Image

Deal 1036: Awaken awake wake ake a

Despite the narrative complexity, Sydney was resting rather comfortably. He was getting enough dreaming done to last him a month.

seven worried thoughts
calm costumed clumsy chicken
left alone to dream

But he had the nagging feeling that waking would be wise before he got too comfortable. Lacking formal training in walking among the dreamlands, he had to improvise. He needed a way to disrupt the calm, but not so much that it would cause him trouble later.

Then it hit him. The perfect solution.

He imagined he’d find it just behind the next tree. Concentrating, he moved cautiously around the large trunk under the branches laden with fragrant apple blossoms.

And there it was.

A magnificent rooster, sound asleep in a sunbeam.

He snuck up on the rooster, and picked it up. To his surprise, it just snorted a little in its sleep, and ignored him as he carried it off.

Back at his campsite, he set the rooster down near his sleeping form.

Then he prodded it awake, hoping it would crow loudly in surprise.

“Arwwk?” it grumbled. “Why am I under the wrong tree?”

Sydney stepped back. The rooster was talking. “I’m sorry. I was hoping you would be startled enough to wake me from several layers of dream.”

“I suppose. What is in it for me?”

“Satisfaction? I don’t really have anything to offer you, other than this pocket I suddenly notice is full of corn.”

“One pocket of well dreamt corn sounds fair enough. You can leave the corn here. One never knows for sure which of you will wake up or what will happen next. I imagine I’ll enjoy my snack and return to my slumber, though.”

“Certainly.” Sydney emptied his pockets of corn, and even found a pocket full or worms. The dreamlands are an uncertain place, and not for the squeamish.

The rooster nodded in satisfaction, then stretched himself out, ruffled his magnificent plumage, and took a deep breath.

“squrrk”

It was just about the quietest noise Sydney had ever heard come out of a rooster that large. The rooster looked chagrined, shook himself, and tried again.

“COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!”

This time the noise shook the trees, the ground, and the very sky.

Sydney felt a lurch as his point of view suddenly snapped to his sleeping form. Then it lurched again. And again.

In time, he settled down and found the orchard looking much like it had when he had settled down to rest after tea with Gwen. Looking around, the formal garden was a few hundred feet away, with its roses in neat rows and the little table groaning under a breakfast spread. There was no sign of the rooster other than a faint echo and one large tailfeather falling slowly to the ground.

Sydney pocketed the feather and wandered back into the garden to see what had become of Gwen.

Image

Deal 1017: Hitchhiker’s log excerpt

Day 1017, probably

That infernal beeping has started again. Somewhere in this house, a smoke alarm or something like it wants feeding. But the damn thing just goes “peep” once every five to ten minutes. It’s just enough noise to tell you something is wrong, but not enough noise to let you locate the origin of the sound, and spaced too far apart for anyone to remain attentive and hear a second alert with enough presence of mind to find it. It is going to either drive me insane, or run its battery out completely and go silent forever.

I’m hoping for the latter, and betting in the former.

Either way, I’ve added a note to the growing report that whoever finds me may or may not bother to read. The very report that you might be reading right now. If “you” exist, that is.

If I stop believing that “you” exist, then I will be sufficiently free of sanity to believe anything at all in short order.

So I choose to believe that updating this note is worth my time and effort.

It has to be.

Or I’ve wasted so much time.

I say this is day 1017, but I’m not absolutely certain of that. I don’t have an easy way to tell the passage of time, so I’ve been counting days as times between sleeps. My clocks never worked well, and as you would expect given where I’m sitting, I don’t really have windows or a view that tells me much at all.

I’ve tried asking the bear if he knows what time it is, but he is concentrating on the problem of getting us out of here, and doesn’t answer.

The chickens aren’t any help, either. They just sit around and mutter to themselves most of the time. Occasionally one lays me some breakfast. Of course, the chickens have become fiercely protective, and I usually have to go in disguise to collect eggs without suffering from another beating at the talons of their rooster.

I can tell I’m slowly going mad no matter what else I do. I play chess, but HAL keeps beating me. I watch old flat movies, but I’ve forgotten so much from before, that too many of them make no sense. It is becoming difficult to tell fact from fiction. Did some joker back home name my computer HAL on purpose? Should that worry me? What aren’t they telling me?

Am I sounding paranoid again? Probably time to go check the chickens for breakfast.

I’m pretty sure that when I’m sleeping, HAL or one of his unnamed friends taps my thoughts and rewrites my dreams. I don’t know why they do this. But I’m increasingly sure they do.

So I try not to think about it.

I try to remain sane.

I try to not care so much about where I am going, or what will happen when I get there.

I have my bindle, I’m aboard my car, and there’s little I can do until the ride stops rolling.

Until then, I can talk to the bear, play chess with HAL, watch a movie, or chase another chicken.

Or sleep.

And watch my sanity leach away into the darkness.

Image

Deal 1005: Stewed Birds and Open Fire

You always want to begin with a clean workspace and a stable source of heat. If burning wood, you will need a heavy cast iron pot to spread the heat from the fire to all sides, and hold it hot as the fire burns down. You won’t need to put the pot directly in the fire, balanced at one edge is often preferred because it can be turned occasionally, or moved closer and further as wood is added and consumed.

If potatoes are handy, tuck a few at the edge of the fire, in the ashes so they don’t burn. Turn occasionally and let them roast for a while before adding them to the pot near the end.

Butter and herbs will form the base. Other fats may be used, of course. Use what is at hand as long as it isn’t rancid. Rub the bird in salt and pepper too, and brown it in the hot fat before adding anything else. If the goal is a stew and time is not on your side, you can always break the bird down into pieces that will cook quicker and render more flavor into the broth.

Of course you can even spatchcock it if you’re feeling fancy. No one really enjoys picking around the backbone anyway.

Chop a few roots, rinse ashes off your potatoes and break them into chunks, and add to the pot along with more salt and pepper and some water. If some beer is at hand that won’t be missed immediately, add it in place of half the water or so. It will cook down and make a richer broth.

If you have time to simmer them until cooked, you can always drop chunks of biscuit dough into the top of the pot. Little fluffy bombs of bread will steam in the broth in no time at all.

To serve, all you need is enough large bowls and an appetite.

More of that beer you raided for the broth would probably go well too.