Digital Ischemia



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 15:29

Blink waits in his lair for hours.  Venom’s eventual shuffling approach disturbs him.  He resents the intrusion on his contemplations.  And she dares to read him quite accurately: she calls ahead to lessen the impact.
“I’ve brought your half-egg!”
The hours were apparently mere minutes.
“Again, still you provide us with fundamental food and shelter.  What am I doing?”
“Are you having an existential crisis?”
“Seriously, yes.  What am I doing?!”
“It’s only been four days,” she pacifies, pulling up and settling down.  He’s astonished.  She pushes on, “what was your dream last night?”
He unconsciously accepts the premise, relishing another pass at the sensations and emotions.
“My road home was blocked, carefully, deliberately, with logs stacked horizontally and saplings wedged vertically.  I crashed my car into the barricade and knocked some of it over.”
“How did you feel?”
“Mortified!  I jumped out and tried to repair the damage.”
“Why was the road blocked?”
“A house further along was on fire.  I stopped to watch, aware that I was mesmerised.  I saw the flames engulf the house but I was more concerned about the towering trees: huge flames were swirling through them.”
“How did you feel about the house?”
“I didn’t know who lived there.  It was too far gone.  It was the trees that were at that tipping point, but I was still unable to do anything.  What is it?”
She nods slowly.
“You’re burning down the house.  That route is blocked now.  There was more?  Where are you forging a new path?”  She’s entranced but lucid.
He’s unnerved and leans away, involuntarily nodding.  The next scene of his dream replays for him: hacking through an overgrown, disused coastal path, between water and eroding bank.  Finding the gap in the headland and seeing the building frame beyond.
She continues as if no time has passed, “It’s just a mental adjustment.”  She glances to the egg in her fist.
His self-indulgence relinquishes attention to his conscience.
“How do I help with Merrill?”
She emits a ‘hm’ that encourages further detail.
“She’s becoming more spiteful than stroppy.  I know it’s a response to a stressful situation.  I can handle it, but I’m concerned about Sticks.  The only reason she’d prefer to spend time with me is the alternative is worse.”
“Very astute.”
Momentarily he enjoys the gratification.  She didn’t answer the question.

Pitiful silence around the dining box, about not saying things that may stuff you up in future.  About despairing of circumstances.  About frantically thinking, thinking of possible solutions to any of a myriad tiny problems.  About the adventures of the inhabitants of mushroom world.
Sticks freezes first, then one by one the others cease moving.  The faint, rising sound of approaching strides heralds an arrival.
Merrill launches to vertical.
Venom bites, “Still!  Silent!”  Blink stares at Venom.  Sticks gazes at mushroom world, trying to integrate the encroaching thumping and swishing.  Venom creeps toward the door, pauses to triangulate the incoming signal.  She yanks the door open.  Framed against the now noxious green sky, stumbling in interrupted approach: a camouflaged, well-kept 50s, male form.
He barks, “Merrill?!”
Merrill squeaks, “Derg!”
Venom’s tension dissipates like a sigh as she stands aside to let the pair re-acquaint.  Blink and Sticks watch warily.
Merrill demands furiously from Derg, “What the fuck took you so long?”
“Shut up.”  He swats at her, only partly in jest.  She flicks her head away to smirk.  Blink follows this dynamic with fascination.
And then there were five.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 15:19

Blink’s next awakening is gentle, but consciousness brings an urge for food.  He sets off with a smirk, proudly recognising the development of his tunnel-shuffling agility.  He’s soothed by the meditative, repetitive motion.  These tunnels are already familiar; he gloats over his mental map.  He’ll get started on the breakfast mushrooms and pleasantly surprise everybody.
Unexpectedly his front half cantilevers down into a pitted shaft, arrested by lucky cushioning.  This turns out to be Venom.  She squeals girlishly in protest.  He freezes.  Candle glimmer reflects faintly in the moist slime on the walls.  He closes his eyes and feels the adrenaline spikes yield to the comforting animal warmth of his companion.  She’s disinclined to voice further protest, feeling an odd security in being pinned by him.  Him.  The moment elapses.  He peers past her at a matrix of natural pigeonholes in the rock face.  Her heart sinks; her defences clang back into place.
He challenges brusquely, “What are you doing?”
She reaches for her habitual whip.
“Make your own deduction.  Your natural reasoning is so warped you’re unlikely to threaten my privacy.”
He scrutinises the pigeonholes: some have small items precisely placed.  A very specific some: series beginning at the left of certain rows.  Samples over timelines.  She’s testing something methodically.  He feels for nooks he can grip and hauls himself up and out and away.
She braces against the wave of panic.  He could well figure it out.  Her denial wouldn’t change his perception.  It never did.  He’s not at all like the vacuous cretin Vennan and that’s petrifying.

“I just fell down a hole on top of Aunty Venom,” Blink admits, sacrificing his credibility for the chance of cheering the child.  From half under her covers, Sticks grants him one lung-contraction of laughter, possibly feigned.  Probably not worth it.  She’s just fiddling with the mushrooms.  “How are you feeling?”
“OK, but really?”
She shrugs.
“You want me to go?”
“No, you can stay if you want.”
Always the same veiled tolerance from females.  Never conducive to effort.  He extinguishes his candle in favour of hers and tugs a spare length of blanket around him: ten degrees isn’t comfortable while you’re still.  There’s nothing to set fire to.
He tries to tempt her with something requiring no effort from him, while carefully not patronising, “I could interview you.”
She bites, “Who am I?”
“Er, I thought I’d ask the questions.”
“Yeh, but I need to know who I’m being,” she spells out with patronising gestures and expressions for the socially illiterate.
He allows his sarcasm a little air, “You?”
“I’m not a celebrity!”
“It doesn’t matter to me.  I’m interested anyway.”  It’s fading though.
She pulls idly at the skin on her arm.
“Have you got an itchy bit?”  Not a prize opening gambit.
“I’ve not to scratch.”
“Is it worse at the moment?”
He has a mallet-blow of inspiration about the line of questioning.
“Is there a storm coming?”
Does she know she’s our canary?  Of course Venom would bring her over me, and not for any sentimental family relationship.  She’s way more valuable.  Talented.

