Digital Ischemia

15/07/2018

The Tool

Mr Workshop is a new arrival in our quiet, menacing cul-de-sac. He is already an established irritant. He introduced himself by spattering Aunty Spamela’s precious camelias with tiny black beads of undisclosed constituents. They died horribly.

Uncle Merv took a dislike to Mr Power-Tool’s garage activities the first spring. The unpredictable, intermittent noise vibrations caused Merv’s ants to lose all sense of purpose and direction. He empathised fiercely. Their erstwhile orderly conurbation in the shed’s eaves suddenly abandoned strategy for spiralling collisions. And the spiders behaved like they were on caffeine. Their webs were disgraceful. They all became rather hungry. Not evolutionarily successful.

Mr Motorhome ground his engine like a tarmac planer. He parked up at the boundary fence like a grey new build, blotting out the sun. Aunty Spamela, marinating on a layer of aluminium foil like a misshapen offcut of meat-style but utterly bland mycoprotein, cast a warning eye like a mushroom cloud.

Mr Water-Jet proceeded to rattle along the gravel obliviously and commence the water blast and jet pump sonata around the lower regions of the behemoth. After a the first movement, a blissful interval was smothered with a swarm of cigarette smoke. Aunty Spam stood up, foil sticking to her wobbles, and glared at the fence. She seemed to be mouthing something trenchant such as “for goodness’ sake.” Lost to the screech of Mr Mini-Scaffold-for-reaching-the-roof lining up for movement two.

Uncle Merv and I were foutering at the shed’s sarking, trying to attach some memory foam. Merv wasn’t clear on details, but the plan seemed less about aiding memoir and more about muffling ants. I think he was desperate to shield the community from the intolerable noise. Chronic noise stress was epidemic. Merv was already suffering acute seethe. The ants really just needed the vibration of their bodies and whole world to stop.

As I sutured foam and felt together with an unsettling pride, Spamela resettled on her oven tray. Mr Mini-Scaffold screeched around to the Other Side. The water-jet rebound combined with a fascinating mini-cyclone effect from the warm southerly breeze. I watched the symphonic dance of droplets as they embraced the hawthorn and the crazywebs and Spam with a fine mist of soap and dirt. Not welcome.

Next day, Merv and I smirked at the dazzlingly white motorhome. This could only mean imminent departure. Mr Engine-smooth-as-a-tractor revved up and lurched out of his driveway. I was poised, despite the subterranean shudders. Merv nodded to his camoflaged system of old wing mirrors which relayed a nauseatingly distorted image of the offending garage: its side door was wide open. I deflated. Mr Wank-Wagon must’ve just gone for fuel. We waited in a state of jangling tension for a good six hours before the idea occurred that fate might have granted us a boon.

Mr Unfortunately-left-the-garage-side-door-open thundered back into the neighbourhood the following weekend. We had mixed feelings. The absence wasn’t long enough but we were excited for our ingenious denouement.

The potion had worked a treat, although the myriad poisonous vapours in that den had given me pernicious head-swim. I reckon Merv added some of Aunty Spam’s age-defying skin tightener. I’ve never felt so constricted. I think his dose had a waft of eau de pheromone too. Ms Ant-Colony was unable to resist a holiday expedition. With some recent needlepoint practice, Ms House-Spider wove an elastic silk mesh curiously like chicken wire.

One silk thread precisely at tensile limit. One week-of-withdrawal addict’s grasp. One beautifully choreographed cascade of twang, tilt, twirl and trigger. One soft suffocation by non-organically cultivated fungal mycelia. Mr Restless cocooned, clamped and coffined in his own toxic veneered fibreboard.

We left him to chrysalis for a bit.

Me and Merv: the spider and the ant. Petty invertebrate superheroes.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

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24/06/2018

Parabola Hyperbolae

Grudgingly Merv has let me into one of his secrets, i.e. sanity-savers for life married to Aunty Pamela. Below the garage he has been painstakingly excavating a cellar, dungeon, with plans to tunnel to the sea (70 miles).

To date he has surreptitiously emptied several bucketfuls behind the cypress, about a teaspoon at a time, over fifteen years. The whole business is redolent of prisoner’s desperation. His embryonic cavern is currently a shallow pit, but the two of us can sit in it, without getting too intimate, and, crucially, without being detected by Spamela.

Lately I’ve been fixating on why I can’t get into the mindset to transform. I decided to harangue Merv. Unjustified attacks are part of being my sidekick.

