Digital Ischemia

13/08/2017

Fossoway Flora and the Pacifist Extremists

Fossoway Flora quickly became tired of life at tree pace—or, more tactfully, she’d learned what she needed and it was time to move on. Prince Tiahmin was adorable, but also became tiresome every time his baddies threatometer lurched and he reached for a stick. Repeatedly she had to remind him that sticks had an original purpose before they became handy weapons. He was leaving her disfigured.

Such irritations all come to the same thing: Flora has learned the various ways we live and let live or let die. That old tree is a canny beech. The way it manipulates everything that enters its space, deciding who to encourage, who to repel. She feels the urge to visit Uncle Umbel. This could be problematic, given that her genome has merged with Fagus sylvaticus fossowaii, and currently exists in a firmly rooted way. However, she reasons, every cell carries the complete genome and her uncle is an open-minded sort.

Uncle Umbel has an allotment that appears to have been trampled by a navigationally-challenged herd of migrating aurochs, pulverised by glacial moraine, and finally kept at perfect conditions for putrefaction by the lukewarm outflow from a more-alcohol-less-taste whisky distiller. An extremely quaggy mire.

“Umbel? Umbel? I’m quite bored and if you don’t show yourself I’ll plant something with flowers on!” …calls a thrawn twig, swirling across the mire.

A three foot diameter octagon of mud opens via eight triangular petals, carefully draining slime outward, and reveals a spartan subterranean bunker. The clipped voice of one who aspires to have served in the RAF c.1940 dots and dashes forth.

“Wotcha. Get a move on, girl. Hatches to rebatten T minus three!”

The twig daintily pivots into position to surf a gust-stream and thereby dives between the gnashing metal petals.

“Cocoa?”
“Er, not really practical, thanks.”
“No. Hah! You’d get sticky! Hah! Sticky!”

Fortunately, a twig is also excused from having to disguise disrespectful facial expressions. Flora grabs for the conversational initiative to avert any further grocerial puns.

“Ahimsa, Umbel.”
“Gesundheit!”
“What is your understanding of it?”
“Your what-what?”
“Sanskrit: harmlessness. As in: toward self and other living beings.”

Flora gulps in horror at the contagious nature of the abbreviated style. She reassures herself that she is merely applying ‘mirroring’; a clever technique of neuro-linguistic programming. And she’s doing it unconsciously so she must be good. Still, she hopes producing puns won’t be necessary.

Umbel blinks repeatedly as distant, neglected circuitry is recommissioned. His amphibiously protruding eyes swivel and his ears twitch back an inch, stretching his forehead. On grocerial subjects you can get an interaction in real time, but anything even vaguely philosophical requires Umbel to shut down and dedicate all cognitive resources to the matter. His head lolls, lip slackens and cocoa teeters precariously on his chest.

Flora patiently scrutinises the bunker’s interior: piles and piles of dust-besmothered…shapes. She really can’t identify any of it, apart from the odd protrusion of wire or single sheet of paper, revealed only by apparent overwhelm, tilt and subsequent dustalanche.

A fragile connection sparks. Umbel’s cocoa hand twitches. Cocoa inevitably splashes on his shirt. Umbel powers back up.

“Ah. Just logged off pro tem, chaps. Buggeration.”

He blots himself with a towel placed at the ready for such regular eventualities, thereby scattering a portion of crumbs he carefully collected earlier.

“Clean on today, of course. Irretrievable. I shall have to disrobe forthwith.”
Umbel chuckles and lurches into unsteady motion. Flora’s patience was never good during pantomime. “Ahimsa?”
“No. Not a flicker.”
“Nothing?”
“Refer to the Conflict Chaps.”
“Who are..?”
“Thomson, Tim, and… and… Tarantula. You get the idea. Cheerio, folks.”

