Laika (underground) Pt. II

Laika (underground) Pt. II

The next step in a surreal journey through the unknown.


(Read Part One)


She remained silent for a moment, jerking her head around to face the door. It stood alone, no house or support structure, just a wooden door jutting upright out of the sandy wastes. The door seemed incredibly confident in its existence, as if it had always been there, as if it was meant to be there. A lonely statue erected in the name of nothing but spite to logic.

“Holy shit,” she stood in utter astonishment, “I… I must have hit my head in the house. Oh god, I’m unconscious in the middle of the woods!” This seemed to make the most sense to her, although everything felt so real that there was already a well-embedded seed of doubt.

Despite actively convincing herself that this was all a dream, that none of this existed in any tangible, physical sense, she called out. Her voice echoing a fragile “Hello?” across the curves and bulges of the unfurling wastelands. The sky had a greenish tint to it, the clouds appearing more as a nuclear haze than the fluffy greys and whites she was used to. It was all deeply unsettling, dreamlike in its worrisome reality.

Laika turned back around to try the door, yanking and jiggling the loose handle as best she could. Nothing. The damned thing that had dumped her out in the middle of this extreme nothingness remained quite stubbornly closed. That fucking figures. Her shoulders slouched, defeated by the sheer absurdity of it all. “Is it so hard to have a nice coma dream?” She asked the open air around her, glancing at the off-putting sickly colours up above her head.

With no other options at her disposal she huffed, shifting to trudge through the sand to see if she could find something. If this was a coma dream she might as well explore it before she either woke up or died out in the real world. The worn leather of her shoes sank into the unstable ground as she precariously shuffled further from the door. She knew that the tiny grains would be inundated in her socks and the the crannies of her footwear before long, but it wasn’t like she had a choice. The last thing on her mind was to wander barefoot in a place like this.

The air was surprisingly cool, an odd reprieve from the pulsating humidity back in the woods. Might as well enjoy something I guess. She mused, almost smirking to herself as she surveyed the wide expanse before her.

Laika wandered for what felt like an eternity, or two at this rate, who knew how the time difference between dream and reality worked, before noticing something new. Off in the distance, past a small clump of desert scrubland that likely hadn’t seen a drop of water in ages, was a depression in the sand. As she approached the image of this strange formation grew clearer. It was a massive circle, seemingly perfect in its rotundity and curvature, that sank below the rest of the desert landscape. From the floor of this odd pit to the edge of the sand above looked to be about the height from Laika’s feet to her boyish chest.

From her vantage point Laika could see a dark brown rectangle at the centre of the depression, with a small pop of blue flapping at the top. Is somebody else actually out here?! She hopped down over the edge, bending her knees slightly as she hit the ground below. It felt different here, as if something solid stretched into the abyss below and the sand simply acted as a light carpeting.

Undaunted she moved on, the object revealing itself to be an old wooden stall standing lonely amongst the eternal browns and decaying greens of this unearthly place. Above the stall’s counter a blue cloth banner rippled in the the soft, inconsistent breezes that would randomly quell the stagnation. The lettering across the banner was an uncomfortably bright red, a red that stung the eyes the longer you looked at it. As far as Laika could tell it was gibberish, a madman’s spasm of angular jolts and curving strokes that seemed to go nowhere. It was certainly no language she had ever seen.

Behind the wooden counter, a jagged looking thing that would probably give you the worst splinter of your life then laugh gleefully at the nuisance, stood a ridged old man. He looked unreal, like a wax figure, in his trancelike immobility. The man’s face was gaunt, sunken in at the cheeks and ever so slightly off tone from a healthy person’s colour palette. Grizzly five o’clock shadow peppered the unnatural flesh, adding texture to what otherwise looked like a poorly made mask wrapped tight over bone.

Laika sauntered up to the counter, eyes shifting across the barren shelves of the stall. “If you try to cheat me,” the zombie of a man began, “I’ve got that.” He jerked a thumb mechanically backwards, pointing out an old double barrel shotgun, hanging lonely on a wall rack. It looked almost comical to Laika, so prominent in old films and cartoons that it almost didn’t seem real.

“Uh… well…” she looked back to the solitary shopkeeper, “What are you even selling?” And who the hell are you selling it to? She thought to herself.

“Husks.” He retorted plainly, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

Laika paused, for a moment, a look of concern knit across her face, “Husks?”

“Yep. How many coins ya got?” He asked, still unsettlingly expressionless.

“Coins?” Her head pulled back slightly, confused by the question. In her head she imagined gold coins from fantasy games or pirate movies, but somehow knew that that wasn’t quite right.

He sighed, the most human action he had taken thus far, and looked blankly at her jacket pocket. “Coins. Money. Change. You look old enough to not be asking stupid questions, girl.”

Laika rifled through her pockets, not sure why she was listening to a creepy old guy in the middle of a nuclear holocaust desert. I’m a real god forsaken genius. She mentally sighed and continued her search, fumbling with her lighter, cigarettes, and assorted pocket lint until she produced two dimes and a nickel. She looked hard into the palm of her hand, scrutinising the money and deciding whether or not playing along would be a good idea, before holding out her meagre offerings.