I yank the garage door, stride into the gloom and smack my entire body off something. I stagger back. Finding myself outside the door again, I re-try entry. My eyes are adjusting, but again, before I see anything through the murk, I rebound out again.
“Merv!” I hear only an echo. I plough on; I know he can hear me.
“What is the purpose of lights that come on automatically after a power-cut?”
I hear the unmistakable crackle of his jumper building up static. Grudgingly a solid, heavy object drags across the floor. Could be him; could be some new device. No matter. A click heralds the warm-up routine of the fluorescent light strip.

I am gradually introduced to a hall of mirrors: everything behind me spread in front of me, with the aesthetic horror that is Merv translucently mingled through it. Understandably I let out a quavering wail. Thankfully he hauls me into his pit, where we sit silently ignoring my recent unheroic noise. While my retinas restore themselves to factory settings, he explains.

Being shiny and fully focussed, like Merv’s device, you’ve already figured out what it is. Crucially, you’ve also already figured out this plot and where it’s going. But since I haven’t, you may like to stay with me to see if I arrive intact.

This episode isn’t so much an injustice as an irritation, but perhaps I need a wee run-up after my hiatus. Any time we have a power-cut, once it’s restored, the Straight Line Garden People’s garage light comes on. This floodlight illuminates their driveway, front garden, all west facing rooms, the street, our front rooms, and the length of our hall. Merv removed the mirror from the back wall because he felt like he was in the Hadron Collider. Still, I step out of my room into Close Encounters. I feel a strong urge to jump on a camel and ride east.

What’s the problem? They’re on holiday. I care a bit about their electricity bill, and their household security, but then they don’t seem to care that much, since they’ve left the bedroom blind at the usual half-way ‘we’re on holiday so burgle away’ setting. Mostly I care about wildlife with shattered circadian rhythms, and the carbon going in and out of power stations in unhelpful forms and amounts.

What’s the point? That’s the real question. What possible benefit could it confer? The power companies advise us to switch everything off except a hall light so we know when the power’s back without the demand surge blowing it again. Not that anyone does. But why would you want an outside light to come on after a power-cut? I’ve seen rechargeable torches that come on automatically when the power cuts. That’s helpful. You can see where the torch is and lift it to light your way. Dandy. Why after? When you’re two thousand miles away? It’s just a ‘because we can’ techy gimmick, isn’t it?

Merv rigs up his specially curved reflector in the attic window. After a couple of hours without power, Spamela’s fretting about her freezer. We reiterate to her the eight hour rule, but she’s already in crisis scenarios where at the eighth hour mark we suddenly have ten kilos of mushy peas and more subsiding scones than you could sink a barge with. I suggest pea jam. Merv bundles me out of the kitchen.

Merv and I giggle about the place, amusing ourselves trying to think of inventive activities that don’t involve electricity. Ashamedly we can’t. Amusingly we go to make tea to help us think, fill the kettle, flick the switch, then wait for our brains to realise the stupidity. Silly us. Just use the microwave. Er. Error.

Suddenly, since electricity tends not to take a run-up, everything fires up. Merv and I scuttle to the front window with electric antipication, just in time to watch the paint peel. Theirs.

As a bonus, one night I accidentally-on-purpose left the reflector oriented at the back fence. Apparently, when Madame la Every Car Door Must Be Opened And Closed In Anger At 06:35 executed her routine, the cul de sac reverberated with shattering echoes. Apparently she suffered a temporary mild tinnitus. According to Merv, anyway. I slept through the whole thing.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

10/01/2016

Chickens

I’m in the chicken hutch again – this is not like the ‘doghouse’; I’m actually toe-deep in chicken shit and damp straw. The chickens huddle and quiver at the other end, blinkingly perturbed. I wish I didn’t keep fetching up here. The hutch is a solid construction, about 8 feet by 4 feet, 5 feet high, and cosy. But bursting out is a considerable effort.

The first time I panicked. The smell tipped me over. I stood up, cracked my head, lurched at the side and continued shoving, thumping and kicking until a couple of panels broke loose and I could squeeze out on to the claw-churned mud. The wobbling, blinking eyes followed.

The second time I was more collected: I put my back into the roof until a corner popped away. I stepped out into the less acrid air, snagged my gown on a nail, lost my footing and arced into the aforementioned mud like a wet sand bag thrown at the water’s edge.

My advantage was being able to beat the roof back down almost to its original position. I’d love to say I wove three strands of my hair around the splintered edges to draw them back together with the skill of a cosmetic surgeon. In fact I placed a sizeable muddy stone on the roof corner four times and four times watched the scunner slide right back off. Casting around in the dark – it being 4:15AM in December – I settled next for—

Crivvens! Is that the time? Here I am wittering on when I should be scuttling to the vaults and fastening the strapping. More anon.

