Tag Archive: drakeroot


Fallsday, 5 Anthuary

Earned 30 / Spent 8

Savings 21,445

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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.

— RSR

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Odosday, 9 Vernuz

Earned 44 / Spent 5

Savings 18,104

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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

Fallsday, 06 Torp

Earned 32 / Spent 14

Savings 17,243

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I take the gold needle every day.  My nervous hands feed the syringe into the fissures of my petrified shins, deep and deep until I feel the nip of the needle against the secret flesh within my leg.  Close to the bone.  The outer two inches of my legs are stony wood now, grey and unfeeling.  Amazingly, I can still flex my toes and ankles.  The petrified wood creaks and complains when I do.  I am unforgiving with the long, glass needle.

Does it make running any easier?  When I pass through the muddy thoroughfares of Kernel, past The Den and along the edge of the jungle, I don’t notice much of a difference.  But has the infestation of the drakeroot slowed a little?  Are the writhing tendrils, which are at their worst first thing in the morning before the sun rises, a little less vigorous? 

It will take another month for the gold needle to build its cumulative effect and start to defeat the infestation.  Meanwhile the Disc moves back and forth across the sky, sometimes breaching the edge of the sun’s radiant circle.  Other times it disappears behind a cloud and, although I can still feel its gaze burning into my chest, I can almost ignore it.  It will be long into Vernuz before I settle on the gold needle dosage.  By then I’ll know whether the alchemist will have to up the amount.  At least I’m not fiddling around with blue totems anymore.

She warned me of side effects.  Nausea.  Loose bowels.  Impotence.  I remind her that I’ve taken the gold needle before and that it beat my infestation.  I never felt for a second that the drakeroot hadn’t been completely scorched from my system.  But maybe it hadn’t been; perhaps a lingering tendril of the invasive little plant still remained, deep in the marrow of my bone.  

Of course, like the most frightened of cancer victims, I carried on sucking in smoke.  The drakeroot infestation took hold again.  Sometimes you’re just too scared to do anything else, and the root is part of my life.  I can’t run without it, even though it’s destroying me.

— RSR

Fallsday, 05 Frost

Earned 19 / Spent 12

Savings 16,975

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When I run, I run hard.  The drakeroot keeps me going, but some days it’s not enough.  It’s easy to stagger and fall on a long run.  The distance gets too much, your muscles try to give out on you but you won’t let them.  The union works me hard, runs me ragged.  I just chew more root, dust myself down, keep going.

Can’t keep going forever.

Am I to run for my whole life?  There’s more to existance than work, than a few seeds.  A heap of caraways and a nut or two will keep me in rent and food for a week, but what then?  Run more packages, earn more seeds, rent and food and chew more root…

Things are getting a little easier at the union.  Sometimes they make an effort, something I gave up on a while ago.  Keep things sweet and reinvigorates your work muscle, keeps things from getting on top of you.  In Kernal that’s too easy.  In the end, your nerves are frayed and it only takes a glimpse of a few feral cauliraptors to put you into full meltdown.

It’s Frost now.  The winter’s setting in.  The jungle never dies, but it shrinks.  The leaves grow small and tight.  Vines coil inward towards the warmth and security provided by the trunks.  The birds and reptiles hunker down during the cold nights and only fly close to noontime, when the sun is at its highest.  The Disc is a threat to them.  One eclipse during this time and the birds get a full day without heat.  I run past them, watching them sleep.  Lizards die clinging to branches and become like shrivelled dry leaves, orange and crunchy, ready to fall off at the slightest breath.

Am I good at what I do?  I’m not a board member of the union.  I’m not on the top Kernal league table.  People do what I do every day, running up and down Capital Hill, through the industrial districts, skirting The Den and the jungle and buzzing the stagecoaches on the lower paths.  I do the work.  I put in the hours.  I chew the root. 

—RSR