Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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Chapter 1: To See One’s Own Magic

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments


the Serpent, by Anthony Damiani

– 1 –

Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

A snake-wroth falls into the primeval ocean. It stirs up the sediment and invents DNA among the silt. This dissatisfies it. Life is inadequate to it.

Eons slip by while it cultivates itself beneath the waves.

The snake-wroth folds itself up eventually into a serpent. It writhes. It surrounds the world. It laughs at the life that throngs upon the land and in the waters and it wraps itself around the planet to split the sphere of it in twain.

In this it fails.

Heroes strive against it. They fight. They die. Then one succeeds; a hero kills it: drives a spear of raw Unmaking through its heart.

It tastes the face of the girl who slew it.

It is cruel what she has done; it is unforgivable; but it forgives her, anyway, because her tears are salt.

. . .

Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Years slip by. The world grows warm.

A snake-wroth falls into the sea.

– 2 –

Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Aunt Linnea shows young Cheryl origami. She folds a boat. She presents it to Cheryl. She has Cheryl hold the mast. Then she has Cheryl close her eyes.

There is the sound of paper folding and unfolding.

Linnea has Cheryl open her eyes again.

It is magic. It is a miracle. Cheryl is no longer holding the sail, but the hull.

“Show me!” says Cheryl. “Show me! Show me!”

And — and after much teasing and many refusals — Linnea does.

– 3 –

Posted by on Aug 21, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

A long time ago a storm saw itself and in that seeing became a nithrid. It became a thing of the divine fire; it lashed the world about with itself, it shattered cities, it danced and it changed the world with its footsteps and it laughed at the doings of the svart-alfar and all humankind.

This proved to be a mistake.

Hans caught it up. He burned a cow and used the fire of a cow to bind it. He whisked a duck and used the ghost of a duck to bind it. It is bad to whisk a duck, but he did it; bad to plug in a cow, but he did it; bad, or even worse than bad, to gather lint from a sharpened goat —

He made a chain for it, anyway, bound it up, and lid it into a nithrid-hole on Hans’ farm, deep beneath the world; on Hans’ farm, under the surfaces of things.

He caught it. He immured it.

And for many years it dwelt below in misery and in chains.

Eventually Hans’ power waned and the nithrid worked itself free.

Now it is small. Now it is weak.

Free, yes —

But so very weak.

It is staggering through thorny passages. It is bleeding as it goes.

It is weak and it is chained and it is being called.

The nithrid has taken on a human shape. Each heartbeat hurts it. Each heartbeat, the storm in it — the furious, city-shattering lightning that is the nature of it — pulses against the chains Hans set around it. The ghost of a murdered duck, metal from the pearl in a human eye, cow-fire and sheep-fire and the keel of a sky-wraith’s boat — they’ve all been cunningly woven around it, and even now, even now that it has pulled free of Hans, even now that Hans is dead, the chains still hold it back.

There is a delicate pulse at its wrists. At its throat.

Its color, that should be the argent of lightning, is darkened and muted to the color of a human’s skin.

It reaches the surface, finally. It has taken it a long time.

It crawls up along a ledge, and suddenly there is a ladder. It has missed the transition between the depths of the world and the human underground; preoccupied with its pain and with the calling, it has wandered straight into the sewer without even noticing the change in state.

A thrill of excitement runs through it.

It will run up the ladder, lightning on the metal. It will burst the manhole, pop free as lightning and storm along the streets. It will light up the buildings, make them dance St. Vitus’ Dance, and chase and slaughter the men and women that it meets. It will swirl up and down and all about in great gusts of lightning and —

Its chains compress it painfully.

It huddles in on itself. It whimpers around its chest. Then, rung by rung, the nithrid begins to climb.

Mr. Gulley meets it at the top of the ladder. After a momentary hesitation, because the nithrid is caked in filth and a ratty dress, he reaches down a hand to help it up. He pulls it to the side of the street before a car hits it.

It can feel the following:

There are chains wound through Mr. Gulley, too, chains and wolf-gold, and the nithrid’s bonds are at the other end. They are tied together by the commonalities of their imprisonments. The world is still all fettered, it is still all bound down, even though Hans himself is dead; and the nithrid has been pulled up the last few miles, the last few years of its long ascent by Mr. Gulley’s tugging at their conjoined chains.

Mr. Gulley is on the phone.

The nithrid admires Mr. Gulley’s phone. It watches the signal. It touches some of the data, twirls it around its finger, until he waves irritably in its direction and it desists.

He finishes his phone call.

He puts the phone away.

Then he looks the nithrid up and down.

“You’re a deadly threat to the world,” he says. “You’re the kind of storm that could ravage everything, aren’t you? Leave it burnt and in ruins? Dance through the sky and drive the humans back to huddle in caves and transcendent fear. You are that savage beauty, called the nithrid — am I right?”

It stares at him. Then it smiles, slightly. It is a feral look.

“You are the one who called me.”

It touches his arm. It looks him up and down. It sees the wolf-gold in Mr. Gulley’s eyes.

It says: “Are you going to free me, puppy?”

Mr. Gulley shudders.

Then he laughs. It is sudden, painful. It is as if his breath hurts him as her own hurts her. “I wish I knew.”

The nithrid studies him.

“I offer you this,” he says. “I am no god to wish you free and bring down your devastation on the Earth. I wish I could want such things, but it’s not in me. I am no smith-dwarf, neither, to bind you tight and lid you in a hole beneath the Earth. I am only a man, a man with a wolf, a wolf bound to me and through me, in me and within me, and around it an awful chain. If you do not stop me, I will affix you to that chain; it will seal you to me; and I will use you to my ends. And if that bond breaks, as I’m told it will, then —”

He hesitates.

“Then I suppose I will have loosed a nithrid too onto the world.”

The nithrid breathes. It looks at him. Then its heart beats twice; a smile crosses its grim face; and it sees what he does not:

That he has been given unto her, she nithrid, not to be a burden but to be a gift.

It says: “Tell me what I must do.”

“Take a shower,” says Mr. Gulley. “Can you shower? Please tell me that a shower will not short you out, or cramp your chains, or destroy you. You smell like poo.”

“I can shower,” it says.

