Heading to Bard’s Dimple! Going to check out this Legend for myself…The possibility feels as good as a Midsummer night’s dream.
— the last Instagram post by Anne Whateley (*A selfie in front of “The Cemetery” was attached to the post)
South of the heart of Silicon Valley, overlooking the same ocean that brought Hernán Cortés to his knees when he first encountered its beauty, near the town of Santa Cruz, there came to be a digital outpost (so to speak) un-equaled in its collection of globally recognized e-girls and e-boys. The area came to be known by the name of ‘Selfie Square’. The name was originally given, it seems, as a (self-explanatory) pejorative, by the remaining long-haired and tie-dyed free-spirits (or so they claimed) who wandered about in the adjacent town of Santa Cruz. The inhabitants of Selfie Square, however, embraced the name; they adopted it and proudly made it their own. Not far from Selfie Square, just a few miles, there is a little nook on the land — a little dip, not big enough to be called a valley — and it was one of the most peaceful and beautiful places in the entire world. And that is no exaggeration! The land containing the nook had been inherited by Clayton “Cagey” Burns ten years prior to the happenings relayed in this story, and Cagey spent most of his days there writing words in his growing collection of notebooks, interrupted only by the occasional tapping of an acorn woodpecker or the enjoyable chirp of a red-breasted sapsucker.
The little nook or dip — it wasn’t big enough to be a valley — allowed Cagey the tranquility he required to write. He had been filling notebooks for almost seven years over the course of hours spent, every day. Free of distraction, Cagey set out to weave an old-style tale of myth and lore, of riches and conquest, of warriors and their women.
The nook — even before it came to belong to Cagey Burns — had been known by the name of BARD’S DIMPLE. It was sunken into a timeless land, and a mystical aura seemed to hang over the dimple, attaching to everything and everyone who entered it. Some say the place would never change — they said it couldn’t change — because of the powerful influence of J. Radford Cutcliffe, the late academic famous for his study of William Shakespeare’s only play, Henry VI (parts I through III) and, to a lesser extent, John Milton; Cutcliffe was a previous owner of BARD’S DIMPLE and the name was originally derived from his ownership of the land. Whatever the cause, the place has a classical, traditional feel, and setting foot on it is enough to fall under its spell. Cagey most certainly had done so; he only left BARD’S DIMPLE when required, riding his rickety purple ten-speed bicycle into town for errands and such. Those living near BARD’S DIMPLE, whether to the north, the south, the east or the west, shared tales and superstitions about the small dip in the land. It was protected by Anglo-Saxon knights, some said. Haunted by three weird sisters, said others.
The authoritative legend, however, is that of the presence at BARD’S DIMPLE of the Avon Vessel (stored under a trap door right by the entry way), a time-travel machine, said to have been constructed (or otherwise owned) by Professor Cutcliffe and capable of transporting any user to the birthplace of William Shakespeare — a poet and playwright who he studied carefully despite Shakespeare’s having written very little before dying of syphilis (caught, supposedly, from a town wench named Mathilda that Shakespeare bedded only out of desperation) at an early age – and, in fact, dropping the user in that general vicinity while the Bard was still alive (the instrument was not so precise as to be able to select an exact date). Many people said that Cutcliffe himself had made the journey back in time to old England when he became disenchanted with his professorship at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Others said he didn’t go back in time but that he was caught up in intrigue relating to a honey-pot associated with an international spy ring and whisked away by some intelligence agency or other, for execution or protection (the details of the rumor were hazy). Another wild rumor had him getting cuckolded by a modern lit professor — something no 17th century British literature scholar could live with, to be sure — and intentionally throwing himself into a Santa Cruz rip-tide to be whisked off to his death. Whatever happened, Cutcliffe had certainly disappeared even though the exact circumstances were contested among the locals. This was years and years before Cagey Burns came to own the property, which had changed hands a few times before settling with Cagey’s father (Simon ‘Scraggy’ Burns), who left it to Cagey in 2010 when he passed away from complications related to pyogenic Ventriculitis, thought to have been brought on by a bacteria ingested with a bad batch of almonds.
The Avon Vessel is said to be contained under a trap-door inside the house on the dimple, and it operates automatically by transporting anything that is latched inside the cockpit of the device. Whether this is fact, conjecture, superstition or legend, rumors of the Avon Vessel has allowed for many stories around area campfires.
All around Cagey, in California, tremendous change had occurred in a relatively short time. Most everyone had become digital. The shining example of this was Selfie Square, a place where many of the most popular e-personalities in the world posted their digital content. But the change was not confined to a handful of the most well-known ‘content’ creators. Everyone who was anyone was digital in the current year. And everyone who was no-one was digital as well. A person might have twenty followers on their Instagram account, but they would still dutifully post their preferred content to the World Wide Web as if it was important. Since the recent advent of the smart-phone, nothing had seemingly remained fixed. The population, the manners, the customs, everyone’s way of living — it all changed, almost overnight. No-one seemed to go anywhere without an electronic screen in their hand. The changes swept by Cagey, not because they were unknown, but because they were intentionally unobserved. He was like a large stone, set off just to the side of a rushing river. The water — the digital content — swept by the stone while it remained undisturbed. For his part, there was just BARD’S DIMPLE, his work on his writing — he was creating content for his first novel — and a few other pastimes that he enjoyed when he wasn’t writing (involving outdoor sportsmanship).
Although he didn’t have occasion to admit it often, Cagey worried terribly that the work he had done on his writing was missing the mark. He had spent seven years crafting his prose, and yet these fears, they gnawed at him, even in the serene and peaceful surroundings of BARD’S DIMPLE — a place where it was not easy to be bothered.
The fears regarding his writing showed themselves in three predominant areas.
First, its volume frightened him. He didn’t have an exact count of the number of words he had written (he drafted by hand in notebooks and therefore it was not an easy calculation) but his instinct told him that he could have written War and Peace with the word count he had produced. He was right, in one sense, and wrong in another. At over one million and one hundred thousand words, he could have written War and Peace… TWICE. Who in the hell was stupid enough to read his master work? Who would value money little enough to publish it? It felt more like raw content than any one cohesive piece of authorship.
Second, he feared that the work itself was impenetrable. The writing twisted in one notebook and turned in another. In the next notebook it zigged and in the following one it zagged. Characters came; they went. Sometimes they came again; then, Cagey couldn’t decide if they should stay or go. Often, Cagey thought the characters came when they really hadn’t. With seven years gone by and countless notebooks filled… Cagey didn’t even know what the hell had happened, so far, in his writings. How could anyone else ever follow it? Why would they bother? It wasn’t one cohesive story, and Cagey worried that he wouldn’t be able to turn it into one.
