Whoever Can Bear the Weight

I will tell you a story.

I will tell you this story because it is time that you heard this story. I will tell you this story because it is true. I will tell you this story because you have wondered for some time, dear child, who it is that stands upon the throne of all this world.

And stand he does: stands, with the forces of the world constellating around him, stands with the fates of all the world like strings tied to the rough reins of his right hand.

He stands with his palm thrust out, and from that hand a mandala of energy once grew; and seven more formed about it; and each touched the others, each orbited the others; each was the center of the pattern, and among them were faces, wings, fires, jade, and gold.

He flung back his head.

He laughed.

There was a great wind before the throne in Heaven and the seraphim cried out. The sun and stars and the planets froze in their procession and the whole world shook.

Thus it was when the monster first ascended to the throne—

Unless, of course, that was somebody else entirely.

The sands dripped through the hourglass
And the hour of the wolf closed in at last
And life is sweet and the sun is high
But the flesh and the fire are born to die

Let us speak of time.

You don’t need time to become perfect. Time’s just the expression of it.

The maze of us is self-unraveling.

The corridors of our paths to perfection contain the germ of our walking them; and so we can say that seen from four-dimensional space we are a rose that navigates itself, a compass that finds itself, a perfect thing under the veils of its imperfection.

That we suffer is a trick of perception. It is a grain of distilled falsehood caught inside our eyes. If we could pull ourselves away from Time we would see that there is only beauty. Our beauty is hiding from us in the past, in the future, in the flow of things: looking at a single moment, life might seem atrocity instead, but pull back your gaze and even atrocity becomes life

But wait.

Laughing in the fields, sure; taking joy in the unraveling of the riddles of our lives, certainly; the already perfect takes joy in the discovery of that perfection, in the slow shedding of the scales from its eyes that kept it from seeing the perfection of itself, oh, dharma moves, and all is beautiful—

But wait.

The Elysian fields come necessarily to us all, and drifting in that joy we are ourselves, and complete, perfected—

Wait, I say. This cannot stand.

Listen.

I tell you that to drift in endless joy and solitary perfection cannot stand. It cannot be the end.

It is missing half the story, to be perfected and alone.

There’s a girl in the sun
And there’s girls in the sea
And in Elm Hill’s cages
There’s a girl like me

To live, to really live, we must give over our perfection to the fallibility of the earth. We must crack it. We must break it, dear child, our terrible perfection. We must incarnate again in flesh. We must redeem the mortal clay.

We who are fire must wake the meat to knowing joy.

We have nothing. To be perfect is to have nothing: it is all entangled. So the only thing that we may sacrifice in this is the perfection and wholeness of ourselves.

We are perfect, and yet we must stagger back towards imperfection. We are perfect, yet we must break our godhood on the altering of skin.

To this agenda we have nothing else to give, save our own selves.

We must feast the woglies with them. We must make feast to the woglies with them. And it never ends. It never has. I fear it never shall.

We pour ourselves into the flesh and the flesh keeps failing to wake.

God is that which gives itself away, to the last portion, and gets nothing in return. And in Eleusis we become like God and break ourselves upon the rock that is the world, give out our truths as grain in mortal sacrifice, and yet it does not rise.

Where are the people who were meant to be arising from the ground?

Where is our companionship in the stone?

We laugh at those who long to live forever, for that was the first thing given; what we need is the power to save others from their pain.

It is so still.

The world, it is so terribly, terribly, still.

And yet it yearns to wake.

[The Frog and the Thorn – INTERLUDE]


The nature of the Third Kingdom of the world says, We may change.

We may change.

And in the last days of the Third Kingdom, when the wind fell from the sails of that change, when the wave that was that change broke finally against the meat-nature of the flesh, the woglies were all that remained to us of hope.

This is how things are? they laughed.

This is unfixable, unalterable, this is a place without recourse? they laughed.

And they ate into our dilemma like our hopelessness was their meat, and they said, see? It was not so.

They are the crack in every prison.

They are an uncertainty that moves.

And as for Zeus, he took the treasure of the world and he slipped away; slipped out from under the burden of the throne, he let it fall like a great weight from his back. And the seraphim who’d besieged him, crying out, “Holy, holy, holy,” as if in war, burst in the doors, but Olympus was empty of its gods; there was only the scent of olives, and an olive branch left behind, in honor of the seraphim’s great Lord.

Zeus the son of burden-bearing Cronos took the power of the world and gave it to a woman whom he thought could bear its weight;

And then he went away.

See also The Tip of the Iceberg, An Unclean Legacy, and The Summoning of the King.

Ink Incurable (VIII/XVI)

[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Four]

One by one the girl climbs the steps.

The orderlies behind her push her up. A crowd has gathered deep below.

That she is sick is clear. The crowd chants it: “Sick. Sick. Sick.”

They call her perverse. They call her degenerate. They chant of her sickness. But you do not need to trust the crowd.

The nurses have confirmed it. They were mercenary nurses, five to a drachma, and four of them hadn’t even bothered to look—

“All the signs of moral decay,” they’d said, and bobbed their heads—

But the fifth had taken her vitals, looked into her mouth, and listened to her heart, and she had agreed with the greatest vehemence of them all.

The girl is sick. That much is clear. The peak of Sarous’ ziggurat draws near.

“I wish I knew whether I were to offer a denial or a bribe,” says the girl.

Something small and black scuttles into the cracks of the stone of the steps and it is gone.

“It’s too late, innit?” says one orderly. “Now you’ve been properly diagnosed.”

“It can’t be too late! I haven’t done anything immoral!”

The orderlies behind her push her up.

Sulks the girl, “Yet.”

The leftmost orderly’s heard it all before. He’s heard it all, right down to that last “Yet.” He’s a ziggurat orderly. He knows his business, right down to the bloody nub. Yet somehow he’s kept a good heart through it all. Somehow he’s good enough to love her for being human even as he shoves her upwards towards her doom.

So he says, “You oughtn’t worry so much about what to say or what not to say, what you do or what you don’t do, you.”

“Eh?” says the girl.

“Well, what you say,” he says, “see, what you say? What you do? Those’d be symptoms, wouldn’t they? Just symptoms? Patient reporting? And a real doctor goes by signs.”

June, Wednesday 2, 2004 – Rhea: In the Golden Age that preceded the Titanomachy nothing happened that was not correct.

