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Chapter 4: The More it Produces

Posted by on Feb 8, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments


. . . if I had to explain what was wrong with the world, with Hans or without him; if you asked me why there are wolves and scissors, why there are evil prophets and killer nannies, why there are cruelties and thefts and suffering and wicked gods —
If you asked me why the world needs fixing —
I would trace it back to this. . . .
(Illustration by Anthony Damiani)

– 1 –

Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

“Experiment 27,” says Tom: “Awakening the dead.”

– 2 –

Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

Tom falls into the choking dark, and beyond it. He writhes his mind and being down into the channels of his body. He tracks himself, sees himself physical, binds the fire of him down into the pulse of blood, and the twisting of muscles, and the little trackable sparks of lightning in the brain.

He surges against that wall between life and death that lives in the body.

He pushes against the edge of consciousness, strains it, writes out the equations of his thinking, his being, his living, in raw physical terms that his body can understand.

He holds himself up before the lens of him and he makes himself into galvanic movements.

He scores them like a composition.

He orchestrates them with a charge of lightning, pours them down into a dead koala’s skin.

The atoms of it read out his music. Its muscles twitch and its heart begins to beat. A little black hat coalesces from the lightning — at first from the shadows between the sparks of it, at first from the remaining darkness when the light of momentary arcs and sparkles fades away, but then it acquires its own autonomous existence. It plays out the image of Tom’s hat above the koala even as the koala itself takes on a replica of his life. It forms itself, that apparent hat; it forges itself; it refines itself into a hat of black lightning, a lightless sparkling, a black and thrumming fire of the vacuum energy of space.

The koala looks up at him grotesquely.

It tilts its head.

A dream flits from Tom’s eyes to the koala. It catches and flickers within the eyes of the koala in their turn. It is life, Tom thinks, perhaps, life; the koala looks back to him and almost, almost, almost he is not alone.

The koala’s little tiny fingers move, as if to pick up a pair of scissors that is not there and cut through the walls of its cage; or, possibly, through death.

Then it goes still.

Tom gives a great groan. Then he picks the koala up. He shakes it.

“Stay with me,” he says. “Stay with me. Do not go into the light.”

Koalas do not speak English.

“Stay with me,” he says. “You are a dead koala, an anonymous dead koala that nobody cares about but I, but I care, I do, I do, I am Tom Friedman, I am Thomas the First, I am head boy of the House of Dreams, and I have brought you back to life. Become a scientist, dead koala. Become a friend. Become alive.”

The koala shakes all over. Its hat falls off. It dies.

“Today,” Tom says. “Today we have crossed a barrier that no thing crosses, you and I, we have broken the wall of death and life —”

He falls silent.

He stares irritably at the koala.

“Damn it,” he says.

He puts the hat back on the koala. This has no effect.

Tom leans back in his chair.

“Why do I even try to put cute little hats on dead animals?” he asks himself. “Why?”

He has no answer.

There may not actually be an answer; other than, because he does.

Cheryl comes in after a while. It’s a couple of hours later but Tom hasn’t really moved. Neither has the koala, being dead.

He looks at her.

“I awaken the hidden potential that is in things,” he says. “That is the purpose of my hat. That is why I cannot predict what someone will become, save through observation and experiment: the potential is hidden. That is more generally the virtue of my science. But I am coming up against a key limitation of this approach.”

“Maybe a paradigm shift?” she says.

“Those are difficult to produce on demand,” Tom sighs.

“I could fold you a paradigm-shifting gun,” she says. “Although the recoil’s a right bastard.”

“Thanks,” says Tom. His eyes twinkle. “But no.”

“Fair enough,” she says.

He fades back into melancholy. “Sometimes I worry that they are just dead. You know? That I can’t do this because the whole afterlife concept is ridiculous. But then, what of Linus?”

Cheryl looks at him.

“What?” he asks, irritably.

“There isn’t an afterlife,” she says. “There isn’t even a life. There’s just the is.”

“Well, yes,” he says, waving a hand vaguely. “But I mean, the potential has to be there before it can become a thing.”

“No,” she says. “It doesn’t.”

“Like,” he says, “when my hat refines somebody.”

“Listen,” she says. “This is the hardest lesson. The paper doesn’t contain the swan; the stone doesn’t contain the statue; the world doesn’t come down to us saying what may be invented and what may not.”

He is sputtering because she is trying to teach him ‘the hardest lesson.’ But younger or no, his junior or no, she’s still Cheryl of the House of Dreams. Reluctantly, he rolls his eyes and lets her give the speech.

“We can do anything, Tom,” she says. “That’s what the House of Dreams is made of. We don’t take possibilities from a finite set of possibilities and then implement them. We fold the world into a mirror of ourselves.”

“But that’s not what I want to do,” says Tom, who isn’t satisfied with merely infinite possibilities. “What I want to do is take an existing koala-life or whatever that is floating around out there and bring it into fruition with my science.”

“You can’t use science to make things have already existed or not,” says Cheryl.

Then she frowns.

