The Butterfly Dragon And Tales Of The Sanctum Together: Suffragium Per Proxy (Updated May 15, 2024 8:30 AM EST)

I'm Brian Joseph Johns. That was me out and about earlier (Wednesday  May 15,  2024) in the College Street and Spadina Avenue area, and the Dundas and Yonge Street area in the early evening in downtown Toronto. Recognize me?


  • Time And Space (Finished March 9, 2024 3:30 PM EST)
  • Performer Or Audience? (Finished March 11, 2024 3:30 PM EST)
  • Social Successes And Those Who Are Seen But Not Heard (Finished March 11, 2024 5:30 PM EST)
  • Wayward Women (Finished April 9, 2024 1:45 AM EST)
  • Gentleman's Club (Finished April 9, 2024 1:00 PM EST)
  • Waking Moments (Finished April 12, 2024 1:00 PM EST)
  • Jinn Hua: Taranaki Warrior (Finished April 21, 2024 1:45 AM EST)
  • Cambridge (Finished May 15, 2024 8:30 AM EST)

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In all truth, there's a good chance that thanks to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Herbert George Wells, Jules Verne, Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Pierre Burton (for The Secret World Of Og and his ground breaking interview of Bruce Lee) that all of us are literate. Actually that goes back much farther to the Phoenecians and their first 22 character system of symbols. Literacy is important. Really it is. Literally. It allows us to approach our employer at the end of the week (with a big club) and ask: where my money?! Math important too. It help us count our thirteen fingers and toes.

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Shhhh! Digital Media

Brian Joseph Johns


This short story is my yearly release for International Women's Day 2024, the last story I released for the 2023 occasion being The Butterfly Dragon: Three For Women. If you liked that story then I suggest that you read The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Butterflies - Episode 10, which has many of the same characters and is strongly themed as a good story for both women and men, though it is geared towards women, not to mention that its completed. Something to read while you wait for me to finish Suffragium Per Proxy, which I will be giving full attention for the next week until it is finished. This story will involve characters from both The Butterfly Dragon and A Lady's Prerogative, and many returning familiar faces.

Please do enjoy this fictional "could have really happened story" based upon real events and very pertinent to woman's history globally.

Happy International Women's Day! 

Brian Joseph Johns
CEO, CIO, Author, Artist
Shhhh! Digital Media

 Thanks to the other artists who've contributed over the years, and whose names can be found in the credits section at the end of this story.

Tomorrow, I'll be celebrating International Women's Day with a bottle of Rosé, while I'll be on camera for most of the day while I write. I haven't decided if I'll turn it into an actual livestream, but that possibility is very likely.

On Language And Translation

Language in my writing is expressed through brackets and quotation marks. The quotation marks will always represent what sounds were actually spoken, in terms of language, while their meaning will be represented in the brackets (square brackets like: [ and ]).

So, if a Maori man speaks words in the Maori language, the dialog would appear like:

[Good men should step forth in the interest of women,]
"Me haere nga tane pai mo te pai o nga wahine," the Maori man stated.

If a Maori woman replied to his statement, it would appear like:

[Good men should speak truthfully, and should never take away the words of women,]
"Ko nga tane pai kia pono te korero, kaua hoki e tangohia nga kupu a te wahine;" the Maori woman responded.

That which is spoken appears between the quotations, while its meaning appears within the square braces. That way, everyone can interpret what is being stated in any lanugage.

It might be considered a liability by some that this story is being told by a man, but in all esssence, I regard that as proof that men are in fact listening more than ever to great women. Its a good thing that there's empathic and intuitive men truly telling their stories, for I can think of few who are more qualified to do so.

WARNING, this story depicts mature situations involving adult characters and as such, reader discretion is strongly advised.

Although I do not smoke, nor do I endorse the act of doing so, this story contains references to tobacco and pipe smoking in the framework of infamous historical smoking clubs. However, it important to remember that tobacco originates from a ceremonial aspect of Indigenous culture, and something known as the sweat lodge. It was never a recreational aspect of their society, but more so an important aspect of ceremony, tradition and sometimes even ascension. European traders brought the lucrative tobacco business from the Americas, born of the first trading with Indigenous culture during the age of colonization.

In retrospect, smoking clubs were (European) establishments where (men) would gather, wear smoking jackets, smoke tobacco in pipes and cigars, drink sipping whiskey and often socialize or fraternize with their professional peers.

These establishments are depicted and might offend some readers. It is important to note that these establishments did exist and are a part of history as much so as the things over which we flatter ourselves. Keep in mind that we are composed of both our worst and best.

Progress isn't about erasing our past enough so to do away with attitudes and behaviours from which we've grown distant or about which we've become ashamed. Its about having a bearing  derived from such aspects of our being, that become a measure based upon our improvement there from over time.

The Butterfly Dragon And Tales Of The Sanctum: Suffragium Per Proxy

Suffragium Per Proxy

Men have had the right to determine their own leadership since the beginning of their awareness as such, most often by brute force, or by comfort in their own perception of the threat thereof with regard to those of the opposite sex. That amount of time equates to approximately two million years, scientifically speaking.

Women however, have only had the right to express and implore their support of leadership for the last one hundred and thirty-three years. That's a difference of one million, nine-hundred and ninety-nine thousand eight hundred and sixty seven years

Roughly speaking of course.

Speaking freely, being a right for which women have had to fight for almost as long...

However, liberation is an act of independence, and sometimes isolation, while freedom is an act of conscience.

Time And Space

Alicia sat alone, in a darkened room, lit only by a nearby oil lamp which hung from an elaborate bracket mounted to a wooden wall. She didn't recognize the room at all, and had never seen any room like it within the condominium where she'd lived with her fiancé,Walton Norler, over the last seven years.

The room wasn't the only unfamiliar feature, for she was wearing a long black Victorian dress, complete with a black veil that hid her face. The dress itself was very uncomfortable, causing her itchiness in several places along the length of her remarkably toned body, though once again she was at a loss as to how the garment had become a part of her wardrobe, or how she'd managed to put it on by herself.

Beneath the dress, she could feel the immense pressure of a girdle, several yards of lace kept it tightly around her waist, cutting her circulation short and giving her toes the tingles in the absense of good circulation. In all likelihood though, it was preferrable to the alternative, as she was also adorned in a black pair of heeled granny boots, her toes uncomfortably tapered to fit into the point at their tip.

Regardless of her discomfort, she had no idea where she was or how she'd gotten there.

She looked around the room carefully, observing that it had been recently emptied and cleaned. There were several places on the wooden floor where there were markings, as if large chests or trunks had once been there, and had been moved, leaving only their impressions behind.

The ceiling of this strange room tapered much like her boots, though the direction they did so was more vertically than any other, and from that clue she surmised that she was likely in the attic of a large home. Possibly one that was historically preserved.

"Widow Hurst!" a man with a piercing and penetrating voice spoke from someone beneath the attic she currently occupied.

The name did not sound familiar to her, so she simply did not respond. Instead, she got to her feet and walked in the direction of the stairs, which were tucked away at the far end of the storage space.

As she walked the distance, she took notice of an old Deguerrotype photograph which hung from the wall, a man in his forties of some dignity sat staring off into the distance as he posed for the photo. Judging by the quality and age of the print, Alicia assumed that he likely had to remain in that position for a few minutes while the camera did its work.

She pulled the photograph from the wall, frame and all and upon closer examination, something about it presented itself as being eerily familiar.

"My dearest William..." Alicia felt her lips move, and yet it was an unfamiliar voice that quietly emerged from them.

"I beg your pardon, but Widow Hurst, this estate is no longer your home, nor are you in possession of any means of support..." a man's feet could be heard ascending the stairs into the attic.

"What of Mr. Brett?!" Alicia's lips once again moved, but an unfamiliar panicked voice was all she heard.

"He's still in New Zealand, as are all of your deceased husband's political allies. Widow Hurst, you're completely alone. I'm begging you, please accompany me, for I've arranged for your safety by way of a bed and a place setting for meals at the Isaacs' Home For Wayward Women..." the man assured her in as compassionate a voice as he could muster.

"But I am no whore or woman of the night! How dare you! He was my husband! A fortune I helped him to build and you took it all away!" Alicia now felt like she was simply a member of the audience in her own body, as the woman who spoke through her lips began ranting in defiance of the pronouncement suggested by the man's ration voice.

"Doctor... Constable... We're going to need your assistance..." the man hollared down the stairs as the woman occupying Alicia's body smashed the frame and photo on the wooden floor, screaming as the full realization of her situation hit her.


Alicia suddenly leaned up on the sofa, a cold, damp sweat engulfed her face as she looked about a familiar room. It was the living room of their condo.

She looked over to the large screen television, seeing the output from the security cameras by the front door. As looked at them, she had a flashback to her nightmare. A man in a Doctor's coat had injected her with a sedative of some form, while a Constable held her still as she struggled. She could see their faces clearly as she struggled, and her thoughts returned to the cameras in the front lobby.

She wasn't in the lobby per se, but she could through the televison screen see out through them as if she was there herself. In a sudden realization of awareness, she came to the conclusion that she must have been experiencing the same thing, albeit not through cameras, but through another woman's eyes.


Almost six thousand kilometers away and on the shelf of another continental platelet, a remarkably similar woman lay in bed, her long, dirty blonde hair covering her pillow breadthwise. Her breathing was as quiet as the London suburb night outside of her front door, and like that same night air, it moved without sound amidst a dream filled body and mind.

Her lips moved as she spoke words within her dream. Like an actress reading from a script hidden deep within the universe, the playwright directing carefully amongst the stars of the Milky Way beyond. Such a director, the dreamer imagined as being a woman whose glowing white hair made up the arms of our home galaxy itself, as she cradled the Aerth within her arms protectively.

[How exactly, does one invite the water into their life?]
"Kia pehea te tika, ka tono tetahi i te wai ki roto i to ratau oranga?" the dreamer spoke to a man,  whose body was adorned in tattoos which flowed like wavy strands along his face, and throughout his body.

[Te wai. Ka haere mai, ka haere, ahakoa pohiritia, kaore ranei. Ko te ora. Ka rite ki te manawa ka haere mai ka haere.]
"The water. It comes and it goes, whether it is invited or not. It is life. Like breathe comes and goes," the man answered her.

[Water is indeed the same way every where. In many places it has come where it isn't wanted, and many times it doesn't come when it is needed. Why is that do *you* think?]
"He rite tonu te wai ki nga waahi katoa. He maha nga waahi kua tae mai ki nga waahi kaore e hiahiatia ana, a he maha nga wa kaore e tae mai i te wa e hiahiatia ana. He aha te mea ki to whakaaro?" asked the dreamer of the man with the flowing tattoos.

In all truth, the dreamer was using her knowledge as a biologist who'd studied at the Royal Veterinary College at the University Of London, under a specialized program commissioned by the Royal Biological Advisory Of Her Majesty Queen Victoria Of England.

[Why is it that you seem to breath at the exact right time that you need it? Are you calling the nature a fraud?]
"He aha koe i ahua manawa ai i te wa tika e hiahia ana koe? Kei te kii koe i te ahua he tinihanga?" the man of strange tattoos responded to her inquiry, immediately recognizing her interests as much as he recognized his own and for his tribe.

[E whakapono ana koe me whai mana nga wahine ki te korero?]
"Do you believe women should have a right to say?" she found herself spurred by this man of spoken principle.

[Belief has little weight where one actually does as much so,]
"He iti noa te taumaha o te whakapono ka mahia e tetahi," the man did not flirt with her, though she likely would not have denied him as such.

Her concern was more of a sociological nature, albeit at that time in the history of the sciences, her field of inquiry had not yet been invented as much so as the field in which she was an expert.

[Whakapono mai ki ahau, kei te mohio ahau ki to korero korero pera i to korero mo te wai he rite tonu ki te manawa. Kei te korero koe mo nga tai o te marama e rite ana ki te whakamohoatanga - te hurihanga o te manawa o te tangata. He mohio, engari kaore i tua atu i nga wahine ...]
"Believe me, I understand your anecdote as much so as you alluded to water being much like breath. You're referring to the lunar tides being akin to the inhalation - exhalation cycle of the human respiratory system. Clever,  but not beyond women..." she responded to his bid for the crown of knowledge.

