Iphigenia’s Story (1 of 1)

Tina is hunting Liril; through dangerous byways and sharp straight courses she hunts her.

Iphigenia knows.

“I should be dead,” she says, to Martin, that morning. Iphigenia is looking out at the sky and Martin is applying a wrench to the pipes of the stage.

Martin makes a noncommital noise. He loosens a nut. He begins to untwist the screw. “That’s not unusual,” he says.

“There’s a need to pay the price for sin,” Iphigenia says. “Otherwise the world goes out of balance. And there she is—sinning—”

“And you weren’t sacrificed properly?”

“Yeah,” Iphigenia says.

The screw comes off. The pipe separates; a numinous mist of chaos fogs out into the room. Martin reaches a long skinny arm into the pipe and begins to feel around. Something bites him, and he pulls back a finger swollen, red, and black. He sucks on the tip and thinks.

“It is an old miracle,” says Martin. “To substitute an animal for a sinner at the moment of a sacrifice. It’s so old that even humans started doing it, but originally, it was a trick of the gods.”

“It wasn’t an animal,” Iphigenia says. “It was a Cadbury bunny.”

Martin rummages around until he finds a pair of forceps. He reaches into the pipe. He pulls out a spiny eel, its long white mouth-tendrils reminiscent of a beard. He holds it up, unhappy. Then he takes it to the window and tosses it back into the sea.

“Cadbury bunnies can die for people’s sins,” Martin asserts. “It’s allowed.”

“Even mine?”

“Even Stalin’s!”

“Communism, then,” Ink says. “Communism and capitalism. They split the world in half. One of them’s screwy and the other one never worked and whole generations grew up in fear until some drunk gorgosaurus puttering around in Party HQ knocked over the USSR. Was it some kind of weird gorgosaurus metaphor? ‘Look how deep our political theory is! This side can wear Russia like a condom whose time has come and the other can kill nuns in Nicaragua to keep America safe?'”

The bunny had burned as Iphigenia fled. The wind had carried her away, and she had left the bunny behind to burn.

And it was the nature of Iphigenia to know that chocolate is not deaf to pain; that a Cadbury creature pressed into service as a messenger is not insensate or without desire; that to leave it there was wrong. But to stay would have been more wrong. So she had left the bunny there to burn in her stead.

Tina ate some of the chocolate later. Iphigenia could never figure out why that disturbed her so.

“You’re projecting your own moral failings,” the gorgosaurus says.

Ink Catherly is running from a gorgosaurus. Its footsteps shake the firmament and the fundament. Its teeth are very sharp.

It dries Martin’s mouth out a little, watching.

It makes his stomach just a little bit sick.

So he crouches, in a high and dusty place, and looks out to sea.

“There’s something out in the sea,” he says.

The sun shines on the chaos and often its burning makes a golden road across the top. Today there is a turbulence in the chaos that breaks that road into a thousand jagged parts.

The thing that is swimming towards them is larger than the tower; larger than the sun; quite possibly larger than the sea. Its tail is lashing and there are storms for that reason everywhere in all the world.

Its name is Andhaka. It was once a dream of Mrs. Schiff’s.

“Is it my fault?” Iphigenia asks.


“For being here. For . . .”

Martin is looking at her flatly.

“No,” Martin says.

“No,” says Mrs. Schiff. “No, Andhaka is mine.”

The horn of the beast has risen from the water now.

The madness in its blind red eyes is shining through the water now.

“He is coming for me,” says Mrs. Schiff. “Because I dreamt him long ago.”

They wait.

“Wait,” says Ink. “No. I’ll be good. What do you want?”

The gorgosaurus catches Ink’s leg in one hand and, without quite loosening the grip its teeth have on her arm, it jerks its head.

There is . . .

“She’s down! She’s down! Stop the show!”

That’s Sid’s voice. It’s loud and sharp and shaken.

Martin moves swiftly. He drops from his perch and catches the shutoff valve for the stage. He’s pulling it down with his weight and his feet descend onto the gears. He heaves it down the last few inches until it clicks.

It is Intermission, and a curtain falls across Ink’s fate.

The tower shines with a thousand lights; one by one, they dim. There is a potency in the air around Gibbelins’ Tower; slowly, it dissipates.

And still Andhaka comes.

Mrs. Schiff is walking out on the bridge now. She is looking at the creature now. It rises over her and there are blind and questing tendrils at its mouth. There is a wave that crashes and tears upon the tower walls and over the bridge, and only barely does Mrs. Schiff keep her grip upon the railing.

“She’ll die,” says Iphigenia.

Iphigenia’s knuckles are white.

“I liked her,” Iphigenia says. And she wills Andhaka to burn, but the beast is larger than her power.

Andhaka’s head comes down. Its mouth opens wide. It shrieks. Then it pours itself into Mrs. Schiff. It is an endless rippling tide flowing from the chaos into her soul.

Iphigenia’s eyes are closed. She does not watch.

And the broken dream that is Andhaka is now within Mrs. Schiff, twisting and turning in her mind and soul, and it is burning with madness. And Mrs. Schiff stands there, still and prim, but the edges of her soul are loose against the seething tide.

For that is what one does with broken dreams: one takes them back, and holds the madness in oneself until it turns to peace.

Such is the theory and practice of Mrs. Schiff.

Such are the things that happen, backstage at Gibbelins’ Tower.

