Category: Journal RSR


Hello everyone.

If it seems like a long time, then obviously you haven’t been following the adventures of Lisa and I on our travel blog.  Head on over there now to catch up on our escapades through India and Asia.  Thanks to everyone who’s been making us smile by liking and commenting on our posts.

It’s time to wake up Spinning Lizard once again with some updates.

Firstly, that’s right – I’ve been seeing the world.  Expect a couple of travel-related posts including the odd photo gallery in the near future.

“What’s happening with your writing?” I hear you ask (or not).  The answer is, not much: I’ve spent a few spare minutes these last four months editing and reworking my novels and stories for publication.  Efforts to find and agent for “Faith in Chrome last year were fruitless, so I’m working on getting my other piece of speculation ready for putting out there.  You can read a little more about “SubStantial” here.

I’ll also be writing – get this – a Western very soon, along with an exciting piece of Young Adult fiction.  I expect to have plenty of time this current year to bang uot some first drafts.

Did you find the time to read any Journal RSR, the alternate-reality journal I kept over 2011-12?  If you missed it, you’ll find it starting afresh on the more appropriate Wattpad.   It’s now under the name Reks: A Journal and not only will it soon get up to speed with at least one update a week, it will also continue Reks’ journey through the mysterious brooding world of Treen from the point I left off.

In the meantime, if you’re coming over through Google or via Overunderpants, stay in touch via my Twitter or Facebook profiles.

Thanks for reading.

—db

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Fallsday, 5 Anthuary

Earned 30 / Spent 8

Savings 21,445

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

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.

— RSR

Skeinsday, 4 Anthuary

Earned 32 / Spent 9

Savings 21,423

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

The Disc created an eclipse last week, stranding Kernel in darkness. 

Sometimes the Disc appears to disappear behind the Sun, and other times it flits across its surface like a semitransparent lens, between it and Terrene.  How does it work?  Some people claim not to even see the Disc, but this we attribute to the madness that infects the worst of those locked up in The Den, or those we feel should be in there instead of out here in the muddy thoroughfares of Kernel proper.

As the shadows melted into one another, I leant out the window of my small place on Capital Hill, chin in palm.  The town is a strange place at night, a bowl of dirt surrounded by jungle.  The stillness of the empty streets is a stark contrast to the rustling, shifting wall of leaf and vine at the town’s edge.

You see in black and white at night.  It’s all black shadow and faint white reflections of the moon on the thin surfaces of every leaf and rooftop.  The jungle’s edge is like a massive scaled surface, and within are the flornae that thrive in this cool lowlight: the vegesaurs and cauliraptors, and the carnivorous pitchers and traps that wait for wandering mammals to pass into their toxic jaws.

I spent a few days watching the courtship of two xylem on the balcony outside my window.  The little things have wandered up from the houses on either side of mine, meeting in the middle to perform their leafy little dances around each other.

These were small for xylem – I could hold either of them in my hand – but what they lacked in stature they make up for in energy.  They tottered around on their two stems, smoothing back the branches atop their heads like little bouffants.  Some days they chased each other (the one with the darker bark was the male, I think) and they played games, teased one another.  They had very similar branching structure (I’m told that this is a good indicator of mating in the wild, a natural reinforcement of genetic material through breeding) and matched one another’s movements as though they were reflections.

I knew in my heart that nothing would come of it.  Both of these were domesticated xylem, probably since plantation, and they belong to other people.  Their owners soon put a stop to the playful courtship by bordering up their fences to stop them getting out.

It’s probably for the best.  These small things come and go, but for the xylem to inseminate and produce pods would not help anybody; wild xylem are a nuisance to the seed growers on which our economy relies.  Even domesticated ones are a reminder of the ancient pact they have with the maréchaussée.

Still, I feel for the two who are kept apart, knowing that they belong together.  Meanwhile the eclipse goes on.

— RSR

The following is a recovered document, found by maréchaussée in outside waste recepticle near the property of RSR.

————————————————————————————————-

Knot, 6 Photus

Earned 29 / Spent 6

Savings 19,576

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

I don’t often see Papa Michelle, and although we arrange to meet every six months or so, for the last ten years I’ve probably only seen him ten times.  He’s changed in that decade though: larger, greyer, a gentler giant.  He draws in his travel-weary visitor and we sit and small-talk and eat a rich meal of braised gitten.  Late in the night, after chatter about not much at all and once the large oak table was stained by vine poteen, I retired to a bed under an array of exposed beams with the foreign stars casting their light across the room.

