Digital Ischemia

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

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05/03/2017

Episode 5: Winter

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

Rotting Leaves starts at Episode 1: Staging.

SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2023, Winter, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, WIND MOANS, TREES CREAK, FIRE CRACKLES
FENELLA: The land of the midday moon.  An endless skyfull of cloud hurr—rushes at me like I’m flying into a frac—fractal.  Gusts creak a tree branch like a seagull’s cry.
MAX: It was a dark and stormy night…
FENELLA: It hardly matters that it’s awful, does it?  No-one will hear it.
MAX: So why say it?
FENELLA: To express it.
MAX: Must you?
FENELLA: It’s all so painfully beautifully—ful and it’s almost gone.  My soul…
MAX: And we ruined it?  Paint away.  I could use a wallow.

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Perthshire, Hill; 2022, Winter, Day
SOUND: WIND HOWLS, DISTANT HELICOPTER ROTORS CHOP
FENELLA: Do you see?  There!  A helicopter!
MAX: Yes!  Run up to the top!
FENELLA: They have to see us.
MAX: It’s not that dark.
SOUND: FADE HELICOPTER ROTORS
FENELLA: Oh, are they…  No!  They can’t be passing!
MAX: Perhaps they can’t stop – you know, land.
FENELLA: Maybe they’ll come back.
MAX: Perhaps…  Perhaps – I’m sorry – perhaps they weren’t looking for us.
FENELLA: What do you mean?
MAX: Perhaps they were just assessing the extent of the damage?  There must be some military somewhere safe.  If it’s as big as we think, they can’t save us.  Nowhere to go.  I’m sorry.
FENELLA: You’re right, aren’t you?  Millions of people, inevitable contamination; where would we go?  How?  Oh, just…
MAX: What?
FENELLA: Just please tell me they’re sorry?  Please say they’re not just automatons carrying on with Plan Whatever and jettison the collateral?
MAX: I hope.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Garden Shed; 2017, Winter, Day
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS
FENELLA: The winter sun rolls along the horizon then slips below.  An air-root claws the edge of a stone: one bony digit raised to latch on.  Wind tantrums around every feature, testing every tether.  The moon blurs with each chased wisp of cloud.  Or perhaps with the condensation on this window.  Cold is near, ice is abroad and snow, ah, numinous snow, could overtake it all with silent, still, soft death.  How long’ve you been there?
MAX: A very long time.
FENELLA: I really don’t have the mental energy for your layers of meaning.
MAX: I did hear about that.  Tough.
FENELLA: Come to analyse or to sympathise?
MAX: Neither.  I need your help.
FENELLA: Impossible.
MAX: I really do.  It wasn’t even hard to say.
FENELLA: No, I mean you can’t have it; not right now.
MAX: Too busy?
FENELLA: Don’t be like that.  I will fall out with you if you push at me.
MAX: I thought you’d like your mind taken off…things.
FENELLA: ‘Things’?!  My partner apparently abducted in Madrid and now who knows where?  The constant gut-wrenching terror of wondering what he’s going through each moment?  Of wondering if he’s still alive or just…a body?
MAX: Yes, exactly.  Here to help.
FENELLA: Yourself?
MAX: I know you have insight into some of the strategies that the big corporates are using – the psychology their marketers are applying to counter the mass awakening of citizens from the clutches of consum—
FENELLA: Stop, stop.  I lost it…
MAX: I thought I was quite eloquent.
FENELLA: Corporate psychology; run it again.
MAX: You could just rewind that thing and play it yourself.  Oh, fine.  The psychology that companies are using to distort the narrative as—
FENELLA: Hang on.
MAX: Have you no focus at all?
FENELLA: Look.
MAX: What?  The valley?  The road?
FENELLA: On the road.
MAX: A van?
FENELLA: Coming here.
MAX: Possibly.
FENELLA: It’s news.
SOUND: CLICK

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2023, Winter, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, WIND MOANS, FIRE CRACKLES
MAX: Lucky he turned up in one piece.
FENELLA: Hardly.
MAX: Not lucky?  Or not in one piece?
FENELLA: Definitely not one piece, but who lucky fo—for whom..?
MAX: Well, ultimately me, I suppose.
FENELLA: Inevitably, but how exalt—exactly?
MAX: You would’ve been destroyed otherwise.
FENELLA: And I’m not now?
MAX: Not just—quite.
FENELLA: Soon enough.  Comes to the same end…point anyway.
MAX: Perhaps.  But the journey…
FENELLA: Oh, please.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge; 2022, Winter, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, WIND MOANS
FENELLA: Tales should be spoken, not written, and definitely not typed.
MAX: Handy.
FENELLA: Native Australians tell a story as they walk the land, connecting the features as they pass, like a needle on a record.  Only sounds right at four miles an hour.  Look at all this ice, dust, shit.
MAX: Your record warped?
FENELLA: Someone put a pizza on my turntable.
MAX: Nasty.
FENELLA: Wrong format.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2023, Winter, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, WIND MOANS, FIRE CRACKLES, APPROACHING STUMBLING FOOTSTEPS
MAX: Where’ve you been?
FENELLA: Uphill— the hill.
MAX: That’s just wasting energy!
FENELLA: I know.  I had…
MAX: There’s nothing growing there; we’ve been and we’ve looked.
FENELLA: I know.  I just—  I saw the sun.  It was so clouded by smoke and dust, it looked like the moon; a midday moon.
MAX: And, like a true loon, you grav-it-ated towards it?
FENELLA: …to where I was…
MAX: The quake?
FENELLA: The second warning.
MAX: With him?
FENELLA: We were watching the sun, saying farewell to sunnier…  Summer.  I never thought how long it could be.  One of his better days.  In the middle of that rare, precious, precarious joy and laughter: a flash, shaking that seemed to be at the same time.  The ground you depend on.  Without that security…  Where were you?
MAX: Different hill.  I knew right then…  That was that.  Do you know…  Half of me stayed up that hill, watching, while the other half pelted back to the house for…  Nothing.  Denial.  My other life, as you said.
FENELLA: She was still there?
MAX: Just until that moment. Then she knew I hadn’t come back for her.

SCENE 7.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2023, Winter, Day
SOUND: CLICKS, FAST THROUGH DIALOGUE AUDIO FILES
FENELLA: Where’s the rest of it? Oh, come on.  It has to be here somewhere.
MAX: Why’s that one so important?
FENELLA: Not record! Play you idiot device!

SCENE 8.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Winter, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, WIND MOANS, FIRE CRACKLES
FENELLA: It’s not that we couldn’t keep up with the changing herbscape—
MAX: Herbscape!
FENELLA: —It’s that the herbs couldn’t keep up with the changing climatescape.  In plant time it was the blink of a…stomata?
MAX: We didn’t do so well, even seeing it coming.
FENELLA: Did it help – knowing?
MAX: It’s always better to know.
FENELLA: I don’t know; I mean: knowledge and belief are so easily distorted.
MAX: I know about that.
FENELLA: Is that what happened with your marriage?
MAX: My marriage is absolutely… not…
FENELLA: Nothing is sacrosanct any more.  Give it up.
MAX: It was the victim of external forces.
FENELLA: Which means what?
MAX: Subject closed.
FENELLA: Anything to do with the lack of materialising children?
MAX: Did you hear me say I’m not talking about it?
FENELLA: We’ve never respected that. Maybe it’s a blessing: you wouldn’t want children facing this with you.
MAX: Don’t try to tease something positive from stuff you know nothing about.
FENELLA: Boring.  How about I tell you mine, then you tell me yours.
MAX: Still no.
FENELLA: I found him in the gulley, plastered with muddy rain, quite cold.
MAX: I know; you don’t have to relive it.
FENELLA: I didn’t tell you, though: I’ll never know if he meant to…
MAX: Die?
FENELLA: I was beyond autopsies and enquiries.  I just buried him in silt and stones.
MAX: From what you’ve said his head was pretty much melted.
FENELLA: He never got over – never had chance to get over – the abduction.  It felt like all the nastiness of human desperation and fear focused to a pinpoint and stabbed into him.  Him of all people! So grossly unfair.
MAX: I’m still not telling you anything.
FENELLA: I don’t care any more.
MAX: Don’t try your reverse motivation crap.  Knowing more horrible experiences you went through doesn’t make me want to share mine.
FENELLA: It’s not a competition.
MAX: I’m not even playing!
FENELLA: Fine.  You’re right: not my business.  I made my choice a long time ago.