“Then you will go to the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth,” says Mr. Gulley, “and I will enroll you as a student there; and you will learn to walk among us, and of the murdering of wolves.”

– 4 –

Posted by on Aug 26, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Origami frustrates Cheryl. From the beginning to the second year of practice, it is only a joy to her; but then, when she has mastered the basic techniques and some of the art of it, she becomes frustrated. Her fingers are too clumsy, but more importantly, her mind is incomplete.

There is something that she sees that she cannot fold. Blind spots in her cognition interfere when she goes to make her work. The beautiful beginning and the perfect ending are clear to her but they do not connect; at one, two, three, and sometimes even four places in the middle, four nodes, four interstices — they do not work.

She constructs plans but they are not practical.

She folds but she cannot make.

Sometimes she tries to bridge the gap with trissors. This produces a nameless yearning in her and a nameless fear; she stares at the third blade of the trissors as if it is alien to her. She is too young to remember proper scissors. She does not know what it is that her world has lost.

She thumps her head down on the table after one false attempt.

She sobs, twice, before she masters herself.

“This is silly, Cheryl,” she says.

She does not know that she will one day be as God. She does not know that she will one day make that final fold, and take command of the destinies of the world; nor that this shall be the death of her to do.

“It’s just paper,” Cheryl says, in self-reproach, and she goes out.

She goes down to the sea. She is eleven years old and her mind is dancing with patterns, folds, shapes, twists, and shadows. She sits on a rock. She sees how she could fold the rock, then the place where she would fail to fold the rock — in part, she observes, because the rock is stone and not just brown paper, but also because there is an inconsistency in her design.

She tastes the salt air of the sea.

She sees the serpent.

The sight rises her. It is not her rising: rather it is as if the sight of the snake has possessed her. It has absented her from herself, it has turned off her governance over herself, it has folded it around a corner of her mind and into an inaccessible corner of herself, it is not Cheryl who is the subject of Cheryl walking to the snake but the sight of it; not her endpoint that is the object of that action, but Cheryl herself.

Perhaps we could say it like this:

Circumstances walk Cheryl to the sea.

She stands beneath the great swaying head of the serpent. She looks up. She stares into its eyes.

It is vast and it is paper.

She knows it. She recognizes it. It is folded in her and through her, within her and without her. It is a part of her. It is a thing she has been trying, so foolishly, and without knowledge of it, to fold for this past year.

It is paper folded into a chain of snakes, and then that chain folded in itself and through itself, into a geodesic pseudo-sphere; and the links of paper do not end at the vertices of it but connect that sphere to others instead — to billions of others, uncountable others, all held together by their characteristic bonds and into a greater shape.

And where did such a thing come from? In what manner did it arise?

You could say: circumstances folded it into a snake, or the snake folded itself into being, but neither is quite correct. Say rather that it is a snake-wroth, a paper-wroth, a folding-wroth. This can happen. Sometimes an irrational snake-like pattern falls into the sea. There it invades the ocean’s currents, its coral reefs, its crabs, its fish. There it possesses the silt of the bottom, the salt and the waters, sometimes even the sea air.

The snake-wroth winds through the ocean: it is in it and within it, through it and about it. It twines these things together. It uses the sea as the medium for its fruition.

It exceeds human work, though it resembles it.

It is origami —

But not such origami as humans know. Not in ten years, not in ten hundred years, not in ten thousand could the gathered nations of the world have folded such a beast. The techniques might exist — though, then again, they very well might not — but there would simply not be time.

And yet, as she looks at it, Cheryl recognizes that she has been trying to fold it.

That she herself, she Cheryl, has been infected by the wroth; by:

Let such a snake be born!

It has a stomach, folded out of paper, that serves no other purpose than to turn its meals into paper — it is a pulping stomach, not a digesting one; a folding stomach, complete with heaving paper cilia that make origami of their own.

It is waxed.

How is it waxed? There is some other part of its inner engine, doubtlessly, for this: to devour and convert the creatures of the sea in all their bulk and poison into wax, or perhaps into some subtler laminate, lest the snake become soggy, fall apart, lose the subtleties of its knots and folds, and turn into the white caps of the sea.

It moves.

It sways above her. It extends to the horizon, and as it moves it seems to breathe, all through its structure. The cells of it fold around the holes that honeycomb it. They compress. They expand. It is a living thing.

She stares.

Now Hans had not been absent in the construction of the snake. He had not let such an awful beast grow on his world and be unmarred. Surely had he done that, had he let it be, it would have wrapped itself tight around the world by now, squeezed it, broken it, shattered it half and half and then broken up the pieces, claimed its destinies, pounded the stone and life of it into paper for its de-planeting, broken the moon, seized up Mars and Venus and all the rest of them, and finally torn up the sun — eventually to chain through all the cosmos, if the vast space-ness of it did not confound it, as one great waxed and woven thing.

This thing it did not do.

Instead Hans infiltrated himself into its construction. He twisted it. He folded up the folded snake; added his cruel design to its subtle folds. He has looped the snake-wroth like a Möbius strip, like a Klein bottle — it’s hard for me to know for sure just how complicated the geometry here gets — so its inside is its outside and its head its tail. The strands that make up one end run diagonally through the gaps that make up the other, so that in the moments between each breath, Cheryl can see the head draw taut — be drawn taut, perhaps — and become the tail, its eyes smoothing out and its jaw clamping shut, before it is released and flows out to become the head again. She can see the serpent trying to look at her, its Cheryl-wards end trying to hold on and stay a head for longer than its structure would naturally allow; the strain of that causes knots of disruption to run down the length of it like the knobbed pull-chain of a lamp.

It is always chewing itself, tasting itself, biting down on its own tail-meat in the moments of its transition. It is always blinding itself and un-blinding itself. Its stomach is always writhing, reconfiguring, and becoming lungs: each breath it chokes for a moment on its recent meals. Its lungs are always writhing, reconfiguring, and becoming its stomach: each breath, for a moment, it is digesting air.

It is horrible that someone would ever do a thing like that to a gigantic paper snake.

If it were not so very large an unexpected sympathy would seize up Cheryl’s heart in an instant. Instead she is simply lost: how can this be? How can something like this be?

