Digital Ischemia


Bus / Sunset

The Lassie and The Legume concluded

[ Starts at ]

The Bus

Cecilia thwacks into a bus seat, in concrete body and out of ethereal mind. This is her inverted self. She’s excited for her expectation: sand, sea, sun. It’s a metaphor for fun, relaxation, stimulation, health. Strike one.

She forces a self-contained frisson while her companions exchange their banal babble. She stares at grimy windows seeing only her vision of the destination. It will be fun, won’t it? She’s jostled as her friends reshuffle their seats. She’s attached to hers and its grimy rail and sill. It will be beautiful, won’t it? Is it reinforcement or doubt?

She’s jolted by the broken approach road. Soon the headland will pull away from the coast. I will be happy, won’t I? Her friends shriek over inanities. They’re in no way attached to today’s outcome; they’ll have fun regardless of the surroundings. Revellers don’t even need daylight.

You’re smart, savvy citizens. (We’ve grown to respect you a little.) You’ll have heard of String Theory. We live in eleven dimensions, they reckon; we’ve yet to realise most. Most of us inhabit just the standard four. Percy exists in four too, a different four, but he expanded his range in a concerted effort and reached the goat track of the artist’s mind. Cecilia, too, slips into additional dimensions as escape. If they overlap, their consciousnesses are aware of each other. Load of bilge, sorry.

How does such overlap appear to one of us mere tetramensional beings?

Cecilia braces her dune-rooted stance against the buffeting wind. Her face flinches from sand-lashing. She totters feebly over the marram-tufted dune. Now’s the moment.

The Sunset

Cecilia’s lurching tension dissipates. She moves smoothly over, through air and sand. She’s perfectly calm and unaffected by pressures. Visually she fades.

One observant friend casts a glance, notices the strangely smooth motion, the translucency. Gradually others affix their attention to the gliding, fading figure.

Finally a hazy Cecilia levitates and flops over, before pitching steadily toward the setting sun. Carried. Released. Chosen. Transferred.

Her friends stare at something that has become nothing as if awaiting a sound effect to mark the transition. In their reality a group hallucination is just another feature of leisure time. So, conveniently, a disappearing acquaintance needs only a few colloquial exclamations and another suck at the sand lizard.

The Last

And the last thing to resolve, although we’ll be disappointed if you’ve not figured it: the interview with the dull, dumpy woman? Your fairy godmother isn’t always pink, but she does tap her wand when you ask.

The End



The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Reality

Cecilia and Percy perch, swinging their assorted legs, on the only available roof edge. Traditionally there would be a glorious sunset, but the weather’s been rather perturbed lately, various threads remain unravelled, and frankly you’d feel cheated, wouldn’t you?
She procrastinates, “where did we get these peculiar names?”
“Mine’s an anagram of prince.”
“It’s not. That would make mine the arse end of princess with myriad wafty appendages.”
“Not bad.”
She plucks, gibletises and marinates some courage. “Why did you leave me?”
“I think it was the way you plunged so fully into revulsion–”
“–The second time.”
“I was going to say: and then completely got over it.”
“I can see how my flip-flop moods would be attractive.”
“Your honesty is breath-taking.”
“Thank you. That’s a first for me.” She bravely sustains eye contact. “Your irises are like the rings of a tree trunk.”
“Spirals? Good. I intend to hypnotise you.”
“No, concentric circles. I fancy I can figure which were the lean years and which were plentiful.”
Unexpectedly Percy’s chest quivers. He blinks first. “You had to come here of your own accord. I couldn’t bring you back as some sort of hunting trophy.”
She ponders this, holding it alongside the triple bint intrigue to see if anything reacts. Not a glint. New tack.
“Am I dreaming you or are you dreaming me?”
His eyes sizzle a rapid sequence of little craters across her face. Perhaps she has it. “It depends on your perspective.” After further devouring her bird-like alertness, he decides to peg it down. “I don’t know if you have the choice, it’s not for me to offer, but would you choose this life or your other?”
“Take your time!”
“If this is an illusion of pleasure and your other life is true reality, even if full of suffering, classic red pill or blue pill?”
“Both are illusions, but this one has options, actions, potential.”
“Even if this ends much sooner?”
“Even so.”
“Even if…” He expires in a frustrated vacuum.
“Even if you turn out to be a trick, if this dissolves, if I end up worse off than…” Her conviction shakes rigidly at the comparison. She sags as her heart mourns that already lost.
He pauses, respectfully, then casts a smirk at the valley, the mountains, the future. He senses her wave of sorrow ebbing. “You said me first.”