“Well,” she says, “I mean, you probably shouldn’t, anyway.”

He grasps at an argument. “But to refine a thing,” he says, “e.g., a sequence, you refine what is already there, not what you put in it. That’s —”

He falls silent.

After a while, she says, “In the great mathematics of the world, there is no god that divides the transfigurations, clarifications, and refinements from the changes, or, for that matter, from the things. There is only: this is this, and that is that.”

“That’s bloody depressing,” says Tom.

“No!” she says. “It’s brilliant. It means that we can do anything we like.”

“Except make people better,” Tom says. “I mean, as their own people. I mean, without compromising whatever it is that they already are.”

“Oh,” she says. “Well, yeah.”

“Or, you know, connecting.”

Cheryl suddenly blushes.

“Oh, Tom,” she says, embarrassedly. “I’d forgotten. You don’t have a gigantic paper snake.”

There are many things he could say to this, but he says none of them. He doesn’t even think of more than half.

She pats his arm, smiles sadly, and goes back to her origami.

After a while he realizes that he’s been staring at a dead koala for what must have been hours. His drink has gone cold. His hands and feet are numb. Cheryl has wandered away.

He stares into the koala’s empty eyes.

There had been a living koala.


There is now none.

“How does that even happen?” Tom asks, in the direction of the corpse.

Where does the koala-life go?

– 3 –

Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

Edmund’s stomach rumbles.

He wakes.

He stares at the ceiling as the hunger washes across him in great waves. In between the great waves are little trembling motions. His body vibrates with them. He thinks that he has them under control; but no sooner does he think that then he realizes that that is just the sinking before the swell. There is a great need rising in him.

He goes to the window. He stares out at the moon. He points at the moon.

“I have your number, moon,” he says, even though he doesn’t. “I’ll eat you too. One day. You’ll see.”

There are students — food —

There are foodents walking in the quad below. He realizes how easy it would be to eat them all. His heart pounds so vigorously that he feels like he has splinters.

He slips out the window onto the roof.

He isn’t really going to eat them, he tells himself. He’s not a cannibal. He’s not really hungry. Besides, if he eats them all, he’ll be too full for breakfast.

Don’t you want breakfast? he chides his stomach. Pop-tarts, oatmeal, cafeteria workers, mmm!

They are standing around him. They are staring at him. They have gathered on the roof, they in their yellow hats.

It distracts him.

He waves at them dismissively. “Go ‘way. Brooding.”

They do not dismiss.

He cannot remember why he was on the roof. Shouldn’t he be sleeping? He has examinations soon. It is bad for his health to be sitting out on the roof under the moon.

Why are they staring at me? It’s so creepy!

He waves them off again. Then he growls. He fixes Morgan with his wolf-glare and the boy almost falls off the roof.

He is on his feet then. He staggers towards them.

They dissipate. They slip backwards in great bounds, now on the ceiling tiles near him, now perched on a chimney and a TV antenna, now twisting under and in and through the windows onto the floor below. He looks around and they are fading almost faster than he can focus on them with his eyes. He cannot track them, save —

He slams the retreating Emily with the wolf-stare. His eyes are white as the moon. She falls on her butt, silently; her hand comes up to her mouth in an oh!

He lunges.

Her eyes are gold as he reaches her: they are like two rising suns. They transfix him. They melt him. They stun him. But he is already on top of her, and he is half again her weight.

He pins her to the roof.

“What’s this?” he asks her. “What’re you staring for, huh? Come to mock the wolf-boy, have you?”

She shakes her head.

Waves of confusion and weakness wash across him. He grits his teeth.

“You’re doing something to me,” he says. He has a knife in his hand now. He’d gotten it in his orientation packet. It’s a wooden-handled blade, suitable for killing wolves and men and teenaged girls. He holds it against her neck. “You’re doing something. Cut it out.”

She closes her eyes.

Slowly confidence returns to him. His heartbeat slows, and he stops hearing it. The fog seems to fade from his mind.

The others are staring at him, he can feel it, but they are too far away to daze him.

They are staying back.

She says something, very quietly. He can’t make it out.

He pulls the knife from her throat. He bends down to hear her.

She whispers a word: a name: a thing of jaguars, that are on fire, and love, and purpose, that no human could ever say. It burns and writhes in his head: he recoils from it, he screams, he bends his hands around his head and he tries to un-hear that name but he cannot. It winds through and around his brain like a length of razored thread.

She is on her feet again. She is staring at him and he cannot think; he is drowning in it; if there is any comfort to it, it is only that the name she has whispered seems to be fading away into the same static of confusion as is he.

When he wakes the real sun beats down upon the roof around him.

His stomach rumbles but it is a normal hunger; and he wipes tears he can’t remember shedding from his eyes and staggers off to get a tea or coffee and some bread.

“That’s Emily,” says Linus. “She studies bindings.”

“Witch,” mutters Edmund.

“What’re you gonna do?” says Linus. “You’ve got to have people to do the bindings for those things that you cannot kill.”

