Digital Ischemia

19/02/2017

Episode 3: Summer

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

Rotting Leaves starts at Episode 1: Staging.

SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Scotland, Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
FENELLA: This evening sky is finely spattered with fugitive tufts of cloud, like a cave pouring bats into dusk.  A crowd of rooks merges and churns.  We are a mesh of interconnecting activity.  I see what you’re doing, by the way.
MAX: I feel my mental acui-racy less every day.  When my memory goes, I’ll need a fall-back.  I’m reduced to making blotches on rock.
FENELLA: If.
MAX: If what?
FENELLA: Never mind.  Anyway, I don’t mean your cave paintings; I mean your categorising of events.
MAX: You were quite bizarrely strict about there being no order.
FENELLA: And yet you’re putting us in seasons.
MAX: I beg your pardon: I am not ‘in season’.
FENELLA: Just let me bask one more time in the warm summer sun.

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh University, Lecture Theatre; 2012, Summer, Day
SOUND: AUDIENCE SHUFFLES, ECHO
FENELLA: The question was: which politician was it who said “environmental legislation is crippling the economy”?  And didn’t they have a p—
MAX: Oh, which one of the seven thousand, one hundred and sixty-two politicians, on which one of the eight hundred thousand, five hundred and twelve recorded occasions?  Who said the fossil fuel industry needs our support in the form of tax incentives in perpetuity?  Who said the nuclear sector needs propping up with decades of investment return guarantees?  Who said car manufacturers should be allowed unsafe, unhealthy exhaust emissions limits to help them make the feeble transition to slightly less unsafe, unhealthy limits?  Who said we need genetically-modified crops to ensure our food security, and therefore we must allow our heroic biotechnology sector some flexibility in regulation?  Who said that the resulting over-application of herbicides analogous to agent orange required by these GM crops, that caused the evolution of super-weeds resistant to everything short of napalm, was the cost of doing business?  Who said the resulting levels of herbicide in bread and lettuce and human breastmilk being eight hundred times the safe limit was scaremongering by woefully out of touch idealists?  Who said shooting badgers was an essential part of a coordinated approach to controlling bovine tuberculosis thereby ensuring the continuing success of our valuable and blameless dairy industry?  Who said the routine use of prophylactic antibiotics and anti-inflammatories was essential for the livestock industry, and in no way connected to the rise in resistant superbugs and dead vultures? Who said, who said, who said?  It couldn’t matter less.  All idiots.
FENELLA: I don’t think she can hear you now, over the roaring of her personal light aircraft engine.
MAX: The answer you’re looking for is this: they’re all spectacularly, perniciously wrong.  Because they all made the same, fundamental mistake: you can’t ‘balance’ nature against human ‘needs’.  Humans are part of nature.  We’re only stealing from one another, or from our future.
FENELLA: Well, I think we lost her vote.
MAX: There are some other people here.
FENELLA: They were with you already.
MAX: What’s next?
FENELLA: Some mellow time and abstinence from sugar.
MAX: Next question.
FENELLA: Why are megafauna so important?  Surely other species or even humans can step in to fill any niche?
