Digital Ischemia



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:43

Back at the larder, the candle rests on a convenient jut of rock.  Venom plucks the largest mushrooms, each with an appetising snap, and collects them in a bag of crimped linen.  Instead of paying attention to the harvesting process for future benefit, Blink finds this bag fascinating and repeatedly erupts with a school-boy snigger.  His surreal pocket of existence spirals in on a hysterical juncture.  The bag faintly resembles one leg of a voluminous undergarment.  This is enough.

Venom is blissfully oblivious to Blink’s paroxysms, in her contented, primeval bubble of gathering food.  In fact his eventual question shatters a meditative, cerebral silence.
“What does the fungus live on?  I mean: it’s bare rock.”
“It’s a physical substrate and nutrients.  It’s quite porous and the fungal hyphae penetrate it quite happily.  The ants discourage any competitors…  Apart from me; they don’t seem to mind me filching the excess.”
“Where are the ants?”
“I persuaded them to divert their attention to another cavern,” she answers, carefully.
“Pheromone misdirection.”
“How long have you been at this?!”
“It’s basic biology!”
“It’s not!”
“Okay, I’ve indulged my harbinging for a while now,” she admits, her amusing bag filled.  Is this enough for…  Never mind.
“Ah-ha,” he understates.
“Ready for another encounter with water?”  She jeers.  He’s startled and wary.  Her turn to chuckle.  “For drinking,” she finishes magnanimously, as if that will allay any of his rampant fears.

“Fuck you and your pismires’ parlour,” Blink spits.  Venom’s eyebrow rises.  “You left me in this totally unknown, dark, dangerous hole!”  She listens to his fizzling rant then clamps him quietly.
“You were never in any serious danger.  Don’t you think I fell into all those traps when I was exploring?  I didn’t know what I’d find and I didn’t have anyone with me.”
“I didn’t know either!”  He shrieks back.
“At least you had me.”
He squawks in falsetto.

The well machinery is agricultural and polished with wear, but impressively robust and smooth-running.  It’s installed near the end of a short cul-de-sac tunnel.  Venom goes ahead and uses the handy turning circle at the end to reorient her arse.  She pulls up to face Blink across the winch.
“Hold this,” she instructs him, extracting a plastic pouch from a wormhole in her clothing. 
“Traitor,” he snipes, well wide of any meaningful target.
“I haven’t completely eschewed civilised society.  It has a thousand years’ life so I may as well use it.”  She attaches an identical pouch to a hook suspended on the pulley and winds it down with a pleasant, rolling grind.  Despite himself, he peers into the hole, imagining pure water lapping up.  He gets two ropes vanishing into thirsty blackness.

“How long?!”  He recapitulates.
“I didn’t install this, obviously,” she patronises him.
“It’s… clean?”
“As far as I can determine.”
“Which is?”  He notices he’s lost sentences.  Must be dehydration.  Or the onionoid spinster.  And fabricating words.
“It’s good in terms of not having many bacteria or particulates, or radiation.”
“Where does it come from?”
“I don’t know; I think it’s isolated from the groundwater reservoir because it’s not contaminated, but then ag—“
“—How do you check?”  His slow, suspicious words lag the conversation.
“—ain the land filtration process could be enough to decontaminate surface water,” she continues pedantically before replying, “I have some kit.”
Her methodical winding bears a full pouch, on the other rope.

Blink stares eerily with a shiver, as if the liquid life-force demands awe and worship, which it does.  Venom tries to reconcile critical analysis with fundamental human empathy.
“I notice the intellectual complexity of your questions is diminishing: you’re getting cold.”
“Yes.  You haven’t asked about the temperature.”
Not a flicker of animation in his glaiket countenance.
“Home for breakfast,” she pronounces, verging worryingly on brisk war-effort perkiness.
He’s glad the darkness hides his sudden despairing tears at this prospect.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:27

“I had to return to the tunnel for dry stone to relight the candle, you litigious mollusc,” she calmly incites him.  Blink splats hesitantly across the cavern toward Venom’s delicate aura.  She pushes her free hand at him.  “Swipe at me again and I’ll leave you properly in the dark.”
“Conniving gnome,” he whispers.  In the feeble glow, he casts his eyes over his sodden torso.  He raises his forearms and curls his wrists and fists in sarcastic celebration.  “I was right about fishing,” he claims drily.

