Digital Ischemia



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.




Filed under: Glen Tosied — Tags: , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 13:06

They shuffle synchronously, similarly engraining their palm and knees, thinking and withholding non-constructive remarks. When Blink eventually makes contact, to Venom his boney pawing feels like a stalactite lashing. Just one reason to halt. Another is that coincidentally three pebbles confirm this as her previous extent; the precipice of the unknown.
With just enough height to lounge, she arranges him to face her. Why not let him go? Considering the two of them are something now.
“What’s on your mind?”
“You were going to show me something at Battle Bridge. It was impressive to see, but it lacked something for not being shown.”
Venom swallows, preparing to confess. But he has more complaint.
“You didn’t show.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I don’t care! There was a fucking cataclysm happening; I’m not holding a grudge. I just want to know–”
“I planned to collect you on the way north; then Sticks turned up, and my contingency time ran out.”
“No, I mean: why?”
“Someone to save…”
“Oddly I don’t dispute the saving business, although this isn’t the liberation I imagined, and fair dos on the lassie, but I know what that’s really–”
Venom shushes him urgently.
“Surely you can tell me now about the bri–”
She clamps his lips. Not in a lascivious way. “Listen!”


Venom’s breathless murmur is inaudible, but Blink detects her nostrils flexing. He sniffs: pastry. He smiles ruefully. Deprivation has apparently lead him to sensory artifacting.
Venom’s hand quivers toward the candle, becomes paralysed with indecision. Too late. A foghorn blasts ahead. In it Blink recognises the signature of a human voice. Venom catches his sharp lung-fill, drowns his rasp with her own croak of greeting.
The clatter of mutual echo-location escalates as they scrabble forward, diminishing their separation from the oncoming presence. The end of the tunnel lights up as its bung pulls away: a be-maned ogre.

Within a discus cavern, bathed in a soothing lantern, Venom and Blink exchange interrogatives and summarised recent experience with a delighted, tweed-encrusted behemoth. His estate, Glen Tosied, includes considerable underground features including mazes of tunnels and caves through the rock. This is unexpected and unprecedented in this part of Scotland. His programme of sequential exploration has brought him to Venom’s well zone. There is a small surviving community a few miles away. They should meet up and perhaps join up…

Blink finds himself damp with sweat, squeezed out by tension, as if his body has only now realised the crisis. Venom was rather taken with Cake’s rough jollity while Blink fidgeted like an insect. As she follows him home, she feels a rush of failure for feeling relief at sharing her burden. She parts her lips to seek his reassurance. She imagines his condescension. Silly.

Like a schoolgirl with a birthday surprise, Venom fizzes all over Merrill and Derg, oblivious to their indifference and suspicion, respectively.
“Did you sleep well?”
Merrill has less tact than Derg. “No.”
“Me neither. All the excitement.” Blink casts Venom a glance of disbelief. She blushes, makes several false starts on her announcement and fails to provide any key facts like a form of address.

With a glorious suspicion, Derg entices Merrill below. It’s like dragging a hedgehog through a rose bush. His patient effusion fails to register as she continues, irrationally, to charge him for her distress. She wants him to accept responsibility then fix everything. She needs this to stop. This unbearable– A recognisable boom…



Venom listens to Blink breathing. He doesn’t snore. Score. So much of her wants to lie with him, just be there. Some of her would savour replaying the intricate pleasures of his fingers, his face, his smooth, stringy skin… But the internal harridan shrieks ‘sybarite!’ She stirs.

Venom trudges in her now habitual grovelling posture. Her knees are like drying cement. These tunnels are engrimed with abradings from her calloused palms. Yet she can’t sleep until she’s pushed forward the frontier of space exploration. She’s ill-prepared for tonight’s venture, having let herself be woefully distracted. How about just even checking out that nobbly branch tunnel? Hopefully it’s a dead end, tick it off. The harridan cracks a cauldron over her head: no, of course, hopefully it’s a passage to miraculous salvation. This could be it. Lighting up time.

A yank at her arm makes her flinch with fright. Blink’s voice is gentle but insistent.
“How is it she knew the rabbit was contaminated? How does she know when a storm’s coming? Why does she bleed like that?”
Venom silently herds her wits.
He tosses out another tack, “how far did you think you’d get without me?”
“I thought you were sleeping.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I know.” His turn for silence. In her inbox of questions she clicks ‘previous’. “She’s not getting all the nutrition she needs. I can’t do any better for her.”
“I have a better idea: I think she’s highly sensitive.”
Venom stares at Blink’s voice, then drops her head, feeling a mental wall crash down, quite unexpectedly: he’s figured out the next clue.
He sees only the dark blob sway. He reaches for feedback.

