The Myconet, Part 11

Day 69. 161 pages, 58,131 words.

Anton continued to stare at me from beneath the heavy overhang of his brow, but didn’t look as though he was about to respond in any way. Apparently when he’d said gwundle, he’d really meant it. There was nothing more to say, if you thought about it. Once you’d said gwundle, after all ‑

The massive humanoid stepped forward with surprising silent agility, and I stepped back to match him. At the same time, I pulled the wheely bin over in front of me, tipping out the masses of crumpled-up post-it notes and paper packaging in a cascade across the floor. Gordon and Sheila, over in the distance, looked up from their game of Uno sharply at the echoing bang of the bin hitting the floor.

I wasn’t really trying to block pursuit, and I wasn’t intentionally trying to be a jerk at this point. I’d actually just been reminded of vampires, and some of the other human-based creatures Creepy and I have encountered over the years. And how some of them are compulsive to the point of arithmomania.

The old folk wisdom about vampires counting seeds might be an exaggeration, but it’s occasionally based in a sort of factual context. I’ve found that a lot of the time, if you just knock something over instead of turning your back and running away, a vampire or a ghoul or a werewolf will check out the mess instead of leaping for the kill. Predatory instinct, maybe. I don’t know, I’m not a naturalist.

A lot of it, I think, is just to do with the fact that they’re mostly-animal. And they’re human-based, which makes them mostly-dumb-animal. So you can distract them. And another part of it is human neurosis. Humans get set in their ways very easily. The longer a human lives, the more firmly he or she will get driven into those ruts.

And when that human becomes a shambling undead monstrosity, and continues to age in at least some sense, he or she will get even more deeply entrenched in the routines and habits that defined his or her life. And a lot of that, I think, is just to do with the human brain, and the fact that the vampire has nothing else to work with. After a while, he or she just lacks the capacity to remember more things, so keeping everything just-so, and doing and saying and thinking things in a consistent and repetitive way, is the only way the limited-effective-lifespan brain-matter can continue to function.

Most vampires are pretty stupid. There are exceptions, but those ones usually have a bit of something else mixed into their biological batter to make them more functional.

Anton was not an exception, even though he wasn’t exactly a vampire, either. He was a human-based something-or-other, and that was enough to give him a solid dose of the keepitsquaredaways, assisted still further by the fact that – though admittedly he was a limited sample for me to be working with – half-breeds of his particular variety appeared to take on the role of drones. Only hostile in the face of the unexpected or outside-of-parameters, which I had safely redefined by making a bit of a good old office-style mess. This was probably why he’d been set not only in a position of interaction with the rest of the building, but a janitorial post. Anton immediately turned away from his slow advance, leaned down to pull the bin back upright, and began laboriously retrieving the spilled rubbish. I admit it had been something of a guess on my part, but it had been an educated guess.

Gordon and Sheila, on the other hand, were entirely human and didn’t give a short sharp shit about how messy things were as long as it didn’t interfere with their nice quiet day.

“What’s going on?” Gordon called across the level.

“Anton showed up,” I called back, “it’s fine. I just bumped a bin, we’re clearing it up,” not wanting to make a liar of myself, I reached down and picked up a crumpled post-it note. Gordon grunted in the distance, and I heard him say read ‘em and weep, straight flush to Sheila, who swore like a docker.

I looked down at the post-it note in my hand, and opened it up.

CFBD – GM? RGB? 12? the little yellow sheet read. Shrugging to myself, I re-crumpled it and dropped it in the bin.

“Danks,” Anton said, breathing heavily as he straightened and dropped a handful of his own retrieved trash into the wheely bin.

“Can you understand me, Anton?” I asked. He seemed a lot more docile now that he was distracted by his work.

“Lil’bid,” he grunted.

“Right. My friend dropped his glasses in your bin,” I said. When Anton tossed his handful of papers into the bin and looked at me with mild curiosity glimmering in his deep-set eyes, I pantomimed eyeglasses helpfully, then performed my best-guess impersonation of how Creepy would have flailed in horror, knocked the specs off his face, and sent them flying into the bin. Evidently my act was spot-on, because Anton gave a broad brown-toothed grin that smelled strongly of boiled cabbage.

“Glassus,” he said, “yurh,” he looked uncertain for a moment, and I quickly stooped and retrieved another crumpled-up post-it note from the floor. “Lost ‘n’ found,” Anton said, giving me the strong impression that this was one of the L&E tower’s departments he’d managed to memorise due to daily relevance.

“Lost and found,” I repeated thoughtfully, “okay. Thanks, Anton,” I opened the next post-it. Carrots = orange, it read. “Important true facts,” I approved, and binned it.

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