believe I had killed Elizabeth. He lost his job because of it, but, thank the gods, was given it back when the Postmaster was relocated to the city. Not too many want the job of postman hereabouts, too many steep and winding roads, too many vicious dogs. John tells me my house has been boarded up, and that there are signs painted on it that it is the house of the devil. No-one goes there. The barn has been pulled down, they will not even let horses live on my paltry piece of land.

It was John of course who found Elizabeth. So, he did what I asked, but who could have known the result? He never got to Tonsil or the Count, I wish he had for he might have had news of you and I would not have spent these past years thinking you were somehow behind all this. Forgive me, dear Wode, but you must admit there were so many strange coincidences Ė you disappearing out of my life after telling me those things about Elizabeth, then John finding her dead, and my life being altered so irrevocably.

I cannot believe you do not know all this, it was the news of the summer, of the year, of the... and now I remember what you write. Crispus or his slave-keepers or even the monks would not think to share such things with you. I canít bear to think of what you have been through, your poor ear, your foot. I weep to think of you suffering. I have heard of Crispusí slave sloops and itís said no-one comes out alive.

And what of Quanson? You mentioned him before, but I have no idea what he is to you, or what his part in all this? Was it not he who took you away from your home? My memory of your letters is shaky, I do not have them here with me, they took everything as Ďevidenceí. Iím worried about this Ė perhaps there are men connected to the Count who can access this evidence and find your letters?

I must stop, I am weak and must rest. Itís not so bad here, do not worry about me. I am fed, if sparsely, and some of the guards are kind and put an extra piece of bread on my plate.

I return to my inner life, in which I have found much comfort. I am allowed out for one hour a day in the little yard, but never with others. I drink in the light, and then am brought back to my cell which has only a small window up high. I meditate or walk the short perimeter of my room, letting my mind free and open. The first year was the worst, but now I feel as free as I ever was. I only miss the colours of nature, the fresh smell of wild flowers in a spring field, the soft touch of silky clothes against my skin. And of course I miss good conversation, you know how I like to talk.

Well, that is enough for now. This letter must await Johnís next visit before it can be sent to you. I trust him with my life, I know he will make sure no-one knows you are back.

Love always,

Lily

p.s. Harald disappeared the day the verdict was given. John had been taking care of him, and then he just up and left. I can only presume he is dead too. I am glad you still have the company of Tolstoy, oh Iíd love hear the purr of a cat or feel the soft damp press of a dogís nose on my hand. Here I have nothing but fleas for company, and one or two mice. Iíve been trying to tease them out and tame them but they are hungry and snappish.


~ 14 ~


Precious Lily,

Arenít we a pair now? The prisoner and the escapee. Crispus is starting to get on my nerves. Well, we must do our best with what you have. My guess is, it will be enough. You shall be free. You shall be free, beloved friend, you shall be free.

My messenger spoke with John, who will be our go-between. A good man, if none too bright I am told. You have done well so far Lily-Rose, in your apprenticeship prisonerhood, by your choice of a friend. A prisoner needs friends ever-so-much more than a free person. Hang on to your friends and to life and remember love and light. It is out here for you. You will know again the scent of flowers and the touch of silk, and the taste of a warm croissant or three.

I am so sorry Elizabeth is gone, Lily, and you unjustly condemned for her death. What terrible news I come home to. Those fools in Fardilane are at it again, I see. She was all you had left that was anything like family, I know. And now you are in a prison not only of grief and solitude, but of stone and steel and vituperation. Damn them. I have a suspicion I know what happened to Elizabeth. I learned much in my unexpected voyage to the eastern isles. When I confirm it, which my instinct tells me I will, you will get the true story of her murder. And we will have justice. Little consolation for your loss, as I know revenge and hatred is not a part of your makeup, but we will find the truth together, and bring it into the sun.

I begin to wonder if I wronged her, bless her soul.

I do have some good news for you while you rot in that hellhole, excuse the expression, but since youíre there, you know Iím not using hyperbole. Gaolhouse rot is not a song. Iím guessing theyíre holding you in the Black Tower, where they imprisoned your father after he was convicted, probably in some part of the west dungeon, if memory serves, as I had a murderess of a great-aunt who died there at age 93.

Anyway, we found Harald. When I got your letter I sent Tolstoy to find him. That dog may be old, but heís still sharp as a tack, resourceful, with the perserverance of age. Had him trained in ursa-tracking years ago, when I was dabbling in the mystical arts.

Three weeks later here they come, up the wintry forest path, side-by-side, which one looking worse I couldnít say. I do have to say, however, Iím not sure I like your taste in cats, dear.

I had expected something more sociable in a feline of yours, but perhaps Harald is out of sorts from the ordeal he has been through, along with losing you. Iím not sure he understands Iím your friend. But we are all still on short commons here in our cave (yes, I had to move, saw a shady character hanging around up the road from the house a few days after I sent you that letter), and a little quick to take offense, perhaps. Males of whatever species, apparently, need to be fed to keep an even humor. Even Tolstoy is grumpy, which is very rare for him. I think he expected our fortunes to turn more quickly than they have. Heís limping now, on the rare times he decides to move from his pile of leaves. He does get along with Harald better than I. Such a brave boy. Iím so glad to have some good news for you, Lily-Rose, in your miserable confinement. No dog like an old dog for tracking cats.

And I found your fatherís stuffing. It ended up saving my life. I was taking a morning constitutional along the harbor of iSky-fog, where we were awaiting the arrival of Crispusís sloop. And there it was, some sticky stuffing, a pile of sawdust and twiney fluff, sitting on the dock by the bay where it had been washed by that nightís unusually high tide. Down the river Urkk and into the sea, perhaps? Stranger things have happened. I do not know how I knew it was from your deerís head, but a certainty beyond truth came over me and I picked it up and wrapped it in a handkerchief.

It was Quansonís idea that we stow away on Count Crispusís sloop, so it was fitting he had to save me when we escaped. While I was unconscious he found the stuffing in my pocket and used it to staunch the blood from the wound on my leg and make a bandage. I donít know if the inside of that head had any magical powers, but strangely enough the scar on my calf looks vaguely like a stagís head. If there was some message from your father to you in that stuffing, Lily, I think itís in me now.

You know dear, it may be selfish of me, but I find I do not too much mind a captive audience. No doubt you are starved for entertainment in that place and wonít begrudge my going on longer than usual. I have much to say. My love turns sorrow to prolixity.

For one thing, your accomodations may improve, slightly at least. When I heard you knew Marizel the Healer, I sent to find her and have learned where she lives, inside a huge old oak in the Barlingame forest north of Fardilane. Like Tolstoy, her old age is apparently interminable and indefatigable. She says a friend of hers knows someone in the tower who has influence with the gaoler of the west dungeon, and that she will see if they can work it to get you moved to a room with a larger window, and a cot perhaps or a second room where you might receive visitors, which we hope to supply.

A flower needs the sun and we must get you some. Or at the least we will get you some candles. A light in the dark. Hold on, dear one, it will take some time for me to get back on my charger. Use your inner sun to help you bloom in the dark. The black solar disk radiates heat without temperature. We will need you strong, and your wits at their peak. Do not repine. Help is coming.

Marizel sent me some dried leaves to include in this enclosure. Hopeblossom she called them, to be crushed one at a time as fine as you can and sprinkled into your water, hot if you can get it, she said, otherwise stir it well and let it steep cool for an hour before drinking. One leaf every other day, until they are gone. She did not tell me what it was good for, but just, ďI know her. This is what she needs.Ē You need not fear that she believes in your guilt, Lily. She knows how special you are, just as I do.

Sir John is a better man than I had thought, from what you say. I had him painted with the broad brown brush of those he associated with during the war. Do you think we could trust him? A man of high station might be helpful in our quest for your freedom. He must have some dirty secrets we could use. And I would love to get my hands on Elizabethís diary.

Frank Frazetta

You wonder about Quanson. Not strange to hear, as everyone does. I met him in a bar fight in Rangune, a sleazy little joint called Now Me Quick So, run by Madame La Chee Chee Song, of dogstoinking fame. I doubt he has a father, and certainly no mother, for a man like him springs full-blown from the head of a tequila bottle, like a soused Athena from the spigot of Zeus. However, if you perchance catch him when heís sober, heís the best man in a tight spot youíd ever want to stand next to. Even when heís dead drunk heís worth three of the other guy.

He fought in the Crimson Cavalry during the war, part of a secret squad of mounted assassins. I am not sure I would call him a friend, for a man like that has no friends. But he is ever true to his word, and has saved my life several times. I pay him to help me with some of my little situations. I can generally take care of myself when the need arises, but am no Quanson. No one is. He was delayed unexpectedly during our escape, in a bordello near Hun, but plans to join me later. A remarkable fellow, truly.

Also, and this one might open your eyes my dear, it turns out that Lord Tonsil is actually the son of Mister Cricket! Count Crispus spies on his wife, and I saw some of her correspondence from Lady Ponderance on the slave sloop. No wonder there is such hatred between father and son, despite their alliance of evil. Countess Elzalu Crispus was always such a whore, even with her hellish corpulence, or perhaps because of it. Have you never wondered where you saw that twisted gleam in Tonsilís eyes before? No wonder Elizabeth went mad, if she had been with him. She must have been truly mad to have said such things about you in her diary. Or ensorcelled by some dark spell.

Ah! This pen is too feeble. Would it were a knife I could slide into Crispusís heart. He will pay for your pain, for all of this. For your undoing is his doing, I am sure of it. Now but to weave the threads together for a noose to hang him with. And his son will hang beside him. Ha, his son, what do I say? His bastard boy methinks, Cuckold Junior.

Jiminy. It all comes back to him, doesnít it?

I will leave you with a final thought, Lily-Rose (or two, if I know me). As you know, I have some experience with prisonerhood, many years in fact. And I learned a thing or two in all those years, for like you I had to turn inward for sustenance, and inward led me out, into a world beyond cold stone.

Here is a sacred ditty I used to repeat to myself, almost like a very long mantram. It is a sounding sense of wordling sun, a sunny repeat to beat time to why. To a reader who is free it is silly stretch-for-a-rhyme nonsense. To a prisoner it can be a hymn. It was mine and it sustained me:

Desert Spirit, Deathly One
Not my will but thine be done.
If I live on by your will
Let me live now superfill.

Marizel told me to tell you this from her: Lily, my pure water flower, you have a chance to dive deeper into fear than any who has yet appeared, and your inward sustaining gaze shall burst forth in beauty beyond dreams. Forget the stories. Live in grace. Now.

Feed your faith. We are coming.

Love,

Wodanaz

PS. I know you have difficulty smuggling missives out, so do not use your paper up on me. Use your energy to feed itself in that desolate hive. We want you pink and perky when we save you.


~ 15 ~


Oh, dear Wode.

I know not what I write.

I sit here with a pile of shredded, damp paper and some hopeblossom leaves on my lap, I know the paper is your letter, I know your writing like I know my own, but I cannot piece it together. Iíve spent the past two days and nights trying, or more even. I do not know when nights are days, they have moved me from the Black Tower to the East Wing, a wing, how can they call it that? An underground chamber, reserved, Iím told for the contagious, the dying. I am not sick, not in my body at least, but I will be, both mind and body if I cannot find a way out of this place. I have candles, I have paper and pen and ink. I have nothing else.

The Black Tower

Thank all the gods and goddesses for John, who visited me the day before they took me to this nightmare. He brought me a pouch, I now know what it holds, your ruined letter, the last of you I might ever know. Johnís eyes were all watery. At the time I could not ask what was in the pouch, the guard was listening, I could see his shadow from the little iron grill through which I spied their movements. Now I donít even have that! So I have no idea how he came by your letter, or why it is in the state it is in.

I know John tried to tell me something, something other than the weather in Fardilane or how he fared in his search for Harald. At least I have some hope there Ė he trailed Haraldís paw prints through the mud running beside the very same river Elizabeth drowned in, that cursed river Urkk. He had to give up when he got to iSky-fog Harbor, itís not a place he is welcome, apparently. He told me he was certain the prints led to the forest behind, but that he must wait the winter out. And then John kept mouthing at me, I could make out the words, but not their meaning. I am John, he mouthed, or perhaps it was I am one of John? What could he have meant? Sir John? Itís impossible they could be connected. Sir John did not mingle with the lower classes. Perhaps you know? And if you do, how can I ask you?

I write this for no-one, other than myself. I have been here a month already, at least this is what the scratches on the wall tell me. I may have missed a day, so much swirls into each other. I dared not take out the pouch for fear of being found out, so I kept it close against my heart, until I was certain of the guardís routine.

Ever since your last letter, my dear Wodanaz, I have become anxious and fretful. I thought I had found some ease and comfort in my simple life, but knowing you are out there somewhere, that you have been hurt, that perhaps you know how Elizabeth died... My mind runs away with me, I do not sleep, or if I do it is fitful and full of dreams, dark looming dreams of water and fish with fangs, of great wild cats disemboweled by men in solid gold armour.

I must return to your bits of paper. I can make out some of the words. There is one piece I have put aside, hidden in a crack between the stone where I have made my bed on the ground. I do not what it to be discovered.

Live in grace, say Yes, it says.

I think on it when my thoughts run away, I repeat it over and over again trying to bring myself back to stillness. Sometimes it works, if only for a few moments.

There is another fragment, all it says is: ďthe son of Mr CricketĒ. He has a son? This in itself is shocking, but that such a son should be important enough for you to tell me, is worse. I place against this fragment others, but Iím none the wiser. Are you his son? No, this I cannot believe. Another fragment says: ďYou wonder about Quanson.Ē This is the only possible answer. Quanson is his son. It explains why you went off with him, perhaps even why you suffered. If so, I hope Quanson suffers too, and much worse.

Another legible piece of paper says, ďan hour before drinkingĒ. Drinking? Drinking what? Should I do what before drinking? I have nothing but a cup of stagnant water a day, two if Iím lucky. I try everything, I say the words, Live in grace. Say Yes, an hour before I take my first sip of the day, and it seems to taste less disgusting. I think of you, each hour before drinking another sip, holding the Hopeblossom leaves gently. They still are fragrant.

I wonder their significance, these purple leaves. Marizel gave me some once, to steep into a tea for Elizabeth when she was little and pining for her parents. Marizel told me I was to be very careful, too much could put her into a trance, one that only she herself could break. Is this what Iím supposed to drink? Itís too dangerous, but perhaps I will steep them all and be done with it.

I stare at the torn faded words on a small shred, ďDeathly OneĒ, they say. I feel my stomach lurch so I put it away, I cannot divine its meaning and it can only be horrible.

I must stop, I can hear the guard coming to check on me, which he does with a fierce intensity as if he plans to do something awful to me. He calls me Mistress Calibath as if he knew something about my life that no one else knows. I always pretend to be asleep, my little pile of things hidden in my tattered skirts. Sometimes he whispers into my ear, but I do not stir, I lie frozen still, holding my breath, until he has gone, leaving a plate of mashed Hangroot. My teeth will weaken and fall out, Iím sure of that. Already my gums are bleeding. I cannot bear to relate what he whispers, so I will not.

He has stopped at the cell opposite mine, mumbling something under his breath. He always stops there and talks a while, too quietly for me to hear. I have never heard him answered, or a sound when he has left. Iíve whispered in the night, banged my fists against the door; in the day I have sung a song even Ė that one you loved so much about rioting waves and shipwrecked sailors and snake-eating flowers Ė in the hopes that it might stir whoever lies so close to me, but there is nothing. Perhaps the guard speaks to himself? I must stop, I must, heíll be here any moment...goodbye for now my dearest Wode, goodbye,

Lily-Rose


~ 16 ~


Dearest Lily-Rose,

By the time you recieve this letter, you should already have been moved to a better cell. I pray that your health will improve soon, dear, and you get light. We have arranged to have you moved to the south tower, up where there is air and sunlight, and not the deathly miasma of that pit in the east wing. When I realized they meant to kill you I came to Fardilane immediately, not waiting for my messenger from the north to arrive with funds. We had to show them that you have friends, or you would perish in such conditions, of merest anonymity.

Poor, poor beloved one, my heart stopped many a beat when I heard of your plight. And when I finally saw you in that dark mephitic place, well, I had never felt such pain, never in my own imprisonments, not once, never dreamed it could exist in me and I still remain. My rage propelled my conviction, enhanced my role I am sure.

Yes, that was me, dear, Doctor Sir Clarence Whistlepoop, Inspector-Adjudant for Prisons to the King. You may not have even noticed who I was, you were in such a terrible state. You rolled your eyes at me as if I were Bielzebube herself. The assistant who accompanied me is Marizelís apprentice, Jarleystone. We gave you those medicines mixed by Marizel, and instructions with the head prisonkeep to get you greenstuffs and decent food to eat on a regular basis. No more hangroot. I had the documents, the stamps, the standing, the authority, and the moral outrage, not to mention the cash on the side.

Also, that fell guard who was whispering to you has been transferred, by my written order (the stern and influential Dr. Sir Clarence, that is) to garrison the Dreadful Mines of al-KazÓd. Long may it prosper him. If you are not in a better place now, I will be shocked, and there will be hell to pay. And not much time to pay it in.

I spoke with Sir John, who supplied the funds for our mission of mercy. Turns out he did have some dirty secrets but was afraid to use them as I was able to, because of his precarious standing with the ministry. He might have ended up your cellmate, were he too froward.

John is his son, you see, not as dull a fellow as he pretended to be in his postman guise. For years he was keeping tabs on you for the ministry, but his father convinced him you had nothing to do with the machinations of Lord Elebroy, your late dad. Ė The Trophy-Lord, as his enemies used to style him.

Then John fell in love with Elizabeth, and became your friend. Now he is obdurate in his determination to clear your name and find Eís real murderer. Or more accurately, to find him in a place he can get to him, for we all know that even if Tonsil, bastard son of Cricket, did not wrap his hands arounds Elizabethís neck, he greased the hands that did.

Yes, thatís right Lily, that is the son you read of in the scraps, Lord Tonsil, the son of Mr Jiminy Cricket. I first came upon the hateful news in a letter to Crispusís wife, and had it verified by one of my spies in the ministry when I arrived here.

I would pass by your delirium when you wondered Ė even for a moment Ė if I was son of Jiminy did it not wound so deeply, even though I understand you werenít well. My folks were Cord and Marybell, silly, you knew them as well as the old willow out by the pond, or almost, since you never actually climbed them.

When we get you out, we shall climb a tree.

Speaking of which, Iím including a leaf in this package, which I pray will stay in one piece. If you only get a wad of crumpled leaf-bits, just know it was a miniature I painted for you when I had some time on my hands at the cave, before I found out just how dire your situation had become. I salvaged my paints from the house, and lacking any canvas, painted something appropriate to our present situation, during the few sunny days we had. Something tiny and discarded by nature, something past and gone, a brittle crisp of winter. Itís of my house near Hardyclone, in its heyday.

Now the pond is silted up, the house dilapidated and the grounds gone to seed, but before you would have loved it. If you look with micro-eyes, you can see yourself peeping out the window of the tower. My telescope was gone when I returned, of course.

painted leaf

Suprisingly enough, dearheart, for someone completely out of work like myself, I am rather busy, and must bid you a hearfelt adieu. Scheming and plotting must be done thoroughly, if it is to be done at all, and we are doing our best out here. Hang on, Lily-Rose, no matter what. Do what is needful and never lose hope. Soon we shall have you free. We are waiting for Quanson.

And do not fear Quanson, dear, though he truly is the ugliest man I have ever known, bar none. He is a good fellow, despite himself, or as good as an assassin may be. He is on our side and will give his life to save yours. As will I, in a heartbeat. Sir John, maybe not so much, though he has graciously opened his pockets on promise of reimbursement in kind, which considering my appearance when I arrived, argues either a weak head or a generous heart.

His son John was attacked by hooded men along the river, when he was taking my letter to you, which is why you recieved the wet scraps you tried to decipher so fruitlessly. They meant to take his life but John escaped by swimming away.

Do not worry about the Deathly One, it was a figure of speech and nothing to worry you. Do not worry, my beloved friend, do never worry. Let your questions answer themselves in their own time, which they will.