In the distance, another woman watched as the blonde haired woman spoke with one of the Kingitanga... a man who supported the Māori King Movement, despite their former adherence to a concept of the divine feminine.

[Now you speak with those who would usurp our divine heritage with the sea? The feminine life bringer you've forgotten in the name of those who've come for our birthright?]
"Inaianei kei te korero koe ki te hunga ka tango i o tatou taonga atua ki te moana? Ko te wahine kawe oranga kua warewarehia e koe i runga i te ingoa o te hunga kua tae mai mo to tatou whanautanga?" she addressed the man who lay beside Nelony on the beach which faced in the direction of the British penal colony beyond their  unaided sight.

[Forgive me, but your man here has transcended his own locality and tribe to become a man of the world,]
"Murua mai, engari ko to tangata i konei kua neke ake i tona wahi ake hei tangata mo te ao," Nelony addressed the woman who challenged his authority.

[I thought I heard the familiar words of our conquerors. I'd wager that many others have heard words not unlike your own in many places where you've taken the land from Papatūānuku,]
"I mahara ahau kua rongo ahau i nga kupu mohio a o tatou toa. Ka pehi ahau he maha nga tangata kua rongo i nga kupu rerekee i a koe i nga waahi maha i tangohia e koe te whenua i a Papatūānuku," Jinn Hua responded to the woman in Nelony's form.

[Your place is not here in this conversation! I speak of matters that bring us prosperity and you weave enemies from their own words! Would you have them do the same with ours?]
"Kaore to waahi i konei i tenei korerorero! E korero ana ahau mo nga mea e whai hua ai tatou, e whiria ana e koe nga hoa riri ki a ratou ake kupu! Ka hiahia koe kia pera ano ratou ki a maatau?" Koraka said impatiently.

[Conquerors seldom come first as enemies, but more so in the guise of allies. Sharks never show their teeth until they're closer than an arm's length, and by that moment its far too late,]
"He iti noa nga toa ka puta mai i te tuatahi hei hoariri, engari ko te ahua o te hoa rangatira. Kare rawa nga mango e whakaatu i o ratou niho kia tata rawa atu i te roa o te ringa, a i taua wa kua roa rawa!" Jinn Hua responded to Koraka.

[Go now bearer of an empty womb! You bring us no future. Leave the words to a man who thinks for the safety of women, whether they bear child or not!]
"Tena ra, haere ki te kaimau i te kopu kore! Kaore koe e kawe mai i a maatau. Waiho nga kupu ki te tane e whakaaro ana mo te oranga o nga wahine, ahakoa ka whanau tamariki, kaore ranei!" Koraka leaned forward threateningly towards Jinn Hua.

[A man's last words often reach in the direction of their grave. Lead your tribe not in the same direction!]
"Ko nga kupu whakamutunga a te tangata ka tae ki te huarahi o tona urupa. Aratakina to iwi kia kaua i te huarahi kotahi!" Jinn Hua strode off away from the younger tribal figure, wondering whether he truly understood the responsibility that lay within his own hands.


Doctor Briggs sat in a chair facing inward, towards the circle of other chairs that made up the perimeter of their meeting. Each chair, with the exception of three, were occupied by a person, who listened carefully as Doctor Briggs addressed them.

"If you'll recall our last meeting, we spoke about some of the theories there are in Psychology and Sociology that seek to explain the purpose of dreams, and why conscious beings like ourselves and other animals have them..." he addressed the room, pausing when Alicia stepped into the room through the door that led to the front offices of the community center.

"Your first time here is it? Pleasure to see you again," Doctor Briggs greeted Alicia, standing for her as she returned his smile.

"I'm a little new at this, should I just find a seat?" Alicia suggested.

"Where ever you're comfortable," Doctor Briggs responded, as another man stood up from his own chair and grabbed a pair of extra chairs from a stack in the corner of the meeting room.

"She looks familiar..." Nelony said to her best friend Shaela, who sat beside her as they waited for the meeting to get started.

"Not to me she's not," Shaela replied, giving Alicia a firm glance as she tried to recognize the woman.

"She was in Shepperton a couple of years ago. With another woman. A French girl. Helped us to find Happiu~Isuka for Sato, back when we first met Morton Keyser and Gallea," Nelony explained to Shaela.

"I can't recall any such adventure. Must have been my day off," Shaela said sarcastically to Nelony, as Nelony waved with her fingers to Alicia, a cheerful smile on her face.

Alicia looked over to Nelony, getting the distinct feeling that the woman greeting her was somehow familiar. Alicia stood from the chair she'd selected and stepped over to Nelony, instead taking a seat beside her.

"You were in London, weren't you?" asked Alicia of Nelony, suddenly recognizing the woman.

"Shepperton actually... At my friend's shop. The little dog?" Nelony reminded her.

"Your little dog owns a shop?" Alicia suddenly seemed a bit confused by Nelony's words.

"No. My friend Sato does. You helped us to rescue his dog... A cute little pug," Nelony reminded Alicia.

"...ohhhh... I remember. You're the bird lady... right?" asked Alicia, drawing a contained laughter from Shaela.

"She definitely knows you," Shaela responded, directing her laughter towards Nelony.

"You're a long way from home?" asked Alicia.

"We have a friend that lives here in Ontario, east of the big city. Just north of Belleville in Alivale. We were visiting when we stumbled upon an ad for this workshop," Nelony explained to Alicia.

"If you don't mind, we'd like to get this meeting started..." Doctor Briggs interrupted their conversation.

"So sorry Stephen..." Alicia turned to face Doctor Briggs, her face turning red with embarrassment.

"That's alright. Why don't we take this opportunity to get to know you better. Introduce yourself and tell us why you're here. What do you expect to get from attending this workshop?" asked Doctor Briggs.

Alicia stood nervously from her chair as the rest of the people in the room looked to her.

"My name is Alicia. Its a great pleasure to be here and to see so many friendly faces who are obviously on the same page with regard to some recent experiences I've been having, that involve vivid dreams. I came to this workshop in order to find some answers and perhaps to learn from your experiences as well. Nice to meet you all," Alicia smiled for her peers in the meeting.

They all expressed the same sentiment as a crowd, greeting Alicia together, who returned a generous smile and returned to her seat beside Nelony and Shaela.

"Thank you Alicia. Its a pleasure to meet you, though I already have the pleasure of knowing you, but we're here to discuss matters pertaining to our dream state..." Doctor Briggs greeted Alicia, and then refocused the group's discussion back to the matters at hand.

Shaela suddenly interrupted.

"Can we just get to the part where you tell us all exactly why our dreams are so vivid and feel so real? Like we're actually there?!!!" Shaela's hand went up and she spoke as soon as she had Doctor Briggs' attention.

The room remained quiet after her interruption, but one or two people began applauding her. More people jumped in and joined the applause, though Shaela was neither intimidated nor embarrassed.

"I'll never figure out for the life of me how you ended up in a coven that embraces stealth above all else..." Nelony smirked at her friend's lack of discretion.

Performer Or Audience?

Alicia stepped in through the front door of the condominium unit, quickly removing her shoes and replacing them with a pair of flannel covered slippers.

"They were out of cauliflower, so I got edamame instead," Alicia yelled down the hall as she arrived in the kitchen.

"Edamame? What's that?" asked Norler, greeting her with a gentle kiss on the lips.

"Kind of like snap peas, but more like beans. They're really healthy too. I got them at that market on the south side of College, just west of Spadina. Practically a short walk from the University," Alicia dropped off the grocery bag on the counter as she continued onward to the bedroom.

"Will they go with cheese? I'm making bubble and squeak as a side you know," Norler opened the bag of groceries and took a look at the edamame Alicia had brought.

"Just cut the broccoli flourettes small and cook them with the edamame, before you mix them with the cheese," Alicia suggested, returning to the kitchen in her favourite flannel house coat.

"So how'd it go?" asked Norler as he began cutting the broccoli.

"Stephen says hi by the way. It was much more crowded than I thought it would be, but it went good," Alicia began putting together the marinade for the chicken breasts.

"So, any idea about why you're having these dreams?" asked Norler.

"Doctor Briggs explained that it was the means by which our cognitive center organizes our memories for long term storage. He then went on to say that's the scientific part that he has to talk about in order to ensure funding for the sessions, but he also went on to elaborate on a theory that he and Bryce have been discussing about the nature of our dreams, with more than just physiological implications. A bit of woo woo he said..." Alicia stirred the bowl of marinade, adding a bit of soy sauce and honey to the mixture as she did.

"I'm guessing for a group session like that, its not so much about the numbers as it is the effectiveness of the conjecture, as Helmut and I used to say after a meeting. Woo woo, that marinade smells good, honey!" Norler responded, secretly pinching her tush after he'd remarked.

She pinched back even harder.

"Ow!" he let out a yelp. 

"That confirms that we're not dreaming," Alicia smiled playfully as she added the garlic to the marinade.

"So what was this theory?" asked Norler, putting the broccoli and edamame mixture on the gas stove.

"Well, he says that there's evidence that indicates that the Quantum nature of our brains, as outlined in several papers and books by Sir Roger Penrose,  Stuart Hameroff and Deepak Chopra, that our experiences during the dream state are more akin to observation effects from the past, that are echoed into the future, like a live broadcast, and that some minds are able to tune into these events and experience them as if they were there..." Alicia did her best to explain the theory in layman's terms for Norler, who although was very quick witted, had no knowledge or expertise in Alicia's field of Quantum Biology.

"So you're an audience of someone else's experiences?" confirmed Norler that he was on the road to understanding her.

"Possibly, or my mind is just doing some complicated organizing of the day's memories before it commits them to long term memory, and that process is so convincing as an experience, that it feels real. The people I imagine in my dreams are very convincing but have likely never existed in the version of them that my mind is confabulating. Kind of like a moiré effect can arise from nothing more than nearly parallel lines on a contrasting page," Alicia responded, taking the marinated chicken filled cookware and putting it carefully into the oven.

"What do you believe, honey?" Norler asked Alicia as they stopped to face each other, now waiting for their dinner to cook.

"I believe it feels like real history... but my logical mind as a professional says it just can't be," Alicia responded to him, deeply pondering his question.

She then turned to him, a subtle yet seductive smile on her face.

"However, I do believe that I truly need a kiss..." she smiled at him seductively.

"Well, who am I to question the beliefs of my wife to be?" Norler moved in for the kiss.

Social Successes And Those Who Are Seen But Not Heard

A Quartet of performers were seated within the main hall foyer of a sizeable manor. Its halls were filled with local notables of the day, both women and men from the late eighteen hundreds and on a large body of land called New Zealand in the global region of Oceania.

Said manor had been one of the earliest built in Auckland, its foundation and walls erected to house one of the wealthy families whose business interests had become focused on the region since its colonization. As such, the  hosts, the guests and all of the support staff were dressed for the party, though any such occasion was more civic in nature than otherwise. More political than apolotical. Perhaps even pretense than per

One who was a stranger to the region would likely be lost amongst such a crowd, except for the fact that amongst such persons, there were men whose step was more firm and their stance moreso vertical than that of their neighbours, though as to whether that was purposely so could likely not be deemed, not to mention it would be denied by those so accused.

On this particular night and destined to its purposes, there lay much more importance to the practiced behaviours and appearances of such men than there otherwise might have been, for this night symbolized and heralded a time of the emergence of liberaty through the act of choice. The marketing that had accompanied such change was not wasted in the slightest, and was as present as those who represented the apex of each possibility, where freedom was simply the answer to a multiple choice question that those seeking such freedom answered roughly every two to four years.

Publicity was nay a lost concept in such a time, and despite having no apparent recognizable label to those who currently lived and thrived in the twenty-first century, it was as much a part of humanity in the late eighteen hundreds as was breathing, eating and sleeping. While the latter three activities needed no justification in question, publicity promised to justify actions whose need was questionable, and therefore it was as much a science and artform as were its counterparts of the same post Rennaissance era of humanity.

