Digital Ischemia



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:45

Throughout the return crawl Venom cheerily regales Blink with observations of dubious relevance regarding the underground temperature and how she filters this up into the hut.  This does nothing to warm or dry him.  What he retains is the fact that it’s a consistent ten to fifteen degrees Celsius.  He also recognises how much he needs company; her company.

The dreary hut is momentarily dazzling.  Sticks bursts into giggles, pointing at the cold, wet Blink, living up to his name.  He tolerates it in what he believes is good grace, but is outwardly simply grumpy.  You have your fun, freakchild.  Oof, that was a bit harsh.  Where’d that co—
“—Here we go!”  Venom continues her weird mothering busyness.

Four faces in varying styles of stupor shuffle around the breakfast box, settling on dining compost piles, drifting in like catatonic Fraggles.  Merrill, in a fleeting submission to anxiety, bleats.
“What happened?”
“When, dear?”  Venom horrifies herself with this falsely affectionate, old-fashioned, old, turn of speech.  Blink doesn’t seem to notice.  He looks like he’s about to melt down again.  Needs some calories.  Merrill returns to her usual, ungracious expostulation.
“Am I expected to subsist on mould and insects?”  Venom ponders this seriously: she hasn’t previously considered eating the ants; could be a good source of protein.  Sticks lines up seven well-formed mushrooms in the proper manner.

Blink completes his bland but filling platter of crusty slugs, entertained only by covertly watching Sticks acting out her silent drama.  The mushrooms that required most admonishment are eaten first, he observes, but ultimately, with resignation, all must die.  He sinks lower in his heap of damp leaves, swinging back to dejected despair.   He lapses into stasis, his mind overwhelmed by this dreadful, escalating reality.  Sticks gravitates toward him under the pretext of tidying leaves.  Venom clocks this right away but still bustles downstairs – yes, calling it that now – following up her harvesting contentment with domestic bliss.  Merrill rises from her heap to fidget about.  She idly browses around the hut, sighing repeatedly and tiresomely.

When Venom re-ascends, all smoothed down and revitalised, Sticks is making dirt angels on the floor.  Merrill watches this resourceful game-making with a sneer.  That will have to be examined later.  A member is missing.  Venom spins, wondering with a flush if he could have snuck past her in her washing reverie.
“Where’s Nicky?”
Merrill shrugs.  Sticks freezes, feeling a wave of unexplained guilt.  She resumes jerky swishing on the floor in defiance.
“He went out.”  Why is Aunty Venom getting angry?  We don’t like him anyway.  Hopefully the girl will go out too.
“I can’t think why he wanted to leave,” Merrill mutters sarcastically.  Venom is stung but still more concerned by his absence.  Her transient optimism evaporates again.

Blink bursts in, met by the still angry Venom.
“Where the fuck have you been?”  She hisses, woefully succumbing to the stereotype.  He glances apprehensively around, bringing his eyes to rest on Sticks: she’s folded up like a pile of…  Ah.  Venom fires again, “don’t look at her; look at me!”
“The sky is fucking orange and purple.  I’m not being lyrical; it’s actually orange and purple.  And not fluffy sunset-tinged clouds orange and purple; vivid, nasty, toxic orange and purple.  What do I do with that?!  It’s fundamental to our psyches to have sky in shades of blue.  This is what humans evolved with for… tens of thousands of years.  And you’re impatient that I’m not getting over this!”
“Like men didn’t go into space,” she scythes.
“Not without unravelling a tiny bit, and not to mention it was a choice they prepared for.  Yeh, that’s what this is: alien!”
Venom gives him a moment for his energy to come back up, finding remarkably that hers already has.
“Do you know what it actually is?”  He gives his head the tiniest shake.  She explains, “it’s not eta radiation.  It’s massive industrial processes going haywire; the software, the computers, the electronics that control them are completely broken and nobody can keep them right.”  She watches the shockwave ripple through him, hoping he’s strong enough to withstand it now.


Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:43

Back at the larder, the candle rests on a convenient jut of rock.  Venom plucks the largest mushrooms, each with an appetising snap, and collects them in a bag of crimped linen.  Instead of paying attention to the harvesting process for future benefit, Blink finds this bag fascinating and repeatedly erupts with a school-boy snigger.  His surreal pocket of existence spirals in on a hysterical juncture.  The bag faintly resembles one leg of a voluminous undergarment.  This is enough.

Venom is blissfully oblivious to Blink’s paroxysms, in her contented, primeval bubble of gathering food.  In fact his eventual question shatters a meditative, cerebral silence.
“What does the fungus live on?  I mean: it’s bare rock.”
“It’s a physical substrate and nutrients.  It’s quite porous and the fungal hyphae penetrate it quite happily.  The ants discourage any competitors…  Apart from me; they don’t seem to mind me filching the excess.”
“Where are the ants?”
“I persuaded them to divert their attention to another cavern,” she answers, carefully.
“Pheromone misdirection.”
“How long have you been at this?!”
“It’s basic biology!”
“It’s not!”
“Okay, I’ve indulged my harbinging for a while now,” she admits, her amusing bag filled.  Is this enough for…  Never mind.
“Ah-ha,” he understates.
“Ready for another encounter with water?”  She jeers.  He’s startled and wary.  Her turn to chuckle.  “For drinking,” she finishes magnanimously, as if that will allay any of his rampant fears.