Merv has sophisticated things considerably. However, precision needs some work.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

13/12/2015

Bark

The dog barks, the bark smokes, the smoke blinds, the blind twitches…

Wood smoke is a homely, comforting smell. Being warm is a fundamental human need; roasted potatoes are a bonus. But no one offers me potatoes. I can’t sleep with my belly empty and my lungs full of smoke.

Police are never exactly welcome: they always bring bad news. This b.n. takes the form of a ‘male tan terrier’. I have to ask because I am not conversant in strains of dog. He’s a foolish example: clearly he has never terried anything in his life. A blonde dishmop. Small. Do I recognise the mutt? Any idea who it might belong to? No, sorry, but if I meet any other dog-danglers I’ll mention it; they seem to pay attention to each other’s accoutrements. Thanks for your time. No bother. As an afterthought, if you’re stuck, you could check if the kennels have lost one. Good idea, thanks again.

Tatty-bye. You got the wrong neighbour here: Uncle Merv could’ve answered your questions much more helpfully. He has his finger on the pulse. Conversely, Aunty Spam would’ve been a tremendous waste of your time, with a china cup of sour tea. Those are the chances you take, knocking doors. Such a sweet neighbourhood that the polis are employed rehoming stray dogs.

Lost your dog, hm? Or did it get away? I didn’t credit it with that much pluck. Shame. Careless. Perhaps if you’d curried more favour with your neighbours and barbecued less resentment. You see, the only two tarnishes on the neighbourhood polish are both bark.

Hardly worth going through all the palaver, but Merv needs a dress rehearsal. He’s put on a clean jumper. Perhaps only because he dribbled gravy earlier, but it gives a keen impression. Merv reminds me of the basics of ventriloquism. It’s no help. I simply need mimicry, as best demonstrated by the bird kingdom. Agility is a bonus.

The prelude: a little powdered moss upon the log pile to create that evocative scent. The main act: canine obscenities from all directions, moving on just before each light flicks on. Curtains open; torches flash out; bickering escalates; doors are flung. Window vents are such a boon: ideal funnels for noise without disturbing the neighbours.

It’s not nice to complain about a single event, without first asking why, like a dog barking one night when a man is away burying his mother. It’s cowardly to make your complaint via an anonymous letter through a door. It’s mean to harangue someone who, despite provocation, comes to apologise and explain. It’s suicidal to cross the kindest, most generous neighbour in the street, without recognising the community spirit.

Welcome to the public domain.

First there’s poltergeist dogs barking all night. No-one else hears them. Then the wood-burning stove suddenly smells so bad. Really bad, like burning flesh. Then the horror of a few tan hairs snagged at the hopper. Moving on so soon? Tatty-bye.

Don’t be ridiculous: tan dish-mop alive and well, living by the sea. A concerned traveller in a clean jumper finds him wandering a couple hundred miles from here and passes him to a local, who hands him in to a dog home. Unfortunately the mutt isn’t tagged, isn’t claimed, but despite all his shortcomings he soon finds caring home.

Most satisfying. The refreshing sensation of lungfuls of clear, silent evening air. Plus a surprise, there on the saw-horse: Merv has left for me a cup of hot milk. How thoughtful. I pour it into the gravel, just in case.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

29/11/2015

Intermission

I lay, clad in sweat and feathers. The gritty concrete floor cools me. This vigilante business is tricky. I think… Yes, damn it, I’ve weed myself a little bit. Too much excitement in the flying. The potion residue tastes putrid with the texture of dust in glycerine, or blood. Just like red wine.

The concrete presses into my skin. It actually presses. A faint ripple carries across the floor. Hangover. I twist delicately to scan the garage horizon. All as expected, apart from the corner curling up with a dainty shudder.

“Are you in there bare?” Pink clouds of candy-floss with flowers and tweeting birds adorn the words as they skip around the poorly fitting door. All wither and crisp over brown upon entering. Aunty Pamela.
I manage to expel a primeval choking grunt before wondering why she is here and how she knows about my state of undress. I flail an arm and strike lucky on my carefully flung jeans.

She moves with the momentum of an ocean liner, taking several miles of reverse propellers to alter her course. I have time to shuffle into my jeans without unbalancing my nervous system. Still lying down though. I drag the bicycle toward me. Inevitably it tips over. I exclaim forcefully, bracing my forearms to prevent my face being spoked.
Enter Pamela. “Oh, dear; did I startle you?” Without awaiting an answer or forgiveness she presses on; momentum. “Have you seen Merv?”