If you must use that ever-active brain I love so well, use it to good effect. You have spent years unraveling the Fardilane mystery, and written uncounted pages in your journal of secrets, strange yearning journeys into neverhells of wisely. Use your wisdom, Lily-Rose, use your bones to breathe your cells alive. Center that thunderbolt of you that struck this one dead so many years ago, center it and let fly. Use that lightning-flash to illuminate our mystery. Is there anything that happened to you in the past that might remembrance our clue?

Also, Lily, I have Harald. Tolstoy went and got him for you. Quite a character, that one. He is safe, if ill-humored.

Say yes. We are coming.

Your loving

Wodanaz

Ė Marizel continues to send you vibratory emanations of healing love from the Third Level of Lur, and wants me to mention that you should discard the leaves of hopeblossom, if you havenít already, as such things held too long without use may sour and rot, and lose their wholesomeness.


~ 17 ~


My dearest Wode,

Once again I write to you in the strangest of circumstances. I am at rest in a small cave on the southernmost point of the Listern escarpment. I hold your letter close, and have done so for the past three weeks on the road. I am free! I cannot believe it. And yet I know that I must be careful. I travel in disguise of course, not even you would recognize me. I wear the robes of the Lesser Hermit servants, the dregs of the dregs, the crazy ones, the ones cast off by their families for no good reason ( or many a good reason ). It was John, dear John, who suggested this Ė it would keep people from prying, for, as you know, everyone flees when such a servant is in their vicinity.

But you will wonder what happened to all your carefully laid plans and careful ministrations Ė oh if I had known that strange man was you, that the stooped boy with you was Marizelís apprentice! I think I would have clutched at your cape, and never let you go without me.

I was moved to a better cell, a much better one, and I never heard more of that awful guard, though I can still feel his hand on my hair Ė he, who told me I was untouchable! A loud clanging from outside my cell interrupted whatever he planned to do with me that night. Well, I now know who was in that other cell. I am sworn to secrecy, but this person gave me a key, a key which opened all doors, of all cells. You may ask why it was not used for his own cell, but that too I cannot reveal, at least not yet.

I waited in my new and much nicer abode for a few days. I needed to get my strength back before I was to do anything rash. Marizelís medicines worked wonders, and I had greens and good stews and all the bread and butter I needed, not to mention tea! A good Ceylon, rich and swirling with fresh milk. I was in heaven. My drive to get out of the prison waned, I thought, this is good, I should stay here, I will be fine, I can write my journals again, I can travel the infinite avenues of the mind and soul.

But then John came to visit me, bringing your letter with him. I told him about the key, and that is when he said I must escape. He told me about his father. I was stunned, of course, they look so different, but perhaps there is more to this tale than any of us know. His father did not die from that heart attack, the one he had the day before my sentencing Ė but this you already know since you have had dealings with him. That he is able to move about in public without anyone the wiser is truly astonishing to me, such a fat, ugly man, surely uglier than your Quanson! His son told me that Sir John was forced to disappear because of his interference with my trial Ė the judge apparently became suspicious, and, although he was true to his promise and sentenced me to life and not hanging, he would found out about Sir Johnís secrets soon enough.

His poor son! Keeping up such a masquerade! Not only that he is a postman but that his father is dead when he is not! And his visits to me, which of course he had to keep under wraps, even if they were sanctioned by the ministry, and yes, he has turned of course, he is devoted to my safety and to finding the murderer of Elizabeth.

John felt my escape was the only way he could discover the murderer. So we weave a subtle fiction Ė I am to hide and make myself as scarce as possible, but at the same time drop enough hints for the clever, the evil Ė you know who I speak of, that dastardly Lord Tonsil, son of Jiminy Ė oh! what strange truths this world has, of course he is Jiminyís son! Ė so that he might try to find me. And when he does, well, then John will be there. At first I was afraid, would they not kill me too, before he could get to me? But it seems our John has talents for the magic arts that are beyond belief. He can hide anywhere and not be seen, smelled, or noticed in the slightest degree. He can move as swiftly as a gazelle, and he can throw daggers that enter a body and yet have no form of their own.

He told me he learned from your own teachers in Code Team Zulu. Why he was caught in the river I do not know, but I guess even the cleverest have their moments of weakness.

John is not certain that Tonsil killed Elizabeth. He plans to catch him, not kill him. He plans to bring him to you, for interrogation, so that we might know the truth. He plans to hand him to Quanson to kill, (it seems they know each other, but he did not go into detail) depending on what you and he discover.

You ask me if there is something that happened to me that might help us understand this web of awfulness. The only thing I can tell you is that Elizabeth was my sister. Oh I know I should have told you before, but there seemed no reason to Ė she did not know, only my mother and her step-mother knew. I promised never to tell anyone. My mother had a lover, a Count from the regions of al-KazÓd. Since you were at the terrible mines there you might know of him, Count estíRel, the man who went mad and ate his own feet. My mother was best friends with Harriet who lived in the farm next to ours, and since Harriet and her husband had no children and wanted them badly, the problem of my motherís pregnancy seemed to be solved.

She went away on a long retreat in the Nunnery of Sound, telling my father she needed some time for her spiritual awakening, she had the child there, giving it to Harriet who had kept up a marvelous pretence of pregnancy with pillows and fainting spells.

So. If this helps I do not know, since as I have said, no-one knows this but myself, and now you, since my mother and Harriet are both dead. Perhaps my father suspected? Perhaps.

Well, the light is darkening, and I am tired, very tired. I must journey on tomorrow, not knowing where I am headed ( John said it did not matter, I was to simply keep walking, wherever my intuition took me); always wondering if John will have a moment of weakness when I need him the most and I will feel the sweet sharp point of death between my ribs.

With love,

Lily-Rose

p.s. Please tell Marizel I did not drink the hopeblossom leaves, although I have kept them with me. I suspect they may come in useful, even if they have lost much of their goodness. I also keep with me your beautiful miniature. Cord and Marybell, oh I weep to think of their names, they were so kind to me. You never told me what happened to them.

~ 18 ~


O bless all the Rebeorn Blaizes, it is you!

Thank you so much for thinking of me, Lily-Rose. I was frantic with worry. When you disappeared from the prison without a word, at first I feared the worst Ė that they had done you in! Ė then learned the man I assumed was Sir John truly was not he! If I had remembered your letter from so long ago, I would have known him instantly for an impostor. Sir John did pass away I find, too late. However that may be, your John fooled me. No great trick, alas. He disappeared on the same day you did.

Perhaps he used me as a pawn to get you better treatment, and nearer your mysterious friend. I believe so, for anyone who helped to free my Lily is a true boon, and can use me at will in any cause he cares to. Maybe he is just a postman...though I doubt it, from what you say of him.

I wonder why he misled you as well, at least partly, though for all I know he has two fathers named John. You are right to think there is more to this story. He has powers I never learned with Code Team Z. Perhaps he is even a quantum teller, who knows? He sure had me buffaloed. Whoís the slow one now? Thank goodness you taught me so well to laugh at myself back at the pond. That comes in handy during times like these. Allís well that ends well. You are alive and free. My heart is at peace.

By now, since you are reading this letter, you have met Tolstoy and received your cat. My hope is that Harald will cheer up once he sees you. I asked Tolstoy to lick your nose for me. Hope you donít mind. Please send him back once youíve fattened him up a little. He is missed. Tolstoy I mean. Not that I wouldnít miss Harald or anything. I am sure he can be very affectionate at times. I think he may have been brewing occult feline castings of his own.

Is it truly true you were given an all-cell, Lily? Good Lady below!

the all-cell key

Please be careful with it. If anyone finds out you carry an all-cell key with you, half the criminals in the Three Kingdoms will be hot on your heels. Iíve never even heard of one in circulation. What would be the point in selling it? Some things are more valuable than all the money in the world. Do you know what this means, dearheart? We may leave anywhere. That is extraordinarily large, and relaxing on a soul level. Now to find the key to freedom, that we may go anywhere.

Who could that have been in the nearby cell, who passed such a treasure to you, choosing not to use for self? Some holy emanation, no doubt, for what man could do such a thing? All my blessings and gratitude to that one.

I shall leave three fire lilies at the Fountain of Flowing Flowers, and a prayer dingum for him or her or it. Please feel free, Lily-Rose, to keep as many secrets from me as you wish, for I am not the kind of friend who wants your body free and your mind in chains. If you are sworn to secrecy, stay sworn. I know if there is something you need for me to know, I will know it in good time. All my trust is ever in your heart.

I must say, dear, I laugh to think of you in the garb of the Lesser Hermits. Did you not tell me once that Marizel said you would live to become either enlightened or insane? Now that you are a crazy one do you not feel less crazy, perhaps? How can one become enlightened who is already pure light? My eyes look at you and see the sun. Even in the hellish dark of the east pit you shone out to me, as filthy and ill as you were. You shiner.

I fear my humor may be ill-placed, but when I think of you free, I have to smile, and then you know what usually happens after that, or used to, back by the pond. Still, after all these years, you make me laugh. Mainly just from pure joy.

But these are stern times requiring tight jaws. O how many years has it been since last we knew peace, Lily? Onward we go, to the end. And to the end of Crispus and Bastard Son, goddess willing.

I was amazed to find myself flummoxed by John, but am dumbfounded to hear he approves such a dangerous role for you in his plan. Do not underestimate Tonsil, my dear. I have had dealings with him before. Evil is not always stupid, despite its shallow depth of understanding.

That peacock is definitely not all plume and no feather. He will tickle you to death. He is not bloody-minded like his father Ė preferring suffocation to effusion, a dry death. Death from lack of air.

Please do not take undue risks in your role as bait. Stay alert, and next to a locked door if you can, so you can escape quickly if you discern anything faintly suspicious. This life of dashing madly through crises is not one you are practiced at as I. Take it slowly and carefully at first, please dear. You havenít happened to have any training in any sort of weapon or system of defense, have you? Ė Even though I know how opposed to violence you are by nature, except in cats. I hate to think of you out roaming around trying to lure Lord Tonsil Crispus out of hiding like a chicken in front of a snakehole. Beware, lovťd one, beware. I am so glad Harald is with you now, a better guard dog than many a Rottweiler.

And John thinks Tonsil is not the killer? Who then, and why was she murdered? If he told you anything, please share the news, as I am inclined to value his conclusions over mine in this matter, after he bamboozled me like a child. If you see him, please tell him I hold him no ill-will, just ask him (for our friendship that was growing when he left, at least on my side) that he truly does his best to protect you. Lord Tonsil will never travel alone, of that you can be sure. As well, he carries a counter-knife in his left sleeve and a garrote in his pocket.

My heart goes out to you once more, dearest Lily, to hear that Elizabeth was your own blood kin. Yet my own blood chills when I hear of the father. In the mines he was known as estíRel the Hungry, Sole-Eater of al-KazÓd, brooding footless in his hellish chair of skulls. He could not walk, but still he killed, and ate. His name was one of horror. Can it ever be so, that such a thing-man sired your sister? O gods of Xolapapalox, no wonder what I saw that night. Who knows what spawn might spring from such lunatic loins of evil?

But I know if you loved her she must have been good, at least the better part of her. For your heart is the wisest of us all.

My parents were lost in the midnight massacre of Count Crispus, at the Last Congress of Barleycorn Oater, that fateful April night in June. Like the others, they were drugged and had their throats slit. I, of course, with my sisters and brother, had been bundled out to the country by that time.

But we shall have to speak of these things anon, as my landlord has come to dun me again. When ĎSir Johní left, so did his money. I expect my messenger from the north any day now, however.

Marizel asked me to include the enclosed amulut of anchoring that, if you have the will and the understanding, may allow you to communicate with her in dreams. She said that you would know how to use it. Remember the Feeling-Tone of Grune. She counseled that if you decide to use the hopeblossom, mix it with a bit of tellyson and faxseed, to counter any bad effects of aging. Also enclosed, and in the very aether, are her sacred foundation vibes, ďAlways sent that you may waken, dearest LilyĒ.

Your Grateful Friend,

Wode

Gaia logo

~ 19 ~


My dear Wode,

Oh I cannot tell you how happy I am to have Harald back with me! I really do not know why you think him such a dreadful thing, heís all purrs and warmth, nothing more. Rather fatter than I remember, what have you been feeding him?

I have to say I am a little worried, hearing how you fared with him. There can only be two reasons Ė one, as all cats are deeply sensitive to the nature of man and woman, he divines within you a streak of, dear I say it, evil? Perhaps one you do not even know? And then my mind goes off again, wondering if indeed you are who you say you are?

Iíve mentioned this before, I do wonder if you really exist, and if not, then who is writing to me? Perhaps it is all part of some dastardly plan brewed up by Tonsil. I cannot allow myself these thoughts, and besides, John speaks of you with great affection Ė reverence even. I suspect he is rather in awe of you quite frankly, which I must mean he is not a quantum teller. I have always thought you were, and that you are simply playing a pretty game with me; I suspect you know so much more than you let on.

The amulet of anchoring, for example, although it is just the sort of thing Marizel would send my way, only you know of my need to ground myself, only you know of my recurring dreams ( yes, I still have them) of drowning beneath the floor of the ocean, my childhood desire to be a ship because Iíd always be able to throw anchor and steady myself. Well, you might have told her, indeed.

The hopeblossom is certainly from her, I spotted a curl of her grey hair amongst them. Such a wiry mop she has, like the end of a broom.

You can tell Iím in a questioning mood, Wode. I can explain. I am sitting in a tavern in the strangest town, apparently it is called Eschaton. I arrived here this afternoon, just after Tolstoy found me and presented me with your letter and dear Harald, who was pretending he had nothing to do with this strange beast, and yet mewling with sadness when I set Tolstoy on his way back to you. Oh I do hope he arrives safe and sound, youíll let me know?

So, there I am, Harald beside me, my Lesser Hermit robe wrapped tightly around, covering my hair and face, leaving only my eyes to see the path, and this bizarre town opens up like a flower in the desert. Iíd been on a straight road, nothing at all but flat, dead fields and a bit of scrub here and there. I was tired, bored, my eyes on my feet, counting the steps, thinking I might bed down for the night when all of a sudden Iím surrounded by lumpen, mud coloured buildings. I didnít even know they were buildings until I looked closer and spotted slits in the side for windows and an occasional wisp of smoke. There was no-one about, not even a chicken. I was afraid, but Harald seemed nonplussed so I trusted that. I knocked on a door Ė if you could call it that, it was just a bit of old rag really, I yanked it, and a woman poked her head out.

She looked so old she looked dead, but I was polite and asked her if she might have a drop of water for me and milk for my cat. She didnít say a word, just pulled the rag aside and let me in.

I was astonished. What was so ugly and lumpen on the outside was charming and welcoming inside. A fire, deep pile carpet, velvet cushions, candles, the smell of warming, spiced wine, which is what Iíve been drinking this past hour or so.

There is no-one else here other than the grizzled woman, but Iíve managed to entice some conversation out of Madame, as she likes to be called. It was she who told me the name of this town. Her hovel is Eschatonís most prestigious drinking hole, she tells me, and I can just imagine, only there are no other customers. I didnít want to mention this fact, she seemed so proud. Well, after some polite small talk, I found myself a spot in the corner and read your letter. I have the amulet beside me, hidden of course, for some reason I think it might frighten Madame. Harald is asleep on my lap, the beautiful amulet beside me, and all is well, very well. In fact I think Iíll order another cup of that wine.

Thatís better, itís awfully good. So, where was I? Oh yes your letter. I can write at length, what joy. Plenty of light ( Madame brought extra candles and even supplied me with several sheets of this remarkable paper, isnít it wonderful?). But not enough to drink, Iím really extraordinarily thirsty for this delicious brew, I shall have some more, and then I shall continue.

the odd tavern

The next morning, or is it?

I must have drunk myself into a stupor. I cannot remember anything of last night, not even writing the words above. I woke with my Hermit Robes thrown over me, my head propped on a mound of earth for pillow ( strange, since the room is filled with these opulent velvet cushions) the fire doused with ashes and Madame not about, Iím quite alone, except for Harald, of course. Harald.

I cannot believe what I am going to write, and Iím sure you will not either. No wonder he was so fat. He is not a he at all. Or is he? Well, he or she is the proud mother of five tiny, hairless little kittens. He, oh, dear, itís going to be hard to call him she, but Iíll try. She found a spot by the fire, underneath a marble slab where Madame kept her spices, made herself a nest, and gave birth in the night. At least I think it was night, I havenít ventured outside, I feel rather dizzy and have a splitting headache and Iím not sure where the door is. I shall put the fire on and make some tea. Itís a perfect time for hopeblossom, I noticed bottles of tellyson and faxseed amongst Madameís spices.

I had to read your letter again, of course. Iíd forgotten the lot. I never could handle more than a glass of alcohol, I donít know what got into me last night. I suppose it was the relief at feeling safe, inside, off that endless path. Iíve not seen or heard from John for several days and now Iím worried.

I do have the all-cell, I kept it of course and will use it if needs be. Donít worry, no-one knows I have it, other than, well, I cannot say his name, I did promise.

He told me the all-cell has other powers, he warned me to be careful but did not go into detail. Perhaps you know? I will watch out for myself, I promise. The only skill I have with weapons is with the petalbelt, and Iím terribly out of practise. My father said it was a suitable sport for girls, and wouldnít let me learn Hai-Wei or any of the other more exciting arts. I heed what you say about staying close to doors, but the thing is I seem to be in a place which has none. Iím looking about as I write this. I know I got in here, it was through a narrow opening and that dreary curtain, but I canít see a single opening now. I will do a proper search just as soon as Iíve had my tea.

What worries me the most is who impersonated Sir John? Was it his son? Is John on my side or not? I do trust him, he has no reason to do me harm, or has he? I started this correspondence seeking your company on the journey of mystery; yes I wanted to find out if you were my dearest childhood friend, of course, but there was a larger issue at hand, and I know I have only hinted at it, but all that I wished for has come true, that life would offer me one more ultimate Tzikroh before I passed on to other dimensions. I thought Iíd be gone long ago, I did not suspect Life to answer my prayers so fully.

Well. Here I am, Harald making the strangest growls whenever I try to peek at his kittens.

I had a nightmare in my woozy sleep, Count estíRel was in it. Too horrible to recount. I woke up with him eating my own feet as he said he needed them to grow some more of his own. I wonder if he is still alive, surely not. You talk of him in the past tense so I am sure he is dead. Well. I am only avoiding the inevitable. I must find out where exactly I am, where Madame is and how to get out of this place. I must find John, or at least pray that he finds me before Tonsil does. I suppose I should not be surprised Count Crispus was involved in the death of your parents. How I wish that man suffers for his doings!

And his wife, Countess Elzalu Crispus Ė did you know she was estíRelís lover too? Yes, I know, itís impossible to imagine such a man with any woman, let alone the beautiful Elzalu (I know her soul is black, but unlike my mother, whose soul was pure, she never lost her looks, I am told, is it true?).

I do not want to stop writing, I want to stay here, in this world of pen and ink, wondering how you are doing and if you are all right. I have some money in the Fund of Okrell, and when John appears Iíll ask him to make sure it gets to you. I certainly have no use for it. Iíve gotten rather used to my hermitís outfit, I think I like the life of a travelling monk, only carrying on my back what I need for the road, relying on the goodness of strangers and Mother Nature for a bite to eat here and there.

I can hear your laughter, of course I know I would not have gotten this far without the help of friends like you and John, and Marizel of course. She was in my dream too, hanging onto those awful stubs estíRel had left, trying to pull him off me. I must go, the water is boiling. I hope you have your trusty Tolstoy at your side. I am so stupid, I should have kept him with me to take this letter to you, Ė oh, I could have sent one of Haraldís kittens too! Ė and now, perhaps this letter will be my last and you will never read it.

Ever your Lily-Rose


~ 20 ~


Dearest Lily,

Lord, what stories you tell me woman, what stories you tell me. Elzalu Crispus beautiful? May the mind-flowers of Tellaflora glorify your fabulana!

