Digital Ischemia

31/10/2015

Stage 1: Resistance

The market is many steps away. Sometimes I leave winter at the village and find spring at the market, but Spidda breathes on the towns first. I’ll get a baked potato at Nellin’s.

Here the road is full of snow. I look south, scanning the ridge parallel to the road. The ridge looks a good step away and uphill; hard to believe these two paths left the village together. Aye, it looks easier-going up there, but for how long? If I step up this field, this field with new cut boulders, there could be an access track. Or there could be…

If it’s moving, I’m already too late. Or will I be lucky with my light load of tinctures and trinkets, and gain a tale to tell?

Curse Antiog; I should’ve checked the field was empty of horses… and quaggi. I was too absorbed in seeing the boulders. Some folk had been carving them out. Maybe building a new wall; maybe breaking up an old wall. Maybe the rock made me feel safe. But abandoned. Now there’s movement among the scrub lining the ditch. Cold crackles up my right side, jolts my free arm forward to point at a dip in the wet gorse. A puff of steam drifts and fades. Something singed. I’m dreaming again; must step on.

Nellin meets me at the town gate. This way we can speak before we are overheard. We speak about our worlds but to him it’s subversive, offensive or just an excuse. Her uncle is a jaggy bush and an avalanche of soil: all prickles until an unpredictable, engulfing blow.

Nellin’s uncle’s shop is mostly full of ironmongery but in the back corner, reached by skirting around the wall, is the back of a food stall. I ask the guy for my coveted baked potato. Nellin pokes me for adding “with cheese.” He confirms “ghost cheese and chives, just chives.” I know he means goat. Still I ask “is there definitely no meat?” It could be only pheasant, I know, but the folk that catch the creatures catch all sorts and I don’t want to eat any more quaggi.

Watching me gulp, Nellin says I make too much fuss and someone will want to know why. What have I against quaggi? “Nothing” I reply, every time. I would say more, but she doesn’t understand; she never leaves the town. Why shouldn’t land creatures know as much as sea creatures? I don’t ever want to look into those eyes.

You are cold. Thirsty. You hear tantalising drips so reach out: blessed snowmelt. You haul out to search for spring. Your eye catches red among the white and green and brown but you dismiss it: sodden berries can only have been left because they’re rotten. A little fresh, green matter will sit fine and maybe a sweet twig.

We snuggle at the back of the shop. The potato guy is away home but the potato oven is still warm. We press our backs to the stone. Nellin’s uncle fidgets around a plated carrier, itching to peel the metal but fearing his shaking hand. We whisper about everything except him. We think of nothing but him, wishing he’ll drink soon and quickly and forget us with the day.

The market bustles with folk eager for restocking. Nellin is a good seller. She knows so much about the herbs now. She is good at so many things, but wasted. A good day’s trade. An average day’s blether; her life is stuck.

Nellin will never come along to the clootie well. My good friend. Every time I say “I’m scared too: there are quaggis about;” every time she says “no, it’s not that.” She and her uncle have their own Imbolc: she cooks up everything left from winter stores and he drinks up the same. If she’s lucky he passes out. Why wouldn’t she rather come with me?

Leaving town, I reach the turn in the road as I hear the first shout. I hesitate in a shadow. But Nellin doesn’t want my help or my pity. It’s her choice. I have a near empty bag and a road of promise ahead.

By Mabwhit’s wood I see my first: a curled tuft of feather; two grey-brown downs, their tiny quills still joined by a ring of skin, wedged in a tiny muddy hollow. Plucked again, into my bag. Clean, clear spring sunrise trickles across my path. The silence draws me out.

A second treasure makes me skip to avoid treading on it. A skein of fleece, or coarse fur, drifted into a hollow. Now I see: the depression is an imprint, a backward step.

More prints tread backward. I had thought the printer was heading opposite to me but the weighting is reversed: a retreat.

A claw is my third reward, its bloody root hanging on air. Under the mud is a chance split between stones, clenching the claw tip. I must dance about to find the weighting that widened that crevice enough to welcome the claw and now relinquish it. I have the claw clamped between my second and third fingers, feeling it could be mine. I rake at the air. Cold crackles up my arm. A rush of horror: quaggi blood on my hand. Again.

 

Stage 2 at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/stage-2-anger/

 

Lughnasadh – Samhain 2015

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