Twisting she resigns herself to words before action. “How did I not hear you?”
“I have your rhythm.”
“Don’t be lewd.”
He snorts. “Can I say something?”
His sincerity trounces her narkiness. “Thank you for asking me.”
“Oh. Right. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind.”
He spits offence, “sorry?”
“Well, sitting in the refectory, with you giving me all that flattering attention, it was either going to be the gauntlet of the swans under the footbridge or the paradoxical bushcraft section of the library.”
He double-takes at her, cynicism flailing at burgeoning pride.

She resumes her direction. His company, muttering notwithstanding, renews her determination. Her flattery should get him a fair distance.



In a cavern five feet across and at most four feet high, Venom fouters at the biomass bedding that covers the space. She knows fine that she’s wasting time, allowing herself to wonder why he would choose to share with her, rather than insist that Sticks join her. She wonders what she wants for herself. She silently admonishes herself for letting her standards slip.

A shuffling, scraping approach through the tunnel jolts her into a frozen sprawl.
“It’s fucking boiling in here!” Blink’s pre-emptive greeting is followed by writhing to remove any of his clothing. She’s further jammed in her startled freeze. Handily his clothing mostly blocks the entrance and the incoming glow.
He relishes this advantage, the confidence he needs to bare his chest. He feels, hopes he’s not unattractive for a man of his age, sedentary profession, recent incarceration.
The advancing bareness finally gives her the rush of blood she needs to reanimate, but overmuch so she lashes out.
“Once I admired your mastery of language.”
He takes a second to dismiss a couple of corkers in favour of coarse comedy.
“I could’ve gone with the repellent pungency of pismires’ piss.”
“An especially inelegant and inaccurate alliteration.” She squirms feebly, with no intention of going anywhere. Still they need to break out of this pattern.
He sways, closes in like a cobra. With inches to go, he decides to explain.
“I don’t want you to think for a moment that this is a proximity thing. And I don’t want to wait until I actually am the last man alive on earth.”
She smiles to the smothering darkness.

In a commendable opener, he floats up the gradient of her warm, shallow breath to neatly meet her lips. He changes pressure in delightful nudges that make her head swim, especially remarkable in the rigid surroundings.

Sincerity dispensed, he swings to dramatic flippancy.
“Ah mean tae huv ye, woman, oilskin or no, up against the bare rock if ma knees’ll take it!” He’s rewarded with the syrupy chuckle he craves. Eloquence score one.
He grapples her undergarments with surprising care and premeditated skill. Anxiety rushes through her, setting her cheeks aflame. He senses her softness tense, so mumbles enquiry. As she stutters inanities, he breaches the final layer of wrapping to a euphoria of flesh. After venting a moan, he addresses her unarticulated concern.
“Ye dinnae feel like elephant hide, if that’s what yer worried about.”
Her self-consciousness evaporates.

Sticks purses her pretend-closed eyelids. Voices, rustling. He declares, she murmurs. That man is winding up Aunty Venom again.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Tags: , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 16:38

Blink barrels Venom into her scullery. “What’s the deal then?”
Venom damps the clatter of perturbed plates with her absorbent arse, riled again. With hawk eyes she slices into him, hissing, “don’t you dare descend to their level.”
He gawps, blindsided again by her covert compliment. Simultaneously reprimanded and placated, he eases back, penitent. It would diminish him to blame malnourishment; they’re all together in this pitching coracle of truffles.
Having reasserted her authority yet again, despite resenting him for squandering more of her energy, she deigns to share. She muffles her voice, aware of Merrill’s staccato trilling above. “He suggested forays to reconnoitre the area for samples.”
“They’re staying?”
“Pro tem.”
“What do you think?”
“There may be more non-toxic areas than I’ve found out there. He can hike further.” She glances to Sticks’ quarters, indicating her own time limit.
Blink tilts his eyebrows cynically to a resounding whine from Merrill.
Venom smirks. “Seemingly she’s a reasonable observer under firm instructions.”
He grins: suddenly prospects are improving. “Just so long as you’re in charge.” Still a sycophant.
“My premises, my kit, my terms.”
He sighs, having relinquished all credibility and value again. “Need anything from me?”
“Yes: later.” Again she gestures with her eyes, this time diagonally below. They need to break out of this pattern.

