Treacle and Ink

May 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 4:51 pm

The phone woke me at midday today. I was deep in a dream, surfacing through layers of sleep to the insistent ringing. I reached out my hand and picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”
“Hello darling!” It was the voice of my editor, Charlie. Seems like half a lifetime since I last spoke to her.
“Oh,” I said, “hi.”
“Darling,” she said, “I’ve just seen finished copies. They’re magnificent. You should be very proud of your clever self!”
“I, um”. If a question mark could be pronounced, it would be the sound I made.
“Second novels are so hard, sweetie. And this is such a cracker. You’ve done wonderfully well!”
“Charlie,” I said, hoisting myself up in bed, “what are you talking about?”
“Your book, darling, your wonderful book! I’m putting copies on a bike to you now, and you can see for yourself!”

I didn’t question anymore. Something had happened but it didn’t seem to be imminently threatening to either my body or my mind, so I drifted back to sleep again, only to be woken when the motorbike courier arrived at my door.

Apparently, I’ve written my second novel. At least, according to Penguin I have.

http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780141885025,00.html

And in the front of the copy I’d been sent, written in a hand that looked very familiar to me, were the following lines:

“In a wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream–
Lingering in the golden gleam–
Life, what is it but a dream?”

I think it must be the final gift from Thomas and Hattie. They’ve written themselves into a book, and made a place to live in it. I hope they’re happy there – by the sound of the book, they are.

Like Dr Doom, they seem to be becoming more fictional by the moment. When I went outside to stand in the sun I noticed that the sign above the door has changed. The bookshop’s called Marsh-Ayre and Klein Books now. I think it’s mine. Although I find I have a lot of ideas for novels bubbling up inside me. More than I’ve ever had before. It’s like a dam has broken in me, and all the ideas are flowing. So if the shop’s really mine, I might leave Jacques to run it while I get on with writing. And Dorcas seems like the perfect person to run the antiques shop.

I went to see Hattie in the hospital again this afternoon. Or at least, I tried to. When I arrived at the ward I’d found her on before, she wasn’t there. I asked one of the nurses for help.
“I’m looking for a red-haired woman? Hattie Loon? She was in a coma?”
The nurse looked surprised. She laughed.
“Red-haired woman in a coma? But that’s just a story some of the nurses tell!”
I thought for a moment.
“How does the story end,” I said, “when they tell it?”
“She wakes up,” said the nurse. “The red-haired woman wakes up when her lover realises that he’s in love with her. That was all she was waiting for. And they go and live together far away. But it’s just a story.”
“Yes,” I said, “just a story. Sorry to trouble you.”

When I got back to the shop, I checked. The store-room boxes are already labelled Muse Antiques.

But, we won’t forget them, Jacques, Dorcas and I. And we won’t forget the help you gave us. I’d like to send gifts to all of you who helped so much, but I don’t think we really can, so I have a final favour to ask of all of you. Would you email me, at marshayrebooks@gmail.com (for some reason, that address still works) and nominate someone (not yourself!) who you think has really done sterling work on solving these mysteries and puzzles and deserves a prize? I’ve got a couple of little things that I’d like to send to deserving people, and you’ve all worked so collaboratively on this that I can’t possibly make this decision myself.

By the way, I know some of you are worried about the second mirror, in the British Museum. But I think we can trust them to take care of their own exhibits. I think it’s really over.

Now, the sun is shining, and Jacques and Bella and Dorcas and I are going to go for a walk. And if we happen to take with us a bag of broken black stone shards that we’ve smashed to powder with a hammer, and if we should happen to empty that bag into the river, who’s to know? We had a strange and wonderful adventure together, but now it’s over and we can just relax and enjoy the happy summer days.

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May 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 10:45 am

Today’s the day! Many thanks to Melinda Seckington, who emailed me with the “true names” of the Doctors: Xblanque and Hunahpu, which you found in a copy of The Mirror of Ink at 80 The Strand.

So, the plan is this. I’m going alone. We had a long conversation about this, in which Jacques tried to be all gallant and insist that “a lady cannot go alone into such danger”. But I did point out to him that, much as I hope to be able to sneak around, the likelihood is that I will meet this Dr Dee, and if I took Jacques with me, he’d instantly recognise him, and so probably be alerted to what we were up to. And Dorcas clearly can’t come – if she falls asleep in the heat of battle she’s not going to be much use to anyone.

