Digital Ischemia

27/08/2017

Fossoway Flora and the Pacifist Extremists part 3

begins at Fossoway Flora and the Pacifist Extremists part 1

As Fossoway Flora, the fragile frond, recovers equilibrium, Tantalum the nixie summarises their position in discussing pacifist extremism.
“Whether or not we can hear plants cry in pain, they react to harm. They experience something unpleasant. We shouldn’t need to hear a scream to tell us harm is not good.”

Tin is agitated. The nixie equivalent of a nerve has been nipped. He emits a rapid series of encyclopaedic squeaks.
“Plants are way more sensitive than to just pain. Pine and elm trees can identify which species of insect is chewing them from the insect’s saliva. They then release an appropriate deterrent chemical to the area under attack, or a specific airborne pheromone to attract the insect’s predators.* How clever is that? What else can we conclude but that plants have a sense of taste?”
Tantalum adds: “Just because we don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Tin squeaks on.
“The roots of tree and grain seedlings crackle at a frequency of 220Hz.”
Tungsten belligerently interrupts: “Could be just the sound of ’em growing or shifting about.”
Tin is delighted to respond.
“Indeed, or from their cell walls losing turgor with dehydration. However, the interesting observation is that seedling roots not only make a noise but they also respond to that frequency: they orient their tips in that direction.*”
Tungsten is still translating the technical terms. Tantalum is impressed. Tin squeaks on to a conclusion.
“Except cultivated plants: for example farmed grains are quite quiet*. Humans seem to have bred all the sense out of them, all their community communication and resilience.”
Flora feels faint.

Tungsten feels obliged to leaven the hysteria.
“So at some level they taste and hear. Next you’ll say they can see.”
Tin pipes back with a sneer.
“What is seeing but responding to light?”
Tungsten feels an invisible net is closing.
“And they do that?”
“Phototropism? And you may have heard of photosynthesis.”
“Ar, very clever.”

Tantalum detects Flora’s energy waning, despite the passionate debate, and attempts a summary.
“Usual human folly, then: just because you can doesn’t mean you should…in this case: impose yourselves on other lives.”
Tungsten wades back in with a late surge.
“Bacteria and other microbes are constantly being expunged from yer body, billions per second probably. Is that acceptable since your survival depends on it? Since you can’t see them? Is killing anything to survive acceptable?”
Flora’s twiggy mindlette explodes in a coruscation of anguish and anxiety. She becomes as limp as a twig can, probably in severe drought. Tin wavers nauseously. Sensitive souls.

Tantalum re-establishes pragmatism.
“Not every single seed gets to grow into an adult plant. There isn’t sufficient resource on the planet. ‘Nature is profligate,’ as Umbel says.”
Flora faintly tries to insert “although humans seems to have forgotten…” but Tungsten’s still surging.
“Yer right. Assuming the number of trees stays roughly the same, and, naturally, a tree lives for hundreds of years, and produces millions of seeds during that time, the chance of any one seed making it to reproductive adulthood is literally millions to one.”
Flora sighs in uneasy relief.

But Tungsten likes playing devil’s advocate.
“Of course that same profligate strategy only evolved because of the numerous hazards to be navigated. You can argue it any way you want.”
Flora sways. “Oh, please don’t.”
“I’m just saying, like, for humans, animal protein is easier to digest than plant protein. From that you could argue that human protein is the most easily digested so you should eat one another. Yer moral threshold is arbitrary.”

Flora is surprised to glimpse familiar territory – her starting point circles back toward her. At least they’re not hopelessly lost in a dark, thorny underbrush of debate. Not quite.

“Should we strive to evolve to a physiology where we can absorb all the basic nutrients we need from minerals—if we still consider those to be inanimate—and from them construct every chemical compound that we need?”
“Like us, ya mean?”
“Is that how you do it? Oh, brilliant!”
“Sun, sea, soil and, er, stratosphere?” Tantalum beams self-congratulation. Tungsten grimaces, the verbal initiative having been snatched while he was self-indulgently circumloquacialising around his argument. Best to plough on, push the rollercoaster right to its vertiginous finale.
“The fact that you have evolved to this point through the efforts of others is not in itself justification for continuing. Human evolution has not reached an endpoint. Yer not perfect; yer work in progress.”
Flora agrees with a faint flutter of leaf, despite a haze of impending doom.
“Our ‘success’ is predicated upon killing which is neither ideal nor sustainable. Certainly we have a way to go yet. Why not aspire to exist by absorbing pure energy?”