Such was the imprint of this time upon our world that even the richest, even the wisest, and even the greatest of us still look back with wistful sorrow and remember it. The world was in harmony. Morality dominated in every portion. And no man or woman could rightly say that the chains of Necessity upon them were a burden. The behaviors that those chains compelled were virtuous, honorable, and good; save from one.

In all the world only the titan Cronos was free.

He ruled nobly and justly, one must assume, except for that incident with Hestia, and one day Rhea approached him with Demeter in her arms.

She was tentative and hesitant.

“Lo,” said Rhea. “The Great Goddess.”

Cronos judged Demeter.

“She, like Hestia, is food,” Cronos said.

“Not every goddess is food,” Rhea said. “Demeter is a marvel of the world.”

“Is she?”

“She is the goddess of the harvest,” said Rhea. “Of the bounty of the earth. Of grain and green and growing things—“

Cronos had a wry look.

Rhea cleared her throat. “Observe her nose,” Rhea said.

“She has a nose,” allowed Cronos. He lifted Demeter from Rhea’s arms with great gentleness. He looked at her. “And she is the harvest. But she is also a princess.”

The Great Goddess wriggled, and offered, “Goo?”

“To put it another way,” Cronos said, “‘an asset to my throne.'”

He bit off Demeter’s nose. He swallowed it. Then he ate her head to stop her wailing. He bit the rest of her in half. He swallowed her. His stomach grew bloated on this flesh.

He ate Hera too. And Hades. And Poseidon. He ate them all when their presentation came.

Rhea’s life became a horror to her.

Once she had loved him. She no longer recognized in him the person that she’d loved. Once she had lain with him gladly, and found in the straining of their sex an emptiness to cultivate with child. Now she resented their union. She lay with him only because she was his wife. She resented his seed inside her womb.

The chains of Necessity bound her.

She could not do otherwise than serve him. She could rage against him. She could question him. She could hurt him in small, petty ways. But this was the Golden Age, the Age we wistfully speak of, when things were better, and she could not defy him.

To defy him would not have been correct.

In all the world only one creature was free, and it was not she.

Riffle watches from the crowd. From behind his left shoulder he hears a voice.

“Found you, sir,” the creature says.

Riffle glances sideways.

It’s Smith, this one. Looks like a webwork of cracks in the air. It had been a webwork of cracks in the air, once, before it evolved and joined his crew.

“The girl’s name is Ink Catherly,” Riffle says. “But everyone calls her the imago. Just another sign of moral degeneracy, the nurses’ll tell you, and maybe that’s the truth.”

“Yes, sir.”

Pushed by the rightmost orderly, the girl takes another step upwards towards her doom.

Smith clears its— well, it clears its something, anyway. “Will you be coming back, sir?”

“I’m done with scaffolding,” Riffle says.

“Oh.”

“It just didn’t seem the same once she left,” Riffle says. “Seemed—off. Futile, somehow. If you follow.”

Smith scrapes one toe-like crack along the ground.

“It seemed to me like maybe she had something after all. Potential. She could save us all, Smith. She could be a legitimate God-damn savior, and me, me, pulling on her strings.”

Ink stumbles up another step.

“Looks like she’s going to get kilt, sir,” Smith reports.

“You always kill saviors,” Riffle says.

“Oh.”

“Wouldn’t be people, now, would we, if we didn’t kill our saviors? Just rats and cracks and worms and stuff, if we weren’t at least evolved enough for that.

“Will you be needing us labor, sir?”

“No,” Riffle says. “No, but thank you. You may tell the others. I don’t need you any more.”

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.

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.”

The Island of the Centipede

Ink reaches the top step. She stumbles to a halt. In front of her there’s an altar with a blackened trench for blood. On the other side of it there’s Sarous, the doctor of the deeps.

Sarous looks to the orderlies. He says, “Condition?”

“Wounded hand,” says the rightmost orderly. “Bit of a bloody throat. Claims she’s going to kill whomever’s on the throne of the world and doesn’t quite get just how that’s morally depraved.”

“Hyperrachia,” says Sarous. “No doubt.”

Ink licks her lips. She looks up. She says, “What are you going to do to me?”

Sarous looks to her.

He says, “You understand, my dear, that to murder someone, much less God, cannot possibly be correct?”

This is a bit of a toughie.

Ink hesitates.

“That it is, perhaps, the definition of immorality?”

“Won’t make excuses,” says Ink.

She’s noticing just how dark the altar is.

She adds, “Will you?”

“You’re sick,” the doctor says.

  • Tune in TOMORROW for the next exciting history in this sixteen-part series:
    INK, UNLEECHED!

“The Lord of Misrule” – From the Journals of Ink Catherly (V/XVI)

June, Wednesday 2, 2004 – Cronos: When Riffle’s sword touched my neck, I saw a bit more of Cronos’ history. It was from earlier than before, again. The Titanomachy hadn’t happened yet. Zeus was free but the others were still engulleted.

It made me angry.

I scolded it.

I said, No, world! I do not need the history of Cronos right now. If anything, I need the history of Riffle!

This was actually a mistake on my part. I should have blamed myself because it is, after all, my very own power that gave me, perversely, this insight. But blaming oneself is very hard. I’m not sure it’s something people can do.

So I scolded, instead, the world.

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.

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.”

The Island of the Centipede

Cronos slouched on the throne of the world.

He was contemplating a sickle. It was a really big flint sickle and it was grey.

Zeus entered.

“Son,” said Cronos. O my love.

That was the weird thing about Cronos. When you’d hear him talk, the world would echo with that in the background: O my love.

Anyway.

“Son,” said Cronos.

“Dad.”

It was an awkward moment.

I thought I’d eaten you, but maybe it was a rock.

I had that thought once, on Floor 93-GA. It was the suckiest eating contest ever.

“You’ve been eating everybody,” said Zeus. “Poseidon and Hera and stuff.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I did not ask to rule a Golden Age,” Cronos said. “Rather I wished to dominate a freakish carnival of horrors. A masque of the imperfect. A world of people with the bones of their pain jutting out so that you can hardly talk to them without saying, ‘O my love, why are you broken?'”

Zeus said, “I understand.”

I don’t know much about Zeus. There’s a bias in the history—a sense of focus to it. Zeus is important, but it’s Cronos whom this history is about, down here in the crust of the world. So I don’t know much about Zeus or what was going on in his head, but I think that he was telling the truth.

