Digital Ischemia



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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