There is a clearwater lake not far from the chalets and first thing in the morning I hurl myself into it.  The cold depths rush to swallow me, and half a minute goes by as I let the water sting my open eyes.  They take in the mossy rocks, with long tendrils of weed caught between them like food between teeth, and the trout propelling themselves lazily over smooth pebbles.

When I breach the surface I draw warm air into my lungs and wash the hair from my eyes.  I haven’t swum in years.  The lake isn’t all that cold now, and the water soothes my drakeroot infestation.

Papa Michelle and Mama Jeanne-Stempe keep domesticated promicrocera in a hutch around the back of the main building.  We went to feed them, then took an old one that no longer laid its leathery eggs and wrung its neck.  I kept my hands away from its snapping jaws and then broke off its useless forearms and tail, which popped off like a gecko’s, and helped Michelle tie its longer back limbs to its body with twine.  Trussed up, we scraped away the scales and washed the grey underflesh, then left it in the oven for hours as we read and wished that the Disc wasn’t occluding quite so much of the sun outside.

Once the promicrocerus was done I watched him hack it apart with a cleaver on the kitchen table.  The metal tray, running with thin pinkish blood, was drained into the sink as I brought out the mincer.  We fed the pieces into the machine and turned its crank; fine meat exuded in lumpy laces from the nozzle.  We made burgers and sausages, full of herbs and fruit, which we left to ‘cure’ for a day or two before they were ready to eat.

Jeanne-Stempe does at least half the meatwork, talking in a singsong voice and enjoying this mucky business.  We chat and joke, stopping intermittently to wash our hands, until it’s time to open another bottle.

It was interesting watching Michelle work.  The great figure moved around the table unencumbered by his weight.  He tossed the creature’s fibrous bones into a bowl for burning; these and cauliraptors’ and vegesaurs’ make great firewood, especially when left to soak up fatty fuel. Not much went to waste; in his years of rural exile he’s picked up many local customs. 

Their poteen comes from a local vineyard; their eggs come from their promicrocera.  An orchard to the south, which catches most of the day’s sun, bequeaths them apples and pinenuts and valuable walnuts, which they keep for trade.

One night we sat under the ivy-choked gazebo and listened to the crickets bray, eating gitten cheese and bread and promicrocera paté – then with port, for desert, cracked open a few of the walnuts and ate them.  Each one is almost a week’s wage for a courier like me.  Michelle and Jeanne-Stempe are not rich, but they are not wanting.  Unlike most people in Kernel, they own all of their property and only pay for their fuel and heating, and to replenish supplies for the chalets.

On my last morning I went for a long walk between the neighbouring farms, stopping to pet the gittens who bleat in my wake, and stare up at the clumps of mistletoe feeding off the branches of nearby trees.  If I could have climbed up there and get some, I could have returned to Kernel a little wealthier: white mistletoe berries are as good as seeds back home.  But a weariness had taken over me, and I lay on the hot tarmac where traffic seldom comes and imagined Foist lying next to me, beautiful and young, and wondered what it would be like to age slowly in a place like this away from everything.

We ate the burgers that night, not talking much.  There was no point mentioning Kernel, or my mother, Michelle’s first wife.  Those are times long gone that don’t sting anymore, only loiter in the memory as an unseen shape seen from the corner of the eye, there but not quite there, not mindfully there, only a shadow burnt into the lining of the mind a long time ago.

Dawn came.  I awoke under the beams of my room, testing my eyes for reactions against the low morning light.  I showered, ate a quick breakfast of pastries and yoghurt, and then packed for the carriages.  They towed me the zeppelin hangars, and I caught myself looking back toward Farm Jeanne-Stempe just as I’d looked back at the carriage that brought me here.

I pondered this on the airship home, back over the farmland and out of Rureau, to the carpet of luscious green that is the rainforest between the countries, and at last to Kernel, where the shadow of the Disc follows me always.  It was raining as I dashed back into the house on Capital Hill.  The place was silent as I shook the rain off my jacket and hung it on the hook.

