Digital Ischemia

13/09/2015

Isolates

[1420 words]

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

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

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

I have trained monkeys with more cunning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May–Sep 2015

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29/06/2014

2003.06.29

Filed under: Journal — Tags: , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 16:24

[ Begins at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/2003-06-15/ ]

23 June

Where are you? Do you know? At some future point I can look back and fill in these blanks. I hope.

24 June

Is this the hard part, like I expected? Or is there worse to come? I’m not ready for that worse.

28 June

I had a bad thought. I didn’t mean it. I don’t mean it: Rory wasn’t the one I wanted. But he was. I picked him. I was perfectly happy with him.

22/06/2014

2003.06.22

Filed under: Journal — Tags: , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 15:26

[ Begins at https://digitalischemia.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/2003-06-15/ ]

17 June

The paths are surreal. The leaves are inanimate. I’ve turned mindful, purposeless walking into something my legs do while I try to solve something that isn’t thinkable.

18 June

I’ve given myself an RSI in my wrist by eating from my one person-sized meal pan.

21 June

The solstice passed – the longest day. It is now the darkening half.

22 June

Rory’s doing his homework. On a Sunday. I’ve to tidy my shoes. If we’re both super-good…

15/06/2014

2003.06.15

Filed under: Journal — Tags: , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 15:34

8 June

Today you left. Time stopped.

14 June

Rory’s at his friend’s. I thought this was good as I don’t have to see his every feature and behaviour that is you.

15 June

Rory looked at me strangely. He sees my erosion now. He still fiercely believes you’ll be back any day. His pronouncements about your promise to take him up the hill are even fiercer.

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