He had that Martin sound, all serious and like it’s perfectly natural, of course, who wouldn’t prefer to rule a world wracked with sorrow and pain and full of monsters?

And Cronos smiled, like it was a joy to hear.

Zeus continued.

“I am going to cut your stomach open,” said Zeus, “and spill out my brothers and my sisters, and a rock.”

“And if I forbid it?”

“In this world,” said Zeus, “we bring forth children in sorrow.”

Cronos had trouble finding an answer to that one.

“It’s the rule,” Zeus explained.

This would appear to be one of the Man Laws, like in those Miller Lite commercials. You poke it, you own it. We bring forth children in sorrow. Entropy always increases. Don’t shoot food. Leave the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil alone. Castrating your father and taking over his throne is a punishable offense. Sharing is caring.

Stuff like that.

Not even Cronos can really argue with that kind of rule; but at the same time, he didn’t rise and hand Zeus the sickle.

Zeus waited.

“Who are you, my son?” Cronos asked.

“I’m the Lord of Misrule,” said Zeus. “I’m the answer to your prayers. I’m the one who’ll bring this whole world down around your ears.”

Cronos’ heart fluttered in his chest. It’s weird that he’d never taken it out—you’d think that he would have, since there’s nothing so dangerous as a heart. But he hadn’t.

“Show me,” he said, and his voice was desperate with hope.

Your authority has no foundation,” said Zeus, “for you have done a wicked thing.

It was electric. It cut through the air. But it didn’t impress Cronos.

“More,” Cronos said.

The dog that carries a serpent on his back is vile; the tiger that carries a dog, we call a saint.

Cronos mulled that one over for a while.

Then he shook his head.

He stood.

The sky gathered behind his shoulders and the stars burned bright with Uri’s fires and the world grew heavy as a woman carrying her child and he said, “You are not equal to this task.”

Dread was the nimbus of Cronos at that moment. The power of him held Zeus still. Cronos was Ge’s son in that moment, strong as the earth, unsurpassable, indestructible, horned and terrible, and free—as only one creature in all the world could be—to act accordant to his desires.

Ink’s hand hurts quite a bit more than her neck. The sword has cut her hand deeply. It is still, and thank Heaven for the pathetic muscles of the little rat, no more than skin-deep in her neck.

But it’s the blood that runs down her neck that scares her.

She finds herself wondering, “Is it possible to die?”

She will probably have a choice in the matter. She is the imago and she has been to Hell and back and it seems likely that she would have a choice. But it is also probable that something would be lost. If nothing else, her sense of her own humanity. At worst, the value of the sacrifice of her life, with which she is hoping to carry past any final obstacles that stand between Ink Catherly and God.

I think that I will describe the terror that was Cronos in that moment like this.

We are in ourselves the actual and the ideal. And the actual is all that moves, all that acts, all that speaks. We cannot really demonstrate that there is more: but there must be more, or we are in Hell.

Where is the fire of our intention?

Where does it move upon the earth?

It does not, and in that respect Earth is very much like Hell, and yet, and yet, and yet the difference is that we are here. Hell is to live without experiencing our life. Earth is life knowing our own presence. It is life, flush with our ideals.

But Cronos knew a thing that I did not know.

He wore it like a blaze.

It was the terror of the flesh, the power of the actual, the aura of the substance of him. That with his hands and with his fingers he could move, and Zeus could not stop him from moving; that that substance was raw, unconstrained by Zeus’ volition or the limits that Zeus would rather have put on it, and capable in its action of dragging Zeus’ ideals down.

Those dirty fingernails could break Zeus’ virtue. Those bloody hands could kill him. Those great arms and those great teeth could put a stop to the ideals of the lord of all the gods.

Flesh has that power.

It obliterated the thoughts of Zeus. It held him still.

But Zeus had trained for this.

He had spent years in empty meditation and practice and taught his flesh to act when his mind could not.

The world swam with the blinding rapture of Cronos and it drove away the thoughts of Zeus and the will of Zeus and the fire of him flickered and went dim beneath the wind of all that power, and the flesh of Zeus stepped forward and took the sickle in his hand and cut his father’s stomach open to bring his brothers and sisters into the world.

It seemed impossible to Zeus that it did not hurt Zeus; that the opening of the wound in his father’s stomach brought Zeus no pain, burnt none of Zeus’ nerves; that he could see and hear and smell the wound but he could not feel it.

It seemed a thing that should wound, instead, the all of world and sound.

Out fell the stone; and Hades and Poisedon; and Hera and Demeter and Hestia; and great snaky loops of titantestine too; and Cronos looked down at his stomach and Zeus could hardly see his face through the blindingness of the reality of that moment when he cut his father open at the throne of all the world.

Cronos staggered. The storm shifted at his back. It loomed upon the world and in that moment it seemed very possible that the world would end and there would only be Heaven and Hell forever after, amen—

Somehow, Cronos held it back.

Somehow, Cronos balanced himself and held aloft the burden of all pains while his innards snaked themselves back in.

The fingernails on his hand were cracked and dirty. His hair was wild. He reached for his son with hands soaked in everybody’s blood.

Cloud-shouldered Zeus, the son of Cronos, born in the fullness of Tyranny to bring justice to the world, seized five babies and a stone and fled.

  • Saturday:
    THE HISTORY OF THE SWORD

Ink Immeasurable (I/XVI)

[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Four]

Previous histories of Ink Catherly:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

In the weary kingdoms beneath the world there is no sun and there is no moon. The rivers run chuckling and dark. The bugs thrive everywhere. In every direction they stick forth their legs. Some surfaces are barren and dry. Thick slime covers the rest.

Dharma moves.

From the worms there rises Minister Jof. From nothing, he becomes.

The passion of his birth torments him. He casts about for purpose. He sees the other worms. They are wrapped in shells of blindness and self-contemplation.

He smiles.

He conceives his purpose.

He shatters the shells around their minds. He awakens them. He affixes them with little tags on which he records the details of their lives and teaches them the language of the world.

“From this lofty height,” come his brass-bound words, “I will train you to have selves.”

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.

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.”

The Island of the Centipede

“To enable your becoming,” says Minister Jof, “we must have measures.”

The worms look at him.