Rage whitens Edmund’s eyes. He hunches in on himself, lets it beat through him, and does not say anything that will hurt Linus Evans, whom he loves.

After a moment, Linus understands.

“Sorry, bro,” he says.

Even later, Edmund whispers, “I didn’t really want to be in chains.”

– 4 –

Posted by on Feb 22, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

Mr. Gulley sits by the phone in an empty house.

Somewhere in the halls upstairs from him his cat Inedible clanks by.

He used to have servants.

He’s fired them.

He used to have a wolf. He still does have a wolf, really, but he doesn’t go near it. It’s too dangerous now. He just pours kibble and occasionally cuts of meat into the kibble chute.

He used to have a son.

He still does have a son, really, but —

For the past three weeks, Edmund has missed his weekly call. The nithrid, too. He barely even dares to hope that this time the phone will —

Only, it does.

It rings.

He seizes it up. His heart races. He says, “Edmund?”


“Edmund,” says Mr. Gulley. His face twitches. “I hadn’t thought you’d call.”


“I’d figured you’d snapped, son,” says Mr. Gulley. “What with the reports. Killing people. Eating people. That’s not really — the point of this, you know.”

Edmund is silent.

“What happened, Ed?”

“I figured it out, Dad,” says Edmund. “I know how to free the wolf. Can you tell it for me? I know how to let it go. I just have to eat enough people.”

“We don’t eat people,” says Mr. Gulley.

“I got hungry,” says Edmund.

“We all get hungry!” says Mr. Gulley. “We all get hungry. We’re Gulleys. But we don’t eat people. Not since your great-grandfather, and there was a war on. A war on!”

Edmund sighs.

“I’ve become an instrument,” says Edmund. “Refined. Perfected. A scalpel. And you can’t be a scalpel without breaking a few eggs.”

This is not a very good analogy.

“I mean,” he says, “You can’t be perfect if you don’t eat people. Sometimes.”

This is not a very good analogy.

“I’m sharp like my stomach,” Edmund flounders, like an awl.

“Son,” says Mr. Gulley, “I’m a little worried about you.”

“I only really ate the nithrid,” says Edmund.


“You’d heard more?”

“I’d heard a lot.”

“It’s exaggerated,” Edmund says. “Unless I’ve been sleep-snacking or something. Or, oh, maybe the Principal’s all ‘oh, hey, another white-hatted person ate somebody again, I bet it’s all Edmund’s fault.’ The man is biased, sir.”

“I see,” says Mr. Gulley, because he does.

“I do plan to eat people,” says Edmund. “It’s just — I’m having trouble.”

“That’s your upbringing,” says Mr. Gulley. “Stern as a Gulley! Hardly ever go into a cannibalistic frenzy, Gulleys. Pillars of the community and all that.”

“People keep standing in creepy circles around me,” Edmund says.


“It’s really distracting!”

“I’d tell you to buck up and ignore them,” says Mr. Gulley. “Only, I won’t. Bullying is a serious problem and I’m afraid there’s nothing for you to do but take it like a man and be so totally distracted that you never eat people. That’s a right proper education, that.”

Edmund is laughing. He is holding the phone with both hands and he is hunched over so it is close to the hollow where was his heart and he is laughing.

“I want to eat Sid,” says Edmund.


“He’s . . . just, he needs me, Dad.”

There’s just silence on the other end.



“It’s not a . . . he’s got his clear hat,” says Edmund. “Like, mucous.”

“Can’t you — I mean —”

Mr. Gulley does not quite know how to express to his son that he’d be more comfortable if his son were planning to hunt down and eat a girl. After a moment he just harrumphs. “I hear you’re wearing a white hat,” he says. “Yourself. Some sort of Smurf, now, are you?”

“It’s not voluntary, Dad.”

“It’s not in the dress code, is what it isn’t. The Principal’s complained!”


“Well, after I told him that he won’t be bringing any charges against any Gulleys for murder and anthropophagy,” says Mr. Gulley. “On account of my owning his school, his residence, and, if absolutely necessary, his goolies.”

“He moved on to the hats.”

“Said they’re a gang thing,” says Mr. Gulley. “You should ditch ’em.”

“Well,” says Edmund, amusement wound through his voice like a wolf, “that’s not happening, since I’ve kind of glued mine on. You don’t want me to have to cut off all my hair, do you, Dad?”

Mr. Gulley stares at the phone for a while.

After a while, he says, “Sometimes it’s hard to remember that they’re people, son. When you get really hungry. But they are. You know?”

“They don’t look like it any more, Dad.”

“I know,” says Mr. Gulley. “But they are. They’ve got — thoughts, and feelings, and stuff. I understand, son, but — they do. They’re like us.”

“They’re not like us,” says Edmund.


“They’ve never seen the wolf.”

And he’s not talking about the bigness of the wolf, or the wisdom in Fenris’ eyes; or the way that Fenris is going to eat both of them, if events proceed as planned. He’s talking about the only thing he can think about, which is the bonds around Fenris’ mouth and legs.

And in that moment, suddenly, Mr. Gulley is fiercely proud.

