Intertwined: 3

Moonrise Seaweed Company

When I get news of a project that, if it can get up, will help resolve some of the global problems our society has got us into, I get my hopes up that we can scrabble back from the brink.

But only if most of us support the few who have it in them to think up, design, test their concept and then finance it. That’s where the majority of us can help.

So there’s this one, Moonrise Seaweed Company. A promising initiative by two ocean lovers that will help save kelp and other seaweeds, help fix carbon dioxide in a natural way and will pay for itself with the products being developed.

Have a look at the products already offered as rewards for the different pledges. Now imagine a doubling and tripling of output. Have a look at the campaign. Break into the piggy bank that you keep to help negate climate change and help this project get up and running.

Short link: http://kck.st/3qUsbEk

Dogs: Jesse (1997 – 2009)

Jesse, Half-Staffie/Half-Australian Shepherd, loyal friend

Despite reading many wonderful novels with dogs and other animals as important characters, I didn’t try to write dog characters until I had raised a dog myself. That was Jesse, named by my son after one of the dogs in Footrot Flats by Murray Ball, a popular comic strip in the newspapers in the 1990s.

Our Jesse was a medium-sized half-Staffie/half-Australian Shepherd, according to the farmer who we bought her from. The Staffie part was dominant, except when it was a case of her habit of herding the poultry we also had at the time.

The first dog I wrote about was Jesse herself, for she was still a pup then, and I just described her and how she fitted into my life at the time.

Jesse lived just on twelve tempestuous years. Human mothers and fathers of dogs will know what I mean when I say that your children grow up but your dogs will always stay two and a half years old. A toddler, needing just as much input and supervision.

The times that the human parents relax their attention will be time when the dog suffers a collision with a moving car; or get a tick on her; or take fright at a Little Athletics starter gun when out walking; or, or, or … All these things happened to Jesse.

She broke her shoulder joint while still little more than a pup and was forever crippled. Mea culpa. She almost died of a tick that I didn’t find until almost too late. Due to the accident with the car she was always frightened of loud noises. The starter gun incident caused me—walking her in the wrong place at the wrong time—to be pulled to the ground and dragged behind her, clutching the lead.

When I finally was able to get to my feet, we returned home along the fastest way possible. Running along a creek bank, away from any activities by human people, in fact. After I had secured her in her beloved old laundry, with her head under her blanket, I had to go find my spectacles, lost from my face while I was on the ground.

She herded chickens, as I said. The little black bantams however were her equal, and would not be scared into running. The white silkies ran, here and there, and sometimes crashing into fences and gates. They hated it. Small children were herded without them realizing.

In 2003, Jesse’s favorite person in the whole world left home. He was eighteen, and needed to find casual work, get trained and then find permanent work. Even if he hadn’t been keen to leave home, our town of five thousand people was too small to support 300 school leavers every year.

Tibby on Jesse’s bed, establishing her dominance

From then on it was Jesse, me and the cat jostling for the top-dog-position. When the cat decided the dog’s bed would be hers, Jesse decided better make friends with the biggest person and we could fight the monster together. Our good times started then.

Jesse’s absolute favorite activity were our walks by the sea, though she mostly ran or swam. The Brunswick Heads Dog Beach was a 400 meters length marked out along the bay, south of the Surf club and ‘Main Beach’.

At times there were a hundred dogs there, playing together, socializing and generally racing around.

Jesse did not socialize—she had no patience for other dogs—and would snarl or snap her teeth at them to warn them away. Her work at the beach was to chase her stick into the waves, bring it out, drop it at my feet, and grin and wag her tail to encourage me to throw it again. I was very fit in those days bending over, picking up the stick, tossing it as far as I could.

We did low tide, high tide, storm tide. Even when the tide was so high that there was barely a beach to walk on, we were there, at our work. While swimming, Jesse’s crippled shoulder did not seem to bother her and she was as good in the water as any other dog. I always thought she must have some water-dog in her. A touch of Labrador genes, maybe.