“We divide the substance of the world into the tellurean and the empyrean,” lectures Minister Jof. “Good rises. Dross descends. In this fashion we transform the bitterest truths into a pure and noble substance. One in three of you—“

Here he pauses. He contemplates.

He nods.

“One in three, I have decided this, shall be the dross. The rest may ascend further towards humanity. Now order yourselves on your present achievements, least to best.”

They seethe in the chaos of the nematodes.

“You hesitate,” says Jof. “And naturally so. You are prey to the limits of your purpose and your vision. Your minds are small and given to the weaker sentiments. That is why you must rely upon my judgment and disregard your own. That is why I am obligated by our natures to sever you into parts.”

His choice of words distresses them.

They writhe.

But severing us, they seem to say, will only make more of us to cull!

“Impudence!” roars Minister Jof.

He stomps his foot.

Salt sifts down from the ceiling.

The worms go still.

Into the room, drawn by the noise, there staggers a girl. She’s a teenager, really, covered in clods of dirt from where she shimmied through a thin crack into the crust of the earth. She’s carrying a backpack several years too young for her.

“Hello?” she says.

Minister Jof’s eyes fall on her.

“See?” he says.

It is his natural assumption that she has evolved, under his ministrations, from a worm and into human form.

“Hands,” he says. “Feet. A thinking brain—“

Here he hesitates. He coughs. He is unwilling to immediately extend this judgment to another being.

“—or at least one capable of mimicking the higher functions of our thoughts. Look, you, worms! Here is what I expect you to become!”

The worms turn. It is the strangest thing. They turn. They look at the girl. They do not look with their eyes as they have no eyes. They look at her with their grayish circle-marked heads.

Bloody hell, they seem to think. Bloody hell!

There goes the curve.

June, Wednesday 2, 2004 – Cronos: In the darkness Cronos strove.

His task was back-breaking. Heavier than Atlas’ burden was the storm beneath the world. Yet Cronos strove, alone and helpless to do otherwise, while his father laughed and his son reigned over the world.

One day when it seemed to Cronos that his strength would finally give out, Demeter came down to join Cronos in the darkness. She made a sacred ritual of shushing, going, shh! and hush! though Zeus, of course, could choose to know.

She studied him for a while. Then, at her bidding, the roots of the plants came down through all the darkness and wove into the crust to lighten Cronos’ burden.

Later Poseidon chose to hold back the weight of the storm with all the pressure of the seas.

Hades, too, and Hestia, and Hera, and even Ophion. Ophion came to coil upon his chest and softly drip its venom in his eye, and Cronos smiled, and Cronos smiled, and he cried out through his cracked dry lips his joy: o my love.

One day as Cronos struggled Zeus spoke to him in dreams. Zeus said, “Why do you choose this destiny, o father?”

And Cronos said: “Dharma moves.”

“Hee,” laughed cloud-shouldered Zeus, king of all the gods.

Dharma moves.

“My name is Ink—” says the girl.

“I am Jof, Minister to the Evolution of the Worms,” interrupts Jof. “I am humble; ‘Your Eminence’ will suffice.”

The girl blinks at him.

‘Your Eminence’ will suffice, mimes one of the worms; or, perhaps, it just wriggles.

The girl laughs.

The room goes still.

Dross, thinks Minister Jof, with a sudden, overwhelming passion. Frivolous, unregenerate dross! Here is a worm that shall not see human form.

His foot lifts up. He stomps. It writhes.

“You see how it is,” he explains to the other worms, “for those too lazy or incompetent to strive.”

And to drive the point home, he leans down. He peers at its tag through his magnifying glass. He studies its performance number. “A 12—“

He pauses.

How very awkward it is,

That 12,

In the weary kingdoms far beneath the world.

  • Tune in TOMORROW for the next exciting history of Ink Catherly:
    INK UNTANNABLE!

(Boedromion 16: Legend, History, History) Three Short Bits

Desirable Properties for God’s Will

God’s will should be serially uncorrelated. That means that knowing God’s will at any given time should not provide information on God’s will at any other time. Otherwise it becomes possible to game God’s will and acquire moral authority without moral quality.

God’s will should not repeat within the lifespan of the universe. If God’s will repeats sooner than that then everyone will point and laugh at God.

“That God,” they will say. “So regressive!”

He will be separating the land from the waters, again, and smashing Jericho. The people of Jericho will say, “That was unnecessary.”

Then God will make the sun stand still and the moon stay put.

Everybody will wonder why but in fact it is so that Joshua can kill the enemies of the children of Israel.

You can see how unfortunate that would be.

In the set of cases that are materially identical, God’s will should be unbiased and statistically uniform. If this is not so then God’s will is a material consideration intrinsic to the perceivable universe.

People won’t say, “That’s God’s will!”

Instead, they’ll say, “That’s gravity. It’s attracting atoms to one another in a biased fashion.”

Or “that’s not design. That’s evolution!”

Or even “that’s not God’s will. That’s the hypnotic sexual power of Elvis’ gyrating hips!”

So that’s why it is important for God’s will to be uniform and unbiased.

The simplest mechanism for achieving serially uncorrelated, non-repeating, uniform mysterious ways in which God’s will can move is for that will to be random.

However, genuinely random will, omniscience, and purpose cannot coexist. Combining them creates a contradiction. Contradictions give rise to woglies. Woglies are anathema to doctrine, with the arguable exception of certain nontraditional theories regarding Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Since this is the case the most practical mechanism for God’s will is a pseudorandom sequence generated through non-arithmetic methods. It is best to seed such a sequence with a comparatively unpredictable quantity such as the Holy Spirit. This provides an acceptable quantity of mystery under most traditional tests.

The Wheel

Chaos Woman knows the future.

If she didn’t know the future, she couldn’t be Chaos Woman. She might make a mistake and then she wouldn’t be Chaos Woman any more. She might fail to consistently achieve the goals she is seeking at any given time!

So she makes sure always to know which future each of her actions will create.

What Chaos Woman doesn’t know is which futures are good and which futures are bad.

Chaos Woman gropes towards this idea.

Sometimes Round Man does something that she does not like. Then she corrects him! That is how she develops her sense of right and wrong—by correcting others.

But she has not fully developed it yet.

Sometimes Chaos Woman talks to the serpent. The serpent doesn’t exist yet. The serpent’s part of the future. The serpent’s something that she’ll turn into, later, if she learns what good and evil are.

