Tag Archive: Kernel


Knot, 12 Torp

Earned 0 / Spent 8

Savings 17,361

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I thought it was a dream.

The jungle north of Kernel is a thick place, dense with vegetation and teeming with unclassifiable wildlife.  Trees wider than I am tall reached up and up all around me; everywhere a tree seemed to block the way.  There was no clear path.

When I moved, branches clawed at my face and clothes.  Sometimes I found that they’d closed a fist on my tunic and I had to tear it to get free.  Terror is beyond the usual definition of emotion.  It is a kind of fever that comes, temporarily, to debilitate you past the capability of useful function.

I screamed but the jungle was too close to give me an echo.  Like a pillow of finest mellowbird, it muffled all the sounds I made.  I ran in silence.

At some point I became aware that the Earthen Crustaceans had awoken.  The heat of their bodies wilted the thick leaves of the bonyik trees, shrivelling vines to gnarled twists of fibre.  I couldn’t see their faces because of the dripping canopy, but their limbs punched through the foliage like gargantuan shivs ten times the height of my shack on Capital Hill.  Their presence is massive, their mass incomprehensible.  To them, I am an ant.  To me, they are gods striding across this dark and frozen country.

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You know when it’s Torp in Kernel.  The ground is as hard as granite, caked with rimy frost soon worn smooth by arctic winds.  These slick white runners curve across the face of the town like blanched muscles, ribbed and sculpted, in some places dirtied by the blood of those who have slipped.

Winter here is nowhere near as harsh as, say, the Red Republic to the northeast, or at the uninhabited poles.  The cold snaps bring in wild shili from the wet regions to the south, and they stride into the fringe towns on their impossible legs, dropping rain from their dehydrating bodies high above.  These towering fish-things congregate near the water tower, sensing the moisture within its copper shell.  At sundown their skin and scales begin to freeze over, and one by one they saunter down to water again to rest their limbs in the depths.  A warmly-dressed observer could witness their bodies floating on the surface like rubber ducks, with long legs trailing behind them like jellyfish tendrils beneath the surface.

When running you can hear the frost crunching as it manifests in the creases of your clothes.  In the stagecoach the snowflake patterns spider across the glass.  Looking through it, the world is a dusted fairyland.  It is a stark contrast with the summer fertility of the rainforest.  In the month of Torp at least its relentless growth is stymied – temporarily. 

And on the other side of Terrene there is Foist, who I imagine in the warmer climes, dressed in skirts and  shawls the colour of terra-cotta.  She smiles in the bright sunlight between patches of refreshing shade.  It is the other side of the world.  On days like this I feel the distance between us and miss her terribly. 

In a few months it will be Spring, and the month of Pollinary will come with a burst and a flourish, brightness and warmth, and I will wake to the sunshine and have to close the curtains at night so that it’s dark enough to sleep.

— RSR

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Budsday, 07 Senescence

Earned 0/ Spent 10

Savings 16,602

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When there is a storm in Kernel, it comes with a great pressure that exerts itself upon the township.

It always comes from the far side, the place where the new union sits.  It arrives with shades of grey that literally roll over each other in the sky, thunderheads like new continents surging through the realm of the gods.

Spatters of rain come at us from high above.  The jungle loves this weather.  A storm near Kernel only feeds the verdant wilderness that surrounds it.  As it darkens, even so early in the morning, I peer into the shadow between the massive trees and picture the changes that go on there: roots surging with vigour through the moistening earth; leaves outstretching to catch the rare waters that trickle through the canopy.  Petals of yellow and red swell vividly.  The Earthen Crustaceans, of legends still too recent to forget about, are maybe stirring in their burrows.  I both fear and anticipate the day when those colossi awaken.  The relief that their mythical destruction will bring.  When the time comes, I would hope to be with those of the Jade Reefs who claim the Earthen Crustaceans as gods – and devils.

