[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Two]
“I think that God lives at the center of the world,” says the girl.
She is sitting on the head of a monstrously oversized warbish lavelwod, a horror bound under a tower in the sea of chaos to the west of the world, and her hand is brushing gently against the surface of the sea.
“I think that he’s at the heart of the world like the seed’s at the heart of a pearl. That it surrounds him so that in every direction he may look out and see the world; and that the crust is there so that he cannot see too clearly the suffering that he works with his existence.”
The warbish lavelwod breathes: ho-ha, ho-ha.
“So that’s why I need you,” says the girl. “Not to go up and eat the sun, but to go down and devour God.”
“That’s all very well,” says the warbish lavelwod, “but I am not sure that we have been properly introduced.”
Crack the earth.
Stir the sea.
From the west comes an outpouring of virtue to make all things right.
The Island of the Centipede
“My name is Ink Catherly,” she says. “But everybody calls me the imago. ‘Cause i’m-a-go in’ to kill whomever’s on the throne of this bloody ol’ world, you see.”
“I see,” says Sukaynah.
“And you’re Sukaynah?”
Ink’s hand is pink against the surface of the chaos. It is causing ripples to be. But now a sea change comes to it; and she gives a great gasp and stretches back; and the substance of Ink becomes history.
June, Tuesday 1, 2004 – Sukaynah: Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Sukaynah.
She loved the storms.
When it rained she would run out into them and play.
If there were a purpose to Sukaynah, it would have been to rush through the world into gathering storms and then take joy in them.
But this is a purpose that she did not understand.
One day Sukaynah broke a promise.
It wasn’t much. Just a little thing. But it made her ashamed.
It rained that day, and she couldn’t face the rain.
The fairies of the clouds and the dragons of the storm called to her, but Sukaynah would not come.
She curled up in her room.
She would not hear them.
And one of the truggumps that sometimes grew in the hay told her, “So make a promise that you won’t break.”
She drew on the strength in her.
“I promise that I’ll make the sun go away forever,” she said, in the face of those storms.
She became something horrible.
She became something great and terrible, a warbish lavelwod, and the skin of her was mottled and the teeth of her were sharp.
“Would you take me down below the sea?” Ink asks. “And crack for me the surface of the world?”
“If I were free?” Sukaynah says.
“The currents would sweep you away,” Sukaynah says. “Then if you remained with me, we would crash into the crust of the world and hurt our heads very badly; and if I made it through, you would not.”
“That’s one thing,” says Ink, “and this is another.”
“But—” Sukaynah is frustrated. “We would find lava. And possibly some kind of magnetic thingie. Like iron or something.”
“You mustn’t be so afraid of the world,” Ink says. And points out, “You’re a gigantic horror, you know. It’s more scared of you than you are of it.”
Then something in her snaps. Ink’s enthusiasm reaches her.
“Sure,” she says. “Sure, I’d do that.”
June, Tuesday 1, 2004: Sukaynah – She chased the setting sun, across the world from the east to the west, chased it out into the sea that lies beyond world and sound; and there, on a small bit of rock, she closed her eyes to sleep;
And while she slept the gibbelins chained her down beneath the sea and built a tower on her face.
If this were not enough, they fed her on no food more good than human flesh, great gobbets of it, raw, until she would rather have choked than eat another bite. But eat she did.
And if that were not enough, they went away.
They left her there to starve. And she cried out to the Heavens that she would forgive even the flesh, if someone would just feed her in that way again.
It was a lie.
What has a lavelwod to do with such forgiveness?
The bonds on Sukaynah weaken.
They strain beneath her strength.
Something is different, though the nature of it is not yet clear.
Then one by one, the ropes that bind Sukaynah snap.
Sukaynah tears herself loose and there is a monstrous turbulence and a cry of terrible pain. After all of these years freedom burns like acid admixed with fire.
The tower, weakened by her earlier thrashings, caves in above her.
She maketh a whirlpool of the chaos.
June, Tuesday 1, 2004: Sukaynah – And the years passed, and Abel Clay came to the tower.
Sukaynah cried out to him.
How could she not?
She cried to him that if he would feed her on sweetness and good things that it would give her the strength she’d need to break her bonds; that she could snap them and be free and rise to eat the tower and the sun; that the gibbelins had made the rope to bind a creature outcast by the world and it would not hold a creature who knew love.
And he loved her.
He loved her, but not the whole of her.
He loved the girl who’d run to love the storms and the great gnashing maw of her and the burning eye of her and the endless warbishness of her. He loved that part of her in that rough-edged way of a man beyond the boundaries of the world;
But what man could love the part of her that yearned to eat the sun?