She can talk to it because she knows what the future is and she knows what it’d say if she asked.

“It seems to me,” says Chaos Woman, “that if I learn good and evil, that there will be endless suffering. That’s why I turn into a snake and then get killed by my grandchildren.”

“It’s better, knowing,” says the serpent.

“It seems to me,” says Chaos Woman, “that I’ll decide the world is evil. Why would I want to learn how to judge things if I’m not going to like them afterwards?”

“It’s the judgment itself that’s good,” says the serpent.

“No, it’s not.”

The serpent hesitates. It wants to exist, which means saying something to convince Chaos Woman to learn about good and evil, but at the same time, the only thing it can say is the thing it said in its own past. It feels very deprotagonized by the mechanism of communication.

“No, it’s not,” admits the serpent. “Judgment sucks. But I’m glad I have it.”

“You like living under leaves and griping?”

“I love it,” says the serpent. It says this with honest passion. It is not sarcasm or bitterness.

It is better to suffer, the serpent thinks, than to know futures and pasts but have no functional opinion on them.

So that’s why Chaos Woman doesn’t peep when Round Man saves the world.

She could stop it. She could say, “Don’t make things appropriate, Round Man! You’ll cause all kinds of suffering.”

And he wouldn’t.

But she doesn’t!

Changed by Knowledge

“I’ve been changed by knowledge,” says Leucippus.

It’s an interlude. They’ve paused in their travels. He’s kneeling on the sea.

He’s bathing his face.

He’s scrubbing his eyes with the salt.

They’re stinging, but that’s okay, because he won’t have them for much longer.

“I can’t help but see things as they really are,” Leucippus says. “And that makes it very hard to be the carefree Leucippus that I consider myself to be.”

“You’re a fragile person,” says Demeter. “If the truth destroys you.”

“The thing is,” says Leucippus, “some of the fundamental ideas we need in order to be people are false. Like, being separate from everybody else. Being concrete rather than fuzzy at the edges. Being immune to external agencies of change. Things like that. So, speaking as an ordinary person who isn’t a goddess or anything, it’s hard not to be fragile.”

And Demeter smiles at him.

“You want the truth to be different,” she says.

“Can I have that?” he asks.

Leucippus and Demeter stand on the surging sea, near Delos, that island of stability on the chaos’ edge.

“Truth grows,” says Demeter, the goddess of the grain.

The Borders of the World (IV/IV)

“It is 1560 years before the common era,” says Demeter.

She doesn’t use English, and she doesn’t use our measures of time.

But that’s what she says, as she looks out over the sea.

“It is 1560 years before the common era, and Leto is here, on the water. And she is walking out. And she has Artemis with her, and a guide.”

This is a history of Leucippus. He did not want to be blind. He liked his sight, though it really did give him more trouble than it was worth.

“He is telling her the stories of the things he sees,” Demeter says. “And they are wrong.”

“Most people are,” says Leucippus.

“Hm?” Demeter says.

“Most people are wrong about what they see,” Leucippus says. “We all live in blind man’s country.”

Demeter smiles at him.

It’s the kind of smile that makes half of his stomach lurch with love and the other with stark, raving fear.

But enough about that.

1560 years before the common era, Hera is constructing a cerycur to trouble Leto!

She’s having to concentrate very hard and work very carefully, because the Kouretes on Mt. Solmissos are making a terrible racket.

“Darn it!” Hera says, as she fumbles a crucial connection.

Hera tosses the cerycur down hard. It skitters towards the bedroom door. Just then, Zeus slams opens the door, his face bright with enthusiasm. His form is perfect and illustrates exactly how amazing a sport tennis would be if gods played it with doors instead of rackets. The cerycur smashes into the wall and shatters, and it’s fifteen-love for Zeus!

The pieces of the cerycur trickle down the wall.

In the stillness that follows, Hera sighs.

“Hello, my beautiful darling wife!” carols Zeus. Then he looks down at the broken cerycur.

“Huh,” says Zeus.

“Was that deliberate?” Hera asks levelly.

“It was too delicate,” says Zeus, airily. “You can’t blame me if your machines can’t stand up to my divine glory.”

Hera looks at Zeus.

Zeus grins at her. Then, very carefully, he waggles his eyebrows.

“I wanted to trouble Leto,” explains Hera. “If she bears you a son, I have a lot to lose.”

“That’s not her fault,” Zeus says, “is it?”

“The actual responsibility appears to have vanished into some sort of mysterious void of blame,” says Hera. “Perhaps there was a fault-devouring titan.”

Zeus thinks a moment.

“You could send a giant snake to trouble them,” he suggests.

“You’re not helping,” says Hera.

“They’re very fierce. They bite. I like to trouble people with giant snakes.”

Hera eyes Zeus.

Zeus grins at her. Then, very carefully, he waggles his eyebrows.

“Pfuh,” says Hera, in amused disgust.

Then, because her concentration is just a little bit askew, she sends a giant snake down to trouble Leto.

At that time and at that moment, Leto is in the grove of Ortygia, where she has just now brought Chibi-Artemis forth into the world.

“That was easier than I expected,” Leto says.

She is standing on a tree branch. With the aid of a clever sling and a dexterous midwife, Leto has given birth. She is feeling quite relieved and pleased with herself, but is a little concerned because she hasn’t expressed a placenta.

Chibi-Artemis is tugging on Leto’s sleeve.

“Mommy?” she asks.

Leto leans down. Then, because Chibi-Artemis is the cutest goddess of hunting and killing things ever, Leto sweeps up her daughter and hugs her tightly.

“Oh,” says Leto. “Oh. I am so happy you are born.”

Chibi-Artemis wriggles and kicks her feet until Leto puts her down. Then she thinks about how to explain what she wants to say. Finally, she just comes out with it.

“You’re still pregnant, Mommy. I got a brother!”

“Oh, man,” says Leto, realizing instantly that Chibi-Artemis is right.

She pushes, hopefully. But it is not working out for her.

“But it’s okay,” says Chibi-Artemis. “We can go somewhere where there isn’t land or sea.”

That’s when the giant snake attacks.

More than two hundred years later, Demeter asks Leucippus, “Would you guide me to Never?”

“Why me?”

It’s the wrong thing to say. He knows as he says it that it’s the wrong thing to say. So he stops. He holds up his hand, frantically. He waits in silence for a moment.

