A Photographic Novella in Twenty Episodes 1
Text and Makeup by Jennifer Broome
Photography by Allie Mullin
ÂŠ2012. All Rights Reserved 2
The Journey Continues
Mina woke the next morning with a sharp pain in her lower back. Once she rolled off the tree root where she had fallen asleep, she felt much better. Her mood was further improved by the sight of Hatter making breakfast over a campfire. â€šEggs! And tea! Where on earth did you get tea?â€› Hatter grinned and pointed to her hat. She then reached into it and brought forth a cup, saucer, plate, and fork for Mina. Mina shook her head in wonderment and sat down to eat.
‚You know, Hatter,‛ Mina commented through a mouthful of egg, ‚You are just full of surprises.‛ ‚Don’t ‘e know it, too,‛ snapped Tatter as she approached the pair. ‚’urry up and eat. We need to get gone. ‘atter let yer sleep ‘stead of getting
an early start. Get out yor map and let's commence movin'.‛
About an hour later, when Tatter looked slightly less homicidal than she had at breakfast, Mina approached. Keeping a wary eye on the parasol, she ventured a comment. ‚You said something last night to the Director.‛
‚Should 'ave said more if yer ask me.‛ ‚What you said—about taking hospitality— what did you mean?‛
Tatter reflected for a moment. ‚I keep forgettin' 'ow little yer know about sumfinks. The Theater of Last Resort is infamous. Yer only go there 7
when yer given up any 'ope. I don’t mean just a bit disappointed or upset. I mean yer go there when yer fink yer life isn’t worth livin' anymore. It’s 'ard to die 'ere in the Realm—us Philos live longer than normal blokes do. So when yer given in, or given up, yer go to the Theater of Last Resort. That slimy Director takes yer in and 'as 'is troupe perform for yer, right, then gives yer a meal. ‚Then, the bloody next day, he ups and tells yer that yer owe the troupe for their 'ospitality, right, and yer 'ave to give them sumfink. If yer don’t pay in advance of th’ meal, the only fink they’ll take as payment is what scraps of 'appiness yer got left. Once yer ‘appiness is finished, you stick on a bit in the performances until yer dead. I'd no mind to stay wiv ‘em wile they leach us 'appiness away. That’s why 'atter 8
paid ‘em in gold. I’ve not 'ad an easy life, but I’m not about to give over on it.‛ And with that, she surged ahead, lace fluttering. Mina ran to catch up with her. ‚Then whoever wrote that script wanted us to be trapped there?‛
Tatter shook her head. ‚It don't make sense. Every geezer—at least all us Philos—knows to 9
avoid the bloody place, knows what â€˜appens there. It's why I didn't want ter go last night. Whoever sent them that play would 'ave known we knew. So I don't fink the point was to trap us. I'm not sure what the whole fink meant, but if it were anyfink it were a warnin', like.â€›
Mina quietly digested this information. Tatter continued to mutter imprecations against The
Cartographer as they followed the briskly rolling pearl-map. There was a â€šthumpâ€› behind Mina and Tatter. When they turned around, they found themselves staring at the broad back of Hatter. She was eerily still, looking in the direction of the camp site theyâ€™d left that morning. Tatter approached and began to ask what was happening, but Hatter quieted her with an abrupt gesture. Mina pocketed the map, ducked around the pair, and saw a cloud of dust on the trail. She swallowed nervously, but Hatter placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
The figure that emerged from the greenery couldnâ€™t have been much older than Mina. She was obviously a Philomorph, but that wasnâ€™t what made Mina stare. With each step the girl took, she left a trail of flowers. It was as if Spring herself had decided to go for a brisk walk.
The girl evidently figured out that the travelers were waiting for her, for she broke into a run, riotous blooms sprouting in her wake.
She arrived in front of them, breathless. Before Tatter could begin an interrogation, the girl managed to gasp out ‚saw…Theatre…fall…‛ and promptly collapsed on the dirt. Tatter turned to go, but was restrained by Hatter. The silent one picked up the girl from the road and looked at Mina. She nodded. Tatter saw that she was not going to win this round. Sighing, she pointed her parasol irritably at a nearby side road. ‚I remember a place for travelers to rest about 'alf a league away.‛ Hatter nodded and began to lead the others. ***
The resting place was a pleasant corner, filled with greenery and sweet water. Hatter set her burden down by a stone pond filled with golden fish, then began to unpack her hat to make lunch. Mina tended to the fainting girl, splashing her with water and keeping her well clear of Tatterâ€™s parasol.
Finally the girl returned to consciousness. She tried to rise and Mina rushed to help. ‚You must rest. You lost consciousness and hit your head.‛ The girl replied: ‚That doesn’t matter, nor that one’s patter,‛ and pointed directly at Tatter. She went on, ‚It was difficult trying to find you…‛ Mina interrupted, ‚You didn’t seem to have too much trouble.‛ The girl finished, ‚…Yet map-made tracks to follow are still true.‛
‚Yes, I suppose the trail is fairly obvious, now that I think about it. But why did you want to find us?‛ Tatter piped in, parasol in a defensive position, ‚What are yer doin' followin' us, eh? Yer a spy?‛ The girl shook her head:
‚Neither spy, nor enemy, nor agent false Merely a child whose way is lost.‛ Tatter looked at the girl in the most curmudgeonly possible way. ‚Stop yer rhymin', will ye? It’s enough to give anybody a ‘eadache.‛
The girl fell silent. Hatter glared as Mina said thoughtfully, ‚I don’t think she can.‛ She addressed the girl. ‚Can you speak in any other way?‛ The girl opened her mouth to reply, glanced at Tatter, and closed it. She contented herself with shaking her head.
‚Well, then, that’s all right,‛ declared Mina. ‚We’ll just eat a bit and let you get back your strength—‚ ‚Wits, more like,‛ muttered Tatter. ‚—and then you can tell us your story.‛
*Who is this rhyming girl? *Does she mean to help or harm the trio? *Will Hatter boil another egg with her improbable hat? Find out the answers to these questions in tomorrow’s episode, ‚Fleur’s Tale.‛ It goes live at 10 a.m. EST at http://literaturecouture.com/mina