That Even the Least of These May Know Joy (XV/XVI)

[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 paramedics—

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.

“What then?”

“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!

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 he

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.

11 thoughts on “That Even the Least of These May Know Joy (XV/XVI)

  1. The ending of this one links interestingly to the beginning of The Melomid (I/II).

    Googling on “melomid” returns two kinds of pages: ones that attempt to refer to Russian artist Alex Melamid, but contain a typo; and ones on Hitherby Dragons. I guess that Rebecca has made this word up.

    Googling on “incandoi” returns only “The Melomid (I/II)”. The word seems similar to Latin “incandesco”, which means “become glowingly hot”, albeit with a Greek declension ending.

    Erinyes are beings from Greek mythology who punish lawbreakers, especially kinslayers.

    Googling on “anakim” reveals that this is another word for “nephilim”. (See Wikipedia.) On finding this out, I cried out, “Ding ding ding!”. Because of course we’ve seen nephilim before — a remnant of a remnant of them became the progenitors of the People of Salt and of the monsters.

  2. So! From these textual clues, we can guess that Round Man and Uri really ARE the same guy. I mean, I had suspected, but there you go.

    And the mysterious melomid-spawning ‘colossus’ is revealed to be… ew. I had racked my mind trying to guess why the Melomids’ origin story seemed so strange in a Hitherbyish context, but that might just have be me. It’s a personal mystery solved, at least. ;)

    And just to see if I’ve got it straight, the ages of Hitherby history are:

    Age of Uri: ‘Everything happens in the most appropriate way’

    Age of Cronos: ‘Nothing shall happen that is not the will of Cronos’

    Age of Zeus: ‘Everything happens according to its dharma’

    Age of Siddharta: ‘Everything happens according to its circumstances’

    With another to be added soon… maybe.

  3. Interesting, Ninjacrat. Do these ages recapitulate childhood developmental stages, maybe? First the newborn thinks that everything sort of magically appears when the child wants it, if the child has good parents. Then the infant realizes that parents exist, and thinks that the parents control everything. Then the toddler thinks that everything is sort of fated to go along as it has been. Then the child realizes that outside events can change things drastically.

  4. But it sounds that, after Uri (Uranous?) made his choice, everything after that was simply a redefinition of what was appropriate. Cronos redefined it to be whatever he thought best, maybe Zeus decentralized it into individual beings, and maybe Siddhartha spread it out even further, into all things that affect the individual beings. But throughout, there’s still a notion of what is good and bad, and what is joy and what is suffering.

    Based on that, I’d expect to see Siddhartha on the throne of the world, except a) that’s not in character for him, and b) it seems doubtful because his “answer is fading”, and that doesn’t sound like what happens if you’re on the throne of the world. And come to think of it, it seems as though Maya (Ge/Gaea) wanted him to be on the throne, but he declined…

    And now I’m curious about what siggorts and woglies have in common. They’re the two listed examples, possibly the only two cases, of things that are inherently inappropriate to the world. (And nothing that Cronos, Zeus, or Siddhartha have done has changed that. But Ge seemed to want it to change, so maybe she’s been the instigation behind the various upheavals.) And how do woglies and siggorts relate to isn’ts?

    My brain is melting.

    And also, rpulchasky, your formulation reminds me very much of certain profane t-shirts. ;)

  5. I don’t think that Siddhartha has an age, actually. What he did, in the Hitherby-cosmos, was to help be a boundary between ages.

    If we go by the congruence of Hitherby to normal history, the one who comes after Zeus is God. You know, the Abrahamic God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. That’s certainly who is on the throne of the world now.

    And that is apparently who Ink is going after.

  6. I’d guess that Ink’s gonna learn that NO ONE is in charge. Siddharta helped put the boot into Zeus and then vanished from the histories (leaving the great wheel of the ages wobbling and spitting sparks.)

    cariset: Everyone is just refining ‘what is appropriate’? That’s a really good damn point. So… what would be the logical next step? For Martin, or for Jane?

    Gaia is Maya? I must have missed that.

    Woglies inappropriately destroy the integrity of the universe. Siggorts… just scare everybody. :)

    Seriously, Siggorts and Woglies are the only two categories of creatures that seem to exist outside of Hitherby’s very humanistic framework of personal gods*. They both seem to predate the knowable universe. Maybe they’re just too Lovecraftian to play nicely with the world?

    Isn’ts are people too. ;)

    (*Wait. Them and the Kings of the Unforgivable Dominions. And whatever other things I’ve forgotten.)

  7. Woglies seem to be pretty well defined (ironically enough). Siggorts are terrible realizations — my guess is that siggorts have something to do with the terrible realization that some choices exclude others, and that for some creatures to exist, others have to not-exist. Siggorts are not isn’ts, though; there is nothing more real than that realization.