She holds up her hand. She reaches to it.

She caresses it with the flat of her hand.

It occurs to her as she touches it — as she sees its brain dissolve for a moment, a knot pulled through it, and become a long flat muscle, then revive itself with a shudder of paper folding; as she feels the paper rise and fall under her touch — that it wants to die.

It pulls itself down around her. It wraps around her like a thousand circling paper-chains. It lifts her up, so gently, with its breathing form, and there is paper all around her and in every direction; it is circling, it is marvelous, it feels as if the world has let her go, but she thinks that perhaps it has eaten her. What with the nature of the thing, with its inside being its outside, it is very difficult to tell.

She grasps for a handful of the snake, but it is oddly elusive for something that is holding her: for a moment she touches it, then there is a folding, and her hand closes on the air.

It is like riding in a cloud: the soft white waxed expanse of it supports her, but when she grasps at it there is only mist.

The heartbeat of the snake is doubled: it goes this way and that, she hears it, she feels it.

The gaps in the snake are eyes: they surround her: she hears its vast and cavernous thoughts:

You are born to be my enemy, it says. So I have come to you.

I hurt, says the snake. I hurt.

Help me to die.

She is an eleven-year-old girl. She is not yet as God. She does not even know what she is supposed to do. She tries to hug the snake but she cannot hug the snake and even when she gets sort of close to successfully hugging the snake, it does not die.

She punches the snake. She makes a fist and she punches the snake, but paper just wraps muckily around her fist.

If people still played rock-paper-scissors — which they don’t, of course, not after that

She might have tried to split her fingers into knives, and cut it.

I don’t know if that would have worked any better, but at least she would have tried.

As it is, she finally says, quietly, “I don’t know if I’m your proper enemy, Mr. Snake. Maybe you need to find somebody else.”

So the snake puts her down, gently, on a rock. She’s next to a crab now. It clacks its pincers. It is disturbed by her.

The serpent eddies out to sea.

– 5 –

Posted by on Aug 30, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Cheryl moves. She changes schools. Just a little, she grows up.

But she does not forget.

– 6 –

Posted by on Sep 2, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

The nithrid is nervous about attending school. It is an inhuman creature. It is lightning bound down to form. It assumes that everybody will see it and recognize its nature — that their eyes will pierce straight through its human guise and down to its murderous soul. They will point at it and shriek: “There goes a deadly threat to the world! Stop her before she ravages everything, leaves it burnt and in ruins! Tackle her and tighten her chains until she pops!”

Events, to a certain extent, justify her fears.

The students at the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth are percipient enough to spot her strangeness. They are alert to it: shadows of omen pass across their consciousness when they look at her. They recognize her, consciously or subconsciously, as nithrid.

They simply do not care.

She stands there, wringing her hands, in the quad of the school, and nobody attacks her. Nobody bothers to attack her. They are all too busy or — if not too busy — too distracted, too laid-back, or too lazy to do anything about the world-ending threat that has no idea where to go to schedule her classes or to arrange for a dormitory at her new school.

It is then that she meets Peter.

He is suddenly beside her. His eyes are hard like two bits of flint and his hair is dark but she finds the voice of him oddly warm.

“I don’t like you,” he says. “You’re not natural.”

“. . . no,” she concedes.

He looks her up and down. “You’re also obviously lost.”


“Come on, then,” he says.

She follows him, nervously. He leads her to the administration building. He asks her, as they go, “Do you like scissors?”


“I’m an enemy of scissors,” he says. “If I see scissors, I’ll stomp them! I’ll rip them apart. I’ll throw them in the fire. So if you like scissors, you’d better not mess with me.”

“I don’t really . . .”

He stops. He looks at her. He waits.

“I haven’t had anything to do with scissors,” she says. Then, apologetically, “I was bound in a hole with a duck.”

“How’d you cut your hair?” he asks.

“I don’t cut my hair,” she says. She wiggles a hank of her hair. It darts about like lightning, if lightning were a sandy brown and stuck at one end to a functionally human head.

“I use trissors,” says Peter proudly. “They’re a three-bladed trissoring device.”

“That’s just aces,” the nithrid says.

He takes her to the principal’s office. He pounds on the outside door with a palm. “You go in there. They’ll set you up. Get you classes and a room. I am going to go to class and not care about you.”

“OK,” she says, confused.

“My name is Peter,” he adds.

She opens her mouth. “A nithrid,” she starts to say, but that would be practically giving the game away. She stops herself at “A nuh.”


He stares at her for a moment. “Annie? Andrea? Anthology?”

Nobody is named Anthology. I mean, nobody except Anthology is named Anthology, and she is a special case. This book isn’t even about Anthology, so I don’t know why you are thinking about her. She is frozen under the ice! The problem is with Peter’s mind.

“Andrea,” she says.

“Okay,” he says. “I’ll see you around.”

He turns to go. He walks away.

“If I see any scissors,” she says, after him, “I’ll blast them!”

“That’s good thinking,” he says. “But don’t just blast them. Call me! They could have friends. They run in packs, you know. Swarms. Whole swarms of them.”

He’s gone. She blinks.

“Really,” she says. “Scissors.”

She squints a bit. It would never have occurred to that world-ending storm to concern herself about scissors, but now that she thinks about it it is possible that they, like Mr. Gulley, are capable of grounding her.

“Ha!” she says, in vague relief. “Just imagine how stupid that would have been! Burst out, storm across the world, and then get sucked down into the earth by billions of scissors stuck in it!”

This is actually pretty unlikely, but in all fairness, there are alternate timelines in which this was her fate. There are even alternate futures where that happens, although they’re comparatively pretty rare. The Norns weave carefully and cleverly, when they weave our fates, and even such as the lightning must have a care.

Then she goes in and she signs herself up for classes and a room.

She will study the literature of Earth, and citizenship, and basic math; an alien’s guide to study, school, and scholarship; Runes I, Physical Education, and Pre-Combat; and, being the lightning, of course, she takes electives in both electronics and in dance.

– 7 –

Posted by on Sep 6, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Edmund Gulley, Jr., is a lean young man with dark brown hair and a quiet voice. He spends most of his time in silent communion with his wolf.

