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Chapter 2: The Hat without Equal

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Kether Hat

Tom’s Kether-Hat, by Anthony Damiani

– 1 –

Posted by on Oct 27, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

It’s a week or two earlier.

Lucy attends an underground fighting tournament.

There are rings and rings of people fighting down below. There are at least four battles going at any given time. It’s dark and the area is tented like a circus.

She squints down.

She pokes the girl sitting beside her.

“You,” she says. She waves her underground fighting playbill. “Human girl. Tell me of Sid and Max.”

Emily glances at her.

Lucy suddenly flashes on an old Vulcan salute. She flares her nostrils. She looks away.

“Nevermind,” she says.

“Ha ha!” says Emily. She sing-songs, “Max has a fan-girl.”

The evil prophet of space kills her —

Wait, no.

That’s a pretty sweet viper palm, admittedly, but it goes through where Emily’s neck had just been and not through Emily’s actual neck. Emily is on the floor, having just kicked out the metal support from under Lucy’s chair. The evil prophet of space tumbles forward and lands awkwardly over the shoulder of Meredith, who was sitting in front of them.

“Club represent!” says Meredith, pumping a fist.

Lucy hisses and thinks about killing her, but because Meredith is in the Konami Thunder Dance club she does not. Instead she awkwardly rights herself.

“I’m Emily,” Emily says. She is holding out a flat hand. Lucy stares at it, waiting for it to writhe with some sort of aegis of evil prophecy, or possibly stupid-Vulcan-salute-girl cooties, but it doesn’t. So finally, resentfully, she shakes hands.

“Lucy,” sulks Lucy.

“Oh! The new girl.”

“I am not —”

Lucy sighs.

“I am here to watch Max’s fight.”

“Too late,” says Emily. “You just missed — just kidding sit down.”

Lucy eyes her. Then, showing off, she snaps her fingers and restores her chair to solidity with the power of the wicked god of space.

– 2 –

Posted by on Oct 29, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Edmund and Peter weave through the audience.

“It’s good,” Peter says.

He’s using his ninja skills to balance three buckets of popcorn as they scramble to their seats.

“It’s good,” Peter says. “It’ll make a man of you, this place will.”

“I ate a death ray once,” Edmund says.

Peter shrugs eloquently.

They sit.

“Also, we’re in the audience.”

Peter ducks forward as a throwing axe smashes into his seat. He smashes it through the back of his seat into the person behind him with his head.

Edmund waves off a snake someone has thrown in his direction.

“It’s an audience participation thing,” Peter says. He hands Edmund a bucket of popcorn.

There are rings and rings of people fighting down below. There are at least four battles going at any given time. It’s dark and the area is tented like a circus.

“Oh, man,” Peter says. He points vaguely. “There’s Sid.”


Sid is squaring off against Max. They’re in the summoners’ circle. That’s where the summoners fight.

“Know your wimps!” says Peter. He spits to the side. “He’s the worst-ranked kid in your class. Cosmic whipping boy, that one is, but no, he’s gotta think of himself as a winner.”

“He looks like he’s got potential,” Edmund says.

“That’s just his summon,” Peter dismisses.

Sid’s scraped out a summoning circle in the dirt of the summoners’ circle. This always sounds redundant when he’s talking about it to people but it doesn’t feel redundant at all when he is fighting for his life.

Light glitters upwards from his circle.

He cries out, INTIMATION!

That’s the best summon he can manage right now. It’s an intimation that he might one day summon something better.

The ninjutsu fight from a different ring storms out through the audience. Two of Peter’s classmates are a stuttering, tumbling blur of weaponry, clashing, vanishing into ninja-space for a step or two and reappearing in a spinning bundle out over the audience’s chairs. Emily starts up from her seat, then settles back into it; she’s too far away to do anything —

There’s a scream as one of the prophesy students takes a nunchaku to the eye.

Meanwhile, Max stomps the ground with his summoning stick. It’s like a regular stick, but at the bottom it has the reversed imprint of a summoning circle on it. It saves time.

“HAND PUPPETS!” Max shouts, and tosses aside the stick.

He summons two hand puppets. They resemble sea monsters. They fit neatly over his hands.

Sid launches himself at Max, wreathed in the intimation that one day he might summon something that will totally show Max what for. Max stops him with one sea-monstered hand held firmly against his head.

“Oh, that’s a good show,” says Peter.

He snatches a napkin — well, a headband — from the tumbling ninjas as they go past and he wipes his mouth. “See, you lose points if you touch your enemy directly, but Max’s summon lets him put his hand on Sid’s forehead fair and square.”

Sid continues to flail.

“You’re sure it’s not potential?” Edmund says.

“It’s INTIMATION,” Peter says. “Geez, you’d be a sucker for CERTAIN DOOM.”

The mouth of the sea monster puppet in Max’s other hand begins to gleam. It is building charge for a puppet beam.

The light brightens.

Sid ducks under Max’s hand. He pounds the earth. He free-summons DIRT SPEAR. This fails because free-summoning is an extremely advanced topic and only three people in the world have ever managed it. Instead there is only the sudden, furious intimation of a spear striking up from the Earth through Max’s bowels.

“Ha ha!” says Max. “I’ll be regular tonight!”

His sea monster hand puppet’s maw opens. He blasts Sid.

Sid falls.

“Ooh yeah,” cries Max. “Who’s the champion?”

That is when Eugenie, whose summon is a gigantic four-armed ape, steps into the circle.

“Oh,” says Max, embarrassed. “Right. That would be you.”

– 3 –

Posted by on Nov 4, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

“I can’t believe this,” says Lucy.

She walks back towards the dormitory. The underground fighting tournament of the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth, where secondary school students do their level best to be badass, has not impressed her.

“Hand puppets,” she says. “Hand puppets. Prophets who can’t even see their own blindness. Four-armed apes. And you.”

She glares at Emily.

“Why are we even walking together?” she says. “You are a stupid human.”

Emily shrugs.

“I like to dance,” she says.

“You are a terrible dancer,” says Lucy.

“You’ve never seen me,” says Emily.

“It is transparently obvious,” Lucy says. She waves a hand dismissively. “Git. Go. I am going to the Konami Thunder Dance club to work off tension. I do not want it polluted with your human cooties.”

“That would probably be why we’re walking together,” says Emily. “I’m not interested in Max, you know.”

“Neither am I!”

“I just thought I’d say,” Emily says. “After.”

“I am the evil prophet of space.”


“Space does not like you,” says Lucy. “You people. You look outwards towards space. You make puppy-dog faces. You project onto space with your purposes and expectations. Space is confused and nauseated by this! Space is not your frontier. It is a cold bleak void! You need to stop hoping and dreaming towards it. So I am here to kill everyone in hopes that this will make you stop!

“I see,” says Emily.


“Well,” says Emily, “you’re going to have some trouble with that, on account of I bet I can take you.”

“Bah,” says Lucy. “I was not fighting seriously.”

Emily squints at her.

Then she giggles.

“I’m not into girls, either,” Emily says.

Lucy gives her a horrid look.

“Fine,” she says. “I like Max. Stop squinting and giggling at me like that. He will be the last to die. Or possibly the first to die. I cannot decide what order humanity should be killed in. You are all too irrelevant. But seriously, hand puppets? He is a disappointment.”

“He’d like you more if you didn’t kill humanity,” teases Emily.

“You seem markedly more equable about this than I expected,” Lucy admits.

Emily grins at her.

“Here,” she says. She pushes open the door to the Konami Thunder Dance club. “Let me show you what a svart-elf’s god-daughter can do.”

“You’re not a god,” says Lucy, uncertainly; only —

In those days, gods walked among us, courtesy of the Konami Corporation; and Emily, it turns out, over the course of their dueling, is very good indeed.

Lucy has tried to dance an expression of it —

Lucy has tried to dance before Emily the purity of it; the awfulness of it: the full dread hopelessness and pointlessness of humanity in the face of the wicked god of space. But woven through Emily’s music — flowing through her Symbols, through her dancing, in it and within it —

There are magical jaguars falling, endlessly, around the Earth.

Lucy can’t even figure out how that could apply, how that could be an answer; but it pierces through the wall of despair she tries to build for the other girl anyway. It shatters it, it circles around it; and in the end, Lucy’s thunder dance stands at 95% completion, and Emily’s gets a perfect score.

– 4 –

Posted by on Nov 5, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

It is a few weeks later.

Andrea is in her room. She is dancing, thoughtfully, with herself; but after the style that she might dance with Peter.

Edmund is staring at her from the open door.

She turns. She looks at him.

“Do you think —” she starts to say.

He holds his finger to his lips.

He walks in. He closes the door. He says, softly, “Andrea, would you like your freedom?”

She tilts her head to one side. “Of cour—”

He rips her chains.

Her mouth opens. She discharges the lightning. It fills the room; it bursts it; it arcs out, loop by endless loop of it, shatters the window, fries the screen, and pours into the sky.

He rips open the ribcage of her human body. He crushes flat the spikes. He shatters the eyebones and still the lightning pours from her.

Now and again it touches him; it burns him; it sears him; but if it touches him too long he bites at it, swallows the forked and bladed edges of it, and it howls and slips away.

He spears his fingers through the eyes of the ghost-duck. He wrings its neck, counterclockwise, and unwhisks it. The spirit dissipates. It’s . . .

That’s good, I guess?

It’s . . . I mean, logically, it would be good, wouldn’t it? To un-whisk a duck? I know it’s good when you unplug a cow or make dull a goat with primary education and heavy lager.

I don’t actually know how to describe this scene from a moral vantage except that he does it, and he is Edmund, and she is the nithrid.

I would be more inclined to approve if it weren’t for the fact that he’s eating spurs of her ribs now. I’d be all, “well, sometimes you have to be visceral to be kind,” except, oh, God, Edmund, that thing you are doing with her eyeball is just gross.

It is a brutal room.

It is a bloody scene.

It makes you remember that wolves are wild creatures, wolves and gold, and you must not trust an aristocrat who has been raised by an acid-drooling wolf not to go berserk and start ripping people open if you are ever in a situation where self-control of that sort will be demanded.

Meanwhile Peter has new boots.