SCENE 9.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Office; 2013, Winter, Day
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS, TYPING
MAX: How do you feel about the continent of North America?
FENELLA: Ambivalent.
MAX: That was… underwhelming.  Would you like to try again?
FENELLA: No.  I’m not going.
MAX: Yes, you are.
FENELLA: No.  I’m resigning.
MAX: I don’t understand.
FENELLA: I’m sorry.  I need to stop.
MAX: But you’ve been stopped!  We’re about to restart.
FENELLA: I know.  It hasn’t been enough.  I need to do something else.
MAX: There isn’t anything else.
FENELLA: There must be.
MAX: Like what?
FENELLA: I don’t know either.  I feel like I’m letting down my entire gender by spending my professional life and much of my personal life running around after men.  Man.  You.
MAX: Really?
FENELLA: Something like that.
MAX: Well, that’s that, then.
FENELLA: They’ll have another assistant in place for you well before you set off.
MAX: There won’t be any setting off.  And you were never my assistant.
FENELLA: Yes, that’s exactly what I was.  And I don’t mean you made me feel in any way demeaned; I just need to be doing something myself.
MAX: I didn’t think this is how it would end.
FENELLA: It’s not ending!  I’m just stepping off.  The wagon train is still going with you at the helm.
MAX: Trains don’t have helms.
FENELLA: See?  You need a new assistant.
MAX: Not funny.
FENELLA: OK, I’m not dragging this out.  You know I’ve had the time of my life. I’ll see you… sometime.
MAX: Right, I’ll have to come back to you.  I need time to process.
SOUND: DISTANT DOOR THUMPS CLOSED

SCENE 10.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Winter, Night
SOUND: ICE CREAKS
MAX: Turns out hell isn’t an everlasting volcano; it’s penetrating, unremitting cold.  Total absence of energy.  All life smothered by a blanket of ash and darkness.  Just like when you leave me on my own.
FENELLA: Ouch.  Is that snow?
MAX: It’s the most pathetic snowfall I’ve ever seen.  It’s not even frizzle.
FENELLA: Frozen drizzle of what, though?
MAX: Who knows what poisons are floating about overhead?
FENELLA: Without our canary heron we’re in the dark.
MAX: In a shrinking oasis in the middle of a circle of death.  No-one’s coming in; we can’t get out. The doughnut of destiny.
FENELLA: I’m glad we saw it, though. I feel sorry for the folk who had no idea; the power, everything just stopped.  I guess they found out eventually.  Other countries must still be operating, but anyone too far away to see and too close to escape… It must be hell.
MAX: This is hell enough.
FENELLA: How did we end up…
MAX: Effectively the last two people alive?
FENELLA: It’s all dire chance and fateful fuck-up.
MAX: I beg your pardon: I came for you!
FENELLA: When there was no-one else left.
MAX: Why are you always trying to diminish us?
FENELLA: We had a good, really good, working relationship – fantastic rapport.
MAX: Fantastic reductionism, thank you.
FENELLA: Well, why muddle that with drama and over-stretched significance?
MAX: Because we’re the last two fucking people left alive!
FENELLA: One: your arse.  Two: it’s not like all the history of the planet has been leading up to this point.  And three: even if either of those were true, we don’t matter one bit.
MAX: When we’re all that’s left, we’re all that matters.
FENELLA: Only to your planet-sized ego.
MAX: Pax?
FENELLA: Pax. And, by the way, I think you were right about getting away from town.
MAX: Shame no-one else did. And not that it matters, but when I said ‘I came for you’ I meant the other time.
FENELLA: Which?
MAX: Both.
FENELLA: Evil overlord!
MAX: How?
FENELLA: Just as you think you have the heroic protagonist at check-mate, you feel an irresistible urge to relate your entire back-story, including, especially, admitting all your crimes and explaining exactly how you committed them.
MAX: We are rather at check-mate.
FENELLA: So, ‘fess up!
MAX: This is not the time for the ‘heroic protagonist’ to start using youth slang.
FENELLA: You came for me with Europe, and you came for me—
MAX: Yes, yes, the pouncing-on-the-recently-widowed inappropriacy award goes to: me.
FENELLA: What was it when he was just abducted?
MAX: That’s in poor taste.
FENELLA: I hardly think it matters; I don’t see many etiquette adjudicators.  Let’s get it all out!
MAX: That was testing the water.
FENELLA: Are you serious?
MAX: No, I’m not serious, you moss-encrusted melodramatist!  It’s much worse: I was testing myself, to see if I was capable of being…normal with you.
FENELLA: As opposed to?
MAX: Two fucking decades of torturous adolescent infatuation.  Well?  Say something.  Express your enumerated objections.  We actually don’t have all the time in the world.
FENELLA: Well, OK: one: I don’t believe you; two: you addle-minded narcissist; and three: you really think you’re going to seduce me before we either starve or freeze to death?
MAX: It’s not the worst idea.  Once again: not serious!  I haven’t the strength.

SCENE 11.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2023, Winter, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, WIND MOANS, FIRE CRACKLES
FENELLA: You know, I did have a passion for you for about six minutes one time.
MAX: My ego isn’t that desperate for…
FENELLA: Your ability to…organise facts to suit the audience…
MAX: You’re teasing me with professional respect?
FENELLA: Is that enough or shall I carry on?
MAX: Please.
FENELLA: You know I love you, don’t you? In a strange, powerful way that defies…
MAX: I’ll take it.
FENELLA: Shall we digest the story so far?
MAX: Again?
SOUND: CLICK

SCENE 12.
MAX: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2023, Winter, Day
MAX: No, not again. End.
SOUND: CLICK

SCENE 13.
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
MAX: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2023, Winter, Day
MAX: Hey! I found more moss!  Don’t pretend you’re not excited.  I remembered one of the trees that was dead before the winter.  I climbed it and ta-dar!  Come on!  This deserves more than one of your unimpressed icy stares.
SOUND: CLICK

SCENE 14.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Winter, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, WIND MOANS, FIRE CRACKLES
MAX: Stop wandering away.
FENELLA: It’s picking you up fine.
MAX: Do you really think this’ll work?
FENELLA: Bound to.  Layering the recordings might turn into a bit of a mishmash but who the hell cares?
MAX: It won’t explain anything.
FENELLA: It might.  Transformed like old parchment, like layers of rotting leaves.
MAX: The battery won’t last.
FENELLA: It might.
MAX: But, do we really want to invest our time in this?
FENELLA: What could go wrong?!  One of us pegs it and the other one’s left to perform live in sync with the recording?
MAX: I hadn’t thought of that.  How—
SOUND: CLICK

26/02/2017

Episode 4: Autumn

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

Rotting Leaves starts at Episode 1: Staging.

EPISODE 4: AUTUMN
SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, WIND WHISTLES
FENELLA: A haunting gale rushes through the house, moving and sounding its greeting.
MAX: Ghosts.
FENELLA: What?
MAX: I wish I’d done more.
FENELLA: I don’t see, really, what else you could’ve done.
MAX: There must’ve been someone, somewhere, I could’ve persuaded; made the difference.
FENELLA: That’s the problem: people having free will.  It wasn’t any one person, like it wasn’t any one issue.
MAX: Gho—
FENELLA: Wasn’t goats either.
MAX: Ghosts?

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Fife, Garden; 2019, Autumn, Day
SOUND: VEHICLES RUMBLE DISTANTLY, BIRDS CHIRRUP
FENELLA: Jet aeroplanes roaring beyond clouds, lorries shaking over potholes sound to me like rumbling thunder.  Much as cognitively I enjoy the excitement of an approaching storm, emotionally, primitively, I fear it.  My mind creeps toward my gut, agreeing that there are all sorts of reasons to fear big transport engines.  The smell of kerosene is not at all like aviation fuel.  It pricks my throat, stings my eyes, strains my head, leaves my whole upper body toxic.  It is another real threat that my brain is catching up to my body. Hello.
MAX: You have a phobia about vehicles?  Is this a reaction to our trip?
FENELLA: Seven years would be post-post-traumatic.
MAX: I’m a slow burner.
FENELLA: Unlike the fossil fuels.  No, it’s deeper, more primitive; it’s basic fear.
MAX: Death?
FENELLA: What makes you say that?
MAX: Your partner expired.
FENELLA: Your marriage expired.
MAX: Yet here we still are: in the autumn of our lives.
FENELLA: Like rotting leaves.  Is that why you’re here?
MAX: Because the wind happened to blow this way?  Do you think I’m entirely passive?
FENELLA: Didn’t you just have a wife-shaped hole to fill?
MAX: I think my hypothesis is slightly less self-degrading.
FENELLA: Leave me now.
MAX: Why?
FENELLA: Because I’ve had enough of you for today and we both know you’ll be back tomorrow.
MAX: All our problems boil down to timing.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
MAX: Where did you and he meet?
FENELLA: Are you obsessed with him?
MAX: I would think so.
FENELLA: Cramond.
MAX: Specifically?
FENELLA: That…reception, soirée thing for the almost-celebrated Scots I got invited to. Somebody insisted I went.  Wow, six years—
MAX: I was meant to be there.
FENELLA: Yes, you were.  Giving me a swerve, eh?
MAX: If I’d known, but I was having some dreadful premonition: all that talk of blasting under the firth.
FENELLA: It doesn’t matter; we’re all as guilty as each other.
MAX: It does if he was my substitute.
FENELLA: Hardly.  I really don’t know why he was there, since he was definitely celebrated.
MAX: Not by everyone.
FENELLA: OK, not by you.
MAX: The corporates were quite vitriolic about his appointment.
FENELLA: As they were about all of them.  Even though the tide had turned far too late.
MAX: Whatever about the guest list, where exactly were you?
FENELLA: Cross-examining me?
MAX: Keen to know what I missed.
FENELLA: I was out on the sand, hiding, as usual.  Too many bright lights and clanging people.  The water soothed me.  He just appeared beside me.  I was a bit awestruck, but I’d had just enough fizz to be perverse.  To test him.
MAX: Even then?
FENELLA: Even what?
MAX: Right from the first encounter you had an idea he was worth it?
FENELLA: Worth testing?
MAX: You know what I mean!  You only test the ones you care about.
FENELLA: I told you that.
MAX: I haven’t forgotten.
FENELLA: So there was a lot of me nipping and him being bemused.  He stuck it out for ages.  He had surprisingly big shoulders. Did you ever notice that?
MAX: Tried not to.
FENELLA: I guess the activist business required a certain amount of…climbing.
Anyway, I was getting tired of being waspish and pretending not to know his résumé, and wondering how to coolly extricate myself.  Saved by our dippy hostess redistributing him.
MAX: There has to be more than that.
FENELLA: There was.  I was draining my glass, drawing imaginary dotted lines of least resistance to my exit, when he came striding across the sand at me, stabbing the air, shouting something like, ‘I know you!’  It was a bit blowy.
MAX: And your cool, witty rejoinder?
FENELLA: Lost forever in possibility: the tremor.  Turns out you were prescient even if not present.
MAX: Lost your sandcastle?
FENELLA: That was what freaked me out: the sand; it cracked up – wee patches and lines of it falling in on wee gullies…
MAX: I don’t understand.
FENELLA: The sandscape wa—
MAX: Most people say ‘beach’.
FENELLA: The beach was fracturing and pouring into its own crevasses.  It felt like standing on a crazy paving of quicksand.  Then he hit me—
MAX: Hit you?
FENELLA: He just carried on running and collected me on the way through.  He was staggering about, heading roughly at the buildings, dodging the moving sand.  After all the being flung about, he shoved me into a tree, barking at me to climb.
MAX: Barking!
FENELLA: Ha.  I never climbed a tree in my life.  He was after me, pushing.  I was utterly confused – useless in a catastrophe – bewildered by my stinging hands.  Turned out he had experience of quakes in Asia and the tsunamis that often follow.  So you get up high, preferably on something solid like grounded rock, but a tree was the best he could do.  In the event the wave was big but the sand was enough to absorb it.
MAX: Thank you for that!
FENELLA: You asked!
MAX: The earth moved, the wave rolled over you. Can we just say you were besotted?
FENELLA: I was in shock.  We just sat in the tree, watching helicopters swarming up the firth, hearing sirens swirling down the streets…  My memory’s fogged after that.
MAX: But you saw him again, obviously.
FENELLA: Couple days later he showed up at my house.  ‘You’re the one that dedicated that manifesto to me!’  Done his research, totally took advantage of my enfeebled state and my tattered hands, and charmed through all my defences.
MAX: Bastard.
FENELLA: Aye, weakened me then left me to live through this shit alone.
MAX: Not alone.
FENELLA: That’s right: I can always count on your presence in shitty times.

