Treacle and Ink

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’.”

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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.

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 6:57 pm

Thank you so much for all your help so far. Together, we’re going to work this thing out.

Dorcas has been feverishly reading through all Thomas’ online stories, making notes and going “hmmm” a lot. That is, when she doesn’t suddenly fall asleep. I finally managed to ask her what that’s all about – apparently she has ‘narcolepsy’, and when she becomes excited or afraid she’ll just collapse into sleep exactly where she is. She thinks that might be part of the reason she can’t use the mirror – the beginnings of the mirror-trance just make her fall asleep.

The middle of this afternoon, Dorcas suddenly announced:
“I think I’ve got it!”
“Got what?” I asked.
“I think I know what cards Thomas has. At least, so far. He has a points total of 23 at the moment. That won’t get him very far.”
“Mmm hmmm?” I said. The complexities of this game entirely escape me.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “I’m very good at this game. When the three of us played together I always won. Always.”
“Always?”
She smiled coyly.
“Well. I know a thing or two about cheating at the game. Which will all be to Thomas’ benefit now.”

She quickly outlined her thoughts. According to her, there are three basic ways to cheat at the game of Dee’s tarot.

1)    Claim to have declared a different path than the one you really did. The game tends to go on for so long that nobody remembers anyway.
2)    Sneak an extra card or two up your sleeve. This is tricky, but Dorcas thinks we might manage to “pass” a card through the mirror to Thomas. We’re going to work on it.
3)    Take a crafty peek at the other players’ cards. Perhaps by the use of a well-placed mirror.

Dorcas thought for a moment, drumming her fingers on the kitchen table.

“The thing is,” she said, “we didn’t realise he’d have an actual opponent. We thought the game was symbolic, you see. But there’s someone in there with him. It seems to me that it must be Dee’s brother. Hattie claimed she’d seen him a few times in the mirror, or heard mention of ‘the Doctor’. He always wears a mask, and Hattie called him ‘Dr Doom’.”

I nodded, and told Dorcas about the mention I’d heard of the words ‘the Doctor’, and about the card in Jacques’ pocket.

“Very well,” she said. “We must speak to this Jacques, but for the moment it’s more important we find out what Doom’s up to.  And the only way to do that is for someone to scry on him. You’re going to have to go back into the mirror, my girl.”

“Oh no,” I said. “I know what’ll happen. I’ll end up in a coma just like Hattie.”
“I don’t think so. You’re stronger than she was – you’ve stayed away from the mirror for days, after all. Besides, I’ll be here to haul you out of your trance.”

I won’t bore you with the long argument that we’ve been having most of the afternoon. Suffice it to say that she’s convinced me that using the mirror is the only way forward. She reckons she’ll be able to get me back and, more importantly, that once we’ve retrieved Marsh-Ayre we’ll be able to destroy the mirror forever, and I’ll be free of the horrible thing.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends. If I’m not back in 10 minutes, you can start worrying.

April 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 1:51 pm

Dorcas eventually woke up early on Sunday morning. She started shouting “help! Help!” and woke me up.
In the kitchen, I found she’d worked herself upright and was using a coffee jar to bang on the radiator, presumably in the hope of attracting attention. I snatched it away from her.
“Who are you?” I asked.
She frowned at me. For a woman who’d just spent the night asleep on my kitchen floor, she looked remarkably formidable.
“You’ve looked in it, haven’t you? Come on, out with it. Where is it?”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t you think, as the person tied to my radiator, you’re not really in a position to be asking questions? Frankly, I’ve got half a mind to call the police. What are you doing here?”
She huffed a bit, and gave me an appraising stare.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Miss Klein.”
“And why’s that?”
“Because you’re addicted to using that mirror, aren’t you? The black mirror? The one that gives you all those wonderful dreams? I’ve seen it before. I know what happens. And I’m the only one who can help you get free of it.”
Clearly this was going to be a long conversation. I made a coffee, gave her a drink of water – I still wasn’t going to untie her – and let her tell me her story.

Her first claim was that she was the mysterious third woman, the friend of Thomas Marsh-Ayre and Hattie Loon. This was easy enough to verify. I called Jacques. It’s thanks to you all that we’re back in touch – he left me a message on Friday to say that you’d given him wonderful gifts to pass on to Bella, and he was “willing to talk again, despite the grave insult.”