Flora is nowhere close to getting it, and rather thankful for the implied shreds of sanity. There are some peripheral gene puddles she’s keen not to paddle in. With Umbel retiring for a post-cogitatory nap—’cocoa’ is merely a vehicle for a substantial sugar and cream component—Flora is unattended in the elves’ factory. The fact of being trapped holds little concern as yet. Her leaf stalk flits investigatively along the bench, enticed by a curiously shuddering tin. A little probing releases a lid to reveal three blinking figures, of similar stature to herself in her current twig incarnation.

To be continued…

06/08/2017

My Neighbour’s Baby

The parents’ squabbling catches my attention. My quiet Sunday breakfast with a wildlife magazine shattered. Peer Gynt capers on in the Hall of the Mountain King. The squabblers slam from room to room, swatting and shrieking at each other. I lean to the window and pull back the gauze curtain, searching for explanation. One of their children sits on my front grass. Just sits, not playing, not eating, not moving, not seemingly hurt, but I don’t read children well. The parents barrel on. Another figure slinks by – another neighbour, inspecting the unattended child. My gut flips – some pre-verbal fear. In a reflex I knock the window. The neighbour starts and glances at me. I wave. Frustratingly her momentum carries her out of my sight. The parents separate, hurling only intermittent complaints. The child remains immobile.

I unlock the front door to look closer. Mostly I want to help, but I need more information: what happened? I seem to be too late. The neighbour is out of sight. The child sits on the grass, freckled and bewildered. I don’t want to approach in case this aggravates the situation. I don’t want to interfere. Or should I move her to a safer position? What would be safer? In my house is far too ambiguous. I have no relationship with this child. Her parents seem to be calming. I return indoors and glance out the window. The child still hasn’t moved. I can’t settle back to breakfast; I wander ineffectually about the front rooms, reviewing the incident, assessing my choices. I keep glancing out the window.

Suddenly the parents launch a fresh bout of shouting. I check the window: the child is gone – in a matter of seconds between my glances. I can’t see anybody, any movement. I open the front door and see the parents hopping and shrieking along the pavement. I can’t read their distress. Still no sign of the child. My eyes flit to another movement. Beneath the bordering hedge I see my neighbour’s legs saunter up the path and out of sight. The parents are hysterical. Why didn’t they do something for their child before? Why didn’t I? I peer again between the trunks of the hedge. I look very carefully to catch a glimpse as my neighbour’s path curves back into view. In a moment I see what I’m looking for: the shape of the child, carried away.

There was a moment when I could have acted. I chose not to. To let others’ choices play out. I may have delayed things by rapping the window, but that’s as likely to have increased the suffering as not. If I had the chance again, I’d lift that baby and bring it indoors. I’d suffer the guilt of upsetting the parents. My experiences lead me to believe that my neighbour simply wanted to play with the child. A distorted behaviour that has its roots in natural instinct but has become torture. I have some responsibility for that. I could do better.

If it had been my neighbour the sparrowhawk who found the young blackbird, I would be more comfortable with that. A reasonably quick death for food. A domestic cat I’m much less comfortable with. It doesn’t feel natural to me. Still, I have too little information. I had a moment and I only half-intervened. Bless her.

02/07/2017

The Fly and The Mountain

Gliding through vast mountains on one of my observational learning expeditions, I spot a guy with a hefty head-load trekking up a treacherous pass. I alight masterfully beside him. He greets me with annoyance.
“Stop hovering around me like a fly.”
“I seek a drop of wisdom, as the fly awaits a bead of sweat.”
“You’re not even getting my sweat. Piss off.”

I am supremely unrufflable. I aspire to that infuriating spiritual superiority that would allow me to chuckle all-knowingly at any example of the atrocious suffering of the human condition. I float patiently, shadowing his trudging up the path.

I could remove his burden, his basket of headstuff, to the top of the mountain with but a thought. But he would not thank me. He would complain of someone nicking it before he got there. He would complain that he might want something out of it meantime. He wants his luggage with him. It’s part of him, of his life. I have no such attachment. I quickly check that I have remembered to imagine my physical manifestation as clothed.