— RSR

Fallsday, 5 Photus

Earned 29 / Spent 3

Savings 19,576

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

I’ve all but forgotten the trip I took to Rureau two weeks ago: six days in rural foreignland not two hundred miles north of Gamut, where I spend last summer dodging explosives on a crowded shoreline.

The purpose of the short trip to the Papaux Valley was as a road-test for the hike to Metrodon and beyond: test my capabilities in the real wild outside of Kernel’s borders.  I don’t speak much of the language, although a few people speak broken Context even this far away from Rureau’s capital, which had once been a famous centre of debauchery and the avant-garde and a global hub for those who appreciate that sort of thing.

I packed some simple clothes, dressing for warmer weather (dry as opposed to Kernel’s humid heat) and a stack of novels.  I’ve been to the Papaux Valley before and although the scenery is beautiful, there isn’t much to do.  Then I dragged my baggage onto a zeppelin and crossed my fingers as the envelope was topped up, pushing the leafskin taut around fifty million cubic litres of explosive gas.  The cheap cabins, next to the pumps and motors, began to vibrate as the engine kicked in.  The stink of methane and jungle CO2 filled my nose. 

Within half an hour the massive aircraft was buoyed up into the air, and I saw its shadow diminish on the map of Kernel that shrank below us.  I spotted the landmarks of the town, which were alien when seen from above: the thoroughfare, the maréchaussée fort, the Kernel Saints University building, the Den and the path through the jungle to neighbouring Becken.  It all seemed so small and meaningless, and I was reminded of the route that Foist and I will take across the face of Terrene in just a few months’ time, a map that has been etched into my mind.

I was on my way.  The journey took three and a half hours, and when the zeppelin deposited its passengers in the broad fields on the outskirts of the Valley a few dozen of us wobbled out on jelly-legs, glad to return to solid ground.

A succession of carriages took me the rest of the way to Papaux.  When I disembarked with my case I stood for a moment watching the horses disappear between the crop-rich fields, consciously observing my only form of transport depart, leaving me stranded at the Farm Jeanne-Stempe.

The Farm is a collection of converted stone barns and farmhouses; the latter made into a perfect home of sixteen rooms, the former now impressive little holiday homes for people from Kernel, Torment and anywhere else with people who desperately crave the peace of this green valley beyond the rainforest.

The door of the main structure clacked open, wood banging against wood with the scream of two old springs each longer than my arm, and out burst Papa Michelle.  His stride was confident for such a big man, his bearing reminiscent of a relaxed slab of fat-coated muscle; he could have spread into a pattie if lying on his back, or wrestled a cauliraptor if he put all his strength into it.  Not many people find this dichotomy alarming – only when you see the transformation from soft to hard to they become wary of this grey-topped giant, who now took me in a bear hug and laughed through his bristly moustache.

Behind him, Mama Jeanne-Stempe appeared in the doorway and crossed her arms, watching the reunion with a gentle smile.

I extricated myself from Papa Michelle’s embrace.  He grinned at me through his abundance of facial hair and took me by the shoulders, bellowing, ‘Reks!  Welcome back, my son!’

I have to go – I’ll finish writing this tomorrow.

— RSR

Bloomsday, 8 Pollinary

Earned 32 / Spent 4

Savings 18,794

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

There is a pagan holiday that comes every Pollinary.  The day falling the weekend immediately following the appearance of the first buds on the bonyik tree.  The next Budsday is a bank holiday, and all the shops and shutters of Kernel close to the cool morning and people fill the streets with banners. 

The long weekend was welcome, but today it was back to work as usual.  I awoke surprisingly easily, a few minutes after dawn, but only reached a low plateau of consciousness as I washed and cleaned and set out down Capital Hill to the thoroughfare.

The sun was low in the cloud-scuffed sky, drawing long shadows from my drakeroot-infested feet.  The golden needles are helping keep the ‘root at bay, and I can feel that it’s almost gone from me now.  But it only takes a single sight or smell to remind me of the shadow cast by the Disc in the heavens, the presence of which draws out the thrashing tendrils of root from my hard and cracked shins. 

A semi-feral xylem crossed the road in front of me.  The pint-sized tree-man moved stiffly but quickly through the dried mud from last night’s rain, climbed up the kerb, and turned its faceless head to the sun to photosynthesise for a moment.  Then it ran on, past my legs with a rustle of twig and tiny leaf, and around a corner.