Her end came more suddenly than I expected. She developed hiccups. They didn’t stop whatever I, or the staff at the vet clinic, tried. After twenty four hours, she was worn out. I let her go. The diagnosis was a brain tumor.

Thirteen years later, I still regret that I couldn’t bury her in our backyard. We lived on a floodplain and we were having a very wet year. The yard was a sea of water and mud. The vet took her away in a body bag.

Favourite Reads: Dog Boy

My favourite novel about dogs

For a long time the novel-version of The Incredible Journey (1963) was my favourite ‘read’ about dogs. Then, 2009 or there abouts, I was at The Writers Festival in Byron Bay. Heard, or heard about Eva Hornung’s then new book, Dog Boy. Bought it after the segment to leaf through it while taking time out, and lunch, in my car.

I’m not a fan of events with 45+/- thousand people … probably not that many … but enough that I didn’t meet any friends or acquaintances] Read about 60 pages, kissed the Festival goodbye, drove home and read the rest.

It’s worth all the accolades. Every hyped up adjective. It’s “confronting”. “Highly descriptive, confident and thought-provoking.” “Completely believable. Unrelenting.” “Meticulous research.” “Pared-down, non-sentimental writing.” “A tour-de-force of imaginative empathy.”

In my opinion, it’s the most moving, frightening, heart-breaking story of how a child, to survive, becomes a dog. It’s writing from the soul.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6667541-dog-boy

Intertwined?

Days 4-7 of Inktober 2021, a cultural practice by Rita de Heer

Just how intertwined are we, with Nature?

Here, in this cultural practice of applying pigments to paper, pasting scraps to paper bound in book-form, and drawing over the top with an ink pen made of petrol-based polymer filled with petrol-based ink?

Not much at all. Because cultural practices are part of what we do in the World, right?

Pigments are powdered clays, lichens and mosses, madders and goldenrods, rust, verdigris, pewter and gold. Some of Nature’s bounty.

Bound with gums, latex, and oils.

En-tubed, slopped into pots, or dried in patties.

[Sold, which is a whole other story.]

Livened with water … the best is straight from the deep ground, unadulterated with unnatural chemicals such as chlorine and fluorides.

Applied to papers linens, canvas, parchments; wood panels, bone, and teeth; applied to stone.

Using brushes made of bunching the tail hairs of a myriad of different furry animals, as well as threads drawn from petroleum products such as nylon, rayon, polyesters: all of them products of the sun’s action on eon-old vegetation when you go right to the origin.

Air drying is preferable but takes a long time, so people who can’t wait use hair-dryers that often use a variation on the theme, electricity stoked with coal.

[If framed, that’s another story]

We are intertwined.

Inktober, 2021

Day 4 to 7, Rita de Heer

Inspiration is everywhere but I like to start with a scrap of painted watercolor exercise, of which I have many. Tearing and cutting, I lay them out in a collage and hope I remember to glue them down before I start the drawing and sketching.

This page done with a uniball ink pen, which behaves very well on thickly coated mixed media paper. On the unpainted craftbook pages the ink sinks in and often wants to spread.

#inktober2021

Hong Kong Krazy! Original by Melanie Reim of sketchbookseduction.blogspot.com, traced over and copied by Rita de Heer

#inktober2021
Thought I would have a go at this with all the varieties of ink and ways of applying it to paper, I happen to have on hand.

It’s also re-training in fine motor co-ordination and for that reason I began with an ordinary ball point pen tracing an old postcard on Oct 1, and trying to replicate it on Oct 2.

Of course I researched the #Inktober scene after I already began. In the real competition there are topics. The first day was ‘crystal’ and the second day ‘suit’.

Lol, I’m out of it already. Just making it up as I go. If I produce something for the whole 31 days, that will be amazing enough.

