Digital Ischemia


Morning / Wood

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Morning

Daylight: pathetic but indisputable. Auntie Marian’s freshly laundered bed sheets, coastal air, and diesel and onions. A thoroughly peculiar sequence of scents. Warmth. Unusual. A dainty ratchet clicks prettily. Not normal. None of it. Cecilia birls among the nesting materials then peers from the epicentre of rippling fabrics. By the fizzing stove, Percy sits hunched over his detached leg, whirling a lever.

He glances at her. “Ah, you’re awake.”
Despite evidence to the contrary, she sticks to her paradigm. “Always.”
“Well, it was nice meeting you.”
“Almost gone.”
She flings in desperation, “did you get something to eat?”
“What, like diesel and onions?”
How did he get that too? Why does she feel guilty? Surely he doesn’t eat…
He observes her helter-skelter puzzlement then decides to snatch the frayed rug from under her. “On a still, silent morning, I can reverse-engineer hypnopompic hallucinations.”
She erupts with the easy umbrage of the recently awoken. “Not satisfied with my bed, you want into my head as well?”
“My house; my rules.”
Why does she feel this huge regret? Perhaps he’s bitter about her slightly unguarded reaction to whatever sort of oddity he is. She decides not to dig a hole into justifying her predjudice. She’ll only end up at the wrong end of a crater of defensive.
He finishes, “make yourself at home,” gesturing the hut. She’s not comforted.

Percy attaches himself to the leg and straightens both out, admiring his symmetrical extra half inch, which has nothing to do with striding efficiency and everything to do with intimidating swans. He slots his ratchet into a recess in his calf, shoves down his crumpled trouser like the festoon curtain falling at the end of the performance, and departs.

What don’t we know? She has issues with her mother; he with his father. That’s usual isn’t it? Hardly noteworthy. Except for that his father… Well, let’s not jump the gun.

The Wood

Cecilia ambles on a grass-sprout path through thinning pines. This must be the way back from the river with water. Frustratingly she’s omitted to bring any sort of vessel.

As she feels the first prickle of pining for it, the hut snaps reassuringly into view. It’s built more of stone than wood, except that end wall which presents a mosaic of tree cross-sections. As her perspective pans, a perfect stack of logs elongates against the wall. Closing in, the log pile isn’t neat at all; it’s increasingly shambolic. She damps an urge to tidy it: foolish to clamber into that before resolving the water situation.

Cecilia constrains her attention to the hut door. The log pile drifts to her peripheral vision. A camouflaged carpenter, the shambolic stacker himself, once again embedded in wood, opens one splintered eye to follow her.

She notices the pattern break, feels a jolt of anxiety, but decides, in the absence of inspiration, and the curious presence of thrill, to ignore her observer. She doesn’t notice the absence of snow.

Imagine it as an alter-image, a particle trail left by someone who hasn’t mentally left or yet arrived. Unfortunately this subtlety is wasted on Cecilia, whose attention has already vaulted to the next hallucination.



The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Intruder

The perfectly smooth world is composed of unfathomably many crystals, all in graded shades of dim blue-grey. It takes only one tiny man to exuberantly pierce the vast perfection. He’s six feet four inches tonight. This is the optimum height for energetic efficiency in striding through eight inch powder snow. He can’t feel his feet. Perhaps they’re cold. He heads precisely toward the hut.

Five feet ten inches of oilskin, six inches of hay-like hair, and some of the usual appendages whump on the bed edge. A delicate puff of maize molluscs precedes a shriek, like lightning skipping out while thunder lumbers through the wool, wood, etc. – you remember. The frosted eyes erupt from their nest, like a whale breaching, trusting their indignation will keep them warm.

With equal surprise, this couple becomes acquainted, exchanging the conventional interrogatives. It turns out the rotten pomegranate of a landlord has double-booked. This latest arrival at the hut appears infrequently and unpredictably, and is thus ignorable by greedy factors with slimy pips.

Understandably their initial whats assume a level of common ground. As the lines of questioning evolve, his “what brought you to a transit hut?” is dissatisfied by her genuinely vague “an interview…” He falls back on grumbling about the purple leathery proprietor of their mutual acquaintance. When her cold-addled mind raises the concern, it also points out the solecism of asking “what are you?” She gawps at his lack of boots: the approximations of his feet are rendered in polished metal, glinting in the aftersun.

