7.

"Why's it called 403 anyway?" Stewart asked, kicking at the snow. They'd decided to come straight to 403 land this time. It was quicker than wasting time staring at a laptop at home.

["oh yeah," says Said Author, "They decided. Uh huh."]

"Because of the year," Rita said, "Something very important happened in the year 403-"

"Would you close the door, its frikkin freezing out there!" a voice came from inside headquarters.

"Sorry." Rita closed the door behind her and joined them in the snow. "Anyway, where are you with your story?"

"Nowhere." Rakima was molding snow into what looked suspiciously to Stewart like snowballs.

"It's not going anywhere," he sighed, edging away from her a little and starting to accumulate his own pile of suspiciously projectile looking snow creations.

"Something has to happen," Rita said, "You have a character now. You see what happens when you put it to the test."

"Where?" Rakima asked, peering up at her through the bright glare of glare from the white around them.

"Gooood point," Rita said thoughtfully, "Where."

"Didn't we already have a where?" Stewart asked.

"You can't just say Ancient Greece and be done with it," Rakima replied, rolling her eyes, "You need more than that."

"Alright, let's see what you've got," Rita said, "Let's go there."

The snow was whipped up by vicious winds but cleared quickly. Rakima and Stewart waited calmly. They were veterans now. Took more than a snowstorm transporting them to a different world to shake their cool.

And then, there they were.

A black world.

The world was entirely black.

"When you're through this world, you'll have a where," Rita said, folding her arms in satisfaction.

"What do you mean, through? How do we get through?"

"Just go."

"But… I can't see anything," Stewart said frowning and feeling a bit panicky.

"Ah, that's a problem, isn't it. Rakima! Describe the where to him."

"Huh? What where?"

"Any where. Your where, the where in your head. Where you'd like to be."

"Well… I'm here."

"Not helpful. Describe."

"Ok… ok right. So there's a room."

"Big, small, homey, warehouse, carpeted, dungeon, tree house?"

"Square, medium sized. A lounge room. There's a sofa and a table…"

As she said each thing they popped into existence in the blackness. But the sofa and table spun slowly on their axes, and were a nondescript flickering grey color.

"What kind of sofa?"

"Um… a kind of washed out red fabric cover, two plump blue velvet cushions." The cushions appeared in mid air, "no, like slumped ones, in the corners of the sofa. Yeah, that's it."

["This is sounding less and less like Ancient Greece," says Said Author]

["shudduuuuup!" says Sophiesix, "just go with it!"]

"There's a rug on the honey coloured wooden floor boards, concentric rings of rag, coloured rag, and, and the coffee table! It's covered in magazines and empty mugs and an iPod-"

"Hang on," Stewart said, "I'm confused. When is this?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well a rag rug is very 1970's, but they didn't have iPod's then."

"Really? Really, truly? No iPods?" Rakima asked, but Stewart continued to look serious, "What did they do, then?"

"I don't know," Stewart said. He'd heard of a dinosaur called a Walk Man, but he wasn't game enough to put a date on it. "Maybe they sang."

"Oh." Rakima had visions of family get-togethers with every member taking in a different air-instrument. Her mom would have the air-drums, David would have the air-guitar, and she would have the air-microphone. Also known as a hairbrush. Hmm, it would make the playlist really limited… too limited to write about. This house would have to be present day: "Well, it can be a retro house."

"Cool."

"So then it has a basket of old newspapers next to the fire and another of random logs and a weird, brown, tortured looking sculpture and-"

"Wait! Stop!" Rita said, holding out her hands.

"What?" the others asked.

"Does it look real to you?"

Rakima looked round at the world she had created. "Umm, no?" she realized, "It… it kinda looks like something out of a magazine. A photo or something."

"Right," Rita put her hands on Rakima's shoulders and spoke quietly in her ear. "See how the window's open a bit? Can't you hear the traffic outside, feel the slight breeze on your cheek, smell the garden it's bringing in? Can't you smell the fire? The old burnt up charcoal and ash and the new sappy logs? Hear the crackle and spit, the smoke sucking up the flue? See the plate of toast on the table?"