“That’s good for one of these,” both hands raised up from behind the wooden countertop, each one holding a small ragged photograph pinched between his index finger and thumb, small enough to slide snugly into a wallet. The picture in his left hand was of a desiccated rabbit, the small creature’s body browned and seemingly crumpling in on itself. Hollowed eyes a deeper black than anything Laika had ever seen stared glumly from the two-dimensional image. In his right hand the stall keeper held the picture of a human corpse, stood upright, and in much the same condition as the rabbit. One photograph made her feel queasy and sad, like a child first being introduced to the concept of death, while the other frightened her to her very core.

“Are these… supposed to mean something?” She asked, gesturing to the strange photos, husks captured before disintegrating into the sand of the desert around them.


“If they mean something to you then they mean something to you. None of my business.” The man gruffly retorted, brows lowering with what looked like disgust. “You gonna pick one?”

Laika shifted in place, her stomach turning sour as her eyes drifted from one unpleasant picture to the other. She didn’t really know why she was getting so worked up over this, as far as she knew it was an arbitrary decision with no consequence and she was still stuck in some drug-addled dreamland anyway. She placed the coins down in front of the otherworldly shopkeep and went to lift her hand, noticing that it quivered ever so slightly. Just pick one dammit. Her inner monologue goaded impatiently. Laika’s right hand lifted and pointed at the rabbit. As creepy as it was it seemed a great deal better than carrying around a picture of a human corpse in her pocket.

“I see.” the man spoke sadly. His breath splashed against Laika’s face and brought back the sticky weight of the air back in the woods. She shuddered and watched as he slowly placed the rabbit on the counter and slid the coins towards himself. His skin dragged against the edges and shards of the counter until the change fell off the edge, clattering to the floorboards below. The man reacted to none of this, simply lowering his now empty hand.

The right hand stayed in place, arm crooked as he held the picture. The picture then crumbled in on itself, seeming to burn from the inside out with no flame to provoke such a result. It shattered into particles of ash, coating his decrepit hand in greys and blacks.

“I, uh… I have to get going…” Laika quickly said, snatching up the picture and shoving it into her pocket. The queasiness had only grown as she watched the photograph ignite of its own accord and she wanted nothing more than to be far far away from this strange pit.

“So does everybody else.” He said, more like an old man berating someone for trying to cut in line than the lone occupant of a vast nothingness. The shopkeep was entirely unfazed by both the picture’s destruction and the girl’s anxious escape. “The next door is in the rocks,” his expression remained unchanged though the volume of his voice had grown enough to reach Laika as she stumbled towards the edge of the sunken platform.


End Part II

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Top 5 budget-friendly kids’ fashion tips for 2018

Kids are angels of god and to care for them is very important for every parents.

Raising a child is one of the most fulfilling experiences in the world. There is no manual describing the perfect way to raise a child. When you have an energetic baby jumping around the house, all you can do is just go with the flow. 

Kids grow too fast. They outgrow the cutest clothes in a matter of weeks, and then you are left with the desire to replace those old outfits with new ones that your kid will rock every day. 

Clothes for children happen to be more expensive than those for adults. You find yourself in the children’s clothing aisle frequently while you wear the same shirt on repeat. It is easy to splurge on kids’ fashion, thanks to the amazing styles that hit the stores regularly. Sooner or later, you regret the haul and the dent in your wallet.  

Today, we are going to share 5 tips to help you devise a strategy that can keep your kids looking like a million bucks while you stay on a budget. Try ones that work for you, and you will spot a big difference in your spending pattern. 

Ask family or close friends for clothes their kids have outgrown:

It is the easiest thing to do, and safe for your baby as well. If you have friends and family who have had kids a few years ago, you can get baby clothes from them. Most parents pack away old clothes safely for their next arrival. 

You can keep your kids in top fashion by using what your friend’s kid has outgrown. You’ll find that many of these items haven’t been worn more than 3-5 times and are almost as good as new. 

Manufacturers also send cards and samples to maternity wards. The busy staff forgets to dispatch this lot, so you can ask them if there are freebies around. 

Use coupon websites: 

You will be thrilled to see how coupons can save you money. Coupon websites make shopping more fun. With coupons, you can shop at your favorite outlets at a discounted price. 

For example, at Couponobox.com, you will see a list of brands where discounts can be availed. In fact you can get as much as 50-70% off on your favorite kids’ brands.

Moreover, with coupon websites you can enjoy big seasonal discounts and sales, weekly promotions and much more, saving you some major cash. 

You can even become a ‘Super Couponer’ by paying attention to the right deals. Now you can fill your shopping cart to the brim at your favorite children’s clothing stores. Just use Justice promo codes for kids’ shopping and viola!

Don’t miss garage sales:

Garage sales are like treasure chests. Those who have experienced a garage sale will agree with this statement. It is the ideal place to look for baby clothes that are affordable. 

Clothes which would normally cost you hundreds of dollars can be bought for $50 or $100 at a garage sale. If you are a keen seeker, almost everything can be bought from a garage sale. You must be at your creative peak when you go to a garage sale because that can help you turn seemingly useless clothes into fabulous masterpieces. 