From what you have related to me, your circumstances may be much changed when and if you receive this letter (which came to me by the hand of a lecherous old hag in Johnbone Alley, off of Eighth Street Ė I was running an errand for a friend in that part of town or would not have been there of course). However, in the heartfelt hope you will be capable of reading when you get this, I must digress for a moment, pass over what may be a real and painful danger, to something of less pressing import. Though not to me.

Again you tax me with my identity, dear Lily, thinking me perhaps to be a secret charlatan or a charismatic fooler, not that tousled happy boy you knew in your youth. Well dearest, you have found me out. I am not he. I share his memories, though much orílain with thought, and his path through life, though his was much shorter than mine own lengthy and circuititous one. I could never be him, Lily-Rose, for if I were I would be long-dead. He knew nothing of survival. I have become someone he would hardly recognize as cousin.

For one thing, we passed by Count EstíRelís bedchamber in our escape from the mines, and I paid him a midnight visit. Hard to eat any more feet when you ainít got no head.

However that may be, you can trust me, as I trust you enough to trust your suspicion. Is there some hidden evil in me? Perhaps, I cannot say. I am on your side, I know that much, and ever have been, though am truly flawed. Perhaps I am a bad man.

I know I have done bad things, but never out of spite Ė except in Count EstíRelís case Ė more often out of fear or because I was driven to it by inner, or outer, demons. Little wonder Harald found evil in me, for there is plenty of it there, I assure you, right out in plain sight. Not to say itís much out of the ordinary, evil-wise, at least from what Iíve seen. Hardly diddly-squat compared to Crispus and ďsonĒ. Even Marizel has a little evil in her Ė as I found out to my regret one Foolís Autumn Eve in the basement of her oak at a well-attended dinner. What practical joke has no seed of evil?

And if you donít mind me saying so, those who live in fur houses shouldnít throw hairballs. Perhaps some deep ancestral evil inside Harald recognized its twin in me and found it abhorrent, spine-curving. Actually, now that Iíve calmed down since he left, I realize he was only missing his mistress, and is probably not naturally an ill-tempered feline.

Though I was worried when Tolstoy returned with no letter from you. He is fine, if a little haggard again, and seems somewhat relieved to be done with his postal duties. We must find another way to correspond. I hardly ever go to the red-light district anymore, barely once a week, on errands from friends, etcetera. You must have known where to send for me, or John did, since you didnít have my new address. My money finally arrived so we are in funds. Tolstoy is improving wonderfully on his new diet of chocolate petit-fours.

Iím sorry Harald came back to you so plumpish, or one might say, pregnant. I thought cats were supposed to be fat, only having old Hannibal to judge by. I even curtailed my own rations so he could eat well. In the cave I was down to twelve-dip teabags and moldy pickles while he feasted on lightly-roasted rabbit. The fruits of good intention, alas. (One hopes it was good for his pregnancy. Those little male-begotten brutes were surely not starved in their gestation. No doubt some foul trickery or profane coition has engendered such a strange birth. Or perhaps a gift of goddess, who can know?)

But that is all I have to offer you, empty-handed me and good intentions. Is it enough? I hope so. I cannot ask one enduring her ultimate Tzikroh to have any faith, for oneís faith is utterly consumed in the fiery furnace of the Tzikroh-Kahn. I had no idea you were such an advanced soul dancer, darling one, though am not surprised.

It is little wonder you have been missish with me, since you have been so profligate with your self. Please take care. For all I know, I am writing to a ghost, for what human has ever emerged whole from the Best Bar in Town in fabled Eschaton? My blood ran cold when I read that you were there, and that you had drunk the wine of blissfullness. I was so relieved to hear you had a pillow of earth. You must have slept on it while you were there or I wouldnít be replying to your letter. My prayer is that you will read (and be able to understand) this.

I have no advice to offer you on this, Lily-Rose. None. You are far beyond any ken of mine as long as you are there. And who knows, with Eschaton you might pop out back in the past? I can only hope John knows what heís doing, for my heart trusts him even though my ego does not. Stay true to the path laid out for you in the oracle of the Tzikroh, and your new destiny, a good one I am sure, will come to you.

...do you know, I woke up in the middle of the night with the feeling this must get to you quickly. Am sending Tolstoy immediately, with instructions to stop by Marizelís oak, in case she has something to include in the enclosure. I am sure if you are worried about the imposter of Sir John, you can ask John and he will tell you.

All my love and every single one of my prayers,

Wodanaz

Marizel's letter


~ 21 ~


My Dear Wode,

These words I pray will enter your head as I have no other way to send them. I hope you do not shrug them off as a mere dream. I will give you a sign, so you know that I am real, well as real as I could be in this Ė what can I call it? Place?

I seem to be all-over, neither here not there, but everywhere. I am with you, even. I can see your breath in the cold air as you breathe, I can see your poor ear, whatís left of it. I am holding your left foot, sending sensation back into it. I cannot see my hands but I can feel your warmth. I am neither cold nor warm, what a strange and wonderful experience. Is it Tzikroh?

I do not know. It seems to be something other than all others.

I will draw a symbol in the dust on your desk so you remember your dream. You will know it I am sure. At least you will know that it could not have been drawn by a human hand since you keep your bedroom door locked and bolted. And no, it was not Tolstoy, who is snoring heavily beneath your bed. Iím surprised you can sleep with all that racket! Well. You will see the sign, and you will remember your dream, and please, know it was me.

image in the dust

I will do one more thing, if I can. Iím not sure of what I can do here, wherever here is. I seem to be able to shift matter but dust is one thing and a kitten is quite another thing. I will choose the prettiest, a little girl cat who is playful but not overly so. She is with the rest, in Madameís bar in Eschaton, curled up by the fire. I seem to be there too, Iím tidying up a bit since Madame has not returned and Iím bored.

Iím here and there, you could say.

I did get your letter, that was easy. As things changed Ė I donít even know how or when this peculiar shift happened, but I spotted Tolstoy loitering in Johnbone Alley, your letter tied to his collar. He was going to come straight to me but while you were, well, indisposed on your Ďerrandí one of the residents took pity on him and gave him a meaty goat bone to gnaw upon. He was hoping for more. I took the letter and sent him straight back to you, which you know of course. You were worried that he brought nothing back with him, not to mention that sheepish look in his eye.

He never got to Marizel, but I read your letter and went to her myself. She had left a message for me under her doormat. She was in deep meditation, so I did not disturb her. Her message was cryptic, as always, and not much use to me here. How can I drink tea when I am, well, rather porous?

I did find out Madameís real name, which was the second thing she asked of me. You know it too, although perhaps you did not know she held it: Ezdras-Myther líOdanaz Apocrypha díEndor.

You are related. I know you are unaware of this, but your dear parents were not. They hid it from you, knowing your temperament, and hoping that the curse could be absolved by Marizel. They had asked her what to do, but did not live to find out if she might be able to help. Your poor mother. Now you know why she made those awful sounds in the middle of the night, her door locked so you would not hear. She had the sight of course, after giving birth to you. She could not have any more children as you can imagine.

Now you know she was not simply hungry when her belly made those awful growls. She was happy you were not a girl, she hoped this meant the end of such suffering.

You will find details of your family tree if you search under the moth-eaten blankets in the old teak trunk under the bay window in your morning room, you will find a book, and within that book is all you need to know.

Also in Marizelís message was a note to remember the cantaloupe. I had to go into her mind to figure this one out. Perhaps she was testing me, or perhaps she knew Iíd be able to do this. She means of course, the cry of the wolf. The awful sound Jiminy made after he told me his prophesy.

Little did I know that the prophesy was for you, not for me. Little did he know that I would be the one to tell you.

There is only one way through, my dearest Wode, and that is to say yes to the gift. You have it, you must open it. Your mother was wrong, it was passed to you because of your unusual chromosomes. The gift was only manifest on your 15th birthday. Perhaps you remember? You are right. The boy I knew is not you, how could he be after this?

Oh, I worry that all this will be too much for you, that you will not remember the details. No matter, I will come again, and visit you in your dreams. Perhaps in your daytime thoughts too, I havenít tried that. I did not want to disturb you too much, so Iím starting slowly.

I do not know what I Ė what Lily at Eschaton will do. She seems fine, tending to the kittens, the fire, drinking that strange brew. She does seem happy, and at peace. She sleeps on the earth pillow, it seems to work wonders. Knowing that Count estíRel is no longer helps of course. She does not seem to be worried about Tonsil or Crispus. The only nagging thought is about John, and I have it too. I cannot find him. I do not understand, all seems to be visible to me and he is not. Perhaps once you allow your gift you can tell me where he is.

My energy is fading, perhaps Iíve overstretched myself. And this makes no sense, I have no self to stretch. Well, I will finish; stroking your hair off your eyes, covering your feet with an extra blanket. I had no idea you were so tall!

You really should have a longer bed, itís no good having your feet hanging over the edge like that.

With love,

Lillian

p.s. the kitten seems to have transmigrated just fine, sheís asleep under your covers. Please do not roll over and crush her.


~ 22 ~


Beloved Lillian,

Got your dream. Am writing this in cauldron-black, mixed from the ashes of cali-dust and refined retro queer-ink, in the hopes it will reach you sooner in your aetherous whereverworld. Should help transcribe the states, Iím hoping. No sense sending it with Tolstoy, since the words will be gone by this afternoon, at least from the physical universe. Ė Or readable only for those with eyes for it, which I have not.

When I woke this morning I knew something strange had happened, had the strangest warmest feeling you were with me Ė a tingling in my dead foot, woke with a puzzled laugh. Then, after arising, I saw the quadramulti-trisquare-dualcircle-gonagon on my desk. I knew you had been here, in fact were here this very moment, and were not.

My worst fears were realized, then I remembered the dream.

I have never yet experienced, read, or heard of anything like this, Lily-Rose, in all my conjurational machinations and fabula reconnaisance, in searching high or grubbing low or riding on the mean. It is a mystery of unknown import. My mind tells me you have been swallowed into the dreaded mystic soul-hollow of ultimal Eschatia Zune, but my heart feels you are safe, for the time being. It has taken me many years to learn that my heart is smarter than my brain, so in this case I will take a deep breath, center my coliosantusis, and try to relax.

Perhaps it is from some arcane immunity of Tzikroh that you have not yet soul-morphed into one of the Lost Whisperers of Eschaton. I cannot know for sure, since your present experience so is far beyond my own.

Marizel may have a clue. I do know I have never heard of any victim of these kind of cosmotating soul-snares to be undergoing their ultimate Tzikroh at the time. In the ordinary course of events such a thing would never happen of course.

Although you might already know, my little everywhere, your kitty is doing fine. I love her more than me. Such a magical gift, darling Lily-Rose, thank you. Her name is Zum-Zum, but I just call her Zum. She thinks Tolstoy is her mother, sleeps under his ears as if they were kitten blankets. Amazing how quickly she is growing, maybe half-an-inch an hour. Thank goodness she is more even-tempered than her father I mean mother.

As you might imagine, as soon as I remembered your dream I dashed to that trunk and uncovered the book you spoke of. Very strange that it was there, as I packed that trunk myself Ė though had been in a hurry to dish the landlord at the time. And as you predict, I am astonished to find out that Ezdras-Myther líOdanaz Apocrypha díEndor is my sister. I had thought she was just the crazy lady who lived in our basement. What a horrible realization.

I always did have some kind of perverse attraction to her insane ravings. Used to plagarize her for poems for school. We called her Auntie Whoozit, and were relieved when she was moved out, to an asylum I had been told Ė but apparently I have been mistold many things.

My world crumbles and my universe resolves itself into a dew. O darling what am I to do? I cannot think of you nowhere and everywhere! My only hope right now is to pet my kitty and stop thinking for a while. I shall return when I have mastered the seven breaths of Cu-Linbo....

It has taken me two days to get back to this, dear, that long for me to gather my shredded wits and peruse more deeply the mystic book of cycles and origins found in my trunk. I had to cosmogate the planetaria lunus just to read the more difficult passages, and also had to mix up another batch of cauldron-black for this, since the first potion has long disappeared. Hope you didnít get any on you, if there is any of you to get on. Itís not supposed to just sit around like that and go away on its own.

I do not know if you have received the beginning of this letter, but can feel you here, so very strongly, as if you had just spoken and your breath remained in the air. I catch myself looking over my shoulder Ė were you there instead of here Ė or not-here, I should say. Where are you? A glimpse, a hint, a mist. I can feel you in my sleeping and during my waking but can never ever touch you, or even speak to you. It is a misery of the acutest kind I assure you Lillian, a strange kind of missed communion. Close, but ever-so-far. Tantalus has nothing on me.

Although I could swear I am starting to get some feeling in my toes.

Also, as I guess you have seen, Zum-Zum has grown up. Thankfully she quit growing when she reached normal cat-size, or I would have had a feline horse in a week. Her sweet and loving temper has not changed a bit, however, though she no longer fits under Tolstoyís ears and must content herself with my lap. Thank goodness you sent her, dear, because she has been my touch-fur in a world of untouchable beingness. A bit of warmth and life in a cold, cold place.

I hesitate to tell you all of what I have learned, as I do not want to upset the delicate equilibrium of your intra-dimensional extensionality.

Goodness knows what violent emotions could do to you in your state. For the time being I will tell you only that Lord Tonsil is not Cricketís son after all. Never so, though our evil young lord is truly Jiminyís bastard child. Tonsil is no oneís son, because he is a woman! The Book of Cycles tells the tale.

Countess Elzalu named her Tonsila when she was born, but Crispus refused to have a daughter, so changed the name and had her raised and tempered and instructed as a man, letting no one know from birth what sex she was, proudly announcing the birth of a son and heir in the Aristo Herald the next day. Perhaps that is the kernal of Tonsilís hatred of me, the fury of a woman scorned. Who knows what strange attraction this forced hermaphrodite held for Elizabeth?

And yes, I do remember what happened on my fifteenth birthday. Let me tell you how it was:

It was three years since I had last seen you. My parents were dead and my sisters and brother scattered to the wind. I was hiding in the Listern Glades, deep in the forest, alone but for a grumpy grumbling badger who had decided to join me after I had fed him the last of some frogs Iíd gigged. Never did name that badger, though he was some comfort. Called him Badger most of the time. Or just Badge.

John Harrold's Badger

Only reason I even knew it was my birthday is because I had bagged a calendar bird three nights before and could tell from the taste it was Thursday. So I decided that badger and me would have a party. There were some tall rocks in a big circle in the middle of the forest. I built a fire in the center if the circle and fried up some steakroot and hollyhams for both of us.

Well, young and inexperienced as I was, I didnít know you have to make sure to trim all the seeds out of the hollyham before cooking it Ė or some very strange things may happen come digestiní time. So we finished our meal, after I had sung Happy Birthday to Me, and were sitting there as content as homeless outcasts can be, when of-a-sudden that badger set up a godawful wailing and took off like striped lightning, doing somersaults all the way.

Never saw him again.

That struck me as strange but what happened next was even stranger. The stones in that circle? They all stood up and began walking toward me, humming the second stanza from Buffalo Gals. I tried to get out but they hemmed me in, coming closer and closer. Their hum grew so strong I began to vibrate myself, shaking in my tattered boots. I began to vibrate at their stone vibration rate. I could feel myself going stiff and stony and then suddenly I too was stone, whisked away into solidity and very slow time.

I canít tell you how long I lived in the stone-world, Lily. Must have been for eons, for millenia are minutes to stone. They taught me the eminence of immanence, the heart of patience, the liquidity of matter. They showed me the timely secrets of erosion and the permanence of crystal.

When I awoke I was human again and the stones had returned to their places. My birthday gift? The gift of time. It is a plaything to me now. I see it for the impostor it really is. There is no time, there is only space and space-not. How do you think I survived my interminable years in the mines when so many of my fellows did not? Or none besides myself, perhaps, since Forton Swaddle was the only one who had been there as long as I, or almost as long.

I have much more to relate to you dear, but have run out of cauldron-black and must wait for the morning to grind some more, when I have light to see the ash-crystals. Please communicate with me any way you can devise, for the silence of your presence is more than I can stand.

Always your,

Wode

(As for my ďerrandĒ, I resent the imputation. I was not in any way indisposed. You can ask Candy Kane, who will vouch for me.)


~ 23 ~


Wode,

I shall be brief, for the moment. I hope our next communion will happen outside of your dreamworld; but I do not want to startle you overly, the path must be prepared or it will be too much of a shock for your own Tzikroh passage.

I knew all would be well the moment I heard you tell me about your time in the stone-world.

Oh! I am envious! Funny I can say this, it is strange to be so two-parted, so intra-dimensionally extended; both here and there; to have all my emotions intact and yet they are as if belonging to another person. I watch them with curiosity, I experience the sensations and I know how to name them, but they do not have the same meaning to the Lillian who dwells in that hump of a bar in Eschaton. Emotions are like tourists, coming and going, trampling on the ground, leaving litter, but of no real import to the truth of where they visit.

The state that is me as I speak to you is not concerned about violent emotions, but perhaps I should be? Perhaps this is why the more manifest Lillian is where she is, protected from any kind of pain or suffering brought to her particular formation in the so-called real world? Even though Lillian is experienced in not paying attention to emotions, in her world there is always a new challenge. She has survived so much, what will the next challenge be, I wonder?

My envy seems to be born of Lillianís connection with, well, me Ė she dreams what I am saying to you, she dreams what you reply to me, and her heart responds. But when she wakes, she forgets, and carries on with her simple life there.

Right now she is still pondering over what happened to the missing kitten. Harald has had many more litters by now Ė the place is overrun Ė although how these immaculate conceptions are happening is beyond even my own seeing-skills. Lillian swears there must be a little escape route somewhere, and when she is not too full of that magic wine (which pours out of a tap in the floor, never ending, just like Haraldís kittens), she goes searching, but finds no way out.

I digress, I was talking about the time you were a stone.

I have entered many beings, mostly to practise so when I came to you Iíd know what I was doing, but as yet I am unable to enter the souls of the inanimate. You surprised me, I thought your mother hid a different secret in that book. I thought I understood, but clearly this dual-dimension existence scrambles the information. Or does it? You are also related, if my information is correct, to the Belly-Myther of Endor, the demon woman who speaks out of her stomach. I know now not to trust everything I see/feel/hear/understand, but Iím certain this to be true.

I fear Auntie Whoozit was your true mother, driven mad by her aunt, the murderess who died in that awful Black Tower at age 93.

If she was, it means you not only have soul-morphing abilities, but the sight, which is what I was referring to. Havenít you ever wondered why you knew so much? It is not just your predilection for strange travels and your high-intelligence, your many extraordinary skills in ursa-tracking and so on; no, you were truly born to the Knowing. I suspect you have been Ďreadingí those tummy rumbles all along, without realizing what you were doing.

You and I together, with your ability? All of it shall be made clear, Iím certain. Your gift is not only time, dearest Wode, but the ability to traverse the souls of others, of the non-living-living. Perhaps you thought you had learned your lessons already: immanence, the heart of patience, the liquidity of matter; the inner secrets of erosion and the permanence of crystal... these are nothing compared to what is possible.

I ask myself why this is happening, and I do not have the answer, other than that first letter I wrote to you. Do you remember?

I wish to walk with you on your journey, for I travel a similar path; perhaps if we journey together the riches will be doubled; perhaps you have knowledge you know not how to use; perhaps you are outfitted with tools you have found no purpose for? Perhaps I have some of the answers, perhaps I too am gifted with riddles I cannot solve.

At the time I thought my riddles were about Fardilane, my father, my family; about Jiminy; later I wished to solve the riddle of Elizabeth and John, the Johns, shall I say; but now, Iím not so sure this is what we are here to do, or is it? The moment you told me the truth about Tonsil, I already knew it. But that is the way this Ė whatever *this* is Ė seems to work, I both know and I donít. I also know that John has found Tonsila and is holding her prisoner. He does not have the heart to torture or kill a woman. I suspect he awaits your help. I cannot do this either, it seems that soul-morphing into living beings only allows me to speak words through their mouths, and give their bodies certain urges Ė to yell, to sleep, to go climbing, that sort of thing, but not to do harm to another.

At least not directly.