However, Jacques’ girlfriend Bella turns out to be some kind of tech whizz. She’s set us up with a “liveblog”, which will pick up and transcribe what I say into my mobile phone, and will relay texts back from Jacques and Dorcas at the bookshop. That way, they’ll be able to give me advice and, more importantly, you will all be able to watch and help too. You’ve been so brilliant at finding solutions for these problems, I’m sure you’ll be invaluable in this final stage.

You can participate in the liveblog here: http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php?option=com_altcaster&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=e8b78cbab5

As for the rest of the plan, it’s very simple. I’m going to break into Dr Dee’s office at 8pm tonight. Jacques has been there. He says there’s a small outer office where the receptionist sits – she’s not likely to be there at 8pm. Then behind that there’s a plush-looking office where Jacques has met and spoken to Dr Dee. But behind that, Jacques once spotted “when I was selling him ze book, ze Christolina Minaret” a secret third room, door hidden behind a screen. He says he glimpsed odd things in there “bottles of ze strange liquids, some cage made of wire on ze floor…” so we think that’s where he’ll be tonight.

It’s up to me to get in there somehow. And then, when I’m in, we’re going to signal to Thomas and Hattie to jump out of the mirror! Hopefully they’ll surprise Dr Dee long enough for us to get the mirror away from him, perform the ritual Dorcas has taught me and break the blasted thing forever. And then… well, then hopefully we can all get on with our lives.

So, are you with me?

May 6, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 12:21 pm

Wow, thank you all for your help with that cryptic note. Thanks to Thomas Sissons in particular, who was the first to email me  to say that the correct answer to the clue was “The Mirror of Ink”, which is apparently the book we’re looking for.

Now, I’ve been through Marsh-Ayre’s filing and stock-taking system. I say “system”, I really mean “big box of notes on blue paper which might perhaps make sense if they’re all put together.” Honestly, I don’t know how this man manages to do his taxes.

I’ve found some notes stapled together that mention The Mirror of Ink.  They relate to five books that were sent out to five different customers recently. From this bundle of confusion, can you work out where the Mirror of Ink’s been sent and go there to retrieve it? You can ignore the other four books – they didn’t come from same box as the mirror, the tarot cards, and the other bits and pieces that Hattie bought at the same time, so they’re definitely not relevant. When you’ve worked out where The Mirror of Ink is, all I can suggest is that you head there as quickly as possible and see if you can find some names hidden in the book.

Thanks so much for all your help. We’re still working hard here – Dorcas thinks she has a way to destroy the mirror (or, as she keeps on saying “de-story” it), so all we need are those names and then we’re set for Thursday!

Here are the notes:

Michelle at no. 96 wasn’t interested in Stories of Your Life and Others and I couldn’t give her Art of Love as that had gone to Charing Cross Road already.

Jacques, girl from Euston Rd will be by to pick up that copy of The Bridge whilst I’m out. TM-A

Muddled two addresses while sending 0-765-30418-X to the Great Russell Street shop; thought that it was at number 80 for a minute!! Must remember also that it’s Mark at no. 113 not Simon.

Remember to call girl at The Strand.

Sent Umberto Eco book to charity shop on Marylebone High Street.

Ginger chap from 46 Great Russell Street called saying he doesn’t want The Bridge but definitely will be taking 0-765-30418-X, 0-375-76117-9 or 0-15-144647-4. He will call back to confirm before the end of the week.

Sent Sadie 0-141-02213-2 instead of 0-333-41285-0 in the end.

Rachel at no.13 called to say she had found a copy of Mirror of Ink elsewhere and no longer wanted this one.

May 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 4:54 pm

Today’s update is going to have to be short, I’m afraid – we’re all working so hard here.

I’ve been pumping Jacques for all the information he can give me about this Doctor he sold the mirror to. He’s very apologetic, now he knows how important it was to me.  He knows that the Doctor’s offices are somewhere off Harley Street. The plan is for me to go there and get the mirror back, and then for us to destroy it (Dorcas is working on how exactly to do that – she thinks she knows, but we have to get Thomas and Hattie out first).

The problem, of course, is how to make sure that the two Doctors don’t just use their scary powers to stop me taking the mirror. Now that Thomas has his full set of cards, he has some power too, and has been able to get some information for us too. He sent me an email! He and Hattie are able to communicate much more easily with us now. He says that Dr Dee and Dr Doom are working towards a date and time – 8pm on the 8th of May, a time at which, apparently, Dr Dee’s powers are especially strong. (Apparently that was a day when he did a lot of his prognosticating?). Although his powers are strong, he’s likely to be distracted then, so it’s then we plan to strike.