A couple hundred yards ahead, a boulder broods beside the path. A mere thought deposits me and my irritatingly beatific grin there. I imagine the guy will soon approach a shoulder in the path, see the boulder and take in my omnipresence. I expect his expletive.

I return to my observation. The guy is relieved by my apparent departure. He is otherwise fully present in this moment. Full marks there. He relishes the effort and the reward of his journey.

Ah! There it is. ‘Reward for effort’. As he comes into view, his face indeed churns with renewed rage. I signal to him a cheery wave of thanks. He responds with the economy of two fingers.

I flash back to my ascetic eyrie to paint up today’s learning scroll. My thanks go to the universe for providing this experience purely in order for me to learn this lesson at precisely the right time. My egoic smugometer throbs pleasingly.

25/06/2017

Solstice Stillness

follows Night Ride and Sunrise

As the leading edge of the rising sunlight pours down past my hand I feel that warmth. And another: I feel another hand touch mine. I wind two fingers between these others. The animal warmth, the companionship is surreal. My fatigued legs underline my fragility as the nuclear explosion hits us. I’m not looking at the sun, but the dazzle across the wet sand is mesmerising. The pebbles laid to outline the orca blaze darkly. Eventually it becomes too bright; I have to turn.

This straggle of a man juts out of the sand like he’s been here years. His features seem especially coarse and creased as my eyes overcompensate the contrast. Envying experiences of which I’m ignorant would be nonsensical, but he seems rooted, settled.

He cranks his head around to face me, with huge effort to turn from the sun. He opens his eyes, then his mouth as I did only moments back. For him, the lack of arising words seems a surprise, a perplexing fault, rather than a second thought. I firm my grip on his hand.

Where did he come from? I twist to scan further around, behind us, to examine my entry point. I see the thin end of the curved edge of headland, the last stretch of silky grass that I glided over, the beginnings of the vertical rock face, loose rocks tumbling over the beach in geological time, no shelter. Where was he before that?

Finally, he rasps, “It wasn’t for you.”
“I know. It wasn’t for you either. It’s only meaningful from the crags.”
“Or from the air.”
“Your problem with me is that I didn’t arrive by helicopter?”
“My problem is that you showed up.”
My pique relishes this bickering. “Sorry to ruin your peace but other people are going to keep showing up. We’re like ants at jam.”

I release his hand. Mine feels damp. I step away then change direction to reach for the bike handle.
He spits out, “I won’t nick it.”
I flush, thinking: no, but you’d have my food and precious things in an instant, and that would hurt me more than I’m prepared for right now. The sublime sunrise moment has left me feeling vulnerable. Remember that thing? Surely it can’t be overshadowed already. I want peace and isolation to savour that experience, not someone else’s selfish, abrasive neurosis. Ha – I’m just like him. I shove the bike east, away from him, along the beach. I’m not leaving yet.

He emits another flurry of words, “I meant: once you’d showed up, I didn’t know what to do next. I don’t…”
I freeze, replaying his blurted confession. Is it? Is it enough to mollify my umbrage?

He lunges surprisingly nimbly and is suddenly in front of me, facing me, fixing my eyes. Bless him, he’s contrite enough not to touch me again. So he stands in my path. A couple times I feign to bypass him. A smirk breaks one side of his stare.

