Digital Ischemia



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Tags: , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 13:06

They shuffle synchronously, similarly engraining their palm and knees, thinking and withholding non-constructive remarks. When Blink eventually makes contact, to Venom his boney pawing feels like a stalactite lashing. Just one reason to halt. Another is that coincidentally three pebbles confirm this as her previous extent; the precipice of the unknown.
With just enough height to lounge, she arranges him to face her. Why not let him go? Considering the two of them are something now.
“What’s on your mind?”
“You were going to show me something at Battle Bridge. It was impressive to see, but it lacked something for not being shown.”
Venom swallows, preparing to confess. But he has more complaint.
“You didn’t show.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I don’t care! There was a fucking cataclysm happening; I’m not holding a grudge. I just want to know–”
“I planned to collect you on the way north; then Sticks turned up, and my contingency time ran out.”
“No, I mean: why?”
“Someone to save…”
“Oddly I don’t dispute the saving business, although this isn’t the liberation I imagined, and fair dos on the lassie, but I know what that’s really–”
Venom shushes him urgently.
“Surely you can tell me now about the bri–”
She clamps his lips. Not in a lascivious way. “Listen!”


Venom’s breathless murmur is inaudible, but Blink detects her nostrils flexing. He sniffs: pastry. He smiles ruefully. Deprivation has apparently lead him to sensory artifacting.
Venom’s hand quivers toward the candle, becomes paralysed with indecision. Too late. A foghorn blasts ahead. In it Blink recognises the signature of a human voice. Venom catches his sharp lung-fill, drowns his rasp with her own croak of greeting.
The clatter of mutual echo-location escalates as they scrabble forward, diminishing their separation from the oncoming presence. The end of the tunnel lights up as its bung pulls away: a be-maned ogre.

Within a discus cavern, bathed in a soothing lantern, Venom and Blink exchange interrogatives and summarised recent experience with a delighted, tweed-encrusted behemoth. His estate, Glen Tosied, includes considerable underground features including mazes of tunnels and caves through the rock. This is unexpected and unprecedented in this part of Scotland. His programme of sequential exploration has brought him to Venom’s well zone. There is a small surviving community a few miles away. They should meet up and perhaps join up…

Blink finds himself damp with sweat, squeezed out by tension, as if his body has only now realised the crisis. Venom was rather taken with Cake’s rough jollity while Blink fidgeted like an insect. As she follows him home, she feels a rush of failure for feeling relief at sharing her burden. She parts her lips to seek his reassurance. She imagines his condescension. Silly.

Like a schoolgirl with a birthday surprise, Venom fizzes all over Merrill and Derg, oblivious to their indifference and suspicion, respectively.
“Did you sleep well?”
Merrill has less tact than Derg. “No.”
“Me neither. All the excitement.” Blink casts Venom a glance of disbelief. She blushes, makes several false starts on her announcement and fails to provide any key facts like a form of address.

With a glorious suspicion, Derg entices Merrill below. It’s like dragging a hedgehog through a rose bush. His patient effusion fails to register as she continues, irrationally, to charge him for her distress. She wants him to accept responsibility then fix everything. She needs this to stop. This unbearable– A recognisable boom…



Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 17:46

Water trickles over Gilbert’s ample flesh. He’s beyond cuddly but it’s not what you’d think. He halts the soap between his shoulder blades.

The caller is neither prepared nor equipped to meet a large, wet, naked householder. The caller is a shrivelled 22 year old guy who looks 47 due to nearly a decade of nicotine and alcohol abuse, physical labour and sleep deprivation; all self-inflicted.