Poignancy achieved, her eloquence evaporates; she glazes over. “I want you so very badly.”
“Badly I can do.”

By the time the sun sets, Cecilia is fast asleep. Percy has that effect.



The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Reconciliation

Unnaturally alive with altruism, Cecilia departs discussion of personal hardware but regretfully bounds into Percy’s father, who is contemplating the floor.
He mutters, “I’m disengaged with reality today. I’m grounded in this world. You can ask me anything.”
Surprise trumps strategy; she blurts her weakness. “Why the pressure to pair Percy?”
“I’m Noel Knowles. He’s the Leguminary.”
She flounders momentarily, grasping for any sort of handle. “The luminary?”
“With special legs.”
“I see.”

Percy’s father reflects, then transmits, “he’s destined for great things.”
Cecilia pities his yellow smoky glasses of parenthood. They can’t help themselves exalting the dubious prowesses…prowesii…prowe–
He continues, “he built all this.”
Now she’s intrigued, hastily retracting premature malignment…malignation…whatever. She flaps a hand at the beguiling basement.
“It actually didn’t occur to me how it had arisen, or asunk.”
He casually corrects her. “Oh, not just the house, the whole world.” He seems not to wholly fathom the enormity.
She goldfishes. She’d polish those golden spectacles with a cloth woven of her own cobweb-like fronds now.
He sallies on. “It’s a strange attractor–”
She can’t resist flippancy. “Rather.”
“–A feature of a chaotic landscape.”
She scrabbles, “like the diversity of nature?”
He’s earnest now, “that would be one manifestation of this theoretical construct.”
She feels her skull spasm. “Are you saying _this_ is a _thought_?”
“Basically. We used to live in a Lego semi in Mollearn.” His tweed canopy twitches wistfully. “He’s never been satisfied, certainly not with us.”
She feels suddenly reduced to a figment of Percy’s freakish imagination. Like metal limbs in a Stone Age land. Although better than unappreciated parents. In an unusual moment of clarity, she regroups.
“You’re not really the king?”
“Merely distorted caricatures, warped carunculations in his mindscape.”
“And the other inhabitants?”
“They, like you, were drawn in. Most flit out again but a few stay. And, of those, oneā€¦ Well, here you are.”
Her sense of umbrage flips to over-exposure. One what?
He polishes off an outstanding answer. “He needs a complement. A sensitive balance. We need to go home.” In the absence of anything from her but squeaky gasps, he continues, “have you decided yet?”
“On Percy?”
“No, that’s evident. I mean: which reality?”


Residence / Second

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Residence

Percy promenades Cecilia up and down the ramp roof, refreshing her blotches with gusts of mist. After thirty-two circuits she feels sufficiently sensible in herself and sensible of her surroundings to enquire.
“I don’t mean to be derisory, but how is this a castle?”
“It has a moat?”
“That’s not even a drainage ditch; it’s barely a rut.”
“How can a turret be underground?!”
“Sorry. I see you abhor ostentation.”
“Spot on. Would you like a tour?”
“Very much. I’m a sucker for folly.”

The extensive, splendid below-decks unfold into sweeping halls, revolving staircases, and convoluted chambers, adhering only slightly to spatial conventions. But the pineapple under the cake is the inclusion of – a girl’s dream – secret passageways to dainty turrets with instanding subterranean views, as Rich would say. It’s a whirl. Cecilia is in raptures. Percy is rather chuffed.