Publicity was the staple of a society that needed a narrative, and there was nothing ever so much like pretentiousness to get a good party going in its wake.

A pair of women in their late thirties stood a few paces behind the quartet of cellists, the taller of a two, a striking red headed woman reached out with her left hand quickly placing her empty wine glass on the tray of a passing waiter, while grabbing up a full glass with her right.

"You've got the right idea I see," Alicia remarked to Shaela in a friendly manner, though in all truth the two did not know each other.

They were familiar and from the same crowd in Auckland, however they'd never said a word to each other in all the times they'd spent bumping into each other during these events.

"Opportunity comes and goes quickly at these events my dear," Shaela said as another waiter passed close enough to fall within reach of her grasp again.

Shaela watched as Alicia let the waiter pass, without taking the opportunity to grab a glass of wine of her own.

Shaela shook her head.

"I thought you to be much quicker than that. I highly doubt a woman less so astute could have easily snared herself a Hurst..." Shaela, passed the full wine glass she'd just procured to Alicia, who rather than let it fall to the floor, accepted it in her empty hand while Shaela quickly grabbed another from one of the nearby wait staff.

Alicia smiled, amused by Shaela's boldness and confidence.

"He proposed to me, as are the customs any woman should know," Alicia responded to Shaela's quip.

"Ohhh, please. Your naivety might work around them, but I know a woman of wit when I see one," Shaela clanked wine glasses with Alicia, across whose face a smile slowly emerged before she took a sip from her glass.

"Do you know why some of these men walk taller than the others?" asked Shaela, whose attention returned to guest watching.

One of her favourite passtimes at parties such as these.

"Of course. Democracy has arrived in Auckland. These men are no longer apointed by their friends in the House Of Lords or the Parliament. They're now voted in by due process to represent the people," Alicia explained to Shaela.

"My dear Mrs. Hurst, did you recall that contrived answer from a text book you scoffed from your husband's library?" Shaela asked her skeptically.

"Well even if I did, its true," Alicia responded, having more fun than she'd thought possible at the parties she and her husband often attended.

"Mrs. Hurst, the only thing that has changed is that these men grease their hair and wax their moustachios for different employers now. Its not so much how you kiss an ass, as it is whose ass you kiss," Shaela responded, once again fearlessly, though by that time, Alicia had written her confidence off as being a side effect of the wine.

"Do me a favour? When you're talking with their wives, be sure to recall that it was I who said that to you," Shaela remarked to the Alicia, who was all smiles by that point.

"Please. Do call me Alicia," Alicia introduced herself formally for her first time to her new friend.

Shaela seemed amused.

"Their wives are not going to like you for talking with me you know. You can call me Shaela. They'll tell you I'm the trouble causer. The one who ruffles the comforters on their husband's beds," Shaela returned a smile for Alicia, assuming that Alicia's curiosity was simply based upon her shock value than truly that based upon her character.

"So tell me Shaela? What was it that undermined your confidence in due process and the age of enlightenment?" asked Alicia of her new friend.

"Quoting more nonsense from your husband's library again without having actually digested it, are you?" Shaela responded, keeping her eyes on one of the tall standing men in particular.

"I just want to know where such a scathing sense of pessimism found roots in your life?" Alicia replied, taking another sip of her wine.

"Well obviously you find it amusing, otherwise you'd have returned to the company of their wives by now and be talking from a script and notes given you by your husband in the interests of getting him elected," Shaela replied, not waiting for her response.

"Well I think that..." Alicia began before Shaela interrupted her.

"You see him? He just got the pat of approval from Henry Isaacs you know," Shaela gestured with her wine glass, returning it again to her lips before it got too far from them.

"Pat of approval? What is that supposed to mean? He's a good friend of my husband you know," asked Alicia, now feeling slightly defensive.

"He's got business interests in the region, and a fair reach as well. No doubt his pat on the back of Mr. Tonks will go a long way to getting the man elected. By the morning's arrival, when you and I are asleep and recovering from far too much wine as I'm hoping, an army of men will have put up posters of Mr. Tonks for his election campaign in Mr. Isaacs' former riding. You see, something as simple as a pat on the back at one of these parties can trigger a mountain of activity," Shaela was quite proud of her observation.

"Now you're nearing drunken conjecture, and it is bordering on conspiracy as well," Alicia responded, a coy smile on her face for finally having pushed Shaela to the defensive.

"...And right when I was beginning to enjoy your company... You're obviously well read, but there's more than just random nouns, verbs and adjectives on those pages you know," Shaela reponded, once again expertly turning things around.

"I think that you feel threatened by educated and knowledgable women?" Alicia challenged Shaela.

"Are you saying that I'm not? There's a difference between being educated and being knowledgeable. Reading the words is only the first step. What do you think it is that changed Europe so drastically? A bunch of paintings of fruit bowls and naked women? The words of a few revolutionaries? There was something more to it than just what meets the eye. Something that needs to be lived. Something you can't get simply by looking up the etymology of the words you read in books you know!" Shaela responded with something more than Alicia could muster from within herself.

"Mrs. Hurst, what a pleasure it is..." a man had approached Alicia and Shaela absent of their knowledge of his approach.

Two other men followed him in tandem, though they themselves did little else except nod politely to the two women as they arrived in their company.

"I see you've had the good fortune to make acquaintances with my wife?" the man asked Alicia.

"I'm ever so sorry Mrs. Hurst, I failed to introduce you to my husband. Alicia Hurst, this is my husband, James Ellis Smith," Shaela introduced the man, who looked to Shaela and smiled cautiously at her, as he examined her carefully.

"My wife is a spirited one, especially after a glass or two of wine..." Mr. Smith looked to Alicia apologetically.

"And an intelligent conversationalist as well, a trait she surely must have acquired from certain company?" Alicia buttered Mr. Smith up accordingly, looking quickly to Shaela's deep blue eyes as she did.

"Yes... she does have a way with words... If you'd excuse us for a moment please?" Mr. Smith urged Shaela away from Alicia and addressed her.

"We are here officially, and you are here as my wife and representing my interests here...!" he said to her firmly.

"I see. Is this going to be another shut-up and look good for me argument?" Shaela replied to him, looking at him piercingly with her eyes over the rim of her wine glass.

"I take it that you don't like the wealth, the jewelry, the finest clothing, the finest food and the finest drink?" he confirmed with her.

"It all loses its lustre in value in the presence of good company, you know," Shaela responded, challenging his nerve to come up with a feasible argument on short notice.

"Look! Can we not make just one party about having a social success? Especially in such a needed time as this! This is the front doorstep of what's to come, and these people will be choosing the man that leads them into the future! Can you not just this once think about someone other than yourself!" he surprised her at the last moment of their conversation by turning the tables just as Alicia had moments earlier.

"Please forgive us. We're not under the duress of having the weight of such a choice on our backs as deciding our future as you must be," Alicia came to Shaela's rescue, having heard the one detail in her husband's request that overshadowed the truth of selfishness in his statement.

"It is a great opportunity that the leaders of our communities and city will be decided for the first time by the vote of the men of Auckland. Mrs. Hurst, no need to apologize, but I'm grateful that at least one of you sees this matter so thoroughly as being of as much importance. Perhaps some of Mr. Hurst's goodness will rub off onto my wife as well in your company? I bid you a good evening. I shall return for you later my dear," Mr. Smith smiled to Alicia, and then not so readily to his own wife.

Shaela however managed a smile, but more so in confidence of her new found friend as her husband left her to seek other social successes amongst the other men present at the party.

"Thank you..." Shaela said to Alicia gratefully.

"For...?" asked Alicia purposely naively.

"It seems I had you all wrong. I guess that means you can stay for another glass of wine or two," Shaela responded to Alicia as soon as her husband was out of earshot.

"Are you sure? I wouldn't want too much of my husband to rub off onto you, you know," Alicia joked, directing her sarcasm at both of their husbands, but for the purposes of bonding and their new found friendship.

Wayward Women

Alicia awoke, suddenly startled from her sleep in such a startled state she could barely catch her breath.

Her hand held to the center of her chest, she gasped for air, when she suddenly realized that the ceiling was only a King's foot above the top of her head.

When she'd ceased the onset of her sleep ridden cough, her head slowly craned upward and she extended her hand to touch the ceiling, lost as to where she might be.

Her hands felt around the matress beneath her and found an empty curved bottle that fit snugly into her hand.

She held it before her eyes to check its contents.

The label read:

Smith's Cough Remedy
One sip and you'll sleep soundly!

She unscrewed the cap and sniffed the innards of the bottle. It smelled of absinthe, alcohol and spices. Upon smelling the interior of the bottle, she nearly vomited. She clasped her hand before her mouth and gagged several times before her stomach had settled once again.

"Where am I?" she asked herself, realizing that she was in the top of a bunk bed, amongst a room full of such beds.

She counted them by hand, finding twenty of them in dimly lit room she occupied through the sun's early light.

Alicia searched the bed for a way down, eventually finding a precarious ladder affixed to the side of the bunk, that her frail and aged body attempted to descend safely.  Once she had reached the bottom, she spoke aloud.

"If I'm so old and fragile, why am I at the..." she began griping when she spotted the woman on the bottom of her bunk.

She was a woman easily into her late forties, old and decrepit, a twisted and deformed leg hidden beneath her covers.

Alicia looked the room over and found that the room was filled with women of similar (or worse) health. Some of them younger, some of them older. Some of them sick, some of them not. Some of them sleeping happily amidst the youth of their uncertain future.

The one thing she could not rid herself of was the smell. It was a lucrid mixture of uncleanliness, body odour, spices and a hint of pot pourri and the spikey air of cough medicine, not unlike the bottle she'd found in her own bed.

One of the women stirred from her bottom bunk, leaning over and up onto her rump. The first roused by the morning light. Alicia watched her from her place on the floor.

The woman arose from her place on the bed, and then slumbered over to communal well, splashing herself with water she drew forth with her hands from within. She wiped her face. Then her armpits, scrubbing at them furiously with a brush. She opened her gown enough to wipe her chest and groin, then drying herself with her own dirty clothing before returning to her bed once again.

Alicia looked on in horror at what she was witnessing, struggingling to find a breath within herself, even to gasp, let alone speak.

"You must be the Hurst widow..." the lady who'd just washed herself in the well referred to Alicia.

Alicia was momentarily caught off guard, unable to believe she'd been seen.

"My husband...?!" she looked on, recalling a man she'd once called her own.

"Yea, yer husband in holy matrimony! Jest like us each one 'ere. Yeh see, we're all royalty! So get on with it!" the woman exclaimed at Alicia, who turned her face away from the woman, and began to cry.

She cried as they all had done at one point. 

Once upon a time.


The familiar face of the man from the attic a week earlier graced her presence, as he and another man stepped in through the front door of The Henry Issacs' Home For Wayward Women. She stood from the bench where she'd been waiting in the front foyer as the two men wiped their feet on the door mat. The clacking wheels of the horse drawn carriage could be heard as it pulled away onto the brick paved streets of downtown London.

"Widow Hurst," the first man greeted Alicia.

"Edmund, thank you so much for coming on such short notice," Alicia greeted Edmund first.

"I understand. It must have been an inconveninence for you to send a telegram, so the least we could do was to attend to your summons," Edmund assured Alicia, who seemed pleased by his answer and polite demeanor.

"Widow Hurst..." the second man echoed Edmund's words, removing his hat for her as he spoke, revealing a polished, clean-shaven head.

"I'm sorry, I didn't get your name..." Alicia began.

"Do forgive me Widow Hurst. This is my brother, Alton," Edmund introduced the older man.

"A pleasure to finally meet you. I appologize for not attending your husband's funeral, but I was out of the country and could not return in time for the service," Alton spoke solemnly to Alicia, who cupped her hands as she listened.

"Alton is a Barrister of some repute here in London," Edmund explained of the older man.

"Yes, I've worked many court cases involving land transfer disputes, mostly for large scale merchants and  the mining interests of the Crown. Especially abroad, but I assure you that I'll do my best to assist you with regard to your inquiries of estate," Alton assured Alicia, who's face relaxed with sudden relief.