Uncle Merv hiding again, tut tut. Once Pamela has cleared the door on her onward cruise, I consider the gloom where the bike was. Shoes partly revealed beneath tarpaulin.
“OK, Merv.” I worry how much he’s seen.
A giggle emanates from the tarp. That’s how I get my unlikely sidekick: Bear.

He insists. His observations rather trump my acquisition of his pet name, although Aunty Spam seemed less than careful about preserving its privacy. However, he proves an insightful neighbourhood watcher. I wouldn’t want to run out of righteous material now I’ve got this whole corrections business started. Besides, maybe I could use a spotter.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

23/03/2014

Netted

Filed under: Truthache — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 12:00

“This is the woman who thought flesh-eating bacteria was a good idea to clear a blocked shower drain.” Two workies procrastinate at the gate to a fermenting cottage garden. The leader of the pair feels a duty to share grotesque gossip. The other tries for clown.
“Ooh, look! I’m sinking! Where’s my feet?”
“This is the woman who thought you put the pizza in the oven on the polystyrene tray.”
“What’s that nasty smell? Why are my lungs dissolving?”
“This is the woman who called the police when her garden hose reel disappeared. Well, there could be a pattern of garden accessory thefts in the area.”
“So why are we here?”
“The same woman thought keeping crows in a raspberry cage was a good idea to keep down mice and stuff.”
“So?”
“And she liked to sit in there naked.”
The clown sniggers.
The grotesque continues, “oh, it gets worse: she liked to eat chorizo sandwiches.”
The clown nods.
The grotesque pushes, “chorizo.”
“Is what?”
“Cured meat? Uncooked?”
“Some folks have fancy tastes, hm?”
“Carrion Crow?”

My fish-eye view of the landscape whirls, making me queasy. It’s monochrome and low resolution, but I can make out house bricks, power cables, raspberry canes in their netted cage.

The sniggering one squeals most, wailing about wearing clothes. As if that was the point.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

16/03/2014

Strays

Filed under: Truthache — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 12:00

The Caretaker manoeuvres the sit-on mower beside the tumbling boundary wall of the graveyard. He carefully avoids the toppled stones. He doesn’t move them. He pauses for a break from concentration.

He’s young, 20s, and big in all directions. His size makes him seem indolent but careful observation shows him to be minimalistically methodical. His body is coasting, his mind is humming. But he’s not who I came for.

He glances up, clocks me watching him, flickers a momentary grin. An earnest 50s male invades his space with twitches.
“Okay? Do you know: is this on the Churches Trail?”
“No.”
“No, it’s not, or no, you don’t know?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t–”
“I don’t know about the church. Sorry.”
The Caretaker reaches down into the mower’s engine to conclude the conversation.

Mr I Spy Churches isn’t the one. He’s not who the Caretaker is interested in either. A skinny, dorky, teenage girl meanders clumsily on the opposite side of the road. Her flight plan is miscalculated to smoothly intercept the caretaker at the elegant moment after Mr I Spy departs.

She stumbles around the back of the departing Mr I Spy. The Caretaker gives her his full attention, over the wall remnants. She blushes.
“Do you–can you–do you have access to the church?”
“You want in?”
“I left–dropped something, I think, down the back of some–furniture.”

I tune to track the conversation as it recedes and passes behind the building wall. He is genuinely benevolent. She is awkward, and not just for the obvious reason. (Seeds: is that all there is?) They re-emerge.

“Thank you for helping me find it.” She clutches her fist. He purses his face indulgently.
“Will you give it back?”
She’s startled, mortified. “Back where?”
“To your mother?”
“I–I didn’t take it.”
“I know. You didn’t leave it either. You don’t attend services. Neither does she.”
For a blink of a moment she submits to a furious deduction then stalls.
He chuckles. “No, not me. She shouldn’t have done that, not in there. Not where I could see.”
Pure, childlike evil bleeds across her face. She isn’t the one. Now something could happen. I can see it.