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2021, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, FIRE SPUTTERS
FENELLA: Say that again.
MAX: Why?
FENELLA: Wasn’t recording.
MAX: Fine!  I don’t give you enough credit.
FENELLA: For?
MAX: Prescience.
FENELLA: Ugh.  Don’t patronise me with ‘woman’s intuition’.
MAX: I don’t think it’s gender-specific.  As far as I know it’s unique to you.
FENELLA: Actually you’re not that hard to predict.
MAX: I know.  Much more impressive is being able to foresee global-scale – what are we calling it?  Climate cataclysm?
FENELLA: Again, I don’t think I was the only one who saw that coming.
MAX: I think you’re among very few who knew it was only a matter of days away.
FENELLA: I think you’re havering.
MAX: I think you came for me.
FENELLA: Not in this lifetime.
MAX: In fact I know: you came to my office on the Tuesday.  I was in that meeting that seemed so insurmountably important.  Imagine my disappointment to find I’d missed a far more important one.
FENELLA: Nope.
MAX: No what?
FENELLA: Can’t imagine that.
MAX: Denial is futile.
FENELLA: Almost rhymes.
MAX: Point proved.
FENELLA: Hardly.  Even if I was there, you have no idea why.
MAX: You were there.  My assistant described you.
FENELLA: My description is astonishingly non-specific.
MAX: He didn’t describe you physically.
FENELLA: I barely spoke to him!  I was there all of seven seconds!  What other terms could he possibly use?
MAX: Mine.
FENELLA: Insightful.
MAX: He’s a good assistant.  Second only to you.
FENELLA: Well, go on, Sherlock: how’d you deduce my purpose?
MAX: If it’d been unimportant, you’d’ve emailed or phoned.  If it’d been personal, you’d’ve come to the house.  It had to be the only thing that you couldn’t discuss with anyone else.  Alive.
FENELLA: To distinguish you from?
MAX: Your late activist.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) England, Exeter, Hotel; 2019, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: DELEGATES CHATTER, MOBILE RINGS
FENELLA: What.
MAX: (DISTORT) I’m outside.  Can I come in?
FENELLA: No.
MAX: (DISTORT) Why?
FENELLA: Because you don’t have special powers or a key.
MAX: (DISTORT) Just let me in.
FENELLA: No.
MAX: (DISTORT) Why?
FENELLA: Because I don’t have special powers either.
MAX: (DISTORT) Where are you?
FENELLA: That’s better.  I’m not at home.
MAX: (DISTORT) Well, hurry up: I need you.
FENELLA: Impossible and unlikely.  I have about twelve minutes just now if you want them.
MAX: (DISTORT) No!  Can’t be done over the phone.  Crisis.
FENELLA: What crisis?
MAX: (DISTORT) Crisis crisis. Need to know basis. In person.
FENELLA: How quickly can you travel six hundred miles?
MAX: (DISTORT) Unacceptable. When are you back?
FENELLA: Tomorrow evening.
MAX: (DISTORT) I’ll see you then.
FENELLA: No you won’t, because I’ll be out.
MAX: (DISTORT) Cancel.
FENELLA: No.  You can either get yourself invited to the Commonedge Trust thing or wait till Sunday.
MAX: (DISTORT) Blacklisted.
FENELLA: Then it would be very bad form of me to take you with me.
MAX: (DISTORT) Brilliant, yes, do that.
FENELLA: No, I’m actually there to work.
MAX: (DISTORT) You can slice through that; I’ll help.  Pedantic nonsense.
FENELLA: Why were you blacklisted again?
MAX: (DISTORT) Offended some bean-counter over her obsessional focus on grains of sand.
FENELLA: Hard to imagine.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Autumn, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
FENELLA: Do I look as ghastly as you?
MAX: Like a burst mattress? You called me back for that?
FENELLA: Remember I said about the third time?
MAX: Being the second time the universe crapped on you. Can I get on with my soul-destroying and literally fruitless pursuit of food now?
FENELLA: I found it.  Listen.

SCENE 7.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Perthshire, Garden; 2019, Autumn, Day
SOUND: LEAVES RUSTLE AND SHOOF, BIRD CALLS, BREEZE
MAX: I’m at a loss.
FENELLA: I think I’m the one with loss.
MAX: Mine is what to say.
FENELLA: Unusual for you.
MAX: Highly irregular.
FENELLA: Who’ve you been speaking to?
MAX: To find out?
FENELLA: To pick up a peculiar phrase like that.
MAX: You still amuse me.
FENELLA: Aye, I didn’t expect you to be here to lift my spirits.
MAX: I could just not speak?
FENELLA: I doubt it.  Stand there, at that tree.
MAX: Here?  Why?
FENELLA: I’m going over there to take a picture and I want you out of temptation’s way.
MAX: Why do you want a picture of me?
FENELLA: I don’t.
SOUND: FABRIC PUSHES PAST LEAVES AND BRANCHES
MAX: (OFF) Then what?  It’s all dull orange and brown.
FENELLA: I’m learning to love it.
MAX: (OFF) Are you secretly hoping to catch me hugging this tree?
FENELLA: It’s really not about y—  Oh!
SOUND: FABRIC SLIDES AND TEARS
MAX: (OFF) Are you alright?
FENELLA: (OFF) Yes.  No, I’ve lost contact with my wristy.
MAX: (OFF) Serves you right for using outdated technology.
FENELLA: (OFF) Three years is a museum piece?
MAX: (OFF) No, they transmogrify it into something newer.  Have you got it yet?
FENELLA: (OFF) No.
MAX: (OFF) No?  It’s hard for me to tell from this sub-omniscient position, but you sound a little…stuck.
FENELLA: (OFF) I’m stuck.
MAX: (OFF) Oh, dear.  I don’t suppose you want to release me from tree arrest?
FENELLA: (OFF) Only if you walk quietly away and never speak of this to anyone.
MAX: (OFF) Impossible.  I’m leaving my post now. (PAUSE) Oh, dear.
FENELLA: (OFF) Is that all you have?
MAX: (OFF) Why don’t you just climb back along the branch?
FENELLA: (OFF) I’m not leaving my wristy.  Important files on there.
MAX: (OFF) Important?
FENELLA: (OFF) Personal.
MAX: (OFF) Not important.
FENELLA: (OFF) They are.  They’re recordings of…
MAX: (OFF) Oh, him, right.  Then I think you have to use me as an anchor—
FENELLA: (OFF) I don’t think I’m emotionally ready to crawl over you.
MAX: (OFF) Up to you.  I don’t expect gratitude.
SOUND: FABRIC SHUFFLES, DRAGS
FENELLA: (CLOSE) You’re quite warm, aren’t you?
MAX: (CLOSE) Fuck, woman, I’m doing my best here!
FENELLA: (CLOSE) A bit tense?
MAX: (CLOSE) Just get your—  Ooh, you’re very close. Move along.
FENELLA: (CLOSE) I’m snagged on something.  Can you see?
MAX: (CLOSE) There.  Ahhhhhhh!
SOUND: WHUMP, GRUNTS
FENELLA & MAX: (TOGETHER) I’m not ready for this!
MAX: I’m going back to the tree.  I was safe there.
FENELLA: Look at that!
MAX: (OFF) Not now; I need the safety tree.
FENELLA: My wristy’s still recording!