"Ethel? We'll be using the dining hall for our meeting if that would suffice?" Alicia inquired with the worker who'd just arrived to greet them at that very moment.

"As long as you're finished your matters by four-thirty. We'll need a half-hour to prep for the night's supper, and expect the dining hall to be vacated by that time," Ethel insisted.

"Thank you Ethel," Alicia said, leading the two men down the hall and through the double doors into the dining area.

"She's a helpful one, she is. I should like a letter to be drawn up commending her for her assistance during this especially difficult time. Perhaps a few days after I'm ably housed in an estate again you could have your secretary draft such a letter?" asked Alicia as she led the men into the dining room, where Edmund pulled out one of the chairs for her to be seated.

He then looked to Alton, who returned a grim scowl, shaking his head negatively to her remark.

"Widow Hurst. I should first like to inform you that our time is not free. Your husband made arrangements in his will to ensure that you had three fully paid consultations, each of an hour in session and covering the time of one barrister as my brother here, and one solicitor as myself you see. We can speak with you for one hour today, after which you'll only have two more one hour sessions with us. I'd suggest that you use them well," Edmund insisted as he and his brother sat across from her.

"Now how may we assist you?" asked Alton of Alicia.

Alicia seemed mometarily perturbed, but once again regained her focus.

"There is the question of my inheritance. My portion of his estate?" asked Alicia of Alton, then looking to the more familiar Edmund.

Alton looked confusedly to Edmund, who shrugged for his brother before returning his gaze to Alicia once again.

"All matters of your husband's estate have been handled, Widow Hurst," Edmund explained to her.

"Well that's all fine then, but where is my vested ownership in the land he owned? Surely he transferred the title and deed to my name?" asked Alicia of Edmund.

"That's the thing Widow Hurst. You see, there are no provisions in real estate law that allow a woman to hold ownership over title or deed of any land," Edmund explained to Alicia, whose expression returned to one of hopelessness.

She sat quietly for a moment, and then her face was alight with optimism again and she spoke.

"But what of Countess Lovelace? She passed on some thirty years ago, bequething her land to her kin I'd imagine. She owned a tract of her father's land...?" Alicia asked them firmly yet desperately.

"The law is different for nobles than it is for other citizens, allowing for both women and men of noble descent to hold title and deed to any land," Alton explained to Alicia.

"But what of Widow Burkes? She held onto her husband's machining plant, and their home..." Alicia quickly came up with another example.

"Legally speaking, Widow Burkes does not own either the maching plant or the estate. They're consigned by two of Mr. Burkes' family members. George and Gwynn Burkes. Mr. Burkes' brothers. She oversees matters of their use, but she owns neither while residing at the estate as a matter of conveninece," Edmund explained to Alicia.

" is this possible?!" Alicia began to feel upset, and the stinging tinge of frustration.

"There's nothing impossible about it, Widow Hurst. Its quite simply the law," Alton explained to her in a slightly condescending manner.

Alicia's tears began to flow and a look of intensity crossed her face.

"How is it that... that a woman can spend her entire life... loyally helping her husband to build their assets... and then when he dies... her vested interest in that effort is lost... entirely!" Alicia raised her voice, looking at the two men through eyes framed by her blonde furrowed brows.

Alicia suddenly slammed her hand down on the dining room table, causing Edmund to jump in his chair.

"Widow Hurst, there's no need for aggression in this matter, for it won't help. The law is the law. I'm sorry Widow Hurst," Edmund pleaded with Alicia, whose head craned to the left to take in the hall as two of her sisters in the residence passed, each of them looking to her as if they knew everything that was going on in the meeting.

In all truth, they did, because they too had lived it exactly as it was now happening for Alicia.

Alicia became angered by their glance, as if their eyes were saying: see, we told you so, though in all truth there was nothing but sympathy and surrender in the depths of their irises.

"What is it exactly that you men do then?" she asked them, frustrated beyond any hope of recovery.

"I beg your pardon? We do everything we can to help our clients!" Alton responded, clearly offended by Alicia's question.

"Then why aren't you helping me!" Alicia screamed at them, once again slapping her palm down on the table surface.

 At once Alton got up from the table and walked backwards to the glass double doors, opening one and screaming down the hall.

"We need a sedative immediately!" he yelled in the direction he'd seen Ethel previously.

"Why can't you change the law?! Isn't that what you're supposed to do? In court? With your fancy papers?!!! Your linguistics of the law?!!!" Alicia had become livid as the stress of her situation had finally reached its apex.

At that moment Ethel came running in the room with one of the nurses. By that point, one of the other staff had grabbed hold of Alicia while the nurse administered a large dose of Scopolamine directly into her mouth. Alicia's cries were quickly quieted until they were nothing more than laboured wimpering, as she struggled to remain awake.

"Widow Hurst, I am afraid that we'll be required to cut this meeting short, given your current condition. I might remind you that you still have two more meetings with us that are covered by your deceased husband's provisions. Please use them wisely. We bid you a farewell," Edmund addressed Alicia, who continued to sob quietly as the staff got her to her feet and began walking her to her bed.

"I bid you a good day, assuming that next time I am summoned that you'll behave a little more lady-like?" Alton said, returning his hat to his head as the two of them left through the double doors of the dining room.

That night, there was no talk at the dinner tables during their supper hour, for just about every one of the women in the dining hall had experienced the same or similar episode as had Alicia earlier.

As they ate, Alicia slept off the effects of the Scopolamine amidst a flurry of psychadelic dreams.

In one such dream her deceased husband had his hand extended to her, as he was being dragged away by his family to the edge of a large crevasse. An invisible barrier prevented her from progressing along with them to free him from his familiar captors. She watched in horror as they tossed him screaming over the edge and into the abyss within.

She awoke to the dancing of shadows on the ceiling just slightly above her from the top bunk. Her head was spinning as a painful headache announced its arrival with her recent consciousness. Her dried tears and mucus had encrusted itself beneath her eyes, which she wiped carefully with her hand, mer matted blonde hair undone from its bun.

She then rolled over and felt around the mattress with her hand and found the bottle of Smith's Cough Remedy, taking a large mouthful of the medicine and swallowing it down as her stomach fought tooth and nail against its arrival.

Within ten minutes, she was once again cast into a dark and dreamless late evening slumber.

Gentleman's Club

The carriage pulled up out front of Sixty Glastonbury Lane. The driver stepped down from his perch, carefully descending the ladder until he was safely on the paved ground. He then opened the carriage doors for his passengers, who thanked him with a handful of coins.

"Keep the change," Alton said as he waited for his brother.

"A good night to you gents..." the driver said as he closed the carriage doors and ascended the ladder to the driver's bench.

By that time both Alton and Edmund were inside the front door. A man in a bowtie and vest had collected their coats, giving them each a silk smoking jacket, embroidered in classic lettering with the initials GGC.

"Thank you my good man," Alton accepted his jacket, immediately donning it.

"What can I get you from the bar?" asked the man who bore both their coats.

"I'll take a glass of Crown Whiskey, three fingers please," Alton replied, fishing his favourite pipe from his coat while it was still in the man's hands.

"Same for me, with an added finger of Alpenbitters thank you," Edmund added to the order.

"We'll be in the smoking lounge," Alton added as the man left to check their coats.

The two of them stepped through the foyer, Edmund stopping to admire a new piece of art that greeted them in the form of a marble statuette depicting a man of some dignity, who stood in his best attire, looking poetically off into the distance.

"That's new. Good to see they're spending our membership fees on improving the place," Alton remarked as one of the women servers passed him.

He admired her buxom carefully, perhaps intending his words for her rather than the statue that had greeted them.

"Don't you dare leave me in a situation where I have to lie to your wife," Edmund remarked as he proceeded down the hall towards the smoking lounge.

"My dear Edmund, life is a feast. There are many great dishes at the buffet, though only a fool would eat a plate from every one of them," Alton responded as he followed his brother through the door.

"You've already a plate in front of you, Alton. Stop eating the from the buffet with your eyes..." Edmund remarked as Alton approached another man.

"Justice Jameston, how might you be this fine evening," Alton greeted the man.

"Alton, how good to see you again. I assume that the arrangements with the Rutherford case were to your satisfaction?" asked Jameston.

"And then some. My client is delighted and sends his regards," Alton accepted his drink from the man who'd earlier taken their jackets.

"Glad to hear. It will be a week on before we'll have the Minister's paperwork, but it is guaranteed by law, meaning you can have your client move his equipment to the land but he's to break no earth before the paperwork arrives. Understood?" Jameston confirmed with Alton.

"Oh, yes. Of course," Alton smiled, shaking hands with Jameston.

"Now then, how's that wife of yours?" asked Jameston.

"She's doing quite well. Seems she's taken a liking to photography and is quite good at it," Alton explained to Jameston.

"That's a bit of an odd hobby for a wife, isn't it? I mean that equipment is quite heavy, not to mention the chemicals..." Jameston seemed concerned, as if something was array.

"Don't be silly. We have assistants that take care of that for her. She just shows up and aims the beast at its target and leaves it for a half of the hour, and then has her assistants collect it all," Alton continued as Jameston took a sip from his own glass of Single Malt Scotch.

"How amusing.Well I do hope it all goes well for her. If you'll excuse me now, I've got a game of backgammon to play with Mr. Ernst from the House Of Lords," Jameston dismissed himself, leaving Alton to find his brother.

Edmund had already collected a pair of overstuffed chairs for them, amongst some of the other aristocrats who frequented the club. Alton quickly made his way over to his chair and took a seat beside his brother.

"Flint?" Edmund passed his brother a tiny oil lamp, a flame extending from its wick.

"Thank you," Alton placed the lamp beside him on the table as he fixed his pipe with the best pipe tobacco in all of London.

He then carefully lit the pipe and stoked it until the tobacco within was glowing orange. A large volume of scented smoke drifted into the air, in a room already rife with it.

"Cheers Edmund," Alton held his glass up, and they clanked vessels and each took a healthy swig.

In the three chairs across from them, in a semi-circle sat three other men, who also were in the midst of enjoying their own pipe tobacco and nursing fine whiskey.

"How are you gents tonight?" asked Alton, unfamiliar with the men seated before him.

"Quite well. Sorry to be rude. My name is Ernest, this is Davey and the third gent is Lewis. Davey and I are from Oxford in the Department of Physical Sciences, while Lewis here is from Cambridge, but don't hold that again him. He's actually quite a charming fellow," Ernest introduced the three of them.

"I'm Alton and this is my brother Edmund, we're from the London Courts," Alton in turn introduced himself and his brother.

"I take it you mean tennis, though it was a dreadful year for Oxford on that note last season," Davey joked, causing Ernest and Lewis to snicker from behind their pipes.

"We certainly bested you there," Lewis smiled, his eyes full of pride on the issue.

"You certainly did, and much before we crushed you in Rugby most recently," Ernest responded with a smile on his face.

"There's always next year," Lewis held his for Cambridge.

By the time Alton had ceased laughing, Edmund spoke up.

"No, I'm afraid we're not on the tennis courts often, if at all. Alton here is a barrister while I'm a solicitor," Edmund responded to their quips.

"Oh. Quite sorry. No offense intended, except to Lewis that is," Ernest replied while Davey and Lewis laughed again.

"You appear to be new here," Alton continued.

"That we are. Joined yesterday. We were recommended by Mr. Guthrie and haven't looked back since," Ernest gestured to Mr. Guthrie, another member of the Oxford Alumni, who nodded in their direction upon hearing his name.

"Charles? He's been here for a while. Almost as long as Alton here. A good fellow that one. So if Ernest and Davey here are in the Physical Sciences, what is it that you do Lewis?" asked Edmund of the Cambridge man.

"I'm the head of the Philosophy Department..." Lewis began before he was interrupted by Ernest once again.

"That's another way of saying unemployable..." Ernest remarked, drawing laughter once again from both Davey and Lewis himself.

"Yes, they felt sorry for me so they give me room and board in the Cambridge offices. They feed me once a day, and I sputter something from Locke, Descartes or better yet, Nietzsche or Wollenstonecraft..." Lewis responded before Alton cut him off.