“I’ve been here a long time. You can stay with me or you can go. You can’t stay without me.”
I ask a little trade for my acquiescence, “Why an orca?”
“Intelligent, well evolved, decent creatures.”
“Is that who you want to communicate with?”
“No chimpanzees or elephants in Scotland.”
“Any progress?”
“More than I’ve had with humans.”
“Imagine how much more we could be if we could.”
“We can; we just haven’t worked out how yet.”
“I hope you do. Maybe if they want to as well. I wonder why they would, though. We’re choking them with plastic, poisoning them with chemicals leaching from landfilled electronics, removing their habitat, or simply killing them for body parts. And there’s taking them captive, ‘lethal’ sampling for ‘scientific research’, ship strikes…”
“I’m aware of the time pressure. It doesn’t help.”
“I only mean to despair of my species—my culture. We keep obliterating communities—native peoples as much as other species—then regretting it later when we realise what we’ve lost, whether that’s indigenous knowledge or ecosystem processes. We think we’re so successful, but the terms of that success are so short-sighted.” I seem to have a lot to say on this. So does he.
“It’s way more than our ‘loss’: they have their own right to life, their own life, not just for how they can help us.”
“You’re right, of course. I should go.” I seem to have flipped my stance.
“Why?”
“I’m bringing all the shit that you’re trying to get away from.”
“You’re not bringing anything apart from a decent-looking oilskin, and you’re not leaving.”
“Hostage for a tarp?”
“Something like that.”
“When did I change from resented intruder?”
“You said ‘who’. About the orca; you see it as a person, not a thing.”

He makes fire; he bakes bannocks. Not the hermit I’d assumed. Apparently he trades information and expertise with crofters and hikers for the staples he can’t forage. I’ve brought plenty, partly to share, partly for not knowing how long I’d stay. I wonder if he’d choose me or the supplies.

He’s a caveman, but again not as I’d assumed. The entrance is invisible without serious exploration: behind a downward-sloping four foot high shelf of rock, a horizontal slit the width of a human head. Reading my panic, he chuckles, “As long as you can fit your head through, the rest of your body will squish.” Hardly reassuring.

I glance about for distraction. Nestled in a rocky crevice, a solar-powered evaporator reassuringly drips desalinated water into an amphora. Anxiety makes me critical, “And if there’s no sun?”
“Cloud still lets some energy through. It’s slow but it’s enough.”
I continue digging, “And if it’s raining?”
He looks at me, patronising amusement twisting his face. I flush again. That idiocy just sealed my fate.

He slides on his back; for some reason I’m less uncomfortable on my belly. We squirm and side-wind like snakes into the cold hole. High rock shelves carry dry groceries and drying dulse, ceramic vessels and shell platters. The smell is oddly pleasant. A huge contoured sandbag seems to be universal furniture. I draw back from inspecting further; it feels intrusive.

Solo again in scavenging for driftwood, I find a cache of plastic flotsam. Things in the wrong place. I can’t help myself collecting it and removing it to the cove’s grassy entrance. Things to be returned to the rest of the world. That done, the polluted spot restored according to my idiosyncratic perspective, I make an offering to the sea of the dried flower I brought. An apology. A drop in the ocean.

We return to the fire and boil water for a drink of herbal something. It’s exquisite. The simplicity and the ingenuity delight me. My half pound bag of random nuts delights him; he’s had none for months. He tells me he didn’t intend to stay so long. He didn’t intend to be alone.

Some time after five AM the world leans its furthest. The moment of the solstice before the world’s tilt begins to recede. I feel for the turn, straining as if I might catch the crank and rattle of the universal machinery. I recall my hairpin journey, its far flung crook before I came back almost to my starting point.

He chose me, we shared, and I stayed.

beach pink shell

20/06/2017

Night Ride and Sunrise

Sandscape

Inspired by: Jean Sibelius – Öinen ratsastus ja auringonnousu (Night Ride and Sunrise) ~15min

A cold air balloon hits me in the face, startling me to gasp. I tread hard on the pedals before I can reconsider. I set out again, cycling through the night, but this time away from home – such that it is: that rough stone bothy furnished with old wood from so many places before. They’re barely familiar but they sing long songs of experiences, those sticks and stones. They even grudgingly comfort me, lost soul that I am. Only now I have an urgent reason to get somewhere.

