[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Two]
There is a house improbably poised above the mouth of Sukaynah.
Sukaynah gnashes and chomps.
Above the mouth, which is five times as wide as the house is long, there are the rock walls that arise from Sukaynah. From the walls project branches, as from a tree. On some of these branches there sits the house.
Cross-legged in front of the house, sitting on a tree, and looking very sulky indeed, there is the werewolf Tep.
He is wearing jeans and a shirt.
He is young, because he is always young, because he regenerates when hurt.
A fig newton on a fishing hook hits him on the head.
He tears it from the hook.
“You’re not Ned,” he says.
Savagely, he eats the cookie. Well, the cookie-like object. It’s more than just a cookie; fig newtons are fruit and cake.
Not long after, the entire region begins to thrash.
A fifteen-year-old girl falls on Tep.
She knocks him down. Savagely, his head swells. Savagely, his eyes roll back.
“Pardon,” says the girl. She sits up, on his stomach. She is wrapped in a fine membrane, like a mummy’s cloths, which she efficiently begins to shred. Underneath she wears overalls and a blouse. She looks around. Then she stands up. She looks down at Tep.
“Are you God?” she asks.
“Gr,” he says, by way of being a werewolf instead.
Crack the earth.
Stir the sea.
From the west comes an outpouring of virtue to make all things right.
The Island of the Centipede
The girl gets to her feet.
“My name’s Ink,” she says. “But everyone calls me the imago. It’s ’cause I’m covered in intangible bugs.”
Tep sniffs the air.
He can’t smell any bugs, but since they’re intangible, he can’t dispute their presence either.
Ink scrubs shreds of membrane out of her hair.
“Go away,” Tep says.
“You’re not Ned,” Tep says.
“He’s coming back,” says Tep. “Then we’ll fight. I’ll tear his throat out!”
“That’s mean!” says Ink.
Ink walks towards the house.
“That’s Abel’s house,” says Tep. “You can’t go in.”
“Oh,” Ink says.
Ink scurries to the window. She looks in with hands cupped between the glass and her eyes.
“But he’s got a journal,” she says. “And bones!”
“He’s a little sick,” admits Tep.
Tep stands next to Ink. Ink points in. “See, his skull’s totally fallen off his spinal column. A man can’t breathe, like that.”
“He’s fine,” says Tep.
Tep looks sullen.
“A body don’t need to breathe,” he says, after the fashion that a perpetually regenerating werewolf might. “Or have flesh.”
“Fair point,” Ink agrees. “Anyway, it’s all right if I go in. I’m the imago.”
“No,” says Tep.
He positions himself sternly before the door.
Very reasonably, Ink says, “I have to find whomever’s on the throne of the world and kill him. How can I do that if I’m not allowed to go where I please?”
“It’s rude,” says Tep.
“Going in just because Ned’s not here,” Tep says. “That’s like finding somebody’s feet laying around and stealing their shoes.”
Ink pops the window glass out of its frame with her elbow and, as it falls to the floor, squirms in.
“Damn it!” says Tep.
Completely unable to figure out what to do, he goes in after her.
The Tower of the Gibbelins
by Abel Clay
It being unlikely that I shall ever return myself to world and sound, owing to my indisposition and the difficulty of the trail, & wishing as I do to leave some record of this extraordinary journey to those who will follow me, herewith I assemble my various notes and hold forth the history of how I came to this unlikely occupation.
March, Wednesday 16, 1887 I made the acquaintance of Bernard, a well-met gentleman who spoke exuberantly of the chaos extending westwards from California & wherewith fashion one might apprehend it & his most peculiar claim that in its navigation a man might prevent the recurring abuses practiced upon the innocents of the world. I fear that I laughed at his words and took him a fool but I am Certain now that he shall be more well known even than Mr. Tackitt and held to greater regard in history than Mr. Cleveland and his gang of thieves.
October, Friday 5, 1888 my Emma took ill & rapidly wasted & soon followed Lily, Charles & my good neighbor Hezekiah, whereupon I first recognized the tyrannous Nature of that Lord that heretofore I had esteemed. Ruined with grief I decried Him in chapel but He offered no response & echoed hollowly from the ceilings whereupon I found myself desolate.
“I’m sorry,” says Tep.
He’s looking around at the walls. He’s very apologetic and flapping his hands. Then he looks at the bones of Mr. Clay.
“Grr,” he growls low.
Then, mercurially, he switches back to apologetic. “I’m sorry. She fell in.”
He touches Mr. Clay on the shoulder, causing the bones to fall apart.
“It’s all right,” says Ink.
She’s reading Abel’s journal.
“I think he wanted to kill God too,” she says. “But maybe it was a different God.”
“Only one God,” says Tep.
Ink chews on the end of Mr. Clay’s pen. “You say that, but you’re not the one who has to cope with the consequences of linguistic imprecision.”
“Out!” says Tep.
He hurries her out. She doesn’t protest because she’s busy reading.
“Nobody disturbs Mr. Clay until Ned gets back,” Tep says, “no matter what falls.”
From the west comes a sound: Whump!
The house, Tep, and Ink slide slowly and majestically into Sukaynah’s maw.
Tep folds his arms.
Tep looks stoic.
“I didn’t do it!” Ink protests.
Sukaynah swallows. Down the throat they go; and
“Oh, hey,” says Ink, pointing.
“Oh,” says Tep.
“Is that Ned?”
“. . . think so,” says Tep. “His skull, anyways.”
There’s a pause.
“Dyslexic agnostics are so lucky,” says Ink.