Tin has a final word.
“When universal aliens make themselves known on earth, will humans respond by assuming their usual superiority complex, regardless of the dazzling astrophysical evidence to the contrary?”
Flora despairs of her native species.
“I’m not so sure I want to be human again.”
“With all your trans-species experience?”
Tungsten can’t resist one last barb.
“Crying out for a superiority complex!”
“Not helpful, Tungsten. I was thinking you’d be uniquely placed to spread a little much needed empathy.”
Flora sighs.
“It’s academic anyway. Can’t even get back to the tree until Umbel resurfaces.”
Tantalum exclaims: “Why did you not say that was what you were after?”
Tungsten’s contributions remain brusque.
“Piece o’ piss.”
Tantalum continues solicitously.
“How close do you need to be to re-thingummy with the full tree?”
“Oh, you see, I think I’ve had enough of the tree, for now at least. I was hoping to extricate myself and resume human status.”
“Sure?”
“Is that an option?”
“As you may have noticed, we’re kinda in the business of evolutionary progression.”
Tin pipes up “You could be like us: Pacifist Extremists!”

As Flora digests this too perfect offer, a trumpet of a fart rips through the bunker.
Tantalum quips: “Action stations, chaps.”

Tin skitters along the bench to the wall. Between two wooden struts, he presses his tiny hand into a crack. There follows a thrilling clattering and clunking of cogs and cranks. An irregular door springs open revealing… nothing: a dark hole lined with vertical wood grain that fades to black as it recedes. Flora is fearfully fascinated by this hellish enslavement of her tree ancestors.

“What’s in there?”
Tantalum beams.
“The wood between walls.”
“Is that some dreadful parody of Narnia?”
“You’d rather ‘stick’ it out here in the trench with Mister Mustard Gas?”
A disappearing Tungsten adds: “who, by the way, can’t transmogrify a ginger biscuit without total digestive collapse.”

Tin and Tantalum don’t wait for the warm, toxic gust that inevitably follows the fanfare. They pitch Flora through the hatch by—or possibly to—her sticky end.

A few minutes later, as the fug clears, a heaving and a creaking brings forth Umbel.
“What-ho, chaps. A little inner work clearly required there. Fascinating.”
Here ‘inner work’ means a restorative doze; however, clothing remains decorated by crumbs and cocoa, and hair has been restyled by screwing against a heat-retentive pillow.
“Ah. Popped out for a spot of fresh air, I see.”

THE END

*Tree sense facts from Peter Wohlleben’s book The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How they Communicate.

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20/08/2017

Fossoway Flora and the Pacifist Extremists part 2

follows Fossoway Flora and the Pacifist Extremists part 1

“One for all, all for one!” This squeaky trio preludes three tiny leaps from the tin on to the bench, accompanied by aggressive shaking of tiny fists. Fossoway Flora, or twig thereof, is baffled.
“How can you win if it’s four-all?” Another bafflement arises. “What are you?”
“Nixies. What are you?”
“Oh, yes, I forgot; Fossoway Flora – got myself involved with a dear old beech tree. Lightning strike type thing.”
“Pretty small tree.”
“Ahaha. I’m travelling light. Flying, baggage allowance – you know.” Flora’s stoicism wavers.
“Not even slightly. Anyway, I’m Tantalum, and this is Tungsten and Tin.”

Flora acknowledges graciously, as best she can by a slight bend of stalk, and raises an invisible eyebrow to Umbel’s careless approximations. A staggering insight smacks her.
“You were in a tin!”
Tantalum sighs.
“Misappropriation of proprietary label. It’s actually an alloy.”
Flora catches Tin smirking.