I have entered Tonsilaís being, and this is what I have learned: she is indeed filled with the most abhorrent hatred of all men and of any beautiful woman who steals the hearts of men. She fell in love with Elizabeth, she thought her pure of heart and mind. Although definitely female, Tonsilaís desires are male. Elizabeth responded. Now, Elizabethís activities in the bedroom were not, shall we say, Ďnormalí. How could they be, after what my father and Jiminy exposed her to at such a young age? Well. Tonsila thought Elizabeth wanted to murder her, when all she was doing was playacting Ė repeating what she had been taught by vile beings.

Tonsila easily broke from her bonds and grabbed Elizabeth by the neck. Elizabeth, terrified, told Tonsila who her father really was Ė she knew of course that Jiminy had fathered the woman and not Crispus. This was the last straw for Tonsila: her sex denied, lied to and worse.

Do I need to go through the rest? I can feel poor Lillian of Eschaton weeping in her sleep, watching how Elizabeth died, how she was mauled and beaten and then dragged to the river Urkk? Well. Iíve said it now. The next step is yours. Marizel knows where John keeps her.

It is time. As I said, I seem to have a limited ability to dance between the worlds, or rather, to keep one foot in both camps. I do not know what will happen if I step out of Eschaton. I fear I will join the Lost Whisperers. I fear I will lose all contact to your world, unless, that is, we meet as soul-morphs in Tzikroh. Itís never been done before, I know, but Marizel tells me she saw signs that it was possible, she did not believe them until, well until she took us both into her watchful heart.

Remember this: Zum-Zum is more than she appears.

Ever yours,

Lily


~ 24 ~


My Dearest Lily-Rose of the other world,

I sent Quanson to dispatch Tonsil(a), that despicable murderer of Elizabeth and many others, but something untoward happened. I always knew Quanson to be a man of eclectic tastes, and now it happens theyíve gone and eloped! He has taken his non-blushing young bride back with him to South Ixelpixelip. Our chance for justice has passed Iím afraid dear, because good luck punishing Tonsila with Quanson around. I know Iím not going to try it.

I think we may have seen the last of them, judging from the uncharacteristic bubbly effusiveness of Quansonís final message to me. Perhaps he will have better success quelling Tonsilaís murderous impulses than society in general has so far, not to mention his own, which were always just barely in check. Somehow I think they might make a good match.

WellÖhad to start this letter with quotidian matters, news from the society pages so to speak, to attempt to settle a very unsettled soul, my own. What you have sent me via the aether has unhinged my self and attached it to someone I never knew existed.

Me, son of the legendary Demon Belly-Myther of Endor?

No wonder I was born with words in my mouth. Whose words are they? Turns out you were right to mistrust my identity, Lillian, for I am no longer who I thought I was myself. It is a very long step you beckon me to take, to step out of myself and into an unknown me, a me so large and mysterious I never thought I could be it, never even dreamed such a being could be, much less could be me.

Who is this strange creature who hears a whistling thunderstorm in the silence? Thank goodness you are gifted with riddles, beloved spirit, for I have one for you. A big one. What is it to be birthed of a belly-myther? A sister-mother of lore? Can I have such things inside me that emerge like flowers from grief? O thunder boom on and whistle past my ears! Such things I hear, such things I wonder. It mizzles in my soul. Where are you Lily-Rose, where are you?

In my desperation I have contacted Professor Fiddleroy Sming, the insane inventor and mad magician from Far Gripping. We were school chums at Barton after the war. I havenít been in touch with him for years, mostly out of a sense of self-preservation, since the crazed professorís not infrequent accidents and explosions are almost invariably fatal to someone, and itís best to be out of the vicinity if one can help it. But desperate times call for fiendish machinations Ė or if not fiendish, foolish perhaps. And I know of nowhere else to turn. Marizel is at a stand, or somehow is not inclined to help in this matter. I do not know, I do not know.

This is my last hope to find you Lily. Since to my knowledge there has never been a recorded instance of your singular dualistic spiriospatial hyperhypohype before, we must make this up as we go along. I have been madding with your presence in absence and am driven to extremes.

The professor confirmed your understanding by having me recite these couplets over and over again seventy-three times:

A querilous quimsey art thee now when speaking toe-to-toe
With the wicked myther-tum itself and you begin to glow,
When speaking starts to quicken and squeak
And what you see is what you speak!

ďYep, Stinky,Ē he said, gazing at me through an instument of his own devising, ďyouíre Ė cocksucker shit Ė glowing at 23 roentgens on the BM scale. You Ė gaa gaa fuck Ė are most definitely a son Ė motherfucker Ė of the Demon Belly-Myther of Endor.Ē

Lucky for me he had an old copy of a manual for sons of belly-mythers and left it with me for perusal later. Also he happened to have a new invention along that he thinks may help me in my quest to re-localize you, the first invention ever conceived and designed to be absolutely good for nothing. As you are presently much of nothing, we may be in luck again. When I told the professor I wanted to try it he began to hem and haw and back out of the room, saying it was probably safe, wishing me good luck, grunting and cursing. When I looked out the window he was running down the street with tremulous glances back, shouting curses in the air.

What care I? This half-life of ceaseless hopeless yearning is beyond upholding, beyond holding at all. I must let go.

You were right about Zum. She is a different kitty. While I was preparing the professorís esoteric instrumental device, to ready it for being turned non, Zum brought in a shoelace she had torn from one of my shoes when she was a kitten on Tuesday and began to play with it.

Ordinarily I wouldnít have paid her much attention, engrossed as I was with the anti-reality switch, but she meowed, double-loud, and I looked up. She had begun to draw the lace in swirls through the air and as I watched, the swirls began to repeat and match and double over, becoming hypnotic and whirling. Then she looked right at me and meowed the strangest sound, that I swear sounded almost like, ďTis the meoystrey to the keeeeyÖ,Ē then twitched her tail, turned her head, and strode away imperiously, leaving the lace twirling in the air.

It is a message to both of us, I reckon Lily. Now to ken it. I imagine you will sense its swirling shape in the aether.

twirl

Well, my dearest, it is time. This infernal machine is at the ready. All I have to do is un-turn it on. You may not hear from me again, for this fantastical nothing device may tear my atoms to smithereens, indeed rip the very fabric of the universe for all I know, but I care not. I must try. I can only hope these are not my last words to you, and if they are, that you will get them somehow. Ever remember my undying love of you. Perhaps the fact that I too am undergoing Tzikroh will be some protection for me.

Your Loving Servant Always,

Wodanaz


infernal machine

split




Lillian?



I think so



I think so. We think so. So so. I'm, well, who?

Iím looking for Lily Brown, Lillian Rose Brown. My Sweet Roseen. Lily! Lily-Rose! Lily-Rose are you here...there...where? Where are you?

That is you, isnít it dear? Are you there? I can feel you...or seem you somehow. Lily?Ē



Lily? I donít know a Lily. Iím looking for my son.



Wha...? Your son? Who are you?

I...Iím...Iím...Iím confused I think. Where are you? Where are we?

Pardon me for a moment.

Om....



What you see is what you speak.



And what I speak is what I am, apparently Ė a thought and a voice, for I see nothing but my words, and have no body here. O strange one, are you a thought too? Where is Lily? Lord, if I have missed her....

Are you saying if I speak of her she will appear?



Wode? Are you there? Iíve been trying to get inside but I canít seem to get outside and perhaps Iím neither but you are in my head, only there isnít one (a head) and then someone else is there. Iím very confused.



Lily? O bless the Tzikroh-Kahn, it is you! It is I, Wodanaz. We are somewhere together with another. And it is so very confusing. Nothing here....

Remember the pond, and the sun, and the sun glittering on the pond as the wind carried over the waters? We were young then, and alive.



Lily? Iím not Lily, Iím Elizabeth....



Elizabeth...Elizabeth? Elizabeth!

But youíre, youíre...I hardly know how to say what you are, dear. And what does that make me? Oh Lily.



~ 26 ~


Dearest Wode,

The Not-Thing machine Ė Iíve done my best but whenever I try to contact you through it Iím someone else, or someone else is me, and you are not who you are, we are in nothing, and so I suppose nothing can happen, and yet it happens, as if all-souls converge and yet they speak as themselves, only not inside themselves, inside each other. We are truly one.

That was me, each time I spoke, but I was not me, I was Elizabeth, I was the Belly-Myther (that was horrible), I was even you. Perhaps it needs to be re-untuned or given a good bash with a hammer or something?

Can you ask Professor Fiddleroy Sming for help? Maybe he put the wrong anti-reality switch on it? Perhaps itís a 4 dimension switch and heís put it on the wrong way? Can you even hear me now? I worry that the whole thing has destroyed what little ability I have to communicate at all. Iím watching you, gazing out of your window, Zum huge and fat and snoring on your lap. You seem distracted, fuzzy somehow, not really there.

I donít even know whatís happened to Lillian at Eschaton, Iím not in touch, Iím in this grey soup, and yet I can tune into you, or perhaps this is not you with Zum on his lap? Perhaps Iím lost in time, perhaps this is just a memory I see, and Iím talking to myself? I reach to feel your heartbeat but I feel nothing, Iím just an eye, a limited eye, shadows passing in the night, a blink and Iím somewhere else so I do not blink.

I will wake Zum and perhaps you will remember these words, write to me, just an ordinary letter.

Oh, something Ė I Ė yes, thatís it. Sheís here. Thank the goddesses, Marizel is walking the Haggard path towards you, the one we were never allowed to follow, remember? She is carrying something in her pack for you, I can feel it as if it is inside of me, a small heavy object weighing upon my liver. It will help us all, oh I pray that it does. Iím...oh, I canít say any more, canít find the...itís going now, Iím...not


~


Elizabeth Ė Lizzie dear Ė ahem, I have some bad news for you. Bad news for us both, Iím afraid, and for our beloved Lily. You see...you see...did you see that?

Oh my gosh, itís a letter from Lillian! Excuse me a moment....


~ 27 ~


Beloved Lily,

Do not blink, my dear, your sight is all we have. Once you taught me how to see, now I must ask you to hold that sacred gaze. It is the focal zentone of your kirlias, in visual vibration. I have no sight in this place, but you do, and it was your vision that brought me the sense of your letter. You saw it into my spectral heart Ė you and Zum-Zumís twirling messenger. For your words came winding in on the tail of Zumís whirl-o-gram, as I sensed it spinning into my field of awareness. Intent is big around here, I think. A feline consciousness abounds. Seeing in the dark.

And weíre not dead yet, praise the gods, though it is too late for dear Elizabeth. I understand what you say about everything and everyone being one, Lily, at least on a theoretical level, for I have had intimations of that of which you speak, but cannot say if I would rather not be separate, if only for a little while longer. And so the quest continues, to find unity in separation.

Weíll have to do this without the Professorís quasi-dimensional fabulotron, dear. For one thing because he only showed me how to turn it non. We never got as far as noff.

Also I have no contact with my ďlivingĒ self as you seemed to for a while. I have no idea what Wode is doing in the real world (I call it that advisedly, of course) and am glad to hear Iím still there, however fuzzy. I hope Zum is taking good care of me, keeping my water fresh.

You know that cat has been in both worlds, in Eschaton and here, here and in my home? Her arcane messengers are like balls of twine batted from one world to the next.

Do you say Marizel is coming? If anyone knows the path home from a nebulous zone like this one, it would be her.

And what of the Belly-Myther herself? That old taverneer, my mother. You actually became her for a time? That is a connection worth having, despite the discomfort, for one attending to the mythical. She is there with you in the Best Bar in Eschaton, in your non-self self, and Zum is with me in mine, as you say. Perhaps you might try addressing her stomach. Harald is birthing a world of zumlings and the tavern is becoming feline. Clues, clues, a mystery of clues.

I havenít heard yet from Marizel, though am glad to hear she carries something heavy. Heaviness is missing in this place of no weight. All is light here, dark light, but of no substance or circumstance. So time has no meaning. For all I know Iím writing to you tomorrow. Only your words glow in my understanding. Tell me what you see.

Love Always,

Wodanaz

(I havenít spoken again with Elizabeth/you/the Belly-Myther/me/the cosmos since I received your spirit-missive. Not sure what to say, or which you will reply. Donít wish to upset our precarious vibrational state.)


~ 28 ~


Wode, I can feel you, I can see you, I can hear you and I do not know how Iím speaking to you or you to me. I fell out of this place for a moment Ė maybe it was an eon, I lived a whole other life in less than a nanosecond, or whatever no-time at all is called. I cannot describe to you how this feels, other than Iím losing sense of myself, perhaps I was that person in that life, perhaps I am now, and this is but a dream.

Iím dreaming you, Wode, Iím in the land that is all, the place where everything can happen. Is this life more real than the one I dropped into?

In this life I am a woman in a royal castle, or can I call it that, it is something made of metal or some other curious, slightly porous and flexible material with a silver sheen. The winds are high in this place, could blow a whole city away if proper precautions are not made Ė massive walls to protect, vast underground chambers if all should fail.

A strange race, they call themselves Sipohs, a fine-boned people who paint their faces with intricate blue decorations, who wear garments made only out of the hair of an animal called a zirkon, somewhat like a cross between a monkey and a sheep, with great claws for hands, able to grip the side of mountains firmly, no wind can disturb them. Their hair makes the finest, softest material Iíve ever felt.

the Sipohs

In this bizarre place, I am imprisoned Ė again! Or is that but a dream too? I am in a high tower, to be tried for my strange behaviour of feeding the poor and starving beings (I know not what to call them) that gather outside the walls of this castle. I am a person of high blood, and I have shamed my family, my lineage, my country, and I have practised the secret art of soul-healing, a thing that was banned for centuries in this land of 400 foot high trees Ė how do they manage, with those winds? Ė and sliver haired zirkons and birds the shape and colour I have never seen before. Great flapping things with voices of girls.

This must be real Ė I mean you and I Ė this other place is too strange. I cannot believe I see it with the zentone of my kirlias Ė I believe somehow my own soul has been split, and cannot find its way home. The strange thing is I can Ďfeelí Ė as if I had a body, but there is none. I mean I donít see one. Not at all. If I think of Zum, I feel the soft fur, the rumble of purr, I can even see with Zumís eyes Ė and what I see makes no sense at all. Perhaps my soul cannot split or fully enter into non human type beings?

Somethingís happening...I seem to be losing it....

twirl

Wode? Wode Ė itís Elizabeth, itís me, Oh Wode, will you please forgive me? Promise me you will. I cannot remember a thing, other than I am dead, dead to you, dead to dearest Lily, and that you talk of me and say things which make me know I have done a terrible thing. I feel only shame, an awful thing, I want to die but I am already dead, and yet Iím talking to you, oh this is horrible. I want to see, I see nothing, itís all dark.

twirl

Wodanaz. Marizel here. Feel yur left fut. Can yu do that? it lives, even if yu donít beleev me. All exists, all exists. You murst think it. No it. All yur body. The wun that is not there, is there. No it. Rok of Helioboron is what I put bi yur foot. Very rare. The only wun left. It keeps yu in all wurlds, but yu murst press aginst it yurself. If I do it, it donít wurk. Difikult. Very difukult. Beleev yur foot is there. Beleev. Beleev and the rok will stedy yu. Then yu must do this, very important, or yu will fale but it is secret, for yu and me....

twirl

Wode? Can you hear me?

I think Iím making this all up, I felt myself talk as if I was Elizabeth, Marizel, who is not illiterate, she has no accent, she talks like you and me. I know she studied with the great Professor Sackmeister, so definitely whatís coming through is a lie, some strange energy has taken over me since my time with the Sipohs. Iím infected with something. You have to contact your living self and find a way to get us all back to...to where, to wherever we were, where was that?

Iíve just been told, some voice in my head, that itís up to us where we want to go from here. I need you to help, I donít know how to answer such a question...I just want to feel grass underneath my feet, spring water on my face, the warm sun, your mischievous eyes twinkling at me in that way you had as a boy, making me laugh.

And perhaps there is another choice? Perhaps we are here for another purpose? I hear there are universes in trouble, deep trouble...what is the answer? Does that rock have it? Or is that a lie too?

You have the blood of the Belly-Myther, you can speak the truth, we have to rely on this, you must contact that place in you...it is our only hope, Iím sure of this.

Ever your Lily.


~ 29 ~


The sun grew warm.
The seas grew cold.
And all the mighty past was told
Inside a book just one inch thick
Upon the Mount of Talewick,
The tales of moment, turn, and blind,
The tales that only faeries find
In words that glisten when they sing
And sound the song of everything.

Release, dear Lillian, release! Only in this moment have I realized that chains have been binding my perception. I have been blind. Bound-blind with eyes wide open. I have been so very very ultra-blind. Even when Iíd eyen I was utterly sightless. Now that I am nothing I can see.

Release, must release! It was not you seeing, my dear, it was I, seeing blind. All these years I had no idea your lessons were only the beginning.

All lives are real, Lily. Even the dead are real, even nothing real. O could I speak!

Belly-Myther mumbo, Belly-Myther jumbo,
Belly-Myther mumbo mumbo jumbo,
Belly-Myther, Belly-Myther mumbo jumbo,
Belly-Myther, Belly-Myther jumbo hum!

Catalog the mysteries, fabulate the con,
Stretch the similarity until itís gone.
Wire into wordlings the dreams that could not last
And wonder into wire the future of the past.

Marizel has arrived, or a mist of her, just enough to transfer the Rock of Helioboron to the sole of my foot and whisper one word, that sounded through the nothingness like an echo of an echo before she whispered off again.

/Rock of Helioboron

ďZum....Ē

The strangeness you sensed in her was the reason she had warned us from the Haggard path. It is evil and twisted, and only a soul-master of Zyon could suffer that endless evil trail and survive in goodness. She bore the woe of thousands to reach us. Goddess bless her mighty heart.

I can feel my foot, Lily-Rose. What was insensate and dead has become my sole connection with the real within the real. Sensation centering, I am now.

I know what I must do. I am Son of Belly-Myther, Conjugator of Worlds. Now must I gather nothingness. Now must I grant beingness. Now must I become more than a man, I must become The Many In One.

Time to stretch infinity and bend eternity. Time to Be.

I must become you Lily, and you, Elizabeth, beloved wounded spirit. I must become my own mother and Belly-Myth myself. I must return to the tavern and give birth to Zum-Zum then gather the kitlings into myself and become infinite cats. I must become John and John and Quanson and Marizel and Crispus. I must even become Mr Cricket.

The only one I must not become is Zum. We need an otherness to bring us home, a homing cat upon which the pigeon of our new/old world may nest, an outside from which the inside-out grows out inside.

And when I become one with all and all in one, I shall rebuild us inside time, reforge the link between nothing and everything until we return to the real within the real. Your presence in the silver tower of the Sipohs is true, Lily-Rose, is real, as real as a dream within a dream or a stone within a hand. It is the echo of the all-cell, your escape demanding a prison. Incarceration is mirror to your native freedom.

the Silver Tower of the Sipohs

When you return to your senses in the tavern, the all-cell will set you free, both there and in Sipoh. Your soul-healing can never be stopped, no matter the dimension or cell block. And I will speak with Mother. The kittens? We shall see.

Quala biangi, oo siriusius lšng
Kera kera, janbo bling
Koona koona Ė yai!

Now do we build worlds. Now do we find selves. Now do we build worlds within selves.

Wodanaz


~ 30 ~


Sir? Madame? Wodanaz? Lillian? Elizabeth? Can you read this? Just blink once for yes.

Do you understand English? You do? Good. We thought so, because of the letters we found in your coat.

My name is Nurse Inkle-Weiss. You can call me Inky for short, they all do.

You have been in a coma for two years. What? Donít flutter so much, it will exhaust you. Iíll ask the questions. Blink twice for no. You want to write something? Iím afraid you canít, you are paralyzed from the neck downward with limited function in the face.

Iím sorry. The doctors have hope, please you must relax. You are in the very best clinic in this city. In fact the only one in the country that has exceptional record for dealing with unexplained neurological damage. Itís happening rather a lot these days. Why? Just blink once for yes, and twice for no. Are you asking why you have neurological damage?