State-of-Being

Back Into the Ooze,
watercolor and black marker pen by Rita de Heer,
what I thought was going to happen to me.
You’ll find me diving down into it mid-painting

Up until September 14 2020 I lived in New South Wales, in Australia. On that day, a friend drove me to the adjoining state Queensland and negotiated with the border police to get me through the Covid 19 barrier between the two states. I was sicker than anyone guessed.

My friend took me to hospital where I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. Treatment began right away. Chemo. Six cycles of R-CHOP at three weekly intervals. Then four lumbar punctures with same drugs and a rituximab (monoclonal antibody) chaser. My last treatment and PET scan in February. I’m in remission.

Long time readers will say that I’ve said all that before. I have. I wanted to feel what it felt like now, to look back on it, six months down the track.

At first, being in remission was the most frightening place on Earth. The reality of dealing with the after- and side-effects of both the chemo and the lymphoma on my own was pure anxiety. Luckily there’s a really good support group on FaceBook that we haunt, all of us in the Downunder Lymphoma boat, and I’ve only had to call the ambulance twice. So here I am, six months into the remission journey.

What with Covid lock-downs and a really low immune system … like, no B cells! … I’ve been pretty well housebound except for food shopping, doctors appointments and walks. So I thought I’d get back into writing reading knitting music pretty easily. Lots of time after all.

I’d be lying if I told you yes, really easy.

Early on I spent most of my time sorting through the stuff that came with my decision to stay in Brisbane. I had a lot of books, not all of them fit on the shelves I now have. Clothes, the same. Textile crafts, the same. And I’m still at it, every so often. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

I’ll write that sentence again and even bold it. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

It suggests my new life is smaller. I’m not talking about its length, more what I can do in my days … and so also today, this minute, I need to stop this meandering. More on this as time permits.

Fiction: Avatar Remaindered, 7

Fountains of Light Album by Starcastle,
by https://1.bp.blogspot.com/Starcastle%2BFountains.jpg
  1. Fountain of Light

Sard slept on a sack of mulbry-felt scraps, under the centre of the dome. Rider had his quarters in the second entryway. On a night of no moon, he dragged his bed out, next to Sard’s. “We should face into the north tonight.”

Sard swung his bed around.

Rider woke Sard before sunrise, with a hand on his shoulder. “Tell me what you see, apart from the stars.”

“It’s my second time staring at the sky?” He almost fell into his habitual blame-thinking. But probably Rider woke him for a good reason. “What am I looking for? Satellites? Planets?”

“Closer in,” Rider said.

The rock rim all around framed the dome with shadows. The dome itself … Sard hesitated in his seeing task. “There are lines inscribed on the per-glass?”

“The Celestial Equator, curving overhead from the west to the east,” Rider swung his arm from the left behind his head to the right behind his head. “It’s a consensual-reality line that helps us observe the stars.”

“The dot behind our heads?” Sard said.

“The Southern Celestial Pole, equidistant between the two arms of the Celestial Equator that seem to finish in the west and east, do you see? The rest of the Celestial Equator is out of our sight, below our horizon.”

“The lines between the space pole and the space equator are…?”

“Celestial latitudes, not of our concern tonight,” Rider said. “We are at the beginning of Silver Time as the seasons are counted in the delta. It lasts from mid July to just past mid summer, mid January.”

“That’s half the year.”

“All through Silver Time, the Lodestar is in the night sky. This morning it is visible in the east. Look there.” Rider swung his right hand this time, over Sard’s face and forcing him to swivel his head.

He sighted along Rider’s arm. “A bright star. Just inside the rock rim. Just outside the space equator,” he said.

Rider sat up. “All my away-time I worked to gain the trust of the grey people of the delta for my project to learn about their lodestar. The only thing I could discover is that there’s a connection between that star and the seasons. The time the lodestar is present in the night-sky is Silver Time. When it is not present … that’s called Tarnish Time.”

