[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Four]
In the weary kingdoms beneath the world there is no sun and there is no moon. The rivers run chuckling and dark. The bugs thrive everywhere. In every direction they stick forth their legs. Some surfaces are barren and dry. Thick slime covers the rest.
From the worms there rises Minister Jof. From nothing, he becomes.
The passion of his birth torments him. He casts about for purpose. He sees the other worms. They are wrapped in shells of blindness and self-contemplation.
He conceives his purpose.
He shatters the shells around their minds. He awakens them. He affixes them with little tags on which he records the details of their lives and teaches them the language of the world.
“From this lofty height,” come his brass-bound words, “I will train you to have selves.”
Crack the earth.
Stir the sea.
From the west there comes an outpouring of good to make all things right.
Max sets out in his catamaran to bring this virtue to an end.
He’s owned his crime but he can’t make it right.
His crime is a poison.
It is the Latter Days of the Law.
The Buddha’s answer is fading.
It cannot stop the suffering of the world.
The knife of the legend of Mr. Kong
Reflects his answer:
“We must try to be good.”
The Island of the Centipede
“To enable your becoming,” says Minister Jof, “we must have measures.”
The worms look at him.
“We divide the substance of the world into the tellurean and the empyrean,” lectures Minister Jof. “Good rises. Dross descends. In this fashion we transform the bitterest truths into a pure and noble substance. One in three of you—“
Here he pauses. He contemplates.
“One in three, I have decided this, shall be the dross. The rest may ascend further towards humanity. Now order yourselves on your present achievements, least to best.”
They seethe in the chaos of the nematodes.
“You hesitate,” says Jof. “And naturally so. You are prey to the limits of your purpose and your vision. Your minds are small and given to the weaker sentiments. That is why you must rely upon my judgment and disregard your own. That is why I am obligated by our natures to sever you into parts.”
His choice of words distresses them.
But severing us, they seem to say, will only make more of us to cull!
“Impudence!” roars Minister Jof.
He stomps his foot.
Salt sifts down from the ceiling.
The worms go still.
Into the room, drawn by the noise, there staggers a girl. She’s a teenager, really, covered in clods of dirt from where she shimmied through a thin crack into the crust of the earth. She’s carrying a backpack several years too young for her.
“Hello?” she says.
Minister Jof’s eyes fall on her.
“See?” he says.
It is his natural assumption that she has evolved, under his ministrations, from a worm and into human form.
“Hands,” he says. “Feet. A thinking brain—“
Here he hesitates. He coughs. He is unwilling to immediately extend this judgment to another being.
“—or at least one capable of mimicking the higher functions of our thoughts. Look, you, worms! Here is what I expect you to become!”
The worms turn. It is the strangest thing. They turn. They look at the girl. They do not look with their eyes as they have no eyes. They look at her with their grayish circle-marked heads.
Bloody hell, they seem to think. Bloody hell!
There goes the curve.
June, Wednesday 2, 2004 – Cronos: In the darkness Cronos strove.
His task was back-breaking. Heavier than Atlas’ burden was the storm beneath the world. Yet Cronos strove, alone and helpless to do otherwise, while his father laughed and his son reigned over the world.
One day when it seemed to Cronos that his strength would finally give out, Demeter came down to join Cronos in the darkness. She made a sacred ritual of shushing, going, shh! and hush! though Zeus, of course, could choose to know.
She studied him for a while. Then, at her bidding, the roots of the plants came down through all the darkness and wove into the crust to lighten Cronos’ burden.
Later Poseidon chose to hold back the weight of the storm with all the pressure of the seas.
Hades, too, and Hestia, and Hera, and even Ophion. Ophion came to coil upon his chest and softly drip its venom in his eye, and Cronos smiled, and Cronos smiled, and he cried out through his cracked dry lips his joy: o my love.
One day as Cronos struggled Zeus spoke to him in dreams. Zeus said, “Why do you choose this destiny, o father?”
And Cronos said: “Dharma moves.”
“Hee,” laughed cloud-shouldered Zeus, king of all the gods.
“My name is Ink—” says the girl.
“I am Jof, Minister to the Evolution of the Worms,” interrupts Jof. “I am humble; ‘Your Eminence’ will suffice.”
The girl blinks at him.
‘Your Eminence’ will suffice, mimes one of the worms; or, perhaps, it just wriggles.
The girl laughs.
The room goes still.
Dross, thinks Minister Jof, with a sudden, overwhelming passion. Frivolous, unregenerate dross! Here is a worm that shall not see human form.
His foot lifts up. He stomps. It writhes.
“You see how it is,” he explains to the other worms, “for those too lazy or incompetent to strive.”
And to drive the point home, he leans down. He peers at its tag through his magnifying glass. He studies its performance number. “A 12—“
How very awkward it is,
In the weary kingdoms far beneath the world.
- Tune in TOMORROW for the next exciting history of Ink Catherly: