Tag Archive: infestation

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!



Budsday, 19 Torp

Earned 18 / Spent 8

Savings 17,445

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A typical Budsday – back to work, back to running, back to being out in the cold, back to chaos.

The stagecoach to South Kernal didn’t arrive; or rather, it arrived at the wrong terminal.  Forty people shuffled around the gaol and the post office to the second terminal; those who would have gotten the best seats stood by the hooks and pleats, helping to keep the canopy in place as gales tore at the trundling stagecoaches between The Den and the south.

The Union buzzed with activity.  Workstations were being reallocated, another attempt by the Union chiefs to save space / cut costs / irritate the members.  Gods knows how many parcels were lost in that reshuffle, which took hours.  How many couriers had their toes stepped on, meaning valuable seconds lost on deliveries this morning?

I repositioned my gear.  Carpeltea and book of contacts; delivery rota for my regular jobs; daguerreotypes of luminescent Foist and an example of her carpelwork, one of the few things I have of hers.  The chasm between seeing her last and now gets wider every day.  I like to think that in equal proportion, the time of our reunion in Metrodon gets closer.  But I see the record of my savings and think I’ll never get there. 

How long am I supposed to wait?

Another courier, Steph Jarvie, leaned in with a whiff of his rain-damp tweed and whistled. ‘Hot one, Reks.  Out of your league.’

Everyone says that Foist is out of my league.  It’s because she is.  Only her natural modesty prevents her from realising it.  I dread the day that she does, and writes me from Metrodon to explain how she’s found someone better.

The chaos settled eventually and people got back to it.  I took a few moments to rest my drakeroot-infested legs.  If I concentrate hard enough, I can will the infestation deeper into the leg, pushing it towards the cured tissue in the centre.  I take the needle every day, daring it to eradicate me of the root.  It’s a long, hard road.  And when you’re thinking about the infestation, you’re goading it to try harder.  It will fight you every step of the way. 

Not much got done.  People made a lot of noise but didn’t really get anywhere.  I think about Foist, about Metrodon, about her delicate carpelwork, about the ache between the two of us when we aren’t together.  Her letters tell me that she feels the same thing, that exact ache.  But no-one can ever be sure of what another person’s thinking.

The Union chief took us into The Den.  He wanted to know what progress we’ve made, but he isn’t my chief, he’s got nothing to do with my union.  Other couriers expected me to go and so I went.  The Den is a maze of tumbledown shacks and walkways, suspension bridges and ladders, ramps that bounce when you run up them like drumskins.  The chief worked us hard. 

One time as I ran past, my arm brushed the wet leaves of the rainforest behind the Den barrier.  I saw the yellow almond eye of a cauliraptor observing me from behind the branches.  Jerking away I tumbled, nearly fell from a walkway but caught a tattered bit of knotted rope.  The ‘raptor slunk back into the depths of the jungle with a growling purr. 

The chief watched, unimpressed, critical and domineering.  I respect people I’ve worked with who have earned that respect.  His title affords him some benefit, but that’s as far as it goes.  His habit of using cringeworthy management speak does him no favours.  Let’s get back in the game, he says; Let’s round-table this and compile a workable agenda.

Let’s not, chief.  That’s old-world, it’s pre-Displacement. 

The best thing I ever did was step away from that world, into Kernel.

Budsday, bloody Budsday.


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.