Treacle and Ink

April 16, 2008

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.”
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.”
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.

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 11:11 pm

Several of you have emailed wondering where I’ve got to. It’s so kind of you. In fact, I decided to close the shop for a couple of days. It’s not the best solution, but I felt I had to get away from the mirror. I went to stay with a friend who lives in West London. I had a weirdly horrible experience on the tube on the way there. I was staring at my reflection in the black windows, wondering what was going on, whether I was going mad. I was so tired, and perhaps it was that I fell asleep for a moment. But it felt more like the black window was enough to take me back to… wherever it is I go when I look into the mirror. I almost think I heard Mr Marsh-Ayre calling to me, shouting my name; when I woke up it was only a moment later, but the book I’d been reading was suddenly upside-down in my hands.

We need to figure out what’s going on together, please. I believe you. That mirror’s not right, and it’s doing something to me. But for now, I’ve spent a couple of days away and I feel much better. I’m back in the shop now and I really feel no desire at all to look in it. I’m a little frighted to be here, but my friend said I could call if I got scared, and I have my trusty table-leg with me. I’m going to sleep now. Tomorrow I’m going to look around the store-room again. I feel sure I can find out more about what’s going on.

April 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 11:34 pm

It’s past midnight and I’m still awake. I don’t want to be, but I don’t want not to be.

I haven’t looked at the mirror at all in the past 24 hours but I want to, I really want to. So much so that several times today I’ve found myself in the store room, with my hand hovering over the drawer to the bureau where I put it before I remember that I mustn’t.

Actually, being in the store room, and for something to do as much as anything, I’ve started going through the drawers and books to see if I can find any more of the scribbled notes Marsh-Ayre left all over the place. I haven’t found much so far, just a little scrap of paper that says “Hattie will go first, while D and I observe.” I really must find out what happened to Hattie. If we manage to get Jacques to talk to me again, perhaps he can help me find out.

Today, while it was light, I took a look outside the back windows of the shop, where someone was scratching yesterday night. There are a couple of deep scored marked on the new window frames. It looks like someone was trying to take a crowbar to them, to pry them open.

So, with all the frankly unnatural and bizarre things going on, this is one thing I feel I can deal with in a perfectly normal way. I called the police, they said they’d come and take a look. In the meantime, I’ve armed myself with the biggest scariest cudgel I could find (actually a table leg from a dismantled table in the store room), I’ve got the police on speed-dial on my mobile phone and I’m sitting up waiting. I think I heard a noise a couple of minutes ago, but I’m not sure. Still, if anyone tries to get in tonight, I’ll be ready for them.

April 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 7:10 pm

I feel very peculiar. My head’s been aching all day, I feel like I’m too hot, as if I haven’t had enough sleep. Of course, I haven’t had enough sleep. I looked in the mirror again last night. It was midnight, I only wanted to write a page or two before bed. The place was so dark and quiet, and my thumb was hurting where I cut it a couple of weeks ago – it hasn’t seemed to heal quite right. And I thought – just a few minutes, maybe half an hour. Just a little bit before bed. I looked into the inky blackness of my reflected self, my eyes so hollow and dark like the depth of the sea or of exhaustion. I looked, and it felt like I was falling, like that moment in a dream just before you wake up when it feels that you’ve tripped except that I just went on falling and falling and there were no stories this time, no dreams, just a silence and darkness and waiting and I thought I heard a voice say “the Doctor will see you now.”

I came to at the sound of something scratching at the window in the kitchen. I jerked, shivered. I thought I’d been away for maybe five minutes, but the clock told me it was 4.30am. Always darkest before the dawn. I sat in my bedroom and listened to the noises in the kitchen. Scratch, scratch. Someone, or something, waggled the outer handle of the back door. And as I sat listening, trying to summon up the courage to go into the kitchen to look, or even just to get up, I had a funny tickly feeling on my front. I looked down and saw that my shirt was on inside out. And my trousers. And, when I looked, my underwear and my socks. All my clothes were inside out, but I know they hadn’t been like that when I locked up the shop, and I know I didn’t do it myself. At least, not consciously. It was all I could do to stop myself screaming.

I sat for what felt like a hundred years, until the scratching noise in the kitchen stopped. And then I turned on all the lights in the shop, and the radio. And the sound of the World Service and the news brought me back a little to this world. So I changed my clothes, and I put the mirror back into the store room, and locked the door and I sat in bed and waited. I finally fell asleep just after dawn.

I don’t know what’s going on anymore, but I know it’s not normal. I think I need to speak to Jacques, but he’s not answering my calls or my emails. Some of you have emailed to tell me that he’s going to be in the Jerusalem Tavern, 55 Britton Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 5UQ on Thursday 10 April from 5.30pm to 6pm. I think he’s looking for things to impress his erstwhile girlfriend so if you take along a flower or a sketch or a homemade cake or something of that sort he’ll probably feel more favourable to you. Don’t ask him too many questions from me – I don’t want to frighten him off. Just tell him, please, that Alice is sorry, and wants to talk to him. Just tell him that.

For tonight, there will be no mirror. I can already feel that I want to look at it again, and that scares me. But whatever happens, I won’t. I’m going to turn on the little television in the back room and watch University Challenge, and Newsnight, and the Henry James film and try to pretend I feel normal. As for tomorrow, I’ll deal with that when it comes.

April 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 8:30 pm

It’s been a difficult night. Remember that book, “Mythological Objects”, which some of you blog readers wanted me to find? And I had a copy in the locked display case, but when I got the case open it was just the dust-jacket around a different book? Well, some of you (especially Rachel and Daisy, thank you) found evidence – irrefutable evidence – that the book had actually been stolen. Worse than that, stolen by my delightful French shop assistant, Jacques. Worse than that, he’d stolen it and sold it on the internet.