Third, he feared that it would take him seven more years to remedy the things that caused his first two fears.
For these reasons, Cagey feared that the completion of his master work would be cause for disaster and ignominy rather than celebration and royalties. Yet, every day, he still sat naked (he said a clothes-free state allowed his ideas to flow most freely onto the paper) in his home on the dimple and wrote dutifully. He loved it! Given the amount of years involved in his writing, to which Cagey devoted all his creative energy, Cagey started to run dangerously low on funds. He didn’t want to eat cat food. So, to bridge this gap, he decided to offer services as a ‘Creative Writing Instructor’ in and around Santa Cruz. Without any published works under his belt, he wasn’t certain there would be a market for Cagey Burns, writing instructor. Still, he had to try. He persuaded one of his oft-ignored friends to post a few digital advertisements for his service since he possessed no electronics for communication other than one simple, old-style cell phone.
After the advertisement was posted, only a few days had passed before he started getting requests for instruction. When the day came for the first appointment, Cagey found himself in front of the mirror, dressing for the session he was about to provide. Although Cagey wouldn’t admit it, there was nothing too remarkable about Cagey’s appearance. He was on the tall side and quite lanky. He had wide shoulders — a decent frame — but without much muscle on them. He had long arms and legs (consistent with his overall lankiness). His head was big, but not exceedingly so. He had large green eyes, which, possibly due to seven years and countless hours spent with his nose stuck in his notebooks, he squinted quite a lot. Even before he had ‘become a writer’ he had a slight squint — it made him look like he was suspicious of others, like he was holding something back from them. That feature of his countenance explains the nickname “Cagey.”
As an author and a creative type, Cagey believed he did not have to dress with an eye to anything other than his own comfort. For the lesson, he settled on a t-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. He styled his hair just a bit, threw on some deodorant and some Aquaphor on his lips and soon enough he was on his way, heading to the appointment at Midsummer’s Coffee Shop in Santa Cruz. As always, he made his way into town on his rickety-old bicycle, one of those stupid-looking old ten-speeds with skinny tires. The bicycle was an unfortunate purple color. The shape of the ludicrous machine made him hunch his lanky body forward and arch his back to ride it. He brought with him only a backpack holding a single, empty notebook.
Cagey arrived and was pleased to see that Midsummer’s Coffee Shop was offset in a rather ideal location, with a view of the Pacific Ocean. It had a little sign out front that had the name of the shop, accompanied by a picture of a little fairy, or pixie, girl. All things considered, it was a nice situation for Cagey, he spent the next two hours instructing his first pupil (Max Riesling) on the highs and lows of writing prose and everything else that came up. Cagey may or may not have known what in the fuck he was talking about, but he performed the lesson as conscientiously as he could. He gave the same high level of effort to his instruction as he did to his own writing.
They practiced some attention grabbing opening lines. They discussed narrative style. Max questioned Cagey about character development, setting, dialogue, plot devices and everything else one might imagine. When Max asked Cagey about the ideal length for a first novel, Cagey lost confidence for a moment. He wanted to crawl under the table. Instead, he lowered his eyes and said, “It’s whatever you want it to be, Max. You feel the story in your bones, you feel the words flow, you create deep characters — original, funny characters or star-crossed lovers or both — you don’t just arbitrarily decide a thing like length. A great work of literature can be a thousand pages or a single page. It is whatever it is.”
Max loved the answer! Max was a student at the university and said he wanted to start writing early in life. Pridefully, Max claimed he would to write the great American novel. Max also didn’t know his own ass from a hole in the ground, which must have been why he paid Cagey the hundred and fifty bucks for a two-hour ‘Creative Writing Lesson.’
“It’s a way of life, Max. You have to give over to it. You have to put yourself on the paper. Don’t let anything get between you and the paper. It is you on that paper,” said Cagey, knowingly. He thought of his own naked writing, but didn’t go so far as to bring that up.
Max just soaked it all in. It may or may not have been actionable advice; To Max, though, it was literary gold.
The lesson was wrapping up, and Max scheduled for the same time, next week. Cagey assured him that he had “a lot of potential, maybe a bit of Hemingway with a dash of Walker Percy.” He plucked those names out of the sky; indeed, it behooved Cagey to keep on good terms with his pupils. He stuffed the hundred and fifty bucks cash into his pocket and pedaled off on his stupid-looking purple bicycle.
In short order, Cagey had weekly lessons planned with not only Max, but a number of other pupils as well. Max, Damon, Gina, Angela and Philip. He didn’t want more than five students, not really, because he needed to make sure to have plenty of time and energy to work on his own writing. He figured five students would be tolerable.
Weeks and weeks went by like this and the lessons were satisfactory to all involved. The only time things became consistently awkward between teacher and pupil was whenever one of them would ask Cagey to bring in a sample of his work (which each of them did without fail). Cagey would stammer out an excuse, usually along the lines of not being able to show his manuscript without the permission of the publisher. Of course, the pupils did not know Cagey had no publisher for his unwieldy notebook-content. At times, Cagey viewed his notebooks as a novel, other times as a collection of stories of varying lengths, and sometimes he convinced himself they held a mish-mash of scenes and thoughts.
After starting work as a literary instructor, Cagey became somewhat of a legend in the Santa Cruz area. The students bragged about receiving lessons from the “next great American author.” Gina and Angela developed a crush on Cagey, while the young men in his tutor simply looked up to him and hung on his every word. His students started to share their personal stories with him, letting Cagey into their gossip circle. He came to cherish the lessons, the time with his students; he relished the smiles from his students (especially the girls) and took great care to prepare the best lessons possible to maintain and increase his status (and provide value) in their eyes. Soon, everyone in Midsummer’s Coffee Shop would know when a lesson was taking place. People would come to the coffee shop just to observe the lessons, hanging back and admiring the erudition and elegance of Cagey Burns.