He’s thinking of the telly, which has been all over the living storm that’s been beating this way and that over England; and that’s his son, there, that freed it, that took the nithrid he could only drag up to Earth and had let it go. For a moment, he’ll forgive everything else, as worrying as the weather service makes that, because —

“Son —” starts Mr. Gulley.

But he doesn’t get to say it. Whatever it was that was going to come out of that pride of him, the words are lost; he doesn’t get to say them, and we’ll never get to hear.

“I think I’m going to slip, Dad,” Edmund is saying. “I think I’m going to slip. The others in my House, they’re not used to it, they’ve eaten more people, but I don’t think I’m that much better. I think I’m just barely ahead of the curve. I can’t control them. I don’t think I’m even going to be able to control myself. I’ll eat one more. Then two. Then four — pretty soon, I’ll eat the whole world, and then it’s on to space.”

“Don’t do it,” says Mr. Gulley. “I raised you better than that, son. Don’t.”

“Dad,” says Edmund. “You’ve got nothing to do with it.”

“. . . what?”

“I got a magic hat,” says Edmund. “I put it on and it explained everything to me. It told me, I could be the one to free everything. All the tangled masses in their horrors. I could let everything free. I could let them go. Maybe I could hit the prisons, Dad. I could hit the prisons, I could eat the walls. They’d run free, they’d be so happy, Dad. You know that prisons corrupt the prisoners and the guards and even the fabric of the country that has them. That’s why there aren’t any prisoners in Heaven.”

“Don’t do that, son. Don’t get caught doing that. Don’t —”

“Hats don’t lie about moral issues, Dad,” Edmund says.

“Don’t eat people, son.”

“They’re not people,” says Edmund. “They’re just . . .”

He doesn’t finish.

After a while, Mr. Gulley says, “I wish I’d had more time with you.”


“The wolf’s going to eat me soon,” says Mr. Gulley. “I think. I don’t know how. I just . . . I’ve been . . . I’ve been away so long. If I go down and see him I know he’ll eat me. One snap. He won’t trust me to come back again. But how can I not go see him?”

“Wait, Dad,” says Edmund. “Wait. Hang on. Don’t let him. I want —”

Edmund makes a horrified strangled noise. He hangs up the phone. He hangs up the phone before he can tell his father how much he wants to eat him himself. How much he longs for that, to butcher his father and eat him up. How happy that would make him. How delicious it would be.

“I love you,” says Edmund, to a deadened line.

After a while Mr. Gulley fumbles the phone back onto the hook.

He goes to check on Edmund’s heart.

There’s a small altar in Edmund’s room. On it is a wooden box. In the wooden box is Edmund’s heart.

Mr. Gulley pats the box. It is sound. It is solid. He listens to Edmund’s heartbeat. There is nothing untoward.

“Damnable dwarf,” he mutters, even though, in the final analysis, there is very little in Mr. Gulley’s situation that is actually Joffun’s fault.

A wolf howls, lonely, in the basements far below him.

Somewhere in the halls upstairs from him his cat Inedible clanks ponderously back and forth.

– 5 –

Posted by on Feb 25, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

Lucy stands. She watches Meredith dance.

“Oh, hey,” says Max.

He wanders in. He tilts his head.

“Just watching?”

“I make her nervous,” Lucy says. “She thinks I am going to kill and eat her. In this she is probably correct, but not during a club function. So I stand here, and she dances there, and later, we swap places.”

“Heh,” says Max.

“You’re not afraid?” Lucy says.

He ruffles her hair. She squints in irritation.

“Let me show you the best thing in the Konami Thunder Dance,” he says.

“There’s no one best —”

She stops.

“Fine,” she says.

So he shows her Dynamite.

– 6 –

Posted by on Feb 28, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

The room is gone. There is only the world, and space.

The air is clear and still as glass.

Max holds out his hand and there is the world in it. It is a crystalline stillness, a thing of aspic with colors glittering in its depths. The harder she looks at it, the deeper she sees into it: what seem at first to be glitches, floaters in her eye, or phosphenes become first colors, then patterns, then whole landscapes as her eye sinks in.

With each beat of a heart —

Her heart? His heart? The evil prophet of space does not know —

Ripples of light move through.

They grow brighter and brighter until they become searing flames that chase one another across the surface of the world.

“This is how it is,” says Max. “For an expert; for a beginner; for anyone who knows the dance.”

She isn’t sure if he’s standing on a Konami Thunder Dance dance pad. She isn’t sure what music he’s playing. All she can hear is a beating heart. Hers or his she does not know.

“If you know the trick,” he says, “If you can hear the fire that moves beneath the surfaces of things, then you can throw two Symbols at once. Not just LEAF. Not just BANANA. Not just BLOOD; but also Dynamite.”

She frowns at him.

“It is an old explosive,” he explains. “They used it before the scissors fell.”

“I know what dynamite is —”

“Then come on,” he says.

There’s no turning back now!

She follows him as he shows it to her.

