Digital Ischemia

29/10/2019

Rhett Riding-Hood and the Wolf

Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 11:00

Once upon a town, which was in Northern Ireland, and thus pronounced ‘tine’, Rhett set out to visit her grandmother, carrying the obligatory basket of poisoned apples. Her bright red cape billowed in the wind, whipping and snapping like a flag. Or a rag. And someone was watching. And snapping.

Rhett followed the footpaths, and, when these ran out, the winding tracks through the woods. She was completely unafraid, as she had walked these paths twice already. Several times she deviated, and even wandered right off the path, because she saw some pretty little flower and had an urge to crush it. Or heard a delightful chirruping bird and simply had to swat it with the brim of her enormous detachable hood. She would carefully lift whichever bruised, tattered remnants and stuff them into her basket.

Just at the point when she was finding the whole thing tedious, she approached her grandmother’s cottage. However, having visited twice before, she noticed something had changed. On one side of the cottage, where her grandmother’s vegetable garden had rewilded itself into a dense tangle of strangulating bushes and vines, the ground was now completely bare.

Not completely bare. There were Power Tools. Also a lot of loud noise. Three Power Tool Operators were shouting abuse at each other over the din of their assorted water-jet, hedge trimmer, drill, hammer, paint sprayer, chainsaw, strimmer, of which they were each wielding at least two, to demonstrate their personal Power.

In mid gasp, Rhett became aware of a tremendous force bearing down on her from one side. A toy bulldozer crashed out of the woods, fountaining splintered twigs, and dunted into her ankle. A boy climbed out and launched a stream of age-appropriate unpleasantries, such as “you dirty pants, you bogey nose, you smelly brain.” Rhett frowned at him in puzzlement and eventually he got bored and started kicking his toy bulldozer.

Meanwhile the noise of the Power Tools had increased, due to them getting nearer. Rhett found the volume unbearable and so stuck her fingers in her ears as she squinted at the unpleasant encroachment. Accompanied by the muffled cacophony, she watched the three operators mouthing obscenities and gesticulating aggressively. She tried to insert her questions between their shouts, but it made no difference to their behaviour, and in her head her voice sounded ridiculous.

Still the three operators loomed closer and closer, and the wielding of the Power Tools became ever more threatening, and the stupid boy with the toy bulldozer kept ramming Rhett’s ankle. In sticking her fingers in her ears, she had dropped her basket, and notwithstanding some of the contents already being the worse for wear, the whole lot was unceremoniously bulldozed into a mess of twiglets. Rhett snapped likewise. She shrieked as loud and long as she could, birled about, and charged off in a direction roughly away from the cottage.

As the droning and whining in her ears faded, she unplugged her fingers. Around this time she also thought to open her eyes properly and see where she was going, according to the diverting lashings of brambles and buffetings of tree roots. This was just in time as the end of the world suddenly rushed up.

Rhett stopped running and teetered above a crevasse of rocks, shaped like an uneven stack of pencils, descending into the ocean. In her frazzled state she was quickly mesmerised by the hexagonal pattern, the way you can hypnotise a chicken with a straight line, and her brain activity mostly suspended.

All this drama was observed by a mini drone that looked like a Snitch from a Potter-esque game of Quidditch, i.e. a tiny but unfeasibly heavy brass ball, but with non-enchanted mechanical wings, wheeling and hovering overhead.

Back beside the cottage there was an executive sort of disturbance in the undergrowth. Russell? No, ’twas the Ginger Avenger with his sturdy helmet bobbing about, glinting in the—
“Unacceptable name! I require something considerably more—”
Do not deviate from the narrative. Do not address the narrator directly.
“To whom should I address my complaint?”
There will be ample opportunity to discuss any issues of casting, character authenticity, plot flaws et cetera once the draft is circulated.
“Corrections will be retrospective?”
Find and replace. Move along now.

The GA (pending) rippled with… brine, ebbing from his recent constitutional dunking. As a consequence of which, any fish thereby attached to his person were entirely coincidental and claimed as legal salvage. He swished decisively, removing any debris from his path ahead. For this purpose he had judiciously acquired a crooked cane, which was also expedient for the removal of unfunny entertainers, inept service providers, and unwanted companions.
“And inappropriate appellations. And truculent narrators.”
Never mind.

As the GA (TBC) strode into the throng, the noisy Operators cowered and grovelled. Assorted motors ground to halts.
One of the now quieter Operators bleated, “are you the police?”
The GA pointed out wearily, “observe helmet. Larger than polis ones, yes? Thus I smite them.”
The erstwhile noisy Operators glanced among themselves, wondering and fearing the exact definition of the word ‘smite’ and its possible application to themselves. And how much damage that helmet might do, especially around the edges.

As if this weren’t enough, another lesser and less prepossessing character emerged surreptitiously from the undergrowth, having first ascertained that his predecessor has established superiority. The GA gestured an introduction for this newcomer.
“Flat-head Peter is my sidekick; he—”
“I do feel I have been mis-cast. I should have a more prominent role.”
I refer the unprepossessing gentleman to my earlier response. Carry on.
The GA continued, “Peter assists me in the poaching of fish.”
Peter jolted. “Just to clarify: ‘poaching’ relates to cooking.”
The GA was supremely nonchalant. “Secure these pests. I shall retrieve the heroine.”
“Of course. You help yourself to the fun bits.”
The GA raised an eyebrow. Peter unhitched shears from his pack and grudgingly set to work.
“Apply the polyethylene fibres and record everything they say.”
The suddenly silent Operators squirmed incontinently, as they were suddenly filled with hellish visions of fibreglass and asbestos type tortures.

They were quite wrong, of course. The GA was merely suggesting to Peter a convenient use for the non-biodegradable twine that he was supposed to have been weaving. This was the most expedient way to get rid of the billions of plastic microfibres his flat-cap had attracted by static electricity during the recent fishing, ahem, swimming expedition.

The GA fished in a pocket and dextrously thumbed knob and rolled ball. He extracted a remote control device and pointed it skyward. The mini drone whined obediently into view, screeched a U-turn and appeared to beckon with a wing. The GA accordingly switched his way seaward, along the path indicated by the heroine’s spoor of bloody brambles and twigs waving tiny flags of torn fabric. He was of course well practised in bushcraft.

Shortly thereafter the swaying Rhett was deftly yanked from the jaws of danger and squish by a crooked stick. Her brain resumed something approaching normal function and her eyes took in this Ginger Avenger.
“My mother told me to beware of a wolf in striped clothing.”
“Wolf? No, I’m Wilf!”
“Rhett.”
“No, just Wilf. And I’m sure it was about sheep…”
“Perhaps; she wouldn’t wear less than cashmere.”

Rhett’s writhing hood flapped unhelpfully across her face. Once again the crooked stick was employed to efficient effect.
“Thank you. Who were those horrid creatures?”
“Those mendacious mercenaries have planning permission to raze the area. They plan to build a, ugh, tourist facility to exploit the Dwarf’s Causeway, or Causewee as they’ll probably nauseatingly label it.”
“What about Grandmother’s cottage?!”
“Technically your grandmother is squatting.”
“She suffers from nodules.”
“Has she tried fish?”
“Oh, yes, that’s why she lives by the sea; she loves watching their acrobatics.”
The GA glanced at the dry-curing danglements from his fishbelt. “Ah. Leeks?”
“Only if she squats too quickly. But I’m fond of seafood.”
“Can I interest you in a Three-fish Mess Marinara?”
“Only three?” Rhett eyed his scaly accoutrements.

On returning to the cottage and its desertified grounds, Rhett and the GA found a collection of neatly bound annoyances. The appearance was of a giant spider’s lair, but that would be a whole other story. Peter the sidekick was, however, absent.
The GA demanded, “where’s Peter?” Silence. Stillness. “I’ve always wanted to do this.” He flexed his fingers then snatched some gaffer tape off one intruder’s mouth. Wails ensued.
The intruder admitted only that Peter was “gaun.” No mention of his obsessive muttering about being destined to vanquish a wolf.

Rhett twinkled with an rash idea. “I shall be your sidekick. I have… skills in… macabre things.”
The GA widened his eyes in alarm. “He’ll be back. Thinks he can set up a rival avenging business. Fool.”
“He doesn’t even have a proper helmet.”
“You don’t have a proper cloak!”
“What’s wrong with it? It billows! It hides all sorts.”
“It’s irretrievably fankled! My cloak is far more… cloaky. Properly cloaky. Like a cloaking device.”
Insofar as the intruders’ eyeballs were able to move below their encasing mesh of twine and tape, there was rolling.

Grandmother emerged from the bottom drawer where she had been lately hiding and was thoroughly enthralled by Rhett’s withered, trampled, pulverised offering. The intruders were roasted on an open fire, made of the suddenly abundant kindling, then released by skilful prodding with the crooked cane when they became insufficiently entertaining, as the GA was not in the mood for sausages. Rhett found their dripping marinated the fish marvellously. The GA commented, “I always find fire works.”


 

Inspired by Supporting a good Cause, along with a diverse list of bizarre narrative milestones, most of which the above manages to clonk into.

15/09/2019

No Question

I have switched off my answerphone. The thing we used to have before voicemail. Not a separate device, not quite that antiquated, but a landline connection ‘service’. This reactionary decision is the culmination of a concatenation of rabid hyper-marketing blunders. The answerphone ‘service’ would spring into action after two and a half rings. For me to issue cognitive demand and observe the statutory latency before my pitiful physical husk will spring into action and reach the phone in person takes at least seven rings. Therefore I was receiving a lot of frustrating messages:
—advantage of this FREE offer please dial 2 now.
Or
Sorry we have been unable to reach you. Please could you contact us at a time that is convenient to yourself on buzz clonk between the hours of distorted exhaling.
Or
Please can you call the health centre.

Has the practice computer spat me out as the winner of the monthly minor ailment lottery? Has my women’s invasive procedures number come up again already? More pressingly (shudder), why should I pay twice to get that information? It’s four pence per minute to make that call! On top of £1.80 per month! Plus VAT! And that’s without reducing to a monetary value my inestimable time and energy.

Dare I suggest that most of these messages are a waste of time even to listen to? My number has been registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) as ‘Do Not’ for many, many years. It used to be worthwhile – I mean, a maliciously satisfying experience – to keep a notepad of entrapment by the phone. When my blood was fizzing I would answer one of these irrelevant calls and persistently grill the hapless ‘agent’. I would note all their pertinent details and punch them into the TPS web form.

Initially the response would be helpful:
“TPS has notified the company you reported that a complaint has been received relating to a breach of the above regulation. They have been instructed to investigate your complaint and respond to us within 14 days of receipt of our letter of complaint. We have also asked that they do not make any more unsolicited direct marketing calls to your telephone number and that it is suppressed.”

I could hear stygian moans as the marketing monster was run through with my rusty skewer. I could hear sweat trickling as the ‘agent’ was spotlighted for sacrifice as an example the rest of the battery of oppressed operators.

But more recently responses have become jaded:
“Despite our best efforts, TPS has not been able to ascertain valid contact and/or address details to raise this particular complaint. … during the course of our investigation the company name and/or telephone number supplied is found to be fictitious.”

Fictitious?? Have they the temerity to suggest that I have nothing better to do than invent spurious marketing callers? As if I spend my time creating characters and scenarios! Tempting as this may be… in a reverse sort of way. But I’ll return to that idea. Backwards.

No longer satisfied by this expenditure of my precious time and energy, I resorted to simply not answering phone numbers I didn’t recognise. This is in addition to not answering calls when I’m in the toilet. Which happens often. The coincidence, I mean. I’m basically not answering the phone. Which brings me back to the thing that does. Did.

But let’s not overreact. Surely these things can be adjusted? No. This is where it all became hostile and polarised. Referring to my communication provider’s website, it seems I’m not the first person to seek to delay the answerphone’s doggy over-helpfulness. But, horrors! My communication provider admits to being merely a sheepish middleman in this unsatisfactory transaction. The actual service is provided by that paragon of customer-oriented quality and technical excellence: BT. Reference to BT’s website derives only the latest in a long series of customer disappointments: BT’s hair-trigger answerphone is not adjustable. In any way. Just no.

Slowly I succumbed to a surge of bile. For I have been inadvertently giving my small pile of groats indirectly to BT. Yet I firmly severed BT 10 years ago when I learned that (a) they were overcharging me in order to (i) bombard me with irrelevant marketing opportunities for which they would then erroneously charge me, and (ii) pour eye-watering sponsorship into irrelevant sporting occasions, and (b) their connectivity was no better than that of the gory strands that fall out of my womb every month. To BT or not to BT; there’s no question. I had been telephonically violated.

Victimhood doesn’t last long, however. Very soon it transmogrifies into evil plans. How to have my intricate and deliciously disproportionate rewengay… Introducing: the Questaphone(TM). Shortly.

Once hoisted into my loft, Providence will smile upon me: the first box I plunge my non-dominant hand into will give up not a dead mouse but the tape data recorder that accompanied my 1985 BBC 64K personal computer. I loved those 64Ks. I used every one of them. I would wake in the night and switch on the monitor to check it was still flickering with a coruscating cascade of coloured pixels. Progress advanced at a rate of one pixel every 10 minutes, pictorially representing carefully selected and previously uncharted territories of the Mandelbrot Set.

Rendering the full map of my specified coordinates in abstract space might not be finished until after breakfast. Which was just as well, because if I was too hasty or groggily malcoordinated in commanding it to print this magnificently, infinitely detailed design, the overheating processor would quiver, the monitor would collapse to anguishing black, and the night’s toil would be lost. Computer science lesson number one: they bust.

I also typed up my chemistry project on it – using a SodaStream to carbonate salt water. Not potable. This groundbreaking series of experiments would establish oceanic acidification versus the absorption of atmospheric gases depending on several unrealistic parameters. Not that anyone was paying attention to fringe treehuggery in 1989.

Shortly before that underrated thesis was complete, I literally bumped into the End of Space. Error. I had to split the document into two halves – title page to page 8 and pages 9-17 – and store both on the aforementioned tape data recorder. I could edit one half at a time. If page 8 spilled over, I had to write down those words and manually retype them on page 9. These days we grumble about the slowness of a device the size of a notepad as it hurls tyrannosaurabytes of data around the planet.

Aside from the nostalgia, what I’m after is the sound that tape data recorder made, to let me know it was faithfully reading data from the tape and passing it along to the computer, bit by careful bit. Except when the tape fankled. Computer science lesson number two: crunching and snapping means bust. That soundtrack is ingrained in my memory. Soon it will haunt every call centre that dares to disregard my Telephone Preference.

“Thank you for contacting me in 1986. Unfortunately I am not or was not or will not be answering the phone. Please find embedded in the electronic substrata of this call, undoubtedly recorded for training and quality purposes, the details of the hiding places of all my mountainous piles of groats.”

I have reverted to my grandfather’s assertion: “telephones are not for chatting; they are for making appointments.” Don’t call me. There’s no answer.

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