The pressure rolls in.  Couriers wouldn’t work on days like this.  It’s too easy for a parcel to get drowned and ruined in the downpour.  And even easier to get paid and lose that packet of seeds to the Green Shower and find yourself in a new garden, deified by seedless, as the powerful rain creates life from your life savings.

As it happens, I had a day free from work to return to the tree where I used to live.  There, the two domesticated xylem still roam like miniature walking trees.  I imagine them staring out of the windows at the rain, vaguely confused by the weather but appreciating it in some primal way, a blood memory from the times when they used to be wild and free.  The other tenants are out today – I’ve checked.  It will be empty.  I feel a responsibility to return to it and tidy up the place for the retiree, reorganising the mess of the student who lives with her, and picking up after the xylem.  It will be a long few hours, but it will distract me from the bombardment of Kernel and the shadows that lurk in the jungle.

I wonder how long I will stay in Kernel.  Of course, I want to be with Foist in Metrodon, but some days this seems like a dream.  Cut off by the weather and the new union: seen through veils of fancy.  Metrodon is a costly dream in more ways that one.  Should I concentrate on Kernel and the new PM Union, or should I surge towards the envisioned happiness that Metrodon must bring – a spiritual healing?

—RSR

Fallsday, 11 Photus

Earned 13 / Spent 8

Savings 14,816

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I was carrying around a dead anteater in a bag all yesterday.  You wouldn’t know it but them smaller ones hardly weigh a thing.  Course, I didn’t know that’s what it was when I picked it up from Ochre, just a soft lump in a sack then, not smelling at all.

Ochre was still building his shop front when I got the message, and ran up to pick up the package I was told he wanted delivering.  He’s a good guy is Ochre, and I know he’s got a lot to be proud of.  He’s the only Sunnu I heard of made his way over here, and is a few days away from opening up the very first halal eatery in Kernel.  I don’t care much either way, but I know good business when I see it.  Might not be any of those other fellows up here yet, but Ochre won’t be the only one now that things are settling down a bit.

I ran on the spot there watching him hammer away.  He’s a big lad.  His back was sweaty with his hard work.  I admire that.  Gentle giants are one in a million here, and he’s the best example of one I ever saw.  Shaven head, neat little beard, built like a laughing Buddha.

When he saw me he gave me this look, like why don’t you ever stand still?  He doesn’t know much about the competition here for my kind of work, how every courier has to literally run circles around the other to get the best jobs.  You want to keep the business you got to stay fit as a fiddle, or else someone younger and faster will steal your seeds right out from the customer’s hand.

Nearly finished, Ochre? I said, and he said Yeah yeah buddy, not long now, just gotta do this and that and he went on about what he’s got left to do.  Eventually he got around to the job and gave me this sack, explained it’s for someone called Master Miu at the Den.

I don’t go to the Den, I said, and he gave me this sad face like why are you giving me this shit on a Bloomsday? as if I’m spoiling the beauty of the morning.  He said, it’s only a little thing, so I took the sack, thinking it’s maybe some of his special halal plantflesh, and ran it up the thoroughfare towards the Den.

One of the things that bothers me about Kernel is that it’s all so new, just like Ochre’s eatery.  There’s no history to the place; it’s a frontier town, still putting itself together out of the wreckage of the Displacement, rising in blocks and jags out of the Veldt.  It’s too fresh and new, as though it was made up yesterday.  Of course there’s a vibrancy to the town, which is better than the deadness of the place that we left, and the political stagnancy of the cities across the continent like Metrodon, where Foist is.

And even though I hate where I came from, and don’t care for where I am, and have no warm feelings for where I want to go, I still take Ochre’s job.  If I don’t get what few seeds I can, here and there, then I’ll never be able to pay for a ticket to Metrodon and Foist.  I’ll take anything they want to give me to any place they care to name.

The Den is a crazy little place on the edge of the line, where the old railroad got ripped up after the first pioneers.  It’s pressed up against Forest, which gives me the creeps, but that’s probably why they like it: the worst of the wilderness rising up behind them like a cliff of boughs and tangled bracken, impossibly huge, breathing with every mad breath they take.  It made sense that the settlers set up this imaginary district and called it a haven for the eccentric: now all the crackpots and troublemakers congregate in their little ramshackle arrondissement instead of getting underfoot in Kernel proper.  Frontier towns attract loonies like pitcher plants attract bluebottles.