SCENE 8.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2021, Autumn, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, FLICKING THROUGH PHOTOS
MAX: One photo I didn’t understand: Edinburgh Waverley station.
FENELLA: You don’t like the soothing orderliness of parallel lines?
MAX: You have five pictures to remember your life by. Why that one? And don’t give me any smart-arse crap.
FENELLA: The track not taken.
MAX: Well, that’s crystal clear. Although, it reminds me of a night I was stood up. Yes, 2011. In fact, it was that exact night, wasn’t it?
FENELLA: It was.
MAX: But the time-stamp – you said you were too late; you were early.
FENELLA: Except…
MAX: Except it’s an hour later because of your time setting idiosyncrasy.
FENELLA: So I was neither early nor late.
MAX: And you were there.
FENELLA: Hard to define the terms of being stood up, isn’t it?
MAX: I suppose if I look closely I’ll see I was there too.
FENELLA: Almost an existential crisis now.
MAX: So why the fuck did you let me wait, lie to me? Why stand me up? Another of your feminist interludes?
FENELLA: Look again.
MAX: What? The platform? The posters? Trains? People?
FENELLA: People, but not passengers.
MAX: That… looks… Oh, god, she suspected.
FENELLA: What do you do when the man who has invited you on a train to Paris confirms in the same moment that the trip is not entirely professional and that he has unfinished business with his wife?
MAX: You take photographic evidence for future arraignment. Remarkable.

19/02/2017

Episode 3: Summer

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

Rotting Leaves starts at Episode 1: Staging.

SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Scotland, Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
FENELLA: This evening sky is finely spattered with fugitive tufts of cloud, like a cave pouring bats into dusk.  A crowd of rooks merges and churns.  We are a mesh of interconnecting activity.  I see what you’re doing, by the way.
MAX: I feel my mental acui-racy less every day.  When my memory goes, I’ll need a fall-back.  I’m reduced to making blotches on rock.
FENELLA: If.
MAX: If what?
FENELLA: Never mind.  Anyway, I don’t mean your cave paintings; I mean your categorising of events.
MAX: You were quite bizarrely strict about there being no order.
FENELLA: And yet you’re putting us in seasons.
MAX: I beg your pardon: I am not ‘in season’.
FENELLA: Just let me bask one more time in the warm summer sun.

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh University, Lecture Theatre; 2012, Summer, Day
SOUND: AUDIENCE SHUFFLES, ECHO
FENELLA: The question was: which politician was it who said “environmental legislation is crippling the economy”?  And didn’t they have a p—
MAX: Oh, which one of the seven thousand, one hundred and sixty-two politicians, on which one of the eight hundred thousand, five hundred and twelve recorded occasions?  Who said the fossil fuel industry needs our support in the form of tax incentives in perpetuity?  Who said the nuclear sector needs propping up with decades of investment return guarantees?  Who said car manufacturers should be allowed unsafe, unhealthy exhaust emissions limits to help them make the feeble transition to slightly less unsafe, unhealthy limits?  Who said we need genetically-modified crops to ensure our food security, and therefore we must allow our heroic biotechnology sector some flexibility in regulation?  Who said that the resulting over-application of herbicides analogous to agent orange required by these GM crops, that caused the evolution of super-weeds resistant to everything short of napalm, was the cost of doing business?  Who said the resulting levels of herbicide in bread and lettuce and human breastmilk being eight hundred times the safe limit was scaremongering by woefully out of touch idealists?  Who said shooting badgers was an essential part of a coordinated approach to controlling bovine tuberculosis thereby ensuring the continuing success of our valuable and blameless dairy industry?  Who said the routine use of prophylactic antibiotics and anti-inflammatories was essential for the livestock industry, and in no way connected to the rise in resistant superbugs and dead vultures? Who said, who said, who said?  It couldn’t matter less.  All idiots.
FENELLA: I don’t think she can hear you now, over the roaring of her personal light aircraft engine.
MAX: The answer you’re looking for is this: they’re all spectacularly, perniciously wrong.  Because they all made the same, fundamental mistake: you can’t ‘balance’ nature against human ‘needs’.  Humans are part of nature.  We’re only stealing from one another, or from our future.
FENELLA: Well, I think we lost her vote.
MAX: There are some other people here.
FENELLA: They were with you already.
MAX: What’s next?
FENELLA: Some mellow time and abstinence from sugar.
MAX: Next question.
FENELLA: Why are megafauna so important?  Surely other species or even humans can step in to fill any niche?
MAX: Megafauna, the biggest animals, play significant roles in all their ecosystems.  They disperse seeds over great distances – some seeds even need large mammals to disperse them; they evolved with them.  Just through eating and moving about, megafauna open up areas in forests and maintain grasslands, thereby decreasing the length and intensity of wildfires.  Even when they die, these massive creatures become food for top predators and scavengers.  And their remains are important: carcasses donate a variety of nutrients such as calcium to the soil. Large herbivores interact with a range of small animals – birds, insects, rodents, lizards – for example, several fish species feed on hippopotamus flesh wounds.  The dung of Asian elephants is used by amphibians as a daytime refuge.  Bison wallows support amphibians and birds through creating ephemeral pools, and the bison grazing improves the habitat for prairie dogs and pocket gophers.  Oxpeckers need large herbivores for their diet of ectoparasites, hence the name.  Even blood-sucking insects such as tsetse flies largely depend on herbivores for food.  Less attractive conservation icons perhaps, and these are just a few of the relationships – the ones we know about.  There are myriad interdependencies we haven’t yet discovered.  The message is clear: remove a node from the web and the resulting fraying quickly ends up at our door.  And we’re missing them from our world, just like all the apex predators we’ve bumped off for getting in our way.  But this is not what I came to speak about.  What I want to focus on dwarfs species conservation like the legendary woolly mammoth.  Not content with picking at nodes, we’re directing a flamethrower at the entire web.  We’re too important for the universe not to save, right?  Yes, you’re right: preaching to the converted. Blustering away ineffectually at a hurricane.
FADE.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Spain, Barcelona, Conference Hotel; 2012, Summer, Day
SOUND: DELEGATES CHATTER
MAX: Why does it have to be so flaming hot?!
FENELLA: I’ll put some time in your diary to explain lines of latitude.
MAX: Just blot me.
FENELLA: I’m not that kind of girl.  Don’t use th—!  Uch.  I’ll never wear that again.
MAX: I’m melting!  My mind is a finely tuned instrument.  I require supercooling.
FENELLA: Don’t tempt me.
MAX: Where does this go? 
SOUND: DOOR CLICKS OPEN
Ooh, balcony!  I like balconies.
SOUND: DELEGATE CHATTER FADES, DISTANT VEHICLES, BREEZE
FENELLA: Rather spiky.  And still hot.
MAX: Wasn’t that how we began?
FENELLA: Me skewering you on an iceberg?
MAX: Yes, how it all began: 2002, you impaling yourself on the railings at—
FENELLA: I was cooling my face!  May was always obnoxiously sunny, as if to exacerbate the insult of swotting for exams.
MAX: The campus was rather sixties concrete geometry…
FENELLA: Surrounding a postage stamp-sized park incarcerated within iron railings.  I suppose the students would not’ve respected the sacred quadratitude.
MAX: The railings were black.
FENELLA: And therefore the instruments of Lucifer?
MAX: They weren’t cool.
FENELLA: No, and they smelled nasty.
MAX: So why were you nuzzling up against them?
FENELLA: I was trying for shade, green shade, man.
MAX: No excuse for perving.
FENELLA: I was feeling much better until you interfered.
MAX: I was concerned.
FENELLA: No, you weren’t.
MAX: No, I wasn’t.  I was finding things especially ridiculous.
FENELLA: That was the heat.
MAX: I was revelling in the woeful unpreparedness of my classmates.
FENELLA: Being an unmitigated Percy yourself.
MAX: An engaged student with the ability to manage my time?  Yes, mea culpa.
FENELLA: You offered to assist by greasing me up like a pig.
MAX: I thought you might be stuck.
FENELLA: I thought you were rude and lewd.
MAX: The start of every dream romance.  If it hadn’t been for cabbage-face.
FENELLA: And me not finding you remotely attractive, or coherent.  But, if I’d had the chance, I should’ve thanked her for saving me from your lecherous advances.
MAX: There’s a conversation I would’ve enjoyed listening to.
FENELLA: How spectacularly narcissistic.
MAX: The only person who loves me more than me is you, dearest.
FENELLA: And delusional.  Cooler now?
MAX: Hardly.
FENELLA: Good.
MAX: Oh, don’t flounce off!
FENELLA: I have to polish your stuff—your words.