They’re simple creatures, kept as pets by some and tools for the maréchaussée – trained sniff-hounds and translators for the suspicious goons behind the helmets.  The sight of a wild one going about its business, a small and scurrying shape as alive as I am, brings a twinge of darkness and pain to me from the psycho-sympathetic drakeroot inside me.

It’s Pollinary but not yet Spring, with the month of Frost still too recent a memory.  But this week comes with the traditional Pollinary showers; the clouds dump their heavy loads during the night, flooding the thoroughfare and making a mire of the mud and woodchip beneath the stilted huts of the Den.  Close by the jungle you can hear it beat the upper canopy like the tattoo of a furious water god. 

On all sides of Kernel the jungle is coming alive again (not that it ever stays still).  Flora big and small flourishes in the fast and frequent downpours.  A path I took on Skeinsday was overrun by thick, twining vines by Fallsday, impassable.  The trunks of the biggest bonyiks literally groan as they fill and distend. 

On Fallsday I heard of a caulirator that rampaged through the township.  Flushed with rainwater, scales bright red and green about its snout, it swept down alley and street in a delirious frenzy brought about by the storm influx.  Only the gods know what would have happened if that had been a full-grown vegesaur, which are no doubt soaking up the moisture in saturated fugues in their dens somewhere deep in the forest.

My jog took me past Anchor Point, as it does every morning, and I saw where the rotormen were frantically trying to keep the jungle at bay with their immense machinery.  They’d felled a massive sprouting bloodwood that had threatened to infect that part of the forest, and I had a clear view over the lowlands to the coastal hill.  The Castle in the Mist remained as impassive as ever, overlooking the harbour’s construction in its serene air of permanence.  I realised that a path was being cut to join the harbour to Kernel – more work for the rotormen, who were now entering their busy period.

Guitarróns twanged nearby, but I couldn’t tear my gaze from the Castle.  Even so enthralled and moved, I knew that I would see even grander sights once I left with Foist for our trip around the world.  Who knew what grand landscapes we’d see on the majestic Umber Plains, or the wonders we’d witness in the Regency of Golden Statues? 

I’ve yet to tell Grouter that I’ll be taking a long leave of absence. I dread the day that I have to tell him, but that day is a few months away yet.  There’s yet to be a twang of doubt in me about the trip, but as though I needed to steel my nerves I came across eight members of the Chaiyya on a pilgrimage from the Castle.  There these spiritual leaders of the braves operate and maintain the Castle’s lighthouse function, turning the mirror every second of the night whilst a fellow devotee tends its eternal flame.  Two of these travellers plucked at guitarróns, whilst another pair sang in low, ululating voices. 

The leader pulled back his green hood and smiled at me. ‘Are you on your way to better things, my son?’

‘I hope so,’ I said, and I meant it.

— RSR

I found these pages of my journal, which I wrote on scraps in a café in Bracken a few weeks ago.  Having written in my book since I must stick them here, but when I look back at these words (if I ever do) I will see the date and know where it belongs in my personal, private timeline…

-RSR

~          ~          ~          ~          ~      

Skeinsday, 16 Vernuz

Earned 37 / Spent 4

Savings 18,338

~          ~          ~          ~          ~         

Slowly, our plan of action comes together.

After speaking on the brineline our common goals came into synchronization.  The plan was for me to meet Foist in Metrodon, and from there we would travel the whole of Terrene together. 

Some places were high on Foist’s list; these might be lower on mine.  We both made sacrifices.  But the key places, the important places, were the first ones that we agreed.  Now we have a fine plan, and my map is covered in red dots and dashes, arrows and annotations.  We’ve tracked zeppelin routes and primary train lines, marked the border gates where a certain visa, pass or faith is required to cross.  We’ve researched all the recommendations when it comes to bribes or sacrificial offerings (which it often will).  There will need to be other arrangements: tour guides, translators, equipment, and most of all, seeds.

I have fair savings.  So does Foist.  She’s not been slack in saving either, and together we will have just enough to travel on.  Bless her, she’s been giving up her luxuries one by one.  The brineline was the only strictly unnecessary expense she’s made in months.

The itinerary comes together.  Soon we had a plan.  It’s all written there, in the pages of my notebook, on slips in this journal, or in tiny neat letters in the blanks spaces of the map.