“Eh, ur, sawry te boather ye, but I was daein’ a quote fur yer neighb–”
Gilbert interjects, “what’s your business?”
“Eh, clean yer roof, redo yer slabs, lift–”
“–What’s your business name?”
“FN Landscaping. Like I was sayin’, that tree–”
“–You have a website?”
“Eh, naw, youse can get–”
“–A mobile?”
“We’ll be roun’ on Tuesdae if yer–”
“–You won’t.”
“Oh, aye, we–”
“–You chose to ignore my sign.”
Gilbert stares at his doorbell. The doomed but oblivious caller follows his gaze to squint at a little plastic plaque: no sales.
Gilbert rattles on. “FN Landscaping. Be ready for a FN shitstorm of…” He tips his dripping palm to an imaginary CCTV camera under the eaves. The construct expires.

Of course he’s alone. The caller legged it after six words, some mileage he’s going to get out of telling the boys about this nutter.

Gilbert squeaks back into the shower tray. His ire dissipates. He turns on the water and succumbs to deep sadness. Water trickles over his face, diluting his tears. He’s still reacting.

In 2007 the doorbell rang while he was in the midst of wiring a light socket over the shower. Returning from the pointless distraction, he unwittingly missed a loose end. Later, the way freak accidents happen, his wife and daughter ran squealing to the shower. Making it a competition tricked the lassie into wanting to get in. They grabbed the hose simultaneously; the current reinforced their grips indefinitely. Their shrieking sounded like part of the game. For a wee while.

These bells are not imperatives.



Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 15:36

When did I swallow the poison apple?

It’s in my middle, where food should be, blocking me.

I know why my eyes are dry and stung. I heard the pat, pat on my bed.

I like to watch the others through the window: a little girl so joyful in her young body that she drops into lunge poses, over and over, for sheer pleasure of sensation.
A little girl lost, bewildered in a moment. Her bubble of rapture with watching us popped, she turned for the security of parent but it had gone. A whirl of panic. I see both, but their sight line is broken.
The older boy denying his interest for a game of supremacy.
The adults staring but not seeing.
I see this play out over and over. It’s exhausting but it’s escape.

I don’t like to look across to the other windows beyond: others like me stare back.

My parent touches me; it’s time to move: the watchers are bringing food.

When did I swallow the poison apple?



Venom listens to Blink breathing. He doesn’t snore. Score. So much of her wants to lie with him, just be there. Some of her would savour replaying the intricate pleasures of his fingers, his face, his smooth, stringy skin… But the internal harridan shrieks ‘sybarite!’ She stirs.

Venom trudges in her now habitual grovelling posture. Her knees are like drying cement. These tunnels are engrimed with abradings from her calloused palms. Yet she can’t sleep until she’s pushed forward the frontier of space exploration. She’s ill-prepared for tonight’s venture, having let herself be woefully distracted. How about just even checking out that nobbly branch tunnel? Hopefully it’s a dead end, tick it off. The harridan cracks a cauldron over her head: no, of course, hopefully it’s a passage to miraculous salvation. This could be it. Lighting up time.

A yank at her arm makes her flinch with fright. Blink’s voice is gentle but insistent.
“How is it she knew the rabbit was contaminated? How does she know when a storm’s coming? Why does she bleed like that?”
Venom silently herds her wits.
He tosses out another tack, “how far did you think you’d get without me?”
“I thought you were sleeping.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I know.” His turn for silence. In her inbox of questions she clicks ‘previous’. “She’s not getting all the nutrition she needs. I can’t do any better for her.”
“I have a better idea: I think she’s highly sensitive.”
Venom stares at Blink’s voice, then drops her head, feeling a mental wall crash down, quite unexpectedly: he’s figured out the next clue.
He sees only the dark blob sway. He reaches for feedback.

Twisting she resigns herself to words before action. “How did I not hear you?”
“I have your rhythm.”
“Don’t be lewd.”
He snorts. “Can I say something?”
His sincerity trounces her narkiness. “Thank you for asking me.”
“Oh. Right. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind.”
He spits offence, “sorry?”
“Well, sitting in the refectory, with you giving me all that flattering attention, it was either going to be the gauntlet of the swans under the footbridge or the paradoxical bushcraft section of the library.”
He double-takes at her, cynicism flailing at burgeoning pride.