I hope the wheels don’t come off, literally or figuratively. I had to liberate the bicycle from the lean-to, from cobwebs, carcasses, dust and rust; spent most of yesterday at it – or maybe it’s the day before now; must be by midnight. Thought I might need to go further. Never thought I’d need to go faster. I review my inventory: water, food, blanket, tarp… A torch seems inappropriate. Can’t think of anything else needed, but I never do, until it’s too late to turn back. I feel for the pannier behind the saddle; still secure. Can’t do that too often: the front wheel wobbles wildly on the rutted track.

This section of the way is newly familiar. Three weeks’ exploring has started this way every day. I wanted a remarkable place to see the solstice sunrise. Along this tiny stretch of north Scottish coast I’m spoilt for choice. Unusually for me I could simply let my intuition take over. Wherever I ended up would be fine, would be right. No obsessing. I was learning to relax, until I found the cove this evening—yesterday evening. Now I ride that old, familiar tension.

I drift away too easily. I should pay attention to this moment, this space, the immediate future, the path ahead. The undulations of the landscape seem concertinaed even at this modest speed. Wind gusts, breezes, blasts and swirls. I try to become accustomed to the uneven rhythms of the jolting and swaying, to not resist. A cloud of tiny creatures peppers my face; I blink until my eyes rinse them out.

My initial sprint—for warmth as much as from excitement—subsides to steadier pedalling and rhythmic squeaking. Glowing nocturnal eyes flash aside from the front wheel. How do I seem to them? How do I see? I’d forgotten the beauty of incomplete darkness this time of year: the northern horizon remains a rich, deep blue through the barely five hours from sunset to rise.

Through a strip of scrubby trees, the front wheel jinks off a twisted tree root. For a moment the bike and I are suspended at the edge of tipping over. A rut yanks the wheel and restores my balance. That was pure fortune; no skill of mine. I’m rattled enough to coast to a halt, to rest.

The pannier is still intact. I brought other things too—unnecessary things of sentimentality; I’m not ready to analyse that just yet—four pieces of music, a notebook, a dried, pressed wild orchid – romantic, thoughtful, planned, preserved, but only delaying the inevitable.

Avian pipings precede the dawn – other insomniacs unable to rest in the undying twilight. Colour and shape emerge from the blue, movement flickers, huddling to stretching to quivering, then dainty footsteps. I refocus on the path: the appointment is the summer solstice: sunrise, four AM. It really doesn’t matter where, but I’m suddenly very attached to that cove.

I ride my excitement, rattling and jiggling over the last of the rough moorland, then freewheeling down a smoother grassy slope. A slight warmth catches me, reminds me I’m racing the sun.

I so hope I’ve timed this right. I was so late spotting the cove, even later deciding what to do. I had reached the crags expecting to see only a sunset—an entire experience in itself—then sleep a bit before wandering out again for sunrise. The direct light slipped away, like every year for millennia, leaving the twilight to reveal an image.

The shape blew me away. I just gawped. Suddenly I was galvanised: it had to be, but could it? My brain struggled to engage with logistics, to calculate if I had time to cycle home for supplies then all the way west until the ground fell away so I could double back at land’s edge until it descended to sea level. I don’t know the distance but it would be well over an hour each length of the hairpin, maybe nearer two. I wasn’t sure I remembered the terrain. Now I’m sure. Committed, anyway.

The dawn chorus winds up – I can’t help myself labelling each arising signature: starling, oyster catcher, curlew, skylark, meadow pipit. Their calls cut the murmur of air pushing through the features of the land.

So smoothly the total glow becomes direct sunlight way above my head, brightening, warming, lifting the air. A puff of cloud has the temerity to dull then obscure the light. For one hypoxic moment I think that gives me more time. As if anything so ephemeral could slow universal mechanics.

Exultation bubbles over my anxiety. I haven’t dared wonder if I can even access the cove this way. It has to be. There’s no time for— I clatter around the last curve, in a rush of anticipating the sudden drag of sand, and the moment of sight.