"You won't get much support mentioning her name around here..." Alton joked, turning to face his brother, drawing only a quiet snicker and a cough from Ernest, Davey and Lewis.

Edmund looked away from his brother.

"Oh get over it. When you get married, you'll understand. Here's a drink to a good meeting of new faces," Alton added, holding his glass up.

"Ah, now there's a more civil approach I'm game for," Lewis held up his glass, and the other men joined them, before taking a drink together.

"...You seem a sensitive one, there Edmund. Are you a fan of philosophy? Perhaps Wollenstonecraft?" asked Lewis, drawing a cautious glance from Ernest and Davey.

"I have to admit that I've only recently read her daughter's work, The Modern Prometheus. I found it to be a fascinating exploration of biology and a deeply provoking question about the nature of the sciences where it stands in the face of life," Edmund explained to Lewis, who listened carefully.

"Seems she came along and asked all the right questions when most men did not want to hear them," Lewis agreed with Edmund's observations about the book written by Wollenstonecraft's daughter.

"Are you kidding me? She nearly cost the yearly research grant for the Oxford sciences department from Worcester Bank Of London. Attrocious to think how such a development would have affected progress had they witheld their funding," Ernest explained as he adjusted himself in his chair, giving Lewis part of his back.

"We lost a good portion of funding for the biology department for two years amidst the fervor the book caused, but I think it was an important lesson nonetheless, that we in science should be careful where we tread, especially with regard to the boundary between life and death. In all honesty though, I think most were upset that such observations came from the quill and ink of a woman," Lewis countered.

Ernest and Davey remained silent, cautious about treading on politically difficult ground in certain company.

Edmund looked to Alton, and then away.

"Oh, not you too? I'm your brother for crying out!" Alton's face twisted into a grimace of disgust at Edmund.

"What's bothering you two if you don't mind me asking?" Lewis leaned forward, interested in this quip between brothers given the current subject matter.

"Oh, he's on about a housecall we made earlier. Seems a poor woman of some esteem was cheated out of her inheritance and is living in squalor in a home for wayward women. I say she brought it on herself, judging by her attrocious behaviour and aggressive temper!" Alton explained to the men, who remained quiet as the dispute between brothers heated up.

"Her husband's family could have signed a deal where they retained ownership of his property and control of his finances, but they refrained from doing so. Apparently they'd accrued some debt of their own and secured the inheritance to clear their own debts, using her husband's assets and finances to do so. She in turn ended up in a home for wayward women. Her husband made provisions to see that we were able to consult with her a number of times, but she had an anxious episode today during one such meeting... Quite sad really, but there is little we can do for her," Edmund explained as the three men listened to his explanation carefully.

"Yes, it is a shame when even the law fails such a downtrodden citizen, isn't it?" Lewis asked Edmund, though he was looking at Alton.

"The law is the law. What do you suggest, we steal the finances back from her family?" asked Alton sarcastically.

Lewis looked to Ernest, who nodded negatively toward him.

"You're right. Not much that can be done in such a situation. I do hope that she fares well in her new life. Not many women who've fallen that far last unfortunately. A shame there's no way to change it. I'm sorry but I must excuse myself. I've an important lecture in the morning and one I'd certainly not want to miss," Lewis stood from his seat and offered Edmund his hand for a firm shake.

As he did, he deposited a scrap of parchment, smaller than his palm into Edmund's hand. Edmund was so shocked by it, that he immediately hid the parchment, clasping his fingers around it to keep it from his brother's view.

"You gents be good now. Leave some of that fine whiskey for us working chaps," Lewis winked to Edmund, who raised his glass to his new friend as Lewis left to collect his jacket.

"That depends upon how long it takes for us to beat them in a game of backgammon," Alton suggested to Ernest and Davey as Lewis stepped out through the door.

"That sounds like a challenge. Are you up for it?" Ernest looked to Davey in question.

"That I am. I'd never turned down a challenge like that," Davey responded, looking to Edmund.

"Right then. Let's beat their pants off brother, and I'll tell my wife it was all you're doing," Alton smiled to his brother.

"Let's," Edmund looked to Davey and Ernest, knowing that something was afoot.

The three of them got up, emptying their pipes into a steel bin made especially for such a purpose, while Edmund took his time. When they were up and out of eye sight, he peered at the parchment in his hand.

It was a tiny hand written note in the finest of calligraphy, possibly from a quill or a new fangled fountain pen. 

The note was written as follows:

Lecture At Cambridge Assembly Hall
Wollenstonecraft And Shelley: On The Future Of Due Process
10 AM Greenwich Time

[I'm Brian Joseph Johns. I am grateful to be writing about such an overwhelmingly important subject, and certainly the guidance of those who lack the propensity for abuse or harassment, many of whom are the same people generations later that benefited from the thoughts and actions of those people living in the times of the background of this story. 

If you're inclined to hate bomb someone, why don't you get in front of that mirror of yours and hate bomb yourself every day and see where that gets you. If you'd still rather hate bomb someone else other than yourself, then most all of us here at Shhhh! Digital Media, both the writer (me) and all of the loyal readers are polarized in such a way that hate doesn't get in. 

The technology to polarize any wavelength of light is like that of the glasses that people use to look at an eclipse or the glasses they use for televison based 3D movies. A technology that directly stems from the work of Scientist Marie Curie, who worked with EMR (electromagnetic radiation) which forms the basis for all radio waves, radiation and light at the atomic level, when an electron orbiting the nucleus of an atom (in the Rutherford Model) momentarily jumps orbits from one of a smaller radius to a larger radius (or vice versa depending upon the energy requirements), emitting a photon in the process which is the particulate representation of a moment of probability in terms of Quantum Physics wave/particle duality.

Thank you to those who were kind and encouraging during my outing earlier in the morning (April 10) when I had to do my grocery shopping and pick-up a bottle of Colio Blush Rosé to have with dinner tonight. A wine I suggest you allow to breath for about five to ten minutes after opening before you drink despite the fact that it isn't corked. 

Thank you also to the YouTube astrologers and tarot readers as well as those of the sciences, even the ones I had to get clear of the metaphorical blast radius when I was attacked last night. FYI, astrology saved astronomy during the dark ages, when science was sorely persecuted. Many astronomers became astrologists to cover up their astronomical work, which the Church was persecuting at the time, while it was commonplace for surgeons and advisors of the Royal court to have a complete knowledge of astrology. So you could say very accurately, that astrology helped preserve and protect astronomy, and many of the oldest ephemeral records there are exist as a result of this historical allegiance, despite the subjectivity/objectivity differences between the two.

Thank you for reading my content.]

Waking Moments

Norler had been asleep soundly on his side, his left hand resting on the Alicia's right, which was twisted behind her back and palm up. Norler's chest was a few inches from her back, though his warm breath drew itself across her neck in his slumber.

Alicia suddenly convulsed, perhaps trying to rouse herself from sleep paralysis.

"don't... no..." she barely whispered in some kind of struggle while her body's paralysis reflex kept her motionless.

"...that's your job... isn't... it?" she mouthed again, the air barely brushing her lips and making a sound.

Alicia suddenly convulsed again, her hand pounding down on the mattress twice.

Upon the second impact, Norler awoke and realized that Alicia was having a nightmare. He immediately leaned up and put his hand on her shoulder and began shaking her awake, leaning in close to her ear and speaking her name.

"Alicia. Its Norler. You're having a nightmare, buts its alright. Its not real. Its just a situation playing out that isn't real..." Norler began explaining to her as he tried to rouse her from her troubled sleep.

"...honey...? they're... oh... its sooo horrible... they... but I am being reasonable... they're..." Alicia continued, clearly struggling to open her eyes.

At the very moment in her nightmare that her consciousness started slipping, she at once opened her eyes, leaning up in bed with a start, half expecting to bump her head on the ceiling as she rose.

To her surprise, the ceiling was a good nine feet above her, a pink LED light pulsed from above their bed, just barely visible providing a night light for their condominium penthouse bedroom.

"You're back? Aren't you? With me? Its alright... its alright... shhhh shhhh," he said to her, cradling her head in his arms unrestrictively.

She withdrew from him, still unsure of where she was and when she saw her fiancé's face, she returned forward into his arms in relief, though she withdrew again when she realized that he was a man.

"What is it? What can I do...?" he asked her, reaching forward to touch her, though she retreated to the opposide side of the bed.

"Just... let me be for a moment... I need to figure things out..." Alicia said, still exhausted by the flood of emotion to which she'd been exposed.

At the moment of  when she had needed the support and trust of men, she'd been entirely betrayed by them.

At that moment though, she wasn't apt to extend aggression towards all men, but rather to figure out what was going on. What had suddenly happened that saw her and other women so devoid of rights, that men had become unfamiliar and unempathic with their being, enough so that they'd withdrawn from women entirely, except as trinkets of status and sexuality, and the bearers of their offspring.

Gone from the palette entirely was their nurturing and support. Their fearless friendship and foundation. The passion of their pursuit and the legacy of their lust.

"I just need a moment to figure things out... alright?" Alicia began crying, turning her back to Norler.

"Honey!? What can I do? Just tell me... and I'll do it of my own responsibility," he said to her as supportively as was possible.

"You wouldn't understand...! Just let me be... please..." Alicia curled up on the other side of the bed, trying to figure things out.

"I'm here if you need me..." Norler replied, backing away to the far side of the bed.

"...please... I need some time... just leave me alone..." she said, curling up into a fetal position with the conforter as she struggled to fall asleep.

At that moment, Norler realized that this was much bigger than him alone, and in fact that is wasn't in his control at all. It was something that she was entirely grappling with and with more courage than even he could have mustered in a thousand lifetimes, and the most he could do was support her. 

Perhaps even so, by simply being scarce and giving her space.

By the time the next morning had announced its presence, the sun was just barely cresting the horizon. Alicia awoke to find herself alone in bed. The ceiling was at its correct height, nine feet above the double bed of their condiminium bedroom, and she felt a sense of relief, as the stress rolled off of her and her anticipation of what the day might bring.

She barely recalled her abrupt conversation with Norler a few hours earlier, but she did recall that she'd felt lost, isolated and as if she could no longer trust anyone. Those feelings of fear had disappeared and she once again felt safe and on sure footing as she got out of bed.

After she was done in the bathroom, she donned her favourite flannel housecoat and made her way in her slippers out to the kitchen. She snuck up behind Norler, and wrapped her arms around his waste, giving him a close hug from behind.

"Good morning..." Norler placed the spatula beside the stove and turned around to give Alicia his full attention.

"Feeling better?" he asked her tenderly.

She answered only with a passionate kiss.

"Glad to hear..." he responded when their lips parted.

"I'm sorry, honey. It was the home for wayward women again... I felt so helpless. Institutionalized, in a way where nobody would listen. My rights were just... gone," Alicia explained to him as she poured herself a coffee and topped up his.

"Was it a dream in our times?" asked Norler of her, following her initiative for it was the first time she'd spoken about it with him.

"...No. I suspect that it had to be in Victorian times. Maybe the mid to late eighteen hundreds, but very difficult to tell for sure. The washrooms were communal and there were only wash basins to clean-up. The water source was also communal... I just felt so dirty all of the time..." Alicia explained to Norler, leaning against the polished granite countertop of their island counter kitchen area.

"Were there others there with you?" Norler asked, though his first concern was for her, and he surmised that it would be best if he got her to talk about it as he finished cooking their eggs and hashbrowns.

"Many. Perhaps thirty in all. Maybe forty. Many were young, in their early twenties. A few were approaching thirty, though it was difficult to tell for sure. Everyone just looked much older... The women in their forties looked like they were sixty or seventy. The difference in medical science I'm guessing...?" Alicia thought about it carefully as she spoke.

"Who were they? Why were they there?" asked Norler, knowing that if she started to look at it clinically, like it was separate from her, one of her lab solutions, she might be able to cope with it much better.