At the right moment, at just the right moment —

He drops onto hands and knee. He dances with his left hand what his left foot should have done; and instead, that foot throws Dynamite.

It is cheating, she realizes.

He is showing her how to cheat. He is showing her how to cheat at living in the world.

“This is the Konami Thunder Dance,” he says, “given to us by God.”

“You can’t do this,” she says.

They don’t let you do things like this at the evil academy of space.

Nor not even on the planet of the wicked god.

He is dancing THE RAZOR now. He is dancing KINGS. He is dancing KNOT MADE OUT OF JELLY; and as he dances, also he throws Dynamite.

“This can’t possibly be the true thing,” she says.

Each Symbol of the Thunder Dance is one thing, exactly, for all its many parts; one thing, and one thing only, save, perhaps, for the cheat code Dynamite.

It has to be a blasphemy. It can’t have ever been meant to be.

When she finally learns to dance it, it is the best thing she has ever known.

– 7 –

Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

An ant becomes immortal. At first this is all wine and roses. Then it remembers that it is an ant. It becomes displeased with its immortality and finally it becomes ant-wroth. Its trail surges up with an awful nimbus of destruction. It begins to crawl slowly across the world.

It is ruinous.

It is deadly.

Where it goes it leaves a line of nothing; in its trail the world is made as not. Long before the sun’s explosion will bring a natural culmination to the planet’s story, the ant’s criss-crossing trail, covering everything, is certain to bring it to an end.

What a bad ant!

It crawls across Woodbridge. It crawls across Kesgrave. It leaves a needle-thin track of uttermost devastation behind.

Men gasp. Women faint. Actually women don’t faint, but they would have, if their corsets had been tighter. A somewhat loopy dog barks, rather a lot.

The ant crawls into Ipswich.

It is cold-hearted now. It has become the cruelest ant. It crosses over a dead bird without even pausing to take any of the delicious food of it back to its former mound.

They wouldn’t recognize it any longer anyway.

Nobody appreciates the lonely suffering of an immortal ant.

The ant crawls up a building wall, marginally threatening the building’s ability to meet code.

It crawls in through Jane and Martin’s kitchen window, leaving a burning trail of non-being behind it.

Uh oh, ant! The Tao precedes being and non-being.

The more it is used, the more it produces: the more you speak of it, the less you comprehend. An ant may crawl into through a kitchen window, but Jane squishes it with her finger.

A good knot needs no rope to tie it, and it can not come undone.

(Hat tip: the Tao te Ching.)

Jane looks at the ant paste on her finger. She doesn’t want to lick it off. It’s immortal. But she doesn’t want to waste it, either! So she bakes it into cookies.

“Waste not, want not!” she advises, to us all.

She shares the cookies with Martin, and they eat. Then Jane pushes the last few crumbs around on her plate, pretending they are warring gods and demons, and says, “Did you know that five hundred years after you become an immortal, Heaven sends a terrible finger to kill you?”

“You hadn’t mentioned,” Martin says. “I mean, not since dinner, you hadn’t.”

“It’s true,” Jane says. “Also, I think it’s somewhat faster for ants.”

Martin is licking off one of his fingers. He pauses. “Oh, God,” he says. “Did I just eat an immortal bug again?”

“Happy birthday!” declares Jane.

“It’s not my b—”

Martin doesn’t want to lie to Jane unintentionally. He stops mid-sentence. He tries to count the days. He thinks.

“It’s probably not my birthday,” he says.

“When is?”

“I dunno,” Martin says. “I was born a long time ago. Then I got tied up by a dwarf! That always plays havoc with your sense of time.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Jane says. “The svart-alfar are extremely punctual.”

You try keeping time by calendar beast,” Martin says.

Jane looks eager.

She is about to open her mouth and ask for a calendar beast! Martin leaps into action.

“I mean,” he interrupts, “You try imagining keeping time by a calendar beast.”

“That’s easy,” says Jane. “I just tie clocks to its toes.”

“But then when it rolls over?”

“Oh, man!” says Jane. “The imaginary clocks get all tangled up!”

“That’s exactly how it is,” Martin explains. “Eventually I got work-released to Ipswich Prison, an intensely realistic simulation of Ipswich built out of my own Cartesian theatre, but by then I’d already completely lost track of time.”

“Oh no!” says Jane. “How’d you escape?”

Martin waves a hand vaguely.

“Sometimes I think that I’m in a Cartesian prison,” Jane confesses. “Like, what if I’m only seeing the Ipswich of my own sense-impressions and conceptions out the window?”

Martin peeks out the window.

“It’d probably be for the best,” he says.

“No way!” she says.

“Then,” says Martin, “there’s only one answer.”


“You’d have to blow it up.”


“Boom!” Martin says. “The Tao precedes being and non-being. Heaviness is the basis of lightness. Stillness is the standard of activity. The master destroys all of reality, and therefore knows the real.”

(Hat tip: the Tao te Ching.)

“Oh, man,” says Jane. “Oh, MAN!”