She resumes her direction. His company, muttering notwithstanding, renews her determination. Her flattery should get him a fair distance.



Rose was definitely going to visit the artist. She’d looked forward to it for weeks, imagining dainty daubings and overwrought ironwork. She also expected opportunities to finger the works while no-one was looking. If she was lucky there’d be a chunky collage to rasp her tongue over. It would be a clean, clear venue with no distractions from the intended focus. It wasn’t.

The approach road wound and bumped, feinted through a copse then hugged an eight foot stone wall. It swilled through a farm yard then dodged a bonfire. She bounced down a ravine, between crumbled wall sections and finally lost interest at a ford. She left her car, the river flushing the front wheel arches.

Rose stumbled into long grass and willows. Her feet plodded away without conscious direction. A heavenly scent, like meadowsweet or hedge-parsley drew her on. This was pleasant. She happened upon a parting in the grass, followed it. On one side red-currants evolved, on the other: blueberries. She wavered, unable to resist the choice, without any hunger. Red or blue?

Blue. Tart and floral and juicy.

The path ended at a square cottage: chunks of masonry eroded by weather, weeds and claw marks. She poked her face in the kitchen door and sucked in the mildew. She picked at flaking formica. A slate clattered down the roof, silently fell, smashed.

The garden was wilderness. Rampaging potatoes, beans, and grass, grass, grass. Under a strangled sycamore, a deck chair rotted, subsiding into the froth of fronds. Willowherb and raspberry canes wove through its frame. Rose strode to it, barely inspected it, planked down. Dust and beetles burst forth then settled. The whole place had reached full flourish and was poised to settle back into the cycling earth. It felt heavy.

The sun burned across its arc, reaching the tree tops that marked the extent of relinquished cultivation. Rose sat, settled, and saw.

A man interrupts the idyll, swaying from the sun-toasted trees. Her eyes dart to his approach but otherwise she remains inanimate among the ecology. Perhaps if I stay perfectly still he won’t see me and ruin this.

At the furthest straying vine the man halts, staring right at her. Damn. I should say something to put him off.
“Where the fuck have you been?”
“Looking under every fucking stone for you.”
She can’t help herself chuckling. He resumes his approach. She tenses but refuses to turn to watch him. As he passes her, he insists.
“Oh, no, don’t get up.”
“You’re making tea?”
His turn to chuckle, out of sight. She listens to him opening a stubborn door a little way behind her.

A less weathered deck chair drops beside her. He drops. She stares steadfastly at the sun sizzling the trees, blinking away the dust and beetles. After a while their hands seem to have joined.

Inside, a stuffed lump on a stiff chair stirs. Its bonnet hinges up, its chubby, knobbly face emerges. The Caretaker shudders on to her swollen, cracked feet. In the kitchen, a pie steams two inches above the table. A convoy of pea pods leap into the sink. A sack of potatoes pops open the pantry door and six tubers bound across the floor, leaving muddy prints.

Outside, the house’s rendering heals, the weeds recede.

The Caretaker shuffles along the hall, gazing at the framed photos passing her: sixteen children, one at a time, playing in the garden. She reaches the kitchen with growing animation. She mutters, “Nanny needs a new child.”



In a cavern five feet across and at most four feet high, Venom fouters at the biomass bedding that covers the space. She knows fine that she’s wasting time, allowing herself to wonder why he would choose to share with her, rather than insist that Sticks join her. She wonders what she wants for herself. She silently admonishes herself for letting her standards slip.