“It is hard not to eat people,” confides Edmund, to the wolf.

The wolf licks Edmund’s shoulder softly.

It agrees.

Edmund goes to a nearby school. He attends intermittently. He spends a lot of time at the hospital, dealing with complications from his heartlessness or at home, just doing nothing much at all.

Eventually he receives a transfer to a different school.

Edmund leans his head to one side. He stares keenly at his father.

“Really,” he says. “The ‘Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth.’”


“I have been accused of being evil,” says Edmund. “Or smelly. But rarely wayward. Even vicar Helmsley calls me a mannerly child, you know.”

“I know.”

“And she thinks I’m going to grow up and murder and eat her, too!”

“That’s why loose lips sink ships, son. But I doubt she really does.”

“Children should be seen and not heard,” says Edmund. “I’ve tried to live by that principle.”

“Have you?”

“Well,” admits Edmund, “I’m talking now; but a son may reproach his father, you know, if his father is mistaken. Elsewise, now that you’ve decided that I’m wayward, what option would I have left?”

Mr. Gulley’s lips twitch. He almost smiles.

“Son,” he says, “you had a bit of a fright, with that nanny shooting you; and it’s rough to grow up always wanting to eat your friends. But it’s been a few years now, and if you just stay here sulking, you’ll grow up and you’ll have a kid and the wolf’ll eat you, and nothing in the world will ever change.”

Edmund’s thoughts flicker.

“This is that wolf-killing school of yours,” he realizes.

“Yes,” Mr. Gulley concedes.

“You’re sending me to a — no. No, father. I won’t do it. I won’t conspire against Fenris.”

“Won’t you?” says Mr. Gulley.

Edmund clicks his teeth together. He hesitates. Then he nods. “I thought you’d understood this,” he says. “I thought you knew. I don’t want him to get free and ravage around eating everything, but —”


“But he’s Fenris,” says Edmund. “He’s my second heart.”

“I see,” says Mr. Gulley. He stares off into the distance for a while. Then he smiles whitely at Edmund. His teeth are like a set of fangs. “Then I shan’t expect you to. Perhaps you can just learn  ballet, or prophesy, then. Or maths.”

“Father,” pleads Edmund.

“Or wolf-killing,” says Mr. Gulley. “But not to kill Fenris. Just, you know, to get you a solid wolf-killing A-level, or in case you’re ever fighting the wolf-demons of the nightmare realm, or whatnot. Best program in the world, son, for wolf-killing, but that doesn’t mean you have to do anything, you know, that you don’t want.”

His smile fades.

“I’m not going to make you,” he says softly. “I wouldn’t. That’s on me, son. You know that. I’d love it if you killed him, but it’s not on you. Not while my heart’s still beating and my lungs are still drawing breath. I just want you — I just want you to know how. In case I don’t make it. In case he eats me, and you’re all that’s left.”

“I’m sorry,” says Edmund. He is looking at nothing in particular. “I spoke out of my own selfish desires.”

“— Son . . .” says Mr. Gulley.

“Best I be about it,” says Edmund. “Then.”

He goes to his room. He packs. He puts on a backpack. He descends the stairs.

“It doesn’t have to be today,” says Mr. Gulley.

“Have you reserved me a spot?” says Edmund.

Mr. Gulley nods.

“And told the school and hospital that I’ll be leaving?”

Mr. Gulley nods again.

“Do we still employ a driver?”

“He can be here in ten,” agrees Mr. Gulley. “I’m pretty sure he hasn’t been eaten.”

Edmund sticks out his hand for his father to shake it. He grins. He can’t even feel his own heart breaking.

“Then I’ll best go be Lethal,” he says, almost as awkwardly as his grammar, and he turns away.

“There’ll be a nithrid,” says Mr. Gulley.


“If you need anything,” says Mr. Gulley. “If you need — I mean, I’ve sent people. And a nithrid.”

“How extraordinary,” says Edmund, and he goes out.

– 8 –

Posted by on Sep 9, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Cheryl is in the library. She is folding a large sheet of paper.

Tom is standing behind her.

Cheryl stares at the paper. She has made flowers seem to rise from it, paper gardens; a river of paper water; trees that hang low with fruit; the Nandavana Gardens, this, where Buddha was given forth, only, the more she attempts to make a paper saint, the more she fails.

“He should come forth,” she says, “thus!”

She gestures at the gardens.

“Falling into the silver net of the four angels; taking four paper strides,” she says, “and crying out, ‘the lord am I in all this world.’”

“Can it cry out?”

“It is to be a pop-up Buddha,” she explains. “Only —”


“No matter how I fold it,” she says, “I cannot make a paper that sees through the wheel of Samsara. It is bound into the cycle of karma. Inextricable —”

She crumples half the paper gardens in her frustrated fists.

“It’s really very good,” admires Tom.

She lowers her head onto an exquisite floating raft. She cries and soaks the river with her tears. “You’re just saying that,” she says.

Tom is appalled by this statement.

“. . . no,” he says.

She snorts.

“Listen,” says Tom. He reaches for her hand. He enfolds it with his own. “Listen. I myself, I, Tom Friedman, science adventurer — I could do no better. Make a paper Buddha? It transcends my ambitions! The most I’ve ever dreamed of is to save the world from its petty pointlessness and to conquer time and space.”

She sniffles. She tugs at the hand he holds. She dries her eyes with her free hand and folds the tears back out of the paper river. She looks at him.

“In a carbon-neutral fashion,” he says. “I mean, one that does not contribute to the warming of the Earth. Because I’m totally not a ophidian planet-inheritor from the species that’s going to supplant humanity. I’m like that. Only, not!”

Suspicion grows. He is a suspicious character.

“I’m not going to try and take down Satan while he’s off in Andromeda or whatever,” argues Tom.

She tugs at her hand some more. “Let go.”

He releases her.

“It is wrong-headed and perverse to try to take down Satan,” she says.

“Is it?”

“He’s a concept,” Cheryl says. “Besides, you’d totally ruin rock and roll.”

“Haha!” says Tom.

He throws himself into a chair. It spins once and leaves him poised cockily staring at her with one elbow against the library table.

“Your paper is a flawed creation,” he says, “and you are defeated, because of the duality of your mind.”