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Belgium, Brussels, European Parliament Concourse; 2012, Summer, Day
SOUND: DELEGATES CHATTER, SCURRY BY
MAX: Have you seen him – Monsieur transcribey squiggley?
FENELLA: Not since—  What are you doing?!
MAX: Minister.  Balcony.
FENELLA: Alone?
MAX: Almost have her – sort of Jungian hydrology.
FENELLA: You need the rapporteur!
MAX: Yes, that’s why I—
FENELLA: This is why we need some sort of coded hand signals!
MAX: Fingers!  Wiggling!
FENELLA: You always fidg—  Does it feel cooler to you?
MAX: I always get a chill off you.
FENELLA: You’re changing the fucking weather.  Get back out there!  I’ll find him.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
MAX: I liked that: changing the weather.  Shame I didn’t.
FENELLA: That’s chaos for you.
MAX: I thought of the comeback too late.
FENELLA: Better be good after ten years.
MAX: You know when the butterfly flaps its wings?
FENELLA: Oh, yeh, in Peru then a typhoon hits Switzerland.
MAX: You feel the butterfly.
FENELLA: I think everyone feels it.
MAX: No, I mean you feel it beat its wings.  You feel it tap its leg.  You sense those tiny vibrations on the far side of the world – those early warnings.
FENELLA: I knew you’d find a way to make this my fault.
MAX: No, that’s not what I—
FENELLA: I know.  Thank you.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Italy, Florence, Hotel Room; 2012, Summer, Night
SOUND: WHUMP, BED SHEETS RUSTLE
MAX: Listen!  I had one of my brilliant ideas!
FENELLA: (Sleepily) Why are you in my bedroom?
MAX: It’s not your bedroom.  It’s a public hotel room.
FENELLA: Which I hired for my privacy. How did you get in?
MAX: Oh, like you only leave your window open for vampires.
FENELLA: You wouldn’t understand, not breathing air like us mere mortals.
MAX: Why are you so sleepy?
FENELLA: Having been asleep.
MAX: Waste of time.  Wait till you hear this.
FENELLA: Can I sleep-wait?
MAX: You’ll never get to sleep now.  This is too exciting.
FENELLA: Probably the most excitement I’ll get in my hotel bedroom.
MAX: You’re lucky this is far too important to be diverted from or I’d have to do something about…
FENELLA: What?
MAX: Have you seen the Climate Clots’ latest?
FENELLA: Yes, I gave you that briefing.  After I wrote it, you know, based on my own research.
MAX: We need to get in front of them.
FENELLA: Predicting their next outpouring of garble is quite difficult.
MAX: No, I mean literally in front of them.  Look where they’re booked.  I’m dancing about Europe already, surely we have to cross paths somewhere.
FENELLA: Which sort of dance do you plan to do in front of them?
MAX: The nimble polka of reason and fact and evidence.
FENELLA: How long before they mash your potato?  Yes.  We don’t have the hordes necessary to infiltrate their gatherings.
MAX: Oh, flash the bat-sign!
FENELLA: Cunning as a pigeon.  Like none of them can navigate the internet.
MAX: You’re quite negative.  Over-tired.
FENELLA: I’m not crushing your hare-brained ideas just as some form of displaced sleep-deprived rage.  It’s also fun, it’s part of my job, plus you’re dangerously untethered.
MAX: How can I possibly be dangerous with you…
FENELLA: Me what?
MAX: Semantic double-exposure.  Never mind.  I must take my untethered tango elsewhere.
FENELLA: Mind your exposure.
MAX: (OFF) Too late.  Curdled.
SOUND: SQUIRMING THROUGH WINDOW, BED SHEETS RUSTLE

SCENE 7.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Perthshire, Hill; 2021, Summer, Day
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS, BIRDS CALL
MAX: Pretty spectacular back garden.
FENELLA: The apple fell pretty close to the tree, eh?  Well, it blew away a bit then washed back.  On a clear day, up here, I can see Edinburgh.  Like looking at my past self.
MAX: On a clear day you can see yourself.
FENELLA: What?
MAX: Some ghastly self-help aphorism.
FENELLA: And what do you see on a clear day?
MAX: A thousand missed chances.
FENELLA: Still torturing yourself for not saving the world?
MAX: No, just you.
FENELLA: This is all very amusing – the long-running joke on our relationship, the unrequited motif – but don’t try to up the game; we both know this is as far as it goes.
MAX: I do no— I know no such thing.
FENELLA: Choice had; passed.
MAX: When?!
FENELLA: There was a time when I imagined we’d end up with a smallholding.  I’d keep chickens and you’d have some mountains to wrangle.
MAX: When was this between finding me rude and lewd and declining my advances at the end of the world?
FENELLA: The end? Of the world?
MAX: Actually is nigh.
FENELLA: Oh. Well, it was 2010, October, I think: I was getting more and more bothered by drifting toward my thirties without a tangible mission.  And then something remarkable happened.

SCENE 8.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Office; 2010, Summer, Day
SOUND: THWACKING PAPERS ABOUT, BANGING CABINETS
MAX: It’s not your birthday?
FENELLA: No.
MAX: Are you sure?
FENELLA: Am I sure I’m not 10 years old?
MAX: Yes, that does seem unlikely.
FENELLA: Where did you get that date from?
MAX: It popped up.
FENELLA: What popped?
MAX: This thing.  So, when is your birthday?
FENELLA: Next year.  Is it possible you believed some fib I inserted in the internet for the purpose of obfuscating my personal information?
MAX: Again, unlikely, but possible.  When next year?
FENELLA: Classified.
MAX: Oh, don’t be stroppy.  When is your birthday?
FENELLA: I try very hard to keep that data private and if you have, all by yourself, aided my mission then I applaud you.
MAX: I shall catch you unawares when you least expect it.
FENELLA: That’s usually when it happens.
MAX: Drat.  I had this whole…
FENELLA: Why would you want to mark my birthday?
MAX: Oh, a grand, romantic gesture.
FENELLA: But why?
MAX: You must wait until your surprise birthday.

SCENE 9.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Suburb; 2011, Summer, Day
SOUND: ELECTRICAL WHINE
FENELLA: Disappoin-ted!  Expectations left salivating like Pavlov’s wolves!  Exposed to the censure of the world for caprice and to its derision for disappointed hopes, etcetra.
MAX: I know; you would’ve made a great political director.
FENELLA: Oh, that; no, that’s not it…
MAX: Well, it should be it: I spoke to— well, never mind who I spoke to.  They were all quite baffled with the outcome; couldn’t elaborate details of course.  Did you have a meltdown in the interview?
FENELLA: No, no, my heart just wasn’t in it.
MAX: But it was five days ago!?  What’s the matter— What is that fucking whining?!
FENELLA: Neighbour vacuuming car.  Every Saturday.  That used to be me.  Now the wheels have all come off.  Worms everywhere.
MAX: Did I miss something?
SOUND: FADE ELECTRICAL WHINE
FENELLA: Twice.  All future anniversaries are cancelled.
MAX: I thought this was your fake birthday outing!
FENELLA: No, this was—is your twenty-seventh pitch-a-wacky-idea meeting.
MAX: Then when was the party?
FENELLA: Earlier.  What’s the idea?
MAX: Actually, I did have a thought around bees—
FENELLA: Oh, get to the point!
MAX: A little tetchy?  Is it your rapidly advancing age?
FENELLA: Antenna!
MAX: What?
FENELLA: I can read your online diary.
MAX: Yes, it’s online.
FENELLA: All of it.
MAX: Well, not all of it; some of it’s private.
FENELLA: Not as much as you think.
MAX: Such as?
FENELLA: Antenna.  Getting your communications satellite upgraded?  Long-range political forecasting?  Or, as it turned out: antenatal appointment.  So, you did in fact catch me unawares when I least expected it.
MAX: That’s supposed to be private.
FENELLA: Apparently.  So is there something you need to tell me about your gender or is there something you need to tell me about your imminent unavailability?!
MAX: That rather trumps my point…which was—is that…the idea…your birthday—
FENELLA: Has led us to another birth-day, and it’s time you stopped trying to lead two lives.

12/02/2017

Episode 2: Spring

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

Rotting Leaves starts at Episode 1: Staging.

SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Scotland, Gorge Cave; 2022, Spring, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, RAIN PATTERS
FENELLA: Bluebells trail a fresh scent that underscores the promise of spring, prefaces the heavy sweetness of summer, appetises the smell buds—
MAX: You were on shaky ground, but ‘smell buds’ definitely ruined it.
FENELLA: I’m setting the scene. It’s not ready for an audience, especially not a hostile one.
MAX: Rain makes me fidgety.
FENELLA: Are you seven years old?
MAX: I suppose you immerse yourself in the total rain ganzfeld.
FENELLA: Notwithstanding contrarians, rain twinkles, trickles down the glass, refracting our destination into a thousand tiny, sodium glows.
MAX: What about our starting point?
FENELLA: Which one?
MAX: Tell me a story.
FENELLA: I shall start in the middle.
MAX: By all means.
FENELLA: The second time you blundered in to my life you had taken a notion to go away.
MAX: Lovely juxtaposition.
FENELLA: Must you interrupt?
MAX: I’m resigned to enjoy the ride; there’s no point quibbling over your relentless mangling of the facts.
FENELLA: Had you or had you not announced you were going around Europe?
MAX: Ah, we’re then, then.
FENELLA: Yet you had no idea how to leave.
MAX: And this is about me being left.
FENELLA: Since it’s already about you, you can’t make it any more about you.
MAX: If it isn’t about leaving and being left, what’s your point?
FENELLA: It’s about misdirection, misreading; about finding out subsequently that the trip – that entire theatre of foolishness – was part of the deal for your latest professional ascension.
MAX: Why can’t you just say promotion?
FENELLA: That makes it sound like you were awarded it.
MAX: I was.
FENELLA: No, you acquired it: the inevitable outcome of years of manoeuvring.
MAX: How twisted thou art.
FENELLA: Au contraire, my helical nemesis.
MAX: Then you are that around which I entwist.
FENELLA: Like leaden chains, dearest.
MAX: Yes, so, they insisted on Europe.  This digressing is tiresome.  Carry on.
FENELLA: You insisted.  The train was cutting through Belgium, Holland; you were—
MAX: Belgium is a country.
FENELLA: Well done.
MAX: You make it sound like a place in Holland.
FENELLA: It’s a list, not a belonging.
MAX: A list of two?
FENELLA: You were sleeping; I was updating your various reports and—
MAX: Hang on, back a bit: I insisted?  What deal?
FENELLA: You insisted that you would only take the job if it included the trip.
MAX: Why would I do that?  How could it possibly be for you?!
FENELLA: World class manoeuvring.  I liked it fine on the train.
MAX: Because I was asleep.
FENELLA: Especially.  And because I actually enjoyed presenting your brilliance.
MAX: I only had any brilliance with you.
FENELLA: Your breadth and depth of understanding, your conviction, your ability to bend power and direct the course of events…
MAX: I was quite something.
FENELLA: You made my socks roll up and down.
MAX: There’s a sight to see.
FENELLA: Do you miss that?
MAX: Playing with your socks?
FENELLA: Crunching over sun-baked dust without a map?  Gliding through vast snowfields with a plan fizzing in your head?  Stepping from hall to office to ancient monument with every face turned to you?  Changing the weather from a balcony hundreds of feet above a glittering city?
MAX: I miss the way working with you made me feel.
FENELLA: Well, now we’re getting somewhere… on a train.
MAX: I miss, I really miss your polishing.
FENELLA: I beg your pardon?
MAX: You focus on the point, drill right into it, painfully, then remove everything that isn’t that.  Absolutely everything else goes out.
FENELLA: I’m an unapologetic minimalist.  On a train.
MAX: Let us not forget the train!  I hope you’re recording this.
FENELLA: Always.

