Before He Was Cool (I/I)

Between the Earth and the Moon there is a world made entirely out of firewood. It’s five hundred miles wide and ten miles deep. It has lots of firewood animals and firewood cities and firewood people. It is an innocent world, a young world, but it is no paradise. It is a savage jungle.

Martin is born on March 22, 1995, at 6:38 pm, on a night of screams and fire, on a world above the world.

The first thing he ever sees is the monster’s face.

Martin ducks instinctively. He throws his forearms before his eyes. But then there’s a shock of recognition, and a wave of relief, and he laughs.

“Why, this is just a firewood monster,” he says.

The firewood monster adjusts its lacquered tie. “You be-long to me,” it says. Its voice is vaguely animatronic.

There’s the sound of explosions in the distance.

Martin’s in a little room made of firewood. It’s like the monster’s house. There’s a spider, which is a real spider. Everything else is made out of firewood: the belt, the archaic aversion therapy devices, the couch, the bookshelves, and the bottles of pills. There are weird white spots here and there on the wood, like some birch got mixed in with the rest.

“You be-long to me,” says the firewood monster again.

The whole world creaks. A crack runs through the floor, stopping short of Martin’s feet.

Martin grins wryly at the firewood monster, gives him a little wave, and opens the door. He steps out onto the street. Death looks him in the face. Death has a scythe. Death has a cloak. Death is a skeleton.

Martin almost steps back and slams the door. But then he understands, and he laughs.

“Why, this is just a firewood Death,” he says.

“Solve prob-lems through ex-tinc-tion!” declares the firewood Death. He sweeps his scythe at Martin. Martin ducks under it and kicks Death’s knee. Death’s knee cracks. Martin scrambles away.

“Even a firewood Death is dangerous!” he realizes. So he runs. He ducks into a barber shop. There’s a spinning red and white log outside, and a ghastly barber inside.

“I’ll shave your hair in-to a bowl cut!” the barber declares.

“You’re just a firewood barber,” says Martin nervously. He’s a thirteen-year-old boy. He doesn’t want a bowl cut, but he doesn’t want to fight a ghastly barber, either!

Then he sees the mirror.

His soul knows its truths. You are nothing, it tells him. A firewood boy. An isn’t.

“Oh, God,” Martin says.

A great shadow moves along the street. There are firewood screams.

Martin sits down. He covers his face with his hands. He thinks.

“I can-not shave your hair on the floor,” says the firewood barber. “There are al-read-y sha-vings on the floor.”

“I’m thinking,” says Martin.

The barber processes this unusual situation.

“Do not o-ver-heat your brain,” the firewood barber cautions.

“I’ll overheat if I want to,” says Martin, sulkily. But he doesn’t. Then he stands up. “Will you bless me?” he asks.

The barber is nonplussed and ghastly. “I am a bar-ber,” it says.

“I have to do something really hard,” says Martin. “And you’re the only person I know.”

The firewood barber hesitates. It is horrid and stodgy and animatronic and it is not a priest. “I would pre-fer,” it says, “to shave your hair.”

“You’re the only person I know.”

So the barber nods. It puts down its shaver and its bowl for the first time in its long existence. It takes Martin’s arms, one in each clumsy hand.

“Bless you,” it says. “Be well. Good luck. En-dure.”

Martin is a thirteen-year-old boy. He does not let his tears show. He does not hug the barber. He simply walks out. He finds the gate to the Underworld. He goes in.

His soul knows its truths. You are nothing, it tells him. A firewood boy. An isn’t.

It’s his destiny. It’s the law of his nature. It’s his dharma. It’s the truth of his soul that he can’t escape. But then there’s a realization and a decision and a wave of defiance and he laughs.

“Why,” he says, “you’re just a firewood dharma.”

Martin puts it aside and he descends.

25 thoughts on “Before He Was Cool (I/I)

  1. So, Martin was born in 1995 at the age of thirteen? Does this mean that he’s 22-23 now? (Depending on how precisely 13 he was at birth.)