"Oh man, I can taste that honey…" Stewart whispered.

"Better?" Rita asked.

"Better," Rakima confirmed, "And there's a sideboard and a bookcase and a fireplace and a lamp and pictures on the walls and a blanket on the couch and a pile of books on the chair and a kitten and a-

"Not too much!" Rita shouted. The space was jammed packed with sights and sounds and smells and all the rest, appearing just as fast as Rakima spoke.

"I can't move!" Stewart whined, "There's too much STUFF here. I'm getting all bogged down…"

"We'll never make it to the dialogue!" Beta wailed.

"Right!" Rita shouted, silencing everyone. She breathed a moment, then went on. "When you walk into a room, you don't notice allll this crap, do you? No. What do you notice?"

Rakima thought.

"I'd notice the sun coming in the widow, the breakfast things on the table, the headlines on the paper…"

"I'd notice the shadows cast by the fire, the wrecks of old wood in the grate, the cozy blanket on the sofa…" Stewart said.

"And I'd notice that the pictures are a mixture old masters and amateur watercolours. But that's just me," Rita added, "Right, so, what we need here is what …. Um… what's-its-name?"

"Cairbre."

"Right, yeah, it was on the tip of my tongue. We need what Cairbre notices."

Stewart and Rakima thought for a moment then stared at each other. "The dead body in front of the television!"

"Exactly," Rita smiled.

["ooh! ooh! I bet he died from too much grape juice," Said Author says.]

["or had too much paper cuts!" Sophiesix says.]

Snow began to fall, dusting the arms of the sofa, piling up inside the cups. The kitten stood up on its hind legs and batted at the drifting flakes. The world was turning slowly white. "Ok," Rita was saying, "You've got your Who, you've got your Where, you got your When, now all that's left is why?"

"Hmmm…," Rakima and Stewart said, "Why…" The walls of the room had dissolved into the snowstorm, and the furniture was reduced to lumps under the thick white cover-all. The kitten was nowhere to be seen.

"Or what," Beta added helpfully.

"No, you need the why before the what," Rita said firmly.

"Not necessarily," Beta replied.

"The what won't go anywhere without a why," Rita said.

"Who says you need a why at all?" Beta said, sounding a little uppity.

Meanwhile, Stewart and Rakima had been bouncing ideas off each other faster than a squash game.

"Now we have to get home and actually write the darn story!" Rakima said. Her fingers were itching, ideas falling out of her head.

"But you've got a computer here. Beta's been writing as you've been speaking." Rita said, as the snow cleared revealing 403 headquarters and opening the door into the overheated interior. They ran inside and sat around Beta, both speaking over each other.

"Ok, add a bit where the detective finds the knife at the same time as the sergeant bursts in with the school teacher and-"

"Oh yeah! The school teacher! Write a bit where the school teacher and the detective go back to his place and-"

"I'm not writing that," Beta said.

"What?"

"I'm not writing that."

"Huh? You have to," Rakima said, "You're a computer."

"Oh boy…" Rita whispered. Beta's screen glowed bright.

"A computer! As in Just a computer, right? You don't think I have ideas of my own? That's all I'm good for is it? Slavishly writing down whatever you say all over myself?" Rakima and Stewart were beginning to look scared. "Take that! See how you like it!"

Words began appearing on Rakima's skin like tattoos, crawling all over her arms.

"Nooo!" Rakima shrieked, "not romance! Please don't write romance on me!"

"No, no, no!" Rita said crossly, rubbing the words on her arms, "Keep to your classification!" A few odd words appeared on Rakima's forehead. "Beta, stop it! Don't be so childish. Really, when was the last time you stooped so low as to write on someone?"

Beta muttered something which sounded suspiciously like "They write on me all the time."


Gold star to anyone how figures out what was so important that happened in the year 403 (yes, you can use Google. Like we could stop you!)

We could! Use Giveoogle instead! Mwahaha! :D

Oh! and thanks to SilverShadowBeliever for the idea of Beta writing on Rakima :) Ideas are always welcomed!