The sand. The pebbles. Here on the tiny beach they are obviously arranged, but the shape is not apparent. From the crags the shape is a deliberate line drawing of an orca, swimming through a sea of sand and rocky spume. It’s a magnificent vision. It must have been created recently or the tide would have smudged it, erased it. It must be communication. Must it? I lean on to one foot and swing the other over the bike. As I rest the frame against a rock my legs wobble – exhaustion or nerves?

I stand at the orca’s pebble fluke facing north-east. I open my mouth to call out a greeting to…anyone, but perhaps being present is enough. The sun doesn’t need my awe verbalising. I let my eyes sweep the sharp, sandy cove, the shimmering sea, the jutting rocks, and back to the crags and my earlier vantage point. A few moments more rush past. My euphoria builds with the dazzle. Finally the sun’s rim ripples over the headland. I imagine I feel its leading edge scan down my body. Perfect.

The world turns. And someone stands beside me.

Wooden post in sand

10/01/2016

Chickens

I’m in the chicken hutch again – this is not like the ‘doghouse’; I’m actually toe-deep in chicken shit and damp straw. The chickens huddle and quiver at the other end, blinkingly perturbed. I wish I didn’t keep fetching up here. The hutch is a solid construction, about 8 feet by 4 feet, 5 feet high, and cosy. But bursting out is a considerable effort.

The first time I panicked. The smell tipped me over. I stood up, cracked my head, lurched at the side and continued shoving, thumping and kicking until a couple of panels broke loose and I could squeeze out on to the claw-churned mud. The wobbling, blinking eyes followed.

The second time I was more collected: I put my back into the roof until a corner popped away. I stepped out into the less acrid air, snagged my gown on a nail, lost my footing and arced into the aforementioned mud like a wet sand bag thrown at the water’s edge.

My advantage was being able to beat the roof back down almost to its original position. I’d love to say I wove three strands of my hair around the splintered edges to draw them back together with the skill of a cosmetic surgeon. In fact I placed a sizeable muddy stone on the roof corner four times and four times watched the scunner slide right back off. Casting around in the dark – it being 4:15AM in December – I settled next for—

Crivvens! Is that the time? Here I am wittering on when I should be scuttling to the vaults and fastening the strapping. More anon.

Merv has sophisticated things considerably. However, precision needs some work.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

13/12/2015

Bark

The dog barks, the bark smokes, the smoke blinds, the blind twitches…

Wood smoke is a homely, comforting smell. Being warm is a fundamental human need; roasted potatoes are a bonus. But no one offers me potatoes. I can’t sleep with my belly empty and my lungs full of smoke.

Police are never exactly welcome: they always bring bad news. This b.n. takes the form of a ‘male tan terrier’. I have to ask because I am not conversant in strains of dog. He’s a foolish example: clearly he has never terried anything in his life. A blonde dishmop. Small. Do I recognise the mutt? Any idea who it might belong to? No, sorry, but if I meet any other dog-danglers I’ll mention it; they seem to pay attention to each other’s accoutrements. Thanks for your time. No bother. As an afterthought, if you’re stuck, you could check if the kennels have lost one. Good idea, thanks again.

Tatty-bye. You got the wrong neighbour here: Uncle Merv could’ve answered your questions much more helpfully. He has his finger on the pulse. Conversely, Aunty Spam would’ve been a tremendous waste of your time, with a china cup of sour tea. Those are the chances you take, knocking doors. Such a sweet neighbourhood that the polis are employed rehoming stray dogs.

Lost your dog, hm? Or did it get away? I didn’t credit it with that much pluck. Shame. Careless. Perhaps if you’d curried more favour with your neighbours and barbecued less resentment. You see, the only two tarnishes on the neighbourhood polish are both bark.

