Image

Deal 1071: Walk a Line

Popularity is fickle. The line between popular success and failure can sometimes be so thin as to barely exist at all. Sometimes all that is required is to be seen in the right light.

But beware.

For pop failure can be just as fickle. Earning success on your merits, no matter how great, can be reversed entirely by the fickle hand of popularity over something as meaningless as the color of the coat you wore last year.

And so the much more difficult line to walk is to balance the instant success against the instant failure, and find the happy middle ground. You miss out on the wild mobs of adoring fans. You also miss out on the inevitable fall.

Image

Deal 1050: Poof

In search of fish, indeed. Well that turned out to be something of a wild goose chase. We even found a wild goose. She didn’t know anything helpful, and declined to come along, possibly out of fear that she might end up gracing our dining table. I have to admit that fear might not have been without grounds.

I know things happened the rest of the afternoon. I have the sunburn, scratches, aches, and pains to confirm it. But I don’t know what happened. And that worries me more than a little. The faint smell of perfume worries me even more. Also, we were found tied up and to each other around the base of a tree. That isn’t the kind of thing that happens normally without remembering it.

Gwen seems even more disturbed than I am. I suspect it takes strong magic to mess with a dragon, the old stories all claim that dragons are almost immune to magical attacks. Waking up to find you are literally tied up in evidence of such an attack has to be rather disorienting. Then there’s the fact that she seems to believe she has failed in her duty to protect me. It is true that she did not protect either of us. But I’m not entirely convinced that she should take the blame alone. After all, I bear an apparently powerful magical tool and did not protect us either.

Regardless of assigning the blame, nearly seven hours are completely unaccounted for, vanished into a void.

I can assure Gwen that nothing untoward happened, but the very need for that assurance is untoward. Unexpected even. And worrying.

And Dragons like to worry.

I think the event has suggested to her that we are on the wrong path as well.

My worry is that the chicken will cross us, cross the path, and get in the way of the cat. The cat who has yet to offer me a name, or any reason at all to trust him. The cat that acts like Gwen is his pet dragon. He’s been along on this ride too, and he’s not saying whether whatever happened happened to him too. Cats being 99% dignity, after all. Admitting it did happen would be nearly as hard on him as answering the question.

Cats.

Image

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.

Image

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.