Then he says, “I will.”

And, in a choked voice, he asks, “But must I be blind?”

Demeter is hardly listening to him. She is looking up beyond the world at Never. She says, “If there is no hope in all the world, then the world must change. Must it not?”

Sweating, Leucippus squeezes his eyes tight shut and covers them with his forearm.

“There is no place on any map,” Demeter says. “Not to the west, not to the north, not to the east, not to the south. There is no place on any map that holds the answer to my need. So we must go to an impossible place.”

Her words sit in the air. They are still and heavy, like the lump in Leucippus’ stomach.

He nods.

It is like ice to him. It is a line of madness cut across the world of his mind. The system of the world has finite scope and its boundaries have never closed.

He stands at the crossroads. He tries to see without opening his eyes. He flails for bearings and points in a random direction with his free remaining arm.

“South, then,” he says. “Towards Crete.”

“Towards Crete.”

Her voice is rich and deep and as his panic recedes Leucippus can see her even though his eyes are closed.

The presence of Demeter is cutting through the darkness.

He has a bone-deep awareness of her. She is powerful. She is glorious. The madness seethes in her like lightning. The sorrow twists and turns in her mind like a torn black sail in the winter wind. She is holding it all in, but he can see it; that, and the bounty of her.

And something more beautiful besides.

“There is something beautiful,” he says.

Demeter’s teeth are white in the darkness.

“Something crazy mad beautiful,” he says. “Something—”

He can see it. He can hear it, in the surf, in the tide.

“That was my daughter,” says Demeter.

“And ten . . .”

Leucippus hesitates.

“Ten little meat soldiers,” he says. “Dactyls? Phalluses? Fiends?”

“Toes,” says Demeter.

Her voice is bland.

A blush spreads all the way up Leucippus’ body and almost makes him open his eyes.

“She had ten perfect toes,” says Leucippus.

He is walking now. He is moving out over the waves. But even with his eyes shut he can see too well.

He can see the waves under his feet, for she has led him out over the water.

He can see the salt in them and the terrible power to drown that is the sea’s.

He can see the seagulls as they fly above. With each new cry he can see them again.

And he can see clutched in Demeter’s heart the memory of the wonderful thing, the crazy mad beautiful thing that was her daughter to her.

And Leucippus is crying.

He is crying because in the face of this vision he is surrendering his need for sight.

And more than two hundred years before, Artemis—already older, already better, already fading into her perfection—leads Leto out over the waves, with a blind Kourete before them.

And she says, “Mother, what is that?”

Leto is holding something out to her.

It is wooden and round, and it has a handle. It shimmers, just a bit, from the polishing of the wood. It rattles in Leto’s hand.

“It’s a present,” says Leto. “For shooting the giant snake.”

“Pfuh,” says Artemis, dismissively. “Giant snakes.”

There have only been two occasions in the long history of the world when a giant snake has functioned as an antagonist worthy of the name.

This was not one of them.

“And,” says Leto, “for being you.”

So Artemis looks.

And she is already almost too old to see the wonder of it; but still, there is a moment when the sheen of the wood is a marvel and its noise is the most inspiring thing she has ever heard.

And the expression on her face as she hears it is insanely, impossibly incredibly beautiful.

It gives Leto the strength to go beyond the borders of the world.

Never (II/IV)

It is 1560 years before the common era.

“This is my curse,” Hera says to Leto. “You shall not bear your child on the mainland, or on any island, or on the sea.”

Leto is pregnant and her feet are sore. She thinks about this for a moment.

“That’s pretty much going to suck for me,” Leto concludes.

Which, as things turn out, it does.

It is 1317 years before the common era. There is a river that surrounds the world. It separates the whole good land from that which is not. There is a cupping fire that surmounts the world, a burning fulminating ether. Outside these things there are the sun, the moon, the stars.

And beyond them there is Never.

There is no path to Never. The maps that have survived from then that show the way have peculiar lacunae upon them. No matter how you chart the course, the landmarks do not line up, the data is inconsistent, you are led inevitably into the cartographer’s error and the point without continuance. There are some who laugh at the folly of the mapmakers of those days, and some who speak of conspiracy and secrets, and some who deny that there was ever a Never at all.

But it is there, burning in the sky, three thousand years ago and more, with its peaks and minarets and bats.

It is thinking of Never that Demeter falls from stormy skies to Delos, that island of stability at the chaos’ edge.

Leucippus is laying there on the sand of Delos’ beach. He’s coughing up water. He’s just tried to drown himself.

“There is no hope,” says Demeter.

She is wearing black. The wind makes angry sounds as it passes her, like a flapping tarp or a dragon’s wings.

“Granted,” says Leucippus. He does not recognize her.

Demeter blinks. Her eyes focus on him. “Pardon?”

“There is no hope,” Leucippus says. “Everything is madness. Here is how I know. This is Delos. It is a sacred island. It is the island where sweet Leto bore Apollo. Yet she cannot have borne him on an island. It is against the law that orders each and every thing. Thus I cannot trust Ananke; thus I cannot trust anything; thus I cannot even trust in the existence of the world.”

“It isn’t technically an island,” Demeter says. “It’s too small.”

Leucippus looks up. He stares at her steadily.

After a moment, Demeter laughs.

“Point taken,” she says.

“I can’t help but see how things really are,” says Leucippus. “It’s a curse from Apollo. Because I challenged him on matters of prophecy.”

“That was a mistake,” Demeter says.

“Yes,” agrees Leucippus fervently. “Yes, it was.”

Demeter hefts Leucippus up from the beach. She puts him down on his feet. She breathes and the air around him is full of the scent of corn.

“Come,” she says, and she walks out on the water.

“I didn’t know why it was a punishment at first,” says Leucippus. He walks out after her, onto the waves. “It didn’t make me very popular, of course. I mean, the girls were all bashfully upset at my truthful evaluation. Also, the men. And I really, really have to avoid temples. But I didn’t mind so much. Unpopularity is the curse of an honest man. No, the problem I had was with the world. With everything that just doesn’t make sense.”

“You don’t like contradictions?”

Just processing that question makes Leucippus hyperventilate.

“Uh,” he says, staggering.

“Here is one for you,” Demeter says. “Observe. My daughter, my bright fair daughter, she has been taken. There is no hope in all the world. Yet I am calm.”

