Digital Ischemia

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. ]

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

23/03/2014

Netted

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

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

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

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

16/03/2014

Strays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

09/03/2014

Conveyor

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

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

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

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

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

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

02/03/2014

Consumas

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

Lean in now, crane toward the festive bickering…

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

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

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

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

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

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

23/02/2014

Entry

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

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

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

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

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