Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Secrets of NuVanilla

After thirty grueling years, the war effort finds me drained spiritually and financially. Once, my writing - even my acting and singing - were decently lucrative concerns, (and may be again, some day,) but as the conflict has broadened, and with the addition of Polly to my life, I have been unable to work as once I did. I have scrabbled for cash, once even resorting to the delivery of printed advertisements to the inhabitants of my Zone. Over time, I have found that my fair knowledge of books and their value can provide an intermittent income - which the appearance of Ebay has enhanced, and which, combined with my veteran's pension, can allow my family and I to subsist.

I have told you of the awful troubles that befell Jenny over the weeks she spent unprotected in South Melbourne. By now you must understand that I simply cannot afford to take my eyes off the enemy in order to make money. Yet, sometimes fate does lend a hand and one day, some years ago now, while gloomily trudging the aisles of a local
supermarket, I found myself the subject of inspiration.

Idly, I was scanning the shelves containing herbs and spices, when my attention was caught by a cellophane package containing a single pod of vanilla. The price - in the region of five or six AUD - surprised me. I had not known that vanilla was such an extravagance. And the essence, I wondered next? It transpired that the store stocked only the ersatz vanilla essence - the authentic product being, perhaps, beyond the means of my local demographic, or else too precious to thusly render down.

I sensed opportunity and researched the subject. I learned why fruit of the hermaphroditic vanilla planifolia, a tropical life-form native to Mexico, commands such prices in temperate Melbourne. Then, with the assistance of Robert - the scientist who works in our car-port - we stripped down its genome and shrewdly altered its phenotype - employing techniques I would be a fool to reveal here.

Consequently, I now can supply the needs of my community with a cheaper product that is not only superior in size and vanillin-content, but also a pleasurable CNS stimulant. Though it has some addictive properties, they are mild, on par with caffeine, and, of course, are a useful inducement to purchase. NuVanilla has proved popular with the consumers of my Zone, and allows me to conduct my war efforts in some semblance of comfort.

On another subject, the redemption of my wife goes well, and, though she has yet to return home, her mother, Diane, is now present to protect and nurse her. (Diane and I have formed many a united front over the years, and - though she can be slow to recognise infiltration and is sometimes overly credulous to the wiles of the Deadly Spores - all told, she is a better soldier than I.) The extent of Jenny's recent defeat is becoming more apparent as further bulletins arrive from the front. Doyle, I have heard, claims to have secretly observed her in the company of known collaborators: sly and abhorrent creatures, feared for their blind greed and careless cruelty. I shudder at the extent of her fall. If this was a less complex war, I could act precipitously, drive these vermin out with main force and drag my wife to safety. This I would dearly love - but the Black Spores are subtle, and often a head-on attack will rebound re-doubled upon the attacker. If I am to have victory, for my family, for my friends, I must too be subtle.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Each morning, I go out to collect my daily dose of Spasmo-Nemigron. This is my primary medication and a defense against the Spores. Sometimes, at the pharmacy, I meet other users of Spasmo-Nemigron, easily identifiable by their thin down-turned lips, haunted eyes and furrowed skin; by their arbitrary grooming and their often threadbare garments.

One of these ghouls, Lemon, I have known for a couple of years and treated as a friend - until recently she did me great harm.

This complex war has bred monsters, individuals who have surrendered wholly to the Spores and who make a living in their service. Amy encountered one such man - a Romanian - who offered her fleeting luxuries in exchange for the betrayal of her friends. The first victim was my beautiful wife, Jenny.

At this point, I should pause to say something of the Deadly Spores' physical nature. Their principal means of enslavement is a glistening compound - excreted in an unknown manner and generally referred to as Honeycomb. It is a foodstuff so enticing, so delicious that few can resist it. But once it is consumed, some fraction of one's humanity is lost forever and replaced by spore-complient non-flesh. Men such as the Romanian trade in Honeycomb and, having identified her as vulnerable, he plied Jenny with this pernicious material, forcing her into despair and unmanageable debt.

All this happened fast and outside my knowledge while she was away and explains her unpleasant manner on the phone and in person. Thankfully, she has struck back, freed herself [at least to some extent], and - because she is returning to the fold tomorrow - I am allowing myself a little optimism. As for Lemon, ought I devise some way to punish her?

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Monday, September 24, 2007

The Grey Creek

I am doing all the right things; I am taking long walks along the Grey Creek; I am swallowing fish oil and regulating my intake of red wine; daily, I vitamize many wholesome ingredients into a nutritious drink - yet the workings of my mind remain sluggish and without direction.

