Digital Ischemia

15/11/2015

Stage 3: Exploration

[ Stage 1: Resistance at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/stage-1-resistance/ ]
[ Stage 2: Anger at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/stage-2-anger/ ]

Nellin flaps her jaw; even if she could make sound it would be lost to the rushing wind and clattering rain. Water fills her maw. Cruelly I hope what drove her here was more distressing than my antics, so it will smother this newer memory.

Lightning rakes the shoulder of Runnel Hill like an arm in rigor. A storm advances fast. Nellin and I both whirl, seeking a shelter, knowing we’re centre stage on the field. She gapes at me. I fling us toward the road, to the lower ground. She’s more frightened than when her uncle is abroad. Water, snowmelt, flows past my cheek. I grasp on Nellin’s cape. I peer through the icy rivulets. Of all the shoddy luck! Without any warning sound or sight through the torrents, a carriage lurches at us. I yank her toward me; a wheel slices her cloak.

Here we are: prone in mud, and here is goat boy, sauntering up all dry and composed. Why does he always try to impress me with his capacity to ride chaos? I stagger upright. Between goat boy and myself, we hoist Nellin. I give her one last shove toward the carriage. She must take her chances with the idiot.

You hear birds chattering but no wailing. You leave them be.

Mabwhit’s wood greets me as old friends: here a slender alder as my first customer, there a squat blackthorn as my dead grandfather, there again a curving, collapsing beech as Weed Woman. Must I see everyone? I come for only one.

The rain dwindles, the wind calms, pale grey light fades in. I rush through sodden leaves and stems. I’m not going anywhere. You will find me. This is the place.

Have you ever seen frozen snow? All snow is frozen, you think? Not like this. Every flake frozen still, suspended in its fall, yet floating on air, riding faint currents, drifting but not forming drifts.

Spidda has yet to breathe on this corner. I glide through the snow cloud, feeling the flakes bump my face and break their individual spells. I sense the illusion of warmth and safety. My feet feel the ground creak as the points of winter reach for me. Ice crystals grow over all texture. Without grain to grip, my feet slip, slide. I skate along a woodland burn, reaching out to the cold, welcoming the chill.

I flow right through the wood, out among scrub, over marsh, deep into the loch. I spin around the shallows, spiralling in on the centre, faster and faster, scraping dizzying tracks, melting a vortex, a hole.

Through the exhilaration I remember: I spent last night in the shadow of the chimney. Rain trickled through me, through the holes where the hooks pulled down, tethering me to the tiles…

That cursed Weed Woman has poisoned me, with her crater eyes where the earth and roots were yanked out of her sockets…

A plague of midges upon her; she must’ve slipped me some potion… the well water? The more I drink, the greater the pool, the faster I whirl. The cooling, darkening, swirling well…

Ragwort in her eyes, the pustulated hag! Has she drugged the rain?

An image persists: a tall building in trouble. It represents Nellin’s uncle’s shop. Criminals are at work within: acts of sadness and deceit. There are too many stairwells to hope of capture. The building revolves. On the third pass a flame flicks out a first floor window. Weed Woman grips my arm. Does she think I forget it is a dream? And yet my arm was tense even before her grip. All nine folk escape safely. Someone says nine seems too many. How do they know how many were in? Is Nellin one? It is a doll house, Weed Woman reminds me, not real.

Now I am awake. I know because of the head ache. The cold crackle has totally gone. I know the nine are Nellin’s siblings and parents. Death was escape. Nellin remains out of twisted loyalty. As slave and I suspect something more, something insidious. And I know I can offer nothing but opportunity. But she has taken a step.

Here I am at claw point, at cleft rock. They know: I ate one. Only one, but one is enough. Quaggi are different to other creatures. If you can find the one…

You are in the gulley: seeking the threat. Where is it now? A new sound: is it here again?

Where is the origin of the prints? Which way? Beside a huge mossy rock? I snatch glances in all directions. A glimpse of dense willow looks almost like…

Wisps of mist, lumpy shadows and half-seen branches are so often fitted to something recognisable by the mind. Familiar but distorted. Recognised but threatening. It fooled you too! And you are? Not the rock but its dank shadow…

What a thrill: it is you. Sore finger, singed fur, and the beastly taste of sparrow feathers.