This has affected her more than he expected. He raises an eyebrow. He watches as she carries the plate off into the kitchen, washes it, dries it, and comes back out.

“Now I’m going to feel guilty forever,” Jane complains, “about that poor world-destroying ant.”

– 8 –

Posted by on Mar 8, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

Edmund’s residential assistant fears him. The fear rises to take over the boy’s life. The fear becomes a chain on him. The boy locks himself in his room. He does not come out. He misses his classes. He begins to starve.

Edmund stands outside the door.

“Be reasonable, Ben,” Edmund says.

There is only a howl and a scream from beyond the door.

“I’m making a request,” Edmund says, “to you as a residential assistant. There is a student on this floor who is freaking out and locking himself in his room and never coming out. Help him. Help him come out into the light.”

He can’t hear a response.

He goes to his room. He plays loud music. He tries not to think about it.

He can’t not think about it.

The sense of trappedness from the room down the hall grows and grows. Finally he can’t take it any longer. He bites through the door in three great snaps. He picks Ben up. He shakes him.

“Quit it,” he says. “I’ll show you fear!”

And once upon a time there was a bear — a spirit of the olden days, a creature and a power from the time of fable — and it was born for Ben and for no other. It would have come to him in his childhood, and later on; given him strength, taught him magic, and helped him in such troubles. It would have saved him from his awful fate; but it is frozen under the ice.

It is buried in the winter that Hans called down, frozen as part of Hans’ gift to us —

Frozen such bears; and the nithrid bound; and Fenris chained; great Pepsi drowned —

So that we could live in a world that makes sense, a world stomped round, and not in a world of talking bears and wicked gods and world-devouring wolves.

That is why there is no bear for Ben.

Nor no princess, neither.

Nor no hero riding on a great white horse to gallop in and save him.

He is trapped. He is broken. He is in an agony of fear, and there is only Edmund — of all the voices of magic and transcendence that there could have been — to help him through it.

There is only Edmund to help him; so Edmund does, and in the only way he can.

He shows him fear.

If you actually have something bad happen to you, after all, it turns out that it’s a lot less scary after that. Like, if you’re afraid of swimming, and then you go swimming, even by accident, you’ll be less afraid of it after. Or, if you’re afraid that Edmund will eat you, and then he eats you, you’ll stop being afraid of it at all.

It’s just like Lucy’d said!

Edmund sits in Ben’s room. He licks off his fingers, very carefully. His eyes are white and his face is pale and he is panting like a dog. He looks sick.

He’d like to throw up all the Ben in him but he just can’t.

“That was a mistake,” he says. “I didn’t mean to do that. I just lost control.”

He should kill himself, he thinks, before he makes another mistake like that. That is the only proper course. He should just lift his hand to his mouth, it’s all tasty with Ben’s blood, right? And take a bite. And then just keep going and going —

He’s actually got the side of his index finger between his teeth when he flashes on the wolf.

He pulls his hand out of his mouth.

It hurts him. It hurts him so badly not to eat Edmund Gulley. He wants to eat Edmund Gulley so very badly.

But if he eats Edmund Gulley, then who will free the wolf?

He goes back to his room. He’s eaten most of it before he can stop himself. He’s round like a ball, until he’s not. Then he huddles in the corner of his empty room and shakes.

He wants to eat more of his room, but not as much as he wants to eat Edmund Gulley; and he wants to eat Mister Gulley, Mister Edmund Gulley Senior, most of all.

It’s almost time for summer break, as it happens.

He thinks about that.

It’s getting hot. Classes are ending. It’s almost time for Edmund Gulley to go home.

– 9 –

Posted by on Mar 14, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

Mr. Gulley buys a muzzle and thirty pairs of boots. He cuts the boots to pieces. He sews them together into a larger boot. He can barely lift it. He builds an automated boot-throwing machine, or “bootapult.”

Edmund calls.

“Hey,” Edmund says. His voice is congested. He’s been crying.

“I bought a muzzle,” Mr. Gulley tells him.

“. . . oh,” says Edmund.

“Like for Hannibal Lecter,” says Mr. Gulley. “For when you’re home.”

“Dad,” says Edmund. “I’d eat the muzzle.”


“No,” says Edmund. “You don’t get it. I’ve eaten death rays. I can eat the muzzle.”

“Leverage,” Mr. Gulley protests feebly. Then he looks at the muzzle. He thinks about it. He thinks about what he would do if he were muzzled and he wanted to eat the muzzle. He’d put his hand over the air hole, he thinks. He’d eat the air. He’d swallow, and there would be vacuum; the muzzle would crumple in.

At least I have never had cavities, thinks Mr. Gulley, to balance out a peculiar momentary ingratitude for the strength of Gulley mouths and Gulley teeth.

“. . . I see,” he admits.

“Should I stay here?” Edmund asks. “Over the break?”

“No,” says Mr. Gulley.

“I can stay,” Edmund says. “I’m a monster, Dad. I . . .”

He can’t make himself say it. He can’t tell his father about Ben. He just repeats it: “I’m a monster.”