“Tarnish suggests black,” Sard said. “As if they think it’s a black time when their favorite star isn’t in their sky.” He shrugged. “It could be that easy.”

Rider laughed. “In the villages to the west of the delta, where I lived at the time, people maintained that the Lodestar is another name for Procyon, the star that rises before the Dog Star. An Aerk Islander I met said that the Procyon System was where the Aerk Islanders originated, and the Lodestar is a remnant of the starship that brought them. I advise you not to discuss your project with anyone.”

“Project?” Sard said.

“The men Gamester has attracted to his outer cave, these swimmers, visit the delta regularly. They’re considered friends of the grey people and I did indeed hear rumors of swimmers while I was in the delta. In your away-time, for your project, I’d like you to learn more about that link, between the Lodestar and the grey people. I’m ninety percent sure that in the future that link will affect us in some way …”

Probably Rider had been going to say more but Sard heard only ‘in your away-time’. “You mean I don’t have to go forever? That I can come back? Why didn’t you say so? That’s a whole other slant.”

“You’ll always be behind the scenes, like I am.”

“You won’t be sorry. I’m a good organizer.” He recalled the performances he had had practically to rewrite on the go due to people dropping out. Or people wanting to join at the last minute. “I thrive on surprises.”

“Those are considerations for after your away-time,” Rider said. “Perhaps if you could tell the grey people you’d met these swimmers …”

“I get that. Make friends so …”

Rider made a cutting-off gesture. “Someone in the airlock.”

It was only Mab, asking for instructions apparently, Sard saw with a couple of quick glances. While Rider was busy with her, Sard tidied up the bedding, dumping Rider’s by his private airlock, and rolling up his own. He stored his gear between two pillars. He started his exercises. The slow ones, so he could fantasize his success.

— — — —

Washing and the rest were done in the opening to the so-called water tunnel equidistant between the two airlocks. Time would have to tell the reason for its existence, because Sard had too much to learn each day to remember to ask.

He lifted the lid closing off the end of a wide pipe ending at the level of his knees approximately, and peed down into it. Flushed the pipe with the half-bucket of waste-water standing ready.

The pipe went down through the intervening rock – cunningly camouflaged wherever it went through any living spaces, according to Rider – and discharged with general dome wastes to be buried in the soil in one of the plantations.

Sard washed himself with a couple of handfuls of water in the clean-water bucket, the water from a pipe sourcing gravity-fed rainwater from a cistern up on the roof. He poured his used water into the waste-water bucket, and rinsed the clean-water bucket ready for the next user.

He pulled on the life suit since it was the subject of his learnings and Rider’s teachings, though he tucked the gloves into the sleeves, and the hood down his back. Pulled on a pair of shorts over the top.

Today, breakfast was cold riced soybeans garnished with a spicy hot sauce. Same as dinner last night. He was learning the fine art of rationing and plus the use of his strength of mind. Food was brought only once a day. “How can will and knowledge be enough?” he asked Rider while he tried not to wolf down his food. He doubted his strength of mind where the purpose of the whole exercise of saving his life was concerned. Not that he told anybody. What if they stopped trying because he was doubtful?

“With good skills and a good kit they’ll be more than plenty,” Rider said. “Those are the next layers in the pyramid of survival – training your own capabilities and learning those of your equipment, such as that life-suit, for instance.”

In the mode of a good acolyte, Sard cleared and cleaned the dishes. Their kitchen was a shelf beside Mab’s airlock above another bucket, this one containing sudsy water for washing dishes.

“Today we’ll explore the fountain-of-light meditation,” Rider said when Sard took his place opposite Rider.

“Because it’s my favorite? I mean, because with it I can best control my wayward thoughts?”

The suit, because he was thinking about it, peacocked with multi-colored blotches and liquid spurting stripes.

Rider ignored Sard’s quips. He did his sitting-down-on-air trick, bowing his legs to accommodate an imaginary pony between his knees.

