The Ragged Things (1 of 2)

Continuing the story of Train Morgan (1, 2)

The warden Ii Ma dwells in its redoubt. It wallows in its mud.

One great hand moves, shifting its weight in the murk.

Now there is little mud in the place without recourse; the soil there is for the most part clean and dry. But where Ii Ma lives the blood and ichor that pours from it at all times soaks into the soil. When Ii Ma moves he churns the soil and the blood, creating a thick unwholesome poultice beneath it for its wounds that never heal.

Sometimes when people look at Ii Ma they go mad. Their worldview, even if it is already accustomed to the nature of the place without recourse, cannot handle the existence of such a beast.

First they surrender the boundaries to their world.

They recognize that the pitiful lies by which they seek to make the world a safe and sane and orderly place are lies. They recognize that they have no real control over their fate. They cease to pretend that discipline, diet, sleep schedule, hard work, organization, nest eggs, caution, and good company can save them. They surrender the illusion that their hairstyle, their social standing, their daily drudgery, their favorite shows, their car, their toys, or their lovers have ever been important in the greater context of the world.

Once they have done so they can accept the great bulk of Ii Ma and that it can dispose of them as it wishes.

Yet still it is there, dripping with its great black blood. Still it is their keeper, holding them there by the will of Ii Ma’s masters, and it is no proper thing.

So next they must surrender the notion that the universe is kind. Gnawing prey-fear fills them, and deep anxiety. They recognize that on some deep level the world is sick.

Here is the place where Train Morgan stopped his slide into insanity. He said, “The world is sick; but it is not necessary that the world be sick.”

There are others who do not reach this conclusion.

Looking upon Ii Ma they see a world where disease is inexorable. They recognize that each step further into corruption is irreversible. They see that the world shall never be again so great as once it was.

It shifts its bulk and they vomit, uncontrollably, or cough up blood, and think, “God is a lie.”

And if they should also surrender their purpose in that moment and fall into madness then they wake up in their beds, in the place without recourse, with the smallest portion of that insanity fallen from them. And they look towards the dawn. And they say, as they always say, “How beautiful.”

And they do not visit Ii Ma again.

The ragged things catch you up, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Train Morgan is in the line to make petition to Ii Ma.

This is what Train does on Saturdays. It is the sabbath. He is not religious but there is something in his condition that makes him cling too much to meanings.

So on Saturdays, when it is the sabbath, he does not work.

Instead he comes and he waits to make petition to Ii Ma.

The ground is soft outside Ii Ma’s redoubt. It is not mud but it is soft and it is dark and if you rub your hands in it they will have a certain ichorous sheen.

The crowd is full of the usual sorts.

“It was a mistake, of course,” one woman is saying. “I did nothing. I did not pry into secrets. I did not conduct myself inappropriately. I simply—”

She gestures in frustration.

Mr. Gauston, who like Train is a regular here, answers her with a question. “Do you think that that is virtuous?”

“Pardon?”

“Do you think,” says Mr. Gauston, “that it is more just and more right to be in the place without recourse because one has pried into a secret or conducted oneself to some inappropriate standard?”

The woman’s mouth works. She frowns.

Calmly, softly, she says, “I do not know why you are here. I do not know why anyone should be here. I do not think that anyone should be here. But I know that I am here because I stood at a soft place and I heard the breathing of the ragged things and before I could run away they snatched me up.”

“Oh, I see,” says Mr. Gauston.

“I have to go back,” the woman says. “I have a son.”

But Mr. Gauston has turned away.

So Train pushes his way through the line. He can do this because he is Train Morgan and everyone who does not respect him for his actions fears him for his strength.

He says to her, “My name is Train.”

“Cindy,” the woman says.

“It is not good to protest,” says Train Morgan. “If you protest that you do not belong here, you will anger Ii Ma. Then he will lick you and you will develop terrible sores. They will split, and you will bleed, and you will wake up and you will look towards the dawn and you will say, as you always do, ‘How beautiful.'”