When he wasn’t giving lessons to his students, of course, he worked on his own writing. As always, he wrote naked, in the main room or his study at BARD’S DIMPLE. He worked dutifully, filling notebook after notebook with the extraordinary, the odd, the whimsical. His writing, which once was to be an epic tale of myth and lore, of riches and conquest, of warriors and their women, became a tale of EVERYTHING. No character or tangent was too far-fetched for Cagey Burns’ capricious writing style. His confidence in himself as a writer, which had always been high, had been increased by his venture into writing instruction. Often times, after finishing a long day of filling page after page with some or other marvelous tale, he would walk around the edge of BARD’S DIMPLE at night, under the starlight, sipping on a rye whiskey and smoking a cigar. At these times, he fancied himself a famous writer, and he stay outside, walking and listening to the sounds of nature — the woodpeckers and the sapsuckers, a toad, an owl, the rustle of the leaves from the wind, a beetle fluttering in front of his face. These things always caused his imagination to flicker at first, then to sparkle with new ideas to write in his notebooks.
He had started giving his lessons in the summer. Summer turned to fall, fall turned to winter, winter to spring… and nothing much had changed. The lessons continued, the students were happily doing their writing drills and asking their questions and Cagey filled more and more pages with his original tales of warriors, noblemen, fairies, kings, maidens, emperors, ghosts, horsemen, marriages, witchcraft, star-crossed lovers, merchants, and drawn-out battles between armies wielding iron and fire. He worked hard on his dialogue, often crafting clever exchanges between characters for scenes that did not yet exist — he created many humorous exchanges in this manner, expecting that he would find scenes in which to place the lines at a later time. The world kept turning, Cagey kept writing voluminously and the stars kept shining down on him from above.
Sometimes, on his walks around the edge of BARD’S DIMPLE, he would scare himself with his own thoughts. The dangers he had written into his notebooks would, seemingly, come to life! He feared that a spectre, a witch, a sorcerer, a skeleton, or an assassin might assail him on his path with murderous intent. Every crack of a twig, any ray of moonlight, any shadow would cause him to tremble as his stories stalked their creator. At any given moment, Cagey might shrink back from the sound of his own steps, dread looking over his own shoulder, or fear getting trampled by some fearsome villain on horseback charging at him from behind, sword in hand.
He always made it back inside safely, of course. These terrors, the things that haunted his mind — they were imaginary evils. They were his creations and, truth be told, he loved being beset by them. It made him feel like a great writer, someone whose creations were incredibly realistic. He saw these fears — the things that haunted him — as validation of his abilities and his life’s work.
Spring soon became summer and it seemed as if Cagey Burns might have carried on in the same manner — giving ‘Creative Writing Lessons’ and filling more notebooks — had he not crossed paths, fatefully, with a young woman — Anne Whateley — whose involvement in his life, it is safe to say, vexed him immensely and changed everything.
Anne, the daughter of a well-known musician and one of his blonde dime-piece mistresses, was a fresh morsel; she was eighteen years of age. She was a well-known e-girl; at sixteen, she had moved to an apartment near Selfie Square and she had spent the last two years uploading digital content (primarily pictures and video of herself wearing minuscule articles of clothing) to Instagram. She was nubile — shapely and plump in her bosoms and perfectly round in her rear-end but otherwise Anne (and her fans) enjoyed her thin physique. She was rosy-cheeked, with big sparkling blue eyes, and had become universally famed for her radiant beauty and her bubbly, flirty omni-presence on digital media. She had over thirty-five million followers on Instagram. She was the quintessential coquette. She dressed provocatively, in a manner that accentuated her physical charms.
Cagey Burns — who was nearing twenty-eight years of age — had limited exposure to e-girls; he knew next to nothing about the most famous girls who lived in Selfie Square, including Anne. It’s existence — the entire concept of digital media content posts — were a mysterious nuisance to him. He couldn’t understand why someone would spend hours and hours on a screen reviewing these posts when they could do something instead. He just didn’t get it — so he never bothered with digital content on Instagram or Facebook or wherever. Accordingly, he had no idea who Anne Whateley was.
All that didn’t matter when he set his eyes on Anne the first time. She had heard of his lessons through a friend of Angela’s — an aspiring e-girl that was interning for Anne, helping out with editing videos and other administrative tasks. Anne’s ears had perked up when her friend described Angela’s ‘Creative Writing’ sessions with Cagey. You see, despite being an e-girl, Anne Whateley had a creative mind. She worried about what would happen to her accounts in a few years, when everyone had seen her donning provocative outfits a million times. What was next? She knew that there were no e-girls providing real content. Would she be pressed into nudity when she became all too familiar? When she heard about Cagey, she had wondered whether or not she could learn to write and work some fiction into her posts. Perhaps attaching a website to her Instagram and selling her own short stories a couple of times a month, or something like that. She didn’t know exactly where she wanted to take the idea, but she was an ambitious and enterprising e-girl and she thought that if she could develop some skill for writing it would benefit her down the line. A week prior, she had called Cagey on his old cell phone and set her first lesson, asking if Cagey could accommodate her for an evening appointment.
The evening of the lesson had arrived, and Anne Whateley walked into the coffee shop in Santa Cruz, dressed in e-girl fashion (wearing next to nothing at all). She bit her lip and looked around. Cagey, who had never seen Anne before, had already arrived at Midsummer’s Coffee Shop. He too, was looking around, trying to match up with his new student so they could carry out the lesson. Their eyes locked.
“Well, aren’t you a Midsummer night’s dream. You must be Anne,” said Cagey, breaking the silence.
“I am. And what a nice complement. Original too… I’ve never heard a phrase quite like that,” replied Anne, with the very slightest hint of extra color showing on her cheeks.
“Yes, I thought of it the first time I gave a lesson here. It’s a unique name for a coffee shop and it just lent itself to borrowing for a nice original phrase. Let’s get started, shall we?”
They sat snugly in the corner and dove in to the topic of writing. Anne’s eyes sparkled as she asked her questions, which were intermixed between commentary from Cagey and practice, in the form of writing exercises, that both of them did. The lesson went very well, with ideas and thoughts and words just bursting forth. Their table, nestled in the corner of the shop, was enveloped in an extremely positive energy. When it was time to conclude the lesson, the two of them finally re-engaged with their surroundings. Midsummer and its surroundings came back into play. Outside, a row of seagulls walked about, some keeping a keen eye out in case any passers-by decided to throw them a treat; the waves came and went with the relentless energy and peaceful sound of the Pacific Ocean. The staff of Midsummer’s Coffee Shop hustled about, filling orders and hollering to each other when they needed assistance.