“Fuck you and your pismires’ parlour,” Blink spits.  Venom’s eyebrow rises.  “You left me in this totally unknown, dark, dangerous hole!”  She listens to his fizzling rant then clamps him quietly.
“You were never in any serious danger.  Don’t you think I fell into all those traps when I was exploring?  I didn’t know what I’d find and I didn’t have anyone with me.”
“I didn’t know either!”  He shrieks back.
“At least you had me.”
He squawks in falsetto.

The well machinery is agricultural and polished with wear, but impressively robust and smooth-running.  It’s installed near the end of a short cul-de-sac tunnel.  Venom goes ahead and uses the handy turning circle at the end to reorient her arse.  She pulls up to face Blink across the winch.
“Hold this,” she instructs him, extracting a plastic pouch from a wormhole in her clothing. 
“Traitor,” he snipes, well wide of any meaningful target.
“I haven’t completely eschewed civilised society.  It has a thousand years’ life so I may as well use it.”  She attaches an identical pouch to a hook suspended on the pulley and winds it down with a pleasant, rolling grind.  Despite himself, he peers into the hole, imagining pure water lapping up.  He gets two ropes vanishing into thirsty blackness.

“How long?!”  He recapitulates.
“I didn’t install this, obviously,” she patronises him.
“It’s… clean?”
“As far as I can determine.”
“Which is?”  He notices he’s lost sentences.  Must be dehydration.  Or the onionoid spinster.  And fabricating words.
“It’s good in terms of not having many bacteria or particulates, or radiation.”
“Where does it come from?”
“I don’t know; I think it’s isolated from the groundwater reservoir because it’s not contaminated, but then ag—“
“—How do you check?”  His slow, suspicious words lag the conversation.
“—ain the land filtration process could be enough to decontaminate surface water,” she continues pedantically before replying, “I have some kit.”
Her methodical winding bears a full pouch, on the other rope.

Blink stares eerily with a shiver, as if the liquid life-force demands awe and worship, which it does.  Venom tries to reconcile critical analysis with fundamental human empathy.
“I notice the intellectual complexity of your questions is diminishing: you’re getting cold.”
“Yes.  You haven’t asked about the temperature.”
Not a flicker of animation in his glaiket countenance.
“Home for breakfast,” she pronounces, verging worryingly on brisk war-effort perkiness.
He’s glad the darkness hides his sudden despairing tears at this prospect.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:27

“I had to return to the tunnel for dry stone to relight the candle, you litigious mollusc,” she calmly incites him.  Blink splats hesitantly across the cavern toward Venom’s delicate aura.  She pushes her free hand at him.  “Swipe at me again and I’ll leave you properly in the dark.”
“Conniving gnome,” he whispers.  In the feeble glow, he casts his eyes over his sodden torso.  He raises his forearms and curls his wrists and fists in sarcastic celebration.  “I was right about fishing,” he claims drily.

Blink catches sight of Venom’s hair: it’s messed up by the crawling, revealing a few small, bald patches.  He challenges her.
“How virulent are these eta particles?”
“More selfish concern for only your health and whether I might be a contamination risk,” she flares.  He recoils slightly, but stares her out.  She calms, recognising her over-reaction as being from hurt that he’s seen her deformity.  She mollifies, “eta particles are very transient; they have a short half-life: hours.  They’ll disappear once society’s cleansed itself.”
“That’s pretty eugenetic!”  He retorts.
“You think the nerds planned this?”
“I think you know an awful lot about how to survive th—“

Venom ignores him, flicking her head around to focus on an approaching scuffle.  Sticks squirms into view and crouches at the cavern entrance.  Venom is concerned.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?”
“Can I come down here with you?  That girl keeps talking about shoes,” Sticks presents her executive problem-solving deadpan.
“She’s just a bit lost.  Imagine if you were somewhere new with all strangers?”
Sticks stares at her, short of stating her parallel situation.

Venom calms for her own benefit and couries Sticks in to her.  She then boldly approaches sympathy toward Blink.
“Have you remembered what you were trying to lose?”  The effect is exponential: he collapses, his face crumpling.
“It’s all gone,” he admits, “I should be writing this.  I should want to write this.  But I can hardly manage to remember what was before, let alone the event, the unimaginably powerful, all-pervasive, silent, unstoppable…”  he entreats her, exposing his pathetic core.  “I can’t…”
Venom dismisses Sticks with the dart of her eyes.  As Sticks melts away, Venom slides alongside Blink, enfolding his arm in her free hand.  He breaks down.  She closes her eyes.