But, to defeat them, we’re sure we’re going to need their “real names”, as the Caterpillar mentioned. I know you’ve emailed me already to say that they’re “Tweedledee” and “Tweedledum” but knowing those names hasn’t given us any special power over them so I don’t think that can be right. I’ve been searching through the boxes of books that Hattie bought at the same time she bought the mirror – that was where they found the instructions for the game of tarot.  But… many of those books have already been sent out in mail orders! As far as I can tell, they’ve only been sent to London, but I may have to ask you to do some running-around at the start of next week, when we’ve worked out if the information we need has been sent out, and where it’s gone.

So far, though, all I’ve found that looks relevant is this crumpled note, tucked among the packing. Can you make anything of it?

Re: real names for the brothers. Have hidden them in a book.

Need my own faithful representation of Coprinus’ hat.

Got garbled OK from inheritor; nothing missing.

3,6,2,3

April 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 5:02 pm

Jacques was remarkably curious yesterday after my attempt to smash the mirror. I probably should have answered his questions more fully but I was too angry and disturbed.
“But,” he said, “what ‘appened?”
He’d been crouching down at the crucial moment, had seen me swing the hammer but hadn’t seen it go through the mirror.
I quickly flicked the mirror face-down on the dresser.
“I missed,” I said.
He blinked at me.
“But, where is ze ‘ammer?”
“I… maybe it went out of the window?”
He looked at the windows, all tightly shut and clearly not shattered, then looked back at me and raised an eyebrow.
“I do not think so, n’est pas?”
I frowned, feigning ignorance myself.
“Hmmm,” I said, “yes, I must have hurled it into that pile over there.”
I pointed at a pile of junk – rolled up bedspreads, chairs, boxes of old pictures and books – stacked up in one corner of the room. It’s sufficiently muddled that anything could be lurking in there, but Jacques still looked uncertain.
“I did not ‘ear it fall…”
“Ah… probably all that loud music you listen to Jacques.”
I hurriedly covered over the mirror with a cloth and put it into a drawer of the dresser.

“But,” he said, as I was ushering him out of the store-room, “why zis sudden passion? Why do you wish to destroy zis mirror?”
“I just don’t like it, alright? My mother always said black mirrors were bad luck. But, I suppose I can’t just go around destroying Hattie’s possessions willy-nilly.”
“Hmmm,” said Jacques.
Eventually, I distracted him with a Spotted Dick, and he was so delighted with “your English ridiculous names” that he forgot all about it. At least, he seemed to.

I slept late this morning. Really late. Like, into the afternoon. I’ve been doing that more and more lately, but at least it was proper sleep not the drugged-dream kind.

When I got up, and after I finished writing my post for you, I found that Jacques had opened up the shop and had been serving customers.
Bless him, I thought, he’s a good sort really.
“Bon après-midi Alice!” he said as I stumbled downstairs.
Hmm, I thought, he’s uncharacteristically cheerful.
“Would you like some tea, Alice?” he asked.
Ah, I thought, Bella has clearly been treating him well.
“No thank you Jacques,” I said.
“I ‘ave some wonderful news for you, Alice,” he said.
I stopped and looked at him. Was the tube back? Was it right again?
“I ‘ave made you much money, and solved your problem, all with one stroke!”
My stomach turned over.
“What have you done, Jacques?” I said, trying to keep my voice calm.
He pulled from under the desk a large brown envelope and poured out several neat bundles of £50 notes, grinning.
“’zis is just your half. I mean, your 75%.”
“What have you done, Jacques?” I said.
His smile faltered just a little as he noticed that I wasn’t smiling at all.
“I ‘ave got rid of ze bad luck,” he said. “I ‘ave sold ze mirror.”
“Who to, Jacques?”
“To… a customer of mine.” He was still trying to smile. “He is called ‘The Doctor’.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 2:12 pm

Oh god. Oh hell. Oh, just oh.

I went down to the tube station yesterday afternoon. And it was different. Everything was different. I don’t understand. It wasn’t my usual haven. There was no marble. No murals. No painted ceilings. It was dirty, and smelly, and disgusting. I thought I’d come to the wrong place in my confusion. But no, the London Underground sign was there.

