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2 - Appointment Part 1

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Exterior light to interior gloom. Or it seemed that way as the door slid to a close behind Phillens. The gloom of an in-between place without any windows. More like a closet than a corridor. Complete with a tinge more akin to a squeezed orange laced with the herb with flower heads reminiscent of a revincé hat shop.

He would have missed the stairs if the crystal had not illuminated proceedings with a gentle glow. But had to turn back as he had gone past a pair of doors and needed to check the numbers.

"Wrong set," a voice came from above, in sync to a new, beat track. Phillens looked up to the top of the stairs. But was only met by the thankful glare of a landing window.

"That's right," a second voice added, but from more to the side. "Up here."

Glancing at the door numbered four, Phillens picked his way up the steps. Walls brighter and more distinct at every step. Feet almost sinking into layers of what felt like eiderdown. To the point that at the top the crystal had gone out, but Phillens could almost have been outside in the sun.

"Step this way," the first voice said. Still invisible, but more horizontal, as if a curtain had managed to steal away half of its volume. At least the music had stayed the same, even if the ball hadn't and the stairs continued to another floor.

"Wouldn't he like to know," the second voice chuckled. "Keep on the straight and narrow."

Phillens moved away from the landing and onto the new corridor. More doors. But taller, arched and with overhung gables. But if he was now upstairs, wouldn't rooms' one and three be downstairs? Not up here - next to a door of optimistic yellow - that could have passed for a front door. And what was with the jet door-knocker shaped like a sun-ray-maned lion? Or the gilded numerals crafted into the result of ten-plus-one.

"Don't falter now," the first voice said. "Come in."

Phillens blinked. Falter? The plaque next to the door said to knock: Once for a question; twice for your intention. Three times if your problems include House-eating shrubs of ANY kind; and Report to Reception before Reception finds you if you have NO business being up here at all.

"It — it says to knock," he said.

"He said you can come in," the second voice yawned; coupled with the door-knocker lion opening his mouth and displaying a twinkling set of citrine teeth; whilst the knocker band fell out of the lion's mouth and turned in a buzz of eleven rainbow bees before it, or they, had hit the ground.

A ground splashed with a new light: not from the great window at the corridor's end, but the half - blink - to three quarters - blink - wide-open door. Neither was the light coming from a lampstand, ceiling or wall lights. But from a sun that might as well have slapped him across the face. One step took him onto a surface like sand. Another picked up the gentle caress of turquoise waves lapping onto a shore. The third came with a blast of nautical salt; whilst in contrast to the sand and lapping waves; ribbons of cotton balls cruised across an aquamarine, cobalt and sapphire sky.

"What's this?" he said, staring at a jewelled yacht matching the course of the clouds.

"My colleague's idea of a place to relax," a voice said from the right. Phillens turned to see a man, in indigo-sunglasses, enjoying the back and forth of an orange and cream rocking chair.

"What he thinks I would take time to rest in," another voice came from the left; belonging to a fellow with a russet cap to match deep ruby shades. "This is more you any Sunday to Saturday."

"We can change it if you like, Mr Martens," the indigo-shaded man continued. "Something a little cooler?"

Drier might have been more appropriate, Phillens winced. A warm brown track pressed against his feet; framed by verges of tinder-like undergrowth. A sea of it, and hair-cut short grass, had replaced the one of turquoise he could have jumped in. Although that faded the moment he looked up at the not-so-different sun and sky.

"Ganslat," the second man coughed, a yellow, crimson and ultramarine parasol opening above him. "There's no breeze, Jo."

Phillens put a hand above his eyes. No breeze and tall, smooth, pillar-like trees that looked as if they had been planted upside down.

"It's not even the right spot," said Jo, typing on a floating screen as a parasol opened overhead. "Have you been at the moods again, Jay?"

"Like I would ever come back here," the ruby-shaded Jay replied. "Dust, twigs, heat and freight-sized hedgehogs."

"It's jumped over to this. As if Fields and Meadows have been deleted."

"I — I don't mind the previous one," said Phillens. Anything to avoid another sight of dancing, goods-carrying monster lemurs. "I can even sit on the sand."

"You'll find the one that I'm trying to find more refreshing," Jo continued, balanced on the edge of the rocking chair.

"Montarion's borrowed it," said Jay, with a hand sweep that replaced the upside-down trees with blue sky, turquoise sea; white sand and green-fronded palms. "I'll get it back later."

The screen and parasol disappeared as Jo rose a little higher from the edge of his chair. "He's not back till Twins. Are you going to explain its absence to Miss Celandine on her next appointment?"

Jay stopped adjusting his cap. "But he said that he would be back before her next - visit..."

"A hard job when it's tomorrow. Unless you're planning to go to Vallevicon."

"I'd rather start a brawl in the Celery House."

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