“Don’t say that,” Cindy says.

She curls in on herself.

“It’s creepy that I always say that.”

“It is a sign of the futility of intent,” Train says. “How can one make any progress beyond that point if you cannot even answer the question given you by Ii Ma?”

Cindy chews on her lower lip.

“I have to try,” she says.

And Train smiles.

“I understand.”

“Why are you here?” she says. “If the intent to leave is futile?”

“I want to see my brother,” Train Morgan says.

In the sky above them there is a strange flickering, a distortion in a shape similar to that of an insect spreading its wings. There is a swirling in grey clouds and the crackling of lightning and they can hear the bulk of Ii Ma shifting in its mire as the beast looks up.

Train stares upwards, but nothing further occurs.

“He is somewhere here,” Train Morgan says. “He is somewhere in the place without recourse. But the world is very big.”

The line advances, just a bit. They shuffle forward.

“I cannot find him,” Train Morgan says.

“What did he ask you?” Cindy says.

“Who?”

“Ii Ma?”

And Train remembers walking on the street, and the breathing of the ragged things, sudden in his world, and how he ran.

How he could hear the distant heavy footsteps of the ragged things.

How they had seemed just a bit farther away, how it had seemed he was escaping, until a voice whispered in his ear the question that keeps him bound.

Isn’t the world just a little bit too big for you, Train Morgan?

It is his desire to change the world; to put his will on it; to save, if not the world, then at least a few; to find, if not an answer, than at least his brother Thomas; but: isn’t the world just a little bit too big for you, Train Morgan?

“It doesn’t matter,” Train Morgan says.

Ii Ma keeps the place without recourse.

Train Morgan stands before the warden Ii Ma.

He says, “Please.”

There is silence.

“Please,” says Train Morgan. “I do not ask for freedom. I only want to see my brother.”

And he looks up into its unforgiving eyes.

He wakes up.

He smiles eastwards towards the dawn.

It is so incredibly beautiful, so mad wack stunning gorgeous. The sun is this brilliant golden glow and there is pink and red like a fire in the sky and there is a swirling in those clouds there are like the spreading of an insect’s wings, and he cries out, in the great loud voice of Train, “Whatever happened to Ink Catherly?”

17 thoughts on “The Ragged Things (1 of 2)

  1. Comment held by the software for moderation; I’m restoring this one out of several similar variations. -Rebecca

    Too many thoughs, resorting to bullet points:

    – Ii Ma is (presumably) a god of some kind. But what on earth could this horrible thing be an answer to? Why does it steal these people? Most things in Hitherby have reasons, even the very strange/nasty ones…

    – Ii Ma has _masters_? Well sure, the damn thing’s only omnipotent, I’m sure its masters have a power level of over five billion. ;) (Wait, I seem to recall the Monster describing Martin in terms of ‘don’t fuck with this kid or he’ll sic Ii Ma on you.’ And Martin’s [i]all over[/i] increasing the net suffering of the world. Shit.)

    – Can’t argue with Train’s response to Ii Ma; it’s what any worthy action man would say. You know: he’s strong and brave and he’s got a vital overriding goal. He’s appeared in enough stories to count as a recurring character. When Hitherby becomes a movie he’ll probably be played by Bad Pitt. Are we looking at Hitherby’s first Male Lead? :p

    – ‘Ragged things’ were from one of Jane’s legends. The one where was trying to buy teeth. Only now they’re REAL. Fitting, though.

    – Insect wings in the sky. It’s obviously important, it happens twice… brain, free associate for me: wings. chrysalis. imago. butterfly. Ink Cathely… this isn’t helping.

    – So that’s the question they put to him. Funny. You’d think someone like him’d find it the easiest to answer… I wonder what would happen if he answered ‘no’, or if anyone’s ever won their freedom by betraying themselves like that.