I got to the boundary, picked out by rickety fences made from old vegesaur teeth.  You can almost feel the compressed lunacy in the air.  Stepping across the boundary is like pushing through a giant bubble, where normality has its own membrane to keep this kind of craziness out.  Once behind the tooth-fence I felt a little better.  There’s always relief when you give yourself in to madness.

I looked out at the multi-tiered district.  It’s piled against the massive roots of Forest.  Most of the houses and wooden shacks go up and down along the uneven ground, like they’re built on frozen waves.  Walkways and rope bridges droop from one pointed rooftop to another, crossing ladders and a clattering paternoster.  There are signs pointing in most directions, some contradicting another, some pointing into Forest as though any human being’s been in there since the Displacement.  Eventually I saw a pointed placard marked MIU! and followed its lead up a long wooden walkway that wobbled with each step.

There was only one place I get enter from the end of the walkway so I pushed through the bead curtains and looked around.  If it was a house it wasn’t big enough.  There was only this single pokey room practically bursting with guys, most taller and fatter than me, dressed in hempweave robes.

I said Hello and the man in the middle, the only one wearing black, coughed into his hand and didn’t said a word.  I said How’s it going, I’m lookin for Master Miu, and the guy opened his mouth and said Do not address this Tom, address me.  The Tom is just my mouthpiece.

And next to the guy, pretty small so as I hadn’t really noticed, there was this small cat curled up into a wheel on a cushion.  It got up, stetched so its claws popped out and tail curled up and down like a crook, and yawned and yawned.  Then it sat up neatly and looked at me intently.

I said, I’m sorry? and the cat just looked at me.  The man in the black robe wiped his lips and said Not everyone knows that they shouldn’t talk to the Tom, but that they should address me.  But the Tom speaks on my behalf with his voice.  You are forgiven for the mistake, son.  What can I do for you?

The cat? I think and yes, he’s a cat.  I look at the cat and said You’re Master Miu then? and the man said Yes.

Oh, I said, well, I have a delivery for you.  And I went to give the man the sack, but corrected myself and offered it to the cat, who said, through the man, Please open it.

I opened the sack.  There was a dead anteater in it.  I said Oh.  The cat lifted its nose and sniffed, narrowing his green eyes.  The man in black said Yes, I see what he meant.

It turned out that Ochre had already written to Master Miu about the anteater and this was just a follow-up package.  The cat seemed to know what it was doing.  As a sinuous drip of black and white fur, it arrived at the anteater’s cold matt nose.  The cat rubbed its cheek against the dead thing’s portly stomach and hairy legs.  I swear I saw a spark of electricty fizzle between the two animals.

Hmm, said the man. No, nothing doing.  He’ll have to stay dead.  You can take it back now.

Take it back? I said, still holding this lifeless thing in my hands.

The man nodded, said, Please tell Mister Ochre that I tried.  Or maybe I could pursuade you to leave it here?  A price?  You could tell your client that I recommended he burnt it.

The cat licked its lips.  The thought of anyone, even a cat and its mad owner, eating another creature’s meatflesh made me feel ill.  This was a sort of wrong I couldn’t stomach – as though plantflesh wasn’t enough!

In the end, I took the dead anteater back.

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I hung about in the Den for the afternoon, watching its demented inhabitants scurry about like bugs, up and down the ladders, sachaying across the walkways above.

About halfway after noon I looked out through the wide, glittering panes of a huge conservatory and saw well over a hundred red balloons shoot up into the air.  Each one had a white message tied to it, and they waggled like feathers as they rose up and up over the township.

The cat came and sat next to me on the decking.  I said, What do you suppose that’s all about?

I don’t know, he said.

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That was yesterday.  Not much happened today at all.

— RSR