Sunday, January 31, 2021

Leaving Port Silo Pts. 1 & 2


A while back I mentioned how I'd been able to lift a few things I'd written back in the nineties off some old floppy disks I found. I was wondering if I should tidy some of them up and post them somewhere. Here, maybe, or on some notional new blog. And then, of course, I did nothing about it.

Well, not exactly nothing. I did create draft posts for all of them, just as another means of having a back-up on hand. I'd forgotten I'd even done it until I happened to be glancing at my drafts this evening. Most of them are far too long to post here, even if I ever thought that would be a good idea, but there were a couple of very short pieces I wrote as a kind of five-finger excercise back when I was trying out different voices.

I read them through again, two short chapters, fragments, really. A project that never came to anything. And something struck me. Something I'd never realized before. This poor girl, she's living in an mmorpg. And she's just left the tutorial.

See her check her inventory (just the one bag). Go through her minimal checklist of basic skills. Worry about what might be out there in the dark. It's one of those mmo/survival hybrids. She needs food, she eats nuts. She needs fire, she picks up sticks.

Even the part where she imagines what life might be like if she ever makes it to civilization, how she could earn a living. That's a quest hub.

The thing is, I wrote this several years before I ever played EverQuest. I'd never even heard of an mmorpg let alone imagined what it would be like to play one. And still, this is the world I imagined for myself. The world I wanted.

I'd play the game this girl lives in. For certain sure. She just doesn't know how lucky she is. Yet.




Two hours out of Port Silo and I’m all over dust. My bag’s covered. I hate this bag. It looks like cow stuff. I hate dust and cows. I hate Port Silo.

I sat fourteen hours in grain today trying to keep the grain dust out of my mouth out of my nose out of my eyes. Wasting my time. I hate grain. I hate dust. I hate Port Silo.

I hate travelling from one shitty little backwater Port to the next up to my chest in grain up to my chest in cotton up to my chest in rags, in-between boxes and crates and machine parts and keeping my head down keeping my head down keeping my head down. I think if I keep my head down any longer I’ll drown underground under the mudwater or the dust where the scratchy things scrape and scut.

Who makes all this dust grain cotton rag scutting scrapy scratchy things? Who wants them all? Not me. God, Pastor Tot says. Said. God should have more sense. 

God wouldn’t sit on the deck of a diesel barge that has the pumps running pumping water every hour of the day or it sinks. God wouldn’t squat in the shade of a crate full of parts full of rust that no-one wanted when they left and no-one wants when they get where they’re sent if they ever do arrive if the Goddam barge doesn’t sink. God wouldn’t say Goddam either, I suppose, and neither would I if Pastor Tot was here.

Pastor Tot would say yes God would sit on that barge in that grain and rag and rust and dust and let the sun or the shade scab and scar and freeze him and he would care and he would love and he would because he’d be everywhere, all at once. That’s what Pastor Tot would say. I hate dust.

She tugs at the knotted drawstring of her khaki canvas bag.

I’ve got an apple in here somewhere. Fruit. I guess fruit is okay just about okay, when there’s nothing else. It’s better than fish and that dried stuff, better than grain. I can’t believe I tried to eat grain. Next time I’ll eat the dust or the scuts.  

She bites the apple. 

This is gross. My guts ache. When’s something going to come down this road? It’s been two hours and what’s been by? Nothing’s been by that’s what’s been by. Nothing is going to be by that’s how I see it. I should have stayed in Port Silo.

Worms have had the best of this apple. I bet worms have had the best of Pastor Tot too. They haven’t though. I have. Those worms just get the husk like the skin of this apple dried up like I get. I got the best of Pastor Tot.

Sun’s nearly down. Stuck there like a great blood tick. What does it think it’s looking at? Cows and dust and stunty trees and me all over dust carrying this stupid cow stuff bag. Cow shit. Said it. I hate cows.

Where am I going to sleep? It’s going to be oh mighty cold when that sun goes oh mighty cold. Can’t see anything but this road going and going and nothing coming on it not a pick-up not a truck not a car. No. There won’t be a car. Not a horse or a mule or another sad me walking to Port Silo to say how far to Port Silo and for me to say not far enough not far enough back.

I used to think it was pretty, the sun shadowing me all the way back down the road. The dust has shadows, I used to think. Then I didn’t even hate the dust. Pastor Tot used to say the sun and the dust was people all the people of the world the old world ground up and blown away flying on God’s good sunlight around the world and every time we breathed we were taking someone in and making them part of us, carrying them along their road. 

Pastor Tot’s not in any dust. He might be dust by now if the worms have left any of him but he won’t be scutted up yet. The wind and the sun will have to push and scrape and shove at him for longer than I’ll be alive and God that won’t be too long I’m mostly about sure, before anyone gets a breath of old Pastor Tot.

I wish I was going to get a breath of him, though. That would be something, I suppose.

I guess I’d better find some cover some dry culvert or the crook of some stunty crab tree. When the sun’s gone there’ll be ice on the ground and when I wake up there’ll be ice on me. I hate ice on my eyes waking up with my eyelashes frozen together thinking I went blind in the night or got buried alive or died and this is it under the dust buried and dead and blind and still knowing. Jesus I don’t want to sleep out here alone.

