Lane had gone to Marrakesh because it was the city that to her sounded the most like adventure. And not like what people tended to call an adventure these days. Like almost missing the last night bus and having to run after it. Or going on a tour through a graveyard, losing sight of the group and having to inch towards what one thinks might be the torch and voice of the guide and not that of some angry ghost looking for its lost keys or something. Also certainly not a romantic kind of adventure. Very emphatically not one of those.
Lane had just gone through a very messy, incredibly petty brake-up. The pettiness originating very much from Martin. That fucking wanker. Certainly not from her. Viewed out of context there might have been some pettiness from her side too. But that was strictly in self defence. God knows, she tried to remain calm, a force of reason. Trying not to get overwhelmed by her emotions. But there was a limit to how far a woman could walk down that road.
So. Non of that romantic shit. She was looking for a proper adventure. One containing ruins, lost civilizations, swashbuckling, knowledge that was not intended for humanity. For as far as Lane was concerned it might even contain cannibal cultist and elder gods stirring in their eternal graves shaking the foundations of the earth. At last that was better than the shit she had to endure with Martin...
So Marrakesh it was. After all this city seemed to be a magnet for the occult, the strange, all the things that scratched at the limits of reality. She had arrived here almost a week ago with her best best mate Monica who had joined her as moral support. She and Monica knew each other from work. Lane had welcomed her and shown her the ropes when she had started at the company freshly recruited from Chile. When Lane had told her that she was going abroad, thinking how to subtly ask if she would mind to tag along, Monica had almost immediately ask her if she could tag along. She had told Lane that if she had to endure another week with English work place understatement and the fucking joke they called weather she would put on her work out gear and do an Olympic level amok run that would become legend for decades to come.
Looking back that was a bit of a horrible idea. Lane and Monica got along very well at work, but outside of it they had never really ever met. With exception of a company mixer where they traded work-out secrets while making fun of the ridiculous colours for shirts that most of the men were wearing that day. Good start, but not the perfect basis for a trip together where they would end up seeing each other every day.
But it worked out fine. They could talk for hours on end as well as they could just keep each other company in silence. After exploring the city together for the first three days they started to do tours on their own when they were feeling like having more space.
Today was such a day. Monica was out and about looking for a distant acquaintance that was a friend of some some third degree cousin of hers, while lane was methodically exploring the various bazaars trying to find one where she could buy some ancient artefact. So far she had not had much luck. The markets she had found so far were admittedly breathtaking filled with all sorts of stalls selling almost everything. Sometimes the stalls were seemingly erected at random were the merchant that got there first got to claim a spot resulting in having a fruit stall standing between a place selling live animals and a jeweller specialising in gold rings. Sometimes the markets were thematically segmented with whole streets devoted to just one particular thing. Here the merchants did their utmost to out do the competition. Either by catering to one extremely specific niche like the stall that sold nothing but endless variations of powdered chilli peppers, just walking past it made Lanes eyes water or by being especially well stocked in a broad selection of wares or simply by screaming louder than the all the other merchants in the near vicinity. This was a city that appeared to have something on sale for every imaginable taste or requirement. Well almost any. So far the bazaars had been very disappointing when it came to adventure as well as ancient artefacts from a time long forgotten. The few things that caught Lane's eye were mostly cheap touristy crap with the rest being shiny expertly crafted touristy crap. Not wanting to go back to the hotel empty handed she let her self get talked into buying a puzzle box from a shady looking fellow, all scars and rough beard stubble, who swore on his mothers immortal soul that he was a grave robber with years of experience. She had not wanted to buy the crappy little box that had a an aura of so little evil that Lane suspected that it would open a portal to a dimension of accountants, which she had to admit would be a special kind of horrible. Just not very exiting. In the end she got it because the merchant was such a great entertainer. The way he whispered to her about the terrible curse that was following the box, how he lost three friends to invisible desert demons while running away from the undead guardians of the tomb they robbed it from... He really put on a great show and in the end Lane could not find it in her not to reward him for his story. They did haggle for a while, which ended in Lane's patience growing thin and asking the 'grave robber' for what reason he seemed so insistent of not getting rid of an item that was obviously so utterly cursed that it would bring ruin to entire regions.
Back in the hotel she attempted to open the puzzle box while waiting for Monica to return. She was slightly bored and shifting the different bits and pieces around was kind of soothing in an inoffensive not very taxing way. Had she actually tried to solve the puzzle it might have been different but at that moment she was perfectly happy just watching the different bits and pieces slide into each other hinting at all the different forms the box might take if handled the right way. While she was doing that she wondered if there was some kind of sweatshop somewhere on the planet were some underpaid wage slaves were putting together these things, so that tourists could get a little bit of a supernatural kick out of these things. In the end this puzzle box really did originate from a mundane form of hell.
That was the moment where Lane cut herself on a rather sharp metal edge of the puzzle box. It was not a deep cut but enough to draw a bit of blood which was quickly drawn into the thin engravings of the box which were narrow enough to function like capillaries. The etching on one side started to fill out with her blood and deep inside the box a clockwork mechanism stared to run. Lane watched the little box with an arched eyebrow, observing how it started to shift its pieces on its own, slowly shifting from a box into a spherical object. It did not get very far. After a while the tick-tock sounds inside started to slow down, became irregular and then stopped altogether. What was left was a strange deformed metal thing with curves and angles in all the wrong places. Now it looked like something that belonged into a gallery.
