Max Sets Forth to Kill God (1 of 4)

[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Two]

The hardest part of that whole night is the show.

One quarter of Gibbelins’ Tower is a jumbled ruin. Claire’s scalp won’t stop bleeding even though she’s used a Sesame Street bandaid. Broderick is coughing and coughing because he’s allergic to disaster.

Nobody’s seen Sid, Mr. Schiff, or Rahu.

Martin says that the imago’s fallen—that when the tower started shaking, she just canted over and fell into a giant hole in the floor.

Max’s room is a wreck and his nerves are a jangle.

And amidst all this they must put on a performance of Hamlet 2: The Arrows of Fate, to be broadcast from the tower to a hypothetical audience outside the boundaries of the world.

“Why?” says Max.

Martin looks at him blankly.

“Dude,” Martin says, “haven’t you ever watched that play and said, ‘How can anyone possibly make a sequel?'”

Martin’s got a crushed pinky, which makes him substantially better off than Max in the current wounds department.

“The machinery’s barely even working!” protests Max.

Martin twists his hands into various positions, thinking. “You’re worried about Sid,” he says.


Martin’s hair is all over masonry dust.

“Then try not being all freaky about hypothetical vivisections,” Martin says. “Sometimes you’ve got to torture somebody to death. Just look at Hell, or Guantanamo, or that old riddle about whether you’d rather torture one guy to death or let everyone in the world die. It happens.”

Max stares at Martin.

Martin looks back at him.

“It’s an inevitable byproduct of adequate force,” Martin explains.

So Max goes backstage and he helps Iphigenia unclog the pipes.

Crack the earth.
Stir the sea.
From the west comes an outpouring of virtue to make all things right.

The Island of the Centipede

They dig Mr. Schiff out of the rubble a few hours after the play. He makes protesting noises because they have woken him up.

Before they find Sid or Rahu or the imago, Martin finds Max. Max is dragging a large tumbled stone out of the way of a blocked-off room.

Martin pulls himself up on a chunk of rubble. He sits there, watching Max for a minute.

“Do you trust me?” Martin says.


“Here’s the thing,” Martin says. “I kind of accidentally wiggled a tectonic plate by giving the wrong person a fig newton.”

Max stops pulling.

He rubs sweat off his forehead.

“I don’t believe you,” says Max.


Max shrugs.

Martin thinks.

“To the west,” Martin says, “the shock’s opened up a hole in the crust of the world and there’s a fountain of good rising from it.”


“I need someone to deal with it,” Martin says.

“You’d think that we could leave it be.”

“It’s difficult to improve things once they get too good,” Martin says. “An actual singularity of virtue would render fixing the world impossible.”

“Also, unnecessary.”

“Why—?” Martin says.

Then he stops himself and thinks.

“Your logic is ancillary to an inherently limited perspective,” Martin dismisses.

“So to the west there is a goodblow,” Max says, “Like God breaking forth into the world to save us all from suffering. And you want me to go stop it.”

“Yes,” Martin says. “With extreme prejudice.”


“Why not?”

“It’s ridiculous,” says Max. “It’s fighting against what we want the most.”

“I can’t make you,” Martin admits.

Max goes back to work.

“You won’t find Sid,” Martin says.

Max stops.

“He is restless,” says Martin. “And despair is forbidden to him. He throws himself against the walls of his cage and sometimes they overcome him. He is absent from these moments in which it is too much to bear. He is scuttled from the world.”

“Oh,” says Max.

Martin drops down to his feet and strolls towards away.

“Wait,” says Max.


“If I do it,” says Max, “you make Sid an is.”

“You ridiculous dolt,” says Martin.

He walks away.

Continuing from the history of Sid and Max (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 )

It is June 2, 2004.

Max wakes up and he already knows what he has to do.

He goes down to the catamaran dock.

He looks off to the dark and brooding west.

And Jane is waiting on the grass to see him off. And she is looking at him with her brow furrowed in thought, and she says, “You’re here.”

Max nods.

“Is that okay?” he says.

Little girls tend to like emanations of absolute virtue, so you can see why he asked.

Jane laughs. “Noooo,” she says. “I don’t mean here, at the dock. I mean, here.”

She looks at him.

“You had bad things in your closet. Then Sid chased them away. Then you were King of the playground. Then you played basketball.”

She is being careful with these words. She is slow and deliberate, even with the easy words and simple things.

“Then you were brave and saved Mr. McGruder. Then you loved Sid. Then you saw another siggort and talked Sid into helping Ronald Reagan become President. Then you fought a King. Then you ran away. Then you read a book and afterwards you went to the place without recourse. Then you called Sid there. Then you got out but he didn’t. Then you came here to help him put on plays. Then you shot him and now you want to sail west.”

“Yes,” says Max.

He grins a little. “And what does that mean to you?” he asks.

“The world’s bright and spits up super beauty everywhere,” says Jane.


“And so there are things that Max. That go Max. Like you. That is what it means.”

Max grins tiredly. It’s pretty shocking to himself, that he has what it takes to grin. But he does.

“Thanks,” he says.

Jane holds out a box. It’s like a cribbage box, but bigger, with a slide-open top.

“Here,” she says.

“What is it?” Max asks.

Jane begins giggling. Max watches in perplexity.

Finally, she stammers out, “Severance pay.”

There are more giggles.

“Ah,” he says.

He takes the box. He frowns at her. But he can’t keep frowning.

She’s smiling at him so brightly that he hugs her.