He stomps in them.

He has almost entirely recovered from being irritated at the presence of the antichrist at his school. He has almost entirely forgiven Edmund for being such a jerk as to be friends with said antichrist. It is not really Edmund’s fault. The boy has just had bad influences.

He stomps, and he imagines scissors.

He imagines them spindling. He imagines them crumpling. He is the rock against which their scissorsy ambitions shall crumble, denature, and fall.

He sighs happily.

There is something in a boot that loves to stomp. There is something in a boot’s nature that calls for it. It exerts a subtle, cumulative pressure upon the wearer; and to release that stress by stomping is a supernal pleasure. If boots could wear boots, and those boots could wear the original boots —

If you’re a little confused by how that would work topologically, please imagine that there is an explanatory diagram and that I am pointing you helpfully in its direction —

Then they would fulfill one another in an endless stomping frenzy of orgiastic glee.

They would roll across the world, they would know great fury, and nothing stompable would be safe. Grapes would turn to grape juice, and eventually to wine. Paper towers would be stomped flat. Paris seems kind of fragile. It would probably just get bum-plain paved over when the stomping boots rolled by.

The Pope looks up! He screams!

Why did he even go to Paris? The Pope should be in Rome! Rome, Pope! Rome!

The Pope screams anyway. Perhaps it is a premonition.

Thus lies the story of the boot.

It’s not all imaginary boots strapping each other on and pulling themselves up into a storm like feet, though. There’s real stomping involved, too. Listen.

The end of Fenris, prophecy says, is the boot. That wolf’s going to get stomped. Boot to the head? Shoe to the tongue? Even the hunger of the wolf can fail against the brutal leather of a really gigantic shoe.

The end of the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth, too.

Nostradamus had said it. He’d prognosticated it.

If there should be a Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth in England, in a certain year, the boot shall come.

Lest all this talk of stomping seem overly focused on the future, we must remember Pompeii, stomped by the fiery boot of Heaven; or Atlantis; or that adorable little rabbit, you know, the one that got stomped.

I don’t even want to think about it!

That poor bunny!

It was going to be a world-destroying bunny, I guess. I mean, I think Hans had his reasons. But even still.

Sometimes I like to dig it out of the cavernous depths of the earth, hold it against my chest, rock it gently, and tell it that when the Rapture comes surely an innocent bunny like itself will be given new divine flesh and spirit, even if it’s at the expense of one of the 144,000 fundamentalist Christians otherwise destined to know Heaven.

This is a logical, reasonable activity!

Magical jaguars in a decaying orbit around the Earth have probably already eaten those Christians’ tickets into Heaven anyway.

Peter stomps.

Peter stomps in accordance with the fundamental rules for boots.

Then he throws open Andrea’s door. He cries, “Andrea! Look! I have new boots! I’m stomping in them!”

Andrea is, unusually, being eaten.

– 5 –

Posted by on Nov 11, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

He throws open Andrea’s door. He cries, “Andrea! Look! I have new boots! I’m stomping in them!”

Andrea . . . is being eaten.

“They’re like the boot that will stomp this School,” Peter says. “Only, smaller.”

His voice is becoming uncertain.

He is becoming a little confused now. He is staring into the room. He is having trouble processing it, what with all the red. Edmund’s white hat is like a tooth amidst the gums, if the gums were the bloody remains of Andrea’s human flesh and all our teeth were little hats.

The smell hits him.

“Bloody,” says Peter. “Bloody. Bloody heck.”

He isn’t thinking about stomping. There was this whole cognitive shelf in his brain that was reserved just for thinking about stomping, only, it’s like there’s been an earthquake in his mind, and all the jewels of thoughts are falling off his shelves and shattering against the floor.

“Oh,” says the Edmund-beast. It turns around. It smiles. Its teeth are white. “Peter. Come in.”

Peter shakes his head.

Why did he sleep through all the lectures on cannibal-fighting? Why? Why? Why? He had been so certain that he’d never actually need that in real life —

The Edmund-beast edges forward a little.

“It’s all right, Peter,” the Edmund-beast says. “You know me. I’m just Edmund, remember? I found — I found —”

The Edmund-beast hesitates. It tilts its head to one side.

“Is it all right,” it asks Peter, “to lie, if the end result is freedom?”

“No,” Peter says.

“Are you sure? That seems a self-serving answer.”

“Well,” says Peter, “yes, but — why am I talking to you?”

“I’m your friend,” Edmund says. “I’m your friend and I don’t want to eat you. That is why we are talking. Language is what lets us communicate with one another.”

Edmund swallows. He blinks at Peter innocently. His eyes are luminous and white. His head is tilted to one side. It is a very canine expression. It is basically the same way your dog would look at you when attempting to reassure you that it doesn’t actually want to kill you and eat you.

Except that he’s slavering. Just a little.

That doesn’t help him sell it. That and —

“You’ve still got bits of Andrea on your mouth!”

And that.

If your dog looks at you and it slavering a little and still has bits of Andrea on its mouth, then even the most otherwise innocent expression can perturb. That is why your dog is always so very careful to wipe the blood and slaver away before you see!

