Digital Ischemia


Neohaguich 1/11

A resourceful crone plunges into a whimsical netherworld to find a lost lover.

Calluna Withers wakes in a kitchen crowded with domestic relics.  They’re all familiar, postcards from memories, but the house is new territory.  Has she been asleep?  Or just sleep-walking through another life?  She explores this small house of many small rooms, all filled with fascinating mess: wooden boxes, cards, textiles, furnishings…

In the adjoining living room, the papery husk of Aunty Gail sits on a sofa, bolt upright, eyes closed.  Calluna finds herself speaking.

“Gail?  I’m taking over.  I’m the neohaguich.  So, you rest.  When you’re ready, I’ll be after some advice.”

That was surprisingly assertive.  So be it.

Calluna detects a stirring elsewhere in this room.  On another sofa is a lasagne of diversely coloured and textured blankets, all carefully folded to maintain perfect horizontality while precisely fitting the sofa’s contours.  With a lump in the middle.  Perfectly Princess and Pea.  She taps the lump.  Writhing ensues.  The blanket layers part a third of the way from the top.  A fleshy split resolves from the dark therein.  She addresses it.



“I’m the new hag.  Who are you?”


“What a brilliantly neat job you’ve made of folding those blankets.  Well done.”

The split curves.  It may be a mouth.  Well done Gail too.  Calluna hadn’t imagined her aunt was able to summon such creatures, although clearly the banishing again afterward part has gone awry.

At the kitchenette end of the living room, Calluna peruses the beige cabinets.  Where these have been worn and torn, gashed into their chipboard, they have been reconstructed and augmented with corrugated cardboard, apparently cemented in place with paper-based paste.  Like wasp nests.  The design looks promising but the abundant dust dunes suggest slow progress.

As she quietly scans the site, a couple of cherry-sized dust balls sprout whiskers and resume shoving a matchbox with careful determination.  Hechlers.  Gail has the cottage well inhabited.  Yet none of them are the one Calluna would be interested to meet.  And he is the only person who won’t be here.  Can’t be here.  One hechler shimmers slightly and momentarily resembles a hairy bramble.  Calluna’s eyes must be watering.  Move swiftly on.

Throughout the cottage, the air has an indistinct murky mustiness.  The only openable window is in the washroom: a wibbly-glass porthole above the bath, among a proliferation of wall-mounted cupboards of assorted dimensions.  Bathing would be like playing high stakes 3D Tetris.  The window is just reachable, however it opens into another washroom, occupied by a frowning girl.  No-one likes having their personal hygiene activities or bodily functions observed.  In any case there’s no benefit to simply inter-ventilating two toilets.  Calluna firmly creaks the window back into its frame.

The stains around the sink have formed in segregated colours: red, black, and white splashes of toothpaste.  The frowning girl may have been using the meditative interval of teeth-brushing to contemplate potential inter-mildew patch wars.  Calluna remembers being a closet philosopher herself once.  If left unattended long enough would one colour dominate?  They certainly spread to inhabit every available surface, just like humans.  Calluna reaches brusquely for the genocide sponge.  She relishes the metaphor of living on a polished enamel slope, with the often-realised threats of flooding and drought, and the inevitable eventual plunge into the drain.

There is more nostalgia and delusion for Calluna to explore.

continues at part 2

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