Digital Ischemia

13/08/2017

Fossoway Flora and the Pacifist Extremists

Fossoway Flora quickly became tired of life at tree pace—or, more tactfully, she’d learned what she needed and it was time to move on. Prince Tiahmin was adorable, but also became tiresome every time his baddies threatometer lurched and he reached for a stick. Repeatedly she had to remind him that sticks had an original purpose before they became handy weapons. He was leaving her disfigured.

Such irritations all come to the same thing: Flora has learned the various ways we live and let live or let die. That old tree is a canny beech. The way it manipulates everything that enters its space, deciding who to encourage, who to repel. She feels the urge to visit Uncle Umbel. This could be problematic, given that her genome has merged with Fagus sylvaticus fossowaii, and currently exists in a firmly rooted way. However, she reasons, every cell carries the complete genome and her uncle is an open-minded sort.

Uncle Umbel has an allotment that appears to have been trampled by a navigationally-challenged herd of migrating aurochs, pulverised by glacial moraine, and finally kept at perfect conditions for putrefaction by the lukewarm outflow from a more-alcohol-less-taste whisky distiller. An extremely quaggy mire.

“Umbel? Umbel? I’m quite bored and if you don’t show yourself I’ll plant something with flowers on!” …calls a thrawn twig, swirling across the mire.

A three foot diameter octagon of mud opens via eight triangular petals, carefully draining slime outward, and reveals a spartan subterranean bunker. The clipped voice of one who aspires to have served in the RAF c.1940 dots and dashes forth.

“Wotcha. Get a move on, girl. Hatches to rebatten T minus three!”

The twig daintily pivots into position to surf a gust-stream and thereby dives between the gnashing metal petals.

“Cocoa?”
“Er, not really practical, thanks.”
“No. Hah! You’d get sticky! Hah! Sticky!”

Fortunately, a twig is also excused from having to disguise disrespectful facial expressions. Flora grabs for the conversational initiative to avert any further grocerial puns.

“Ahimsa, Umbel.”
“Gesundheit!”
“What is your understanding of it?”
“Your what-what?”
“Sanskrit: harmlessness. As in: toward self and other living beings.”

Flora gulps in horror at the contagious nature of the abbreviated style. She reassures herself that she is merely applying ‘mirroring’; a clever technique of neuro-linguistic programming. And she’s doing it unconsciously so she must be good. Still, she hopes producing puns won’t be necessary.

Umbel blinks repeatedly as distant, neglected circuitry is recommissioned. His amphibiously protruding eyes swivel and his ears twitch back an inch, stretching his forehead. On grocerial subjects you can get an interaction in real time, but anything even vaguely philosophical requires Umbel to shut down and dedicate all cognitive resources to the matter. His head lolls, lip slackens and cocoa teeters precariously on his chest.

Flora patiently scrutinises the bunker’s interior: piles and piles of dust-besmothered…shapes. She really can’t identify any of it, apart from the odd protrusion of wire or single sheet of paper, revealed only by apparent overwhelm, tilt and subsequent dustalanche.

A fragile connection sparks. Umbel’s cocoa hand twitches. Cocoa inevitably splashes on his shirt. Umbel powers back up.

“Ah. Just logged off pro tem, chaps. Buggeration.”

He blots himself with a towel placed at the ready for such regular eventualities, thereby scattering a portion of crumbs he carefully collected earlier.

“Clean on today, of course. Irretrievable. I shall have to disrobe forthwith.”
Umbel chuckles and lurches into unsteady motion. Flora’s patience was never good during pantomime. “Ahimsa?”
“No. Not a flicker.”
“Nothing?”
“Refer to the Conflict Chaps.”
“Who are..?”
“Thomson, Tim, and… and… Tarantula. You get the idea. Cheerio, folks.”

