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…

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

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.

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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