Cagey had been stunned by Anne’s beauty when she walked into Midsummer’s. She wasn’t one of those awful, plastic e-girls who looked fake-pretty thanks to layers and layers of makeup and paint. She was actually remarkably, naturally beautiful. And, despite the fact that she made her living by flaunting her physical attributes on the internet, she seemed to be a smart and decent person. That was Cagey’s initial impression, anyway. He hoped it were true. Cagey had dived into the lesson and was so focused on it he was not distracted by Anne’s looks during the session. But, now that it had concluded, there was seemingly nothing he could do aside from gaze at the beautiful young woman.
Cagey’s mouth watered as he talked to the e-girl to conclude their first lesson together. Soon, they would part ways. In his mind’s eye, he ravaged her. He pictured her with him at BARD’S DIMPLE. In the vision, they spoke of literature together, shared a meal, and then sat together snugly on the couch under flickering candlelight while they each wrote romantically-inclined original prose, pouring the ink out of their pens and into their respective notebooks. It was a vision of pure romance! He wondered if, such a time, he would be brave enough to steal a kiss from Anne Whateley. The thought occurred to him that she was ten years his junior… and barely legal… but he quickly banished the thought. “Close enough,” he told himself. “Eighteen is of age.”
Cagey’s mind started racing. His mind was flooded with hopes, which made him think of himself with Anne, in bed, with Anne in the kitchen. Eventually, with Anne taken down as his wife and the couple having a whole bunch of kids in tow. This was a new experience for Cagey, who had been perfectly happy in the solitude of his life at BARD’S DIMPLE for many years.
By the time he returned to BARD’S DIMPLE and stripped naked to write, his heart was completely enslaved to Anne Whateley. He looked around his home. It was one of those low-slung ranch houses. He kept it very spacious, he didn’t fill it up with furniture and trinkets. He needed room for his mind to wander. And often, he would pace around the ranch house during writing sessions to freshen up his thoughts. There were a number of comfortable places to sit in the house on the dimple, and on this particular evening Cagey, who was disturbed by the image of Anne Whateley that would not leave his mind, was sitting in his biggest leather chair, naked as always. Perhaps due to Anne’s hold on his mind, he filled page after page with a tale of uncharacteristically beautiful witches and their spell-binding ways; he was inspired by the seeming hex that Anne had put on him at Midsummer’s Coffee Shop. He felt blessed that the lesson with Anne had caused a burst of energy and content for his writing. He imagined it could have gone the other way and his mind could have been locked-down, dwelling on her beauty rather than freely spilling his beautiful words onto the pages of his notebook.
But there was a problem.
From the moment Cagey laid his eyes upon Anne Whateley, his free and easy acceptance of solitude at BARD’S DIMPLE ended, and his only focus, besides attending to his daily writing sessions (which he still eked out), was on how to start a romantic relationship with Anne Whateley. He was obsessed! And therein lay the problem. Cagey was not an e-boy. He hadn’t bothered with dating and romance much at all, certainly not lately. Occasionally, he would go into Santa Cruz and run this game or that on a townie girl just to get her to spread her legs — but then he would ignore the girl mercilessly and go back to his writing for weeks at a time. In his notebooks, the heroes would conquer their adversaries to get the maiden; he wrote those stories as easily as a hot knife ran through butter. The hero always got the maiden’s hand! But these maidens were more like the townies that Cagey bedded. They weren’t e-girls with thirty-five million followers, many of them the thirstiest males on the planet. Anne was a whole different ball-game. Cagey, unlike his characters, had to win his way to the heart of a digital flirt, (virtually) surrounded by millions of groveling men who each employed their own debased strategy to ‘try’ to bed the e-girl. Some sent her electronic money transfers to try to gain attention, some ordered her gifts from her Amazon wish list, many commented on each of her picture posts, saying things like “so hot!” and “so gorgeous!” and “so beautiful!” and others sent her intimate photos of their physique or engorged member, trying to tempt her into a rash sexual encounter. She appreciated the money (even though she didn’t particularly need it because of her product endorsement revenue), but none of that ever worked the way the men intended. Not once.
What’s more, her millions of digital orbiters were ready, in a flash, to mob up against any man who seemed to be gaining Anne’s favor. On the rare occasion that she posted a picture of herself with a man included in the snap, the online mob would mercilessly attack the man’s looks and make up scathing rumors about his character. It was an effective way (or so it seemed) to block anything from moving too far. In reality, the thing that kept Anne single was that she didn’t really need a man in her life. She did her own thing.
E-Boys still tried, but they had a hard time keeping anything going with Anne under these circumstances. If Cagey had access to Instagram, he would have easily seen that his most formidable rival was a soy-fed bag of bones. This rival was also a YouTuber who went by the name of Razor and was known for his gaming skills and funny off-the-cuff commentary on the videos he recorded while he played his games. He got the nickname Razor because he could seemingly always cut at the sharpest digital angles possible to win his video games. All while he filmed himself playing and saying (admittedly) funny shit. He filmed on YouTube once a day and was always up to good-natured mischief. He often posted photographs of himself doing funny pranks on Instagram. He was always up for a digital frolic, and he commented on most of Anne Whateley’s photograph posts — but not with a standard expression of thirst. Instead, he said something funny, something off-beat, something that poked gentle fun at Anne.
The Razor’s comments on Anne’s points would send millions of other e-boys (ones that Anne never acknowledged via her account) into a frenzy. They would attack the Razor, coming to the defense of Anne’s honor, even at the appearance of the slightest tease. The entire situation was comical since Anne appreciated Razor’s humor and liked his posts. It seemed like they ended up out on the town together, near Selfie Square, for dinner or drinks at least once or twice per week (Anne had no problem ordering cocktails in town due to her fame, despite not being of age). Anne and Razor would always post a picture of the date and a frenzy of digital chaos would ensue, millions of likes and comments.
And so it came to be widely thought that the coy Razor had the inside track for Anne’s affection. Anne did not discourage him. No-one knew if she had any genuine affection for Razor, but it didn’t matter, really. Their interactions generated digital interest and that was what floated Anne’s boat. Had Cagey known about Razor, he may have given up in despair. He had no way to compete digitally. He wasn’t about to start posting digitally, there was no chance. And, Razor was much closer to Anne’s age than Cagey. They spoke the same digital language of love and emojis.
This was the competition into which Cagey was thrown. The only reason he threw his hat in the ring was because he had no familiarity with this digital landscape of love. He didn’t know that chasing an e-girl was the most futile endeavor a man could choose. If he won, he lost. But Cagey was, despite his age, still naive. He wanted Anne! To have her, to possess her. To love her and to feel her love him back, authentically.