I went down to the platforms, ignoring for the moment that the machine seemed to have taken more than the usual 50p from my travel-pass. Where are the polished-wood handrails on the escalators? And why did it take six minutes for the train to come? Why didn’t it come every minute, on the minute?

Eventually, my train arrived. It was horrible! Crammed full, so filthy I thought I’d get a disease just by stepping onboard. Where are the brass and chrome fittings? The stewards? The noise-dampening head-rests? It’s pretty chilly today, but the individual seat-warmers didn’t seem to be working. Can it be that the tube doesn’t have individual seat-warmers anymore? That’d be like taking away the air-conditioning!

Can the whole tube be like this? Is the world-famous Mornington Crescent Art Gallery and Jazz bar still there? Do we even still have Mornington Crescent the game? If it’s all like this, how can you “win” anything by going to Mornington Crescent?

It’s clear what’s happened. Dr Doom has made his threat real. He’s taken away something that I loved, made it fictional. And if he can do this to the tube, there’s probably no reason he couldn’t do it to anything else. Do any of you even remember the tube the way I do?

When I came back to the shop, Jacques was here. Apparently he’d dropped by while I was out in one of my trances, and now he “has ze concern about you, Alice. You are not well, eh?” I asked him about the tube, but he didn’t seem to understand.
“But no,” he said, “ze tube, it is a disaster well-known. Now, ze Metro of Paris…”
In a daze, I went upstairs to ask Dorcas.
“No,” she said, “my dear I fear this must be another of your waking-dreams.”
“No!” I said, “I know it’s not, I know it used to be different! We have to…” I was raging now, “we have to get rid of that mirror! Now!”

I ran to the kitchen drawer where I’d stowed Dorcas’ hammer, then came back brandishing it.
“Alice! Alice!” she said “we can’t do that, not before we’ve saved…”
“I don’t care! You brought this hammer with you to use, didn’t you? I’m going to use it!”
I ran to the store-room, Dorcas shouting at me to stop, and Jacques following along bemused.
I wrenched open the door. Dorcas tugged at my hand and then, suddenly, fell limp to the floor, snoring. Of course, narcolepsy.
I ran into the store-room, to the cupboard where Dorcas has kept the mirror locked up. I smashed the lock with one hammer blow, and there was the mirror. I don’t know if it’s me but it seems to have got shinier lately, more reflective and glassy. More like a window than a mirror.
Taking care not to look directly at it, I picked it up. I covered my hand with the sleeve of my jumper in case I cut myself on the mirror again, and propped it up on an antique desk.
Stepping back, I swung the hammer wildly – Jacques had to duck out of the way, and then hurled it straight at the mirror.
And it hit. And the surface of the mirror shimmered. And then, I could see, in the reflection of the room, the hammer lying on the reflected floor. The hammer had gone through the mirror. And I don’t know how it can ever be destroyed.

April 29, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 5:03 pm

It’s me, Alice. I’m back. Every time, it gets a bit harder to return. Every time, like waking up from a deep, dark sleep, with leaden eyes and stiff, sore limbs. This time, I woke up with my feet on the pillow and my head at the end of the bed, although Dorcas swears she put me to bed right side up. I wonder how much longer it’ll be before something I really need is turned inside-out, or upside-down. Like, my lungs.

Every time I come back I feel a bit more detached from the real world. The things that happen in the mirror seem to be so much more alive, and true. I remember it very distinctly now. I think I met Marsh-Ayre! He’s younger than I thought, or maybe that’s just his mirror-self. Military bearing, neatly-trimmed beard, old-fashioned manners. I handed him the Temperance card and he stuck it into his sleeve. We were in a library – that place he said he likes to come and think.
“Don’t let on I’m cheating, alright old girl?” he said. “Needs must when Old Nick drives, and all that.”
“What are you going to do?” I said.
“Not sure old girl, not sure. This card must mean something, but dashed if I know what to do about it.”
“I’m not…” I said – it was already hard to remember who I was.
Marsh-Ayre put a kindly arm around my shoulders.
“Quick,” he said, “back the way you came, before the enemy finds you.”

