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Deal 1039: Interlude

Tired after the day spent sparring in the gym, Sydney had little choice but to drop into a deep sleep.

chaotic dreamlands
sleep prince relax digest learn
wander aimlessly

The magic sword shows potential, but its wielder is lacking in form, strength, knowledge, and strategy. This would be pathetic if the sword weren’t also his only surviving link to his home.

shiny sharp slicer
sincere survival symbol 
swish slash so touché

Sydney has much to stew about. Strangers are beginning to arrive at Gwen’s cavern, ostensibly to see Gwen, but clearly with an ulterior motive. So far, all have been on Gwen’s side, to the extent that she has a side. But she keeps reminding Sydney that her side is at heart a weak alliance. One that could break apart at the seams if the wrong things are dropped into conversation.

metropolis lost
cats rule all, no harm
kitties all staring

His sleep is deep but fitful. He won’t awake rested this time.

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Deal 1016: A Surreal Visit

“We begin our tour today in the postmodern surrealist collection with a study of frogs. The pedestal here supports nothing, but is held together by a series of fancy knotted closures up the face. The artist notes that the emptiness atop the pedestal reflect the immediate departure of the frog. If you look closely, you can see its froggy footprints in the dust. Of course, there is no dust because the museum is kept scrupulously clean.”

The class dutifully takes turns to peer at the empty pedestal. I doubt that many of them recognize the significance of the knots. It is probably just as well.

“A favorite pieces is La Grenouille par l’Avion, a frog that has been flattened into a postcard and was delivered to the museum as you see it here today. Note the stamp features a fancy game hen, a breed well known for hunting and eating this particular variety of frog. Both predator and prey, flattened, and glued together. Now hanging as inseparable companions.”

The class looks slightly disturbed, but then curiosity wins out. They have to stare at the very flat frog, addressed in ink on its pale green belly skin.

In the distance, a phone rings. I take a moment to verify that it isn’t my group that has committed this sin. The ringing cuts off abruptly, as if a heavy weight has enforced the purity of the museum experience by removing the offender. Exactly as you would imagine that to sound, as that is exactly what has happened. Visitors are warned at the door, and second chances are given, but only after they survive the first removal.

There is a sudden bout of covert rustling as my group swiftly checks to make sure all of their phones really are turned off.

I keep my face set firmly in the proper museum docent’s mask. It wouldn’t do to start chortling and give the game up. But the sign on the door combined with that clever device which projects sounds right into the visitor’s head has become a most effective tool. Sure, the effect wears off in a while, but a skilled docent can run the tour all the way through before they realize that if we were actually killing our visitors, there might be some repercussions. Even a news story or two.

“As we continue, this alcove provides an opportunity to observe a rare example of a hobo caught napping. You will note first that he is, well, a he. The few examples we know of women riding the rails all assumed male identities. It could be a product of their time. It may also have been that rail cars were not hospitable places at the best of times, and the long skirts and petticoats that were obligatory for women would have been far too dangerous to wear. You will note also that there is a frog perched on the brim of his hat. If asked about it, he would invariably have denied it. If you asked the frog its opinion, you would likely be accepted by the other hobos. A prime tenet among those riding the rails was to never question another man’s sanity.”

About this point in the tour is when visitors usually notice that there are no exit doors. The really observant have also noticed that the door through which they entered is missing. This is a gallery of the surreal, after all. We wouldn’t want them to get too complacent. This group is reasonably observant, so the quiet muttering and peering around has begun. Finally, someone catches sight of the teddy bear on a plinth in another shallow alcove holding a sign that says “Exit”. The muttering continues, with occasional glances my way. But I’m once again frozen behind my mask, waiting for the right words to proceed.

It might be a long wait.

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Deal 1004: Waiting

I’m passing time writing by candlelight in the depths of my cave. The tiny flame casts constantly moving shadows on the walls around me. They catch my attention and distract from the work I am trying to do.

I’d write in the daylight, but I have limited time in this place. I must achieve my goals and move on. Each time I reach this point I feel like I’ve done this before, but I must emerge eventually back into the light of day and rejoin the world. Until then, I sit in the darkness and write, pen scratching as it threads its way across the pages. 

It is a long and slow wait. In the distance I hear water dripping. I can count my heartbeats between drips. I can count the drips. I can hear that tangible evidence of time passing. And yet, I am stuck in this pool of flickering light and the perception that all time is stopped outside its reach.

I hear the occasional noise that reminds me that my primary defense here is the difficulty of finding this cave. Surely it has served other creatures as a refuge, but when I entered it aeons ago or just recently there was no recent sign. 

The reach of the light remains limited to just more than an armspan. Aside from the pen and a penkife I have little defense other than my fingernails. Those won’t serve me. Next time I find myself in this cage, I should plan to be better prepared.

But there aren’t that many that can find this cave in the first place, and fewer who can enter it. Those, such as I, are rare birds indeed. Spending some time in a gilded cage would seem fitting.

So I return to my notes on the study of the human condition, and wait for the time to be right to emerge and conduct another round of observation and interaction. Only time will tell where and when that will be. Time and the cave, but neither is speaking to me at the moment.

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Deal 991: Frog’s legs and tea

Let me introduce myself. I act as if I’m a prince among men, but I’ve always carried a secret shame. For I was once a prince among frogs.

Not in a wheel of karma and past lives sense. No, I literally was born a frog.

As a tad, I had little on my mind, other than survival. Life is brutal and short for most tadpoles. But I was one of the lucky few who survived to have legs. And I used those legs to escape that stagnant pond. For some time I moved from shelter to shelter, always aware of the risk of being eaten by some predator swooping down on me from above, or sneaking up on me from the shadows.

Then one day I was snatched from above, and my world changed.

I had a species change.

It might have been done with open eyes, it is difficult to be sure. I do know that I have difficulty recalling the time before I became a man. I’m not really even sure how old I was, but I must have lived several years as a tadpole and frog, as my transformation to human gave me the appearance of a young adult not a child.

That early time after the change is also just a blurry memory today. Aside from the fact that it was at least a score of years ago, it took some time for my mind to catch up with the change in my body. Surely, I was transformed from frog to man in one event. But that newly enlarged brain took some time to develop a full sense of self as a man.

Some of my earliest memories of that time include a helpful but shadowy figure, who I assume was involved in my change. From clues I have stumbled over since, I suspect she was a notorious crone of the hills, and that she passed away sometime after turning me loose upon the world to make my fortune. But she neglected to (or perhaps deliberately prevented) allow me many memories of my time with her. I don’t even know her name.

I fear I am merely a pawn in some game being played by the Fates, or among hedge witches.

While I think I have been wandering aimlessly, I may well be guided by unseen forces to put me in the path of a suitable princess. Although I may never know why this path was chosen.

So I find myself here today, at the festival before a castle.

And dare I notice that a princess is even now making her way toward me?

I think I ought to put on the tea.