Percy was educated at Fellwell University (ruin). He continues to grow up in the Fetid Marsh area. He lives alone, entirely alone. That’s fine, by the way. Much better to be unfettered by dependents. He imagines himself as a heroic and spiritually superior hunter-gatherer. Percy isn’t his real name.

Better, but you’re merely disguising exposition with quirk. Whatever.

As Cecilia’s anxiety invents 20kHz sirens in her ears, she frantically seeks explanation for the metallic manifestation before her. She conjures up a line of serious winter undergarments, crocheted from steel scouring pads and finest nickel neoprene. She almost has a lid on it when an endogenous light winks from Percy’s ankle. She stops breathing. He rummages for an entry to the bed covers. Her breath resumes with an inhalation, adequately conveying her question.
“What are you doing?!”
“Going to sleep.”
“Do you need to sleep?”
“Yes, I walked… What do you mean?”
She refuses to air “cyborgs don’t sleep”. She knows full well, as we all do, that Artificial Intelligence lifeforms exhibit a ‘dream’ state where they consolidate their learning. It’s a simple extrapolation.
He pursues, “why didn’t you protest the proximity, or the disturbance?”
“I can’t sleep anyway.”
“Too cold?”
“I might warm you up.”
“I doubt it.”
“Okay, what?”
Her eyes reflex to his cold, hard feet. His eyes follow; he chuckles. In turn he unzips the side of each trouser leg, flicks and shuggles, and detaches each leg somewhere above the knee. He stacks the two scintillating, three-quarter legs against the wall. Her anxiety becomes queasiness.
He relishes his party trick, “better?”
She hyperventilates. He rolls under the covers and fluff, the deflated ends of his trouser legs draping over the wooden bed-frame. He presses against her, curls around. His breathing slows.

Cecilia stares at the window, consciously not breathing. Condensation forms on its inside. Breath or sweat, either way it’s biological.


Interview / Hut

The Lassie and The Legume

The Interview

A vast, polished wood table sits before me. I feel its gravity and its gravy veneer. Tears trickle by my nose to my lip corners, inefficiently recycling salt and emotional electrolytes. My anxious ankles curl around the chair legs until my calves are helices. Perhaps my gait will become slinkier.

Opposite me perches a dull, dumpy woman, denigrated by my besnottered miasma. She twirls a metal pen, without paper. Metal tingles in my sinuses: lightning.

It sounds wrong.
Let’s try it in the third person. And we should also mention the thing.

This is an attempt to reprise Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and The Pea for a 21st Century audience. Please don’t laugh.

The Hut

The hut window is a miniature snowscape. Its lower half is covered with the obligatory sloping drift. A bullet spray of flakes is welded to the upper area like limpet diamantes, frozen in a moment of their innocent descent. There is no light source, just infinite reflections of a legendary sun, from several years ago, still ricocheting with diminishing illuminatory power.

The wooden trough bed bubbles with blankets, foam, cardigans, scarves, wood chips, maize maggots, and egg cartons. And two frosted eyes.

Cecilia is a frail girl: pale, slight and quiet. Her hair has the quality of statically-electrified silk threads. However, despite her weak voice, she has a persistence that even she is uncomfortable with. Like tinnitus.

Thank you for that. Why don’t we let them make up their own minds? Without the expository short-cuts. Alright, on you go.

That was it, really, except to say that of course she’s not alone.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Tags: , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 17:08

“Ah, Derg! Tremendous!” Cake thunders into proximity.
Derg appears overcome with emotion. Quivering, he steps to Cake, pumps his hand, slaps his shoulder. “You made it?”
“Aye, every one. And you.” Cake then addresses Merrill with a tone for the hard of concentrating. “We have some sensitive tree-huggers; we also have some baby rhinos. We could use you.”
Merrill feels sufficiently comforted by the presence of this familiar stranger to slip into stroppiness.
“What for?”
“I need you to repopulate the earth.” Cake deliberately abridges for the effect. Merrill takes this personally: in a split second she imagines the most intimate horrors with this hulking hairball. The horrors display convulsively on her face. He bubbles over into a hearty roar which stops abruptly.
“I need you to repopulate plants, animals, food.”
Derg smacks Merrill’s shoulder blades with encouragement, choking her reply, which is a blessing.