The Second

Rich on the other hand is redundant. He barely moves.
After an interval spent alone in darkness in the floral wardrobe, alternately pinching herself and succumbing to frissons, Cecilia emerges to find Percy trying to rouse him.
“Whatcha doing?”
“Assessing whether Rich is trustworthy.”
“Ha. Of course he’s not trustworthy, but that’s not the point.”
Rich is quietly bewildered between umbrage and triumph.
Percy tries not to accept Cecilia’s assertion. “Well, what is… he?”
“Have you been adjusting your legs again?”

Rich foolishly steps on to the escalator. “You seem… taller.”
“I am.” Percy indulges a mischievous thrill. “How much do you think I weigh?”
“180 pounds.”
Percy wiggles his head.
“200 pounds.”
“No, less, fewer.”
“170 pounds”
Rich appeals to Cecilia, “help me in here!”
Why’s he speaking like that now? He’s not being Percy. Perhaps the idiotsyncrasies are stress-induced.
She obliges, “it’s a trick question.”
“Oh, right, right. Decause we’re higher down here, we’re further from the diameter of the nearth, so it’s less…”
Cecilia splutters incontinently. Percy appears to have lost interest in his question. Rich appeals again to her.
Cryptically she ventures, “the trick isn’t in what he means by ‘weigh’, it’s in what he means by ‘I’.”
“He’s a walking illusion, literally.”
All three await one another with huge forbearance. Finally Percy lifts his leg to prop it on a handy – well, footy – ledge and slowly, precisely draws up his trouser leg. From the first glimpse of silky smooth titanium, Rich is riveted. Gradually Percy’s cyborg limb is revealed. He halts his striptease at the knee.
Rich bursts, “how much of you is probot?”

Cecilia offers Rich a foothold, “Percy has artificial legs. They’re adjustable. When he feels threatened he jacks himself up a couple of inches.”
Percy adds, “also for mountain sports.”
Astonishingly Rich figures the implication, “you feel threatened by me?”
Cecilia emits an effeminate giggle.
Percy double-bluffs, “in what arena?!”
Rich glows.



The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Reunion

Cecilia croaks, “good morning, rat, I mean drat, it’s afternoon.”
Percy’s face remains blank, probably due to being backlit. If he has an expression, perhaps of delighted reacquaintance, it’s lost to those with conventional eyebulbs.

At the bookcase, Percy’s father leans well in to his satire, “‘here’s an ambiguous statement,’ said a character whom you thought excluded from the conversation, with emphasis on ‘ambiguous’, after returning from a short trip through the loch.” He waggles his eyebrows to embroider the nonsense.
Percy rises masterfully, as one who has met, suffered and conquered this genre long since, “you have to reread the speech twice – in the right character and with the right emphasis – then adjust the implication according to the time delay.”
His father acquiesces gracelessly, “a dreadful bore,” indicating his son with a grimy thumbnail.
His mother produces the jarring non-sequiteur, “who goes out to harvest spring,” effectively garnishing the gibberish.

Having endured the circumloquacious elucidation that Percy arrived during the night, Cecilia flees to her quarters at the earliest opportunity. Implications! Soporific synchronicity! There’s only one course of action: she must flounce away. Where’s her suitcase? The door taps. She didn’t bring a suitcase! The chimney taps. What can she drag to make her point? The wardrobe taps. She yanks its door.
Percy hands out a pink floral handkerchief and a sturdy stick.
“Ready when you are.”
She experiences a tsunami of rage, despair and hilarity. Tears cubed. Tantrum unleashed.
He lifts a quilted cover (floral) from the bed, advances on her, raising it as a containment shield to her flailing fit. He strategically engulfs, compresses her, like a cranefly within a handkerchief.

After considerable tedious self-indulgence, Cecilia’s shudders abate. Percy mis-gauges an advantage for interrogation. “How did you get here?”
“Wading through your dregs.”
He meets her eyes with apprehension. “How much do you know?”
“I know three women who believe three different things about your leg-ends.”
“Ha.” But he appears relieved. Disappointing. What has she missed?
“You didn’t give anything of yourself to them. What did you keep from me?”
While she consolidates the full weight of that, “where’ve you been?”
“Because I upset…”
“My hut.”
“And why did you come here?”
“Because I upset…”
“My clouds.”
Somewhere, deep, deep under the facial glue of brine and mucous, a lip corner curves. “Well then, I don’t care a button how your legs ended, so long as your head’s firmly attached.”
He smiles.
Still she packs away the empty cell with the flag ‘triple bint intrigue’.