Flora is nowhere close to getting it, and rather thankful for the implied shreds of sanity. There are some peripheral gene puddles she’s keen not to paddle in. With Umbel retiring for a post-cogitatory nap—’cocoa’ is merely a vehicle for a substantial sugar and cream component—Flora is unattended in the elves’ factory. The fact of being trapped holds little concern as yet. Her leaf stalk flits investigatively along the bench, enticed by a curiously shuddering tin. A little probing releases a lid to reveal three blinking figures, of similar stature to herself in her current twig incarnation.

To be continued…

06/08/2017

My Neighbour’s Baby

The parents’ squabbling catches my attention. My quiet Sunday breakfast with a wildlife magazine shattered. Peer Gynt capers on in the Hall of the Mountain King. The squabblers slam from room to room, swatting and shrieking at each other. I lean to the window and pull back the gauze curtain, searching for explanation. One of their children sits on my front grass. Just sits, not playing, not eating, not moving, not seemingly hurt, but I don’t read children well. The parents barrel on. Another figure slinks by – another neighbour, inspecting the unattended child. My gut flips – some pre-verbal fear. In a reflex I knock the window. The neighbour starts and glances at me. I wave. Frustratingly her momentum carries her out of my sight. The parents separate, hurling only intermittent complaints. The child remains immobile.

I unlock the front door to look closer. Mostly I want to help, but I need more information: what happened? I seem to be too late. The neighbour is out of sight. The child sits on the grass, freckled and bewildered. I don’t want to approach in case this aggravates the situation. I don’t want to interfere. Or should I move her to a safer position? What would be safer? In my house is far too ambiguous. I have no relationship with this child. Her parents seem to be calming. I return indoors and glance out the window. The child still hasn’t moved. I can’t settle back to breakfast; I wander ineffectually about the front rooms, reviewing the incident, assessing my choices. I keep glancing out the window.

Suddenly the parents launch a fresh bout of shouting. I check the window: the child is gone – in a matter of seconds between my glances. I can’t see anybody, any movement. I open the front door and see the parents hopping and shrieking along the pavement. I can’t read their distress. Still no sign of the child. My eyes flit to another movement. Beneath the bordering hedge I see my neighbour’s legs saunter up the path and out of sight. The parents are hysterical. Why didn’t they do something for their child before? Why didn’t I? I peer again between the trunks of the hedge. I look very carefully to catch a glimpse as my neighbour’s path curves back into view. In a moment I see what I’m looking for: the shape of the child, carried away.

There was a moment when I could have acted. I chose not to. To let others’ choices play out. I may have delayed things by rapping the window, but that’s as likely to have increased the suffering as not. If I had the chance again, I’d lift that baby and bring it indoors. I’d suffer the guilt of upsetting the parents. My experiences lead me to believe that my neighbour simply wanted to play with the child. A distorted behaviour that has its roots in natural instinct but has become torture. I have some responsibility for that. I could do better.

If it had been my neighbour the sparrowhawk who found the young blackbird, I would be more comfortable with that. A reasonably quick death for food. A domestic cat I’m much less comfortable with. It doesn’t feel natural to me. Still, I have too little information. I had a moment and I only half-intervened. Bless her.

01/08/2017

Cold Call: Day 19

The last in a series of telephone conversations where truth comes away in layers – begins at Cold Call: Day 1