There must be somewhere I can go to get out of the cold. Why didn’t I start looking sooner while it was still light? Oh why am I so goddam stupid? Maybe I should just keep walking until it gets light then sleep in the sun. Least I could be warm and if I get out of sight I could be safe, could be.

This  always happens. Paster Tot would have had us in a roadhouse or under a tarp in some quiet port corner an hour before dark and something hot to go with it. I can’t carry it can’t look after myself can’t look ahead, I just keep walking and walking and riding and hiding and walking, sleep where I land eat what I find and I’m getting thinner and tireder and I don’t have any plan don’t have any plan don’t have any plan.






The sun goes down. The moon rises. Stars come out.

This is hopeless. I’m never going to get to sleep. It’s too cold too too cold. Oh hell have I got any matches or my lighter? I should have got some wood when it was light there’re enough dead trees around here for God’s sake. This place is never short of dead stuff dead trees dead animals dead rivers dead land dead me if I don’t get warm. 

Moonlight is so not good for finding stuff. Everything goes flat and grey. Pastor Tot said that’s how the world looks when God’s sleeping because God never really sleeps he always sees always knows. God could find wood  by moonlight I bet and so could Pastor Tot. Well I damn will too.

The girl rummages in her bag. 

 Matches matches matches I know there’s some matches in here there’d better be some matches or I’m in big trouble bigger trouble. Always in trouble anyway. I’m so used to being in trouble if I wasn’t in trouble I’d think I was in trouble. What’s this?  Cowries. Damn. Too much stuff in this bag don’t know why I lug it all over but you never know what you’re going to need when.

Oh, hey! Hey! My Macadamia nuts! Oh this is brilliant this is so brilliant! My Macadamia nuts! I forgot all about them and after what I had to do to get them! Oh this is all coming good it’s all coming good.  

She executes a graceless dance, then stops suddenly.  

I heard something! Oh hell oh hell ! She crouches. Listen. Listen. No, I can’t hear anything. Maybe it was me doing my stupid dance maybe I stamped on a stick and it snapped. Oh, what if something’s crouching out there in the dark listening to me listening for something in the dark. Now I can’t eat my Macadamia nuts. It’ll hear me crunching. Maybe I could suck them, grind them a little with my back teeth if I’ve got any back teeth left after that damn corn.  

She stuffs macadamia nuts into her mouth. 

Now I can’t hear anything but me. I can’t see anything, only shadows.

If it was a stick if I broke a stick then there’re sticks. I could light a fire with sticks if I had some matches. I could shove a burning stick in a wolf’s face if it’s a wolf if a wolf’s out there listening to me. Oh God what if it’s a wolf a wolf listening listening to me listening to me out there in the dark? What if it’s a bunch of wolves? Got to find those matches. 

She rummages through the bag.

Here they are here they are. How many left? Two, four, six, seven. Seven. Seven’s enough. I can light a fire with seven. I can. Pastor Tot could light a fire with one. He could light a fire with none no matches at all. I saw him do it. Why didn’t I listen when he was telling me how? 

She strikes a match.

Grass. Grass burns.  It’s so hot every day grass has got to be dry enough to burn. Here’s something. And a stick. And another. Oh yes this is good this going to do it this is going to scare that wolf this is going to keep me warm, I’m going to do it. I’m going to be okay. I’ll get through this night and tomorrow that damn sun will come up and I’ll walk until I see a good place well a place there are no good places no good places left not places like there used to be like Pastor Tot told me about. Not places where there’s food right out on the streets piled up on carts and people give it to you if you do something for them or if you do something for someone else they give you money and you give it to the people with the food on the carts and there’s places to sleep indoors not in ditches or under tarpaulins on cruddy scutty boats.

The grass flares.

Yes! Oh yes I’ve got it. Now we’re doing it. Burn stick burn. That’s it. I can see what I’m doing now. Goddam stunty tree you’re going to lose some branches tonight old stunty stunter stunty tree.  

The fire grows. 

Warm warm at last. Oh I love fire. It’s the only clean thing in this scutty dusty world. If fire burned dust it would be perfect. I hate dust.

Last of the Macadamia nuts. I’m going to roast them. I’m going to roast them in my fire and have a hot meal like Pastor Tot would have had. Wonder what this tree is. Old stunty tree might be a nut tree, might be a Walnut tree or a Pecan nut tree. If they grow on trees. Or it could be Apples. Only one way to find out.  

She takes a burning branch from the fire.  

No, nothing. Only a tree a dry barky knotty tree. All you’re good for is burning old dumb tree. Couldn’t get any shade out of you in the day but I’ll get fire from you in the night.

I’m tired. Just eat the last of these then I’m going to sleep right by my fire. No damn wolves would dare come up to my fire and no other fool’s going to be wandering about here under the moon. Wolf moon, should have thought of that before. Oh what if I forget everything he taught me? What if I forget everything  Pastor Tot taught me? That’s all that’s going to keep me alive he’s all that kept me alive all this time. I’d be clearance in Port Silo by now if it wasn’t for Pastor Tot. Well, no-one’s going to clearance me. Not now. Not wolves not Port Authority not anyone.  

She curls up beside the fire and sleeps. Nearby, wolves begin to howl.

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