"The older ones? Because they had nowhere else to go. They'd lost their families or they were widowed and discarded by their inlaws. The younger women, many of them seemed to have come from broken families and were following the only path they knew. Sleep tight, stay pretty and snag a suitable husband. A working man if they were lucky enough, though most of the women were barely educated. Only a small handful of them could read, let alone write their own name," Alicia explained to him as she considered the hopelessness of the situation.

"Why were you in there?" Norler finally got to the million dollar question, comfortable that she was in a good headspace to speak of the ordeal.

"...I don't know... I think that I had been married... We were in... Adler... Antwerp? No... it was Auckland! We were aristocrats in Auckland...!" Alicia suddenly remembered.

Norler dished their breakfast out onto two separate plates, one for each of them and they walked together to the kitchen table and sat across from each other, continuing their conversation and Alicia's recollection of her dreams.

"My husband in the dream, was a public figure of some kind. Anyhow, the best I can remember is that he'd died, and I somehow ended up in the home for wayward women," Alicia explained to him, taking a nibble of her eggs thereafter.

"Didn't you have an inheritance or anything? Didn't he leave you anything?" asked Norler of her, now becoming engrossed in her dream as well.

"There was something legal about that... Like I wasn't allowed to have it or something..." Alicia recalled, but could not remember the fine details.

"I'm just very glad that you made it back in one piece from your adventure so you could have breakfast here with me today..." Norler smiled at her playfully.

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Alicia served him a helping of her own playfulness.

"...which reminds me, I was going to ask you what you were doing after breakfast. Are you planning on running off to find your other husband, or would you be interested in unmaking the bed?" Norler asked Alicia with a devious smile on his face, knowing fully well that they both felt much better, having spoken about her dreams.

"...who says we have to wait until after breakfast?" Alicia responded invitingly, shifting her slippered foot up his leg seductively.

Thirty seconds later, and after a small glass of juice each, their lips were locked in a kiss as Norler backed Alicia through the living room in the direction of the bedroom.

As it turned out however, they only made it to the sofa.

Jinn Hua: Taranaki Warrior

[No art to Mike Jacks]

Nelony slept soundly, the sheets pulled over her body while the comforter had been pushed aside. She shifted momentarily, her legs moving along the mattress searching for cool spots there upon. Upon the movement of her legs, a small white dog sleeping on a chair near the end of her bed lifted its head, its tail wagging slightly with Nelony's sudden movement.

The dog sat patiently for a moment and when she saw no other movement, she went back to sleep, laying her head down upon her paws.

Nelony by that point had entered into her second session of R.E.M. sleep. The state of sleep most likely to yield memorable dreams.


Nearly six thousand kilometers away, on another continent and city, Jinn Hua herself had just settled in for the night. She'd spent most of the evening dusting the sigils that lined the temple walls, before her nightly cup of loose tea. That day had been a quiet one for her, and she'd neither seen nor heard tell of the Butterfly for more than a week, though she'd used the time for many other purposes. Temples, though peaceful and quiet, seldom repel the fall of dirt and dust, and when one looked for it, there was always something that needed attention.

She'd finished her tea and after a quick bath, she went directly to bed. Her dreams, much the same as the ones she'd barely recalled from the night before, had started shortly after that.


Nelony sat on a bench just outside of the Imperial Court Of Auckland City, wearing a long black dress that covered her entire body, from the nape of her neck to her boot covered toes. Atop of her head, she wore a stylish yet modest black and white bonnet. In her lap was leather case containing her scientific journals, all of which she'd written by hand with her favourite fountain pen, and all during her three year tenure with the Taranaki Māori under the terms of the biological advisory.

She pulled a previously opened envelope from her case, the wax seal of the court still stuck to it. She opened it again and withdrew the contents in the form of a folded sheet of paper. On it and written in official terminology was a subpoena by the courts of the entirety of her recorded materials for perusal by experts. The subpoena also insisted that no copies written or otherwise be made and that failing to comply with the request would result in immediate imprisonment and fines not exceeding £5, which was a sizeable sum of money in 1865. A sum that amounted to roughly a month's worth of pay for one skilled labourer.

As she had since she'd received the letter by official court delivery only three days earlier, she considered alternatives, many of them criminal as defined by the request, but in the end and despite her frustration, there she was seated outside of the court ready to comply.

She'd spent three years keeping her research notes and an extensive journal as she studied the Taranaki Māori, and felt as if she was handing over a chunk of her life to the courts, for them to scrutinize despite the fact that she was there under the orders of the Royal Veteranary College as mandated by the Queen Victoria herself.

Some of her journal entries were rather personal, as she'd become attracted to Koraka over that time, and had even alluded to the possibility that he may even pursue to court her. Upon receiving the court order, she considered tearing the offending journal pages from the binding, but decided instead that doing as such would only serve to create suspicion and possibly even incriminate her by doing so.

So there she was, helpless on a bench and about to hand over three years of her professional and personal life to a court ruled and run by men and for their scrutiny.

She tucked the subpoena back into the envelope and returned it to her case, when she suddenly saw a familiar face. She quickly stood from the bench, grabbing hold of her case and approached the woman in question.

"Jinn? Jinn Hua?" Nelony greeted the woman from behind as she approached the front doors to the court.

Jinn Hua turned to take in Nelony, recognizing her after a second glance.

"You're the researcher...?" Jinn Hua's face contorted somewhat to the ends of somewhere between a scowl and a frown.

"You're... Jinn. How are you?" Nelony by that point had enough time to examine her face.

She'd a scar on her left cheek, wrought by a blade or possibly some other weapon. Her eyes seemed harsh and distant, far different than those of the woman she remembered.

"Are you here to spy on me, researcher?" Jinn Hua asked  Nelony skeptically.

"No... I'm... I was contacted by the courts about a personal matter..." Nelony bluffed to a woman who could see through such a ruse from twenty paces, which only roused her suspicions that much more.

"I say that its no coincidence that you are here on the exact day that I present my case against the recent seizure of land by your Crown! Stick to biology. You're a poor liar, Nelony," Jinn Hua confronted the woman directly.

"Wait a second!" Nelony stopped Jinn Hua once again.

Nelony reached into her case and retrieved the court envelope, handing it to Jinn Hua, who accepted in her gloved hands. She opened the letter, carefully reading it, using skills that at that time, few Māori possessed. The ability to read (and speak) English.

"Hmmph. That figures," Jinn Hua handed the letter and envelope back to Nelony, once again turning to make her way into the courthouse.

"That's all you have to say?" asked Nelony, shocked that such a spirited woman as she remembered wasn't already grilling her for questions or trying to create an allegiance.

"What else is there to say? Your people took everything I've ever known and loved," Jinn Hua countered.

"So now you're going to go in there and fuel the fires of more war?" asked Nelony, already well aware of the war that had been fought between the Māori and the New Zealand Government.

Jinn Hua looked down to the earth.

"You're remembering a very different woman. One whose issues went beyond her love and loyalty to her own tribe. Sometimes well beyond the safety of good sense," Jinn Hua's eyes returned to Nelony's, and from within Nelony could see a lot of pain and anguish.

Much had happened in the five years since they'd last seen each other on the lands of the Māori in the Taranaki region. It was written in Jinn Hua's eyes, and it was written on the scar on her cheek.

"Where's Koraka?" asked Nelony, recalling the feuds that he would often have with Jinn.

"He's dead. Killed during the same raid I received this," Jinn Hua gestured to the scar on her cheek.

A tear glazed the corners of Nelony's eye.

"I'm sorry..." Nelony said to Jinn Hua, pulling a cloth tissue from her case and wiping her eyes with it.

"He died like a true Māori, standing by tikanga until his last moments. Never the aggressor..." Jinn Hua spoke proudly of her fallen tribal brother and leader.

"How did he...?" asked Nelony, still teary eyed.

"I did. I killed him..." Jinn Hua spoke as if it were a confession.

"Y-Y-You...?" Nelony asked her, startled by the revelation.

"Kingi wasn't ready to accept the sale of a parcel of Pekapeka... in Waitara, and much of the defense he roused support for was from my own picketing other regional tribal leaders to form a warband against our invaders. A principle in contradiction to tikanga. Koraka, he remained true to his principles while Kingi, I and others tried to rouse a more violent and direct approach. We lost a great many of our tribal sisters and brothers, and a great man because of it..." Jinn Hua's eyes bore all of that pain, and yet she did not shed a tear, for over the years of her crying, she had none left.

They stood outside of the forboding doors of the courthouse, saying nothing to each other. They were roused from their solace when a man tried to get in through the doors they were obstructing.

"'Scuse me ladies..." he said impatiently.

"I must depart now. I've business inside. I'm not just here dropping off my library books," Jinn Hua broke their silence slighly scathingly, turning to the half open courthouse door and pushing her way through.

Nelony came to life as she watched the big door close behind Jinn Hua. She grabbed the handle and struggled to pull the large door open enough to get into the building, running after Jinn Hua on the toes of her heeled boots.

They walked together, saying nothing to one another, eventually arriving at a large finely crafted reception desk.

"What is your business here?" asked the man at the reception desk, looking to both of the two ladies, each in turn.

 "Her first," Jinn Hua directed the man's attention to Nelony, who nervously began rummaging through her case.

"I-I seem to be missing something..." Nelony shuffled through the contents of her case, perhaps giving herself more time to think about what she was doing.

Jinn Hua had just confessed that Koraka was dead. He'd died defending his tribe and land by peaceful means, even being amongst the few who'd preferred the language of diplomacy over conflict. And here she was with the only written record of the tribe and the man, ready to hand it over to the very people that had killed him and dispersed and annexed the tribe.

"Come on! I haven't got all day!" the man at reception became impatient with them.

 Jinn Hua took a parcel of paper from a book she held in her arms.

"I'm here to present my case in an appeal against the Crown's seizure of the East Wairoa and West Pukekohe blocks," Jinn Hua placed what appeared to be an official form onto the desk, sliding it to the man behind it.

He picked the form up from the desk, examining it carefully.

"Where is the man that will be presenting the appeal in court?" asked the man behind the reception desk.

"He's coming. He's a bit delayed..." Jinn Hua bluffed.

"Then who are you?" he asked her, looking over her scrutinizingly.

"I'm his secretary," Jinn Hua stretched her bluff.

The man returned his attention to the form, looking it over from top to bottom once again.

Jinn Hua watched him nervously as Nelony continued peering into her case, still weighing in her weary heart what she should do with her journals.

The man then returned the form to the desk, grabbing another form from a stack of similar forms and placing it beside Jinn Hua's. He then grabbed a fountain pen from the reservoir and began filling out the second form, copying a reference number from Jinn Hua's to the top of the new form. He then filled in some notes, and returned the pen to its reservoir, from there grabbing a stamp which he dipped into the reservoir, stamping both forms. He then took Jinn Hua's and filed it into a tray which held a small stack of other similar forms.

"That's your record. Don't lose it. When your court representative arrives, he'll be required to sign in," the man then pushed a ledger across the desk at Jinn Hua, handing her another fountain pen.

"Sign your full name, date and time," he gestured to the large time piece on the wall behind the desk.

He waited while she signed it, again a skill of which many of her tribe, let alone many women were incapable.

Jinn Hua pushed the ledger back at the man, perhaps purposely infringing into his side of the desk and territory.

He threw her a suspicious glance, which she deflected with a quaint smile and eyes full of intensity.

"Next!" the man looked to Nelony as another man fell into line behind her.

Nelony lifted her head from her case and looked towards the man as the click of Jinn Hua's boots could be heard as she departed in the direction of the courts.

"Well?!" the man pressed Nelony.

"I think I've forgotten something..." Nelony responded nervously when confronted, watching as Jinn Hua left.

She then quickly left in pursuit of Jinn Hua, leaving the man puzzled at the desk.

"So who is he?" asked Nelony.

"Who is who?" asked Jinn Hua.

"Your court representative?" Nelony asked, this time clarifying her question.

"What court representative?" asked Jinn Hua.

"The one you listed on your paperwork?" asked Nelony, almost running to keep up with Jinn Hua's determined step.

"He's not coming. He never was coming," Jinn Hua admitted to the woman, who was at the same time starting to grow on her and getting on her nerves.