But it was too late. Just thinking about the enemy, the masked Dr Doom, seemed to have brought him closer. I wasn’t in a library anymore, I was in a dungeon. Manacles and metal implements dangled from the wall. It was gloomy but I thought I could see men moving at the back. One was so familiar to me, the way he moved, his wooden leg, his… it was Maltravers. My own creation. He seemed to be pouring something – could it be blood? – into one pan of a set of scales. Doom grabbed me and pulled my arm up behind my back.
“Little Alice,” he said, “who’s caused me so much trouble. Because of you I have had to rethink my plans.”
I wriggled, trying to get free.
“I hoped I wouldn’t have to take this card. It’s not, aheheh, my metier. But fairness of a sort is meted out in a torture chamber after all. I’ll get there in the end and then…”
He pulled my arm a little harder. It hurt. I thought to myself ‘this isn’t real, it’s a dream, it’s a story, it’s not real, it can’t hurt.”
As if I’d spoken out loud he said: “oh little Alice, stories aren’t just in books, not anymore. They’re everywhere. And the walls between stories and reality are getting thinner and thinner. You’d better not stand in our way, little Alice, or we’ll take everything you love and make it…” he paused. I could feel his foul breath on my neck. “Merely fictional.”
I struggled, but I couldn’t break free.
“In fact,” he said, “I will show you what I can do.”

I woke up screaming. He’s almost there. He’s coming out of the mirror for me and Marsh-Ayre is still stuck inside. We have to work out what Marsh-Ayre needs to do to get some kind of Path in the game of Tarot. He now has 47 points, and the Caterpillar-Oracle told him he needs to find the woman who’s most important to him. But he just seems totally bemused. Maybe if we try to communicate with him through stories, like you did before, that would work.

As for me, I’m going for a quick tube ride to calm down, to remind myself of what’s real. Only a few stops. I’ll be back soon.

April 28, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 8:52 pm

Good evening to you, Web Log Readers. It is I, Dorcas Muse. You may have gathered that Alice Klein is often indisposed at present, so it falls to me to keep you abreast of developments. Although I am far from au fait with modern technology, I am aware that you have all been of great assistance to both Ms Klein and myself in our quest.

I shall keep matters brief. After much debate and research in our books of magic, Ms Klein and I decided that the Temperance tarot card she had found in Henrietta Loon’s hand could mean only one thing; that this card had somehow to be passed through the mirror to Thomas Marsh-Ayre, enabling Mr Marsh-Ayre to “cheat” at the game.

I persuaded Ms Klein this evening – in the face of some trepidation on her part, I am bound to add – to perform a certain ritual, holding the card herself while looking into the mirror. Since we used the same eldritch pack of tarot cards Thomas himself used, I felt this method might have a chance of succeeding.

I believe we may have succeeded. Alice held the card up to the mirror, so that it was reflected into its face. She went into a trance for a few moments, and then woke herself quite naturally. I was very hopeful that the operation had been a complete triumph when I saw that the Temperance card she now held was a mirror-image of the card she’d been holding moments earlier. Clearly she had passed the card into the mirror.

But, as I was rejoicing, I noticed how pale her face was, how her veins stood out blue against her skin.
“I feel…” she said, “I feel peculiar. I must just…” she looked at me with weary eyes. “Don’t call the Doctor.”
She fell asleep onto the desk.

With some difficulty, I have put her to bed. I will watch over her. I hope that, as happened before, she will return to her senses after some hours. If not, we may have three people to rescue from this cursed mirror, not two.

April 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 5:02 pm

Can it really have been more than a week? I am sorry, I can see from your emails that you’ve been worried about me. I haven’t quite been here. Dorcas has been looking after me. She’s been kind. I sleep and sleep and when I dream sometimes I think I go to the mirror world. There’s a Doctor there who I think is going to help me, except that he turns out to be not what I thought. And he doesn’t help.

Dorcas says I’ve been asking her for the mirror; I don’t remember that, though.

I can tell you this: I can’t go on much longer. If we can’t find a way to break the mirror’s hold on me soon, very soon, then either I’ll have to move to Australia to get away from it, or I’ll be lost entirely. And Dorcas says she thinks it’s very unlikely that even going to Australia would solve the problem.

“You’re tied to it by blood, you see,” she said in her matter-of-fact way. She’s read my blog entries, she knows I cut myself on the mirror when I first found it. “You’re stronger than Hattie was, that’s why you can stop using it. But its hold on you is greater than it was on her because it’s tasted you.”
I don’t like that idea, of the mirror tasting me, licking at me, devouring me bite by bite. But I know she’s right.