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Hill; 2019, Spring, Day
SOUND: WIND BUFFETS, BIRDS CALL
FENELLA: The sun emerges through thick cloud as a galaxy spreads from the pure dark of eternity.
MAX: Lovely. My turn.
FENELLA: By all m—
MAX: I am a singleton.
FENELLA: You certainly are.  With another ill-advised beard. I never had you down as fashionable.
MAX: I had hoped for a more supportive reaction.
FENELLA: To what?  You stating the bleeding obvious?  Your idiosyncrasies are only just endearing enough to outweigh your irritating traits.
MAX: Thank you again for the support, but that’s not what I mean—what ‘singleton’ means. I’m alone.
FENELLA: And yet here I am.
MAX: My marriage has ended!
FENELLA: Ah!  I’ve been waiting for that.
MAX: Have you?
FENELLA: Because that would make you Ruth-less!
MAX: And yet more support.
FENELLA: OK, thanks for telling me, but you can cut out the sympathy sponge.
MAX: You’re being spectacularly unfair!
FENELLA: Perhaps you’re a little poor of judgement at present, but you don’t come to me for kindness and soothing.  Ever.  That’s not how we work.  So, shall we delve into your motivation?
MAX: Let’s not.
FENELLA: Yes, let’s enquire into when exactly this happened.
MAX: Why?
FENELLA: Because it wasn’t last week, was it?
MAX: September.
FENELLA: Shortly before or after I was widowed?
MAX: You weren’t wid—before.  Before.
FENELLA: Could there possibly be any connection in your ruthless, selfish mind?
MAX: I beg your pardon?!  Are you suggesting I…in some way engineered this?
FENELLA: I’m asking.
MAX: You think I deliberately ended my marriage in order to swoop upon you?
FENELLA: Perhaps not, but I wonder if the course of events made things harder or easier for you.
MAX: You are astonishingly callous.  Single-minded.  Always were.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Norway, Bergen, Office; 2012, Spring, Day
SOUND: CHATTER, TYPING
FENELLA: Du trenger en tolk.
MAX: That’s what we need!  You come in with us.
FENELLA: No.  You need an interpreter.
MAX: Yes.  You come in—
FENELLA: No.  I will arrange a professional interpreter.
MAX: We can’t wait!  We’re on the cusp of—
FENELLA: The only thing you’re on the cusp of is a seafood smorgasbord.
MAX: Throwing Norwegian about again after withholding is in poor taste.
FENELLA: Smorgasbord is Swedish and, as for taste, your ill-advised beard is a constellation of crustacean…cremains.
MAX: Alliteration expired on you.
FENELLA: Much like the crustacea.
SOUND: MOBILE RINGS
Interpreter candidate number one.  Go away.  Hose yourself down.

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Scandinavian Arctic Circle, Snowfield; 2012, Spring, Day
SOUND: SLEIGH SCRAPES OVER SNOW
MAX: Is this patronisingly twee sleigh business absolutely necessary?
FENELLA: It’s a delightful diversion.
MAX: Why am I here?
FENELLA: Because I know what you want better than you do.
MAX: It’s not as cold as I feared.
FENELLA: That’s the problem.
MAX: You prefer me frozen?
FENELLA: I prefer the parts of the world that are meant to be frozen, frozen.  This is an unmissable opportunity to meet some folk whose land is changing daily.  This land is so flat that the contour lines, if you like, are very wide.  So, a slight variation in altitudinal temperature affects swathes of snowfield, very suddenly.
MAX: Now slushfield.  Soon marsh.
FENELLA: That’s the point.  I explained it well, but it helps being here.
SOUND: SLEIGH SCRAPES, CRUNCHES OVER SNOW
MAX: Being less than frozen.  On land that is suddenly less than frozen.  Wow, it’s like the tide coming in!
FENELLA: Exactly.  Scary?
MAX: It’s like sleet landing on a window.
FENELLA: Not so evocative.
MAX: I suppose you expect me to do something with this new information.
FENELLA: Full marks.  In your own time.
SOUND: FADE OUT SLEIGH SCRAPES; FADE IN CONSTANT WIND; REVERSE
MAX: That was…worthwhile.
FENELLA: Don’t question my authority again.
MAX: Why do we have to go so slowly?  I don’t need to absorb every individual ice crystal.
FENELLA: Because—
MAX: Because the ground can suddenly become unfrozen.  Not just in space; in time.
FENELLA: You could almost see it as a metaphor fo—
MAX: Hush.  I’m fizzing.  What are you gesticulating at her?  Why are we speeding up?
FENELLA: Safe now.  You’re fizzing.
MAX: We don’t have to go slowly?
FENELLA: Not any more.  Just fizz quietly.  Let me immerse myself in the gliding.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Netherlands, Middelburg, University College Roosevelt Campus; 2012, Spring, Day
SOUND: VOICES, BICYCLE BELL, BREEZE
FENELLA: Where’ve you been?!
MAX: Right here!  You’re the one the went—
FENELLA: Don’t be ridiculous; I knew where I was at all times.  Are you ready for these academics?
MAX: Oh, absolutely, since I can read my notes that are on your laptop via the screens on my fingernails!
FENELLA: Hysteria: check.  Sense of injustice: check.
MAX: Don’t try to make fun of—
FENELLA: Endearing mother-usually-does hairdo: check.  That’s you warmed up.
MAX: You need to take this seriously!
FENELLA: Say that again.
MAX: You…need…to…  Why would you think you have the upper hand?
FENELLA: Look up.
MAX: What?
FENELLA: Higher.
MAX: At?
FENELLA: My hand.  How do you feel about summer in southern Europe?
MAX: You got us fired and our passports revoked in less than three hours?
FENELLA: Aye; got the tour sold out and more dates added.  You may kiss my feet.
MAX: That’s quite good.
FENELLA: You even get a week off to let your wife remember you.
MAX: Oh, good.  Great.
FENELLA: I pride myself in thinking of everything.  When the director’s PA calls in the middle of my pancake with capers to queue me up for a quick update, I say ‘how would you like the slides?’
MAX: Smug.
FENELLA: On the hoof.  Just like you’re going to be for these delightfully cosmopolitan academics, whilst feeling calmly assured that I have the long game in my upper hand.
MAX: Mud! Sucking at my hooves! I’m in the reeds!
FENELLA: Quacking with fear?
MAX: Give me peace, woman.
FENELLA: Anything else?
SOUND: RUMMAGING IN BAG
MAX: No.  Yes?  What else could I possibly need from—  My notes!  Give me my notes!
FENELLA: I love testing.
MAX: Why a pancake with capers?
FENELLA: Apparently it’s a Dutch speciality: what can you say when a man offers you ‘pickled flower buds’, alth—
MAX: Never mind!  No, yes: what testing?  No, I’ll have to come back to that.
FENELLA: Go.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Germany, Berlin, Street; 2012, Spring, Day
SOUND: FOOTSTEPS, VEHICLES, BUSTLE
MAX: You’re surprisingly calm.
FENELLA: You’re Beelzebub’s coach-horse!
MAX: That’s…a beetle.  Are you calling me a beetle?
FENELLA: You poisonous newt!
MAX: Do you mean toad?
FENELLA: Tyrant!  Machiavelli!  Butcher!
MAX: Ladies, ladies!
FENELLA: You’re the sword of fucking Damocles!
MAX: I rather like that.
FENELLA: What happened in there?
MAX: I got a bit bored.
FENELLA: Bored.
MAX: Your Scottish bryophyte people were banging on: “ach, will no-one think of the wee pools and lochans.”
FENELLA: So you tactfully manoeuvred—
MAX: I found an excellent facility on the teleconferencing software: I pressed a button and an automated voice cut them all off.
FENELLA: Yes, apparently everyone else heard, “your chair has muted all participants,” followed by a torturous electronic rendition of Vivaldi.
MAX: Wizard.
FENELLA: They thought you were incompetent or rude or both.
MAX: I thought they were dull.  Where are we going?
FENELLA: I have to buy incontinence pants in German.
MAX: Thank you for that gift for mocking, but do I have to be here?
FENELLA: Since I can’t leave you unattended for two minutes, I’ll have to wee myself.
MAX: Ugh, I don’t want to be thinking of you weeing your way through my meetings.
FENELLA: Good.  I shall establish a hand gesture so you know when I’m letting go.
MAX: Can I still chair?
FENELLA: Oh, get it together!  You’re pissing away golden opportunities—
MAX: (SNIGGERS)
FENELLA: This isn’t ‘arseing about’ time at nob school!  If the sword drops, you cocky fuck…

05/02/2017

Episode 1: Staging

Rotting Leaves — Two people bicker through their history of failure at the end of the world.