I mean, they would be. If they did that kind of thing. They don’t! They’re a good dog!

As for Peter, his eyes have shrunk to points. He is flailing for his ninja competence but he cannot find it. His stomach is too busy turning. His heart is too busy racing. The Edmund-beast is wiping at its mouth unsavorily and all Peter can think is: Oh, God. Oh, God.

“Oh, God,” the Edmund-beast echoes. “That’s so embarrassing. But seriously. I don’t want to kill and eat you.”

His stomach roils and grumbles.

“Little white lie,” admits Edmund. His teeth are white. “But honestly, I’m totally in control of the flesh-hunger. You . . . don’t need me to kill you, do you? To let you out of that body or anything? I can imagine that you’re trapped in there. It must be so lonely, Peter, all alone in that great big body of yours. No wolf. No Edmund. No Vaenwode and no Jordis. I could help you. If you like.”

Peter fumbles in his pockets.

“I mean, look at you,” says Edmund Gulley. “You’re trapped in your mortality. You’ll just grow old and die, and the whole time you’ll be caught in this world of suffering. Surely I can help you with that. Surely you’d like me to —”

He hits the side of his head. He gets gore on it.

“No, no, no, Edmund. Bad wolf-boy. No. There is no killing and eating people simply so they do not grow old and die. Sorry. I’m so hungry. It is making it hard to engage in moral reasoning.”

He gives Peter a strained grin.

Peter continues fumbling in his pockets. He is looking for inspiration. Inspiration and/or a weapon. He has neither. He finds gum!

Gum is extremely similar to a gun when spoken or in print, but it’s harder to shoot people with it! So much harder! In order to shoot someone with a gum —

You can’t shoot somebody with a gum! Peter discovers this right in the middle of the relevant exposition.

It is not possible.

A piece of Lethal gum slips from the pack he is attempting to shoot Edmund with and falls, pathetically, to the floor.

“I have a razor!” Peter declares.

It is a sudden, bloody victory, this razor in his pocket. His fingers run red with his power and his joy. He brandishes it.

It is small. It is made from blue plastic. Its twin blades could cut Edmund open, leave him bloody and dead and Peter to be the one who walks away, if someone removed them from their housing. Small imprinted letters on its handle read, Lethal.

Edmund smells Peter’s blood.

His stomach rumbles. He groans. He moves towards Peter as if his body could stretch.

He whispers cruelly, unfairly, “Oh, you’re using scissors now?”

Peter gapes at him. Just because the razor has two blades —

Peter works his jaw. Peter is horrified. Then Peter convulsively throws the razor at Edmund. There’s a flash of metal and light. The razor’s patented surface scrub technology slivers a hair off of Edmund’s arm!

Edmund loses control. He snarls. He leaps. He bowls Peter over.

They melee-roll.

Peter scrambles up and away. He flails through the door into Andrea’s room. He tries to slam it. Its handle and latching apparatus is broken! It just hits the frame and bounces back.

Peter continues scrambling! He is over by Andrea’s remains now.

He scans her for a weapon. He slams her eyelid closed with a palm and scribbles a cross in the air in front of her forehead. Behind him, Edmund is stalking in after him. Edmund is shaking his head, repeatedly, as if trying to throw off being sleepy.

“I’d like it noted,” Edmund says softly, “that you initiated hostilities.”

Edmund closes the door. Adding insult to injury it closes seamlessly behind him with a click.

“I have boots!” Peter remembers.

He flails a boot at Edmund. Edmund recoils. Edmund’s mind becomes a confusion and he staggers against a wall.

This is infinitely better than Peter had expected this to work.

“Aha!” says Peter. “Got your weakness! You can’t handle boots, can you? Because you’re a cannibal!”

That must be what was covered in the anti-cannibalism lectures!

Peter’s eyes glint with Peter-wroth. He hops vindictively towards Edmund on alternate feet. “Boot!” he says. “Boot! Boot!”

Edmund snarls. He cowers. He can’t even figure out why. He has nightmare visions of —

He clutches at his empty chest. His mind seethes with whiteness.

“BOOT!” says Peter.

He tries to show Edmund both boots at once. He slips on Andrea’s vitals. He staggers. He falls sideways. He unexpectedly autodefenestrates.

He attempts a ninja disappearance. He is distracted as three bolts of lightning attempt to grab him out of the air.

. . . you can’t grab people with a lightning!

. . .

Posted by on Nov 11, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Peter lands hard, and badly, and smoking, on the concrete walkway of the school.

– 6 –

Posted by on Nov 13, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

The yard is green and blue. The grass is damp. There is a fountain in the middle of it, white in the darkness, with a cherub perched in its marble center. It is a Lethal cherub; there are letters marking it as such scrawled across its base.

The sidewalk is clean but poorly maintained and there are startled ladybugs in the air.

Above it all there is a window that is missing, its glass shattered and turned to dust, its wooden frame burnt, its screen melted away. This is a safety hazard; for instance, somebody trying to scare off the Edmund-beast by hopping at them while brandishing brand-new boots might slip on the blood and viscera of Andrea’s mortal body and fall sideways out the window. The remnant window wouldn’t be an obstacle to this at all!