“Have you seen this woman?”
The Caretaker’s manner verges on indifference, but, like most people, this enquirer attributes it to a feature of his size.
“No.”
The Enquirer continues to wheedle around a line of questioning. The Caretaker’s gaze remains firmly fixed on his interrogator and not on the stone wall, which, remarkably, has been neatly reassembled overnight. It’s his job to maintain the grounds.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

09/03/2014

Conveyor

Filed under: Truthache — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 12:00

“Learn, will you?! It’s a shoe!”
A conveyor belt shudders by a camera lens, carrying the rubble of domestic disposal. A lanky young guy with greasy hair flourishes impatient keystrokes at a computer. On its monitor, a rectangle frames the image then focuses on the extent of one object: a lampshade, worn but serviceable. The canvas and rubber sand shoes jerk out of field. Beyond the monitor, the guy’s hand ploughs them into a chute. He returns his attention to the focus frame, now flashing anxiously around the pixilated, sage green, hexagonal faceted, standard lamp shade. Below, five suggestions are fearfully offered: biscuit tin, confectionary tin, bucket, flower pot, breadmaker.
Incredulous, the guy spits, “breadmaker?! How the fuck do you know ‘breadmaker’?”

“Clever stuff, eh?” The voice behind lanky guy makes him flinch. An older lanky guy with greasier hair peers in, relishing the element of startle; “how many more tons do you reckon?”
Original lanky guy contorts his face. “Don’t know. Couple more days anyway.”
“I don’t know if they’ll wait two more days.” Greasier guy peers about, keen for interest, but finds none. He drifts away.
“They’ll have to. People aren’t going to segregate their waste so it has to be robots.”
“Is that…? How is a cat in here?” Greasier guy has found his further interest. Lanky guy sneers as his sociological point goes unappreciated.
He underplays, “same way as everything else.”
“Someone chucked it in a bin?!”
“Maybe. Or it hid.”

Both are captivated as a dainty black feline picks its way over the spasming refuse toward the camera. Unheeded, the computer monitor paroxysms its latest quandary.

I feel divine. I have perfect poise and power. And charisma. They can’t help themselves wanting to help me. Morsels, massages, protection. How to entice them… So many choices: feign getting stuck, disrupt the flow, vomit, cry?

The monitor frame pans and zooms out to circumscribe a larger than average object. Text suggestions are offered: inflatable doll, mannequin, duvet. They remain unconfirmed.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

02/03/2014

Consumas

Filed under: Truthache — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 12:00

Lean in now, crane toward the festive bickering…

“It looks like you have a wrist injury!”
“I can’t think why that’d bother you.”
“Slut.”
“Why can’t she just send me cash?”
“I know. You’ll no’ get as good a deal out of Maclaus Macklows.”
“I wished I hadn’t opened it now. I’m just all annoyed.”
“Why did you open it?”
“One present, you said!”
“I know! I didn’t say that one!”
“I don’t know; I just picked it. Maybe I thought it’d be money. I thought she’d’ve set me up and I could go out all psyched.”
“Are you not wanting to go out now?”
“Yeh! No. I don’t know. It’s Christmas Eve; I’m supposed to be ‘woo!'”

Every time I move, my brain tickles. It’s the barrels: structures that anatomically map my whiskers and the sensory pulses from them. I don’t know how I know that. I seem to have been somewhere else, something else.

I’m overwhelmed with the smell of pastry. I must move up the scent gradient to the source. I also smell me, past-me, so I’ve run this path before. Along wood, up fibre, through nest, along wood. A chink of light sparks across my eyes. Voices.

Pastry makes me delirious. Grain and lard. Whiskers tell me I’ve reached the extent of the path. I nibble prospectively. Pastry smell but inconclusive taste. Firm texture then a pleasant tingle. A moment of lightning kick. I’m done.

“What?! No way! On Christmas Eve?!”
“What do you want to do?”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t see anything.”
“Neither can I! Do you think I’m psychic or something?”
“Do you have a torch or anything?”
“Why would I need…”

Disappointing. Pegged it before my glorious vigilante moment. I’ll need to try a more sturdy creature. After indulging my strong craving for a mince pie.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

23/02/2014

Entry

Filed under: Truthache — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 12:00

Maybe it’s the time of year: anniversaries – tragedy and loss – while popular culture tries to sell me plastic gratification and overindulgent joy. Maybe it’s the threat to my electric existence from storms and stupidity. Maybe, more likely, it’s exceeding the recommended daily dose of cheese and blocking my shitting lanes with a riceberg.

In any case, I’ve been here before. It’s a refreshingly cool night: gentle, fine rain, shifting in a slight breeze like fraggles’ hair. I feel leaden. I strike a match to light a candle to fire a taper to approach the cauldron. In the flickers orange splashes of garage innards lurch at me. Nobody keeps cars in their garage now. It’s power tools, freezers, equipment of deviance.

And a potion, a portal, a person. All of these, mine to employ, with just one sacrifice: truth. Drink, enter, become. I have some wayward wanderers to visit.

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