SCENE 1.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Scotland, Perthshire, Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
FENELLA: The third time you came to me, the universe had its foot on my head once again.
MAX: How can you start with a third and a second?
FENELLA: The past is before us: we start now and walk on into the known.
MAX: Surely the future is ahead?
FENELLA: No, behind, unseen, unknown.
MAX: Oh, dear.  We’re walking backwards, forwards.
FENELLA: Exactly.
MAX: And in which direction was the universe going, with its foot on your head?
FENELLA: Remember autumn 2019?
MAX: In its entirety?
FENELLA: I was in my grief miasma and suddenly there you were.
MAX: Not in the miasma.
FENELLA: No, by the river.
MAX: Yes, because I was fine.
FENELLA: You were nowhere near fine, but I’ll come to that.
MAX: Because we’re going backwards.
FENELLA: No, forward, because you didn’t tell me till much later.
MAX: Because the miasma was impenetrable.
FENELLA: How convenient.  So there we were, in step, in the damp autumn leaves, in the rotting silence—

SCENE 2.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2023, Winter, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, FIRE CRACKLES
FENELLA: Do you remember that conversation?
MAX: Was that us?
FENELLA: Only five months ago.
MAX: We must’ve been pretty dopey.
FENELLA: But what’s doping us?
MAX: I meant sleepy.
FENELLA: A Freudian sleep.  I used to be articulate. Have I got Alzheimer’s?
MAX: We’re just tired and malnourished.  And stressed.
FENELLA: How did we get here?  Not the trudging; I mean what set us off?
MAX: We had to leave the city.
FENELLA: I know, but why?
MAX: The ca-sastrophe.
FENELLA: What sort of cat-sas-trophe?
MAX: How should I know?!  Enviro-mental disasters were esc-at-aling.  The seriousness of them.  Hm.  I’m not clear on details.  Do you think we rather overreacted?
FENELLA: I feel… my mind is fragmented—memory.  We’re surviving in a cave, in a gorge, what passes for seasons are coming around again, and we’ve lost the big picture.
MAX: Perhaps we’re dead and just don’t know where to go next.
FENELLA: Constructive.
MAX: Open-minded.  OK, do you think this is how radiation affects us?
FENELLA: I remember fretting about plasticine—plastic.  Synthetic chemicals.  I haven’t dismissed consp-iracy theori-cies either.
MAX: What conspiracy?
FENELLA: ‘Forces’ that have the power to erase our memorase.
MAX: I think there was an earthquake.
FENELLA: Yes!  Was that it?
MAX: Why would that give us an-mesia?
FENELLA: Er, trauma?  No…  There were dead birds all over the fields.
MAX: What does that mean?
FENELLA: They don’t get traumatic stress distress.
MAX: They live their lives stressed.
FENELLA: Does that mean they could die of stress or not?
MAX: I think it’s the stress that stops—the stop stress…sorry, lost that thought.
FENELLA: Maybe if we go back over things we can piece us back together…like layers of rotting leaves.

SCENE 3.
FENELLA: (V.O.) River Bank, 2021, Autumn, Day
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, INTERMITTENTLY BIRDS CHOKE, MAMMALS COUGH
FENELLA: How did we get here?
MAX: Painfully memorable hours of trampling through dust and ash?
FENELLA: It was a rhetorical whinge.  I really hope at some universal level this all makes sense.
MAX: I can draw you a diagram in the sludge if you like: man begat man begat machine begat pollution begat disaster.
FENELLA: Yes, and we saw it coming, but how did we actually do it?
MAX: Not enough of us stepped out of the machine.  Tiny cogs don’t see the effects of their actions, much less any problems or choices.  Need we analyse this right now?
FENELLA: I guess we can see plenty of effects now.  Oh, I need a break. (SOBS)
MAX: We will find a way.
FENELLA: I know. Or not; it doesn’t matter.  I’m just so sad for everything else we’ve destroyed.  Did you see those birds?
MAX: And the toads and the rabbits and the cows.
FENELLA: Don’t care so much about cows.  Or rabbits.  You know what I mean.  I don’t want to live in a world without birds and toads.
MAX: Wait till the plants frazzle up too.
FENELLA: Maybe we don’t get to understand, really understand, life until we die.
MAX: OK, let’s just get to the gorge and the basic necessities.

SCENE 4.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Flat; 2021, Summer, Evening
SOUND: GARDEN BIRDS CHIRRUP, VEHICLES RUMBLE
MAX: What brought you two together?
FENELLA: Apart from the tidal wave?
MAX: That was only the start.
FENELLA: He did some remarkable things.
MAX: The man was a force of nature, but why was he the one for you?
FENELLA: That’s pretty intense, personal.
MAX: It’s important.
FENELLA: To me, and to him.  Not for you.
MAX: Then why show me all these photographs?
FENELLA: I’m not ‘showing’ you; I was just glancing through one last time before…maybe not seeing them again, and you’re lurking.
MAX: I’m waiting for nightfall.
FENELLA: Ah, the Clandestine Clot.
MAX: Where’s that?
FENELLA: Up the hill.
MAX: But the time taken is five AM in April.  It wouldn’t be light.
FENELLA: OK, metadata melodramatist.  Any other more likely explanations?
MAX: Your camera time is set wrong.
FENELLA: And why might that be?
MAX: You deliberately set the time wrong?
FENELLA: Aye.
MAX: What on earth’s the matter with you?
FENELLA: For about twenty years I’ve been hoping to catch you out.  Today, at last, my deep laid plan has succeeded!
MAX: Seriously?
FENELLA: No, you narcissistic nitwit.  I leave it on Greenwich Mean Time.
MAX: So it’s actually six AM.
FENELLA: Calamity over; universe back in place.

SCENE 5.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Summer, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES, HERON CALLS
FENELLA: Night advances like a tide, smothering every feature and creature of the land.  Except for a few chinks: anti-shadows, discarded shards of light.  Through the dark, overhead: a heron; four squawks, one shard receding along the river.  Welcome back, she-crone.
MAX: What?
FENELLA: Ah, you’re here; good. The third time you came to me, the universe had its foot on my head once again.
MAX: How can you start with a third and a second?
FENELLA: The past is before us: we start now and walk on into the known.
MAX: Surely the future is ahead?
FENELLA: No, behind, unseen, unknown.
MAX: Oh, dear.  We’re walking backwards, forwards.
FENELLA: Exactly.
MAX: And in which direction was the universe going, with its foot on your head?
FENELLA: Remember autumn 2019?
MAX: In its entirety?
FENELLA: I was in my grief miasma and suddenly there you were.
MAX: Not in the miasma.
FENELLA: No, by the river.
MAX: Yes, because I was fine.
FENELLA: You were nowhere near fine, but I’ll come to that.
MAX: Because we’re going backwards.
FENELLA: No, forward, because you didn’t tell me till much later.
MAX: Because the miasma was impenetrable.
FENELLA: How convenient.  So there we were, in step, in the damp autumn leaves, in the rotting silence—
MAX: I like ‘rotting’.
FENELLA: What do you mean?
MAX: I like the word ‘rotting’.
FENELLA: Thank you.
MAX: It’s redolent of our respective circumstances.
FENELLA: Indeed, for our respective circumstances were riddled with decay.
MAX: They still are.
FENELLA: I don’t know; I think now even the decay has stopped.
MAX: Would you like to start again, differently?
FENELLA: Existentially?
MAX: Or just the story?
FENELLA: Yes, thank you.  The green beaks of bulb sprouts poke through the soil surface.  Snow melt drips and trickles all around.  Winter’s claws recede.  On you go.
MAX: Me?
FENELLA: I’m sure it’s your turn; I’ll keep you right.
MAX: OK.  So, it all began—
FENELLA: No.  Never start at the beginning.
MAX: I think you’ll find it’s logical, in fact it’s chronological, it’s sensible and it’s conventional.
FENELLA: And entirely illusory.  Just start.
MAX: When?
FENELLA: Whenever memory takes you.
MAX: The moss is almost gone.
FENELLA: Has your attention wandered already?
MAX: You said go with the memory.
FENELLA: And you went?
MAX: Forty minutes ago.
FENELLA: The only thing stopping me laughing is the tragedy.
MAX: It’s never stopped you before.
FENELLA: And the pain.  And the hunger.
MAX: I know.  So, I’m here to tell the tale of how we got here.  In space and time.  But not in order.  And you?
FENELLA: I’m here to marshal the recording of events.
MAX: You’re good at that.