Mattress / Nights

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Mattress

Percy’s mother leads Cecilia down a narrow corridor. Actually down: they’re descending. How exciting: the wedge really is a complete cuboid, tilted and partly submerged. Just as Cecilia regrets not counting the doors they’ve passed and the turns along the maze, they swing into a depth perception-boggling floral fantasia. A bed, a fireplace, a wardrobe and some indeterminate lumps, all expertly camouflaged with a kaleidoscope of petals, sepals and bepollened fancies.

None of it edible. Still hungry. Emaciation sirens going off unhelpfully, squandering carefully rationed energy. Hunger Monster on rampage.

Percy’s mother twitters, “my son’s awfully athletic, you know.”
Cecilia has a final flicker of inference as she keels on to the many-layered mattress: they’re not vetting me; they’re trying to sell him to me. Why?

Look at that: we’ve arrived at the bed thing. Shall we just get it over with? Deep breath.

The Nights

The knocking comes again, knocking, knocking on the floor. It fades into a rushing, flushing water with a roar. The tapping steals her mind, slapping, tapping at her core. A creaking starts a new, freaking, creaking corridor.

If we are to believe Cecilia and her fallible recollection, she sleeps not a sigh. In the cold dark of night, the whirlpool in her mind forms an erosive vortex with the silt of overcooked thoughts.

In the hot light of day, however, the version she recounts to her hosts the following morning is considerably subdued: the events of the night include two sets of footsteps (theirs, going by their guilty countenances) patrolling the house, a perpetually filling cistern (their son is also a plumbing marvel; again Rich dolefully denies any comparable talent), and some lunar-tropic rhubarb straining (Rich becomes agitated at this, possibly as an aftershock of the rain).

Perhaps it’s her chronic undernourishment, a suppressed preoccupation with a certain acquaintance, or just being in a strange bed in a strange place with strange people. In any case, strangely, during her second night, whilst systematically counting the individual blooms on the furnishings (834 from wardrobe to fireplace), Cecilia falls asleep.

The following day she stumbles late, dishevelled, disoriented into the front room. Four people greet her. Four. Error. Rich, Percy’s mother, Percy’s father and, before the house’s only conventional window, a silhouette with a scarecrow hairdo about six feet four inches high.


Parents / Tea

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Parents

Those of you expecting a monstrous mansion or fairytale castle should switch to self-delusion now. The edifice that greets Cecilia through sopping vegetation is half a bungalow; not a lower or front or left half, but a diagonal wedge. It starts well with a conventional front elevation: a window and door among some well-ordered bricks, then tapers away via a bird box to a patio. Out leap bedewed parents.

Percy’s mother has hair like white feathers, in pinched tufts, each pointing back at thirty degrees to that piece of scalp, like a sequenced illustration of centripetal force on orbiting objects. She’s cloaked in a mosaic of sequin shards, a full field migraine teichopsia. And to finish the caricature, her speech is curiously gulping.

Percy’s father is a tweed cape mounted on plus-fours and dark orange, friction-polished, leather gaiters. The cape flaps, agitated by an arm that’s propped like a little teapot–

Before the description is complete, the topmost tweedy weavings part, revealing themselves to be camouflaged facial hair. Thus Percy’s father shouts, “chicken!”
Cecilia darts a bewildered glance at Percy’s mother.
Rich explains, “my uninterest in his conversation dequates to coward.”
Cecilia is distracted but relieved.
Percy’s mother calms her husband, “very robust of you, dear.”

Rich bolts for the door, muttering, “tea times.”
Percy’s mother grinds a gear change and quivers her head. “Yes, let’s go in.” She pirouettes, slips into the house, drawing her followers with funnelled hands. Her husband extends his spout arm, directing Cecilia to the doorway.
Cecilia forces demure, intrepid footsteps around a wary radius of tweedy whiskers.