A shuffling, scraping approach through the tunnel jolts her into a frozen sprawl.
“It’s fucking boiling in here!” Blink’s pre-emptive greeting is followed by writhing to remove any of his clothing. She’s further jammed in her startled freeze. Handily his clothing mostly blocks the entrance and the incoming glow.
He relishes this advantage, the confidence he needs to bare his chest. He feels, hopes he’s not unattractive for a man of his age, sedentary profession, recent incarceration.
The advancing bareness finally gives her the rush of blood she needs to reanimate, but overmuch so she lashes out.
“Once I admired your mastery of language.”
He takes a second to dismiss a couple of corkers in favour of coarse comedy.
“I could’ve gone with the repellent pungency of pismires’ piss.”
“An especially inelegant and inaccurate alliteration.” She squirms feebly, with no intention of going anywhere. Still they need to break out of this pattern.
He sways, closes in like a cobra. With inches to go, he decides to explain.
“I don’t want you to think for a moment that this is a proximity thing. And I don’t want to wait until I actually am the last man alive on earth.”
She smiles to the smothering darkness.

In a commendable opener, he floats up the gradient of her warm, shallow breath to neatly meet her lips. He changes pressure in delightful nudges that make her head swim, especially remarkable in the rigid surroundings.

Sincerity dispensed, he swings to dramatic flippancy.
“Ah mean tae huv ye, woman, oilskin or no, up against the bare rock if ma knees’ll take it!” He’s rewarded with the syrupy chuckle he craves. Eloquence score one.
He grapples her undergarments with surprising care and premeditated skill. Anxiety rushes through her, setting her cheeks aflame. He senses her softness tense, so mumbles enquiry. As she stutters inanities, he breaches the final layer of wrapping to a euphoria of flesh. After venting a moan, he addresses her unarticulated concern.
“Ye dinnae feel like elephant hide, if that’s what yer worried about.”
Her self-consciousness evaporates.

Sticks purses her pretend-closed eyelids. Voices, rustling. He declares, she murmurs. That man is winding up Aunty Venom again.



Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 17:09

Why is my path strewn with carcasses? Every time I come here: remains.

After each session I allow my mind to settle before setting off. Nuggets of insight that I must capture on my… Well, it’s a reused packing slip. Point for ethics. If I don’t scratch out these gems now, they lurch up as I negotiate a mini roundabout. Beeping is negative reinforcement.

For now I’m walking. Back and forth, trammelled along a waterlogged furrow of grass cuttings, failing to avoid clumps of silage adhering to my shoes.
White movement: beneath a pine, a rabbit on its side, back hyperextended, revolving spasmodically then still. Nearby is a patch of plucked tufts of fur. It’s rear leg hinges up bizarrely slowly. I don’t see it breathing. I glance up, expecting a chagrined buzzard. I have no idea how to kill it, end its suffering. If I stamp on its head I’ll end up with with rabbit brain and silage shoes. The rabbit’s dying and I’m watching, nuggets gone.

Half way back I stop to check the roadside. Still there: a pair of roe deer fore-legs, elbow to hoof. The blood has rained off the concrete. No longer there: the smacked swallow.

Home, I have to wash my hands. I touched nothing, but deathly vapours circulate my fingerprints. A fruit fly has expired on the soap. That’s just stupid.

What’s the trite symbolism? Four-wheeled is forearmed; fly like a swallow, don’t swallow like a fly; preyed comes before a fall. Porno-class punnery, the aphorisms of my life.



Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 16:18

I’m on a rock in a young plantation, waiting for Kelly to come back. You remember I said about the daft cloud dog?
“He’s just being friendly,” the woman called as the hefty cloud lumbered at me, buffeting me all ways.
I have slavers with brown chunks down one sleeve and hair strewn across my trousers. The perils of a public path, eh? My hands and legs prickle, sting, burn. My skin is allergic to dogs and whatever they rub up against before me.

Second time I hear the shrill, hoarse call, I step up the banking. The lumbering oaf lopes at me anyway. What’s she saying?
“He’s just being friendly.”
I step back. He leaps up, face-to-face, paws up my chest, groin up my trousers. I fling up my arms, shriek, “oh god, I have skin allergies!” He drops, blunders back to her.
“He’s just being friendly.”
“I appreciate that, that’s why I stood out of the way!”
She clucks over the befuddled beast. I meander away, dazed, my hands tingling, my legs prickling.
By the time I get home my legs are on fire. So much for breathable fabric.