Blink feels containment returning to him.
“You know Battle Bridge?  It’s ten feet above the wynd but it was running with water.  I drove slowly because it was inches deep and then the challenge boy leaped out from the gap on the right, just ahead of me, over the road and dove into the left one.  I hope he was aiming for the steps.”
“Why don’t you write that?”  She nudges him.
“That was neither elegant nor interesting,” he sneers.
“Even your practise has to be perfect,” she sighs.
“I can’t even remember the word for the little square gaps in bridge walls.”

Blink spirals in on a frightening inference.
“When is Sticks due to go home?”
“She’s not.”  Venom is sorrowfully perfunctory.  “There is no ‘home’.”
He scrabbles to recall Sticks’ exact wording.  He’s certain she didn’t lie.
“She said she was here for the holidays?”
“A holiday is a long time at her age.”  Once again she breaks away from his hunting eyes.
“She’s why you didn’t meet me.”  The deduction clangs through his reasoning.  She half-closes her eyelids in patronising unimpressedness: he only just got that now?
“We need to collect the food we came down for, and then you need to dry,” she asserts.  Enough manoeuvring.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 16:34

Venom swipes something off the wall; a candle spurts into flame, roaring randomly alongside their regular breathing.  Blink notices her ease, the wooden features around them becoming stone, and something else.
“I smell like cow shit.”
“You need to wash.”
He suppresses the urge to wobble his head in ridiculous mimicry of the eminent spokesperson for stating the bleeding obvious.  She shamelessly taunts him.
“But will you believe that we have water for washing and that it’s safe?”
Score minus one.

Venom allows Blink to follow her along a narrowing tunnel, lighting their vicinity with the swaying flame.  He touches the rock wall, finding it pleasantly smooth and dry.
“This leads to a maze of caverns, tunnels and shafts.  I’ve barely explored,” she divulges.  The shrinking tunnel presses them down to hunching and then crawling.  He smells dampness.  Impossible.
“Be aware how far you’ve travelled,” she prompts.
“I have to count my wriggles?”  His claustrophobia comes out curtly.  She frowns involuntarily then realises he can’t see her expression.  Hopefully he can barely see her arse.
“I’m frowning.  At you.”
“Is this the latest form your OCD is taking?”  He snipes, then integrates his perceptions, “I feel reptilian.”
Venom lets out a ha of laughter.
“Maybe a necessary regression.”

With an emotional inspiration of breath, Blink senses the walls parting as he slithers into a ten feet diameter cavern.  He takes in the faint, flickering, unfamiliar scene the only way he can: with wry mockery.  The glistening, dark rock bulges with yellowy, bluey-white froth.  Nice description.  Nice?!  Venom leans toward bulge after bulge without touching but sniffing lightly.  She breathes satisfaction.  The ant thing becomes manifest to him: she actually does harvest fungus for her and Sticks’ nutrition.  It’s more insidious than just particle contamination.  She must expect that they won’t have daylight and thus the possibility of green plants for much longer.

Blink delivers his facetious verdict.
“Was it therapeutic, sculpting this colossal model of your yeast-infected intimates?”
Venom gazes around with a smirk and a new perspective.
“’Welcome to my parlour’, said the spider to the fly.  Are you ready for rebirthing?”
Blink expires, finished by his own metaphor: the twisted exit tunnel.

“I need to make the access easier,” Venom voices her thoughts to cover the threateningly loud shuffling and scraping.  Blink keeps his: where are the ants?  And where’s the water?  She twitters inanely on, pretending it’s to relieve his vulnerability.  The repetitive sound and motion pulls him into a trance.
Oh, shit, I’m falling to my death and I never—   Fuck!  That’s cold water!
Venom’s candle waveringly approaches as she descends the safe way, revealing Blink thrashing ineffectually in a pool the size of a hot tub.  But less hot.  Before he gets his breath back, she makes her defence.
“I did warn you.  Twice. ”
He swipes viciously toward her and catches his hand on an edge.  He fires out a scorching invective.  She allows him to empty his lungs before continuing her excuse.
“I said ‘keep right’ and even before that I asked if you were ready for—“
“Sadistic witch,” he shrieks, finding his illustrative arm movements restricted by the water.
“You did need a wash.”  She is unrepentant although she steps back.  He flaps and thwacks most gracelessly on to her shelf, like the fish that didn’t make it, before the evolutionary step to amphibians.

The candle goes out.  In sudden, total dark Blink barely wonders whether it was deliberate.
“What the fuck?!”
Venom’s tone is cruel and calculating.
“Are you aware how far you’ve travelled?”
She hears a sudden swish of clothes: he’s lunging at her again.  Silently she steps away.  Perhaps he needs a shock to get him thinking again.
“Don’t think of talking your way out of this,” she hints.
He notices she’s moving away, poisonous toad.

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