Blink catches sight of Venom’s hair: it’s messed up by the crawling, revealing a few small, bald patches.  He challenges her.
“How virulent are these eta particles?”
“More selfish concern for only your health and whether I might be a contamination risk,” she flares.  He recoils slightly, but stares her out.  She calms, recognising her over-reaction as being from hurt that he’s seen her deformity.  She mollifies, “eta particles are very transient; they have a short half-life: hours.  They’ll disappear once society’s cleansed itself.”
“That’s pretty eugenetic!”  He retorts.
“You think the nerds planned this?”
“I think you know an awful lot about how to survive th—“

Venom ignores him, flicking her head around to focus on an approaching scuffle.  Sticks squirms into view and crouches at the cavern entrance.  Venom is concerned.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?”
“Can I come down here with you?  That girl keeps talking about shoes,” Sticks presents her executive problem-solving deadpan.
“She’s just a bit lost.  Imagine if you were somewhere new with all strangers?”
Sticks stares at her, short of stating her parallel situation.

Venom calms for her own benefit and couries Sticks in to her.  She then boldly approaches sympathy toward Blink.
“Have you remembered what you were trying to lose?”  The effect is exponential: he collapses, his face crumpling.
“It’s all gone,” he admits, “I should be writing this.  I should want to write this.  But I can hardly manage to remember what was before, let alone the event, the unimaginably powerful, all-pervasive, silent, unstoppable…”  he entreats her, exposing his pathetic core.  “I can’t…”
Venom dismisses Sticks with the dart of her eyes.  As Sticks melts away, Venom slides alongside Blink, enfolding his arm in her free hand.  He breaks down.  She closes her eyes.

Blink feels containment returning to him.
“You know Battle Bridge?  It’s ten feet above the wynd but it was running with water.  I drove slowly because it was inches deep and then the challenge boy leaped out from the gap on the right, just ahead of me, over the road and dove into the left one.  I hope he was aiming for the steps.”
“Why don’t you write that?”  She nudges him.
“That was neither elegant nor interesting,” he sneers.
“Even your practise has to be perfect,” she sighs.
“I can’t even remember the word for the little square gaps in bridge walls.”

Blink spirals in on a frightening inference.
“When is Sticks due to go home?”
“She’s not.”  Venom is sorrowfully perfunctory.  “There is no ‘home’.”
He scrabbles to recall Sticks’ exact wording.  He’s certain she didn’t lie.
“She said she was here for the holidays?”
“A holiday is a long time at her age.”  Once again she breaks away from his hunting eyes.
“She’s why you didn’t meet me.”  The deduction clangs through his reasoning.  She half-closes her eyelids in patronising unimpressedness: he only just got that now?
“We need to collect the food we came down for, and then you need to dry,” she asserts.  Enough manoeuvring.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 16:34

Venom swipes something off the wall; a candle spurts into flame, roaring randomly alongside their regular breathing.  Blink notices her ease, the wooden features around them becoming stone, and something else.
“I smell like cow shit.”
“You need to wash.”
He suppresses the urge to wobble his head in ridiculous mimicry of the eminent spokesperson for stating the bleeding obvious.  She shamelessly taunts him.
“But will you believe that we have water for washing and that it’s safe?”
Score minus one.

Venom allows Blink to follow her along a narrowing tunnel, lighting their vicinity with the swaying flame.  He touches the rock wall, finding it pleasantly smooth and dry.
“This leads to a maze of caverns, tunnels and shafts.  I’ve barely explored,” she divulges.  The shrinking tunnel presses them down to hunching and then crawling.  He smells dampness.  Impossible.
“Be aware how far you’ve travelled,” she prompts.
“I have to count my wriggles?”  His claustrophobia comes out curtly.  She frowns involuntarily then realises he can’t see her expression.  Hopefully he can barely see her arse.
“I’m frowning.  At you.”
“Is this the latest form your OCD is taking?”  He snipes, then integrates his perceptions, “I feel reptilian.”
Venom lets out a ha of laughter.
“Maybe a necessary regression.”