  2. So, Martin was born in 1995 at the age of thirteen? Does this mean that he’s 22-23 now? (Depending on how precisely 13 he was at birth.)

    Unless being a 13 year old boy is more important to Martin’s character concept than being someone who aged normally!

    And as he was “born” as a 13 year old boy rather than a 0 year old boy, it’s not as odd an assumption as it could have been otherwise.

  3. “Why,” he says, “you’re just a firewood dharma.”

    This is one of my favorite moments in Hitherby so far; it’s right up there with Jane bringing cookies at the end of chapter one. ^__^

  4. Interesting.

    And yes, I think he’s still 13 (or occasionally 10) rather than being in his twenties. Gods don’t seem to age, and every description of Martin has him as a kid rather than an adult.

    Now, what I’m trying to figure out is how this integrates with Martin’s claims to have made himself from emptiness. He could be just grandstanding with that, of course… but that doesn’t seem to fit with Hitherby. It’s not the nature of Hitherby characters to be dishonest about their nature or origins, and if Martin has been, there’s probably a reason for it. Of course, he could refer, not to his strict origin, but to either his setting aside of his firewood dharma, or something yet to come.

    Also, I love the title. Not sure why, but I do.

    -Eric

  5. I think the reason Martin can say that he made himself out of nothing is that he cast aside his firewood dharma. When that happened, he set himself outside the rules and controls of his existence (becoming an “isn’t”), which would of course allow him to do as he pleased.

  6. I think it’s simpler than that — through most of this entry, Martin is nothing. It says it right up there. Then he put that aside and became not nothing.

    I’ve been thinking about this one and Bob. Bob made the firewood world (he involved Jane. Did he do that because he wanted to or because he had to?) for the wogly to eat; and the wogly told him that when it had finished eating all the firewood world’s integrity, he’d be sorry.

    (And Bob spends a long time building and creating and giving integrity to the world.)

    Then comes the axe: first for the wogly, and then for Bob.
    A long time ago,” Jane says, “Martin came for me. He had an axe, and it was covered with blood. He said, ‘This isn’t working.’

    (And Martin says he can kill woglies.)

    Occam’s razor says that was one axe in two quotes; and we can infer that it was Bob’s blood.

    So this gives me to wonder: was Martin born when the wogly finished eating the integrity of the firewood world?

    Why was it a night of screams and fire? Just Bob and Jane doing their kaiju thing, or something else?

    Does it mean anything that it was a short time after the spring equinox?

    Martin is not one of Jane’s gods, but he does come from Jane. Perhaps in a somewhat indirect way.

    Martin was born in 1995. In 1996 Martin is at school…although it’s something that looks like a school for gods. In “The Fable of the Lamb”, the monster says that Jane is six years old, suggesting that Martin remade her in 1998. Why the gap?

    If Martin was born as a result of the wogly eating, what happened to the firewood world during that three years?

    My head hurts.

  7. When Martin tried to remake the world to his exact specifications, it didn’t work. He just created a large crop of woglies.

    Woglies are inconsistencies in the world, right? I haven’t time to look them up at the moment. Martin tried to clean up the world by removing the inconsistencies and just created a whole bunch more. So he had to look for another way to solve the problem. It involves a tower in a sea of chaos.

    I always find it… interesting to reread The Stage (IV/IV) when speculating on Jenna’s rebirth into Jane. It’s such a… different point of view. It feels like it belongs to such a different story. And Martin does not appear.

  8. It’s not clear that trying to remake the world, Martin was trying to clean up inconsistencies. It seems more likely to me that he started by remaking a small portion; naturally this portion was inconsistent with the rest. If he could extend his remaking to the whole world, there would be no inconsistency — but he couldn’t, and there was, and they became woglies.

    An interesting thought occurs to me, since you bring up The Stage; perhaps the world described in that story was one made by Martin, as part of the whole remaking-the-world thing? But it didn’t work, and that world ended instead of the canon Hitherby one. Perhaps the lady who went beyond the world became part of Jane.