Above that, the sky boils with nithrid.

It is an unchained storm. It darts whithersoever it pleases. It burns the sky and it burns the ground: lightning lashes from it to set the flagpole merrily on fire, to burst the gardens of Principal Goethe, to chase two errant students who had waywardly been necking into the cover of a nearby Hall.

It was Andrea but now it is a seething sky-fire. Now it will bring an end to the civilizations of the earth.

Cheryl and Tom are arguing.

Tom is of the opinion that he can bloody well keep going even though he’s barely patched up, and Cheryl should stop worrying about him. Cheryl, conversely, is of the opinion that they should abandon the hunt for Edmund and instead harness the energy of the sudden living lightning storm all around them to conquer space.

She makes a particularly stern argument. She snaps her arm out, flat-handed, as if to assert an emphatic conclusion to the same.

Peter thuds smoldering into the ground.

“Cheryl!” chides Tom. “That’s not how one emphasizes one’s points in the House of Dreams.”

“The matter is coincidental,” avers Cheryl.

“Loose lips throw people from windows,” Tom sighs, and shakes his head.

Cheryl is at Peter’s side. She checks him for signs of consciousness. She looks up at the window he’s fallen through.

Edmund stares out at them with hunger-whitened eyes.

“Oh, right!” she says, suddenly remembering. “We’re hunting cannibals. Tom, you should be resting.”

Tom squints up at Edmund. He tries to remember which argument he’s having. “There are souls toiling in Hell,” he says. “Realistically, we should be using lightning to wake up the dead and let them go. That’s what Frankenstein would have done.”

Edmund glares down at them with a vague, possessive anger.

He vanishes into the building at a run.

“Dr. Frankenstein is fictional,” Cheryl says.

“I don’t like this,” frets Tom, ignoring her.

“You’re barely conscious.”

“No,” says Tom. “I mean, the part where we’re all about to get eaten.”

“Priorities, man!” she says. She waves upwards at the lightning. It flashes, almost simultaneously with the roll of thunder.

Tom stares at Peter.

Then he shakes his head. “He’s still a good role model for proper scientific behavior,” Tom says. “Knew what was what, Victor did.”

Cheryl’s shoulders sink.

“But, but — space.”

Tom picks up Peter’s arm. He makes Tom-wroth gestures with his head until Cheryl picks up the other one. They drag Peter off.

Behind them they can hear the Edmund-beast howl.

“We’ll conquer space one day,” Tom reassures her, but Cheryl is too busy dragging half of Peter to really pay attention to his words.

– 7 –

Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Lucy faces off against a goat.

“I knew,” she says, “when I came to this world, that there were two players. Just two, at my level. Two obstacles to remove, before I could kill this stupid world. I could feel it. One of them slumbers. He is of no account. He will not play rock-paper-scissors against me until it is too late. But then —”

She counts. She throws. One, two, three, paper.

The goat has inexplicably failed to participate in the game. It dies, as a goat will die that plays against the evil prophet of space unwisely; or too well; or not at all.

“Then,” she says, “also there was a goat.”

She frowns.

Her evil monologue has gone unremarked-upon. Her enemy has failed to show the competence that she expected.

She pokes over its corpse.

She scowls hatefully.

“Why,” she says. “Why can’t I ever find happiness? Why must the world keep it from me?”

She casts the runes but she already knows.

Of course it wouldn’t help anything to kill it.

This is not that goat.

It might not even —

Judging by the patternlessness in its spilled-out entrails —

Be an actual goat at all.

– 8 –

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

“He’s still after us,” pants Cheryl.

She isn’t panting because pants are the opposite of hats, for clarity. She’s panting because she’s been exercising very hard.

Also, boots are the opposite of hats.

“I don’t want to die,” she says. “I haven’t even finished my one-use matter transmission system or my origami bombs.”

“We won’t die,” says Tom. “It’s just an adventure.”

“Um,” says Cheryl.

“There is no way,” says Tom, “that I’m going to let Edmund kill and eat me. That’s against everything I stand for!”

They’ve retreated back into the hat cemetery. They’ve crawled under the plastic ropes that fence it off with a still semi-conscious Peter held between them. They’ve tried to lose themselves in the natural geography of the hat cemetery, with the help of Tom’s extensive experience with dead hats and Cheryl’s folding ability, but even a blind wolf could follow the scent trail left by Tom’s cologne.

(Unless its nose was also blind, and possibly even then.)

“Tom,” whispers an echoing voice, through the hat cemetery. “Come help me, Tom. I can’t control it, Tom.”

It doesn’t sound desperate. It sounds mocking, and rich with hunger. But maybe that’s just how someone sounds when suddenly they’re driven to kill and eat you. It’s not a normal experience, you know, on either side.

“I need to eat, Tom. I need to be stronger so I can break my chains. Right now I’m hardly any stronger than a boy. But if I eat you, I’ll have your strength and not just mine. Won’t that be nice? Yours, and Peter’s, and — is that girl worth eating? You must be honest with me, Tom.”

“She’s sharp as a tack that’s stuck in another tack!” shouts Tom, and doesn’t understand at all why Cheryl hits his arm.

“I was praising you,” he says.