With an emotional inspiration of breath, Blink senses the walls parting as he slithers into a ten feet diameter cavern.  He takes in the faint, flickering, unfamiliar scene the only way he can: with wry mockery.  The glistening, dark rock bulges with yellowy, bluey-white froth.  Nice description.  Nice?!  Venom leans toward bulge after bulge without touching but sniffing lightly.  She breathes satisfaction.  The ant thing becomes manifest to him: she actually does harvest fungus for her and Sticks’ nutrition.  It’s more insidious than just particle contamination.  She must expect that they won’t have daylight and thus the possibility of green plants for much longer.

Blink delivers his facetious verdict.
“Was it therapeutic, sculpting this colossal model of your yeast-infected intimates?”
Venom gazes around with a smirk and a new perspective.
“’Welcome to my parlour’, said the spider to the fly.  Are you ready for rebirthing?”
Blink expires, finished by his own metaphor: the twisted exit tunnel.

“I need to make the access easier,” Venom voices her thoughts to cover the threateningly loud shuffling and scraping.  Blink keeps his: where are the ants?  And where’s the water?  She twitters inanely on, pretending it’s to relieve his vulnerability.  The repetitive sound and motion pulls him into a trance.
Oh, shit, I’m falling to my death and I never—   Fuck!  That’s cold water!
Venom’s candle waveringly approaches as she descends the safe way, revealing Blink thrashing ineffectually in a pool the size of a hot tub.  But less hot.  Before he gets his breath back, she makes her defence.
“I did warn you.  Twice. ”
He swipes viciously toward her and catches his hand on an edge.  He fires out a scorching invective.  She allows him to empty his lungs before continuing her excuse.
“I said ‘keep right’ and even before that I asked if you were ready for—“
“Sadistic witch,” he shrieks, finding his illustrative arm movements restricted by the water.
“You did need a wash.”  She is unrepentant although she steps back.  He flaps and thwacks most gracelessly on to her shelf, like the fish that didn’t make it, before the evolutionary step to amphibians.

The candle goes out.  In sudden, total dark Blink barely wonders whether it was deliberate.
“What the fuck?!”
Venom’s tone is cruel and calculating.
“Are you aware how far you’ve travelled?”
She hears a sudden swish of clothes: he’s lunging at her again.  Silently she steps away.  Perhaps he needs a shock to get him thinking again.
“Don’t think of talking your way out of this,” she hints.
He notices she’s moving away, poisonous toad.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 15:48

“The Goats Gruff?”  Blink ventures.
“Billy Goats Gruff,” Sticks corrects him reflexively, resenting having to be with this hopeless and peculiar man.  She wishes Venom would come back.  Blink is totally occupied in deconstructing another bit of received wisdom.
“What’s Billy?  The family name?”
She moves a clench around her face in disappointment at the continuing lack of entertainment.
“Say it prop—“
Blink shushes Sticks.
“Stop trying to change—“
He shushes her again.  Her wide eyes blaze with outrage that she can’t make verbal, not for any respect for his assumed authority but because her rage shuts off her linguistic faculty.  A faint, female voice penetrates the musty silence.  Sticks finds a cathartic voice and cheers for the return of Venom.  Blink remains alert: why is Venom speaking?  Are there two female voices?  Sticks bounds to open the door that he was shamefully unable to budge yesterday.

Venom bursts in, all… cheery.  Blink mentally holds a Geiger counter to her, at the end of a fully-extended telescopic pole.
“This is Merrill,” Venom announces, ushering in a smudged, desperate version of the opinionated wench.  Merrill tries to keep a lid of gratitude on her dissatisfaction and fear.  What weirdo family is this?  The lady was kind to give her water but isn’t that how badness starts?  What’s she saying now?  Oh, introductions.  Merrill waves a feeble hello to the dad and the kid; she can work out their names later.  An archetypal nuclear family.  Nuclear.  Merrill breaks down.  She’s just tired.