SOUND: PHONE RINGS, REPEAT, REPEAT
LACRIMOSA: You know I know how to escalate nuisance calls.
SìMON: (D) I wasnae a nuisance till you found out I wasnae a total stranger. That’s no’ even rational.
LACRIMOSA: You were a nuisance, even when you were funny.
SìMON: The end justifies the means. Just like it did for you.
LACRIMOSA: You kept calling me! I was lying in self-defence!
SìMON: You could’ve hung up. You did, even.
LACRIMOSA: And yet here we still are! You’ve created this whole idea of me in your head that’s not real!
SìMON: Aye, no’ like you’ve any experience of making up fantasies.
LACRIMOSA: Why did you call me?
SìMON: It really was because of the whale thing.
LACRIMOSA: No, I mean why did you call me after I left Dalry’s? – if you weren’t after a job.
SìMON: (PAUSE) I like speaking to you. You speak about interesting stuff, no’ boring shit like soap operas and celebrity gossip. You’re funny. Why did you no’ call me?
LACRIMOSA: You scared me. I don’t know why. Probably my subconscious alarms bells going off: here’s a guy that thinks you’re someone else!
SìMON: You cannae imagine someone just liking speaking to you? OK, listen: I’m sorry for the way the conversation went yesterday – and this conversation seems to be going.
LACRIMOSA: It’s not your fault I’m like this: shit-abled.
SìMON: What I was gonnae say was: it turns out it doesnae matter.
LACRIMOSA: It really does.
SìMON: No’ to me.
LACRIMOSA: You have no id—
SOUND: DOORBELL
LACRIMOSA (CONT’D): How can there be someone at the door?! I used to live a peaceful life then I started getting these nuisance calls.
SìMON: And those were just the ones fae me.
LACRIMOSA: They were all from—
SOUND: DOORBELL
SìMON: You should answer it. Could be important.
LACRIMOSA: No, it won’t be; it’ll be some chancer with a flat-bed wanting to mess up my path or mutilate my trees or ruin the roof or something.
SìMON: Could be Gordon, checking on you.
LACRIMOSA: He just walks in.
SìMON: Still, you should maybe just check.
LACRIMOSA: OK, but it might take me a while.
SìMON: I’ll wait.
LACRIMOSA: No, hang up! I don’t care. I want my life back.
SOUND: DOOR OPENS
LACRIMOSA: (OFF) But you’re on the phone!
SìMON: (OFF) I ken you willnae have much experience of these devices, since you’re no’ ‘mobile’, but—
LACRIMOSA: (OFF) Are those your aunty’s dead daffodils?

ENDS

31/07/2017

Cold Call: Day 18

A series of telephone conversations where truth comes away in layers – begins at Cold Call: Day 1 and ends at Day 19

SOUND: PHONE RINGS, REPEAT, REPEAT
LACRIMOSA: Why did you suddenly decide to call me?
SìMON: (D) I always call about this time.
LACRIMOSA: The first time.
SìMON: Just a spur of the moment thing—well, a spur of twenty hours thing.
LACRIMOSA: Meaning?
SìMON: I was on a boat, aff the coast of Iceland—place called Olafsvik – brilliant, by the way—so I was watching for whales, and that conversation we had – what was it—four, five years ago?
LACRIMOSA: This whole obsession is over a conversation five years ago that I don’t even remember?
SìMON: Aye, you do.
LACRIMOSA: Reading my mind now?
SìMON: You told me the beached whale story then, too.
LACRIMOSA: Norway?
SìMON: No, the rotting carcass.
LACRIMOSA: OK, because Norway was after…
SìMON: Alright? So, anyway, it came into my mind and I wondered if you’d ever been there—Iceland—and seen a live whale. Like, how it’d be weird if you’d been in the same boat or at the same exact point in the ocean. After a while I thought, why am I tantalising myself with ‘what ifs’ and pish? Why don’t I just ask you? Maybe you’d want to come with me somewhere. Maybe see a non-beached whale.
LACRIMOSA: So you just lifted the phone.
SìMON: After the twenty hours on boats, buses, ferries getting back.
LACRIMOSA: You weren’t planning to come back?
SìMON: No’ at that point. I just suddenly felt like, what am I doing here myself?
LACRIMOSA: When you could be making nuisance calls to someone who it turns out can’t go anywhere.
SìMON: No, it—

30/07/2017

Cold Call: Day 17

A series of telephone conversations where truth comes away in layers – begins at Cold Call: Day 1 and ends at Day 19