Cagey, in the following weeks during his ‘Creative Writing Lessons’ with Anne, made his advances in a steady approach. He showed a great mastery of the subject matter he taught to Anne each week. He never referenced her digital talents and digital influence. He pretended not to know of her massive, thirsty following (which was plausible since he made clear, several times, that he was not interested in digital content platforms) — and to be honest, he really didn’t know much about it (besides its general existence). He didn’t spend time on those platforms.
This was new to Anne! Most of her suitors, the ones who never had a chance, simply barfed up horny-posts in response to her provocative Instagram photos, saying how “hot” or “sexy” she looked. The comments held exactly zero influence over Anne. She already knew she looked hot and sexy — she lived in her own skin, she was comfortable in it. She was the rare ten in a sea of fours endlessly manipulating angles and filters to present as a seven. The two rivals that were squaring off in the lead for her affection did two things that stood out from the herd. Razor teased her. Cagey taught her. It was a two-horse race!
In the weeks that followed, Cagey pressed forward with a very specific strategy. He created the most fantastic writing lessons that the world, perhaps, had ever seen. At the end of each session, Anne Whateley’s mind was always fully exhausted from the strenuous exercise it received. The drills worked her mind up, down, sideways. At times, they co-created intense dialogue for scenes suggested by Cagey.
For his part, Razor pushed his game forward with his light-hearted teasing. He made fun of Anne’s half-naked Instagram photos and called her names publicly — names that were funny to Anne because she knew he didn’t really mean it when he used them. She knew her photos were hot — that’s what gave her millions of thirsty followers — and that’s what allowed her to laugh at Razor’s posts.
As this went on, it was difficult to tell who was gaining the upper hand with Anne. It was obvious that she appreciated Razor’s pretend jabs, she always replied to his comments with smiley faces and the like. At the same time, she was enraptured with Cagey — for whatever reason, she considered him to be a literary giant — and the writing lessons meant the world to her. She fancied herself a sex-pot version of Jane Austin, a half-naked Charlotte Brontë — and Cagey was her ticket to becoming a writer of great renown.
The contest was not an open conflict… Neither Cagey nor Razor knew anything of the other suitor. Therefore, it seemed impossible that any type of feud between the two could arise. But the matters of love were unpredictable, to say the least.
Razor, who had a burning intensity laying well-hidden under his carefully-presented surface, watched Anne’s Instagram posts like a hawk. Yes, his reactions to them were casual, but he viewed them each with careful scrutiny. He studied the background of each picture, to make sure there was no sign of a man’s presence almost off-screen, for example. If she ever took a bathroom selfie he examined the counter top very carefully — looking particularly for any square wrappers. He carefully noted each of the comments and each of the likes to her posts. He saved screen-shots of the pictures of men who consistently liked and responded to her posts.
It was an innocuous Instagram post by Anne that started everything. She was standing in front of Midsummer’s Coffee when she took a picture of herself and posted it to her Instagram account. The caption read, “Heading into my writing lesson with the wonderful Cagey Burns.”
Razor, who received alerts when Anne posted to her account, gnashed his teeth together.
“Who the fuck is Cagey Burns?” said Razor, to himself, as he saw the post. He searched on Google for “Cagey Burns Author” and the search results came up empty.
So, he responded publicly to Anne’s post, without a hint of his usual levity, writing, “Just Googled Cagey Burns, he ain’t never wrote a damn thing.”
Anne Whateley read Razor’s response to her digital post while she was walking into Midsummer’s Coffee Shop. It occurred to her that she had never looked on the World Wide Web for Cagey’s writing and had never really asked him about what he had written. She felt a little bit dumb about bragging about a lesson with an instructor who, she now feared, might be a nobody. So, rather than starting off the lesson with the usual drills and questions, she asked him, outright, about his publications.
“Hey Cagey, my friend Razor just posted on Instagram that you’ve never written anything. What’s up with that?” asked Anne, adjusting her halter top as she spoke.
“Who? What? Razor?”
“Yeah, I made a post saying I was heading into the lesson and he responded by saying that you have never written anything. What have you written?” asked Anne, flipping her hair back.
“Oh, I see. And who is this Razor?” asked Cagey, trying to hide his intense jealousy even at the casual mention of another man.
“He’s just a guy I hang around with sometimes. He lives in Selfie Square. He’s a gamer and mostly a YouTuber but he posts content on Instagram also. He’s just a guy,” replied Anne, dismissively.
“Well, with that description, clearly he wouldn’t know the first thing about writing. Of course I’ve written. I’ve been writing for seven years. I have many notebooks full of my work. Just because some YouTuber can’t find my work on Amazon doesn’t mean I’m not a writer.”
“I knew it! I knew you had written wonderful things. I can’t wait to read something that you publish.”
“Yes, creating literature is very different from posting gaming videos on YouTube. He can do that every day. A work of art — great characters, great dialogue, a truly classic story — that takes time.”
“I’d love to see your notebooks someday.”
Sensing an opportunity, Cagey replied, “Well, we can do a lesson at BARD’S DIMPLE one of these days. I can show you a little bit of my work.” At the end, he sniffed once, a single burst, through his nose, sucking in a small pocket of air as if adding emphasis to his offer.
“I’d love that,” said Anne, excitedly.
“Okay, we will figure it out. It’s about a fifteen minute bike ride from here.”
“I’ll check it out on Google maps,” said Anne.
The lesson at Midsummer’s Coffee, otherwise, went off without a hitch, but Razor’s Instagram volley set the tone for the budding conflict over the affections of Anne Whateley.
Cagey and Razor — although they had never met — brooded with envy over one another. Razor imagined Cagey frolicking about with Anne Whateley. And, in Razor’s mind, ‘frolicking about’ meant one thing: sex. Lots of it. Often, mental anguish resulted from the fanciful scenarios that danced through his head.
Razor checked Anne’s Instagram page at least fifty times a day. In the event that she hadn’t posted a photograph and caption in over one hour, he worried that she was taking a writing lesson. But the worry never stopped there. He pictured the writing lesson taking place in a most romantic location — on the beach, in a cove with natural seating and a soft lemon-yellow sun shining down upon them, warming over their blossoming love affair. His visions of their romantic writing lessons were wildly over-the-top. Cagey feeding Anne chocolate-covered strawberries as a reward for writing a particularly juicy sentence… Anne being spanked on her bottom with an old-style elementary school discipline paddle for mis-placing a comma, butchering an apostrophe or mixing a metaphor.