In one of the cosier caverns, Venom, Blink, Sticks, Merrill, Derg and now Cake congregate on compost furniture. Venom struggles to break out of a peculiar, stilted manner that seems to go with entertaining guests. Merrill is capriciously warm toward Cake because she’s met him once before and right now he seems less repugnant than her current housemates. Derg is simply delighted to be reunited with an associate, without needing to think it through. Cake politely nibbles one of Venom’s proffered fungal snacks. Blink feels obliged to explain.
“We have four flavours to choose from, in slightly different shades of dirty white.” He regrets his presumptuous, snide tack but Venom welcomes the ice-breaker with a titter. It is Blink’s sardonic style that resonates with Cake.
“Ah, that dryness reminds me of a newspaper column I used to enjoy, back when things were working; political sketches, that sort of thing,” he reminisces, “written by… Blank?”
Venom smirks at Blink, who is colouring and casting about, desperate for an escape segue, despite the enormity of their situation. Cake is far more socially astute than his demeanour suggests.
“Have I planked my big boot in it?” He chortles through the muffler of beard. Venom gazes squarely at Blink, more than usual wondering what he’ll say. Cake follows, focusing his gaze on Blink also. Blink continues feebly scrutinising anything but faces.

Merrill feels her spotlight has dimmed too long and sharply intakes breath. Derg is captivated to see the scenario play out so he wordlessly clamps a hand across Merrill’s face. She squirms and sucks between his fingers, now concerned with nothing but getting air. No-one notices, intent as they are on Blink’s discomfiture.
Sticks grasps a tiny chalk stone between finger and thumb, having illustrated the entire surface of a handy patch of smooth rock. Exhausting this occupation, her attention transfers to the adult group. They seem to have become stuck; she’s moved to speak.
“Nicky is Nicky Tate which is a men-brain and snakes have them on their eyeballs so they don’t have to blink.”
A herd of neural ungulates stampedes through Cake’s cortex. The capillaries in Blink’s face release their full finale. Cake bursts.
“What a man!” He leaps toward Blink, smacking his head off the ceiling with barely a deflection in his trajectory, although his vocal record skips back a track.
“What a man!” He repeats, grabbing Blink’s hand and shaking vigorously.
Venom realises her face is transfixed with a most glaiket smile; she swiftly adjusts, hoping to be unnoticed. Merrill tries to push her tongue between Derg’s fingers with the idea of sucking one into her mouth and thereby biting it to secure her freedom. Derg briefly jerks his hand away, enough to slap it back again, halting Merrill’s action, while he digests the proceedings and leads the rest in cathartic laughter.

As the spasms fade, Cake narrows his enchanted focus to Venom. “And yourself, my lady?”
She stabs a paw at him. “Nora Pinnefrin.”
Blink is nauseated with a sudden adrenergic supernova followed by counter-balancing norepinephrine. The very chemical messengers in his blood tell him she’s what he needs to deal with stress.
As his consciousness rejoins the gathering, Venom chunters about her research into the long-term harms of electronic radiation. Cake sponges it in. Derg surges toward a critical interjection. Blink lurches with hypotension. Venom reflexes a steadying clasp.

The following day Cake returns, glances around: the main living cavern is sparsely but firmly populated.
“You’re not taking this stuff?”
“We’ll be back,” Venom, aware she is clinging to her latest familiarity, unable to deal with another complete change just yet. Blink reaches for her hand hoping somehow that makes it seem good. He nods toward to the hut steps.
“Last look?”

Venom finally lets go. “Sticks saw fireworks at Battle Bridge before I detected anything. I couldn’t figure how but it was some sort of nexus for radiation. I thought I had more time.” Blink nods.
From the hut window, the great moon is superimposed on the sky, veiled by threadbare cloud, framed by silhouetted crawling ants. Venom finds the lack of colour hopeful.