MAX: Megafauna, the biggest animals, play significant roles in all their ecosystems.  They disperse seeds over great distances – some seeds even need large mammals to disperse them; they evolved with them.  Just through eating and moving about, megafauna open up areas in forests and maintain grasslands, thereby decreasing the length and intensity of wildfires.  Even when they die, these massive creatures become food for top predators and scavengers.  And their remains are important: carcasses donate a variety of nutrients such as calcium to the soil. Large herbivores interact with a range of small animals – birds, insects, rodents, lizards – for example, several fish species feed on hippopotamus flesh wounds.  The dung of Asian elephants is used by amphibians as a daytime refuge.  Bison wallows support amphibians and birds through creating ephemeral pools, and the bison grazing improves the habitat for prairie dogs and pocket gophers.  Oxpeckers need large herbivores for their diet of ectoparasites, hence the name.  Even blood-sucking insects such as tsetse flies largely depend on herbivores for food.  Less attractive conservation icons perhaps, and these are just a few of the relationships – the ones we know about.  There are myriad interdependencies we haven’t yet discovered.  The message is clear: remove a node from the web and the resulting fraying quickly ends up at our door.  And we’re missing them from our world, just like all the apex predators we’ve bumped off for getting in our way.  But this is not what I came to speak about.  What I want to focus on dwarfs species conservation like the legendary woolly mammoth.  Not content with picking at nodes, we’re directing a flamethrower at the entire web.  We’re too important for the universe not to save, right?  Yes, you’re right: preaching to the converted. Blustering away ineffectually at a hurricane.
FADE.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Spain, Barcelona, Conference Hotel; 2012, Summer, Day
SOUND: DELEGATES CHATTER
MAX: Why does it have to be so flaming hot?!
FENELLA: I’ll put some time in your diary to explain lines of latitude.
MAX: Just blot me.
FENELLA: I’m not that kind of girl.  Don’t use th—!  Uch.  I’ll never wear that again.
MAX: I’m melting!  My mind is a finely tuned instrument.  I require supercooling.
FENELLA: Don’t tempt me.
MAX: Where does this go? 
SOUND: DOOR CLICKS OPEN
Ooh, balcony!  I like balconies.
SOUND: DELEGATE CHATTER FADES, DISTANT VEHICLES, BREEZE
FENELLA: Rather spiky.  And still hot.
MAX: Wasn’t that how we began?
FENELLA: Me skewering you on an iceberg?
MAX: Yes, how it all began: 2002, you impaling yourself on the railings at—
FENELLA: I was cooling my face!  May was always obnoxiously sunny, as if to exacerbate the insult of swotting for exams.
MAX: The campus was rather sixties concrete geometry…
FENELLA: Surrounding a postage stamp-sized park incarcerated within iron railings.  I suppose the students would not’ve respected the sacred quadratitude.
MAX: The railings were black.
FENELLA: And therefore the instruments of Lucifer?
MAX: They weren’t cool.
FENELLA: No, and they smelled nasty.
MAX: So why were you nuzzling up against them?
FENELLA: I was trying for shade, green shade, man.
MAX: No excuse for perving.
FENELLA: I was feeling much better until you interfered.
MAX: I was concerned.
FENELLA: No, you weren’t.
MAX: No, I wasn’t.  I was finding things especially ridiculous.
FENELLA: That was the heat.
MAX: I was revelling in the woeful unpreparedness of my classmates.
FENELLA: Being an unmitigated Percy yourself.
MAX: An engaged student with the ability to manage my time?  Yes, mea culpa.
FENELLA: You offered to assist by greasing me up like a pig.
MAX: I thought you might be stuck.
FENELLA: I thought you were rude and lewd.
MAX: The start of every dream romance.  If it hadn’t been for cabbage-face.
FENELLA: And me not finding you remotely attractive, or coherent.  But, if I’d had the chance, I should’ve thanked her for saving me from your lecherous advances.
MAX: There’s a conversation I would’ve enjoyed listening to.
FENELLA: How spectacularly narcissistic.
MAX: The only person who loves me more than me is you, dearest.
FENELLA: And delusional.  Cooler now?
MAX: Hardly.
FENELLA: Good.
MAX: Oh, don’t flounce off!
FENELLA: I have to polish your stuff—your words.