Retiring to settle Sticks in bed, leaving Merrill and Derg unsettled, and with lurking concern about Blink’s scuttlings, Venom trips on her own wall of exhaustion. All the planning: the eventualities, the priorities, the optimum ordering of tasks, the straining for creative solutions, the deliberate sacrificing of any relaxation; it’s unsustainable and it’s probably diminishing her effectiveness. Sticks babbles away. Venom entreats the universe that the child has more resilience yet. Sticks pauses, pouts.
“Am I still nine?”
Venom is mortified. She’s barely aware of seasons passing, let alone anniversaries. A heinous neglect though. The self-recrimination and whipping clangs back into place. She hears herself peddle some pseudo-empowering ramble but it’s not what the child needs to hear: she needs authority and stability, and considerably more conviction than Venom can enunciate.

Blink scuttles by, feigning disinterest but unable to smother his flicker of care for this curiously endearing unfortunate. He absently pitches into a cavern, spirals to a halt. His mind circulates quaint ideas of whittling amusing toys from… well, it could only be mineral stone, whatever you do with that. The shattering clang of a heavy grade nut and bolt assembly hitting the ground snaps him out of the reverie; he’s accidently released his grip. He scoops it up and retraces his route, having entirely diverged from his intended course. Which was what? Was he fixing something? Fucking mind-sapping mushrooms.

Disturbingly Blink’s whistling. Likely nerves. And an attempt to convince himself that being naked and drizzled with cold and until recently putrid water is a pleasant experience. It might lead to one. Nevertheless, he’s proud of his plumbing: on the bank of the infernal plunge pool he’s rigged a camp shower with filter and rudimentary flow control. He hopes fervently that it’s worth it.

He gazes down: in the pathetic candle-light he resembles an untrussed, scrawny, plucked chicken. How could she resist?



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Tags: , , , , — Teepwriter @ 16:03

Derg directs his drilling stare at Blink. “What resources do you have? What facilities?”
Venom clambers over her anxiety and affront. “Er, I’m in charge.”
Derg grins. Blink smirks at his gender stereotype being reprised. Five form a pentagonal conference. Derg scans them, nodding approval to Venom’s hunkered-down attire, skimming Merrill, appraising the degree of threat in Blink’s lankness, allowing alarm over Sticks’ fungal fog. The child is only semi-conscious. Derg birls the slender rifle they all failed to register on its diagonal strap, flipping it from its resting position along his back to a pointless pose of skyward readiness.
“You need some meat?”
Venom continues her careful struggle to maintain control. “It’s not safe.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Clearly, but what I mean is the game is contaminated.”
Derg glances to Merrill for confirmation. She shrugs.

Derg purses the lower half of his face. “So what’s your plan?”
Venom stipulates, “I’ll need one of your hairs.”
He consents, tweaking one from his scalp and smoothly depositing it in her palm. “If I get to see your kit.” Good deal.
“Fair enough.” Pitiful bargain. From a box she hauls out a traditional microscope and a glass slide of pale, subterranean goop. Once loaded and inspected, Venom gestures the others to examine her exhibit. Blink leaps, virtually elbowing for first place. For anticlimax, as usual.
“What am I looking at?”
Sarcasm dribbles from his slack, careless lips. “Oh, good.”
“Yes: good.” Other potential punters display apathy, so Venom crashes on, addressing the company, “musical beds again?” She notes Merrill’s minor infarction of alarm before herding Sticks and Blink below. Only polite to allow Derg to inform Merrill in private of the extent of his heroism and her rescue.

Venom and Blink huddle in the tunnel, sharing the grimy blanket with careful attention to avoiding any physical contact. Sticks gyrates around them, occasionally pushing through their gap, destroying the draping. He’s irritated by the buffeting and re-blanketing, but more by the fractional separation. Venom claws at some pre-emptive hospitality.
“You can’t sleep out here indefinitely.”
He pictures the increasing pressure on the upstairs chamber. “Do I have a option?” But she said ‘out’ not ‘down’…
“Yes, you have an option.”
He sails past subtlety to indicate their newest members with an eyebrow ripple. “What about that little interplay?”
“I’m trying to elevate arrangements above your soap opera sensibility.”
“Oh, real–”
An unaccustomedly booming holler fractures their conference. Sticks breaks orbit to skitter toward the hut hatch, deliberately rebounding and revolving along the wall. Venom watches her with deep concern. Blink watches Venom with deepening fascination.