9 thoughts on “Iphigenia’s Story (1 of 1)

  1. The stage has…valves. Like other stages have fly ropes and a pin rail, I suppose?

    Not that that’s anything like the most important part, but I keep having this image of the Gibbelins’ Tower stage being something that we would not recognize as a stage at all–something like a big steam engine with actors instead of pistons. And powered by chaos vapor instead of by steam.

  2. The Cadbury bunny substituted for Iphigenia. Oh, I totally should have seen that coming. I love it.

    (I am, to be sure, firmly of the opinion that the rescue of the original Iphigenia represents one of the oldest examples known of the retcon.)

    So does Iphigenia actually prefer independent existence and hanging around in the Tower, or is this just a sort of rest stop before she merges back into Jane?

  3. I had meant to wait a day or so before commenting again, and marshall my stock of carefulness. But this is brilliant.

    Just look at Martin’s reaction. He’s working on the machinery of the stage. He mentions Stalin, the stage play mentions Communism, setting up a relationship between foreground and background. “You’re projecting your own moral failings”, the gorgosaur in the play says. And what is Martin working on? A projection machine, apparantly.

    When I first read this, I wondered why watching the gorgosaur chase Ink made Martin’s mouth dry out, and made his stomach just a little sick, so that he didn’t want to watch. Was it the tension, or the violence? Maybe. But it doesn’t seem in character for Martin to be upset about that. He is not very tender-hearted, and he’s faced down The Monster.

    Then it struck me. There is an essential similarity between Martin and the gorgosaur in this scene. Both are sort of a Demiurge, controlling the machinery behind the scenes of a world that characters imagine to be real, and that is noticeably imperfect. Martin is backstage at the Tower; the gorgosaur is backstage of Ink’s world.

    So I’d guess that the gorgosaur is playing out some aspect of Martin’s self-image that he feels uneasy about. He plans to re-make the world, or at least part of it; he’s shown potential guilt before about changing Jane. It is very good authorial use of parallel structure to have this come out in this way.

    But there is another level to this as well, even more speculative. The problem of the Demiurge has a special relationship to the fantasy/SF genre. No other genre involves creating a more or less new setting as well as characters. The fantasy/SF author, since he or she is imperfect, stands in relation to the work as the Demiurge stands in relation to the world, with the obvious difference that characters in a fantasy work don’t have apparent free will, as they can only do what the author explicitly writes them to do, and their world does not have real existence. Despite this very important difference, the metaphor of fantasy writing as demiurgy was referred to often by James Branch Cabell, and can be seen in other terminology such as “world building” or Tolkein’s “subcreation”.

    Maybe the machine that runs the stage at the Tower actually does create more than what a fantasy author creates by writing words — it uses chaos, the raw material of creation, after all. Perhaps the characters do have some kind of choice or semi-real existence. That would explain why Sid said that the show must go on in the last intermission, and why he’s so shaken when Ink goes down in this one.

    Anyways, sorry to distract anyone from the drama around Mrs. Schiff and the revelations about Iphigenia. Those are good too :)

  4. The thing that struck me about this was the multitude of different levels of being that seemed to be acting simultaneously– nested one inside the other. Ink is backstage of her world, Martin and Iphagenia are backstage of that world. Andhaka is a created entity, but, like Ink, seems to have escaped its original existence.

    Still, I found it a bit confusing. Never have gotten a really solid grip on the regular cast, and I couldn’t quite see how the thematic paralellism between the Andhaka storyline, the Iphigenia/Martin/Misc. Players storyline and the Ink storyline was supposed to play out.

    But like the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad Ink (‘as long as they get the name right’). I liked it, even if I couldn’t quite encompass it.

    I’d been wondering for some time, and this rather underscores it— Ink is mistaken about her nature and purpose. Perhaps this is because she does not realize that she is fictional (even within the confines of the fictional universe as a whole)?

  5. ADamiani, the Andhaka storyline is related to the Iphigenia storyline through implied contrast, I think. Iphigenia, in myth, was sacrificed to change the wind, so that the Achaean fleet could sail. Here we have another event by the seashore, where a woman is going to calm a storm, but it’s not only voluntary (Mrs. Schiff is doing it of her own free will, in accordance with her theory and practice), it’s not a sacrifice — it’s an integration.

  6. MF, good point on the stage having valves: it’s one of Martin’s “unsettling inventions”.

    Also, when the stage is shut down:

    The tower shines with a thousand lights; one by one, they dim. There is a potency in the air around Gibbelins’ Tower; slowly, it dissipates.

    I have the impression that the show is not just trying to explain Jane’s world: it’s actively changing it. This may be Martin’s second attempt to remake world, but this time to Jane’s specifications.

  7. I have the impression that the show is not just trying to explain Jane’s world: it’s actively changing it. This may be Martin’s second attempt to remake world, but this time to Jane’s specifications.

    That’s certainly possible; Martin does seem to want to change things. But he’s previously said (when the Monster and the Hero were invited to the Tower) that he needed to know more first, because creation required understanding. The Tower plays were presented as a way of understanding things. I think that everyone in the Tower may primarily use them for this purpose, but that the different members of the troupe may each have their own ancillary purposes. I would guess that Martin uses them as simulations/dry runs rather than as actual Jane’s-world-changing exercises. Jane seems to write them at least in part, since they are supposed to represent what she is thinking about, so for her they would be a form of artistic expression. Saul, from a previous entry, seems to have joined in order to have a steady job and to avoid starvation. Sid, if the legend about him being rejected from the Siggort community has any relationship to his real situation, may be looking for a substitute community in which he feels he has a place, which might explain why he is so commited to their continuation.

Leave a Reply