  9. Well, no, it’s not explicitly clear that in trying to remake the world, Martin was cleaning up inconsistencies.

    But that’s why I believe the axe came for the wogly, and for Bob. As soon as the wogly showed up, the inconsistency that Bob illustrated: he was Jane’s brother, but not Jane’s mother’s son, became a problem for them. (and let’s get right down to it, at some point, Jenna became Jane, but Jane was, I assume, placed with a ‘mother’. A ‘special environment’, perhaps)

    And so Bob and Jane built the firewood world in, to hide from the inconsistencies.

    So, there’s a bit of a leap between the axe coming for wogly and Bob, to Martin coming to Jane, with the axe, and telling her, “This isn’t working,” and extrapolating that Martin’s approach to remaking the world was wogly-removal. But I don’t think it’s a very big leap.

    I wonder if Martin is Bob’s ‘god’, so to speak.

    What exactly is the relationship between woglies, emptiness and gods?

    I always thought the lady in The Stage /was/ Jane, from a different perspective. Jane created world after world for herself to escape into, and gods to maintain it. Finally, one day, without any obvious input from Martin, she decided she’d had enough of worlds ending, and she stepped beyond.

    Maybe that’s what Martin hopes for in today’s entry, by leaving her suffering.

  10. You make some excellent points about Jane, Bob, and the firewood world, that I hadn’t thought of.

    I do wonder if you realize that Martin’s attempt to remake the world came before he killed Bob and the wogly. How would removing inconsistencies constitute remaking the world to specification anyway? It seems more likely to me that Martin’s antipathy to woglies came after he created a bunch of them out of sheer hubris, and because of it.

    As for The Stage being Jane’s future — I’d readily agree, except for the entry having a Roman numeral. All other entries with Roman numerals are set in the past; why wouldn’t this one be also? (Of course, we don’t have an established convention for ones set in the future.)

    I wonder if Martin is Bob’s ‘god’, so to speak.

    What exactly is the relationship between woglies, emptiness and gods?

    We know that Martin is a god, and I think we know that Bob was one too. One thing I was groping at saying in previous entries:

    Empty people create gods. (Aside: there’s some mention that monsters create gods from other people after they stop creating gods for themselves. Are monsters naturally empty, or is there someone who empties them? Is this a cycle of abuse?)

    What do empty worlds — empty because all their integrity has been devoured — create?

  11. Hm, I dunno. I don’t seem to be able to ponder that line of thought. It’s like it’s intangiable to me somehow.

    I wonder if Martin’s Underworld is between the firewood world and earth?

  12. Empty people create gods. (Aside: there’s some mention that monsters create gods from other people after they stop creating gods for themselves. Are monsters naturally empty, or is there someone who empties them? Is this a cycle of abuse?)

    It seems that monsters are deliberately emptied, usually by their parents.

    See the histories on the boyhood of Mylitta’s monster, Nabonidus, for some on this.

    -Eric

  13. If woglies are inconsistencies, well, inconsistencies are pretty messy indeed. Now just where is Jeremiah Clean when you need him?

  14. Is Jane Martin’s dharma?

    Or is Martin Jane’s dharma?

    At least woglies can be counted upon to be consistently inconsistent… if we aren’t able to rely upon inconsistencies to present themselves then the glory of consistency becomes somewhat diluted.

  15. At least woglies can be counted upon to be consistently inconsistent… if we aren’t able to rely upon inconsistencies to present themselves then the glory of consistency becomes somewhat diluted.

    That’s only if we know the inconsistencies are hiding and we still can’t ever notice them… it’s like the IPU theory. They may be there, but if we’ll never know, what’s the difference?

  16. what’s the difference?

    Apart from the integrity of the world becoming less and less integral?

    Well, they don’t have to be consistently inconsistent to be inconsistent some of the time. If anything, that would make them better at being inconsistent if they weren’t inconsistent all the time.

Leave a Reply