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But my dreams, they aren't as empty, as my conscience seems to be.

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He asked for a sedative that night and Nicole gave it to him without hesitation. It worked so quickly, Louis had to carry him into his room. He even tucked him into bed. “Thanks Dad.” He mumbled and Louis smiled.

Noel woke up to a strange noise. It was someone humming and banging on wood. “Come on Dappy! It’s not that hard!” It was Phill’s voice shouting through the darkness. “I have to pass it over then. Noel’s team, any clue?” Simon’s face appeared on the wall next to Noel, looking down at him. “I think I got it. Is it… The Beastie Boys?” “No Paloma. It is not. Any other ideas?” She was lying in Noel’s bed, wearing one of her fancy hats. “The theme from the 1920 rowing championships in Newcastle?” Tony suggested. He was dressed like a strong man from a sideshow. “No. And never speak to me again. So what is it, team captain?” “Is it “Walk this Way” by Aerosmith?” “Congratulations! You may proceed.” The door flung open, letting a bright light into the room. “Where am I going to?” Paloma shrugged and Terry waved at him. Noel got out of the bed and walked into the light.

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He was blinded for a few seconds. When he could see again he was standing in the “Nabootique”. Julian was there too. “So what is it today Vince? Did a magpie steal your jewels and you had to go hunt it down?” “What?” He didn’t remember writing that line. “Come on Vince. I’m listening give me something for the book.” “Julian, what are you talking about?” “Who is Julian?” He looked confused. “You are!” “Ah, I get it. I’ve lost my memory. You pulled that stunt last time we had to do the stock taking. Not going to work. Here you start by cleaning out the bin bags! And don’t just throw them into the back alley. It will attract Crack Foxes.” “Crack Foxes?” “Of forget it! I’m doing it myself! You are useless.” He left Noel on his own in the shop.

When he heard the shop bell he turned around to see a woman in the door. “Hellooooooooooooooooo!” It was Rich dressed as Eleanor. “Rich, thank God, you gotta help me, Julian has gone mental!” He looked at him the same way Julian did. “Darling, I’m Eleanor. I’m here to see if Howard is in the mood for some love squeezings.” “Have you all lost it? Paul! Paul! Where are you?” Eleanor/Rich choose to ignore his outburst and handed him her card. “Well could you just give Howard this? He can call me anytime. Byyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeee.” Noel looked at the calling card. It was blank, besides one word: “Copoka”.

”This is insane! I’m gonna call Mike.” Noel took his cell phone out of his pocket and searched for his brother’s name.
“Fossil, Bob? Hitcher? Jaques LeCube? Leroy? What the fuck, who messed with my phone?! Wait, that isn’t mine.” It was Vince’s. Suddenly the phone rang. The caller ID just said “Sand”. He answered it. “Hello, Chosen One.” “Sand?” “Yes, could you maybe send me some more hand protectors?” “You mean gloves?” “Yes, yes.” “Okay, yeah sure.” “Thank you. A magpie came down from the sky and stole them.” “A magpie?” “Yes, I found its nest but the hand protectors were gone.” “How can you dial then?” “Oh, the little blue man dialled for me. Took him ages.” “Hello master! Are you coming back soon?” “Alan?” “Ah, the master remembers my name, because I’m his favourite! I love the Chosen One, loving him is lots of fun…” “I don’t have the amulet anymore, remember? You buried me and my mate in sand.” “But you defeated the green man! You don’t need trinkets that show your greatness. Are you still mad at me? Please don’t be mad! I shall cut off my other hand… Well I could cut off my foot! Would that satisfy you oh Chosen One?” “No. No more cutting off anything!” “Vince, could you come out here for a second?” It was Julian or Howard. He wasn’t so sure anymore. “Look guys, I gotta go. Sand I’ll send you the gloves. Alan… Get help.” Noel walked to the backdoor. There was the light again and he fainted.

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“Hey you cannot sleep in here boy!” Noel was sitting in a chair, facing a stage. There was a strange show on, with two girls entangled in each others hair. “Get out!” The man who addressed him wore an old fashioned orderly uniform. He looked a lot like Sergio. Noel got up and went to the exit. When he opened the door he found himself in a corridor with several locked cells. One of them had the word “Copoka” on it. Suddenly a pair of green eyes appeared behind the barred window of the cell.
“Are you new here?” The voice was deep and high pitched at the same time. “No, just passing through. Who are you?” “I’m Emily with a y.” “Noel.” She was looking into his eyes. “Did you do something wrong?” “Yes, I’m a girl and therefore I’m mad.” “That doesn’t seem right.” She laughed. “You are not from around here, are you?” “I don’t even know where here is, to be honest.” “This is the Asylum. We are all wayward Victorian girls.” “There are more of you locked up in here?” “Hundreds come in, very few ever leave. At least not alive.” “Can I help you in any way?” He asked, still not breaking eye contact with her.
“I guess getting me out is too much to ask, is it?” Noel laid his hand on the handle and pushed the door open. The cell was dark, except for some light coming from a single candle. There were rats all over the place and one of them was sitting on Emily’s shoulders. “Come on, let’s go.” He extended his hand to her and she took a hold of it. They made their way to the exit, passing cell doors that swung open. The other girls stuck their heads out, looking at the pair. Noel urged them to follow up. Then they heard footsteps behind them. Three orderlies arrived on the scene, yelling insults and commanded them to stop. Noel dragged Emily with him when they heard a loud noise. The girl suddenly stopped, just inches away from the door. “Come on Emily!” “I told you, no one gets out alive.” She grinned madly. A big, red stain appeared on Emily’s chest. She pushed him out of the door before collapsing.