“I almost visited Fenris today,” says Mr. Gulley.


“I forgot he’s going to eat me,” Mr. Gulley says. “I was just, you know, lonely. And I wanted to talk to somebody about my marvelous Fenris-killing bootapult. And I was actually — I mean, the door was open, son.”


“The world’s ending, son. You know it. I know it. We’ve maybe got decades, but more likely it’s months. It’s coming. And it’s almost summer, son. Come home.”

“Dad,” says Edmund.

Then, far away, he hangs his head.

“Sure thing, Dad.”

After a while Mr. Gulley hangs up. He goes down to the basement. He starts to open Fenris’ door.

He freezes.

He leans his head against the wall. Then he shakes it. Then he goes back upstairs. He gets the automated boot-throwing machine. He gets the boot. He puts them in position.

Gingerly, using a remote control device, he opens Fenris’ door.

He looks down at his wolf.

The wolf looks at him.

Fenris is leaner than a greyhound, wiser than an owl, massive, terrible, and sleek. The wolf has been licking at one leg where it is hurt by the chain.

“You’re not supposed to do that,” Mr. Gulley says, helplessly.

He almost runs forward to do something about it. He isn’t sure what. To hit Fenris’ ear and cry, “Bad wolf!” To apply medicine to the wound. To touch his wolf and weep.

He stops himself.

“Whatever,” says Fenris.

The wolf looks up at the boot-throwing machine.

“You have a boot.”

“I do,” says Mr. Gulley.

“That is nowhere near big enough,” says Fenris.


“You’re planning to stomp me with that?” says Fenris. “It is not big enough. You could try with a boot one hundred times bigger and that might be enough for me. Or,” and here the wolf is nonchalant: “not.”

Mr. Gulley triggers the automated boot-throwing machine.

It flings the boot at Fenris. It stomps the wolf. It stomps the wolf hard in the face.

The wolf shakes it off.

After a bit, the wolf begins to lick the fallen boot.

“I figured,” says Mr. Gulley.

The wolf twitches an ear. It doesn’t bother to say anything.

“I wasn’t expecting that to work,” Mr. Gulley clarifies.

“Of course not.”

“I just was hoping — I thought, if Heaven wanted to give me a miracle, that I should at least sew together thirty pairs of boots to earn my shot.”

The wolf dangles its tongue. Then it shakes its head a little and licks the boot some more.

“Maybe it’s poisonous,” says Fenris.

Gingerly the wolf pulls the boot onto its tongue and gulps it down. It waits to see if it will become sick or die.

After a while it says, “I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Mr. Gulley sits down on the stairs.

“I’m not going to eat you, gumby,” Fenris says.

“You are,” says Mr. Gulley.

“I’m not,” Fenris argues.

“You are.”

He leaves the door open. He wanders upstairs.

The wolf’s stomach rumbles and grumbles, down below.

It occurs to Fenris after a while that it probably oughtn’t have eaten a gigantic boot.

– 10 –

Posted by on Mar 15, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

Emily slips into the Konami Thunder Dance club. She takes off and stows her shoes. She leans against the bar on the mirrored wall.

She watches Meredith dance.

It’s slowing down even as she watches. She can see it. Meredith is becoming confused; the certainty in her is dissipating; she is tangling herself up until halfway through Daikenkai she loses the train entirely, falls over, and lets the song play out.

Meredith just laughs it off.

She wanders over. She towels off her sweat. She looks at Emily.

“Nice eyes,” she says.

Emily gestures expressively.

I can talk to Fred and Morgan in my head now, she tells Meredith.

I don’t think she can hear you, Fred points out.

Yeah, well, your face is ugly, Emily informs him. She can hear Fred giggling somewhere on the other side of the School.

“You’re not going to like eat me or anything, right?” Meredith asks. “’Cause I’m totally writing a letter to your Mom if you eat anyone. Even me!”

What, from my stomach?

She can’t hear you, Fred emphasizes. He squints. He tries to peer out of her eyes. Oh, hey, she’s cute.

Emily glares in his vague direction: Fred!!

Meredith snaps her fingers. “You’re one of those stand-in-creepy-circle people! Tom was ranting about you.”

Emily sighs.

She turns to go. Meredith has her hand on Emily’s arm.

Emily looks back. Meredith?

“You’re still allowed to dance,” says Meredith.

Emily considers this. Then she beckons Meredith.

“What? No. No way. I’m not dueling you.”

Emily makes a face.

This is really inconvenient, she says.

You can still use your outside voice, reminds Lirabelle. If you really try.

It’s too hard! Emily protests.

“This is funny to watch,” says Meredith. She sits down on the shoe cubbies. “You OK?”

Emily makes a neutral gesture.

Then, finally, she forces out a soft clear whisper. “I want to dance.”

But she can’t.

She tries but — she’s crippled.

When she looks at the falling Symbols they are just shapes on a digital screen. When she hears the music it is nothing more than sounds that are set to time.

She cannot lose herself in it.

She tries to throw Dynamite. She humiliates herself by falling.

She stares at her hands.

