[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Five]
The darkness is great and cool and soothing.
It fills the spaces between things.
There is a great open space between each grain of sand; between the ocean and the shore; between the individuated elements of the sky.
Sid looks upon the world, and where his gaze falls, he cuts.
He has one hundred hands and the parts of him move like clockwork gears; and where he looks, he cuts.
He is in constant orbit about himself and subject to a chaos of form.
He is ringed with knives.
He is aware of the dust that was his flesh as it sifts down onto the beach. He sets the malignity of his consciousness upon the atoms of it and it flares most terribly away.
He can taste every particle of the beach.
He tongues the chaos of the sea.
He can feel without looking each little shift in the muscles of Tara as she swims away.
Everything is silent.
He cannot hear at all; and where he looks, he cuts.
He is beautiful. He shines like a fire. He is monstrous. He is terrible. The sandfleas fall still in homage to him and the sun winces and looks away.
Everything is silent, and he can feel the strange little twitches of Tara’s growing concern.
He considers killing her.
The thought draws blood. It cuts her along the arm and back. The blood hangs gleaming in little droplets along the cutting arm of Sid’s eighteenth ring.
One of the pirates has thrown his eyepatch down onto the ground. It is expanding, filling with spiritual radiance, becoming a great carpet to carry the pirates away.
Sid sees the darkness between the elements of the eyepatch. With the abstract fascination of a creature that loves patterns he follows the interlacing pattern of the chain stitch around its edge.
The wires of Sid criss-cross through the eyepatch.
Sid reflects, distantly: Flying carpets are born from our blindness.
The eyepatch turns to shreds of cloth and spirit.
Sid does not want to kill the pirates.
So he lets them leave.
Lightly the attention of his mind falls on the heaps. He begins to bleed. The great metal arcs of him drip with red.
He makes the blood to cease.
He can feel the vibration of ten million sounds. He sorts out pattern and meaning from the radiation that falls on him from the beginning of the world. He tastes the dissolution of the Buddha’s answer.
He cannot hear anything at all.
He cannot feel Max.
One groping hook seizes up a heap. The hook holds it up. It writhes but under the pressure of directed contemplation it fails at substitution. Balefully Sid instructs it: become a conception of the proximity of Max.
It squirms and bleeds away.
Sid spins faster.
He cuts down the head of Harrison Morne that hangs from the mountain at the center of Head Island. He shreds it into a cloud of flesh and fluids. It has no time to scream.
It is petty to kill one creature for another creature’s sins. But this death does not trouble him. He can see in the particulate nature of the cloud that Harrison Morne has lived a very long time in torment, and without the generosity of flesh.
He tastes a metal tang.
He tastes Max.
He tastes Max’s blood.
He tastes so very much of Max’s blood, in the ocean, to the west.
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.
Max loved you,
murmurs the sea.
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.”
Sid shears through the fortifications of the beach and scythes across Head Island like a storm.
But people always fight the things they love.
The Island of the Centipede
Strangely it is Tara’s voice that pierces the emptiness of sound.
“If I may ask—“
She has paused, beyond the range of reflex, a fair ways out to sea. She is on her back. She is looking up at Sid, and speaking, and he hears the words.
Sid says: It is a useless redundancy to pierce a siggort’s heart with love.
You thought I was a heap.
“They’re very tricky,” Tara says.
Sid becomes aware of a family of rabbits. He does not have time to save them from the murder of his thoughts. He chews on the meat of them as he moves west.
“But I meant to ask— are you okay?”
If Max is dead, says Sid, Then I shall tear asunder the fabric of this world. And if he is not, then I shall fight him and hurt him and hurt myself forever.
Tara blushes even brighter.
Sid tastes it. He seeks its meaning down in the molecules of her. She is embarrassed because normally she would criticize tearing asunder the fabric of the world; only, Siddhartha Buddha got there first, and that makes it a bit like a Christian saying, “Language!” when a neighbor curses a fig tree.
She recovers, though.
She lays on her back like an otter in the sea and she says, “People think that what the Buddha said is, escaping the torments of the skandhas is difficult. Every direction people travel, they find ignorance and desire. They mire themselves in the birth-suffering, the old-age-suffering, the sickness-and-death-suffering. Everything is finite and everything that people cling to as their answer falls apart. So people think that what the Buddha said is, it’s very difficult to find enlightenment and free yourself from the wheel of reincarnation. But it’s not. It’s very easy. Because ignorance and desire are finite too. They are transient too. Anicca. You experience them, you breathe them in, you breathe them out, and eventually they’re gone.”
Sid’s answer is disinterested and it cuts the air like the clamor of a bell.
Sid rises over a ridge.
The Good sees him.
It rises from the sea to the west and its gaze transfixes him, burns him, soaks into him even as the blades of him cut and shred the ambience of its light.
He is loved.
He is loved. He is loved. He is loved.
To the north, and west, and deep below the sea, Max dissolves; and the pieces of him flow him from his form, and his heart ceases to beat.
Sid lurches forward as if by moving somehow he could save Max; but it is too much. It is impossible. He cannot sustain.
Consciousness frays away from Sid and turns inside out and wraps around itself and blossoms into light How beautiful.