Derg sucks in a lungful of stale hut air. His mouth flexes, readied for the opening phoneme. A chicken rustles. His audience stirs. The moment trashed as if by sweetie wrappers and mobile phone tootlings, he condescends to waver his glance. A creature with four legs and no feathers lopes into their midst, drawing a wake of spiralling chickens. The ants drill on admirably. Merrill bounces with adoration.

Everyone else tenses. Derg grabs Merrill, the only one with idiotic instinct. He’s right: she wants to nurse and nurture it. He wants to kill and eat it. Blink has an internal battle between needing the nourishment to survive and his moral weakness: an inability to directly take another life. Sticks doesn’t have a definitive opinion on the fate of the rabbit; she simply dislikes it from a sense that it’s evil. Venom allows the debate to play out. After fifty tedious seconds she pronounces.
“We have to kill it and we absolutely must not eat it.”
She snips a pinch of fur from the dazed, cowering creature, drops it carefully on to another small glass slide and places this on the opaque viewing surface of the microscope. “It must’ve squeezed in through the tiniest crack.”
Sticks shrinks into the furthest corner. Derg is impatiently disinterested. Venom examines this sample with prescient pessimism. She offers to share.
“Once again.”
Merrill tentatively steps up and squints into the eyepiece.
“Woo, it’s all sparkly.”

Blink awaits his turn with dread and sullenness as deductions crystallise: the rabbit’s fur is emitting radiation, detected by its causing the goop to phosphoresce. This is why Venom avoids areas of the underground network: they glow too brightly. And this is why they can’t eat the rabbit: it’s contaminated. Somehow Sticks senses this danger. And that’s why it ran into the hut in the first place. After a point there’ll be no wildlife beyond the ark.
Venom quietly concludes the matter.
“It’s all yours, Derg.”
Derg swings over, lifts the pathetic animal by the scruff of its neck and carries it outside.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 15:29

Blink waits in his lair for hours.  Venom’s eventual shuffling approach disturbs him.  He resents the intrusion on his contemplations.  And she dares to read him quite accurately: she calls ahead to lessen the impact.
“I’ve brought your half-egg!”
The hours were apparently mere minutes.
“Again, still you provide us with fundamental food and shelter.  What am I doing?”
“Are you having an existential crisis?”
“Seriously, yes.  What am I doing?!”
“It’s only been four days,” she pacifies, pulling up and settling down.  He’s astonished.  She pushes on, “what was your dream last night?”
He unconsciously accepts the premise, relishing another pass at the sensations and emotions.
“My road home was blocked, carefully, deliberately, with logs stacked horizontally and saplings wedged vertically.  I crashed my car into the barricade and knocked some of it over.”
“How did you feel?”
“Mortified!  I jumped out and tried to repair the damage.”
“Why was the road blocked?”
“A house further along was on fire.  I stopped to watch, aware that I was mesmerised.  I saw the flames engulf the house but I was more concerned about the towering trees: huge flames were swirling through them.”
“How did you feel about the house?”
“I didn’t know who lived there.  It was too far gone.  It was the trees that were at that tipping point, but I was still unable to do anything.  What is it?”
She nods slowly.
“You’re burning down the house.  That route is blocked now.  There was more?  Where are you forging a new path?”  She’s entranced but lucid.
He’s unnerved and leans away, involuntarily nodding.  The next scene of his dream replays for him: hacking through an overgrown, disused coastal path, between water and eroding bank.  Finding the gap in the headland and seeing the building frame beyond.
She continues as if no time has passed, “It’s just a mental adjustment.”  She glances to the egg in her fist.
His self-indulgence relinquishes attention to his conscience.
“How do I help with Merrill?”
She emits a ‘hm’ that encourages further detail.
“She’s becoming more spiteful than stroppy.  I know it’s a response to a stressful situation.  I can handle it, but I’m concerned about Sticks.  The only reason she’d prefer to spend time with me is the alternative is worse.”
“Very astute.”
Momentarily he enjoys the gratification.  She didn’t answer the question.