Lane carefully prodded the strange object in front of her. In its new configuration it exposed now a variety of very sharp edges and pointy bits making it almost impossible to handle the puzzle mechanism without drawing blood again. The designer of this little infernal apparatus was either very clever or exceedingly lazy with now regard to health and safety whatsoever. She carefully wrapped the strange bladed toy into a hotel towel moving it to the centre of the desk in her room making sure that it could not fall to the floor or that she could accidentally bump into it if she had to get up in the dark for some late night toilet visit. Having her new acquisition pleasantly demonic she went to look for Monica who had indeed returned from her own excursion. She did not have to look for long. Monica was sitting at the hotel bar mumbling Spanish obscenities into her beer. When Lane asked her what had happened she just mumbled something about her family and things back home and that everything was shit in one way or the other.
"You know what helps in situations like these?" Lane asked.
Monica looked at her with eyes that told her that 'situations like these' could not be salvaged. "What?" she asked for the sake of friendship and polite conversation.
"Buying a bottle of Vodka. Drinking all of it while complaining about the fucking world!" Lane beamed.
"It's a start." Lane said.
Half a bottle of Vodka later.
"You know?" Monica continued. "After I've done everything I was told to do? Not that I wanted to do even half of that shit! Fuck them. Right? I did all kinds of shit. Why? Because it was expected from me. And I did it! Did it all! Why because it was the professional thing to do. The right thing to do! And for what? For some lame, boneless fucking words of insincere thanks! They probably expect me to thank them for buying me a plane ticket! You know what I mean?"
"Totally!" said Lane. "Like when I got Martin his job? We had like this pact where we would not play favourites and shit like that. Keep our private lives away from the professional side of things? Yeah. I fucking bent that rules until they looked like... like... a plate of spaghetti. Really messed up spaghetti. Because, yes he was my boyfriend, but he does have this artistic talent. that was there before I even knew him. So that hardly counts. Right? And these people who were looking just for a guy like that and I just knew I guy like that. Well pointing into his general direction... that's kinda OKish. Right. So I do point. Vaguely and he gets the job. Great. My principles hurt but we have both nice jobs and even in the same building. And every one gets to live happily ever after right?"
"Fat chance." snorted Monica. "More Vodka?"
"Fuck, yes. So when the fucking day comes when the fucking idiots upstairs decide to make our company leaner and they are looking at you with redundancy eyes? When every one of us is wearing cross hairs on their foreheads? Yes? I go and ask him to return the favour. But nooo. THAT would be nepotism! Sure he is friends with some of the very same people who through their incredible brain power have to decide who in the company, whose job they don't understand and who they have never fucking met gets fired, he can't possibly be caught pointing out my actually bleeding first class work."
"Yes. The typical shit. It is all loyalty and sticking together and taking one for the team, as long as it is you making the sacrifices. God forbid that they have to do anything for you in return..."
"And during that same week he gets a pat on his back for something he did at work. And the he is mad at me because I am not in the mood for partying. And I'm the bitch all of a sudden. Fucking bastard." Lane said squeezing her glass so hard that her knuckles and fingers turned white.
"Yeah. You get to do all the shitty stuff and they get to drive down easy lane wondering why you aren't as happy as they are..."
"Did I tell you about our song?" Lane asked.
"We have a song?"
"What? No not you and me. Martin and me."
"Oh, right. Penny Lane. Yes you did."
"Right Penny Lane, from the Beatles. Another Vodka?"
"Bring it on." Monica said waving her hand to keep Lane pouring. "We need to find some gherkins."
"Gherkins? Did I black out for a moment?"
"No. You were just going to tell me how Penny Lane was your song. Because of how the text reminded Martin, may he be eaten by tigers, of you. But then I noticed that we were drinking Vodka without gherkins."
"It's just that you just reminded me of a friend of mine. Anya, a girl from Russia with whom I used to work. Back in Latin America. Man she used to get as much of the short end of the stick form her people like I from mine. She said that when she was a little girl, she loved the song 'Go West' and that after she actually went west everything was shit and that ruined the song for her."
"I still don't get the part about the gherkins..."
"When you drink vodka you eat gherkins. Like with the tequila and the lemons? It's the Russian thing to do."
"No idea. It's what Anya told me. So... your song..."
"Right. So in the week were I almost decided to kill Martin. And I mean really kill, kill him. Like murder kill him."
"I remember that week." Monica said with a crooked smile.
"That was the week were he told me that the song still made him think of me. Because I was in his ears and in his eyes all the time being an insufferable bitch. Can you image?!" Lane downed her Vodka.
"You should have killed him."
"But then I would have had to dispose of his body."
"Messy work. It always looks so easy in the movies..."
"Doesn't it? And imagine going to jail for that fuck!?"
"Yeah fuck them. Them being alive and living their miserable superficial lives that are all shiny on the out side and full of shit at the core... killing them would be doing them a favour."
"Yes fuck him! Did I tell you about the thingy I bought?"
"The box you got that is all sharp edges and probably the portal to some hell dimension?"
"What about it?"
"I think first thing tomorrow I'll be going to but that thing in a box and send it to him as a present."
"I drink to that" Monica said raising her glass. "Now one of us needs to crawl over to the bar and organise some gherkins."