Monday, 5 February 2007

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

My Dearest Alfonso,

I am deeply worried about Oolon. For the first time last night he looked so very, very old; I mean, I know that he is, but he really looked it and that bothers me. And there was that terrible sadness in his eyes; it nearly broke my heart to see it. And as for Mr Mesmer, I still don't know what to make of him; by turns both funny and charming and then some dark harbinger of doom.
Sorry, I'm supposed to ask how you are first, aren't I? This letter writing is such a complicated business. And I suppose I should explain about what happened, too. Its been such a strange day, all in all.

I was in Mayfair, chatting to Miss Paris about her lovely watercolour studies with Mr Smashcan and a lady whose name I clean forget (told you it was a long, hard day; I'm usually very good with names), when Mr Mesmer arrived. Its beginning to feel like he's shadowing our footsteps, a sensation that was only confirmed later. As we were chatting, Terry appeared, dressed very nattily in a suit she had acquired from Mr Whittlesea's Emporium in Victoria. We made small talk, as you do, and all was going swimmingly.

Oolon has been keeping a bit of a low profile lately because of all the trouble with the Old Girl, so I was very pleased to hear from him. Everything seemed to be working fine and he proposed another jaunt. Miss Paris declined the invitation, but Mr Smashcan and Mr Mesmer both agreed to come along. We also wired the Governor to see if he would like to come, but the poor man is so busy with business matters that he couldn't at such short notice. Still, hopefully in the future he may join us (wouldn't that be something!).

The Cabinet was standing ready for us, and after a few minor packing issues, we entered and set off. No cowbells this time, which is always a comfort. Oolon asked if anyone had any particular requests as to where they would like to go, but everyone seemed quite content to leave it to fate. My only request was that it be somewhere nice and sunny, after the darkness of our last jaunt.

Even then, there was a sense of something in the atmosphere, something prickling behind my eyes, like a tickle you can't put your finger on. Oolon began to tut again and said that he was receiving a distress signal from something called a Frogstar that was somewhere it shouldn't be. I have no idea what a Frogstar is, other than possibly some sort of boat, but Mr Mesmer tried to alleviate the air of uncertainty by performing transmogrifications upon himself.

Oolon, being the kindly soul he is, decided that we must deviate from our course to ensure that whoever had sent the distress call was still in one piece. I still had this sense of unease, but he was right - you can't leave someone to struggle on alone. If only he would take his own advice...

The Cabinet was brought in for a safe landing and Oolon went out to check to see if everything was safe for us to proceed. He called Terry out first and gave her a quick briefing before encouraging us to join him in this new location.

Yes, well, you can imagine how comforting that sort of a notice is, especially after our visit to Toxia. And the fact that we could hear strange voices singing discomforting songs from somewhere above us really wasn't helping matters either. And the heat - it hit you like a physical blow; dense, suffocating, parched and seething.

Terry was in charge (that's what Oolon had been talking to her about) and I was highly relieved. I didn't want to be in charge again so soon, and she's very good at this sort of thing, as you know my love. There appeared to be some sort of ladder leading upwards towards the caterwauling, which we promptly marched towards and climbed.

On reaching the top of the ladders, it became clear that the Old Girl had taken my wish for sunshine just a little too literally. It was everywhere, hard and brittle, piercing the eyes and mind. And there were lots of people gathered near by, thankfully not all of them singing. Oolon thought it would be a good idea to ask them if they knew of any downed vessels in the locale.

We had apparently stumbled into a place called The Wasteland. They were a pretty mixed bunch living there, I can tell you. There was a mechanical man called Mr Elytis, a half mechanical bunny lady called Miss Oki, another lady called Miss Serapis (who wanted to tell Oolon's fortune, which is rather worrying with hindsight), a strapping young gentleman called Mr Campbell and a bizarre creature called Mr Jimador, who turned out to be about 170 years dead and a ghoul with a penchant for little ditties.

I think I must have fainted around this time, because everything went black for a few minutes and I have no recollection about what happened during that time. I presume it was an effect of the intense heat (perhaps grey wool wasn't the best choice for such a climate), but when I regained my senses, Mr Jimador kept mumbling about radiation poisoning, whatever that is. I can surmise that Oolon had been questioning the locals as to the whereabouts of his missing craft, but with little success.

The locals weren't unfriendly, although they did seem to think that we were all escaped lunatics because Mr Smashcan told them we hailed from 1897 and they seemd to think that they were in the far future after some devastating war. The Cabinet doesn't just seem to take us where, y'know Alfonso, it also appears to have developed a habit of taking us when.

Quite a crowd was gathering by now, which only made me nervous, and a particularly green gentleman called Spoonhammer began to demand books with menaces. Poor Oolon, it must have been just like being back in New Babbage being menaced by those unruly urchins all over again. Mr Smashcan introduced a unique conversational gambit Oolon and Terry called "paradox" by insisting that he had met some relative of Mr Spoonhammer who looked an awful lot like him. I have the impression that "paradox" is about as good as "tourist" in Terry's vocabulary.

Thanks to Mr Drinkwater's valiant efforts, many of my companions had books with them, which they freely distributed to the crowds with the effect of making the atmosphere even more riotous. Mr Elytis sadly pointed out that although books were desirous objects, few could actually read them (which is why Oolon's copy of Alice in Wonderland seemed to go down so well: pictures!). Mr Spoonhammer got so overexcited that he jumped into what appeared to be the equivalent of that devilish steam trolley and promptly attempted to run several people over (a mechanised horse and carriage, it would seem, akin to Mr Vandeverre's bicyclette).