I can’t say I’m impressed with his thieving ways, so it didn’t much bother me that I woke him up. Well, it was 7.45am on a Sunday.
“What do you want?” he spat into the phone.
I explained that I needed him to identify a woman.
“Can you come down to the shop?”
“No I cannot,” he whispered. “It is Bella my love, she ‘as come back to me. Zis weekend we celebrate ze love.”
“Fine.”
I thought for a moment, then took a picture of Dorcas and sent it to him via text message.
He messaged back: “Yes, zis is her. Can I return to my love now?”
Honestly. He should be grateful I haven’t called the police on him.

Dorcas, who’d been listening to the call, and posed grumpily for her picture, continued with her story.

She was the third of the group of three who found the mirror. In fact, she was the one who identified it. They were: Hattie Loon, an antiques dealer who discovered the mirror in a house clearance in the North of England, Thomas Marsh-Ayre, a rare-books dealer who had been interested in the occult for years, and her, Dorcas Muse, a librarian at the British Library whose knowledge of ancient legends allowed her to work out that the mirror they found, the mirror that gave Hattie all those marvellous ideas for art works, was (and she did pause for effect at this point) the mirror of Dr Dee.

“Hang on a minute,” I said. “I know about that mirror. It’s on display in the British Museum.”
“It’s one of a pair,” said Dorcas, “rather like its owner. Or, I should say, owners.”

I let that one slide for the time being. Apparently, Hattie quickly became addicted to using the mirror. She’d stare into it for hours, eventually being able to fall into a trance just from looking at any black reflective surface.

I must have started at that. Dorcas looked at me shrewdly, then carried on.

At last, not long after that, Hattie fell into a coma from which she couldn’t be woken. Thomas was distraught. Dorcas thinks he might have had feelings for Hattie, although he was too wrapped up in the project to notice. He worked feverishly to find a way to recover her. Eventually he decided to “play the game of Dr Dee”, although Dorcas advised against it. This is a card game played with a tarot deck – Thomas had had one for years which it was claimed had magical properties. He thought that if he looked into the mirror while holding the correct hand of cards he’d be able to enter the mirror, and somehow play a game which would give him control over its world.

“But something must have gone wrong,” she said. “He said if it worked he’d be able to send word to me, or to you, the keeper of the mirror, but I haven’t heard anything – have you?”

It was then that I showed her your letters, your emails, the links you’ve sent me. I untied her hands. We made more coffee and had lunch. We talked more. We tried to work out what has gone on.

As close as we can understand it, it’s this: Thomas has been playing his game but he’s miscalculated somehow. He doesn’t have enough cards, and there’s an opponent in the game he didn’t anticipate. Dorcas says she has an idea about who that might be, but she wants to ponder on it some more. Dorcas says the only solution is for Thomas to cheat at cards. And for that we need your help. You’ve found him before, you’ve sent me his messages even if I didn’t believe you. Can you find him again? We have to help him.

April 13, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 12:05 am

OK. It is possible that I am still dreaming. Can one dream-blog?

I went down to the kitchen. The window was smashed, the door open. And there was a woman – a portly, middle-aged woman in a tweed suit – asleep on the kitchen floor. Asleep. As if she’d just been creeping across the room and had been overtaken by sleep. I didn’t know what to do. She was literally just sleeping. So I got some plastic  rubbish-bag ties, and tied her to the radiator. She didn’t even wake up while I was doing that.

She had a big handbag with her, which I’ve gone through in a cursory sort of way. Her name, apparently, is Dorcas Muse. She works at the British Library. And she was carrying an enormous hammer.

April 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 11:38 pm

I’ve just woken up. I was drifting off to sleep, relaxed. And then suddenly, a huge crash from the kitchen. I can’t hear anything now. Maybe I dreamed it? But… I’m going to take a look. I’ve got my table leg with me. I expect I’ll be fine. And if not – and I can’t help thinking about this – just tell Jacques everything you’ve told me. Tell him to come here and smash the mirror. I can’t help feeling we’ll all be better off without that thing around.

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