“Don’t —”

She flails. Then she says, unhappily, “Fine. I apologize for hitting you. You may praise me as freely as you like.”

“And she’s courteous!” Tom shouts.

There is a silence for a bit.

“Don’t humanize her, Tom,” comes Edmund’s voice.

“She is human —”

Tom looks at Cheryl. “Wait, are we still human?”

Cheryl shrugs.

“I think she is human,” Tom calls.

“I’ll let the others go if you’ll come to me,” says Edmund. “You’re the tastiest. I’ll eat them later, but I won’t eat them today. You’d be the best. We could have forever. You’d be so sweet.

Tom is shaking with fury and exhaustion.

“Sweet like your mother,” shouts Tom, in what probably qualifies as the worst attempt at insulting somebody ever. “I’m a science adventurer!”

One reason that this is an extremely bad attempt at insulting someone is that one is not supposed to compare oneself to the mother in question when using a ‘your mother’ style insult. Another is that ‘your mother’ style insults are part and parcel of a pervasively patriarchal society that science adventurers are normally inclined to deny their actual participation in. And one hardly needs point out the tackiness and problematic sexual connotations of the use of ‘sweet’ in this particular insult.

Most importantly, it is a bad insult because it leaves Edmund completely confused.

“Helissent was a science adventurer?” he says.

“No!” shouts Tom.

Then he staggers a few steps onwards, trying to look as if he’s somehow won or proved something. Lightning sets small fires on the hills.

“The cheek,” he says, to Cheryl. He glares at her, not for any particularly good reason. He doesn’t specify which of Edmund’s cheeks he means, or if he means one of Edmund’s cheeks at all.

Possibly there is a hat, nearby, that has a cheek.

Why would anybody do that to a hat?

Peter mumbles something again. He flails an arm. He knocks over a hat. It tumbles down a steep hat-slope into the night.

That was probably the one!

Tom opens his mouth. He’s going to yell something.

“He’s probably trying to provoke you,” says Cheryl. “You know. Into revealing our location.”

“Oh,” says Tom, a bit embarrassed.

“By shouting,” Cheryl explains.

“Oh,” says Tom again.

He hesitates.

Then an idea strikes him. “Can you fold the sounds of my yelling so that they seem to come from somewhere else?”

She looks at him. “Not without a sound-folding device.”


“Seriously, Tom.”


They stagger on. Tom falls down. He tries to get up again. He can’t. Not while pulling Peter along.

“Peter,” singsongs Edmund. “Peter. Are you still with them, Peter? You mustn’t trust them, Peter. He’s just tenderizing you for my supper, Tom is.”

Tom’s voice is nauseated. “There is nothing for it. We will have to do it. I do not want to do it. Not like this.”

Cheryl blinks. “You’re going to tenderize him?”


Peter is drooling a little.

“No. Well, maybe a little? I don’t know! I just wish he were conscious for this. He deserves self-determination in his hatting or not being hatted, but —”

Sheets of sudden rain tear across them. Lightning flashes in the sky overhead. It limns and silhouettes a beast that stares down at them from atop a hill of hats.

Tom closes his eyes in pain.

“Oh,” Cheryl says.

“Tom,” cries Edmund. “I can smell you. I’m almost on you. Wash your neck, Tom.”

Tom opens his eyes.

They are gone full black: the color of the House of Dreams.

“Forgive me,” he says, to Peter. “I am a prisoner of my circumstances.”

He holds his hat high. He brings it down on Peter’s head. It goes right over his face, just like Peter wants to stay asleep a little longer.

The boy’s boots twitch. His body shudders. He who was a boy of many directions is made over into a boy of one.

“Ptuh,” says Peter. It’s a spitting noise. He isn’t spitting into the hat. It’s just kind of what the noise he’s making sounds like.

The Edmund-beast is skidding down a hat-hill towards them. It is alternating sliding and loping. The beast can be seen to slaver when the lightning flashes behind it.

Peter sits up.

He shakes off the hat.

He is on his feet in one boneless maneuver. He takes in the world. His eyes burn red. He blurs into the sky like Vaenwode’s spear; he strikes true. He tackles Edmund: flings back the beast; pins him against a great shelf of hats.

Lightning strikes and thunder growls where Edmund had almost been. It hits a vaporous node. It ignites it, and behind the tumbling pair there is an explosion that fills the eyes of Tom and Cheryl with red-white glare.

Peter rolls off of Edmund.

Peter scrambles for a fez. He pulls it on. He glares at it. He hunts, desperately, in the pile, for any non-fez red hats.

Edmund stumbles to his feet.

“Not now,” snaps Peter. He waves Edmund away. “I have to find a non-ridiculous red hat!”

Edmund squints at him. Then he shrugs. He reaches into the pile of hats. He’s spotted a bit of red yarn. He tosses Peter a dead knit cap.

“Thanks,” says Peter.

Peter sinks back to the ground with relief.

“That was a bit of a thing,” he says.

Tom and Cheryl are staring at them. Tom is squinting and swaying. Cheryl is trying to finish a prototype origami bomb.

Edmund tilts his head.

“Peter,” he says.