Pitiful silence around the dining box, about not saying things that may stuff you up in future.  About despairing of circumstances.  About frantically thinking, thinking of possible solutions to any of a myriad tiny problems.  About the adventures of the inhabitants of mushroom world.
Sticks freezes first, then one by one the others cease moving.  The faint, rising sound of approaching strides heralds an arrival.
Merrill launches to vertical.
Venom bites, “Still!  Silent!”  Blink stares at Venom.  Sticks gazes at mushroom world, trying to integrate the encroaching thumping and swishing.  Venom creeps toward the door, pauses to triangulate the incoming signal.  She yanks the door open.  Framed against the now noxious green sky, stumbling in interrupted approach: a camouflaged, well-kept 50s, male form.
He barks, “Merrill?!”
Merrill squeaks, “Derg!”
Venom’s tension dissipates like a sigh as she stands aside to let the pair re-acquaint.  Blink and Sticks watch warily.
Merrill demands furiously from Derg, “What the fuck took you so long?”
“Shut up.”  He swats at her, only partly in jest.  She flicks her head away to smirk.  Blink follows this dynamic with fascination.
And then there were five.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 15:19

Blink’s next awakening is gentle, but consciousness brings an urge for food.  He sets off with a smirk, proudly recognising the development of his tunnel-shuffling agility.  He’s soothed by the meditative, repetitive motion.  These tunnels are already familiar; he gloats over his mental map.  He’ll get started on the breakfast mushrooms and pleasantly surprise everybody.
Unexpectedly his front half cantilevers down into a pitted shaft, arrested by lucky cushioning.  This turns out to be Venom.  She squeals girlishly in protest.  He freezes.  Candle glimmer reflects faintly in the moist slime on the walls.  He closes his eyes and feels the adrenaline spikes yield to the comforting animal warmth of his companion.  She’s disinclined to voice further protest, feeling an odd security in being pinned by him.  Him.  The moment elapses.  He peers past her at a matrix of natural pigeonholes in the rock face.  Her heart sinks; her defences clang back into place.
He challenges brusquely, “What are you doing?”
She reaches for her habitual whip.
“Make your own deduction.  Your natural reasoning is so warped you’re unlikely to threaten my privacy.”
He scrutinises the pigeonholes: some have small items precisely placed.  A very specific some: series beginning at the left of certain rows.  Samples over timelines.  She’s testing something methodically.  He feels for nooks he can grip and hauls himself up and out and away.
She braces against the wave of panic.  He could well figure it out.  Her denial wouldn’t change his perception.  It never did.  He’s not at all like the vacuous cretin Vennan and that’s petrifying.

“I just fell down a hole on top of Aunty Venom,” Blink admits, sacrificing his credibility for the chance of cheering the child.  From half under her covers, Sticks grants him one lung-contraction of laughter, possibly feigned.  Probably not worth it.  She’s just fiddling with the mushrooms.  “How are you feeling?”
“OK, but really?”
She shrugs.
“You want me to go?”
“No, you can stay if you want.”
Always the same veiled tolerance from females.  Never conducive to effort.  He extinguishes his candle in favour of hers and tugs a spare length of blanket around him: ten degrees isn’t comfortable while you’re still.  There’s nothing to set fire to.
He tries to tempt her with something requiring no effort from him, while carefully not patronising, “I could interview you.”
She bites, “Who am I?”
“Er, I thought I’d ask the questions.”
“Yeh, but I need to know who I’m being,” she spells out with patronising gestures and expressions for the socially illiterate.
He allows his sarcasm a little air, “You?”
“I’m not a celebrity!”
“It doesn’t matter to me.  I’m interested anyway.”  It’s fading though.
She pulls idly at the skin on her arm.
“Have you got an itchy bit?”  Not a prize opening gambit.
“I’ve not to scratch.”
“Is it worse at the moment?”
He has a mallet-blow of inspiration about the line of questioning.
“Is there a storm coming?”
Does she know she’s our canary?  Of course Venom would bring her over me, and not for any sentimental family relationship.  She’s way more valuable.  Talented.