SCENE 6.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Gorge Cave; 2022, Spring, Evening
SOUND: WATER TRICKLES
MAX: Have you ever eaten insects?
FENELLA: No, and I won’t be starting now: vegan waiver.
MAX: We’ll see how long that lasts.
FENELLA: You think my principles will buckle without beans and brown rice?
MAX: You don’t have the luxury of fussiness.
FENELLA: OK: vegan wager.  You win: I eat insects.  I win: what?
MAX: No, no, you need a penance on top of the insects.
FENELLA: Like a garnish?
MAX: Yes, garlic: my share of the wild garlic.
FENELLA: Surely that would only be unpleasant for you?
MAX: You know what I want from you.
FENELLA: Is this garlic or mistletoe?  I never thought you’d be the first to get entangled in…variations on a theme of paganism.
MAX: It can be poppy opium if that works.
FENELLA: Has this nonsense still not died?
MAX: Please don’t debase this.
FENELLA: From what?  Warped idealisation?
MAX: Not quite.
FENELLA: I wouldn’t’ve been that bothered either way, but now you’re making it into a thing.  It feels like the thin edge of…
SOUND: HERON CALLS
MAX: The thin edge of the we—?!
FENELLA: Sshh.
MAX: What?
FENELLA: Heron.  Not well.
MAX: They always sound primeval, like they’re choking.
SOUND: HERON CALLS
OK, maybe not like that.  Poor thing.
FENELLA: Nothing like the sound of another creature dying to ruin your lecherous plans.
MAX: Not ruined; resting.
FENELLA: You have a lot of plans at rest.
MAX: Well, it’s hard to progress anything right now.
FENELLA: I was thinking of your ‘wacky idea of the week’.  Dozens and dozens of them – your creativity was awesome.  The extra workload was also awesome.
MAX: Most of them were stolen.
FENELLA: Well, what was the point of deluging me in stolen ideas?!  Oh, don’t start that again.
SOUND: HERON CALLS

SCENE 7.
FENELLA: (V.O.) Edinburgh, Street; 2021, Autumn, Day
SOUND: VEHICLES RUMBLE, PEDESTRIANS SCURRY, CHATTER
FENELLA: Where have you been?!  You weren’t at your meeting.  It doesn’t matt—
MAX: You were right!
FENELLA: We need to go!
MAX: Not yet.
FENELLA: We need to leave!
MAX: Yes, but not now.
FENELLA: We don’t have time to argue!
MAX: We do.  We always do.  Watch this.
FENELLA: What?  This stupid wobblecam movie?!
MAX: Didn’t have time to set up a crew, sorry.  Just watch it.
FENELLA: This is you?
MAX: Filming, yes; not the subject, obviously.
FENELLA: Are you running?
MAX: Along the road to Arbeith, the flat bit.
FENELLA: That’s a big plane.
MAX: Isn’t it?
FENELLA: Or very close.  Very low.
MAX: See when I turn to look across the field.
FENELLA: Three, four?!  What are they doing?  Practising almost-landing in the middle of nowhere?  And on the other side too!
MAX: Miles from any landing strip.
FENELLA: Offensive?
MAX: Escapist?
FENELLA: Who escaping what?
MAX: See the next clip.
FENELLA: Train window?  Is this you heading into town?
MAX: Nearly at the bridge.
FENELLA: Woh!  What the fuck is that?
MAX: Hefty, eh?
FENELLA: That’s one heavyweight plane.  It looks more like a spaceship—battleship…  How the hell is it staying up?
MAX: Given that we’re not being invaded by aliens, I think somebody has some special technology, serious kit, that they’re not sharing.
FENELLA: Why reveal it now?  I can hear other folk in the carriage exclaiming.
MAX: Nothing to lose?
FENELLA: Something terrible…
MAX: Enough to miss a meeting.
FENELLA: Why me?
MAX: I don’t think it’s personal!  I think they have hierarchies for such eventualities and we’re not even close to being on that list.  I don’t even know who I mean by ‘they’.
FENELLA: No, I mean, why am I on your list?
MAX: There isn’t time.
FENELLA: We always have time to argue!  There are folk all around.  You could’ve picked—
MAX: I mean there isn’t time to explain to anyone else.  You’re the only person I know who could get this—who already got it.  Plus all the stuff we never— You’re my ideal companion for an apocalypse.
FENELLA: Is that what this is?
MAX: Bag packed?

16/02/2014

Bus / Sunset

The Lassie and The Legume concluded

[ Starts at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/interview-hut/ ]

The Bus

Cecilia thwacks into a bus seat, in concrete body and out of ethereal mind. This is her inverted self. She’s excited for her expectation: sand, sea, sun. It’s a metaphor for fun, relaxation, stimulation, health. Strike one.

She forces a self-contained frisson while her companions exchange their banal babble. She stares at grimy windows seeing only her vision of the destination. It will be fun, won’t it? She’s jostled as her friends reshuffle their seats. She’s attached to hers and its grimy rail and sill. It will be beautiful, won’t it? Is it reinforcement or doubt?

She’s jolted by the broken approach road. Soon the headland will pull away from the coast. I will be happy, won’t I? Her friends shriek over inanities. They’re in no way attached to today’s outcome; they’ll have fun regardless of the surroundings. Revellers don’t even need daylight.

You’re smart, savvy citizens. (We’ve grown to respect you a little.) You’ll have heard of String Theory. We live in eleven dimensions, they reckon; we’ve yet to realise most. Most of us inhabit just the standard four. Percy exists in four too, a different four, but he expanded his range in a concerted effort and reached the goat track of the artist’s mind. Cecilia, too, slips into additional dimensions as escape. If they overlap, their consciousnesses are aware of each other. Load of bilge, sorry.

How does such overlap appear to one of us mere tetramensional beings?

Cecilia braces her dune-rooted stance against the buffeting wind. Her face flinches from sand-lashing. She totters feebly over the marram-tufted dune. Now’s the moment.

The Sunset

Cecilia’s lurching tension dissipates. She moves smoothly over, through air and sand. She’s perfectly calm and unaffected by pressures. Visually she fades.

One observant friend casts a glance, notices the strangely smooth motion, the translucency. Gradually others affix their attention to the gliding, fading figure.

Finally a hazy Cecilia levitates and flops over, before pitching steadily toward the setting sun. Carried. Released. Chosen. Transferred.

Her friends stare at something that has become nothing as if awaiting a sound effect to mark the transition. In their reality a group hallucination is just another feature of leisure time. So, conveniently, a disappearing acquaintance needs only a few colloquial exclamations and another suck at the sand lizard.

The Last

And the last thing to resolve, although we’ll be disappointed if you’ve not figured it: the interview with the dull, dumpy woman? Your fairy godmother isn’t always pink, but she does tap her wand when you ask.

The End

09/02/2014

Reality

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/interview-hut/ ]

The Reality

Cecilia and Percy perch, swinging their assorted legs, on the only available roof edge. Traditionally there would be a glorious sunset, but the weather’s been rather perturbed lately, various threads remain unravelled, and frankly you’d feel cheated, wouldn’t you?
She procrastinates, “where did we get these peculiar names?”
“Mine’s an anagram of prince.”
“It’s not. That would make mine the arse end of princess with myriad wafty appendages.”
“Not bad.”
She plucks, gibletises and marinates some courage. “Why did you leave me?”
“I think it was the way you plunged so fully into revulsion–”
“–The second time.”
“I was going to say: and then completely got over it.”
“I can see how my flip-flop moods would be attractive.”
“Your honesty is breath-taking.”
“Thank you. That’s a first for me.” She bravely sustains eye contact. “Your irises are like the rings of a tree trunk.”
“Spirals? Good. I intend to hypnotise you.”
“No, concentric circles. I fancy I can figure which were the lean years and which were plentiful.”
Unexpectedly Percy’s chest quivers. He blinks first. “You had to come here of your own accord. I couldn’t bring you back as some sort of hunting trophy.”
She ponders this, holding it alongside the triple bint intrigue to see if anything reacts. Not a glint. New tack.
“Am I dreaming you or are you dreaming me?”
His eyes sizzle a rapid sequence of little craters across her face. Perhaps she has it. “It depends on your perspective.” After further devouring her bird-like alertness, he decides to peg it down. “I don’t know if you have the choice, it’s not for me to offer, but would you choose this life or your other?”
“This.”
“Take your time!”
“This.”
“If this is an illusion of pleasure and your other life is true reality, even if full of suffering, classic red pill or blue pill?”
“Both are illusions, but this one has options, actions, potential.”
“Even if this ends much sooner?”
“Even so.”
“Even if…” He expires in a frustrated vacuum.
“Even if you turn out to be a trick, if this dissolves, if I end up worse off than…” Her conviction shakes rigidly at the comparison. She sags as her heart mourns that already lost.
He pauses, respectfully, then casts a smirk at the valley, the mountains, the future. He senses her wave of sorrow ebbing. “You said me first.”

Poignancy achieved, her eloquence evaporates; she glazes over. “I want you so very badly.”
“Badly I can do.”

By the time the sun sets, Cecilia is fast asleep. Percy has that effect.

02/02/2014

Reconciliation

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/interview-hut/ ]

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?”

26/01/2014

Residence / Second

The Lassie and The Legume continued

[ Starts at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/interview-hut/ ]

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.”
“Turrets?”
“Where?!”
“Basement.”
“How can a turret be underground?!”
“Der-is-or-y.”
“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”
“No.”
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’.”
“Relaborate.”
“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.

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