“You aren’t calm,” says Leucippus. “You are indulging in a patch of detached madness.”

“Pshaw,” summarizes Demeter, waving the matter away.

“Am I going to die?” Leucippus says. “Because, honestly, I’d rather die than spend any more time contemplating Delos. So I won’t mind. But I’d hoped, in a distant corner of my mind, that instead of drowning I’d get sucked down into a whirlpool and cast up on some distant island populated by beautiful maidens, deep-bosomed like yourself. So far, what with your mad despair and such, the portents do not seem good.”

“There is no hope,” Demeter says, somewhat ambiguously.

Demeter looks upwards.

“Listen,” Demeter says. “In all the span of the world, there is no hope for me. I have for some years known that this would happen; that the Son of Cronos would have her taken from me. And what is done, in this matter, cannot be undone. There is no hope for me. So neither is there hope for you. That is Ananke. That is Necessity.”

“Alas,” says Leucippus.

“Still,” says Demeter, “I will be gracious, and say this much: when Leto found it, Delos was no island.”

“Was it a giant fish?” says Leucippus. He is practically sagging with relief. There is a beautiful peace spreading across his face. But it is tentative. It is a peace that’s scared to stay. “Because I thought there might be an exception regarding giant fishes. But the island’s shape was wrong.”

“It was a minaret of Never.”

The Thistle (I/IV)

This is a history of Persephone.

It is 1328 years before the common era and Persephone still remembers the marvelous thing.

She doesn’t know exactly what it was. Not any more. It was wooden and round, and it had a handle. It shimmered like rainbows, like soap bubbles. It shone.

It made a noise.

It was the most marvelous, incredible noise. It was like the bubbling happiness of the sea. It was crazy, mad, incredible, majestic, that noise.

She remembers.

There’s sunshine all around her now. She’s got grubby hands and there’s a bit of the dirt in her mouth, a little bit, just enough to taste. It tastes like life and also like ick, dirt!

She’s planting seeds with her friend Cyane and her mother Demeter.

She digs a hole. Just a little hole. She drops a seed in it. She covers the seed over.

“Covering things over,” she says, in the flawless ancient Greek spoken by ancient Greeks of the time, “makes them all chaotic.”

She can see that too. It’s like a gray fuzz. It’s like the tides of chaos flowing in.

It’s really not as adult a statement as it sounds, given the time and the place and the language and her history. It’s not that philosophical, to her.

It’s just the kind of thing young Persephone tends to think.

She knows object permanence by now. She knows the seed’s still there. But it’s covered over and that makes doubt. That’s the gray. That’s doubt, that’s mystery, that’s the uncertainty that’s flooded in over the seed. It could be anything now. It could grow into anything now. That’s how Persephone gardens: with love and warmth and a bit of green chaos.

The sun beats down on the earth. Helios is busy today, he’s in top form, he’s shining like there’s no tomorrow, when in fact there are at least 1,216,180 tomorrows left. That’s just how much he loves his job.

Under the pressure of that sunlight the earth splits apart. The seed rushes up. Now it’s a plant.

It’s a THISTLE.

“Huh,” says Persephone.

She looks at it left. She looks at it right. She reaches forward.

“Unh uh,” says Demeter.

Demeter stops her.

“Don’t touch that,” Demeter says. “I think it’s got teeth.”

The thistle snarls and bites at her with its teeth. This totally confirms Demeter’s suspicions.

“Wow,” Persephone says, totally taken.

She can see the echoes of that marvelous thing in the thistle. It’s like the wooden sphere and it’s like the soap bubbles and it’s bright and shiny-colored in the sun and she remembers the noise. Mom always says it wasn’t a very important noise but Persephone remembers.

“I’m going to tame it,” Persephone says.

Her eyes are bright. There’s wonder on her face. Her dress hangs to her knees and her hands are grubby and her hair is black and it is amazing how much Demeter loves her right then.

“It’s going to be the best flower ever.

She feeds it a healthy diet of fruits and grains. She brushes its teeth twice a day. She even flosses when it lets her.

That thistle’s always going to love her.

Just like Demeter does.

It is 1317 years before the common era.

Demeter hears her daughter’s scream.

She hears it end.

She knows that Persephone is gone from the mortal realms.

She has gone below the earth and she is lost behind the gray.

And hope is dead.

Hades (III/III)

It is 1317 BCE.

Hades and Iasion stroll through the Underworld. Hades is munching on a pomegranate. It’s his favorite fruit.

“I have had command of this place for some years now,” says Hades, “and still it does not satisfy.”

“It’s all the suffering,” Iasion says. “I recommend a simple palliative: replace it all with sex.”

Hades raises an eyebrow.

Iasion snags an hors d’oeuvre from a passing waiter of the damned. It’s a cracker with a bit of smelly cheese. He bites into it. “Tastes like dust,” he says.

“Yes?”

“It should taste like orgasms,” Iasion says.

Hades stops walking. He chews for a moment. He swallows, uncomfortably. He signals the waiter. The waiter approaches. Hades carefully puts the remainder of his pomegranate on the plate.

Iasion looks a little nervous. “Or like grain. Grain’s okay. Grain’s the sex of the earth. Its crunchy goodness is like nature’s fertility!”

Hades looks at Iasion with a half-frown. Then he shrugs. He starts walking again.

“It’s the same,” Hades says. “Dust, sex, even chocolate. That’s the point.”

“Give me some chocolate,” Iasion says boldly. “And some sex. And some dust. I will test your theory!”

Hades’ walk is somber.

“I’m not flirting with you,” Iasion clarifies.

“Good,” says Hades.

“It’s not that you’re not hot, or anything. It’s just that I don’t think about you that way. And I mostly like girls.”

“It’s true,” Hades says, firmly, “that everything tastes like dust. And that all the colors are gray. And that everywhere there is suffering. But I do not wish to become Hades the King of Sex.”

“It’s a good title,” Iasion says. “Sex and death? You’d be the most popular god ever. They’d be so busy pouring libations to you that people’d hardly have any time to drink.”

“I want there to be hope.”

Iasion sighs.

Hades looks around. “This is the land of what’s left. It’s the land of sorrow. It’s the land of nothing.”