"That's purgery you know?" Nelony, though no legal expert, knew enough that to falsify court documents was a serious matter.

"Do you assume that because I'm Māori, that I'm daft? Or do you make that assumption because I'm a woman?" Jinn Hua challenged the side of Nelony she'd suddenly found annoying.

A bailiff in full dress uniform standing beside the door of the third court grabbed the door handle and opened it upon seeing Jinn Hua.

"Ladies," he said as he opened the door.

"Where do we wait for our turn in court?" asked Jinn Hua, handing him her copy of the form from the man at the desk.

"Its just over there, behind the well and the dock, left to right please," he directed them after which he examined Jinn Hua's form.

"I'll send your gent over to you when he gets here..." the bailiff said politely, handing her form back to her.

They stepped through the door, and as they approached the gallery, Jinn Hua remarked:

"They obviously don't like it, us being here without our keepers," she said sarcastically.

"A lady has her place and a man his..." Nelony defended the way of things, preferring to case her form of protest in private rather than blatantly out front.

"Tell that to her," Jinn Hua said, gesturing with her eyes in the direction of a large painting of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, which sat behind the bench of the Justice of the Peace peering ominously out to some unknown point in the courtroom.

They took their place in the gallery beside two others there for court matters, both of whose matters were related to real estate and title procurement. And then they simply waited.


The two cases ahead of them had taken about an hour in total. The first taking all of fifteen minutes, as the Justice went through the paperwork for a land transfer deal between the Crown and a local business.

The second case took the remainder of that hour, as the barrister presented a title challenge, claiming that his client had been cheated of over forty-five acres due to a land surveying error. The Crown had its own experts and the plaintiff theirs. The error was eventually verified and the Justice ruled in favour of the plaintiff, awarding them their forty-five acres from a parcel of Crown land whose dimensions now had to be adjusted accordingly.

The barristers shook hands as did the experts and they filed out as the Justice, a clean shaven burly old man called for the next case.

"Bailiff. Next case please?" the Justice addressed the Bailiff.

"Justice, we are serving case 159C from the roster regarding a challenge to the seizure of the East Wairoa and West Pukekohe blocks of land. Could Hahona Kahikatoa and Jinn  Hua please take your places at the well?" the Bailiff announced.

Jinn Hua stood from her place at the gallery, and approached the barrister desks which sat across from one another, facing each other and perpendicular to the Justice's bench. Nelony followed her, trying to appear purposeful and as if she was supposed to be there.

Jinn Hua laid her book in front of her, opening it and pulling forth a pile of notes, which she carefully laid out before her. Nelony in the meantime looked across to the other desk, at the Crown defendants, a group of three man, all of whom were preparing their case against the challenge.

"Will the Plaintiff please rise?" the Justice spoke as he examined the paperwork for the case, without looking to the well or either of the desks there within.

Jin Hua stood confidently and turned to face the Justice. Nelony did the same, though she felt very intimidated by the whole process and very much out of her comfort zone. As if she was in a place only intended for men to be, as determined by and of her own experience and perception and a lifetime of conditioning.

"Will the Plaintiff please give us their opening statement?" asked the Justice, still focused on the paperwork.

"Your honour, I am here representing the Taranaki Māori, a people now mostly dispersed thanks to a war orchestrated by the Crown that began in 1859 and has continued until recently, costing the lives of many..." Jinn Hua spoke confidently and with projection throughout the courtroom as the public members of the gallery began to squabble amongst each other at the spectacle that they were seeing.

"Objection!" the lead barrister representing the Crown stood from his place at their desk.

"What is it Barrister?" asked the Justice.

"The Plaintiff speaking in this court of the Crown I might add, is in fact a woman," the Barrister spoke, pointing at Jinn Hua.

"Your honour, may I commend the Defendent's eye sight?" Jinn Hua spoke in jest, causing a moment of silence in the courtroom.

A moment later, the public members of the gallery broke out into laughter at the spectacle they were seeing.

"Plaintiff? Where is your Barrister, or in the case you do not have one, your representative?" asked the Justice of Jinn Hua.

"Your Honour, he could not make it, so I am representing our challenge of the seizure of that land," Jinn Hua said confidently.

"You do realize that the courtroom is no place for a woman, correct?" the Justice addressed Jinn Hua, looking shrewdly at her down the end of his nose.

"Would not the woman whose face adorns the painting behind you find some trouble with your statement were she here?" asked Jinn Hua, challenging the Justice, causing some of those in the public gallery once again to burst out laughing, while a number of them spoke in verbal protest and rage, directing it all towards Jinn Hua herself.

"Objection sustained! This is a clear violation of judicial process, not to mention this woman's respect for court proceedings are a disgrace to the people of Auckland! Bailiff, please remove the Plaintiff from the court and if she proves difficult, remand her into the custody of the shift constabulary. Court adjourned!" the Justice pounded his gavel down upon the surface of the bench and the courtroom broke out into a flurry of heated debate in the public gallery. The Bailiff in the meantime took hold of Jinn Hua's arm as she gathered the last of her papers and bundled them up into her book, folding it closed as she was hauled from the court. Another Bailiff appeared to take hold of Nelony.

"Its alright. I was already going!" Nelony responded, now terrified about the situation as she was aggressively guided from the courtroom behind Jinn Hua.

When they arrived at the door, the Bailiffs opened it and pushed the women out of the court, while one of them continued along, directing the women out of the front door of the courthouse entirely.

"If you return to this courthouse or otherwise cause any civil disruptions outside of due requests or obligations with the court, we will have you charged with obstruction of justice, the more serious charge of purgery and  not witholding public mischief!" the Bailiff directed the women our of the courthouse as he held the door for them.

They walked a good distance from the court, about fifty paces and Jinn Hua stopped to face Nelony.

"You see here what you're a part of now, don't you?" Jinn Hua asked her.

"Me? I'm a victim of this too!" Nelony reminded Jinn Hua.

"You're part of a people who are ruled by a woman, whose armies steamed over the indigenous peoples of this New Zealand and whose own system of justice refuses to let women represent themselves or speak in a court of law, or in official matters of public discourse!" Jinn Hua vented onto Nelony, who was still flabberghasted at being escorted from court.

"Do you even realize how lenient they were? Did you hear any of those charges? I mean we could have really been in a lot of trouble, but they let us..." Nelony reasoned with Jinn, her heart pounding as she spoke, still on edge from the experience.

"You really do have no idea, do you? All of that, all of those charges would have been meaningless if we had the right to speak and represent ourselves in court! Always, isn't it always that women come last. Sure, many people say ladies first, but in all truth, when it comes to this progression of your supposedly civilized society, in all truth, it will always be that women come last. Before every other who has to fight for their own justice, ladies last," Jinn Hua's eyes flared as she spoke.

Jinn Hua stormed off, leaving Nelony where she was, standing amidst pedestrians as a horse drawn carriage passed.

Nelony walked over to another bench where she sat. She then reached into her case and pulled out one of her journals. She opened it and began reading from it, on a page with one of the last entries, which read:

...and the thing I shall always love the most about this land and these people, are their grace for nature and the freedom I see in every Albatross and Tūturiwhatu that takes to the air on the shores of the majestic Tasman Sea.

It was at that moment that she realized, that in all fairness, her freedom was limited when compared to that of men.


This great image of the River Cam as it is so known, is courtesy of, though be sure to be cautious of this website's maze-like structure and pop-ups that would likely even surpass in difficulty the Hedgerow Maze test of ascension of the Order Of The Night Wytch...

Edmund's carriage hobbled and bumped as it traversed the cobblestone path over the bridge of the River Cam, as it was so nicknamed by students and the secretive alumni of Cambridge University alike.

Its historical rival, Oxford had its parks, one of which had become legendary in the mythos of Sir Isaac Newton, who upon falling asleep beneath the one and only apple tree on the grounds, was impacted by such a seed bearing red vessel from the tree, hence leading to the Newtonian Theory Of Gravity.

Oxford had long held this myth in its clutches, luring ambitious bodies of students from their well to do homes to become the next generation of faces in the sciences. Faces all over England, and as much so those inspired faces drawn from all of the corners of the British Empire into its throne of the exploration of mystery, and the light of education.

The story had solidified Oxford as the place to be for every student so inspired to uncover the mysteries of the Earth and the Aether alike (as was the prevailing theory of optics and the medium through which light moved so called, like an invisible ocean of cosmic water, bending and twisting enough so as to limit its sum velocity as the theory held).

These stories of the sciences had compelled students from all over the world to come and seek their education at one of the two top institutions in the world, with Oxford having been born in 1167 AD, while Cambridge was born in 1209 AD. A rivalry set to motion in the annals of history and time, and one whose ultimate confrontation would lay forth the entire future of humanity, defining it from that moment on.

And so it was that Oxford had its apple, and Cambridge had its river. What Cambridge had seemingly lacked in mythos by way of the Oxford apple, it had usurped from Oxford if only by the mystique of that fated river.

The very same one that Edmund found himself enjoying as the carriage crossed the bridge over its calm waters. From the windows of the carriage, he could see students in boats as they navigated Cambridge's mystical moat. Perhaps learning the vestiges of seamanship. In education at such an institituion, there was no passion greater than the endeavor to challenge oneself, or the propensity to humble oneself. 

An Admiral and a Yeoman were one and equal, when it came to the ways of respect for one another. Edmund upon crossing the bridge had felt a kinship with these students, despite his older age and the time that had passed since his having studied as a Solicitor.

As he stepped out of his carriage, he saw the eager faces of students from as far away as Hong Kong, Osaka and Seoul. Ambition on the faces of students from Singapore and Darjeeling. Determination from Vientane and Saigon and from Kuala Lampur and Bangkok. They ventured forth from both the Bogatyr of Kiev (as Mussogorsky so wrote around the same time), and the Majesty of Moscow. The mystical minds of students from Brussels and Berlin. From romantic Paris and wondrous Warsaw. The scholarly drive of students from Athens, Venice and Sicily. Resolute perseverance from Cairo, Khartoum, Casablanca and Addis Ababa. The students came from as far as Saudi Arabia, and from as close as Jerusalem too. He also saw his own sisters and brothers from the Eireland, the Scotsland and Wales. Some polished (or stained) by the historical Roman influence, and some not so much. Regardless of one's perspective on such matters, he saw his country's history, written upon all of their faces and the nearly global reach thereof.

"Let me take you to the lecture hall," offered the carriage driver, who'd known Cambridge well, for he'd been ferrying people abound into its halls, to and from sites around London since he could handle a horse from the young age of thirteen.

Edmund was a bit intimidated at first, given the sheer size and mythos of what now surrounded him. As if a global city of the future had settled itself onto the only continent he'd ever known. The only land whose ways he thought he'd understood, and through whose lands he'd only ventured no further than sixty nautical miles at most from the place he was born.

Sixty nautical miles from the ways of the just and righteous, or those whom thought themselves to be as such.

"Of course Winston. I'm grateful and in all truth, I'm a bit lost here too," Edmund responded to his carriage driver.

"Edmund my dear Sir, you wouldn't be the first, and you certainly won't be the last," Winston responded, tying the reigns of the coach horses to a post meant for as much. Ironically though, these animals were so well trained that Winston could have left the leads on the ground without attaching them to anything, and the horses would have been so convinced that they were bound to that spot, that they'd have not attempted to move at all.

"Have a looksee here Sir..." Winston urged Edmund, who always found himself nervous around such large animals.

Winston demonstrated quickly for Edmund, who was confused at first.

"See? These of quality equestrian are bound merely by the thought that their reigns are immoveable. Upon seeing them resting 'pon the dirt, the poor beasts won't even call into question their own freedom or lack thereof," Winston explained to Edmund, who felt confused and even vulnerable by the revelation.

"I do see it Winston, but I do fail to equate your point?" Edmund responded to Winston.

"Its quite obvious, really. If I were to take your kerchief and place it upon the ground, would you simply cease trying to move because you assumed you were still bound by one and the same piece to that spot?" asked Winston of Edmund.

"Its obviously a very learned cause and effect and apparently visual in terms of its ability to fool one into such thinking..." Edmund reasoned.