SOUND: PHONE RINGS
LACRIMOSA: What?
SìMON: (D) Er, how are you?
LACRIMOSA: I’m sure you have a satellite oriented at my window so you can see for yourself.
SìMON: Oh, aye, that’s you gi’ing me the finger, right?
LACRIMOSA: Near enough. Why the Mrs McIver charade? Do you even have an aunty?
SìMON: To prove you could like me, without preconceptions.
LACRIMOSA: Whose? No, I mean: who to?
SìMON: To whom?
LACRIMOSA: Aye, try the grammatical high-ground, since the moral high-ground is crumbling under your feet.
SìMON: Both of us.
LACRIMOSA: How is that fair? You knowing who I was?
SìMON: No’ kenning who I was didnae stop you making up your ‘stories’.
LACRIMOSA: That was fun.
SìMON: That excuses lying.
LACRIMOSA: Congratulations: you’ve taken cold calling to a whole new level of insult. So I’m hanging up now.

29/07/2017

Cold Call: Day 16

A series of telephone conversations where truth comes away in layers – begins at Cold Call: Day 1 and ends at Day 19

SOUND: PHONE RINGS
LACRIMOSA: Right. How did you get my home number?
SìMON: (D) Private detective.
LACRIMOSA: What?
SìMON: Kidding. Council Tax records.
LACRIMOSA: I tick the box!
SìMON: It only takes one wee slip one year and yer cooncil’ll flog your details to anyone that pays. Once it’s on the internet, that’s it: name, full address, age bracket, co-habiters. I already kenned which toun you live in.
LACRIMOSA: Hang on, Council Tax record—electoral register—doesn’t have phone numbers.
SìMON: I got the area code and just started trying combinations. All very logical.
LACRIMOSA: You are a fucking cold caller!
SìMON: OK, seriously, it doesnae take much searching to find some local site with your name and number on, like a community cooncil report with planning applicants listed, or, in your case, a freecycle site trying to affload some classy knick-knacks.
LACRIMOSA: You’re a fucking cold calling stalker. I told Gordon about you, by the way.
SìMON: Are you no’ flattered I went to all that trouble to cyber-stalk you?
LACRIMOSA: I suddenly feel very exposed.
SìMON: Good.
LACRIMOSA: How is that good?
SìMON: All your information is out there already; better you ken about it.
LACRIMOSA: So I can be even less trusting of cold callers?
SìMON: Am I still digging myself in a bigger hole here?
LACRIMOSA: I’m sure you can get yourself a ladder off Gumtree.

28/07/2017

Cold Call: Day 15

A series of telephone conversations where truth comes away in layers – begins at Cold Call: Day 1