Sard did his diagonal four-step to end up next to Rider, as he still got confused mirroring his actions. He bowed his legs and summoned his own tai-ji pony. Be pastel, like the sky, he ordered the suit.

< You + I are discontinuous. Your hands/I hands. Your head/I head >

Be pastel. Like the sky, Sard thought as he pulled the gloves on and the hood on over his head.

Though the suit’s electrical discharges grew calmer, its colors stayed bright. < What is pastel, I know not sky >

The sky is overhead. Pastels are faded colors. Fade.

< I cannot perceive sky. I cannot feel what I cannot touch. I cannot compute sky >

Every time Sard worked the suit, he learned more of what it could and could not do. Looks like today it was telling him about suit-specific perception. How, if he wanted it to feel something, it had to be able to touch whatever it was. Didn’t bode well for the rest of its senses. Uh oh, Rider’s getting ahead of me.

Rider squatted and knuckled metaphoric light from the floor near his feet.

Sard breathed and half-squatted and knuckled a pair of imaginary cables from the stone by his feet. Make them strong and live and light.

< Intermittent energy pulsing, ground to head height, rising as you rise >

Rider breathed in while he rose out of his squat and split his cable in two, one end in each of his fists. He drew his imaginary cables up through his legs, through his gut and held the pose with his fists in front of his heart.

Sard breathed in while he rose, managing to observe the pain of his screaming muscles and then to ignore them. Give me twin cables, lit and alive, and thread one through each foot, through our leg bones as if they were hollow, and loop them round my knees and thighs. With his fists knuckling together, he guided the suit-provided cables up through his groin and his gut.

Rider breathed out slowly as he drew his imaginary light through his neck and out through the top of his head.

Sard breathed out slowly as he drew twin strings of spangling light through his neck and head – the life suit gave him stars bursting from his mouth and nose and eyes, then spurted light from the top of his head. He fizzed like a roman candle. Oops, the candle sputtered and almost died. He spread his fingers and hands and arms and showered light in a sparkling fountain falling and fading. He resumed the start position, feet a shoulder-width apart, hands hanging, long fingers pointing straight down his legs. Thank you, he said at the suit.

< You + I are continuous >

Sard made his breathing match Rider’s pattern, recovering from the show.

“Now do it again, without me,” Rider said.

Sard summoned light from the ground and on a rising breath fisted sparkling stuttering cords up his body, gapping and twisting, to the top of his head. As he spread his arms and separated his fingers, he breathed out. Light spattered in and out of the lattice of his bones and joints, strobing and fading before it hit the ground.

“One hell of a piece of equipment,” Rider said. “Did you notice that its patterning went to pieces when you allowed yourself to become distracted?”

We are one hell of an act together.

< We are continuous >

Formatting Problem

Digital Illustration of a Cyborg, a cut from an iStock image

I haven’t forgotten my usual Fiction post.

WordPress is in a mode where it continually rephrases and in some cases just wipes whole sentences off the map.

So far, I’ve discovered that it’s because I’m using certain letters and signs to denote computer-speak, that are normally used in coding. WordPress thinks I’m coding? Cue, me laughing.

I’m merely off-setting computer-speak with < and > and when that didn’t work, << and >> and everything between the thingies disappears?

Interesting to see what happens when I ‘publish’ this …

It worked. So now I need to go over it all again to see what I did different.

Fiction: Cortinarius alin aff sapient

Cortinarius sp

Cort had three places to sit in his apartment and today he intended sitting in all of them. He began in the kitchen. Sitting on his wooden kitchen chair at his wooden kitchen table. He had the two vintage crystal wineglasses part-filled with water in front of him and the silver teaspoon ready for action.

Mrs Soup would be along soon. He’d earlier checked her progess by standing this side of his front door and listening. She lived-in in the block—in fact had an apartment not too far from Cort’s—and was employed by the Department of Human Services to provide nine of the block’s residents with their meals.