“We have eggs!”  Venom is giddily pleased.  Blink feels a reflection of her grin creep across his face.  She holds up her trophies, “two!  Maybe this’ll entice her up.”  She hedgehogs down the steps.  In the background, the eyeballs of two chickens wobble, like self-conscious children with a gushing mother.
Merrill materialises from the feathered area, embodying disparagement.  He fronts up to her.
“Why are you such a poisonous insect?”
She goes through the adolescent shudders of denial, defiance, self-doubt.
“Am I supposed to be all nice as pie in the middle of a, like, apocalypse?”
He tries harsh reality, “Are we supposed to, like, help you?”
“Who’s ‘we’?  I see you’re not in charge.”
“If we’re bagsing places on Nora’s Ark, I’m a smidgen more useful than you.”  He congratulates himself for total humanitarian regression in less than a week.
She slinks away, radiating ‘what-evah’ and re-merges with the chickens.  He wonders if she’s bored, outwitted or actually overwhelmed.  Maybe he should leave the trickier issues to Venom.  Am I?



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:01

“Nora?”  Merrill kneels at the hut hatch, heels daintily splayed, elbows and shoulders at full hinge, quite stick insect.  She lowers her blood-engorged face tentatively into the descending dark, looking like she’s succumbing to a thorough vomit.
Venom calls distantly, “Moment.”

Venom indicates to Blink, “Madam calls.”  He continues staring catatonically at the rock.  He’s curled in a lay-by, off the main tunnel, carelessly blanketed by a crumpled rug.  She’s perched nearby, as if pausing en route, but the echoing silence belies her casual humour.  She inhales and crawls away.  He stares on.  Nora.  Nora.  Finally a forename.  Now where does that fit?

Venom feels the tunnel pass more slowly than usual.  She needs someone else to jump-start her energy.  The light ahead is eclipsed.
Merrill the silhouette stipulates, “Nora?  I need to…  Well, in case Derg doesn’t get here soon, I’ll need somewhere to sleep.”
Venom squints needlessly across the few feet of dark space.  “Where’s Sticks?”
Sticks answers vaguely, “Here.”
Merrill paraphrases her demand, “Where can I sleep?”
Venom responds, “Yes,” clinging to civility, then addresses Sticks once again, “Sweetie, would you mind sleeping with me again?”  Behind Merrill’s pointy joints, Sticks’ marionette shakes its head.  Such an adorably accommodating child.  Not the real move, but he seems to have reassigned himself downstairs, and there’s a niggling discomfort about leaving anyone in this stranger’s vicinity.

Blink becomes conscious with a wail, someone else’s wail.  He lights his candle, first time surprisingly, and when it matters.  He hauls along the main tunnel toward the whimpering.  He climbs the steps to the hut until his chest is at floor level, and holds the candle up, expecting to reveal Merrill having histrionics.  She’s unconscious.  In a restful way.  And mummified in layers of fine gauze, apparently an anti-ant apparatus.  He would have admired his tongue-twister but for the alarm.  The tunnel distorts the source of the intermittent distress.  Sticks is the next to check – not the next priority but the next least unlikely candidate for wailing.

Blink is stunned: Sticks cowers up on her bed shelf, in the furthest corner of a four foot cavern adjoining Venom’s chamber.  Her face, clothes, sheets are splattered with blood.  Venom nudges by him and slowly advances upon Sticks, murmuring placations.
“Did you get a fright?”
Sticks chokes desperately, “Don’t come near me!”
His candle sputters out, unable to survive the tilt as his blood leaves his hand for other more pressing demands.  He withdraws to the tunnel to wait, to try to not decipher overheard mumblings.  Instead he has recollections, ideas, inferences.  These rapidly diverge from reality.  After a few minutes he recognises his need for mental gravity.  An ideal chunk of solid silence closes on him.
He whispers hoarsely, “Is it really just a nose bleed?”
Venom’s further silence radiates hurt and fear.  She seems vulnerable.  He grasps her in almost a hug.  She allows this for two seconds then firmly pulls away.
He defends his forwardness, “I just thought maybe it was ominous.”
She’s dogmatic, “Not for her; it’s just a nose bleed.”
“Yeh, but some of the people I passed coming here had nose bleeds.  Maybe her parents…”
She’s aghast.  Did she massively miss the basis for Sticks’ distress?  Is it more recollection than sensation?  She scurries back to Sticks.
Blink sways, feeling the shock and horror of a fellow human in pain.  As the first re-living passes, his empathy makes way for a little criticism: where was Venom?  She got to Sticks no quicker than he.