She squints at the paper. She looks up at him.

“Possibly,” she agrees. “To suffer an affliction of conflicting conceptions is integral to the karmic trap.”

Thoughtfully, she makes a snipping gesture with two fingers of one hand, as if to remember the scissors that she has only seen in the darkest and most overwrought of documentaries.


Was there ever another living thing that reconciled its dualities so sharply as did they?

“This part of the land,” Cheryl says, sweeping over half her little map, “wishes to take the story in one direction; it exerts force; but this little piglet —”

She has confused herself.

“But this part of the map,” she corrects, touching the other, “pulls against it — and in like fashion, with the Buddha’s humanity and his invincibility, I suppose.”

“I can fix that,” says Tom.

“You can?”

“I can!”

“It’s not fixable,” she denies.

“It totally is.”

She squints at him, then she looks away.

“I could,” she says, chewing on her lip, “attempt to fold my thoughts into the correct pattern, but then the problem would repeat fractally.”

“Haha,” laughs Tom. “That’s perfect! You have an admirable mind, you know. My instincts led me truly when I found you. When I said, ‘Ah, Tom, here is a girl for the House of Dreams.’”

“Is that a —”

She frowns at him.

“Are you flirting with me? I cannot be involved with boys,” she says. “I have to attend to my paper, and to the snake.”

“We have all known the concerns of papers,” says Tom. “And no. I am beyond such petty concerns as men and women, myself. I live in a world of one people, undivided, equal, unfettered by the base romantic urges — a world of science.”

“Wow,” she says. “That’s geeky!”

He takes off his hat. He flourishes it, first holding it high with one arm extended as if it were a hero’s sword, then settling it down gently and carefully on his two flat palms and holding it out to her.

“Place this on your head,” he says, “and it shall resolve the contradictions within you.”

“I couldn’t,” she says, vaguely.

“You can.”

“It’s your hat,” she says. “It’s your — alien, warm — it is whispering to me . . . mister.”

“Thomas,” he says. “Thomas the First, head boy of the House of Dreams. Tom.”


She is distracted by the hat now. She is picking it up. She is holding it in her hands. She is lifting it up.

“Why is it talking to me?” she says.

“Because you are worthy,” says Tom. “Because you are not such as my roommate Stephan or that lump of a Loggins. You are a girl who can join me in my House of Dreams.”

She swallows.

“Will I —” she says. “Will I —”


“If I put on this hat,” she says. “Will I become able to make — I mean, to kill, to kill, to kill, I mean, a giant snake made out of paper?”

“I hadn’t considered that,” says Tom. “I — I don’t see why . . . just paper, right?”

“Well, and wax.”

“I —”

Tom makes a decision. He takes a stand. He is one person; he flows into it, he makes his choice, and it will bind on him forever.

“I say yes. I say you shall. I will break life and death and Hell and dreams for you, if I must, to make you into such a girl.”

She lowers the hat over her head.

The dream-wroth catches fire in her eyes. She aligns. She becomes a single thing; she folds her spirit without contradictions and then unfolds it, the soul and mind of her, into endless flowers, unfurling snowflakes, twists.

“IT IS THUS,” she whispers.

She moves her hands across the paper. The paper Buddha falls into a silver net. She compresses the edges. He steps forward from the net. He takes three steps. A pop-up balloon of words spits up: “The lord am I of all within this* world!”

The * refers to a footnote. It is scribed in the ground at his feet. It reads, in wiggly letters made to resemble Sanskrit as Cheryl imagines it to be, “* paper”

Now paper gods attend, and there is great joy in the paper Heavens; the devas spin their drink umbrellas and flower petals flutter across the landscape she has made; after their long minutes and hours of existence in the library under the pressure of her folding, the paper universe is at last set free of the ineluctable chains of karma laid upon it with its birth: no more caught in folded desires and parchment ignorance, but seeing through to the true papyreal thing beyond.

Cheryl sighs. She flutters closed her eyes. She falls forward and the dream-wroth slips from her — not far from her, but from her. It settles itself as on a hat-rack or a wall-mounted shelf within her mind.

She sleeps.

Tom reclaims his hat. He leaves a black knit hat on the table beside her — it is often the case that even without his crowning hat he, as a member of the House of Dreams, feels an obligation to wear a crown of black.

Then he walks out.

He stops at the librarian’s desk on the way. He grins at the man behind it. He raises his finger to his lips.

“Shh,” he says.

The librarian’s eyes crinkle. He lifts a finger to his lips in turn.

Though each is ignorant of the mind of the other, the light in one pair of eyes meets the light in the other’s. Stumbling through life each in their own way and to their own fashion they find a momentary accord.

“Shh,” the librarian agrees.

– 9 –

Posted by on Sep 13, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Some people think the evil prophet of space is Christ reborn. Others want to measure her with scientific instruments. But Mrs. Brinkley, of the Admissions Board of the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth, just wants to make sure that all of her paperwork is correct!

“I’ve received a transcript,” says Mrs. Brinkley, “from one ‘Evil Academy of Space.’ But they’re not responding to my communications.”

“Yes,” says Lucy. “The school is in ruins.”

“I’m not even sure,” says Mrs. Brinkley, “where exactly —”

“It is in space,” Lucy says. “Well, was. Are you familiar with the Fan Hoeng?”

Mrs. Brinkley calls up the information on her marvelous desktop computing device. She frowns. “This is extremely irregular,” she says. “We do not normally take space princess assassins from species sworn to destroy the Earth. But we also want to cultivate an atmosphere of inclusivity. Oh, dear, oh, dear.”

She ponders. She folds her hands. She stares at Lucy.

“What are your opinions on the killing of giant wolves?” she asks.

“Are you asking me to —” says Lucy.

Mrs. Brinkley holds up a hand to interrupt her. “Of course not. Of course not, child. We are strictly forbidden to contract the killing of gigantic chained-up wolves in England, and besides, you haven’t even had any of the relevant classes. I just mean, what are your general feelings on the matter?”

“I like killing giant wolves,” says Lucy. “But there is no challenge to it, unless they are also experts at the game of rock-paper-scissors.”