In nine days time I am performing the role of Prospero in a production of The Tempest and I have a massive quantity of lines, few of which I have by heart. As quickly as I learn them, my mind releases them. It's like handling a slimy fish. There's no traction there. Yet, learn them I must. I cannot disappoint Lynne, the director, nor the others involved. No matter that it is a small student production. No matter that its standards are not quite professional and that there's no payment. I must yet prevail. I urge myself with the image of my wonderful costume - the shimmering silver jumpsuit, the towering silver boots... I shall be the cynosure! All shall cower at my majesty!

So, as I follow the meanderings of the Grey Creek, I mumble to myself, concentrating on my task. The creek exists in the buffer zone between a howling motorway and the dormitory suburb of Mt Waverley. I have known this creek all my life. I knew it before it was landscaped, formed into wetlands and filtration ponds, before it hosted at least five species of water-birds. When I was a child it was a pungent sudsy vein transporting vile substances through poisoned quagmires, bestrewn with blackberries and rusted machinery, to the Yarra and thence to the Bay. When I dream of the Grey Creek and its surrounds, they are always in this original state.

Soon, my wife will be home and I must show, not only strength, but compassion. She has been labouring desperately against the Spores, and has found the will to form a battle plan. It is a poor one, I think, for it relies on strengths I doubt she has - but some independent will remains and that is something to be thankful for. I'll wind up fifty and looking like one of your old girlfriends, she said today. A wise observance. Many of my dearest friends, both male and female, have been slowly mutilated in long and strenuous conflict with the Deadly Spores. The Spores treat their enemies and their slaves with an equal lack of pity - and it is not just the flesh they sour ...

>As with age their bodies uglier grow, so their minds canker ...

Then there are those who will never live to suffer old age.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

At War with Abominations

With each passing year, the distinctions in my life become ever more blurred. I no longer know if I am sick or well, awake or asleep, rich or poor, intelligent or bog stupid. My days blend together. The substance of my existence eludes me.

The peaks and troughs of my emotional life are progressively levelling out. Music does not move me, though once the making of it was my principal joy. I enact my feelings as if long ago, at some forgotten time, I metamorphosed into an automaton. The source of my love for Jenny, my wife, is unclear, though the fact of it is certain. My daughter of four years, Polly Eileen, is vivid and scintillating - a font of miracles, beauty incarnate - but I know this more from deduction than from direct experience.

Perhaps uselessly, I struggle against these trends and the drear powers behind them. At the age of thirteen, I received an Olivetti Lettera typewriter for my birthday and subsequently writing has been my work and my love. But the act of creation has less significance in a life where the act of subsistence is paramount.

Steadfast endurance seems to be my most potent weapon, as I stage a staggered retreat before the inexorable advance of my enemies: The Quinquagesima, a constant and dessicating wind that finds its source beyond the atmosphere of the Earth; the Slammerkin, a tiny reptilian possum whose incursions leave toxic exudates and whose bad vibrations resonate destructively with my liver; and, finally, most dreadfully, the Spores... the black, deadly Spores, that insinuate themselves into every domain of my life - the physical, the emotional, the spiritual, the intellectual, the financial - and there engage in lethal infestation. It is against this vile and feculent adversary that I struggle most desperately, even this day on which I write...

Jenny, who is sitting her mother's house, arrived early to pick up our daughter. It was only ten and already she was rife with Spore activity, (the Spore abomination most commonly takes strength from the night time hours.) Black pinpricks danced on her too-pale skin, defocusing her physical presence. They clustered in her every word. They had taken root in her mind and were directing her thought. She spoke of abandoning a beach-head we had established - specifically, a medication - in order to engage in a risky long-term strategy that would give the enemy a short-term advantage. It made no sense. The Spores would use this advantage to lay us perilously low. The Spores were talking through her sweet and sensuous mouth. It was awful to observe the one I love so thoroughly enslaved. It was a struggle just to meet her eyes.

Smiling, she indicated the jeans she was wearing. Formerly, they had been tight and exceedingly flattering - now they were noticeably loose. A disquieting symptom, I thought, presented as a point of interest. Of no greater import than the odd striped spider she showed us in the toilet cubicle this morning. Sporecraft. Deadly Spores on a deadly mission.

In nature there is a parasitic fly which lays an egg upon a living snail. Once hatched, the grub burrows into the flesh of the host, makes its way to the brain and from there influences the snail's behaviour - ordering it to an inevitable and putrescent death. This modus operandi is analogous to one of the innumerable sleights employed by my most pitiless foe.

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