You are mine now and I am yours.

Now I feel the move.

 

END.

 

Lughnasadh – Samhain 2015

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08/11/2015

Stage 2: Anger

[ Stage 1: Resistance at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/stage-1-resistance/ ]

In safe darkness you curl your hand around pulsing pain. A mistake made, a price paid. You swallow to ease the rot in your belly. The darkness is less comforting than usual. Your unpleasant fragility stirs your blood. A very little provocation will set you raging.

Weed Woman greets me at the village edge; dark beside a rock like its shadow. I am still embarrassed. She sees; she has already seen. I feel her sort through my thoughts. She disengages, deliberately focuses on my empty bag, and nods approval. She doesn’t care for the money. I always offer her share; she always declines. I imagine one day she’ll need something that can only be bought; then I will buy it for her. I don’t have much use for the money either.

The idiot goat boy lopes around me, asking daft questions about my senses, in his awkward way that always veers to mockery. I honestly don’t know if he’s scared by me, or intrigued, or just been with goats too much. I’m too tired to be pleasant. Does everyone think I’m Weed Woman’s skivvy? Where is she now? Still in shadow. Until he sees her.

Weed Woman can drift imperceptibly; surprising for a stout body. She allows her shadow to fall upon goat boy. He breaks off babbling, trips away. I want to ask if there’s something I can give Nellin to help her. I expect Weed Woman to patronise me with “you can only help those who wish help,” or a similar platitude. Instead she fixes her glistening eyes on mine, “only opportunity.” Another riddle. And she didn’t even let me ask. More and more these days she leaves out the pretence. I suppose I should feel honoured, but I feel only violated. She reminds me we have to prepare tomorrow.

Not too much rest now. The winter sleepies leave slowly. But the noise is coming: the chattering and wailing that makes you feel ill. It draws you near, to see if you can smother it.

Rain. Rain like last Samhain. So dark we couldn’t travel; we couldn’t see the land. Visitors from town came running with water and dangerously chilled. Some took unwell. One never left. Weed Woman can help only so much. In two days the well will be a fountain. Weed Woman says the rain will stop in time. But there will be big mud.

Weed Woman asks me about my other voice. I’m shocked. I know she knows. I tell her it’s waking. She nods, accepting without judgement. I think I help her, but only in confirming what she already knows. After Imbolc, she says, if I feel moved, I should go to her and we will have a conversation. I think she means moved like an urge.

Weed Woman stares intently at her pot, bouncing on boiling bubbles. I always feel reluctant here. I don’t know if I want to apprentice to her ways. I don’t know if I want to weave bags or distil perfumes either. She seems to dislike folk, generally. She speaks of their ways as pointless elaborations of courtship rituals. I agree with her that the tremendous amount of food at these banquets is wasteful, and the singing hurts my head, but there must be value in lifting our spirits. I don’t want to turn into her.

Your energy surges, back in positive balance. No need to test it; you know it.

This night I awake compelled to go back to the claw point, to go yet back to what caused the retreat. I missed that point in my incautious dancing and my grasping. The cold crackle fizzes in my foot. I will run and I will still be late for Weed Woman but she will have to use her own sight. I won’t be sorry to miss the chanting.

Only once I’m alongside the ridge do I notice the rain still falling.

I see up this field, this field with snowmelt boulders. Antiog favours me: there is movement, and it’s on the run: not quaggi. The rain absorbs the boulders. I need no rock to feel safe. The movement reprises among the scrub lining the ditch. Cold crackles up my right side, jolts my free arm forward to point at the dip in the wet gorse. I clench my fist; the rushing cold builds like your pain. Out here there is only wind.

You wait, still, potent. Dry.

The cold crackle business builds again. I am giddy with power. I lash, scorching tiny random targets around my feeble horizon. Boiling snow to no purpose. Nellin’s face veers into my vision; her hair is all out in frazzles. I snort a laugh at her skinny white face, all terror. There’s nothing to fear out there! But it’s not out there she’s terrified of; it’s me.

 

Stage 3: Exploration at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/stage-3-exploration/

 

Lughnasadh – Samhain 2015

31/10/2015

Stage 1: Resistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Lughnasadh – Samhain 2015

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