“Yoo-hoo?”

Cort ting-tinged with his fork against the right-hand glass.

“In the kitchen as usual,” Mrs Soup said. “Waiting for me, I suppose.”

He would’ve smiled if he could. Not safe now. Ting. This was the high note with which he put positive comments into the conversation. Mrs Soup wasn’t backward in supplying the words.

She set the dinner bag on the counter and unloaded the covered bowls. Cort’s teeth had given up the struggle and he’d graduated onto soups and stews that didn’t require chewing. “Both into the fridge?” she said.

Ting. He didn’t know yet when he’d have time to suck up the mid-day meal.

“Oh?” Mrs Soups said. “Expecting another caller?”

Ting. Cort pointed the teaspoon at a red square on the placemat.

“Ah, you’re expecting Red. A good man.” She took yesterday’s disinfected and sealed-up dishes in their plastic bags from the vegetable crisper.

He agreed. Ting. Red was the house medic. Employed under the same arrangement as Mrs Soup, he was overworked and underpaid. In Cort’s opinion. A lot more sick people in the scene than were fed by the house.

“Thank you for this disinfecting. You are such a dear,” Mrs Soup said. “Different to the old codger two floors down.”

Cort tapped the other, almost full glass. Tang.

“Red is with Mr Irascible right now, I’d say. He sidled in as I sailed out.”

Which gave him Red’s approximate arrival time. Ting.

————

For Red’s visit, Cort made himself comfortable in his old armchair. The arm rests were perfect for him to lay his arm on a pillow for Red to serve him up with an injection or a cannula for a dose of IV meds.

“Hey, old-timer,” Red said at the door. “How’s it going?”

Cort slipped his mask up over mouth and nose.

“That’s a new thing between us,” Red said at the mask, fetching the upright chair from the kitchen. “And I have been thinking I’d like to have a look at the problem?” He finished with his head on-side, asking.

Cort gestured futility with his fingers spread, hands upturned.

“There’s a thing growing in your mouth and what? You don’t want me to have a look-see, to see if it is cureable?”

Cort shook his head. Indicated down with his thumb.

“Is it bacterial?” Red said. “I’ve still got some antibiotics you haven’t had yet. Could hit it with them.”

Cort shook his head.

“Is it cancerous?”

Cort shook his head.

“Not cancerous.” Red wrapped the blood pressure guage around Cort’s upper arm. “Only one thing left. Show me and I’ll be able to prescribe something.”

Cort pointed at Red. Gestured Red’s probably fate with a finger across his throat.

Red frowned. “As bad as that? I can go to the ambo station, get some hospital-grade personal protection gear, see you again this afternoon.”

Cort grabbed one of his signs from beside his chair. THERE IS ONLY REVENGE.

Red’s eyes above his mask narrowed. He hissed. “I told them at the station there’s a killer in our scene. What’s he doing?”

Cort mimed diseases passing from one to the next. Infecting people. He got his second sign out. His mobile. A photo, a selfie from hell. His pursed mouth with the deep grooves of his aging face radiating from his thin lips pressed tight. Both the depths of the grooves and the lips painted a deathly white. The disease escaping its confines.

Red studied it with quick glances back and forth to Cort’s eyes, the rest of his face. He frowned thunder. “What can I do?”

Gesturing, Cort asked for help to get out of the chair and be settled on the couch. Cort with a towel over his head for extra protection for Red. His third sign. BURN THAT IN A MEDICAL FURNACE. 1100 DEGREES. He mimed. Make me look like a half-warm corpse.

Red grinned wolfishly. Got out his second mobile, set it to Record. “I’ll be at Mrs Soup’s, watching this. I insist,” he said to Cort’s head shakes. He laid it between Cort’s knees. “I’ll see that your revenge goes nowhere else.”

“He’s dead anyway,” Cort signed.