Sticks leaps toward Merrill and sincerely, awkwardly pats the new arrival on the shoulder.  Blink approaches slowly; not sympathetic, just curious, preoccupied as he is with limited space and resources, particularly sleeping quarters.  Venom reckons Merrill is ashamed of her upset; she recognises the defence and chooses the stoic tack.
“Merrill was driving home yesterday,” she glances at Blink, “but the road was blocked by… so she diverted via the forestry track,” she gestures the opposite direction to that from which Blink reached the hut, “but her car got mired in the mud.”
Blink courteously takes the cue.
“You were at Finnerbeg?”
Merrill nods, gratefully regaining a grip on her superiority.
“I was trying to turn round but I just got stuck.  It got dark.”
Sticks is smug: you don’t set off anywhere when it’s going to get dark.  Venom smiles sympathetically while thinking: naïve, driving up there in a Lego car.  How will she fit?  As if answering Venom’s unspoken question, Merrill breaks the silence, simply trying to retain her fragile mental integrity with baseless self-assurance.
“Derg’s coming for me.”
“Oh, good,” murmurs Venom, “for you.”  An addendum.  Sounds worse now.  Move on.  “You weren’t the only one using the track for a detour; it’s well churned up, although the other vehicles seem to have been more robust and made it through.”
Merrill doesn’t appreciate the bumpkin’s implication that she was ill-prepared.  Habitually she feels in a pocket for her mobile phone and slips it out: blank; totally powerless.  Sticks gazes at Merrill, excited to have a new companion, especially female and feminine.  Venom corrals all their wandering agendas.
“Anyway, let’s eat.”
Each of them welcomes their individual perception of imminent food.  Blink is absolutely accompanying Venom downstairs.

“This is the manifestation of your harbingering of doom?”  Blink has Venom to himself at last, and a pinpoint focus, as they descend the hut’s steps.
“It was going to happen sooner or later; you’re all just pretending it hasn’t.  One should make an effort,” she retorts, surprising herself at still only being able to refer obliquely to the cataclysm and its gradual effect on them.  He explodes into unrealistic laughter.
“Should ‘one’?”
He continues to convulse.  In the gathering gloom she regards him with a façade of irritation over her self-consciousness.
“Saved your life actually,” she spits, instantly regretting the pretension, and anxious for his reaction.  He splutters back into calm control.
“I’m only starting to comprehend the ways in which you are my salvation.”



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:24

Blink becomes conscious with a groan.  He assesses himself, finding he’s slumped almost horizontal over the crude mattress.  Three feathers are attached to the bottom of his already filthy trouser-leg by likely chicken shit.  He overreacts, briefly shaking his leg with ill-advised vigour, then succumbs to the vertiginous head fug of the recently awoken.  In the gloom smothering the rest of the hut he detects movement.  He grumbles.
“Was I drunk?”
A groggy edition of Venom’s voice issues.
“On what?”
A jerk of his arm disturbs a slew of worn playing cards.  They cascade elegantly into the most laborious distribution among leaves, feathers, curious grime.  He abdicates responsibility and instead enjoys remembering a simple evening’s entertainment.  He tilts himself to sitting, pressing his hand over his head to flatten his hair rather than hold his skull together.
“What’s it like out there?”
“Still storm,” Venom replies.
“More or less?”  Blink quizzes.
“Nearer, but it won’t reach us today.”
The timescale implied by her assessment makes him feel further trapped.
“One night is already something to deal with unexpectedly,” he bleats.  “I only went for a fucking walk!”
“You’re welcome,” she retorts, then moves into offense.  “How does that line up with being a world-class journalist?”
Blink regards Venom with suspicion: her question encompasses a compliment.

Blink takes the cue and gathers himself into familiar professional territory.
“How much food do you have?”
“Meaning ‘how much extra load am I putting on your supplies?’”  Venom interprets.  “It’s not a finite resource.”
Two minutes he’s been conscious when the urge to bicker fully overwhelms him.
“You can’t be growing crops; it’s all contaminated!”  He melodramatically gestures beyond a wall then reins himself back to semblance of decorum.
“Today’s assumptions are: food must be grown and this must happen outside?”
“No.  Why the ants?”  She relishes every bit of withholding.
“Not some warped compassion?”
“Not.  Some ants can develop a commensalistic relationship with fungus.  They collect it and maintain favourable conditions for it to grow.  The caves below are ideal and it’s easy to encourage the ants to populate them,” she explains.  He absorbs the dismal prospect of eating nothing but mushrooms forever.
“Domesticated ants.  Why are they so massive?”
“This population is bit irradiated,” She rattles past his delicate neurosis, “but they’re too small to harbour enough particles to threaten us and they’re a good indicator of conditions outside.”
She smirks.  Blink surprises himself with a further cognitive churn, unprecedented at this giddily early stage of the day.
“I suppose I’ll see where you get your water too?”
Venom tilts her head cryptically, but doesn’t decline his self-invitation.

