What was that noise?

No, that noise. In the distance. Not fireworks, it wasn’t a thunder or boom. Did you not hear it? Hmmm.

Care for a drink? Yes, I think we have some of that in the cabinet. I prefer cognac, myself, find it warmer and more tasteful. But whatever, each to his own, as they say. Settle yourself by the fire, that’s it.

It’s awfully quiet on the Forum these days. I can remember when the Forum was busy all day, every day. But people don’t have as much time as they used to, it’s true. Even I cannot get online half as much as I’d like to. Then again, everyone’s doing NaNoWriMo, so they’ve got plenty on their minds. Life will resume to normal in December.

There it is again. A kind of… I don’t know. Cold. Creaking. Sort of. But nothing in here creaks. Not normally, anyway.

I tried to do NaNoWriMo last year. Failed miserably, it’s just not in my style of writing. I like to take my time, edit in stages as I go along. Revise and change as I get ideas. Writing is a fluid thing, it is always changing and evolving as you write, I find. Others will disagree, of course. Some people can just hammer out words like there’s no tomorrow and not worry about all the crap that gets in.

Would you like another? It’s all right, I’ll pour. A little more? There you go.

I like to think of writing as being akin to panning for gold. You sit there for hours, scooping up the water and the mud, shuffling and shaking the pan, shifting shit by the tonne until you find a few tiny little nuggets of gold. Words are that shit, and you have to plough through lots of them to find those little nuggets. So I sit and shuffle, checking carefully as I go along, searching for that little glimmer of gold.

That’s starting to bother me, now. It’s more of a groaning, creaking noise. Wonder what it is? It’s coming from down the hall. There’s no-one else in the Forum this evening, though. Well, no-one consequential. Just a few newbies, wandering lost and lonely down in the lower levels. Awfully close to the cellar, actually. Oh, and you and I, of course.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, writing and panning for gold. It can also be likened to any other art, where you are creating something. Take the master carpenter, for instance. In his workshop lies a masterpiece. Everyday he scrapes a little at it, takes his chisel to it lovingly and carefully, crafting the intricate designs and edges. When it is finished, it will raise him a few hundred, of not thousands of pounds. But to be able to bring that masterpiece to the world, he must also work. His Dreaded Day Job must suffice to pay the bills and keep his family fed. The smaller, ordinary chairs and tables he crafts for smaller amounts of money. The worktops and window frames and floors he installs. He takes pride in each and every one of them, yes. But they are merely his DDJ, tiding him over while he finishes that masterpiece. And when he finishes it, he will begin the next one. Sometimes it takes years…

Time to investigate that noise, I think. Let’s see what’s down the corridor. Careful as we go, don’t want to fall on any of the old loose floorboards. They can be quite treacherous at this time of year, as the cold settles in and everything shifts a little.

Now then, just this way… there! Did you hear it? Yes, yes! Just like a shriek or a yell. I wonder…

Yes, writing can take years. No, not down that way. And even then, a writer may not find all of those little nuggets they were looking for. So many slip through our fingers, it is heart-breaking. Don’t open that door. No, it’s the cleaning cupboard. All the mops and buckets will fall out on the floor. This way…

Down there is the cellar. The beating heart of the Forum. Literally, of course. Reginald is down there now, working hard away. Nearly time for his supper, actually. He keeps the whole Forum powered. Oh yes, he’s a trooper, all right. Never complains. Well, not overly much, anyway.

In fact, I think that noise is coming from down there, in the cellar. Let us go and see. Now, do be careful on the stairs, they are even more treacherous than the floorboards. Yes, that one is a little loose.

Ah yes, definitely down here, that noise. Horrible squealing noise. Guess we need a little WD40, I think. What’s that you say? The loud noise? Oh that’s the generator. And that other noise is the wheel, that turns the generator. Reginald is round the other side, over there. You won’t see him till you get round there.

You go look over there. I think the noise is coming from one of the gyrators. Let’s see… aha! Something stuck in the back of the wheel, causing the shrieking. Pass me that big crowbar, would you? Yes, you can go and see Reginald in a moment. Let’s just get this wheel spinning properly first. That’s it, just lean on there a little…Dear me, that’s stuck fast.

Yes, the cage is most definitely necessary. It took us two days to get him in there. Several people lost limbs, unfortunately. I was lucky, I must admit. How else do you think I lost the ear? Haha! Only kidding.

Now, lean on there again… a little more… that’s it! Just like that! Look at that thing go now, much smoother. What was it you say? Oh, just a…well, a bit of bone, I think.

Yes, you can see Reginald now. Just round there. Don’t get too close now.

My, you look like you’ve seen a ghost! He is big, isn’t he? We’ve measured him as best we can, at about six feet tall. Oh yes, super sized. But so useful.

And what do we feed him on? Oh that’s easy. He’s never fussy. Look over here, in this pit. Yup, that’s where all the lost newbies end up if they don’t contribute on the Forum. Can’t have them cluttering up the place, now can we? If they’re not going to be useful and join in the conversation, in they go. They keep for a few days at least. One young lad survived a whole fortnight before he finally gave in.

Oh no, of course not! I feed them to him alive, my friend! What do you think I am? Cruel to hamsters? Dear oh dear, no. They must always be alive. Only just, can’t have poor Reggie chasing them around his cage, that would put him off his appetite. No, alive but weak and frail, that’s always best.

Feeding time, then! Would you like to help me? It’s always better with two people, they do always like to wriggle as you pull them out…

No? Oh well, just hold that cage door lock for a moment. You don’t want to do that either? Where are you going? There’s no rush! Come back? What’s that? The police?

Oh no, can’t have that. Where’s the switch. Oooh! I bet that hurt. Yes, we had that put in as a safety mechanism. All the steps move as one, bring you down with a crunch, I am sorry if that hurt. How’s your leg? Is it broken… oh yes, definitely broken. Oh well, you’ll be on the menu tomorrow night then. Now come here.

It’s no use trying to crawl away, now! Come back, I’ll have to use the meat hook if you keep struggling. No, this way… that’s it… a little closer… my, you are a strong one, aren’t you? A little further… down you go! Now, isn’t that more comfortable down there with everyone else?

Now then, dinner’s coming, Reggie! I’ll just fish one out for you. Yes, this little lass will do. Bless her, she’s been down here for three days crying that she wants her mummy. Shame. Anyway… yeah, come here, darling!

Back up now, Reggie, that’s it, away from the cage doors… In you go, sweetie! Woah! Nearly got loose, then Reggie! Can’t be having that. You crunch on her. That shirt might get stuck in your teeth though. Make sure you chew your food. Starting with a thigh? Good lad!

Now then, must be off. I think another newbie has arrived.

G’night, Reggie!

Good night, dear visitor. Hope you don’t get too cold down there…