Digital Ischemia



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.

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