“Where were you?”  Blink makes a stab at innocent enquiry, without any polite interlude.  In his second candle-light of the night, he watches Venom calculate how much to admit.
“I went further along the ribbed tunnel.  I thought I could hear water, or scraping, …or voices,” she dangles, curious whether he’ll focus on the hope, or despair of her mental stability.  Neither, of course.
“During the night?”
She cackles, “I really don’t think you’re wading into the random waxing and waning of my hormone-driven notions,” relieved and disappointed.
Sticks is settled.  Back to bed.  Such as it is.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:45

Throughout the return crawl Venom cheerily regales Blink with observations of dubious relevance regarding the underground temperature and how she filters this up into the hut.  This does nothing to warm or dry him.  What he retains is the fact that it’s a consistent ten to fifteen degrees Celsius.  He also recognises how much he needs company; her company.

The dreary hut is momentarily dazzling.  Sticks bursts into giggles, pointing at the cold, wet Blink, living up to his name.  He tolerates it in what he believes is good grace, but is outwardly simply grumpy.  You have your fun, freakchild.  Oof, that was a bit harsh.  Where’d that co—
“—Here we go!”  Venom continues her weird mothering busyness.

Four faces in varying styles of stupor shuffle around the breakfast box, settling on dining compost piles, drifting in like catatonic Fraggles.  Merrill, in a fleeting submission to anxiety, bleats.
“What happened?”
“When, dear?”  Venom horrifies herself with this falsely affectionate, old-fashioned, old, turn of speech.  Blink doesn’t seem to notice.  He looks like he’s about to melt down again.  Needs some calories.  Merrill returns to her usual, ungracious expostulation.
“Am I expected to subsist on mould and insects?”  Venom ponders this seriously: she hasn’t previously considered eating the ants; could be a good source of protein.  Sticks lines up seven well-formed mushrooms in the proper manner.

Blink completes his bland but filling platter of crusty slugs, entertained only by covertly watching Sticks acting out her silent drama.  The mushrooms that required most admonishment are eaten first, he observes, but ultimately, with resignation, all must die.  He sinks lower in his heap of damp leaves, swinging back to dejected despair.   He lapses into stasis, his mind overwhelmed by this dreadful, escalating reality.  Sticks gravitates toward him under the pretext of tidying leaves.  Venom clocks this right away but still bustles downstairs – yes, calling it that now – following up her harvesting contentment with domestic bliss.  Merrill rises from her heap to fidget about.  She idly browses around the hut, sighing repeatedly and tiresomely.

When Venom re-ascends, all smoothed down and revitalised, Sticks is making dirt angels on the floor.  Merrill watches this resourceful game-making with a sneer.  That will have to be examined later.  A member is missing.  Venom spins, wondering with a flush if he could have snuck past her in her washing reverie.
“Where’s Nicky?”
Merrill shrugs.  Sticks freezes, feeling a wave of unexplained guilt.  She resumes jerky swishing on the floor in defiance.
“He went out.”  Why is Aunty Venom getting angry?  We don’t like him anyway.  Hopefully the girl will go out too.
“I can’t think why he wanted to leave,” Merrill mutters sarcastically.  Venom is stung but still more concerned by his absence.  Her transient optimism evaporates again.

Blink bursts in, met by the still angry Venom.
“Where the fuck have you been?”  She hisses, woefully succumbing to the stereotype.  He glances apprehensively around, bringing his eyes to rest on Sticks: she’s folded up like a pile of…  Ah.  Venom fires again, “don’t look at her; look at me!”
“The sky is fucking orange and purple.  I’m not being lyrical; it’s actually orange and purple.  And not fluffy sunset-tinged clouds orange and purple; vivid, nasty, toxic orange and purple.  What do I do with that?!  It’s fundamental to our psyches to have sky in shades of blue.  This is what humans evolved with for… tens of thousands of years.  And you’re impatient that I’m not getting over this!”
“Like men didn’t go into space,” she scythes.
“Not without unravelling a tiny bit, and not to mention it was a choice they prepared for.  Yeh, that’s what this is: alien!”
Venom gives him a moment for his energy to come back up, finding remarkably that hers already has.
“Do you know what it actually is?”  He gives his head the tiniest shake.  She explains, “it’s not eta radiation.  It’s massive industrial processes going haywire; the software, the computers, the electronics that control them are completely broken and nobody can keep them right.”  She watches the shockwave ripple through him, hoping he’s strong enough to withstand it now.

Older Posts »

Blog at