“Rock,” says Lucy. She shows Mrs. Brinkley her fist. “Paper.” She holds out a flat and open hand. It writhes with an aegis of evil prophecy. “Scissors.”

She looks around.

She points at a triad of trissors in a cup on Mrs. Brinkley’s desk. Then she frowns at them. She picks them up. She wriggles them. Finally she sets them back in the cup with a dissatisfied frown.

“It is clearly not as well-developed a game on your world,” she says, “as in the glorious space empire of the Fan Hoeng. We will redress the matter when we rain fiery devastation on your cities, crack open your planet, and sweep away a tiny handful of survivors to endure endless generations of mockery in our zoos.”

After a moment, realizing that this would redress nothing, she adds, “Also, we would teach them how to play rock-paper-scissors after the fashion of the Fan Hoeng.”

In a smaller voice: “Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, et cetera.”

Mrs. Brinkley’s eyes light up. “You mean hobbit-Spock-spider!”

“I do no such thing!”

“Spock sings about hobbits,” Mrs. Brinkley explains, “Hobbits kill spiders, spiders spin devious webs of intrigue around Spock?”

“No!” says Lucy. “We haven’t even heard of the planet Vulcan, in space!”

“We can play a game or two if you like—”

Lucy squirms to the back of her seat in horror. “Please let’s not.”

Later she roams the campus of the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth aimlessly.

The entire experience has unnerved her.

“‘Spock sings about hobbits?’” she asks the air. “ ‘Spock sings about hobbits?!’

And Emily is walking past just then, and Emily looks at her, and thinks about saying something, and if she had — if there’d been just a little bit less in Emily’s bladder, just a little bit less reason to hurry back to her dorm, if she’d stopped and spoken to Lucy then — then the two of them would probably have been friends.

But she gives her a Vulcan salute as she hurries past, instead, and Lucy shall scorn Emily thereafter.

– 10 –

Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

The antichrist tears himself free of his silvered prison.

He staggers across the world. He is in wrack. He is in ruin. He twitches at every noise, even if the noise is being made by a cute little kitten.

“Stop that!” he yells at the kitten.

The kitten mews.


Then he apologizes, over and over again, to the kitten, and he staggers away again. He finds a box and he lives in it. He huddles down. He stares out at the rain.

He cannot stay there for very long.

The walls of the antichrist’s box begin to bleed.

– 11 –

Posted by on Sep 24, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Peter knocks on Edmund’s door. It is one in the morning.

Edmund sniffles.

Then he straightens. He pushes emotion away. He goes to the door. He opens it. “Yeah?”

“I heard you,” says Peter. “Through the wall.”


“Everything all right?”

“What?” says Edmund. “No. I wasn’t doing anything through the wall. I don’t even have tear ducts. My heart’s in a box. I’m Edmund Gulley.”

Peter looks the room up and down. Edmund’s stuff isn’t even unpacked yet.

“That’s fine,” he says. “Want to get a coffee?”

“It’s three in the morning,” says Edmund, dismissively and inaccurately.

“This is Lethal,” says Peter. “They’ve got an all-hours bar, for crying out loud, even though they’re not allowed to serve anybody. Don’t worry about getting coffee.”

Edmund frowns. “But children aren’t to have alcohol,” he says. “This isn’t France, you know.”

“Right,” says Peter. “Get some shoes on and come on.”

Edmund frowns. Then he shrugs. Peter’s confidence is efficacious. Edmund goes to his closet. He throws on a pair of shoes and a jacket. He wiggles his toes in the shoes. He thinks about taking them off, putting on a pair of socks, and then putting the shoes back on again.

He decides to be wayward.

“Look at me,” he says, a few minutes later, as they creep down the stairs. “One night in this place and I’ve gone bad. Shoes without socks in!”

“Yes,” says Peter.

They reach the quad. Peter scans the place.

“They catch us,” Peter says, “and they’ll give us a hiding.”

“We’re already in hiding,” mutters Edmund.

“But,” says Peter, cunningly, “the other side of that is, we’re supposed to sneak around a little. It’s all part of the training.”

Edmund squints. Tom and Cheryl are walking past in the quad.

“What about them?”

“That boy’s got a hat,” says Peter. “He’s not like one of us.”

“One of what?”

“Human,” says Peter.


“Listen,” Peter says. He signals Edmund and then scurries across the quad towards the administration building. He doesn’t actually say anything until they get there and are pressed against its outer wall. A searchlight sweeps past behind them. “That boy is practically scissors. Don’t trust him. Just look at his hat.”

“I’m looking,” concedes Edmund. The kether-hat’s so vivid he doesn’t even recognize his old friend underneath.

“And that’s in the dark, at fifty meters!”

“I see your point,” Edmund says.

Peter pulls a bit of wire out of his collar. He uses it to pick the lock on the building. Edmund eyes him. They go in.

“I feel conflicting imperatives,” says Edmund.


“On the one hand,” Edmund says, “I want to punish my father for sending me here by becoming a bad child. On the other, I don’t like all this sneaking around and breaking into buildings.”

“Listen,” says Peter.

They’re on the second floor by now. Peter turns the lights on. He heads for Principal Goethe’s office. He turns on its coffee machine. He gets out a couple of cups.

“They wouldn’t even have a bar on campus,” says Peter, “if the students weren’t supposed to break in and steal liquor. But I don’t like being drunk. It makes my head funny. So I sneak at a higher level.”

Edmund looks around.

“We could sneak in and adjust somebody’s grades?” he proposes.

“Geez,” says Peter disapprovingly. He makes a face.


Peter shakes his head. “You have the manners of a wolf,” he informs Edmund.

He pours them each a giant cup of coffee. Peter’s cup says, “#1 Principal.” Edmund’s cup says, “Thieving Scum.”

“Shouldn’t we—”

Edmund looks between the cups. He wants to offer to switch.

“Let’s stand on the roof and look out over the quad and drink coffee and brood,” says Peter. “Since you’re crying anyway.”

Edmund had completely forgotten. He also denies it. “I was not. It was keening.”

“It’s hard the first day,” Peter says.

“Yeah,” says Edmund.

They sneak up the stairs. Peter stops for a moment. “Dang,” he says. “Forgot to turn the coffee maker off.”

