[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Four]
Once upon a time a worm had a thought.
I make my own dark judgments.
Coiling in the crust of the world, hating the dark and the soil and itself and all the other worms, it had that thought.
It fell like a hammer upon the walnut of its brain.
It was shattering. It was terrible. It split the darkness into light. The world shook. The world shone.
The cold still darkness of its mind split into great whirling clouds suffused with thought. It was a pain, it was an agony, but the worm knew it as a joy.
Such was the birth of Minister Jof.
The worm rose and took on the form of a man.
He assumed the ten refinements and the thirty-two virtues.
He dressed himself in Minister’s black.
All these things arose from the transformative power of that thought; and ever since, he has run from that thought, like a wolf from the lightning, like a cat from the spray bottle, like a worm from the shattering power that split the walnut of its brain.
In a certain place, and in a certain time, and to reward a girl for the miracle of her existence, he picks a worm and he crushes it with his heel.
It is dross.
It is a failure.
It will never evolve.
“But it had an arm,” the girl protests.
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
A chill passes through the gathered ranks of all the worms. Those that have been writhing go still; those that have been still begin, uncomfortably, to writhe.
“—there,” says Minister Jof.
He twists his foot.
“You may carry forth its karma as your reward for having hands.”
The girl tries to figure out where everything went wrong.
She’s told him that her name is Ink Catherly. That’s usually step one and it doesn’t get anything killed. She’s told him that everybody calls her the imago, which is step two. But then—
“Everyone calls me the imago,” she says. “Because—“
Minister Jof gestures peremptorily.
“That is not a proper name for a girl,” he says.
“‘The imago.’ Consider: it proudly proclaims your evolution, yet clings to the nature you held to before. It is like naming yourself ‘Book II’ or ‘No Longer An Idiot’. Are you still what you were, or are you something new? Pick one or the other. Do not wobble uselessly between them!”
“Agh! Iiyegh!” shrieks the girl, and clasps her head.
June, Wednesday 2, 2004 – Cronos: This bit’s from a little earlier, I think.
It was the end of the Titanomachy. Cronos stood alone and bereft of all his allies and his strength. Zeus made judgment on his father.
“It has come to my attention,” said the lord of all the gods, “that you carry on your back the price of imperfection. That if you should let it lay, then things shall end forever and forever and we shall all know our happy ending and be done.”
“Will you be taking up this burden, then, yourself, milord?”
Zeus made a horrible face. Really, it was impressive. The world rang with the iiyegh! of it.
“It is my judgment, rather,” said the lord of all the gods, “that you shall wear it forever.”
And Cronos laughed.
It was a horrible laugh. It was a funny laugh. It was the kind of laugh that a man laughs after his son cuts him open, throws a thunderbolt at him, casts him off the throne of the world, and now wants to sentence him to carry an impossibly heavy weight forever and ever.
“I can’t possibly do that,” Cronos said.
“If I were strong enough to carry it forever,” said Cronos, “then I would not feel the pain of it now.”
“Heh,” said Zeus.
And he sank Cronos’ body into the substance of the world and he poured molten brass and iron over his father’s legs and arms and chest to bind him to the crust with chains that would never break. He marked the space around his father with the symbols of the seasons and lay him down below the world to keep his intemperate and loving mother far at bay. He set his judgment upon the man who had wielded first the sickle of grey flint and he called this torture Time.
Ink is fretting. She’s flailing like Sailor Moon caught in the middle of her transformation sequence, only, you know, not naked, and inside her skin it isn’t all pinky rainbows.
But Minister Jof has already waved her away.
“Go,” he says, cutting over her words. “I won’t have anything to do with worms once they’ve evolved.”
“But I wasn’t a worm,” protests Ink. “I was a fictional character.”
Minister Jof smiles.
“Oh, darling child,” he says. “You must not accept as gospel the experiences you had in those times before you were yourself. By definition they are garbled. If we could understand them, if we could really understand them, we would have been ourselves already.”
“I was an investigation of the nature of the self,” Ink Catherly protests weakly.
“Naturally,” says Minister Jof. “Now, scat.”
“Damn it!” says Ink.
Ink stomps her foot. There is a squish.
The girl’s name is Ink Catherly, but everyone calls her the imago.
‘Cause small and dirty things have the power to evolve, she’ll tell you, and maybe that’s the truth.
- Tune in next week for the next thrilling installment in the series that August forgot:
RIFFLE! (BEING THE HISTORY OF INK CATHERLY AND THE RAT)