Fallsday, 5 Anthuary
Earned 30 / Spent 8
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A sliver of sunlight peeks out from behind the lingering Disc. The eclipse has gone on far too long, and with the Disc you never know how long it could last. It doesn’t move at a constant speed; its distance from Terrene is undeterminable. Nobody even knows what it is, but some of us feel what it is, and loathe it.
The drakeroot infestation has gotten worse. The darkness may be what does it, or – and the thought both confuses and frightens me – has the infestation caused the darkness?
I’ve known other people suffering from the ‘root infestation. We all know that it’s our own fault. Nobody forced us to take the drakeroot, but couriers like me need it to keep up, to keep going. A massive hit of calorific energy, better than any of the coffee that Ochre sells in his plantflesh eatery on the thoroughfare.
Other sufferers are resigned to it and know that whoever times they stick themselves with the doctor’s “golden needle” they’ll always have the core root somewhere inside them, subsisting in their bones until the next resurgence like some super-herpes. It can’t be killed. This will live in me forever.
It struggles in me like an animal. If cauliraptors and xylem have thoughts, why not drakeroot? Is it consciously trying to take over my body, to then use my empty shell to walk around the township looking for others to infect? Or will it just feed its wooden tendrils through every vein in my body until I’m all wood, like the man from the Red Republic near the gitten farm? He sits there all day because he can’t do anything different: his entire body other than his right arm and his head is solid oak, sprouting here and there with drake seedlings. He’s nothing more than a ward against evil spirits for the farmers.
This connection to the Disc terrifies me. When the Disc is largest and darkest, the thin fibres of the root push through the skin of my legs and reach out towards it like hair rippling in water. I’ve woken up more than once, in the night, to the sound of these tendrils scratching at the window to get out, connected to me in the darkness.
I hate this thing living inside me! Foist is aware of it but not how bad the infestation is. She puts up with my griping about the itching and the pain, but I don’t trouble her with thoughts about the Disc. It worries people enough as it is, this giant unknowable shadow in the sky. Foist sees it better than many. But I see it clearest of all.
Last night I witnessed the most amazing thing.
The Disc had not yet moved from its position in front of the Sun. I could see faint corona flickering at its edges. These luminous vestiges of the near-forgotten star aren’t enough to see by, but the moon still takes its usual route every night to help us along. Kernel has become a nocturnal town, and the darkest times – during the “day”– are when its citizens sleep.
This was when it came. I was peering out of the window, wondering whether those courting xylem would ever make a return, when my eyes were drawn to the Disc. A great pain grew within my chest, which zigzagged rapidly along the length of my arms. My throat grew thick with an unuttered scream. I watched my legs split and spurt blood as the root tendrils surged out of my bones and coiled around my body.
This hadn’t ever happened before. My lower half was cocooned in this woody membrane, the fibres of which wound tightly around each other to form something as solid as any giant fir tree.
The thinner tendrils, like the roots of a carrot, tickled my face and ears as they stretched towards the window. My shoulder creaked as I opened the window to get a better view of what was happening to the Disc.
A gargantuan figure was stepping out of it, as though the Disc were a hole.
It was tall, grotesquely thin, and the blackest silhouette I’ve ever seen. None of its features could be seen other than its immense size: its long limbs stretched down from the Disc to the horizon, and once it had climbed through into our world it shrank until its knees were merely as high as the houses of Kernel.
And, although I couldn’t see its face, I knew in my weak infested bones that when it turned, it was looking right at me.
I think I must have fainted at that point. The fear was strong but I’ve been terrified before, for other reasons. I can presume that it was the hyperactive drakeroot that caused me to pass out. The last thing I saw were those unbelievable tendrils climbing higher around my body, as if to encase me completely in the hollow trunk of a tree.
The peace of unconsciousness was a gift. I awoke in my bed with sunlight fingering through the window: the first sign of the eclipse breaking. The dark memories flooded back, but they were only that: memories. My body felt lighter, my mind a little clearer than it had been for weeks. Apart from the ever widening scars on my shins, there was no sign of the ‘root.
I knew that I hadn’t dreamed it – that I bother to write it in this journal is a testament to that, as I rarely make note of my dreams – but no-one else I spoke with today saw anything unusual. Had I imagined it, or were those people too terrified to consider the possibility that it hadn’t just been a nightmare? I was, perhaps, the only person in Kernel to witness that awe-inspiring sight, although that doesn’t seem likely.
The feeling that lingers in my heart is this: I have always known the black giant from the Disc.