Pay with cash:

An MIT study found that people were ready to pay 65% more for a basketball game because they were using cards to pay for it. Retailer-branded credit cards have much higher APRs than standard credit cards—23.2% vs. 15% - Time. 

In your case, that adorable basketball t-shirt may be costing you much more because you are swiping the plastic. If you want to keep a tab on your purchases, pay with cash. It will keep you on your target and save a lot of money. 

Layer old clothes with new pieces:

It is not necessary to buy seasonal clothes every time. You can layer your kids in old season’s clothing and put a new jacket as a top layer. Be a little creative, and you will soon master the art of layering your kids in multiple socks, shirts, and rompers to prepare for biting cold while they look fabulous!

Last word:

So, there you go. These are the top tips which can keep your kids looking great throughout the year. You have to think creatively and style every outfit accordingly. Because your youngster is already super adorable, it will only take smart purchasing to dress her to look her best. 


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10 Musical Productions You Don't Want To Miss Out On

From "Les Miserables" to "Miss Saigon!"

Let's be honest here, we all have guilty pleasures, and most of those are musicals. In my case, that guilty pleasure is not that subtle, but nonetheless, just as big. I love musicals, in film, but especially in theatre. So I've made a list with some of the best musicals ever!

1. "The Wiz"

"The Wiz" is generally known for the movie starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, but that movie is actually based on this wonderful musical, which is a retelling of L. Frank Baum's 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz'. The musical has great songs, including one of my favorites 'Home'. I saw this musical in my home country, the Netherlands, in 2006.

2. "Mamma Mia!


"Mamma Mia!" is a jukebox musical based on the songs of ABBA. It is generally known for the movie adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried. But years before that it was an original musical! My favorite ABBA song features in the show is: 'The Winner Takes It All'. I unfortunately have never seen this musical live.

3. "The Phantom of the Opera"

"The Phantom of the Opera" is cult in musical land and is the longest-running musical on Broadway, till this day. Sierra Boggess is one of my favorite Christines ever (she starred in the 25th anniversary edition!), you can hear her singing my favorite song from the show in the video above. I unfortunately have never seen the musical live.

4. "Chicago"

"Chicago" is also a cult musical and has been in various countries. "All That Jazz" is a classic musical sing-a-long and also one of my favorite songs from the show. Our very own Dutch musical artist, Pia Douwes, plays Velma Kelly on Broadway and that, of course, brings pride to my little country. I have seen a high school performance of the show, but never the real deal. Chicago was also made into a movie starring Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

5. "Into The Woods"

"Into The Woods" is musical containing elements from various fairy tales. It's dark stories and humor make it one of my all-time favorites! It was also made into a movie in 2014 starring Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and many more. 'No One Is Alone' is my number one favorite musical songs of all time and it is from this show. I have also been lucky to see the show live in the Netherlands, in 2017!

6. "Les Miserables"

"Les Miserables" is also a classic musical, that you have to see at least once in your life (even though I haven't yet, but I NEED to). With classic songs as 'I Dreamed A Dream', 'On My Own' and 'One More Day' it contains incredible musical songs, but my favorite is 'A Little Fall Of Rain'. It was also made a movie in 2012, it starred Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and many more!

7. "Elisabeth"

"Elisabeth" is the most successful Austrian musical in history. There's no English version, but in the Netherlands it was also immensely popular (when it was translated into Dutch). It's also really popular in Asia, where it has been adapted in various languages. Pia Douwes, known for her Broadway role as Velma Kelly, launched her career with the title role of Elisabeth and has played it in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria. Elisabeth is based on the life of the Austrian empress of the same name. My favorite song can be heard above and I was fortunate enough to see an 'In Concert' version of the show since it hasn't been played in Dutch since in 2001.

8. "Miss Saigon"

We're in the hard part of the list. Since Elisabeth the choices are one, to be honest. I cannot really make a choice between my top 3, but this is the one I made. "Miss Saigon," the musical that launched Lea Salonga's career is one of the best in my opinion. It contains so many beautiful songs, but I choose for 'I'd Give My Life For You'. I have no words for this show, it's so good. I saw it live in its Dutch version in 2012 and it was amazing.

9. "Rent"

"Rent" is a rock musical based on the opera 'La Vie Boheme' and it is one of my favorite musicals ever. It's so inclusive, diverse and doesn't shy away from hard topics. My favorite song is 'Goodbye Love', but songs like 'One Song Glory' and 'Without You' are also favorites. The musical was made into a movie in 2005 starring most of the original cast, including Idina Menzel (Wicked), but also new faces as Rosario Dawson (known now for her role as Claire Temple in the Netflix Marvel series).

10. "Wicked"

My all-time favorite musical must be "Wicked" starring Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. Although our very own Dutch Willemijn Verkaik is a close second Elphaba (she has played her for years now in Germany, the Netherlands, West End and Broadway). This show tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz and it is amazing. I saw in 2014 in the Netherlands, with my favorite song being 'No Good Deed'. It will be made into a movie, scheduled for 2019, with no cast yet announced!

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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