The Tea

Cecilia adjusts her posture on a remarkably uncomfortably upholstered chair, printed with realistic roses, and suffering a peculiar tilt. A pin of varying location jabs her buttock again. She covers her wince with a sip of hot pond from an elaborate thimble. As if cooling the brew, she tactfully blows a dainty leaf to the far shore of the cup. Where are the biscuits?

Percy’s father, who remains formally unintroduced, froths a few suspicious crumbs.
Cecilia welcomes this, “oh, thank you,” before her neurobots highlight that she hasn’t been offered anything, and certainly not biscuits. Luckily, unsurprisingly, no-one’s even faintly attentive to her response, let alone her imminent hypoglycaemic collapse.
Percy’s father tweedily gestures an impenetrable rotary shelving arrangement. “My son’s read them all. Very well read, him. And them!” He hoots at his own hilarity. His wife titters perfunctorily.
Cecilia glances a query at Rich. He vigorously shakes his head. A faint cloud of moisture is released. Her craving for any morsel, even the crumbs in those tweedy whiskers, causes a malevolent decision to create a distraction.
“Perhaps he’d read something out?”
Rich has palpitations. Fortunately both parents forget the deception, showing only puzzlement at the suggestion. Percy’s father cranks his jaw, trying to get traction on some language befitting his son’s eloquence. Rust sets in.
Percy’s mother jolts into animation. “Time for tea!”
Cecilia takes her turn at bafflement, in a limp way due to lapsing into a starvation coma.



The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Folly

“I should extroduce myself: I’m Percy; I’m the prince. Prince Percy.” Rich waits in vain for Cecilia’s awe. “Would you like to uncounter my parents?” She accepts, for a shameless fantasy of a biscuit, and not a little curiosity about this non-Percy prince business.

They squish along beside the right branch of wall – or perhaps it’s the left, that bit actually doesn’t matter. The putrid water seeping into her shoes would be unpleasant if it weren’t counter-balanced by fetid fog bubbles adhering to her face. Yet neither assault is sufficient to detract from Rich’s flinching. He cowers with foreboding glances at the obscured sky.
She tries for sympathy but achieves tetchy. “What’s wrong?”
A drip splats on his nose. He recoils, reflexes his finger to the origin of the sensation then suspiciously examines its wet tip.
“What’s this?”
He’s quite unnerved. “Are you postcipitating it?”
She purses her face. He increases his pace. He’s petrified by the water pouring from the sky and her proximity. A trickle gathers on his scalp, hurtles down his forehead. He panics.
He bursts a confession. “You know I’m just the surrogate?”
She doesn’t even understand the term in this context. She attempts a fierce expression through the flushing effort of mentally and physically keeping up.
Penitently he offers, “the stunt-double, the substitute.”
She extends to a baffled grimace enhanced by dirty drizzle.
He has another. “The stand-in.”
Marvelling at the alliterated synonyms, she awaits cognitive aid.
He unleashes the punchline with lung-emptying gusto. “I’m not Percy.”
Indeed. There must be more. “But you pretend..?”
“To get girls.”
She’s horrified. He scrabbles to mitigate the unfortunate impression. “I mean for him.”
Not any better; she’s still horrified.
“I mean for his parents to meet. Before he puts them off. He pays me.”
Hence Rich. However she views it, it’s offensive: audition, imposter, coward. Now she has a decent inferno going with her jealousy, her disgust and her pangs of adolescent mush.

At full seething slither, Rich yanks her at the wall. Luckily there’s a gap, which turns out to be a gateway, which turns out to have fully roofed, gargoyled and crenelated posts. They shelter under the ostentatious eaves.

Cecilia notices that which you surely have too.
“You speak differently…”
“When I’m being Percy. He has a style.”
Indeed again. She also notices something that you’d be prescient to have managed: a brass plaque establishes the gateway as to Fellwell Folly.


Traveller / Marsh

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Traveller

A squeaking startles Cecilia out of the ghastly miasma.
“It’s hard to believe you all bawl for it.”
Self-consciously she blinks away her tears. A horse and caravan come into focus, drawing up ahead of her. The caravan is a raspberry red ovoid with a bunch of white net curtain sprouting at each end: it’s a boiled sweet. The horse is standard.
A pair of ballooning boots clump the dust behind the caravan; shiny, skinny legs follow, then a faded cotton print skirt. This combination walks behind the caravan until a corresponding top half is revealed.