I will leave Kernel, waving goodbye to the Den and the muddy thoroughfare and the endless running.  I’ll pass through Becken by stagecoach, then overland some other way to the edge of the jungle.  A sequence of trains will take me, in days, to Metrodon.

From there Foist and I are together again for the rest of the adventure: a zeppelin flight to Tinder, the land of spice, then by rail and longmule to Shangri-La in the mountains.  It will be cold and the next borders are patrolled by militia, closed to all visitors.  There the maréchaussée will be all over the hills and desert, drawing lines from the Umber Plains to the Jade Reefs. 

The varied landscape of the Jade Reefs will be our home for a few weeks as we move to the east coast, then south.  Beyond Embassy is the stretched coastal landscape of the Lower East, Namma, and turning back west through the deeper forests we’ll make our way to the Regency of Golden Statues. 

By then it will be Torp, maybe even Vernuz.  A few weeks later will see us down the continent’s tapering peninsula to the Scattered Isles, where the sun burns the white sand to glass under your bare feet.  We’ll fly to the Redland and, from there, to the Zeauk islands.  Maybe under those dense canopies I’ll begin to miss Kernel, almost a year from now.  Maybe I won’t.  I’ll see Hollystar before I see these vegesaur-infested jungles again.

The trip will see us from Senescence this year right through the winter into late Pollinary.  Those months will be long and rough and dirty, full of stuffy trains and difficult horses, cramped zeppelin cradles and layers of culture shock.  We’ll require jabs from the apothecary and the courier’s Union will need to know that I’m leaving for half a year.  I’ll be saying goodbye to my life for over six months, but it’ll be worth it.

— RSR

Budsday, 25 Vernuz

Earned 40 / Spent 5

Savings 18,578

~          ~          ~          ~          ~         

I went to the library to check the medical tomes.  I had to pass through a corner of the Den to get to it, where it sits in a glade set deep within the denser jungle.  The freaks of the Den ogled me as I ran between the stilts of the elevated shakes, dipping in and out of the shadows cast by the ramshackle walkways. 

Sometimes I wonder whether I’ll join them one time soon: these poor souls whose person Displacement to Terrene meant total madness, and disassociation from everything we call civilized or sensible.

The library smelled of dusty paper and rot.  You get used to it after a while, but the only other time I came I lingered too long in the stacks, and came out with a weird respiratory anomaly that wouldn’t let up for weeks.  Finally I hacked up a clump of dark, wet fungus.

I flicked through the books until the sun slanted through the mouldy skylight rather than the east-facing windows.  This was for evidence of foreign disease, which I’ll need to be on the look out for once Foist and I leave.  The illustrations in the journals and tomes are sickening livid: Bursting Encephalitis, the Purple Pin plague, thyphilious transmogrification sickness, and other freakish contractions known to the Jade Reefs and nearby regions. 

The locals are immune to some of these – The crabpeople of the reefs are genetically proofed against stinging roids and leaping sun spurs, for example – but they can be distressing, sometimes fatal, for travellers.

I made a list for the apothecary and steeled myself for jabs.  After months of the golden needle though I feel adequately prepared.

And I’ve noted the abatement of the thrashing drakeroot infestation, which now does not react when the Disc is in view, and do not miss chewing the root as my running slows.  Things have been easier – is this because I know that I’ll soon be gone?  Has it been my outlook that affected me so badly these last few months?

If I’ve done it to myself, then I can do the opposite.  With Foist, around the world, we can do anything.

— RSR

Bloomsday, 14 Vernuz

Earned 39 / Spent 5

Savings 18,269

~          ~          ~          ~          ~         

Foist and I plot and plan.  Our letters to each other have never been exchanged so frequently.  Volatus, the mail man, noticed the change in me and wondered if I’m now writing to two women, three maybe?

‘You won’t have to haul my letters much longer, Volatus,’ I said, snatching the envelopes out of his hand. ‘In a few months, I’ll be gone.’

He blinked. ‘You’re leaving Capital Hill?’

‘I’m leaving Kernel,’ I said, and closed the door.

Foist is excited.  Her words tremble on the page, or is that just my eyes?  She’s thrilled to be leaving Metrodon, where she’s lived for too long, and that she will see and experience something new.