“Not soon enough. Don’t worry, I have a good plan. No one else is going to be farmed by this dude.” Last thing, Red fetched the red half-blanket from his kit. Spread it over Cort’s lap. He nodded. “Eleven hundred degrees.”

————

Next, the grower. What he called himself. Just a humble farmer popping in from time to time to see how the crop was growing he said. Cort savagely echoed him in his mind.

The man getting sicker, Cort saw the fucker think, his legs up on the couch like that and covered with an ambo’s little red blanket. Cort chuckled behind his mask, whatever that might sound like.

Grower checked that that ambo was not on the premises while fetching the upright chair from the kitchen. Three rooms and a bathroom. No ambo. He set the chair on the rug alongside the couch. Its outer limits but opposite Cort. “Can’t be too careful,” he said.

Cort grunted.

“I traded some of my stock this week and scored me some magnifying specs,” Grower said. He pulled them from his shirt pocket and Cort saw that they were an eye doctor’s magnifiers. Grower slid a couple of lenses into the left frame, three on the right.

Cort grinned close-mouthed behind his mask. Made an inquiring sound.

“You’re right,” Gtower said. “I do owe you an explanation or three.” He laughed. “Your name was the beginning of it.”

Cort raised his eyebrows. This was where he might’ve asked the damned farmer-in-the-dell to explain. Mouth too far gone. But don’t worry he consoled himself, this fucker will tell you because this fucker likes the sound of his own voice.

“In the bar they all called you Cort,” Grower began. “I knew rightaway the crop I’d want to try you out for. Then I learned that you were Allin Cort. Even better. It fits the genus and species naming system. In my literature—pamphlets, brochures and pricelists—I’ve started to call the crop I’ll be harvesting from you Cortinarius allin aff sapient.”

How would he get the delusional sapient to come closer? Cort grunted as disparagingly as he still could.

“It does sounds kind of weird,” Grower said. “But hey, you don’t seem to be doing that well?” He hitched the chair nearer. “The minute I went into job-lots of specifics for the laboratories, my life improved. I got rid of all the species that were too ornery. Too meh. The ones that had no poison and or no flavour if they were edible. I was thinking to get a sample today? Get it tested and so be able to offer my clients a specific rather than a general.”

Cort let his eyelids droop to half-mast, like he was a very sick man. Chuckle chuckle. Sicker than some, not sick enough to not want his revenge before he died.

The fellow hitched the chair even nearer, reached over the remaining distance and gently unhooked Cort’s mask. “Just want to see how we’re progressing, old boy.”

The sick man aka Cort relaxed back onto the couch armrest. He’d laugh if he still could. He gathered himself for his last lunge. Had to be good.

“Medic was here?” Grower said. “He give you some salve and that’s why your mouth and all those grooves are so white?”

Cort shook his head. He coughed through a narrow slot with a tearing paper sound. Pressed together his lips again.

“Right. Right. A little cough is the go. Let me get ready for the next one with a swab.” Grower scrabbled in his bag. Got out a swab. A glass container. A this. A that and a whatever.

Cort watched the madman’s face. Here he comes. Those crazed blue eyes.

“Ready when you are,” Grower said. Sitting on the edge of the chair, both his hands filled with the equipment to catch Cort’s … spores?

Cort grabbed the dead man’s upper arms with an iron grip and opened his mouth wide.

His lips crackled. Cracked. Flaked away.

The white felty interior stretched, the fibres sprang apart.

The spotted brown gills hanging from the roof of his mouth released a cloud of dark brown spores. Cort pursed his lips and blew more of them faster and further into the fellow’s face, his hair, his clothes. He blinded him with Cortinarius spores.

Grower would’ve reared back but Cort hugged him. Breathed spores into him. Kissed him to give him the taste. Cuddled the deluded dead thing to his chest.

Whispered lovingly. “Red will be here in a minute. He’ll tidy us up.”