“When I get back,” Venom dictates, calmly wrapping her head in a fabric of brown vegetation.  Blink slow-shakes his head, frowning with incredulity.  His lips curl with forming scorn but he’s diverted by Sticks materialising from the floor.  He pre-emptively blanks her and returns his attention to the havering hag.  Venom greets Sticks with a gentle hug.
“Will you keep Nicky company?”
Sticks is jolted twice: once for being with the man, again for being without Venom.  Blink wonders if the focus of Venom’s outdoor madness is something fearful.  Sticks chooses the lesser evil.
“Can I come with you?”
Venom purses her lips with regret and demurs.  Blink has no desire to offer to accompany her.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:33

Blink snaps back from fantasy basement to grounded reality: the silent world around them.
“Where’s the storm?”
Venom doesn’t even make eye contact.
“Not that kind of storm.”
Blink’s petulance erupts.
“What kind of storm?”
“The kind you were trying to lose,” Venom soothes.
Sticks’ face appears frightened by a fairy tale, in the way that she was so completely not frightened by Blink’s distorted fairy tale.  She floor-skates toward the makeshift window: soundless waves of sky-sized, orange and purple fireworks radiate from the horizon.  He stares from pallid skin as layer one of his denial shreds.

Sticks resolutely pulls a block across the window and returns to Venom’s side.  Venom takes the opportunity to pierce Blink’s failing paradigm.
“What was it?”
He purses his lips, caught.
“I honestly don’t know whether it happened or I dreamt it.”
Sticks’ curiosity flares.
“Dreamt what?”
Venom slides a calming arm around Sticks, patiently awaiting Blink’s sequel, which falteringly, self-deprecatingly matures.
“I thought I was writing about a nerd joke, a group paranoia: the ‘Equinox Virus’!  New radiation, particles pervading everything,” Blink hurtles, “all the trinkets of electronic civilisation, building up in the atmosphere, distortion, decay, fucking Technicolor Tuesday, and the actual, total collapse of society.”
“What kind of radiation?”  Venom murmurs, recalling so clearly why she meant to save him: his words.
“eta, small ‘E’,” he confirms, feigning cheesiness but the innocent word, like the substance it represents, deconstructs his cells, unravelling his rules to mush.
“That’s right; the cataclysm we’ve all been denying for decades.  What’s next?”  Blink stares at Venom, wordless.  “That’s why you’re here,” she ventures with comforting certainty.
“You seemed to know what was going on and how to survive it,” Blink acknowledges.  “I waited for you.”  He doesn’t care about sounding pathetic this time.  Venom darts a glance to Sticks.  She imagines he understands he was trumped.
“You knew which direction to head,” she coaches him.
“Aye, away from the fucking world frazzling.”
Sticks reaches to pat Blink’s shoulder with a robotic, heartfelt movement.  Somehow that tips him over.  He gulps to keep a lid on it.
“I remember you as more eloquent.”  Venom offers him a way out.  Blink smiles wanly.

Blink chooses to occupy himself by getting familiar with the hut.  It doesn’t take long: it’s one room.  A back corner is demarcated by being free from insect highways and having an upgraded version of the sofa, seemingly a small mattress.  All this to house the chickens too.  He spends two moments contemplating an insect highway while more fundamental cognition occurs beyond his consciousness.  An effective façade.
Venom pre-empts any questions.
“You can sleep there.”
Blink raises his eyebrows, ungrateful and unwilling to be patronised.
“And you?”
Venom snorts at the distance from romance.  He guffaws.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:20

Blink snaps out of his visitation coma.
“Well, I’m going.”
“You’re not,” states Venom, wearied by the impending explanation.  Blink puzzles since this can’t be hospitality.  She avoids his core-draining stare by gazing at the patch of grey among the mosaic of brown, serving as a window.  That’ll get dimmer and we’ll have to get used to it.  Sticks seizes the opportunity to demonstrate her superiority.
“You can get to the road, but you’ll still be on it when it gets dark.”  She loses conviction as she adds, “you’ll have to stay.”

