Now if you do not already know how the road to New Jerusalem failed, and how Hank Makeway took up the commission of a new one, then you may wish to travel here.
And if you do not recall how it came to pass that he brought the wilds of Ms. Tate’s gums to truth, then you may look here as well.
For some time Hank has laboured to excise impurities from Ms. Tate’s gums; but now at last the gingiva are clean. . . .
After this labor follows a grinding work of more precision—tailored, in ways that the firing of the gums is not, to the toothway that he hopes to build.
Hank walks along the paths, coring the gums as he goes. He draws forth molecule-thin needles of pink substance. He studies the data locked in the samples, considering whether the meaning of it is something true or false. In some places, the gums provide data that accurately fits into the map of Makeway’s world: they state a correct quality of some region accessible along a hypothetical toothway path or pose a geological tautology. In other cases his sample suggests a fallacy: interpreted via the smith’s art, it tells him that “Sivolia is sheepfoam-rich” or “Lauemford and New Jerusalem are the same.” In these cases he must either mark that path with the gray flag that means “unusable” or grind away the information lodged in the material until it is no longer distinguishable as truth or falsehood—no longer data, but rather storage space or noise.
Inch by inch he clarifies for Kailani’s gums the layout of the world.
Alive with the power of Milk-Guzzler and Stress-Grinder, and holding in themselves a map of the world more accurate and consistent with every passing day, the gingiva begin to experience a queer, primeval consciousness. They begin to resonate with a sense of expectation as Hank Makeway draws up a sample to regard, and then pleasure or disappointment when he confirms or denies its truth. The self-awareness of the gums begins to taint the data: Hank draws up samples that tell him, rather than pure geographic data, “Hank Makeway loves me” or “I am good” or “I am a road to Far Sivolia.”
One day he draws up three self-referential samples in a row, followed by, “Hank Makeway is a smite of children’s truth.” He laughs at this and shakes his head.
He says, “Enough of that.”
He leads his team to the right edge of Kailani’s mouth.
Wine-Drinker and Drought-Ender shy. They dance. They pull against the reins and rip their harness free from Makeway’s hands.
He sets himself in place and he gives them a stare.
Fearsome and wild, the horses glare back. Their white eyes meet his level gaze.
Hank says, “Here.”
They do not run. They do not move. They simply glare.
Hank’s world shivers. Echoes of the horses’ fear play through his mind, carried by the horses’ eyes.
He sets them aside.
“Here,” he says again, and then, gently, “or forsake your consecrated purpose on this earth.”
Drought-Ender’s terror rips through Hank’s mind like a piercing light and drives him to his knees, and following it comes the wave of Wine-Drinker’s madness. Incomplete and painful images pour through Hank’s thoughts until his ego buckles and his world spins. He can find no surcease or compass in the storm. He is lost. He is helpless. He thinks he has fallen. Later he is certain of it. In a moment of perception he realizes he is curled around his center, that the gums are wet with tears.
It is beyond Hank’s power to compel them. He is only a smith, only a man. They are the horses of the gums.
But Sandra of the Rise has made them well.
Hank feels a change in the world as the horses succumb to purpose and offer themselves at the altar of transformation. He feels the waves of heat as they drill down into the gums and become something different from what they’ve been. For a moment they are candles burning on the roof and road. Then they are shrinking, spinning fires. Finally they widen themselves, dissolve themselves, and transubstantiate themselves into the substance of the gums.
The madness recedes.
Dry and tired, Hank drags himself up.
He croaks, the words hurting his throat, “Well done.”
Drought-Ender and Wine-Drinker are become the beacons of the toothway and its cartographers. They will open the toothway when Kailani’s teeth come in and they will hold Kailani’s gums to the stringency of the true map of the world.
but we are not eternal; nor tireless; so we shall leave the matter of the first tooth, however reluctantly, until tomorrow.