Tungsten moves the discussion on before it becomes irretrievably bogged down in wordplay.
“What’s yer conflict?”
“Where to draw the line.”
“Always tricky. ‘specially when yer basically a line yerself.”

Tungsten performs a triumphant miniature jig at this wit. He aborts this on realising that he too has succumbed to wordwankery. Flora decides not to engage in an escalating series of barbs until she has ascertained if these ‘conflict demonerals’ can help her. But please let’s move on.

“That’s quite good. Well done.” Flora commences formal proceedings. “My question is: how do you eat without killing? How do you live without killing?”

Tin develops a beatific grin but remains silent. Tantalum raises his arm to claim an imaginary conversational baton.
“Ideologically?”
“Yes, I suppose. Is it possible? What is… Beyond Veganism? I mean, vegetarianism is not killing animals; veganism is not using—some would say abusing—animals at all; but each threshold is arbitrary. What’s the ultimate level? – total harmlessness.”
Tungsten beckons to Tin.
“Yer up, Tincyclopedia.”
Tin frowns but recites with ease and squeaks.

“Ahimsa, you mentioned?”
Flora casts her mind back to that pearl cast before Umbel cast his crumbs. Not really surprising that the wee nixies overheard that conversation, as they sat poised in their resona-tin. She twitches a leaf encouragingly. Tin resumes.
“Then it’s fruitarianism for you. Fruit, nuts, seeds, any reproductive part—zygote—that the plant produces and detaches for dispersal in order to propagate itself. Fruit in particular evolved to be attractive to animals as food for the very purpose of entering a trading partnership: the animal gets sustenance, the plant gets propagated with a handy dollop of fertiliser.”
“Oh, good. Can you live on those?”
Tantalum is horrified.
“We’re mineral sprites!”
“Oh, gosh, no, sorry. I mean: can I?”
Tungsten can’t help himself.
“Yer a tree.”
“Damn it.”

“Stop provoking the lass, Tungsten. Flossie, we’ll come back to transmogrification, so don’t fret. Follow the line!”
Flora appreciates Tantalum’s benevolence and pragmatism – sentiments always lacking from interactions with Umbel. Incidentally, that would-be puppeteer of this unlikely conversation remains off-screen, in a post-prandial stupor, emitting nonsensical murmurs. Flora succumbs to a rush of questions.

“How far can you take harvesting? Is it permissible to take some of a plant’s tubers if the plant can survive? That’s still a harm. I’ve felt it! Sodding Tiahmin, snapping my bits off. Is it acceptable if the plant is an annual and would die anyway after producing its offspring? Provided you leave some—how much? And isn’t that just sustainable horticulture?—for the next year? If you let a plant go to seed and collect that seed, is it then acceptable to eat its root, stem, leaves, or any or all of the rest of the plant? Are leaves permissible? A plant will likely survive the loss of a few leaves, but, again, that’s still harm – there’s still an injury and a detriment to potential…” Flora’s twiggy stomata gulp fishlike.

Tungsten peers at the gasping twig.
“Is it oxygen yer needing, or carbon dioxide? Nitrogen?”
Tin, more pragmatically, thrusts a rubber tube at her. He notes her increased alarm.
“Not from the swamp! Piped by fungal mycelia from—”
Flora clamps a vesicle around the tube and draws in fungal gas. More pleasant than it sounds. If yer a tree.

To be continued…

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…

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

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.

19/01/2014

Reunion

The Lassie and The Legume continued

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

The Reunion

Cecilia croaks, “good morning, rat, I mean drat, it’s afternoon.”
Percy’s face remains blank, probably due to being backlit. If he has an expression, perhaps of delighted reacquaintance, it’s lost to those with conventional eyebulbs.

At the bookcase, Percy’s father leans well in to his satire, “‘here’s an ambiguous statement,’ said a character whom you thought excluded from the conversation, with emphasis on ‘ambiguous’, after returning from a short trip through the loch.” He waggles his eyebrows to embroider the nonsense.
Percy rises masterfully, as one who has met, suffered and conquered this genre long since, “you have to reread the speech twice – in the right character and with the right emphasis – then adjust the implication according to the time delay.”
His father acquiesces gracelessly, “a dreadful bore,” indicating his son with a grimy thumbnail.
His mother produces the jarring non-sequiteur, “who goes out to harvest spring,” effectively garnishing the gibberish.