    – So what he wants is basically impossible. Hitherby offers a bunch of possible plans when something you want too much to let go of is logically impossible: you can become a god, or break the world, or leave the world entirely… but none of them leave you entirely human at the end. What’s a guy to do?

    – The last line, the one that caused me to choke on my tongue earlier. I… have no idea. How could Ink Cathely, who is — so far as we know — a fictional character in a series of plays produced by people Train’s never heard of, mean anything to him?

    (Perhaps when he was in the real world he was a follower of an obscure webcomic called ‘Hitherby Dragons’ and now that he’s without internet access, he sometimes find himself wondering about his favorite… NO.)

    (Perhaps Ink was a real girl he knew in school– a bit strange, some obvious parent issues, but full of intersting ideas. Once day she just vanished without a trace. Do you suppose… MAYBE.)

    (Perhaps… well, he and Ink are in broadly similar dilemmas. What DOES it mean?)

  2. Too many thoughs, resorting to bullet points:

    – Ii Ma is (presumably) a god of some kind. But what on earth could this horrible thing be an answer to? Why does it steal these people? Most things in Hitherby have reasons, even the very strange/nasty ones…

    – Ii Ma has _masters_? Well sure, the damn thing’s only omnipotent, I’m sure its masters have a power level of over five billion. ;) (Wait, I seem to recall the Monster describing Martin in terms of ‘don’t fuck with this kid or he’ll sic Ii Ma on you.’ And Martin’s [i]all over[/i] increasing the net suffering of the world. Shit.)

    – Can’t argue with Train’s response to Ii Ma; it’s what any worthy action man would say. You know: he’s strong and brave and he’s got a vital overriding goal. He’s appeared in enough stories to count as a recurring character. When Hitherby becomes a movie he’ll probably be played by Bad Pitt. Are we looking at Hitherby’s first Male Lead? :p

    – ‘Ragged things’ were from one of Jane’s legends. The one where was trying to buy teeth. Only now they’re REAL. Fitting, though.

  3. – Insect wings in the sky. It’s obviously important, it happens twice… brain, free associate for me: wings. chrysalis. imago. butterfly. Ink Cathely… this isn’t helping.

    – So that’s the question they put to him. Funny. You’d think someone like him’d find it the easiest to answer… I wonder what would happen if he answered ‘no’, or if anyone’s ever won their freedom by betraying themselves like that.

  4. [The site ate my post. I assumed it was because of length and broke it into smaller pieces, but now it’s eating posts of any length.

    As Martin would say: This isn’t working.

    Anyone who’s just, ah, dying to see the rest of my rambling will have to wait in as much suspense as today’s story’s has put me in.]

  5. Whatever happened to Ink Catherly?

    HUH! I didn’t see that coming.

    Now it’s just occurred to me that both Ink and Train have common nouns for personal names rather than the more ordinary sort of thing. I have no idea what that might mean.

    This is our first solidly canonical clue that Ink is something more than just a character in a legend, yes?

  6. – The last line, the one that caused me to choke on my tongue earlier. I… have no idea. How could Ink Cathely, who is — so far as we know — a fictional character in a series of plays produced by people Train’s never heard of, mean anything to him?

    (Perhaps when he was in the real world he was a follower of an obscure webcomic called ‘Hitherby Dragons’ and now that he’s without internet access, he sometimes find himself wondering about his favorite… NO.)

    (Perhaps Ink was a real girl he knew in school– a bit strange, some obvious parent issues, but full of intersting ideas. Once day she just vanished without a trace. Do you suppose… MAYBE.)

    (Perhaps… well, he and Ink are in broadly similar dilemmas. What DOES it mean?)

  7. – So what he wants is basically impossible. Hitherby offers a bunch of possible plans when something you want too much to let go of is logically impossible: you can become a god, or break the world, or leave the world entirely… but none of them leave you entirely human at the end. What’s a guy to do?