Razor’s imagination drove him wild, the little scenarios were driving him crazy! The only way that Razor could settle his mind was to produce his own YouTube videos. For most of his digital career, he had produced one a day — but once he discovered Cagey Burns and Anne’s ‘writing lessons’ his production quadrupled. He was pumping out digital content at a record pace.
Cagey, for his part, had a less specific set of the same concerns. But, dear reader, do not take that to mean that they weighed less-heavily upon him! He didn’t understand the world of digital posting and digital flirting and, his specific worry was that Anne and Razor communicated, using little pictures and shorthand, to arrange sexual dalliances during the day, during the night… constantly. This general fear could only be alleviated by one thing: writing. When Cagey grabbed his pen and opened a fresh notebook, he didn’t worry about liaisons between Razor and Anne. There were no room for those in his mind as he wrote. For this reason, Cagey’s writing accelerated. He was filling page after page with prose, every day.
In this way matters went on for some time, without change. Anne’s Instagram account gave no indication of who, if anyone, had gained her favor. All of her pictures and video were of her, alone. In her digital world, she was single. Spring soon became summer and summer became fall.
On a beautiful early fall afternoon in BARD’S DIMPLE, Cagey, concentrating deeply, sat naked on a writing stool. He wrote freely and easily, the words flowed from his mind to his hand to the page. The dialogue was special. After two hours of intense writing, Cagey was so exhausted he put on sweatpants and fell asleep on the couch.
Nothing extraordinary had happened, for weeks. It was the usual mix of digital posting for Anne and Razor and writing and lesson-giving for Cagey Burns. But then, on a Thursday, Cagey Burns received a call from Anne Whateley.
“You’re like, the only person I call because you’re not on ‘social’ media,” said Anne. “Everyone else, I just message them on Instagram or whatever.”
“What an honor,” said Cagey, dryly.
“Hey, there’s a thing in Selfie Square tomorrow night. It’s like an informal thing, but a bunch of content providers are going to get together for dinner and drinks. We rented out the entire lounge and it’s gonna be a pretty sick party. You wanna go with me?”
“A party in Selfie Square? Ummm… yeah, sure. I do. That sounds fun.”
“Okay, cool. The place is called the Cemetery. It’s not really a cemetery, though. It’s a lounge that serves food. It’s right on the ocean, you can’t miss it. It starts at six-thirty. Be there, or be square.”
“Umm, isn’t that a saying from the nineteen sixties?” asked Cagey, laughing.
“I’m bringing it back. See you tomorrow, Cagey Burns,” said Anne, hanging up the call.
The following evening, on the heels of yet another beautiful fall afternoon, Cagey Burns spent an extra forty five minutes in front of the mirror. He tried a few different outfits, messed with his hair (which seemed an odd thing to do given that he would ride his preposterous bicycle to Selfie Square). The time came to leave for the Cemetery and Cagey pedaled like a man possessed, riding through the back-roads like a maniac, like a lanky, cracked-out Lance Armstrong. He was all knees and elbows as he pedaled, hunched forward, leaning into the turns, his long brown hair flowing behind him in the breeze. When he arrived, he took a minute to catch his breath and gather himself. After parking his bike (he didn’t lock it because it was a rickety purple ten-speed that he figured no-one would bother stealing), he arranged his hair and strode confidently toward the Cemetery.
As he was about to enter through the front door of the establishment, Cagey heard a familiar voice calling behind him.
“Hey you!” hollered Anne Whateley.
Cagey turned in the direction of the voice and saw Anne, dressed in a high-cut blouse, small shorts and white shoes. As mentioned, it was a beautiful early fall afternoon but it had now given way to an equally wondrous early evening. The sunset was in its final moments, with rich hazel and violet streaks of light still gracing the sky out to the west, above the ocean. The water rolled in and then it meandered out, with its sounds providing a soothing backdrop reminding everyone that time continued to march forward with every wave. Cagey stared at Anne’s face, begging himself not to lower his eyes and get caught, with the setting sun behind her, and thought she was the most beautiful thing that he had ever seen.
Before he could reply, he heard another voice, this time from his other side.
“Anne!” exclaimed Razor, walking over to her and giving her a big hug, while response-cucking Cagey right at the outset of the night.
“Oh, Razor… Hi,” said Anne.
Razor took Anne by the arm and led her into the Cemetery. She looked over her shoulder at Cagey with wide eyes as if to say ‘I couldn’t help it’. Cagey followed them into the Cemetery like a stray dog.
As Cagey made his way into the lounge, he looked around. He spent his days writing at BARD’S DIMPLE, so it’s not as if he expected to recognize anyone at the Selfie Square event. The content creators seemed to fall into two categories: the beautiful ones and the eccentric ones. It was as if some people had millions of followers because they were easy to look at; the other ones must have created very compelling content, because no one was watching their videos for their looks. Collectively, they had put together a tremendous feast for the evening. There were piles of shellfish, rows of sushi, and a large selection of vegetables. Steaks were available, and they were prepared to order. And the bar… it was open. Cocktails flowed freely for anyone in attendance at the event.
Cagey, with nothing else to do and Anne hanging out with Razor, hit the martini bar hard. It wasn’t actually a martini bar — but by the time Cagey was finished with it he made it one, ordering three of the cocktails in succession, which were delivered perfectly to his liking (Belvedere, straight up with a twist). His mind floated along on a different plane. The sun was all the way down outside and Cagey, drunk, wondered (hazily) if he could just slip out the door. He didn’t know anyone at the Selfie Square gathering; he didn’t care to try to get to know them. He had come to see Anne, and he didn’t even have a chance to speak with her.
The Selfie Square content creators came in all types. Fat, skinny, tall, short, orange-haired, green-haired, and purple-haired too. As mentioned, to be a popular content-creator, a person had to be either stunningly-beautiful (like Anne) or an oddball (like most of the creators).
Razor, who had the second most subscribers of any creator at the gathering (behind Anne), was the latter. As odd as he was, he struck a commanding pose in the center of the gathering and people hung on his words as if he were Churchill in wartime. His hair was dyed green, he had jagged teeth below a horned-nose and small dark eyes, and his posture and muscle-tone were soy and gangly.
Razor was holding court, telling digital war stories, and Cagey could hear part of what he was saying from his position at the bar, “…and then I crept up behind the poor fellow and ‘pap!’ I shot him in the back. It won me the tournament, and I used the prize money to move to Selfie Square. That was when I had less than a thousand subscribers. The rest is history, look at me now!”