Ink leaves contrails in the chaos as she descends.
She thinks, as the many long limbs of Sukaynah thrash at the chaos behind her: This would be a really good excuse for being named Ink.
The lavelwod’s a bit like an octopus, after all.
Ink’s streaming behind her as she jets.
She’s leaving contrails of herself—motion lines of imago. She’s warping the chaos as it tries to warp her.
But it’s hard to reduce that to a short phrase she can use in an introduction.
And all around her she can taste the chaos.
It’s not like air. It’s like Sukaynah and Tep and Ink and thousands of years of suffering.
Ahead of them in the chaos are the first wisps of the gathering storm.
With a great loud whump Sukaynah strikes the crustline of the world.
June, Tuesday 1, 2004: Sukaynah – One day she thought, as she lay imprisoned there, that perhaps she should not devour the sun, after all.
That her inherent nature as a creature driven to destroy all human life forever and leave the world horrible and cold was why nobody loved her; or, at least, the part of her nobody in the world could love.
So she promised.
She screwed up her courage and she promised that if someone would feed her on wholesome things and the substance of the world, that she would not rise. That she would stay deep, and bring no more trouble to the world. That she would let the sun to live.
She changed that day.
A person who makes a promise that a warbish lavelwod can’t fulfill can’t be a warbish lavelwod, after all.
Again and again Sukaynah pounds against the world.
It has unleashed a fiend in her, this freedom.
It has made her a creature of mad destruction, great beyond comprehension, and determined to batter her way through the chaos-weakened shell of the world.
And her head rings and her vision blurs and there is blood to glut ten thousand sharks. It floats around her like great clouds. It piles on layers upon layers and great thunderheads and some of them are green and some of them are grey.
There is a high-pitched screaming that seems too pained to be her own and far too loud to be Ink’s.
The world shudders with repeated shocks.
Her vision flares with each bump against the ground and one, maybe two seconds later she will hear the roaring of the world.
A moment of stillness comes. She is surrounded by cacophany and mist and chaos and she thinks, like a pleased child, is this mine?
Did I make this?
Everything changes when she breaks through.
June, Tuesday 1, 2004: Sukaynah – There’s nothing in the rules that says that just because someone isn’t a warbish lavelwod, that you can’t tie them up at the bottom of the sea.
If there were, then there’d be a lot fewer people on the bottom of the sea.
Like, two, or maybe eight. Twelve at the most.
Certainly not as many as there are now.
So Sukaynah’s newest promise doesn’t free her.
In fact, you could even argue that it’s kept her bound; because not too long after that latest of her cries, Martin came to the tower, and Martin’s the kind of boy who could love a lavelwod.
Of course he could.
He’s always loved things like that, great and terrible and awful, like Sukaynah, like he wishes the monster would be.
So he fed her on sweetness and on wholesome things and he loved her and she would have loved him had it not been for the stillness that had grown in her over all these thousands of years.
And one day he tried to free her; and he cast down a gift of all sweet wholesomeness; and had she been a warbish lavelwod then the sugar in it would have set her free.
But there was nothing in his gift to free a girl who rushes laughing into the gathering of storms.
And it stung her horribly, it made her writhe, because it showed her—more than anything else could—that she’d lost herself; that she’d overextended herself; that she’d made too many promises and had forgotten what to be.
And that there wasn’t any gift she could ask for that would really set her free.
Ink drifts in darkness.
She thinks: Another really good excuse for being named Ink.
There is a pressure at her back. Chaos is pushing downwards through the crack, pouring down around her in great streams.
There is a howling wind.
Her arms and legs begin to tingle as she comes to fuller consciousness.
Ink opens her eyes.
She brushes aside her hair.
Beneath the world, as everyone knows, there is a great long emptiness; she hangs above it, tangled in the roots of the world and the limbs of Sukaynah.
And far below her,
just scarcely smaller than the world that hangs above,
there is a great and seething storm.
June, Tuesday 1, 2004: Sukaynah – People always forget that it’s impossible to keep a promise that is unnatural to you.
They twist themselves up.
They try really hard.
But the truth of a person comes out, no matter what strictures you hold it to.
We don’t know the truths of ourselves.
We’d like to, but we don’t.
We only know the edges.
One of the reasons we make promises, I think, is so that we can fill them in.
Ink’s mouth is moving.
She’s saying words that Sukaynah cannot parse because of the cognitive loudness of the beauty of the world.
They are these.
“In retrospect,” Ink says, “Looking for God under the crust of the world was probably a stupid idea.”
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