  8. Wow.

    I was not expecting that last line, either. It’s notable not just because INK CATHERLY, but because Train just did something he supposedly isn’t supposed to do. It’s pretty clear that the whole waking up, seeing the dawn, saying “how beautiful” thing is a part of the mechanism that Ii Ma uses to control his prisoners. The fact that Train said anything besides “how beautiful” when he awoke is astounding, much less something about Ink Catherly.

  9. Commenting on Ninjacat’s comments:

    I don’t think any god in Hitherby can truly be omnipotent. Ii Ma just seems omnipotent because he has total control of his domain. It’s like that part in Sandman when Dream fights that archdemon, (whose name I forget,) and totally pwns him because they’re on the Dream server, and he’s the admin. That’s why nobody can stand up to Ii Ma in the Place Without Recourse.

    I don’t remember Ii Ma being connected to Martin. Can you point out the reference for me? In any case, I must contend that Martin isn’t for increasing the suffering in the world. He’s not about decreasing it, either. Martin’s agenda is to make suffering meaningful. I don’t think he would condone something like the Place because it steals the meaningfulness of peoples’ lives, making them into isn’ts. The “masters” referred to are almost certainly Aberrant Inc, who are in the business of making gods, using the method of occult torture.

    Insect wings in the sky: http://imago.hitherby.com/?p=147

    Perhaps the changing of the wind will free the prisoners of The Place Without Recourse, or at least change the status quo there?

  10. The spreading of the wings in the sky really does sound like an imago-allusion. When the Tower communicated with Ink, it was through a hole in the sky, wasn’t it? Maybe they are breaking through.

    The recurring wake-up-and-admire-the-dawn bit is indeed an infinite loop that has suddenly changed. Like being trapped in a recurring fiction, perhaps? In any case, Ink need not be “real” in order to affect Train; the Tower plays are powered by chaos, apparently, and may have effects in themselves.

    The ragged things appear to take to the place without recourse people in the Hitherbyverse who are not gods, or protected by them, yet have encountered the world of gods. So perhaps they preserve the general sense of normality in the Hitherbyverse; people who learn too much get taken away. But they also seem related to woglies: ragged parts of the universe that remove things.

    The Monster wanted Martin to make Ii Ma no longer an isn’t so that the Monster could name anyone and have them taken away. That seemingly doesn’t happen now, at least not reliably.

    Ii Ma has a second meaning, I think, as the feeling of being trapped in a purely nonspiritual physical world and accompanying fear of mortality. And the Buddhist interpretation of being bound to the world figures here as well: people are bound to a question that Ii Ma gives or the ragged things ask, i.e. Train wants to save his brother, and can’t give that up.

  11. I don’t understand why the universe would be so terrible you just because one thing in it can kill you if it wanted to and there’d be nothing you could do about it.

    What does it matter if it’s a bleeding bag of pus?

    but then i’m told i’m pretty cynical.

  12. I don’t have any coherent thought to utter, but I wanted my shriek of mingled shock, triumph and total confusion to be audible by readers on this page as well as by my startled and uncomprehending boyfriend in the next room.

  13. The reference to Ii Ma in connection with Martin is in The Fable of the Lamb (1 of 2). The monster says (in part) this:

    This is what Jane has. She has a creature that can breach the boundary and make gods real. He can manifest dharma. If he sends to us a killing god, there are none of us safe. Conversely, should he manifest Ii Ma, then we may imprison any man we choose, without recourse, without jurisdiction, without protection. We would simply speak a man’s name, and Ii Ma would take him away.

    …which has the interesting implication that Ii Ma and the place without recourse are both as yet isn’ts.

  14. GoldenH: “I don’t understand why the universe would be so terrible you just because one thing in it can kill you if it wanted to and there’d be nothing you could do about it.”

    I don’t think that’s quite it. The universe can be seen as the Place Without Recourse because it is certainly going to kill you and there is nothing you can do about it. Ii Ma is associated with disease, bleeding, and so on, the usual preliminaries to a non-dramatically-sudden death.

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