I’ve been sitting on this news for half the day, trying to work out what to do. I’m sure Jacques noticed that I was distracted. As soon as we closed up for the day, I told him we had to talk. I had printed out the emails on Marsh-Ayre’s rickety old printer and laid them out in front of him.

“Do you deny,” I said, trying to stop my voice quivering, “that you stole this book from the display case and sold it?”
He pouted, and remained silent.
“Have you stolen books from this shop, Jacques?!” I was suddenly shouting. I’ve been feeling so tense and on edge these past few days, I don’t know why.
He stared at me for what felt like hours.
“So what if I have?” he said at last. “Zey are only dusty old books and trinkets.”
“Trinkets!” I shouted. “You’ve been taking antiques from the storeroom upstairs too! That’s why you didn’t want me to go up there! In case I saw that things were missing!”
He shrugged his shoulders.
I carried on shouting for a while. Told him that I was disappointed and angry and horrified, and couldn’t understand why he’d do such a stupid, dishonest thing.
“I needed ze money,” he muttered at one point, “Bella is… and Marsh-Ayre, ‘e never noticed zat….”
But I didn’t listen. In the end I bundled him out of the shop, and locked the door behind him. I had the locks changed over the weekend in any case, as I’d intended, so I know he doesn’t have spare keys. I wonder where he’s gone.

I have to confess, I could probably have handled it better. But, he’s been stealing. I can’t let a thief loose in the shop. It was only after he left that I remembered I’d forgotten to find out more about “the Doctor”, and ask if that was who he’d been selling things to.

I feel really nervous now I’m in the shop on my own and it’s dark. Usually Jacques is here practising his monologues, and we have dinner together. But now I keep thinking about the scratch marks and splintered wood I found at the back, and wondering who was trying to get in. And what if they try again and I’m all alone here? But… I can’t very well have a thief in the shop. Maybe I should ask someone else to come and stay here with me, but most of my old friends in London are married or otherwise occupied, and wouldn’t want to stay in a spare room above a shop.

I feel all jittery, for no clear reason. And I know that if I just go and use the mirror, and fall into the beautiful storytelling trance I’ll feel better. Or, I just won’t feel anything at all. But I want to prove that I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to. I can just spend an evening listening to the radio and reading a novel. But every time I think that I think… just one look won’t hurt, just half an hour. It’s like everywhere I look I can see the mirror.  Suddenly I’m all alone, and I feel afraid.

April 4, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 3:37 pm

Just a quick post – I spent all last night writing and I’m so sleepy now. It was funny, I found it much harder than I expected to spend a night without looking into the mirror; it felt like I had to make up the time. I would really love to read that book, Mythological Objects, to see if there’s anything more about the mirror in there. I’m so disappointed that there wasn’t one in the case after all. But, I had a thought. Perhaps with all your technological skills one of you readers of my blog might be able to track down a copy via another secondhand seller? Just a thought.

April 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — adrian @ 5:35 pm

Jacques has been behaving very oddly the past few days, I must say. I put it down to my continuing devotion to my new novel. (Seven chapters now! And a Russian ambassador assassinated by the evil Maltravers! And the greatest sapphire in the world has been stolen!) But he came clean today during a quiet period in the shop. It started when he noticed that the display case door had been forced.

“But,” he said, “who ‘as done zis? ‘Ave we ‘ad a burglar?”
“No,” I said, “I had a lot of enquiries about one of the books in the case – Mythological Objects – so I forced the lock. But it wasn’t even the right book in the end.”
He turned on me and started shouting:
“Why, why must you constantly meddle in zat which does not concern you?! Why are you always sneaking and poking and making ze trouble! You ‘ave broken Mr Ayre’s case! ‘e will be so angry when ‘e returns and ‘ere, ze key is just ‘ere under the counter!”
He reached under the counter where, indeed, the key to the display case was hanging from a small concealed hook. I did feel quite embarrassed.
“I didn’t know, alright? You didn’t show me, how was I supposed to know?”
“You could ‘ave asked me,” he pouted. “But no, now you ‘ave no time for Jacques.”
He looked so unhappy, I almost felt sorry for him.
“Honestly Jacques,” I said, “you must have other friends.”
“Mais oui,” he said, “but…”
And to my horror he started to cry. He’s so volatile.
“It is my girlfriend,” he sobbed, “my darling, she ‘as, ‘ow do you say, dumped me. We ‘ave been together for two years, all ze people I know in England are ‘er friends and I…” he burst into tears again, pulled a tissue out of his pocket and blew his nose noisily. I noticed that as he did, a business card with the words ‘The Doctor’ fluttered to the floor. He quickly grabbed it and thrust it back into his pocket. Don’t think I didn’t have a number of interesting questions to ask about this, but a crying Frenchman isn’t the easiest person to interrogate.

Instead, I patted his hand while he told me the story, of how his darling Bella – with whom he imagined spending his life – had broken up with him because he didn’t tell her he loved her enough, or something like that, of how he was trying to start again without her, but that she was the woman he’d come to England for, she was the reason he enrolled in drama school here, his whole life, apparently, is built around her. I began to see why he’s insisted on spending every night here with me, not with his friends.

We’re planning to get drunk together tonight. I’ll tell him sad stories of my love life too, in the hope this’ll make him feel a little better. No mirror for me tonight, much as I want to carry on writing my story. I must confess, I feel a bit irritated to have to spend even a night away from it. Still, I notice that Jacques’ done a nice thing for me: there’s new stationery in the shop reading “Marsh-Ayre Books, Alice Klein proprietor”. Clearly Jacques is trying to make me feel more at home. He deserves some consideration from me too. Perhaps together we can work out how to make this silly girl take him back!

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