On March 22, 1995, Jenna receives a certified letter. It has her full address on the front, including “The Firewood World” at the very bottom. It is delivered by postal jet. The letter reads as follows:
I hope you are well.
I had never thought to let you go. You were close to my heart, and I thought that you would die or remain with me forever. Yet life takes funny turns.
Still, I have need of your services again. I hope that you’re available. I know that you’ve been confused and angry and acting, well, as one would expect Jane to act. But you should visit me soon.
You belong to me.
On the letter is drawn the crest of the monster’s house.
Three days pass, and most of another.
It is March 25.
Martin, stumbling through the mud of the underworld, meets Thess.
Thess is a young man, with clear blue eyes, angel’s wings, and a jacket.
“People loved me,” says Thess.
Thess is building. This is his punishment. He is building creatures, always, making new kinds of life.
Then they die, and turn to dust, and the dust blows away.
Thess is steeping in mud and failure and it has not improved him yet.
“I radiated it,” Thess says. “It was my answer. ‘You can escape your pain. Just love Thess!'”
“Oh,” Martin says.
“It was a clinging love, a reaching love, a scrambling love,” says Thess. “It was more real than the world. It was an awakening love. I was going to walk right into Central and they would have loved me. And I would have asked them to let her go. I would have told them that I was her brother. And she would have come and taken shelter with me, and them too, and she would have been safe.”
“I died,” Thess says. “In a little town, by a little school. A faceless god bound me to the earth, cut my ribs out, and pulled my lungs out my back. Then love died and the world was hollow.”
“I’m sorry,” Martin says.
“Help me,” says Thess.
“I could leave you here to suffer, thus allowing you to transform into something better,” says Martin.
Thess looks at Martin. It’s a very sardonic look.
“Yes,” says Thess. “That plan is certain to be effective.”
Martin looks down.
“It’s what I know how to do,” Martin says.
“If you leave me here,” says Thess, “I will suffer eternally and gain nothing from it. Then one day you will go and face the monster, and he’ll point his finger and laugh. And you’ll say, ‘watch out! I’m going to leave you alone so hard your head will spin!'”
“I’d planned to revise the speech a little,” Martin says, “First.”
“Give it a few drafts?”
Thess looks at Martin, and suddenly Martin loves him so much his heart hurts.
“I made a glorious frog-thing,” Thess says, “I called it Alitheia. But it died. They all die. Each of my children. I grow hollower and hollower but there is no end to me. Help me.”
So Martin reaches out for Thess, and at his touch Thess turns to dust.