“I know, I know,” Peter says. “You’re going to eat me. Can we talk first?”

Edmund moves. He attempts to rip Peter’s throat out. Peter isn’t there. There’s just a wreath of red around his hand. Peter has vanished into ninja-space.

He spirals back into being a little further up the hill.

“Apparently we can,” Edmund says.

He laughs.

“Oh, whatever. Sure. Fine. Talk to me.”

He waves Tom and Cheryl off.

“Get out of here!” Edmund calls. “This guy’s given his life for you. I think. I don’t know. Go!”

“That’s really gracious!” Tom yells back.

Tom,” says Cheryl.

“He’s practically my brother,” Tom says.


Cheryl attempts to imagine the family Tom grew up with.

“That’s not what I imagined,” she says.

“There was also a Taoist deity and the antichrist,” Tom says. “But they’re off in nunneries and rot. We had such good times.”

They drag one another off through the hills and valleys of the hats.

“So,” says Edmund.

“What’s it like for you?” Peter asks.

Edmund blinks at him. “It is very difficult, Peter. I am very hungry, and suddenly all of the people I care about appear to be made out of meat.”

“I don’t think I am,” Peter says.

Edmund sniffs the air.

“Keep telling yourself that,” Edmund says.

“I woke up,” says Peter, “and suddenly everything that was in me, everything that had been skew was straightened. Everything that had struggled in me was smoothed out. I looked up and I saw you, and I saw the tickling premonition of the storm, and I thought: Edmund is going to die. So I jumped. And it was beautiful. It was totally clean.”

“Oh, yeah,” says Edmund. “You’re really fresh. I’m looking forward to it.”

“It’s not for you,” says Peter.

“What isn’t?”

“My —” Peter flushes.  “Look, I don’t want to talk about myself as edible.”

“Aw,” says Edmund. “Mr. Perfected is embarrassed about his nutritional information. What’s your secret shame, Peter? Is it the trans-fats? The lack of vitamins? Ooh, do you contain more than the recommended daily allowance of sodium? Because you have to understand, Peter, that the nitty-gritty of nutritional concerns ought to be secondary to living a generally healthy and fulfilling life.”

“I have trim nails,” Peter says. “Perfectly neat. Look at those. How does that even happen? How does a hat do that?”

“He bound you,” shrugs Edmund. “I think. He trapped you in his hat-chains. His milliner’s gaol.”

“Am I bound?”

“Yeah,” Edmund says, softly.

“Huh,” says Peter. “Are you?”

Edmund makes a whimpering laugh.

“I have never felt this good,” Peter says. “Not in my entire life. You know. I don’t feel chained.”

“You’re not making this easy, Peter,” says Edmund.

“It’s not supposed to be easy,” Peter says.

“It is,” says Edmund. “Come on. Please. It’s one thing to talk to you. I can still talk to you. But I haven’t eaten anybody.”


“I haven’t eaten hardly anybody,” clarifies Edmund. “Hardly anybody. This isn’t right, Peter. You’re just standing there and I can hear your stomach, you’ve got food in your stomach, don’t you?”

Edmund tilts his head to one side. Then he looks ill.

“No,” he says. “You don’t, do you. That’s manna. You’ve gone all holy. Oh, Peter.”

“Holy?” Peter says.

He thinks about that.

He walks a bit away along the edge of the hill of hats.

“I think I finally understand why I told the Devil no,” he says. He turns. He smiles at Edmund. “I think I finally get it. It’s not because scissors ought to be beaten up. It because most of the people they fall on probably shouldn’t ought to die.”

“Damn it, Peter,” whispers Edmund.

Peter grins at him. The lightning shines behind him like a mandorla. “You think I ought to make this easy, scrub? You think you can just put on a white hat and suddenly it’s OK to come in and kill and eat me? Choke on this, Edmund: no.

“That’s just the hat talking,” Edmund says.

“Bad. Dog.”

“If you could see,” Edmund tries. “If you could see what it’s done to you. You’d beg to die. You’re begging me now. I can see it. It’s hidden but I can see it. You’re screaming. He’s sainted you, Peter. You. Of all people, you. You can’t possibly want to live that way.”

“It’s a bad puppy that kills and eats people,” Peter says. “This is a thing that should not be done.”

(He’s right, incidentally.)

Edmund licks his lips. He swallows.

“You’re a bloody frosh,” Peter adds. “You’re lucky I don’t tan your hide.”

“You’re a saint!”

Peter tilts his head to one side. “Well, yes,” he says. “Thank you.”

Edmund grinds his teeth. He’s going to do it. He resolves to do it. Later, when he has time to think about it, he’ll be angry at himself; he’ll writhe, unhappily, because it is a bad puppy, wolf, well, Edmund, really, a bad and human boy that would kill and eat people when they haven’t even given permission; but he’s going to do it. He can see the movements in his head. They’re all planned out. He slings low his lower jaw.

“One day,” Peter interrupts him, “you know, when there’s scissors in the head of your wolf —”

Edmund’s intentions stumble.

“— and scissors in its paws, and you’re laying there broken on the ground trying to remember how to breathe, and staring up with those dead white eyes, you’ll think, well, at least, Peter’s up there fighting for us. Up there in the sky with the scissors. So maybe somehow things’ll be all right.”

