Digital Ischemia



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, one… 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.


Quest / Gallery

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Quest

A jolt places Cecilia swaying over a gorge from the height of mountain peaks. She doesn’t notice the dizzying drop, or the whipping wind, or the bleating goat. She remembers. That’s new. The dancer and her Percy?! Jealousy makes the heart grow fonder.
She sinks on to a bloom of lichen; less comforting than she requires.
“It’s hard to believe you all stall over it.” A stump-tailed, armoured lizard darts from her shadow.

Unfazed, Cecilia blurts to relieve her vertigo.
“I don’t even have footprints to follow.” She gestures the crumbs of rocky footholds. “And he’s been with another woman.”
The lizard blinks to cover its eye-roll.
“Yes you have and no he hasn’t.”
She emits her most challenging expression.
The lizard elaborates, “you have me and you didn’t read the last set.”
Challenge becomes confusion. The lizard downgrades to the simplest terms. “Couldn’t kill me: caught me, held me by my tail, stared at me. I dropped my tail and skedaddled. He raked a handful of blueberries and ate them individually with self-loathing.”
She chuckles. “OK, you’re a footprint. But what did I miss?”
“Why didn’t he walk straight up to her house, or past it?”
She flings her arm in triumph. The lizard flinches.
“Finally.” The lizard vanishes between stones.

The Gallery

Broom seed pods snap and patter, popping open with the drying sun, scattering their seeds, falling through the grass. Autumn looms. The recurrent ping of said seeds upon Cecilia’s neck indicates the presence of rascally coal tits.

Over the brow of the hill Cecilia wanders on into a valley. Its sides flatten like fibreboard scenery until her path is a corridor. She pauses to review the backdrop: from a few feet it’s bewilderingly realistic; up close it lacks resolution, pixilated like an over-compressed graphic. It goes on for… miles. What a marvellous effort though, and skilled. She reaches toward the surface.

A sharp intake of breath sucks past Cecilia. Its source steps from the image a few paces on: a goat with indulgently but firmly disposed facial tufts.
“It’s hard to believe you all paw at it.”
Cecilia has a white-knuckled grip on her faculties this time. “All?”
“He had a good old go at the ceiling with… well, he seemed to be having a trouser malfunction.”
She smirks. “All right. No touching?”
“No touching.”
She beams and twiddles a wave as she pivots on.


Journey / Dancer

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at ]

The Journey

Cecilia’s curly legs are weary. She may have been trudging for some time. The terrain is squidgy and the vegetation is so dense it obscures itself. She scans the depthless branches fruitlessly for an adequate perch. She scans the fruitless branches depthlessly. She halts, partly to rest, partly to listen, for a gurgling, gasping noise has reached her. She revolves to face it, advance on it, as squelchlessly as she can.

Exciting evidence appears: footprints in the pond bank record her quarry approaching carefully (regular, close, pressure on toes), waiting patiently (small circle trodden by repeated gentle footfalls), going spectacularly awry (slips, drags, imprint of whole leg), and gracelessly fleeing (left print only with extra pressure, alternate circles probably of detached leg inverted as crutch).

Cecilia giggles gleefully at her masterful tracking. Pride always before a. She flails increasingly filthily in mud, quite destroying the previous trail. The chuckling promptly resumes, rather near. She heaves herself and several tons of iridescent gloup upward, braced to meet some fearsome gargoyle.

An average-sized swan sways ahead, flapping its beak and blinking with mirth. “It’s hard to believe you all fall for it!”

I know what you’re thinking: swans again; must be one of the crumbs. Full marks. But will you do anything insightful with it?

The Dancer

Cecilia noses up to a burger bap-shaped abode. Twenty feet diameter, beige eggshell top and bottom, smoky glass middle. The footprints on the pond bank here are small and webbed. She waits for the mocking bird to bid her enter, wondering what facilities may be on offer – her mud dressing is entering a most uncomfortable period of drought.

Instead a ballerina glides into view.

Cleaned and clad in soft, silky robes, Cecilia slumps into a reed hammock.
“This is divine after such a long walk.” She glances to check her legs are recovering their rigidity. Her host responds in similarly silky tones.
“It’s lovely to have company. The guard swans are so unexpressive. I’ve seen no-one since I got back.”
“Where were you?”
Her host crumples, causing Cecilia a twist of regret.
“A fairytale romance headed for disaster.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It wasn’t meant to be.” She forces a giggle. “Can you imagine: me, a dancer, and a man with no legs?!”
Cecilia feels her plug yanked and her innards gurgle away. Distantly her host’s voice rings on, “I understand he rolled a truck, whatever that means…”

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