[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Five]
It is two minutes to midnight on June 2, 2004.
The ziggurat of Dr. Sarous has fallen. The dust is clearing. The crowd, that has been full of screaming and disparate urges, settles.
There is limited time.
Riffle scrambles up the ruins of the ziggurat.
He cries, in a great voice, “They have ascended!”
He must unify these people now, he thinks. He must turn their focus to him.
“The imago and the doctor have ascended,” he shouts, “to hunt down God and purge from him his moral decay—“
It is sickening, the sudden realization that he has miscalculated. Not the people. Not the situation. Not the ziggurat beneath his feet.
The hounds of Sarous’ kingdom, the hunters who brought the degenerate in, the body for whom Sarous’ campaign against immorality was a game of power and not a holy quest—
He had not even considered that they might have guns.
Crack the earth.
Stir the sea.
From the west there comes an outpouring of good to make all things right.
June, Thursday 3, 2004 – Cronos: Earlier, earlier, earlier.
So Cronos came down. He looked at a pool of water in the deeps that swelled with the fire given by the sky. And in that pool the earth strained to make a nymph, so that the water rippled and splashed; but between the pulses of that labor, the water stilled, and for the first time Cronos saw his own face.
“I am rugged in the nose,” he said, “and wild in the eyes, and angry at the fate of the unworthy things that are bound below.”
“It is so,” said the earth.
“I am their avenger,” Cronos said. “I am Cronos.”
“Then come deeper,” said the earth.
The earth called a gathering of titans. Cronos walked deep into the world. And the hollowness of Ge called out to them through all the chambers of her, “If you will obey me, we will answer this vile outrage of your father, and return the siggorts and the woglies to the land.”
The room grew chill with fear.
“But to strike at our father,” Rhea said, “is not correct.”
The attention of the earth turned to Rhea. It looked into her. It said: “Have you fallen, Rhea, into your father’s sin?”
“We may not oppose him,” said Rhea. “He would jerk the chains that bind us and we would dance away into great pain. We have no voice in the world of our father. We have no mechanism for defiance. And if we should crack the sky— oh, mother, if we should crack the sky—“
And here her voice was near to breaking.
“Castrate him,” said the earth, with calm brutality. “Sever from him that quality that I need to engender life. Then what will it matter if the sky has broken or Heaven knows no sway?”
Rhea, horrified, shook her head.
“It is not correct,” said Oceanos.
He was a man of water. His shape washed about. At times he would fill the cavern with water and with salt and then recede into his form. The words of him were water too.
“You fear this too?” asked Ge.
“If it is not correct,” said Oceanos, in his washing voice, “then it will not happen. How may I implement an action that will not happen? The concept is a nonpareil of futility.”
“We are all bound by Necessity,” said Coeus. “In all this world only our father the heavens is free.”
“He will cast us out as unworthy,” said Hyperion.
“There is no hope,” Oceanos confirmed.
The cave was very dark.
“Mother,” Cronos said, “do you ask us this in vain? Do you ask for the impossible and the incorrect?”
But the words fell in emptiness into the chasms of the world.
They left no ripples and the silence pulled at Cronos’ heart.
It tugged forth words from him: “I will do this deed.”
Joy rose in the earth. The earth rejoiced. The chasms of her resounded with song, such that all across the world there rose an alleluia. And the deer turned their heads to listen and the hummingbirds paused in flight and the worms that ground inevitably through the soil shivered with that song and even the sky took note and joy in it for that the world was pleased.
And to the woglies and the siggorts in their hell Ge said:
My children, o my loves!”
But they did not hear.
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 two minutes after midnight on June 3, 2004.
A piece of stone has stuck itself through Minister Jof’s eye.
He is shivering.
He is sweating.
He does not know whether to try to attract the attention of a nurse or orderly or paramedic or surgeon. He wants to, but a sense of foreboding fills him. It occurs to him that the combination in one discipline of medicine and moral governance threatens the integrity of them both.
He is terrified but he is not in as much pain as he would have expected.
Perhaps that is the shock. Perhaps it is the peculiarly airy composition of the stone. He does not know.
He arches his back in a great shudder and goes still.
It is the Latter Days of the Law.
The Buddha’s answer is fading.
It cannot stop the suffering of the world.
It is three hours after midnight on June 3, 2004.
A confusion of stickbugs swarms down.
They stand at the edge of the path.
They are tall. They are thin. They are horrible, marvelous, and strange.
They look down over the edge at where the girl has fallen.
They are not even paying attention to Dr. Sarous. They would let him pass in peace; save for momentum, which is not so kind.
“Hey,” says Dr. Sarous.
He is slipping.
There is a confusion of stickbugs and he is slipping.
“Hey,” he says.
Then he is grasping the general of the stickbugs in what would be the most marvelous act of courage if it were intentional; he is grasping the general, and he is swinging him out over the edge, and they fall.
The knife of the legend of Mr. Kong
Reflects his answer:
“We must try to be good.”
June, Thursday 3, 2004 – Cronos: The earth took Cronos away from his brothers and his sisters to a secret place.
There the rock swelled with the fire of the sky and birthed grey flint in the shape of a sickle, and the sickle’s head spanned the space between two mountains, and it whispered, “I will cut. Take me to your hand and I will cut. Take me to your hand, o my love.”
And Cronos stared up at it and said, “So vast.”
“Then be vaster,” said the earth.
So Cronos made himself into a giant and he stood at the boundary of the whole world and the sea and he looked down and he saw that it was good. The surf crashed against his feet and the sky brushed against his shoulders and the great mountain-spanning sickle fit neatly in his hand.
And the sky felt a tickle of foreboding.
“What do you there?” asked the voice. “For I had not thought you capable of planning evil, o my son.”
But Cronos lifted his right foot from the land and stood between the ocean and the sky, his weight outside the boundaries of the world, and he said, “I am not doing anything.”
There are no deeds beyond the boundaries of the world; so this was so.
And Cronos made himself a space between the worlds and crafted himself a guard of horn to be the sickle’s hilt and waited there for the sky to descend upon the earth.
That night the sky sank low upon the world and murmured words of love and fires sparked everywhere across the grass.
And the sickle whispered to Cronos the secret of its magic and Cronos understood.
He stepped into the world and sound.
That even the least of these may know joy: for even the woglies and the siggorts in their Hell, and for all the rest of a bad lot besides: for even the great evils, and the little horrors, and the twisted failed dreamers like Riffle, like Dr. Sarous, like Minister Jof: he stepped into the world.
In Uri’s Kingdom, nothing happened that was not appropriate. This was the law.
Cronos said, “To serve a corrupt regime is not correct.“
And people always fight the things they love.
The Island of the Centipede
And he ripped the sky with the sickle; and the genitals of his father fell into the sea; and from this act, and in due season, rose the anakim, the erinyes, the incandoi, and the melomids.