After another brief discussion, Terry and Oolon insisted that we leave the gathering and continue our search for the distress signal. We wandered about this blasted wilderness, looking in vane for signs of a ship, but I couldn't see any sails anywhere, only big cravasses full of green goo. We did find a bar for Mr Smashcan, but the service was sadly lacking and the barkeep no Mr Chaplin.

Eventually we came to a shack, wherein sat a grizzled old man called Mr Dean. He didn't respond to our enquiries and indeed seemed to have lost all will and reason. Oolon made up for it though by getting all over excited by the article that Mr Mesmer was playing with. Allegedly it is some sort of gramophone, but nothing like the lovely one you built for me. Still music of a sort did issue from it after Mr Mesmer pushed a few buttons, which seemed to suit the Brownie so I have no doubt as to its debased nature.

After scratching his head a bit, Oolon decided that this was the source of our distress signal, which perplexed me greatly. There was talk of cannabalism (so do mechanicals eat other mechanicals?) and a lot of muttering. Everyone seemed very disappointed and I can't say that I blamed them.

Fortunately, Mr Elytis had been keeping an eye on us and announced that there was another downed ship in the vacinity, located near an old church. Oolon and Terry pressed him to lead us there, which he promptly did.

For all the sun, this place reminded me a great deal of Toxia; the struggle to cling to life was palpable in the very air we breathed.

This church was in a terrible state. The roof was gone and most of the internal structure had rotted away, leaving only metal gantries and ladders that the locals must have inserted. It was very precarious and I slipped and fell again. Fortunately my wings saved me and I only got my toes wet with green goo, but Oolon got very distressed and made me take the boots off and throw them away, refusing to explain why but promising to buy me new ones when we got home. Mr Smashcan insisted on investigating the goo further in his marvellous protective clothing.

There was this big thing called a "missile" poking through the roof, which had everyone very concerned and Oolon insisted that I didn't go near it. I didn't know what one of them was, but Mr Jimador explained later that it wasn't a good thing and that had we touched it, we would all have gone bang. Therefore it must contain some sort of explosive charge, like your cannon, only more so.

There was also some sort of box on the wall, that had a label on it clearly marked "Forbidden Knowledge". Even pixies know about that sort of dire warning, but it didn't stop Mr Mesmer, Mr Smashcan and Terry from poking at it and trying to get it open. Oolon thought it might be an escape pod (it might have been the sun, but he did seem to be speaking more gibberish today than usual). Fortunately, its mechanisms were all jammed and it wouldn't open.

Time was running short again, so Oolon hussled us away and back to our landing site, but not before commenting on the lack of retail opportunity in the area. Now you can begin to understand quite why I am so concerned about him; first he expresses a desire to go shoe shopping and then he complains when there is nowhere to do so!

Oolon insisted that I have the Brownie take one last plate for posterity and we trundled back into the ETD to go home. Mr Smashcan asked that he be dropped at New Babbage and while we were in transit something very odd began to happen to Mr Mesmer.

This was only the first manifestation; the second was brightly coloured and painful on the eyes and the Brownie refused point blank to capture the moment. I'll swear he was shaking with fear. Oolon began to question Mr Mesmer closely and I began to get that sinking feeling of dread that makes you feel all hot and cold at the same time, thoroughly and painfully aware of every hair on your scalp and somehow greasy.

And then there was mention of a prophecy from the Lady Sen (a beautiful, ethereal creature I met once in the Cabinet), or at the least something that sounded very like one: Something was coming. I felt a chill run through me and a sickness in the pit of my stomach that had nothing to do with too much sun. I don't like prophecies and I don't trust them. Terry tried to reassure me that the only ones worth paying any attention to were the good ones, but being born of myth and legend means that I know all too well that even the best are a double-edged sword; they all carry a price.
Mr Mesmer bid us goodnight then, as if nothing untoward had happened, but I could see that Oolon was shaken and although she did her best to hide it, so was Terry. Oolon refused to anwer any of my questions, just gave me a little kiss on the top of my head. You know me, that sort of thing usually drives me mad if anyone else does it, but you and Oolon are different; its normally quite comforting, but now it just made me even more afraid. He's trying to protect us from something, I know he is, the dear sweet silly man. I can't bear being helpless, my darling, but that's what I am right now, helpless and useless.
Terry said I could spend the night in her room; I didn't want to go home and be alone - it would only give me time to think and I didn't feel brave enough for that. How are you on your travels? You will be careful won't you? I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you or Oolon or Terry.
I have to go, I need to get my head straightened out so that Oolon doesn't know how worried I am. Please come home soon, my love, I miss you.
Your little Fuschia


rowanf said...

My, your adventures continue to be quite thrilling! Thank you for your kind directions in Caledon this morning.

Rosmairta Kilara, Lady Falkenrath

Emilly Ladybird said...

Dearest Fuschia,
I continue to be vicariously enthralled by all the exciting adventures you are having. I wouldn't worry too much about Oolon, it is his nature to be somewhat taciturn and morose upon occasion you know. Dear Terry and the very charming Mr Mesmer took me shopping the other evening, I have a gorgeous new frock or four to show you when we meet for cocktails! lots of love Emilly,
ps I hope you washed your feet as well as throwing away the boots.....

Justin said...

It's a very well written blog, n the content is amazing too