Blink stiffens then sags as he comprehends the exquisite simplicity of his predicament and his shocking failure to foresee it.
Venom is an uninvolved bystander as her mouth breaks rank.
“Would you like some water?”
“You have water now?”  Blink flashes back to the fishing rejoinder.
“A storm’s coming,” Sticks announces spontaneously.
“Sit there,” Venom instructs Blink, adding for Sticks’ benefit, “and choose a story.”
Blink follows the line of Venom’s indication, seeking anything meeting the definition of a seat.  Quelle surprise: a layering of cardboard and dry leaves, like the arse-end of a school pantomime set.  Sticks draws closer, resolute in her animosity.  He counsels himself: I won’t be here for long, certainly not long enough for that to decompose.  He sinks into the unexpectedly comfortable layers, relieved not to disturb anything in feathers, delightedly empathising with a hedgehog finding a hibernaculum.

Blink drags his eyes to Sticks and attempts a sincere grin.
“The tale of Red Hood.”
Sticks frowns and spits back.
“Red Riding Hood?”
He calmly elaborates.
“No, just Red Hood.  I don’t know where ‘riding’ comes into it.  You don’t ride a big, bad snake.”  A wave of innuendo anxiety rushes over him.  He mitigates: she won’t get that; too young; she’ll still be sniggering at profanity.  She’s still frowning at me.
“It’s a wolf!”
Right enough.  Where did the snake come from?  But still, maybe I can score off it.
“This one’s a snake.  Do you know something about snake’s eyes?  They have a bit of skin that closes over them, like our eyelids, but see-through.  It’s called a nictitating membrane.”
I didn’t have to bury myself in the fucking fairy tale, but job done.  Is she thinking or bored?
“Like blinking?”
“That’s right: blink, nictitate.”
“Nicky Tate,” Sticks parrots.
“Smart cookie.”  Oh god, I’m Uncle Awkward.  Not that I’m doing anything with…

Blink’s incongruity alarm goes off again: from his new vantage point he can see all six faces of the hut and nowhere in his sightline is Venom.  He tenses forward to a perching crouch.  Where did she go?  He flicks his head to face Sticks.  She stares vacantly back, waiting for him to muck up the story.  He springs up.
“Right!  I’m not playing hide and fucking seek with you again!”
Sticks sniggers at the swear word, an excuse to enjoy the man’s fright.  Blink misses his pay-off and instead flings himself at the door and commences clichéd futile rattling.  She watches, slightly amused, slightly scared.

“Didn’t we already do ‘you’re not leaving’?” taunts Venom, innocently gliding behind Blink.  He lunges at her; she recoils.  “I was below, not outside: I have a basement.”  She gestures at the dark gap behind one of the boxes, wishing she’d had the nerve to withhold that a bit longer.  He strides to the box, lowers a foot intrepidly into the black then retracts it.
“Chicken,” she disparages him.  He mimics the nearest example, rotating and twitching his head to scrutinise her side-on.  She giggles.  Score two.


Character Recognition

Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 16:53

Blink regards the gloomy interior of Venom’s hut with no trace of courtesy.  Ahead the patter of Sticks’ skips halts.  The foreground emerges: neat stacks of wooden boxes apparently serving as furniture, trails of rustic toilet paper forming bridges and ladders for columns of large ants or small spiders.  Chickens.  Of course there would be chickens.  And dry leaves.  Inside.

Venom regards Blink, adjusting her eyebrows to stifle her conceit.  Her 40-ish form is entirely androgenised by oversized, waterproof canvas apparel.  He revolves, milling premature thought-ore into shining ball bearings: a fishing hut, incongruity, no water, excepting the ubiquitous squish of bog.
“I assume you need water for fish?”
“Don’t assume,” she retorts.
“The hut’s been here since the last glacier melted?”
“Still stuck on fishing?”
“It’s a purposeless hut?”
“The things that don’t fit within your so limited worldview, Blink.”  With calculated pleasure Venom notes his horror and guilt as she pronounces his pseudonym, “’Nicky Tate’; please!”
Blink scrabbles to regroup, skittering into a trusty back-swipe.
“And you’re going by ‘Aunty Venom’?!”
“It’s ‘Vennan’ but I prefer her version.”
Sticks veers into Blink’s blurring vision, incensed by his most fundamental, most offensive lie: the very first thing he said.