We donít know. You were found wandering the streets near the border. You were very lucky Ė the army thought you were one of them. Anyway, they brought you here and you collapsed before you arrived. You had nothing with you other than the clothes on your back and, well, this, where is she. Your cat. Kitty. I think she might be called Zum? Yes, donít get excited now, she is here, doing quite fine. She shouldnít be here, but I have to say we all have become rather fond of her. Times are not that happy, you understand.

You donít?

I think this is enough for now. I have to outline what your physical condition is, and then let you rest. We can talk later, all right?

You have damage to the parts of the brain that affect memory, speech and, well, we donít know why you cannot move your body. Weíve done all the tests. We think it might be psychological. Or maybe one of the new vibrational weapons. We hope not. In any case, there is no physiological reason for your inability to move.

You had a lot of letters in your pocket, Iíll read them to you later to help your memory. It seems you may have come here from another time, or you are, well, not quite right, shall we say. Perhaps you are a poet? Most likely. Very few people have been authorized to Shift, and you are not on the list. Donít worry, Iíve made sure all enquiries were kept very quiet. I have friends in the right places, shall we say.

There is one other thing.

I presume you know you are hermaphrodite?

No?

Well. You are.

Donít get too many of those these days, itís usually altered at birth.

Youíre tired.

Get some rest. Iíll bring Zum right in when I find her, yes?


~ 31 ~


memo 1


memo 1


~ 32 ~


My Dearest Ė O So Dear Ė Beloved Sister (!) Lily,

Wode is asleep, so I am writing this on the pillow with our left hand, with an odd orange marking pen the nurse forgot on the tray. It is so slick itís hard to hold. And smells funny, like a nasty chemical shop, except sweet.

You always wake up before him, so please turn the pillow over after you read it. I donít think he knows we can move yet Ė if but a little, and still cannot speak a word, of course. Heís still sulking too much to notice.

Please excuse my penmanship Ė I know you always wished me to practice mine more. Wish I would have. You asked me more than once if I wanted forever to write with the hand of a boy.

O how can I have such bliss and fear and confusion at once? To share with you now finally, in this state, as truly my sister! Why did you not tell me we were sisters when I knew it all along in my heart? I can feel the beautiful loving warmth of you, so much more wonderful than even I had dreamed, and the wisdom (oh you know so many things, dear one! Ė if only I had known how truly wise you are I should have listened to your advice more often Ė I was such a little fool) and your sacred spirit almost as if they were my very own.

I always yearned to be near you, and always loved so much to be wrapped in your arms and rest my head against the soft warmth of your bounteous breasts, the only place I ever in my life felt truly safe, in your arms Ė after that terrible day when the war began. And now I am you, or we are we are you and me and Wode.

To be back into the delish warmth and coziness of a body again, no matter how strange, is special and wonderful. Do you think we have to leave it? I really donít want to. But where did we come from and why? What land is this? I never saw so many strange and glowing things. Their lanterns burn without fire and they never put them out, at least in the hallway. What is that box with pictures that move? I wish they would make it stop. Such a din. Is this someone elseís body? Ė I long so for a mirror.

Could it be your face, or mine? Or a strangerís? Certainly not Wodeís I hope, in this body. Please goddess it is yours, because then we would be so very beautiful. I used to wish for a face like yours, though it was sad so often, dear Lily.

I donít feel anyone else here, but would never want to intrude on someone elseís body for goddessí sake, even if it has both thingies.

I always wondered what it would be like to have a penis. And now I do! It is so large and manly and well proportioned! Especially in the mornings when we wake up. I had no idea having such a thing would capture oneís attention quite this much. Rather remarkable Ė a real distraction. Little wonder men act so oddly upon occasion. I wonder if it is the one Wode had before we, before we Ė before we ended up together?

If it is, he must have been ravishing in the bedroom and intriguing in the salon, despite not having any ears, the poor darling.

He did have a fine manly figure otherwise, more tall than not, and a noble countenance, with that dashing dimpled smile and flashing black deep-sunk eyes, shiny black hair curling over where his ears used to be, streaked with white at the temples. And such a marvelous dancer, such grace, such style! Still, he possessed in some romantical way, like the far soft moan of wind through a hidden cave in some cliffs by the sea, an indefinable sense of witheld suffering Ė but I forget, you never saw him after his nonage, except for that horrid time in the Black Tower, when he came to you in the healing guise of Doctor Whistlepoop.

O Lily, dearest sister, what shall we do? I wish this could go on forever, us being together like this, having our own thing Ė even with Wode here Ė he means well and is actually a dear under that gruff interior. It has been many years since I forgave him his thoughtless treatment of me when we were children. Now, if he could forgive me for it. Ė Why does he hate me so?!

I think we need to get out of here though, since your healing soul-chants are beginning to work it seems. I donít trust that nasty Dr Q.

Ė Have to finish this before Wode wakes up. I love you so very much Ė but you already feel that.

Your Loving Sister/Self,

Elizabeth


~ 33 ~


YOU ARE IN TROUBLE!

Yes, so sorry to wake you, remember blink once for yes, twice for no. Okay?

Okay.

I know this is a shock. Iíll deal with the tubes but we have to move you. I have to move you.

Donít get upset. I know itís upsetting. Stop blinking so much, I canít understand.

Iíll try to explain. We donít have much time. My brother Hurfle is coming in twenty minutes to help me move you.

Yes? Thatís a yes or a no?

A no?

Well Iím afraid you donít have a choice. Well you do, but if I leave you they will terminate you. Terminate. I know my writingís awful, Iíll put it in capitals:

TERMINATE.

No? Yes they will. Oh. You donít understand? It means kill you. KILL. Got that? Okay. A yes, right? Good.

We are wasting time. I have to unplug those things in a very specific order otherwise your sympathetic nervous system will go on G9 and thatís very bad, overload the rhombencephalon.

Oh never mind.

Someone told Dr. Quinson Yardly about you. I think it must have been Dr. Burn-Ork. Heís had a thing about me, you see, and well, I didnít exactly encourage him. It couldnít have been Dr. Johnson, heís as concerned about you as I am, but he seems to have disappeared. He was the one who told me that Dr. Q Ė we all call him that Ė was trying to administer the solution to you. If it wasnít for Dr. Johnson, dear man, dear dear man, I do hope he is all right Ė youíd be dead. He told stupid Dr. Q that he had the wrong needle on the the syringe, and managed to swap the solution for some harmless B protocol. You needed that anyway. Iíll take some with me, good thing I remembered. Oh, such a rush. Stop blinking so much, let me write.

Dr. Q knows of course that you didnít terminate, and so itís all gone horribly wrong, they are going to use you for, well I canít say. Itís too horrible.

God. Time. Just lie there. What?

You are hungry? No? Thirsty? In pain? What then damnit? Is it your body? No, okay, me? No. Is it a thing? Yes and No? OH. Sorry. Your cat, yes?

Donít worry, Hurfleís got him/her safe Ė so confusing you both are like that, pregnant already Ė no, not you, Zum, anyway, Hurfleís got Zum hidden, weíll take you there too, Iíll have to come, Iím afraid, you need someone to change the tubes and continue your treatment. I canít do as much as they can here, but I have learned a lot, I have, an awful lot. More than I want to say.

Ready? This will hurt and then you will go to sleep and wake up in Hurfleís basement. Donít worry, itís a nice basement.

Okay, see you soon dear man, dear woman, dear one, I feel so close to you for some reason, as if I can hear you thinking. It will be all right, I promise, just lie back, think of nice things and it will all be over, or sort of over, soon. Iíll be right there when you wake up. Yes? Say Yes, tell me you understand, well as much as you can. Hurfle has an idea, his ex-wife used to trade in VocaleyeX11 transmitters, they turn blinks into speech, very advanced, you donít even have to do the blinking you just think about it. Okay, night night dear, got to rush. Iíll inject a little tranquilizer so the one in your ear wonít hurt so much.


~ 34 ~


Well, well, well. Three little wells all in a row. In bed with two women at the same time!

One might consider this ideal, were we not all inhabiting the same body. However, it is some consolation to be so well-titted, and one can be grateful for that. I still have to say, my dear Lillian and Elizabeth Ė my sister-selves I suppose, as I know not what else to call you Ė itís times like this I wish we were lactating.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear, I think I want my mommy. But Mommy is a monster and Iím a monster too. A monster is a ponster, a la la la la gonster. Ha. Snick. What do you think Lily, did I do good? Hee hee. Goody two-shoes me that is.

What are you doing here Lizzie? Youíre dead. And I know youíre sneaking around my back again. You canít sneak around your own back, bitch. You think I sleep? You think I ever sleep?

I could squash you like a bug, you bugface squashy-buggy-girl, ugly little smashy swirl. One eensy thought and you are squished into nothingness, you little ghosty zit, you perversion of childhood. I could do you both, now that I am you both, split your spirits, swallow your souls and shit them into the dust. Eww.

Damn you both! Oh Lily, how could this happen? Now Iím a girl. A girly girly girly girly girl. No Iím not, Iím a boy Ė or a man. Or a.... Or a woman. What am I?

Oh Goddess you butt-sucking dog whore, why did you do this to me? Why God why? Now I have to have a puss, a puffy punky cunt, a place to fuck and try your luck, a place to bleed and to bear. O God why?

I put our finger in there last night. Liked it. Had to try two. Maybe tonight weíll try a thumb. Tee hee.

Oh yes, dears, I can move this body. I can move it any time I want. Iím just letting the charade with Inky-Weiss go on because I enjoy her cleavage. You think that silly Dr. Q could harm us? I know what heís thinking, if one could call it that. Itís no matter. I can easily render harmless anything he injects into this body. He could shit on us and find himself the one infected.

The one that worries me is the evil Mister X. My nemesis from galaxies agone Ė O how did he follow me again? Ever he hounds me. Can it be chance? He cannot know I am here, surely not, for if he knew he would have just said hell with it and nuked the building. Weíll let them move us, as nursey wishes.

Let them is the word, for this body has been ursa-trained in Varosian sonic wounding. We could stand up right now, kill everyone on this floor and waltz out of here without a scratch on us, trailing our tubes behind.

Lilywodanliz

Scratchy patchy, ha ha latch-key! Who cares about scratches? I got a big one and I wanna itch it! The scratch that lasts. Now I got both! I can take my weiner and shove it up myself and have a good olí time! Hey, I can even make myself pregnant and pop out another me! Then we-me could all have fun! O fucko fucko baby fuck. Me fuck me-me, no me, fuck me!

Who do I fuck when theyíre all fuckin' me?

Me me me, I can fuck myself and make more meís! Mormies Ė I can make mormies, lots and lots of mormies. I can fuck and fuck and make more and more until I have a planetful of meís copulating myselves madly, the insane fucko fest! Did I say insane? No, letís say fuck!

Heh heh heh. You think Iím crazy. Weíll youíre right. And I donít like other people being right. I only want me to be right. I only want me at all. What do I need you for anyway? I got me. As many meís as I want.

Oh oh oh...Lily, Lily, I am death....

Hunn...hunnn...hunnnn....


~ 35 ~


Elizabeth, we have to do something. Wodeís not well. Iím not well. Iím not sure who I am. He thinks Iím Elizabeth and so do you but nothing you say or think, either of you, makes sense to me.

Can you hear? Are you listening?

Oh lord help me. I seem to have no memory, just this feeling and this inert body. What did Nurse Inky give him? Some kind of sedative, but itís not working on me, Iím all a buzz.

I wish I was Lily. I feel terribly motherly towards Wode, as if Iím, well, itís too confusing. He keeps saying Mommy mommy and I feel my heart, well his heart, maybe itís mine, or something, respond, I want to hold him and rock him but he seems to say his mother was a monster, so what on earth is going on?

Can you hear me Elizabeth? I can hear you both thinking or dreaming or whatever it is you are doing and itís such a racket I wish youíd stop. Sorry. Iíve got a headache. Or is it that you have a headache, Wode? Are you up? Listening? I can hear your dreams, little boy dreams, poor thing, God, I have to talk to that Nurse.

Since Wode seems to be the body of all of us whoever all of us is, Lily, we have to see if we can override his mind and get help.

I feel a bit better now that we have been moved. I like this Nurse, she seems very gentle and kind. Wodeís definitely in some kind of fugue about her, not seeing things correctly since sheís as flat chested as a young boy. Hardly what Iíd call cleavage.

Maybe she can help us out of this predicament? Hurfle Iím not too sure about. Maybe heís touched? With something, thatís for sure. Well I guess all their lives are in danger. Why do you think they are helping us? And Zum? Why are they so attached to Zum? Iím worried Hurfle will suffocate the poor thing, all that cuddling.

Mommy. Mommy.

I canít bear to hear Wode say that word.

Something about the word is horrible. Elizabeth, talk to me, please? You seem to have gone to sleep. Iíve tried to lift Wodeís arm by myself but I canít do it. Maybe Iíll just sleep a bit. Thatís it, I just need to rest.

Oh, there you are! Elizabeth. ? Are you there? Dreaming still? Did you hear anything of what I just thought? No? Oh dear. This is going to be difficult.

Iím not who you think I am. Iím not Lily. Iím someone else. Iím female, I feel I know this but I could be wrong, and I seem to have some connection to this man, Wode, we both seem to be existing in.

Maybe this is normal and Iím crazy? What do you think? You are not thinking? Well thatís no use, we have to put our heads together on this one, someone has to.

It seems Wode has taken to heart the Nurseís pronunciation. He missed the part where she said he was a new type of sequential hermaphrodite. Is that what she said? Can you remember? I know you were listening. Iíd never heard of it. I heard her whispering to Hurfle how unusual it was, that itís never been seen in a human before, not even animal, they are turn from one to the other, they donít keep changing sex all the time. Itís probably why there is all this hoo hah. I have my suspicions that Hurfle wants to make his millions or whatever it is they do in this place Ė turning us into a circus act or writing his thesis on the condition. Hardly seems intellectual, but something fishy is going on, I know that.

All these tubes. They hurt. I didnít ask for this, I know I didnít. I just want to go to sleep and never wake up. I must be having a nightmare, talking to you, to myself probably.


~ 36 ~


(Excerpt of transcript from X intercom interception #217)

...yes sir, yes sir, thatís right, I am so sorry. If I had known about the nurse...I...yes sir, they escaped from the ward, the...yes, the 114b. I...sorry sir? I didnít quite catch that. Oh, yes, well, that is true. It is my fault. No disallowing that. No sir. Yes sir, as you wish. I will report there, yes sir. Yes sir, will do, as soon as I tidy up here. Yes sir, certainly.

However, before I go die sir, may I offer an additional tidbit of information? No sir...no Iím not sir. No, absolutely, I would never do that, not even enroute to my terminal holiday. But sir, you may wish to know that the patient is not actually a 114b but a 125DD. And...pardon me?

Yes sir, thatís what I said, not only a sequential hermo from near the front at Arnshelm Ė and possible dimensional timewarper Ė but a trifangled multisoul, maybe even a quad or more, from what we have been able to decipher so far from the readings we salvaged. And they have a feline with them, category ten, zumling from the looks of it. That darn quantum-tabby of theirs got away too, sir, unfortunately, though I did my best to stop it.

The cat jumped on the back of their getaway laundry truck right as I was running down the loading dock throwing my shoes at it. Ė Whatís that?

Yes sir. No sir. Yes sir. Well...no sir. But we did get a partial futon reading on the souls and what they have transcribulated so far is ďlilywodanliz mu lingi bellyĒ. Sir? Yes sir, thatís what I said, lilywodanliz.

I...I...I...you...I...sir? I may have misheard you. You seem to have been breaking up. If you could stop talking in binary for a moment, I...sir? Sir? Yes sir! No sir. Of course sir. Thank you sir.

No, they are still trying to disentangle more astral threads from the spirit-minder tape dimensionality reel. Yes sir, yes sir, I will gladly administer solution zero to anyone not working at top speed, you may rest assured on that sir. It will be my pleasure on your behalf. Come to think of it, one of the night-shift technicians was a little snippety with me the other day, just because I pinched her on the...oh, yes sir, sorry sir.

Ė And that Dr Johnson is gone. I think he may be a confederate of the Icons.

It was that new skinny nurse and her chubby brother who helped out on weekends with waste disposal under the table, what was his name...Hurflurg? Yes, thatís it, youíre right sir. I have it here somewhere, but thatís why they call you the brain, sir. Oh yes sir, yes I am sir, quite a fool sir, yes. An abject one no less, I quite agree. As you made me, sir.

Sir? A Fornian Obliterator? Truly? Are you sure that is necessary? They are only one multisoul, after all, in very poor physical condition. Oh no sir, never! Yes sir, yes, yes, yes I am lucky, sir, very lucky, yes. Very very lucky. Thank you for letting me continue my enslavement to your will. I will contact the Spectral Death Squad immediately, and request a Forn-Ob to track down the multisoul and remove it from all dimensions.

Fornian Obliterator

Soul obliteration settings to Max Full? Are you sure...sir? I mean, that is, that will cause a lot of collateral damage through several dimensions and certainly garner protests from the ministry. Yes sir, no doubt, no doubt it will, my mistake. Yes, I will tell the Vion Ė any and all secondary casualties allowed, except you.

And thank you, sir, again, for letting me live, at least for a while yet. I must admit I was a little sorry to be going back into your brain, even though I hear you are always kept at an even ninety-eight point...what is that sir? Shut up? Yes sir, of course sir, as you wish. Always and ever.

But I did mean to congratulate you before I go, on the election of your son Timmy to the honor society at his fifth grade...I...I...sir, sir are you there? Hello? Hello...? Mister X?

(End of transcript #217, X dossier Twelve, The Unspeakable Files)


~ 37 ~


I wake. I sleep. I dream. I do all the things that are necessary for my body to carry on living.

I sometimes wonder why I bother. My dreams remind me of who I am, who I was and I am nothing. This place, this world, itís not for living in. I am stuck. I know I am not crazy. I have lived all those lives. I did not make them up. I am Lily, I know I am. Sometimes in the half-waking state I am Wode, or Elizabeth, but not so strongly. I donít know what happened, I dream of them every night and yet nothing moves. Last night was horrible.

That transcript. Are they safe? Am I safe? What if I dream my death? What then?

It is the year 2008.

I write this down and it means nothing. Iíve lived in the past and the future and in more than one body, at the same time. I tried telling someone, someone I trusted, but that was a mistake.

The job is all right. At least it makes me so tired I fall asleep immediately, to dream. Yes to dream. I live to dream. Every waking moment is spent thinking about my sleeping moment. I am trying to learn how to lucid dream, but itís not working. I just lie there, watching. It is as if I am inside me, lost, forever. It is as if my only friend is inside me, lost, forever. I look into the eyes of all men, and none of them are he.

I should keep trying. Perhaps I am the key, perhaps if I can find where the nurse and Hurfle took them, perhaps I can bring them back.

Zum too. I can hear Zum purring when Iím alone in the office. I know itís him. There are no cats at the office. Not exactly proper for a merchant bank, is it. But the purring is there. They think Iím a stupid cleaning woman, they keep their eye on me, suspicious. As if all cleaning women are thieves. What am I going to steal? Their emails? Very funny. I know what they do, sitting there thinking no one is looking. Jack even turned his screen off thinking I was too stupid to turn it on. I know what he likes, I imagine heíll be found out soon enough. I donít need to say anything. What an idiot.

Doesnít he know all sites are monitored? Even I know this. I took him somewhere even more unusual. Pity I could not see the look on his face, but I was long gone, gone home to eat, to wash, to sleep, to dream.

There is nothing to write. I dare not write more about my real life. Someone might be watching. Someone might be watching anyway. I believe in aliens. I think they are here now. Who knows what they look like, who knows what they are here for. I ask for help, sometimes. You never know. Perhaps Iím the alien, trying to get back home.

I leave messages, little signs just incase Wode is here too. But nothing. No sign. Is this all there is for me? To live this life, this half life, quarter life, a no life, except when Iím asleep. I live for sleep. I wish I was narcoleptic. Iíve tried drugs, but the dreams donít happen then. No use.

I suppose I have more than some. The woman at the front desk.