“We have eggs!”  Venom is giddily pleased.  Blink feels a reflection of her grin creep across his face.  She holds up her trophies, “two!  Maybe this’ll entice her up.”  She hedgehogs down the steps.  In the background, the eyeballs of two chickens wobble, like self-conscious children with a gushing mother.
Merrill materialises from the feathered area, embodying disparagement.  He fronts up to her.
“Why are you such a poisonous insect?”
She goes through the adolescent shudders of denial, defiance, self-doubt.
“Am I supposed to be all nice as pie in the middle of a, like, apocalypse?”
He tries harsh reality, “Are we supposed to, like, help you?”
“Who’s ‘we’?  I see you’re not in charge.”
“If we’re bagsing places on Nora’s Ark, I’m a smidgen more useful than you.”  He congratulates himself for total humanitarian regression in less than a week.
She slinks away, radiating ‘what-evah’ and re-merges with the chickens.  He wonders if she’s bored, outwitted or actually overwhelmed.  Maybe he should leave the trickier issues to Venom.  Am I?



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:01

“Nora?”  Merrill kneels at the hut hatch, heels daintily splayed, elbows and shoulders at full hinge, quite stick insect.  She lowers her blood-engorged face tentatively into the descending dark, looking like she’s succumbing to a thorough vomit.
Venom calls distantly, “Moment.”

Venom indicates to Blink, “Madam calls.”  He continues staring catatonically at the rock.  He’s curled in a lay-by, off the main tunnel, carelessly blanketed by a crumpled rug.  She’s perched nearby, as if pausing en route, but the echoing silence belies her casual humour.  She inhales and crawls away.  He stares on.  Nora.  Nora.  Finally a forename.  Now where does that fit?

Venom feels the tunnel pass more slowly than usual.  She needs someone else to jump-start her energy.  The light ahead is eclipsed.
Merrill the silhouette stipulates, “Nora?  I need to…  Well, in case Derg doesn’t get here soon, I’ll need somewhere to sleep.”
Venom squints needlessly across the few feet of dark space.  “Where’s Sticks?”
Sticks answers vaguely, “Here.”
Merrill paraphrases her demand, “Where can I sleep?”
Venom responds, “Yes,” clinging to civility, then addresses Sticks once again, “Sweetie, would you mind sleeping with me again?”  Behind Merrill’s pointy joints, Sticks’ marionette shakes its head.  Such an adorably accommodating child.  Not the real move, but he seems to have reassigned himself downstairs, and there’s a niggling discomfort about leaving anyone in this stranger’s vicinity.

Blink becomes conscious with a wail, someone else’s wail.  He lights his candle, first time surprisingly, and when it matters.  He hauls along the main tunnel toward the whimpering.  He climbs the steps to the hut until his chest is at floor level, and holds the candle up, expecting to reveal Merrill having histrionics.  She’s unconscious.  In a restful way.  And mummified in layers of fine gauze, apparently an anti-ant apparatus.  He would have admired his tongue-twister but for the alarm.  The tunnel distorts the source of the intermittent distress.  Sticks is the next to check – not the next priority but the next least unlikely candidate for wailing.

Blink is stunned: Sticks cowers up on her bed shelf, in the furthest corner of a four foot cavern adjoining Venom’s chamber.  Her face, clothes, sheets are splattered with blood.  Venom nudges by him and slowly advances upon Sticks, murmuring placations.
“Did you get a fright?”
Sticks chokes desperately, “Don’t come near me!”
His candle sputters out, unable to survive the tilt as his blood leaves his hand for other more pressing demands.  He withdraws to the tunnel to wait, to try to not decipher overheard mumblings.  Instead he has recollections, ideas, inferences.  These rapidly diverge from reality.  After a few minutes he recognises his need for mental gravity.  An ideal chunk of solid silence closes on him.
He whispers hoarsely, “Is it really just a nose bleed?”
Venom’s further silence radiates hurt and fear.  She seems vulnerable.  He grasps her in almost a hug.  She allows this for two seconds then firmly pulls away.
He defends his forwardness, “I just thought maybe it was ominous.”
She’s dogmatic, “Not for her; it’s just a nose bleed.”
“Yeh, but some of the people I passed coming here had nose bleeds.  Maybe her parents…”
She’s aghast.  Did she massively miss the basis for Sticks’ distress?  Is it more recollection than sensation?  She scurries back to Sticks.
Blink sways, feeling the shock and horror of a fellow human in pain.  As the first re-living passes, his empathy makes way for a little criticism: where was Venom?  She got to Sticks no quicker than he.

“Where were you?”  Blink makes a stab at innocent enquiry, without any polite interlude.  In his second candle-light of the night, he watches Venom calculate how much to admit.
“I went further along the ribbed tunnel.  I thought I could hear water, or scraping, …or voices,” she dangles, curious whether he’ll focus on the hope, or despair of her mental stability.  Neither, of course.
“During the night?”
She cackles, “I really don’t think you’re wading into the random waxing and waning of my hormone-driven notions,” relieved and disappointed.
Sticks is settled.  Back to bed.  Such as it is.

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