“Do we go back?”

“Nah,” Peter says. “I’ll just . . . scrub it out tomorrow night.”

“That’s very diligent,” Edmund says.

They stand on the roof of the administration building. They stare out over the quad. They lean against the Lethal railing. They drink coffee. They brood.

“It’s a good school,” says Peter. “They teach us combat, you know. And I’m training to be a ninja.”

“You?” says Edmund.

“Don’t knock it!” says Peter. “A man’s got to have an edge if he’s going to take on a scissors-swarm someday.”

“Yeah, but that’s so . . .”

Edmund looks for words. He takes a gulp of coffee.

“So Oriental.”

“Don’t knock the Orient,” says Peter. “It’s all one world from space.”

“Well, yeah,” says Edmund. He shrugs. “It’s just, you’re kind of — a solid-looking bloke.”

Peter sighs.

Edmund sighs.

After a while, Edmund says, “At home there’s a wolf larger than a horse.”

Peter looks sideways at him.

“He’s so beautiful,” says Edmund. “And so awful hurt.”

“I had a dog,” Peter admits. “But he died.”

“My Dad,” says Edmund. “I mean, Edmund, I mean, Edmund senior, Mr. Gulley, he thinks I’ve got to kill the wolf. Like, some kind of life lesson thing. We’ve all got to grow up and kill our own wolves or whatnot. It’s rubbish.”

“There’s a class in wolf-killing,” Peter says.

“No surprise.”

“There’s a whole series,” Peter says, “actually. Although I’m a scissors-track man, myself.”

“Rocks and rot?” says Edmund.

“What?” says Peter. “No, no. Serious scissors-killing. Like —”

He waves vaguely.

“Cannons, or ninja moves. Scissors can’t stand ninjas. They’re just so lethal!”


Peter sips at his coffee. Edmund broods.

“I don’t want to kill it,” says Edmund. “I mean, I kind of guess I’ve got to, it’s my burden, but I won’t.”

“Why’d you got to?”

“It’s a world-killing wolf,” says Edmund.

Peter squints at him. He drains his coffee. He tosses the cup down to shatter against the quad.

“Skaal?” says Edmund, hypothetically.

“Haha!” Peter says. “Skaal.”

He turns on the railing. He leans against it and looks at Edmund.

“So that’s your story,” he says. “You’ve got a wolf in you.”

Edmund looks away. “Yeah.”

“Well,” says Peter. “I say, you don’t have to kill it. Just give it a good punch in the nose. That’ll show it who’s boss!”

“No,” says Edmund. “No, it wouldn’t.”

“One of them choke-collars?”

“That’s cruel!”

“My Mum says they’re perfectly OK,” says Peter.

“Well, your Mum —” Edmund hesitates. He can’t bring himself to insult somebody’s Mum, no matter how wayward he ought to be. “Your Mum is possessed of inaccurate notions, that’s what she is. She hasn’t seen somebody really choked proper.”

“That’s true,” concedes Peter. “My unarmed combat class was unexpectedly enlightening.”

Edmund finishes up his coffee. He puts the cup down delicately on the roof for the janitorial staff or, more likely, some hapless smoker, to discover.

“I want to let it free,” says Edmund.



“Freak,” says Peter. He grabs Edmund and he noogies him. Edmund is too distracted by the novelty of this to properly fight back. Eventually Peter lets him go. “Well, if you need any help taking it down after, or, you know, whatever, I’m right next door.”

“What?” says Edmund, blankly.

Lights come on in one of the offices below them.

“Erp,” says Peter. “Looks like it’s rounds.”

A clock tolls two, softly, in the distance.

“I’m out,” says Peter, and he’s over the railing, vanishing into shadows, and he is gone.

“What?” says Edmund, blankly, again.

He stares down after Peter.

Then he yells, “Hey!”

Edmund’s gotten better at this since his days with the Doom Team. He’s gotten stronger.

There is a wolf within him and in him. It is woven through him like a metal thread through a handkerchief or the Gulley funds through the economies of the world. He’s older and he’s stronger now. When the security guard bursts out onto the roof and sees him Edmund does not bother fighting him, or surrendering to him, but simply pins him with gleaming animal-eyes in the darkness, freezes him like a rabbit before a snake, and walks past him, down, and out.

When he gets back to his dorm he beats on Peter’s door, he complains at him, he says, “Open up, you beast!”

But Peter just calls out, “Studying!” and finally Edmund has no choice but to go, unsuccessfully, to bed.

– 12 –

Posted by on Sep 29, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Space princess assassin Lucy Souvante stops by the campus Konami Thunder Dance club.

She stares in.

A warm and tender smile spreads across the evil prophet’s face.

“Why,” she says, to the world at large. “You’ve actually got something interesting.”

She leans against a wall. She watches as they dance.

It’s Meredith and Max this time around. They’re going at it pretty hard, and they’re warping reality as they go — not too much, of course, they’ve got the Konami Thunder Dance safeties on, but even so the dance has swallowed up the ceiling in an endless night, bucked up the floor into twin intertwining towers, and is raining bits of apple and fire down from the sky onto her head.

She goes to pick up an apple slice — it’s pre-toasted! Mmm! — but Paul, who’s leaning against the wall and watching, shakes his head.

“That’s a bad apple,” he says. He jerks his head up towards Max, who’s dancing to some sort of hard-beat J-Pop. “From the song. You don’t want that.”

“Oh,” she says.

She looks at it.

“If I —”

“You’d probably be cursed to eat thistles and farm the ground and bring forth your children in sorrow,” he says. “Then you’d give it to me and I’d do the same! That’s why I don’t think people should dance Bad Apple against Human.

“Oh,” says Lucy.

She tosses it aside. The apple slice screams as it splashes against the ground.

“I’m the evil prophet of space,” she introduces herself.

“Paul,” he says. “And shh.”

They watch. They wait. After a bit the song ends and Max and Meredith lean against the arm and headrests of their PlayStations and their towers lower and the world fades back towards its normal state.

Finally, Max lifts his head. He wipes away his sweat.

“Oh, hey, a newbie,” he says.

“I’m the evil —” starts Lucy.

“Want to try it?”

She considers. Then she smiles. “Sure,” she says.