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Belgium, Brussels, European Parliament Concourse; 2012, Summer, Day
SOUND: DELEGATES CHATTER, SCURRY BY
MAX: Have you seen him – Monsieur transcribey squiggley?
FENELLA: Not since—  What are you doing?!
MAX: Minister.  Balcony.
FENELLA: Alone?
MAX: Almost have her – sort of Jungian hydrology.
FENELLA: You need the rapporteur!
MAX: Yes, that’s why I—
FENELLA: This is why we need some sort of coded hand signals!
MAX: Fingers!  Wiggling!
FENELLA: You always fidg—  Does it feel cooler to you?
MAX: I always get a chill off you.
FENELLA: You’re changing the fucking weather.  Get back out there!  I’ll find him.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
MAX: I liked that: changing the weather.  Shame I didn’t.
FENELLA: That’s chaos for you.
MAX: I thought of the comeback too late.
FENELLA: Better be good after ten years.
MAX: You know when the butterfly flaps its wings?
FENELLA: Oh, yeh, in Peru then a typhoon hits Switzerland.
MAX: You feel the butterfly.
FENELLA: I think everyone feels it.
MAX: No, I mean you feel it beat its wings.  You feel it tap its leg.  You sense those tiny vibrations on the far side of the world – those early warnings.
FENELLA: I knew you’d find a way to make this my fault.
MAX: No, that’s not what I—
FENELLA: I know.  Thank you.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Italy, Florence, Hotel Room; 2012, Summer, Night
SOUND: WHUMP, BED SHEETS RUSTLE
MAX: Listen!  I had one of my brilliant ideas!
FENELLA: (Sleepily) Why are you in my bedroom?
MAX: It’s not your bedroom.  It’s a public hotel room.
FENELLA: Which I hired for my privacy. How did you get in?
MAX: Oh, like you only leave your window open for vampires.
FENELLA: You wouldn’t understand, not breathing air like us mere mortals.
MAX: Why are you so sleepy?
FENELLA: Having been asleep.
MAX: Waste of time.  Wait till you hear this.
FENELLA: Can I sleep-wait?
MAX: You’ll never get to sleep now.  This is too exciting.
FENELLA: Probably the most excitement I’ll get in my hotel bedroom.
MAX: You’re lucky this is far too important to be diverted from or I’d have to do something about…
FENELLA: What?
MAX: Have you seen the Climate Clots’ latest?
FENELLA: Yes, I gave you that briefing.  After I wrote it, you know, based on my own research.
MAX: We need to get in front of them.
FENELLA: Predicting their next outpouring of garble is quite difficult.
MAX: No, I mean literally in front of them.  Look where they’re booked.  I’m dancing about Europe already, surely we have to cross paths somewhere.
FENELLA: Which sort of dance do you plan to do in front of them?
MAX: The nimble polka of reason and fact and evidence.
FENELLA: How long before they mash your potato?  Yes.  We don’t have the hordes necessary to infiltrate their gatherings.
MAX: Oh, flash the bat-sign!
FENELLA: Cunning as a pigeon.  Like none of them can navigate the internet.
MAX: You’re quite negative.  Over-tired.
FENELLA: I’m not crushing your hare-brained ideas just as some form of displaced sleep-deprived rage.  It’s also fun, it’s part of my job, plus you’re dangerously untethered.
MAX: How can I possibly be dangerous with you…
FENELLA: Me what?
MAX: Semantic double-exposure.  Never mind.  I must take my untethered tango elsewhere.
FENELLA: Mind your exposure.
MAX: (OFF) Too late.  Curdled.
SOUND: SQUIRMING THROUGH WINDOW, BED SHEETS RUSTLE

SCENE 7.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Perthshire, Hill; 2021, Summer, Day
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS, BIRDS CALL
MAX: Pretty spectacular back garden.
FENELLA: The apple fell pretty close to the tree, eh?  Well, it blew away a bit then washed back.  On a clear day, up here, I can see Edinburgh.  Like looking at my past self.
MAX: On a clear day you can see yourself.
FENELLA: What?
MAX: Some ghastly self-help aphorism.
FENELLA: And what do you see on a clear day?
MAX: A thousand missed chances.
FENELLA: Still torturing yourself for not saving the world?
MAX: No, just you.
FENELLA: This is all very amusing – the long-running joke on our relationship, the unrequited motif – but don’t try to up the game; we both know this is as far as it goes.
MAX: I do no— I know no such thing.
FENELLA: Choice had; passed.
MAX: When?!
FENELLA: There was a time when I imagined we’d end up with a smallholding.  I’d keep chickens and you’d have some mountains to wrangle.
MAX: When was this between finding me rude and lewd and declining my advances at the end of the world?
FENELLA: The end? Of the world?
MAX: Actually is nigh.
FENELLA: Oh. Well, it was 2010, October, I think: I was getting more and more bothered by drifting toward my thirties without a tangible mission.  And then something remarkable happened.