Edmund clicks his mouth closed.

There is a long silence.

“And will they?” he asks quietly. “Will they, Peter?”

“No,” Peter says. “No. Not really.”

He turns away.

“Nothing’ll be OK,” he says, “I think, until the jaguars fall.”

Edmund stares at him. Peter shrugs. Peter makes faces. Peter walks away. Edmund lunges after him, hungry, wild, but he trips on a slippery hat. Why do they even make slippery hats? But I guess the question answers itself.

Edmund falls.

Thank Heaven for slippery hats!

And he tries to get up. He tries to tackle Peter from behind. But it’s too hard. It’s too evil. It’s too complicated. He’s too hungry. He can’t do it. He can’t even do it. He isn’t even a good bad dog. “What,” he says, struggling, “what if I, I mean, maybe, maybe would you like me to not, not eat you, Peter?”

But however clever this trick might be, the red-hatted boy is gone.

“Spudgeflidgeon,” swears the cannibal. “Spudgeflidgeon. Fuck. Glip.”

I don’t know where he even got language like that. It is probably the corrosive influence of youth culture.

“Geffle-twonk,” swears he.

And he eats the corpses of the hats: tens of them, hundreds of them, he swells into a ball that rolls about the hills and vales of the hats until his wolf-gut digests it and unswells him, but this is extremely bad cannibalism, he would get an F in it twere it a subject, and it only makes him hungrier, in the end.

– 9 –

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Meanwhile, not getting eaten becomes a high priority for the boy and girl of the House of Dreams.

It drives Cheryl into distracted diagramming. She isn’t even sure what she’s diagramming. “Shoes,” she mutters to herself as she draws. “Shoes. Lasers! Space!”

Sometimes she takes a break and she folds things into geometries that should not exist.

Tom, once he gets back from the hospital, engineers additional swarms of robot bees. He builds defensive installations into the walls of his dorm room, floor, and building. He prepares himself for many different sorts of surprises.

Most importantly, though, he recruits.

The Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth is full of those whom, in his estimation, might be candidates to join his House of Dreams. None have obvious talent at the level of Cheryl or himself, of course, or he would have recruited them already — but the threat that Edmund poses forces him to relax his standards. Now he seeks those whose talents might be lesser, but still staggering; or whose demeanor might conceal hidden talents equal to Tom and Cheryl’s own; or those who can, at least, be drone-servants, genius-assistants, able to do the grunt-work of checking Tom’s math, performing laborious experiments, feeding and currying dead rodents and mustelids, and receiving their tiny footnotes of credit in return.

He hats them. He hats them one after another. The House of Dreams grows, in little trickles.

Edmund’s House of Hunger vastens.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

It appalls Tom. There are too many of them. It is as if Edmund’s wolf-gold has infiltrated Tom Friedman’s hat, polluted it with his gold dust or wolf dander, made Tom’s hat a medium for the wolf-gold’s transmission. It is as if Edmund’s hunger is contagious; the halls of the Lethal Magnet School — here, Tom’s concepts become bombastic and overwrought — seem to swarm with the white-eyed white-capped cannibals of Edmund’s house. It is not even strictly against school policy when one of them kills and eats a fellow child; Tom suffers a pang of guilt.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Sally, who climbs walls like some great centipede.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

Bernard, the beast well-dressed.

. . .

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 2 | 0 comments

“I didn’t make my hat for this,” says Tom. “It’s not supposed to make everyone into soulless cannibals!”

Tom bumps into Lucy Souvante — space princess assassin, his one-time enemy, and the evil prophet of space. He recognizes her instantly. He draws his pocket flamethrower. He turns. He squirts his space distorter to gain distance and fires —

She has already caught his gun hand and pushed it aside, already lifted him by the neck, is already staring at him.

“You followed me?”

“I go to school here,” he squeaks.

She puts him down.

“Oh,” she says. “Sorry.”

“It’s all right,” he says. “I was going to set you on fire.”

She looks him up and down.

“You’re different, boy,” she says.

“I made a ha—aa—”

His word is both interrupted and strung out when she plucks it from his head, looks it this way and that, and experimentally puts it on.

“Don’t eat me,” whispers Tom.

“Of course not,” she says. Then her stomach rumbles. “I mean,” she says. She licks her lips. “I mean —”

She closes her eyes. She counts one, two, three, while lifting and lowering her hand.

She throws paper.

Tom has also thrown paper. She squints at him.

“It’s what you threw last time,” he says.

“Again,” she says. “If I win, I get to eat you.”

“I don’t want to play rock-paper-scissors for my life —” he starts. One, two three.

Paper against paper.

Lucy squints at him. “I should warn you,” she says, “that I always throw paper.”

“That’s just aces,” says Tom.

“It’s because I’m an evil prophet —”

But he’s punched her in the stomach and he’s grabbed his hat back.

And he’s run away!

“God damn it,” she says, because he’s around the corner now, so he could throw rock or even scissors on their next go and she wouldn’t even know.

The House of Hunger is bad. They terrify him.

The Keepers’ House is worse.