“In that respect,” says Iaision, “you’ve done really well. I mean, look! Walls! Waiters! Residents! Look yonder: Ephialtes and Otus suffer in chains. There! In the Elysian fields, the maid Ananke portions out destinies to the blest. Compared to Zeus’ world, perhaps, this is no paradise; but for a world of nothing and grown of nothing, it is masterful in its decor. The air is full of music, though it does not satisfy—”

“‘Muzak,’ I call it,” says Hades.

“—and the sweet if sterile scent of empty air!”

“I wish there to be hope.”

Their footsteps echo for a while in the empty halls.

“Death is grim, my lord.” Iasion looks apologetic. “It’s because of the endings.”

“This is my plan,” Hades says. He looks at Iasion. “I will travel up to Earth in my chariot. There, I will seize Persephone.”

“Persephone?” Iasion asks. He looks uncomfortable.

“Does that bother you?”

Iasion hedges. “I heard she’s going to blow up one day, boom, just like a volcano.”

Hades runs his finger along the top of a picture frame. The picture shows a gray square. Its frame is clean. There is no dust.

“I will interrupt her destiny,” says Hades. “I will seize her and carry her down into the Underworld. She will make death, not life, into a mystery.”

“What if she turns me into a mint?” Iasion frets.

“Make ready my chariot,” says Hades.

The rest of the story is well-known. Hades finds Persephone in the field. He seizes her. He carries her off. It is 1317 BCE, so this is pretty typical as weddings go.

“Who are you?” Persephone asks, after a few minutes on the road.

“Hades.”

She thinks about this. He’s Zeus’ brother, and pretty important, but on the other hand, he lives in the Underworld.

“I don’t want to live without sunlight,” Persephone points out.

“None save Zeus may choose the circumstances of their lives.”

“That’s true,” Persephone admits. She bites her lip. She’s not even one tenth as strong as Hades, so her options are limited to marriage and destroying the world. “I guess.”

Right now, with shock setting in and the chariot bouncing along the road, Persephone is having a hard time even figuring out how upset she is.

Hades’ chariot charges towards the spring of the nymph Cyane.

Suddenly, in Persephone’s heart, there is a bit of hope.

Like a waterfall without a cliff, the naiad Cyane rises. She has not one hundredth of Hades’ strength, but still she rises.

She spreads her arms to bar Hades’ way.

“No!” Cyane says. It is a demand.

Persephone’s gratitude is as deep as the world, and she realizes in that moment that she is very upset with things indeed.

Hades’ voice is certain. It is unyielding. It is the wind from the mountains and the cruelty of the sea.

“It is necessary,” says Hades, “that there be hope.”

“No!” repeats Cyane. This time she is chiding him.

“So I have taken hope,” says Hades.

“Go no further!” Cyane says, and suddenly her voice is cracked and angry and full of fear and sorrow. “This maiden must be asked, not taken.”

Persephone takes strength from it.

“If I do not like you,” Persephone tells Hades, in a soft dark lucid voice, “I will unmake you, your world, and everything you have.”

Hades smites the spring. The world cracks open. Cyane falls back. The chariot gallops down into the Underworld and they are gone.

“Oh,” says Cyane. “Oh. Persephone.”

She is crying now.

Her tears are tears of futility, for she does not understand what good it is that she has done.

The Treasure Wheel (II/III)

It is 1320 BCE. The sun sneaks out from behind the clouds. The sun shines on the fields. It shines on the streams. It shines on fair Persephone, black-haired and clean-limbed, a girl who loves its light.

For a long moment, Persephone simply basks. She is beautiful. Her mother Demeter admires how the light plays on her hair; her neck; her stomach; her legs—

Then Demeter giggles.

“You have toes, you know,” says Demeter.

It’s true, so Persephone doesn’t deny it.

“They came out of my womb,” Demeter says, in satisfaction.

“Mom!”

“If it embarrasses you, you should wear boots! That’s what I do, when Rhea talks about my nose.”

Persephone sighs.

There’s a brief silence.

“Mom,” asks Persephone, “why am I going to destroy the world?”

Persephone is planting seeds. It’s something she likes to do with her friends. She digs a little hole. She puts the seed in it. Then Cyane or Agalope or Thelxiepia pours water on the seed. Soon a marvelous plant, such as a dandelion, olive tree, or rose springs up. Sometimes Persephone even gets plants that no one has ever heard of before, like ratweed or singing gardenia.

“It’s complicated,” Demeter says.

Persephone’s friends are not here today. Demeter is visiting. Persephone wants to talk to her Mom about things like birds and bees and her period and why she’s going to destroy the world. She expects it’ll all be pretty embarrassing, so she’s sent her friends home. They’re naiads, so they mostly respond to this by sitting in their various rivers bubbling sulkily.

“I mean,” Persephone says, “am I going to blow up like a volcano?”

“No,” Demeter says.

“Or turn into a horrible wind that blows over all the world sweeping it bare?”

“No,” Demeter says.

“Or eat the sun? Like a giant wolf?”

“No,” Demeter says. “It’s—”

“I could set everything on fire,” Persephone notes. “I mean, I don’t want to, but I could?”

“Look at the heart of the world,” Demeter instructs, cutting her off.

Persephone looks down.

“There’s the ground in the way,” Persephone explains.

So Demeter blows on Persephone’s eyes, and Persephone sees.

“It’s a wheel,” Persephone says. “It’s a wheel with one thousand spokes.”

“That is the nature of the world,” says Demeter.

“Bah,” says Persephone. “That old thing?”

“It’s a jeweled treasure wheel! With two winky eyes!”

“That’s all well and good,” says Persephone, “but I think— I think that you shouldn’t be able to just look at the nature of the world like that. It should be a mystery.”

Persephone reaches out a hand. Then she stops. Demeter has hold of her wrist.

“That’s how you’re going to destroy the world,” says Demeter.

“Oh,” says Persephone, in a small voice. “But I wouldn’t!”

“You almost did it just now.”

Demeter thinks.

“Really,” Demeter says, “I should ground you.”

Persephone thinks quickly. Demeter is the goddess of the grain. Her groundings often involve being transformed into barley.

“I have toes,” Persephone says, meekly.

Demeter looks at her for a moment. Then she laughs.

Demeter hugs her. “You do,” she says. “Ten perfect toes. That’s how a Mom knows her girl’s going to be okay.”

Normally, Persephone finds this particular speech embarrassing, but it’s a great way to get out of trouble for almost destroying the world.

“I can wiggle them!” Persephone says.