Marjorie. Fake teeth, fake smile. Fake life. She has no one at all.

Fake wedding ring, even. But Iíve heard the whispers. They all whisper, too bored with their jobs shuffling money and emails about.

I try to be nice to her, but she doesnít like me. No one does. Maybe they know Iím not really here. I do all the right things, make the small talk, be polite, and so on and so forth. They are scared of me, thatís what I think. Poor little me. They have no idea of what scared is. If they knew what other dimensions exist, then they might know what fear really is.

Tired now. Time to sleep, finally.


~ 38 ~


June 1, 2008

Sandra, would you just shut up!

Good lord, woman, are you trying to kill me?

[Sorry, reader, I canít help it. I donít know where else to turn, except to your mercy, with which I hope you are much better equipped than Sandra seems to be lately. I have to break out of character for a while and beg some forbearance from my partner. Otherwise I might just chew my leg off or something.

Sandra Jensen

For those dearly beloved, if few, readers who are wondering, our intrepid characters are still there, in suspended animation for the time being, still waiting to find out if they are really dead, about to be obliterated across all dimensions, or just a part of J.R.ís mystic TV dream, though you may be interested to find out that Zum-Zum is still active and completely happy at present, feeding contentedly off cosmic energy and purring her love into the universe Ė at least as content as any cat owned by a one-third insane, one-third dead, and one third buttered-all-over-the-universe hermaphrodite (who may or may not be extraordinarily voluptuous and powerful, depending on how hoity-toity Sandra gets about it) can be.

You see, we started this tale as a correspondence, imaginary of course Ė I, poor benighted and abused Tom Howe, and Sandra Jensen, my one-time dear friend and brilliant (and kindly, alas, back in the day) writing teacher. As a reader you may have figured out from the start that something was fishy, as we blundered about, nameless at first, no idea what the other was going to come up with, building a new world in the dark.

Tom Howe

I thought we were doing great, though had a lot of unknowns to figure out what to do with, when suddenly my character ended up mewed in a hermaphrodite with Lily and her dead sis. Nothing against hermaphrodites or anything, or dead people for that matter, but when did I sign up to be non-autonomous?

Anyway, back to yelling at Sandra....]

How many new threads are you going to open up Sandra, without solving any of the old ones? I hold readers in very high esteem and am not going to get someone interested in a mystery without solving it at least to some extent. Thatís why I nailed you with the memo from the evil Dr. Q to the eviler Mr. X, so you could see how annoying it was and try to mend your ways a bit, with some contrition I was hoping.

But no! You continue to torment me with more and more characters and more and more and more! Aak!

Your tormented soul,

Tom


~ 39 ~


June 8, 2008

Tom,

Well it sounds like you are addressing me but you are addressing the damn audience! You know that the second you worry about Ďthe readerí then you are no longer diving deep, no longer in your story, you are in your head, thinking, and as Iíve said so many times (maybe not to you but to others) thinking is not the same thing as writing.

Glad you got back to yelling at me at the end of your letter. Feels much better.

Yes, I know we have all these threads. You started a few yourself, you might recall.

So, ahem, it seems I too am going to address the Ďreaderí for a moment.

Hi reader. What you donít know is that at no point along the line did dear Tom tell me he was planning to publish these letters. Aha, you say, so Sandra would write Ďdifferentlyí if she knew what she was writing was going to be published.

Well, you got me there.

Itís true. Iíd have done something about this mess sooner. I guess I was hoping youíd clean it up Tom, or do something. You, after all, have written a novel, and I have not.

My last letter, which seems to be the one which sent you over the edge, was, in fact, an attempt to bring things together. Clearly you did not see any potential in a present-day self discovering and untangling her Ďpast and futureí lives? And thereby finding out who in Godís name killed Elizabeth? And did Lily ever get out of that weird place? And who, actually, is Wode?

Thatís the thing I was trying to do in my last letter. I donít know about you, but somehow these characters we have created seem, well, rather characterless. I think we started off on the wrong foot, or at least on a weird foot. Fantasy is your domain, not mine, and I should have nipped that one in the bud or at least brought some semblance of vulnerability and complexity to my own character.

I wanted this from Wode, but he seems a pawn in all this. How else did he Ďend up mewed in a hermaphrodite with Lily and her dead sisí ? We needed some character transformation and so I suppose instead of that we got a physical transformation.

There were several letters that showed promise, from both of us, so it has not all gone to waste.

So where to now? I think itís important to note that two minds are not necessarily better than one. And considering we never talked about how the story was doing until now, itís not surprising we are in a mess.

Personally, just because we started threads doesnít mean to say we have to finish them. Who writes a story that does not require large use of the knife? Very very few, and you and I are not amongst them. Iíd say lets talk about what we want to explore in this mad world we have found ourselves in. The rest can, well, be safely left to gather dust in the sadly abused minds of our readership.

Over to you, dear one,

Sandra


~ 40 ~


June 19, 2008

Hmmm, weel this is a pickle, Sandra, thatís for sure. I could have sworn I told you early on that this was going to be on my site. Why do you think I named it?

I may have mentioned it once, and you passed it over or werenít paying attention, which I donít blame you for, as I can go on at length, and have been known not to pay attention myself upon occasion. Maybe I told you in an email that you didnít have a chance to read all the way through. And it was so constantly on my mind that it might have been one of those times when a person knows something so strongly that their subconscious just assumes everybody else must know too.

So I screwed up, bigtime. Bad communication. Awk! I sure apologize, Sandra, for putting you in this position. And sorry about the yelling, even though that was the part you liked best. If you just would have told me you didnít know earlier! (thatís a joke).

Thatís water under the bridge, though. And no wonder you went all higgledy-piggledy on me, if you thought we were just playing around with ideas and characters, and not trying to create a coherent story. And all this time I thought you were just out to get me. Our problem is Iím from Mars, youíre from Venus, and our story is from Uranus.

We like such different things, you see. To me, too much attention to character development is boring, and to you, thatís the interesting part. I donít really care about Wodeís inner life. Thatís his business.

Why do we need character transformation? Because some creative writing professor says so? Of course characters will grow and develop as the story moves along, itís a natural growth of the story. But to me the story is usually the most interesting part, and all a character has to do is remain true to its environment. A character has to transform only if that is required by the environment or is what the author or reader wants to see. To me, sometimes characters change and sometimes they donít, and to you, if the character doesnít change itís not worth reading.

Mona-Leonardo transformation

By the way, thinking is the same thing as writing. I donít work in dichotomies like that. Itís not that pure, not either-or.

Sometimes you think while youíre writing and sometimes you donít. I agree that the best writing usually comes when youíre not thinking, but I donít care how it comes. I bet some of the greatest writing of all time was done while people were thinking. The method matters not at all to me, the only thing that matters is the words that end up on the page. And different people get their best words in different ways. There is never just one way. No laws in writing, sorry. There are as many methods as there are madnesses.

Donít get me wrong, Sandra, I too enjoy the character-driven model, and love revelations and epiphanies as much as the next guy. One of the greatest films of all time in my opinion is Groundhog Day, and the whole point of the thing is the change of heart in the main character. But a character is required to transform only if there is something within its makeup that needs changing. Iím writing a tale about characters fighting outer demons and you want one about them fighting inner demons. Iím a narrative-hound and youíre a character geek.

Oh-oh.

For you, diving deeper is a way of life, and to me itís a sideline. I want to communicate to others and could give a fig about diving deep into my own psyche anymore. Iíve been there, and itís not all that interesting, though it used to be all I cared about Ė until I realized that wasnít the way to fix myself. Diving deep while writing to me is a superb tool for communicating with oneself, but not necessarily the best way to communicate with others.

I do feel Iím up against a pet peeve in the not worrying about the reader department. This is not a religion, Sandra, itís just writing. Itís okay to think about the reader occasionally, or else you end up with unreadable stuff, at least for readers like me.

To me not caring about the reader is a form of selfishness. Again itís not either-or, itís and. A sliding scale, as in almost all things. The reader and the writer create a partnership in the writerís mind, which could be 1:99% or 50:50%. Do you really write with no intention of anyone ever reading it? The only point to that would be self-development, which as you know I shy away from madly.

I prefer strength over vulnerability in characters, myself, which is another problem. Seems like Lily was vulnerable enough to me, since everywhere she went she played the victim. Not to mention she was always bemoaning how little she understood. In my eyes it was up to her to stand up and try to understand something. But that is being unfair, because you didnít know we needed to make sense of what we were doing.

Tomís solution:

Since I screwed it up, itís up to me to fix it. How about if I go back and reread what we have so far and come up with an extended synopsis that clears up all the mysteries we so unwittingly created? Then we can back Lily and Wodanaz into neutral corners and take it in a direction that will be more to your liking.

I could even marry them off or something, if you wouldnít object, and then we could start afresh with new characters, if you think Lily and Wode are beyond rescue.

Weíre not really writing a story that needs revision, weíre writing letters to the universe, with no idea what it will send back to us. Itís an exercise, not a real story. They donít need to show promise, or live up to anything, theyíre just letters, they are what they are. Thatís why itís okay for us to talk like this, weíre making it up as we go, just for fun, and on my part, for the best writing experience I ever had, by several orders of magnitude.

I have no problem trying to do this your style, Sandra, except Iíd need a different character, I think. Wodanaz is not amenable to change, Iím afraid. If I tried to turn him into a tormented self-seeker, he would haunt me in my dreams. Believe me, he is no pawn. I am shocked and amazed that you find him so shallow & characterless. I figured him for rather a deep old file. Sure was fun to write him, and I was hoping that showed in his demeanor.

When we start afresh, I will work off your lead, and go diving into the mysteries unfolding within our characters, if that is what you would prefer. I may not be the greatest at it, but sure want to give it a whack. This whole letter thing is such a hoot for me that Iíd love to suffer for my non-art. And from what you say, it appears that it may be up to me to tie up the threads, since you seem to think thatís impossible without revision. Man, whew, please be gentle with me, dearie. All I ask is that your character doesnít keep saying that it doesnít understand anything.

One thing you might be wary of is my inability to see much beyond my nose. It was way beyond me to see how introducing a new character and timespace was a way of tidying things up. Itís clear now, but at the time it seemed like just adding more confusion.

What do you think?

Love & lots of peace!

Tom


~ 41 ~


June 29, 2008

Tom, dear.

Well, I have to say I was not just playing around with ideas and characters. I was writing Ďwhat comes upí, which is, as you know, the first precept of my writing approach. Now this doesnít mean a blurt of diary-style anything-goes all-my-problems vomited onto a page writing, it does mean entering into the world that I find myself in.

Given that I had only myself to rely on, and Wodeís letters, Iím not surprized things went all over the place. For me, Ďlettersí imply something very personal. They demand a sharing of the soul, if they are to be interesting. As mere descriptions of what is going on in oneís life, well.... to me that can get pretty boring. So, while I donít really give a hoot for character development (remember, I never studied creative writing, so Iíve no idea what a creative writing professor might say), I do give a hoot for how people Ďareí together. For me there was always something curious about Wode and Lily Ė they had been childhood friends, and all these things started to Ďhappení while they were writing to each other, and yet the connection between them seemed to never quite Ďgelí. This is purely my take, of course. By Ďgelí I do mean Ďdevelopí. As all relationships do.

I did quite deliberately bring some Ďactioní into their (Lilyís) life, as I felt this might be a possibility to see how she and Tom fared when things got interesting. Perhaps this was a wrong turn, perhaps I should have stayed simple, I can see this now.

You say the story is the most interesting part, and I agree. But what *is* the story of Wode and Lily? Is it a recounting of their lives after they parted as children, and how they connect as they do it? Or is it what happens over time, all the adventures they get into?

As I already said, given we managed to continue for so long without ever consulting each other, I think we did quite well. I now feel that consulting each other as we go along and setting up some parameters would help the story hang together.

NOW you tell me you are writing a tale about characters fighting outer demons! How in the heck do you think I could know that? Wode didnít bring up any outer demons Ė well none that were happening for him at the time of writing. Telling Lily about old outer demons doesnít make for a story, it simply makes for a memoir.

I think Lily would have been up to taking on Wodeís outer demons. Being a rescuer like most women, she didnít see any, and so of course sheíd go looking for the inner ones.

As for caring about the reader. I write the way I do *because* I care about the reader. If writing isnít close to the bone, whether itís fantasy or romantic fiction, then the reader is simply given a lolly-pop. Sweet until you finish. In my opinion and experience, if a writer is not willing to touch certain subjects ( e.g. themselves, their own life) there is *always* a kind of superficial quality to their work. Itís similar to energy meridians. If one meridian is blocked, it affects all the others. This does not mean to say you focus on the personal, but if itís not available to use for the muse, well, then the energy is blocked.

You like action, you like science fiction, you like fantasy. What about Ray Bradbury? Have you read his Zen in the Art of Writing? Iíll quote. ď When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange Ė weíre so busy looking out, to find ways and means, we forget to look in

You say you want to communicate to others and donít give a fig for diving into your psyche. So, what exactly, do you want to communicate to others? Adventures which have no relation to yourself and how you feel about life? Is this even possible?

Lily as victim. Why didnít Wode tell her this? Why wasnít he honest and say, ďLordís sake woman, stop being such a wet flannel?!Ē

This is what I think both characters missed. Talking directly to the other about how they felt about the other and what they were doing.

Well, I guess we are making up for this now!

I love the idea of you creating a synopsis that clears up all the problems (that we *both* are responsible for!)

But. You say ďWeíre not really writing a story that needs revision, weíre writing letters to the universe, with no idea what it will send back to us. Itís an exercise, not a real story.Ē

So what happened to your complaint about me not trying to Ďcreate a coherent storyí? You said the story is the most interesting part. So, I think we need to discuss this.

Are we writing a story, or not?

alchemical vessels

I like going back to the ďLettersĒ idea. Maybe we should throw the story aspect out the window. If we do, what are we doing? Iíd rather not focus on writing to each other about Ďwhat happenedí in their lives, but keep writing about what *is* happening for them in the present, whenever/whatever that present is. And, at the same time, keeping it reasonably simple. I canít keep multiple new strange place/people names in my head for longer than a few minutes (and I know, I was responsible for much of this, thinking Wode liked it...). So, yes to no new characters or timespaces unless absolutely necessary!

I donít think Wode was shallow, just that Lily couldnít really Ďfeelí him emotionally. Remember she is a woman... and like most women needs to connect on that level.

I have one request: Do NOT follow my lead. This is, I sense, absolutely a sure-fire way to get lost.

With love and anticipation,

Sandra


~ 42 ~


August 14, 2008

Dearest Sandra,

Who knows where this is going? Maybe it will become The High-Tailed Adventures of Harald The Unisex Cat. Thatís one way to share the soul.

If this correspondence is to become a sharing of the soul, it must unbecome a sharing of the soul, because I thought thatís what we were already doing. Wodanaz was completely connected to Lily, at a very deep soul level. So deep in fact that he had no idea she wasnít connecting with him. He was actually connected to his idea of her. Boy, does that sound familiar?

I think we may have to detach from outcomes, alas, which involves the real risk of the reader becoming detached from understanding. Some people like that kind of stuff, but it gives me the heebee-jeebees. I like my fiction real, thank you.

It is a conundrum: wanting a coherent story, yet telling it by just writing letters to one another (or one anotherís characters, that is), with no idea what the other will say in advance. The only reason I want a coherent story is because this is for popular consumption, if only for a smallish audience: show business, for entertainment purposes. You and I just playing around have very little chance it seems of creating entertaining coherence by happenstance, since we both have different aims.

Almost like a painter and a sculptor collaborating. What to you get? A very very lumpy painting.

So now what? I hate to think our characters are gonesville. Who is Wode going to love (other than himself) if Lillian is no longer? Even if he was only loving an idea, that idea was all he lived for, to help that idea to flourish and prosper in every way.

The thought of making up a synopsis of the happenings of Lily and Wode, in order to make sense out of it, has lost some of its luster for me, in the month or two that weíve taken off lately. Not sure about that. Strikes me as a hellish chore at present.

On the outer demons front: the outer demons I was talking about are Count Crispus, Jiminy Cricket, the evil Mister X, and the war in general. Ė Demons such as being imprisoned or becoming insubstantial. To me those are the outer manifestation of the inner life, and thus the bifurcation of demons means little, at least symbolically. I am that, especially in fiction. I just find the outer demons more interesting to read about, more accessable.

And the only way you would know I was writing a story about a character fighting outer demons is by reading what I wrote, and the fact that most stories are about that, if you read ďdemonsĒ as ďantagonistĒ. Thatís part of the game, or dance if you will, to be able to figure out and then follow the otherís lead at times and at other times to take it.

Hereís my theory: You, assuming I was somewhat of an expert in this form (no idea why you thought that, since Iíd only done it once), were content to follow my lead. I kept hoping you would take the lead, this being a back and forth kinda deal by nature. You finally did, but it took me to very strange places indeed.

We are writing a story, Sandra. And we are playing a game. The turn-mystery-into-coherence game. Thatís the only thing that makes it different than a standard story collaboration Ė that itís not discussed in advance. A real story is discussed in advance, when done in collaboration anyway, so the only thing that makes this a real story at all is that it makes sense, kinda, I hope.

Your move.

Love,

Tom


~ 43 ~


August 20, 2008

Dear Tom,

I like my fiction real too, Tom! But what is real to you may be unreal to me and vice versa. I remember writing a university paper on ďRealismĒ. Now thatís one heck of a topic, full of great areas to get totally lost in the head in. Not that Iím suggesting we do that, on the contrary.

Lillian and Wodanaz certainly took some unreal turns there. The start of the letters, the first two, Iíd say, seemed to set the scene Ė for something that was not exactly, in my opinion, Ďrealí.

To quote from the first letter Wode wrote to Lily: ďyou and I shall work that out together, as per divine plan, or Code Team Zulu, one.Ē and, ďYour intuition is correct: we seek, my love, we seek the unfindable word, and something else. Thank @nb2tTm9cXv7 you have finally shown up. (Sorry I only know Its password, since the username of the godhead itself is still unknown to me.Ē

And Iím not saying we shouldnít delve into realms that are not exactly Ďnormalí Ė but I think this is where I got a bit bogged down Ė writing science fiction/fantasy is not my fortť, but somehow I felt pulled there by what Wode wrote. Lillian participated 100% and then some, so Iím also not saying, ďitís your fault.Ē

I do think what Iím saying underlies a tricky area for us as writers working together. You tend towards fantasy/science fiction and I donít. Lillian could have ignored the bait, and moreso, could have written a far more mundane letter as her first letter.

Iím all for a coherent story, so that we definitely agree on. Given our experience, Iíd say what would help most is if we keep it simple, and as you suggested, not to introduce new characters or ideas and information unless there is a strong sense that itís going to help and further the story (and the readersí insight into the character of Lily and Wode).

Is Lillian no longer? Who said? Is Wode going to do her in?

If Wode has discovered something Ė if he has discovered that Lillian is nothing but an idea, this could make for a fascinating twist in the tale. All I ask is that you donít make him wake up out of a bad dream. Perhaps his idea is so strong that it has taken form, and developed in ways he has no control over...thatís the trouble with ideas, we want control over them. I actually like this theme. What happens when we are so far involved in our fantasy of someone that they start to take control over us?

Outer Demons. I have to let you in on a little secret Tom. I am completely appalling at symbolism. Itís something Iíve had slowly to learn about over the years, and it still flies right by me most of the time. If I see a tree all twisted and gnarled, I see a tree all twisted and gnarled. That it could, for example, symbolize someoneís tormented soul would never ever occur to me. Someone has to point this possibility out.

You say like your fiction real...youíve said this before. I actually think you are a symbolist and Iím a realist. This does beg the question what is Ďrealí but weíll leave that aside for the moment, okay?

fake real for sale

Now that you have told me the outer demons represent the inner ones, I can work with that. I truly had no idea.

And, I will take on board your definition of Ďrealí as the story making sense. Yes to this!

