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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

The Fanged Frog - Chapter 4

Sleep

 

Comfy.  That was the word, Jack thought, to describe Miranda’s sitting room.  Deep carpet and three large overstuffed chairs arranged in a triangle in front of a crackling fireplace, with a shiny wooden coffee table in between; a bookcase that was itself overstuffed with thick books with leather covers; and several framed pictures on the walls, mostly showing calm and relaxing images of hills, meadows, lakes and streams.

 

Jack noticed that Brenda seemed a little stiff sitting in her chair to the right of the fireplace.  He couldn’t imagine why.  If he weren’t so curious about everything that had happened to them in the last few hours, he would have loved to snuggle more deeply into his own chair and take a nap.

 

He didn’t think he could sleep now, though, with so many unanswered questions tumbling through his mind.  Miranda hadn’t said much after they’d left Alison safe at the door of her house.  She complained once about Brenda and him leaving the corner in front of Cooper’s All Night Drug Store and Fountain, but when they explained they had been thirsty, she seemed to understand.  “Yes,” she said, “I suppose you were.  And whatever happened to Mr. Cooper, I can’t say, but such things happen sometimes.”  Miranda fell silent again after that and the only other conversation on the way to Miranda’s house occurred when Brenda whispered to Jack, “Why did you think it was a robber?”  Jack explained about the depression in the grass that he’d thought was made by a bag.  “Of course I know now it was made by the frog,” he said.  “But who would have guessed a frog?”

 

A log cracked in the fireplace while Miranda handed out cups of hot chocolate from a tray on the coffee table.  When both the children had a cup, she took one of her own and settled down in her chair at the apex of the triangle.

 

“Ah!” she said, taking a sip.  “Yes, this is much more pleasant than creeping around dark alleys at night, don’t you think? 

 

“Miranda?”

 

“Yes, Jack?”

 

“Is this a dream?”

 

Miranda smiled.  “No, Jack.  This is very real.”

 

“That’s what Maximus said.”

 

“Oh, you’ve met him, have you?  Very colorful fellow that Maximus.  And I’m not just speaking of his feathers!”

 

“But if it’s real,” Brenda said, “then where are our parents?”

 

“You have no parents here.”

 

“I do so have parents!” Jack objected.

 

“So do I!” Brenda agreed.

 

“Yes, but not here.”  Miranda set her cup down on the coffee table.  She leaned forward, turning her head from one child to the other.  “I told you that this place--this world--is real.  And it is.  But it’s through dreams that people come here.  When they do, they bring a little of the dream-world with them, which is why this place--we call it Mozaic--seems so familiar to you on the one hand, and so strange on the other.”

 

“Like the water fountain,” Brenda said.

 

“And the alleys that kept leading us back to the same place,” Jack added.

 

“Exactly.  But something else happens, also.  From the moment a person arrives, they begin to forget the Waking world, which you call Earth.  Some people remember longer than others, but eventually all knowledge of the Waking world fades away and is lost forever.  Your parents are here, but if they walked into this room right now--”

 

“They wouldn’t know us,” Jack said, finishing Miranda’s thought.

 

“No, they wouldn’t.  On the other hand, when you wake up, if you remember this world at all you will quickly forget it.  You won’t lie down in bed tomorrow night thinking that you’ll come back here.  But you will.  You will because you have a job to do, just as I do.  My job is to be your guardian, to keep you safe and to help you grow.  Do you know what your job is, Brenda?”

 

“I’m not sure,” Brenda said.

 

“Oh, I think you have a pretty good idea.  You’ve been fidgeting in that very comfortable chair ever since you sat down.  Why?”

 

Brenda looked at Jack, but didn’t find any help in his own look of curiosity.  She thought a moment longer, then blurted out, “Well, it’s just that we just found out there’s a vampire out there, even if it is a frog, and we aren’t doing anything about it, we aren’t even protecting ourselves cause I noticed when we came in that you didn’t even lock the door!”

 

“There!” Miranda said.  “You see?  You’ve known your job all along.”

 

“What is it?” Brenda asked, thoroughly confused.

 

“Why, to lead, of course.  Now, what about you, Jack?  Do you know what your job is?”

 

“I think I do.  Back in the alley, when I was looking for evidence, I felt something in my head, like…like…”

 

“Like finally seeing how to fit a jigsaw puzzle together?”

 

“Yes, like that.  I know it sounds silly, but I think my job is to solve crimes.”

 

“Solve them?” Miranda said, with a laugh.  “Well, yes, if you can.  But your job is to think, to reason.  To analyze and examine.  But perhaps most importantly,” Miranda said, looking at both Jack and Brenda, “your job is to work together.”

 

Jack looked at Brenda, and they both smiled.

 

“The stakes are high,” Miranda said.  “This time we got there in time.  Next time…”

 

“When I first saw Alison,” Jack said, “I thought she was dead.”  Now that he knew she was alive and well, he could say the word.

 

“No, Jack, in Mozaic people do not die.  They sleep.  If Alison hadn’t had the ankh, the frog would have put her to sleep.”

 

“Sleep?” Brenda said.  “Is that all?  That’s not so bad.”

 

“Oh, but it is.  In the Waking world, when you go to sleep, you come here.  But if you fall asleep here, you can never come back again.  What’s the matter, Jack?”

 

Jack had jumped out of his chair.

 

“I was just thinking about taking a nap!”

 

Miranda laughed.  “Well, you could try.  Here we rest.  Everyone needs rest.  Don’t be afraid to close your eyes.  In fact,” Miranda said, getting up out of her own chair, “speaking of rest, I think we could all use a little.  We have a big day tomorrow.”

 

“What are we going to do?”

 

“Find that frog, of course.  Come on, I’ll show you to your rooms.”

 

Jack started to follow Miranda, but Brenda hung back.  Without turning, Miranda said, “Oh, all right, Brenda, if it will make you feel better, by all means lock the door.”

 

Brenda grinned, and dashed off to do just that.