SOUND: PHONE RINGS
LACRIMOSA: Listen: this isn’t the Fetish Warehouse.
SìMON: (D) Oh, really?
LACRIMOSA: It’s just me stuck in the house.
SìMON: Aye, I figured, you’re too…caring to inflict pain.
LACRIMOSA: If you only knew me.
SìMON: No, OK, I just couldnae hear any chains clanking so I kenned you were—
LACRIMOSA: Pulling your chain?
SìMON: Hah!
LACRIMOSA: The fetish BDSM thing just was stupid. It was a spur of the moment bit of nonsense. It’s not even funny.
SìMON: It worked for me.
LACRIMOSA: Doesn’t say much for you.
SìMON: I don’t have anything against that, er, ‘community’; it’s good for bad puns – the stereotype.
LACRIMOSA: We’re all stereotypes. So, you rumbled me. Can we stop doing this now?
SìMON: My name’s no’ Sìmon.
LACRIMOSA: Mine’s not Lacrimosa.
SìMON: Oh, really? What is it?
LACRIMOSA: Does it matter? Can we just hang up now?
SìMON: Probably no’; you could say anything.
LACRIMOSA: Henrietta Soleil Buckminster-Fullerene the third.
SìMON: Aye.
LACRIMOSA: Your turn.
SìMON: It’s Simon.
LACRIMOSA: How utterly dull. Try again.
SìMON: It really is.
LACRIMOSA: I don’t care. Can you not invent something?!
SìMON: Simon Gillespie.
LACRIMOSA: There must be thousands of those. I think I used to know one—well, work with one.
SìMON: That’s me.
LACRIMOSA: What do you mean?
SìMON: I’m the one you used to work with – at Dalry’s.
LACRIMOSA: Wait, there, you don’t know who I am, never mind where I worked!
SìMON: Actually I do. Mind I used to call you, at your new work, after you left? You thought I was after a job. Then one day you didnae answer. Then someone else picked up and it was all careful wording about you being oot the office. Then eventually they just said you didnae work there any more. (PAUSE) Hello?
LACRIMOSA: How many times did you call?!
SìMON: Several.
LACRIMOSA: Hello not-the-person-I-thought-I-was-speaking-to – pointlessly-lying-to.
SìMON: So we were both lying.
LACRIMOSA: I’m sorry.
SìMON: What for?
LACRIMOSA: For not calling you back. I still have your number.
SìMON: Thanks for no’ lying there. I hate that ‘I lost your number’ shit.
LACRIMOSA: Oh, I definitely still have it. I just can’t get at it.
SìMON: On a shelf you cannae reach?
LACRIMOSA: Hah. I thought you were a ‘professional contact’ so I saved one of those fancy files with all your trivia to remind me who you were, you know, and how often you pestered me about ‘doing lunch’. I saved it and backed it up and copied it to my external hard drive at home. Then I got the sack and didn’t have hundreds of pounds to furnish myself with Microsoft Office and all its security botches and flaky instabilities. So now I have a dot-VC-something file that my dear old second-hand open-source PC has no idea what to do with.
SìMON: That was a pretty convincing story.
LACRIMOSA: OK, good, because yours is so totally full of holes and creepiness that I’m not going to speak to you anymore.
SìMON: Fair dos.

27/07/2017

Cold Call: Day 14

A series of telephone conversations where truth comes away in layers – begins at Cold Call: Day 1

SOUND: PHONE RINGS
LACRIMOSA: Still speaking to me?
SìMON: (D) Ah, I suddenly thought ‘oh shit, that’s why you were so…reticent about your personal life: you’re married’ and I just felt totally inappropriate.
LACRIMOSA: Right, because I couldn’t have any other relationship with a guy and usually I’ll tell my entire history to any weirdo that calls.
SìMON: Who is he? A friend?
LACRIMOSA: Neighbour.
SìMON: Just good neighbours, eh?
LACRIMOSA: Not your business, but aye, actually.
SìMON: Even though you’re at work?
LACRIMOSA: Wow, good accusatory tone there, like you’ve just uncovered organised fraud!
SìMON: He’s the neighbour of the ‘Warehouse’?
LACRIMOSA: No, I’m working from home. And no, my home isn’t a Fetish Warehouse; twenty-first century telephony allows you to route calls pretty much anywhere you want.
SìMON: Plausible.
LACRIMOSA: By all means hang up and give me peace.
SìMON: I’d best let you keep the line free, then. Get back to filing your nails to a sharp point.
LACRIMOSA: I’m sure you have an aunty to visit.
SìMON: Aye.

26/07/2017

Cold Call: Day 13

A series of telephone conversations where truth comes away in layers – begins at Cold Call: Day 1

