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…

18/06/2017

Fossoway Flora and the Midsummer Malcoordination

Ancient beech tree

Flora needs a dark night of the soul – her soul. She needs a dark wood to get entangled in and become thoroughly lost. The summer solstice beckons. This being the least dark point of the year is merely a minor hurdle to waylay the under-zealous.

Fossoway beech stands through its 421st year. It was planted by a fortunate gust of wind in September 1596 in a fortunate spot upon soft, moist loam. It has been fortunate enough to receive regular celestial watering and plentiful nourishment from myriad lifeforms crossing its space. This specific instance of Fagus sylvatica programming has been optimised to take advantage of such fortune: a perfect combination of natural forces, poised on the precarious tip of a tiny equilibrium. The moments of its eons slide by; each fully attended to, fully felt, as it stretches, reaches, in every direction of space and time.

Flora selects her most inappropriate clothing to ensure she trips over a protruding tree root, thereby twisting her ankle beyond any weight-bearing capacity, then gets soaked in a predictable rainstorm, thereby becoming dangerously chilled. For her lower half she chooses a flat sheet of double-layered cheesecloth with straps at two corners. She forgets the fancy name of the garment. It’s perfectly impossible in its rigidity: fastening it tightly enough to prevent it slipping down also prevents her legs from operating and restricts her breathing. A slight loosening to allow movement thus makes slippage and trippage deliciously inevitable. A shapeless blouse based on the elasticated cone construction method—a triumph of manufacturing economy over style and functionality—has sleeves not only too long but trumpeting wide around her fingers, thereby always in the way of any emergency grasp. The garment is finished by a ghastly fringe of inexplicable tassles and thirty-four redundant beaded fastenings, designed to fail within twenty minutes. She unbraids her hair with a lazy wrench, letting it flop where it will, expecting it to sway and flap and straggle across her eyes at every critical visual movement. Perfect.

Around its base, the beech has seven—most auspicious—impressively sturdy arms arranged at varying stages of being overwhelmed by their own weight, right down to lethargically resting upon the layered leaf litter. The crumbling remains of earlier exhausted limbs dissolve back into the woodland recycle. A radius of thirty metres around this Titan contains nothing but itself: it has completely papered over every sliver of sky, every grain of soil. A perfect dance-floor.

Music swirls within Flora’s head – random, powerful strains and skirls that direct her dance. Flora flings her arms and birls into a stagger. Fortunately every beech arm has some growth at Flora height of a characteristically sturdy nature, perfect for tactfully receiving dizzy dancers and reeling them back into orbit. A perfect moment.

Flora supplicates before the beech: heartfelt, overwrought thanks to her perfect dance partner.

Gzwzwzwzwrrt. Lightning strikes. Something had to.

Of Fossoway Flora there is no trace. Except… Perhaps when wind blows through the twigs you may hear her peculiar musical refrain. When a scientist bores and extracts a careful core from the tree to establish its precise age, some strange isotopes may be identified: cheap cotton from the unethical sweatshops of Bangladesh. When the midsummer heat lifts the air, an idiosyncratically beaded and tassled spider’s web catches far more than its fair share of drifting, airborne creatures. Each time, once again, tilting the precarious equilibrium of nature.

Prince Tiahmin came not upon this clearing. He’s in the right wood, on the appointed day, but in an artificial intelligence simulation or the wrong reality, deluding his senses and suspending his disbelief. He wouldn’t recognise a rain-slick, gusting beech leaf if it slapped him in the face. However it would give him a much needed interface refresh. Unfortunately Tiahmin believes his mission is to blam baddies. It never occurs to him to enquire to what end. Anyway, who wants to question such things? That requires the facing of that other, dull and uncomfortable reality. So long as baddies arise, he has a call to blamming. His superhero hairdo, ever tilting at enemies, underlines the point.

Come back again in another hundred years.

Or, actually, maybe just bide your time a wee moment…

Prince Tiahmin has gunned a stolen 1970s Massey Ferguson into a supposedly deserted industrial farm complex. He would be quicker walking, but convention requires assault by vehicle. His only available weapon is an anachronistic pitchfork. It may be effective on any zombie scarecrows that lurch into range, but would not be at all satisfying. He has absolutely no interest in collecting a cache of pre-regulatory agricultural chemicals; he has no interest in chemistry…of that sort.

Tiahmin’s sole motivation for indulging this unentertaining and badly animated diversion around an agricultural cul-de-sac is, of course, seedy. A gaming chum of dubious trustworthiness has boasted of a feisty, busty, rustic wench in the environs. With the requisite hack key she promises to become very obliging. Sometimes three minutes of low grade erotica has to be seen to be disbelieved.

After four underwhelming circuits of the farmyard buildings, in a rationale-free fit of frustration, Tiahmin revs the red diesel and chugs flat-out at five miles per hour up a pasture—large scale, livid green triangles adorned with unconvincing cuboid livestock—toward an enticingly dark smear of forest.

