Digital Ischemia

17/08/2018

Wratislaw part 6 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

The initiative must be seized else-how. Wratislaw calls out. “What is your fixation with forests?”
Kamila’s reply echoes from elsewhere. “Fourteen trees is a fixation?”
He swerves before refocusing. “The question there was ‘fourteen trees is a forest’ but let’s not get diverted. In Wrocław, when I asked where you wanted to go next, you pointed at that Białowieża forest.”
“It wasn’t Białowieża; that is the opposite part of the country. And considerably bigger.”
“Where were we then? I thought I was in a world-renowned forest.”
“Why would this matter?”
“It was magical.”
“Maybe the air was polluted with hallucinogens! Poland had a big problem with toxic smoke. People kept trying to get rid of illegal plastic waste imports by putting fire to waste dumps.”

Wratislaw’s whole body focuses on keeping her talking, to try to work out where her voice is. “Or maybe your picnic was spiked!”
“Maybe we were dehydrated or hypoglycaemic.”
“Maybe our bodies were just in shock from walking more than twenty metres at a time.” His had been.
“Maybe it was a midsummer daydream.”
“It was magical.” He’s already said that. Call it emphasis.
“You think it was the place and not…us?”

There it is: the tiny uncertainty. She isn’t one hundred percent. What is he certain of? Nothing, except she isn’t in the sneaky pine. Still just glimpses and shadows of nothing. And the small matter of his enduring infatuation. He lets the beleaguered birch swish back to upright…ish.

He has to explore her uncertainty. To explore the terrain. Instead he blunders. He launches impetuously down the ridge and finds himself accelerating beyond leg control. He chooses arse over head to lead the descent – meaning he sits and slides, rather than tumbles. Important to have that point clear. He can argue the relative wisdom with the physiotherapist who will have the enviable challenge of enabling him to sit comfortably again to earn his living.

After its premature start, Wratislaw’s slide takes longer than he expects. He puts this down to the time-expanding powers of adrenaline. When he finally halts he is at the disgorgage of a burn into the river. This small-scale estuary with picturesque miniature mud-flats is a welcome coolant for his friction-savaged arse.

He rises carefully, finds his limbs reassuringly responsive, and turns about. There are more than fourteen trees. Something new is awry. With river at his back, he has a panorama of perpendicular inclines, paved with leaf litter. With no idea whether he is up- or downstream from the original position, he crawls up the least precipitous wedge, grasping wildly for those beleaguered young birches.

Several branches slap wet leaves resentfully at Wratislaw so he closes his eyes for much of the ascent. When he reaches a level where he doesn’t immediately feel his feet sliding backward or other discouragement, he cautiously raises his lids. With his eyes mildly attuned to darkness, he focuses on a fleeting movement, slipping between trunks. Through his frantic, fruitless scramble he thought he heard a ripple of laughter. Or was it the river? She’s taunting him.

He leans his hand on the nearest trunk. He withdraws it instantly from something unexpectedly soft and slimy. He thinks of insects that mind-bogglingly disassemble their bodily integrity back to primeval goup, then rearrange themselves structurally into something quite different. Except for the unfortunate individual he just plunged his fingers into. No longer to emerge and reach its full potential. Now destined to mutate horribly into chimaera with himself. Rather like The Fly. The Wrattisfly. What a Frankenstein’s monster that would be: his shoulders giving it wings like a pterodactyl, a weak abdomen of no use but as a prop, and yet remarkably dextrous legs and antennae. Somewhere in this hallucination there must be a metaphor. All skilfully choreographed. She’s manipulating him.

Something warm brushes his cheek. The reverie dissolves. Glancing up he sees the flicker of things with wings the wrong way about. Bats. Not bothersome. But why no bird calls? Probably silenced by his threatening crashing about.

Wratislaw resumes his disoriented weaving between trees. The ground level helpfully lowers then rises. He lurches around a larch and snatches another just in time to prevent himself re-launching into Arse-luge Ravine. He pivots daintily upon the precipice and sags into an elastic coppiced hazel. Noting its rarity among a cluster of hawthorn, holly and dog-rose, his luck may be changing.

…continues part 7

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1 Comment »

  1. […] …continues at part 6 […]

    Pingback by Wratislaw part 5 of 10 | Digital Ischemia — 17/08/2018 @ 18:35


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