The trio remain, awkwardly scattered among the filthy clutter.  Some time may have passed.
“How’ve you been?”  Venom masks genuine concern with cliché.
“Much as you left me.  Except you didn’t; you weren’t there, were you?”  He hopes his assessment doesn’t sound pathetic.
“I didn’t even know where I wanted to be,” she gives a little back. 
“Do you now?”
“The frame of the question has changed.”  Venom finally vents her smouldering question, How did you get here?”
“I went a walk to try to lose something.  I kept crossing your road.  It seems to come at me from any direction,” Blink fails to cover his tracks.
“It does that,” Venom goads, relishing her several steps ahead.
“So I followed it,” Blink expires.  “How did you get here?”
“The fatuous turd Mr Vennan gave me an ultimatum.  He lost.”  Venom tenses to maintain her cool, not because that personal chapter holds any power, but because she feels curiously impelled to misdirect her visitor thus.

In pretending not to care about personal chapters, Blink welcomes another focal point.  Legs astride, hands lightly elevated, as if in the middle of a tap dance, Sticks vibrates her head so slightly but with face-blurring intensity.
“Seven,” she commentates.
Blink’s eyes begin a systematic search of the field.  Presently they alight: there indeed, upon an unnecessarily vast platter, is a convoy of seven blueberries.  Sticks’ dainty paw homes in on the end berry and precisely plucks it as if the slightest false move could cause an explosion.  The precious cargo is planted in her mouth.  Her lips clamp before she has fully extracted her fingers and the frisson begins again, from her mouth, spreading over her whole head.
Blink wonders if this is rapture or revulsion.
“Six,” he pronounces, absorbing her dismay as he disposes of his need for the distraction.

Blink launches his deflection before his attention has fully returned to Venom.
“I noticed an odd thing along that road: a dilapidated cottage with crumbling walls, a vase of dead flowers in the window but no curtains, just weeds, cracked paving stones.  But the remarkable thing was that on all three sides visible from the road, in the windows, were poorly written signs: ‘CCTV in operation.  You are being watched’ and indeed there was a convincing if battered CCTV camera mounted on one wall.  It made me all the more curious.”

Venom packs away her observation of his tactic for later analysis.
“Riddle’s.  He only uses it in the winter.  He stays in one of those hideous, parochial towns with clusters of begonias plastered over a seething mass of idiots breeding.  I think he comes up here to mope.”  Venom relishes her tart interpretation, adding a final gob of sarcasm, “I should put a sign on my window: ‘you are not being watched; nobody cares… In fact, if you found us, well done.’”
“Surely the unfortunate who fetches up here should be offered compensation not congratulation?”
Venom emits a tiny gulp of a chuckle.  Blink had forgotten how much he needed that.



Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 17:13

“I need you to be still and quiet,” Derg hisses from beyond camouflaged pert buttocks.  His prostrate, well-kept 50s form is engulfed by the moor as if subsiding into thick custard.  Merrill, frazzled 30s, spread-eagles on voluptuous heather like a quilted starfish, well out of her urban water, sullenly gazing up at grey nothing.
“I’m peacefully protesting being an accomplice to murd—“
An oilskin sails over her face and, like a pet bird, as the lights go out so does her urge to speak.