  8. So, what are the unexplained mysteries of Hitherby Dragons at this point.

    Ok,ok, no heart attacks, please. What are the different lines converging on and radiating from the Gibbelins Tower and the ocean of chaos?

  9. Well, they’re kind of divided into plot areas that haven’t progressed in a while, but that can re-progress whenever Rebecca feels like writing about them again — like why Train woke and said something about Ink, or what’s the next event for Liril and Micah, and so on — and into ongoing questions, like what Jane and Martin’s overall plan is.

    I would guess that we’re going to see a line of canon on each Tower player, given how much we’ve seen of Saul, Sid, Max, and Meredith. I originally thought they were stock players, but now I’d guess that at the end, we’re going to know something about each of them and how they got there.

    But I don’t know if any of the mysteries of mysterious mystery have really been explained. Even the old ones, like “What kind of entity is Martin?”, have never been formally answered.

    I once tried to predict where in Hitherby’s arc we were, and I was pretty far off — I thought that we were somehwere between 2/3 and 3/4 through, and Rebecca said a while later that we were approaching 1/2 — so I don’t know if we even know yet what all the mysteries are.

  10. The musings below likely belong elsewhere, but the comments here were the stimulus for the train of thought. I am looking backwards from the end of the posted work thus far, but nothing I say contains a spoiler for what comes after this point.

    For me, the question of what Martin is has been answered. Martin is a firewood boy, crafted along with the rest of the Firewood World by a djinn named Jenna. She did this at Bob’s insistence, for he wanted to feed a wogly. Jenna expressed her volition to rebel against the Monster through symbolically destroying the Firewood World. She and Bob gave unto it a dharma of worthlessness and of dying in suffering. They enacted this dharma through symbolic tools like LAW rockets.

    Martin was born to this dharma.

    However, does a sculpture belong to the sculptor or the stone? This dharma, was it Jenna’s to assert? Martin argues that no, it is not. That it was a gift, and it must be a gift. Martin is not very good at accepting gifts. He said no thank you, and placed the dharma in a neat pile beside the entrance to the underworld.

    Martin has done this in the Age of Siddhartha, to use Ninjacat’s terminology above. Or rather, the age of the Buddha’s answer. Even before the changing of the wind, Martin defied the circumstances of his birth. To me, this defiance defines Martin. He is the embodiment of the idea that we can be an answer unto ourselves.

    Martin claims that he is the smith that can forge isn’ts into ises, but he, the character, doesn’t. He even says it – he can’t actually change an isn’t into an is. All he can do is forge the isn’t into an is, from scratch. This is very much like what he did to himself.

    Jenna *allows* Martin to transform her into Jane, giving her as much of a hand in that as he had. In a way, more, because she chose, of her own volition, to let him give her an answer. Martin sends Sid west, forcing him to put himself into a situation where he can remake himself.

    So, what is Martin? Martin is the personification of the abstract concept of Becoming, the act of making yourself exist. Or so I believe.

    Following similar logic, what is Ii Ma? What about, the personification of the abstract concept of incompatible precepts? Or, perhaps more accurately, irreconciled precepts. He is the question that shows you that you are a contradiction. That a set of beliefs you hold or actions you have taken, when looked at together, contain a wogly.

    What then would that make Ink, named after those precepts? What about her nature makes her the imago, the final stage of a metamorphosis? The primary metamorphosis represented in Hitherby, in my eyes, is the transformation between isn’t and is. Ink was a fictional character before – clearly, an isn’t. If she is now imago, does that mean she has Martined (to verb that illustrious Smith)?

    It is appropriate that she wishes to find the one on the Throne of the World and slay him. Incompatible precepts cannot be reconciled. That is the truth of Ii Ma, and the hell of the place without recourse. Instead, they have to be made from nothing. That is Martin’s answer.

    Ink seeks to bring the world to the next stage of its metamorphosis, hopefully the imago. She cannot do that by creating, because as Martin knows, you cannot change an isn’t to be an is. She cannot change the world she wishes would exist into the world that does exist. She must instead allow the world to Martin by destroying that which holds it back.

    In short, there is one instance where the owner of a sculpture can be determined with no ambiguity: when the sculptor and the stone are one and the same. Martin embodies this instance, and Ink seeks to engender this instance.

  11. Hee! I’m not sure there’s actually a better place, as awkward as this particular place might be.

    I think you’re being too harsh on the dharma of the firewood world; or, at least, that you need to remember its origins as well as its endings. ^_^

    I think your comments on Ink and why she might need/want to kill the person on the throne of the world are insightful. I’ll no doubt throw them in the pot of things to think about when picking up the story in the future. (I have other reasons why she’s doing it, but, well, things have many reasons, after all.) Incompatible Precepts Catherly is, of course, one of my favorite characters, so I’m glad of the alternate perspective! ^_^

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