Taking leads. I suggest neither of us takes the Ďleadí. I suggest that we both just go a bit slower, and work with fewer elements. If one of us brings something new in that feels like itís going to go off on a useless tangent, then perhaps we can make a note of it after our reply which should make no reference to that element Ė we can simply say, ď p.s. I suggest we donít follow up on XĒ.

Then, when we come to publish the letters, we simply remove the reference to ĎXí. If the other really has a problem with this then we can discuss Ė perhaps a fully formed idea/ story line was being drawn and this element was important, for example. Otherwise Iím certainly not possessive about what I write, and from my experience, neither are you.

I loathe doing synopses, so I totally understand your reticence. Iím up for Wode sending Lillian a brand new letter.

Love,

Sandra


~ 44 ~


August 26, 2008

Dear Sandra,

I know we can do this. We just have to both be doing the same thing. I guess thereís really no requirement that it be a story. What it is is two writers orbiting. A dance of word and spirit. Give two characters their heads and see where they go. Thatís why Iím so set on the idea that we not know whatís coming. I think Iím getting too hung up on the idea that it has to be entertaining. That adds a constraint that doesnít help the format, which to me is a radical one. Radical works best unbounded. The one constraint is that we work within one anotherís mystery.

I like my fiction real.

What a crock. At least if one takes that sentence at face value, with real meaning. What that sentence mostly ďmeansĒ is that Tom likes to play with words, to juxtapose opposites and bend the meaning. The oxymoronic ďreal fictionĒ. If one unpacks it, it means that I like my fiction to make sense to me. That is, it needs to mean something in relation to my own experience of being, which so yearns for answers.

Thatís what turned me off of short stories, the innumerable modern ones I read back in the day in which I got to the end and went Ė what? You bastard! So what was the point of that?

It eventually became a visceral reaction, a feeling of betrayal and loss. Now I donít even start short stories, canít stand to face the first page of one, knowing in my gut of guts that when I get to the end of it (if itís written after 1960 or so) I will be left gasping for meaning. Meaning meaning everywhere and not a drop to drink.

Itís the slice of life stuff that creeps me out. Too much like gossip taken out of context. Iím a beginning middle and end kind of guy, all the way.

Youíve heard me time and again rail against reality: not to my taste, etc. Part of what that signifies is that I have a very hard time being interested in the things that intrigue people who like reality. Mostly people like to talk about who did what and what happened at work or what so-and-so said and what I bought at the store Ė things that actually exist, or did. Man that stuff bores me to tears.

What I want to know is what does it mean? Reality doesnít have much meaning to me. Reality is what you undergo to derive meaning. So my romantical idealistic childish mind says, ďWell screw that, letís just skip the reality and go straight to meaning!Ē And thatís where symbolism comes in.

But before we move on to symbolism, my beloved actual interlocuter, let me return to my well-chewed bone of trying to figure out why we werenít communicating. I know you wish I wouldnít, since you mentioned on the phone that you want me to drop it and just move on to writing. Well, this is writing, so at least Iím doing half of what you want, which is pretty good for me.

Theory #57: You like reading short stories.

Okay, Iím done.

As far as symbolism goes, it runs along the same lines as reality. If a tree in the world is just a tree (in the materialist/atheist/non-pantheistic sense) then Iím totally screwed. That tree has to have a need or a purpose, with threads of meaning weaving it into all creation. That tree must be more than what you see. It holds a secret eternal meaning, a secret tree that hides inside and breathes God. A tree that knows itself and even knows me. Is that too much to ask?

It may be, on the reality front.

Still havenít figured that one out. I do know what I wish for.

But itís not too much to ask in fantasy, which is one reason I lean that way. The other reason is words. You get to use words like ďalasĒ. Alas works great for me because you can use it to define a sentence of indeterminate meaning. Often one canít tell if I mean a statement to denote praise or blame / joy or woe, alas. Plus itís melodramatic, always a plus in my esthetic universe, to a point.

I do think we may need to move Lily and Wode to the present time, though. Just to make it more interesting for you. I warn you dear, thereís a good chance the evil Mister X will show up in some guise or other. That damn X has been on me like stink on shit ever since I can remember. He even creeps into my writing.

Damn you, evil Mister X!

Did you really think Mister X was just Mister X? Nothing but one more brain in a jar? To me such a name is the perfect symbol for the thing most everyone has that keeps them from being who they really are, or wish they were. X is the ideal placeholder for something that you donít know what it is. Except bad. Really really bad. And it wonít leave you alone.

Mister X

Poor Mister X. Itís tough being that bad. Good thing heís so evil. An evil guy with a funny name. I wonder what that means?

Your idea of a theme is interesting, the idea that Wode has created Lily in his imagination Ė almost a Pygmalion twist: ďWhat happens when we are so far involved in our fantasy of someone that they start to take control over us

The Frankenstein monster of our imagination, fantasy as a realm that becomes more true than life. Not sure Iíd like doing that, though. Too much like what the writing books tell you to do when starting a short story. My preferred theme would be: What happens when two writers start writing imaginary letters back and forth, with no idea what theyíre going to say beforehand?

My take on taking leads is that itís inevitable. Each time one of us introduces a new idea or character or milieu, he or she is at least momentarily taking the lead, and the other correspondent has to follow up, if only briefly, that lead.

So my thought is that this kind of lead-taking has to go back and forth. Itís how we communicate between the lines as we go. And neither one of us is the boss. If the writer of one character doesnít like the way the story is going, that writer has to re-take the lead for a bit and somehow let the other writer know (while remaining in character) that we donít want to take that road.

Or as you say, we could fudge and include notes. If weíre going to do that, how about we do it on the phone? Just say we wonít discuss things unless it begins getting too gnarly and we have to work something out. Only as a last resort. What do you think?

Also, as much as I love Lily and Wodanaz, I think maybe we need new characters. Alas poor Wodick, and all. The baggage has become unwieldy. So much baggage makes it hard to travel light. And as you say we may need to pare things down.

Love,

Tom


~ 45 ~


September 3, 2008

Dear Tom,

Iím in one hundred percent agreement with you that what we write has to be entertaining. Entertaining for me to write.

I have noticed that whenever I get hung up on being entertaining for the reader, I lose the thread, I start to worry and plan and think too much, and the writing loses its edge - and, in the end, is not entertaining for the reader. This is my experience.

So, Iíd say if we follow Barbara Turner Vesselagoís wonderful Freefall precept: ďGo fearwardĒ, we will always be engaging Ė to ourselves, and to the reader.

Iím wondering if perhaps you might not give up totally on the short story. Have you read Jim Shepardís ďLike Youíd Understand, AnywayĒ?

My sense is that with what we are writing, the short-story form could be very helpful. Each letter a complete and satisfying expression, perhaps. Leaving the reader wanting more, but still leaving them with a sense of having understood or recognized something - and this might be simply recognizing themselves...

As for your preferred theme: What happens when two writers start writing imaginary letters back and forth, with no idea what theyíre going to say beforehand?

Well, that was our theme! And Iím up to experimenting further. Lets go for it, lets see what happens, okay?

I like the idea of including notes, which would be interesting for the reader. We can have phone calls as well, particularly if things get really gnarly, and to help those Ďnotesí be brief and to the point.

Iím sad to see Lily and Wodenaz go. They both have winkled their way into my heart. Perhaps they will reappear, who knows? Along with evil Mister X. Personally I think whatever we do, they will carry on their eventful lives, in some dimension or other. They are not dead yet, that is for sure.

Looking forward to whatever comes my way in our new adventure.

Love,

Sandra


~ 46 ~


September 9, 2008

Dear Sandra,

Writing fearward is not a problem with me, since I fear every sentence I face. They all offer a good chance of failure, my most dreaded thing. Of course there are degrees of fear, so I guess to use the Vesselago method, I need to write really really fearward.

Thing is, when I write fearward I donít write. I need to write funward or nothing comes out. Which sucks since fearward is where most treasures lie. The really good ones anyway. Funward lies mostly funny, though there are a few nuggets to be gleaned, an occasional beauty.

Have to mention the chance of me delving into a book of short stories is close to nil. I donít like them because theyíre too short. I am doomed by fate to prefer long stories by a considerable margin. I did all I could to get into short stories, and know if I read a book of fifteen stories Iíd like four or five, maybe even be blown away by a couple of them, amazed and delighted. But those little blips turn me off, by their nature. Repletion is always my goal, damn me, so I canít help not liking short stories. Itís not like I havenít read lots of them back before I before finally realized I could no longer abide the format. It was a taste formed over years, though I always leaned that way.

Maybe I canít handle the disappointment. So much disappointment so quickly. At least with a novel it takes a good long time for disappointment to sink in.

Can a preference like this be a choice? It comes down to the old thing that it would be good for me to read short stories. Reading them would be like doing pushups or skipping dessert or flossing daily. I only do stuff like that if I have to, alas. Would I were different. Somebody give me a personality transplant, please.

So yeah, I do know what you mean about entertainment. In reading and writing.

fun books!

About our method:

I would like it if you didnít feel constrained by what I write you, as though if I send something you think is leaning some way, you follow that way to gratify me, or make it easier. At least at the beginning, when anything is possible. What would be totally cool is if I sent you something and then you came back with something else that turns the whole thing on its head (ideally in a way that would make sense in a plotting sense). But I donít want you to feel obligated to do that, either.

It could also be something that follows super-closely the storyline I set up, but only because thatís where your muse takes you, not because you think thatís what I want. You could even reply in cuneform, if that is your custom, or your museís custom. Anything as long as we donít get lost in too many characters or multitudinous storylines. Oftentimes I would drop in characters in the Lily-Wode fiasco, but only as a joke or a quick vignette. You might could tell I want to keep a character when they are introduced portentiously, like Quanson was. (Quanson is restless.)

So itís a balance, dear, a high-wire act. Not caring and caring simultaneously. I know it sounds like Iím giving you conflicting requests, but Iím not really. I just want everything. Surprises are great, but if it becomes too difficult then itís no longer any fun, for me anyway.

I would ask that you retain the letter format, however. I know you dislike being hemmed in by form, but to me the format is a container for our wildness. A letter. Itís understandable and comfortable for both writer and reader, a familiar plot of land from which to foray forth into the wilderness. The rules are what make it a game. If there are no rules then itís way too much like reality or god forbid work for me.

Love,

Tom (alias Mister X)


~ 47 ~


September 10, 2008

Hey there dear one, thought the next letter was going to be one from a new character to me? Otherwise I fear we will just go back and forth with the other one in a kind of nice ďI donít agree with youĒ way Ė lets just dive in?

Unless that WAS the dive in??

xox!

Off in a minute, prob wont be able to reply til early next week....


~ 48 ~


September 10, 2008

Yo. Well, it was supposed to be, but I chickened out. Couldnít think of any way to start, so thought I would hem and haw for a while. Pass the buck. Okay to make your next one a shortie, just kick-starting me or something, or getting in a final disagreement. Or even starting the correspondence, if you want to let me off the hook.

And I was afraid that whatever I sent, you would try to reply in a way I would like, so I tried to clarify that if possible. Do what you want except donít make me hate it. Ha. I really want this to be lighthearted, fun most of all, which may be a bad sign, since Iím not the king of getting what I want, probably because I want so much.

I donít like it when you try to guess my intentions, but I do like it when you pick up on my actual intentions. Thatís it in a nutshell. My intentions are exactly equal to your intentions. So how do we dance with that, as writers and human beings?

Is there any way to make this not a chore for you? I got the feeling on our last go-around that I was the one, on receipt of the latest, going, ďOh boy oh joy, tra-la tra-lay, O joyous day, a new letter!Ē Something to play around in, a new feather to tickle Sandra with.

But thatís not your style. You have more fun being serious, at least it seems like that to me. You love to face the demons, while I madly skip around them.

So no, that wasnít the dive in. When you get it, youíll know. It will be from somebody youíve never heard of.

As ever, no rush, your mastery of temporality far surpasses my own.

Love,

Tom


~ 49 ~


Dear Mister X,

I saw your ad in the Atlantic Gazette. Iíd be very interested in the room, if itís still available. Can you describe it a bit more? Iím a non-smoker and have a cat. I hope thatís all right. Sheís very clean.

I donít make much noise as I have a hearing problem and canít listen to loud music.

You should know that a friend sent me your ad. At the moment Iím living in a high-rise in Tokyo. (Iím not Japanese, in case you were wondering). Iíd like to take up residence at the beginning of next month, if everything works out. I realise you would probably rather meet me before saying yes, but Iím hoping we can work it out via letters.

Yours,

Ms. Celeste Green


~ 50 ~


Dear Ms. Green,

Thank you for responding to my advertisement, and for spelling my name right, which few people seem to manage. I tell them sex without the se. Please feel free to call me X, as my friends do.

I am sorry to inform you the room has been occupied. However, I do have two more rooms free in the area if you are interested, although they are not on the park, or near the center of town.

The first is a room on the third floor of a large Victorian along Halfmoon Street (1228 D). It has a balcony and fronts the river. The house sits on a bluff, if you or your cat are afraid of heights. It is a non-smoking building with more than its share of cats, so you should fit right in. The price is $70 less than what the other room went for monthly, because of location.

house on Halfmoon

The second room is rather out-of-the-way, and I have a hard time renting it. Considerably outside of town on a rarely-used track. Itís the old Burnside castle, as they called it around here, except most of the castle has fallen down after the fire of 1908 and only two rooms are livable, a basement room or cellarage and the tower vestibule (turned into something of a living room or den by the previous renter, who stayed there many years). It does have electricity of course, and hot and cold running water in the cellar, though the loo is outdoors at present. A nice view of Widow Falls and the lake from the top of the tower. Itís best to watch oneís step if you go up there.

Locals are difficult to rent to, in this case, because of silly unfounded rumors of ghosts and lights in the night. Crazy Alice Feeny, the old lady who lived there earlier, always denied it. You might even ask her, as she still lives in the area, at County State Mental, I believe, or Sunnyvale, down by Brownsville. I think youíd find she did a nice job with the curtains in the vestibule. Itís suprisingly comfortable. And she did love to garden.

There have been rumors lately of a panther in those hills, though, so you might want to be careful with your cat Ė even though in my opinion they are untrue, the last black panther in these parts being hunted down long decades ago.

Considering these difficulties, I am willing to propose you stay there for free. The place has been empty so long itís beginning to get run-down, and it would be gratifying to me to have someone there just to take care of it a bit. Iíve long had dreams of rebuilding the mansion and hate to see the place get any more dilapidated, especially the garden, which upon a time was a glorious wonder, with horticultural enthusiasts coming from several states away to view it and walk the wooded paths around the lake.

garden

No need for us to meet if you decide to accept my offer on either place, as my spirit guides tell me you are completely innocous and even somewhat beneficial at this time.

Warm Regards,

X


~ 51 ~


Dear Mister X,

I apologise for not answering your letter promptly. I was in the office building that got bombed in the Suginami district, you may have heard. AluAkbar extremists, the newspapers say, but Iím not so sure itís all a terrible mistake or the government itself trying to distract attention from the situation in Europe.

Anyway, Iíve been in hospital ever since, they say I should be out soon but Iím not healing well. I broke my ankle and cracked several ribs. The ankle was a bad break, I tore the ligaments as well as fracturing the bone, although I donít remember anything as I blacked out and woke up in the hospital. My present landlady brought me your letter, I think she opened it and sheís very upset as I havenít told her I plan to leave. She brought flowers but took them away with her.

I appreciated your detailed letter, thank you. I like the sound of the room on Halfmoon Street Ė an ex boyfriend of lived on that street so I know it quite well. He may still live there Ė Harry Bons? Well, that was a long time ago. However Iím concerned that the three flights might be troublesome for my ankle. Is there an elevator? I do like the sound of a balcony on the river, I must say.

Iíve heard of Burnside castle. It would help my financial situation a lot to not have to pay rent, and I donít believe in ghosts so thatís not a problem, but again, Iím concerned about being able to get around okay, and Iím not keen on outside toilets as I often have to get up in the night. If I have to do this with a cane or crutches it will be horrible. And I do have to tell you Iím a terrible gardener. Plants seem to die the minute theyíre in my care.

I think Iíd best wait until Iím released from hospital, as I will then be able to see how Iím getting along. I still hope to fly over early next month. I realize you will have to rent your rooms and not wait for my decision, so please go ahead. I will, however, write to you in the next week or so if there is any news.

All the best,

Ms. Green


~ 52 ~


Dear Ms. Green,

So sorry to hear of your troubles. It tremulates my visibility to forseek such all-quandrious woes. ĎTis the ďstridulant night of the OyapockĒ all over again. What is it to be a man? What is it to be a woman trapped in a holy explosion?

I too am son of an explosion. And thus it is my hope my words explode into your heart as yours did into mine. You may think me mad, or an alchemist of violent imagination, but that was no terrorist bombing you survived, Celeste, it was a bomb of soul. Newspapers may blame the Allahu Akbar extremists, but we both know God himself is to blame. The universe is a bomb and we are all exploding.

Exploding into love, one may hope, but exploding nonetheless.

Boom!

Did you survive? I hope you did. I know you are.

When you did not reply to my last, I assumed you had found other accomodations, so the room on Halfmoon has been rented Ė to a man with a monkey, a good friend of the simians. The rooms at the castle remain unoccupied, but it sounds as though they may not be appropriate to a convalescent in your state.

I have rooms elsewhere in the area if you are still interested, if you do not fear the unknown, and the mystery of strange words from a Brother of the Dark Wind. My blessings to your healing.

Cuhuluthanta,

X

(You may call me Xavier if you wish, as I took the liberty of using your given name.)


~ 53 ~


Dear Xavier,

Iím still in hospital. It seems Iíve got some kind of blood poisoning from the ankle not healing properly. I hate to make you wait for my decision like this.

I was disappointed to hear about the room on Halfmoon. Yes, please do let me know what else you have available. Iíd like something very quiet, with a view, and, I suppose at this rate on the ground floor and near shops.

Your theory about the bombing is fascinating. It does seem like the whole world is exploding, doesnít it? I donít take too much stock in the conspiracy theories but sometimes one does wonder. As for God, Iím an atheist. Well, I think I am. I donít believe in a God as a man sitting on his throne up there in the clouds, do you?

I have to be honest. The turn your letter took rather worried me. Are you all right? Iíve been scouring the newspapers for any information of terrorist activity or anything odd at all in the city. Perhaps I shouldnít come if itís dangerous? Tokyo has been a total mess, things are getting worse and worse. People are leaving in droves. I have to leave, I canít stay here. If not here or in my home country, where?

Oh to have some peace and quiet. Iím working on a book, you see. I need peace and quiet. Iím not sure a mysterious area is the ticket for my healing or my work, which I have to tell you is channelled. I need total calm to let the work come through.

In any case, they wonít let me out of here until the blood thing has cleared up. Iíll keep you posted.

Yours,

Celeste

p.s. I asked one of the nurses to look up Cuhuluthanta in wikipedia, but she found nothing (she could have been lying, but Iím good at spotting them). It reminds me of the name of my channelled entity, which is Kuhuala, but otherwise I have no idea what you mean, other than a good bye of sorts?


~ 54 ~


Dear Mister X,

What am I to do? I know Iíve missed my chance with any of your rooms, Iím sure of that. You wouldnít want to have me as a lodger, who would? But I am writing just in case Iím wrong. I have to get out of here before itís too late. Theyíve closed down the airports so I have to go overland. Iíll take anything youíve got, Iíll water plants or cats or ghosts, anything. Iím over the blood poisoning but the ankle still gives me trouble. Iíll hobble up any amount of stairs you have, I donít mind.

Kuhuala is desperate to get out. I can feel him pushing at me. Heís got things to say and Iíve not been available. They wonít give me a pen here, they say Iíll do myself in. They donít know Iíll do myself in if I stay a moment longer.

Hopefully,

Celeste


~ 55 ~


Dear Celeste,

I must apologize for the lengthy delay in my reply. There has been something of a dustup in our little town. A newspaper war Ė that most terrible of things. Too horrible to describe in business correspondence. Thoughts ahoo, ink everywhere. You can imagine, a bloody inkbath.

