Truth is not lost.
Here is how we know that Truth is not lost. When we look in on him, on Truth Daniels, as he stands on the foredeck of the Anna Maria with the sea-spray on his face, with his silver hair flowing and his white eyes bright, with his body leaning forward and his hand clinging to the ropes, we can see a shadow behind him. That shadow is Deva, the hound of Truth, and he is tall and barrel-shaped and strong, and he is looking around with consternation and shouting forwards, “Are we lost?”
And Truth shakes his head, and there is laughter in his voice, and he calls back,
“I don’t know where we’re going!”
So he can’t be lost, you see.
In the hold there is a woman, white-limned, sleeping in a nest of silks. There is her god, its cloud of sickle-shaped limbs stirring in the wind like hanging paper cuttings strung together from a rod. There is a statue made of resin-coated wood; it does not live but sometimes it stirs itself to speak. Of these all and all the other things that dwell within the ship only the woman is worth considering as a member of the crew; and so, while she sleeps, Truth and Deva sail alone.
The Anna Maria is a long and narrow ship. Its sails are great swathes of crimson. Its bow is a spear cut from the fingerbone of the wind. We know from earlier visions of this ship that it is not established which wind contributed the bone:
“Sometimes,” Truth says, “it is from the north wind, and sometimes from the south.”
“How can two winds share a fingerbone?” Deva is prone to ask.
“It is perplexing enough,” says Truth, “that they should have even one fingerbone between them; is it truly worth fretting over the shifting of its provenance?”
If the woman is on deck, then she is likely to respond: “The two are different orders of illogic, Mr. Daniels. It is one thing to broaden and anthropomorphize the meaning of ‘the wind,’ and it is quite another to undermine the conceptual integrity of ‘from.'”
Then Truth is on the ropes, and there is little he can do but offer her an embarrassed and futile smile. But if Deva and Truth are alone, Truth’s words are more difficult to challenge. Deva is many things but a theorist of the impossible he is not ever.
The Anna Maria sails the chaos that lies beyond Santa Ynez, past its harbors and past its bridges, between the eastern and western edges of the world. As we watch, gentle viewer, it is passing through the dominion of Lachek Il’sephrain, that dread and horrid god; and this prompts Truth to look worriedly over his shoulder at the man who is his hound.
“You’d best blindfold yourself,” says Truth.
Deva gives Truth a long, slow look.
“Seriously,” says Truth. “I know these waters. At least a little. You’re best to.”
“This is the reach of Il’sephrain,” says Truth. “He kills by overstimulating the visual cortex and flooding the mind with vision. Sensible people are quickly lost to madness and the brain eventually hemorrhages rather than process the data it receives.”
“I am sensible,” concedes Deva. “I will find something to shield my eyes.”
There are few things more terrifying in all the world than to sail the chaos with one’s eyes sealed shut. One never knows when some great threat will emerge to trouble the ship, and so Deva’s unhindered senses are paranoiacally alert. Each creak of the ship warns him of untold dangers; each flapping of the sails is the wings of some great bird; at each shift of the deck he imagines that the ship will heave and he, Deva, blind, will clutch fruitlessly at rope and wood, will find no balance, no purchase, and no handhold, and he will fall into the chaos and be lost.
“It’s all right, Deva,” says Truth. “We’re doing fine.”
It is raining now, a harsh cold rain that to Deva might be blood.
Truth points. He laughs. “There are stormlamps out,” he says.
The stormlamps cut through the water with their dark grey fins, and their bodies are as big as ships, and their angler’s lights are like beacons on the sea. It is said that they use these lights to terrify their prey:
“Dolphins, squids, and whales,” Truth says. “It paralyzes them, like a rabbit staring into a serpent’s jaws.”
If the woman is on deck, she will ask him, “Dolphins?” and her voice will be appalled.
“The sea is cruel,” Truth says.
But Deva, who has eaten dolphin himself a time or two, does not complain.
The stormlamps do not trouble the Anna Maria. It is not their natural prey, and the stormlamps are much concerned with propriety; or, if not propriety, then instinct, which causes them to shy from the things of men and gods. But their passage sends forth waves, and these waves rock the ship, and so each stormlamp’s passing torments further Deva’s nerves.
Suddenly, Deva swears.
“I can see them,” he says. “Dimly.”
“Then we have caught the notice of the god,” says Truth. “Have a care.”
“Rockwind to the east,” says Deva.
Truth looks over.
“Skyreef,” he argues.
“Don’t be daft,” says Deva.
Truth rubs at his cheek, thoughtfully. “I guess it could be a rockwind. We’d better tack away.”
Deva’s stomach sinks. He looks a little ill. But he does what he must. He moves along the edge of the boat, helping Truth with the sails and the boom. His hands fumble at the knots and clamps. With the blindfold sealing his eyes, he can barely make out the shapes of them, even there, in the reach of Il’sephrain.
Deva can feel Truth’s eyes on him, and he flushes.
“Just a little slow today,” Deva says.
The boom swings. The ship cuts west towards lighter waters.
“We’ll be on him soon,” says Truth.
Deva frowns and shakes his head. The play of light and motion through the blindfold that he wears has reached the point of full and normal vision; he can see Truth, he can see the ship, he can see the ropes and wood, and at the same time he knows in the depths of his brain that he cannot see these things at all.
And then he looks up, to the west and a little south, and there he sees the bulbous eye of Lachek Il’sephrain, struck upwards from the sea like the point of Neptune’s spear, and Deva cries out and shields his eyes with his forearm, and this action does no good. For all that day and many days besides his mind will swim with the pulsing azure afterimage of the eye of Il’sephrain.
“Hold the course,” cries Truth, into the wind.
And Deva holds the course.
The sea lashes the boat this way and that, and Deva sets and releases the ropes and he struggles with the wheel, and as the eye looms closer Deva begins to see things that he has never seen before. The pattern of the good ship’s maker is clear to him in the wood, and the ropes wear the marks of all three sailors’ souls; and suddenly, then, he can see in the wind and the sea and the creaking bones of the ship the course they all are driven on—
A course into the eye of Il’sephrain.
And Deva sees the futility of all his efforts, and that no seamanship can do him good; and laughing and crying with despair, he falls back and the ropes go loose and Deva stares upwards at the endless chambers of the sky, billowing and shifting above him, burning with the distant light of stars.
“Hold the course,” says Truth, and struggles with the ship; but his struggles serve him not; and the ship plunges forward and the spear of its bow goes full into the eye of Lachek Il’sephrain and the god gives forth a bubbling scream and blood stains blacken the sails of the ship and the whole lurches back and forth and the woman nearly wakes.
Later, Deva says to Truth, “It is a strange thing, isn’t it? That it would call us there only to its doom?”
Truth says, “It’s not for us to question Il’sephrain.”
“Perhaps it is its party game,” the woman says. “See how many ships it can kill before somebody loses an eye.”
“You know,” says Deva, “it’s also a strange thing, that we sailed so close, if we were not lost.”
And if the woman is on deck, then Truth will simply hang his head and blush; but if she is not, and Truth and Deva are alone, then Truth says, “I wanted to see you, Deva.”
The words hang in the air: “I wanted to see you, Deva.”
Then there is quiet for a time, as Truth stares forward with his blind white eyes and Deva works the ropes.