Hardly worth going through all the palaver, but Merv needs a dress rehearsal. He’s put on a clean jumper. Perhaps only because he dribbled gravy earlier, but it gives a keen impression. Merv reminds me of the basics of ventriloquism. It’s no help. I simply need mimicry, as best demonstrated by the bird kingdom. Agility is a bonus.

The prelude: a little powdered moss upon the log pile to create that evocative scent. The main act: canine obscenities from all directions, moving on just before each light flicks on. Curtains open; torches flash out; bickering escalates; doors are flung. Window vents are such a boon: ideal funnels for noise without disturbing the neighbours.

It’s not nice to complain about a single event, without first asking why, like a dog barking one night when a man is away burying his mother. It’s cowardly to make your complaint via an anonymous letter through a door. It’s mean to harangue someone who, despite provocation, comes to apologise and explain. It’s suicidal to cross the kindest, most generous neighbour in the street, without recognising the community spirit.

Welcome to the public domain.

First there’s poltergeist dogs barking all night. No-one else hears them. Then the wood-burning stove suddenly smells so bad. Really bad, like burning flesh. Then the horror of a few tan hairs snagged at the hopper. Moving on so soon? Tatty-bye.

Don’t be ridiculous: tan dish-mop alive and well, living by the sea. A concerned traveller in a clean jumper finds him wandering a couple hundred miles from here and passes him to a local, who hands him in to a dog home. Unfortunately the mutt isn’t tagged, isn’t claimed, but despite all his shortcomings he soon finds caring home.

Most satisfying. The refreshing sensation of lungfuls of clear, silent evening air. Plus a surprise, there on the saw-horse: Merv has left for me a cup of hot milk. How thoughtful. I pour it into the gravel, just in case.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

29/11/2015

Intermission

I lay, clad in sweat and feathers. The gritty concrete floor cools me. This vigilante business is tricky. I think… Yes, damn it, I’ve weed myself a little bit. Too much excitement in the flying. The potion residue tastes putrid with the texture of dust in glycerine, or blood. Just like red wine.

The concrete presses into my skin. It actually presses. A faint ripple carries across the floor. Hangover. I twist delicately to scan the garage horizon. All as expected, apart from the corner curling up with a dainty shudder.

“Are you in there bare?” Pink clouds of candy-floss with flowers and tweeting birds adorn the words as they skip around the poorly fitting door. All wither and crisp over brown upon entering. Aunty Pamela.
I manage to expel a primeval choking grunt before wondering why she is here and how she knows about my state of undress. I flail an arm and strike lucky on my carefully flung jeans.

She moves with the momentum of an ocean liner, taking several miles of reverse propellers to alter her course. I have time to shuffle into my jeans without unbalancing my nervous system. Still lying down though. I drag the bicycle toward me. Inevitably it tips over. I exclaim forcefully, bracing my forearms to prevent my face being spoked.
Enter Pamela. “Oh, dear; did I startle you?” Without awaiting an answer or forgiveness she presses on; momentum. “Have you seen Merv?”

Uncle Merv hiding again, tut tut. Once Pamela has cleared the door on her onward cruise, I consider the gloom where the bike was. Shoes partly revealed beneath tarpaulin.
“OK, Merv.” I worry how much he’s seen.
A giggle emanates from the tarp. That’s how I get my unlikely sidekick: Bear.

He insists. His observations rather trump my acquisition of his pet name, although Aunty Spam seemed less than careful about preserving its privacy. However, he proves an insightful neighbourhood watcher. I wouldn’t want to run out of righteous material now I’ve got this whole corrections business started. Besides, maybe I could use a spotter.

[ Truthache series starts with Entry. ]

15/11/2015

Stage 3: Exploration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are mine now and I am yours.

Now I feel the move.

 

END.

 

Lughnasadh – Samhain 2015

08/11/2015

Stage 2: Anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You wait, still, potent. Dry.

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

 

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

 

Lughnasadh – Samhain 2015

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