Tiahmin aims the unappreciated Fergie at the nearest brown column. Once the graphics stop vibrating in an uncoded eventuality loop, he dismounts, sans pitchfork, and trudges jerkily through primeval tree ferns—the serendipitous botanical design is wasted on him—until a beige clearing forces its way into his path. A low resolution character artefacts beside a hefty tree trunk. With a rapacious leer, he taps to text entry mode and pastes the prepared character string.

Bzhzhzheow. No power. Had to happen. The only sound is an invective suited to one of limited profanity.

Prince Tiahmin is awoken by a sopping leaf slapping him about the phizog – unnecessarily loudly and repeatedly. He would attribute this flagellation to a freak microclimate, except for the leaf still being attached to the looming limb of a tree. By a beaded stem. Well practised in the spotting and following of obvious clues, he hauls himself up by the obliging branch. He admires the astonishing improvement in graphic and tactile resolution – which is to say: he likes the look and feel of the place. And the heady scent. The soft whooshing of air is unsettling, but he assumes it’s meant to be atmospheric.

The moment Tiahmin completes his reconnoitre of the beech clearing—for of course it is that—music arrives, drifting by in wisps; discordant pibrochs and dizzying slurs. Cursory assessment of the tree reveals a curiously attractive arrangement of branches, ascending helically. He boldly climbs this staircase toward the crown and its tumult of drooping foliage, which appears to keep blowing rather coyly across two small cankers. And that’s quite enough of that.

Did the fair pair live happily ever after, entwined in arboreal bliss? Hardly. The poor girl has rematerialised in genomic combination with a tree – Fagus sapiens. The poor boy is ill-equipped to deal with a non-threatening surreality. But once Tiahmin gets to grips with Flora’s various cankers and galls, they have an interlude of what can only be described as heavy coppicing.

Ancient beech tree branch

20/03/2016

Wearing You Out

Filed under: Flash — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 17:00

You’re nasty, to me.
You squashed the spider, you could’ve put it outside.
It was not in the wrong place, it was doing its best.
But I can slip out of my skin, and float – a moment – then slip back in.
It helps when I get cross, I have a little rest.
I never thought of this before, what if I float across to yours?
I could wear you like a dress, I could work your arms and legs.
So I march you to a cliff, then throw you off.
(I mean throw you off me, not into the sea.)
You’re angry and loud, your skin was too crowded.
I’m not going to fight, you look like you might.
You swipe forward, you lean backward.
No safety net, no spider’s web.
Silly person. The end.

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. ]

15/11/2015

Stage 3: Exploration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are mine now and I am yours.

Now I feel the move.

 

END.

 

Lughnasadh – Samhain 2015

08/11/2015

Stage 2: Anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You wait, still, potent. Dry.

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

 

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

 

Lughnasadh – Samhain 2015

31/10/2015

Stage 1: Resistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Lughnasadh – Samhain 2015

13/09/2015

Isolates

[1420 words]

“They liked us once we got it right.”
“No, they resented us. And we don’t have it right.”
“They want to join us; there’s just a bit of awkwardness in admitting—”
“—No, they want to expunge us and have it for themselves.”
“Is that like ‘rub us out’ with a sponge?”
“Near enough.”
“But they have no idea how to make it work!”
“How to keep working at it…”
“All for a bit of pride.”
“I doubt they see it that way.”
“What do they see?”
“I think perhaps they only feel… their own discomfort and suffering, and the separation makes them fearful and resentful.”
“We’re living through their demise with our eyes open.”
“Our demise… Remember the separation is artificial, temporary; we are all alike. The burden is as much ours as it is theirs to resolve this.”
“I hate your… clarity. But we can’t keep carrying them until we buckle under the strain and they sink us all!”
“OK.”
“So?”
“So… we’ll have to persuade them otherwise.”
“Sure, ‘step this way, my good chap, and let’s have it out like gentlefolk’!?”
“More like… a trap.”

I had been asleep. A cat nuzzled my face. I don’t have a cat. The window would be how it got in. My studio—not that fancy; a bedsit—had an extended French window on one wall leading to a six inch wide balcony. Now, here was something: each of the four panes at floor level had a shattered hole. I waited to feel the breeze. Not the work of the cat.

I slide out of bed for a closer look. Over the balcony horizon bob ladder tips and the scarecrow heads of outcasts.

I have trained monkeys with more cunning.

One, crouching on the kitchen counter, casting furtive glances, clenched the coffee jar between its knees and set to unscrewing the lid. Each turn rotated to the lid approximately one fifth of a circle and it seemed the creature nodded its head in counting. After twelve turns, with confident expectation, it lifted the lid neatly off and placed it precisely to one side. Five times it reached a hand in, five times lifted one granule and placed this in its other cupped hand. It leapt to a potted basil, snapped off a leaf, folded the granules in, and clamped this envelope between its lips. Back at the jar, it reversed its actions to return the coffee jar to its original state and position. Finally it darted out the window, pausing to hitch up the latch and reset it at a more closed angle.

“You think that’s cute?”
“Amusing.”
“You don’t mind that they’re stealing your food?”
“No. Ah, I see what you’re doing. No, because they do it sustainably: they take only what they need and I don’t. They leave the rest conserved.”
“As opposed to?”
“As opposed to taking way more than they need, spilling loads, trashing the remainder, so nobody gets the benefit and next time there’s none.”
“And?”
“And yes I see the analogy.”