Having endured the circumloquacious elucidation that Percy arrived during the night, Cecilia flees to her quarters at the earliest opportunity. Implications! Soporific synchronicity! There’s only one course of action: she must flounce away. Where’s her suitcase? The door taps. She didn’t bring a suitcase! The chimney taps. What can she drag to make her point? The wardrobe taps. She yanks its door.
“What?!”
Percy hands out a pink floral handkerchief and a sturdy stick.
“Ready when you are.”
She experiences a tsunami of rage, despair and hilarity. Tears cubed. Tantrum unleashed.
He lifts a quilted cover (floral) from the bed, advances on her, raising it as a containment shield to her flailing fit. He strategically engulfs, compresses her, like a cranefly within a handkerchief.

After considerable tedious self-indulgence, Cecilia’s shudders abate. Percy mis-gauges an advantage for interrogation. “How did you get here?”
“Wading through your dregs.”
“Augh.”
“Indeed.”
He meets her eyes with apprehension. “How much do you know?”
“I know three women who believe three different things about your leg-ends.”
“Ha.” But he appears relieved. Disappointing. What has she missed?
“You didn’t give anything of yourself to them. What did you keep from me?”
“Nothing.”
While she consolidates the full weight of that, “where’ve you been?”
“Mooching.”
“Because I upset…”
“My hut.”
“And why did you come here?”
“Raining.”
“Because I upset…”
“My clouds.”
Somewhere, deep, deep under the facial glue of brine and mucous, a lip corner curves. “Well then, I don’t care a button how your legs ended, so long as your head’s firmly attached.”
He smiles.
Still she packs away the empty cell with the flag ‘triple bint intrigue’.

12/01/2014

Mattress / Nights

The Lassie and The Legume continued

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

The Mattress

Percy’s mother leads Cecilia down a narrow corridor. Actually down: they’re descending. How exciting: the wedge really is a complete cuboid, tilted and partly submerged. Just as Cecilia regrets not counting the doors they’ve passed and the turns along the maze, they swing into a depth perception-boggling floral fantasia. A bed, a fireplace, a wardrobe and some indeterminate lumps, all expertly camouflaged with a kaleidoscope of petals, sepals and bepollened fancies.

None of it edible. Still hungry. Emaciation sirens going off unhelpfully, squandering carefully rationed energy. Hunger Monster on rampage.

Percy’s mother twitters, “my son’s awfully athletic, you know.”
Cecilia has a final flicker of inference as she keels on to the many-layered mattress: they’re not vetting me; they’re trying to sell him to me. Why?

Look at that: we’ve arrived at the bed thing. Shall we just get it over with? Deep breath.

The Nights

The knocking comes again, knocking, knocking on the floor. It fades into a rushing, flushing water with a roar. The tapping steals her mind, slapping, tapping at her core. A creaking starts a new, freaking, creaking corridor.

If we are to believe Cecilia and her fallible recollection, she sleeps not a sigh. In the cold dark of night, the whirlpool in her mind forms an erosive vortex with the silt of overcooked thoughts.

In the hot light of day, however, the version she recounts to her hosts the following morning is considerably subdued: the events of the night include two sets of footsteps (theirs, going by their guilty countenances) patrolling the house, a perpetually filling cistern (their son is also a plumbing marvel; again Rich dolefully denies any comparable talent), and some lunar-tropic rhubarb straining (Rich becomes agitated at this, possibly as an aftershock of the rain).

Perhaps it’s her chronic undernourishment, a suppressed preoccupation with a certain acquaintance, or just being in a strange bed in a strange place with strange people. In any case, strangely, during her second night, whilst systematically counting the individual blooms on the furnishings (834 from wardrobe to fireplace), Cecilia falls asleep.

The following day she stumbles late, dishevelled, disoriented into the front room. Four people greet her. Four. Error. Rich, Percy’s mother, Percy’s father and, before the house’s only conventional window, a silhouette with a scarecrow hairdo about six feet four inches high.

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