I unrolled a huge map across the floor.  Hundreds of miles away, I knew that Foist was doing the same.  We traced invisible lines across the whole of Terrene, from Kernel to Metrodon and beyond, moving east, east, across mountain ranges and continents, across rivers and oceans and islands.

But it got too hard to understand one another, in our long, rambling letters.  We talked as though we could look through one another’s eyes.  We misunderstood each other, wasting paragraphs, and started scrawling ungainly maps and diagrams onto scraps of paper to fill the void in our understanding. 

Then I was at the Union distribution centre, waiting for the next packet to deliver (the Queen over in Torment has prepped PMU for an alarming number of impending pick-ups and runs) and Steph Jarvie came to me, expression unreadable, to say, ‘Brineline.  For you.’

The brineline.  It hadn’t sung in a week, and it’s never sung for me.  I climbed the steps to the overseer’s office and found the door open, Grouter leaning back in his chair with his eyebrows raised.  Written all over his gnomic face was some emotion, or mischief, and as always I couldn’t quite read him.  He pointed to the brineline receiver, which was out the pool and waiting.

Silently I picked up the receiver and peeled back its petals.  The veins were wet and pulpy in my hand, and the cord dropped on my feet and the floor.  I’d never used the expensive brineline before but I knew how it worked: breathe into the hollow stem and millions of water cells unfold into a resonant crystalline formation, through which a person’s voice can carry over tremendous distances.

‘…Hello?’

There was a pause.  I had no idea what to expect, but I was still surprised to hear the voice on the other end of the line.  I could almost hear her smile.

‘Hello, Reks, baby.  Let’s talk properly and finish our plan, shall we?’

Foist.  I hadn’t heard her voice, except in my head, for months.

I smiled.

‘Let’s,’ I breathed.

— RSR

Odosday, 9 Vernuz

Earned 44 / Spent 5

Savings 18,104

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

What is Kernel to me now?  It’s almost a memory.  As it sprang up for me after the Displacement, now it fades when I’m not looking, just a temporary screen thrown between me and the future as a mild distraction.

Foist wrote:  It’s time for me to go and see her, in Metrodon.

It’s time!

It has been fifteen days since I last wrote my journal.  The Disc has gotten closer and closer, and deeper runs the drakeroot infestation in my legs.  I began to feel that hope was dying within me.  At first, like a dark spot of ink, the desperation is noticeable but very small.  But sometimes the ink falls on blotting paper.

Then, as I read her letter, delicately perfumed and sprinkled with detritus from her carpelwork, my hands began to shake.  At regular intervals lately the infestation flares up and dies down, like the turning torch of a lighthouse.  Almost rhythmically I feel the root fingering through the bones of my legs and pelvis, active for days, then relatively calm.  A week or two later comes the rooting again, and I wonder if it’s reached my spine, and whether there are fibres growing in the musculature of my arms, taking deeper hold throughout all my body.

I don’t imbibe the root anymore.  When I run, I do so at my own pace.  The Union can get fucked; I’m burned out.  I wonder whether I’ll ever be able to work as a courier again, or whether I’ll leave and try something else, something completely different.  Will the anxiety stay with me once I’ve run my last, or will it be a slow walk to freedom and peace?  I expect that, like all unconquered fears, I will have to live with it forever.

But the letter, Foist’s letter, is certain: now is the time.  Prices in Metrodon have fallen; the zeppelin companies are in direct competition now that a monopoly has been lifted.  There is no longer an embargo between the neighbouring states, with their strange peoples and traditions.  Passage to Metrodon is available again, and all these months of saving have made travel viable. 

So many seeds, hoarded in my house on Capital Hill – and in that sea of valuable woodchip there drowns nuts and the occasional fruit stone, riches in my riches.

There are moments of uncertainty, now.  I could cash in the seeds for something else – my own house, or passage on the Bridge, or even start my own business.  Is it really the best time to stop running?  Maybe it’ll get easier and the PM Union will become bearable.  If I left for Metrodon then I would have to cancel membership.  The chances of them allowing it to continue until my return are slim. 

Because they recognise, perhaps, that I won’t return.  At least not to them.

I look at the seeds, in their waterproof jars in the cabinet-space under the floorboards.  Nearly twenty jars.  Over 18,000 seeds, nuts and stones! 

Foist!  I’m coming!

— RSR