That was the fourteenth time the outcasts raided my home for anything they could carry off. The last time. Six days later we left. Evaporated from their mire. And not to make light of that journey, that brutal, soul shredding journey, but we had ten seasons of blessed isolation before the threat of their interference resumed. They, the outcasts, excluded. We, the isolates.

One small island with perfect poise: a range of mountains, high enough to be permanently frozen, glaciers and snow-melt rivers that irrigate fertile valleys and plains, and wetlands in the prevailing wind from which water easily evaporates to be fanned to altitude, to fall as snow.

“If they want to bake themselves to crisps or poison themselves to slime or waste every last drop of goodness…”
“You’ll let them?”
“Yes?”
“No.”
“How? I don’t even want to!”

There, in the glowing blue sky, were points of light, floating around like slow motion snowflakes. For several seconds I stared, speechless at this spectacle, unable to label it. Was I witnessing midsummer snow? Was I finally alert to mystical energy forms or other dimensions? Were these dazzling motes a portent of global catastrophe? Finally I rationalised the sparks as backlit gnats adrift on warm evening air currents, their wings catching the sun as hundreds of sequins. Such was the numinous quality of the island.

“You want me to kidnap them, one at a time, and brainwash them?”
“No.”
“No, they outnumber us one hundred to one.”
“More, probably.”
“I love this place! They’ve ruined all the rest!”
“We’ve ruined…”
“How did I have any part in that?!”
“How does the place know the difference?”
“Now you’re imbuing it with sentience?”
“It’s an influencing trick.”
“Well, you rather gave away your hand there.”
“Give it four seconds.”
“Why? Oh… No, all I’m getting is ‘they’re making me complicit in their crime against place.'”
“Bit whiny, isn’t it?”
“Mm.”

A shimmer in the foreground of the gnats drags focus: a spider’s web glinting rainbows. Perfectly imperfect. A pretty poor web with dissonant cords and half-baked repairs. Was the poor architect intoxicated? The background of drifting golden motes blurs the web. Do they see the web? Do they see the net and a snaring fate? Does the spider see them? Is it on tenterhooks, willing one to float into range? Or is the plucked string its only cue?

“I’m still stuck on your influencing trick.”
“Good.”
“No, I don’t get it.”
“Good.”
“Oh, fine, brilliant, whatever. We can’t see the whole picture.”
“Are you recognising your limitation or still whining?”
“Ha.”

Their problem is they don’t recognise the thickness of the glass. They’re on the outside, looking in to the little house of things past, seeing the Light of Other Days. In that earlier time, we, all of us, were entitled, and everything in the world was there for our pleasure. They don’t see the change. We, the smaller we, became a little less deluded. We were on the inside, looking forward, seeing through the open door.

“I see a world of disaster; a future in ruins.”
“And?”
“A present demented, mindless.”
“So?”
“I want them to see what I see. Is there a way to show them the future?”
“The?”
“A? A future to be averted at all cost?”
“Worth a try.”
“Is that it?”
“What?”
“Your words of encouragement?”
“It seems so.”
“I need an island.”
“Another one?”
“A dead one.”

A bumblebee clumsily dodges the florets, opened like white pyramids, dislodging puffs of pollen and petals. Beneath settles a constellation of tiny four-pointed stars and dust.

Have you ever waded in a landfill site? Paddled in a toxic lake? Trodden over oil-sodden earth or scanned along an iridescent rivulet? Have you ever felled a tree, wrung an animal’s neck or poisoned a flower? Have you ever fed plastic to fish or antibiotics to vultures? Have you ever hated an insect that has almost no capacity to harm you?

A landfill site is not just unpleasant; it’s dangerous. Pockets of rot, putrid effluent and poisonous gas in a fragile honeycomb of plastic. The smell is worse than sewage; every olfactory cell tells you it’s a threat to your existence – breathing it, splashing it on your skin, plunging into it like quicksand.

The sleek black chevron swoops overhead. It thuds its landing on the roof. It bounds to a chosen elevation to raise its throttled, hoarse blast.

“All set?”
“A trail of spring-loaded breadcrumbs.”
“Then we wait.”

They invade at night; they always do. They like to move in darkness. When you see movement, to you is it life or death? Is it a threat or a promise? Are you the hunter or the hunted?

We arrived in light. It was the only way. We needed to see where we were going. The journey—the burning, drying, excoriating nightmare on nauseating waves—turned out, literally, to be mostly redundant: a massive oceanic gyre, slowly spinning back to its original position, vortically drawing in all reachable flotsam. The increasing mass at its core pressing together into a re-cycling waste-land. But we broke orbit.

“Success?”
“After a fashion. It seems they don’t know the difference.”
“They accept the post-consumer world as their fate?”
“For now.”
“That’s that, then.”
“No, that’s not that, obviously. Will they ever raise their heads? Will they ever work out what went wrong and how to make it right? Or is it too late?”
“How does it feel?”
“Sad.”
“And?”
“And unfinished.”
“Indeed. Welcome to level two.”

May–Sep 2015

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