After a while, she says, “This isn’t very much like rock-scissors-paper.”

“No,” Max says.

She chews on her lip.

“I’m Lucy Souvante,” she says. “I’m a space princess assassin evil prophet.”

Max shakes her hand. He smiles.

“Welcome to the club.”

He’s speaking welcomingly, so he isn’t implying he and Meredith or Paul, too, are space princess assassin evil prophets. He’s informing her that she’s welcome there: welcome to join the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth Konami Thunder Dance club and learn how to dance the thunder dance and then to dance it with and against him, along with other interested students like Meredith, Emily, and Paul.

– 13 –

Posted by on Oct 1, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 1 | 0 comments

Edmund knocks on Andrea’s door. He opens it. He leans in.

For a moment the room is empty.

Then a heart beats and chains pull taut; the nithrid condenses, draws down from static cling in the socks and the dust bunnies and lightning in the machines, and becomes a girl.

She stares at him. Her eyes are blank.

“Wow,” says Edmund.

“Sometimes,” she says, and her voice has a catch in it, “sometimes I think I can almost get free of it. If I hold my breath. If I stop my heart. I can almost pull apart and stay — anyway, who the hell are you?”

“Sorry,” says Edmund. He sketches a bow. “Edmund Gulley, at your service.”

She is a blur of motion. She has a knife. She is holding it to his throat. He snarls. She is still stretching forward to attack, she has not secured her position yet, and that is why he is able to lean and skip back away, his leg coming up to smash its knee into her elbow; his leg is turning even as it rises and he snaps a followup kick out at her head.

She moves even faster now; she fogs out into a mist of storm and plunges at him, swinging a dozen knives held by a dozen strands of hair. He turns through them, snapping two of the knives out of the air and swallowing them down with his wolf-bite; his back is to her for a moment, and then he is coming in, his hand extended and his white teeth bared —

Her hair is wrapped around him; its ends still hold ten knives.

He is tense, frozen, but when they do not cut him he relaxes.

“You are not Edmund Gulley,” she says.

Junior,” he says.

She hesitates. “What, really?”


“Oh.” She pulls away from him. “— Why you people have such redundant names, I will never know.”

He frowns at her. “Anyway,” he says. “Dad said there was a nithrid.”

“Yes,” says the nithrid. “I generate power and eat storms. And take classes. I am ‘a highly convenient monstrosity.’”

“Wicked,” says Edmund. “The wolf mostly generates dander.”

The comment falls flat.

The nithrid stares sadly at Edmund.

“Dear God,” says Edmund, realizing. “Did Dad say that too?”

“It is not a bad thing,” she says, without formally admitting it, “for a son to be like his father. You — you are his son, yes? Not the junior to some other Edmund Gulley?”

“Yes,” he says.

“I thought so,” she says. “It is an in-family arrangement. I can see the wolf in you, I think, too.”

He shrugs.

“It was the way you almost bit my head off and drooled acidic spittle,” she says. “But instead just kind of drooled a little.”

Edmund embarrassedly wipes the corner of his mouth. “I was ravening,” he says.

“Yes,” she says. “No doubt.”

“It’s true!” he says. “Sometimes I go ulfserk! It’s like berserking, only, less ber, more ulf.”

“Licking my face like a puppy and the like?”

“Yes! No!”

He frowns at her.

“That is ridiculous. Wolves do not do that. They are noble and vicious predators.”

“I suppose,” she says. “It’s all the same from the vantage of the storm.”

“I don’t like you,” concludes Edmund.

“Nobody does,” she says. She turns away.

“I just thought —”


“My Dad,” says Edmund. “I thought, he wanted us to — I don’t even know. So I thought I would introduce myself.”

“You are tangled,” she says. “In my chains.”


“You will break them,” she says. “I think. That is interesting.”

She turns back to him. She studies him. She places her hand flat upon his chest. She tilts her head.

“If you have a heart attack,” she says, “I cannot help you.”

“I wasn’t expecting it,” he says.

“I —”

She frowns.

“It is a waste of my learning to jump-start someone’s heart,” she says, “if you are going to go around keeping it someplace else. Next you shall tell me that there is no point in my studying emergency medicine at all because I cannot treat somebody without shocking and distressing them.”

“Yes,” Edmund says.


“That was not previously what I was going to say next,” he says. “But now, you may take it as stated.”

She considers this.

“I will teach you to kill,” she says. “I will teach you to dance. I will teach you to call the lightning. Then you will shatter the chains that are binding on us and I will boil back out to the sky. It will be a glorious transformation and the Heavens shall be made glad.”

“I didn’t ask —” he says.

“I didn’t either,” she says. “You will learn these things. I have decided it. If you refuse me, then I shall kill you here and now.”

“I don’t think so,” he says. “I’m Edmund Gulley.”

She grits her teeth.

“Fine,” she says, after a while staring at him. “If you refuse, I will get very angry, and write a stern letter, and never talk to you again, but I suppose that I won’t kill you. It would be against your human manners. But you will do it anyway.”


“Because you are like your father,” she says. “You do not want to bind things. You want to shatter chains and let your bound wolf free.”

“That isn’t what father wants,” says Edmund.

It’s almost reflex.

Then after a while he says, with a catch in his voice, “Is it?”

“I will teach you,” she says. “You will fly, Edmund. You will be free of the gravity of the world. You will dance, and you will call up lightning, and you will kill. You will become strong and you will break your chains.”

She breathes. Her heart beats painfully. She closes her eyes. She turns to him.

“Come,” she says. “Preemptive repayment: I will set you free.”

Edmund hesitates a long moment. Then he nods.

“OK,” he says.

She walks out into the hall. All the other doors close. She waves upwards at the ceiling and the light turns on. Edmund shivers as if —

This is what he thinks. It’s completely silly but he thinks it anyway —

As if the ghost of a duck were glaring at him from her back.

“Where are we going?”

“You can’t dance indoors,” she says. “That’s human insanity. So we will take our lessons —”

“Wait,” says Edmund. “You want us to dance in the quad?”

She looks over her shoulder at him.

He looks down.

He masters his embarrassment.

“Thank God,” he finally says, “for my wooden box.”