The traveller swirls a hand at the village, calling, “it was abandoned way back, my mother’s time. People couldn’t seem to put down roots.”
Cecilia strains her mind around this suspect metaphor. She decides to move things along.
“Where’ve you come from?”

You know the sequence. Have you figured the allegory? Blowed if I have.

The traveller concludes, “disaster written all over it. Can you imagine: me, a traveller, and a man who can’t walk?”
Cecilia barely acknowledges; her lungs remain in a tangled knot from the previous encounter.
Remotely her acquaintance mumbles, “I think his legs were victims of a hunting accident, however that could happen… At least I got to meet the king.”

The Marsh

The environment gets wetter, lusher, smellier. Clouds conurbate. The atmosphere coalesces, condenses, begins to drip. Cecilia arrives at the corner of a seven foot high stone wall. After probably minutes of walking, and days of emotional turmoil, she could quite go a sandwich. She sighs dramatically, expresses her quandary.
“Right or left?”
She peers intently among the stones for the requisite wise creature who replied: still, grey stone.
“To whom am I speaking?”
“The wall.”
“I’m prepared to entertain considerable kinks of reason and reality in this ridiculous fable, but I draw the line at a talking wall.”
That’s bilge; she’s delighted to be back.
“Say that again?!”
“Goof for you. I nerev said _I’m_ a wall. You asked who you were chalking to, not who you were earing.”
Cecilia rests her forehead on a chunk of said wall to stave off an existential crisis.
“What are you then?”
“I’m Rich.”
A scuffling of boots beyond the wall heralds the promotion of Rich’s head above the parapet. He’s human. He’s actually similar to Percy, in a diminished sort of way.
“Oh, how nice to meet someone normal! You are normal, aren’t you?”
“I do beleft so.”

You are retaining all these important details, aren’t you? And earlier gems, especially one regarding a Fetid Marsh? Well done you. Only it won’t be the same if we plunge on without your full possession of these pointless elaborations.


Artist / Awakening

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Artist

The artist’s house is a newspaper punnet of chips: black and white stippled basement under a bunch of cuboid gold turrets. The artist is tufted and draped in a mohair shawl, in that curious 19th century fashion of wearing warm garments diagonally so as to benefit only one shoulder. Her free hand slashes at a canvas. She greets Cecilia without looking up from her maelstrom of vibrant, globby oils.
“Your landscape is spectacular.”
“Oh, thank you. I threw myself into it after my last, divinely disastrous affair…”
“I’m so sorry.”
The artist flings a splatter of red and green. Cecilia flinches.
“Can you imagine: me, an artist, and a man who’s visually imperfect?”
Cecilia clenches her vital organs; it can’t be such an wrench the second time. In the background her host wafts on.
“I believe he lost them in military service, whatever that is…”

The Awakening

Cecilia limps into a dusty, deserted village. She halts, gawps. Ten minutes of silence and stillness and splinters erode her fragile composure. There’s nothing to distract her from herself. She sinks on to a desiccated crate, screws her face, sobs.

Wobbly, ethereal music drifts at her, like a record played backward through frogspawn. A low, breathy voice catches her.
“…Well, you know what she’s like, darling, and that enormous, dribbling dog of hers barking its head off; I was quite frightened–”
Another, deeper voice interjects, “–she doesn’t need to hear you moaning on.”
“I’m keeping her in touch with the family, Gerry.”
“It’s not going to pull her back, is it, you whining on about Barbara?”
“Any time you want to take over–”
“–no, no, I’m just saying–”
“–and tell her about… something you’re– Gerry! Did she just move?”
The mundane bickering is awfully familiar. Cecilia gulps through a wave of dread, memory, pain. Seventeen types of pain, all at once. Years. There’s a reason she left.
“Gerry! Change the music!”
“To what?”
The music fades. The voices fade. Such relief.

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