I guess this is not the one thing that I am, she says.

– 11 –

Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

For Edmund things are very clear and limned in white.

Edmund’s stomach rumbles.

He wakes.

He stares at the ceiling as the hunger washes across him in great waves. In between the great waves are little trembling motions. His body vibrates with them. He thinks that he has them under control; but no sooner does he think that then he realizes that that is just the sinking before the swell. There is a great need rising in him.

He walks to his window. He stares out at the students that walk this way and that below.

They used to be people.

He remembers that.

“How does that even happen?” he asks them.

Where does the personhood go?

Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments



Posted by on Mar 21, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments

You shouldn’t brandish an evil prophecy at all of your problems!

Here’s an example.

Jane is walking along. Suddenly, she is hit by a car!

“I’m OK!” she says. She scrabbles feebly. She pulls an evil prophecy out of her backpack. She brandishes it at the car accident. Bam! The car accident unravels and is unmade.

But it’s not that easy, Jane!

“My shoes!” she says.

That’s right, Jane! It didn’t fix the bloody mess that that car accident made out of your shoes!

“Lesson,” she says, “learned.”

The next time a car hits her she won’t use an evil prophecy!

She walks along her road. There’s a cat stuck on a low wall.

“Oh no!” she says. “Kitty!”

She reaches for the cat. The cat hisses at her.

“But you’re stuck!” she says.

The cat does not appear able to understand the reasonable nature of Jane’s assertion. It remains obdurate. Finally there’s nothing for it! Jane brandishes the evil prophecy at the cat’s being stuck up on the wall.

An evil feeling!

The cat finds itself no longer stuck up on that wall.

What a happy ending! Jane whistles cheerfully and walks along.

But not everything about brandishing evil prophecies at your problems is wine and roses!

Jane wakes up in the middle of the night.

She attempts to go to the bathroom. Result: failure!

There is a thing of brass and fire, faces and wings, opening and closing are they all, hovering in swirls of emptiness and somethingness in the middle of the, ah, “facilities.”

Jane closes the door again. She waits. It does not emerge.

She becomes impatient.

She brandishes the evil prophecy. Problem: solved!

The thing of brass and fire is verged suddenly out of the bathroom. It looms over her. It booms words that exceed her comprehension. Feathers swirl like clock hands before its faces.

“Agh!” she realizes. “That’s solving the wrong problem!”

She brandishes the evil prophecy again.

Now she understands the words of the creature! They make total sense! Angel-wroth verges in around the corners of her rationality. She shudders. She stumbles back. She brandishes the evil prophecy a third time!

The world cracks.

Fire and blood pours in around the edges. Strange flowers crawl along the walls. The thing, with its faces, wings, and booming, has receded into the absence of such things from which it came.

“Martin,” whimpers Jane.

Martin is sleeping. It is after two in the morning! Jane is scared of waking him but she is also scared of just leaving a giant hole with fire and blood pouring through it in the middle of the reality in front of the bathroom. She tries stuffing the crack with towels. They start to smolder. She pulls them out. Now she’s got bloody smoldering towels on the carpet. There’s fire everywhere.

“Damn it!” she says. But that just makes the hellfire burn higher!

She is panicking. What can she possibly do? She brandishes the evil prophecy at the problem. But you can’t solve hellfire and world-cracking with an evil prophecy! That’s like pasting shillings onto your pet iguana’s back!

Jane fills towels with water. She mushes them into the world-crack. It’s not enough! She adds some of the curtains. Finally she gums everything down with Jell-O and she jiggles it until it sets.

She looks fiercely at her iguana. “You could help,” she says, “you know.”

But it doesn’t help!

Once you make an iguana rich it’s pretty much good-bye to civility and hello to snootiness. That iguana is too good for Jane’s petty problems now.

Jane sits down in the hallway. Her face is covered with blood and soot and delicious lime gelatin. She can’t stop licking it.

She’d wash it off but there aren’t any towels!

“Jane,” Martin says, “I was using the facilities this morning and it occurred to me to wonder whether you might have been using my evil prophecy again?”


“I think I’m old enough to call it utilizing,” Jane proclaims.

Excessive austerity measures spike up local unemployment to record levels. Confidence in the government drops. Jane sniffles at the tragic story of Lois Aubergine, a local worker forced to work an actual negative number of jobs in order to resolve an error in the official unemployment figures.

“She actually has to stand at a grocery register and refuse service to customers,” Jane explains to Martin. “It’s just awful!”

Unexpected paper-serpent-caused tidal waves flood coastal Europe.

Global warming ignites the Iranian city Ahwaz in a sudden conflagration.

The government denies rumors of avian kissing sickness spreading across the great bird/human divide to Man.

“You could brandish the evil prophecy at some of this,” Martin hints. “Since you’re so, you know, old now.”

“Martin! That’s not a realistic solution to everyday economic problems!” lectures Jane.

I guess she’s learned her lesson after all!

Posted by on Mar 21, 2014 in The Storm that Saw Itself: Chapter 4 | 0 comments