Derg strides over, through tussocks and efflorescences of heather.  Merrill trudges, lags.  She contorts her face around several unacceptable conflicts.
“Like how you can set your sights on a living face and pull the trigger?”
“Rubbish.  And all this land management business, burning regime, etc. bollocks: naturally this wouldn’t happen every year.  That’s totally distorting the ecosystem—“
Derg expels an audible lungful into still air.
“—to suit a bunch of sadistic boys!”
“Healthy outlet for aggression.  Deer need culled—“
People need culled,” Merrill interjects.
“—Unless you’re reintroducing bears.”
“Why can’t we enjoy this beauty without having to fiddle—“
“Beauty doesn’t keep you warm at night.”  Derg approaches the thin end of his patience.
Merrill halts, wheezing.  Derg eases off, tilting his head back in frustration.
“Antlers do?!”  She splutters.
“The Land—“
“What possible justification could that tweed-encrusted sponge cake have for—“
A shockwave of hearty laughter blasts Merrill forward to a thirty degree tilt.  Derg pivots elegantly and flaps a resigned introduction for the benefit of the gigantic source of mirth.
The amused ogre nods his mane and shakes much of Merrill’s padded, stick-like forearm with his agricultural paw, displaying domesticated decorum.  Merrill teeters on the precipice of wasp-infested stroppiness.
“And you are?”
Derg faintly recoils, compresses his lips and raises his eyebrows for the punch line.
“The Tweed-encrusted Sponge Cake,” he introduces himself affably.
Merrill flails into argumentativeness, seizing upon Cake’s perfect proportions, “Derg said you were fat!?”
Large, I said,” Derg mutters, embarking gently upon fishermen’s gestures in all three dimensions.
“Why are you here?”  Cake wonders aloud, twiddling a tuft of beard.  Merrill smirks groundward at the reciprocal snip.
“Derg felt I was too agitated to be left unattended – his rage and despair being all nicely transmuted by the killing.”
“Right…”  Cake investigates a suspect idea from several angles.  “I might need something from you.”
“What?”  Merrill’s dubiety now matches her belligerence.
“Let’s start with your presence.”  Cake engages a low gear and forges effortlessly away, smirking at his cryptic mastery.

Derg waits for the next gust which gratifyingly tips Merrill the rest of the way to horizontal.  While she flails, he glances to the horizon.  The sky silently coruscates into ominous orange and purple.  He squints, understates.
Some fireworks.”


Off Road

Filed under: Glen Tosied — Teepwriter @ 16:57

A pair of dainty legs and a pair of enormous eyes, with some patterned frock in between, prances across the road ahead of him.  She notices his approach and freezes, like a deer, indeed, and in those same swollen milliseconds during which the human imagines he has an easy chance to act, Blink conjures the whole vista.

The endless, single-track road, with apparently neither source nor destination, but surprisingly good quality tarmac, runs all the way to nowhere.  It’s not quite straight and not quite flat so that you can’t see far either way, but you have no sense of turning or of the slight incline that takes more power than you expect.

On either side of this axis, two hemispheres of moorland world are painted in a faded palette and textured to appear invitingly soft rather than impenetrably spiky and boggy with all the surprise hidden gullies and the heather that is harder work than snowdrifts.

All this around the distanceless, directionless road he has time to consider until inevitably she giggles self-consciously and falters into a confident, wide-legged stance.  His careless T-shirt and combats, over-grown hair, tall, V-shaped frame and slight lack of tone that testify to twenty years of hunched typing make no impression on her.
“Hello, man.”
Blink approaches, raising his hand.
“Hello, I’m Nicky.”
“Sticks,” she reflexes, thrusting splayed hands at him with one thumb folded.  “Nine.  Where are you from?”
“Finnerbeg.  Do you live here?”
“Just in the school holidays; Aunty Venom can’t cope with me all the time.”

Stumped for another age-appropriate question, Blink watches Sticks for a moment.  She takes her cue and glances at the direction she sprang from, recalling the rest of her world.  She scampers off the road, across the verge, up the banking.  She pauses, yanking her arm in encouragement.
“Come on.  Come and see Aunty Venom.”
Sufficiently intrigued, and welcoming the diversion from the unfathomable road without distance or direction, Blink adjusts his course to follow Sticks over the moor.

Blink struggles to keep Sticks in view ahead of him as the moor undulates with exhausting gentleness.  His oxygen-deprived brain wanders to part two of the deer analogy: after those few swollen milliseconds of hubris, the deer always gracefully revolves and effortlessly trots away, leaving the observing human to come to terms with his abject inability to even decide on a course of action.  The deer was never within his reach.

One of those surprise gullies: the more so for his brain being sapped of oxygen, after a short but unexpectedly draining trudge, and just when his eyes are lulled into roll after roll of moor, suddenly divulges a dilapidated hut, half-buried in folds of soil.

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