I want to know what’s going to happen. Yesterday, despite many protests from Dorcas, I persuaded her to take me to see Hattie in her hospital bed.

“I just need to know what I’ll become,” I said.
Dorcas looked away. I was surprised to see tears in her fierce eyes.
“I don’t like to see her like that,” Dorcas said, “she was so vibrant, so full of energy. She and Thomas were always laughing and joking – they were like teenagers sometimes, running up and down the stairs, showing each other their new finds. I can’t bear looking at her now.”
I stared at her. In the back of my mind I saw the mirror, the way I always see it now, as if I could look into it just by turning my thoughts to it.
“Then wait outside,” I said. “I’m sorry, but I need to see what the end result of all this is. I need to know.”

The tube ride to the hospital calmed me down, as it always does. The tube is so peaceful, with the quiet carriages and the cool breeze. A taste of old-world luxury. I closed my eyes and lulled by the gentle clack clack clack, tried to think of nothing at all. I sometimes think that whatever else I lose, if I can still ride on the tube everything will be OK.

Dorcas waited at the entrance to the ward. I looked at the names on the cubicles. There she was, Hattie Loon.

Her red hair had clearly once been magnificent. But after months on a hospital bed it was thin and lifeless. Her face, with its sharp nose and strong mouth, looked intelligent to me. Her hands were balled into fists. A drip was attached to the vein in her left arm, the vein itself showing knotted and blue beneath the surface of her skin. She looked like she was fading away, like someone was erasing the coloured illustration of her, rubbing her out into her hospital bed.

This is how I’m going to end up, then. And not too long from now. I stood looking at her for several minutes, thinking.

She sighed in her sleep. It sounded like she muttered something – fierce, angry, incoherent. She frowned. She didn’t look peaceful; she looked furious, pained, aggrieved. I put my face close to hers. She muttered a few more words but I couldn’t catch them.

Then I noticed it, grasped in her right hand. A piece of card, folded over twice so I could just see the edge of it. Her hands were balled tightly but as I touched the fingers of her right hand a look came over her face: of recognition? Relief? The fingers opened.

I have the card in front of me. It’s Temperance. And on the back is  written, in handwriting I haven’t seen before: “love is better than power, and synergy than kingship”.

We’ve got to save her, and Thomas. I think I can see what I have to do.

April 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 7:16 pm

I almost didn’t make it. Really almost. I feel…. Different. This was so intense, the sensation of controlling the mirror, of journeying into it. I feel…

I held the image of a masked man in my mind, and the name ‘Dr Doom’, as Dorcas had instructed me. She held the mirror in front of me and it was like returning to an old friend. Or a lover. A familiar touch. I looked, and dissolved into the world at once.

It was different to before. I wasn’t open to the tides of story, I was looking. I thought of the masked man. A masked man with cards. And I was there.

He was riding in a carriage pulled by two horses. He was beating them, urging them on more and more fiercely. In his left hand he held the reins, and a set of cards. In his right, the whip. He lashed again and again. The horses screamed and ran. He drew blood along the flank of the black horse – it sprayed red and sticky and smelly and alive onto the white horse. He revelled in his mastery of the animals, shouting with delight. He drew blood again and again. At last, when their mouths were foaming and their eyes rolling he pulled them up sharply, ripping at their teeth and gums. He jumped from the coach, pulled out his sword – I had not noticed the sword – and hacked at their throats. The horses died kicking and bucking. From the mouth of the black horse he pulled a card. As he did, he showed his hand for a moment. I remembered it: Devil, World, Moon, Sun and a worthless card, the Five of Cups.

Having the information I came for, I could have left. But I knew, even as I thought this, that I did not want to. This was my place now, this was where I was happiest, freest, most alive. Here I could wander through stories, here I could… Splash!

I came to. Dorcas had thrown a jug of cold water over me.
“I’ve been trying to wake you for five minutes,” she said. “You wouldn’t come round.”
I started to shiver uncontrollably. She helped me out of my wet jumper and wrapped me up in a duvet.

I’ve written this for you now, but I can’t think properly. All I want is to go back there. Dorcas says it’s very serious now. That Doom has almost all the cards he needs. That Thomas must get the Wheel of Fortune card next or it’s all over. That you need to write stories about fortune, any kind of fortune, to send him the message, to help him get it.

I’m too tired to think. I just want to sleep, and dream.

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