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“Noel, wake up!” “Dee? You’re back?” “What do you mean back? Where did I go?” She laughed at him. She looked exactly the way she did when they first met. He drew her into his arms and breathed in her scent. “Wow, you are cuddly today.” “I just needed this right now. I’m so sorry Dee. I’ve been an arsehole to you, please don’t hate me.” “Why would I hate you?” She looked confused. Noel knew that this wasn’t real even though he wished for it to be.
“Sorry. I can’t stay.” “Of course you can’t. You’ve got a gig tonight, remember? You should get ready; you know how Julian gets when you are late.” “Yeah, I do.” He hugged her again, afraid to let Dee go. “Move it Noel!” She shoved him to the bathroom door. A magpie appeared on the windowsill and there was the light again.

“You are actually on time.” Julian looked at his mate bemused. “I guess I am.” “Are you alright Noel?” “Can’t say that, no.” “What’s going on?” “I don’t know; let’s get this over with, shall we?” He approached the curtain, tearing it wide open. There was no one in the audience. “Julian? Julian!” He was gone. He couldn’t take it anymore and just sat on the ground, weeping. The writing on the floor said “Copoka”.

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Noel felt like he sat there for hours when there was music all of the sudden. It sounded like it came from an old music box, distorted and scratchy. After a few seconds he recognised the tune. It was “Behind Blue Eyes” by “The Who”.
“You don’t look so happy, Noel.” It was Noelle’s voice, surrounding him. “You’re picking up on that, huh?” “What is the matter?” “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” “You’ve searched for me.” “Did I? I thought I was dreaming…” “Dreaming is your subconscious telling you that something is wrong.” “You sound like a shrink.” “Could be. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to them.” “Where are you?” “Right here.” She touched his shoulder and smiled at him. Noel hugged her, she felt cold. The gash on her throat looked ghastly.
“Are you alive?” “I’m on the edge. They haven’t decided what to do with me yet. But I don’t mind dying, to be honest. I wasn’t really doing anything useful with my mortal existence anyway.” “I don’t want you to die Noelle.” “That is not your decision, I’m afraid.” “Can’t I do anything?” “Yes. You gotta let go.” “Let go of what?” “The pain, the anger, the self hate. Or it will destroy you, like me.” “How do I do that?” “You have to figure that out yourself.” She got up. “It’s time for you to wake up Noel.”

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“Noel? Come on, get up!” It was Louis who was on dayshift. “Hm?” “Boy, you were out of it. You slept a whole day.” “I did?” “Yeah, they had to monitor your heartbeat. Let’s get you something to eat, okay?” “I’m not hungry.” “Then at least drink something.” “Yeah a tea would be good.” He didn’t dare to ask about Noelle.

“How are you feeling today Mr. Fielding?” Did she really just ask him that? Noelle was right, she was a cunt. “I’m drained, emotionally.” “Well I think we should schedule more one on one’s, so we can deal with that.” “No.” Doctor Cruz looked at him surprised. “No?” “I’m leaving today.” “I’m afraid that is not an option.” “Yes, it is. I’m not court ordered to be here, the days you could keep me committed legally are over and I came here on my own. I’m out.” “I really think you should reconsider this.” “Well, I don’t. This session is over. Goodbye.” And go fuck yourself.

Louis helped him pack his stuff. When they were finished the orderly handed Noel a sketchbook.
“What is that?” “Belonged to Noelle, I thought you might want it.” “Is this her diary?” “Drawing journal she called it. Scribbled in it everyday.” Noel flipped through the pages.
“Ah yeah, that is Roy Circles. He is a PE teacher and also a chocolate finger.” “Thanks Louis.” “Don’t mention it. I’m serious, don’t. You’ll get me fired.” “I promise… Oh no, not another magpie.” “What? Where?” Noel pointed at the drawing of the bird on the back of the book. “When I was on that sedative, I kept seeing these damn things over and over again. There was also this strange word, “Copoka”.” “How did it look exactly?” Noel wrote it down on a piece of paper and Louis laughed.
“That is not “Copoka” it’s “Soroka” that’s Cyrillic. Means magpie. Your subconscious is bilingual.” “But why magpies?” “I'm guessing because of Noelle. Her last name was Sorokina that derives from Soroka.” “How come you know that?” “I’m a Bulgakov.” Yeah, he really should ask people for their surnames in the future.

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When Julian arrived a few minutes after four o’clock, Noel jumped into his arms.
“Ju, I missed you so much!” “I missed you too Noel… Why are you wearing your coat?” “Because I’m leaving with you.” “Do they now that?” Julian looked unconvinced. “Yes, it is fine. Just get me out of here.” He sighed and helped his best friend with his bags.

When they left the hospital in Julian’s car, Noel let out a deep breath.
“So are you well again?” “I don’t really know. I’ve got a lot of things to sort out.” “On your own? Is that a good idea?” “I’m not on my own. I’ve got you. And so many people who care for me. I’m lucky.” Julian smiled at him. “What is that?” “A sketchbook.” “You had time to draw?” “Belonged to a friend.” “Noelle?” “Yes.” “She just gave it to you?” “A farewell present, I guess.” “Well if you like I can drive you up there once in a while, so you can visit her.” “She is not there anymore.” “She got out?” “Yeah, she did.” Noel clutched the book to his chest and stared out of the window.