Next time… Here’s Kelly back. She’s brought me a rabbit. She loves rabbits. She plays with them. No harm done. It rearranges itself, scampers away. She caws proudly, jumps on to my shoulder.
Next time I’ll call, “she’s just being friendly,” as Kelly shakes out her glossy black wings, shrieks and swoops at the hapless mutt.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Tags: , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 16:38

Blink barrels Venom into her scullery. “What’s the deal then?”
Venom damps the clatter of perturbed plates with her absorbent arse, riled again. With hawk eyes she slices into him, hissing, “don’t you dare descend to their level.”
He gawps, blindsided again by her covert compliment. Simultaneously reprimanded and placated, he eases back, penitent. It would diminish him to blame malnourishment; they’re all together in this pitching coracle of truffles.
Having reasserted her authority yet again, despite resenting him for squandering more of her energy, she deigns to share. She muffles her voice, aware of Merrill’s staccato trilling above. “He suggested forays to reconnoitre the area for samples.”
“They’re staying?”
“Pro tem.”
“What do you think?”
“There may be more non-toxic areas than I’ve found out there. He can hike further.” She glances to Sticks’ quarters, indicating her own time limit.
Blink tilts his eyebrows cynically to a resounding whine from Merrill.
Venom smirks. “Seemingly she’s a reasonable observer under firm instructions.”
He grins: suddenly prospects are improving. “Just so long as you’re in charge.” Still a sycophant.
“My premises, my kit, my terms.”
He sighs, having relinquished all credibility and value again. “Need anything from me?”
“Yes: later.” Again she gestures with her eyes, this time diagonally below. They need to break out of this pattern.

Retiring to settle Sticks in bed, leaving Merrill and Derg unsettled, and with lurking concern about Blink’s scuttlings, Venom trips on her own wall of exhaustion. All the planning: the eventualities, the priorities, the optimum ordering of tasks, the straining for creative solutions, the deliberate sacrificing of any relaxation; it’s unsustainable and it’s probably diminishing her effectiveness. Sticks babbles away. Venom entreats the universe that the child has more resilience yet. Sticks pauses, pouts.
“Am I still nine?”
Venom is mortified. She’s barely aware of seasons passing, let alone anniversaries. A heinous neglect though. The self-recrimination and whipping clangs back into place. She hears herself peddle some pseudo-empowering ramble but it’s not what the child needs to hear: she needs authority and stability, and considerably more conviction than Venom can enunciate.

Blink scuttles by, feigning disinterest but unable to smother his flicker of care for this curiously endearing unfortunate. He absently pitches into a cavern, spirals to a halt. His mind circulates quaint ideas of whittling amusing toys from… well, it could only be mineral stone, whatever you do with that. The shattering clang of a heavy grade nut and bolt assembly hitting the ground snaps him out of the reverie; he’s accidently released his grip. He scoops it up and retraces his route, having entirely diverged from his intended course. Which was what? Was he fixing something? Fucking mind-sapping mushrooms.

Disturbingly Blink’s whistling. Likely nerves. And an attempt to convince himself that being naked and drizzled with cold and until recently putrid water is a pleasant experience. It might lead to one. Nevertheless, he’s proud of his plumbing: on the bank of the infernal plunge pool he’s rigged a camp shower with filter and rudimentary flow control. He hopes fervently that it’s worth it.

He gazes down: in the pathetic candle-light he resembles an untrussed, scrawny, plucked chicken. How could she resist?



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Tags: , , , , — Teepwriter @ 16:03

Derg directs his drilling stare at Blink. “What resources do you have? What facilities?”
Venom clambers over her anxiety and affront. “Er, I’m in charge.”
Derg grins. Blink smirks at his gender stereotype being reprised. Five form a pentagonal conference. Derg scans them, nodding approval to Venom’s hunkered-down attire, skimming Merrill, appraising the degree of threat in Blink’s lankness, allowing alarm over Sticks’ fungal fog. The child is only semi-conscious. Derg birls the slender rifle they all failed to register on its diagonal strap, flipping it from its resting position along his back to a pointless pose of skyward readiness.
“You need some meat?”
Venom continues her careful struggle to maintain control. “It’s not safe.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Clearly, but what I mean is the game is contaminated.”
Derg glances to Merrill for confirmation. She shrugs.