The gaggle of creators that surrounded Razor ooh’d and ahh’d at his little speech. Anne, with more subscribers than Razor, was the only listener who didn’t make a noise. She didn’t seem to be impressed; her face was disinterested.
The gathering went along like this until everyone had eaten and drank their fill. Cagey downed another three martinis. That made him six martinis deep and three sheets to the wind.
It was at this point of the evening that a table full of desserts — sponsored by Anne — was brought out to the gathering. Pies and cakes, mousses and ice cream… confectioneries, candies, cookies and custards. Puddings and other delights — any sweet culinary treat imaginable seemed to be available on the table.
It would be possible to write an entire story about the desserts themselves — that is how stunning the presentation was. The colors were heavenly! The placement was exquisite! But, doing the dessert table justice would tax the author’s (admittedly soaring) eloquence far more than would be prudent for what is essentially an ancillary detail, and he remains eager to tell the important story at hand — the Legend of BARD’S DIMPLE. Cagey Burns, unlike the author, took his sweet time at the table, despite his level of intoxication, to stuff himself full of a healthy sampling of the tasty treats.
It was his belly full of desserts that changed everything. Well, combined with the six martinis, that is. The sugar content in the desserts turned Cagey Burns from a mellow drunk into an energetic one. He left his post at the bar and did his best to walk (rather than stumble) toward Anne Whateley. Grace had somehow found him. It was as if the sugar had over-ridden the alcohol and his coordination and thoughts became unaffected by his drunkenness.
Cagey, full of sugar-energy and liquid-courage, ambled over to Anne Whateley. Razor leered over her shoulder with his lizard-green hair and horned-nose. Before Cagey could say anything to Anne (as was his intent), Razor said, “If it isn’t Cagey Burns, the author who hasn’t written anything.”
Cagey was ready for the comment and replied immediately, “One page from my notebook is more valuable than anything you have ever barfed up on YouTube.”
Razor, who may have been odd but was certainly quick-witted, replied instantly, “That must be why millions watch my videos and nobody has ever read a single damn word you’ve written, if one even exists.”
An audible “Ooooh!” came from the crowd of content.
Cagey absorbed the verbal punch and replied, “Well, I don’t know what you do on your videos but hopefully it isn’t hair-styling instruction.”
Laughter erupted from the group of content creators. Cagey Burns had vanquished the Razor!
Cagey walked away, victorious in one sense (his verbal victory over Razor) and defeated in another (he didn’t speak with Anne).
“That green-haired weirdo wouldn’t even let me talk to Anne,” he muttered, under his breath. Before he had gotten five steps across the lounge, he heard Razor’s shrill voice ring out.
“This man is a relic! He’s an artifact. He thinks he can walk into a gathering of the best content creators in the world — right here in the legendary Selfie Square — and talk down to us. Because he says he writes in notebooks. He can’t even prove it! He’s got another thing coming! He lives in a dead world. Nobody reads anymore! It’s all about the YouTube culture. OUR CULTURE! He has to rely on old legends — like the Legend of Bard’s Dimple. That’s right, Cagey. I looked it up on the internet! They say he has a machine on his property that can transport people back in time. A time machine! Well, you might as well go back — nobody cares what you write… or don’t write… anymore. It’s digital content now, bitch.”
A pin dropping in the Cemetery, at that point, would have been heard by all. This was the kind of quietness that didn’t just linger passively, it actually pushed itself into the ears of everyone in the lounge. They all waited for what would come next.
Cagey Burns cleared his throat. Anne Whateley turned her head completely toward him, not wanting to miss a word of whatever was coming.
“It is true, my green-haired friend. I own Bard’s Dimple and there is a time machine that sits in my home under a trap door by the entry-way. It has been used before, they say. Professor Cutcliffe, to be precise. That is what they say, but there are other rumors as well. I admit that I hesitate to use the time machine myself because, if everyone with a shred of sense leaves, the only people left shall be abject idiots such as yourself. I can’t let that happen, now can I?”
“Do everyone a favor, just get in the time machine. Nobody cares what you say. You don’t fit in here, you couldn’t product digital content if your life depended on it.”
“I don’t want to, Razor. It’s a waste of time. Total garbage.”
It seemed as if the back-and-forth would have gone on forever, but it was stopped by Anne Whateley, who stepped between Cagey and Razor and raised her right hand.
“Stop it. You boys need to keep it under control. What is all this?”
“He won’t stop,” said Cagey.
“I just want him to get in his time machine and take his writing back to a time where it is useful. If he goes back, maybe someone will care what he writes,” retorted Razor with a mocking tone.
“Enough!” cried Anne.
The Legend of BARD’S DIMPLE, always lurking in this area of the country, but usually hiding in the shadows, was out in the open. It had been spoken about at the Cemetery in the presence of the most celebrated content creators — they had a total audience that could reach hundreds of millions. Even when it was unspoken, it was present. A reminder of times gone by — imperfect, but great times — they weren’t digital, they weren’t cheap, they weren’t (overwhelmingly) corporate.
It was Dizzy McCabe that spoke next. His frank speech surprised everyone because the showdown had been between Cagey and Razor, who were clearly competing for the affection of Anne Whateley.
“Let’s be honest. We live in the worst time. Everything we make is shit. Us. All of us, here. We make it today, then we make more tomorrow. None of it is special. None of it is unique. It’s just a pile of digital crap. Everyone eats it up and then shits out more the next day. Name something we’ve made that’s important. ONE THING! Name something we’ve made that anyone will remember in five years. In fact, name something that anyone will remember in a week. It’s mindless; it’s shit. I’d get in the time machine if I could. I’m just being honest.”
A stunned silence filled the Cemetery once again. The same type as a few minutes before: an aggressive silence. All of the content creators knew that what Dizzy McCabe said was true. They also knew they made their living by pushing their worthless content out. Product advertisements attached to their content and they got paid. That’s what buttered their bread, that’s how they paid for the dessert table at the Cemetery and everything else they did. But, collectively, they were crestfallen at the undeniable admission that they created nothing other than shit.
It was Anne Whateley’s face that showed the most interesting reaction to Dizzy McCabe’s speech. Razor had looked on with noticeable disgust. Cagey had a satisfied look of agreement on his face — he viewed the digital content as trash and appreciated Dizzy’s honesty (everyone knew it was trash but made it anyway). But Anne, her eyes darted left, then right… as if she were thinking of some sort of plan.
“It is shit. It’s worthless. Trap door… entry way…” said Anne, under her breath.