But I have survived, and paper is once again available to the general public. Had to have some ink shipped in from out of town as well, since the Bugle and the Daily Horn had used it all up. What a terrible waste. I donít mind so much the ink, itís the words, the words. Such a waste of words indeed. Such acrimony, such haste.

newspaper war

However, if it is peace and quiet you require, I may have just the thing for you, not a run-down castle, which to my romantic soul is the apex of civilization, but a tiny cottage in the country, just a mile outside the nearby hamlet of Frankville, consisting of a grocery store/gasoline station, a one-room post office, and twenty or so ramshackle homes.

Also I maintain a rotating collection of rooms in the city proper, in case you are averse to picturesque country cottages, so when you arrive we shall certainly be able to find you something.

I had heard of the problems in Tokyo and was worried. Am glad to hear you have healed.

Do not concern yourself with personal eccentricies. My mother was channeled. Sorry about the explosion.

Cuhuluthanta,

Xavier X, B.D.W.


~ 56 ~


Dear Xavier,

I've packed a trunk of paper and another of ink. I've heard these things will be banned in all six conglomerate countries. I will mail these ahead to your address, with the label 'used clothing'. I do hope they get through.

I have a few other things to tie up before I can leave - my medical insurance was not in order it seems and they are trying to force me to pay the 605% fine. I have hired a lawyer to deal with it, and in the meantime I'll try to slip out of the country, by ship. I forgot there was a sea around us. Silly me.

Anyway, there is a freight ship leaving in a weeks time, by name of Holong Amera III. I have managed to sweet-talk the captain into taking me. He was a bit leery of my sea legs, and quite right, I'm quite wobbly still. The journey will take upwards of eight weeks, depending on weather and pirates.

Yes, please, the cottage near Frankville sounds just perfect. I used to go there with my father when I was a child, he had a lady-friend he visited (although she was supposed to be his dentist, I knew no dentistry was going on).

In the meantime, your mother has come through. I have recorded everything she said, as of course I have no knowledge of whatever comes through unless I actually listen to the recordings. The moment I knew it was her, I switched off as it seemed very personal and for your ears only. I was quite surprised, I've only ever channeled Kuhuala.

Have to rush,

I hope this letter finds you well.

Celeste


Celeste at sea


~ 57 ~


Dear Celeste,

Your luggage has arrived, looking as if it was bound for the Goodwill Center. Iím a little confused, however, if you donít mind me mentioning it. By Ďconglomerate countriesí do you mean multinational corporations? As far as I know all countries are still singularities, conglomerations though they often be.

And Ė although I am usually not one to question anotherís taste in travel, and am almost always in favor of eccentric behavior in general Ė I wonder at your hopping a freighter when a jet aeroplane might have done as well. Perhaps you are a genius of a bygone age, a wonder of retro anomaly. Or some sort of new-age spirit-spy, a sprite of the past. I look forward extremely to meeting you, coming as you are at your leisurely seagoing pace. Good luck with the pirates.

I am not surprised that Mother has contacted you. She does that. Please feel free to listen to what she has to say, if you care to. Her name is Xagnes. I for one have had enough of her spectral blatherings to last me a lifetime. In fact they have lasted a lifetime.

Whistler's mama

Iíve sent my cleaning crew to Heather-Rose (the quaint name I thought up for the cottage to use in my advertisements) to ready it for your arrival. We shall set tulips in the teapot. I am surprised that you know of it Ė sad to hear the tale but gratifying to hear you know your way around the area.

I will send this by telex so that you receive it while still onboard ship. Hope your voyage so far has been pleasant.

Warm Regards,

Xavier


~ 58 ~


Xavier,

You mean you donít know about the conspiracy? They are all in it together. Lizards they are lizards. I know some people think itís not true, but dig deeper and I can assure you it is. The Queen, Margaret Thatcher, Bush, they are all in it together. Kuhuala knows everything. America, England, Japan, China, Germany and France. The Russians are going to join too, but until the problem in Georgia is settled they wonít be accepted.

lizards

Aeroplane? Are you mad? Itís how they brainwash you, they pipe it into the air. Very clever. Ever wonder why there is so much air travel these days? All those cheap airlines, one dollar flights? No thank you, Iím not going to risk it. Even if Iím wrong, itís just not worth it. If the air doesnít get you who is to say I wonít be on a flight programmed to fly into some other monument of distraction? So far, they havenít got any ships to sail into the statue of Liberty.

Ever wonder why?

Youíve got me all riled. I hate this stuff. I donít know why Iím returning to the States. Well I do, Kuhuala said I should, and things in Tokyo are crumbling. Canít even get good sushi anymore.

Iíll talk about Xagnes later. Iíve got other things on my mind right now. I do hope you have put my luggage in a safe place, it contains items of great value and will be highly dangerous for me (and you) if found.

The voyage has passed without issue so far. Food is awful. My cabin too small, Iím working on the Captain to see if I can be upgraded.

Until soon,

Celeste


~ 59 ~


Dear Celeste,

Conspiracy? Iím not sure to which one you refer. I belong to several myself. Your list of countries cohabitates strangely. Little did we know in bygone days that cold wars are better than warm ones. I fear the currents of history have swept past me.

Not so the waves of spirit Ė in those paradoxical crests I still thrash, gulping the occasional breath.

I know what you mean about the air, however, Celeste. Long has it been my study to avoid the miasma of the airways. I breathe as little as possible, cleansing the area around me with tobacco smoke and very strong cologne, based on a Theosophical admixture of my own design.

Your luggage is safe. I did have it out on the porch, but when I got your letter I moved it inside. I will have it sent to the cottage on the day you arrive.

Hope your accomodations have improved since your last. I do know some good restaurants in the area, so that when you arrive you may be compensated for your present shipboard diet. Things have changed since your fatherís day, even locally.

Best Wishes,

Xavier


~ 60 ~


Dear Xavier,

We've broken down. Well, whatever it is that ships do. Something to do with the fuel intake. I am certain it is a trap. A conspiracy to kill me. Luckily we were near land, such as it is. We all managed to get off the ship onto the dinghies and paddle over. There's a nice beach. The Captain has taken a group of his sailors to find out where we are, to find help. There doesn't seem to be anyone here, not near anyway.

God it's hot.

I don't know why I'm writing this. Maybe we'll never get off. Maybe it's an island and we are stranded. The radio's not working either. No cell phone coverage out here in the middle of no-where wherever we are. Letter in a bottle, that's the best I can do. I shouldn't have come. I should have stayed in that damn hospital and festered away.

There's a man here who says he knows you, James Hackney-Bowles. Stuffy sort. Says he went to school with you. I think he might be a spy so I'm not telling him anything more.

Running out of ink.

Yours, hopefully,

Celeste


~ 61 ~


December 18, 2008


Reality Alert


Well, itís us again, the writers emerging from our fictional milieu (that means thing for people who donít know French). We seem to have failed once more, which is perfect since thatís whatís so great about writing, you can fail your ass off and nobody notices.

So anyway, another failure, la de da. This is a writersí exercise, as you may have noticed from the title. This is just us, exercising.

We were off in Artistís Heaven during November, creating Splinterland, a moxie parboiled purebread zone school, I tell you what. There was even some stuff that made sense!

Celeste and Xavier are toast, alas, along with whatshername and that other guy. Our poor characters. I hope they get to continue with their lives and find some peace somehow, off there in imagination-land.

I will hand off to Sandra Jensen now, my dear co-conspirator in this our venture into serial failure as an art form. She will explain to you what has not yet been explained.

Love & Peace,

Tom


~ 62 ~


December 19, 2008


I donít think weíve failed, Tom. It seems to me weíre doing the Ďgo where the energy isí Freefall precept. NaNoWriMo grabbed us both by the shorthairs and didnít let us go. By the end of November, our second attempt at the letters had lost their shine.

So, the question is, now where is the energy?

We both love to write. We both love to have something to respond to Ė which is one of the reasons the letters worked so well. So, with that in mind, how about writing a story together? A version of that old childrenís game where one person writes a paragraph or two, folds back the paper to hide what they wrote except for a line or two and hands it to the next person. My suggestion is we donít do the hiding part, that tends to create enjoyable silliness but only for a limited time.

So, you start the story, no more than two short paragraphs, and then Iíll continue the story, again only for a couple of short paragraphs ( or less ), and hand it over to you. Whoever feels itís time Ďto endí can do so. Whoever gets The End written at the end of the piece has to start a new story. Perhaps the stories are linked. Perhaps each one is merely (?) a character sketch. The skies the limit.

Given what we have already learned with Cleste, Xavier et al, Iíd suggest keeping things reasonably simple. We wonít get too out of hand if we keep our writing session short, the other person can always summarily do away with any extraneous characters or scenarios.

Any other suggestions, Tom? Or do you want to dive right in?

Love,

Sandra


~ 63 ~


December 20, 2008


Dear Sandra,

My energy right now is in talking to you, the actual person. Not sure why reality has this sudden strange fascination for me, perhaps because Iíve been so deeply immersed in the fictional lately, even more than usual, with all the quotes Iíve been garnering from mad geniuses, then the mice, nano, etcetera.

Sorry to hear you didnít think we failed. I thought that was one of our better ones. Failure during writing exercises is almost mandantory, and a darn good failure like ours Ė two of them by my reckoning Ė is a pearl beyond price. But thatís by the by, onward and downward is our motto, if weíre judging by the scroll bar. Descent into the abyss, cyberspace style.

Love your idea for our next failure...oh okay, we donít have to fail if you donít want to. But I do really like it. Combo-story. Two short paragraphs, packed to brimminí with whatever one chooses, as long as itís words and not ducks or trombones or something.

Do you want to start, or should I?

Love, Peace, and Scarlet Begonias,

Tom


~ 64 ~


December 30, 2008


Dear Tom,

We can continue this way if you like. I agree with you, itís important to consider Ďfailuresí as a positive thing really... I will never forget my riding teacher telling me I wasnít a rider until Iíd fallen off the horse at least 20 times! She also insisted I got back up immediately after a fall. So I guess however we consider what we are doing and what we have done, itís all good.

Would you like to talk about writing? About life? Iím available for anything! I think if we start a new story, Iíd like you to start.

Love,

Sandra


~ 65 ~


December 30, 2008


Dear Sandra,

Letís talk about writing! Whatís blowing me away lately is the Extracto Literarium, my authorsí quotes page. It has changed me, and by golly that is one of the hardest things ever to do.

Donít know why it is doing this. One reason may be that I am comitting the unpardonable (except to myself) sin of changing the words in other peoplesí quotes, if I think it will better fit the format. Punctuation is nothing to me, or changing poetry into prose. No ellipses allowed, and if I want to cut off someoneís sentence and begin it halfway, I do that too. With no indication Iíve changed a darn thing.

I feel justified in doing this because Iím a bad person, thank goodness. What it has done is give me the eye of the lynx, and the feeling inside me that all that glorious wisdom and beauty is mine own too, just as much as it is Thoreauís or Lincolnís or Dickinsonís. I actually have been taking their advice! Using it, I mean, acting on it, feeling it deep inside, turning truth into action.

Example from Hemingway:

My aim is to put down what I see in the best and simplest way.

I took five words out of that sentence. Hemingway is just too darn verbose. Probably should have taken out ďand simplestĒ, or maybe ďbest andĒ too. Changing other peopleís thoughts in public is a personal taste. But it sure is good for oneís own writing and lifestyle.

Your loving defacer of the truth,

Tom


~ 66 ~


January 1, 2009


Dear Tom,

I love what you are doing with the Extracto Literarium! Just reading you gives me a lift. Do you mention on the page that you have been Ďcreativeí with some of the quotes? I donít say this because I think you should own up to doing a bad thing, but rather so people can appreciate you.

Iíd like to see the original quote from Hemingway. This kind of thing actually helps me with my own writing. I can overwrite with the best of us and it really helps to see examples.

Love,

Sandra


~ 67 ~


January 1, 2009


Yay! I was afraid youíd think I was doing something underhanded. Of course it is naughty in some peopleís eyes, and they got a point. Sure makes it better when itís naughty, fyi.

word gif

The original of the Hemingway quote is: My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.

Ben Franklin in his autobiography talked about how he learned to write, and one thing he did would be to read a passage that he really loved in a favorite author, then sit down and try to write down exactly what he just read, from memory. Now I see what he was getting at. One really gets inside those thoughts, when you go in and mess around with them. Itís not like theyíre holy or anything, for peteís sake.

Part of the theme of this site is obfuscation and fakery, so I donít feel bad not telling people what Iím doing. Itís all about figuring it out on your own, not that anybody will or anything, or even care to try. Besides, I only change like one word in a hundred, overall. I just got a revenge kick taking extraneous words out of Mr. Short-Talkís verbiage. You know how I love flowery prose, though even purple prose when well done has to be as short as purple can be.

Remind me to talk to you about The Secret Garden.

Hippie Nude Rear!

Tom


~ 68 ~


January 2, 2009


Tom, once again, reading you I get a tangible feeling of what you are talking about. That sense of getting inside someoneís thoughts. Yes!

I didnít know that about Franklin. I have heard about people taking a book they really like or admire and typing out the whole thing themselves as a way to Ďget insideí the author. Iíve never had the patience to do that, but I have sat with a book by my side as I write ( a book I think highly of ) and hope that its mastery transmits to me....

I was musing over the Hemingway quote Ė

Old: My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.

New: My aim is to put down what I see in the best and simplest way.

While I like what you did, I miss that Ďfeelí part. Maybe itís because Iím female?

In Freefall, as taught by my teacher, Barbara Turner-Vesselago, one of the precepts is Ďgive all the sensuous detailí. This means not just what you Ďseeí but ALL the senses. What you feel, hear, smell, taste and see. Maybe Iím splitting hairs here, but I think Hemingway himself would probably agree with me that Ďfeelí is rather important in that sentence. No, he doesnít say Ďtasteí etcetera but for me at least Ďfeelí seems to include those very physical senses, while Ďseeí implies ( to me ) a more intellectual approach, not only the literal Ďseeingí. ďDo you see what I mean?Ē

Love,

Sandra


~ 69 ~


January 2, 2009


Oh yeah, ďfeelĒ is definitely important. Hemingway would poot bricks. Also losing the deliberate repetition of ďwhat I seeĒ and ďwhat I feelĒ. The sentence loses a lot by losing that phrase, but I hoped the reader might assume that when a writer of Hemingwayís genius saw something, he felt. Thus I thought it was implied to an extent.

Plus it was just fun to take words out of the guy who is always whining about how short everything has to be. I was introducing a sense of irony into the statement. Also, I bet there are twenty Hemingway quotes in the Extracto, and that was the only one I torched, other than maybe punctuation on a few.

Sometimes in art one has to be deliberately bad. This was one of those times.

Are you ready to start our stories? I think the first person should come up with a title, even if itís only Untitled Story #1 or something. Otherwise with our format the reader may not be able to tell when they start and end.

What do you think?

Love,

Tom


~ 70 ~


January 3, 2009


Tom

Ok, letís start, Yes to a title, and I wait with bated breath for your first installment. Even if only the title, ok?

Love,

Sandra


~ 71 ~


Smilodon by Charles R. Knight


The First Story of All Time

The sabre-tooth waited. It smelled something. Crouched against a rock under a tree, it waited. The path of the two-leggeds lay below.

Wind growled amongst the rocks and purred through the trees, licked the big catís coarse tawny fur. The late sun turned rocks red, sky white. Time took on that tiger-glow, the hunt-slow, when everything heightens. Twitch. Ears. Is that a sound? Eyes glowing, he waits.


~ 72 ~


The two-legged male hunches over his mate. She groans, holding her swollen stomach with both hands. She twists to one side, and then the other, grinding her body into the earth, one leg kicking. The male rests a hand on her hip but she flips it off angrily with a grunt. He stands, surveying the forest. He sees nothing. He turns to the mountain where their cave burrows deep into the rock. Itís too far away. Sheíll have to birth here.


~ 73 ~


Done waiting, the big cat slouches down the side of the ravine down toward the path. His quarry has stopped, the scent becoming no stronger, sound no nearer. It had begun to essay in and out with the wind. He hears two-leggeds making their sounds down the valley, and discerns a sense of weakness or wound.

Then he knows. That scent, a birthing. His ears prick up and a low growl comes from his throat. This could be an easy hunt.


~ 74 ~


He creeps slowly towards a movement on the path, his breathing imperceptible, his heart rate a silent thud. The scent of blood and two-legged sweat is almost overpowering. The catís muscles tremble with anticipation, his mouth fills with saliva. The two-leggeds do not notice him.

He is about to leap when a great shadow falls upon them, and the air is filled with the brr-brr of something unholy dropping from the skies. The woman screams, her eyes fixed on the grey mass lowering itself slowly onto the earth beside them, a myriad of red and green eyes flashing as it comes to a silent stop.


UFO


~ 75 ~


ďThe earthing with big teeth is about to eat the other earthlings. Should I stop it?Ē

ďYes.Ē

Zzzzzzt

ďThe hungry earthling has been nullified.Ē

ďYes. Await the female to finish birthing, then bring me the newborn.Ē


~ 76 ~


ďThink I nullified the wrong earthling.Ē

ďYou stupid Xotach! How many times have I to demonstrate the new equipment to you? Thatís the seventh mistake this trip.Ē

ďIt wasnít me who made the first mistake it was....Ē

Zzzzzzt

ďWas that wise O great one? #3542211X was the only one who knew the return-to-planet code. Now we are stuck here in this horrible place.Ē


~ 77 ~


ďDo not engage your worry module, #3542211Z. I have the code.Ē

And so the aliens from planet Lil took the human newborn from its father, who had fled, and its dead mother, on whose smoking remains the sabretooth still feasted, and returned home. They altered the male infantís genetics so that its rudimentary vocal chords developed and specialized. They taught it speech, and vocal communication with others at a deeper level than any of the rude grunts his father and mother had used with one another.

caveman in space

Then, after many Lil-years, the young man who had been taken from his planet asked his teacher, ď#3542211A, do you think I will ever be able to go home?Ē


~ 78 ~


#3542211A was deeply torn. He knew that the young manís assigned task was to return to his home planet and build pyramids. But #3542211A had developed a fondess for his charge that was quite unusual for a #3542211A/Z series unit. Such feelings were only the prerogative of the #1978884b/q units, and they had all been phased out when they developed such charged attractions for each other they blew up.

ďYou still have a few more tasks to complete before you may return to your birth planet,Ē #3542211A said to Charlie, his pet name for the young man, while he desperately tried to think of a way to hide his plans from O great one.


~ 79 ~


Then they woke up.


~ 80 ~


Reality Alert


February 20, 2009


Dear Tom,

Well, itís that time, isnít it? Itís been a ball. What I learned from our three writing games is that the longer I stick with something the Ďdeeperí it goes in. So although we never really finished our Lily and Wode escapades, I feel they are both very much part of my life and I could easily climb right back inside again. It is as if they both actually live, somewhere... somehow... and are carrying on with their lives without us!

The other thing that is so wonderful about these writer exercises is having something to Ďrespondí to. One of the hardest aspects of being a writer is only having oneself to bump up against, to produce ideas, to come up with inspiration. But, if you are working with another writer, there is always what they write, coming at you. Itís not always easy, as we found out, but it does work.

Iím looking forward to see what else you do here!

Love,

Sandra


~ 81 ~


February 20, 2009


My Very Dear Sandra,

Wow. What a journey. Thanks so much for taking it with me.

Not sure if we made anything worth reading, but it sure was fun writing, and very much worth writing, if only for the experience of letting oneís imagination hop onto somebody elseís train. We had a wreck now and then but imaginary wrecks ainít so bad. All dust under our pumping wheels now, as we puff off into the horizon in different directions.

It sure was a great way to stretch my underutilized plotting muscles, trying to figure out ways to avoid imminent story collapse. Like trying to herd cats with a cat. ĎGit along little cattie!í

Man...now Iím starting to have bad memories. Ha, yep, there were some puzzling times, but we worked through it and everything is ending up peachy. We have a new entry in the weird sweepstakes, who will introduce herself, or not, in the next letter. She has a great precursor, in you, Sandra, my mentor and savior in many ways.

Always my love & gratitude,

Tom



THE END

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