Derg purses the lower half of his face. “So what’s your plan?”
Venom stipulates, “I’ll need one of your hairs.”
He consents, tweaking one from his scalp and smoothly depositing it in her palm. “If I get to see your kit.” Good deal.
“Fair enough.” Pitiful bargain. From a box she hauls out a traditional microscope and a glass slide of pale, subterranean goop. Once loaded and inspected, Venom gestures the others to examine her exhibit. Blink leaps, virtually elbowing for first place. For anticlimax, as usual.
“What am I looking at?”
Sarcasm dribbles from his slack, careless lips. “Oh, good.”
“Yes: good.” Other potential punters display apathy, so Venom crashes on, addressing the company, “musical beds again?” She notes Merrill’s minor infarction of alarm before herding Sticks and Blink below. Only polite to allow Derg to inform Merrill in private of the extent of his heroism and her rescue.

Venom and Blink huddle in the tunnel, sharing the grimy blanket with careful attention to avoiding any physical contact. Sticks gyrates around them, occasionally pushing through their gap, destroying the draping. He’s irritated by the buffeting and re-blanketing, but more by the fractional separation. Venom claws at some pre-emptive hospitality.
“You can’t sleep out here indefinitely.”
He pictures the increasing pressure on the upstairs chamber. “Do I have a option?” But she said ‘out’ not ‘down’…
“Yes, you have an option.”
He sails past subtlety to indicate their newest members with an eyebrow ripple. “What about that little interplay?”
“I’m trying to elevate arrangements above your soap opera sensibility.”
“Oh, real–”
An unaccustomedly booming holler fractures their conference. Sticks breaks orbit to skitter toward the hut hatch, deliberately rebounding and revolving along the wall. Venom watches her with deep concern. Blink watches Venom with deepening fascination.

Derg sucks in a lungful of stale hut air. His mouth flexes, readied for the opening phoneme. A chicken rustles. His audience stirs. The moment trashed as if by sweetie wrappers and mobile phone tootlings, he condescends to waver his glance. A creature with four legs and no feathers lopes into their midst, drawing a wake of spiralling chickens. The ants drill on admirably. Merrill bounces with adoration.

Everyone else tenses. Derg grabs Merrill, the only one with idiotic instinct. He’s right: she wants to nurse and nurture it. He wants to kill and eat it. Blink has an internal battle between needing the nourishment to survive and his moral weakness: an inability to directly take another life. Sticks doesn’t have a definitive opinion on the fate of the rabbit; she simply dislikes it from a sense that it’s evil. Venom allows the debate to play out. After fifty tedious seconds she pronounces.
“We have to kill it and we absolutely must not eat it.”
She snips a pinch of fur from the dazed, cowering creature, drops it carefully on to another small glass slide and places this on the opaque viewing surface of the microscope. “It must’ve squeezed in through the tiniest crack.”
Sticks shrinks into the furthest corner. Derg is impatiently disinterested. Venom examines this sample with prescient pessimism. She offers to share.
“Once again.”
Merrill tentatively steps up and squints into the eyepiece.
“Woo, it’s all sparkly.”

Blink awaits his turn with dread and sullenness as deductions crystallise: the rabbit’s fur is emitting radiation, detected by its causing the goop to phosphoresce. This is why Venom avoids areas of the underground network: they glow too brightly. And this is why they can’t eat the rabbit: it’s contaminated. Somehow Sticks senses this danger. And that’s why it ran into the hut in the first place. After a point there’ll be no wildlife beyond the ark.
Venom quietly concludes the matter.
“It’s all yours, Derg.”
Derg swings over, lifts the pathetic animal by the scruff of its neck and carries it outside.

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