Then he sails to the west.

11 thoughts on “Max Sets Forth to Kill God (1 of 4)

  1. Hmm…

    Part of what I find interesting here is the suggestion (possibly existant only in my own mind) that the questions of Ii Ma can turn the recipient into an isn’t.

    Now, this is an odd idea. It’s probably wrong. But the thing is, even if it’s wrong it’s an interesting idea, and what’s more, it seems to fit in some ways with my understanding of how the state of being an “isn’t” works.

    Even if this proves to not be true in the Hitherby narrative… it’s an interesting idea. It’s got an odd shape to it that seems somewhat unique, so I’m going to play with it for a while to see what happens.


  2. Yay, my question of a few entries back is mostly answered. Actually, two questions:

    And amidst all this they must put on a performance of Hamlet 2: The Arrows of Fate, to be broadcast from the tower to a hypothetical audience outside the boundaries of the world.

    “Hamlet 2” was posted Feb 12, 2004, so if the legends are in order and there are one per day of performance (both questionable, I know) then there’s just about room for the legends in between the start of Hitherby and “Hamlet 2” to fit into the same Hitherby-time that the current moment has traversed so far. There are about 60 entries during that time — I have to say “about”, because some of the beginning ones aren’t considered to be really part of the Hitherby canon, and I’ve lost track of which because they’ve been moved around. But not all of those are legends. If the histories occur during the day, when Jane and Martin do research using the Lens, perhaps, and there’s a legend each night, then there’s room to fit them between when the group arrived at the Tower (beginning of April 2004, maybe?) and June 1, 2004.

    And the legend after “Hamlet 2” is “In the Shadow of the Centipede”, check it out! Now we get to re-read the old legends in order looking for things that point to the current story continuity. If we want to.

    The second question answered was my thought experiment about how maybe commenters count as being in the Tower since they evidently see all the plays. But since within the Hitherby universe they are broadcast to an audience outside the world, that’s evidently where we are according to Jane & Co.

    Getting back to this entry, I wonder exactly why Martin thinks Max is a ridiculous dolt? I mean, there are lots of possible reasons. Because Max can make Sid real just be reconciling with him, which shouldn’t be that hard because their whole dispute isn’t based on any fundamental conflict? Because Sid really is real already? Because there’s nothing that anyone can do from outside to answer Sid’s question for him? Because Sid would be really dangerous if he were real? Because Max is once again, despite his previous experience, making plans that involve Sid’s existential status for what he thinks is Sid’s own good without actually consulting Sid? I’d guess the last one.

  3. huh, you know.. i think Jane might be the only christian in the tower. Or at least the only one who acts like it..


  4. ‘You ridiculous[ly easily manipulated] dolt’?

    Somebody help out this ridculous dolt and tell me how the Imago can be participating (…attending) in these events, when I could have sworn that it was created as a result of events from 2006: the lens breaking & etc. The realisation that our ‘real time’ and their ‘real time’ have come unhinged has thrown me for a loop.

  5. I was wondering why Martin was so unpleasant, but then I remembered her is the architect of suffering, and he’s going to make everyone suffer for their own good!

    I think this is the first time we’ve seen the reason why they’re in the Gibbelin’s Tower – it’s at the edge of the chaos, and it’s a nice tall transitter. Did they know about Sukaynah before they moved in, or was that part of the attraction?

    Rebecca: Will we ever see the day when they moved in?

  6. Does being high on Virtue give you the munchies? In moderation, of course! It wouldn’t be right that Virtue made you Gluttoneous!

  7. Ninjacrat, maybe the imago was created earlier, got lost, and then turned up again? Or maybe the entries that don’t have internal dates really are just not in any order.

    I think that someone determined could figure it out. There are all sorts of internal cues as to where each entry is in the timeline — for the first chapter, for instance, Martin would always be turning up with a bit of incidental description, like a ribbon tied around his finger or a bloody shirt or something, that indicated that he’d just done something in another history entry before or after that one on the entry list.

    I’m not sure if I can really figure it out, though. The interest in consistency conflicts with the ability to make something out of inconsistency, and at some point, I get more interested in writing a poem or something than in completing a timeline.

    Grame, that brings up an interesting question. Why do the Tower players care about broadcasting their works? Rebecca has written about why she cares to “broadcast” her works rather than just write them in private and publish a finished book later; it seems to be a combination of a) daily deadline encourages activity (though maybe I imagined that one), b) comments from us encourage her to write (I distinctly remember that one), and c) money, of course. Though of course Rebecca can correct me if I misrepresented by going from memory.

    But none of those motives seem to apply to the Tower players. They can’t get any comments back from their broadcasted-to audience. They don’t need money, and couldn’t get any in any case. And they don’t seem to need deadline pressure; the internal drive of the main figures seems quite strong (c.f., no stopping the show for this, or for Andhaka.) So why do they care?

  8. Remember what Prester Gee said in Maundy Thursday:

    Ii Ma will ask me a question I cannot answer.

    He will take me away from the world to a place without recourse.

    And nothing I do, and nothing I have ever done, will matter again.

    If that isn’t becoming an isn’t, I don’t know what is.

    Incidentally, remember what Ii Ma’s question was to Sid: “How can you forgive him?” Rahu has given Sid acceptance — but not forgiveness.

  9. Is it just me, or does Martin seem to be the tiresome sort for whom revolution is an end in itself? “Inherently limited persepective” my foot.

    I don’t recall seeing anything of that box or what’s in it later on.

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