SOUND: PHONE RINGS
LACRIMOSA: How can I not help you today?
SìMON: (D) I think I might have a thing for ninety-year-old women.
LACRIMOSA: I like that you’re accepting of it, in a mocking it kind of way, but you don’t have to keep speaking about it. You can get bored and walk away, but I can’t, so…
SOUND: DOOR OPENS
SìMON: Am I ask—
GORDON: (OFF) Anyone hame?
LACRIMOSA: Oh!
SìMON: Who’s that?
SOUND: DOOR CLOSES, WHUMP, RUSTLE
LACRIMOSA: Sounds like Gordon; hang on. (OFF) Hey, how’re you?
SOUND: KISS
GORDON: No’ bad. Yoursel’?
LACRIMOSA: Usual—hang on. Hello? You still there? No, you couldn’t wait fifty seconds, could you? Hung up.
GORDON: Oh, sorry; I didnae realise you were on the phone. Who was it?
LACRIMOSA: Yet another cold caller. You should drop in more often. Frighten them off.
GORDON: You still having bother with that? Are you reporting the numbers?
LACRIMOSA: Aye. They do what they can, the enforcement people, but these cold calling centres—well, I’m imagining racks of underpaid, disillusioned, terrorists-in-the-making, obeying the über computer like robots, but maybe it’s just one woman in her front room, while the wean’s asleep, making a bit to afford spaghetti hoops.
GORDON: Can you still get spaghetti hoops?
LACRIMOSA: Oh, tell me they’re not replaced by spaghetti emoticons or something? I was raised on hoops! And beans and anything else in dubious orange sauce on cheese on toast. So long as it had dairy it was ‘healthy’. Ugh, that foul Mr Men mug of warm milk.
GORDON: I dinnae mind Mr Foul…
LACRIMOSA: Hah hmm. He was an ‘adult-themed’ Mr Man, who discovered that cows and chickens didn’t spend their days in idyllic pasture, contentedly producing milk and eggs to thank us for their wonderful lives, but were rammed in squalid barns, festering with disease, unable to move, too weak even to stand, treated like expendable machines.
GORDON: No’ an entertaining read.
LACRIMOSA: No, it didn’t sell so well.
GORDON: Well, that’s the day’s vegan propaganda over.
LACRIMOSA: Maybe I should try it on one of my cold callers.
GORDON: What was this one selling?
LACRIMOSA: He’d only been on two minutes; they take longer than that to wade through the scripted preamble.
GORDON: Why dae they dae that?
LACRIMOSA: I suppose it’s so unsuspecting folk get confused and agree to take out some PPI so they’re covered for when they have to check if they’ve had PPI.
GORDON: You’re pretty sparky the day.
LACRIMOSA: It’s nice to have someone intelligent and self-determined to speak to.
GORDON: Thanks very much!

25/07/2017

Cold Call: Day 12

A series of telephone conversations where truth comes away in layers – begins at Cold Call: Day 1

SOUND: PHONE RINGS
LACRIMOSA: Hello?
SìMON: (D) I came up with a better response for your beached whale.
LACRIMOSA: I remembered another beached whale.
SìMON: Go on, then.
LACRIMOSA: I was camping on South Uist in the Hebrides – island hopping for students. I was following this burn through a gulley. Everything lovely till I got to the coast and started smelling something nasty. Why am I telling you this?
SìMON: Gi’e me a laugh?
LACRIMOSA: It’s awful.
SìMON: The clue’s in the name, Lacrimosa.
LACRIMOSA: It did upset me a bit, that massive, bloated, steaming, putrefying… It was unnatural: all cut up by fishing gear. I was stuck gawping at it a while, then I got the fear that with the sun on it any minute it would explode and shower everywhere with rotten flesh and maggots.
SìMON: Step away fae the ticking whale?
LACRIMOSA: Pretty much. Sorry, that wasn’t entertaining. I don’t know why I launched into that.
SìMON: Reality doesnae have to always be, you ken, happy.
LACRIMOSA: What was your comeback?
SìMON: Eh?
LACRIMOSA: You said you had a better response?
SìMON: Oh, aye. I think you look like someone with hidden depths. (PAUSE) That didnae sound as good as it did in my heid. Oh, I see what I’ve done there: cannae look at hidden things, can you?
LACRIMOSA: No, it’s that you think I look like anything. How would you know?
SìMON: Oh, it’s just a common word construction. I’m a visual person. I’m not stalking you.
LACRIMOSA: Wouldn’t be difficult.
SìMON: How?
LACRIMOSA: Never mind. I need to go: that’s the postie pulled up.
SìMON: No, you don’t. I’m sorry. Clumsy phrasing.
LACRIMOSA: I really do. Big load of kit due.

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