"Not if you're trained to think as such it isn't. Ask the horses who brought you here, and they'd reply that they wy're as good as bound," Winston explained to Edmund, who pondered Winston's argument.

"I fail to see the relevance..." Edmund replied.

"You will, or so Lewis believes of you..." Winston strode forth to the main educational building and into the lecture hall area, where Edmund followed, perhaps enticed by Winston's acute understanding of the way of things.

Perhaps Edmund was the Admiral and Winston was the Yeoman, though such positions in life were rarely a limit as to the direction wisdom would travel from one to the other.


Wendy lay asleep on her side, her back to Bryce, who lay face down on the mattress, his head pinned between it and his pillow. Both Wendy and himself breathed easily, occasionally shifting in their never ending search of cool spots on the mattress, or a change in sleeping position.

Bryce often dreamt, and seldom had nightmares. Occasionally he would find himself in challenging situations put forth by his own psyche, like the time he dreamed of delivering a keynote address at the University Of Waterloo's Physics Summer Festival, giving the speech in nothing but his underwear. He couldn't for the life of himself figure out why his audience was laughing at him, until he looked down and saw nothing but his favourite under shorts and his bare feet.

In that particular dream, he ignored the fact that he was giving the address in his underwear, and just focused on the speech itself and eventually got through it, even receiving an imaginary applause after as much.

His current dream was definitely of an educational variety, and he was certain that he was delivering a lecture, but he did not recall the lecture hall from memory. He did however allow it all to happen, whether his consciousness was on rails or if it was all just freeform speculation and rhetoric. There, in the middle of his dream, stood Bryce Maxwell in this unfamiliar lecture hall, on the esteemed stage inside of Cambridge University. 

Doctor Briggs, led by Braden, strode into the lecture hall during his mid-performance.

Bryce watched as Braden led Doctor Briggs, to a suitable seating arrangement, although it was one that had already been planned by Bryce/Lewis himself.

Doctor Briggs nervously found his seat, as various members of the audience coughed at his apparent lack of concern for their time. 

"I take it your seating arrangements are comfortable Edmund?" Bryce Maxwell, in the voice of Lewis, addressed his peer in the audience, apparently holding no quarter for even a close friend.

"I apologize but my carriage was delayed..." Doctor Briggs/Edmund responded.

"Well, as Mary Shelley might have put it, you were bound by your horse's lead. Convinced that you could not affect your own ability to change your future. Simply trapped by a reign you thought to prevent your own mobility. And this is exactly where Mary Shelley happened upon the conundrum of the nature of human consciousness. Of where we are no longer machines of flesh, as her best friend Lady Ada Lovelace would implore her to discover, and where we are biological vessels of the mind... Unique and independent each one of us...." Bryce/Lewis adjusted the lenses on his eyes as he struggled to read his own fine lettering from the podium.

"Doctor Frankenstein seems to have thought so..." Doctor Briggs/Edmund responded, drawing a bit of laughter from the rest of the lecture audience.

"That's the point. Doctor Frankenstein is torn between the machinations of the mind, the seemingly electromechanical processes that drive it, and its ultimate independence and liberation there from to and by, in the form of electricity. Which is an anecdote for the soul, albeit Shelley combined the two - mind and soul into one concept. Thumos if you would..." Bryce/Lewis responded to Doctor Briggs/Edmund.

"But how would a woman know this?" one of the students raised his hand and blurted out his question before Bryce could stop him.

Bryce knew that the poor student had immediately branded himself in the most dire of ways. A responsibility of those who've leapt with their mouths long before their wit could filter such words for them, had laid the ground for their own social demise. Look before you leap. Think before you speak.

"My dear student. I do believe that the question you actually chose to ask, was that how could a woman not know this? Especially when such a woman had written this incredible work of literature upon which this entire lecture is based..." Bryce/Lewis smiled at the student, hoping that as an educator, he'd prevented a dastardly branding of a man by his own lack of consideration and forsight.

It was at that precise moment that Doctor Briggs/Edmund understood Lewis and his secretive message for the first time.

Bryce/Lewis was not an oppressor. He was conveying a liberating concept, hidden deep within the  context of the works of Mary Shelley. Someone who at her time of life was considered to be a second class citizen by the rest of her society, despite her social clique and modest yet comfortable wealth.

Lewis'/Bryce's lecture went on for another thirty minutes, discussing many aspects of Shelley's works, and even touching upon the work of her mother Mary Wollenstonecraft, when he reached the apex of his presentation.

"..." Lewis paced much the same way as Bryce might have if he were from the same age, and entirely for dramatic effect.

"...In knowing all of this and of these remarkable women, who explored the very depth and meaning of what it is to be alive - conscious! To have a soul! That spark of life and all of the wonders and ills that accompany it! Isn't there something missing from their epitaph? Something in which we've gone astray from such studious and wonderfully philosophical guidance... of giants I might add...? Anyone?" Lewis looked to his audience, which was mostly composed of men, though he was joyed to see that a few women had come to hear his lecture.

And yet, none responded when they were given the stage to speak of the most important issue of all. 

"Perhaps it doesn't occur to you, for how could you long for something that you've never had? Never had a chance to miss? Could one long for the taste of an apple, without ever having bitten into such a juicy and sweet vessel?" asked Lewis of his audience.

Lewis strode the stage once again, from one side to the other, hoping that somebody would confirm they'd understood his message.

In the end, nobody, not a one spoke up.

The lecture ended with a lacklustre applause, and the students and faculty filing out of the lecture hall orderly and quietly as they always did.

Edmund remained seated while the lecture hall cleared, and it was at that moment that one of the students, a young woman who also bore the name Mary, approached Lewis with the courage to speak.

"Mr. Lewis, that was an absolutely inspiring talk. Are we going to get more from you?" she asked him, her chin held high in confidence.

"That depends upon the direction of our curriculum... and the interests at play..." Lewis gathered his notes from the podium.

"What are the options if I might imply?" asked Mary, cradling her books close to her buxom like the treasures they were.

"Well... I was thinking we could focus on Wollenstonecraft... or even  Lady Ada Lovelace, they were all friends you know. Good things happen when a circle of like minds find commonality in philosophy and science you know... or how about Lord Byron? He too was a peer in their midst," Lewis explained to Mary, who smiled at him upon realizing the opportunity to say what she really intended to communicate.

Mary stepped up to the podium, pulled a piece of rather expensive paper from her books, and wrote something on it,  folding it up into a tiny square, which she then handed to Lewis, all while Edmund watched from his place, alone and silent in the lecture hall audience seating.

"Here's my vote..." Mary said to him, and a smile like no other crossed Lewis' face.

Edmund stood at that point, while Mary waved goodbye to Lewis innocently, turning her back upon her favourite lecturer, knowing that he watched her as she left. Not in the sense of admiring her sexuality or her curves, but rather in amazement and respect for the woman, who'd in her few words, had justified all the effort he'd put into such a lecture in the first place.

"You are a sneaky one, you are..." Edmund remarked to Lewis.

"Nay as sneaky as her. She's a good one, that one. We'll need sneaky women if this is to happen at all..." Lewis responded, acutely aware that Edmund had caught on.

"You knew that my brother would abstain from any such notion?" asked Edmund of Lewis.

"Not so much as I was unsure that you wouldn't. It seems my faith was well placed," Lewis responded.

"So that's how this all works? You're going to spend the next thirty years that you have left, opening the eyes of one student every lecture? How many do you give a month? Lectures I mean?" asked Edmund.

"Three, sometimes four," Lewis responded, folding his notes into his books, which he carefully placed in his attache case.

"Right then. You'll have enough people in your movement to fill this lecture hall in about forty years then..." Edmund goaded Lewis, understanding the pure genius of what he was doing, or so he thought.

"Not quite. You see, I don't have to open the eyes of everyone. Just that one, that will make the difference that much easier..." Lewis explained to Edmund.

"I'd like you to meet someone. Someone who is a dear friend and could use the help of a gentile like yourself right about now," Edmund walked with Lewis, who opened the door for them as they filed out into the halls of Cambridge University.

"You mean this Alicia woman? The one who fell from riches to rags into a home for wayward women? How could I ever be of help in such a situation?" asked Bryce/Lewis.

"You said it yourself. Only those who've tasted an apple will miss it, once they've no more. Who'd fight for such a experience except those who'd lost it altogether? I think that she's the key to where you're trying to journey. In the least it wouldn't hurt to try," Edmund asked of his new friend who considered his words very carefully.

"Very well. I will do as you ask, but I just wanted to make sure that you were listening. I mean really listening," Bryce/Lewis responded.

"I can be reached by telegraph. Send it to the Cambridge faculty addressed to my person, with the date and time you propose that we do this, and we will meet with Alicia and speak of these matters. When you refer to her by name, please speak as if you're talking of botany, and referring to a flower. I bid you good day Mr. Edmund..." Lewis walked away down the hall and to his classroom as Edmund stood watching the man.

"I have just such a suitable name, and one that fits just such a flower," Edmund agreed.

 When Lewis was outside of the door to his class, he turned to face Edmund once again.

"And thank you ever so much for listening..." Lewis smiled, nodding once to Edmund before setting foot into the classroom.

To be continued...

I am Brian Joseph Johns and this is Shhhh! Digital Media at or in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 200 Sherbourne Street Suite 701.

Credits and attribution:

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastlyBirdman, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3DUnreal Engine...

Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3DBlender, Stable Diffusion (Easy Diffusion distribution), InstantIDSadtalkerGoogle ColaboratoryMicrosoft Copilot (Windows 11), Hitfilm, Borderline Obsession...

The Victorian Fashion for Alicia and Shaela was created using InstantID (credited below), with  the following reference image from Wikimedia Commons for at least a partial pose, and style design of their garments, including its license and information about the origins of the image: Edwardian or Victorian “photoshopped” photograph.   The final images took a bit of touch-up work, especially around the eyes, and at least a bit in terms of colour grading as well, though I'm not using a single palette for the entire story, given the fact that it occurs across multiple timescales.

InstantID by: Wang, Qixun and Bai, Xu and Wang, Haofan and Qin, Zekui and Chen, Anthony. Research Paper Title: InstantID - Zero-shot Identity-Preserving Generation in Seconds.

Sadtalker by: Zhang, Wenxuan and Cun, Xiaodong and Wang, Xuan and Zhang, Yong and Shen, Xi and Guo, Yu and Shan, Ying and Wang, Fei.

Research Paper Title: SadTalker: Learning Realistic 3D Motion Coefficients for Stylized Audio-Driven Single Image Talking Face Animation.

Gratitude: Our Mentors, Senseis, Sifus, Sebomnims, lifetime inspirations, family, friends, the Nomads (ask Stanton about that one), the Music, the Movies, the Theatre, the Arts, ASMR, (both YouTube and Bilibili and the many other creators on those platforms), the Gaming and Developer communities and of course, the audience.

Martial Arts (in the words of real experts and at least one comedian): (home of the real Dragon and an entire family of inspirations), International Wing Chun Organization (International presence of a very scalable intensity martial art, protected and developed by Shaolin Nun Ng Mui) and the alma mater of Jinn Hua's own specialized variation thereof, Speaking of Jinn Hua, Ai Yuanlin Ying and remarkable women:, International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karatedo Federation (even Hanshi had his teachers), International Taekwondo Federation (Here there be Taegers), Tang Soo Do World (the path of Grandmaster Chuck Norris), International Aikido Federation (how else would Navy Chef Steven Seagal liberate a Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier from a team of hijackers with the help of an immensely heroic Polish beauty?), Shaolin Temple Quanfa Institute (The City Of Toronto's own Shaolin Temple), Master Ken's Ameri-Te-Do presence (If we can't laugh at ourselves, then we can at least laugh the loudest at others, and other Zen)

Special thanks to AitrepreneurHugging Face and the YouTube educational content producers, including those catering to the AI content production pipeline and of course AlphaSignal.

Something to give you perspective: The very first teacher had no formal education, didn't graduate and was self taught, but only because they had no other choice. We do.

This content is entirely produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 200 Sherbourne Street Suite 701 under the Shhhh! Digital Media banner.