SCENE 8.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Office; 2010, Summer, Day
SOUND: THWACKING PAPERS ABOUT, BANGING CABINETS
MAX: It’s not your birthday?
FENELLA: No.
MAX: Are you sure?
FENELLA: Am I sure I’m not 10 years old?
MAX: Yes, that does seem unlikely.
FENELLA: Where did you get that date from?
MAX: It popped up.
FENELLA: What popped?
MAX: This thing.  So, when is your birthday?
FENELLA: Next year.  Is it possible you believed some fib I inserted in the internet for the purpose of obfuscating my personal information?
MAX: Again, unlikely, but possible.  When next year?
FENELLA: Classified.
MAX: Oh, don’t be stroppy.  When is your birthday?
FENELLA: I try very hard to keep that data private and if you have, all by yourself, aided my mission then I applaud you.
MAX: I shall catch you unawares when you least expect it.
FENELLA: That’s usually when it happens.
MAX: Drat.  I had this whole…
FENELLA: Why would you want to mark my birthday?
MAX: Oh, a grand, romantic gesture.
FENELLA: But why?
MAX: You must wait until your surprise birthday.

SCENE 9.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Suburb; 2011, Summer, Day
SOUND: ELECTRICAL WHINE
FENELLA: Disappoin-ted!  Expectations left salivating like Pavlov’s wolves!  Exposed to the censure of the world for caprice and to its derision for disappointed hopes, etcetra.
MAX: I know; you would’ve made a great political director.
FENELLA: Oh, that; no, that’s not it…
MAX: Well, it should be it: I spoke to— well, never mind who I spoke to.  They were all quite baffled with the outcome; couldn’t elaborate details of course.  Did you have a meltdown in the interview?
FENELLA: No, no, my heart just wasn’t in it.
MAX: But it was five days ago!?  What’s the matter— What is that fucking whining?!
FENELLA: Neighbour vacuuming car.  Every Saturday.  That used to be me.  Now the wheels have all come off.  Worms everywhere.
MAX: Did I miss something?
SOUND: FADE ELECTRICAL WHINE
FENELLA: Twice.  All future anniversaries are cancelled.
MAX: I thought this was your fake birthday outing!
FENELLA: No, this was—is your twenty-seventh pitch-a-wacky-idea meeting.
MAX: Then when was the party?
FENELLA: Earlier.  What’s the idea?
MAX: Actually, I did have a thought around bees—
FENELLA: Oh, get to the point!
MAX: A little tetchy?  Is it your rapidly advancing age?
FENELLA: Antenna!
MAX: What?
FENELLA: I can read your online diary.
MAX: Yes, it’s online.
FENELLA: All of it.
MAX: Well, not all of it; some of it’s private.
FENELLA: Not as much as you think.
MAX: Such as?
FENELLA: Antenna.  Getting your communications satellite upgraded?  Long-range political forecasting?  Or, as it turned out: antenatal appointment.  So, you did in fact catch me unawares when I least expected it.
MAX: That’s supposed to be private.
FENELLA: Apparently.  So is there something you need to tell me about your gender or is there something you need to tell me about your imminent unavailability?!
MAX: That rather trumps my point…which was—is that…the idea…your birthday—
FENELLA: Has led us to another birth-day, and it’s time you stopped trying to lead two lives.

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