“This is what we have been given! Everything is digital. Everything is cheap and fleeting. This is the time we live in, let’s just do the best we can with what we have!” yelled Razor, realizing he was losing the crowd.
There was some muttering from the crowd, but not another prominent response that stood out. The party broke up, gradually at first and then everyone was gone. Some of the Selfie Square residents left in automobiles, some by foot, some on bicycles, one particularly drunk e-girl left by piggy-back. But they all left — or so it seemed. Razor, for his part, walked out the front door, out of Cagey’s view.
Cagey only lingered behind, hoping to have a tête-à-tête with the Anne Whateley; he had not seen her leave the Cemetery.
“Where did she go? She just disappeared. These women! She’s a no-good e-girl. A harlot. Did she run off with Razor?” Cagey muttered under his breath.
Cagey Burns decided that he had sobered up enough for the bike ride home. He mounted his bike — he hunched himself onto his purple ten-speed. He pedaled off, still frustrated that he had not been able to speak with Anne during or after the event. The ride home started off routine. He weaved his way out of Selfie Square and made the first turn, then the next, heading to the backroads route he preferred to take back to BARD’S DIMPLE.
The further away from Selfie Square he rode, the darker and darker the night grew. It wasn’t until he was halfway through his ride home when he noticed there was another biker behind him. Trailing him, as subtly as possible.
“That’s quite odd,” thought Cagey Burns. He never — NEVER — saw other riders on this route, and seeing one now, at the late hour, was not only highly unusual — it was also alarming. The other rider, dressed in a large black hooded jacket (with the hood pulled up over their head) was keeping pace, but maintaining a distance of about fifty yards. Cagey, remaining hunched over the handlebars, peeked back every few moments over his right shoulder to see if his pursuer remained. Each time he looked, he saw the rider. Cagey pedaled a bit faster. He made another turn; several moments later he peeked again, looking for his shadow. The other rider — cloaked in a fearsome hood — made the turn as well! Cagey was sure he was being stalked by a most ominous foe. He pedaled still faster, and crossed the point of the ride where the development of the land basically stopped. The road transitioned from cement to dirt, and became bumpier. He was in the woods that surrounded BARD’S DIMPLE. This part of the ride, the last couple of miles, was always the most difficult. He reached Hamlet Creek and crossed it via a half-rotten wooden bridge. He checked again and the other rider still remained behind him. The ominous hooded rider had closed the gap to about twenty-five yards!
Cagey’s heart raced; he had enough of this slow-speed chase and decided to ditch his pursuer.
“Time to ride!” he exclaimed, to himself, in a hushed shout.
He downshifted his purple ten-speed and started pedaling as fast as he could. The rickety, purple rig creaked and groaned, it burped and farted, but it gave Cagey everything it had. He was ripping along at a breakneck pace taking the turns almost two at a time. He was jolted up and down — his rear end absorbing impact after impact — because the skinny tires on his bike were not well-equipped to handle bumpy terrain. He peeked, again, from his ten-speed hunch, hoping he would not see anyone behind him.
To his horror, the other biker had gained on him since he increased his speed. His peek turned into a horrified stare as he saw the other biker right behind him — riding on a massive mountain bike with fat off-road tires and a deluxe suspension system to mitigate the effect of the bumpy road and create a most comfortable ride. The hooded body barely moved on top of the seat, whereas Cagey bumped and jolted his way along the road.
“Should have upgraded the purple rabbit,” Cagey said to himself, with shame.
In the dark night, Cagey could not make out anything about the rider besides his big, hooded jacket. The rider’s face could not be seen clearly, but Cagey was certain it was a sorcerer, a witch, a skeleton or an apparition (like a ghoul, he thought) — things he had written about many times in his notebooks.
They had now reached the road which turned off to BARD’S DIMPLE; but there was still a mile to go on the ride. The brittle purple ten-speed bike began to literally break under the strain of the ride. One one particularly big bump, the seat actually broke off from its post. Cagey, obviously, did not stop to retrieve it. He now had to ride in a hunched position, but such that his back was arched a bit higher so that his butt didn’t rest on (and get poked by) the seat-less metal post. He was terrified to peek back, but he couldn’t help itself. The apparition — or whatever it was trailing and haunting him — was right on his tail!
“Stop menacing me!” Cagey yelled, this time not moderating his volume.
Having made the ride back from town to to BARD’S DIMPLE a thousand times, Cagey now realized he had less than a half a mile left to go. The muscles in his legs were burning like crazy from the intensity of the ride. His ass had a small circular bruise from bouncing on the seat-less peg. “Just keep pedaling,” thought Cagey, “A few more seconds and I’ll be safe at home, in the dimple, writing, naked.” Just then he heard a blood-curdling scream from behind him. The rider must have been closing in, a scream with that much intensity could only have been unleashed from a few feet away.
“Raaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhrrrrrgggghhh!” shrieked the ghoul.
Cagey made a mental note, reminding himself to transcribe the sound he heard into his notebook (if, in fact, he survived this chase) so he could use it to describe a fear-inducing scream when one of his stories called for such a thing. The thought distracted him for just a moment, he steered his bike too far to the right. Cagey’s skinny front tire caught an uneven portion of the ground and with an indescribable sound the tire was flattened outright and the spokes of the wheel collapsed at the same time. With the front half of the purple bunny crumpled and destroyed, Cagey was thrown from the seat-less bike head first into the brush, where his head struck a large stone with a most grisly crash.
The hooded rider continued on, the chunky and sturdy tires of their bike chewing up the ground as it turned into the entry path of BARD’S DIMPLE. The rider parked the massive, top-of-the-line mountain bike outside the front door. Trusting in the serene and peaceful surroundings of BARD’S DIMPLE, Cagey Burns never locked the front door to his home. Taking advantage of that, the hooded rider — now on foot — made their way into the front room. The hooded rider walked to the center table and grabbed Cagey’s entire stack of notebooks — at least all of them that were in the main room. The hooded rider, holding the pile of notebooks in one arm, methodically pulled aside the entry way rug (revealing the trap door without even having to search).
The rider walked down the small set of wooden stairs, opened the hatch to the Avon Vessel, got inside it (with Cagey’s notebooks). She pulled down her hood, revealing her blonde hair and beautiful face. Her bright blue eyes sparkled as she closed the hatch from the inside. When the hatch of the Avon Vessel was fully closed, a loud ‘vroooosh!’ sound filled the area.
Anne Whateley (and Cagey Burns’ notebooks)? They disappeared, right into thin air.