Robert McNeil, Sir

Robert McNeil caricature

Robert McNeil

The turn of the century found me in Edinburgh, desperate furra change of joab. This in turn found me slapping through The Scotsman newspapyrus on Fridays with sputtering hope of my dream professional opportunity and my ready ability to rip any vaguely promising advertisement to tatters in extracting it fae the page. My slapping was arrested by a phizog: I’ve a weakness for an unclupped barnet and here was one fine flowing specimen, be-bearded too, and furthermore cartoonified. This caricatural eye-candy was the byline for Robert McNeil and his Week. I should sample this boy’s wares.

Simultaneously, but coincidentally, Scotville gave birth to its ane wee baby parliament. The wean was initially incubated in a contorted gothic tardis, accessed aff the High Street on foot only, via a close, a tunnel, a giddying left-hander and a ramped glass decontamination chamber. Allegedly a religional edifice, the public viewing balconette with spittle-proof perspex was reminiscent of the bingo hall-cum-cinema of the parochial toun where I wiz schooled. However, the entertainment was somewhat elevated.

In those formative days – of the parly, no masel’ – the big twae and a hoaf: Donald Dewar, Alex Salmond and David McLetchie wid debate. Thursday afternoon was First Minister’s question time and simultaneously, but coincidentally, my day aff. Stratospheric needle-nosed Donald, wee caterpillar-eyebrowed Alex, and the bristly one, scythed such witty repartee about, such banter, ye almost forgot they were meant to be governing.

That wiz the thing, see: this McNeil fella seemingly had been there too. He wrote about our shared experience but, oh my goodness, with such hallucinogenic elaboration upon reality, and ascension into the hysterical surreal, that I quickly jettisoned my neonatal interest in politics and transferred allegiance to the Sketch.

Uncle Robert – my initial adolescent-style infatuation had to evolve to relate my affections to someone so clearly out of my league – wrote about other things too: he stoatered aboot Embra-toun, he reported in the Embra vernacular, inventing wurds where common language failed and shovelling in a good few literary lexicals too. He deprecated hissel’ jist as much as anything else. He inhabited a meta-Embra. I fancied I could waft about there too. It was the imaginary Elysium I sought through drink and always missed the turn for. And of course he made my lungs spasm rather pleasantly. He became legend.

Shamefully, after 68 applications, I got a new joab. I moved out of toun chasing a mortgage, a manageable commute and other unoriginal life tedia, and disappeared up my own arsehole. Recently asking myself why, why, why, brought back misty-eyed memories of rudely suspended influences. I summoned the wab to my idiot lantern and dialed up the Hootsmon. Pages of finger-tingling results. Mr McNeil’s consistently chortlesome observations preserved just in case I should come to ma senses. For example: I love the park though of course it makes me miserable. I am in raptures.

Sadly the 21st Century-style date-stamps abruptly fizzle at August 2009. You want to know how it ends? Naw, ye dinnae. Did he get soocked into yin ae his transvortectional pipeways to ooterspace? Gie up the writing? Naw, efter a brief stint in the ether in 2010, he went tae Glesga. Ach.

Away noo an’ gie us peace wi’ ma back issues.



Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 17:40

I lie on the front grass. If there is a hypnotic hum of insects, my ears are too detuned to detect it; they’re desensitised by the barrage of shrieks from next door’s daughters.
The rousing shower of water that perforates me is not a lazy lawn sprinkler, but the effect of a small bird alighting on the dew-laden birch above.
The intoxicating waft that drifts into my olfactory awareness is not the heady scent of full blooms soliciting insects; it’s a puff of woodsmoke from the other next door’s stovepipe.

The sun is less than six weeks from its zenith and the colours of my world are nearing the peak of their brilliance. I’m not sunbathing, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s 12 May and it’s 12°C. I’m prone before the burgeoning shrubbery against the house wall. I’m after a hole: the hibernaculum of next door’s (the first next door, with the daughters) tortoise.

Unbeknownst to me, it spent seven months under my living room. While I was caressing my painful, Raynaud’s-afflicted fingers, watching the outside thermometer descend past -12°C, hoping for reprieve from the astonishing weight of snow deposited around the house, and begging for the power supply to bear out, someone else was in admirable stasis. Its ‘owners’, from whom it had escaped on numerous occasions, thought it was dead.

A few metres below ground the temperature is a steady 10–15°C. A slow motion, sleep-befuddled tortoise is not a conventional Easter symbol, but it made a fine point about life.

Now I’m quite wet.

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