Siggort (V/V)

[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 angers.

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,
you know,

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.

She flushes.

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.

Oh.

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.

14 thoughts on “Siggort (V/V)

  1. “A useless redundancy”, eh? That suggests some interesting things about exactly what siggorts are.

    And the sea does finally say to Sid, “Max loved you”. I like that.

    And of course Red Mary brought Max back on the strength of his connection to Meredith. I assume that happened after the end of this. So what happens to Sid…? Oh, the suspense.

  2. I’m not yet capable of formulating a coherent response to this, so I’m just going to stand here and make little Keanu Reeves “whoa” noises for a while.

  3. 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.

    A clever bit of humor in the middle of the sadness.
    -Eric

  4. “And if he is not, then I shall fight him and hurt him and hurt myself forever.”

    Tara disagreed with the first part of Sid’s reply; I’ll disagree with the second. “People always fight the things they love” is a very partial truth, and owes what truth it has to a crucial ambiguity about the meaning of “fight” and “love”. What Sid despairingly describes — love as hurting the other and oneself — is more like the kind of “love” that abusers try to inculcate. Of course, Sid has every reason to be in a bad state.

    A question for the more Biblically or Tanahkically literate than I; which prophet saw wheels within wheels a la Sid’s form in this history?

  5. Ezekiel, from the looks of it

    Ezekiel 1:15-21 (NIV)

    15 As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces.
    16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel.
    17 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went.
    18 Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

    19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose.
    20 Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
    21 When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

  6. It’s interesting that Sid seems to be currently experiencing a much greater purity of siggortness than usual.

    The nature of this state seems to put a different spin on the vivisection thing. Reminds me a bit of the djinn from Tim Powers’ book Declare, whose thoughts were macroscopic events.

    And it seems suitably…chiastic, that in a way, the strife between Sid and Max has brought Sid to a situation very like that which brought his trouble with Max to a head. And the literary structure fits with the hints of biblical imagery.
    -Eric

  7. RIch: My suspicion is that the kind of love and hurting that Sid describes is what siggorts are. Hence the love-piercing as a “useless redundancy”.

  8. It certainly seems as though anything that crosses the mind of a siggort is likely to be shredded, and that they have a fierce and questing interest in the world. And this seems like a literal representation of the damage done to Sid and Max’s relationship by the knowledge of the nature of siggorts (except it’s probably the other way around).

    Also, I suspect it says something about the hold Hitherby Dragons has on me, that when I saw an old Sesame Street song I Want a Monster to Be My Friend, the first thing that crossed my mind was not the intended innocent meaning, or either of the two easiest metaphorical meanings, but rather the Hitherby monster of the shiny tie. And the song has remained creepy ever since.

  9. My suspicion is that the kind of love and hurting that Sid describes is what siggorts are. Hence the love-piercing as a “useless redundancy”.

    I hope not. There’s a number of textual cues I could go through to argue that this isn’t the essence of siggorts — Sid is a very unusual siggort, for one — but that isn’t really the point, since Rebecca could write this any way she wants. What I wouldn’t think is right about the idea is that it turns a stage into an essence.

    In the area of Hitherby entities being metaphors for real-world types, or strategies for dealing with suffering, there are three main cases I can think of of people who think that love must primarily involve hurting people. One of them is abusers; Sid clearly isn’t a monster. One of them might be abused people who fear that they in turn might become abusers, but Sid doesn’t fit that case either. Not only does he not have a history of abuse; his relationship with Max and actions with regard to him really are not abusive. Siggorts vivisect innocently, and that doesn’t fit.

    So the main comparison that I tend to see for Sid is the adolescent lover. Ninjacrat said that this was very Romeo and Juliet. Yes, it is.

    But people grow out of that (assuming that they live through it). Hitherby does have a certain theme of arrested development — all those gods, like Jane and Martin, who remain outwardly children even as they accumulate years of experience and an adult understanding — but they aren’t *essences* of childhood.

    Does that make any sense?

  10. It certainly seems as though anything that crosses the mind of a siggort is likely to be shredded, and that they have a fierce and questing interest in the world.

    There was a comparison with scientists that someone made before, which I think is interesting. Scientists sort of love what they study, and tend to see the world reductionistically, and romantics complain that they destroy the romance of things by analyzing them.

  11. I can see Sid very clearly right now, and I wish I could express it visually, but I don’t have the drawing skill.

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